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!

Working From Home or Flexible Hours?

Is It Possible To Have Both?

Hi, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I have a confession to make. I have been settling. I have been settling by driving for Uber and Lyft as my primary source of income. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I have been driving for both of them since November 2015 and I am ready for a change.

So far, my only adventure with a different side hustle has been signing up for Shipt, and I told you how that turned out. So, I am making a belated resolution for 2017. Effective today, I am retiring as a full-time driver for Uber and Lyft. I may occasionally pick up some fares when my funds are running low, but the morning and evening shifts are over for me.

Now that I have that out of the way, what the heck do I do now? I made it a goal earlier this year to find a job (or jobs) that would get me back to roughly half of my previous full-time income. This will be a large achievement if I can pull it off. I am going to be completely honest. I have become addicted to the semi-retired lifestyle. Being able to determine what days and times I choose to work is a major benefit, one that I am not willing to give up.

That said, I now have to come up with a Driving Income Replacement Plan or DIRP. It sounds like a government program. Anyway, I have decided to pursue a career in the “Work from Home” field. Uh-huh, you say, just how do you plan to do that? I have no freakin’ idea! I am going to pursue this new position (or positions) with the same drive and effort I used to find a job when I first was laid off. That job turned out to be in a Call Center and I quit in two weeks. Hopefully, this time I’ll have better results!

If you do an Internet search for “Work from Home & Flexible Hours”, you will come up with no end of leads to do just that. However, from experience, many of these offers are scams that are just trying to bilk desperate people out of whatever money they have left. Pretty sick. Upon further research, I hope to find at least one legitimate Work from Home (WFH) job per day. I will employ this plan Monday through Friday until I find the job or jobs (hopefully no more than three) that will get me to my goal of DIRP.

Now, I am finally getting to the title of this article. Work from Home or Flexible Hours? Are they mutually exclusive, or can you have both? Most of the WFH results I see on the Internet have Flexible Hours as part of the summary. However, I believe that you can have one without the other. Being a Virtual Assistant for instance. In the article I wrote about this side hustle, you can work from home, but your hours may be determined by your client. This will give you the flexibility of working from home, but not the freedom of setting your own hours. Trust me, after a year of setting my own hours, having a “Boss” tell me when I have to work is not what I am looking for!

If you type in “work from home vs flexible hours”, a quick search of the web brings back a range of results. Two of the results piqued my interest. The first is the job search site Indeed. I remember liking their website quite a bit, back when I was job hunting full time. They seem to take a “No BS” approach that is quite refreshing, compared to other job search giants like Monster and Career Builder. However, when I just searched for “work from home”, I came up with results for all three headhunters. But, I digress. Getting back to the original search I did, “work from home vs flexible hours”. Indeed came back with a list of 4,897 jobs!!!! WOW! I like those odds! Plus, since these jobs are WFH, it doesn’t matter if they are from Chicago, New York, Boston, etc.

I also noticed another item that came up in my search. There is a company called Flexjobs that appears to specialize in exactly what I am looking for. Legit jobs, by legit companies that will enable me to hit my DIRP goal. However, it looks like this is not a free website ($14.95 / month). I generally avoid pay websites like the plague, since I subscribe to the early opinion that most of us tech weenies had. Everything on the Internet should be free! However, sometimes you’ve got to pony up some cash to get some good results. I will see what kind of results I get with Indeed first, but it’s good to know that Flexjobs is there as a viable alternative.

Well, I’m glad I came clean! Putting this out there will help keep me accountable to myself and you, my much-appreciated reader. I plan on putting my hits and misses on this website every week, so you’ll know which jobs may be worth looking into and which ones you should skip. Hopefully, I’ll have some promising hits to share with you next week!

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!

My Shipt Experience

My Review On Becoming A Shipt Shopper

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. A while ago, I tried my hand at the Side Hustle: Shipt. I promised to write my impressions of Shipt, and here they are.

In theory, it seems like a good idea. Get pinged to pick up groceries and deliver them, just like Uber or Lyft, but substituting groceries for people. Yeah, not so much. I have several beefs with Shipt.

