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Welcome to the Gig Economy


In the toughest of times, finding innovative ways to earn is key.

Conventional wisdom says the health-care industry is a stable one. But Jay worked as an MRI technician for 25 years. When his company was sold to a larger conglomerate 6 months ago, his job went with it.

Now Jay's the "on-call" guy at a hospital in New Jersey, where he watches someone 20 years his junior nearly asleep on his feet working 7 days a week filling 2 full-time positions. Jay knows the younger guy wouldn't mind spelling him a full day of work every week, but the supervisor won't hear of it, Jay says.

I met Jay at a personal-finance meeting at the New York Hilton which promised "help, hope and sound advice" for surviving the tough economy. It was hosted by 1010 WINS, and is the first in a series the radio news station intends to host for people struggling to reinvent themselves in order to stay afloat.

Jay is 47 years old, married, with a 20-year-old in college and a 14-year-old entering high school in September. He played by the rules all his life. He owns a house and his wife works, but he can't afford to send the 14-year-old to a Catholic high school as he'd prefer to do. What's most top of mind?

"The rich are getting richer," Jay said. "The poor are getting poorer, faster. Count me among them. I'm looking at my retirement and I wonder, 'What am I going to have?' "

There are 4 basic steps to securing your financial future, says personal finance writer Jean Chatzky, whose new book, The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper in Even the Toughest Times, was just released. She advised us -- we who'd paid $25 for the chance to network, get some inspiration, and eat scrambled eggs -- to do the following:

1. Make a decent living.

2. Spend less than you make.

3. Invest what you're not spending.

4. Protect the financial stability you have (through insurance, an estate plan).

"If you don't like your job, learn to love what you're doing. Come in with a smile and your boss will think you're interviewing," she quipped.

But when pressed later by questioners in the room, many of whom were there because they're unemployed and closer in age to Jay than to his overemployed colleague, Chatzky advised: "Anyone who doesn't have a plan B is a little nuts. It's very much a gig economy."
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