Rethinking Retirement

21 Mar

Retirement to most people today means the end of working a job and living off of portfolio income (401k), a pension and social security. This concept, which is fairly new, is already obsolete. To understand this let’s examine its origins and progression.

Traditionally, in early America (from its founding until the mid 1880’s), when a family member was too old or physically unable to work, the other members of the extended family took care of him. However, four important demographic changes happened in America beginning in the mid-1880s that rendered the traditional systems of economic security obsolete: The Industrial Revolution, rapid urbanization, the disappearance of the extended family and a marked increase in life expectancy.

The Industrial Revolution transformed the majority of working people from self-employed agricultural workers into wage earners working for large industrial corporations. This meant mass migrations to urban centers where the work was to be found. In the crowded urban environments, family sizes were forced to get smaller. The cost of housing, clothing and feeding an extended family (grandparents, parents and children) was undoable in the new economy. This fostered the creation of the “nuclear family” (parents and children only) which most of us are accustomed to seeing today.

The final significant change happened in the early decades of the 20th century. Better health care, sanitation, and the development of public health programs, led Americans to live significantly longer. Between 1900 and 1930, average life spans increased by 10 years. This was the most rapid increase in life spans in recorded human history.

The net result of these historical demographic and social changes was that the traditional strategies for the providing for those no longer able to work quickly dissolved.

The decade of the 1930s found America facing the worst economic crisis in its modern history. Millions of people were unemployed, and the majority of the elderly lived in dependency. The traditional sources of economic security: assets, labor, family, and charity had all failed. Radical calls for action were being made by the public. President Franklin Roosevelt responded by signing into law The Social Security Act on August 14, 1935 to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.

Fast forward to today… Four major demographic changes have made that system obsolete as we emerge from the second worst economic crisis in US history. Change from the Industrial Age to the new Innovation Age, globalization, further dissolving of the nuclear family, and another marked increase in life expectancy.

The loss of manufacturing jobs, the increase of exportation of jobs, and importation of goods from the global economy has changed the face of the job market forever. Companies no longer promise work until retirement and a pension plan for your twilight years. Nuclear families have gotten even smaller and young people are more detached from their parents as this society celebrates individuality and independence over cooperative living. Finally, as medical technology improves, people are now outliving the age for which social security, their pensions and portfolios were designed to last.

The solution… the whole concept of retirement should be reevaluated. You only retire from a job (earned income) – especially a job you don’t enjoy. There is no retirement from passive income sources. With passive income sources that pay dividends (real estate, securities and business ownership), you work hard to acquire the asset and then it continues to pay you continuously until the market changes and it can no longer provide positive cash flow. You don’t retire; you simply shift your resources into a new cash producing asset.

The Popcorn Effect

18 Mar

I often get asked by people that are new in business how to remain profitable in a down economy. To answer that question, let’s take a lesson from the Great Depression. Prior to the Great Depression movie theatres were luxurious buildings with grand, elegantly designed lobbies that rivaled the fanciest opera houses. What people do not know today is that the richly designed lobbies did not include concession stands.

What changed? The decade of the 1930s drove most Americans into dire financial straits.  People could no longer afford the relatively high price of a theatre ticket and movie houses were closing in droves. Some innovative theatre owners discovered that if they lowered the price of admission and sold an inexpensive snack, more people would come.

What was the solution? Popcorn! Popcorn is very inexpensive to make. The popcorn that you pay $5.00 for costs the theatre only 50 cents to make. The popcorn is served in an overstuffed bag or gigantic bucket to make the perceived value greater than it actually is. They also discovered that the more salt that you add to the popcorn, the larger the drink people will buy. To this day, far more money is made at the concession stand than on admission tickets (billions of dollars).

To thrive in business in today’s economy, you have to find your popcorn. You don’t have to try to create a totally new industry. You have to find a way to extract maximum profits from a market that people already have an affinity for. You have to find ways to overcome the financial barriers that would prevent people from buying, draw them in with perceived value, and make them feel comfortable with upsells, cross sells and side sells. They have to feel happy spending more money on your popcorn than the cost of admission. 

