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Lifestyle

Freeganism: Dumpster Diving and Reclaiming Waste

Exploring Freeganism as a practise and philosophy. How and why do freegans escape from society?

Written and researched by Monica C

What is Freeganism?

How is your everyday lifestyle? Do you wake up in the morning to force yourself to do a daily routine for those people you’re working for? Do you have to spend a lot of cash just to have something on your table? Do you always have to pay for debt and interest after buying “stuff” in grocery stores and shopping malls?

Freegans, the ones who practice a freeganism lifestyle, don’t have to do those things. Their daily routines don’t include going to work or visiting stores and supermarkets.

They enjoy a simple, yet different lifestyle. They live without feeling the need to work for somebody, but they always have food on the table and they always acquire everything that they need. The interesting part is they get of there things for free. They are creative people who know how to turn trash into gold.

Freegans are dumpster divers who scout for furniture, appliances, food or anything that has been discarded by other members of society. This is the way they choose to live because they don’t subscribe to consumerism and capitalism.

  1. What freeganism is not – challenging myths and stereotypes
  2. Freegans, slackers, freeloaders, and bums are the same.

Some people go by the above notion when questioned on their understanding of this grouping. They are still unaware of the freeganism movement, which is the main reason they often consider bums, freeloaders and freegans as the same entity. Also, some people find freeganism as a good excuse to slack off. Note, however, that freeganism is different from bumming or slacking.

Bums are homeless and jobless. Some view the term bum in itself as a derogatory or demeaning term but we will use it here for the purpose of clarity and explanation. For so-called bums, not having a job is not a choice – well, some choose not to work, but it’s commonly because of harrowing personal reasons. The dumpster diving lifestyle is not their choice but it’s mainly because of the lack of money.

There is a distinction between freegans and the homeless

You may see a freegan scouting for food or stuff in a dumpster like a bum does. You may say that like a bum, some freegans choose not to work a 40-60-hour/week job, but there’s a meaningful reason behind this kind of lifestyle – something that’s beyond personal problems or unavoidable circumstances.

A freegan does what he does because he doesn’t want to be victimized by capitalism and consumerism. He doesn’t want to work for the bosses who are getting richer by destroying the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere and natural resources. He (or she) is a free person who cherishes his time for something more important than being always at his best just to keep a job.

Most freegans are not homeless. They can sometimes afford to pay for mortgage or rent. Many of them are educated. In fact, some of them still choose to stay in a job. They just don’t want to subscribe to those who keep on destroying the Earth by working for them, or they just feel bad about the wasted food or products.

Freeganism and frugality are one and the same

The other misconception about freeganism is that freeganism is synonymous with frugality. It is a fact that freegans live a frugal lifestyle. However, it isn’t just about frugality. It is about finding justice for environment, wasted food or products and animal rights. They have to be frugal because their main goal is to help save society from the negative effects of capitalism.

For them, subscription to consumerism contributes to pollution, waste products and animal cruelty, that’s why they have to live a frugal lifestyle and strive to reduce consumption whenever possible. Freegans reuse and recycle whatever they find to be reusable or recyclable.

Are freegans all anarchists?

Freegans are not exclusively anarchists. Generally, there is a need for proper governance of the society to maintain peace and order. Freeganism is a separate political movement from anarchism. There are freegans who are anarchist and there are those who support a standard political hierarchy.

Some freegans are against capitalism and not in favour of the existence of a government, especially if it’s the kind of government which chooses to help and support a sovereign individual instead of looking after its people.

To wrap it up, freeganism is an anti-consumerism movement. They are not slackers, anarchists nor bums. In fact, “freegan” is a combination of two words: free and vegan – free, in a sense that they get their food out of dumpsters and vegan because most freegans abstain from eating animal products. They’re just people who want to create some change in society in their own way. None of these are absolutes and variations of philosophy do apply.

anarchists against the system
The term “anarchist” has been taken and misrepresented

How did freeganism start?

“Eww, that’s gross.” This is the common reaction of people when you say that you’ve found something edible in a dumpster and would like to eat it! Hardly surprising I suppose given how we are conditioned to live. With this common prejudice, what do you think is the reason why freeganism became a popular movement? How did it begin?

It began in the mid-1960s when an anarchist guerilla street theatre group, known as Diggers, were performing in San Francisco, California. They got their name from a 17th century group known as English Diggers. The English Diggers had this vision to free society from its obsessive consumerism and possession of private properties.

The Diggers of the mid-1960s would engage in street theatre and artistic performance. They would also cook and eat foods that came from trash, gardens and local stores – obtained by stealing. They also had the heart to share those foods through the free stores they set up and they gave them away to everyone who wanted them.

Since then, the San Francisco Diggers had made a significant contribution in political activism against food waste. Food waste issues have been at the centre of political activism to increase ecological awareness.

This was part one of a three-part series. Keep an eye out for the second part dropping soon.

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Lifestyle

Escaping to a digital nomad lifestyle

Escapers worldwide are taking advantage of new opportunities to work digitally

Regular contributor Masooma B dissects a paper on the increasingly popular digital nomad lifestyle. Is it practical and beneficial to adopt a nomad lifestyle?

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle: (Remote) Work/Leisure Balance, Privilege, and Constructed Community by Beverly Yuen Thompson

Summary

The paper highlights major concepts related to the lifestyle of digital nomads. Their lifestyle has been critically seen through the lenses of privilege, inequality, community and work-leisure balance. Stebbins’ serious leisure concept and other sociological premises have also been considered.

