Sunday, 24 March 2013

Downshifting - Are you mad ??**!!

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Time to Think
GET.A.LIFE: "I hear THE.CONTENDER is considering getting out of the game. What is he doing? Lack of status, no new shiny toys. You would not see me doing that - frankly nuts!"
 

PUT.IT.IN.PERSPECTIVE: "Sounds interesting doesn't it? I have never really considered down shifting myself. I wonder what it would be like. Would I like it? Could I manage without my high salary? How could I possibly be financially independent from my job?"

GET.A.LIFE: "From what you have just said  my mind boggles. Just thinking about it gives me a headache. I have put so much into my career and lifestyle I would be mad to give it up."

Our Tribe is well into its down shifting plans. We have addressed a lot of challenges but still many remain. We constantly go through all of the pros and cons of our plans. What if something happens to our forecast income once we have resigned jobs and downshifted and end up with much less each month? What if we cannot find the right place to live? Why don't we wait a while and stay where we are without changing anything? How long for? It is so easy to fall into having negative thoughts about changing. We needed other opinions and points of view.

We have sought guidance by sharing, discussing and listening to our friends and families. We have listened to concerns and received encouragement.

We certainly don't have all the answers and never will (life would be so boring:). We don't know what THE.FUTURE holds for us but we welcome him it with open arms. Will we run into trouble at some point? Most likely. We have to accept these bumps in the road and move on, learning from the experiences that life throws at us.

We are aware out path is one of thousands of directions people can make. There is no right and wrong. Only THE.FUTURE ahead for all of us. Every day people make billions of little decisions around the planet which ones will affect us - we haven't go a clue.


To answer one challenge down shifting is not about running away from responsibilities. We are not rebels shunning the system. We see it as a way to develop our full potential.

We will have time to work on our personal development, help the kids flourish, participate in community activities. It would be nice to think, if we are seen as useful citizens, that we can offer some part of us to help a few people in THE.FUTURE.

With all that in mind here are some observations on the impacts of our down shifting decision. In particular a look at the implications on social interactions, living arrangements and a change in mindset:

Socially

Being surrounded by friends and colleagues who all work hard to make ends meet can be difficult when talking about downshifting. In our circles we have seen a lot of people where income is there to be spent as a pension plan is in place for THE.FUTURE. It is probably better to not discuss down shifting in some cases...

We are downshifting

The trappings of modern life can be easy to be taken for granted. All available income is spent on items such as a newspaper with a cafe latte and pain au chocolat in a nice comfortable (and usually expensive) café. Jumping in the car to do the food shopping instead of walking. The deserved luxury holiday half way around the world compared to a beach you can actually find much closer to home.

What about the down shifter? Do they spend all their money - no. Do they save and invest - most likely. Do they like showing off status - unlikely. So the contrast between the down shifter and the wage slave is quite wide. You are not seen partaking in all of the trappings of modern life. This throws up several social challenges.

What if you come out of the closet and state your intention to downshift. What would your work college think - "geez this guy has just sent his career down the swanny talking about downshifting". Not considering the fact that as you are down shifting the career can go down the swanny for all you care?  

You want to down shift, you are your own master, you are not beholden to your career. You are just approaching work from a different angle. We would like to continue to practice our professions but for only 2-3 days a week and only half the year at that! 

What about outside of work? "This family is different, they don't spend much money, they don't have many expensive activities, they aren't part of the club any more". Not to be disingenuous no one has actually said this to us. We have sensed some of these concerns though from some people when they have offered their opinions ("let me give you some unsollicitod advice"). Some "advice" explaining the pitfalls of our decision have been gratefully received and have helped challenge (or fortify) some of our thinking. A few positive individuals have been cheering us on which is appreciated.

We are planning to down shift but are not telling anyone...yet

From a work perspective are managers evaluating people in the following way: Is he ambitious? Does he deserve a pay rise? Does he fit in here? In THE.CONTENDERS opinion this is highly likely so the other route is not to even talk about your plans for the future in work. 

You are in work, don't talk about your personal life and keep everything professional!

Sometimes keeping quiet really is the best course of action. If you really want to talk about your plans perhaps an online forum is a better and anonymous place.

Materialism and Investing

Downshifting = frugal OR clever with their spending habits and investments?

THE FUTURE: "Investing - are you mad?. People always lose on stocks as the game is rigged stick to a nice safe cash account with six months expenses in it (no more, no less) and spend the rest of it.". If THE.CONTENDER had a pound for every time he heard "don't buy stocks you will loose money" perhaps he really would be rich. Why is this the case? 

KEEP.IT.SIMPLE: "Invest but only do it via a fund" who buy the way will probably charge a lot of money for their services. Your hard earned returns are being re-invested into marketing to tell you to buy more funds because they are so wonderful. But don't forget you may lose all of your money as it is an investment but they will still get paid regardless of our performance. What, What, What ?!!*** 

THE.PAST:  "The stock market has tanked by 40%!!! Everyone has been wiped out - is this the end of the world" is plastered all over the media. Not "Wow stocks are now way undervalued isn't this a wonderful time to invest for the long term?"

