Increasing income

Although saving money is great, increasing your income is just as important, so that you are making the highest hourly rate that suits your abilities and what you believe in.

Although our society pushes the idea of choosing a career, it makes more sense to have not one job skill, but three. You need to have, for some phases of your life, a basic survival skill that will keep you fed. It probably won't pay well or be very satisfying. But those without such a skill as backup are in serious trouble when they are laid off their professional jobs. You also need to have a skill that provides a steady job with access to health insurance. This does need to pay well, and be at least somewhat satisfying. Then you need your dream, what you really want to do. This kind of job almost never offers steady employment, but makes life worth showing up for.

Let's look at the steady job skill, the most important for accomplishing Green Living goals. If you are already in an in-demand, lucrative profession, you are pretty much set. You might want to see if you are in the best job for your skills. You want not just a salary that is market-rate or above, but job satisfaction and a good team of people to work with. You also need access, through your or your spouse's job, to group health insurance. If you are not getting all this, you need to get off your duffus and either talk to your employer or look around, using a great resume, online classifieds, and employment agencies. Don't be discouraged by whatever the economy is doing. As someone who has had to hire people, I will tell you that it is always hard to find good employees. If your skill is in demand, your job search is thorough and persistent, and you do outstanding work in your profession, you will find what you want.

What if you are not yet in such a profession? Then you need to gradually, with a plan, get into one. The unemployment problem in this country is not caused simply by a lack of jobs. It is also caused by a lack of people managing their money well. If they did so, they would require fewer jobs. And it is caused by a lack of job skills that match employers' needs. Many fields are experiencing shortages. But the people needing jobs don't have skills in these fields.

In the near future, "the United States will need 250,000 more health-care workers in an industry that has seen its labor pool decline," according to a study by the Association of Schools of Public Health. In a recent poll of 1,400 chief information officers by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm, "roughly one in four said recruiting skilled IT professionals was their biggest hiring hurdle." (There is, however, heated debate on the internet about the possibility that employers are inventing an IT shortage so they can justify bringing in low-priced "guest workers." Nonetheless, it is always difficult to find workers with good technical skills.) In fact, one of the biggest problems with matching workers to jobs is that so many potential employees lack the most basic abilities—reading in English, math, and computer skills. According to the Task Force on Workforce Development, which included participants from the AFL-CIO, the Business Roundtable, and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, the country faces a major problem because of "the lack of basic skills throughout much of the workforce, and the growing shortages of workers with specific skills that are increasingly needed."

So which professions pay well and are in demand? You can find out at the Bureau of Labor and from many other sources, including web sites produced by state and local governments about jobs in their region. You can look up what people in different professions make in your local area at www.salary.com, though you'll need to dodge the ads. You might also want to look at The big picture on this site to consider how the economy changes as people are forced to live within their incomes.

You can earn money, part- or full-time, as a business owner. The big picture section can be used to see what opportunities a back-to-basics economy offers. You may already have a business or be planning one. Companies that do well have a product or service that is in demand, and manage money and time carefully. They take the tax structure into account, and fully use the internet if it is appropriate for that business. A key to increasing income is to find how to "eliminate the middleman," how to get the full price for your work, or as much as possible, rather than having much of that money go to someone else.

Ensuring that you are getting top dollar for your time will help you become financially independent sooner, make your life easier, and allow you to concentrate on the work you enjoy most.