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?