Trading Hours For Dollars
Many years ago, about seventeen to be exact, I was a thirty-year-old newcomer to the field of economic development and worked for one of the biggest and most inefficient and politically-driven bureaucracies on planet Earth. That’s right. Crook County government, referred to by many as Cook County.
My first mentor in the field was a political appointee from the south side Democratic political machine who did not hold a college degree. Nothing against those who do not hold degrees, but I sure did wonder why I went through so many years of schooling only to be out-earned by a guy with only a high school diploma.
He was and probably still is a terrific guy who took me under his wing and always told me the way things were done at the county. Who was who and what was what. Who’s applications should be moved to the top and were slated for a quick, painless approval and which ones would be lost in the sludge pile never to be seen again. What companies to call when we had to contract for services, and which ones to conveniently lose track of. That sort of thing that helps keep the wheels of bureaucracy turning.
I recall him telling me many a time that he was sick of trading his hours for dollars and that is all that we were doing. We would never get ahead of the curve just by trading the hours of our days for hourly pay although we were both salaried non-union employees.
Going on eighteen years later, I have discovered just how true that is. Because my family’s expenses always seem to exceed my income by five to ten percent, no matter how many small annual salary increases I receive, it is never enough. When I made eighty grand a year, we spent like I made ninety. When I made ninety, we spent like I made a hundred. And now that I make $108,000 and my wife makes another $7,500, we spend like we make $125K instead of $115.
What to do?
As I have previously written, common sense tells us that there are three solutions. One is to spend less money. Another solution is to make more. The best solution is to make more and spend less.
Because our expenses, including keeping our teen aged daughter fully outfitted and engaged with her many activities, and our son the same at his college, I do not foresee curtailing our family’s spending in the future. As a matter of fact, with us recently having obtained a new vehicle and needing to replace our phones, electronics, furniture and even some musical instruments in the near future, there is a good chance that our spending will increase significantly this coming year. Not to mention that I did not even leave the state for more than a few days in 2017, only making it as far as Cheese Land.
On a side note, while spending over seven difficult years as a P.O. out of college, I took notes on some interactions and later put them into a somewhat fictionalized account called The Probation Officer under a pseudonym of George Kawalik. It is not exactly Shakespearean or Stephen Kingian, but I have yet to find a more realistic account of what it is like to be a big-city probation officer anywhere. I did not edit it very well, but the writing is sincere, gritty and realistic. It sold a dozen copies last month.
I mention that because it is always a pleasant surprise to see the $30 to $100 in any given month deposited into our checking account from Amazon. True enough, it will never earn me enough additional income to take my family on a Hawaiian vacation or purchase a Honda minivan, but I would rather make the extra dough every month than not. Especially considering that I have not added a word to it for over ten years.
Thus, my point.
Even though over ninety percent of our income is derived from exchanging our hours for dollars, my wife and I receive another four thousand dollars or so per year the past few years, three thousand or so from dividends and capital gains, and another thousand or so from eBook sales.
Those dollars collected not from trading our hours for them are my favorites, and the ones that I dream of growing from four thousand to forty thousand or four hundred thousand.
So I Finally Know What I Want to Be When I Grow Up
Next May, should I remain gainfully employed at my current place of employment or somewhere comparable, I will hit the quarter century mark of full-time employment, all with local governments. I recently wrote of the quarter century since the completion of my bachelor’s degree, so I am always a few months behind that date when it comes to the tenure of my employment.
I spent nine years as a Crook County employee, seven as an Adult Probation officer and another two as an economic development planner. Following that, I worked for a fairly shitty municipality as its economic development director for three years. Ever since May of 2005, I have worked for my current place of employment.
A worker bee since ’93.
I have received a paycheck on alternative Fridays since that time, and, believe me, my family relies on it to pay for everything from food on our table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our head. We routinely spend and invest ten thousand or more per month with no end in sight.
That leaves me to wonder what it is that I can do to launch our family into the upper middle class realm that we seem to subscribe to already without the requisite income. What could help launch me into increasing my income by ten, twenty or fifty thousand.
What I possess that is marketable and valuable to others is my extensive knowledge of self-help that I have gleaned from reading thousands upon thousands of words written by gurus like Tony Robbins all the way to the mommy bloggers seeking their voice in the world.
