This Is the Perfect Moment to Embrace the Portable Income Revolution

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on March 17, 2020 in Make Money

Stocks are down. Panic is up. No one seems to know what to do.

I think the most assuring words I’ve read recently are: “The coronavirus poses no existential threat to the human race. And it appears that children are spared, so the future is safe. Healthy people, too, are much more likely to survive than die.”

Indeed, like everything else, this, too, shall pass. And then science will gin up a vaccine and this moment will be but another brief, if slightly memorable hiccup in the digestion of time.

But in the meantime…the losses on Wall Street are very real and that scares people for the future of the economy—and their retirement.

This is the third time in the last 20 years that our nest eggs have come under attack. First, we had the popping of the tech bubble just as the new millennium arrived. I was in my early 30s. Honestly, I freaked out a bit. I still remember selling a lot of shares I owned, worried my life savings was going to evaporate. That was dumb.

Then came the housing collapse and the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 to slam just about every asset at the same time except gold, the Japanese yen, and the dollar (all are “fear trades”). I was in my early 40s. I sold nothing, though over the next decade I did slowly rejigger my portfolio to hold more cash, bonds, gold, and non-financial assets.

And now this…this crazy little bug.

I’m doing nothing. Not too worried either. As the sentiment above notes: This is not an existential threat to the human race. Nor is it an existential threat to the global economy. Some businesses will certainly feel the pinch as consumption slows in the near term. Some businesses will fail, particularly in the travel industry…a sort of Darwinian rationalization that, frankly, needs to occur. That will ripple through the economy, no doubt. But we’re not heading for a Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome landscape. Economies, like life itself, adapt quickly and thrive, even if in a slightly tweaked manifestation.

And if nothing else, this moment underscores one of the primary messages I and my colleagues at The Savvy Retiree regularly deliver: Take control of your own life…of your own happiness.

Several weeks back, I wrote about the collapse of the rickety, three-legged stool upon which retirement has long been stacked: Social Security, corporate pensions, personal savings. We all know pensions barely exist anymore, leaving Social Security and personal savings to hold the weight of retirement—and trying to balance a stool on just two legs is tricky.

But this C-virus moment shows us that there is another leg we can bolt onto the stool to make it substantially sturdier: Our ability to exploit the modern economy to extract value…to pull cash from the economy as though the economy is our personal ATM and, in that process, create a happier work/life balance or a happier retirement.

I am, of course, talking specifically about all the jobs that exist out there today that are entirely location independent. Indeed, perhaps the real existential impact of the C-virus is that it is a catalyst transforming “work” before our very eyes.

Particularly in the U.S., Europe, and parts of Asia, companies are telling employees to work from home. Unlike the virus itself, this will not be fleeting. This will prove transformative.

Companies and workers will come to realize that much of the work that happens in cubicles is actually location independent. Workers will realize they have a better work-life balance—able to work on their own schedule, break off during the day to accomplish personal and family tasks, and still complete as much work—and likely greater amounts of work—as they did inside an office. Companies will see that workers are just as productive, if not more productive from home (or coffee shops or wherever), and that they no longer need to spend heavily on acres of cubicle farms inside city-center towers or suburban campuses.

We—you and me—are already part of this accelerating revolution.

I and my colleagues often talk about income-earning opportunities in categories such as writing, photography, and teaching English online, but the real opportunity is technology itself.

Tech, the internet, WiFi, ultra-fast connection speeds, lightweight tablets and laptops, and uncountable yottaflops of information online are making so many jobs location independent these days that it’s impossible to list them all. And they cross a wide swath of industries. Radiologists can—and do—read X-rays from a beach in the Maldives. Computer-assisted designers can—and do—draw whatever they’re assigned to draw from a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Transcriptionists, transcribers, legal researchers, and others, can—and do—sit in a Starbucks in Scranton, Sacramento, and Chicago and complete the tasks they’re given before heading to the dentist, or to shop for groceries for dinner tonight, or to pick up the kids from school. Retiree backpackers can—and do—provide high-level corporate consulting from a mountain village in the Andes or the Rockies or the Alps.

And everyone is happy.

The radiologist, the CAD draftsman, the transcriptionist, the consultant…they’re living lives that make them feel complete, which, in turn, motivates them to excel for fear of losing a great gig that balances their work with the lifestyle that brings them contentment. And the businesses they report to are happy because they employ motivated workers cranking out high-quality work—and often more of it.

What I am saying is this: If ever there was a moment when you wanted to change your work life to one that is location independent, now is that moment. This little C-virus bug—for all the havoc it is causing—is shifting global tides in ways that benefit workers.

Use it to your advantage. Take control of this moment to shape the lifestyle you want. Make your three-legged stool sturdier…and your life happier.

Written by Jeff D. Opdyke