Be Your Own Boss

Three people in silhouette against green dollar signs, graphic for pension worries, 1-29-04
Joe Pregiato gave up selling bonds on Wall Street in favor of snapping pictures of blushing brides.

In doing so, Pregiato made the leap from working for someone else to being his own boss - joining the ranks of the millions of self-employed Americans who decide to hang out their own shingle for any number of reasons.

"I am so glad I cut the umbilical cord," says Pregiato, who quit his job in the fall of 2001, ending a nearly two-decade career on Wall Street. He thus began a new professional journey, turning a hobby and passion into a full-time business - Arbor & Ivy Photography. Most of his work is shooting weddings.

"I second guessed every career decision I made on Wall Street at some point, but I never second guessed this one," Pregiato says. "This just felt right the minute I cut the strings and decided to do it."

Roughly 9.51 million people were self employed in 2005 - not counting farm workers. They accounted for 6.8 percent of the U.S. work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among those self-employed - 5.94 million - are men, the bureau says.

Going the self-employment route can be rewarding financially, recent research by the Federal Reserve suggests.

The average income in 2004 for families headed by a self-employed person was $141,500 - roughly double the $70,100 average for a household whose head is working for someone else, according to the Federal Reserve survey of consumer finances.

One reason may be that the ranks of the self-employed can include higher paid professionals or people with specialized skills, economists said. Some of the higher income also could reflect investments related to saving for retirement, analysts said.

Pregiato, 50, who has two young children and a self-employed nutritionist wife, says he is faring better financially now than he did in some of the jobs he held on Wall Street.

To be sure there have been some trying times along the way. "It was scary in the beginning," Pregiato recalls. He remembers running up charges on his credit cards in the winter and taking all summer to pay them off.

These days his business run out of his home in Westchester County, New York, is firmly established and thriving, he says. And because of that, he was able to build a sizable addition to his house.