it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

Capitalism is broken. I am working out my notice period for an exceptionally good employer. My team has a great balance of support and autonomy, the work we do helps people, the schedule is flexible and includes WFH days, our team only hires kind people, and the pay and benefits are competitive for our area (benefit example: I earned an advanced degree for free while working here, and was able to complete 95% of my coursework during the work week). However, the real value of my compensation has not kept pace with inflation (nor with the value of my labor), the 40 hour work week is entirely unnecessary, and an organization with which I work very closely in my role has a normal (read: terrible) work-place culture and the second-hand trauma is untenable. I am a high performer (demonstrable, quantifiable), but the people my work helps only need help because the larger systems (in this case education systems) in my country (USA) are failing them. I don’t really want to participate anymore.

Starting next week, I’m going to live in a van with my spouse/pet and travel around doing odd jobs to maintain our frugal lifestyle. We’re renting out our home to cover the mortgage and bring in a modest passive income. We’ve got a number of adventures planned for the next year which include a mix of learning new skills, earning untaxed income, spending meaningful time with loved ones, and visiting new places – and long term we have the flexibility to go where we are drawn (some goals: volunteer as campsite hosts, work at ski resorts/national parks, watch some rocket launches). This may be an atypical version of “good news” for a website about work-place advice, but I imagine I am not alone. Best of luck to everyone doing the best they can (without exploiting others to the extent possible) within the current economic systems.

And an update:

I’m about six weeks into my new situation, and so far I’ve traveled to two countries (both primarily speak my second language, so I got to practice a lot) and earned certificates in yoga teacher training and scuba diving. The next stop will be earning money instead of spending money; plus I’ll get to learn some sustainable agricultural skills and live off-grid for a few months. I’m still following AAM on my journey — this is my favorite site on the internet (and a lot of your advice is highly transferable beyond the workplace). I also enjoy the updates about your cats. Thank you, Alison.

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

    Wow! Please keep us updated! Thank you and best of luck as you move forward with this adventure!

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      I assume that the LW is referring to the fact that contractor work under $600 for one company in a calendar year does not have to be reported to the IRS in a 1099. But if they worked at a ski resort, that would be W2 income and would be reported/taxed.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Not applicable to LW, at least as it’s written, but military veterans are not charged for their VA benefits. We get a stipend monthly based on our percentage of how badly the military broke us. :) If the percentage is high enough, then dependents are covered for health care until they turn 18 and we receive an additional allotment per dependent.

      2. Pay your taxes.*

        That rule doesn’t mean the income isn’t taxed; it’s meant to ease the reporting burden on companies who employ those contractors. If the contractor isn’t declaring that income when they file taxes, that’s fraud.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Also, I do still report such income without a 1099; you can absolutely still enter it on your taxes and are expected to. Just as I capture every dollar in write off that I can, I do report every dollar in income.

      4. Gumby*

        Sure, but just because the company doesn’t file a 1099 doesn’t mean the income isn’t taxed. You still have to report it as income when you do your own taxes at which point it will be taxed.

    2. North American Couch Wizard Society Member*

      OP may be referring to the fact that if they are maintaining a very frugal lifestyle on a very low income, they are unlikely to need to pay federal taxes on it (or even file, if the income is less than 12-25K depending on age and whether they’re filing single or married). State, local, and property taxes are different of course.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Have to be careful when rental income is added to the total from odd jobs that it is under the tax filing threshhold – I don’t know in the US tax system if they can set all the mortgage against rent or just the interest. However, the OP mentioned getting a “passive income” from rent, which sounds like a profit.

        1. RegBarclay*

          They can only write off the interest, not the principal. But they can also write off the taxes, insurance, repairs and depreciation so generally the rental income bottom line on taxes is a fraction of rental income received.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        But to be completely accurate, that’s not “untaxed income,” that’s “income that’s easy to avoid paying the taxes on without getting caught (probably).”