Digital Nomadism

Digital nomads on leisure bases select their desired or preferred location and work with travelling.  Digital nomads just need a laptop and work-skills to perform their online tasks by either writing blogs, news features, social media advertising stuff, e-books, web designing, programming and much more.

Cohen et al., (2013) presented the ‘lifestyle mobility’ concept that referred to voluntary-based movement depending on the leisure aspect. It has been observed that less earning increases economic and emotional pressure and the workers tend to get more work to increase their pay.

Different perspectives to see the nomadic life

In the perspective of digital nomads, leisure and work balance was the major context. Robert Stebbins’ ‘serious leisure’ theory offers insight in to the lifestyles of digital nomads. The paper showed that their leisure significance was inverted in life as they prioritized it over workplace or office area.

Inequality-Privilege context was considered to analyze the demographics of a digital nomad, relative benefits and influences on relationships, while community perspective helped in visualizing their social position. 

Digital nomads are a type of people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles

Wikipedia

Methodology

Thirty-eight detailed interviews were conducted with digital nomads. The author met them at three events

– The Lisbon 3rd 2017 DNX Conference “Digital Nomad” that held on 9th September.

– In Spain, Geneva during Retreat Digital-Nomad Girls that held on 18th September

– In, Spain, Barcelona during Conference 7in7 of experienced nomads 2017, 3 to 9 October.

Later, skype interviews were considered as a follow up to get more details.

Digital nomads use Skype to connect
Digital nomads use Skype to connect and keep in touch back home

Demographic Information

The participants were from the developed world; the majority of them were bilinguals. The age limit was 21–49 years and 80% of the sample were single or not in a marital status. They were Bachelors and Graduate degree holders while only six participants had lesser education.  Interview questions gave qualitative data that was organized, coded and arranged according to theme base.

Serious Leisure

Robert Stebbins said that mundane leisure activities such as television watching and sports etc., are different for nomads. His concept of serious leisure has six components such as perseverance, personal effort, leisure-career, identity, tangible reward, and distinctive essence or flavor in a sociological context.

He presented the alteration from professional or work-based identity to leisure pursuits as digital nomads describe remote work in the context of travel patterns that seems different from traditional tourism and relies on a basic learning concept.

However, it is difficult to distinguish them from tourists as they select the desired location, create their own lifestyle, and operate differently from the locals. 

Economic Context

In this context, it is a win-win approach. You earn with leisure and comfort. Professor Schor of Boston College carried a Pew survey and said that gig workers usually make less than $31,000 income on annual bases.

The persons who are full-time employees work part-time to earn extra as compared to those who only work as freelancers. In the current work, 29% were full-time freelancers while 42% were gig workers. 

Inequality and privilege context  

Aydogdu (2016) criticized this mode of earning and said it as technology-centered life where the real association with people and destinations is lost. The nomads also follow a capitalist approach and work hard to enhance their business gains. Nomads rarely have children and struggle to balance work and leisure.

Nomads usually move to the countries of ravaged economies to increase their currency value and local people also welcome tourists because it benefits them financially.

Nomadic Community

Although nomads leave their family and hometown, the feeling of loneliness is expressed through their writing samples. Languages and customs differences between Southeast Asian and South American countries are clear. Nomads, therefore, search other digital nomads through online platforms and nomad conferences to develop a community.

Digital nomads create their own community
Digital nomads meet wordlwide to create a sense of community

Findings

-Nomads chose a distinctive lifestyle and for this, they are often considered irresponsible by their friends and family members. However, they survive and balance perfectly when they work in the form of large groups as a community.

-In the context of Privilege –Inequality, they prefer locations which offer demographic privileges and hedonistic pleasures. Research showed that Thailand’s Chiang Mai is a rich digital nomads’ spot that has co-working sites and aesthetic value places as well. 

Bali, Vietnam, Medellin and Lisbon are some other places. It shows that they remain unconscious about local culture, language, and surrounding people and enjoy their own sense of privilege.

These differences influence their social status and Alexander said that this privileged lifestyle negatively influences their behaviors while Kaplan (1996) termed it ‘nihilistic distancing’ that brings excitement in differences as if there would be no social distance, then the locals will show no interest and exclamation for tourists.

Amna, 7in7 conference volunteer, told that she promoted charity donation for digital nomads that would be brought back to the local communities to minimize inequality and to bring social change.

Sally, who was an Arab-American said that she traveled to locations where people used to converse in Arabic language and where she could build connections. They stated that color differences gave rise to distances and inequalities and the nomads usually do not try to learn other languages.  

-Different people stated their personal experiences of social variability and they said that gradual familiarity and learning of culture can improve situations when they need to engage with locals. 

-In an employment and economic context, the participants said that they compared it to a part-time service job with less experience. Earnings gradually improved and they were able to finance their college dues in this way.

One participant was multilingual as she was familiar with more than 2 foreign languages. By using her ability, she started to find nomads and developed a network and she enabled people who spoke different languages to find more tasks through a platform.

One client was earning a large amount by software developing and websites designing and optimizing mobile apps. He said that he had worked on Disney and then on numerous high paying projects, and therefore he seemed quite satisfied with his work.

It shows that nomads can earn high by strategically improving working conditions. Although they earn less than an office job, however, there always remains a great potential to increase the earning. 

– Nomads work by following their passion for tasks and adopt it as a hobby. They find leisure in investing their time for online earning. Some adopted it for their passion of traveling and by reading nomads blogs they got information about suitable places.

