SDXB, a fellow who found his way clear to jump off the hamster wheel in his late 40s and never went back to the workplace, is fond of saying that “money happens.” By that he means that he never seems to lack for money (and it’s true he lives well, despite having little or no visible means of support) and that occasionally unexpected little windfalls happen.
Truth to tell, he has always made money happen. Until he reached retirement age, he supported his bumhood habit by occasionally volunteering to go TDY with the active-duty Air Force Reserve, in which he was the highest-ranking non-com in his job classification. The military pays certain people who are effectively temp workers pretty well, and reservists who stick with it get a nice pension and health care, plus access to commissaries and base exchanges around the world. He also did a fair amount of freelance journalism, especially travel writing, which underwrote trips you and I would regard as vacations and provided some nice tax write-offs.
He insists that a person who is willing to live frugally, who has even minimal resources, and who makes bumhood (read “permanent unemployment”) a priority can live comfortably without having to labor in the salt mines. And for him it’s worked: he’s almost 70, and he hasn’t held a steady job since the day he got up from the editor’s chair at a Scripps-Howard newspaper and walked out the door. He climbed on a plane, flew to Hawai’i, and camped on the beach for a month, where no one could reach him by telephone. He’s bought two houses in cash and he buys his cars in cash; he travels, he never wants for entertainment…and he doesn’t go to work.
Well, I’ve always been too cowardly to pull that one off, even though he kept assuring me that I had more than enough to live on and that money happens.
Now that I’m about to be forced to get out of the editor’s chair myself, though, I’m discovering that the guy may be right. In the past couple of days, money has happened three times.
Two happenings occurred yesterday. First, a client from bygone days resurfaced to ask if I’d edit a new project he’s cooked up. It was short and easy—I got through it in just a few hours and will bill about two hundred bucks. While I was playing with that, the phone rang, and lo! There was the chair of the English and Humanities department of Phoenix College, an inner-city branch of the community college district, conveniently located about eight minutes from my house.
Asked she, would I take on, at the last minute, a 200-level course in journalism?
Happy to, said I, but I’m already signed up to teach the maximum number of credit hours the district will permit.
No problem, quoth she! Because it’s an emergency hire, she can get an override.
You’re on! said I.
She said she’d have to be sure the course actually makes before forking over a contract, but it only needs 18 students. It’s a hybrid course that meets once a week, and when I looked over the district’s requirements, I realized it’s much the same course I’ve taught several times at Scottsdale!
So. This fall, in the four months running up to Canning Day, I will gross ninety-six hundred extra dollars with this side job as a community college teacher. Since our office is winding down, I doubt if this will cause much strain; after all, the “two” GDU courses I signed on to teach in the spring of 2008 morphed into four, and I survived.
Meanwhile, an hour ago I finished reading another detective novel for pay. A pretty darned good one, too: well written and clean. Another $250 in the busker’s hat.
Money happens, but money unhappens, too. A few mutual fund, IRA, and 403(b) statements materialized toward the end of the week, showing that my devastated investments are reviving a little. Since reaching their April 2009 nadir, they’ve climbed about $9,000—and that’s after I took out about $15,000 to pay off the Renovation Loan. Still, the total of retirement savings is down $126,792 from the high balance in May of 2008: thanks so much to the greedy bastards and misguided dogmatists who’ve run the country and the economy this past decade or so.
Think of that: a hundred and twenty-seven grand lost in the collapse of the Bush economy. If that money hadn’t unhappened, I’d have plenty to retire on without a worry in the world. On the other hand…if the economy hadn’t crashed, I’d stick with a boring job for the next three years and not be about to embark on the grand adventure of bumhood.
Win some, lose some. Maybe being pushed to quit working, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, is worth a little money unhappening.