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Straddlers

 
pollinator
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Any other straddlers out there?  A foot in the conventional job market and a heart on the farm, but afraid (ok, chickenshit) to let go of the income, benefits and “security” of a traditional job?  I admire all of you who have cut the strings and live a homestead style of life, yet can’t quite bring myself to do it. From a financial perspective, am in a good position to do it - no debts, income streams that keep me above the poverty level without working - but am plagued by “what if’s” - what if the income streams dry up, what if I get sick, what if I need a major repair on something, that sort of thing.

Have reached a peak career wise, with great income, after a lifetime of being a good wage slave. Maybe that is what makes it hard, the golden handcuffs. And I can work remotely most of the time, although that actually makes it harder - stuck inside all day on a computer/phone calls all day instead of out doing stuff I want to do. Literally looking out the window at a truly beautiful place with so much to do.

Part of me says quit being a whiny-baby, you have the best of both worlds, ride that income wave while you can. The other part says yeah, but you are really tired of 50 hours per week doing something you don’t want to do. And life is short - just how many good years do I have left as a mid-50 something?  I could be stricken tomorrow with a disabling illness. And energy levels really do begin to decline!  

Has anyone taken the plunge and regretted it?  Wished you had done it sooner?  Am I just too used to having money in my pocket and doing what I want when I want?  My current situation is probably not something I could duplicate if I jump and then reconsider - that door will be closed. But who knows what else I could do, if my time and energy were my own?  
 
Posts: 42
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
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Artie,
Are you living on your land now and commuting into work?  Cash flow is a wonderful thing but only you can make that call on how much is enough.  I was a straddler for a long time, living on my place and driving to work.  I lived places I didn't prefer to live and worked way longer hours than I wanted.  I made it until I could draw some retirement and SS.  Life is good now though.
The way I lasted came from discussions I had with another employee that was disgruntled also.  We could not stand the thought of working for that company for the rest of our working life.  He was complaining to his dad one weekend and his dad said "It's just a job, If you don't like it just quit."  We talked it over that next Monday and both of us came to the conclusion that we had great jobs and we'd just work there until we found something better.
However when I was in my mid fifties I accomplished a lot in my spare time.  Now that I'm in my mid sixties I notice the lack of energy and I have worn out some my joints.  I really don't know whether I did the right thing or not.
"Mailbox Money" is pretty nice to have.  It's got to be your call.  
Good luck!
 
Artie Scott
pollinator
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Hey Bryan, good points!  I commute one day per week, and work remotely the rest of the week now (for the last year or so). Is about 2.5 hours away, so usually involves a hotel for the nite at my expense.

It has been a fairly deliberate transition - bought the land 5 years ago, paid it off, built a barn with apartment on top, and that is paid for and liveable, and just last month sold the house in suburbia, so that toehold is now gone.

I just thought it would be easier to know it was time and pull the plug, but my brain is surprisingly resistant. There are still plans that need capital - solar set-up, land clearing, water harvesting, ag buildings - but that will always be the case I suppose.

These all sound like first world problems when I type them out - maybe I have grown too accustomed to throwing money at problems.  Anyway, thought it would be interesting to hear if others wrestled with/are wrestling with the same decision.
 
pollinator
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My property is three hours from the city I currently live in.  I worked at my most recent job for five years and liked it well enough that I planned to keep working there until I could afford to retire early and move to the property.  Based on projections, I was giving myself 3 years minimum, probably 5 to be more comfortable, but playing it by ear too.  Maybe on the earlier side and going part-time.... Unfortunately, after four years my boss retired and the new boss turned out to be a total nightmare.  I finally called it a couple months ago after about 6 months of debate.  I decided I couldn't live that way anymore - life is too short and I didn't want the regrets of living the way I was anymore.  I had enough cushion to take some time to visit family and enjoy some down time before I start looking for work again (realizing it could push that retirement timeline out further on the other side).  

The property was the family place and it has a couple old mobile homes on it which are not in good enough shape to live in full time.  They do pretty well in the summer but in the winter, it's pretty miserable for a number of reasons.  I plan to remove them and replace with a tiny house.  I would love to be there full-time now but the wages there aren't anywhere close to what I can make in the city, even taking into account the lack of rent (assuming I pay cash for the house as I plan).  I am looking though!

So long story short, I'm a bit earlier on in the savings part than you are but the pain is similar.  I am really enjoying spending more time there now and the daily working outside I thrive on.  I love watching "nature TV" out my window during my food breaks.  I dream of the day I can be there full-time.  But the future is uncertain.  I could put the house on now.  And I could work part-time and easily cover my living expenses but the "what if's" require me to have more of a cushion.  And as you said, there are improvements that require extra chunks of money or paying someone else to help - especially if health changes with old age (less likely with that type of living but still possible).
 
pollinator
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I was a straddler for five years, but then I pulled the trigger and retired at age 42. I am glad I did. It has been tough, the fallout of getting cancer meant just after I retired I was really tested, but we have always made it.

The part that you are forgetting is that time can equate to money. For instance, last year I moved out of our house to this Tiny House. It was my Grandmother's and had been vacant for 11 years after she died. But in 5 weeks, and $1700, I went completely rebuilt the home down to the studs and back out again. That took the value from $40,000 to $80,000 in five weeks. Most people do not make $8000 a month, much less $8000 a week, and that was while I had cancer! I worked could only work 6 hour days and took naps at noon due to the cancer-fatigue.

But Net Worth, is completely different from Cash Flow...I get it, but for me, making a second house I had livable meant now I have options: renting the other house out, selling it, or even turning it into a Day Care Center Suddenly by taking a very heavy dose of humility, and putting my family in half the size house we had, I have enabled me to use that house for benefit of the family, all because I had time to rebuild it. Without time, I could never have rebuilt the house over two years of weekend work as would be required if I was not retired, but because I did, I could take the time to log, to saw the logs on a sawmill, build and saw the exact lumber I needed.

