‘Why Are You Still Working?’ Book Excerpt

My eBook ‘Why Are You Still Working?’ was the genesis for this website you’re reading right now! But it is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, which prohibits me from giving you the entire text of the book online for free. In the future I want to do that, but until the enrollment period expires, I’m only allowed to publish 10% of it on my site.

So here’s that 10%! Enjoy!

INTRODUCTION to WHY ARE YOU STILL WORKING?

A Practical (and Philosophical) Guide to MEGA Early Retirement! 

cam05574
Photo Credit: Matt Cates

Hi, I’m broke. How about you? 

I’m broke because I don’t work—at least not for a company or an employer. I used to but then I decided to retire. At age 44!

So yeah, I’m a bit broke—BUT—somehow, miraculously, here we sit comfortably. Not rich, not poor, but comfortably. I’m 44 and I am retired. Not on unemployment, not on welfare.

Retired. 

And we’re not doing too badly! In many ways our life is a vacation!

A lot of ways, really. We live in a resort town, in a large apartment within a manicured and gated community across the street from the sea. When I get tired of our pad, or our pool, I have a gym/spa membership in the 5 Star luxury hotel next door, with access to their huge indoor and an outdoor pool, both of which overlook the deep blue Aegean Sea. I consider their expansive lobby an extension of our living room.

I’m a five minute walk from the town’s luxury yacht marina, and a fifteen minute stroll away from the main harbor, where all the big cruise ships come to port, streaming their thousands of tourists coming to enjoy a day of sights and surf and tasty cuisine.

They get a day here; we get to live here. Like the Aerosmith album, Permanent Vacation.

67fc0a387e329397208d16a9748f8535.953x953x1.jpg

We live on the Aegean Sea, literally steps away from it, in a town adorned with well-kept, friendly tourist attractions. Every time I post pictures of us on social media, I get a lot of likes from my friends, who continue to work in their respective hometowns, living paycheck to paycheck, making enough to pay the bills and not much more.

Sound familiar?

What are people’s reasons for doing this, for maintaining the status quo? For going neither forward nor slipping backward, but just living day to day, making just enough to pay the bills, and every time a pay increase comes, the bills always seem to increase, too. Funny how that happens. Most of us working class people like to live just within or slightly outside our means. When those financial means increase, we increase spending to match.

We tolerate a certain amount of ‘poverty,’ for lack of a better word… but not too much.

We allow a certain amount of ‘luxury,’ but again… not too much.

So there’s an ever-moving range of comfort we get used to, ever-moving because our salaries tend to creep up over the years as we get more experienced, get promotions and raises, or perhaps better jobs in general. We never want to slide down the ladder, though. We never want to give up something once we’ve gained it.

But that’s part of what retirement is.

And the sooner a worker can come to terms with that fact, the sooner they can leave the rat race all together.

Who created this rat race anyhow? I wish I knew so I could punch ‘em in their big rat nose. But a rat race, it is, and for most of society, there’s no going back…

The question is, ‘can you get out of it?’ Can you escape the race?

The answer is YES! I did. You can, too… if you want to.

Which begs the next question, ‘what does it take to do so?’

I can tell you my experiences. That’s all I can tell you, but it has worked out for me and mine, because I’ve done it (retired as of October 2015, to be precise).

There are some key points we adhere to, which I won’t make you wait to read because that would just be mean. So…

The first main key point is,

we have a meager but constant passive income stream.

The second main key point is,

we moved someplace relatively cheap.

Yes, there’s a lot more to it than those two points, but I wanted to get them out of the way fast. No reason to keep anyone in suspense!

I get this passive income because I retired from government service and therefore get a monthly pension. I also currently receive some disability compensation. So yes, my passive income stream is somewhat boosted already. But that’s not the end of the story, so if you do not have such a retirement option, don’t let that be your excuse to stop reading!

There was discouragement from friends and family, but I didn’t listen.

Some said it wouldn’t work, but it did.

Some thought I, being young and in good health, should keep working until I was X, Y, or Z years old.

I ignored them.

I ignored them, perhaps to my future detriment, but only time will tell. For now, I am free and I like it that way and I think, if you give it a try, you will, too!

