I’ve always been a big believer in being well-rounded. When I was at school, this made it hard to figure out what I wanted from life because I liked so many different subjects and was fairly good at a number of things. It also made it hard to decide what to study at university, but over time I've come to realise this 'well-roundedness' did not stop me finding my passion. Instead, it actually gave me crucial skills that have made my life happier, more stable and richer. And yes, I’m talking about money.
If you were going to sit on a stool, and it only had one leg, you would have to balance very carefully, or you would fall over, and perhaps hurt yourself. Even with two legs, it’s a precarious perch. A stool, like a life, only becomes more stable once it has multiple legs. And the more legs it has, the more stability. If you have a five-legged stool, and one leg breaks, your stool still stays upright.
This is why you can’t rely on one source of income. If you only have one income stream and it suddenly ends, you are left in a very precarious position. Millionaires have an average of seven sources of income, according to the US Internal Revenue Service. They don't just have a job and save the money from that, they build multiple revenue streams.
Imagine you have a job you love, your co-workers are fantastic, your boss loves you and gives you freedom to pursue your dreams and passions and you make great money. Naturally, you will focus on this to the exclusion of all else. Then, a pandemic strikes and your job evaporates through no fault of your own. Millions of people around the world are now in this situation, and are facing a very tough road ahead.
But imagine if you had three sources of income: your main job and two side hustles. If your main job stops suddenly, you would still have two other sources of money. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your side hustles wouldn’t be wiped out as well, but the more sources of income you have, the more likely that some would remain.
The key to building a more diverse set of income streams is learning difficult skills that are valuable. If you can learn something that not a lot of people know how to do, you will be in higher demand. When I lived in Bahrain, I was one of a handful of photographers who knew how to use studio lights and, because of that, I was always in demand. Here in the UAE, I became obsessed with personal finance and spent hundreds of hours learning how to save, earn more and invest wisely. This has led to great opportunities as well.
If you look at the things you love, there are areas for you to learn more so that you can start new side hustles. Beyond side hustles, learning new things in your field makes you more in demand and makes it less likely that you will be fired in the first place. Don’t be afraid to take on difficult challenges, because that is where you can really grow and gain valuable skills that set you apart from others who don’t take the initiative.
In this time of social isolation, you have a great amount of time to build a new skill set. You can even do it for free through sites such as YouTube and professional blogs. If you want to pay a little money, but not a lot, sites such as Skillshare and Coursera can offer more professional guidance. Now would be a great time to learn how to code, for example, as our lives are forced to become increasingly digital. Just make sure you don’t violate your work visa in any way when you start a side hustle, though. You often need the permission of your employer to do extra work on the side.
Other potential sources of income don’t even require building new skill sets. You can simply sell your stuff. Dubizzle and Facebook community flea markets are great ways to offload your unwanted items. Now could also be a great time to downsize your house or apartment to cut costs and moving into a smaller place is a great motivator to sell things you’re not wedded to any more.
Making it through recessions and pandemics requires adaptability, hard work and determination. You can do this and diversification will help.
Dubai schoolteacher Zach Holz (@HappiestTeach) documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher