Is College the Only Path?

Why does society push us towards pursuing college?

Is college really the only path to freedom out there?

Society pushes college as the answer to everything. Yes, I went to college and got an engineering degree. After college, I got this big fancy engineering job with an international manufacturing company before moving to China on the expat package with the same company.

As an engineer, the skills I use most from day-to-day are those skills learned in the first year of engineering courses if not in high school. Were all 4 years really necessary to get to where I am today.

A degree is really nothing, but proof to employers that you can commit to something for four years. ~Anonymous

Mrs. Atypical came across this quote yesterday, and I immediately loved it!

It seems most employers don’t really care about what you learned in college. They are just looking for a check mark on your resume to say, yes, you went to college. The job requirement says BS degree in something. You are qualified!

Since I learned all of the essentials to my degree in one class, the introductory class, did I really need 4 years? I could have started working 4 years earlier (I went to college for 5 years because of a co-op job for one year), had way less student loan debt and already been retired at 28. Because society and employers value that piece of paper so much, I had to remain in school for the 4 years of classes, not to learn about engineering, but to demonstrate my persistence.

So after 4 years or more at an influential college, you now have a pretty piece of paper that you can show prospective employers. That pretty piece of paper proves nothing other than your ability to persist through 4 years of classes. It is the same paper regardless of your grades and regardless of your knowledge.

diploma

Hiring Young

Employers are scared to hire someone young. I hear the young bias on almost a daily basis. We are bringing in a 3rd party contractor to evaluate some equipment at work. He is my age, 28. My co-workers are scared. Since he isn’t 40+, he must be an inexperienced idiot. Being young must mean that you don’t know anything! I was ecstatic that our hired help is young because he has less of a chance of bias from too much experience.

Employers are scared to hire someone out of high school because there is no proof that they can stick with something. Just finishing high school is not proof because it is nearly required these days. By spending 4 years grinding your gears away, paying a college so that you can study and work for them, “proves” that you have what it takes to make it in the real world.

When we take a job in the real world, we are making the 2nd biggest commitment of our lives. Second only to marriage. As the employee, we know that we are going to help out our employer the best that we can, but employers don’t seem to believe it without proof from that piece of paper called a diploma. It shows that we can persist, and perhaps, that we have matured from our naive high school days.

What else is out there?

Despite society’s leaning towards college, there are other options out there for moving though life without a college degree. Sure a college degree, in an employable field, makes it easy to get a “good” job and make the big bucks, but it is not the end all.

Remember,

In the pursuit of freedom, less is more.

In this spirit, how can we get by without college?

The trades offer an excellent bypass of college and also a ticket to freedom. Going into the trades takes less time from your life to get certified and the pay is excellent. It also is applicable to almost anywhere you want to go because everyone needs an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, etc. Learning to work with your hands and build practical things is a surefire way to bypass college and start pursuing your freedom earlier.

Starting your own business is another way to bypass the HR requirement of needing college. For those of us that are pursuing freedom, there is no better way than self-employment. It allows us to set our own schedule and live our own life instead of being beholden to our employer. There are a near infinite set of possibilities for self-employment that I will not list here. Suffice it to say, if you have the passion and the patience, self-employment can be the answer to bypassing college.

Can we change corporate requirements for college?

At this point in 2017, probably not. College has been driven home for too long and promoted too well, to be able to convince corporations that we are qualified despite no college degree.

Even though the probability is low, we should still do our part to convince corporations that college is not necessary to prove our worth. We go to college for 4 years, yet our future employers still require nearly 6 months of training and possibly 2 years of working experience before they find you beneficial to the company. If it takes 2 years of training after you just completed 4 years of training (college), why do we need the initial 4 years? Bringing this kind of solid argument to the table can help to influence change.

The transition to more reasonable requirements at work and better work-life balance has already started. The millennial generation has been hard at work getting flex-time schedules, more flexible vacation, remote working, and many other amenities. If we keep pushing our employers to focus on our potential and not on our qualifications, then we will be able to move towards a society where capability is king, not education.

Conclusion

College will always have its place in society, especially for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. However, we should not believe that it is the only path in life after high school. There are other ways to progress towards freedom.

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Capitalism is Killing Us

He who dies with the most toys, wins. ~Pops

I couldn’t help but love this quote and write about it when I heard my wonderful dad utter the words. To die with the most toys seems to be the pinnacle of capitalism. We should acquire more and more toys all through life until we have so many we do not know what to do with all of them.

