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Debt - The Shackles of Our Enslavement
A Reality Bytes Series by Zowe Smith
IF YOU COULD REDESIGN YOUR LIFE
In early 2020, I had just walked away from everything I knew. I was wondering what to do next. Here was a chance to redesign my life! Should I continue my career as a medical coder? If not coding, then what? Should I go back to collage to learn something else? Also what kind of house should I live in?
Most people simply aren’t willing to make drastic changes in order to escape debt. Few even go down the rabbit hole to question how their lives could change without debt constantly hanging over their heads. We’ve all just come to accept it as the way life is. If you want to partake in life’s most basic necessities its implied you will incur debt. The cost of goods is far too high for most people to live within their means. Making it seem as though there is no choice but to take on debt in order to fit in and live a normal life.
If everyone around you is constantly stressed out and exhausted they probably aren’t living a healthy lifestyle. It’s the age of depression and anxiety, didn’t you know? We sacrifice our health in order to meet the demands of paying mortgages, car payments, credit card payments, utility bills, cable, internet, and insurance. How did any of these things get to be more important than our health or spending time with loved ones? When we say we are too busy for others, we are telling others them they are not a priority. I won’t speak for anyone else but my loved ones and my health are my highest priorities.
THE HAMSTER WHEEL
If there was a loophole to finding a better balance in life, I had to find it. A lifestyle focused on quality rather than productivity. I decided I was done feeling like a rat running on a wheel with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. I set out to find a job and a home that would not require me to go into debt. The choice was pretty much made for me when I could no longer work in healthcare. Can’t finance anything without proof of income!
Did you know we work 40% of the year to pay taxes? You have few options if working 40% of the year for a non representative government you don’t agree with isn’t your jam. Try entrepreneurship, work trade, or private contract work. Most traditional jobs will outsource their payroll and take taxes out before you ever see a check. It’s not choice to pay taxes or decide how much to pay when it’s taken before you ever see it. These few solutions allow you to choose. It may be the single biggest source of potential savings!
After taxes we work most of our rest of our time just to keep a roof over our head. Whether we go to collage or do skilled work, it’s the same. We feel exhausted as if we are drowning all the time. We are too busy for our hobbies or spending time in nature. Things we used to take for granted as part of life are now things we have to carve out precious seconds for.
We do this to ourselves out of fear of consequences. If you don’t keep up on payments, your credit could be ruined, making it difficult to find housing down the road. The worst of this fear lies in becoming homeless. Society will shame you if you don’t work. If you don’t keep up payments people will begin to question your trustworthiness. End up homeless, and people will treat you as if you are worthless. If fitting in with your peers is a priority, you’ll have to strap yourself in for the hamster ride.
Where does that leave us? If you’re thinking the system is rigged and there is no way around debt, you are not alone. This is the hamster wheel of our lives.
COLLEGE OR NO COLLEGE, THAT IS THE QUESTION
One of the first things I did was start crunching numbers because money is often the limiting factor. No matter how I calculated it, I kept coming up with the same answer. If I went back to collage to learn literally anything from a traditional university, I would never be able to pay off the loan before retirement. There were outstanding loans for my first degree which was then useless due to mandates that were only recently lifted. Earlier in my career one of my staff informed me student loans can be garnered from your retirement income if you fail to pay before retiring. You can’t wipe them out with bankruptcy either. The cost to benefit ratio doesn’t add up in my favor for college. The option of staying at my job had essentially been taken off the table. A new career was the only option left to earn an income.
The question to figuring out a new career became, how bad to did I want the lifestyle that comes with a job that requires a collage education? Sure they tend to earn more and have fancier titles. When you get right down to it, most people live in incremental amounts of debt to their income. Leaving most of us, who think we have decent paying jobs, actually living on more or less the same amount of pocket money. Educated folk end up paying far more in interest, collage tuition, and various forms of credit debt over their lifetimes than skilled trades. The illusion comes with credit. Higher earners get different credit deals than lower earners. Making it appear they lead luxurious lifestyles with expensive cars and huge mansions. Really, they are in just as much debt as everyone else.