Before I get into them, let me start by saying that Shipt, and other food delivery services like Shipt, provide a valuable service to their customers. Based on my discussion with Bryn, my Shipt Orientation Specialist, most of the customers are older folks or young moms who have a hard time getting out of the house (though I am sure they would love to, sans kids!).

As I mentioned in my previous article about becoming a Shipt Shopper, the online application process moves along quickly. However, there is a video part of the application, where you will have to record your responses to specific questions. That was a little nerve-wracking, but it’s only about a third of the application process and the rest of the questions are pretty much common sense.

Once you’re approved, you can start making money by scheduling your availability to accept orders. This is a very squirrely process. Since you can schedule up to 7 days in advance, it is not an “on-demand” type of position. Instead, you make yourself available for “Delivery Windows”, which means that all of your shopping needs to be done before the window begins.

This also means that you have to be able to shop the whole order, go through checkout, load up your car, and get to the customer by the beginning of the Delivery Window. Shipt expects its drivers to hit the beginning of the Delivery Window every time. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen! At least initially.

Another beef I have is with the estimated shopping time listed for each order. This time estimate appears to be for an experienced shopper, who can whiz through the store on Rollerblades and have all of the items magically jump into his or her shopping cart! For beginning shoppers, the accuracy of this time estimate, in my experience, is closer to double the time listed. Not only does this make hitting your Delivery Window almost impossible, it also cuts your hourly wage in half!!

You can choose to shop at the store closest to you. That’s a bonus. Not many jobs let you pick a location close to home to work from. In a related story, the Meijer that I chose to work from is just down the road from the recently re-opened Fraser, Michigan Sinkhole! A story that just made national news for the third time!! A nice feature of Shipt is that you can easily change your store if your selected store happens to be on the edge of a sinkhole (that swallowed up one house and damaged many others)!

I get it, you say, “But what about the actual shopping?” The app has 2 ways to shop for the items. In a list, or by flipping through each item, one by one. Let me say this to be fair. This Meijer is not where I do my grocery shopping, so I don’t know the store layout as well as the Kroger where I normally do my shopping. That said, I had a very tough time with the shopping process. Between substitutions, where you have to get in touch the customer (about eight times on my first order), and racing around the store trying to find that elusive last item, I started to feel like a game show contestant on the worst game show ever!

Ok, you say, “But I bet you made some good money!” Uh, no. I only shopped two orders. The first order paid me a whopping $15 and it took over two hours to shop and deliver the order, so I was late. On the second order, I did better. It took me only one hour and forty-five minutes to shop and deliver the order to a very pregnant young mom. That paid me a massive $12! All I could think of was how much money I could have made driving for Uber or Lyft, during the same time!

To be fair to Shipt, they are a great company, that is providing a valuable service to their customers. However, in my case, I found that I would have a hard time replacing my driving income by only shopping for Shipt. Also, since it took such a large chunk of time just to shop one order, it would cut into any other money-making Side Hustle I might be working as well. I’m sure I would be able to speed up and make more money by becoming more familiar with the store. However, the prospect of shopping an order of $200 or more (I did orders of $70+ and $50+) was terrifying! It would probably take me five hours or more to shop it!!

All in all, I decided that Shipt was not for me. And that was before the sinkhole opened up down the street. I just couldn’t see how I could earn enough money. Plus, filling a huge shopping order would require a lot more work than a smaller order. Driving someone to the airport requires that I hang onto the steering wheel and keep my foot on the gas. In other words, no additional effort. I am not afraid of hard work, but I think that spending endless hours in a grocery store would be my version of Hell!

I hope this review of becoming a Shipt Shopper has given you some insight into how it all works. It appears to be a young person’s game since I did notice many young women shopping orders. Unfortunately, since nobody is going to confuse me with a 20-year-old, I have decided to look elsewhere for another income stream.

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!

Side Hustle: Virtual Assistant

Use Your Skills To Stick It To Your Old Boss!

Hello again and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! I hope you had a terrific holiday season and are rested and refreshed. Yeah, right! Anyway, this week I thought I would discuss a Side Hustle that many of you may be interested in. Becoming a Virtual Assistant.