As we grow up, our parents by us toys. They see us enjoying ourselves with these toys, but many times they see us enjoying the box more than the toy itself. Oh well. The answer to that is to buy us better toys!

After we have grown to an age where we no longer need kids toys, the products evolve to adult “toys”. I am not talking about sexual risque toys, but the gadgets and gizmos that we all seem so obsessed over these days. In the millennial age, we have grown to expect information to always be available and for us to always be connected to the world. In order for this to be possible we need a huge list of toys:

  • smart phone for me
  • smart phone for wife
  • tablet
  • 2nd tablet
  • laptop computer
  • 2nd laptop computer
  • Desktop computer for hard computer processing tasks
  • camera 1
  • camera 2
  • etc…

electronics

At this point, the best thing to do is to buy a storage unit to keep our older toys in and continue down the path of buying more toys.

Where else are we supposed to keep all of these things?

I suppose we could always buy a larger house to accommodate all of the toys. Now, since we have a larger house, we can buy more toys to fill it up. It is unacceptable to have a space look empty. We definitely need to buy something to fill the space.

As you can see, there is a never ending stream of toys that need buying to be accepted in society today. To be seen as influential and successful, you must have all of these things. These things are what truly define us. It’s how society can know that we are successful. And everyone wants to be successful, right?

Capitalism is Killing Us

Actually, capitalism and the acquisition of toys is slowly killing us. It has a stranglehold on our lives and is slowly taking away any hope of freedom, instead delivering us to the man. In a world of constant connectivity, we are bombarded with more and more capitalism every day. This drives the world to believe we need more possessions.

We cannot let our possessions define who we are. We, ourselves, are the only ones capable of truly defining who we are.

If we succumb to the powers of capitalism and buy more and more goods, then we will be overcome by them and they will own us instead of the other way around.

I am unsure as to whether my dad was serious or not when he spoke these words. “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” However, I know from experience that he a frugal man. He also taught me everything I know about the DIY philosophy and working with your hands. If we are able to fix something or make something ourselves, why should we pay someone else for it?

I grew up in a frugal household where we did not buy too many possessions. The ones we did buy had meaning. My parents also gave me an allowance in which to learn my own spending and saving habits. The freedom of having my own money allowed me to succumb to the powers of capitalism and buy a stereo that I didn’t need and other miscellaneous things. I eventually learned to only spend on the things that matter most.

Certainly, we all have to make the decision of what level of possessions is enough for our tastes and attitudes. To do this without the intervention of advertising is extremely difficult. We have to sit back and reflect on ourselves and what we want most in life to truly answer this.

Just ask yourself this question:

Will this (insert purchase here) bring me closer to my desired life?

Wait and ponder about this purchase for a month or 2 and then, after that time, if you still decide that you truly want it, you might just need it. Having time to ponder the wisdom of a purchase allows us to back away from the marketing and advertising hype and answer for ourselves whether we want something or not.

Freeing Yourself from Capitalism

Too many times we fall to the whims of marketers that tell us what we want and need. We are letting someone else decide what is best for us.

Is this freedom?

I think not. Freedom is deciding things for yourself. If you want to have someone else decide for you, then that is also your decision and you are free to do that. However, when marketing is forced upon you, it is hard to avoid and freedom of thought is lost.

Capitalism has been shoved down our throats and is plastered in our faces all of the time now. Anytime we consume TV or the internet, we are thrust face first into the capitalistic tendency to always want more. We have to do ourselves a favor and take a step back to free ourselves. It is okay to view the advertisements, but we cannot let them decide for us what is best for ourselves.

Freeing Yourself from Possessions

The second part of freeing yourself from capitalism is freeing yourself from possessions. Very few of us were born into a family that truly embraces less. Most of us grow up having expectations surrounding ourselves of what we are supposed to do and accomplish in life. We are expected to be successful and to be a contributing member of society. In doing so, we are expected to have a house full of things and have all of our own belongings so that we can be “free.”

Do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with buying things and, as you can see from my 2017 Goals, you know that I have a problem with buying way too many things.

In order to free ourselves from our possessions we must start to let go of sentimental value they hold. Look at them as just things and decide whether you need them or not.

