Like a lot of Americans hit by the recession, Robert Stokely found himself in a serious cash crunch earlier this year. After taking a hard look at his check book, 56-year old Stokely approached the manager at a local Wendy's and asked for a job working the counter.
He got it -- a $7.25-per-hour position cooking French fries.
But, unlike many of his counter co-workers, Stokely already had a pretty good day job, one that paid him $93,000 a year. In fact, Stokely is the Coweta County, Ga., solicitor general -- an elected position.
"I make a very good living, I'm not complaining, but last year my cost of living raise went down the tubes, my car payment doubled and I was living paycheck to paycheck," said Stokely.
The father of three didn't need much -- he was coming up short by just a few hundred dollars a month. But he didn't want to go into debt and get behind on his financial obligations so the Wendy's gig seemed perfect, in part, because it was right on the way home from his day job.
"I needed something that was flexible and after hours and when you're working for minimum wage you don't want to spend a lot of money on gas," Stokely said.
From Elected Official to Wendy's Fry Guy
The reaction to Stokely's moonlighting was decidedly mixed. His son thought it was funny but his wife wasn't too fond of the idea. As for the folks ordering a baconator with fries?
"People judge you. I'm an elected official," Stokely said. "Some people definitely did a double take they would ask me, 'What are you doing here?' and I would say right back, 'I'm making money like everyone else.'"
That's all Alex Metricarti is trying to do, too -- make a little extra money. Metricarti has a full-time job as a marketing administrator at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., but these days the 40-year-old mother of two also moonlights as a real estate agent.
"The two-job thing is stressful, but it does offer me peace of mind," she said. "I don't have to worry about every penny now or what would happen if someone gets hurt and we got hit with medical bills. In this economy I can't imagine what it would be like if I didn't have a second job."
Moonlighting 101: When to Get a Second Job
Metricarti and her husband both have stable full-time jobs, but neither one of them received a pay raise this year and her husband's company cut both his overtime and his 401k match.
In part, Metricarti said, it's their commitment to providing extra curricular opportunities for their two boys -- Jacob, 12, and Dominic, 8 -- that drives her to work a second job.
When Being a Parent Starts to Add Up
"We don't do anything crazy, but my son is playing football and that costs $175, we go to museums ... it starts to add up," she said.
A typical day in this two-parent, triple-income family has Metricarti getting up early to get the kids off to school. Then she heads to Eastern University for a full day's work. At 5:30 p.m. she rushes home, makes dinner and spends time with her kids before heading out to show a house.
"I didn't expect to be in this position. I definitely don't feel desperate. I feel OK, but I didn't expect to have to be working two jobs at my age," she said.
Metricarti certainly isn't alone. A recent study commissioned by CareerBuilder.com found that one in 10 people surveyed are working more than one job. And many more might be soon. Because the same study said that 61 percent of the 4,400 workers surveyed are living paycheck to paycheck.
Roy Krause, CEO of Spherion, a national recruitment and staffing company has also noticed an increase in the number of people with full-time jobs looking to do a little moonlighting.
"Traditionally, we would see this kind of thing seasonally, at Christmas but now we're seeing a lot more people looking for multiple jobs -- an uptick of as much as 15 percent," said Krause, who added that the numbers are up even more in California.
The workers most affected seem to be in the "light industrial areas," people who work in warehouses packing orders or call centers, he said.
Jon Osman of Pittsburgh, Pa., said thought he would spend the rest of his working life doing something he loved -- selling houses. But the market crashed just as the 45-year-old had two kids in college and two about to graduate high school.
Moonlighting 101: When to Get a Second Job
Although Osman and his wife could pay their bills every month, they were facing an onslaught of college tuition bills.
"We decided to be proactive rather than reactive," he said. "We didn't want to run up our credit cards."
When the father of four examined his options, he realized he needed cash flow -- quick. So Osman began to moonlight as a limo driver.
Killing One Bird With Two Stones
"Their first question was 'What do you want a job for?' I guess I didn't seem like their typical applicant, but I just said I could use the extra money," he said.
He has been driving for the Silver Fox Limo Company for over a year now and said it's working out pretty well.
"I have been working a lot, driving the limo, and the Silver Fox people have been terrific, but I am still working my real estate job," Osman said. "If I do weddings, I bring my laptop with me and I can get a lot of work done sitting outside the church."
He appreciates the steady paycheck that comes courtesy of his limo job, and he likes meeting "interesting people," but said he is looking forward to the day when he can walk away from the limo for good.
"I would prefer to sell real estate, to be honest," he said.
Stokely, on the other hand, still works at Wendy's every once in a while even though his budget crisis has eased somewhat. He said the whole episode has taught him an important lesson.
"I think there was this sense among some people that I'm a lawyer and it's not dignified or something that I would go work at Wendy's, but to me that's the way the American spirit is," he said. "When you need the money, you go work for it."