I have decided, at least for the first few postings of this year, to focus entirely on Side Hustle jobs. We all need to generate some extra income to pay off those Christmas bills. When I first started looking into Side Hustle jobs, I was surprised to find the position of Virtual Assistant.

I’m going to be honest. I don’t come from a Secretarial, pardon me, Administrative Assistant background. Gotta be PC. When I was moved onto the Tech Support Desk, I was terrified. I had to try to help the Secretaries who would call with fubared legal documents. Needless to say, I had a pretty steep learning curve before I became relatively competent in my job.

That said, I was surprised to find out the Virtual Assistant position was a “thing”. Since this is not my area of expertise, I have decided to defer to Joanne Munro, who has an excellent website with a complete rundown on how to become a Virtual Assistant.

The VA Handbook takes you through how to set up your business, create your website (for FREE at, and take care of all of the legal stuff needed to get your VA business off the ground. It’s an excellent resource and I highly recommend that you check it out. However, keep in mind that Joanne is in the UK, so some of the information may be related to that region.

However, if you are someone like me who was downsized, becoming a VA might be a great way to start a new career and flip the bird to your old company at the same time!

Joanne does mention that Networking is the key to building your VA business. I would think that Social Media would be an excellent way to spread the word about your budding Side Hustle. Spreading the word on Facebook about your VA business could net you some solid leads.

Also, I would reach out to your friends at your old job. See if they have heard about anyone who needs additional secretarial help outside of the office or after hours. Catching up with them over lunch might be your key to future clients! Also, getting in touch with contacts you may have with your old company’s clients is a good way to capitalize on your time there.

Don’t forget about LinkedIn. I know that you probably blitzed all of your LinkedIn contacts after you were let go from your previous job. Do it again, but this time keep in mind your new objective. Promoting your fledgling business and mining for prospective new clients.

I know that our firm had one secretary who worked the afternoon shift. She was there to help attorneys who had after-hours work that needed to be done. You may want to consider specializing in after-hours availability. I would think if you get contracted by a couple of companies as an after-hours Virtual Assistant, you can pretty much write your own ticket. Again, not speaking from experience, but I would think that it would make a lot of sense.

That said, keep in mind what you may be letting yourself in for as an after-hours VA. When the law firm I worked for had a “Closing”, it could run all night. That may be a can of worms you do not want to open. However, if you can find a company that needs after-hours support, it might be steady work without the threat of an “all-nighter”.

I hope this article has encouraged you to venture out on your own as a successful Virtual Assistant. After all, what better way to stick it to your old employer than by using the skills you perfected to become a successful VA?!

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!

Giving Tuesday

Don’t Forget To Give!

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club and the Holiday Season! By this time, you should be preparing for Christmas and had all the turkey you can handle (no, I’m not talking about Cousin Eddie).

This year, I learned about a new charity event. Have you ever heard of Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday)? I put the title all as one word, with the hashtag for a reason. This is a campaign that was started by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y(MCA) in New York. They use Social Media Influencers to spread the word and encourage giving at this time of year.

Giving Tuesday is the day after Cyber Monday each year. I would have scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving and called it Giving Wednesday. After blowing your bankroll on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I wouldn’t think there would be a whole lot left over for Giving Tuesday.

However, it is a reminder to take care of your charitable giving early. Before the “Christmas Steamroller” plows through December and you wind up in January with a mountain of bills, wondering what just happened!

Since Giving Tuesday is a Social Media-based event, it gives me hope for the younger generation of this country. The Selfie-Generation seems so self-obsessed, it is encouraging that a campaign like Giving Tuesday has caught fire. It is promising that this age group can count their blessings and consider giving to others, who are genuinely in need of their help!

During this extremely busy time of year, it is difficult to sit down and figure out which charity deserves your donation. The hassle of trying to figure out who should receive your hard-earned money can become more of a chore than a blessing. Also, how do you know which charity you can trust? How do you make sure the money you donate is finding its way to the people or animals who really need it?