Leading me to conclude college doesn’t pay and my focus should be on what kind of skills, products, or services I can offer to others if I seek to create a new income stream.
YOUR MONEY IS NOT YOURS
I realized my money was being held hostage when I tried to cash out my retirement to seed fund my new lifestyle. My employer wouldn’t let me take out my own money or choose how it was invested. There were penalties and interest rates for paying them back my money if I chose to use it early! How could that be, I had worked for it! It had to do with contracts my employers signed with their investment firm. Not only was my money being held hostage but they actually had the right to invest it however they saw fit. I tried to call my advisor and told them to remove big oil, big tech, and big pharma investments from my portfolio and they couldn’t do it. My only choice was to stop putting money in.
SAVING ON HOUSING
Cutting back on housing costs might be a way to reduce debt since it is the largest source for most people (next to taxes). It’s easier said than done. Most people don’t intend to stay in their home for the 30 year term. Interest rates and property taxes can change so fast homeowners can’t keep up even if they wanted to. They sell the home or risk foreclosure if they can’t pay. Almost nobody has the ability to buy a home for cash anymore, so forget about the idea of paying off the loan early to get your debt down. You might squeeze out a little more pocket change if you buy a house for less than your means. Usually there is hidden costs in repairs, so it’s not that great of a deal in the long run.
Renting doesn’t fare much better. Rent prices can change just as fast as the cost of homes. If you lose your job or the cost of rent changes, you are still required to pay or face the consequences. At least with home “ownership” there is the facade of paying it off one day and earning some equity. Rent money is just money down the hole every month.
DO IT YOURSELF
Maybe, I could downsize to a smaller house or live outside a city? Would that save me enough money to be free from debt within my lifetime?
Alternative living requires alternative means of income. You’ll have to consider if you can work from a trailer park or boon-docking on some else’s land. Can you work a traditional job remotely or make your products within your tiny house? Solving these things is essential if your new lifestyle is to be sustainable. Traditional jobs aren’t realistic when you live too far outside a city. Everyone needs farm products and food. Learning a skill of producing those things is simple and would bring in funds.
Any online search will show you prices for land are just as much as any home. No savings there. What about undeveloped land, prices for that appear to be lower than any kind of developed property. Does that save you anything? It takes a lot of research to begin to understand the answer to that question is no. Purchasing raw land ends up costing just as much as a developed property when you factor in the cost of building permits and installation fees. It’s required to connect power, water, and sewer connections (or well and septic) and the costs add up fast. Then you run into zoning requirements, building codes, land use restrictions, which increase cost and dictate how it needs to be done. Turns out it’s illegal to just build your own home the way you see fit. Building one legally won’t save you any money and will still land you in massive debt.
The only way to avoid all this non sense is to do it yourself and make up your own rules. There are many other alternatives to consider. Van life, tiny house life, and natural building to name a few. If you aren’t careful these options can cost you the same amount as a regular home when all your costs are added up. Try buying an RV and a tow vehicle and you will come close to low end home costs. If land is beyond your budget after those purchases you will most likely have to pay rent at a trailer park and must abide by their rules. The costs are similar for tiny house dwellers. Natural buildings are said to cost between $10,000-20,000 in cost of materials but add in labor and other supplies and you are looking at more like $100,000. In addition to the cost of land. Few have that kind of cash on hand at any point in their lives. Going into debt to purchase some part of that is almost inevitable. If you built something entirely yourself you might save money but you will invest a considerable amount of time.
There is no easy path to getting out of debt. Not taking it on in the first place is the best strategy. For most of us it’s a bit late for that. If you’re on that boat there is hope. There is no universal bug out plan. It’s something you will have to plan for and work to manifest. Wouldn’t it be worth it to be able to own your own time, wealth and health again? I think so. That’s why I’ve already taken drastic steps to pay off my debt and change my life. I’ve already experienced more freedom than I thought possible since taking the plunge. The light keeps getting brighter at the end of the tunnel with each step I take.
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GOOD LUCK FREEDOM FIGHTERS!
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