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!

Back To School

Is it Still Worth Your While?

Hi! Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club! If you are a regular reader of this blog I hope you enjoyed last week’s article: Have You Ever Thought About Becoming an Entrepreneur? As usual, I always learn a lot when I write one of these articles. If you read it, I hope it sparked some ideas.

This week I thought I would discuss a subject just about everyone thinks of after they are laid off from their job. Should I go back to school? It’s a very important question, and one you should give a lot of thought to.

Since summer vacation has begun, I immediately think about all of those noisy kids going back to school in September. My thoughts also drift to cooler temperatures and FOOTBALL!

When I was a kid, I always loved going back to school. Seeing all my friends, new school supplies, and textbooks that have never been cracked open! This feeling would usually go away by October, but those first few weeks were always magical for me. Then reality would set in, and I would start counting down the days until Christmas Vacation!!

I’m lucky enough to live near the community college I attended back in the late 70s and early 80s. Recently, I have gone back there to use the library from time to time. I go there to write some of these articles and work on other projects as well. Even though I’m not currently a student, I really like the feeling of being on campus. It puts me in the correct mindset to learn new things, such as WordPress. I learned a lot about building this website at that library!

This brings me back to the subject of this article. Should you consider going back to school? For some people, the answer is definitely YES. If you were working on your degree and got sidetracked by life, and are only a few credit hours short of your degree, you should definitely consider finishing up. A degree is an excellent addition to your résumé and shows prospective employers you know how to finish what you started. Even if it took 20 years!

Many Brown Parachuters see going back to school as a great way to “Reinvent” themselves. If you had a Minor you were working on in college, and it still interests you, now might be the time to go for it! After all, it might reboot your career and land you a job that will help get to your retirement years. You never know.

However, if you read my article College vs Vocational Education, I don’t have to tell you that college costs have risen at twice the rate of healthcare! Given that information, how in the heck are you going to finish up your degree? That is an excellent question!

There is a terrific article on the website Love To Know. It tells you all about grant money that is available for senior citizens. Bad news, though. I hate to be the one to break it to you. If you are over 55, you are a senior citizen! Anyway, it this case, being an old fart works in your favor. There are 11 states that waive tuition costs for seniors altogether! Wow!

I remember when I was in school, there was one older lady who was in one of my classes. She was ancient! She must have been at least 35!!! We all thought she was ready for the Old Folks Home. Ah, to be young and stupid again. Nowadays, there are people of all ages attending your local community college and universities. Although the student body is still primarily young farts.

In addition to finishing up your degree, there are many people who attend a class for the sheer joy of learning. I call them Hermione Grangers. In the article on Love To Know, they mention that some colleges will allow seniors to audit a class for free, or at a heavily discounted rate. So, if you’ve always wanted to take that class in Advanced Basket Weaving, here’s your chance!

If heading back to campus isn’t for you, you may still be in luck. There is a relatively new website called The Great Courses. This website offers dirt cheap online classes that are being taught by experts in their fields. Math, Science, History, Fine Arts, Literature, etc. These are not courses for casual learners. They are aimed at serious people who want to learn more about a given subject and are willing to work hard.

For those of you who are looking to brush up on your skills without going back to college, or signing up for one of The Great Courses, there is always GCF Learn Free. I did an article on this tremendous website a while ago. While it is not on par with “Great Courses”, it does a great job of covering the material it does offer. Some of it in great detail. Definitely worth checking out, if you just want to brush up on your Microsoft Excel, or anything of the other courses that are listed.

Well, that’s it. Hopefully, if you chose to head back to school, this article has brought you up to speed on some of the options that are available to you. Just don’t get offended if the kids don’t want to talk to you. They don’t talk to each other either, unless it’s by texting, Facebook, or Twitter!

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!

Age Discrimination

How It’s Working Against You!

Hello, and welcome to The Brown Parachute Club. If this is your first time reading this blog, you may be thinking, “What’s up with the name of this website?” Well, when you reach retirement, it’s been said that you receive a “Golden Parachute”. It will enable you to land softly and hit the ground running in your “Golden Years”.

To those of us who are laid off before we reach retirement age, we receive the “Brown Parachute”. If the Golden Parachute is filled with Gold, I’ll let you figure out what the Brown Parachute is filled with.

