I’m sticking it to the man.
I ‘retired’ (aka quit, without intentions of looking for another typical job) two years ago at age 25 with no retirement plan because I don’t like when other people tell me I only get two weeks of free time a year.
This might be our only life and because someone else taught us a nine-to-five, working our way up the corporate ladder, bringing home the dough just to spend it again, more possessions and less time equals success, we do it?
Last Thanksgiving my conservative, good intentioned father asked me yet again when I plan on giving up being a spiritual warrior/yoga teacher/writer/creator of all things beautiful and get a ‘real job.’ I smiled at him across the breakfast table.
“I think I’ve let that go…” I replied with a grin. “Let it go?” he smirked, shocked. The idea of just letting go of society’s vision of success and beginning to abandon the money system left him perplexed. “I don’t have a plan, and I don’t know how it’s going to work out,” I told him honestly.
I graduated University just after the worst of the recession. I’ve hopped from job to job hoping each one will be the perfect blend of income, creativity and happiness. Is respect in a work place too much to ask?
“Age 25 is pretty young to start compromising morals,” a counselor told me when I described how several components of my Medical Coding position felt unethical. “My soul will literally die if I continue this game…” I told my dad. He seemed to get the point and so I took the leap.
Employers pay taxes for employees. Employees get taxes taken out of our wages. Then we go and buy things where sales tax is collected. Tax, tax, tax—where does it all go?
I actually wouldn’t mind taxes if they went to things I find important, but fighting what already exists is wasted energy. So how does one pay into the system less?
Here are tips on stretching your money, finding independence and cultivating financial freedom. These steps have helped me and hopefully they will work for you, too. If you have additions please leave them in the comments below!
1. I become a little garden rebel.
I have heard retired people mention they spend time gardening. My grocery bill is at least 70 percent less than what it was. Yes, it actually is like money growing on trees. When veggies are about to go bad I turn them into soup or quiche and when fruits are about to turn, I make a smoothie or fruit popsicles. Several neighbors and I built a chicken coop out of pallets and we share the eggs. These chickens eat our organic table scraps instead of GMO corn and are let out in the yard to eat bugs (historically their actual diet) resulting in amazing flavor! I’ve learned how to prepare and freeze zucchini, pumpkin, peas, carrots, etc to use throughout the winter. I’ve discovered the joy in drying herbs for delicious teas.
2. I trade and share goods, services and time with my local community members.
I’ve found that the ability to give others my energy and my time has thrilled many friends, especially those who are parents. We trade garden produce for child care, my yoga studio exchanges free practice for light cleaning and watering their flowers, etc. What a blessing to have lots of time, and little money— because for many, it’s the opposite, and working together has helped all of us accomplish many goals.
3. I’ve learned how to find and love free activities.
Spend time at beaches and parks. Check out books and movies from the library. Climb a tree, a rock, or a mountain. Play with the dog. Attend a free community class. Go camping, ride your bike. Take artistic pictures of your area. Make music. Write.
4. I make almost everything from scratch.
I’m talking all sorts of yummy dishes, toothpaste, laundry detergent and anything else I can think of. Practicing gardening and cooking makes going out to eat obsolete. On my list of things to learn is DIY wine!
What I don’t make from scratch or trade, I find at thrift stores or yard sales. Seriously, anything can be found second hand and the quality is still great. Yard sale-ing is another way that we can support our community. The ‘Buy Local’ slogan is great because the money circulates locally. Other benefits of buying thrift store local is that we are no longer responsible for all of the fossil fuels used in importing or all of the plastic packaging that comes with it. Our oceans and our land is filled with trash. We are poisoning ourselves and the earth, which we rely on for survival.
5. I use what I have.
“Waste not, want not. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” as my grandmother taught from living during the Great Depression, is an amazing skill to cultivate. (Thank you mom for passing it down so eloquently!) The practice of acknowledging abundance and realizing that we already have enough stuff is truly a blessing.
North Americans have more possessions than 90 percent of the world, and we don’t really need other things. Old clothes are cut into rags. When the rags fall apart we braided slices together creating beautiful rugs. In other countries, a stain on a shirt or the zipper that never stays up is not a good enough reason to get rid of something. Articles of clothing are used and passed around until they have lived full lives.
Watering flowers is what life is all about. Play with children. Enjoy the simple moments that compile life. Connect with the earth. Taking these steps and giving myself time has benefited my life in so many ways.
This is early retirement. In spending less eating from the garden instead of food like products, my health has improved resulting in spending less money at the doctor and I don’t need to rely on a job’s health insurance to live. I have had the time to ponder what is important to me, and I have time now to pick up trash on beaches, live slower and share love with my tribe.
I could return to a working life, and I might one day. We make our own choices and we create our realities. “I shouldn’t have freely and compassionately worked on my spiritual wellness, happiness and health in my late 20s,” said nobody ever.