Generation S - simple, smart, satisfied

21 June 2011
I read a report the other day that said the babies born for 15 years after 2010 (our grand babies!) will be known as Gen A, the Alpha Generation. Pffffft, as if we need more labels.  According to the report, these Alpha babies will start school earlier, get more formal training than ever before and then they're expected to work until they're 70 or 80. I can't imagine anything worse than knowing when you start work in your late teens or early 20s, that you'll still be at it 60 years later.

I don't want to spend almost my entire adult life in paid work. I want free time to do what I love without having to clock in somewhere or meet deadlines. Luckily Hanno and I are doing that, but I want our grandchildren to be able to do it, and I want you to be able to do it too. We are not here to keep big business in the black. According to the Dali Lama, the purpose of life is to find happiness (you have to think about that, it's not as one dimensional or simple as it sounds). How can you do that if your government relies on you and your contemporaries to work and keep the economy bubbling along until shortly before you die.  It's not fair.

Surely there are others out there who believe that the reward for working hard all through life, paying taxes, upholding the law, voting, raising decent families and building strong communities is that for a decade or two before death, when ambition and strength fade, we leave work behind and spend time doing exactly what we want to do. I am not saying that everyone will want to give up work, I'm sure there will be people who thrive on going to work and really enjoy it, but we need to have the option. It needs to be our choice whether we do that or not. Some of us want free time to get to know our grandchildren, learn a new language or how to play the piano, make the perfect loaf of sourdough,  travel, walk, swim, read or just sit under a tree and think.

There was a time in my past when I was quite happy to work hard and spend much of my money on buying whatever caught my eye. But no more. I woke up, I slowed down and I realised there is much more to life than work, spending and acquisition. When I realised that, I found more than I ever expected that made me happy. I found that not spending and being more aware satisfied me, and by making a lot of what I used, I replaced paid work with home-based skill building and production.

Many of your know Hanno and I are hard workers, and have been all our lives. We're working class, proudly so, and we understand the need to work. We also understand why it's healthy for our countries to have a sound and active working population. Work is good for us but we shouldn't work for pay until we drop dead. At the end of a long and productive life, we should be able to look forward to a gentle and free retirement of about 20 years. If we have worked all our lives, paid taxes to help support our economies, have paid off our debt and saved for our retirement, there is nothing wrong with leaving work when we choose to. I would like to see a government that encourages everyone to live within their means, to live simply and if they can support themselves, choose whether they remain at work or not. I'd vote for a government who encouraged us to live frugally, recycle, mend and sew and to work part time so we could have a better work-life balance.  I'd like a few leaders to realise there is no such thing as unlimited economic growth. 

I know a couple of Generation Alpha babies who will know there is an alternative to life-long paid work. There are a few gems of wisdom I hope to talk to my grandchildren about. Being self-reliant, confident and skilled enough to move life away from the mainstream is just one of them.


  1. very interesting and truthful post! Thanks for all the encouragement. Thanks for caring enough about others to share. I view your blog most of the time in silence. Love to read and be encouraged. I myself want to teach my grandchildren that they can have an alternate way of life!

  2. Your garden is beautiful and inspiring. Lots of lessons learned here, thanks for sharing.

  3. Maybe you can whisper in my dad's ear, Rhonda, as he's 84 1/2 and a full-time working cardiologist with no obvious plans for retirement. I don't think he'll get his "20 years of retirement" in unless he lives to over 100!

    I'm different from my dad and agree with your post today except I'd like to add a phrase "God willing" as it's assuming everyone has a 20-year retirement period before death at age 80 or more. But, not everyone does. Some die much earlier.

  4. Amen to that Miss Rhonda...Espy :)

  5. Amen Sister! I posted similar thoughts on my own blog today, Rhonda.

    I actually have the "Great Recession" to thank for helping me to see the light. I've been following your blog for over a year now, but never commented. You've given me a lot to think about this past year and I just want to say "Thank You"! You speak a truth that so many of us need to hear!

  6. Rhonda, speaking of unlimited growth, you might be interested in the book I'm reading right now, "The Great Disruption," by Paul Gilding (an Australian). It's not a light read, but it's really fascinating, and he speaks very much to this: that sooner than we think, we're going to hit a wall - economic growth will not continue because of environmental limitations - and things WILL change because it's that, or collapse. He believes that, globally, an economy will develop that is sustainable rather than growth-based. It's really a fascinating read, and he goes on to point out that simple living, as you do, is what is needed from more and more people.