Unfortunately, many charities make a living off the generous nature of its donors. Check out this article that details The 20 Best Charities in America: 2010. You may not be familiar with many of these charities, but they have the lowest overhead of any charities reviewed in 2010. That means that virtually every dollar donated goes directly to the people or animals that need it the most.

Here is another chart that details some of the best vs the worst charities. There are a lot of terrific military charities listed. So if you want to give to our Heroes, here is a great way!

As far as animal charities go, I have always found it is best to stay local. I avoid the national money-grubbing charities that tug at our heartstrings, with commercials of neglected and abused animals. Petfinder has a great way to find a local shelter in your area that can use your donation of money (and time).

I know what you’re thinking. “I would love to give to charity, but I don’t have two pennies to rub together. I am barely making ends meet as it is.” I know it’s a lot to ask. However, since I have started donating 10% of my income to a different charity each week, I have found that a string of blessings have been coming my way. I can only account for these blessings by my charitable giving. It’s like “Indiana Jones and the Leap of Faith” I mentioned in my last article about Goals. Sometimes, you just have to take that first step and see what happens!

I hope you decide to donate to a charity of your choice this Christmas Season. Just remember, no matter how bad things are for you right now, there is always someone else who is worse off.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


How To Keep On Top Of Your Health And Fitness Goals!

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. This week I am going to talk about something that I came across while I was unemployed. I am referring to the amazing Health and Fitness website: SparkPeople.

After I had been laid off for about 8 months, I was feeling pretty low. Despite some initial positive interest, my small business startup was floundering. I needed to do something I could control when so much of my life was out of control. I decided to take action on losing weight.

After losing the weight, I felt great, but I was stumped on how to keep track of my weight, food intake, water, exercise, etc. It was crucial to stay on top of my weight after I lost it. This is where SparkPeople comes in. I initially discovered the app trying to find a way to keep track of all of the areas I just mentioned. SP is a Godsend!

The app and website help you to keep track of your weight, food intake, water intake, exercise, and much more. My only complaint about the website is that it is geared mostly toward women. However, that doesn’t mean that men won’t benefit from the website. Far from it!

In addition to keeping track of all of your health and fitness stats, SP has a huge library of articles and videos on just about every health and fitness subject you can imagine. You can also use SP to track your exercise goals and it can sync with many fitness trackers like Fitbit.

On the front page of the website, you will log all of your daily food and exercise information, plus keep track of your goals. You can also create groups to make it easier to track your food and exercise. Below that is the Challenges area. There are several personal challenges that you can sign up for, from Taming Your Sweet Tooth to the New Member Challenge. Most of the challenges run between 21 and 30 days and are a great way to keep yourself motivated and accountable during your journey.

In addition to the Trackers and Challenges, the front page also has a Community section. In this area, you can post your fitness journey and get support and feedback from people who are all on the same fitness road as you!

The best thing about SP is that most of the content on this website is FREE! You do have to sign up and get a login and password, but there is no fee and they don’t need your credit card on file! There is a paid option that is very affordable. It will allow you to use the website without ads, which is a major consideration since the website is very ad-heavy.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to all that SP already does, there are healthy recipes as well! There are also more apps! One is for recipes (SparkRecipes) and the other breaks down the nutritional values of all the fruits and vegetables that you’ll be eating (Perfect Produce). All of the apps are available on Google Play. Just type in SparkPeople in the search box.

I only wish that I had discovered SP BEFORE losing my weight. It would have made the whole process so much easier. I am probably going to ride out the holidays at my current weight, but after New Years’, I plan on putting together a Challenge that gets me down to around 220. I should be able to use SP to help me get there and stabilize my weight in the 215-225 range.

In the jumbled chaos that makes up the Internet, once and a while, you find a diamond in the rough. That diamond is SparkPeople. I have already shared the site with all of my Friends on Facebook. This article will hopefully let more people know about the website, apps, and how great they are at helping you live a healthier lifestyle!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Side Hustle: Shipt

A Different Wrinkle In Driving Income!

Hello, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! Today I am going to talk about a new side hustle I am exploring. Becoming a Professional Shopper with Shipt. I’m really looking forward to it.