        1. OP*

          Some answers: Maybe “untaxed” is misleading- my spouse and I do not intend to evade taxes, but my spouse has an LLC which allows us to earn a decent income with ride-offs while remaining within our desired tax bracket. We have an accountant we trust to keep us legal/ethical. Sorry it’s not a more tantalizing answer! We’ll qualify for Medicaid, but we are both young (30’s) and healthy.

    3. Llama Llama*

      I assumed she meant working under the table. If you work a gig job, lots of people are inclined to not report it (whether it’s legal or not).

  2. Twenk*

    OP, could you share a bit more about your general background?! I’m so happy for you and envious! I’m wondering how much money or months of expenses you have saved to get through this adventure, how you are handling health insurance coverage since you’re in the USA…does your former industry have easy on/on off ramps if you ever decide to get back into a similar role? Just curious, and seeking some emboldenment for myself ;-)

    1. OP*

      Medicaid – not too interesting. We have about a year salary saved up, and skills that allow us to work wherever (my spouse has an LLC for her handy person business). We mostly just live incredibly frugally (our van is an old FedEx delivery vehicle that we DIY’ed).

  3. Throwaway Account*

    This is something I am planning to do, still far off and “might” require my spouse to agree to join me.

    I’d like to be able to follow the OP. If they have a social media I can follow, can it be shared here (I don’t know the commenting rules on this).

    Yay for you OP!

    1. OP*

      Nope – we thought about documenting our travels, but we’re pretty private, and it seems stressful to do something like youtube which encourages monetization. If it changes down the road I’ll send Alison an update :)

    1. Generic Name*

      Maybe direct your hate at the real evils of Capitalism, not people who’ve paid a mortgage and want/need to rent their home out for any number of reasons.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        They’re just pointing out the … well, hypocrisy seems too harsh a word, maybe inconsistency? … in complaining about capitalism, saying they’re leaving the system, but still hanging onto bits of the system that benefit them. It sounds like they want the safety net of home ownership rather than simply selling the home and living off the proceeds, which is reasonable but still inconsistent. (That would also solve the possible tax implications of under-the-table jobs.)

        1. bk*

          Yeah, I’m not necessarily mad at the LW as an individual, but it’s not exactly the “I escaped capitalism!” success story they think it is.
          This isn’t straw man, “you say say you hate capitalism, yet you still live in society!”
          This is LW now literally using their capital to gain passive income.

          1. Lyra Belacqua*

            Yeah, exactly. Do the #vanlife thing if you want, but it’s not (at least in this case) a brave act of resistance to capitalism. It’s opting out of the parts you don’t like because you can. Resisting capitalism involves building community and agitating for systemic change. Totally get it if OP’s just burned out, and I don’t think anything described here is a mortal sin–but I’m with the people objecting to the framing.

      2. Busy Middle Manager*

        My ongoing issue is that some or most of what people call “capitalism” is not that. We just had once-in-two-generations inflation not (only?) because capitalism but because we “printed” money and governments/the Fed/central banks have been artificially suppressing interest rates. And since our economy runs on debt and people love to borrow to spend, people could borrow more, and big expenses like housing shot up. Nothing to do with “capitalism,” it’s literally government intervention, because the government will not allow capitalistic markets to naturally set interest rates.

        Without government intervention, there never would have been 3% mortgages. They would’ve stayed close to 7% and then there would be no housing bubble because the huge uptick in pricing in 2020-2021 based on “free” money never would’ve happened

        1. Your local password resetter*

          In a very literal sense capitalism means that the people that own capital get more power and wealth.
          The OP is using their capital (IE home) to get money for owning said capital. As opposed to trading labour for money, which is how most people make a living.

    2. LittleMouseWithClogsOn*

      Exactly. Not to mention trying to avoid paying taxes, the thing that funds the education system the OP is so (rightly!) disillusioned with.

    3. Irreverend*

      Yes! And if they’re talking about avoiding US income tax I can’t imagine they’re paying for the other countries’ public goods like roads and such they’re using while living abroad in their camper van… do you, I guess, but this is not the anti-capitalist flex you think it is, LW.

