Talk about timing.
My friends at the Social Security Administration just informed me that now— right now— in the middle of the worst recession/job market slump since the one that had people lining up at soup kitchens, selling apples on the corner or (if they could afford an office high enough up) jumping out of windows — I am free to make money.
Only a government agency could offer an open-end opportunity to earn money at exponentially increasing rates inversely proportional to the availability of means to do so.
Wow. If I can still write sentences like that, maybe I could find a job. Maybe I could write stuff for the Social Security Administration.
I haven't really worked since I retired in 2003, or until recently, even felt like thinking about it. But like a lot of folks who relied on 401(k)s to assist in retirement, I'm having to rethink some of that.
The last I heard from the SSA, my earning limit was $13,560 a year — not a problem, since I was earning somewhere around $4,000 annually. Now, however, I can bring in as much as I want without having to return any of my earnings to the government. It's not that I haven't been open to possibilities — they just haven't popped up.
Before I retired, friends told me that my busy pre-retirement speaking schedule would be a gold mine if I started charging instead of letting the Times foot the bill. It had done so for years, to avoid conflicts of interest and for public relations, although I probably cost them as much business as I ever brought in.
It turned out that when I started charging for speaking engagements, dozens of organizations that thought I was a good deal when I appeared for free weren't willing to up the ante from that level.
I can't say I blamed them. I never understood my appeal anyhow, until I had cause to review the popularity of anything free in our society.
On one of my first speeches to a service club, where I was wondering how I could possibly keep an audience's interest, I glanced at the newsletter and saw the previous week's speaker had been on "Our Friend, The Aluminum Window" and felt comforted that I would survive.
But now with unlimited earning ability (harrumph!) where are the opportunities for work?
I used to think about how much fun it would be to be a Walmart greeter: Just smile and say hello and show people where the Chinese-manufactured merchandise is.
But I see fewer and fewer greeters at Walmarts I frequent. Either they are on break or it's another sign of economic decline.
I also thought about the cart-guy job, although I note that it has been mechanized and they probably aren't hiring as often.
As you can see, I'm not aiming very high on the scale. I'm more interested in something that would appeal to the Zen saying, "chop wood, carry water" than something that would have me punching a clock 9-5 and (gasp) wearing a necktie.
All I need is a job that pays pretty good money, has an entirely flexible schedule (including summers off to go to Colorado) allows casual dress and doesn't require me to be nice to people who are unpleasant.
Yea, I know... I already thought of telephonic bill-collecting, but I think there's too much bad karma associated there.
I am exploring several possibilities that relate to allowing princes, public officials and widows of former finance ministers in Nigeria and elsewhere to deposit millions of sort-of-stolen dollars or Euros in my bank accounts for a brief while in return for commissions well into the tens of millions of dollars.
It looks like a wide-open field. I am hearing from four or five of them a day and I'm sure I will be able to explain to the IRS how millions of stolen dollars from another country's treasury wound up in my bank account. (Right now, if I paid income tax on it, the IRS probably wouldn't care.)
And I also hear regularly on the Internet from companies that want to send me free laptops, credit cards, trips, cars and other things, just for taking a quick survey, and there are companies that promise me I can make tens of thousands of dollars a year just by working at my computer for a few minutes a day.
Those are the same guys who used to advertise jobs in print media, saying that you could make a lot of money just by stuffing envelopes. If you applied (and paid for the information) you got a slip of paper saying, "First buy lots of envelopes. Then print this message on lots of slips of paper. Then mail them to anyone dumb enough to send you money to learn how to make money stuffing envelopes."
As you can probably tell, I am not looking hard for employment, although I wouldn't mind the odd job now and then.
But that is because my concerns relate to quality of life, not sustaining life. There are people desperate for any job that will put any kind of roof over their heads and food in their and their family's mouths and I wouldn't think of impinging on that market.
Maybe when things get better, I'll look again.