A TRULY remarkable coincidence! For reasons to follow, about the date of issue of the July Atlantic, I was seriously considering the possibility of taking things a bit easier. The Atlantic arrived and the first article that caught my eye was ‘Shall I Retire?’ in the Contributors’ Club.
I read, and read on, every word, to the end, and over again. There was practically the story of my own life, experiences, ideas, and dreams.
I am in the late fifties. I am married, have three children, a moderatepriced motor car, and a more than comfortable home in the semicountry a few miles from one of the largest cities in North America.
My income, consisting largely of my personal salary, has averaged about $18,000 annually. We have lived not extravagantly but nicely, surrounded by a host of valued friends who live as we do or better, but who may perhaps be better business or professional men, or enjoy an income from investments largely in excess of mine.
Our expenses are the usual ones — taxes, wages, schools, clubs, contributions, amusements, insurance, and the general upkeep of a family of five. We have saved a little. We have educated two boys. They are well launched in business. We still have to complete the education of our third boy, a little chap of twelve.
For thirty-odd years I have caught the 8.02 to town every morning except Sundays and the 5.15 home in the evenings. I have always worked for corporations, never for myself. Pleasant and interesting work with fine associates, while it lasted. But the war, changes in control or management, and consolidations several times rendered my services unnecessary, and I have stepped out with the thanks of my employers and generous evidence of appreciation of results accomplished. All of which meant that I had to dig out new openings that would carry salaries commensurate with my living scale. A fearsome and decidedly hazardous experience for a man over fifty.
I have nothing but gratitude for the blessings life has vouchsafed to me. But now I am going to lay out a simpler plan.
Aided in reaching this decision by your contributor’s article, I have retired.
We will sell our home and settle in a beautiful town in the hills of New England, where a simple little home, with rooms for our boys to live with us or to come to us when they want to, will be maintained by the income from the proceeds of the sale of our present home and from such securities as we now possess.
The man who has an income of $20,000 a year and spends it to live is no better off financially than the man who has an income of $5000 and lives on that.
How can the shift be made?
Well, in the first place you must want to live in a smaller community, and like the country. You must not be dependent upon what the big city offers. You must take your pleasures in the things that are free and that the country gives in abundance. You must be prepared to give up some of the things that you have perhaps thought were necessary to your happiness.
We are going to do just that. We are going to keep our car and together spend many days out in the open along the banks of trout streams or in the woods with a gun and a dog, doing at will the very things that for eleven and a half months of each year I have worked hard to enable me to do in my short two weeks’ vacation.
Our wages will be $600 a year instead of $3000. Our taxes will be $150 a year instead of $1000. Our club dues will be $75 a year instead of $400. I have plenty of old clothes, a pet hat perhaps. I’m going where I can wear them and where my friends wear theirs. We are going to get rid of a lot of unnecessary ‘things.’ (Do you recall the article on ‘things’ in the Atlantic a year or so ago?) But we are going to keep the things we love, which won’t cost us anything to continue to own and maintain.
The 8.02 and the 5.15 will see me no more. My books, musical instruments, and nature will see much more of me. I shall start a business of my own to keep myself occupied when I want to work. I shall be free from the fear of ‘getting off somebody’s pay roll.’ We shall live simply and sweetly. My wife, who has stood by me through all the ups and downs of the past, will also take things easier. Side by side we will go down the slope together as long as we are spared to each other. ‘Far from the madding crowd,’ but among sensible fine friends whose needs and resources will be similar to ours.
I am not rich and I don’t want to be a loafer. I don’t mind dying in the harness, but I shall welcome a smaller collar and a lighter load to pull.
The prospect pleases.
My heartfelt thanks to your contributor. I should like to meet him some day and thank him in person for what he has done for me. We are off on our Adventure in Contentment,