One participant, “Jenny”, achieved a chemistry-related Ph.D. She had UK passport, and she had the opportunity to work in Australia, Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked as a digital nomad in co-working spaces. 

-Co-working areas were preferred by some nomads to aid connections with people. There is the number of companies that now bring together digital nomads such as 7in7, Remote and GlobeKick that manage entrepreneurship retreats and also shape it as a business-oriented approach where the business seminar is held for motivation and also for fun purpose. 

-One participant developed Facebook Group of Girls and the online community grew with time.  She also organized meet-ups and the author attended one such meet up in Javea, Spain. The girls from Brazil, London, and Sydney, and from all over the world, joined the group.  Conferences are executed in English which shows how the Western audience is the major focus.

-Finally, long term friendships or relationships were not possible and they were using online dating sites. 

Paper Conclusion

Freedom potential is obvious when compared to a full-time, static profession. Due to less salary, they have to work constantly but in the context of Neoliberalism, this phenomenon is not just related to nomadism but rather seen in all fields.

Their downward mobility is based on income potential as they also have micro-entrepreneurial goals to earn more. From a feminist perspective it’s a male-dominated occupation and also technology-based. It led to alternative conferences for digital nomads to promote meet-ups and community development.

It’s a creative approach: creative tourism, community building, social dynamics, and fix leisure duration. They make money and enjoy their trip. It is, however, a temporary lifestyle, as after constant challenges many switch again to a traditional lifestyle. 

In the context of entrepreneurial literature, a freedom-perspective is put forth, whilst the choice of location with leisure is an option at the cost of social isolation. 

The nomads who chose to live in an expensive place in middle-class countries devoid themselves of local culture and population contexts. However, high earning potential, independence and community building supports their passion. 

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Categories
Lifestyle

Walking is a Superpower

Exercise powers the body and mind

By Steve W

Every afternoon, come rain or shine, Eric would take off his work boots, push on some battered Nike trainers and scoot off for a good 45 minutes. When he returned Eric passed no opportunity to let us know that he had been for a “power walk” and was mentally and physically ready for the rest of the shift.

Eric described walking as his superpower. It clears the mind, gets the breath and blood flowing. His overriding message: Feeling in a bad mood? Escape for a walk.

Brisk walking is said to have more long lasting positive effects than anti depressants. when it comes to a choice between donning the trainers, stretching the legs and going round the block a few times, rather than shovelling in a pile of pills, I know what I’ll be choosing. Quite simply, going for a relaxing walk is a mood enhancing experience.

Escape in to a sensory experience

Try to hit all the points of a VAKGO approach, to enjoy a positive sensory experience:

  • See
  • Hear
  • Feel
  • Taste
  • Smell

Being stuck inside on a nice sunny day often seems counter productive to health. Business walks are a great way of mingling a meeting with some fresh air and clarity. Instead of sitting eating shortbread and guzzling coffee in a boardroam, why not hit the pavement and have a business walk?

While I would not suggest for a second that I am important enough to be having any business meetings, on this blog we are all about escaping and I’ve found walking around a park or hitting the pavements while talking to a friend, associate or client on the phone is extremely beneficial.

You can too. As long as you don’t become one of those annoying people making it obvious that you are in an important business meeting and start talking really loud like Dom Joly on Trigger Happy TV! Loud inhaler phone calls aside, soaking up the sun’s rays and receive some nourishing Vitamin D is always a bonus.

Escaping the office on a business walk
Escaping the office on a business walk

Look upwards when escaping on a walk

A few years ago I was listening to a podcast and they suggested looking up more when walking. Many of us look down, head bowed, hunched over in a mock funeral procession when we are walking.

Just by looking up we spot so many things we might otherwise have missed. Varieties of birds perched on houses or other interesting wildlife. The houses themselves, how they are strucured or the patterns chiselled in to the roofs, brickwork or chimneys of older buildings.

The patterns of the clouds, the skylines or people hanging out of high rise flats. Look up, head up, stretch back those shoulders and employ a good posture. Elevate your mood. Feel the ground, feel your feet moving and touching the pavement.

Escape physically and mentally with a nice walk. Go a different route, get lost, find your way home. It’s an exciting way to burn calories and clear the headspace. Exercise, as I’ve come to realise over the years, is as much of a mental boon as a physical one.

hedge and foliage in the countryside
Hedgerows are full of nature and food sources

I enjoy it and the dog enjoys. Why not take a rubbish bag along and collect all the crisp packets and tin cans strewn along the road? Where I live in the country there are often fast food wrappings, cans of beer or varieties of sweet packets tossed out into the fields and hedgerows of a morning. I encourage my children to bring some disposable gloves and a bin bag to collect up the “cleaner” waste.

Around this time of year as we leave the summer and head into autumn (or fall if you prefer) the blackberries are juicy and ripe to eat in many cases. Collect them up in a little plastic box, take them home, discard the bad ones, wash them thoroughly and use the blackberries for a nice jam or pie, or even mix it in with ice cream. You can’t beat a bit of foraging, but make sure you don’t munch on anything you are unsure about.

blackberries on a bush
Fresh blackberries are prime foraging material

There’s is so much to see and do outside, to collect, to observe, to eat or to admire. Get the boots on and stretch those calves! There are few things as relaxing and simplistic as an escape into nature. That’s why walking is my superpower.

