This week I’ve been hearing a lot of politiciansJob Lock and pundits refer to the concept of “job lock.” I have honestly never heard this phrase before. Have you?

In a nutshell, the argument goes that Americans are “locked” into their existing 9 to 5 corporate jobs. They are locked because of their need for employer-provided health insurance. In this article, I’ll give you my perspective and explain how the virtual workforce is impacting this phenomenon.

Is “Job Lock” Real?

Yes, I think job lock is probably a real issue for many Americans. Let’s face it – the American experience has been built upon a track record of entrepreneurism. Many Americans feel this desire to pursue their dreams, however, existing obligations and bills prevent the leap. As we all know, healthcare can be one of the most expensive aspects of modern life. The uncertainty associated with taking full ownership of monthly premiums is enough to stifle the small business dream for many. Therefore, many Americans are indeed stuck in jobs they dislike in exchange for the certainty of their employer’s health insurance plan.

Here’s a debate I came across recently from C-Span – in case you’re looking for some really exciting YouTube content.

Do the Recent Changes in Healthcare Solve Job Lock?

I don’t think so. Having been an entrepreneur for many years now, I’ve been buying health insurance on the private market for a while. As I’ve mentioned on this blog, I’ve only seen rates increase – not decrease. Most objective industry forecasts project the Affordable Care Act will have mostly a negative impact on premium and deductible rates. Although I’m sure intentions were mostly for the good, I believe that job lock will only get worse in coming years.

What Should I Do If I Feel Job Locked?

If you feel “locked”, I wouldn’t wait around for Republicans or Democrats to solve your problem. You’re lucky, because you can stay job locked and simultaneously take the first step toward entrepreneurism – thanks to the Internet and marketplaces such as Upwork. Create your account, build your online profile, apply for some jobs, get some victories, and with hard work, you might have a chance to make it. It can be a smooth transition for you, and you’ll find that you’re not dependent on anyone – neither the government nor a single employer.

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Matt Keener is the original "Executive in Sweatpants," having built a successful online consulting business (from home). His best-selling book offers tips for capitalizing on outsourcing and freelancing. Matt holds an MBA and has been featured by many recognizable brands, including Upwork (formerly oDesk), Elance, Insightly, the Dave Ramsey Show, and


  1. Great post Matt. I thought it was somewhat comical to hear about “job lock” and how we can be free from it thanks to ACA. At any rate, and without going down any kind of political road here, I think the “job lock” has less to do with healthcare and more to do with the fear of the unknown and the risk that comes with stepping out on your own. In a 9-5, it feels safe and cozy – so long as I show up and do what’s asked, I’m ok and I’ll get a paycheck. The problem is that it is a false sense of security (as you discuss in your book) – at any given moment that employer can drop you and you have nothing but unemployment to survive.
    Yet I digress, and thank you for your always great posts.

    • Roger – great feedback. You raise some good points here. Healthcare, for many people in a 9-5, is a “known entity”. I suppose when you add that into the equation with other perks (such as a steady paycheck, 401K, long-term and short-term disability, life insurance, profit sharing, etc), it’s understandable why people feel locked. Let’s keep exploring ways to educate people and help them realize their fullest potential. I appreciate your kind words and thoughtful post.

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