Pay me in Cash: How to Survive Without a Paycheck

It's always nice to get paid in cash. Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash.
It's always nice to get paid in cash. Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash.

According to this article on Yahoo News, almost one third of working-age men are not in the workforce. I guess I am one of them. But I’m not alone, that’s reportedly 30 million people, and that’s just the men.

You can read the entire article, but the author suspects these people are surviving on one or more of the following:

Unemployment insurance – Except that’s long gone for most of us.

They retired early and get a pension –Many public servants and union members can retire with a full pension and health insurance. Some pension programs allowed you to retire when your length of service and your age equal a magic number, like 75 or 80.

Disability payments – the article seemed to presume these were often fraudulent claims, but I know there are plenty of people out there who are legitimately claiming disability.

Savings from prior work – Today, there is a trend of people saving up their first million or two and dropping out to the workforce at a young age.

Money from trading stocks or crypto currency – Sounds great, but you have to have money to make this kind of money.

Working under the table for cash – I’d love a job where I can get paid in cash. You know, something besides being a busboy or doing lawn maintenance. The article estimates that the “informal economy,” meaning people making money off the books, is in excess of $2 trillion.

Living with or off family members – I wouldn’t mind being a kept man.

They are drug dealers or other types of criminals – I think I would make an excellent drug dealer. Like Clint Eastwood’s mule, I don’t look the part and I’m smart enough to avoid doing stupid stuff to get caught.

They are living off the land, planting vegetables and hunting – The author obviously does not know how hard that is. Even homesteaders need some kind of income.

What the Author Forgot

Notice how there are no gig jobs or other new economy jobs mentioned? All those 1099 employees who work for Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, or get freelance assignments on Fivrr and similar sites are missing from his list? He also did not mention YouTube income, blogging, or all the people making money on OnlyFans and similar sites. And Amazon has definitely made it easy to become a self-published author.

Then there are the people who sell goods on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and at craft fairs, gun shows and flea markets. Some may have legitimate business licenses and pay taxes, but I bet many do not.

Also missing are many self-employed people who don’t issue themselves a paycheck, like handymen, lawn care providers, people who babysit or provide other services. For example, my wife had a friend in our old neighborhood who made $700 to $1,000 a week pet sitting and dog walking. That’s some serious cash for a side gig.

You Can Survive Without a Paycheck

While it was not the intent of the article, the message I took from it is that you can survive without a paycheck, as many of us have had to do at times. It may not be as easy as having a steady source of income, but it’s doable. You just have to some salable skills and work at it.

If you find yourself in this position by choice or by happenstance, my advice is to work at several methods to generate income. By all means, have a garden and hunt. Grow all the food you can. If you have extra, sell it at the farmer’s market. If you have a tiller, make a few bucks tilling someone else’s garden. Use your chain saw and pickup truck to make some money selling firewood. If you have a buddy who is a handyman, help him out when he needs another set of hands. If you are a stay-at-home mom, take in the neighbor’s kids when they get off the school bus. Is it easier if your spouse still has a paying job? Yes, it is.

Right now, we are lucky. Enough people have enough money that they will pay for things they don’t want to do, like walk their dog, watch their own kid, paint their own house or mow their own lawn. The problem will be when things collapse to such a point that the family with a garden and some skill at hunting is considered better off than the fellow whose investments are suddenly not worth the paper they are printed on.