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Lifestyle

Why I don’t want to work from home…

By Steve W

…but still ditch the office desk

Sitting in traffic is one of the most soul destroying daily practices. The clock ticks by, tensions rise, traffic reports warn of imminent blockages. It can often feel like you’re literally wasting your time.

For so long I dreamed of ditching the daily commute. No more waiting in line at the entrance to the motorway. No more “parking sweats” as the frantic search for a space intensifies. That was until my shift pattern suddenly changed and rather than aiming to be in the building for 9am, it became 7am.

No traffic concerns

Leaving home at 6 o’clock in the morning meant minimal traffic. The parking spaces were not filled as quickly. There was greater availability closer to the office building. An earlier start meant an earlier finish too; leaving midway through the afternoon, avoiding the rush hour.

Then the dreaded Corona Virus hit. It quickly became clear that we would be required to work from home. In the hrand scheme of things I’m one of the lucky ones: no reduction in pay, no furlough, no dreaded redundancy. Three months with no traffic concerns. A chance to test out whether working from home is really as appealing as I always suspected.

Motivated by freedom of movement

I swiftly settled in to a neat routine. Getting up early, daily exercise completed, nice breakfast cooked, home schooling out the way, logging on to the computer. It worked seamlessly for the first month. That was until it didn’t. Suddenly going in to the converted “office” with its infinite mess and dull lighting became a drag. It was like crawling in to a cave each day.

The lack of airflow added to sluggishness. The standard work was getting done, but all of those “extras” that I had added confidently to the list at the start of lockdown were not disappearing off the to-do and motivation was waning.

As we started getting drafted back in to a working environment -single days at first, increasing gradually as the months went on- I suddenly rediscovered a semblence of motivation. Getting back on the road, in to civilisation (no matter how weird or awkward with social distancing and face masks) felt invigorating. My productivity increased not only in work but in my personal endeavours to.

After thinking it through it wasn’t necessarily the fact that I had returned to my physical place of work that had allowed me to rediscover my motivation. The location was irrelevant. It was the freedom of movement that I found so motivating.

Working remotely is still an option

My long term ambition remains working remotely, in employment that does not require me to attend a specific location every day. However, working strictly from home, in a home office environment, did not work out well in the short space I tried it. I thought working from home would be great. Turns it wasn’t as liberating as I expected.

That said, being chained to a designated location is not the answer either. I’ve discovered I need a middle ground. The ability to pick and choose my spot for the day. Have laptop, wil travel. The cafe, the library, the coffee shop, the back of a car with a WiFi box – the choice of locations is endless. It may change each day, but the key point is the choice of location. Working as a Digital Nomad, picking my own times and spaces to work in are of more interest than strictly working from home.

It’s a shame that it took something like a pandemic for me to find this out. However, something we think in theory is the answer does not work out in reality. Maybe one day I’ll be sitting on a beach with alaptop somewhere, growing grapes by day and coding HTML by night? I still want to work from home, as long as “home” is flexible enough to move with me.

Categories
Lifestyle

Escape to Portugal

Why one freedom seeker escaped to Portugal

By Steve W

When it comes to escaping the rat race there are worse spots you could end up in than Central Portugal. That was one of the main appeals when Bolton native Owen Lloyd Martin relocated with his then-wife to the beautiful warmth of a country that spawned Port wine, Piri Piri Chicken and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Rising in the morning to capture the floating, etheral mists on the hillside or observe the wildlife moving around freely in its natural habitat, this truly sounds like an idyllic location. Martin lives near a reservoir, in the Pedrogão Pequeno region on Arrochela Farm.

Speaking to Carl Munson on Good Morning Portugal, Martin explained the joys of living near the water: “I was with a friend the other day and she was telling the story of sitting in a pontoon eating sandwiches with the children and the bread fell in. All of a sudden there was a multitude of carp all around her. She decided to get in the lake and swim with the carp,” he said.

Martin’s off grid set-up helps sustain his remote lifestyle. Solar panels add power. A limited quantity of mobile internet data keeps him connected with the outside world, while a homesteading mentality allows for fruit and vegetable growing.

Summer temperature highs hit as much as 42 degrees, although the average is a slightly cooler 36. When the rain falls, it falls, as four seasons often swing by in one day. When the cold weather comes, chimneys around the village can be spotted blazing.

“I chop wood for a fire late in the day,” Owen explains. “I’m nice and warm then. I’m asleep by the time it heats up so why expend the energy chopping wood all day?”

The dry days allow Martin to grab his wellington boots and sow seeds for food supplies. Portuguese weather does not always allow for winter gardening, despite what you might think.

Martin grows lemons, various orange types for freshly squeezed juice in the mornings, pomegranates, limes and grapefruits. Peanut plants are the latest vegetables being tested in the sunny climes.

Martin recalls the first time he realised that a tropical, distant life in Portugal was exactly for him.

“Getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning, walking down to the lake with my fishing rod and my headphones, I cast a line, saw some buzzards and an eagle, watched the carp swimming around.”

The neighbours’ home brew is also a weekly hit for this relocated Englishman. Not proficient in the language, Owen enjoys the hospitality, kindness and generosity of the Portuguese people who appreciate his attempts to communicate in the local dialect.

Sunday is market day, a time for mingling with people of all ages across the community; many engaging in religious practices. Martin concludes by explaining how his decision to leave the UK for Portugal was strongly based around freedom and personal liberation. Two core ideas that can motivate many escapers to follow their own dreams.

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Finance Lifestyle

The F.I.R.E Movement: Too hot to handle?