Use Craigslist to Build Business

4 Aug

Ask an Expert: Craigslist can build business

By Steve Strauss, for USA TODAY

Q: Would you know of any cheap and easy ways to get more business? My tried-and-true strategy seems to have hit a dead end and I cannot afford to spend much time or money figuring out something new. — Peter

Ask an Expert

By Steve Strauss

  • Zay Lopez, left, answered a Craigslist ad in Grand Junction, Colo., and within an hour of meeting Bob Beasley, sold him his tractor and was offered and took a job to farm 3 acres for Beasley.

    Christopher Tomlinson, AP

    Zay Lopez, left, answered a Craigslist ad in Grand Junction, Colo., and within an hour of meeting Bob Beasley, sold him his tractor and was offered and took a job to farm 3 acres for Beasley.

Christopher Tomlinson, AP

Zay Lopez, left, answered a Craigslist ad in Grand Junction, Colo., and within an hour of meeting Bob Beasley, sold him his tractor and was offered and took a job to farm 3 acres for Beasley.

Sponsored Links

A: I do, and let me share a little story first by way of background: In 1995, Craig Newmark created an email distribution list in order to share local goings-on in the San Francisco Bay Area. It proved popular, and before long, Craig found that people liked to use the distribution list for things other than social event posting, specifically, they would use it to post job listings. No dummy he, Craig soon added the category “jobs” to his email list. Soon thereafter, Craig decided to take his popular list to the nascent Web.

Craigslist was born.

By the year 2000, the site had grown so rapidly that Craig had a team of employees working on it with him and today, according to the web site, “Craigslist is responsible for getting an amazing 20 billion page views each month. That is good enough to crack the top 25 (sites) worldwide and the top 10 in the United States.”

So I have one word for you if you want a cheap, easy, and effective way to build your business: Craigslist.

There are many ways the site can be of use to you, but here are a few of the main ones:

Sell: I have a pal who recently started a mobile notary business. He gets all of his business by listing his service every three days on Craigslist. That’s it. (Tip: Because there are so many ads on Craigslist, redoing your ad with some regularity keeps it near the top of the listings.)

Think about it: Who reads the classifieds? Right, people looking to buy stuff right now. So list your service or products and get in front of that valuable audience.

Get Gigs: There is a small category listing, almost easy to miss, under the major “Jobs” listing, called Gigs. Gigs list people looking for help in a variety of categories: Labor, talent, creative, writing, computers, etc. By scouring this listing regularly, you can find work. (Note: Gigs listings are free to post, so it may take a bit of work separating the wheat from the chaff in this area.)

Respond to proposals: When I was looking for a Web developer to develop a new site for my business, the first thing I did was place a Craigslist ad in the Jobs section under the Web/Info Design category. I received a slew of qualified developers wanting my business. When I needed an assistant, my first stop was a Craigslist ad (Note: four years later, I am still working with my incredibly talented Craigslist find, Vivian.)

So if you need work, if you want to find proposals to respond to, if you need business, then the first place you should look everyday is the appropriate Craigslist listing.

By the way, that word “appropriate” is critical. You may think that the right category listing to find work for what you do is, say, Marketing and PR. But it may also be that your gig is waiting for you under Administrative, or Media, or TV and Film. Be expansive in your search.

Get Help: By the same token, finding qualified people to help you complete your projects and thereby help your business grow is easily done via Craigslist. Yes, a job listing cost $25, but that is a bargain compared to the many qualified applicants you will encounter as a result. Also, because t does cost to post here, the posts tend to be legitimate.

Search: The Craigslist search function is robust, and one benefit of it is that you can turn any Craigslist search into an RSS feed by clicking the orange RSS button on the bottom right of your search result. Another option is to use your mobile to keep up with your search. Apps such as Craigslist Mobile and Craigsnotifica give you instant updates.

