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Work: Curse of the living class, Part II

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 01/28/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Last week, we pondered a Very Tough Question: how to make a living
in
a rural area. That wasn’t the only tough question about work in my
e-mail
that day.

James Engelbracht wrote an entire herd of them, beginning with these:

Wasn’t the purpose of industrialization to give people
more
and more time to improve themselves? Isn’t the end purpose of increasing

automation to give people (whose jobs are being replaced) the freedom to
do
something besides grub for a living?

These questions brought another to mind — a familiar one: Where the
heck is all that alleged time and when do we get some of it?

There are plenty of reasons why automation hasn’t yet created
mass leisure time. So far, automation creates more jobs than it
eliminates.
With the money from those jobs, we like to buy, buy, buy. Taxes suck
away
half our productivity. Regulations suck away more. We’ve developed a
famous tendency to turn what little leisure time we have into a mad
race. We feel indebted and indentured. Whine, weep. Poor us.

But we’ve heard all this before!!! Now, let’s quit bitching
and
see what we can do. It is, after all, our life. And if it’s
broke,
it’s up to us to fix it. First thing we need to fix is usually
attitude.

When it comes to smartening up about money, jobs and value, I don’t
know of a better kick in the intellectual backside than the book HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140167153/wolfeslodge">
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and the late Joe
Dominguez. I could tell you a dozen things I don’t like about
this
book. But whatever its flaws, there’s just no finer resource for
work-weary
people who want to learn to think more dynamically about what they do
“for
a living,” why they do it, and what impact it really has on their lives.

For instance, have you considered that all the time you spend
recuperating after your day’s work is a “cost” of having a job? Have you

considered that some of the time and money you spend on mindless
entertainment or fast food may also be a “cost” of a job that keeps you
too
tired to live creatively? Dominguez and Robin did, and those insights
are
just part of what they offer in that now-classic book.

But OK, you already know that your job sucks [the vitality out of
your
life], even if you didn’t think of it in quite those terms. You probably

even know what you’d rather do, instead. So the next step in getting
from
your present pits to some sort of heights is discover specific –
repeat, specific — steps you can take
toward your ideal. Never mind

that they may look like the merest baby steps at first. (Trust the word
of
an extremely impatient person; even baby steps will get you there, far
quicker than you imagine.) Step number one, in nearly all cases, is
understanding your spending.

Dominguez and Robin push a method that sounds blindingly tedious, but

was actually fascinating, even for a decidedly non-methodical arty type:

track every dime that comes in or goes out, categorize each
expenditure, then analyze what, if any, value you got from that
category.
Do it
month after month.

Doesn’t that sound like the most anal-retentive thing in the known
universe? But if you try it, you might be shocked not only at how much
you’re spending, but what you’re spending it on, and how little you
value
the results. Even if your analysis simply yields the conclusion, “Ack,
I’m
in debt up to my ears and can’t get out!” believe me, you’ll have gained

something merely by knowing, in glorious detail, your particular form of

stuckness. Personal example. When I first read Your Money, I was
spending more than I was making. Nearly every bit of that spending was
non-discretionary — payments I couldn’t easily have gotten rid of no
matter how badly I’d wanted to. My first response was, “There’s nothing
I
can do.”

Still, I knew I had to do something, or be stuck forever. No
matter how long it might take, or how hard it might be, I had to
commit
to action — specific action.

Now, at this point, every expert says, “Make a plan.” So I
might as well also say, “Make a plan,” even though, where I’m concerned,
that’s BS. Maybe some of you guys are good at plans, and more power to
you. I’m better at impulses. So I sold off assets (discovering that I’d
accumulated more stuff than I thought I had), paid off most of my debts
in whomping chunks (sometimes at sacrifice to the grocery budget), then
tossed so much job-work off my shoulders that … well, I was too poor
even to think about getting into any grind of unsatisfying
consumption and debt.

My new neighbor, Carty, found a different path toward a “downsized
life,” more methodical but not much slower. During the last couple of
years
in his military career, he was stationed in a backwater with a pretty
good
certainty he’d be there until he retired. He spotted a real junker of a
house (We are talking low-rent neighborhood in a low-rent state),
scratched
together enough cash for a down payment, fixed the house in a hurry, and

sold it for enough to pay straight cash for another real junker. Once he

fixed that house and sold it, he had enough to buy outright a
perfectly livable little home in Hardyville — and here he and his
family
sit today, mortgage free. Now he’s got one more tiny junker, with which
he
hopes to pay off the last of his credit card and auto debt.

Once you’re on your way out of debt and bad spending habits, then
what? Well, actually, at the same time you’ll also, almost certainly
simplify your life. You’ll find you need less, want less and
spend less while having more fun.

Then you can do the Real Thing — quit your job, or go part
time. Spend all those delicious new hours doing something you love.

Dominguez and Robin promote the idea of putting away some money, then
– when you are still far from rich — quitting and live off a
remarkably
small interest income from this modest savings. For various reasons, I
don’t believe I’ll ever do the living-on-interest bit. However, shucking

off stuff and debt has enabled me to work at things I like to do,

instead of things my creditors like me to do. I’m content. My solution
may
be different than your solution. But every solution begins with a
commitment to act, then goes through specific, practical steps to get
there.

And one day — voila! — you’ve got it made. Okay, it might
take
you five years to get to your voila! point. But if you want to be

independent, the only alternative I can think of is to get rich. Nothing

wrong with being rich! Except that then you’ll probably have even

more debt — and the revenooers on your tail, besides. No thanks! For
me,
keep it simple.

—–

For help and inspiration: HREF="http://www.slnet.com/cip/nrm/nrm.htm"> The New Road Map
Foundation which is part of The
Simple
Living Network
. Useful books include: HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0395902487/wolfeslodge
">Crea
ting Your Future: Five Steps to the Life of Your Dreams
by Dave
Ellis; HREF="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0688121195/wolfeslodge
">Volu
ntary Simplicity
by Duane Elgin; and Getting
a
Life
by Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller (stories of real
people who’ve changed their lives after reading Your Money or Your
Life
).

WorldNetDaily readers may not always share the political agenda of
these writers and organizations, but these sources offer lots of good
ideas to be mined.


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