subscribe to the RSS Feed

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Escape Everything

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 13, 2014

 The following is a guest post from Robert Wringham from the wonderful publication of New Escapologist.

Hello. My name’s Robert. At the astonishingly impudent age of 26 I decided that the conventional world of work, mortgages and pension plans wasn’t something I was very interested in.

More interesting to me was finding a way to live without all that bother and to move to Canada, a country to which I’ve always had an admittedly vague emotional connection. I’m now 32, a resident of Canada and living fairly independently of the rat race.

What do I do with my time? I rise late; read library books; go for walks; drink beer; cook; spend time with my partner; and further my personal projects, which largely consist of writing words in an increasingly competent fashion and convincing people to read them.

To many, this is a ridiculous way to spend a human life. How can you possibly earn enough to live on? Why would you turn your back on a tried-and-tested, perfectly safe lifestyle? Aren’t you grateful for the affluence afforded to you by your parents and your education? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What does Canada have that Britain doesn’t?

These aren’t unreasonable questions, especially when they come from the indentured slaves most people have allowed themselves to become.

To me, freedom is of paramount importance. I daresay most of the paycheck people would agree, but their definition of freedom differs to mine. To them, freedom is the ability to report to a job every morning, to serve a grateful employer, to be rewarded by a wage or salary, and to spend that wage or salary on “maximum consumption”: on buying property or leisure experiences, or on debts accrued through a lusty impatience for the same. To me, freedom is the ability to wake up in the morning with a clear 15 hours ahead of me, which I can spend however I like.

As a reader of “Canadian Dream: Free at 45″, you’re more likely to think as I do than as the paycheck people do. You’re likely to share my fondness for Canada if nothing else. Many of you have already found a way to live comfortably without work; and many more of you are on your way to doing so, or are at least curious about such a lifestyle. It’ll come as no surprise to you that the escape route from slave to freeman is a radical but immaterial adjustment of life priorities.

In 2007, I set up a small-press magazine called New Escapologist. It’s still going strong, not because I had any kind of clever business plan or an injection of capital or a radical publishing model that would take the world by storm. It still goes, quite simply, because I enjoy producing it and because there’s a growing body of people out there—people like you and me—who question the conventional rate race model of existence.

Eleven magazine issues later (two a year, no more required), I’ve accumulated a body of research and large number of personal escape stories. I’ve spoken to people who’ve used perfectly conventional but seldom employed investment techniques to make a bundle and retire early. I’ve spoken to people who sold their part-paid-for house in favour of living in a camper van or a small home. I’ve spoken to people who became bottom feeders and garbage pickers because even that is preferable to working a zero-hours contract in some godawful office or call centre. I’ve spoken to people who threw in the towel and caution to the wind to become artists or writers instead of working for unethical insurance companies. There are hundreds of ways—some radical, some relatively conservative—out of the rat race.

What makes us—you and me—different is that we’ve assessed our priorities, learned what’s important in life, and had the courage to adjust course instead of staying on the straight and narrow.

For the past year, I’ve been piping all of this thought and research and experience into a book. The book is called Escape Everything! and aims to be a comprehensive (and witty and joyful) guide to the various ways in which one might escape the soul-crushing drudgery of the rat race.

My aim with the book is to encourage more people to take the plunge in escaping the rat race or to at least to change a few minds about what’s possible when you throw caution to the wind and cease worshiping the baubles offered by consumer economy.

Alas, I need your help to get it properly published. I’m using a publisher called Unbound (set up by good people from the Idler and QI, two of my favourite things). Their past books include Letters of Note and titles by Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewellyn. My guide to escape and the good life will only join this crowd if we can raise enough money through crowdfunding. So please, without hesitation go and buy Escape Everything! today and together we’ll get this book out.

In the meantime, I’d be delighted to answer any questions about the book or about escape in general in the comments thread beneath this post or over at the New Escapologist blog. But don’t prevaricate! Pledge towards the book to help make this happen.

Thanks everyone,
Robert Wringham

Ensuring Stability

Posted by Dave on October 7, 2014

Dave is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any. Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

I am generally a pessimist. I almost constantly assume that the worst is going to happen, which is the reason I am probably over-insured and also the reason why I have a much higher level of savings sitting around doing nothing than is perhaps necessary. My wife would probably classify me as a “Debbie Downer” (Youtube has some very humourous Saturday Night Live clips that may have been brought up in my house as examples).