Time is a luxury onto itself.

But what is there to be scared of? As long as you have your health (and keep in mind, mine is gone), a fail-safe is to JUST GO BACK TO WORK!

I do not mean to yell at you my friend, just making a point.

I am really considering going to work for Tractor Supply. Laugh if you want, but I really love the idea of being able to help other homesteaders with their problems. I am a retired welder, and I have built my own equipment for farming, raised sheep commercially, put up tons of fence, and that kind of thing. It would be a great job for me, but like you, I my goal is to not need the job, so if I got yelled at by my boss too much..."hey, where are you going Travis"? And at that I would just mutter, "No debt", and head for my vehicle.

Or maybe I will just work until I get a certain amount of cash and buy something I really want, like a new tractor?

But my ultimate goal, is to get to th point where I can give 90% of whatever I make, away to people that need it. That is what Katie and I are really striving for. IF we can do that, we will have really accomplished something in life.
 
pollinator
Posts: 870
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Artie,

This is the fundamental question isn't it? I love to see what others have done and try to figure out if they were brave or foolish. My kids watch Homestead Rescue, and I saw a few episodes and realized most of these people are totally unprepared. They have a chicken pen and don't even think about where the chickens will get calories to turn into eggs. They are shocked that there are predators that want to eat chickens. Those make good TV, but I have seen a bunch of them that just basically ran out of money before they had experience to use it well. You sound like you have enough experience to make some sound decisions after that period of time.

There is a breakeven, where you will have to pay someone to do things because your capabilities will not be sufficient, and they won't do it how you would do it. In my calculation, my ability to save money now much more than offsets that. That could change in a year, but that is the calculation now. We have two years savings- at our current "burn rate". We could drop our burn rate, but we effectively would need to generate revenue streams in two growing seasons. That is not much cushion. Each year we add another year of cushion, but I get a year older and I am the main forklift. That being said I am a couple decades younger than Brian and I fully suspect social security will be means tested like in most countries and I will not see a penny- because I saved (which is painful to digest but there you go). I have not done the numbers yet for me, but I would say take your basic burn rate or predictable expenses (food, fuel, taxes, insurances and the like) that you expect to have in your new place. Double it. That is the likely true burn rate, since all of those things go up in general. If your place is payed off it shouldn't be a preposterous amount. Multiply that by the number of years you expect to live.

Then you have a budget for improvement. This is where money generated can go as well. I am assuming when I get reasonably close to having the double basic burn rate taken care of, I can spin the wheel. There has to be enough in the improvement category to cover repairs. Only you know what you are looking for in this category.

Setting up residual income or secondary income is a big player, that can get to the point where it is beyond the upside of staying in the city. For me it isn't. My hourly income is significantly better in the city. I have considered doing contracts (which are more lucrative but not commutable due to legal issues). I could easily work 50% of the year and make as much (with current tax laws), but I get a lot done living on the property in off hours and I get to enjoy it too. If I were more remote, I would seriously consider it. Even if you had to hire someone or take on an apprentice (which I think is a really cool idea of Joel Salatin's) your higher income would justify it. If you can pay someone $10/hr while you work for $60/hr, you aren't stupid. I can do my current job for a long time, throwing around trees, not so much.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
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When you skim off the dross, it really boils down to one thing: How much risk are you willing to take?

I tend to side towards calculated risk, knowing as a rule; the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
 
Bryan Elliott
Posts: 42
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
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Artie,

I forgot to ask, Is it just you?  Do you have family involved?  That would probably factor into my decision.

I might have mislead you about the retirement and SS.  I actually quit the main job and sold out where we were and moved out to this place a couple years before the "mailbox money" started coming in.  Living expenses go down a lot when you aren't commuting to work, eating on the road more, and replacing worn out work clothes (I was a welder).  

From what I've seen, more people fail at retirement than any other venture.  A lot of people who have worked their whole life go back and work part time or odd job it after they quit their career.  It's possible you could live better on a percentage of your present income.

It's just a job, you can always get another!

My opinion and a dollar will buy you a cup of coffee twenty-one miles southeast of here.

 
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I'm a straddler, and plan to stay that way for at least 6-7 more years.  I have a family with young kids, so financial stability is important to me, and I also want to get more of the infrastructure stuff dealt with before I take an enormous pay cut.  In my case, my husband is home doing a lot of the work-work, like managing the gardens and chickens and planting/watering trees, so I also get the advantage of his labor.  I feel we can do quite a lot more with his time and my income than we could with just time alone.  Fruit trees and barns and wells and renovations are expensive.  

Before I quit working, I would want to have an ironclad plan for dealing with stuff where barter isn't an option, like property taxes and insurance.  We can drop our expenses quite a bit, but we will still need cash money for some things, and there is going to be inflation to deal with, I'm sure.  I would want some sort of reasonably reliable income, like a pension check or a bunch of fruit trees that were producing stuff to sell, in order to make sure that the cash stuff was covered.  

Family status will probably be a big consideration.  If you have a spouse who's not on board, it would change the calculation a lot.  Can you cut your hours some, and dip a toe in the reduced-income waters?
 
steward
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https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/  might be able to help.  He has strategies for saving and when to know you've saved enough that you can retire.
 
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I'd say save a lot first. If it can break, it will, as soon as you quit. So have a years worth of expenses saved at the very least.

When I quit my job years ago to stay home with our kids we had mold issues, 2 cars die and everything else you could imagine. Now my husband has quit while I went back to work and we have 2 dead cars again. It's like life is laughing at us.

So I encourage you to quit I just think you should have way  more saved than you think you'll need first because you WILL need it.
 
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