  7. I find these lines especially reassuring this afternoon..."There's no rush to get through it, no guilt if anything goes undone. My aim is to get through my work but to enjoy it too, even the seemingly dull bits."

    Thanks for expressing that so well!

  8. Well said Rhonda! xx

  9. Wow! I can't even imagine working until I am 70 or 80 years old. Or even expecting someone to work that long.

  10. I really hope I can teach my children to look after themselves. The only thing I can do is to be a good example. An d in my learning-time, I take them with me. Step-by-step with your tips and trucs.
    Thanks again Rhonda. You are a great inspiration to me.

    Love from Holland

  11. Well said Rhonda. Our Government has sold off alot of it's assests because they were run into the ground. Now they are relying on the taxes generated by people working, shopping and soon breathing (new carbon tax) to keep their coffers full.

    They need to stop the cheap imports and support local manufactured products and local farmers. So much of our products now come from offshore that it is hard to find Aussie made.

    Sorry for the ramble but, I am pretty passionate about the state of affairs at the moment. We try to support Australian made and I try to make as much as I can from scratch. It is just getting so hard to buy Aussie made so if we need something and I can't find an Aussie made item I try to make it or do without. A silent protest of not spending on cheap imports and just walking away.

    Hope you are having a lovely week.

  12. I'm impressed, Rhonda, with you and your husband. I think many of us have that desire in our hearts. I appreciate your blog and you sharing all your knowledge with us!

  13. Back in the seventies, the talk was that computers would take over loads of the jobs and that we will have loads of leisure time. Well how wrong has that been! We are working harder and are busier than we have ever been. It's time to come to our senses and take time out to smell the roses and just be. There is a lot we can gain in just being.


  14. You go girl! You are so onto THEM. Most of us grow up buying into the media's or government's "American Dream", "Australian Dream", etc. etc. Get a job, buy shiny car, buy shiny house, fill house with shiny crap, work until you drop dead paying for shine. It's a racket to line someone else's pocket. Pfffft is right.

    On and off, I veer away from it, then get a little trapped again from time to time. A year ago, I wasn't really sure what a blog was, but once discovered, I'm drawn to yours and others that help us on our path to more self-reliance, less debt, more preparedness, and more good stuff than I can list here. It's funny, this reading of blogs has brought so much more clarity and focus. I can't thank you enough.


  15. Oh I so agree with your thoughts. My children are 7, 9 & 17 and we are trying to raise them to have a strong working ethic whilst realising that it is not the be all and end all. I have been lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my last two (with our first my husband went to uni whilst I worked first part time and then full time). As a result of our lifestyle choices we have had to make sacrifices - we don't own our own home, nor are we in any position to at this point in time. We don't have big expensive holidays, we don't have the latest gadgets and devices. What we do have is a happy family who go camping together, play games together and generally have fun together. I have just returned to part time work (and study) and I hope that as the kids get bigger that we will be able to buy that house etc...and then I look forward to having some time off at the end of my life to do all those things you mentioned. Who needs a boat when you can make your own bread or knit your own jumper??!!

  16. I've been a full time, homeschooling mum for several years, but my partner and I have come to the realisation that eventually I am going to have to enter the workforce, if we ever want to own our own home.

    With that in mind, I've started doing my Certificate IV in Community Services. But I have made a very resolute statement that I will only work part time - three days a week max. Personally, I'd rather rent forever and enjoy life, than work myself to the bone with no time to enjoy the small things.

    I am just about to hit mid 30's, and I don't know if this is normal for my age group, but I've started thinking a lot about how our time on earth is ever so fleeting, and I want to enjoy it and contribute as much to my family,friends and community as I can... paid work till 80? No way - if this is the direction we are heading in, it makes me wonder how many people will last that long anyway?

    Though, I did read a fascinating story about a woman in the US who was a paediatrician until she was nigh on 100, I think! But I am guessing that was her choice and that no one forced her into it - and that is where we have to draw the line clearly - people should be allowed CHOICE and not turned into a bunch of productive slaves who are there simply to line the pockets of big business!

  17. Alpha means 'one' so I'm hoping this new tag doesn't result in more disenchanted teenagers who take their lives because they aren't living up to what they think others expect of them. The 'one' thing they should be aspiring to is to be happy in their lives and some of the parents of these alpha children are so busy 'developing' their child's abilities I often wonder if the child manages to have a childhood like I remember - with mud pies, sandpits, swimming in the dam, riding pushbikes and horses, learning to cook(and clean up) and all the little accidents that happen while you learn about life that make you remember what to do/not do next time. Oh and parents around to pick you up and clean you up, ready for your next life adventure :).