Food delivery services are one of the fastest-growing businesses out there. After a long day working the 9 to 5 grind, or in our case, pounding the virtual pavement, wouldn’t it be great to have your groceries delivered to you? The answer for many people is a resounding, “YES”!

So far, I haven’t actually done any shopping for Shipt, but I have been approved, and I will be having my orientation soon. Shipt claims you can make between $15-$25 per hour driving for them, by shopping and delivering groceries. It appears to be like Uber for food.

The customer uses the Shipt App (available on Google Play or iTunes) to pick out their groceries, then a Shopper is pinged with the list. The Shopper decides whether he or she can pick up the groceries and deliver them to the customer within the allotted time. Pretty neat.

There are many reasons I am looking forward to driving for Shipt. The increase in pay will be nice, but the main reason for me will be the decrease in miles, on me and my car. Recently, I drove a guy to Detroit Metro Airport from the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. It was a nice fare, mainly because I had to do some creative driving to get around the traffic caused by Hillary Clinton’s visit to the Eastern Market in Detroit. However, I got him to the airport in plenty of time.

I got pinged right away for a pickup and drove to the “Arrivals” area at the North Terminal. My riders were two college girls wearing Maryland sweatshirts. Of course, they were visiting Ann Arbor to watch their Terrapins get destroyed by the Wolverine Juggernaut. This was a half an hour drive in the wrong direction. By the time I got home, I had put 125 miles on my car and I yelled “ENOUGH”! I had already applied to drive with Shipt and I decided to take a couple of days off to work on my car. I needed to replace a missing hubcap, clean it out, clean all the windows, etc.

The application process with Shipt seems to move along fairly quickly. Hopefully, after my orientation, I’ll be able to start driving right away. Once you’re approved, there is a Shopper Portal where you can learn everything you need to know (hopefully) before you start to shop.

The main attraction for me is being able to drive close to home and keep down the miles on my car. I will be shopping at my local Meijer store, which is about 3 miles from my house. With the upcoming holidays, there should be no shortage of people who need food deliveries.

Even though Shipt is only available in the following states (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) there may be other grocery delivery services available in your area. A quick search on the web didn’t come up with anything, but if you check with your local grocery store, they may use a similar service. Just make sure it is a large chain grocery store, like Kroger, Publix, Winn Dixie, etc. I would think larger stores like these would be the only ones to offer these types of services.

That’s all for now. After I hit the road and get familiar with how it all works, I’ll follow up with a “Tips & Tricks” article like I did with Uber and Lyft. Wish me luck!

P.S.: My biggest fear is I will become so good at grocery shopping my wife saddle me with all of the shopping! Oh well, one of the hazards of the job I suppose!

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!


Britney does this, you should too!

Hi and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! This week, I have decided to write about something I have been doing since I was laid off from my job. This activity is essential to organizing your thoughts, working on your goals, and just plain venting.

I am talking about Journaling or keeping a Diary. When most people hear the word “Diary”, they think about Britney, writing about her latest crush and which girls at school are so mean! Yes, I’m talking about you, Tiffany!

Keeping a Diary or “Journaling” has come a long way since you ladies kept one in high school. It is now a widely accepted practice among business people, who want to organize their thoughts, create fresh ideas, and figure out what steps to take next. It might even change your life!

I kept a journal on and off during my “Employable” years. Now and then, when an important life event would come up, I would make an entry. However, the morning after I was let go from my job, I fired up my PC and wrote some blistering commentary on fairness, loyalty, and the lack of both in the business world. I also wrote some choice words about the people I felt were responsible for the layoffs, and which biblical plagues should descend upon them! Like I said, venting!

Once I got all of that out of my system (mostly), I decided to start Journaling every day. This helped me to search (in vain) for a job where they would appreciate my talents, hire me on the spot, and give me a big raise! Problem solved!! Yeah, we all know how that worked out! However, Journaling has helped me to organize my thoughts and figure out my next move. I’m sure it will help you as well.

What follows are some suggestions on how to get started, based on what I have learned on my own, and what I have learned about Journaling from other sources.