    4. You're a Mean One, Mrs. Grinch.*

      Exactly! Profiting from others is ok when it benefits a person but not a company?

      1. Trawna*

        There are landlords under many economic systems. Profiting can mean a fair product for a fair price, and fair wages for all versus extravagant wages for some. LW is hardly exploiting anyone.

    5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Capitalism is broken and part of the reason it’s broken is because people have been trained to hold individuals accountable for everything while corporations are like the grand and glorious Wizard of Oz. Never mind the private equity firms buying up all the real estate, it’s that landlord who’s renting out one house that’s the problem.

        1. Moonstone*

          @Radioactive Cyborg Llama – YES! You are 1000% correct. People love to point fingers and tsk tsk individuals while never once placing the blame where it actually belongs.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        This is also an issue in the UK! Everyone blames landlords but doesn’t differentiate between the single extra property owner and those that own multiple lets. I have a number of friends who met their partner in their 30s and 40s so both had homes and one is let out.

      2. Twix*

        Yeah, this drives me nuts. I get why people dislike landlords, but disliking the many faults of capitalism and supporting (or even just practicing) ownership of private property is not inconsistent. This is a textbook example of the Fallacy of the Beard – the fact that it’s difficult to draw the exact line where renting your personal property turns into hoarding resources so that you can you can exploit the people who you’ve priced out of buying them does not mean those two things are the same.

    6. Anon E. Mouse*

      I think it’s a “both, and” situation. We can be pissed off at a broken system (from a corporate level) AND acknowledge that OPs path is only possible based on privilege that was gained within that system (AND maybe even argue that it’s not as big of an “F You” or “escape” from the system as it might feel at the time) AND acknowledge that we hope it works out for OP and it’s good for them to live their life the way they choose?

        1. Jellyfish Catcher*

          Amen to the above.
          There is small time “capitalism”, where you earn money for yourself and family by working, v. a corporate entity buying X apartment buildings, never seeing or maintaining them personally and getting corporate tax breaks.
          People, the LW had to earn the money for the van, even if he/she didn’t own a house; let’s be reasonable here.

          1. Properlike*

            Indeed! Aging myself here when I mention my first thought was “going hippie.” LOL

            Hey, if you earned property and have the means to travel while contributing to the community/world/whatever and not being a drain (sailing around on your private yacht)…. don’t see how anyone parsing the use of the word “capitalism” has to affect you one bit. Go, OP!

            1. Tumbleweed*

              I broadly agree with you and wish op well etc. but absolutely no one has personally earned the rental value of a property.

              rental market rates are mostly influenced by external factors to yourself and taking advantage of them is a choice.

              it’s a choice you can be supportive of people taking but it’s wrong to pretend it isn’t one.

              (most people have also not earned the capital value of property they live in either, for a lot of the same reasons. Assuming it’s a property you’ve not literally just bought with money you earnt and it’s increased in value nil since then – which is only a snap shot position anyway)

    7. Not A Manager*

      “Capitalism is broken” ≠ “I will never participate in capitalism whatsoever.”

      These remarks are like scolding OP for using money to purchase food instead of growing it all in small containers on the windows of her camper van. That she knit herself out of scavenged tin cans.

      1. mcm*

        exactly. Acknowledging that capitalism is broken doesn’t mean you can magically opt out of participating in the system we all live under.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          YES. “Capitalism is broken, there is no way for me to live the life I TRULY want within it, it is impossible to opt out of it, here is how I am planning to navigate that broken system in a way that I can live with, ethically and practically”.

          (See also: gender.)

          Good luck OP! I am going to be doing a different version of this soon, I think, except not in a van.