  18. I have no problem with the idea of working till I am in my 80's, I think the focus should be on working at something that you really want to do that you are passionate about. Can you imagine how wonderful the world would be if we were all meaningfully engaged in doing what we loved?

  19. soewnearth, I will be working when I'm 80 too, but my work will be at home providing the things I used to work to pay for. I can't imagine those people working in factories or supermarkets, or driving long distance trucks, or cleaners would want to still be doing it when they're 80. It would be a great world if we could all work with passion, however, I fear the factories wold be empty and many jobs would be left undone is we relied on passion alone.

  20. Rhonda, the main reason people will have to work until they are much older is simply because there will be no state pension (or a greatly reduced one).
    When people say, "But I've paid taxes all my life!", they don't seem to understand that the government spends it at the time they receive it (or even before - hence budget deficits). Governments don't put it away in a box to be used for pensions at a later time.
    My husband is self employed and pays into his superannuation fund but the way shares have been going for the last few years, there will not be enough to live on if we retire at the conventional age. We will be lucky to get back what we have put into it.
    You had a post on Italian and Greek migrants last week (have you youtubed Vasili's Garden yet? :) ) and I think that we will eventually live as they did/do with their parents. Three generations in one home. It may be the only way people can afford to live. And it may be a blessing in disguise. :)

  21. Well said. I work part-time (5 days per week)and will do so for at least another 10 years, I am hoping to change this to four days within the next two years. I do not wish for my granddaughter to have to work forever with no hope of a peaceful retirement.

  22. Suzanne, it's not about there being no pension (I wrote about that last year here: It's about organising ourselves to save for retirement and being supported by our governments to retire early if that is what we choose to do. No one should be required to work until they're 80 unless they choose to do that.

  23. When GenA is working there will probably be no petrol or oil left and if so will be super expensive.That being the case they are going to have to do some smart thinking to help Australia grow its own food and make its own needs.Planes and boats from overseas do not run on solar power.

    All that we can teach our young now no matter what generation your in is to the good.

    Simple living is not just a way of life for the few, but an important investment in knowledge for the many,who come after us.

    Chris from Coffs Harbour also a baby boomer.

  24. "being supported by our governments to retire early if that is what we choose to do" - this is the bit where I have trouble seeing it work. For the governments to be able to achieve this, they need taxes from private enterprise (not from state school teachers, or nurses or other hardworking, but paid from taxes, people). And there is a global recession on and therefore fewer businesses are operating and more going into receivership (last week was the Colorado group) and hence fewer people paying tax if they don't manage to get another job.
    My grandfather was placed in a state orphanage but had to leave when he turned 13. His mother, before she died, took in washing as there was no widow's pension.
    I guess my, long winded, point is that pensions/benefits are really just a relatively new idea and that people shouldn't rely on them to continue. If they do continue, great. And if they don't, well that's why I like your blog :) and maybe I'm being a Chicken Little and everything will be fine and remain the way it is.
    I'm going to try to make some sourdough bread this week after procrastinating for ages. Wish me luck.
    P.S. Rhonda you don't have to post this if you don't want and I'm not really trying to be antagonistic and I really do enjoy your blog

  25. Here Here, I'm all for getting that message out to generation X,Y and Z, and maybe even little cat 'c' (LOL)

  26. The way our country is heading and it's attitude to pensioners saddens me. Those who want to retire after 60 or so should have that choice of rest after paying taxes for most of their lives. "Participating in the work force" (as the government likes to put it) till 70 or 80 is not something I want for my parents, us or my kid's. There is a serious moral factor missing these days in the higher places.

  27. Hi Suzanne, I'd rather post it because if you misunderstood it, others might have too. Now I see your point. By writing "being supported by our governments to retire early if that is what we choose to do" I didn't mean financial support. I meant the government setting up systems to support the people who want to do this - so allowing them to claim their superannuation when they decide to retire around 60 - 65, promoting simple living options to people who don't know there is an alternative, that sort of thing. The grey tsunami post holds my thoughts on the pension, which I expect to cease, if not in my lifetime, then soon after. So when our government prepares the population for life post-pension, one of the options they should promote and support is early retirement for those people who have lived frugally, who have no debt, have a home and are willing to produce at home what they used to work to pay for.

    Good luck with the sour dough. :- )

  28. Maybe the secret is to "work" doing something that you love?
    I know I will be encouraging my children to follow a career that engages them and gives them joy then there is no really need to "retire"?

