In near the future, cloud fees will begin figuring into your monthly budget. You’ll pay for your accounting, invoicing, CRM, marketing more than anything, and a host of online services you need to operate a business, but also potentially to operate a household – because a household *is* a business, and increasingly we’re seeing a shift back to that reality.
The experiment in traditional employment, where one spouse leaves home to earn money, and the other spouse decides between a similar choice and being with children, is folding into the realization that all households must earn money independently of traditional employment. Whether that’s ebay selling, or part time services work, or a full-blown company operation out of the home – the most basic predicate of economic security now is not going to remain what your employer gives you (insurance, 401K, job, promotion, bonus) nor what you acquire (house, cars, kids, spouse) but rather what you do, independently of those things, to trade and produce wealth.
The core role in the family will no longer be the breadwinner that goes out to a job but the steady wealth-generators in the household, which might include contractors who work on site at companies, or a householder who does interior decorating or catering, or that etsy or ebay store. The core household responsibility, the core contributor(s) will soon be predicated on what we once turned to jobs for: steadyness, stability, consistency. The difference is, it’s self-managed not employer-managed.
So along with the utility bills, start budgeting a monthly startup allowance for the household business expenses or household income generation (this used to be the gloves and work boots on the family farm – now it’s becoming Outright or Quickbooks, Batchbook, Zendesk, Adwords, your LLC or S-Corp formalities, etc). Don’t believe it? Already we consider internet fees a basic utility, and cell phones trump land lines if you’re figuring out what to keep. That’s a change from just a handful of years ago. The good news is that you’ll at least take the tax deduction for the expenses, so yes you’ll need those business formalities and bookkeeping solutions (or to pay a lawyer and accountant more to handle all that, and then they’ll pay those software/cloud-app bills).
Of course, there are some interesting solutions – Free Agent Source is the notable one for 2011, I think. Avoids you having to pay for and manage all that, and also having to hire the attorney and accountant. Kind of nice.
But the point is that we’re experiencing a cultural redefinition of the household which returns it to something much closer to what it was in the Middle Ages and in Ancient houses – think Medici – a household is a growing interest or concern, fundamentally a business operation with contributing member/investors who get their living from it and even grow it for coming generations. Like a business, if it’s not growing, it’s dying. And if it’s not marketing, it’s not growing. A household then, in this conception, is a dynamic – moving thing, not the static “safety zone” of the 1950s in the US.
The new household is the old pre-corporate, pre-depression, pre-WWII, pre-cold war, entity – much closer to the ‘farm’ environment you saw on Little House on the Prairie, but without the ideal that affluence would mean one gender or another not doing certain kinds of work (or any work). In a household, everyone always works. It’s what Ursula LeGuin (“Another Story”) calls “thick planning” – the kind of holistic thinking about meeting all the needs of a community of people (i.e. a family) that requires a constellation of skills. If you remember Poor Richard’s Almanack (Ben Franklin’s encyclopedic housholders periodical), it was all about the kind of “farming” that really meant household enterprise. Later, of course, the Farmer’s Almanac was based on that.
In other words, the new household as business enterprise will require that some member or members of the household be able to do some bookkeeping, some sales, some business formalities, some of all kinds of things are needed, and they need to be somehow cooperative to produce the enterprise. The separation of each member into entirely separate work silos is largely over. And the constellation (or absence) of those various skills and abilities or the willingness to master them, will largely determine the viability of the household. Period.
In the future, it may well be that prospective husbands and wives will consider, in quite practical terms, what the other person has to contribute, and will self-select a mate – “naturally select” if you like the evolutionary term – partly on the basis of what they’d be bringing to a household. Can they do something? Do they have the potential to do more? Are they made of stout stuff – will they kick in or lie around on the sofa, whine about the bean dip gut they got from lying around on the sofa, and wait for money to fall from the sky? Do they have a mentality of dependence – on society, an employer, or wholly on the other spouse – or are they thinking about how to build a house like a Hapsburg or a Hohenzollern (the great houses of old)?