And by the way, yes I have a family; I’m not some single guy living by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin. I have a wife, two small kids, and a lovely apartment on the upscale side of town overlooking a very spectacular view of the sea. That’s a lot of adjectives, huh?

We are far from rich, but we eat out when we want (and we want a lot), we live a prudent but comfortable lifestyle–and we’ve done it not against the odds, per say… but against the naysayers. 

cam05660
Photo Credit: Matt Cates

I stress ‘not against the odds’ because it wasn’t that hard to do. Retiring at 44 wasn’t a cakewalk, granted; I am not here to lie to you. But as Forrest Gump said, ‘I am not a smart man,’ and yet I was able to figure out how to go from the standard 40 hour workweek to the zero hour workweek, without taking a welfare check, without having a ‘rich dad,’ without having a lucrative stock portfolio, and without even having the moral support of anyone other than my closest family.

There is no scheme here. I’m not selling any program. But I’ll share my experiences and my opinions, and you can take ‘em or leave ‘em. If you take ‘em, I hope it works out for you, and if it does, let me know!

My website is https://whyareyoustillworking.com/ (which you are currently reading!) 

You can write to me via the Submissions page!

You can also leave a feedback on Amazon, or post on a thread. I don’t have a forum on my website, but Amazon reviews and threads are a fantastic way to share your thoughts, share what works and what does not, and even share your opinion on areas where you feel things could be done better!

At the end of the day, this is a book of just my personal advice, based on my personal experience. Readers will have different tips and tricks, and I encourage you all to please share them for the rest of the community.

So, back to the story… No kidding, literally everybody thought it was a mistake to try and just quit my job and not get another. And I was scared, really scared. Nothing was scarier, in fact, than walking away from a 21 year career, a steady (and decent) paycheck, walking away from the rat race to just STOP.

I call it retirement because I am not working and have no specific intention of every getting another 40 hour a week job.

I don’t plan to go to work for a company or an agency, or to have a boss ever again.

Let me repeat that.

I don’t ever want a boss again, for the rest of my life!

I’ve had more than my share. Some have been awesome. One is running for Congress, believe it or not, and he recently (as of this writing) won his party’s nomination to press forward. But most of my supervisors weren’t as great as he was.

And let’s be clear, when I say I don’t want a boss, I also don’t want to BE a boss. I am not plugging away at some entrepreneurial project. I’m not starting a business, I don’t have a service to sell, and I’m not a YouTube millionaire. Why not?

Because I’m too lazy, for starters.  

photo0013
Photo Credit: Matt Cates

Look, I didn’t quit working just to go back to working for myself. Entrepreneurs are hard workers. I know; I watched my parents go into one business after another when I was a young kid. Even after I was grown up, I saw them, together with my older brother, open a car restoration shop in California. They worked their butts off to make that shop a success, and it was successful… for a while. But eventually things happened, as they so often do, and the business was shuttered. And in my life, I’ve watched other places open and close, and not for lack of effort. We’ve all seen such places, haven’t we?

That small new restaurant that you always intend to check out, but never do (and neither does anyone else).

That little hobby shop opened by your friend’s friend, who for the life of them can never attract a paying customer, and is always skirting bankruptcy.

What a life! I’m being sarcastic… for me, that sort of life, of being chained to a business, of sinking hours and hours into a longshot in hopes of making it ‘big,’ just so you can work even harder?

No.

My whole point of doing what I did was to NOT work hard at all, to actually not work, period. And that’s the point of this book, too; that’s the ‘big secret’ I’m here to tell you about: 

I don’t think human beings were designed to spend their lives working.

Seriously, just pause and look at it objectively. Were you born to work? Was anyone?

See, that’s the other part of my philosophy, the other reason I don’t want to have or be a boss. Society has brought us up all wrong. Life was never meant to be about waking up early, getting in a car, driving to an office, slogging away at whatever for 8-plus hours, then getting back in to car to battle traffic, get home tired, eat dinner, watch TV because you’re too worn out to do much else, go to bed, then repeat it all over the next day, month after month and year upon year, until our youth is gone and perhaps our health, too.

It isn’t a natural lifestyle for humans. Can’t you tell? We get used to it, but does it really feel right?

