clewless

Jan 312018
 

A few things leapt out at me during a recent interaction:

  • Our business is very dependant on our client’s shut-downs. We typically install and commission during the March-April Easter break and over the December Christmas/New Year period. Oh, and we often do smaller jobs on weekend shutdowns.
  • This company is really good. It’s pensionable age is 65. The previous company I worked for was 60. It gives me a whole further 5 years to save for retirement.

There were many other things said, many other topics discussed and explored, but ultimately these two statements are indicative, I think, of the environment.

The people, I’m sure are personable and friendly, most likely a good team to work with if…. If you buy into their world view, which appears to be – You work your career, full-on, nothing else but work. Then you retire at some arbitrary age in the future and you then live and enjoy life.

It’s always dangerous to jump to conclusions, to make judgements based on a short two-hour meeting with someone, but in many situations it’s all we have and decisions need to be taken based on those short interactions.

What struck me again is the overriding inability of most corporate sheep to even consider that something else is possible. After all, what on earth is normal about accepting that the company takes preference over all your limited weekends and public holidays?

I really don’t think I could go back into this type of environment, irrespective of whatever the offer might be. I know, I just know, I’ll be miserable there. The initial contact was certainly no time to interrogate their attitudes to unpaid leave, flexible working hours, remote-work but I have seen enough of the culture in that one brief meeting to understand that it’s not something they have up until now considered let alone would embrace and allow.

So I pretty much know all of this, even before I went in for the chat. So why do I do this to myself? Why even waste the time?

Well, partly because much of this could actually still be only in my head and I may well be wrong. It’s always good to have a particular stance clearly and directly articulated by the other party rather than assuming what it might be.

The other, less desireable aspect, is that the money [or lack thereof] really does have a serious hold on me. It’s been extremely hard considering a future with no income and there really is this inner concern that I will not be able to replace a standard job/salary by my own efforts. Again, perhaps all in my head and not a current valid concern until I’ve tried and tried again. Unless I’ve tried and repeated failure has proven this point, perhaps I’m imagining things that may not be?

None of this makes it any easier. None of this allows me to easily just say no to one of the very few opportunities that have popped across my path.

Mmm! Living in my head. Not perhaps the best thing to do all the time. Perhaps it’s best if I give the independant, self-earning path a full go before I take the coward’s way out and run back to the coporate?

Jan 042018
 

Who are all those people on the freeway in the mornings? Come to think of it, at any time of the day?

It may be different in your city, but somehow I’d be sceptical if you told me that. People rushing, driving fast, taking stupid risks to gain an ‘advantage’ over their fellow road user. Looking at the behaviour on the roads there are a lot of important, successful people around. They all have to get to their destinations as fast as possible because…

The often-used ‘statistic’ is that 70% of all people are miserable in their jobs. I look at the behaviour on the roads on a weekday morning and I have to disagree. Most people love their jobs so much that they are always rushing to get there. Speeding, tailgating, taking stupid, life-threatening risks all in an effort to get to a place you are miserable at just doen’t make any sense to me.

So, the statistics must be wrong. If people really hated their jobs they wouldn’t risk life and limb rushing to get to them now would they?

One of the best things about this new direction life has taken is my new-found ability to avoid the morning rush.

Bliss!

Jan 012018
 

Depending on the flock you listen to, breaking free from the corporate cubicle to self employment and entrepreneurship is the only viable path to wealth and contentment.

Speaking with those that have done it solicits the common response “It’s hard work but I should have done it years ago. Don’t be afraid. Just do it. you wont be sorry”.

So I’m thinking – I have always been “self employed”. No, not by the Woolly Masses definition, but certainly by my own. Up until 2017.12.31 it has just happened to be “self-employed” within a corporate framework. I have had bosses and customers, just like a consultant or one-man business. Everyone answers to someone whether a boss, a customer, a shareholder. No one escapes that, not if you want people to pay you.

That said, it’s still a major shift in direction that this beautiful first morning of 2018 has brought. From today, I really am “self employed” by everyone’s definition of the word.

Let the Funemployment begin!

Dec 312017
 

The goal oriented, forward looking, growth mentality of the modern world is a two-edged sword me thinks.

Yes, I enjoy the marvels of the modern world. Technological advances mean we have the potential to a quality of life so far removed from a hundred, even fifty years back, it’s just astounding.

But I don’t know if we’ve handled it too well as a species. We seem to always be looking to tomorrow, planning the next big thing, all the while neglecting to really live and enjoy today. The electronic toy we buy today is obsolete tomorrow and the landfill bursts to overflowing with perfectly functional machines, discarded in the rush for the next big thing.

Perhaps, without that drive, we wouldn’t have the marvels we have today? Perhaps, without the endless stream of new and improved gadgets and the consumer mentality fueling their production, we would be back fifty years? Who knows?

The trick is, I think, to not get caught up in the endless bigger, faster, more mentality by default. It’s fine to desire and acquire cool toys – if you put them to productive use. At least that’s my take on things.

But also remember that the more you take on in life, the more you have to maintain – both physically and emotionally. That on it’s own is enough reason to strive for simplicity in all things.

