My Story

Too Old to Hire, Too Young to Retire

It was February 24th, 2014. That was the day it happened to me. I was downsized with eighteen of my co-workers. Most of us had been with the company for fifteen years or more. I had been with the law firm I worked at for almost twenty-six years. I was fifty-four years old and just like that, I was a member of The Brown Parachute Club.

To say that I felt angry and betrayed is an understatement. Is this what I get for twenty-six years of loyal service? Without delving too far into the details, the law firm I worked for had suddenly found itself with a large financial deficit. The company needed cash and many of us earning the bigger paychecks (who were also, coincidentally, the older employees) became expendable.

At the time, I had planned on working at least ten more years before even thinking about Retirement. This illustrates the fallacy of Retirement Planning. You do as you’re told. You stash away the maximum allowable amount every year in your 401k or IRA. However, what do you do if you are suddenly out of work, and still ten years away from Retirement? I don’t remember attending a seminar on that subject, so I started this blog to hopefully provide some answers to that question.

The title, The Brown Parachute Club, is a tip of the hat to the legendary job-seeking guru Richard Bolles. His book, What Color Is Your Parachute? is a classic in the field of job-hunting. I have the 2012 edition. He updates and publishes this book every year. For the past 45 years! Now that is an amazing track record! His “Job Hunter’s Bible” is full of great information on how to find a job. More importantly for us in the “Over 55 Club”, it also goes into great detail on Finding Your Mission in Life (Appendix A). Essential reading if you are looking to reboot your career.

The Brown Parachute Club is the name I gave this blog for a reason. If you are allowed to retire from your job, it is said that you receive a “Golden Parachute” as part of your retirement package. If you’re let go from your job before Retirement, you get a “Brown Parachute”. As I mentioned before, the phenomenon of not making it to the finish line is being largely ignored by the financial industry and career planners.

However, according to a New York Times article, Laid Off, With Retirement Almost in Sight, there are over 2 million of us between the ages of 55 and 65 in this crappy club. Now you understand why I call it The Brown Parachute Club! Not only that, according to this article, the average time that someone 55 or older was unemployed was 52.2 weeks! Over 1 year!! Not only that, over 210,000 of us have given up looking for work entirely! If you do find a job, you’re looking at a pay cut of 30% or more and dropping to the bottom of the seniority ladder. Aren’t those some rosy statistics? To make matters worse, this article was published on January 6, 2012. Do you think that things have improved or gotten worse since then?

It occurred to me that a blog on this subject, with a potential audience of over 2 million people, might be worth writing. Since I was laid off, I have tried several different opportunities to start a new career. I drove for the ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft for a while. It is a lot of fun, and I got to meet new people every day. I provided a valuable service for folks, offering a valuable alternative to taking the bus or having to call a cab. I began driving for Uber & Lyft in November 2015. However, driving 6 hours per day (6am – 9am and 4pm – 7pm) took a toll on my car and my body. So, I recently started to look into alternative sources of income.

I’ve decided to make this a weekly blog, at least for now. These are some of the topics I plan on covering. CareerProductivity, Lifestyle, Side Hustle, and Work from Home articles. Then, with all the unexpected time you have on your hands, Volunteering and why you should consider doing it. And finally, as my readership increases, I hope to feature a Letter of the Month from one of my readers. It will tell their story and how they are dealing with early (forced) retirement.

That’s it for now. I hope you have enjoyed My Story. Please come back to learn more about the plague that is infecting the older job force in this country. Also, to hear how we can all help each other, by sharing opportunities and new ideas. I truly believe that we can enjoy this chance we have been given, to reboot our careers, and truly enjoy our remaining years in the workforce.

UPDATE: (Silver Lining! After searching for work that would allow me to maintain my semi-retired lifestyle and generate a REAL income, I was finally hired by Global Discovery Vacations! So Never Give Up!) 

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!

 

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!

Side Hustle: Becoming a Tutor

Make Some Extra Money By Sharing Your Skills!

Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. This week I thought I would look into the Side Hustle: Becoming a Tutor. For those of you who have skills in the area of art, music, science, math, foreign language, etcetera, this could prove to be a lucrative sideline for you.

When I think of tutors, I immediately think about high school or college kids, getting help in subjects they are having difficulty with. Many of the tutors helping them are fellow students or teacher’s aides. However, there’s no reason why you can’t help out these kids, if you have the skills in those areas of study.

I admit that I have not tutored anyone as of yet. However, I may have skills in some areas that may translate into a tutoring gig. I’ll have to find out. In the meantime, I thought I would bring this Side Hustle to your attention.

WikiHow has a couple of excellent step by step articles on how to get started as a tutor. Some of the items mentioned are things that I had not thought of. For instance, consulting an attorney if you are going to be working with children. This strikes me as kind of creepy, but these are the times we live in.

There are many professional tutoring companies out there that you can choose to work for, or you can go it alone. Starting small in your town may get you some gigs that will build your confidence, reputation, and help you develop your tutoring business. This article from Consumer Affairs has a breakdown of some of the best companies to work with, or for.

I also found a great career resource website I had overlooked before. Learn How to Become is an amazing site that helps you to determine your new career path. The section on becoming a tutor is amazing and there is even a whole section called THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CAREER CHANGE AFTER 50. Honestly, how did I miss this before? Maybe I am getting too old to hire!

