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Income Security VS Job Security – Does it Matter?

My friend Jay and I were talking about jobs this past weekend and he pointed out something that I hadn’t thought about: There are no astronauts any more! That may not mean too much if you’re under 30, but when he and I were growing up being an astronaut was the ultimate “hero career”.

Back then it seemed that all of humanity would eventually be going to space—to find resources, to conquer new worlds or at least to alleviate overpopulation here on earth—and astronauts would lead us there. High minded and exciting, yes, except that it never happened!

If a career as cutting edge as astronauts is no longer secure, what can we say about the far more ordinary fields most of us regular folks work in?

You’ve heard it and read it before, and perhaps you’ve even been a casualty of one of the biggest phenomena of our time–the end of job security.

Income Security VS Job Security – Does it Matter?
Income Security VS Job Security – Does it Matter?
We have to do something about that, but what? Individually, there’s little any of us can do to create job security, but we can gravitate toward it’s close cousin, income security. If we have income security we might not even notice or care that we no longer have job security.

What is job security? What is income security?

Let’s face it, in order to function everyday and to have some sort of certainty about the future we need some measure of security when it comes to earning a living. For at least the past couple of generations that meant having a stable job, but the times they are a-changin’. Fast.

Job security implies that your job is safe for the foreseeable future and hopefully clean through to retirement. Your job IS your income—as well as your source of health insurance, retirement and other benefits, and even your self esteem and your standing in the community. All is well, and you even have income security, as long as your job is secure.

Most people seek job security because it’s a simpler way to earn a living—your employer has your job and your income “covered” freeing you to go about living your life. The downside is when your job is suddenly in jeopardy, because the entire financial component of your life is also at risk. It’s a classic case of having all of your eggs in one basket.

Income security means your income never comes from a single source. If one source fails, you have others to tap, and you can eventually replace the failed sources with new ones. You’re not overly concerned with any one income source, but with creating and maintaining a portfolio of income streams.

In the economic and employment conditions of our time, I think income security is the logical security to pursue.

Creating income security

Its one thing to know the difference between income security and job security, but ultimately it all comes down to making it happen and that’s not as easy. There are various ways you can begin creating income security and that can include just about any revenue sources you can think of.

Self-employment. This is the obvious first choice for providing an additional (or alternative) income source beyond a job. By its very nature, being self-employed is all about creating new revenue streams. If your business income is derived from several or many clients or customers (which it should), you’ll actually have a portfolio of income streams, and that’s the best income security you can have. Even if your income drops, you can still have at least some income from your business, as opposed to a job where your entire income will cease the day you’re let go.

Fortunately, the internet has made self-employment easier than ever and because it’s here and now and growing, that’s probably the first place you should look. It’s where I’ve decided to camp out and it’s working for me—and I’m not exceptional in any way, believe me.

Investment income. In an era of record low interest rates, this is more about turning small amounts of money into larger ones. There are various ways to do this and you should start investigating them. This is not about plunging into the stock market per se, but about developing the ability to identify under-priced securities that have the potential to grow well beyond conventional rates of return—then having the willingness to wait it out. It has nothing to do with get-rich-quick. It’s a skill, just like business- or job-skills are, and once you master it you’ll have created a whole new way to earn a living.

Forming business partnerships or investing in small businesses. One of the things you can do if you have a business is to partner with other businesses in ways that will enable both entities to grow. There are as many ways to do this as there are small businesses and people who own them. It can also be the middle ground between starting your own business and investing. And you can do this with skills as well as with capital.

Let’s say you have some capital but you’re spooked by the stock market; as an alternative you can invest some money in an existing small business (or several) as a way of taking partial ownership of a growing business. Small businesses always need capital, but never more than now when getting a bank loan is harder than ever. Conversely, if you have certain skills needed by a small business, you may be able to join that business as an owner/partner. Marrying capital with management and skills is a time honored way for all parties to make money, and very the foundation of free enterprise.

Lowering your cost of living. Not many people think of this as an income source but it really is. When you lower your living expenses, you’re lowering the amount of income you need to earn—that’s the equivalent of a fresh income source, but it gets even better.

The less income you need to live on, the less you need to earn, and the less you’ll need to pay in income taxes. That’s a double benefit. The biggest advantage here will come from lowering your biggest expenses, the ones that represent the biggest drain on your income. Less need for income means more freedom to pursue other income sources.

Jobs. I gotcha on this one, didn’t I? If there’s no job security and we need to pursue income security instead, why discuss jobs? Because jobs are, first and foremost, a source of income! The topic of income security isn’t a self-employment is good/having a job is bad debate—any legal income source is a valid one. That includes jobs.

Income from a job is good, it’s the complete reliance on it that creates problems. If you can keep a job while developing additional revenue streams, you’ll achieve income security in addition to having a job. Your job is then part of the income mix, but not the sole source.

One more point about jobs: if you intend to keep one in an era where there is no job security, it’s important that you emphasize skills over the job itself. Transferability is the key, and only a strong set of skills can give you that.

 
You’re creating income security in your life when you start receiving income from sources other than your employer. That point is important in itself—you shouldn’t quit your job to create income security—you can and should do it while you have a job. In fact it will be easier to do it this way, and your job itself can be part of the security you’re working to build.

