My Career as an Entrepreneur

Maybe It’s Something to Look Into

Have you ever thought about going it alone? Usually, on a Monday morning, after a way-too-short weekend? Or, maybe after the boss just tore you a new one in front of your co-workers? Recently, I read an article denouncing Multi-Level Marketing and other such companies as scams. While that may be true in some cases, I have always found that you get what you put into any opportunity. Often, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. That said, my experience with MLM and Entrepreneurship has been very hit or miss over the years. The biggest lures are time and money. Having more of each is something everyone dreams of. But is this the best way to get it?

Over the years, I have tried many businesses, from Government Auctions to Life Insurance. I wish I could say that each one was a success, but that would be a blatant lie. Most of the time, breaking even was cause for celebration. However, my motto has always been, “A dollar you earn working for yourself is worth a hundred dollars working for someone else!” I believed that, and I still do. However, it’s a tough road alone. These days, there are opportunities to “Partner” with existing businesses that can benefit you both. Keep an eye out for these, and you too might become a Partner-preneur

There’s a lot to be said for taking on a business associate, physical as well as virtual. During my stint with Government Auctions, I did all the transportation of inventory on my own. It’s a miracle I didn’t wind up flattened under a desk or filing cabinet. Having a beefy college kid to help me out might have been a smart move. Although, I have found you need to be careful who you partner with.

Companies like Uber, Lyft, and Shipt offer you the enticement of earning money on your own. However, the low pay and extra miles on your vehicle might derail your plans for financial independence. The one thing those companies do offer is the ability to set your own hours. That checks the time box mentioned earlier, however, the money factor is still lacking. Oh well, keep your eyes open and the right opportunity might find you. Stranger things have happened. 

If you like what you’re reading on this blog, please leave a comment and share it with your friends. New articles are posted every Monday and Thursday. Thank you for visiting!




Have You Ever Thought About Becoming an Entrepreneur?

It Might Not Be Too Crazy After All!

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about College vs Vocational Education. Hopefully, you know a young person who could benefit from it. This week, I wanted to tackle a topic you may (or may not) have been thinking about. Becoming an Entrepreneur or a Small Business Owner (SBO).

I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have two dimes to rub together and you want me to think about starting a business?” Well, yes. I want you to think about it. There are many successful businesses that have been started by folks in our age group. Many of these people were laid off from their main source of income. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s probably not the best set of circumstances to start a business. However, necessity is the mother of invention.

There are two schools of thought. Use your years of experience at your old job and strike out on your own as an Independent Contractor. Or, take stock of your resources and try to make a business out of your biggest hobby or passion. An article on CNBC’s website states that many laid-off people chose to start a business simply because their re-employment chances are so abysmal.

I have to be honest. I am a failed Entrepreneur. Many of the businesses I started over the years failed. Mainly because I didn’t have the time or money to give the business an honest shot. I have tried everything from government auctions to partnering with travel agencies, to building mobile websites, just to mention a few. Some of them could have made it if I had more time to spend on them. I think that’s the reason many businesses started by the over-50 crowd succeed. Especially if they have been laid off. They have the time necessary to build their new business.

As you probably know, the majority of new businesses in this country fail. Motley Fool states that 4 out of 5 new businesses fail in the first year. Not great odds, but looking at it from the other side of the equation, that means that 20% of new businesses make it through the first year. The businesses that do succeed seem to have one element in common: PASSION. You have to be passionate about whatever you decide to turn into a business, or it is more than likely doomed to fail. Also, it takes the time and money that I mentioned earlier, but passion can take you a long way.

In this article, I am going to give you examples of folks just like us, who started their dream business after 50 and are doing very well. These people have truly taken lemons and made lemonade, or coffee, or bagels, or wine. Whatever their passion may be.

One way to start a business is to turn your hobby into a business. Say, you’re a stamp collector with some degree of knowledge in that area. You could start a website offering up some of your more valuable stamps for sale. If your website catches on, you could make money by putting up other collectors’ stamps for sale on your website. That’s just off the top of my head. If you choose to do this business, don’t forget your inspiration! I accept tens and twenties.

