Posted on : 1:09 PM | By : Nic | In : alternative housing , frugality , unjobbing , voluntary simplicity
A long while ago I posted about a job plan under the unjobbing category, and I wanted to talk a little bit more about what has happened since I posted that. Since I wrote the so-called 'Five Step Plan', the recession hit full force (although not unexpectedly), and at least six of my friends with college education, two of them with post-graduate work, can't find work. Out of all of my friends, one person with a college education has a job in their field of study. Everyone else is doing construction, retail and whatever else they can find to pay the bills.
What is surprising about this is that every single unemployed person is in science or engineering field, while the one employed person has a degree in English ( I forget what specific major). It may be significant that she is also working from home doing contract consulting, and has more work than she actually wants to do.
The total debt these college graduates carry is somewhere in the half-a-million dollar range, and many are now forced to go back to school simply to avoid paying intensely high payments on their debt, and hopefully attract an employer.
I went to school for a year, and after the recession hit I faced a dilemma... continue to go and take on more debt and just hope to get a good job in three years, or stop while I have relatively little and pay off what I already owe while I am still ahead. John didn't start school, mostly because he is one of the lucky few people right now with a good and stable job. Yes we need to plan for our retirement but we realized there were some things we needed to prioritize first. The game has changed. The piece of paper you pay so much for doesn't mean as much any more, and the pieces of paper you used to buy it with aren't worth nearly as much. All of that stuff has lost value.
So where is the real value? What are the priorities?
1. Get out of debt. This is common sense. I was watching Kitchen Nightmares with the girls last night on the computer and these restaurant owners were running their business into the ground, racking up debt, but instead of saying, "Oh I am in so much debt and the burden is killing me!" They said, "We could lose our house!" Your house? Your house is a building. Lose your house! It represents debt! It is a liability. Sell your house, sell your car, sell everything of value because it is just stuff. Live in an apartment for a while, work hard and then you can earn the reward of owning a house later when you can afford it. A house isn't an investment any more unless you bought it cheaper than it will ever be and paid for it cash. Don't get in debt for ANYTHING, not even education. I think the only education that may be worth while right now is one that you do because you love, not because it has a good future, and I'll explain that more below.
2. Decrease your living expenses. This is part of getting out of debt, but it will help you achieve anything else you want. There is an increasing movement of people, not just older retired people, but young people and families, who are giving up traditional modes of living and are going with the ultra-cheap lifestyle of RVing. The Families on the Road website has become increasingly popular and the Facebook group now has 492 members. Even if you don't end up on the road and stay close to home, living this super simple lifestyle is incredibly cheap and will help you save money and do the things you want to do.
3. Save money. We opened our Tax Free Savings Account and put money into it faithfully, then withdrew it to use for our building project, the Albatross. When this project is complete, this account will be put back into use. We now simply keep money aside every month for emergencies, and it's a good thing too because we've needed it. When the hood of the van flew up and smashed the windshield when John was going down the highway, we immediately went out and purchased another $1000 van and the insurance needed which ended up costing us a total of $1500. This van will last us another year at least, and even if it needs a new transmission it will still be cheaper than a new car.
4. Which brings me to the 'doing the things you want to do'. Retirement doesn't mean anything any more, and in fact everyone I know over the retirement age still works. So somehow that whole 'work a good job and then retire' plan just doesn't function any more. The new strategy that makes the most sense right now is to get as good a job as you can get, and try to utilize the talents and skills that you have. Build up a network of people who can give you opportunities and support, and learn to recognize opportunities as they arise. In general, it takes about 10 years to get successful at something, so pick something you really love, work at it for 10 years, and you will be successful and rewarded. I'm not talking about dabbling in a hobby - I'm talking sweat and tears kind of work. If you can start off young and do it, all the better. Then, decide what you want to do with that. You've lived cheaply, you've saved your money, you make money doing something you love and it doesn't take much to support yourself because you already live frugally, and what do you have? You have a good life, and you are practically retired. The less money it takes for you to live, the less you have to work, and the more likely you can do things you love to earn your living. Being self-sufficient helps, of course, but it's not for everyone, and it doesn't have to be if you live smart.