By Steve Tobak, Published April 06, 2016
Every day, more and more people join the growing ranks of the gig economy as self-employed contract workers. The attraction is flexibility and independence. You’re your own boss, and you can take on more and more jobs as needed to pay the bills. At least that’s the theory.
Unfortunately, what starts out sounding like a pretty cool lifestyle can turn into a never-ending treadmill of long-hours and mounting debt. It’s no substitute for a career, but that doesn’t seem to deter millions – particularly Millennials – from going for it. And before they know it, they’re stuck.
On the heels of successful on-demand apps like Uber and Airbnb, what began innocently enough as the “sharing economy” has morphed into a massively hyped trend that appears to be consuming more and more of the labor force. Whether the gigs are online, offline, or both, the model is a boon for employers and a bust for workers.
For an eye-opening example of how this sort of thing can go south on you, check out Spike TV’s Life or Debt, where former sales executive Victor Antonio helps families restructure their finances, sort of like a turnaround specialist might restructure a failing company. The show’s sort of hokey but Antonio is the real deal.
ICYMI, last week’s episode featured a hard-working single mom who just kept adding more and more jobs – driving cars, renting rooms, cleaning homes, online marketing – until she was spread so thin that she actually had eight different gigs and still couldn’t make ends meet.
When Antonio finally got her to detail her income and expenses for each gig, it turned out that she made the most money doing the one thing where she really had talent – staging vacation rentals – while all the other gigs were burying her in hidden expenses with minimal return on investment.
So she quit all the gigs, got a job doing what she does best, and ended up doubling her income, working far fewer hours and getting out of credit card debt … all in just 90 days. Now she has an exciting career in a growing field instead of an endless treadmill of labor, debt and despair.
I wonder how many people would watch that show and think, wouldn’t it be great to have the opportunity to spend four days with a financial expert who knows just how to help me turn my life around? The thing is, nobody needs that.
Let me explain something. Companies may have several different product lines or service businesses, but they’re always searching for one thing: a competitive advantage in a big, high-growth market. That’s the Holy Grail of business. For Apple it’s the iPhone. For Intel it’s processors. For Wells Fargo it’s banking. For Toyota it’s cars. Believe it or not, none of those companies started out doing what they ultimately became known for. But they focused on the growth opportunity they were best suited for.
It’s exactly the same for individuals and their careers.
If you want to get ahead in this world, you have to find the one thing you love doing, become really good at it, and, if it’s in a growing field, you’ll no doubt be remarkably successful. Granted, it takes time to find that one opportunity, but if you keep searching and don’t settle, you’ll find it.
The other aspect of self-employment in general and working several different gigs in particular that most people don’t get is all the hidden expenses. That’s why companies love that business model so much: It allows them to offload capital and overhead expenses onto the worker.
People have a funny way of remembering how much they get paid while forgetting how much they had to spend to get it. Take ride sharing, for example. You have to pay for gas, maintenance and insurance. And each gig has its own unique set of expenses. Believe me, they add up fast. Simple math, folks.
When it comes to work, everyone should be doing the same thing that well-run companies do: find the intersection of what they do best and a growing market opportunity. Once you think you’ve found it, focus on doing just that.
The more time you spend doing multiple undifferentiated gigs, the lower your chances of ever finding that successful career and the higher your chances of falling into a financial hole you’ll never be able to climb out of.
Enjoy this video remix of Episode #5...put to music!
My friend Antonio McCoy wrote this article and I thought it was worth sharing. Working with families I've noticed that there is a lot of wasted time that could be used to get back to financial stability by running your home like a business.
Business owners too often confuse being busy with being successful. They're not the same thing!
Today we will learn:
• How you should treat time like money
• How to calculate what your time is worth
• The five biggest culprits of time theft
• Where your time goes in your existing schedule
• Strategies to allow you to take control of your schedule
If time were money, how would you manage yours?
Time is far more precious than money. There are a finite number of days that you will spend on this earth, while money is something you can usually get more of.