Written by Monica C

The FIRE Movement: Free Yourself To Secure Your Future

The FIRE movement is a popular mantra among millennials. FIRE is an acronym for either of these two: Financial Independence Retirement Early or Financial Independence Retirement Extreme.

The goal of the movement is to allow an individual to retire early and live the rest of his/her life in financial security. To achieve such goal, the individual must aggressively save money.

Retirement Talks

The best age to retire is 67. That is the time when you can take the full benefits of social security. However, did you know that the average life span of Americans is around 78 years? With that said, the possibility of living your retirement days and pension in only 10 years is high.

Besides, there is no complete guarantee that you will be in good health. By the time you retire, you might be already on your way to a nursing home. Note that most people get admitted to a nursing home at the age of 65 to 67.

On a different note, say that you graduated when you were 23 or 24 years old. If you took a job after you finished college, you have to work for 43 to 44 years before you reach retirement. That’s an awful long time.

You can, however, retire when you are 62 since you can start getting benefits at that time. But still, you only get to slash five years off of that wait time. You also have the option to withdraw from your IRA (Individual Retirement Account) sans the penalty at the age of 59. Even then, the wait is too long.

The traditional image of retirement

Overwork Issues

America is one of the countries in the world with the longest working hours. It is by default that you need to render eight hours a day, forty hours a week. On average, factoring in part-time workers, Americans work 34 hours a week.

You might be surprised to know that Americans work as long as the Japanese, who have been stereotyped as overworked people. On average, the Japanese render 33 hours a week.

However, the Japanese still beat most countries of the world if you add in the unpaid overwork time they do and the time they spend to appease their companies and co-workers — something that’s forced upon them by Japan’s workplace socialization culture.

In contast, the Germans, French, and Swedes only spend 26 to 31 hours a week on work. The Chinese, on the other hand, spend 38 to 42 hours a week. And the Bangladeshis often work for 19 hours a day.

Modern lifestyles can result in burnout

Life Balance

In addition to your work hours, you should include your commute time. Every day, on average, Americans spend 50 to 60 minutes a day commuting. Also, you have an additional 30 minutes to spend in your work for your breaks.

Another time-consuming process you might undergo is unpaid work. Unpaid work consists of things you do that you can pay other people to do for you. Examples of unpaid work are domestic chores such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry. On average, Americans spend 3 hours and 27 minutes doing unpaid work.

If you add the time you spend for work, breaks, commute, and unpaid work, you will get 13 hours. In those 13 hours, you are completely devoting your time to work, both paid and unpaid. Typically, your body requires you to have 8 hours of sleep. Adding those two, you will get 21 hours.

Subtract those 21 hours to a day, and you will have 3 whole hours for yourself. You might even spend those remaining hours eating and socializing. And what’s left? Almost a few minutes to an hour for you to spend on things that you really want to do.

That sounds like a boring life. And the only respite you have is those weekends that seem to quickly come and go. You will be lucky to dodge overtimes and get some holidays off.

With a boring life that comes with work and the uncertainty of how long people will live after they reach retirement (or if they will even make it to retirement age), it’s no wonder that early retirement sounds good to everyone.

This is where the FIRE movement comes in.

How It Works

The FIRE movement encourages people to set their retirement lower than the norm. It could be in your 40s or 30s. At first glance, it seems it’s impossible to retire at that age. Sure, you can, but you will still be swimming in debt.

Remember that student loans are just too unrealistic. The usual loan expects students to pay it off after 10 years. If you graduate when you are 24, you might finish this debt when you are 34. Yet the average student loan amounts to $40,000. Every month for 10 years, you will need to pay $333 (interest not yet included, loan type not considered, and state is not defined).

The average monthly salary for people age 24 to 34 is around $3,100. That means the amount you need to pay your student loan is more than 10% of your income.

If you are single and earning the average annual income of $40,350, you will be immediately under the 22% tax bracket. If you still live in 2017, it should have been 15% only. But since it was updated, the average salary is $2,000 than the 12% margin, which automatically landed you to 22%.

With loan repayment and tax alone, 32% of your income is lost. There are other deductions for sure and other complexities in the tax system, but this is just an overview and this section’s goal is to let you see the big picture.

Living in one of the 15 major cities in the United States can easily make your monthly living expenses range from $2,500 to $5,500. If you add that up to the tax and loan, working your butt off basically means keeping yourself barely alive and accumulating debt. And car loans and mortgage are not yet included in these calculations.

And with these little factoids, retirement in your 30s and 40s has just become a pipe dream. So, how exactly does the FIRE movement allow you to reach that promised early retirement?

F.I.R.E. enthusiasts work the numbers

First Stage: Financial Independence

It seems that the FIRE movement’s goal is pure fantasy. It’s not. And it’s not even that complicated to achieve. It is simple, but not easy, unfortunately.

FIRE is all about creating a gap between your income and expenses. The bigger the gap, the faster you can achieve financial independence. It is all a balancing act.

To widen income and expense gap, one must focus on three elements: expense, time, and income. First, one must lower expenses. Second, time must be spared. And third, income should be raised.

You might be thinking, why is time even included here? Isn’t this all about financial freedom? Yes, that’s true. For now, read through this section and you’ll eventually understand why time is part of the equation.

The difficulty of achieving the goal for the three elements depends on your current situation. The three of them affect each other and, more often than not, you might be forced to tackle each element in a specific order.

