My first foray into the Gig Economy
So, I have been quiet on the blog lately. I have succumbed to what I would deem as “writer’s block”. Coming up with ideas is tougher than one might think. But that is also, I’m sure, an excuse. Excuses are like assholes, everybody has one and they all stink. I have got to make time.
Speaking of time, I have been spending some time driving for Lyft (and easing into Uber too). I have been averaging about 20 hours a week. It’s been a little bit of a learning curve as to figuring out when and where to go.
I must say, I have been enjoying it. Some people like to talk and some people don’t, but engaging a little bit in conversation is the neat part. There are a lot of different people with different views and it’s good to hear from other people. I try to stay out of the party times, but I still get the occasional party ride. But there have been no real incidents. People are generally nice and they just want to get from one place to another. And if I treat people the way I want to be treated, we tend to get along just fine.
The numbers are fairly underwhelming. Doing the amount of driving that I’m currently willing to do gets me about $300-$400 per week. That’s about 20 hours per week. Since I’ve started driving, I’ve traded vehicles. I was driving a 2011 Toyota Highlander that got right at about 20 MPG. I traded that in for a 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. I am consistently getting 40-43 MPG.
So, on a recent representative and good week, here are some numbers:
$399.88 Earned (this includes $31.00 in tips and $5.25 in Tolls)
743 miles (this equals $404.94 in tax deductions)
743 miles at 40 MPG equals 18.575 gallons of gas used
18.575 gallons of gas at $2.80/gallon equals $52.00 of gas used
So, doing some extrapolation:
$400 times 52 weeks equals $20,800 per year
743 miles times 52 weeks equals 38,636 miles per year
That 38,636 miles per year is what bothers me. The numbers in the above equation don’t have any room for buying another car in two years. So, I think that I need to eventually get to the place rideshare driving is just a way to supplement when things are lean.
I guess that the bottom line is that this is a tough living and would have to be one of the multiple streams of income to be sustained. Stay tuned.
My wife and I recently completed bingeing The Handmaid’s Tale. This was really a well done series. Elizabeth Moss is wonderful in anything she does. It’s a very popular series and in that lies some of my issues with it. Why is it so popular? Does it have anything to do with today’s popular culture?
The thumbnail of the story is that sometime in the future, some medical event happens where the vast majority of women on earth can no longer bear children. Those that can are classified as “Handmaids”. At the same time, the US government has been taken over by religious kooks who designate the Handmaids as essentially slaves that are assigned to couples in the upper class trying to have kids.
The “consummation” is a ceremony that the wife takes place in by laying in the bed with the Handmaid’s head in her lap while the husband does the deed. It’s really creepy and it is also makes you think “Is this what women think about sex? Do they feel like victims being dominated by their male patriarchs? I suspect mostly not.
I think it’s very trendy these days to champion the victim and to shame the victimizers. That all sounds logical and right. But the problem is that there are more victims and victimizers than there ought to be. As a white male who has a little money, I’m suspect number one. I’m part of the patriarchal system that keeps all the victim class down. But I don’t really think that I victimize anyone.
As that white male, there are some that might think that I started on the opponent’s five yard line. But I’m pretty sure that I at least started on my side of the fifty. My senior year of high school, we were poor. My Dad had lost his job as a bank VP and we moved to my grandmother’s farm house (not any better than a mobile home, really). That year, we had no income. And the area we were in really had no opportunity.
Living in the US should automatically advance you to about your own 30 yard line. Maybe the fact that I had both parents living under the same roof gives me about 10 more yards. I had no college because we couldn’t afford it. I joined the Navy instead. So, I’m putting myself on about my own 40 yard line. (note that some people couldn’t get in the military because of failed drug tests...15 yard penalty!)
Now there are folks out there that started pretty far behind me. I’m not so naive to think that I don’t have some privilege, but I don’t control that. We all start where we start. The important thing is that we move the ball forward, get first downs and try to score.
Back to Victimhood
My point is that it’s far too trendy to be that victim and complain about your field position. How can we possibly score with where we are on the field? How can we score when the refs are against us? How can I, as a (name your victim group of choice), make it when the “Man” keeps us down?
I was talking to a cousin a couple of years back about a similar topic, and though I don’t remember the exact point I was trying to make, but her response was “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you’re white, tall and male”. Is it fair that we all start from different places? Maybe not, but in a free society, I can’t imagine how you “fix” that.
Was the Handmaid a victim? Of course. And there’s not much she was able to do to change that in the series. But in the real world, more often than not, you just follow your blocks, try to get open, make good decisions and you’ll find that you’re moving the ball.
I can see the dock, I think (or random babbling)
So, I think I’m drifting into the dock, the FIRE dock. We’ve checked into some of the logistics items. My wife has learned that I can get onto her insurance. I have been trying to learn the nuts and bolts of setting a business up. There’s a lot of information out there, it’s just weeding through it that’s the challenge.