Growing up, I was taught to be frugal and to not buy what we can make. However, the lesson that was missed was about getting rid of things. In our household, growing up we only bought the things we needed for the activities that we were pursuing, however, we never got rid of the things we no longer used. This created quite a collection of things, my favorite of the bunch, a 30 year old 8 foot wing to a RC model airplane. It has sat in storage in my parent’s house my entire life never to be used again, but it certainly was cool…

We have started getting rid of many things in our house trying to pare down on the amount of stuff we have.

In the pursuit of freedom, less is more.

 

The less you have, the more freedom you have to move around and decide for yourself what in life truly matters. We have decided here at Atypical Life that we would like to be location independent, and having less is key to accomplishing this goal. One only has to look to the Buddhist monks for guidance. In their classical rules, they are only allowed these 8 possessions:

  1. an inner robe
  2. an outer robe
  3. an additional robe to protect from the elements when necessary
  4. a bowl
  5. a water-strainer
  6. a razor to shave his head
  7. a needle and thread
  8. any necessary approved medicine

buddhist monk

The Buddhist monks are models of minimalism. I don’t expect myself or many others to follow such strict rules on minimalism, however, we can take as an example all that is required to live on. There are no excesses in the Buddhist approved list.

In Conclusion

Capitalism is slowly killing us. It restricts our freedom of choice, while convincing us that we still have a choice. In order to combat this, we have to make freedom a priority for ourselves. We need to relinquish the stranglehold that our possessions have on us. We cannot let others decide for us what we want. We have to decide for ourselves what is important. By deciding what is important to us, we have taken the first step towards freedom.

We cannot let our freedom come second!

How is your pursuit of freedom coming? Let us know in the comments.

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capitalism is killing us

Minimalism: Living with Less

Minimalism is the act of living with less and the pursuit of living with the least amount reasonable in each situation. While away on vacation in Indonesia, I got a chance to relax and reflect on where I am in life and where I want to be. I read a wonderful book by Ben Night titled “Adopting the Minimalist Mindset”. Here at Atypical Life, we follow almost all of the suggestions in the book when it comes to managing money and frugality, however, we have also been overcome by possessions.

If you have read my 2017 goals for the year, then you will remember that I used to spend $600 per month on things or shopping. This budget over the past 4.5 years has ballooned our possessions to the point that we have lots of things and many that are just sitting around.

Minimalism is all about spending your time with the most valuable people and objects in your life. ~Ben Night

Ben pointed out what we already know. Pursuing the atypical life of freedom, we know that the time for experiences and the time for family and friends far outweighs the benefits of many possessions.

Because of our many possessions, I get to spend much of my time each week on maintenance and upkeep of all of these possessions. The main takeaway from Ben’s book for us was the below point:

Find something in your house each day and trash it, donate it, or give it away.

His book detailed lots of ways to declutter your house and had sections on each area of the house and how to declutter your life. I was struck by the above quote because, in general, instead of throwing things out or getting rid of things when we no longer use them, we stick them in the drawer or in the back of the closet in the distant chance that we may one day use them… You never know, right?

This hoarding habit has created a stockpile of stuff in our apartment here in China. Luckily, we had the chance when we moved here to donate a huge load of possessions to Goodwill. Not everyone gets this chance. Moving is a great opportunity to remove unneeded things. We were able to remove old kitchen appliances, sofas, beds, tables, kitchen cookware, clothes and many other things in the move.

Somehow we still ended up with junk boxed up by the movers and delivered halfway around the world to China!

If you have possessions that have been in the box for 3 months and you haven’t needed or used them, do you really need to keep them or should you just trash them?

I say make the atypical choice and get rid of them. The choice is up to you which method to use to liberate yourself from possessions.

  • Donate it
  • Trash it
  • Give it away

I have started going through our belongings each weekend and enjoying the process of getting rid of things. My first foray this year into freedom of possessions was to go through my clothing. I was able to donate nearly 30 lbs of clothing and free up space in my dresser and closet. I had been holding on to clothes that I didn’t like, weren’t comfortable, or didn’t fit, just because I paid for them. Maybe I thought I could wear them later and they would magically be better?

I have been cycling for nearly 15 years and acquiring clothing for nearly that long as well. I still have some clothing from my early days of riding, but it rarely if ever gets used anymore. It feels liberating to remove this old stuff and get rid of it. The goal for me now is to remove items and not to replace them.

This past weekend I spent some time going through our junk drawers. We all have these. It’s where we throw all of our small trinkets and whatchamacallits. We have 2 gigantic 4 drawer office filing cabinets full of files and junk. I went through most of these and was able to get rid of more old things that will never be used again. It truly is amazing how much stuff you accumulate over time.