If you have recently joined The Brown Parachute Club, this article is about your hidden nemesis, Age Discrimination. As I will show you, it comes in many forms, and it’s the main reason there are so many members of TBPC.

When I was laid off in February of 2014 I figured, “Well, this sucks, but I should be able to get another job eventually.” Uh, no. At least not in my field of Data Backup and Recovery, where I had over 30 years of experience. I also couldn’t find work in the Audio / Visual field, where I had 6 years of experience. I even applied for Technical Support jobs (which I hated) and I didn’t get any nibbles there either.

“What is wrong with me?” “Why am I not getting called for any interviews?” “I’m qualified for these jobs!” “What’s going on?” These are all questions I asked myself when I was unable to get a job during the first six months after being laid off.

At that time, I had no idea The Brown Parachute Club even existed. As of 2012, there were over 2.1 million people between the ages of 55 and 65 who had been laid off before they reached retirement. Given the state of the economy in recent years, do you think that number has increased or decreased? Had I known about this, I might have felt a little better about myself. After all, misery loves company.

It’s not that I didn’t try to find work. I was signed up with so many headhunters, I could have been cast in the fictitious movie, “Abbott and Costello Meet the Headhunters!” Where Bud and Lou get laid off ten years away from retirement and try in vain to find jobs! I did get calls from some of the headhunters from time to time. They would tell me that I was perfect for a job that just came across their desk! Only to never hear back from them again about the position.

Of course, if you have been unemployed for a while, and you are in the 55 – 65 age group, none of this is news to you. What you may not realize is that Age Discrimination is real, and it is the “Silent Killer” of your career.

Many companies are laying off people our age, simply because they are trying to cut costs. They go after people like us, with the most seniority, who are making the most money in their departments, because we’re easy targets.

That wouldn’t be so bad if most people our age had scaled back their debt and financial obligations. However, many of us still owe on our cars, house, and college debt for the kids. How are we supposed to keep up those payments with no job? “Not our problem”, says your former employer.

What you don’t realize when you apply for a job online is that in many cases, “Human Eyes” are never viewing your résumé. It’s not Age Discrimination if a computer is discriminating against you. There are certain “Key Words and Phrases” that a Résumé Database Scanner looks for. These word and phrase combinations can be positive, or in our case, negative. I’m sure I’ve been the victim of “Résumé Math” on more than one occasion. When a Résumé Database Scanner starts putting 2 + 2 together, the resulting answer is “OLD!

What company is going to hire you at your old salary, when it can hire some kid fresh out of school for a third of what they were paying you? It’s simple economics, the type where you get the short end of the stick. Even if they were willing to pay you what they were going to pay the kid, why should they hire you? When you only have a handful of good years left. Taylor, fresh out of college, can work for them until he (or she) is your age. Then they can make him (or her) a member of The Brown Parachute Club as well!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are plenty of fields where your age is irrelevant to your job prospects and may actually improve them. However, for the rest of us, being old sucks. And not just because of the wonderful new aches and pains that we discover each morning!

A recent article in Forbes illustrates how widespread the problem is. In a letter to a blogger, a letter-writer details an experience he had with a potential client. Without giving away too much of the article, at one point a young recruiter tells the letter-writer, At your age, you’d better take what you can get!The writer of this letter is a consultant with his own very successful business, and he STILL gets hit with this attitude! If he catches this kind of crap, what kind of hope do we have?

Age Discrimination is exceedingly hard to prove. How can you say that you were discriminated against if you never get called for an interview in the first place? If your résumé is never seen by “Human Eyes”, how can a “Human Reviewer” ever be called in for a deposition? It’s much easier to have the Résumé Database Scanner do the discriminating for you!

I’m sorry to paint such a rosy picture, but I don’t believe in sugarcoating the truth. And the truth is, unless you have experience in a job that’s in very high demand, you may be looking for work for a very, very, very long time.

However, all is not lost! That’s why I started this website. I wanted to help folks during this difficult time in their lives. There are many Side Hustle and Work From Home jobs listed here that might help you earn some extra cash, to help you dig out of a financial hole. There may also be some information that will help you to set some goals, become more disciplined, stop procrastinating, lose weight and much more. Just remember, giving up is not an option! See 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!

The Work From Home Chronicles: Episode 1

Can You Earn Decent Money From Home?