What really can get you sick is when you read a story about some guy who is pulling down six figures in the corporate world. Then he GETS BORED. He starts up a company based on his lifelong hobby of butterfly collecting, or some such thing. The company is a huge hit, and inside of a year, he’s a millionaire. Meanwhile, we are having a hard time making ends meet, let alone starting up a company based on our interests. We don’t have the luxury of “Getting Bored”.

However, it might be easier than you’d think. In this day and age, the Internet has become a worldwide marketplace. Just look at Amazon and eBay. There are people from all over the world selling products on those websites! The only problem with that sort of business is that the competition is very stiff. Your company might be so far down the product list only a dedicated bargain-hunter might stumble across it by accident!

I guess to me what it all comes down to is this. Do you go big, or go home? Unfortunately, most folks in our situation, we don’t have a load of cash sitting around, just waiting for an investment in a fledgling business. You may need to find other sources of startup cash. But remember, whether your business succeeds or fails, you still owe that money! For that reason, I would stay away from Ricco the Loan Shark.

I found an article on Arkenea. It features a list of people who started their own businesses after the age of 50. This includes one female bodybuilder, who started her business at 56 and is now 78! Good Lord! One guy started a bakery without any baking skills! Maybe he was good at eating donuts? Yet another guy started a coffee company with his wife, in Hawaii no less! Also, many of the people in this article have started up an online business. I have to admit, looking at some of them, I wouldn’t think they could turn on a PC, let alone have a successful online business!

The point is if THEY made it YOU can too! At least that’s what I keep telling myself! I found that article very inspiring. It shows that, regardless of your age, with the right amount of timing, money, and luck, you can still build a successful business in America. If not, there’s always the Lottery. That reminds me, the Powerball is up to almost $460 Million. Got to buy a ticket today!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


This Second Career May Be For You!

(Author’s Note:  I originally wrote this article not long after I launched TBPC. However, because of my association with Primerica at that time, I wasn’t able to publish it.  Since I have broken ties with Primerica, I can now post it.  I hope you find it enlightening and enjoyable.  – JL)

This week I am going to talk about one of the Side Hustles I tried fairly early on in my forced retirement.  Primerica (Primerica Financial Services).

You may, or may not have heard of Primerica.  It is one of the top financial services companies in the country.  The Primerica business model is unique.  They actually put the needs of their clients first.  That business model enabled Primerica (PRI) to go public with one of the most successful IPOs of 2010.

The business has two sides to it.  The client-side and the opportunity side.  The client-side offers products that range from investments to debt reduction, insurance, legal protection, and much more.  The opportunity is to own a small business, with Primerica’s help.

Primerica is a solid company that has been in business since 1974 and has built its reputation by helping out families that have been ignored by the larger financial services companies.

That’s great you say, but how is this an opportunity to own my own small business?  A good question!  Primerica has grown the company by always being on the lookout for sharp people who want the freedom of running their own business.  If you meet with a Primerica Representative, and they are impressed with you, you will be invited to an interview.

If you join Primerica as a Representative, your business is grown entirely on word of mouth referrals and your ability to recruit others onto your team.  You join the business as part of a team, then you start working on building your own team.  To build a client base and recruit potential Representatives, you will be asked to contact your friends and family.  This is to see if they are properly protected financially and/or looking for a way to start a small business.

This is where a lot of people will shy away from Primerica.  Nobody wants to tick off their family and friends by “ratting them out” to Primerica.  However, what it all comes down to is that every family should know where they stand financially, and where they can do better.  This is where you can help, with the financial products I listed above, and the prospect of earning some extra money.  If you decide to join the company as a Representative, there are some small startup costs.  $99 to join the company and $25 per month for website access.  That’s it.

Now, for the not-so-rosy part of the picture.  The targeted demographic age group for clients (and prospective Representatives) is 25-35, married, kids, job, and homeowners.  Since we are in the 55-65 age bracket, unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to us.  However, if you have a large family, who might need some of the services that Primerica provides, you may be on your way.  Plus, some of your family members may be interested in becoming Representatives.

I’m not going to lie to you.  Unless you are a naturally outgoing person and/or have a large group of family or friends in the demographic I mentioned earlier, Primerica may not be for you.  I worked HARD for 9 months and came away with 2 clients and 1 recruit onto my team.  I am one of the clients and my recruit dropped out of the business before really getting started.