The element that you have more control over is your expenses. It is a good starting point to lower it first. Reducing your expenses does not mean that you should live frugally. You can begin by just eliminating unnecessary purchases.

For example, you can kick your fancy coffee drinking habit. If you drink one Venti Starbucks every day, you are adding $133.50 to your expenses every month. Remove that from your system and you instantly have a $133.50 surplus or income/expense gap.

This simple decision can have a butterfly effect in balancing your time, expense, and income.

The second element that you can manage is time. It is easier to manage time once you have lowered your expenses and start having surpluses. And it is easier to generate more income once you have the time.

There are many methods in freeing up time by adding a bit to your expenses. For example, you can hire someone to do your unpaid work, which are household chores. This alone can free up at least three hours of your time.

A weekly cleaner costs $25 to $50 an hour. With the surplus you generated from dropping your Starbucks fix, you get to save at least 2 to 5 hours of your time every month.

Also, not going to Starbucks to get your coffee will save you time by not going to the store to buy it or linger over your coffee there. If it takes you 30 minutes every day to get your caffeine fix in Starbucks, it means you are going to save 15 hours a month.

With that decision alone, you have saved, optimistically, 17 hours.

The third element, income, can be managed if you have done the previous two. Unless you are the ideal employee that can ask your boss give you a raise monthly, you have limited control over your income at the start.

However, once you have dealt with your expenses and time, you will be able to open up opportunities to raise your income. For example, you can use the time you spared to work online. An hour working as a freelance writer can let you earn $25 to $75.

If you have saved 17 hours and use that spare time to work as a freelance writer online, you can add $425 up to $1,275 every month. And that is a huge change in your income/expense gap. To think that you just started with merely dropping your Starbucks habit.

Once you get to this point, you can start looking for other opportunities that can let you tweak your expense, time, and income balance. After that, save all the surplus money you gained; rinse and repeat.

Everything sounds easy, right? But it’s not. Joining the FIRE movement basically means that you will sacrifice a lot.

Do you think you can give up drinking coffee in a snap? Can you give up the small luxuries that you enjoy just to reduce your expenses? Can you utilize the free time you spared and work on another job that easily?

This is just the beginning.

However, take comfort in the fact that it will only be a short and painful journey compared to waiting until you need to start wearing adult diapers.

Second Stage: Retire Early

At some point, you will reach the extremes of your expense, time, and income.

You will be at a point when you are living a simple but a seemingly frugal life. The only things you spend for are things you only need to live and be content. Your income has reached its ceiling point. Your time and schedule are configured to get as much money as you can. Every minute in your life is accounted for in order to maximize income.

You already have spare money in your bank account and it is just there.

You either feel miserable or happy with your lifestyle. If you feel the former, it is truly understandable. You are sacrificing the present for the future after all. Congratulations for reaching this far.

At this point, you should proceed to the second stage.

In the previous section, the importance of time was lightly touched upon. FIRE basically means financial independence and retire early. Managing your expenses and income to the point wherein you receive a surplus and do not have any debt already means that you are financially independent.

The only thing left now is to retire early.

However, you don’t need to be jobless and stop earning money. Early, complete retirement is discouraged by the FIRE movement. You cannot just stop working and earning and then spend all of what you have saved in this day and age.

Decades ago (particularly during the 1990s), that method worked because of the 4% rule of thumb. Unfortunately, the interest rates of bank savings cannot sustain people withdrawing 4% of their money each year anymore unless they put a bit of money back to the account.

Withdrawing 3% of savings every year will work, but that means lesser cash on hand.

So, no, retiring completely is out of the equation. This is especially true if your income ceiling is just average.

Now, the “retire early” part means that you should stop working but continue earning. Retiring early and the second stage are all about freeing up all the time you are using for work.

To accomplish such feat, there is only one way: investment.

Before, retirees could just rely on the bank to invest their savings and pay them back through interests. Now, banks pay less, which means that you should do some of the investing yourself.

You have multiple avenues to take when it comes to investments. Some people have done it through establishing and funding businesses. Some people invest their money on stocks and other financial instruments. And a few invest them on physical commodities.

You can choose where to invest your money. There is no hard and fast rule for this part. The important thing here is that you need to place your money where it will not be lost. To do that, you must know the 4Ms of investing.

1.   Management: Know how the person or entity will use the money you will invest. Also, this is a continuous process. People change. And the people in business entities come and go.

2.   Meaning: You should not just invest in a company or person in an instant. You should at least be interested in them and what they do. You should not find reading news about them a chore.

3.   Moat: This means that the company or entity has the capability to keep competitors at bay and maintain its position on the industry’s top.

4.   Margin of Safety: An entity’s stock or security has two values: market price and intrinsic value. The difference between the two is the margin of safety. If market price is low and intrinsic value is high, invest. If market price is high and intrinsic value is low, let go.

Significant People

For the past few years, the FIRE movement has become popular among millennials. But it is not exactly new. Before its current popularity, people of the previous generation were already doing it — and they were just realizing now that what they were doing has a name. A few of them, on the other hand, have become advocates and are now teaching other people to join the movement.

Here are some notable people you would want to follow to get a more in-depth look at the FIRE movement.

Mr. Money Mustache

Mr. Money Mustache is Peter Adeney’s blogging pseudonym. He is one of the popular advocates of the FIRE movement. He retired from his software engineering job when he was 30. He is now 45 years old.

His common and primary talking points are that people should own as little as possible, leave little to no environmental footprint, and enjoy financial freedom as a result. He has been featured a lot of times in mainstream media.