I hope this brief article has helped point out some areas for you to look at regarding starting your own tutoring business.

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 Wix.com), 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!

Goals!

Reaching For The Sky

This week I want to discuss something I have been doing in earnest since I was fired from my job of almost 26 years. Setting and Achieving Goals. I came across this concept many years ago, and like Journaling it is something that I should have been doing all along.

To many of you, this may be an idea that you are already very familiar with. However, I had not run across this concept when I was young. It wasn’t until I read the classic “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz, that the notion of Goals, as a defined course of action, was presented to me.

All of us are familiar with the concept of setting and achieving goals, but not in such a structured format. I use the example of learning to tie your shoes. Every child wants to learn how to tie his or her shoes. Little Bobby defines the goal, tying his shoes, and he gets to work on achieving that goal. He learns a series of movements or actions steps he must take to achieve his goal. He pictures himself tying his shoes and with practice before he knows it, he has tied his shoes.

The previous example is a very simple one, but the principle is the same. To quote that great Jedi Philosopher Yoda, “Size matters not!”. Regardless of the size of your goal, the formula is the same. I am going to give you an overview of this concept, along with some resources where you can learn more.

“Psycho-Cybernetics” sounds very robotic, but what it means is “putting your mind to work on reaching your goals”. Much of the book is about improving your self-image, but I found the part about using your “goal-striving mechanism” or “success mechanism” to chart your course in life very interesting.

I am going to keep this overview very “high-level”. Listed below are the basics of goal setting and achievement and why each is so important. At the end of this article, I will list several resources that I have found helpful in getting me to set and achieve my goals. Let’s get started!

    1. Your first step is to “Define Your Goal”. What is it you want? You need to think hard about this. Do you want to make more money? How much do you want to make and how are you going to go about getting it?
    2. Is your goal in alignment with your Values? Sure, everyone wants more money, but most of us are not willing to rob a bank or knock over a liquor store to get it!
    3. What are the “Action Steps” you need to take to achieve your goal? In the example of tying your shoes, put the shoes on your feet (check), cross the laces (check), make the rabbit go into the hole, or make bunny ears, etc. (check). You get where I am going with this. Every step you take to achieve your goal should be written down, no matter how big or small.
    4. Start working towards your goal! You will find that breaking your goal down into small, manageable steps will make reaching it that much faster. You will also find just STARTING to work on the goal will often create a series of coincidences (some verging on the weird) that are necessary for you to achieve your goal. Picture Indiana Jones taking the “Leap of Faith” in The Last Crusade. You have to take that first step!

If you read my article about Journaling, in it I mentioned you should review the previous week’s entries. This will show any items that may have been skipped on a particular day. These items may have been Action Steps toward one of your goals that occurred to you while writing in your Journal, but they didn’t make it into your Goal Plan.

One crucial step in the Goal Process I left out is “Defining Your Dreams”. That is a whole separate subject, but it needs to be done before setting any goals. I left it out because it is a much larger concept and I wanted to keep this article about the mechanics of goal setting and achieving. However, any book or resource about Goals that don’t start with Dreams should be avoided!

The importance of goals cannot be under-estimated. I heard about a study, done many years ago, involving recent Harvard Graduates. They were all asked what goals they had for their life.

      • 84% said they had no specific goals, except to kick back and enjoy themselves over the summer.
      • 13% had goals for their future but they were not written down.
      • 3% of the students had written goals to chart their future.

Ten years later, the 13% of students who had unwritten goals were making twice as much as the 84% who had no goals. The 3% of students who had clear, written goals were making ten times as much as the other 97% put together! The 84% of students with no goals are working for students who had written or unwritten goals!

I have heard that you can take a homing pigeon, put it in a box, drive a thousand miles in any direction, open the box, and it will circle 3 times, then fly straight to its starting point or “Home”. The only one other “animal” on this planet with this “goal-striving mechanism” is the human being. Pretty cool, huh? However, it’s always good to have Google Maps.

The one thing I have NEVER been able to understand is why the Goal Process is not taught as a course of study in grade school, high school, or college. What other subject is more important in helping you get to where you want to go in life? For some reason, academia has decided that kids will “pick it up” as they go along with their studies. How? Have you ever been “educated” on the steps I have listed above? If we truly want our youth to excel in life, these lessons need to be taught and reinforced at every grade level!

I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Here are the resources I mentioned on the subject of Goals:

Maxwell Maltz: He was a Plastic Surgeon who realized that sometimes fixing someone’s face didn’t fix their life.

Brian Tracy: He has written many books on the subject of Goal Setting. His YouTube Channel is full of priceless info.

Napoleon Hill: He is an oldie but a goodie. He was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to interview the top businessmen of the age and discover their secrets! The resulting book was Think and Grow Rich! The number one secret? Goals!

Book Authority put together a list of the Top 100 Goal Setting Books!

The software that I use to track my goals is ToDoList by AbstractSpoon. It can be downloaded for free at Download.com. It is not a web-based product, but it is invaluable in organizing and keeping track of your goals! I recently discovered a great website that will help you track your goals and tasks online, or by using the handy dandy app, for FREE! Todoist (not the same as ToDoList) is an excellent way to log your Goals, Habits, and Tasks. It keeps you on target, and I highly recommend it!

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!

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 (tbpc2016@gmx.com) 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 tbpc2016@gmx.com.

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!

Uber
Lyft
The Rideshare Guy