Start by figuring out how you are going to Journal. “Old School”, with a spiral notebook, or joining the digital age by using Journaling Software. Being a techie guy, I use iDailyDiary to record my daily thoughts. It is a free download from There are also many other Journaling options, such as Microsoft’s OneNote, and online Journaling sites, such as Penzu, JRNL, LiveJournal, and others. These sites give you the added benefit of being able to record your thoughts on your PC, tablet, or phone. Also, you don’t have to worry about losing all of your entries if you misplace your spiral notebook or your PC blows up. They are all safely stored online.

You may also want to consider having more than one Diary going at a time. This is very helpful if you want to have one Diary for recording daily events, writing down ideas, and venting. Plus another Diary for posterity. Sharing your infinite wisdom, thoughts about current events, and why the college football playoff system STILL sucks!!

Getting started. Most people are terrified of a blank page or screen in my case. To make it easy on yourself, just write down what you did yesterday. You may want to put a prompt at the top of each page to help you remember.

Mine says:

Weight Status (2 years ago, I lost 40 pounds so I keep close tabs on my weight)
Health / Workout Status
Morning Driving
Before / After Lunch
Evening Driving
Anything Else
Top 10 Goals
Scripture of the Day

As you write about the previous day, you may remember a task you weren’t able to check off on your to-do list. Put 3 asterisks (or any special character) at the start of that sentence. ***You see how it makes the sentence easier to spot on the page! You will appreciate that when you proceed to the next step.

Weekly Review. Writing down all your thoughts is great, but what if you need to do something with them? I suggest you take about half an hour at the end of each week, to review the entries for that week. Make special note of any sentences with special characters that will require further action.

At first, you may find you won’t be able to write down more than a few lines of text. However, as you get used to putting your thoughts down on paper or PC, you will find you eventually get into “The Flow”. The words will just start to pour out of you onto the Journal of your choice.

An example of why this is a good practice. I have been using iDailyDiary for quite a while now, but I haven’t been happy with the fact that I have to back up the entries myself. Researching this article has inspired me to start using JRNL to record my daily Journal entries. I never would have thought to do this, if I wasn’t writing this article about Journaling, and the idea to write the article came to me while writing in my Journal!

I hope this article inspires you to take up the habit of Journaling. Getting your thoughts down on paper or in digital bits is always a good thing. Whether they be good or bad, it’s always good to get them out of your system. It is cathartic. Plus, I have found that new ideas will often occur to you that you haven’t considered before. It’s a great way to tap into the universe of new ideas.

If you like what you’re reading on TBPC, please leave a comment and share the website with your friends. Until next week, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Uber & Lyft Driving Tips

What to know before hitting the road for your first time!

As I mentioned in my previous article regarding Uber & Lyft, this is a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” I have picked up in my past year as a driver. These tips are meant to show you the ropes if you decide to become a driver. I drive in the Detroit Metro Area. You may find that some of the items listed here are not a problem in your neck of the woods. Instead, you may run into an entirely different set of issues where you drive. If you do, please contact me ( and I’ll share them with the rest of our readers!

I am assuming that you have already signed up with Uber and/or Lyft and you are now driving or will be driving soon. You already know that you have to be at least 21 years old (not a problem for our age group) and your car has to be 10 years old or less for Uber and 12 years old or less for Lyft (this number may vary by city). Now for the list.

Driving Times: As I mentioned in my previous article, I like to drive the morning and evening rush hours. From 6am to 9am and 4pm to 7pm. Outside of the late-night bar pickups, this is your best shot at making some good money.

Surge & Prime Time: These are the Supply and Demand features that Uber and Lyft use to pay their drivers more during peak driving times. It is my understanding that 100% of these bonuses go directly to the drivers. It is a carrot to get more drivers out on the road during busy times.

The Uber and Lyft apps: As you may know by now, there are two apps for Uber and one app for Lyft. Lyft chooses to combine their Driver and Rider apps into one app, with mixed results in my opinion. Both companies are constantly updating their apps. In true technological fashion, they fix one problem with their latest update, then cause two more. This can be very frustrating as a driver. However, you don’t have any choice but to roll with it (pardon the pun). Be consoled with the fact that a team of code monkeys is hard at work, fixing the mess they just created!