Hello again, and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. Well, here it is, as promised. My first list of WFH Jobs that don’t suck. Hopefully. I have decided to turn this into a featured part of my website, hence “The Work from Home Chronicles” title. I’ll probably turn this into a page of its own, depending on how it goes.

Anyway, I have researched several WFH opportunities for you to have a look at. I admit that I haven’t signed up for any of them yet, but I am leaning towards a couple of them pretty hard and I’ll let you know which ones they are.

Most of these jobs I found reviewed on the Dream Home Based Work website. This is a terrific website run by Lashay H. She has done much of the hard work for you, by researching and recommending companies that she trusts.

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but if I have, it bears repeating. You have to be extremely careful when signing up with a work from home company. Since you will be working for them, they will more than likely want some of your personal information. I can only imagine the number of scams that are out there, trying to collect your information so they can suck your savings account dry and run up huge credit card charges in your name!

I signed up for LifeLock a few years ago and I don’t regret it. It gives you peace of mind, and that is hard to come by these days. Plus, if you are signing up for WFH Jobs, this gives you a layer of protection you wouldn’t have otherwise. If you sign up for LifeLock, use the promo code 10Now to save 10%. If this code has expired, just click on this link for current LifeLock promo codes.

Just one more thing. All of the jobs that I will be listing will be using PayPal to pay you. That means that many of these jobs will pay you almost instantly, which is a very nice perk. Some of the jobs I looked at take up to 4-6 weeks to pay you. The heck with that! There are plenty of jobs that payout using PayPal within 24-48 hours. You can’t beat that! Click here to get your own Personal PayPal account! The only drawback is that PayPal will take a small cut out of each payment you get. That is the price you pay for safety since you probably don’t want to give these companies your bank account number, even if it’s just for deposits.

Enough of that, you say, what about the jobs? I have looked at a wide variety of jobs. Two of them are phone-related. Since I spent the last 3 years on my previous job fielding calls in Technical Support, that is the LAST thing I want to do. However, these jobs seem like a good way to earn some extra income, without having to sell anyone anything. That’s hard to beat. Here are the jobs.

Intelichek: This phone job is what is considered a “Mystery Shopper”. What the job entails is providing quality assurance checks for automotive suppliers. You call a company and ask for a price on a specific part or parts. That’s it. It pays .90 per call. That doesn’t seem like much, but when the average call takes no more than 5 minutes, that translates to $10.80 per hour. Not bad. However, this job has a 10 hour per week work minimum, so keep that in mind. You can set your own hours between 8 am and 7 pm. You get paid bi-weekly by check, as opposed to the PayPal option. It’s worth checking out if you don’t mind being on the phone for a few hours each day.

Call Center QA: Another phone job in the “Mystery Shopper” category. This looks like a good opportunity to make some decent money. You get paid $5 per call. If each call and survey take about 15 minutes, that’s $20/hour!!! Plus, you get paid via PayPal within 7 business days, so that’s cool! There is no minimum number of hours, but you do have to make your calls during business hours.

Humanatic: This is a Call Reviewer job. You know, when you hear the message, “This call is being recorded for quality assurance”? You’re the one reviewing the call! This seemed interesting. You listen to recorded quality calls and answer some questions based on the call. Plus, they have a link to PayPal to sign up for an account!!! However, I just checked and it looks like this only pays between $1 and $4.50 per hour! You probably want to skip this one! I included it here so you have an example of doing your homework before signing up with one of these companies!

UserTesting: I know what you’re thinking, “What gives? Where are the good jobs?” This might be a good one! This is a quote from their website. “How it works. Get $10 via PayPal for every 20-minute video you complete. UserTesting pays you to visit websites or apps, complete a set of tasks, and speak your thoughts aloud.” I’m no math whiz, but I think that translates to $30/hour! Now there may be downtime in between, but this seems promising and appeals to my IT background. I am definitely going to check this one out!

Clickworker: For those of you with an office / clerical background, Clickworker might be for you. They help companies by breaking down large projects into bite-sized pieces. How much you get paid varies on the job being done and how quickly and accurately you get it done. You are paid via PayPal, though the time period seems a little fuzzy. It starts at 7 days but can go up to 21 days. However, if this is the sort of work you are used to doing, it might be right up your alley.

