Jan 232013

I follow a lot of websites around the inter webs. They are like the newspapers of old.  (A newspaper was a website made of paper, ink, and delivered to your front door).  One of the sites I read daily is called gawker.com.  It’s a running blog of news stories and part of a family of 10 or so other blogs, each with a different main subject, sports, tech, games, and so on.  If you follow the link I just gave you, you’ll notice that it links to a series of stories submitted by people who have been unemployed and are having a difficult time getting through said unemployment.  It’s quite the series being both depressing and eye opening.

There are 23 chapters so far and it would probably take you a couple of days to read through them all but if you have the time, pick out a few.  The stories follow the trials and tribulations of those who have been unemployed over the last few years and how they are coping, or not coping with not having an income.  They come from all age groups, male and female, and cover a wide angle of views on how being unemployed has affected their lives.  Emotions run the gamut from hopefulness to despair to depression, and in some cases, thoughts of ending it all.  It’s quite the read if you have some time.  But as you are reading through these stories, take note of some patterns that emerge such as:

College grads who took out huge loans for school to get a degree that has no income opportunities.

People who had children at a very young age with no thought as too how much it would cost or how difficult it would be to raise a child.

Those who got what seemed like a well paying job and immediately went out and bought vehicles, homes, and stuff, and borrowed to pay for it all.

Older folks who believed in company loyalty only to find themselves out on the streets before they were fully vested in a company pension plan (whatever the hell a pension plan is).

And there are lots more bad decisions these people made.  The results are that they are unemployed and under the belief they cannot find another source of income.  And here is where the saddest pattern of all emerges.  Virtually none of these unemployed people has even considered the possibility of striking out on their own and making their own income, as opposed to relying on corporate masters to take care of them.  Read through the stories again and you’ll see statements like, ” I’ve applied everywhere and can’t get hired.” or “I’ve sent resume’s to companies all over the country and can’t even get an answer.”.  Even worse are these telling statements:  ” I bought a new car and now I am going to lose it.” or “I can’t afford this nice house any longer.”  They’ve managed, over time, and through a series of poor decisions regarding lifestyles to back themselves into a corner where the only way they see is to sell out and be the worker bee.  They believe that only corporations have the means to provide income and alleged security.  A steady paycheck and a good enough credit rating is the only way to move up in the world.  It has never occurred to them that they could just as easily go out and create their own paycheck, with just some old fashioned ingenuity and a willingness to downsize in one’s lifestyle.

I have a few friends, (stop laughing, I have friends!) who work in the corporate world.  They are around my age, pushing 60, and have been at the same companies for years, have built up to a nice income, have the health insurance, put money into a retirement plan, have the set schedule, and are absolutely terrified that they will lose it all.  When I talk to them, invariably, they will say how frightened they are that the next day could be their last.  The managers above them put the pressure on to produce more, always with the threat of losing the job.  They’ve bought houses, vehicles, furniture, toys, and all the usual stuff, and have settled into a comfy lifestyle that they are scared they will lose.  The idea of going into the later years with no income, no pension, no insurance, eats away at them every day and really does have a detrimental effect on their health and outlook on life.  Of course I don’t help when I tell them that, yes, they will lose their jobs soon and welcome to my world.  Hey, if you want sympathy you can find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.  But the fear they have over the fragility of their jobs and income is real.  And like the others in the stories above, it has never occurred to them for one second that they could create their own income.  It’s a sad way to be.

Then there is my story.

It’s been well over three years since I have seen a decent full paycheck.  I walked away from a career at  harley to strike out on my own.  I started a paddleboard rental business, made a few dollars, closed it down, and moved to Key West.  I applied all over the island for something and got shut down everwhere I applied.  Nearing 60, and with my happy go lucky attitude, I have become unemployable.  Last year, I finally buckled down, bought a computer, downloaded  Xcode, and began to teach myself how to build apps for the iPhone.  I also grabbed a hosting program and began hosting websites.  A year in and I have 4 apps, 2 ebooks, a half dozen websites, and more on the way.  I’m not making enough money to live on yet.  I do some part time kayak guiding which is easy type work and some captain chartering, another skill I picked up while down with a twisted ankle, is coming up this spring.  I live on a broken down old sailboat in Key West, I have no pension, no savings, no insurance, and no girlfriend, or at least none who are alive and willing to testify.  Every month is a contest as to whether I will be homeless, starving, or worse.  I have no idea what the future will bring.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Most people my age and probably smarter than me would be in sheer panic mode if they were in the same situation I am, at least financially.  The idea of being totally broke at age 60 is unthinkable for many.  Go read some of those stories and you’ll see them.  How will I survive?  What if I get sick?  What happens when I can no longer work?  Yeah, maybe I should be scared.  But I ain’t.  Well, maybe a bit anxious, but read again what I have been doing over the past year.  I’ve started the seeds of creating my own income.  The websites are drawing thousands of visitors every month.  App and ebook downloads are increasing, and with that growth, income will follow, I hope.  The trick will be to maintain my lavish lifestyle until I am truly self sustaining.