Getting Paid: This is one of my major beefs. Both companies pay you by direct deposit, late Wednesday or early Thursday. However, there is a huge difference in how they let you know how much money you are owed. Uber lets you know immediately after each ride how much money you just made.

Lyft also lets you know, but they do so in what I like to call “Lyft Money”. You see, there are three different amounts that Lyft uses. The first amount is the fare the rider is charged on the rider app. The second figure is the fare that pops up on the driver side of the app when the ride is complete. But is that how much money you just made? Of course not! Lyft still has to take a cut out of that amount.

Good luck finding out what you made on your last ride! To find out that amount, wait until the next day for your Daily Driver Summary email. This will give you all sorts of info about your previous day, EXCEPT HOW MUCH MONEY YOU MADE! For that, you will need to click on a link in their email, then logon to their website and maybe you will find it there! Honestly, I have no idea why Lyft Drivers haven’t gone on strike over this one issue alone! Can you tell this gets me a little steamed?

Pickup Times: This is one of the biggest decisions you will make as a driver. What is the furthest distance, in minutes, you will drive to pick up a rider? I use the pickup time of 15 minutes. That means the amount of time I accept to pick up a rider is usually no more than 15 minutes.

After you accept the request, Google Maps (or another map app) will update the pickup time with the current traffic conditions. This means the time to pick up Tiffany at the Mall just went from 15 to 18 minutes. Not bad if Tiffany lives 30 minutes away from the Mall, but more than likely, she lives 5 to 10 minutes away. This is the risk you run as a driver. To maximize your profits, try to keep your pickup times to 15 minutes or less. More riders equals more money!

Map Apps: This brings me to your most important new partner in your driving career, the Navigation App. Most drivers use Google Maps or Waze. I prefer Google Maps. It comes as a pre-installed app on Android Phones. However, it may not come pre-installed on an iPhone. If not, it can be downloaded for free from iTunes.

Google Maps will drive you crazy at times, but for the most part, it is very reliable. To use this app effectively, be sure to learn as much as you can about it. Practice using it whenever you are driving yourself around town. Put in the address for your destination and use the map to get there. Practice muting the audio directions. Touch the time estimate at the bottom of the screen for turn by turn directions. This will show you the next turn and give you a better idea of where you are going. Learn this app backwards and forwards and you will be a much more confident driver!

Also, consider getting a phone mount, so you can have the map app in easy view while you are driving. I use Clever Grip which attaches directly to the vent in the dashboard for easy viewing.

Potty Breaks: This is a major concern for people in the 55 – 65 age group. Especially us guys. I drink one large cup of coffee in the morning before driving. I go to the bathroom twice before leaving the house and there’s a good chance I will still have to find a pit stop while I am out driving. I know too much information. However, this is a major concern for us mature drivers. Trust me, you don’t want to be on a run to the airport with an urgent personal problem going on. I speak from experience!

The solution: fast food restaurants. McDonald’s, Burger King, Tim Horton’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts can save your life. Contrary to popular belief, not every gas station will let you use their restroom. I found out that one the hard way! Keep an eye out for these restaurants while you’re on the road and you can head off trouble before it starts!

Well, that’s it for now. I have given you a lot to absorb and there’s much more to learn. I will cover more of those items in a future post, but for now, those are the basics. If you have a question that I haven’t covered, please feel free to send me an email at

Until next time, may your parachute fully deploy, and may you have a soft landing!

Side Hustle: Uber & Lyft

Is driving for Uber or Lyft right for you?

Thank you for checking out The Brown Parachute Club. This week’s topic is the Side Hustle: Uber & Lyft.

If you haven’t heard of Uber and the lesser-known Lyft, they are ridesharing services that have exploded in popularity over the past 5 years. How they work is relatively simple. The passengers install an app on their smartphone that enables them to request a ride. The GPS in their smartphone allows them to pinpoint their location for the driver. The driver has an app that pings when there is a rider in his area who needs a ride. It’s that simple.