 

Dec 302017
 

Freedom – another of life’s paradoxes. The freedom we’re talking of here assumes that you haven’t been captured by Somali pirates and you are living in a democratic, law-abiding, civilised society. Barring physical incarceration, the term freedom strikes me as being similar to another of life’s seemingly obvious but extremely hard to define terms – success.

Barring obvious forms of physical or political bondage, freedom, like success really is a very personal concept. It’s has various levels from physical to mental. For example, even Victor Frankl chose to be ‘free’ in the concentration camp setting. While not physically free he was spiritually and mentally free. The paradox – We’re free within constraints. So if you have the mindset that you’re not free, then you aren’t. Take a simple example. “I could never work from home because the boss will not allow it”. Very often that’s merely a fear of asking and assuming the answer will be No!

Bondage, the opposite of freedom – Having no time to pursue things important to you, like family, travel, sailing, etc

I guess there are levels of freedom, ways of living that are more free than others. Nobody is truly free, truly independent of others. There are laws and taxes, rules and regulations, requirements and obligations that we all need and require to have a reasonably peaceful coexistence with the rest of humanity.

The bum living under the bridge is in some ways free – free from paying taxes, free from toeing the corporate line. But the consequences of that freedom are extremely limiting – limiting freedom of movement, freedom of diet, freedom of travel etc. He is ulta-dependent on handouts.

The independently wealthy heiress is perhaps free due to the unlimited bucket of money at her disposal. Free to travel, party, wine and dine. But still, not free, because she must keep daddy happy and motivated to continue supplying the funding for her freedom.

Just like the term ‘success’ I think that ‘freedom’ is a nebulous concept

Life is not a theoretical exercise. If you take the human factor out of the equation then yes, maybe there is an optimum formula, a set of pre-defined steps to follow in the pursuit of wealth and financial personal freedom.

So, for me I define freedom as the following:

  • Financial freedom – Earn a sufficient, stable income to live a good life in the world without having to worry about every cent. Key to this is no debt. To kill the debt is equivalent to getting a huge salary increase.
  • Time freedom – And this is the big one for me – Time to sail, time to travel a bit, time to have the odd late mid-week morning and enjoy the view. [and of course the financial reserves to make this possible]

 

Dec 292017
 

When we’re young our perception of time as a linear, even flat-line, progression has us believing in our own immortality.

As we get older we begin to realise that time is actually an exponential race to the end, ones latter years ever-accelerating toward the finish line.

And all the while our health, our vitality, our strength are in decline.

So, just how much of yourself are you prepared to sacrifice on the unholy altar of corporate consumer slavery? How many years of sitting on your ever-growing butt in cubicle nation, accelerating your own demise through self-induced stress and inactivity?

It’s time to be strong, courageous even! Time to put the important before the urgent.

Time to live a little more and work a little less!

Nov 302017
 

Life becomes interesting when theory turns to practice!

It’s one thing to have an FU-Fund, hidden away in a financial institution somewhere, purely represented as numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s quite another to actually be deep into the process of cashing it in, preparing for a period of unemployment sabbatical from January 2018.

I’m doing the calculations over and over and over, cutting back all unnecessary spend, looking into capital gains tax implications, trying to make the best decisions to ensure that the bucket of cash stretches as far as possible without sacrificing any too much quality of life. It’s too late now, the deed is done….

People ask of me “Was this planned?”

Yes and No!

I’ve known for a long time this day was coming but never knew exactly when. To be honest I was only expecting it in 6 years time, at age 55. Also, the plan, if one can so grandly call it that, was always more to gather enough in order to be able to quit permanently.

But, as an old salt knows, plans should always be drawn with a stick in the sand since the tides of life have a habit of washing them away at times.

And so it has come to pass that events at The Office have become too much for me to stomach. “I quit!” is now a reality.

The FU-Fund consists of 2 portions. The first, held in unit trusts and shares, will fund phase-1; 8 to 10 months of living. If, in that time I still haven’t found another suitable and sufficient source of income, then phase-2 will be funded by the corporate pension fund (which will be transferred to a preservation fund on resignation). There’s about another 2 years of living there. If I cannot come up with some income in that timeframe then I’m going to call myself pretty useless!

The problems are few but potentially critical:

  • The FU-Fund is also the emergency fund. And we all know that life has this nasty habit of throwing “emergencies” your way, especially when they’re not needed.
  • In order to stretch the money, all savings and investments are put on hold. This obviously impacts the final FIRE date and needs be addressed asap. It also means that the FI stash is now on its own. No added monthly boosters. Only compound interest.
  • Cashing out the corporate pension should be a last resort. We need this growing towards the final FIRE date. But, there is uncertainty about whether it will be needed or not and that’s why it’s going into a preservation fund. It maintains the benefits there but allows a single transaction to cash out before 55. Just in case!
  • I’m 49, pale and male – living in South Africa. Enough said! This is most likely the end of normal, corporate career – forever.

Not all of these are negative factors. The last is probably the incentive I need to be autonomous, to create and run my own little lifestyle business?

