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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

More people moonlighting to pay bills

Marketplace Staff Aug 12, 2009
Fallout: The Financial Crisis

More people moonlighting to pay bills

Marketplace Staff Aug 12, 2009


Did you know about one in 10 Americans took a second job last year? And that number’s expected to double this year. From Los Angeles, Lenora Chu reports that moonlighting’s becoming a way of life in this economy.

Lenora Chu: Victoria Coulter has a two-decade career as a graphic designer. But when the downturn hit, her corporate clients started scaling back and so did her lifestyle.

VICTORIA COULTER: What I was taking as a draw from my design business wasn’t paying off the bills quickly enough.

So she picked up a second job.

Chu: Do you want a large chicken or a small one… Oh, a small one.

Every weekend morning, she heads over to a farmer’s market in West L.A. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, she hawks organic, free-range chickens from the back of a white Dodge Ram. She’s shopped at the Healthy Family Farms booth for years. One day she found out they were hiring.

COULTER: And it didn’t even go into my brain, it just came from my heart out through my lips, and I said, “Oh, I’ll do it.”

Coulter gets 15 bucks an hour to work the booth. That’s a fraction of the $125 an hour she’d charge to design a corporate annual report. Lucky for her, she says, working the farmer’s market is a blast.

COULTER: So it actually feels really abundant. I feel like I’m making a fortune here.

A recent CareerBuilder survey found that one in five Americans is looking for a second job this year. That’s twice as many as last year. CareerBuilder’s COO Brent Rasmussen.

BRENT RASMUSSEN: We’re seeing this trend in moonlighting because companies are laying people off or potential for the layoff is there — people can understand that.

CareerBuilder’s survey also found that 60 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

RASMUSSEN: That is why people are looking for second jobs, to maintain their current lifestyle and make sure they have enough money to pay their bills.

But Coulter cleared one important hurdle — she works for herself. If you’re considering a second job, you should first make sure your primary employer doesn’t outlaw moonlighting.

Coulter: Okay, let’s get a nice chunk of ice in here. And there you go — enjoy.

Back at the Farmer’s Market, Coulter is bagging a sale. Her repeat customers have become friends, so she looks forward to working on weekends. Another perk of the job? After the shoppers clear out, the vendors barter for goods.

COULTER: No, I’m not getting health insurance, but I’m getting some really sweet deals on summer vegetables and beautiful peaches and all of that.

So her food budget’s gone down by half, which means she has more money to save.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lenora Chu, for Marketplace.

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