And people ask me why I use Twitter (@tetrimbath). And now for something completely different, which is remarkably the same. Those who listen to public radio may already be familiar with the business show called Marketplace. They’re part of my Twitter feed so I can hear their succinct summaries of the economy, markets, and the world in money world in general. I think it was one of their tweets that asked for stories about the Gig Economy. Did I have a story to share? Sure. I filled in their form, can’t remember what I wrote, and got an email shortly after. Would I mind being interviewed? Sign me up! The piece was broadcast at 3pm East Coast time today. For people who wonder how to get a message out, there’s a lucky example. For people who think the job market in 2017 is the same as in 1987, tune in for mine and other stories. This is a new world.
I’ll skip the suspense for folks who just want to listen to the piece. Here’s the link. It’s less than 2.5 minutes.
Regular readers are welcome to enjoy the coincidence that my previous post was also about GIG, but that was the stock, not the modern workplace.
The Gig Economy is also called the 1099 Economy. Forty hour work weeks, paid vacations, and benefits sound so sweet. Many people continue to have such jobs, but they are fading. The economy has recovered nicely since the Great Recession, but 97% of the job growth has been in alternative jobs. W-2s aren’t growing much. Their part-time equivalent, the 1099, is where almost all of the growth is happening. If it feels fruitless to try to find full-time conventional employment that’s possibly because almost all of the new jobs are part-time, temporary gigs.
My Gig Economy is improving. Within the last few years I’ve gone from selling things around the house to pay bills and almost losing my house, to working seven days a week (see my Rule of 7), usually from 8 to 8 and having enough to pay almost all the bills except income tax or health insurance. Those aren’t bills that are improvements. It has only been within the last few months that I’ve made enough to pay for a few DIY repair projects, and they’ve felt like luxuries. I continue to internally recite my Litany of Optimism, and parts of it may finally succeed (except for GIG.)
I mention my situation for the same reason I wrote Dream. Invest. Live. and started this blog. Money is a taboo even as it is central to our lifestyles. When I wrote the book I knew there were few who would openly talk about their money management. Besides, a book has to be general so it is applicable years later. A blog provides current reports. To those who think I only talk about the downside of money, go back and read the early parts where it looked like I’d be a millionaire again, and soon. Then I was criticized for being too positive. Aiming for honesty generates interesting reactions from the same people at different times. As I recall, that line from Fiddler on the Roof is, “When you’re rich they think you really know.” It is amazing and sad to see how people measure intellect using wealth, even though they have little in common. Think about it. Do you know any poor people who are smart or wise? Do you know any rich people who could use a bit more education and maturity? If not, go look at the news again.
The Gig Economy can be sold as a wonderfully freeing alternative to the conventional workplace. And it is, when it is entered by choice. When necessity means there is no choice, then the Gig Economy can be a constant source of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. Companies are using Gig employees because the companies save money on benefits and can be more responsive with adding and subtracting people. Have you noticed corporate profits rising but wages stagnating? That’s one reason why. I think it works against the long term viability of the company because they lose expertise and rarely gain loyalty, but at least their near-term finances look better. The burden of benefits sits on the employee’s – oops – contractor’s to do list. People lose the economy of scale when negotiating for health care, lose the ability to recuperate mentally physically without losing a day’s wages for every day in recovery, and contractors must always be preparing to swap jobs because the notice can be short and the gap between the next paycheck may be longer than on billing cycle.
We are building a new economy and if we don’t pay attention to its inefficiencies and inadequacies the new economy won’t become sustainably efficient and hopefully more than adequate. That’s why I was willing and eager to pass along my story. Getting interviewed for it was just a very special treat. It is also an opportunity for me to expand upon < 2.5 minutes of me speaking (with some nice music interspersed.)
Some people march in parades. Some people create advocacy groups. Others get into politics. Many back away, and too many don’t even vote (and yet they complain.) I tell my story, and hope others find resonances with theirs.
With 15 minutes of interview edited to fit inside 2.5 minutes, much had to be set aside. Some of that I’ve covered above. One piece I want to pass along. Robert Garrova, the interviewer and reporter who I could learn a lot from about interviewing, asked why I didn’t go back to engineering. Didn’t I like it? Yes. I did, and do. I’ve knocked on that door for years. The only job interview I had for a full-time position was one where they knew they weren’t going to give me the job, but they didn’t believe anyone could truly live up to a resume like mine. They told me they were pleasantly surprised, but that of the 24 criteria for the job, I only met 22 of them. Getting a full-time job isn’t as easy as it was thirty or forty years ago. I got my first engineering job because I was above average and was the only applicant who had taken two normally disparate classes in college. They liked that combination and accepted the rest knowing I could be trained. Welcome to 2017.
It has already been fun and interesting to hear the feedback from friends. There’s no way to know if my story will change anything in the world or in my life, but it’s just like reading the news on Twitter. Doors can open in unexpected ways and lead to unexpected places. Now, it is time to close this post, add links, publish it, share it on social media – and then get back to work. It’s 8pm, but I have more work to do. Some of it is even billable.