Today’s Tip: Doing what I do, the nature of the beast is that a lot of books about starting a business come across my desk. But recently, one came in that stood out above the rest. “Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck,” by Anthony Tjan, Richard Harrington, and Tsun-Yan Hsieh, gives you what you really need to succeed in business: Entrepreneurship tests, real world stories, workable strategies, and lots more. Maybe the subtitle of this excellent book says it best: “What it takes to be an entrepreneur and build a great business.” Check it out.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. E-mail Steven D. Strauss at: index of his columns is here. Strauss is a lawyer, writer and speaker specializing in small business and entrepreneurship. The latest of his 17 books isThe Small Business Bible, now in its third edition, and he does a weekly podcast, “Small Business Success Powered by Greatland.” Website:; also on Facebook. Follow him: Twitter@stevestrauss.

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7 Jun

The Internet now has 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses

By David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech June 6, 2012: 9:13 AM ET

The IPv6 launch has expanded the number of Internet addresses to 340 undecillion.

The IPv6 launch has expanded the number of Internet addresses to 340 undecillion.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — One of the crucial mechanisms powering the Internet got a giant, years-in-the-making overhaul on Wednesday.

When we say “giant,” we’re not kidding. Silly-sounding huge number alert: The Internet’s address book grew from “just” 4.3 billion unique addresses to 340 undecillion (that’s 340 trillion trillion trillion). That’s a growth factor of 79 octillion (billion billion billion).

If it all goes right, you won’t notice a thing. And that’s the point.

The Internet is running out of addresses, and if nothing were done, you certainly would notice. New devices simply wouldn’t be able to connect.

To prevent that from happening, the Internet Society, a global standards-setting organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland; and Reston, Va., has been working for years to launch a new Internet Protocol (IP) standard called IPv6.

IP is a global communications standard used for linking connected devices together. Every networked device — your PC, smartphone, laptop, tablet and other gizmos — needs a unique IP address.

With IPv6, there are now enough IP combinations for everyone in the world to have a billion billion IP addresses for every second of their life.

That sounds unimaginably vast, but it’s necessary, because the number of connected devices is exploding. By 2016, Cisco (CSCO, Fortune 500) predicts there will be three networked devices per person on earth. We’re not just talking about your smartphone and tablet; your washing machine, wristwatch and car will be connected too. Each of those connected things needs an IP address.

Then there’s all the items that won’t necessarily connect to the Internet themselves, but will be communicating with other wired gadgets. Developers are putting chips into eyeglasses, clothes and pill bottles. Each one of those items needs an IP address as well.

The current IP standard, IPv4, was structured like this:, with each “xxx” able to go from 0 to 255. IPv6 expands that so each “x” can be a 0 through 9 or “a” through “f,” and it’s structured like this: xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx. (Yes, there was an IPv5, but it was a streaming multimedia standard developed in the late 1970s that never really caught on).

The changeover is akin to when the U.S. telephone system handled soaring growth by increasing the digits in each telephone number — except for one crucial difference. While the entire telephone system was upgraded in the 1990s, the Internet will be upgraded gradually.

IPv4 will continue to exist alongside IPv6 for quite some time, just as digital and analog TV were broadcast side-by-side for years.

Though most of the major Internet players will be IPv6 compliant going forward, many routers, devices and operating systems won’t be. For instance, Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) Windows XP, the world’s most-used PC operating system, is not IPv6-compliant.

Just 1% of end users are expected to now be reaching websites using the IPv6 standard. The Internet Society expects that to gradually grow as users update their software and hardware.

Most of the major websites and networks are already participating. More than 2,000 websites, including Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), Facebook (FB), Bing, Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500), AOL (AOL) and Netflix (NFLX), as well as a number of network operators such as AT&T (T, Fortune 500), Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC, Fortune 500), have begun enabling IPv6.

But they’ll all need to continue to support IPv4 until the entire world upgrades. That will take years.

There have been some grumblings about cyberattackers getting ready to pounce on Wednesday, taking advantage of potential holes in a new technology. But a year ago, on June 8, 2011, all those participating networks and sites turned on IPv6 for a day-long test run without a hitch.

They reverted to IPv4 the next day. This time, the change is permanent. It’ll be a slow transition, but it’s a crucial one that will support the Internet’s current rate of expansion far into the future.

