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.
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?