Archive for the ‘semi-retirement for the under twenties’ Category

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 4

January 18th, 2011 No comments

Full-time Careers Leave no Time for Your Own Creative Work

If you have a full-time career you do not have the time, or the energy, to devote to finding pleasure from creative ideas. Question people you know who have full-time career jobs, about how they spend their hard-earned money and their spare time. We are not talking about hobbies: this pleasure is not found in occasional games of golf, or going to gigs at the weekend, or mini breaks in Barcelona. These are interludes between long periods of work. The answer is that careerists do not have the time, or the energy. Each week they spend thirty-seven hours plus working, many more getting ready for and travelling to and from work, and after these deductions there is not enough time or energy left for discovering this pleasure.

But you say: perhaps this is only true when you start a career, when you have a more junior position. I won’t be on the lower rungs of my career forever. I’ll work hard for a while, achieve promotion, leave the more stressful parts of the job to those now working for me and with my new, generous salary have the money to indulge in the things in which I’m genuinely interested.

You may then have the money, but you will not have the time. A well-paid career demands your whole life. Do you think it is easy earning fifty, sixty, one hundred thousand pounds a year? You will be expected to work long hours, many more than is stated in the contract you sign. If you are rewarded with that much money you will not be expected to have ambitions or interests outside of your work: if your superiors suspect that your out-of-work activities are in any way affect your in-work efficiency you will be passed over for promotion and better pay, and promotion and better pay are your objectives in this career job. A friend, who worked in the personnel department of an investment bank, read on an employee’s file this advisement against promotion: ‘Puts his family before his career.’ Do you want to work for organisations with this ordering of priorities?

Nor it seems, even with a larger salary, is it easy to save a portion of each monthly paycheque, in order that you can someday leave to spend this lump sum on your genuine capabilities. Two friends I remember from university: one went to work in the City on a huge salary, said he was going to do the job for a few years, save some money and then train to be a PE teacher; the other went to work as an energy trader, said he was going to work for a few years, then use the money to set up an adventure camp for teenagers in France. Both still work in the same professions. And these are people who started on good wages.

Working is an expensive business. Most people spend all the money that they earn: if your colleagues at your advertising sales job tend to socialise in expensive restaurants and bars, are you never going to join them because you are saving money? You need to show a willingness to be part of the company team if you are going to carry on earning all that money that you want to save. How much money you spend, and therefore how much you save, depends as much on your peers as on yourself. Are you really going to turn down joining in with all those costly activities in the years that you are saving? More than this, your career job slowly turns you into a different person. You think about your long-term plan less and less often, and when you do it appears less and less realistic as part of the life you now lead.

You do not need to save money from a career salary in order to pursue the ideas that use your true capabilities. You can start pursing them now.

But everyone has to eat. What kind of work should you do to earn money for rent and food?

next: Part 5 – The Work You Do For Money Should Be Part-time

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 5

January 18th, 2011 No comments

The Work You Do For Money Should Be Part-time

A review by juniorcain of Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget (a critique of the internet revolution) asks, angrily, ‘Will we all be expected to work at jobs to which we’re indifferent so we can come home and do the things we love for free online?’ The answer to a more general form of this question is ‘yes’. We will work at jobs (though not full-time) to which we are indifferent, and we will come home and do the things we love for free (though not necessarily online).

The type of work you do to earn enough money for rent and food – what we shall call subsistence work – is not so important. The most important aspect of this work is that it is part-time. Your important work is not your subsistence work, but the work you do in your spare time. We shall call the latter type ‘work’, because when we spend our time taking pleasure from our genuine capabilities we will put in effort, and to not call this work is to give it inferior status to our subsistence work.

The modern work ethic, which says we must take satisfaction and meaning in our lives from our full-time career, is an invention of the last couple of centuries, created by the Industrial Revolution. In the Middle Ages people worked the hours necessary to earn enough money to live: subsistence work. The rest of the time was their own. Would you not prefer to live like this? The idea that we must take meaning from our work has become so entrenched it is not surprising if you are unaware there is an alternative.

Full-time career work has commandeered the definition of the word ‘work’. If you refuse to have a career, you will still work, but at ideas of your own choosing. You will not go along with the lie that full-time career work is the only route to finding meaning in your life, because not only is it not the only route, it is rarely a route at all. Only our own ideas are meaningful to us. Other people’s work is automatically less meaningful, because it originates from other people’s ideas. It only has value in that it provides us with food and rent, and is subsistence work.