Why do we keep all of this junk?

Its hard to understand the psychology behind hoarding, even in small doses. All of us have some small emotional attachment to our possessions. This small attachment makes us feel that we cannot possibly throw whatever it is out.

Maybe the attachment is rooted in the fact that we paid for it.

“Aunt Rosie” bought it for us, and even though we don’t like it, we can’t possibly get rid of it. She might notice!

I don’t use it now, but maybe, just maybe, in the future, I can find some use for it.

I was raised going to Boy Scouts. I love all of the experiences that Boy Scouts gave to me and the morals it instilled. The Boy Scout motto is:

Be Prepared.

The Boy Scout motto definitely influenced me. I try to always be prepared for anything that can happen, or any activity I want to participate in. I do my research and acquire the gear needed, even if it could be rented. The outrageous prices that vendors charge for renting gear, steers me to buying and bringing my own. Personal gear can be just the right size and suited just for you. Because of the my desire to be prepared, I have certainly accumulated quite the collection of outdoors gear. It also stops me from getting rid of it because I feel I may one day need it again even if I have already upgraded to better.

In Conclusion

I have started to free myself from my belongings. The atypical life of freedom not only applies to freedom of the man at work and financial freedom, but freedom from belongings. It is okay to maintain belongings and be prepared for whatever may come your way, but there is a time when it is time to let go.

I have just started this process. Ben Night suggested to get rid of one thing each day, and after a year or 2, you will be down to a reasonable amount of things. This journey is just beginning for me, but I already feel better knowing that I am releasing the stranglehold my belongings have over me.

Join me on our pursuit of freedom. Can you get rid of something everyday? Once per week? Let me know in the comments.

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minimalism, living life with less, less is more

Pain is Temporary, Quitting Lasts Forever

I have raced road bikes for about 10 years now. One of the quotes that was tossed around a lot within the cycling world is as follows:

Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever ~Lance Armstrong

In cycling and racing in particular this quote is used to say never give up, never give in. You always have a little bit more to give. To look back after a hard race and see that you lost because of not making the move at the correct time is demoralizing. As everyone says, hindsight is 20/20. You look at the opportunity lost and feel that you had more to give at the time, even though the pain seemed unbearable.

From Cycling to Work Perspective

Let’s look at this from an atypical perspective. We will apply my personal favorite cycling quote to work life. From cycling, we see the pain component of the quote as a neutral or positive, while the “quitting lasts forever” component as definitely negative. I am proud to never quit races. However, when looked at from a point of view of the atypical life of freedom, then “pain is temporary” is the negative working life, while “quitting lasts forever” is early retirement bliss.

The main takeaway from Lance’s quote is never quit. Does resigning from your day job to pursue a life of freedom constitute quitting?

I would argue no. Resigning from work is the start of a new beginning. We are not quitting, we are moving on to a new part of life where we can make the choices that make us happiest without our employer looking over our shoulder and questioning every move we make.

However, Lance says “quitting lasts forever”. The FIRE community longs for the forever of early retirement. Our retirement will be 2-5x longer than the typical American, and will be filled with many more wonderful memories. From exploring the world to actually getting to raise our children, the freedom that “quitting lasts forever” allows us to experience it all. While we are a slave to working life, we are not able to experience the prime time hours, those wonderful sunny hours in the middle of the day, because we are stuck in the office grinding away on some project. For those of us on the journey to financial freedom, we get to know that the “pain is temporary” and can view freedom on the horizon.

Opportunities Lost?

If we apply the same logic as cycling to the work life application of this quote, will we look back at working once retired and wonder about opportunities lost? Every decision we make can be second-guessed. Did we make the “right” decision? If I stay another year and I can save another $100,000 and we could be better set for financial freedom, do I stay or do I go?

Looking back on every decision there are always opportunities lost, but we need to believe that the opportunities pursued are the right ones. When we leave working life, we trade money for time. We trade the income of a steady working job for the 40+ hours per week we were spending at the office, not to mention innumerable hours commuting. When we choose one path, there are always others that go un-chosen, but we cannot dwell on them.

When we quit the working life, which is only one opportunity, work, we open ourselves to the freedom of choice to so many more opportunities. Yes, there is the work opportunity lost, but it is still there if we choose to go back. Work will always be there and we can return if the will or the need so desires. However, when we gain 40+ hours per week of free choice, we can choose from a near infinite set of possibilities. Whatever we dream of can be made true.