Is this why materialism has taken hold of society? Live for the now. Buy the sports car and the $200 hair cut. How can the down shifters fit into this paradigm? I will tell you how - they don't even try.

Living Arrangements

Downshifting can involve moving somewhere cheaper away from the big city lights (but a lot of people stay and downshift in the city as well). The impact of moving to a new place throws up lost of challenges from friends and family (below), culture, pace of life, education, access to public services. Moving can be one of the most traumatic and stressful experience in your life. If you down shift do you want to move homes or stay put?

Lower Income and Investment Security

Knowing that we will not have the income we are accustomed to is tough. But fortunately we have been living as if our income is considerably less. Downshifting thankfully will not be a cliff change. We will have to be very careful with our living arrangements though.

As finances will not be unlimited, we currently save at least 50% of our income. What if our house needs a new roof, a new boiler? We need to make sure our living arrangements "fit" our downshifted income.

We need to make sure we can still save a little each month. Our income streams need to increase at least in line with inflation and the capital base appreciates at the same time there are a few article covering some investment ideas on this  that can be found Get Real - Investing in REAL Assets.

With all of THE.FUTURE financial unknowns in mind it is important to be able to go back to work, keep skills up to date and have different income sources. This is one of the topics our tribe thinks about a lot.

Friends and Family

Now you have extra time on your hands you can spend more time with friends and family. We have not started a list of all the things we would like to do with friends and family as yet but will soon. We do not know if they have considered what they would like to do with us just yet either.

Will we be living close to friends and family? Will we easily make new friends? How will holidays be spent? What will we talk about? What if someone needs help? Are the kids happy and well cared for?

How will we keep in contact and how often will we see each other? On this point we have always found it important in being proactive in keeping in touch with our friends. Everyone is working so hard these days that time is a precious commodity we need to dedicate time to friendships or they will wither

Purpose / Work

It is all well and good downshifting but what about a good purposeful future? By this what about a reason to live - usually this is for work. Work provides a routine, a purpose and results. We may be striving to be financially independent but will probably need a "job".

Do we want to keep practicing our old job skills or try something different? Do we need a job to have enough income coming in to maintain the down shifted lifestyle or pay for a few luxuries.

Our tribe certainly will not be spending all day at home reading books and watering the flowers. We see financial independence as security to do lots of different things we want; such as this blog.

Everyone needs a purpose in life. Such as the retiree longs to be back at work and can fell bored being at home with not concrete goals to achieve the down shifter could be causing more damage than good to themselves if they cannot keep themselves busy! 

What would you do if you were free every day of the week? 

Downshift Mindset

Down the years THE.CONTENDER has been educated to critically evaluate situations such as books, people, decisions and so forth. This has resulted in THE.CONTENDER being a critical person down the years. Judgmental some might say. Was this part of THE.CONTENDER growing up perhaps developing some wisdom (if possible!)?

Perhaps society just wants most people to be good little consumers and encourage permanent adolescence. Satisfy every craving? THE.PRESENT: "Don't come up with any answers on your own, do as we say and you will be happy".

Perhaps this is a key reason why THE.CONTENDER did not move up the corporate ladder - staying as a professional and employee but never a manager. Perhaps THE.CONTENDER liked his individually too much. He did not give in to the do as you are told and no more and you will get on just nicely?

In the last five years THE.CONTENDER has learned to judging and criticize himself.  Understanding and listening is much more important that it was (as well as learning not to talk too much). Accepting peoples point of few and who they are is the new normal. THE.CONTENDER is sure Mrs C could easily rattle off a list of my faults though. 

Is this the attitude you need as a down shifter? Accept yourself and people for what they are. Will people then will accept you for what you are? Do not interfere or offer advice without being asked. Offer support and help that you can provide?

Is downshifting part of living a fruitful rich life? Does it give you the time to develop yourself and help others people achieve their goals? Is this a noble goal for a down shifter? Shunning excessive materialism really may be part of the answer to happiness. Have we got the right mindset to down shift or will be miss our current lifestyles too much? All good questions to ponder for:

THE.FUTURE: "There you go again you can dream all you like but I'm gonna get you. That life you are dreaming of will never materialize once I have pounded you into the ground. I'm THE.Future man, I'm gonna get you, You're gonna be my slave b****"

Is downshifting for us?

So what can we do to put THE.FUTURE on the canvas for a while? What if we announced our intention to down shift to our friends and family? What would the conversation go like?

What does down shifting mean to our family? Will we miss anything or anyone to much to dissuade us against the opportunity for a new start?

Peace and prosperity

THE.CONTENDER - complete downshifting novice

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Are you planning for financial independence and wondering what to do with it. If so is any of the content on this blog of use to you? I would appreciate any comments you have. All the best C