Instead of ‘does the man have the four keys: house, car, education, career’ and is the woman fertile (the exchange between genders of safety and security for sex and reproduction), now you get a different definitive methodology of safety and security. It’s not in the four keys – you’ve seen the housing market – a house can be a liability more than an asset – you’ve seen the job market – you’ve seen the worthless degrees – and cars are expensive liabilities – the bigger, the dumber. The new safety, security, reliability, stability, whatever – is in the ability and willingness of all parties to the household to kick in and create a going enterprise or concern – to create the household itself, and not act like part-timers or temps, let alone outsource all its interests to an employer.
I remember when I first got married, and I took flack from the outside, from people who poo pooed me treating a family like a business, especially when I actually told them what I was doing. Just “strange” and “unromantic” and “mean” they said. Yes, I’m a mean guy. But now, I see lots of people starting to do it – they’re catching on. And we’re successful, mainly and primarily, for one simple reason – we both do that. We kick in. We serve the household. My wife is a steady breadwinner with her own business, and she’s been a rock without which I couldn’t have launched mine. And the neat thing is that these businesses overlap. My internet marketing company provides services for her beauty business. She’s local – deeply rooted in the community, I’m global – existing on the internet and not committed to anywhere, so we’re diversified and mutually contributing. I’m seeing this kind of thing sprout up everywhere. Poo poo it all you like – even if you don’t get it, your kids will, eventually. Households are a specific design that produces survival, growth, and prosperity. Households (not merely “relationships”, not merely the romantically-saccharine conception of a marriage) are one of nature’s machine models for the continued existence of a particular species – human beings.
In the old days (I’ve said this before), even if you went to work in an office, a basic survival necessity was having a trade – something to “fall back on” – to insulate you from utter dependence on the exigencies and capriciousness of “the economy” (or “the market”) – those fantasy words we use to hide the fact that our lives are deeply affected by collections of individual morally-accountable persons making choices that can control us and hurt us. The new security (from being repetitive, and so duplicated and so necessarily outsourced or made obsolete by advancing technology) will come from:
- having multiple irons in the fire (multiple, diversified income streams) – this means a key survival trait is having multiple talents, multiple capabilities, or at least having the ability to multi-task
- controlling at least one of those income streams in-house (it’s not dependent on traditional employment – though you might be a contractor or business that works with traditional employers) – or at least having a working apparatus that you keep well-oiled, and start the engine on every quarter (when it’s layoff time), just so you can be sure it’ll run when you need it – like “Red Barchetta” in the garage – but I’m an advocate of actually driving that income-producing plan around once in a while, making money from it even if you don’t need to
- participating in your family like a household, and your household like the original conception of a household – a business enterprise unto itself – a place where wealth and work are processed for survival and growth – besides, nothing bonds you quite like working together toward a common goal – a household is a movement – if it’s just hearts and flowers (as nice as those are), what is it going to do when you lose your job or your business gets mowed down? Will the relationship or the family hold, if it’s not a household?
I routinely predict the future, these days, and I’m always surprised that no one jams a finger in my face and asks if I think I have a crystal ball. But I’ve always said that knowing the future isn’t magic, it’s just perception and awareness. It’s just listening to and observing things that are happening now, combined with the logic to hypothesize where they might lead and rule out the impossibilities and narrow the alternatives. But I’ll mention one other thing. It helps to cheat.
So often, describing the future is just a matter of looking at what’s happening right now, before most other people have noticed it. When you describe it, at first, they may find it strange and unheard of. But when they catch on, catch up, get there themselves, you’ll seem prescient in your observations. I’m not saying I *don’t* have some Svengali-like capabilities, and I’m not saying I do – but they’re just not needed to look at this train barreling down the tracks in the distance, smoke over the treetops, no turn-off to the left or right, and no station where you’re standing, to guess that soon the air will be displaced as it roars past you. Some of the future is what had to happen based on what was happening already.
The question is, how is your household changing, and turning itself back into the householders’ coop of old? What are you doing to ensure your survival, growth, and prosperity as a family? Are you in motion, or sitting quietly still hoping everything stays the same?