First Published: June 6, 2012: 5:13 AM ET

Consumers Cutting Back? Are You Kidding?

8 May

By Peter Coy on May 07, 2012

Corrects Thornberg’s first name in 3rd paragraph.

Conventional wisdom says the economy is weak because consumers, constrained by excessive debt, are cutting back. That is wrong on two counts. I have a chart for each.

As the first chart shows, Americans aren’t cutting back a whole lot. Personal consumption as a share of gross domestic product is floating along at the highest it has been since at least 1948, at 71.1 percent. For comparison, it was way down at 62 percent as recently as the early 1980s.

This inconvenient truth—inconvenient for the “Americans are retrenching” camp, anyway—was pointed out to me by Christopher Thornberg, the founding partner of Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics. He and I were guests on KQED’s Forum radio program on May 4, along with Laura Tyson, the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business professor who was President Bill Clinton’s chief economic adviser. Here’s a link to the Forum podcast.

Personal consumption includes spending on imports, by the way, so some of the dollars leak overseas. It also includes almost all health-care spending, about half of which is under the control of the government, as my ex-boss, former BusinessWeek Chief Economist Michael Mandel, always likes to say.

It’s not that consumers are on a shopping spree. It’s that the other sectors are even weaker. Investment is sluggish because businesses are pessimistic about growth; direct government spending (not including transfer payments such as Social Security) is lagging because state and local governments are cutting back; and net exports are negative (i.e., we’re running a trade deficit, albeit one that has shrunk a bit).

Bottom line: As weak as they are, consumers are the engine of this sluggish recovery.

The second chart shows a key reason consumers are not cutting back: They don’t need to. This shows the Federal Reserve’s measure of financial obligations. It’s defined as the ratio of debt payments and other fixed charges to disposable personal income. The fixed charges include car lease payments, rent, homeowners’ insurance, and property tax payments.

Extremely low interest rates are making Americans’ debt sustainable. The burden will increase when rates start to rise, but presumably that won’t happen until the economy is getting stronger and incomes go up.

Says Thornberg: “There’s this ongoing argument that we’re in a painful period of deleveraging. No, we’re not, because there’s no reason at these interest rates for anyone to have to deleverage.”


3 Simple Rules for Investing

30 Apr

Published on Mar 12, 2012 by InsidersGroup

Heru Ur Nekhet, financial strategist/founder of Insiders Group Inc and author of Recession Driven Riches, answers your financial-based questions with actionable solutions.

Heru Ur Nekhet, CEO of Insiders Group Presents at Historic Event at National Black Theater, Harlem, New York on Sunday, April 29, 2012

25 Apr

Heru Ur Nekhet – Financial Advisor, CEO of Insiders Group, Inc. is a Guest Speaker & Presenter this Sunday, April 29, 2012 at “The Man Heal Thyself Family Day” at the National Black Theater, Harlem, NY.

Heru Ur Nekhet has been a financial leader, teacher and an exemplary example of a family man in the City of Wellness and The Queen Afua Wellness Institute community for over 20 years. He has been invited to this historic event to present and speak. He presents in the first half as one of the Teachers for the Man Heal Thyself Training and as a Financial Specialist in Wellness Entrepreneurship where he will offer his training in newly COW University.

Global Nation of Wellness Presents …

National Black Theater
2031 5th Ave New York, NY

Sunday, April 29, 2012
3:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Doors open at 2:30 PM





NICHOLAS: BROOKLYN 718-858-4400, MANHATTAN 212-289-3628

Latest Video Interview (3/27/12) of Heru Ur Nekhet of Insiders Group

2 Apr

Author and financial strategist Heru Nekhet responds to the latest viewer questions about how to choose the best strategies for real estate in the current economic climate.


See more about Mr. Nekhet at and

Boost Your Career with Social Media: Tips for the Uninitiated

11 Mar

11:55 AM Tuesday December 20, 2011
by Amy Gallo

You’ve heard the horror stories: a job applicant gets turned down because his potential employer discovered his objectionable tweets, or saw pictures of his keg party on Facebook. There is a lot of advice out there about keeping your online activity from hurting your career. But there’s a flip side. When handled correctly, social media can help you professionally. You can use it to enhance your personal brand, establish yourself as an expert in a field, or demonstrate fluency with all things digital. The key is to be proactive about managing your activity and image.