I’m not advocating for a welfare state, though. I have never gotten a welfare check, I didn’t file for unemployment. I left my job of my own accord, and just haven’t gotten another.

Admittedly I have sold a few pieces of my freelance work, but I enjoy doing that sort of thing because freelance projects allow me to dig into topics which I might otherwise never have looked into. But I work cheap and infrequently, and honestly do not consider the supplemental income as ‘working,’ because, for me, it is fast, fun, and more of a hobby than anything else.

Photo0022.jpg
Photo Credit: Matt Cates

But I’ve digressed… let’s get into the exact nuts and bolts of what I’ve done, so you can determine if it is right and feasible for you–if, I mean, early retirement is something that interests you?

I do not mean that facetiously, but I assume it is something you may want to try; I assume your priorities are somewhat aligned with mine, that you share a passion for goofing off, for never having to answer to another boss or supervisor ever again for the rest of your life, that being independent and truly free to live your life on your own time and by your own values instead of someone else’s…

I assume, since you’re still reading that all this sounds good?

Then get your coffee n’ let’s go!  

Quick note…

 These ‘steps’ are not necessarily laid out in any particular order you must follow; it is more important that you just actually complete them!

********

STEP 1: Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it. They’re wrong.

I like to read, and watch movies. I don’t watch TV, though; I haven’t since around 1994, and the last show I watched was a Star Trek: The Next Generation rerun. What’s that tell you?

But films, I do like, and I’ll always remember the line from David Mamet’s screenplay The Edge, starring Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins.

Hopkins played an eccentric billionaire and sort of mentor to Baldwin’s character. In one poignant scene, Baldwin’s guy was very much depressed, down and out because the two of them were severely lost in the woods after their plane crashed. They were staring at the real possibility of death-by-bear.

Good reason to be depressed, I think!

Hopkin’s recounted the tale of a man killing a bear without a gun. He wanted to snap Baldwin out of his funk, get him revved up with the story enough to repeat this line, over and over: ‘What one man can do, another can do!’

What one man can do, another can do! – David Mamet

I can’t think of any more powerful statement than that, in terms of motivating someone to take a risk or try something they’re scared to try. Mamet is a genius writer, and this is one of his greatest lines, assuming he didn’t steal it from someone else.

This incredibly powerful concept can apply to literally anything.

  • Want to be a pilot? You can.
  • Want to write a book? You’re able to!
  • Want to run for Congress? I worked with someone who just ran and was elected! 

Ever seen someone play guitar with their toes, because they’d lost their arms in an accident? Or read about a legless mountain climber?

It is one thing to do something no one’s ever attempted; but if someone else has proven the ability to achieve the thing you wish to do yourself, then you have a template.

If they can do it, so can you!

People’s ability to adapt and overcome is truly inspiring. For our goal, we aren’t even talking about anything that difficult, though. Lots of people have retired early. I’m just one of many. I tried it because I’d read of others doing it and I knew, deep down, that it didn’t have to be a ‘dream’ for us. What those pioneering frontrunners were able to do, I figured I could at least attempt.

 Let this book convince you of that premise, then, that concept of being able to do what other people have done, because I am not a rich genius and yet here I am, sitting at home, typing this up not for the money, not because I’m under contract to write it, but because I have the free time.

Loads and loads of free time!

beach-ball-575425_960_720 

I didn’t aspire to anything big. I never have and never will. Call it laziness, call it Hamlet Syndrome, call it apathy. I don’t care. I just am not ambitious. I don’t even understand grand ambitions, like wanting to be rich and famous. I think it was Bill Murray who asked, ‘why would you want to be rich and famous if you could just be rich?’ I’m paraphrasing, but the idea is smart.

But I still don’t grasp it in my core, because I think wealth is a prison.

My goals have always been small.

  • I wanted to live in England, so I’ve done that. I wanted to live in Hawaii, so we did that, too. In my twenties, I finally learned to swim. In my forties, I’m learning a new language.
  • I wanted to work at a university, and was able to get a courtesy faculty position for four years.
  • I wanted to write a book, so first I finished a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, then I wrote my book as the thesis (not this one!).
  • I have a regular goal of maintaining my fitness level, and can say that I weigh the same as I did twenty years ago… 175 lbs which, at 6’2” is well within my acceptable Body Mass Index.

