The Self-Employment Chronicles Part 4

Question Person

by Keith A. Owens

So last week our hero (that would be me) was sorely distressed to discover that the amount of money he had been planning on receiving from his retirement account – and other sources – than had been anticipated and planned for. As a matter of fact your hero wound up receiving somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 less than he had originally been told he was going to receive from his retirement funds.

Gee. Tough break, you say. Yeah. No kidding, I say (because this is a family-friendly discussion and I cannot say how I would truly respond to someone whose only reaction to my predicament would be to say ‘Gee. Tough break.’ Right?).

So exactly how did this happen? You might also ask. Well, in a nutshell it has to do with something known as the stock market. My retirement funds were invested in a variety of relatively (so I had been told) moderate risk stocks. Even if I had chosen to take the riskier option to get more return (which I did upon my employer’s advice) the company investing our funds still had a policy that kept them from investing employee retirement funds in the really wack funds, because that would be wrong. So this is me, being fiscally responsible and planning for my family’s future, right? Because for every dollar of my income that goes into the mandated retirement fund, my good government job invested a five-to-one match, meaning $5 was being invested on my behalf for every $1 of my income. Or something like that. And every so often throughout my employment I would get these statements showing how my stock portfolio was performing and how my money was just growing and growing and growing and…

And then the bottom fell out of the economy.  But even after the initial earthquake, my portfolio did semi-decent from what I could tell. Not like I’m an expert in reading stock reports. But from what I could see, the ticker was still pointing upwards and that was a good thing.  Mo’ money, mo’ money, and all that. So, cool. All I need to do is just keep this good government job for at least 5-10 more years and I figured me and the wife would have a decent amount saved up, plus some other things should be in the works that should have put us on a fairly stable path, or at least stable for us.

Then I was laid off.  So immediately I call up the retirement folks to find out the procedure for getting my money out so we could have something to, you know, buy food and all that. Because the unemployment insurance to which I am entitled only covered the mortgage. Period. So the guy does the math and tells me how much to expect. It’s a decent amount and I’m glad. Then the check arrives about a month later and a significant chunk of what had been promised is missing. What gives? I ask after calling back. Stock market goes up, stock market goes down, is essentially what he said. The amount I had in the stock market a month ago had dropped by $8,000 by the time the paperwork was all approved and my money was pulled out.

Gee. Tough break.

The lesson here for a fledgling self-employed person? Don’t count on not one dime, not one penny, until that dime and/or penny is resting comfortably inside your warm little hand. Make your plans based on what you know you have, not on what you hope and pray you will have once this and that comes through from wherever whenever.

In short? Be honest with yourself. Because you’re only hurting yourself, your family, and your business if you aren’t.


Do you have a self-employment story? Let us know in the comments!

Would you like Keith to write your story with wit and empathy? Contact him!




Making the Most of the “New” Facebook

As Facebook keeps evolving, WIRFY stays on top of those changes to ensure your message reaches the widest possible audience.

Recently, Facebook unveiled an updated version of its social networking platform.  At first, there was a highly negative reaction from many users. They didn’t care for the most noticeable new feature, a vertical scroll that announces any new activity by your Friends and the Pages you like, creating a Twitter-like real-time information stream.

Other changes, though not as obvious, impact which status updates people see when they first arrive at Facebook. We at Writing It Right For You have developed strategies in response to make sure that your message doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

These changes also represent opportunities. Clients of WIRFY benefit from allowing us to manage their online social networking presence, because we can react to these changes quickly and incorporate new tools into how we help spread your message. Let those of us who focus on social networking and online marketing keep your online presence up-to-date, so you can focus on your organization’s mission.

Let’s look at how Facebook has upgraded the handling and display of images and graphics, and some ways to take advantage of this improvement.

Continue reading

The Other Side of the Writing Wall

Keith and his iMac
Keith writing on his new iMac!

Keith says: I’m a writer. You’re a writer. How did we get here?

The Other Side of the Wall

Part 3

Because it bears repeating:

“The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do every day. There are two reasons for this rule: getting the work done and connecting with your unconscious mind.

“If you want to finish this novel of yours within a year, there’s not a moment to lose. There’s no time to wait for inspiration. I write three hours every morning. It’s the first thing I do, Monday through Sunday, 52 weeks a year.”

This is a direct quote from master storyteller Walter Mosley, one of the nation’s best mystery writers and one of my all-time favorites. And as I also said last week, I would be lying if I said I was able to maintain a regimen as disciplined as Mosley’s, but it definitely gives me something to aspire to. And I can honestly say that I do write, on average, at least five days a week, and usually six. And one of the reasons why I can’t dedicate three hours every morning to the craft like Mosley is because I am also a full-time musician so I have to divide my time and then still leave enough time for family.

I know. Excuses, excuses, excuses. But hey, it was a nice try, wasn’t it?

Anyway, moving forward I thought this week I would talk a bit about how I got into the business of writing. Or, more specifically, how I knew I had been called to the craft. Because, truth be told, I don’t think most writers – or musicians – choose to become either. The truth is that the craft chooses you.

Where it all began for me, at least according to my mother, was when I was about three years old. She still has the photograph she took of me wearing nothing but my pajama top reaching up on tiptoe trying to hammer out my frustrations on the typewriter. But even before that my mother used to read Dr. Seuss stories to me practically every day.  Dr. Seuss and my mother are the ones who taught me how to read. Also my father would frequently come to my bedside and tell me stories that he made up on the spot just to help me get to sleep. And one thing they both agreed on for sure was that there would be no baby talk. I never once heard any such word as ‘pee pee’ or ‘wee wee’ or any other such garbage. I was taught that if I needed to use the bathroom then to say so using those exact words. I think they figured if I started off talking like a blubbering idiot then that’s very possibly how I might end up.

Saying all of this to say that I didn’t stumble upon my love of words and stories by accident. There was definitely some help from the family. But despite the commitment my parents made to teaching me how to read and write at a very early age, I am convinced that my evolving passion for writing stories came from somewhere else, somewhere inside of me. My parents brought the wood, but the fire came from within.

If you’re a writer, then you know it. And don’t ever let anyone tell you different. Because you have a job to do, and time spent arguing with those who are trying to convince you to do something else that makes sense for them but not for you, the more essential time you waste being somebody else for the sake of somebody else instead of being you. And being happy.

There’s no law against that, you know. Being happy is still legal. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

You can find Keith A. Owens on the other side of the writing wall at Writing It Right For You or and on Twitter.