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Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 8

Learn to Live Cheaply If You Desire Spare Time for Real Work

If you want to work part-time, you have to learn to live on part-time wages. This will be the most objectionable piece of advice contained here. Some of you will stop reading and think, if that is the case, then this isn’t for me. If you are a teenager, dependent upon your parents, you have most likely been looking forward to the day when you have a pay packet and the freedom of choice to spend it as you choose. Self-determination and security via a surplus of money are the most human of desires. But the person who demands a secure pay packet for their self-determination is blind to what they must give up in order to achieve it: the spare time to pursue work of your own choosing, using your genuine capabilities.

Besides, those in full-time career jobs rarely appear to have much surplus money. It is spent on travel to work, on clothes for work, on food whilst at work, on weekend breaks. Mostly it is spent on treating themselves whilst recovering from the pain of their full-time job. When people say they ‘deserve’ an expensive foreign holiday, they mean in return for the punishment their career inflicts upon them. Strive for a life in which you don’t feel you need a holiday.

The widely-held misconception is that if you don’t have a lot of money you are lacking in the means to enjoy life. This is not some Buddhist advice on the benefits to your soul of having few possessions. It is merely to say that the careerists who are responsible for this misconception do so because they have lost the ability, which they had in childhood, to take pleasure in their own creative ideas. They would not know what to do with themselves if they did not have their full-time job: they would be bored, and they would need money to distract them from this boredom. The semi-retired do not need money for repeated holidays, because they have learnt how to find creative pleasure in their everyday life.

Is this how you want your future life to be, with you so inexperienced at how to spend your spare time that you prefer to fill it with meaningless full-time work? You think I am exaggerating, that of course people with careers would know what to do if they had more spare time. I am not. Observe what happens to careerists when they unexpectedly have time on their hands. Right now you may not yourself have much idea how you would spend your spare time, and this is fine. But it is something you must learn.

What careerists do not know is that you need much less money to be happy when you can spend a significant number of hours a week doing something that brings you creative pleasure. Those with spare time and creative desires are not unemployed, or under-employed, by the government definition of someone who needs more subsistence work to fill their time. Your spare time for important work is already filled, thank you very much, even if you have not yet decided what this work is. These creative ambitions are important, however. Without them we will be under-employed.

You might say: I don’t want to work this way if it means I have to watch my money all the time. But you won’t have no money to spend. You will simply be more careful in how you spend it, you will only spend as much as it is necessary to earn in order to leave you with the time for your important work. Clothe yourself from charity shops, where careerists throw out very decent clothes. Couchsurf and camp for holidays. Read library books. Be a late-adopter and use all the technology that careerists trade in for the new model. The semi-retiree’s value system slowly changes: cheaper goods become more valuable because they mean you can do less subsistence work and thus have more time for your important work. Also, you find you need less money because you associate with other semi-retirees who have similar cheap ideals.

In any case, you may someday be paid (and paid well) for your pleasurable work – you may even be hired by one of the large organisations with whom you are not going to have a career. But then you will work for them freelance, on your terms, and you can decide how little or much you want this paid work to disrupt the rest of your life. You may feel able to give up your subsistence work. But pay should not be your goal. Being paid for this work is good so long as it does not interrupt the unpaid work that brought you the freelance work in the first place. Being a jobbing musician or journalist is not the same as investigating your capabilities in music or writing. As soon as regular wages are involved, the rewards change. If you are being paid for your pleasureable work, try to remain in the position where you do not care about the pay, just as you do not care if you lose your subsistence job. This is why keeping a part-time subsistence job puts you in a much better position. If you are a writer, write for pleasure and maybe sell the work afterwards, not for an advance which will compromise the work as you create it. If you receive financial reward after the fact, that’s a bonus.

Many people earn lots of money from their pleasureable work, but have had to live cheaply at some point in order to get where they are now. You just need to have the knowledge of how to do so, to not be scared of doing so, because there will almost certainly be times when you need to. Fear of the absence of a full-time pay packet is what keeps most people in mind-numbing careers.

The annoyances of living cheaply are outweighed by not having to work full-time, which is far more annoying. If you cannot do this, or think you cannot do it: then you condemn yourself to a life of full-time work.

related post: Living Cheaply is Easier Than You Think

next: Part 9 – The Pleasure of Creative Ideas