If you are 35 years old with a life expectancy of 75... you have already spent 12,775 days on Earth and have 480 months left to fulfill your life destiny. If you plan to retire at the age of 50 you have 180 months to make enough money to retire (a million dollars doesn't put a dent in retirement nowadays...) and in those months 1,440 days are weekends... so you have 3600 workdays to make it all happen. What are you waiting for... time to stop confusing being busy with being successful!
The fact is that many business owners - like yourself - actually manage their money as though it is more precious than their time. They started the business to choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and be their own boss. But, somewhere along the way the only goals that mattered became the financial ones. Or, the only item worth measuring and managing was money.
Your time will never be managed for you - you have to make a decision to choose to spend your time wisely. To take ownership of your own schedule, and use the power you have to change what isn't working. I'll show you a bunch of tools to get you started, but first let's take a look at what your time is worth first, to attach time to money.
Your time has a price tag, and sometimes it's much lower than you think.
Here's a really simple exercise to determine what your time is worth based on your annual income and the number of working hours in a year.
It's also unrealistic to assume that each of the 1,645 hours in a year is a productive one. Various studies have put actual productivity at anywhere between 25 minutes and four hours per day. That's a lot of room for improvement!
Now, this calculation doesn't factor in overtime hours, taxes, or expenses. If you work as a consultant for an hourly rate, it doesn't factor in the cost for you to provide your services. The point is, this is your hourly worth in the best-case scenario.
When you start thinking about time management, the goal is to get more done in less time, and thus increase your hourly worth (among other benefits, of course!).
There are five major things that drain your time. But don't worry, it's really easy to fix the leaks.
Email: Your email is a consistent distraction. With the mail program running all the time, emails can distract you as they arrive. Or, you'll find yourself checking for new messages every 15, 10 or five minutes. Writing, reading and responding to emails can easily monopolize your time, because they seem like an ever urgent and important task.
Cell Phone Your smart phone has likely given you increased freedom from your workplace, but they seem to have also taken away your freedom to choose when you work. You can work outside of the office, but this often means you also work evenings and weekends when spending time with your family and friends.
Open Door Policies While you want to be open and accessible to your staff, sometimes you can make yourself too accessible. Open door policies have the potential to create a daily mass of employees lined up at your door seeking immediate answers for non-emergency issues.
Meetings Unstructured, unnecessary, run-on meetings can gobble up hours for no reason at all. Especially as a business owner, your presence may be requested at a variety of meetings, but it's not always required.Days spent in back to back meeting often mean that your workday starts at five instead of nine.
You Since effective time management is a choice, everyone is guilty of letting themselves sabotage their ability to work productively and efficiently at all times. It's easy for business owners to avoid separating business hours from leisure time and let the two run together. We all have distractions that we fall into from time to time.
"It takes the human mind 15 minutes to properly focus... if you get interrupted every 7 minutes... you have a huge problem!"
Now you need to take some time to figure out where your time actually goes, so you can see what leaks need to be repaired.
You can use the worksheets provided in the members-only section of the site to assist you as you complete this personal time management research exercise.
You're going to take a good long look at how you spend your time so you can paint a clear picture of your current situation. Once you understand your own personal habits and patterns, you can start making changes that will have the greatest impact on your own schedule. You'll learn how to be a better time manager.
1. Complete a Time Audit for three working days in a row.
Use the Time Log Worksheet from the members-only section of the website, and record how you spend your time in detail for three working days (it is a bugger... we know so do not try get it perfect as that will just stop it from happening... but just do it. And remember 'the more you defend your excuses... they more they own you!').
Be honest with yourself, and be as specific as possible. If you notice something about what you're doing, or which distractions have the greatest negative impact, log these notes as well. The more information you can record, the better.