What the Experts Say
It used to be that people were deemed to be experts based on their titles, years of experience, or length of their CVs. While those things are still important, especially in some circles, they’re no longer the only ways to show credibility. “Status is much more democratic now. Expertise can be noticed more easily,” says Soumitra Dutta, a professor in business and technology at INSEAD, author of “What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy?” and coauthor of Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Social media allows anyone to put their ideas out there and to gain respect, notoriety, and a following. “The opportunity to reach people directly is powerful, and still underexploited,” says Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and author of the forthcoming book What’s Next?: The Art of Reinventing Your Personal Brand (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). To make the most of social media to further your career, you need to make a conscious choice to use it for professional purposes, understand what your goals are, and then actively manage your digital footprint.

Put your professional self online
Most people have dipped their toes into some form of social media. If you’re already out there, it makes sense to think about how professional contacts, especially potential employers and current colleagues, will see you. “More and more we have to realize that there is no such thing as private space online,” says Clark. Dutta concurs: “Privacy today is something you have to work hard at. You have to assume your actions are public by default.”

Commit to using social media for more than personal reasons. This doesn’t mean you have to start a whole new online persona. Some people are comfortable with the blurring of the professional and personal boundaries. Others find it difficult. Decide which social media channels you’ll use for what purposes. For example, Clark makes this distinction: She uses Twitter and LinkedIn for professional reasons and does her personal interacting on Facebook. Dutta says it’s a personal choice that each person needs to make. The key is to think about what people will see when they look you up in each space.

How it works
When it comes to advancing your career, there are three things social media is particularly suited for:

  1. Building your personal brand. “It gives you a great opportunity to brand yourself, especially to internal colleagues and external peers,” says Dutta. When people peruse your social media activity, they get a sense of what you’re about. The more you comment on or write about a certain area, the more likely you’ll be affiliated with it. Clark points out that social media has an “echo chamber effect” in which even a small amount of content can go a long way toward establishing you as an expert. It is a medium that doesn’t require credentials to prove your credibility. Dutta says that if you are passionate about a topic and argue your perspective in a compelling manner, you can begin to generate a following. Even if you aren’t trying to be labeled as an expert, contribute to discussions you find interesting, are related to your industry, or you simply want to be part of. “Social media can be a way to demonstrate your familiarity with a field,” says Clark. “If you blog or tweet about a topic it shows that you’re in the game.”
  2. Demonstrating your proficiency with all things digital. “It shows you’re up on digital trends, which are affecting every company,” says Clark. Employers are increasingly looking for this competency in potential employees. She also points out that this may be especially important for baby boomers: “If you’re over 50, companies are worried that you won’t be able to use social media and other digital tools.”
  3. Learning from your digital network. By design, social media is a conversation. When you post information, people like, comment on, or forward your thoughts. This means that not only can you put ideas out there but you can learn a lot as well. “You have to be open to a two-way dialogue and hearing other people’s points of view,” says Dutta. Becoming part of an online community is a great way to identify and follow trends in your areas of interest. You can also turn to your network with specific questions about your field or even a job search.

How to start
Once you’ve committed to using social media for professional purposes, it is easy to get started. Here are three things to do:

  1. Figure out what space you want to play in. Before you join the conversation, think about what topics you want to be associated with. “You need to ask yourself, what you want to be known for? What are you passionate about? What are your distinctive views?” says Dutta. Find the forums where other thought leaders are talking about that topic. While it is more manageable to focus on a particular subject or two, you can also dabble. “You can work hard to showcase you’re an expert in a certain area but participate in other conversations too,” says Clark. For example, if you’re in sales, you are likely to have a depth of knowledge in that area, but you can also show that you know something about marketing or finance.
  2. Establish a presence. Give people something to see when they look for you online. One of the easiest ways to do that is to set up a LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is robust: fill out the experience and specialties fields. Provide links to your other social media activity. Then, consider setting up a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Clark suggests that you commit to posting to it once a day, even if it’s just a retweet.
  3. Generate content. To truly establish yourself as an expert, you need to create a following. Create content that people want to share. “If you want to drive home that you have expertise, post articles that show, don’t tell, you have expertise,” says Clark. If people find your opinions and perspective interesting, they will do a lot of the work for you. Clark says the goal is to build an army of ambassadors who pass on your content to others. “You lose credibility with people if you show you’re blowing your own horn. You need other people to blow the horn for you.”

