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Leaving the Rat Race for a Simple Life

Bill is a freelance writer. Bill is an author. Bill is a human. What "expertise" he may have has been gained from experience.

In 2012, I was in the process of a life-change. Not because of the recession at the time, because truly I hardly felt the effects of the economic downturn. Not because of some mid-life crisis, because mid-life is in my rearview mirror, never to be seen again. No, this change came about after years of introspection and asking the all-important question . . . WHY?

A little background to set the stage in explaining this change. I lived most of my life believing in the American Dream: bigger house, better paying job, possessions, if ten was good then twenty must be better. Owned twelve homes, made over $100,000, had the toys, nice cars, all the trappings of life.

I Was Trapped

Interesting phrase, trappings of life! Because in order to fulfill the American Dream, I was required to work ridiculous hours, neglect my mental, emotional, and physical health, and focus solely on THE DREAM. I was, quite frankly, trapped, sinking in quicksand of my own making. And as unhappiness set in, my best thinking told me that I must not be working enough, or not hard enough, or I don't yet own enough, so I picked up the pace, and the unhappiness continued.

For me, this was a battle I simply couldn't win. Statistics tell us that unless I was in the top 2% of money earners in America, I was never going to reach a financial level of ultimate security. Most Americans are one paycheck away from financial difficulties and that certainly described me, as with higher wages also came increased spending and debt.

Everything Came Crashing Down

Finally, it all came crashing down on me in 1989: a divorce, a back operation, loss of a job, and a mountain of debt. The American Dream for this boy had shattered, never to be realized or sought after again. Out of necessity at first, but eventually out of a realization that it was right for me, I started making changes. I came to realize that no matter how many toys I have, they never could bring me true happiness. No matter how many homes, no matter how much money, no matter how much recognition for a job well done, I was stuck in that quicksand and would never climb out of it.

Today, I Do More With Less

Fast-forward to today. The changes have come slowly, but they have come. I have learned to do with less. I have learned to buy secondhand. I have learned to shop wisely and live within a budget. I have paid off my debt, and I now buy only what I can afford without incurring debt. I own nothing but the clothes I wear and my truck. For probably the first time in my life, I can save money monthly, and it is easy to do so. And here's a fact that may be hard for some of you to follow along with: I have virtually no retirement stash and really don't need one.

I am happy today with barely any financial holdings. I work at a job I love, I have great friends and a son I adore, and I have free time to help others and spend time with those I love. Life is just good. And the changes that started from necessity back in 1989 continue today as I learn new ways to simplify my life, to gain more with less. It has been a wonderful transformation, one I could never imagine thirty years ago, and I am so happy that I lived long enough to learn an important lesson: Money truly can't buy happiness.

Follow Up: One Year Later

It has been a year since I wrote this article. In that time, life has only improved. We have continued the simplification process, and our family is happy and healthy. We need nothing and we want for nothing. We have it all.

© 2012 Bill Holland


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2016:

Thank you Peter. Best wishes to you as well.

Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on September 04, 2016:

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Dear billybuc

What a great idea, however even now I am retired I can't stop working at one thing or another.

I wish you well and kind regards Peter

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 04, 2016:

Ben, when I talk about frugal living, I'm talking about extremes. I live an extreme lifestyle and I'm comfortable with it. It certainly is not for everyone because few people can live the spartan lifestyle I live.

ben on September 03, 2016:

I fully agree with most everything you said, except the part about not needing retirement funds. I'm within 6 months of being debt free when I pay off the mortgage on my humble little home. Even with the expenses of home ownership, I find it's still cheaper (low mortgage now, none next year) than any place I could rent in a safe enough neighborhood. Short of having paying roommates, I do live cheaper than most. Still, I don't see social security covering my expenses in retirement. I do need retirement savings. How have you arrived at not needing retirement savings?



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 19, 2015:

Letstalkabouteduc....good for you!!!!! I think that is a wonderful success story, and I'm so happy for you, your son and wonderful husband. I wish I could force about 100 million Americans to read your great comment. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on July 19, 2015:

I could do that, Iralyn....thanks.

McKenna Meyers on July 19, 2015:

Very thought-provoking, Bill. So many of us are owned by our possessions (think of the TV show, Hoarders). A beautiful part of town here in Bend, OR was destroyed by the recent construction of storage lockers so people can hold on to more stuff they don't need. My mom who is 77 has friends with storage lockers! They simply can't say goodbye to the dining room set that sat in their family home decades ago. They spend money each month for the locker -- money they could use to take their grandkids to Disneyland, go on a cruise with friends, make some good memories. My desire for simplicity and peace happened when I had a son with autism. It changed everything. I saw that the people who surrounded me didn't give a shit except for my wonderful husband. I saw that I didn't want to keep teaching other people's children when my own needed me so much. I realized that the big house and all the trappings that were supposed to make me happy didn't. All I wanted in the entire world was a son who was okay -- whatever okay means when you have autism. Well, my wish came true and my son is doing great and I attribute a lot of his success to our moving away from the rat race, to down-sizing, and eliminating a lot of extraneous folks from our lives. Voted up.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 01, 2014:

Krishna, what a wonderful comment, and how wise you are. I was once a teacher, and I was one of the rare teachers who did not believe that all students should immediately go to college after high school. Very few high school seniors are ready to make life decisions as college demands they do. Taking time off from academics and learning about life is a wise path for many, and you are living proof of that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Krishna on November 01, 2014:

I must say that this article was a great read and really propped up my desire to completely go the other way in life and not follow the rat race, or choose a career for money and security over happiness, experiences, and enjoyment of life, including the time to truly enjoy it.