Here are some of the few things he likes to talk about the FIRE movement.

1.   There are no downsides in FIRE; however, doing everything to the extreme will give it one.

2.   The amount of money you initially earn does not matter much. The goal after all is to raise it eventually.

3.   FIRE is not all about early retirement. It is mostly about being financially independent and securing your future.

4.   The amount you spend does not matter much and you do not need to lead a frugal life. You can be happy as long as you can spend.

5.   The success of FIRE does not depend on a soaring stock market or a booming economy. It depends on how and where you invest your money.

6.   The bills you have to pay are just small obstacles. They will not be a problem anymore when you start raising your income and eliminating unnecessary expenses.

7.   There is nothing to fear except for fear. Again, there is no downside as long as you do it right.

8.   Focus on things where you can have an advantage. Do not put yourself in a more difficult situation. Joining the FIRE movement is hard enough as it is.

Mr Mustache starred in the documentary Playing with Fire.

Barney Whiter

Barney Whiter had a taste of the FIRE movement at an early age. When he was in high school, his parents bought a house and then the recession hit them. The mortgage payments were crippling them financially, so his parents immediately responded to it by doing massive cutbacks on spending.

Those years traumatized Whiter and he realized early how difficult it was to be in debt, especially to a bank.

He took a degree in economics and became a chartered accountant. He worked in the finance industry for two decades. Ever since he started working, he has saved half of his salary every month. All the bonuses he received went directly to his savings, too.

He lived a simple life despite his salary. He commuted to work by cycling. He rarely went out to minimize his “socializing” expenses.

By the age of 43, he decided to call it quits. His savings are now sustaining his retiree days. He never realized that he was with the FIRE movement.

Paula Pant

Her story started with her husband Will. When she was 27, she started saving up by moving to a single-bedroom apartment that cost $400 a month. They shared the room with three other roommates. After a year, they moved out.

They moved to the apartment in front of where they were staying. After a year of saving, they provided a down payment of around $220,000. Paula and her husband did not live alone. They moved again with flatmates.

Their flatmates paid their share of the rent, and since they were the ones who provided the down payment, they did not share and lived in the apartment virtually free of charge. They continued moving until they bought a home for themselves while keeping all the apartments they bought and then leased.

Their properties became a passive source of income.

Moving in and out in a continuous succession in a span of seven years while keeping the old properties cannot be done without major modifications in their finances and lifestyle.

The couple lived frugally. They drove a 15-year-old car and only replaced it just recently. They never subscribed to cable. And Paula never bought new, or rather expensive, clothes.

It was also an advantage that they moved in and out in Atlanta. Mortgage costs in that city are around 10% to 15% lower compared to other areas. Also, they themselves did the repairs to the bargain properties they bought.

Paula Pant transitioned from journalist to financial guru.

Suze Orman

Suze Orman is a renowned financial expert and has been critical of the FIRE movement. Two of her main points against FIRE are:

1.   Disaster happens. You need to make sure that you have enough money to mitigate those events. It is risky to live without a job that provides additional health insurance.

2.   People need a huge amount of savings if they plan to retire early. She estimated that you should at least have $5 million up to $10 million.

Conclusion

Regardless of which path you follow, know that securing your future financially is vital to improving your quality of life. Be frugal with your expenses, be smart with your income and investments, and you’ll have a reliable nest egg in your later years.

Categories
Lifestyle

Escaping the Rat Race

Can we get out of the Rat Race?

Written by Monica C

A lot of people, particularly those who hold 9 to 5 jobs, are often unhappy and bone-tired. Some are even desperate for something new.

Holding a job can become very exhausting. This is especially so if the pay isn’t that great. You work for long hours and yet get very little compensation or recognition for the effort that you put in. This can pile on the frustrations, but you need to continue to work because you need to make a living.

But what if there’s a way to make a change? An escape from the Rat Race?

The Rat Race Concept

The present urban working life is characterized by unpleasant, constant, and grueling competitiveness. It is not surprising that it is referred to as the rat race.

The 9 to 5 work lifestyle that enslaves modern society is a rat race. People are like rats in a maze competing relentlessly with one another to get to the cheese first. The cheese is a miserable recompense and yet rats persist in competing for it.

Holding a job requires you to compete with your co-workers to get a pay raise or a promotion.  You put in long hours. Everybody wants to get ahead, oftentimes at the expense of family life, leisure, and reflection.

The rat race typically involves the lack of work-life balance. You have very little room for independent and creative output. Holding a job usually involves long commutes, high-level stress, and a general dissatisfaction with life.

The Rat Race and Society

Society clearly supports and enforces the concept of the rat race. Almost everybody seems to think that material gain defines success. Every little child is bombarded by the message – from his parents and the school system, that if he wants to be successful in life, he has to study well, join the workforce for a well-paying job, get promoted, and get rich.

Our culture dictates that material success is the be-all and end-all of all our efforts. It is the primary consideration. Relationships, contentment, and personal happiness do not even come close.

It is not far from the truth to say that everybody is enslaved and held hostage to the dollar, pound or currency of choice.

People who are employed have to contend with multiple problems. They have to cope with heavy workloads and hectic schedules. They have to deal with a work environment that is largely competitive, goal-oriented, and coldly impersonal in character. They have to deal with stress and anxiety.

People often feel that they have no control over their lives. They run from one task to another. They handle multiple responsibilities. There is very little room for creativity, a satisfying high-quality home life, and personal satisfaction.

