I am 69. Sal is a few years younger. We both acknowledge we are well into ‘middle-age’ and I may be creeping up on ‘old’. Maybe. The government already thinks so, anyway. We both get old age pensions. We both get discounts on the ferry. If we remember, (which we never do) we are eligible for other ‘senior’ discounts at stores and services as well. Somewhere, I am sure. I just never remember to ask.
Overall, I would say that, with decreased consuming, increased discounts and ‘free money’ in the way of old age pensions, we are doing fine financially. We are still at or below the official urban (2015) poverty line of approximately $22,000 per person ($19,000 if you live rurally), but we have never had it so good. $40,000+ per couple per annum is a good life off the grid.
The key, of course, is no debt. We owe nothing except the monthly outstanding Visa bill and that gets paid off every month so ‘interest’ at usurious mobster rates is not a factor. And the key to no debt is no mortgage, rent or the parasitical ‘umbilicals’ of cable, hydro, strata fees and the like. And mortgages and rent are prohibitively expensive in the city. Everything is. But that is not so in small towns and even less so in cottage country (during the off-season, anyway). Go off the grid altogether and the extortions become minimal to non-existent.
And that’s the point of this blog. As of this writing the BC minimum wage is $10.85, soon to reach $11.25. That hourly wage equates to about $20K a year. If earned in a small town, it is pleasantly liveable. If earned off the grid, it is more than enough.
Of course, off the grid work is seasonal at best but, then again, the work is not always at minimum wage and, if one was to work at least 600-700 hours during say, the tourist season (3 or 4 months), then wages plus ‘pogey’ is enough to live much better than a full time job in the city at similar or better wages.
The second book we are still wrestling with makes this point as well. Why the hell would anyone live in the city and go into debt while renting a rat-hole and hating their job when a ‘regular’ and more pleasant job in a small town results in a much more pleasant and healthy existence?
I understand why I did it….I didn’t know any better. I had an urban-centric bias. But, now that the city is totally unaffordable for young people, immigrants, single mothers, the ill-educated and elderly, why is there not a constant exodus to small towns? And consider this: Sal and I did OK by city standards. We bought a house. We walked away with some ‘equity’. But, really…? What did we do with that equity? We just bought outright our own OTG home. We still needed to supply the labour. We did not sell Trump tower. We sold a cul-de-sac house. We came away with just enough to build our own modest house.
That could have been achieved in half the time had we started in say, Campbell River or Comox. The point: you come away with more money after a life in the city but it only serves to buy what you would have already had if you had started out in a small town.
So, why are small towns not blooming? Why is the city growing? Why are there NOT more people moving OTG? Part of the answer, of course, is that OTG is physically harder. I get that – especially if you are older. But small towns aren’t any more physically challenging. Small towns have it all and you can commute in five minutes, park for free and still be a five minute walk from nature.
Seriously? Except for a larger gene pool when you are younger, what does the city really have to offer?
Glad to have you back. I like small circumscribed places. And I do get the attraction of OTG living having lived off the grid at the age of eight. The pluses were many from an eight year.olds point of view. I’ll list them: no schooling for grade three, running wild winter and summer, exploring abandoned cabins, old brigade trails, the wild river, six feet of snow and more but each day was about the same but with little variation. The down side was no radio or anyother media of any type, few books, no friends. While we were not bored most of the time regardless of the opportunities at times the hours some days passed slowly. As a child OTG had challenges. I know very few people with the capacity or the persistence or resourcefulness to go off the grid. It would be too challenging for most so they live locally in their circumscribed worlds which is the source of their happiness. Many want no drama lives and nothing momentous. You have the pioneer DNA most do not.
Oh, there’s nothing special about my DNA….I just did not know it was so good. But consider this: time goes slowly for all kids and slowly speeds up for adults until it is whizzing by in your 60’s. My guess: The time from 85 on starts to slow again. But, right now, I do not have enough time in my day.
Now we have books-by-mail. Amazon, Kindle, Netflix and we could even afford a better radio if we cared enough. The internet is here. That does the job. As for friends, we are lucky. Got lots. Plus local people are everywhere and they are 90% fun and interesting.
Seriously, the city has nothing for us and I feel much richer and more satisfied out here. I am having a bit of trouble why more people don’t see it the way I do. I admit that you have to be here for awhile to ‘get it’. And that takes a leap of faith in itself. So, I am ‘figuring’ that it is that leap of faith that holds so many back…..? Too bad. Spend three months in a summer cabin or funky little house in a coastal small town and the leap will become a short one.
Have you looked into the availability of work in small towns for basic hourly wages or better if possible (in BC), especially those that are not close to urban work areas? Just curious, haven’t looked into this top myself. I am guessing some grocery/other stores, service station, maybe home help care, labour type jobs. I also have observed Farmer’s Markets (self-employed type of job) for products and food – seasonal. It would be interesting to get snapshots of small towns province wide opportunities for work, migration of youth to jobs in larger areas, the age spread in town (seniors on down) etc.
I haven’t done much of a search but I do know that there is an army of old folks all manning the cash register at the garden stores and retail establishments. Every Home Depot guy is older. Even the waitresses are plus 40. At one garden place, the woman was lamenting NOT being able to find any kind of help. A friend of mine at 74 has a standing summer job. Admittedly none of these jobs are career or wealth creating but they are part-time supplements for older people and they like ‘getting out and doing something’. I would have turned up my nose in my 30’s/40’s and 50’s but, as an older guy with a 20 hour work week only to offer, I would – if I wanted – get a job pretty easily, I think. ‘Specially the summer. My guess is that everyone pretty much starts at $12.00 – to $15.00. Getting $20.00 plus requires a skill. The good part is you commute five minutes. You park for free. People are people not corporate spokespeople. Being a garden supply helper-guy would also keep a person in shape.
At one point I lived in an interior town of about 3000 people. No chain stores, no fast food, virtually no media but as soon as Safeway arrived in the village folks were moving out to Horsefly or Likely because it was becoming too commercial in the village.
I kinda get it….not really…but kinda. If Costco and Walmart came, I would join them. But a good Safeway/Save-On/Thrifty’s seems like just the right sorta box store for me. I guess it is all perspective but my blog was about thinking about THAT perspective. It may be time to re-evaluate the merits of city living…jus’ sayin’
I really get it. I do sincerely. Vancouver is currently going bike friendly. During recent snow falls bike lanes had priority for snow clearing. Snowing hard and sub-zero with not a snow-plow in sight. I have ridden a bike in sub-zero weather and knew it was a day to take alternative transportation. Froze my ears. Bike lanes as a priority in the dead of winter is challenging. Bus links are challenging in many areas so folks are taking cars because the round trip is hours less in a car. All sorts of surcharges are added on to support a transit system that only works for some but all pay for it. The key is that as long folks do not need to throw themselves under the bus they will put up with it.
Powell River is seeing an influx of people both retirees as well as young families willing to be entrepreneurial. Our small town is trying to diversify its economy to make up for the loss of jobs in the mill. Young people are still having a hard time finding careers in town and do leave for school, training and jobs in the city. But there is a trend of them moving back as they mature in age and can bring their skills and talents back home. Also, high speed Internet allows some continue their careers remotely via online access. Yes, we have a Walmart, Staples, Canadian Tire and Starbucks, but we still have a small town feel and mentality. – Margy