A column I wrote in this space several weeks ago generated an unprecedented response. The subject was the competition between younger and older people for the same scarce jobs. Much of the feedback that I received revolved around personal experiences of people who felt that they were unfairly victimized because of their age. Several were young people who wondered how you can get a job that calls for experience without getting the experience. There seemed to be a common thread that related to the hardships many families face as a result of the recession, ranging from layoffs to business failures.
Many of the people seemed to find the answer in a “second” income. Americans have long become accustomed to the concept of two incomes in a family but increasingly more spouses have pitched in with some kind of income producing venture that helps the family bottom line. Without getting into the social implications for society, I heard of a number of stories that may be worth sharing.
David, a 31-year old father of three, lost his job as a production manager for a trade publication. After six months of job-hunting, he was still not any closer to a job. A job counselor advised him to take some courses in sales with the idea that there were many sales jobs available. It turned out that the compensation for most of the offers was based on commission with little or no fixed salaries.
Eve, David’s stay-at-home wife had started to dabble in a home-based graphics business focusing on a specific industry. She called the money her business made “spending money” and had little time to either plan or actually expand the business. It was at this point that David came up with what he called “an insane idea” to try to build up his wife’s business. He had after all invested the time in the sales training. That was eight months ago. David indeed developed the business, is no longer looking for a job, and the couple is now seriously considering a move to a nearby office building and hiring a clerical person.
Joe, a manager in a small machinery parts business, was having increased difficulty in paying bills. At 30, his two children were in pre-school and the cost of tuition alone was “choking” him. His wife worked part-time at the office of a local dentist but he was increasingly worried about his job. His boss had already notified the staff that sales were off by about 20%. That’s when an idea hit him. Perhaps he could work out some arrangement with his boss to sell the parts on-line. Thankfully, his boss dismissed the idea and agreed to share in the profits provided that Joe made the investment. He did, and left his job devoting his energy to his new successful business.
For many people, a “second income” means taking on another job. A local yeshiva recently hired a Jr. Accountant for Sundays to do journal entries and prepare reports for the accountants. A restaurant hired a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) to replace their full-time mashgiach during weekends.
The challenges of producing enough income for a household are ever-present but so much greater in a recession. It requires a bit of creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking like David and Joe, whose answers were right in front of their noses. I recently read about a company that sells amenity kits to hotels and corporations on the West Coast. The gist of the story in an in-flight magazine was that the company had gone “green” and was selling the hotels products that were environmentally sound. There was one line in the article that caught my eye. It spoke about the nephew of the boss who had been laid off from a computer consulting job and decided to expand the business to the Central states with great success.
Al, a self-employed real estate broker had fallen on hard times. At 57, he was having difficulty finding a full-time job and his wife who had worked most of her life suffered from crippling arthritis. Here briefly is his story, in his own words: “I was at the point where I was ready to accept the fact that I would have to rely on benefits just to get by when I took stock of my experience. I realized that I knew many building managers and owners and that they would occasionally ask me for a good repairman. I hired two handymen that were looking for work and started to call and visit all my contacts. In the last four months, I have been averaging $30,000 a month in repairs, enough to pay my bills. I still, here and there, make some money on brokerage.”
A second income, whether for self or a spouse, is obviously not for everyone. Many people’s life circumstances prevent them from even considering a second income, but for those who can entertain the idea, it is a good way to beat the recession. There are many people whose careers were launched in a down economic climate because they had an idea that worked out.