There was a time when:
- You worked hard
- You were loyal to your employer
- Your employer was loyal to you
- You had good medical health insurance
- You had a decent pension
- You didn’t have to change health insurance plans annually
- You didn’t have to keep worrying if your investment portfolio was the right one
- Paperwork was less onerous and customer service was more pleasant
Now it seems like, the “hurrier I go, the behinder I get”.
What are the options for a guy like me playing in the last quarter of this game of life?
What are the options for young adults starting out on their career journey?
Option 1: Military Service
You get food, clothing, shelter, health care and training (depending upon what you sign up for)
No worries, right? Not quite.
If you’re a female, there’s a strong likelihood that you will be sexually harassed and worse yet raped. It’s ironic that an institution that’s so disciplined and order driven, can’t seem to eradicate this plague. Might it be a “top down” problem. What’s that saying “the fish rots from the head”.
For some, the discipline and structure of the military is just what they need. For others, it breaks them, making them damaged goods in society where they self-destruct. Worse yet, they destroy others in acts of domestic violence, shootings and a life of mayhem often accompanied by addictions.
Lastly, the military is not like selecting from a menu at a restaurant. You don’t get to chose what war you are joining.
Option 2: Live off the grid
If you are a Bear Grylls or MacGyver type of person, this option is plausible.
For the rest of us, maybe you should practice living in a tent in the back yard for four seasons to test out this option.
By the way, if you subscribe to the virtues of survivalism in these increasingly difficult times, you may want to dip your toes in this water to acquaint yourself with the rigors of this lifestyle before it’s foisted on you suddenly.
Option 3: Keep your 9-5 job but augment it with passive income
Options could include rental property, cash for services rendered, skills or hobbies shared, stock investments, tutoring, fixing, cooking and everything from bartendering to bartering.
I especially like this option for young persons starting out. If they could sock away $400/month over 20 years while re-investing it, now that’s progress toward independence
As for me, this advice falls into the “wish I knew then what I know now” category. I have been working 2nd and 3rd jobs for the past 20+ years. I fantasize about how I could have built up quite a nice nest egg. Where did it all go?
- I’m not an alcoholic, addict or gambler. I don’t even by lottery tickets (maybe I should).
- I don’t smoke
- I don’t go on shopping sprees or run up credit card debt. The only time I go to the mall is to work at one of my part-time jobs as a mall cop.
The answer is…..I pursued the American Dream (aka, nightmare). Home ownership, car purchases to get to/from jobs and putting kids thru college
How would I do it differently? I truly do not know. I have a nagging sense that there must be a better way. I have discovered the joy of writing and have written a novel that incorporates this Plan B philosophy so it’s never too late to try this option.
Option 4: Communal living and pooling of resources
This might be the way to go if you are starting out in life and are trying to avoid the shackles of ownership (car, house, debt). It you’re a die-hard capitalist and rugged individualist, this may not be your cup of tea. If you travel down this socialist path (dare I use that term for fear of alienating some readers), just make sure some guardrails are in place concerning the allocation of assets and energies while this experiment is underway. Also, make sure there is a process for dissolution when and if this noble experiment runs it’s course. As noted above, some of this communalism is included in my novel.
Option 5: Join religious order
Becoming a priest or monk obviously applies to those so motivated. Steer clear of any cult groups or any memberships that just don’t feel right or tumble into the fanatical direction.
Option 6: What if a National Service Organization (NSO) could be modeled after the Peace Corps (international) and Ameri-Corps (domestically)?
What if there was some variation of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) type of initiative that was launched in response to the Great Depression of 1929? The function and format could be like the CCC with the planting of trees to preserve the environment and counter global warming. This could include the creation of community gardens in urban areas and “liberty gardens” in Americas back yards to create a healthy, affordable food supply while encouraging self-sufficiency and sustainability.
If planting trees and horticulture is not your thing, how about training, tutoring and mentoring of America’s youth particularly in the STEM fields. This would instill pride and purpose among youth while closing the achievement gap and bolstering America’s research & development capabilities.
A person like myself wants to live out the balance of my life with the following: food, clothing and shelter. Nothing fancy. Just the very basics. Medical care to patch me up when I get sick and hospice/palliative care to gently bring my life journey to a comfortable end. Let me and my fellow baby boomers to be of service to this great country for as many productive years that I have left in me. Without the opportunity for this option, I and millions of boomers will live out the rest of our lives working as serfs toiling under crushing debt in a constant state of anxiety. Sounds like a chapter from Dante’s Inferno!
As for the up-and-coming generation, some of them might opt for this minimalist lifestyle of community service if given the guarantee that basic needs would be met. They could still be entrepreneurial. In fact, they might be more likely to express an entrepreneurial spirit since they didn’t have to worry every waking minute about how to pay for mortgages, student loans and health insurance.
There might be a side benefit to establishing a grass-roots opportunity for national service on the domestic and international stage. Participants would have an opportunity to appreciate the circumstance of others. This might engender greater empathy, goodwill and understanding for everyone in the equation. Who knows? We might even become a less polarized society since there might be a greater appreciation of each other’s circumstances. The level of anxiety, isolation and polarization might notch downward.
As a very practical matter, this scenario might bring clarity to trends, situations and solutions both here and abroad. For example, in a foreign land, who knows best which way the winds of change blow? The diplomat and ambassador safely ensconced in the fortified embassy or the relief worker engaged directly with the people? In the school system, who best knows student sentiments, the principal in the office or the teacher in the classroom or the coach in the gym. The cop on the beat has his ear to the street while the chief of police conducts a press conference.
These outside-of-the-box proposals are incorporated in the chapters of my blogs within the series entitled Manifesto of Big Ideas. They are also baked into my upcoming novel entitled Mall Child so stay tuned for more ideas and as always I appreciate any feedback.