Well, I think that’s enough for this week. Hopefully, I’ve given you one or two jobs you will want to check out! I plan on making this a regular feature. I will continue to write articles on Side Hustles (not necessarily Working from Home), Productivity, and Lifestyle.

Disclaimer. I am not affiliated with, or compensated by, any of the companies I have mentioned. They just looked promising to me and I thought I would pass them along. That’s all.

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!

Active vs Passive Income

What’s The Difference?

During your search for ways to earn extra (any) income, you may have come across the terms Active and Passive Income. I will try to explain the difference between the two in this article and why it’s important to know the difference.

I have to admit, I went down many paths that turned into nothing, pursuing the elusive “Passive Income Stream”. Otherwise known as, “Make Money While You Sleep!” The pitch sounds great, “Earn $5000 per week from home, doing nothing!” This definitely appealed to my lazy streak. However, the promise and the reality don’t really cross paths.

From personal experience, many of these “opportunities” turn out to be a way to suck what little money you have into their “System”. I also fell for “This one sucks, but maybe the next one will be better”. Nope.

The one overriding pitch seems to be, “Make Money Online!” What this comes down to more often than not is what is known as “Affiliate Marketing”. This is an industry that has sprung up as a way to run ads on websites. The theory is that if your website is popular enough, you will be able to make money from it by running ads.

If you are reading this article on a tablet or phone, you may be seeing one of these ads. Let’s face it, they’re everywhere. They are counting on the age-old sales formula that 1%-3% of visitors to your website will click on these ads and earn you some money.

The problem with that theory is that you need a website, like TBPC. However, if you don’t have a website, you may have to pay to “rent space” on somebody else’s website to run your ads. I looked into this whole process and it gets very confusing, not to mention expensive. And let’s face it, you want to make money, not spend more money you don’t have. However, the old business adage is true, “You have to spend money to make money!” Not too encouraging if you don’t have any money in the first place.

I did sign up for a couple of programs that promised all sorts of passive income if I would only cough up a small amount of money. What they don’t tell you is that once you sign up, you will be approached by someone offering to “coach” you in your new online business venture. When you finally nail them down to the costs, you’ll find out that this “coaching” will cost you over $1000! Thanks, but no thanks.

Based on my experience, people are out there selling “air”. They approach you with a solid sounding “System” that will enable you to make money online running ads. However, the only money that is being made is by the people selling you the “System”.

Now don’t get me wrong, all you have to do is visit any website and you will see tons of ads for everything under the sun. So SOMEBODY is making money doing this. I’m sure there are people pumping hundreds of dollars or more into ads. Not a lot of people have that kind of money lying around to blow on advertising.

“Ok”, you say, “I just have to make sure it’s not a scam”. The “Scam” come-on is the oldest trick in the book. Say you want to learn about ABC-123-XYZ-LMNOP Online Marketing* and you do a search to find out if it’s legit, or a scam. You will see a bunch of results that say something like, “Is ABC-123-XYZ-LMNOP Online Marketing a Scam?” If you’re lucky, you’ll click on a link that will be a genuine review of the system. However, more than likely, it’s just a ruse to take you to their website, where they can sell you their own system!!! It goes around and around and around! *(There are so many of these companies that I had to come up with that ridiculous company name just to make sure I didn’t accidentally mention a real one!)

If you do feel compelled to try out one of these systems, don’t accept the offer right away. More than likely there will be a video telling you about all the money you can expect to earn by using their system. Once the video finishes playing, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the window for more information about how much the system costs. Then hit the “X” to close the window. Attempting to close the window will launch a barrage of, “Wait, there’s more!” windows that will gradually reduce the price down to almost nothing. I was going to sign up for a system once that started at around $50 and it eventually went down to $7! I guess they figure $7 is better than nothing.

I have talked a lot about Passive Income in this article because I want you to be careful when you look into buying a system that may cost you a lot of time, money, and energy. The flip side of Passive Income is Active Income. Active Income is, “get off your butt and earn some money”, income. Admittedly, this income is a lot less sexy than supposedly logging into your checking account every day and seeing money being deposited, but that’s not reality.

As I mentioned in my last article, now that my full-time Uber & Lyft career is over, I am really focusing on Work from Home income. I have come across some very promising income streams that I will be covering in the upcoming weeks. As I mentioned in last week’s article, my goal is to get 2 or 3 of these WFH jobs to replace, and hopefully exceed, my driving income. I hope to do just that with some of the jobs I have found. I am going to evaluate them over the next couple of weeks and I’ll report back with what I find out.