The source of income is not that important for me.  I could have just as easily grabbed some brushes and started cleaning boat bottoms, or do bicycle tours of the island, or dress up in a pirate costume and tell ribald sea stories to the tourists over at Mallory Square.  I chose app and website building because it was something I wanted to learn, requires little in the way of equipment, is mobile, and somewhat passive.  It’s also less strenuous, something that may be important later on when I am unable to paddle a kayak or paddleboard any longer.  No matter, the point is that I took the time and initiative to learn a new skill and create an avenue from which I can derive an income.  It helped too that I downsized my lifestyle considerably.  Not having a house, vehicle, and debt makes things far easier.

Of course, self income is not always an option for everyone.  Some are too overwhelmed or frightened to attempt something on their own.  Fearing that they may fail is a big hangup.  Well, let me tell you, as an expert, failure will happen.  Happens to me all the time.  You learn, and move on.  The worst that can happen?  You lose everything.   So what.  It’s just stuff, and it can be replaced.  And if you did lose it all you may finally realize just how unimportant all that stuff is.  Yet many put too much emphasis on what stuff they have and not on actually living.  The desire to acquire forces them into making choices that many would not make, if they had the freedom to do so.  Not taking a demeaning job, for low pay, and putting up with all the corporate masters, politics, and other uncertainties of being a worker bee.  Then again, some are born to be worker bees, and that is all they will be.  And if that makes them happy, more power to them.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to maintain a high level of income with all the perks, and last long enough to enjoy the benefits of that ancient idea known as retirement, have at it.  For those of you who have managed to find yourselves out on the streets, without the supposed comfort of a corporate entity to take care of your needs, it’s time to learn to fend for yourself.  If you are unemployed, no longer employable, or about to be unemployed, do yourself a favor and start finding a way to make your own way in the world.  It can be anything.  Grab a mower and start a lawn maintenance company.  Rent a booth at the local flea market and sell something.  Or teach yourself a new skill, like I have, and go for it.  It don’t matter.  Just try something on your own.  Be prepared to work even harder than you would if you were still a worker bee, but without the corporate bovine fecal matter that comes with it.  Downsize your lifestyle to suit a lower income.  I had the house, the vehicles, the new motorcycle every year, and all the stuff.  And I was miserable.  Once I learned that stuff ain’t that important, life became much easier and I found the freedom to go and do things that I always wanted to do.

And there is more to life than work.  Look at that couple on the Calico Jack.  Middle aged and sailing off for three years around the world, (currently in Roatan off Honduras).  Think either of them are ever going to be worker bees?  I’d gladly trade a promise of a pension for the adventures they are having.

It’s all up to you.  It’s your decision as to how you want your life to go.  You can pity those folks in the stories there in Gawker.  Or you can take a lesson from what has happened to them.  They put themselves into the situations they are in now.  The corporate masters were just there to take advantage of the situations.  Don’t let yourself fall into the same trap.  Take the initiative and become as self sufficient as possible.  Create your own life in the way you want, not the way everyone else thinks you should.  Opportunities abound and you have the ability to take advantage of them.  There are way too many adventures in life to be stuck as worker bee.  Go find them.

Capt. Fritter

  2 Responses to “Learn To Fend For Yourself…”

  1. when reading this . . . i see a whole new career lurking there for you.
    i think you should hire out as a speaker at college graduations! good stuff. no pun intended.

  2. There’s another part you missed: marry smart. If you marry, do it with someone who will take the path with you to get to where you want to go. If you’re frugal but you marry a spendthrift you’ll probably not get to YOUR destination.