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What is your B plan?

20 October 2020

The world is changing, and perhaps not for the better.

There, I said that like a real curmudgeon didn't I?

Grumpy or not, one can't ignore the fact that things are happening in the world around us that are effectively beyond the control of individuals.

CV19 has carved a swathe through the economies of the Western World in a way that is only just starting to be felt by the vast majority of workers. Jobs that, little more than six months ago, seemed safe and secure, are now evaporating like the drops of a summer shower on hot concrete.

Taxpayer-funded subsidies have provided life-support to many industries adversely affected by the pandemic but that can only continue for so long. Eventually the harsh reality of the situation must be recognised and we have to simply accept that key industries such as international tourism will not "bounce back" anytime soon.

The flow-on effect of this massive contraction of our second-largest industry will send shockwaves through the entire economy and result in further business failures and job losses downstream.

So do many people have a B plan for survival and if so, just what is that plan?

The average Kiwi works from eight to five and gets paid either by the hour or via a salary. This provides them with the safety and security of income they need to take on debt such as a mortgage, car payments and other things that represent a regular drain on the old bank balance.

So long as they have basic budgeting skills and keep their expenses appropriate to their income, most Kiwis have a pretty easy job of surviving the ups and downs of life in Godzone.

But what happens when that regular income stops or even if it is reduced by any significant amount?

How will they cope then?

Yes, we have basic welfare systems in place to ensure that nobody starves or dies of hypothermia on the streets for lack of money -- but the transition from middle-class wage/salary earner to beneficiary could be a nasty jolt that nobody would find pleasant.

For this reason, everyone should have a B plan. A strategy for generating extra or alternative income, should the worst happen.

I guess that as an entrepreneur I've always had multiple income streams -- often because no single one was large enough to pay the bills. Even when I worked an 8-5 job, I was always doing other stuff in the evenings and weekends to pay the bills. A little writing for magazines here, a bit of freelance software development there. Without these additional sources of money life would have been far less fun.

Sadly, I suspect that very few Kiwis are privileged or lucky enough to have the drive, confidence and skills needed to generate sensible amounts of money outside their day-job. That's a shame but, fortunately for them, cash is not the only part of a B plan.

Now that I'm settled in the new abode, I'm about to get all nuclear on a patch of grass up the back of the property and build some raised beds for growing vegetables. I'm also going to espalier some fruit trees against the shed walls. This is far from self-sufficiency but if we find ourselves short of a bob or two, at least the food budget will be reduced somewhat through our own investment of time and effort. It's also a nice project to relax the mind and body.

One thing that does concern me a lot right now though, are the number of scammy "get rich" schemes being flogged on the internet. YouTube videos are plastered with ads promising that you can earn a fortune while sleeping or partying by investing in a series of online seminars that spill the secrets to some fantastic program or some formula for wealth.

Cue Tui's ad.

These are almost always a simple pyramid scheme. The "secret" is that you make your own ads and sell exactly the same program to others. Whilst those who get in early might make money, those who come in further down the track will find the market already saturated and very few takers left for their scam. One only has to remember that if these "formulas for riches" actually worked, those flogging them wouldn't need to be pan-handling a bunch of lame seminars on the interwebs -- they'd be retired and living on a tropical island somewhere already.

Never the less, I fear that an unreasonable number of people who are going to be laid off or made redundant in the coming months may believe the crap that's pitched at them and waste their money on these schemes. The tragedy is that if they actually spent that money on legit training to upskill themselves they'd be much more likely to see a return on that investment.

However, we have to acknowledge that no matter how well trained you are, there are likely going to be significant increases in the number of folk who are looking for work, once all the subsidies dry up and the economy really starts to contract. How ironic therefore, that seasonal positions picking fruit and such, seem to be going begging. Nobody wants to actually do hard physical labour or be paid on a "what you're worth" basis?

Sure, the hourly rate may be crap if you're not super-fast and young enough to go at it all day without a break... but any money is better than no money. I'm not ashamed to admit that there were times (when I was much younger) that I survived by following the seasonal work around and getting paid peanuts for some very long and hard days of slog. Such jobs make you better appreciate the importance of skilled work and the higher pay rates.

I suspect many of Aardvark's readers are retired or semi-retired by now, in which case the B plan is not really that important. However, if you have a B plan, or if you're young enough that a B plan could be a life-saver for yourself and your family, please share yours with the rest of us.

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