To build wealth — or to get out of debt — you must create a positive cash flow. That is, you must spend less than you earn. One way to do this is to cut costs. Another is to increase your income.

Because it has worked so well in my own life, I encourage people to boost their income whenever possible: ask for a raise, make money from hobbies, change careers. For many, the most sensible way to increase income is to find a second job. Even a low-paying part-time job can make a significant difference to your budget.

But in a battered economy, in a nation where unemployment is rising, what are the ethical implications of taking a second job if you don’t really need the money? That’s the dilemma facing Nancy in New Jersey. She writes:

I have a full-time job, investments, housing and health that are as secure as one’s can be now.  I used to have a part-time job that recently dried up.  I mentioned to a friend (half kidding) that we should go together to apply for part-time jobs at local businesses.  She became very angry and said, “Why do you people do that?  Why do you take jobs away from people who really need them?” As someone who is still fortunate to be employed, is it morally or ethically wrong for me to look for additional work and income?

I’ve talked with several people who have lost their jobs recently. I’ve spoken with several others who are afraid that they too may soon be out of work. In a situation like this, is it fair for a fully-employed person to apply for a second job just for extra income? Why or why not?

Addendum: Interesting. Based on a couple of past discussions here at GRS, I didn’t expect the response to be so overwhelmingly in favor of working a second job. We’ve had conversations here before in which people have expressed concern about this taking work from others who might need it. I’ve seen similar arguments in the media, too, so know it’s a worry some people have. I thought his question would spur vigorous debate instead of generating unanimous support!

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