Play by the rules
While social media has very few rules, most companies do. Before you begin tweeting about your work or start a blog showcasing your expertise, be sure to know your company’s policy on social media. “You may not be able to talk about certain industries or what you do for the company,” says Clark. Adds Dutta: “When you’re part of an organization, you are already ascribing to rules and values. In the online space, it’s important you don’t violate that,”. If you are banned from mentioning your job or company, you can still accomplish the goal of demonstrating proficiency in social media by blogging about other things you care about, such as baseball or cooking. While not strictly professional, it might just cause a boss or recruiter to take notice?

Principles to remember


  • Consider what potential employers or colleagues will see when they find you on social media — you don’t want them to see nothing
  • Decide which social media channels you’ll use for professional purposes — it’s ok to mix personal and professional
  • Create content that others can forward, retweet, or repost


  • Say you’re an expert — show it by posting compelling content
  • Limit your social media activity to one topic — participate in many conversations so you don’t get pigeonholed
  • Inadvertently violate company policy — check what rules your employer has set around social media

Case study #1: What boundaries?
Dany Bourjolly Smith, the director of human capital management at Ross Technologies, an IT solutions firm based in Baltimore, first started using social media back in 2006. She had a basic LinkedIn profile but rarely posted any content related to her work. In 2007, while she was a recruiter at another firm, she needed to hit an ambitious hiring goal within six weeks. To succeed, she thought, “I have to fire every engine I can think of.” So she turned to social media to find candidates and was able to fill the positions within the deadline. Many recruiters use social media to find job seekers and build a pipeline of candidates but for Dany it’s more than a tool to do her job. “It is an opportunity to brand myself as an effective talent acquisition professional,” she says.

She is an avid user of Facebook, where she has over 1,700 friends, and her status updates are often a mix of personal and professional. Originally she used the updates to share many of the humorous things she saw and experienced reading thousands of resumes and interviewing hundreds of candidates. Her network responded well, asking questions and requesting more. She realized that inherent in those entertaining posts was valuable advice. She now prefaces some of her posts with “Recruiting Tip:” and offers tactics, strategies and guidance for people in her network who might be looking for a job. Dany sees her activity on Facebook as a way to further her personal brand, which she summarizes as “I connect people”. “Without social media, I might not have established myself as a thought leader,” she says. She may also not have gotten as far in her career. Her current employer, the founder of Ross Technologies, saw what she was doing on Facebook and recruited her. He gave her an offer she couldn’t refuse and the opportunity to run her own division.

Case study #2: Social media as a reference check
As the owner and managing partner of Avakian Consulting, Joel Gagne helps school districts and municipalities communicate with the public. It is important that potential clients see Joel as adept with various forms of social media. Therefore, he regularly publishes content that shows his familiarity with the medium as well as his expertise in communications and marketing in the public sector. “It’s about putting myself and the company in a position of being an expert,” says Joel. While he rarely attracts new clients through social media (most of his work comes through referrals), it elevates his profile with potential clients who seek him out. “It becomes an extension of our credentials,” he says. Joel sees his social media strategy as a three-legged stool, with the blog being the center and Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as each of the legs. In each of these spaces, he posts content about communicating effectively with public constituents. Joel says that his social media presence often serves as a reference check. Prospective customers learn more about what Joel does and they get a taste of what it’s like to work with him. “Potential clients get a better understanding about my business and whether there’s a fit,” he says. Clients are checking that he has a distinct perspective on or experience with the issues they care about.