2. Take a look at your time records, and categorize the different ways you spend your time.
Use different colored markers or highlighters to shade the blocks of time you spent on various activities. You can create your own categories, or use the ones below:
• Eating, including preparation
• Personal Errands
• Watching TV
• Sleeping, including naps
• Personal computer use
• Being with family / friends
• Internal meetings
• Emailing (checking, reading, returning messages)
• External meetings
• Telephone, (checking and returning messages)
• Administrative work
• Client work
• Non-client, non-administrative work
3. Based on the categories you created, go through each of your days and decide if you have spent enough, too much, or too little time on each main task.
Based on your observations, answer the following questions:
1. What patterns do you notice about how you spend your time during the day? When are you most productive? Least productive? Most or least interrupted?
2. Write down the four highest priorities in your life right now. Does your timesheet reflect these priorities? (Show me your schedule and I will show you your priorities!)
3. If you have more time, what would you do?
4. If you had less time, what wouldn't you do?
5. Could you remove the items in question four and add the items in question three? Why or why not?
6. Is procrastination a problem for you? How much?
Here are a series of effective strategies for improving your time management skills, and for doing more in less time.
The strategies described below will help you take charge of your schedule and use your time in a more effective manner. Grab your pad of paper and start by choosing five or six strategies to try, take some notes as you read through and decide which you will try first.
Remember this is an individual process - everyone works differently - so if you have to try a few different things to get some meaningful results, that's okay/normal!
Effective time management is just a formal way of saying that you make good choices about how you spend your valuable time.
It really just boils down to making choices, and setting up a structure that enables you to succeed. You have to try a few different strategies and structures to see what works best for you.
Remember that time management is a personal investigation that will look different for everyone. Some people can work in the middle of a loud, crowded room, and others need absolute silence to function at a high level. Respect your own needs.
By Linda Bell Published April 04, 2016
Personal Finance FOXBusiness
Tennessee Ernie Ford crooned about it in the 1950's song Sixteen Tons.
Kanye West tweeted that he racked up $53 million of it.
Whether you “owe your soul to the company store” or you’re in the hole after following your dream of launching a fashion line - Americans are swimming in debt. A CardHub study says the average household with credit card debt now owes more than $7800 - the highest amount since the Great Recession.
“As far as the credit markets are concerned, 2016 might be shaping up to be the next 2008,” says Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at CardHub’s sister website WalletHub. “Consumer confidence is good for the economy, but bad when it comes to consumers overspending far beyond their means.”
Gonzalez says the “snowball method” is one way to become debt free at the lowest cost possible. “Attribute the majority of your monthly payment to your balance with the highest interest rate. That's where you’re losing the most money. Put all of your cash there and make the minimum payment on everything else. When your most expensive debt is paid off, repeat the process with your remaining balances.”
Victor Antonio, host of the Spike TV show “Life or Debt," advises consumers to use cash instead of credit cards and avoid being tempted to buy items just because they’re on sale. Antonio recommends an “economic shutdown” for anyone tackling debt.
“That’s when a family only spends on things they need, and not on things they want such as entertainment, eating out and vacations. An average family making $50,000 a year can save $1,500 a month.”
Credit card debt isn’t the only substantial debt we’re carrying. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says mortgage balances remain the largest component of household debt at more than $8 trillion.
John Sweeney, Executive Vice President of Retirement and Investing Strategies at Fidelity, says consumers should view mortgages and credit cards differently. “You’re paying for the home with a 30-year mortgage, but you’re going to live in it for 30 years. Usage of the home in the time you’re paying for it is aligned. Bad debt is when you put dinner on your credit card and you end up paying 18% over the next two years for that dinner you consumed in one night.”
The Federal Reserve says the second largest portion of household debt is student loans - at $1.2 trillion. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate.com says consumers have some options with the average student loan debt at $30,000.
“Student loan debt can typically be repaid over a period of 20 years or more, at a favorable interest rate, with forbearance options in the event of financial difficulty.”
McBride says families should work together to avoid as much student loan debt as possible.
“Parents can help by saving money during the 18-year lead time before college expenses kick in. Students can help by going to a less expensive school and majoring in something that actually translates to the job market.”
This is the first in a series of articles that will appear weekly during April; National Financial Literacy month.