Most of my friends are done and finished with University or just finishing up their exceptionally stressful Ph.d's, paying off enormous debt, stressed due to the workload of either their studies or their new found jobs, families, cars, lifestyles, etc. Fortunately I have not found my way in University yet (though now I am on that path) and have spent the last 10 years (i'm 34 now) working non career jobs, trying to find myself. That time has given me the opportunity to see watch the rat race from the outside without being stuck in it, as well as allowing me to see in my friends lives how much stress from jobs can affect peoples lives, families, and personal happiness; and for what? Money? Accolades? So called financial security?

Now that I feel I am ready to attend University I am going there to study something that actually speaks to me as a person so I can create a life for myself that is slow, meaningful, and exceptionally simplified.

I truly believe that free time and inner fulfillment trumps prestige, car payments, owning your own home, and having to work a job you moderately like to either get ahead or keep the boat a float.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2014:

Zoran, thanks for the clarification and thoughts. Yessir, that's what I hope for...changing one life, or helping one person...and from there it will spread.

Zoran (AUS) on September 06, 2014:

Mid 80's 7 day trading, i apologise for the error as i indicated mid 90's, however it did take a bit of time before people got in to the full swing of it. The only type of restraint will need to come from the individual, unfortunatley, for many, the pressures of having are too high, and it is difficult to remove your self from that cycle. I watched the movie Company Man, i enjoyed it, wow. Anyway, again, great site and keep up the great work, i hope more people list their experiences, suggestions here, and if one person can be helped to a normal life, it's a great outcome. Thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 05, 2014:

Zoran, that's interesting that it wasn't until the mid 90's that shops closed at noon on Saturday. Here we haven't seen that sort of retail self-restraint since the early 60's. I'm glad you stopped by again. I love your comments. Thank you.

Zoran (AUS) on September 05, 2014:

I do recall before the mid 90's when shops would close at 12pm on a Saturday, and Sunday no trade, family day. Parks were full, people were allowed to recharge the batteries, spend time with family, and funny enough back than, people what they had used it until it broke, than will make the purchase. Today, trade is 7 days a week, shopping centres are full, parks are empty, and every one has a debt car, debt house, debt plasama and so on, which is very sad indeed. I thought i would share this from the land down under, Australia Sydney. Again, great site and keep up the great work, certainly puts things into perspective.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 05, 2014:

justcrafty, it does seem to lack a bit of goodwill, don't you think? :)

justcrafty on September 05, 2014:

My thank you gift from my corporate american job of 19 yrs was you are now terminated.

Wat a nice thank you gift.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 05, 2014:

Zoran, welcome to our site, and thank you so much for taking the time to read my article. You said it all there my friend. Needs vs wants is the rule I live by, and it's worked for me for quite some time.

Zoran on September 05, 2014:

I am from Australia, and i came across this site, a wonderulf site, reading posts by people with real time stories. I have always said, we wont take anything to the grave, life is too short, live within your means, enjoy what you have, do not worry about what you don't have, you can only live in one home at a time, drive 1 car at a time. If people do not respect you for who you are, than do not associate with them. Enjoy life, don't be a slave to the corporates, banks, no one will ever thank you. Am so glad i came across this site, well done.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2014:

Awww, Brie, thank you so much. That was very sweet of you and I really do appreciate it. I didn't even know we could vote for Hubbies yet.

Brie Hoffman from Manhattan on August 18, 2014:

I voted for this hub for a hubbie award, good luck!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2014:

Dee, congratulations on finding sanity and peace. Wow, what a story and Wow, what a solution...the only logical solution. I have no doubt you will be extremely happy with your decision. Scary at first no doubt, but it was the only decision you could make if serenity was your goal. Good luck with your new life and congratulations on your engagement.

DeeCanuc on March 28, 2014:

Good Morning from Canada. I just walked from my downtown Toronto corporate job yesterday and I just ran across your hub Billy. I came to the city from a small town in Ontario 30 years ago at 18 years old to climb the ladder. 30 years later and am no happier and deep in debt. My house is going on the market and I am going to live with my fiancé in his country home. He got out of the rat race a few years ago and it took me until now to see his point. After I took a high paying job downtown 6 months ago thinking the money would make our lives better. It was a nightmare! So I packed up my office and walked away. I have never felt so relieved and already happy than I have in 30 years! Thank you Billy:) Since I already come from the country this will not be a big adjustment, just peace. I am just tidying up my house to go up for sale, cutting off the phone and cable and packing up so my fiancé and I can begin this new life. By the way, my fiancé had a heart attack 3 years ago and has recovered well and now has a second chance at life. Lesson learned. I will definitely be following your hub Billy!

