• Harry N. Stout

169- Three Ways to Future Proof Your Earning Power


In my posts, I focus on helping you save time and money. I look to help you grow your positive cash flow and ultimately your savings. We spend a lot of time discussing cost savings and the need for cash flow planning. One area that we need to spend more time discussing is what you should be doing to protect or “future proof” your likely most valuable asset—your earning power. Today companies mostly pay for your skills and not your degrees. In this post I will give you three ideas on how to protect your future earning power.


Reskilling

If you are one of the thousands of people who saw their jobs disintegrate in 2020—I mean disintegrate by your job no longer existing—you have been faced with the need to find an entirely new profession or field of work. You face the need, cost and challenge to reskill. The word reskilling was added to our pandemic lexicon in 2020. The Cambridge dictionary defines reskilling as the process of learning a new skill so you can do a different job or of training people to do a different job. For some people (e.g., airline pilots, Broadway performers) they are dealing with the need to reskill today as a result of the pandemic impacts on their businesses. For others reskilling is a task that they will need to embrace in the next decade as new Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as artificial intelligence are rolled out.


The financial question is who pays for reskilling? As I write this post the answer is clearly that the impacted employee usually pays. Our federal and state governments have not as yet funded broad based programs to allow individuals to be trained in for new jobs. Some companies, such as Amazon, have established programs to help workers obtain new skills as their old jobs are eliminated due to implementation of new technologies. If you are not lucky enough to work for one of these organizations the cost burden will fall on you. That is why I believe you should add money to your emergency fund specifically for this purpose. You may need several thousand extra dollars to be put aside to get the technical or professional training needed to pursue a more employable field of knowledge. This effort may involve going back to school for a year or more.


Upskilling

Upskilling is another action you should consider. Upskilling is the process of acquiring more advanced skills through additional education and training. This is the action where you proactively look to add better skills such as stronger problem-solving or project management abilities that allow you to drive higher personal productivity and better job performance. I short, you become a more valuable employee qualifying for higher compensation.


As we experience technological change such as the implementation of artificial intelligence capabilities, updated skills are needed. If you are not investing in yourself either by taking advantage of programs offered by your employer (e.g., JP Morgan is offering such a program to many of its employees) or through you own initiative you are likely falling behind and becoming a less valuable asset. If your skills diminish so will your income earning capabilities. You must invest either time or money to keep an employable skills mix.

As you plan your cash flow you should build in spending some of your current income on upskilling to help protect that flow of cash into the future.


Buying Insurance Protection

Actions taken to reskill or upskill can be planned and driven by you. On the other hand the impact of an illness or accident is unexpected and not within your control. That is where having the proper insurance coverages in place comes in. Insurance protects against the unexpected. To protect your income you should have a basic amount (determined by your and your insurance agent) of disability or income protection coverage. You will most likely get the most comprehensive coverage by buying an individual disability income policy. Other policies may provide some but not full protection that you need.


A disability income insurance policy provides benefits to replace a portion of your income if you become sick or injured and are unable to work. It’s financial protection that helps you focus more on your recovery and less on how you’ll cover expenses.

Here are some of the most important things in your life that disability income insurance can help protect include:

  • Your home

  • Your personal savings

  • Your retirement

  • Your lifestyle

  • Your family

  • Your income

Who is eligible for this coverage?

  • Typically people between the ages of 18 and 60 who work at least 30 hours per week

  • Applicants who are currently disabled, pregnant, have surgery pending or are recuperating from an illness are generally not eligible for coverage

You should work with your life insurance agent to determine if disability coverage is right for you and the amount you need.


Summary

Your ability to earn an income is likely your most valuable asset. Keeping your skills at a high and employable level is an increasing challenge in the age of rapid technological change. The onus is primarily on the individual to do this by investing time and money. At the same time there are situations beyond your reasonable control such as when the impacts of an illness or accident strike. To protect yourself against the unexpected there are available insurance products to purchase at reasonable costs. My advice is to build reskilling, upskilling and income protection insurance into your cash budget. Protecting that recurring paycheck is paramount in your journey to financial security.

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