But these are small, simple goals. In fact, years ago I told a friend that my goal in life was to have no goals. Consider it a Taoist philosophy, if you will. I’m still working on it, but I’m getting there… But a large part of that has been the recent shift to mega early retirement. It gives me even more free time to ponder the bigger questions in life—who I am, what do I believe in, what will happen to me?

And how can I weaken my ego enough to reach my ultimate goal… to have zero goals?

As the title of this book warned, it is, in part, a philosophical guide!

Photo0034.jpg
Photo Credit: Matt Cates

Whatever your personal or philosophical stance on retirement and your life goals, make friends with people who share your beliefs, or who at least understand, who do not discourage them.

Share your free time with people who will encourage you and not distract you.

Don’t surround yourself with psychic vampires who only drain your energy or want to take you in a different direction from what you’re going.

This dream of mega early retirement isn’t revolutionary.

It’s not radical. But for some, it will seem that way. When you speak of this to some, their eyes will get wide as if you’ve proposed to spray them in the face with weed killer.

Ideas can be dangerous, but this one is not.

Still—some folks are going to try to stop you. You might even try to stop yourself…

 

copy-of-why-are

 

Have you lost your mind? You want to give it all up, quit work and retire…at YOUR age? You’re too young! Get up and go to work, you bum!

Go every day until you die!

Or…don’t.

After all these years, aren’t you bored to death of the daily grind, of your boss, of the commute? Do you really think you could find something else to do with that 40-plus hours of your week?

Hmm, you may be on to something.

You know life doesn’t have to be like this; it SHOULDN’T be like this!

Don’t work yourself into the grave. We all deserve our freedom at some point…

But many of us are closer to being able to retire than we realize. In some cases, we are capable of it right this minute…but we feel like we’re not prepared to make the leap. For me, it took a year to decide, but once I did there was no going back.

Here, in this book, is how I did it. There is no great secret to it. The only mystery is, what took so long.

At 44 years old, I left a good-paying job, packed up the family, and have been living a dream life on the Aegean Coast ever since…all the while not working, but instead focusing on taking things easy, spending lots of quality time with my family, and just plain old goofing off!

You, too, have the ability to live life on your own terms, to ‘do it your way.’ But only if you really want it!

‘Why Are You Still Working?’ clearly outlines the exact steps I took to go from living and working in one of America’s most expensive areas to reassessing my priorities, downshifting and downsizing, and resettling in a place others only get to visit on vacation while paying the bills as a digital nomad with a pension. Not every tip will apply to every person; I realize that. Every situation is different. But most will apply, if we’re willing to keep an open mind.

There’s no magic to it, and no schemes or tricks. It’s just down-to-Earth, common sense advice that any person can apply, plus tips to help anyone go from burnt-out employee to blissful beach bum… It’s easier than you think–the hardest part is just doing it! The second hardest part? Sticking to it! But trust me when I say, every day of my mega early retirement is better than a day on the job!

 

 

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m going to have to get your book. Personally knowing you before you retired makes your story mean so much more to me. I’ve retired myself but have been living with family to pay that debt I acquired while working. I see people here in my hometown living on less than what I pay for my bills. I feel jealous at times. I have a job lined up this month and won’t be living pay check to pay check once I start. However, I will be working on a plan to live comfortably one day with no worries. Thanks for the encouragement Matt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matt Cates says:

      I’ll send you a free download link, man, no worries 🙂 I know, paying off our credit card debt was a big challenge since retirement but I managed to pull it off. Right now I only have about $600 on two credit cards…not too bad.

      The two main points I wrote about were, having a passive income & living someplace cheap! If you guys are still around NOVA/DC, it might be pricey… I’m an ex-pat, so we are living very decently on my retirement, but sometimes I do a little freelance writing for extra. Not required, but gives the kids some blow money.

      I just started this website a week or so ago; it isn’t exactly spurring lots of book sales, but then again I only charge .99 cents for the book, of which I net .33 cents. For me it is not about the money, just about sharing the info with folks!

      Enjoy that new job, man…and start planning for your true retirement, whenever you decide to do it! 🙂

      -Mc

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s