The great news about these services is that they are always looking for new drivers. Uber is the more popular of the two services, but Lyft is more popular in certain cities. The great news is that you can apply to drive for both of them! The even greater news is that you can set your schedule. You drive when you want to earn some extra money, period. You don’t have to drive the “Drunkmobile” in the wee hours of the morning. That can be profitable. However, the late hours, along with the possibility of having your vehicle’s interior redecorated with late-night nachos and beer, is a turn off for many drivers. I have found if you drive during the morning and evening rush hours (6am-9am & 4am-7pm) you can still do quite well.

You can apply online using your PC. Just click on the following link for the company you want to apply to Uber or Lyft. You will also need to launch Google Play or Amazon on your smartphone, to install the Driver app for Uber, and the combined Rider / Driver app for Lyft. You do not need a Commercial Driver License to drive for Uber and Lyft.

To drive for Uber, your car has to be 10 years old or less and with Lyft it has to be 12 years old or less. Uber requires you to take your car to your mechanic and have him fill out the Vehicle Inspection Form and you send it to Uber. Lyft takes a different route. You are contacted by a “Mentor”, who walks you through the app and the basics of picking up and dropping off your rider. The Mentor then inspects your car and takes a picture of you and your car for the Lyft Rider app. This way people will recognize you and your car when you arrive.

For Uber and Lyft, the issue of safety is a major concern for both riders and drivers. The rideshare system works because of the information that is available to the companies. From the passenger side, the rider’s home address, along with billing information is put into the app, so the rider can be picked up and automatically billed for rides. From the driver side, each potential driver is certified with a background check that reveals any red flags that the companies need to be concerned about.

Once you’re approved by one or both companies, you’re ready to hit the road! There is something very exciting about getting your first ping from Uber or Lyft! You are now one of the many drivers who are setting their own hours and making great money by driving for these companies. Now for the bad news. You are NOT a cab driver! You cannot expect the kind of money a cabbie makes during a 2-3 hour shift. Because Uber and Lyft provide an alternative to taking a cab, they charge their passengers less and therefore you will make less.

The good news is that most people who take advantage of these services are very nice folks and very appreciative that Uber and Lyft are available in their areas. Whether you currently have a full-time job or not, I recommend that anyone looking to earn some extra money should consider becoming a driver. This is a great, low-hassle way to earn money. I chose to write about this Side Hustle first because it is easy to get started and you can be earning money relatively quickly. This is a major consideration when you have been given The Brown Parachute. It’s pretty depressing when I think of all the money I could have made driving for Uber and Lyft if I had just signed up right away when I was laid off. Instead, I went through Plans A, B, and C to replace my income, when I should have been bringing in money every week with Uber and Lyft.

There is certainly a hit to your pride when you go from managing the data backup operations for a major law firm to driving Tiffany up to the Mall. However, there is no shame in honest work. Also, I have found that driving can become “Networking on Wheels”. I got the idea for this blog while driving and talking with one of my riders. I almost forgot to tell you the best part. As I mentioned before, both companies are always looking for new drivers, and this is where you can cash in. If you recruit a new driver, and they drive the required number of rides in the first month, you get a Referral Bonus that can be $200 or more! This offer changes frequently, so be sure to check it out with each company once you sign up.

Also, both companies offer rewards programs for their drivers that offer special discounts. These are usually automobile-related, but other special deals are also worth looking into. Once you have racked up the required number of rides, many of these deals are “unlocked”.

There are also many resources out there to help you find out more about ridesharing, and whether it is right for you. One of the first websites I found was The Rideshare Guy. This is written by a guy named Harry Campbell. He used to be an engineer, now he blogs about Uber and Lyft and other available services. It’s a great website and worth checking out. YouTube has a lot of videos detailing the pros and cons of driving as well. You will want to watch some of those videos, to see if driving is right for you.

Well, that’s it. I plan on following up this article with a list of what I have learned as a driver. What to do and what not to do. It should help any newbies to learn the ropes much faster. If you decide that you want to give driving a try, please click on the Uber or Lyft names below to sign up. Also, click on The Rideshare Guy name below to go directly to his website.

Until next time, may your parachute fully deploy and may you have a soft landing!

The Rideshare Guy