Today in My Journey

This quote rings true for me nowadays. Today working is pain and quitting, which is the end goal, shall last forever. It is yet to be decided when the quitting date will be, but I can already see it on the horizon as our net worth increases and side income increases. One day, in the not too distant future, I will be able to join the rest of the FIRE community where:

The pain was temporary and freedom lasts forever! ~Mr. Atypical

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pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever, quote, Lance Armstrong

Company Loyalty and Financial Independence

Quote of the Week:

You can never, ever forget — people may be loyal to companies but companies are loyal only to the bottom line.

This quote is from a response on Quora to a question posed about the cutthroat company culture of Cisco Systems. The response is by Jay and is linked here.

Loyalty means a strong feeling of support or allegiance to an organization, cause, government, etc. Loyalty is a mutual matter and should be reciprocated. When a person is loyal to another entity, be it another person or organization, it is generally accepted that the recipient of the loyalty will show loyalty back. This is how most bonds of trust are born and why society in the world works. Most people will show loyalty to their respective governments and show nationalistic pride because they feel that the loyalty will be reciprocated. The government has their best interests in mind and works to provide value to the loyal citizens for their taxes. This may not always be true, as can be seen from the news with the uproar that happens after any new decision for or against change. There will always be an unhappy party, but by and large, the majority will be content with the knowledge that the government is working in their best interests and is being loyal to the citizens its governs.

Now, a public company on the other hand, is beholden to the shareholders. I have worked only for publicly traded companies, so can only speak to them. Every move a company makes is towards the benefit of the shareholders. We, the employees, work for them tirelessly, or tiredly, and put in lots of prime time hours for the benefit of the company. The company, in return, pays us a salary and some number of benefits. However, as time progresses, this benefit package seems to get chipped away at, so the company can make larger and larger profits. The “bottom line” is the end goal of the company. Make the largest profit possible without losing too many of their valuable employees. When a company becomes publicly traded, their loyalty moves from inside to outside. Their loyalty now lies primarily to the shareholders and the shareholders show their loyalty back to the company in the form of buying and owning stock in the company. In a private company, the company can be more loyal to their employees, as their employees are the ones that generate the revenue and drive the profits for the company to be successful, but once a company becomes publicly traded, loyalties change.

So why do we have employees that are loyal to publicly traded companies? The company is not in return loyal to us. I believe the answer lies in bygone times. In the past, many companies showed loyalty to their employees even as a publicly traded company. Companies offered and supplied a very good pension and a secure retirement future to retain valuable employees. My company had one, however, as the division I worked for was spun off and became publicly traded themselves, that was the first thing to get cut. When a company showed loyalty to the employees through their actions, offering secure retirement pensions, affordable health care, competitive salaries, the employees in return showed their loyalty to the company. Companies no longer care for the longevity of the employees, only to maximize the employees value to the company for as long as possible before they lose them to burnout or to the competition.

Since we are on the path to financial independence, we have no loyalty to the company. Our loyalty lies to ourselves and our pursuit of freedom from the working life. We strive for the atypical life that allows us to live free of worries from money and be able to decide for ourselves where our loyalties lie. Many employees are loyal to the company because they are not confident in their ability to support themselves without the “guaranteed” pay of a steady salary. Leading the atypical life gives you the ability to not worry so much if the job were to end, as your savings rate is so high, you know everything will be okay while you look for a new job until reaching the pinnacle of atypical life, financial independence.

Striving for financial independence is all about your savings rate. The higher your savings rate the sooner freedom arrives. This is the same idea that drives companies to look only at the bottom line. They are also trying to maximize their savings rate (profit/bottom line), which seemingly makes the FIRE community and companies similar. Our striving towards higher savings rate does not affect the company, besides fringe benefits like allowing lower medical costs, since we are also a healthy community. However, the company striving for the bottom line affects us, because easy savings come from cutting benefits.

Think back to your working career if you are already free, or on your current working career if you are still a slave to the man, and see if you can think of when the company announced: we are now lowering your health insurance premium, we are raising your retirement benefits, we are giving everybody an extra week of vacation, etc. I can’t think of a single time in my short career this has happened. I still hold out hope that one day, all of the companies promises to be about the employees comes true, but I am prepared to pursue my freedom as is. Freedom is paramount and that is what we all should seek!

Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.

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company loyalty vs financial independence