In this week’s Ten Money Questions, we speak with Marci Alboher, the author of One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success (reviewed previously here). Marci also writes the Shifting Careers column and blog for The New York Times. Since work and money go hand in hand, I asked for her thoughts on blending careers, managing finances and peppered with a few personal memories about money. Enjoy!
1. How does the “slash” sum up the way more people are working these days?
Few of us are putting all our career eggs into one basket. You demonstrated it perfectly when you signed your email inviting me to do this Q&A. You wrote software sales/international business traveler/real estate investor/landlord/blogger. Those are all parts of your professional identity, but that’s an awfully big mouthful for the answer to “what do you do” at the cocktail party. So many of us our trying out new identities, weaving together careers out of disparate or complementary interests. We choose some things for our soul, some for our pocketbook, and some to flex a new creative muscle. Then we get bored or burned out, so we tinker and tweak, emerging with a new slash or two while keeping the ones that work.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
I have a strong memory of my mother -- a serious, possibly obsessive, shopper -- hiding the bags from my father when she’d return home from one of her weekly shopping sprees.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
When I sign up for something and put it on autopay, I tend to forget about it. The forgetting is pretty much the same whether it’s $18.00 a month or $1,800. I need to keep an eye on that!
4. What advice do you give women that want to shift careers?
The same advice I give to men, which is to be prepared for a process. Career change takes a lot of work, and it takes time and planning. First, you need to figure out what it is you might want to do. That means doing some experiments, trying things out, perhaps taking a class, or crafting what I call an “adult internship.” Once you figure out what it is you want to do, you need to come up with a plan to get there. That also involves several steps. You need to build skills, create a network, and follow up on opportunities, all of which takes more time. And of course, you can’t forget about the financial piece. Few people have the luxury to quite earning money while doing the work of reinvention, so you need to decide how to keep the income flowing while you take all these steps. This is where having a few different income streams or skills to rely on can come in quite handy.
5. Many BlogHer members have slash careers and hope to make the “blogger” part of their work more lucrative. Is there truth to the saying do what you love and the money will follow?
In one way or another I believe that’s true, with one caveat. You also need to be good at it. That saying seems to imply that everyone who has passion also has some talent, and unfortunately that is not the case.
6. Did your parents ever disagree about money? Are there any similarities with how you handle and negotiate finances with your husband?
Other than that little flash I shared above, I don’t really recall my parents fighting much about money. For most of their marriage, my father just gave my mother money, in a very old-fashioned, paternalistic way. My father passed away when he was quite young, and when he did, my mother took over a successful family business. In a very short time, she became quite a savvy businesswoman (with no one to answer to about her shopping habits!)
I’m not married, but I live with my boyfriend, Jay. We certainly have our own money issues, but they don’t seem to have any parallels to what I saw growing up. Jay and I came together as fully formed, independent adults, with our own money hangups and habits. My parents came together when they were quite young; in some ways, their values around money were more similar.
7. What experience taught you the value of a dollar?
My mother is a ruthless discount shopper, who is able to find the jewels amid a rack of garbage. After shopping with her and seeing how much a few hundred dollars of smart shopping can buy, I find it extremely hard to buy expensive clothing at retail. My boyfriend (who I’ve been with for three years) has the same expert shopping gene as my mother, so my aversion to retail has deepened in recent years.
8. What suggestions do you have for managing finances when income comes from multiple sources?
If you can, it’s best to marry something predictable with something that provides you some higher risk and higher return -- the same principles that make sense in a balanced investment portfolio. For example, a steady teaching gig that provides health insurance makes a nice base from which to pursue something a little more turbulent like an artistic pursuit or an entrepreneurial venture.
9. How does retirement come into play when people have slash careers?
Retirement, now there’s a quaint notion. Few can afford it, and it seems the ones who can’t don’t want to anymore. So, you’ll be seeing all manner of slashing in the years formerly known as retirement. Expect to see people changing the way they work as they age, but rarely giving it up entirely. They will try to customize their schedules to make time for family, travel, and neglected passions. At the same time, they will seek part-time, flexible, or virtual work that provides supplemental income and intellectual stimulation. They’ll also be going back to school in large numbers; adult education is a fast growing industry and I don’t expect it to slow down any time soon.
10. What’s the best financial advice you have ever received?
There are only two paths to financial well-being -- earning more or spending less. It’s really just like maintaining a healthy weight -- you really just have to move more or consume less.
More about Marci Alboher
Marci Alboher, an online columnist for the New York Times, has built a reputation for spotting and chronicling the latest thinking on careers. Her recently released book, One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success (Warner Books, February 2007), popularized the term “slash,” to refer to a new breed of individuals who can’t answer, “What do you do” with a single response.
The book has received praise from best-selling business author Dan Pink (“A Whole New Mind”) who called Marci “the Walt Whitman of the new world of work,” and career guru Penelope Trunk who described Marci as “the maven of modern moonlighting.”
Marci is herself a slash. The author/journalist/speaker began her career in law after graduating from The University of Pennsylvania and American University’s Washington College of Law. After nearly ten years of practice, she used her law background as a springboard to a second career as a journalist.
A popular teacher at the New York Writers Workshop, where she sits on the executive committee, Marci helps novices break into journalism and coaches more experienced nonfiction writers to the next level.
Marci lives in New York City with her beau, Jay, an entrepreneur/designer.
More from living