It is not surprising that there is a large percentage of unhappy, desperate people who suffer from emotional fatigue, depression and burnout.

Materialism

Our present-day society seems preoccupied with material possessions and comforts. It attaches great importance to money and the comforts and luxury it can buy. There is very little room for cultural, intellectual, and spiritual values.

Consumer materialism has led people to accumulate debts. There are many individuals for whom work becomes a means for self-preservation rather than an occasion for economic advancement. They accumulate a pile of bills from leading luxurious lifestyles that they can hardly afford. Now they have to spend the rest of their lives working to pay off their debts. Their jobs have become a form of slavery.

A lot of people are sick of it all. They want to break free from the rat race. They are fed up with the long back-breaking work hours. They want to break free from being programmed to purchase things that they don’t really need. They want to be free of debt.

How to Break Free

A good, well run company is responsible for seeing to it that its employees are given the resources to manage their increasingly demanding roles. It has to find ways to enable their staff to meet targets (even demanding and ambitious ones) through the application of reasonable time and effort. It has to provide technical and managerial training to help their staff cope with work demands. Many now provide stress management training like meditation, relaxation techniques, energizing hypnosis, and other similar ones to enable its employees to effectively manage mounting pressure.

That being said, it is your responsibility to acknowledge ownership of your life – and to see to it that you live your life in a fulfilling, joyful, and holistic manner. It is your life – live it.

Here are some suggestions which you may find useful:

Consider your options.

There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to make a living.

Nobody dictates that you have to plod your way Monday to Friday on a 9-to-5 work schedule. Nobody says you have to hop straight into a full-time desk job right after you graduate from school. Nobody can do anything if you decide not to suffer through 40 years of full-time work. You can opt to retire even before you reach 60 – and nobody can do anything about it.

Listen to your own drummer.

Do not allow your parents or society to dictate what you should do. If you want to leave the rat race, go right ahead.

Don’t live to keep up with the Joneses or to impress your neighbors.

A lot of people work or get into debt to buy things (which they don’t really need) with money (that they don’t actually have) just to impress their neighbors.

A lot of people fall slave to having to work hard simply because they want to impress other people. They let other people define their sense of worth. They buy things they can’t afford to impress their neighbors. They accumulate huge debts and live paycheck to paycheck.

Are they happy? Being a slave to the dollar will not bring you real happiness. In fact, it steals your joy.

Get rid of the notion that your success is defined by your wealth.

You don’t have to amass possessions simply to send the message that you are successful.

Live simply.

Do you really have to borrow money to finance another car? Do you really need a luxurious 2500 square-foot house for your family? Do you really need a lot of state-of-the-art equipment and appliances? Do you really need all those designer clothes?

If you live simply, you don’t have to put up with a job you don’t like.

Take a look at your spending habits to find out how you can cut expenses. If you have a family, get them on board.

  • Minimize going to expensive restaurants for your meals. Make it a habit to prepare easy, nutritious, and appetizing meals at home.
  • If you are single, you may want to consider moving back to your parents’ home for a while to save money. Or you may want to share an apartment with some friends so you spend less on rent.
  • Look at your subscriptions. It is highly probable that you don’t need all of them. Cut those that you don’t use much.
  • Watch DVDs with your family or friends instead of shelling out money to go to the movies. Prepare some popcorn.
  • Get rid of the cable but maintain the internet.
  • If you have student loans, look at the possibility of having them refinanced.
  • Manage your life.
Happiness by Steve Cutts – outlines the crushing struggles of the Rat Race

Your life is so much more than your job. It is just one aspect. You have to spend time in quiet reflection to think about what is really important to you. If you want to have a rich and fulfilling life, you have to pay attention and spend time on areas other than work. You have to make time for family, friends, and other social relationships. You have to include nutrition, sports, relaxation, and other fitness and well-being concerns. You have to incorporate philosophy, religion, love, fulfillment, and other similar issues.

Maintain a clear personal vision.

You have to determine what is truly important to you. You have to reflect on your values and strengths. You have to have a clear purpose in life. What are your life goals? When you know all these, and incorporate them in your life, you add meaning to your life.

Have the right mindset.

You don’t have to stop working full time right now. But you do have to open your eyes to the possibility of quitting your 9 to 5 job. You have to consider other options like a passive income scheme or a business that incorporates passion (teaching scuba diving, blogging, or doing graphic design) and the opportunity to make money.

Rising Above the Material

A person who can’t break free from the rat race shows certain characteristics. Shee lets other people define his self-worth. She thinks that being successful is defined by the lifestyle he lives and the possessions she accumulates. But is she truly happy?

A person who is truly happy has joyful, enriching, and emotionally-satisfying relationships. They feel whole. They feels at peace with themselves. They have nothing to prove to other people. They do not feel the need or see the value of endlessly pursuing material gain. They live simply in the way they see fit.

Take a close look at the society that tells you that success is defined by material wealth. It is filled with people who are overweight, frustrated, stressed out, unhappy, and in debt. 

Research points out that suicide is the Number 10 leading cause of death in our country. It probably has to do with the fact that a lot of people in this land of milk and honey are depressed from the miserable realization that they live in a dead-end society.

More and more people want to stop being part of a community that is consumer-driven, boring, spiritually empty, hollow, and enslaved to money.

As the great Pink Floyd song once stated: “It doesn’t have to be this way”. There are alternatives. You can break free of consumerism or materialism. You can get out of the rat race.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share this article if you found it useful.