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 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 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]

 

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.

Oct 222017
 

Markus awakes yet again to the cold sweat of fear.

He finds himself in a long, dark corridor, right at the very end. No matter which way he looks, he can perceive but two options.

Former colleagues, knives out and heads like snakes, block the return to a bright and cheery cubicle hell. Worse still, some advance with malicious intent.

At the dead end, a vast and intimidating fire escape door emblazoned with the words “Exit Only. No Return!”

Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to fight his way back to the light, Markus rests one trembling hand on the door release, sensing full well the turbulent vortex beyond, waiting to suck him out. Its a drastic move he now contemplates, with no turning back once it’s done.

The unknown looms fearfully on the other side. A drop to a grimy sidewalk eleven stories down? A sailboat voyage to tropical paradise? Or something unknown in between?

Uncertain and afraid, Markus pulls the covers up and returns to restless sleep, hoping with all his being the situation might resolve itself, but knowing full well that only he can change things by opening that damn door…….

Sep 292017
 

If I’m totally honest I’ll need to admit to being unsure that I have what it takes to execute the plan. Perhaps I really am just an average sheep and should just confine myself to living the story scripted for the flock?

And then I bump into people, people who have arrived on a boat from Antigua and I ask “why can it work for them but not for me?”

I know the answer and it is simple. What are you prepared to give up, to risk?

It really is as simple as that!

Feb 232017
 

I suddenly realise why it is I keep going back to Art of Hookie – it’s for the reminder that jumping off and “living the dream” is a perilous undertaking.

Here is some random dude, supposedly broke, who talks big but, in reality, is struggling with life in general. Just like everyone is. Perhaps more than most is the impression? And yet, he is doggedly pursuing his version of the dream, no appologies, no excuses. That’s inspiring.

It’s a constant reminder to me that it is possible to live a non-mainstream life. Its a reminder to throw yourself at your dreams. It’s also a reminder that if the safety net is not strong (especially the financial one & the health one) life can get pretty miserable, pretty fast.

It’s hard to feel that things aren’t coming to a head at the Big S. What with the old project wounds still fresh and new project politics looming. I’m making ‘friends‘ enemies throughout the global organisation now. Not just locally. Not that I particularly care but, it is unpleasant! And to cap it all I didn’t sleep well. Food poisoning? Stress? Either way, not happy.

The power has been out since shortly after midnight. I write these words to the hissing of my Camping Gaz light. Coffee courtesy of the matching stove. The day ahead is most likely to be filled with friction. Unhappiness over the schedule. Anger about the order cancellation………

I think of the boat, of the Freedom Fund. I’m glad for the upcoming long weekend, a chance to escape for a short while. A chance to clear my thoughts, to potter away on the little tubby yacht that seems to be the only place I’m truly content.

Feb 182017
 

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

– Sterling Hayden, Wanderer