    My Father has never retired because he loves what he does! I think I will be like that too.

    The trouble with looking forward to enjoying life after you finish work and retire is you may not get there! It is better to enjoy everyday of your journey and design your life with care so you can.

    I believe you have a valid point regarding consumerism though, it can keep us trapped "earning" when a lot of the time it doesn't really have to. Your blog provides a valuable perspective to balance consumerism.

    But I know it is honestly possible to work and be happy and fulfilled. Not everybody needs 20 years to potter!

    As you often wisely say, everybody just needs to choose the personal path that gives them joy, and no path is more valuable than another as it is all subjective.

    Your path is obviously a wonderful fit for you and I applaud you for that :)

  29. Amen! I'd love to retire but it doesn't look promising. However, we are trying to be more self sufficient and our garden is growing well in spite of the cold weather that we called Spring. I enjoy your insight.

  30. This is such a big debate. Trying to find all the balances for each individual is such a hard thing to do. As a working mother the constant pull between the paid work and the work around the home which could save us money is one which I find exhausting. I'm trying to set things up to free up time for saving but it does take constant effort and reminders such as yours are greatly appreciated.

  31. I'm in agreement with all that's been said. I resigned from fulltime off farm work to work at our business here growing food for ourselves and others and educating on ways to live more simply and sustainably.It's not something you can just stop it's more than that -it's a way of life!My hope is that our grandkids will see that this is a desirable way to live and choose this rather than the future others may expect of them.

  32. The whole concept of retirement is a relatively new one. before the industrialization, people started helping on the farm or in the workshop at the age of five or six and even after they had handed over the farm or the family business to their oldest son (usually), they continued working as long as they could. This changed only when people started to work at factories, because there you could not work a shorter time or more slowly, but only full time or not at all. So the old age pension was for people too ill to earn their living. Furthermore, the life expectancy was much lower than the pension age! So, the thought of a period of 20 or more years of retirement is relatively new.
    The historians used to say that before the industrialization, the pace of work was much more slowly than today. But now, not all of them agree to this. Of course, work was more self-determinated and less alienated than it is now, but even this doesn´t seem so sure anymore.

  33. Hilde, when the retirement age of 65 years was introduced, the average life expectancy was around 61 and there were 16 working people for every one person on the aged pension. That ratio is now three working people for every person on the pension and in the next year or so it will be two working people for every one person retired and living on a pension. Clearly, the old age pension is not sustainable.

  34. It's wonderful to live this kind of live and everyone should be able to. Once you are self-sufficient and have paid off your house you shouldn't have to work fulltime outside of home anymore.

    Unfortunately the government doesn't like it when we aren't blind consumers and polluters. I am trying to buy some property and I was told and i quote "The government is trying to discourage alternative type lifestyles". There is red tape everywhere you turn. It a way it was easier a generation ago, because there wasn't so many silly laws. You can't live in a shack without electricity, but you can live on the streets. I see more and more people giving up because being alternative means fighting every turn, especially for the younger generation.


  35. I'm 54 and have no expectations of my husband and I being able to retire. My parents, born just before WW2, have been retired for 20 years now, fit healthy, travelling the world, enjoying good pensions. This will not be the life for my husband and I. The world is a completely different place.

    It's not down to their attitudes being different to ours. We've been just as frugal. They got a lot of help from their parents to get started in life, we didn't. They built up huge company pensions. They didn't exist for us. They managed to buy a buuse in their 30's and pay it off in their 50's. We couldn't even get started until our late 40's and will still be paying it off in our 70's. The final difference is that we have had to raise a child with autism, now an adult dependent on us, with no help from our parents, and with a great financial sacrifice.

    My parents have had a great life and are enjoying a wonderful retuiirement. Our life has been one of struggle and our future is one of poverty in old age.

    That generation tend to think it's all down to their hard work and frugality. But it isn't. Our hard work and frugality has not reaped the same rewards.

    We all just do the best we can.

  36. Rhonda, another thought provoking post. REferring to your comment "I'd vote for a government that encouraged a simple, frugal life (or words to that effect)". I'm afraid you'll die waiting for that one! Even though John Maynard Keynes is not fashionable, government all buy into his notion of the Paradox of Thrift - ie. the less we consume, the less we produce, the less we earn, the less taxes we pay. No government would ever promote that!
    You only have to listen to the dismay in the voices of the commentators at the moment, when they mention that Australia's savings rate is the highest in long time at the moment. Less does not equal more in these people's minds.
    Luckily we have the freedom to ignore the common wisdom and make our own way.

