Time To Walk The Talk - My Own Personal Collapse

  • Posted on: 15 August 2019
  • By: David Trammel

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.

Further background...

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...


ClareBroommaker's picture

Well, yeah--good luck, but really I feel like I want to say congratulations! Have you already begun collecting building materials, plumbing materials, etc?

David Trammel's picture

I'm currently in the planning stage, so I've not yet decided to look for material. Once I get a better idea of exactly what I'm going to build, begin looking when sales happen at my local hardware and building supply stores and checking out resale places like Habit for Humanity for things I can repurpose into my plan. I want anything I do to be very highly insulated so i need to begin research into how to do that.

You can review my sister's home and what I'm thinking about doing with the space in this thread:

The Other Basement Thread

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Hey David,

I hope Lady Luck smiles down on you in all your efforts.

Your plan looks solid as you've laid it out: where you are at in life, what has happened, where you are going. It seems like once you get your space set up at your sisters you're financial resources will be a bit more freed up to pursue your goals.

I don't know if you've looked into JMG's Order of Essenes (http://www.orderofessenes.org/) but the practices there might be of use to you. Of course, it might not be your cup of tea, but they might give an extra boost to your efforts.

All the best!

David Trammel's picture

I saw Greer's earlier post on the Order of Essenes, but haven't reviewed it.

I actually discovered Hawaiian Shamanism as taught by Serge Kahili King many years ago. I think of shamanism as kind of a religious martial art. Hawaiian shamanism is much more of an "adventurer" way than North American shaman practice. That is more of a "warrior" way. I should write up a forum post about it soon, its very conductive to Green Wizardry.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Sounds good. I'd be interested to hear about it. I'm not familiar with Serge Khaili King. I'm interested in a variety of paths. My own spiritual approach, like my Green Wizardry will be I suppose, is eclectic and evolving. I'm intrigued by the "adventurer" way.

I am surprised the recent 401K is all you have. No prior retirement money from McDonald Douglas or your earlier employers? Were these old-style pensions that you only got to keep if you worked your entire career? Or did you need to spend them earlier?


David Trammel's picture

Regrettably, I never had a pension from earlier jobs. I worked at McD for just 4-5 years and if they had a retirement plan, it went away with my layoff. It was about that time that the Government gave the green light to corporations to ditch pensions for 401K plans. If I was 30 years younger I would have planned better.

mountainmoma's picture

I live off of a Social Security Disability check. No other retirement. Family pulling together and shared housing arrangements are a good idea. Mine went the other way around, where I have shared my space with others to make expenses as that is what made sense. But, sharing the housing burden is the easiest and most cost effective solution, as you plan to do.

Other than that, keep expenses down to the bare minimum, of course, $10 or $20 here or there adds up to $100's quickly. Also, cooking at home plus even a bit of gardening. A small amount of room will yield enough high vitamin plants and staples of grains, legumes and such are bought cheaply, so then the food budget is very small. Tea instead of coffee, etc... There is so much in the waste stream right now clothing and consumer goods are also negligble

good Luck with it all !

My dad (now 85) said the key to retirement is decent health, a paid-for house, a paid-for car, some money in the bank and no outstanding debt. You've got that. Moving in with your sister is golden: you'll be able to help each other and since you'll have a door between you, you can both retreat as needed.

Expect the transition to take time. It did for us.

Good luck

Teresa from Hershey

SLClaire's picture

The subject line says it all. I'll be following your plans and how they work out, with an eye toward what I can learn from them. Though my husband and I collapsed some time ago, I keep an eye out for more ways to not spend money.

Like you, I'm also waiting to take my Social Security, and in fact my numbers for age 62 (earlier this year) and full retirement are almost the same as yours. If Medicare is still in existence and still a good deal when I turn 65, I expect I'll sign up for it. I may take Social Security then or pay for Medicare out of savings till I get to full retirement age. It'll depend on my best read of the trends in the political world at that time.


jlg4880's picture

Third - Start Seriously Writing Again: There are a lot of pent up characters tapping on my back to get to writing their stories.

You know, your third goal has gotten me to thinking if there's a possibility of employing some retro-tech to your freshly aspired objectives. Specifically, putting that spirit duplicator-the one that was the subject of that wretched, tediously written article I submitted a few months back-to actual work for some manner of a printed newsletter or even possibly even newsletters.

Maybe Retrotopia can begin with the first effort of employing an older technology?

David Trammel's picture

I'm working on a series of private detective fiction novels set in a 2050-80s Future America, with a military dictator, rebels, mutant elves and all sorts of mischief set in St Louis which will build on my two short stories in the "After Oil" Anthologies. Look for your machine to play a role in the the Revolution!

And it was a good article, never sell your efforts short.

jlg4880's picture

I'm being pragmatic more than self-deprecating. I work with "purty pitchers" for a living rather than wordsmithing.

ClareBroommaker's picture

You crossed the line? You're out of there now?

David Trammel's picture

I decided to stay a few days longer, because one of my co-workers who is a good friend was off for a week, and another is off two days this week. We all wanted to go out for breakfast on my last day as a going away party. I'm taking a four day weekend this coming one to go to Archon here in St Louis, so its 8 days left in the real economy.

David Trammel's picture

So on the 11th of October I finally left my recent job. I've been relaxing the past week but now I'm ready to get back to the real challenge, this site and its community. Thank you everyone for holding on there, and expect to begin seeing more articles and information these next few months.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Hey David! Congrats on your retirement. I know I'm looking forward to the growth of this site and community. I'm wishing you the best of luck with all your projects.

chickadee's picture

It's great to hear that you have reached this milestone, and will now have more time to work on the projects you have been planning. Thanks for sharing your story. I am especially moved to read of your generosity to the animal shelter. This speaks volumes about who you are... another example of walking the talk. You share much of your energy and time here online, and now offer this kindness for the dogs. Very inspiring.

Blueberry's picture

Congrats, now you get to work your a$$ off and not get paid. Finally life begins.

alice's picture

Wow, well done, all the best for building your future.

Congratulations and good luck with your collapse adventure! I look forward to reading more about it here.