Sometimes though, I do sit back and look at how lucky I am. Yesterday, I had a great day. I woke up a little earlier than I should have, after a late night of playing board games. I came home, “researched” for my NHL pool that I will probably lose at for the 15th straight year. I also found some reasonably priced “Book of Mormon” tickets to see over the winter, which I’ve wanted to see for a while. Finally, I made plans to cook a big turkey dinner for my wife and I and some friends next weekend, which I’m looking forward to. In all, it was a great day for me. I have a bunch of stuff to look forward to in the short and long-term and got to trash talk my friends during the hour and a half that the hockey pool took.

So, although I’m a pessimist I really like my life. I wake up most days looking forward to what I get to do that day, even at work. To that end, next week I’m ensuring that there are no significant changes to my family situation, by removing my ability to procreate. I’m positive I don’t want kids, and my wife is adamant in her desire to remain childfree. I have volunteered to do this for our “family” because it is much less invasive, and is supposed to heal much easier for guys than girls (which I guess I’ll see).

I have no interest in changing my lifestyle, and neither does my wife. We don’t want to have to concern ourselves with worrying about birth control for the next twenty or so years. For me and my wife, this permanent decision makes sense – it’s really just one less thing to have to worry about for the two of us, so we can carry on with the good times.

I thought as a childless 34 year-old, there would be a bit of a cross-examination by either my nurse practitioner or doctor. Both basically asked “are you sure?” and “you know this is permanent, right?”. I went for my consultation in June, and booked the operation for after golf season, next week. I’ll be taking a couple of days off work to play video games and heal up.

Sorry for the possibly “Too Much Information” health post, I would say that it aligns with my future plans, leading up to retirement. More specifically, it solidifies my childfree status – as long as the surgery works. While I think Early Retirement is more than possible with kids, for us, it would make it much more difficult to even think about making it work 10 years from now.

What is Middle Class?

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 6, 2014

So while reading a book the other day, it noted that despite the common usage of the term ‘middle class’ there is no definition.  So of course I did a little Google of that fact and the author was entirely correct.  I came across many definitions of income ranges trying to lock down what exact is middle class.

Then I came across one idea that I liked.  Take the median family income in a given country and +/- 40% that is the middle class.  In Canada for 2012, the median family income was $74,540 per year.  Adding our range of +/- 40% results in a the middle class being from a family income of $44,724 to $104,356 per year.  That is a broad range that covers a huge number of families in Canada so I think it could easily work as a passing definition.

Yet what stuck me the most about those numbers was despite considering myself middle class for the majority of my life I in fact likely never been a part of it.  Growing up I always knew we weren’t poor by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time we never had expensive cars, overly nice houses or only bought a run down tiny cabin as a vacation property when I was in university.  So I never felt very well off either.  Yet looking at those values and doing a bit of an inflation adjustment, I was forced to conclude I grew up above the middle class.  Now that I’ve grown up and I have my own family that has largely continued.  Ironically other than a few of the early years of my career, our family income was also above that upper end of the middle class range.

Of course the problem of making a definition dependent on income is it ignores the fact I don’t spend the majority of my income.  Instead we save the majority of it and we spend on average a little under $30,000 per year, which of course is under the lower end of that range.  So which is it – am I’m under the middle class or over it?

In the end, the answer doesn’t matter.  Middle class is a way of referring to the majority of the people, not the upper class or even the poor.  It’s merely the bulk of the people who are trying to get through life.  It’s somewhat of a fiction which becomes useful to the political class since they can refer to the majority and allow even those on the edges to include themselves if they want.  Sort of like I have for most of my life.

Yet as we continue to save for early retirement I also become more aware that I have less and less in common with the middle class.  I don’t kiss ass or cower to those in a higher position than me at work.  I don’t fear losing my job since I have a decade of spending cash saved up.  I don’t try to blend in with my neighbours and I certainly don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.  In short,  I do what I want because I want to…nothing more and nothing less.

So I’m not middle class, but I’m not sure what label to us anymore and I’m not sure I even really care.  Labels are at best a crude picture of a person…a stick figure that lacks any meaningful detail.  So perhaps the answer is just be myself and let others call me what they will.

Do you ever worry what class you are?  Why or why not?