At a time where there isn’t much in the way of job security, what steps are you taking to build your income security? Are there any ways I didn’t mention?

( Photo from Flickr by stevendepolo )


14 Responses to Income Security VS Job Security – Does it Matter?

  1. When starting the ideas of internet self employment one has to be very careful with cutting off the current employment. I am in that situation right now. It is tough to decide when is the right moment. You do not know if you are just riding a wave or on to something big.

    Excellent job security may very well lead to minor income security for me. However I think my income security may increase from my self employment.

    Are you completely committed to your self business now or doing the two like so many of us?

  2. I transitioned into it over nearly three years, but I didn’t start out with a regular job–that was long over. Instead I used contract jobs to pay the bills while building the blog. I also wrote on a freelance basis and still do.

    I think there’s a line you cross when it comes to being an entrepreneur and that it’s different for every person. You eventually come to the point where you fully commit–you take the leap of faith. Once you do, you’re open to any plausible opportunity to that comes accross your path. In my case, I no longer look for jobs but would consider one if it could fit neatly with my business. In the meantime, any opportunity to expand my business or move into a new one is on the table. That becomes the whole, new focus.

  3. Love your point about there being no more astronaut jobs anymore. Not sure how true that is – they just don’t have any American hardware to fly into space right now. But it does make a great point – job security is merely an illusion that many people cling to.

    Hopefully this recession that we are in, and the resulting job losses, will open people’s eyes and make them realize that there is absolutely nothing such as job security. Self employment might be the closest thing to it because, as an entrepreneur, you can zig and zag as you need to, reinventing yourself if something doesn’t work out. It is a lot harder to do this when you are working for someone else – you either have a job, or you don’t.

    As far as when it is time to take that leap of faith into entrepreneurship, the timing is different for everyone. For my wife and I, we had enough of working for a large corporation and could take no more. So we decided to take a blind leap of faith, quite our ‘perfectly good’ jobs, and became self employed. We are about 2 weeks away from our 6 year anniversary of doing this. It certainly hasn’t been easy – a series of ups and downs – and we have had to reinvent ourselves a time or two, but it has been SO worth it!

  4. Hi Marshall–The astronaut analogy was my friend Jays observation, I don’t want to claim credit!

    I completely agree about the zig-zag factor that you CAN do with self-employment but not with a job. That point is even more true today in that most jobs are cookie cutters where you’re brought in to do a specific job and not given much opportunity to move outside. Reinventing ourselves on an ongoing basis is one of the basic methodologies of self-employment and once you’ve done it a couple of times it’s never so scary.

    Good for you and your wife taking that leap of faith. I don’t think that’s a good idea for most people, but if you have the ability and you’re ready to do it than any time is good.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    No, I agree, it is a horrible idea for someone to quit their day job and turn around and become self employed. Fortunately it worked out for us, but I highly recommend to start a business on the side while one is still gainfully employed.

  6. Absolutely. A full time business plunge is beyond most people, but starting as a side venture is usually quite doable. You can make mistakes while you learn and it won’t send you to the poor house.

  7. If one is able to find a relatively well paid employment and then save a high portion of that income then that extra capital can used to help provide some of the elusive job security. There are some REITs that yield a healthy 7% or more. Also one can buy a website at realistically good multiple, but it takes awhile before one can gain the analytically skills to see the difference between a piece of crap and a valuable asset with potential. Still though it doesn’t change the fact that one needs money to make money.

  8. Hi Juan–I think you’ve got some good suggestions along the line of investing in a small business (a website) and investing in high yield assests (REIT). And you’re right, it takes money to do both. My thought is that the website might be better leverage of a small amount of money, but it does require some level of expertise.

    Which is another important point, that if you do invest in a small business, it should be one that you understand and not just a shot in the dark in the hope that it will somehow work out profitably.

  9. Good post! I think job security is quickly becoming a thing of the past, if it has not done so already. I think income security is definitely starting to take hold for many, especially for those in younger generations. Running our own business, we’re all about getting those multiple income streams so we’re not dependent on one versus another.

  10. Hi John–If that’s happening among those in their 20s right now, that would be a major step foward, and a sign that they’re embracing the changes in the economy. It’s a real way to deal with the under-employment that a lot of people are trapped in.

  11. I am quite happy with my job but also do some freelancing on the side for extra income. I don’t have dreams of entrepreneurship, so it’s really just about honing my skills (which are the same for both my FT work and freelancing) in order to maintain my employability.

  12. A good one, Kevin. I have been thinking for sometime now that the time of employment as we know it is gone; we have to learn in a time of ‘work nomadism’ – this is when we generate income from different jobs and all is very flexible and in the air. Issue is that this kind of work requires completely different organisation of our lives. And the ones amongst us in our mid forties and fifties are at the forefront of all that.

  13. Hi Maria–”Work nomadism” – that sounds like the title to a new post! Excellent concept! People in their 40s and 50s are being forced into it by necessity, and as it’s often said, necessity is the mother of invention. I’d say innovation too. But it’s hitting people in their 20s to. I think it may transform the job market much quicker than most of us think.

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