Time To Walk The Talk - My Own Personal Collapse
Around the end of next month, I'm going to voluntarily Collapse. I figure that tonight marks 30 working days (42 days overall), until I'm out of my current job and into semi-retirement.
(I took a few months off of posting, now I'm back)
Greer has always said that a wise person, seeing the way our civilization and society is slowly coming apart, should choose to downsize their own lifestyle and decrease their needs for energy, resources and just about everything else early when they have the cushion of making mistakes and not have it be life threatening. As he sums it up, "Collapse Now and Avoid The Rush".
I think I will followed his advice.
A big part of my decision involves my commitment to spreading the idea of Green Wizardry, as my place seems to be its number one advocate and cheerleader, and my desire (and need) to have more time for writing about Green Wizardry as well as to do experiments on appropriate technology. I must admit though that part of the reason I am going to voluntarily Collapse is that I'm just tired of the "Rat Race".
In addition, there is also a real possibility of a major economic recession in the next 24 months which would result in deep economic problems as well at the upcoming Presidential election in November 2020, which promises some real social and political chaos.
Honestly I'd rather have a safe spot I can make popcorn, drink a home brewed beer and watch the excitement, than to be involved in it in any way.
Some background is in order then...
I turn 62 next week, and of the forty five years of employment under my belt, most of it, except for a decade detour to Hollywood to work in special effects, has all been blue collar. Mostly manufacturing in the beginning, then as jobs in that section left and moved overseas, more into warehouse and some manufacturing service industries. I've watched as American workers increased their productivity but saw their paychecks stay flat or even decline. I watched as union representation slowly withered and government bent over backwards to help corporations fatten their bottom line. I've watched as fewer and fewer of us in manufacturing were asked to do more and more for those who employ me. I've watched as the dream of the Middle Class faded until there is just the Rich 10% and the Poor 90%.
And still am. I like the Poor, they tend to care more about their neighbors and share in hard times.
It wasn't until I began reading Greer on the old "Archdruid Report" and now his "Ecosophia" blog, that my eyes began to be opened and I found I could peek behind the curtain of the Great Oz, and finally truly see why the things that were affecting me were happening, and the real reasons that they were. Now that I have ten years of learning to be a Green Wizard, I think its time for me to "walk the talk" and do a personal collapse.
I was very lucky to have found my current job. At the time, and at then 56, not many employers would hire someone as old as I was but that's the thing. When you destroy an industry like American manufacturing was destroyed beginning in the 80's, you don't make it attractive for younger workers to learn the skills needed to work for you. People in their 20's don't want to work in a hot and sweaty warehouse, lugging around heavy pieces of metal. They want to sit in front of a computer in an air conditioned office coding software. My generation expected to work in a factory. The current one, doesn't.
The average age of workers in my line of work is 47.
What does that say about other job fields where blue collar workers need specialized skills? When I worked for the aerospace firm McDonnell Douglas when I was younger, I spent nearly a month every year in re-certification classes to make sure I could produce the product to the tolerances the Department of Defense required. And I got paid to a level that reflected that. Now my current company offers new hire thirteen dollars an hour and wonders why they can't hire enough people. Or those that do apply, often quit after a few weeks.
I think a lot of the push for robotics is that companies realize that they don't have a trained workforce out there to hire from. They outsourced training to government and to "for profit" tech schools, and got rid of in house training. Now no one wants to learn their jobs. They are in the same boat Big Ag is in. Americans don't wants to pick strawberries all day for pennies under the hot sun except migrants. And with the current Administration's politically driven demonization of immigration from Latin America, they can't find cheap labor any more.
I was lucky though...
My current employer is a family owned business, begun in the 1940's. We sell metal and some plastics, from coat hanger wire up to 40 foot bridge beams. We will custom cut bars to you needed size too. That is my job, running a few saws to cut down full size bars to what you need. Being family owned they can make decision on how it will affect the business over the next few years or even the next few decades rather than how it will affect this quarter's share prices and executive bonuses.
This long term focus has had two affects.
First it has lead the company to invest heavily in capital improvements. Our branch alone has probably had 10 million dollars sunk into it over the last few years. A year and a half ago we moved to an entirely new building, and six month ago they expanded the building nearly 50% with new construction. By not having to worrying about how short term investors feel, the company has made decisions and spent money in ways that will allow them to grow long term. Don't get my decision to collapse now wrong, it is a great company and I wish I had found them two or three decades ago. My retirement would have been much more secured having worked for them for 30 years, not 6.
Six years though have been very good for me.
Anyone who has a 401K retirement account, knows most companies will match 50 cents on the dollar of your first 5% of your salary contributed to the 401K. My employer sweetens this with two additional contribution which together is around 8%, which means the equivalent of around 15 percent of my annual salary has been going into my 401K. When I leave the company in October I should have about $42,000 to use as a collapse fund to build with. In addition, I'll have about 6 weeks of vacation to turn in. At about $500 a week base take home pay, my final check should be around $3500, enough to cover not working in October to "de-stressing", and then a part time Christmas retail job for November and December, before really beginning the construction at my sister's.
I had planned on continuing to work for another few years and retiring closer to my full Social Security pay out. At 62, if I draw Social Security now I would receive checks of about $900. At my current full retirement age of 66 and a half, I'd get about $1500. Both amounts would be at that level for the rest of my life. That's the way Social Security works. I could perhaps take it a little early, 65 or so. You lose about $100 worth to your monthly benefit, for each year you begin collecting benefits before full retirement.
That means I will have to stay at least employed part time for the next several years. Since I'll be at a much lower income tax bracket, I plan on taking $10 out of the 401K in January for building expenses. I should be able to do this each of the next two years, and wrap up my planned construction.
I do have the advantage that I have been living semi-frugally the past decade, as I adopted a Green Wizard lifestyle. I have a disadvantage in that I've been a bit generous with my charitable contributions this year, volunteering with a local stray rescue group and building them a self washing dog station in their Pet Thriftstore, has my current credit card debt at around $7000. That is though my only current debt and will be a priority to be paid off as quickly as I can.
Not a million dollar nest egg for retirement, but a decent enough start at getting where I need to be.
Over the next year I have some goals:
First - Get the GW Website Upgraded: The new icon is a good start but I need to "green" our look. No one, especially me, likes the red. There are also some software upgrades behind the scenes that need to be taken care of, biggest is enabling the Search function here. Going along with that will be to continue and finish the movement of the posts on the old forum to this new one.
Second - Get the Downstairs Apartment Ready for a July 2020 Occupancy: Moving in with my sister will save me nearly $600 in rent, and cut my utilities in half. Money that would be better spent in the backyard, or not spent at all, cutting down on the income I need to live on and make with a job. The removal of the old furnace oil tank and the installation of the downstairs toilet are first on the list.
Third - Start Seriously Writing Again: There are a lot of pent up characters tapping on my back to get to writing their stories.
Wish me luck...