In thinking about this, I also ran across a Blog that mentioned “Barista FIRE”. It was on the “Financial Panther” blog. The concept was that once the heavy lifting of the accumulation phase is done, all you need is some spending money. I think I am there. I don’t really want to be a Barista, but I could.
One of my daily practices is listening to some radio on our Sonos speakers. I used to be an avid Dave Ramsey listener, but I kind of grew out of it. He’s very repetitive and there’s not much new information on his shows. But he is very inspiring and it’s interesting to hear the fixes people get into. But I’ve been listening recently and hearing Dave talk about the baby steps, and guess what...I’m done. All I have to do is give and become wealthy. Life is good.
Does Market Volatility blow me off-course? Nah…not much.
So today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down over 400 points. Would I be honest saying that it doesn’t bother me? No I wouldn’t. I certainly get a better feeling when it’s up than down. But I have read enough in the FIRE blog world to know that the downs are a part of everyday market life. If you’re playing the long game, a down period is as natural as the wind sometimes coming out of the west and sometimes out of the east, north or south. My little motor boat with the 10 hp (or 7% gains) motor will get me there. I think I just stumbled onto an analogy.
We had a very nice Easter. We went to see some of my family. We spent a couple of days with my dad who lives in the Atlanta area where I’m originally from. He remarried many years ago. He’ll be 91 in a couple of weeks. Both my wife and I noticed that their conditions have degraded noticeably.
Over the past few years, we have tried to talk to them about an alternate living situation. They currently live in an area of Atlanta that has gone way downhill. It’s a beautiful piece of property, but it’s just in the wrong place. I ran it through Zillow and it had a value of around $90K. And financially, I don’t believe that they have the means to go into an assisted living situation. I’ve offered to help, but they don’t want to talk about it. I think they want to stay here for the rest of their lives. This makes me a little sad.
I spoke with her grandson about possibly getting some in-home help once or twice a week. He seemed like a really good guy and I think he’ll be a good advocate to help them out as they’ll be sure to need it sooner than later.
Easter Sunrise Service
For Easter, we actually went to visit some family from my mother’s side. They are in the Winston-Salem NC area. The Moravian Church in Old Salem does Easter right. The Sunrise Service draws a couple of thousand people. The Moravian Church is big into music, big brass bands and there must have been two hundred band members, all or mostly congregants.
Small portions of the band are stationed along the path to God’s Acre, the cemetery. The path is probably a quarter of a mile and smaller portions of the band play a few bars of a song and the other portions on down the road answer with a few bars in continuation of the song. I’m sure there were tons of musical imperfections, but to me they were pretty darn good.
Once everyone gets into the God’s Acre area, all of the smaller band portions proceed to the front stage area and they play together along with the rest of the service. During this time, the sun comes up and it’s beautiful and moving.
I mentioned my dad and his wife’s grandson above. My dad has a little under 200 acres in central Georgia not too far from Augusta. It’s been in our family for a couple of generations. It will, I’m pretty sure, be passed down to my sister and I on my Dad’s passing (note that I have told my Dad that if he needs to sell it for any reason, I will be fine with it).
His wife’s grandson is leasing some of this property for hunting. He is also puttering around and cleaning up some of the property for fun. He indicated that it’s therapeutic to turn off the cell phone and do some gentleman farming work. Part of this property has a grove of pecan trees. I would very much like to get these trees producing again. My research tells me that a pecan tree can produce as long as 300 years. I want to find an expert to tell me whether these trees are salvageable or not. I will work on it.
It was a long week for me. I was in Albuquerque last week as my company was hosting a meeting with industry colleagues. The meeting went pretty good. It’s that when you’re the one hosting, you have responsibilities over and above the norm. And those things eat at you and take away from your rest.
Another thing that takes away from your rest is too much drinking and partying. It’s part of the gig, so I won’t complain. But damn, I’m getting too old for this. One of the colleagues bought Louis XIII cognac shots that were $325 each. Ouch! I would like to say it was delicious...it wasn’t. I think the world of the guy that bought them, but he’s in a different world than I am.
We stayed an extra day so that we could have a Product Development meeting with our CEO. He didn’t show up. He didn’t even bother to be in Albuquerque where the rest of the people were that were supposed to attend the meeting. It was very disrespectful. This morning I read this Dilbert cartoon and thought “how appropriate”.
Reverting back to the purpose of this blog, early retirement. I’m inching closer to that point. I almost said I was getting closer to that destination. But I know that it’s not really a destination. A destination denotes a place to stop. I can’t let it be a resting place. I think that is the way my wife sees early retirement. I don’t want to quit working, I want to explore the different meanings of work. And yes, there is a freedom aspect, but I know that I won’t be happy not working at all.