That said, this may be an income stream for you to check out.  If you are able to create a decent sized team, it will take on a life of its own.  Keep in mind that the time commitment to be successful at Primerica is substantial.  If you are the type of person who is willing to bust your hump for a few months, or up to a year or two, then Primerica may be for you.

HERE IS MY GIGANTIC DISCLAIMER!  During the whole 9 months I was trying to build my Primerica business, I was bringing in Zero Dollars of additional income!  This added a level of pressure that was not conducive to success in the company.  The opportunity is designed for you to start part-time and eventually go full-time.

That said, if you are the type of person who would like to give it a try, I would definitely recommend using one of the other income-producing Side Hustles (possibly driving for Uber & Lyft) to bring in some cash.  This will relieve a lot of pressure to succeed right off the bat, with Primerica as your only income stream.  I only wish I had approached Primerica this way in the first place.  My results might have been different.

Well, there it is.  If you live in the Detroit metro area and would like to learn more about Primerica, please contact Heidi McCarroll from the Troy office at 586-619-0123.  If you live outside the Detroit area, contact the Primerica Main Office at 770-381-1000.  Ask to be put in touch with a Representative in your area.

Hopefully, this article has helped point you in a direction you may not have considered before.  If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy talking with people, this may be the opportunity you have been waiting for.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends.  Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner.  Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

The Rule of 55

One Option You May Want To Check Out!

(Author’s Note:  I originally wrote this article not long after I launched TBPC. However, because of my association with Primerica at that time, I wasn’t able to publish it.  Since I have broken ties with Primerica, I can now post it.  I hope you find it enlightening and enjoyable.  – JL)

You’ve just been laid off from a job you’ve held for over 20 years.  This is no seasonal or temporary layoff.  This is the big “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!” layoff.  You are suddenly a member of The Brown Parachute Club.  Now, what do you do?

Like everyone, you have certain financial responsibilities that were being met by your paycheck.  Just how are you going to meet those obligations now?  If you’re lucky, there will be a Severance Package.  And sure, there’s Unemployment Insurance, but that’s only going to pay you a small fraction of what you were earning.  Also, Unemployment payments will only begin once your Severance payments run out, so no double-dipping.

Well, this dark, horribly ugly cloud, does have a silver lining.  If you have been diligent with your retirement savings and have built a nice little nest egg, that egg can save your bacon.  What I am talking about here is raiding your retirement plan to pay off all of your debt.  I know this flies in the face of everything you have heard about retirement planning.  However, this isn’t retirement planning, it’s financial survival.  It’s just an option you may want to consider.

Full disclosure here.  I am NOT a Financial Advisor and I do NOT hold a Securities License.  That said, I can only tell you what I did.  I decided that paying off all our debt would be a great way to get a fresh start and reduce financial stress during the unemployment period.

Now for the bad news.  Paying off all of your debt by raiding your 401k may seem like a great idea, until you take Mr. Taxman into consideration.  Since the money I wanted to withdraw to pay off our debt had never been taxed, I was in for a cataclysmic shock.  The total amount of money I had to withdraw to pay off all of our debt had over 1/3 of it going to pay taxes!  Yikes!  The government will always get their cut.

After I finished channeling our Founding Fathers, by railing against the injustice of taxes and the tyranny of the crown, I realized it actually could have been a lot worse.  When I was researching whether or not to pull the trigger on this major reallocation of my retirement funds, I came across a little known rule.  The Rule of 55.

Apparently, the phenomenon we are experiencing, being laid off before retirement, is such a prevalent problem the IRS is giving us a break.  They have come up with a rule that allows you to withdraw money from your qualified retirement plan, WITHOUT having to pay the 10% penalty.  After the financial kick-in-the-teeth you just received from paying those taxes, this probably seems like small potatoes.  However, it will keep you from having to cough up thousands of dollars more to Uncle Sam in penalty fees.  Always a good thing.

Now for the second disclaimer of this article.  I recommend that you contact your tax specialist to verify whether you qualify for this exception.  You have to be 55 years old (or older) in the year that you are laid off from your job. You also qualify if you turn 55 in that year.  For more information about this rule, click on this link to view the IRS Topic 558 document.