I also possess an extensive knowledge about investing, learned by reading works from the greatest financial minds to posts on Yahoo! Finance discussion pages to newsletters from a dozen or more institutions that I invest with or follow. I have about as much knowledge as one could possess about economic development, although the market for that knowledge is fairly limited and applies only to a specific set of practitioners. The field is very interesting, but the keywords lack the appeal that things about money, self-improvement, celebrities, sex or shopping do. Hey, there’s a great string of keywords for you: “Self-improving celebrities shop and have sex for money.”
Finally, I am an extremely dedicated father and have shared just a small bit of my philosophy on fatherhood. I, myself, enjoyed the benefit of having had a great father and always strive to be one for my own children although it is certainly not always easy.
Not so long ago, it would not have been possible for me to share these words with you. Without the ability to share one’s thoughts and ideas electronically with anyone, nobody would have been willing to publish random thoughts like these due to their scant commercial value.
Nowadays, a slightly above average Middle Class Guy like Yours Truly can not only share my thoughts with you via a blog on a website, but I am also in the process of repackaging numerous New Year resolution-related posts into an eBook that will surely sell a few copies. I could record my thoughts via podcast and share them with the world. I could publish “classes’ on websites where customers pay to access them. I could sell crap made in China or Taiwan or that I purchase at the local Walmart on a eCommerce site. I could call myself an “expert” editor or copywriter and market myself for hire on numerous sites.
This is not about me, by the way. You, too, could and should engage in one or more of the above. Perhaps you know something that others find interesting and could put together an eBook about it or assist someone else who wants to learn from you.
The businesses that I work with in my professional day job open operate in brick-and-mortar locations. They have to spend a significant amount of capital to open their places including the many applications, permits and licenses that our community requires, the physical space to purchase or lease, equipment to purchase or lease, employees to hire and pay, legal formalities to complete, inventory to stock, manufacturing costs to incur, utilities to pay and much more.
Combining these huge start-up and operational costs with the startling statistic that over 90% of small businesses will fail within three years of launch, the low set-up cost of starting a blog, publishing an eBook, hiring yourself out on upwork or setting up an Amazon seller account is negligible.
Therein lies the reason that I want to become an Internet Infopreneur.
There are dozens of reasons why I am going to become an Infopreneur this year, now that I have reached the prime age of forty-seven.
As much as I would like to write how I will replace my entire income, including health insurance for my family, by becoming an Infopreneur, I know that I will not.
I realize that many folks make far more than I do completely online, but I honestly do not possess the high level of knowledge on technical matters that they do, and I am not technologically savvy enough to design my own websites and come up with new, original and exciting ad copy that makes people want to buy.
Of course, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so perhaps instead of a tagline like “Awesome Gear For Awesome People” that LSDMan.com uses, I could use something a little toned down like “Cool Stuff for Cool Folks” or “Great Stuff at a Greater Price.” Whatever works. There are only so many catchphrases that exist in this language, and I am sure that I can think of one. If it does not work, it can always be changed.
So one of the things about my becoming an Infopreneur is that I will not be thinking about replacing my full-time income with my online endeavors. Eventually, I hope to supplement my income in a huge way by creating informational products.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, you can sell an eBook, plates or toys online twenty-four hours per day seven days per week. When you are sleeping in bed, when you are at your day job, when you are making love and while you are enjoying dinner with your family.
Creating a steady income stream above and beyond what you are paid for trading your hours for dollars is the only path to financial freedom, whether it be income derived from collecting rent, copyrights or patents that produce royalties, goods produced and sold, investments that produce dividends and capital gains, or words typed on paper or in the virtual world that customers will pay to access.
What you and I need is some thing, tangible or intangible, that can become a source or multiple sources of steady income for years and years. Back to my little $25 in royalties for The Probation Officer last month. As paltry as that is, I wonder if I had ten newer, more compelling eBooks out there for sale, if each of the new ones would sell twice as well as that one and produce about $50 each per month on average, which would help me attain one of my goals and resolutions for this coming year, which is to earn $500 online in a month during 2018.
I would bet that you have some skill and knowledge greater than what I possess. The question is, are you going to keep them to yourself, continue toiling for others as I do, or figure out a way to convert them into some extra dollars this year?