So how do you live with a part-time wage, and what type of subsistence work will we look for that will support our real work?

next: Part 6 – The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 6

January 18th, 2011 No comments

The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important

Is it best to be a part-time salesperson, barman or doctor? The nature of your work is not important. Your ambition for work is less about the nature of the job, and more that this job is part-time. A summary of the careers advice contained here is: find the sort of part-time work that allows the most freedom for your important work. Your job needs to be part-time, and better still, freelance, in that you work as and when you need to.

Plumber, fitness instuctor, nurse, bar work: these are all jobs that are easy to do part-time or freelance. Well-paid executive for an telecoms company is not. Lawyer and advertising copywriter are not. Many part-time jobs are manual jobs, which may not appeal to you. If, however, the important work you do outside of your subsistence work involves sitting at a desk using a computer, active manual work might be a pleasant change. No one is suggesting that being an electrician is going to be your life’s fulfillment. This will come outside of your subsistence work.

Happily, the rewarding jobs discussed earlier can be much more rewarding if part-time. The part-time doctor or teacher, if they can resist the pressures to work longer than the hours for which they are paid, can feel the rewards of these jobs more keenly when their spare time is not so minimal. But not all rewarding jobs are possible to do part-time, and should be avoided.

Better still if you can combine a number of part-time jobs (so long as they only add up to the hours of one). You have greater job security if you lose one of three part-time jobs rather than one full-time job. You also have more chance to avoid being exploited when you have more than one job, for you can give it up more easily because you have other work. The best kind of subsistence job is the one where you could not care less if you lost it.

In full-time career jobs people work a huge amount of unpaid overtime. They do this because they fear being seen as not as good as their colleagues, who also work unpaid overtime. In your casual subsistence job, if your employer does not pay you for overtime, you will rightly complain, or threaten to leave. No one threatens to leave a career job, because they have worked so hard to get it in the first place. Their employer will exploit that to the maximum. The principle in feudal times was, ‘Pay the poor just enough that they can buy the food they need in order to work, and they will continue working.’ In the modern career the principle changes to, ‘Increase the employee’s workload to just before the point where they are off sick with stress, and they will continue working.’

The great thing about part-time work is, the less you work, and the less attached you are to the work you do, the more available you are to take on different, more interesting subsistence work. Don’t take on the fear of your parents, or your school, that you have somehow failed. Part-time subsistence work is not a stop-gap to a full-time career. If you have created the spare time for using your genuine capabilities, and you take pleasure in this, then you are a success.

You ask again: but how do I live on part-time wages? We will get to that in Part 8.

next: Part 7 – University is Not Essential For a Fulfilling Life

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 7

January 18th, 2011 No comments

University is Not Essential For a Fulfilling Life

So how does the ambition of part-time work guide you on what to study if you are still at school? Do the subjects you like. If you can, do the ones which have the most inspiring teachers, since these teachers are examples of how best to take pleasure in your capabilities. (Inspiring teachers are thin on the ground, not because there are few people who genuinely love to teach, but because they have been so ground down by their full-time career.) Learning how to take pleasure in your genuine capabilities is what education ought to be for but rarely is.

If you feel it important to go to university, do the subjects whose exams you can pass. If your capabilities do not lie in passing exams, don’t worry. Spend your time discovering your creative capabilities. Exams are not essential for part-time work.

You ask: so should I go to college or university? This is a difficult question. Universities can be fantastic places for meeting inspirational people, learning how to live with others, and having the freedom to investigate your genuine capabilities. Art college is an environment set up for the understanding of the pleasure of creative ideas. But nowadays going to college or university also saddles you with enormous debts, debts that are such a burden that upon graduation you may have no option but to find full-time work. There is the great danger that, forced to then find a well-paid career job, you may never escape.

Society gives us the idea that much of our life must be spent studying or training to attain some better, distant future. If you are taking pleasure in the present by investigating your creative capabilities there is no need for this. The path for many graduates is: leave university and spend months or years in part-time subsistence work, and all your spare time applying for that good career job; finally land the good career job; realise the stress and lack of fulfilment of a full-time career job; wonder how you can return to the part-time employment that you had when you first graduated. Just skip the career part, and the problem is solved.

You do not have to go to university. The benefits you gain there, the communal living with your peers, the freedom, the interesting people whom will turn your life in unknown directions, these can all be had elsewhere for a fraction of the price. Travelling and working abroad can give you equivalent social experiences. Education, in its pure sense of gaining knowledge, can be obtained through independent study, through the Open University if you require some structure, or just on your own. You may also decide it better to attend university part-time, and perhaps as a mature student, in order to lessen the crippling debts.

The only thing you cannot get outside of a university is a degree. A degree will help you get you a full-time career job. It is not necessary for part-time subsistence work.

next: Part 8 – Learn to Live Cheaply If You Desire Spare Time for Real Work

Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 8

January 18th, 2011 No comments

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