It's easy to become glum while reading the Wall Street Journal these days. Not only is the economy likely headed south again, our elected leaders have gotten us into a fiscal mess, in part by promising us unsustainable benefits, and in part by creating a hugely bloated federal bureaucracy (particularly in the area of defense).
While long term we can all try to change the conversation, in the short run there is little any individual can do about this mess. However, I do believe there are certain things we can do with our money to boost job creation. A robust labor market puts human capital to work and, in the long run, is the only thing that will really move the economy.
So how can you create your own personal stimulus package -- hopefully one that is more productive than the one Congress passed in 2009?
In All The Money In The World: What The Happiest People Know About Getting And Spending, I argue that there are a few avenues to try:
1. Hire people. This is an obvious way to create jobs! But beyond that, if you are a business owner, there are some real strategic benefits to creating new jobs now. You can likely get the people you want -- probably for less than you'd have to pay in a better economy. When a desirable good is cheap, economics dictates one should stock up.
2. Outsource. Most of us aren't in a position to hire people on the payroll full-time. But lots of folks work in the "gig" economy these days. If you've been considering outsourcing a certain task, now is a great time to call up a local small business that specializes in this sort of thing and ask for help. Again, you'll probably pay less than you would at other times, get immediate availability, and hopefully free up some of your time so you can focus on what you do best.
3. Steer cash toward entrepreneurs. In the US economy, basically all net job growth comes courtesy of firms that are less than 5 years old. Entrepreneurs are job creators, and entrepreneurs need capital. Of course, there are tons of regulations about who can invest in start-ups, so unless you are an accredited investor (which requires a certain net worth) you need to invest with "friends and family." But if you get involved in local small business groups, over time, people can become friends.
4. "Kickstart" other projects. The growing arena of crowdfunding offers a great way to put small amounts of cash to use. Take the case of Regan Wann, who raised money on RocketHub to move her Shelbyville, TN tea shop to a larger space. Sure, there's no equity in it, but rather than spend $20 on a T-shirt you won't wear, why not give that cash to someone who's trying to grow a business?
5. Shop local. I did a post about this a few months ago. Basically, the idea is that local, independent stores spend a higher percentage of revenue on payroll than chains. This is not necessarily good or bad, just a matter of prioritizing different things. If you happen to find a local store where the service and selection are pretty good, then that's a great place to spend some of your money. Buy Pampers at Wal-Mart, but buy wedding presents at a local specialty shop.
What are you doing to boost economic growth in your community?
(Photo courtesy flickr user bgottsab)