It is completely up to you whether you choose to employ this debt reduction option.  I just know that since we have paid off our debt, there is a great relief and peace of mind that comes with knowing we are debt-free.  Our only bills each month now are food, gas, insurance and utilities.

Hopefully, this article has given you something to think about. As you face the uncertainty of early retirement, it’s nice to know you have some options.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Sunken Costs

When is Enough, Enough?

Hey! Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article about Automation. What an uplifting piece that was! This week I decided to cover a topic I have been thinking about recently, Sunk (or Sunken) Costs. These are defined as a past cost that has already been paid and can’t be recovered. Like that vacation in Hawaii. You had a great time in paradise, but the money you spent on that trip is long gone.

There are many ways to look at sunken costs. Financial, obviously. However, there are more personal ways to look at it as well. What if you spent 3 years working on a degree in a field that is no longer viable, or of interest you? What if you have a friend who is a constant drain on your time and energy, who provides nothing to you in return? Those are other ways that sunken costs may be controlling our lives without realizing it.

The main category is Financial, of course. The biggest sunken cost for most people is their house. Cars come in second, but your house is the one cost that will actually increase in value, instead of depreciating at an alarming rate. If you want proof of this, buy (lease) a new car. Then drive into the McDonald’s parking lot next door and check the value of your new “used” car on TruCar or Kelly Blue Book. That little jaunt to the McDonald’s just cost you thousands of dollars in depreciation! Yikes!

Sunken costs are a very emotional thing. You bought that old Model T years ago, with hopes of restoring it and driving it in the Woodward Dream Cruise. If you sold it for 25% of what you bought it for, you wouldn’t just be losing 75% on your investment. You would also be taking a hit to your pride and feel guilty you didn’t take the time to restore the car to its original 1910 condition. Loss of investment and guilt are not a good combination.

Sunken cost avoidance runs rampant in the business world. Due to the time and money already spent on a project, companies who spent the past 2 years getting updated to the latest and greatest technologies often find they are unable to shift gears fast enough and make changes when they should. Never mind that all the “New Tech” became obsolete about 6 months ago! How would you like to be the Project Manager explaining that one to the CEO? Queue the flop sweat.

From your Career perspective, sunken costs can cripple your decision making. You know you should start to learn new skills. However, you just completed your “Data Processing” degree last month, and you are loathe to start all over again. That’s why staying up to date on the latest trends is so important. As I mentioned in my article on Automation, you’d better see the handwriting on the wall and upgrade your skills. Otherwise, when it all hits the fan, you’ll find yourself out of a job with no end in sight!

The silver lining about the times we live in is that there is no end to the amount of learning you can do! I don’t know if you have heard about TED Talks on YouTube. These have historically been the realm of Uber-Nerds (not the rideshare service). Nowadays, these talks have spread out to a number of different topics that range from tech to motivational speeches. Really worth checking out, if you want to stay ahead of the “next big thing”.

However, this is where many people get stuck. They have made a commitment to reaching a goal. The amount of time, money, and effort required to reach that goal may no longer be worth it. This is a very emotional issue for many people. Nobody wants to feel they have just been spending the last year and a half spinning their wheels. Worse, the goal they were trying to reach has just been eclipsed by new technology. “Now, what do I do?” you may ask. I’m not sure, but there’s probably a TED Talk for that.

People are another issue altogether. Without turning this into a therapy session, we all have friends in our lives we may be better off without. The big question to ask is, “If I just met this person today, would we become friends?” That’s a very important question. Because if the answer is “no”, you have to give some serious thought to what you are getting out of that relationship. Again, emotion plays a huge part in this decision.

I suggest you sit down and make a list of all of your sunken costs: Financial, Career, and Personal. Then do a Pros and Cons evaluation whether you should keep the item (or person), or let it (or them) go. If you’re honest, this list can grow pretty long. As I wrote in my article on Procrastination, it’s easier to ignore the sunken costs, than taking a hard look and determining whether you really need it!

I hope this article has helped illustrate what sunken costs are. How to really look at them with blinders off, and make an honest evaluation of them.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Also, if you would like to be notified of new posts to this blog, please click on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!