None of these jobs are going to pay you $5000 per week for sitting on the couch binge-watching Stranger Things! However, they are jobs that companies need done, and they are willing to hire you to work from home to do them! If these jobs pan out, all I can think about is how much my buddies down at the oil change shop are going to miss me! Please come back next week and I’ll have some WFH jobs for you to check out!

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!

Organized Home

Start The New Year Organized!

Hello and welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. Since this is the time of year when people start to think about getting organized, I thought this would be a good time to talk to you about a website I discovered a few years ago. The name of the website is Organized Home. I discovered this website while looking for a Christmas Countdown Checklist. The website had a countdown checklist and so much more.

The website is the brainchild of Cynthia Ewer. According to her Pinterest page, she has been “Helping folks get organized online since 1995”. That’s quite a track record in my book. I have always considered myself a pretty organized person, but I’ve got nothing on this lady.

Her website is broken down into seven different categories. I’ll cover each one individually. Plus, two bonus categories that are just priceless, Organized Christmas & Christmas Countdown Checklist.

Clean House: I know what you’re thinking, yuck. However she breaks it down by season, so it seems much more logical, at least to me. She even goes into getting your kids or grandkids involved. Plus, how to tackle cleaning out the refrigerator. Yuck, again!

Cut Clutter: This is something we all need to learn how to do. It covers everything from de-cluttering your closet, holiday clutter, room-by-room, creating a storage plan and much more. I know at our house, any flat surface can become “Clutter-Central”.

Getting Organized: Seems redundant to me, but whatever. Anyway, this is an excellent area that has articles on starting the New Year organized, kids rooms, yard sales, getting organized on a budget, moving, paper management (Thank God!), plus a lot more.

Kitchen Tips: Boy, do I need this one! This area covers all things kitchen. Party planning, setting up and organizing a pantry, menu planning, school lunches, organizing your refrigerator, and much more.

Family Ties: This section mainly deals with preparing for back-to-school and the routine of getting your kids out the door, fully prepared to take on the day. Since my sons are 27 and 24, this is not an issue for me anymore. However, some of you may be in charge of getting your grandkids moving in the morning. Lots of good advice here.

Seasonal Spin: This area groups together many of the previous articles by season. It’s easy to see all of the articles about New Year organization, spring cleaning, daylight savings time, back-to-school, family vacations and so on.

Printables: This category has calendars, meal planners, events and travel, health and safety, crafts and hobbies and so on. Each section has multiple documents that can be printed out and added to your to-do list. An excellent resource.

And last, but by no means least, Organized Christmas and Christmas Countdown Checklist! These sections are so big, they have their own websites. These are indispensable tools in preparing for Christmas. This past Christmas, I resolved to dig into the Organized Christmas website and implement the Christmas Countdown. There are so many terrific ideas and articles, it can become a little overwhelming. Tabs on the website include Christmas Countdown, Holiday Plans, Simplify Your Holidays, Gifts / Crafts, and (even more) Printables.

By following the Countdown Checklist, I was able to complete the majority of my Christmas Planning early and I enjoyed a RELAXED Christmas. I know what you’re thinking, “There is no such thing!” I beg to differ!

There are 2 Christmas Countdown plans. Regular and Crazy! Regular (Organized Christmas) starts on October 23rd and finishes up well before Christmas, so you can actually ENJOY the holiday, which is the whole point! Crazy is the Christmas Countdown Checklist. This one starts on September 15th! I told you, CRAZY!! However, Christmas Eve is at our house this year, so I plan on going with CRAZY. 101 Days to Christmas has a Daily Message Index and Christmas Planner. I’ll wait until after Halloween to put up my Christmas Lights, I promise!

Unfortunately, I recently read that Cynthia Ewer is retiring from running the websites. Hopefully, she will hand over the reins to someone who has the same passion for organization that she does! If you want your personal copy of the Organized Home website, get it in book form. Cut The Clutter is available on Amazon. I will definitely be ordering a copy.

I hope this article has inspired you to tackle your own “Mountain of Disorganization”. I know going over these websites in such great detail has inspired me to get my butt into gear! Happy Organizing and De-Cluttering!!!

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!

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!

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!

SparkPeople

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!