  37. I hope that you are right Rhonda, but it will have to start with the parents - and the majority seem to be actively training their children for the treadmill for fear that they won't 'get on' in life.

    I think that that is my biggest concern - to bring my children up to be able to resist the vagaries of 'the markets', politicians and financiers and anyone else who looks to turn a profit from human misery. Hopefully I have a long enough stretch of life ahead of me to fully achieve that for myself too.

  38. This is a very interesting post as are the comments. I would like to say I see change happening. In the USA the big big problem we middle class aging workers face is healthcare. For example, my policy at work (single family and married couple doubles and triples) costs me and my employer over $400 a month with a $2000 a year deductible before insurance pays anything. Without employer sponsored insurance it would be higher. "Retiring" before 67 or so is risky because to bear the full burden of healthcare would be financially crippling.

    I am encouraged by many changes I see around me. More people are growing food, buying locally, and are concerned for the environment. Change is slow, but it is coming and we older folks need to set an example to follow by living a life that is harmonious with the earth and all its peoples.

  39. Couldn't agree with you more, Rhonda. The thought of anyone having to work on to that age is positively inhumane. But personally, I don't think it will ever happen. Long before then all the wheels will have fallen off the world economic wagon and the whole thing will have ground to a halt. The present system is unsustainable and mankind has to come up with some new ideas as a matter of urgency.
    Maybe our way of simple living will then be a viable alternative.

  40. You are so right Rhonda Jean. There is much more to life than paid work.
    It would be very useful to learn children all kinds of skills that will help them be more self sufficient and give them the chance to live simple, and frugally, without having to run in the rat race !!
    On that note, during the Summer, I'm going to teach my daughter how to cook ; )

  41. Rhonda what a great post. I am known as a boomer we have worked hard and I mean very hard all our lives and look forward to the day when we can slow down a little and do what we want. We do enjoy the days off we make ourselves take now. I think people are not machines and should have something to look forward to.
    I think that article makes no sense I think that generation will be smarter than us. You are going to teach your Grandchildren the true meaning of life. Happiness and caring, and hard work to get to the happiness part. B

  42. I just heard a statistic recently that it will take at least $220,000 to raise each child in the United States.

    I'd say that makes Generation A spoiled! I asked my daughter, who has five children, how that can be and she said they assume everything is purchased brand new for the children as well as sending them to the high cost universities.


  43. HI Rhonda,
    great post, excellent post,rings all the right bells for me!
    Interesting what you said about economic growth and how our Govt needs understand we don't all have to consume like mad for economic growth. Yesterday Margaret Throsby interviewed Dick Smith on classic fm. They talked about the population debate (what happened to that?) Dick said it died a quick death because Rupert Murdoch believes in growth at all cost and he squashed the debate in the news with the threat of ruin for those who would speak up about it.
    How can we convince the world of what you say when those who have the power of the media control it?
    I know how! it's the slow road but its our road. It's the Down To Earth Road and I love it and am spreading it as far as my little world reaches.
    thanks Rhonda for putting the obvious into perspective for those still locked into the brainwashed society that is consumerism.

  44. Rhonda: I absolutely love your blog. I'm a 33-year old single girl living in North Carolina, USA. I'm a lawyer by trade, and I run a pay-what-you-can law practice. I don't have time at the moment to grow a big vegetable garden, so I buy most of my fruits/veggies from the local farmer's market. I wanted to thank you for your tips and perspective on life and simplicity. I look forward to many more future posts! <3

  45. A Greata Amen to everything you said, Rhonda! Especially agree with you that, although there are some who may CHOOSE to work into their 70s and beyond, that IS their choice. Others should be able to choose to live otherwise.

    I certainly hope to. Good on you for aspiring to share your values with your grandchildren, as well. That is our obligation, I believe, as pass on what we've learned to the young ones.

  46. A lovely, thoughtful and though-provoting post. I must admit that I, like Suzanne, had a "huh?" moment when I first read the line "being supported by our governments...". Thanks for clarifying :-)

    As for me and what I hope to be showing my daughters by the way I do things...hopefully they will see that hard work and self-reliance is what will see them through most anything. It would be a wonderful thing to have this principle guide and develop the character of the generation-sometimes-otherwise-known-as-A. They should understand that not being able to do a darn thing for themselves perpetuates true dependence. It's dangerous and in my opinion just plain wrong.

  47. absolutely love this post, thank you :)

  48. and are we not quilty??by let it happening?
    We do choose our own gouverments dont we?
    i agree it is a terrible idea...



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