So, while I still have one foot in the door, hoping for some kind of “offer” to keep me working here, deep down I know it’s not worth it. The stress and misery of this particular corporate is killing me. It would be a huge mistake to stay. I need to search for new opportuniies closer to the boat.

And so, for better or worse, the plan has being put into action, not in exactly the same way as envisaged but close enough. Now it’s time to ensure that my free time is not wasted.

Nov 212017
 

Another R500 supper at the local Steakhouse is behind us. The ribs were superb but it has to stop for several reasons. Firstly; there is no real value at R500 for only two people. It’s just a waste. Secondly; with no salary or cash coming in the door it makes sense to cut back on spending wherever possible. And cutting back in this area does not really affect quality of life.

I’m not sure the magnitude of what has happened has struck home yet for either of us. For the past 16 years I have had money trickle into my account each and every month without fail. Suddenly, and all because I can no longer take the pressure of being told what to do, all that is about to change. And to be honest, it’s a little unsettling.

The spreadsheet doesn’t lie. There will should be cash to live off for a while and so we’ll not starve in the short term. It’s more the longer term that concerns me. It’s hard not to feel that I’m setting us back in our efforts to live a cushy, comfortable and well-financed life.

It’s strange that feeling, because life in the corprate hell-hole has been exactly that for many years now – Hell! It’s not enough and certainly not for me anymore. This break is needed. Even if I end up taking another job again, I will take some time to sail now. Perhaps it will be good once I have this break behind me? Perhaps I’ll find another path, another way top add value and have the world and the universe provide?

In the back of my mind, always, are my kids. They aren’t really yet in a position to sustain their own lives. Surely my lack of staying power, my quitting will detrimentally affect them? Mmmm!? Perhaps. And perhaps this will add some urgency to their efforts? They are always welcome to live with us, always wanted. But for now the well of cash is about to experience a drought as severe as that of the Western Cape. It’s time to implement Level-5 restrictions.

And implementing level-5 restrictions is not so easy, not when the habits of years are at play. Never really having watched what we spend, now suddenly there is a very real need for it to be foremost in everyone’s minds. Mrs S. is working more than ever and as a result has cash to burn – and she’s burning it on the beach house for sure. Not sure she’s saving enough!? But that’s a discussion for another day since it has the potential to turn frictional.

I don’t exactly know where to from here?

There are currently two properties with the potential for generating income. That’s the most obvious starting point. Neither are ideal but then much of life seldom is perfect. It’s difficult [even for me] to think of all the work Mrs S. has put into both our homes and then think of renting them out. That’s why, finances aside, it better to first try and sell 253 outright. To think of some strangers, trashing our home – it’s a little uncomfortable to say the least. And it’s the same with Woodstone Cottage. Mrs S. has elevated the place out of the dump and made it a home of note. To now think of renting that out is difficult. But perhaps it must be done?

I like living here at 16deV. I don’t think that feeling is misplaced or misguided. All the things I [think I] love doing are here. Ocean Blue, kayaking, beach runs, cycling, mountains, ocean. The list goes on. While none of these things are particularly easy, especially the sailing, they are ultimately very rewarding. I’m not ready to give up on this dream of living here yet. Not until I have given it my very best effort.

So, in that regard the decision to quit, to push the corporate beast, it has been a good one. There can only be one outcome and that is to craft more time, much more time, for living down here. Already, just that decision has opened up an opportunity to cruise the boat a little in late February. I will still negotiate with SE but the outcome will be only one thing – a transition of life to Cape Town. Any ‘deal’ that they might offer is off the table unless they include this vital piece of “Living by the boat”. I don’t think they understand or are willing. I don’t think they will be able to get their heads around that. I also don’t buy into the statement “What you have done is anti-survivalist. Done the wrong way. You should rather have asked first.” That’s utter BS. In my experience, just quietly askling nicely in a beast like SE draws zero response or action. No. Shaking the cage like I have is, ands always has been, the best way.

So the die is cast. Everyone says to me “It will work out!” I want to believe them, desparately. Deep down I think I do believe them. But damn, it would be nice to know for sure.

Nov 192017
 

What does the future hold?

In many ways, the general trajectory of possible outcomes is known. For example, if you don’t add some kind of value in exchange for cash, chances are good you’ll end up living under a bridge. Or, if you commit a crime, chances are you’ll end up serving time. But, those kind of generalised cause-and-effect scenarios don’t really appease the inate “need” for certainty, the need to know how tomorrow will be.

It’s utter folly of course, on several fronts. If tomorrow were known life would certainly be dull.

I happened upon an svDelos video the other night. They were interviewing the crew of svSaltBreaker (in Cape Town nonetheless). Another boatload of people, taking a chance at living a good life (or so it would seem). It is of course important to always remember, the internet is very, very good at painting a picture-perfect life and very, very bad at showing actual real life. That said, there are definitely people out there living their dreams and who have an appetite for uncertainty that extends far beyond mine.

I perhaps need to exercise that muscle a little. Not just in single huge events like quitting a 30 year career but in everyday life as well.