Dee from Canada

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2014:

Moorabite Queen, thank you so much. I appreciate you stopping by my site to read this. I think it is an important message.

Sarah Israel on January 04, 2014:

Thanks for this inspiring Hub. Add Your Comment...

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on November 06, 2013:

Health Care....gee, I hope not. LOL

Health Care on November 06, 2013:

Am I going to be paying for your health care?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 19, 2013:

Laura, no doubt about it, money can buy you freedom. I don't agree that "everyone" who simplified was making over six figures. I have simplified and I'm making less than $20,000 per year. I have no concerns about money because it has never been important to me. Making money, for me, was always a game...the more you make the better you are at the game. Conversely, when I lost it, all it was to me was losing a game that I could play again if I chose....which I have not chosen for over six years now.

Thanks for the visit and comment.

Laura on May 18, 2013:

Why is it that everyone who simplified was always making over 6 figures. With that kind of money you can save and get out. What advise for those of us working just a many hours in horrible work situations sometimes over 50-55 hours a week and only making between 40 or 60K. It's a different ball game I think. I see when you make 100K there is "fluff" to lose, and all this talk about "stuff" but at lower salaries your American dream is paying health insurance, college, repairs on your house and car that's not "fluff". I'm just saying the people with big money and who leave the rat race get a nice pat on the back and allocades for walking away from that money though it looks like one poster above did walk away from a lower salary. If I was making 100+ I'd be living off 30-40, saving 60/70 a year and make my nestegg quicker to get OUT. Money buys you FREEDOM if you manage it wisely.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 22, 2013:

Chinared, I love stories like yours. Enjoy that simple life my friend. Thank you!

Just call me, Rick from Asia, and all over on March 22, 2013:

Nice hub! I did the exact same thing. Made tons of money, bought all the toys and made all the right investments. It soon took it's toll with with high blood pressure. Doctor said, "You can die any moment, you better slow down." After some serious thought, I refused to slow down. Instead, I quit! Sold everything, paid off debts, and lived a simpler low strees job in a low stress country. The only thing I regret, is not doing it when I was much younger. Good job. Thumbs up and interesting!!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 25, 2012:

Justgrace....peace indeed! :)

Nancy McGill from United States on September 25, 2012:

Peace! :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 24, 2012:

justgrace, so do I, and I'm not returning to the old ways. I have found happiness and peace and that's what it's all about, right?

Thank you for the visit!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 24, 2012:

Tranquillite, so nice to have you visit; thank you for the kind words, and if they have helped you in any way, then I am happy. I have never been happier in my life than the last six years. :)

May peace and happiness be yours, today and always.


tranquillite from New York, NY on September 24, 2012:

I really appreciate what you wrote and believe in it whole heartedly. I live a pretty interesting life and in the last 6 months I have discovered the importance of making sure how I spend my time is worth my while and something I love. So no more of these things just because I need the money! I'm still in transition right now but your hub has inspired me to continue down this route and not to doubt myself. :) Thank you for the inspiration!

Nancy McGill from United States on September 24, 2012:

I think it would be great if more people made a decision like yours, dispelling the myth of materialism. I've done the same - left the rat race (except I wasn't making that much) and adapted to simplicity. I absolutely love it!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 12, 2012:

Chappells, bravo to you my friend! You are making a move so many wish they could make....but they never take the action to do so. I am very excited about your journey and look forward to reading about it once that book is out. Thanks for the visit and congratulations!

Chappells Corner from Colorado for now... on September 12, 2012:

Awesome hub! I had to comment because I get it! My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years (I'm only 37 years old i'm not allowed to say her age lol) and we have 4 kids and in our 18 years of marriage and raising kids, making money, losing money etc...we have never been able to get ahead! However for the last year we have been planning our escape from the "rat race". There is a small S. American country we have been eyeing for awhile that we are looking forward to moving our family to...selling ALL of our possesions and starting over there living a much simpler life! I plan on writing a book about it once the journey begins your post has reminded me that we are making this move for all of the right reasons! Thanks!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 12, 2012:

Samnasy, very true my friend! Life is good today, now that I've learned what is truly important. Thank you!

Sam Graham from Australia on September 12, 2012:

Great hub and so true. We have to learn to get appreciate each moment for what it is and treasure the simple things in life. If we look deep enough we all know what these really are.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on August 01, 2012:

Thank you Au fait! So much of life is wasted on stuff....meaningless stuff...I'm all for a simpler life and for the past six years I have been working towards that goal. I appreciate you stopping by!

C E Clark from North Texas on August 01, 2012:

Agree that most 'stuff' is not necessary and only takes up space, requires dusting, and basically holds a person down. When a person takes on a mortgage, a car payment or two, credit cards, etc., they pretty much box themselves into a particular lifestyle so that they’re stuck. They often end up working long hours, and spending very little time doing the things they love or being with the people they care about most. A prison of their own making, so to speak. Some things really aren’t worth what it truly costs to have them, and that cost is usually much more than money.