Peer-to-Peer Job Sites Inspire Micro-Entrepreneurs

12 Feb

By Darren Dahl

Thu Feb 9, 2012 2:32pm EST

(Reuters) – Chris Mok, like many Americans over the past few years, lost his job in the wake of the Great Recession.

While Wok, 46, diligently sent out resumes trying to replace his Macy’s marketing job he lost in 2009, he also kicked in to help his wife, Isha, run Hi’iaka, her Hawaiian-themed florist shop in San Francisco.

It was early last summer, when many florist businesses see a bump in business from graduations, that Wok first heard about a site called Task Rabbit, where people can post jobs of any just about any kind – such as helping with a move, painting a room or even running an errand – or bid to work on a job posted by someone else via computer or on the go with a GPS-enabled smartphone. Mok suggested that his wife try the site out as a way to hire on a few extra hands for the busy season.

His wife’s experience with Task Rabbit went so well that Wok, who hadn’t worked outside of his wife’s business in about nine months, came to a realization: why couldn’t he earn some extra money bidding on jobs himself?

“I hit the ground running and have been working almost seven days a week since July,” says Mok, who now makes about $3,500 a month tackling everything from handyman repairs to hanging whiteboards and assembling Ikea furniture for the burgeoning number of startup companies in his area.

“It feels great to be your own boss and to pick and choose the jobs you take on.”

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that the hot button political issue these days is the nation’s unemployment rate. In January, the U.S. jobless rate was 8.3 percent, on its way down from last summer’s rate of 9.1 percent.

That’s why the rise of online marketplaces, so-called peer-to-peer job sites like Task Rabbit are so exciting. They promise to generate new employment opportunities, or let just about anyone earn some extra income.

“We’re enabling people to invest in and engage with folks in their community in a way that I think we’ve forgotten,” says Leah Brusque, a former programmer with IBM who founded Task Rabbit in 2008, just as the recession was unfolding. “And we’ve done that by turning them into micro-entrepreneurs.”

Online job sites have been around a while, of course, and even sites like e-lance and oDesk have become viable markets to outsource highly-skilled jobs such as programming, design and writing tasks.

But what makes Task Rabbit and the growing number of others like it such as Coffee & Power and Zaarly different is that their jobs vary widely and often involve face-to-face interactions in the real world. Skillshare, for instance, is a site based in New York City that enables people to teach or attend a class on just about anything. A recent search revealed classes ranging from how to eat healthy or how to crochet an Alpaca rug – not online, but in person.

“We are changing the way people think about doing business with the people around them,” says Bo Fishback, formerly the vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, who founded Zaarly in March 2011. “We’re making it possible to ask for and get anything, in real time, from the people around you.

Mechanically, most of these sites work in similar fashion. People can post jobs, or bid on them, while the site handles the payment process – usually taking a small percentage fee of the transaction for itself. Both parties involved in a transaction can then rate each other after the job has been completed. At Task Rabbit, which has some 3,000 registered bidders, some $4 million of activity is reported every month, which, while impressive, is still a sliver of the estimated $473 billion earned by freelancers in 2010.

Those kinds of numbers have given high-profile investors reasons to take notice. Zaarly, for instance, reeled in $1 million from a group of investors that included Ashton Kutcher (while also adding Meg Whitman as a board member). Similarly, Coffee & Power, which was founded by Philip Rosedale, the creator of the virtual online world game SecondLife, recently raised about $1 million from investors like Jeff Bezos.

“Our mission has been to find out how you get people who are interested in working for each other to cluster and find each other in the real world,” says Rosedale, whose business plan combines an online market with currently three physical locations – upscale coffee shops in San Francisco, Santa Monica and, soon, Portland, Oregon – where people can meet and make a deal.

There are, of course, critics who point to the fact that it can be difficult if not impossible for someone to earn a living bidding on $100 jobs. But, if the number of people flocking to these sites to not just bid on jobs but also post them continues, we might just see a change in the concept of what a job is.

“We’re still early in the game, but we think we’re reinventing the concept of how we all go about working,” says Rosedale.