Weaved throughout Meantime, like a weavy wearving thingo, is the story of Maggie and I – a classic love story:
Gen X boy meets Gen X girl, Gen X boy makes Gen X girl a mixed tape of classic 80’s power ballads, Gen X girl falls puffy-haired-head-over-Doc-Marten-heels in love, Gen X couple lives happily ever after until losing their shit over their debt-fuelled consumerism, deteriorating work-life balance and lack of purpose. Then one day the star-crossed Gen Xers said, “enough”.
Now, I’d love to tell you Maggie and I marched into our bosses’ offices the very next day and, in a defiant and glorious voice, cried, “Take this job and shove it!”, but that didn’t happen. Why? Because, like many of our Gen X cohort, we were shitty savers and we hadn’t squirrelled away enough clams to retire. We also didn’t want to live the super tight-ass, minimalist lifestyle it would take for us to quit our jobs – we will not go through this life without barista-made, skinny, piccolo lattes with an extra serving of pretentious wankerdom, for example.
So, we decided to get a plan, which went something like this:
- Read, listen and watch all the (non-spruiker) advice we could get our hands on that explained how to achieve the legendary “FIRE” (Financial Independence Retire Early) [cue angelic choir, parting clouds and brilliant light from above];
- Decide what we want to do with our lives, especially after we leave the workforce;
- Get professional financial advice;
- Develop a roadmap to get to the day we can afford to exit the workforce; and
- Stop fucking around buying shit we don’t need.
The realisation that we didn’t want to work anymore, and the plan to exit the workforce as soon as humanly possible, came to us over Christmas 2017 on a long camping trip on one of Australia’s metric fuck tonne of beautiful beaches – it quickly became known in family lore as the “Christmas Epiphany”.
Since the Christmas Epiphany, we’ve been obsessively implementing our plan, which we called The Plan (hey, they can’t all be winners). We’ve learnt heaps along the way. Meantime is our way of sharing what we’ve learnt. It is a labour of love born of several impulses. One is to save other Gen Xers from the many multi-hour sessions we spent elbow deep in the bowels of Google trying to find answers to difficult questions like, “How do you find your balance between living a fulfilling, purposeful life now (often with kids) and saving for life after work/career/kids? As well as, “simple” questions like, “Invest or pay off the mortgage?” and “Are robots coming for my job?”. The answers to these questions are on the interweb of stuff, but they’re hidden under a quinitrillionbajillion other answers to other questions – many of them about genital warts or Beyonce (no correlation implied) or some-fucking-thing called kombucha. To make matters worse, it’s difficult to tell whether the “answers” you find on the net are credible or dubious, objective or biased, truthful or outright fucking lies.
Meantime wades through the swamp of info-crap that muddies much of the internet, and finds the info-gold. Meantime is what we wished we’d found on day one of our quest to figure shit out and get our lives on a better track.
By way of background, Maggie and I come from blue-collar lineage and grew up in smallish towns. We were both the first people in our families to go to university and work our way into professions. Maggie’s been at the forefront of digital marketing since it wore little binary nappies and could only count to zero (a little techy humour for the IT nerds). I started in a trade, then jumped ship, went to university and re-tooled in international relations before a career in international security, diplomacy and crisis response.
We didn’t get any money into retirement savings until late in life. Like many from Generation X, our retirement planning was pretty much non-existent until our 30s. Maggie was in her early 40s and I was in my late 40s when we had the Christmas Epiphany and decided to exit the workforce early. We’re aiming to be retired in five years. We’ll do it by selling off a bunch of costly, depreciating toys (goodbye little red sports car and see ya later Harley Night Rod Special), following a determined savings plan (bon voyage overseas holidays) and making sensible, boring, slow-return investments.
Both Maggie and I are planners. We’ve planned in detail our whole retired life many times over, just for funsies.
Which is how we landed on the idea for Meantime. You see, lots of financially independent types and early retirees have warned those following in their steps to be prepared for life without work. As much as we may look forward to exiting the workforce, our sense of purpose and self-worth are often wrapped up in our work. Of itself, sitting on a beach relaxing, slamming back pina coladas in a permanent state of holiday is not enough to be happy (can’t believe I just said that). Don’t get me wrong, it’ll get you a lot of the way to happiness, but it won’t insulate you from boredom and it won’t fill a purpose-shaped hole in your life. Meantime is our purpose. It’s our creative outlet, our digital sandcastle, our connection to people and our way of giving something back.
As we move toward our exit from the daily grind and to a new, post-work lifestyle in a beautiful flowery scene with some mad bitch in the background spinning around, singing some shit about mountains, we invite you, our Gen X community, to come along for the ride.