      2. Twix*

        Yup. This reminded me of a lot of the flak directed at Bernie Sanders for advocating social democracy while being relatively successful and privileged. I understand where that criticism comes from, but you’re not obligated to be bad at functioning within a society to think aspects of the society are bad, nor to make performative personal sacrifices to prove their commitment to addressing issues that can’t be solved through voluntary individual action. There are plenty of people who are critical of capitalism because their success has brought them face to face with its exploitative nature.

    8. Boof*

      Every time I read that, I hope it shorthand for “our current systems of supports, checks, and balances within a capitalistic framework” Are broken, not that they disagree with individual ownership of private property. Because I can’t think of any system of zero private property that works well on a large scale.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Fortunately, there are a ton of non-capitalist systems that still have private possessions. The most equitable ones guard against a single individual owning far more than they can use, though, (such as land that they don’t live on, hunt, fish or farm).

        This can be accomplished by high rates of taxation on excess wealth and income (even the US used to have 70% tax rate on the income earned above a certain threshold) or a ban on owning more land than you can use.

        1. Been There Done That*

          All I can say is I thank the stars above that you are not in charge of deciding what I can or can’t own…

        2. Boof*

          You mean non capitalist in that there is no private business, but is private property? I don’t want to derail far, so I’m just going to stick to understanding what definition of capitalism is likely being referenced / what modern alternative systems are there in practice currently, rather than the relative merits of them

    9. alienor*

      What’s the alternative if they’re not going to live in their house, though? Either it sits empty, or they sell it to a buyer who will probably either flip it for profit or use it as a rental property anyway. At least if they rent it, someone who can’t afford to buy a house (which is most of us) gets the benefit of shelter.

      1. Absolutely Not*

        I think the head-scratcher for me is how a renter can afford to pay *more* than the cost of the mortgage in rent but…still not be able to afford to buy a home? Landlords (corporate and individual) leverage their access to capital to acquire assets that they then rent, and the scarcity increases the value of those assets, which then require more capital to acquire and so on.

        1. JustAnotherEmailMarketer*

          I have enough money for my rent every month but I don’t have enough savings to cover the down payment I would want to / need to make and cover all the property taxes and additional expenses for a house (when the plumbing breaks or the water heater goes out or the ice storm sends a tree through the roof)

        2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          You can’t understand that being bilked for more-than-a-mortgage undermines the ability to save up for even a modest down payment?

          I would have loved to pay mortgage values for my apartments when I was younger. I would have been able to save up and afford to buy a home a decade earlier than I did.

          1. Samwise*

            Paying more in rent than the mortgage is not necessarily being bilked.

            For instance, because I was fortunate enough to be able to buy my house nearly thirty years ago and able to refi twenty years ago, the monthly mortgage and taxes for my three bedroom house on a quarter acre in a now ridiculously desirable and expensive neighborhood is LESS THAN the rent for a one bedroom apt, I sh*t you not. I could charge 150% of my mortgage payment if I wanted to rent my house and it would be a fabulous deal for the renter.

          2. Jellyfish Catcher*

            AbsolutelyNot asked a question; JustAnotherEmailMarketer answered that question clearly and graciously, regarding saving for down payments and considering ongoing expenses.
            None of us know everything; be kind.

        3. Boof*

          There are a LOT of reasons for this
          — homes cost more than mortgage. There are property taxes, maintenence items, and rent may or may not include various utilities
          — buying and selling a home is a lot of work and you can write at least 5% of a large amount of money off for buying/selling fees. And then if you don’t have 20% down payment, mortgage insurance, etc. You don’t know what the market will be like when it’s time to sell. There’s a chance that to make the home look good, you’ll have to live in a second home while people contemplate buying the first.
          Frankly unless i was sure I was going to stay in a place for over 5 years I would definitely rent rather than buy. I hated buying/selling a house, sold my first “starter house” for a “loss” that was about the same as if I’d just rented the same amount of house for the same period of time. I didn’t want to gamble and stress on holding on to it, paying thousands a month to see if I could get a few thousand more, while doing medical residence, and I REALLY didn’t want to risk being a remote landlord and having things happen I couldn’t deal with, the place being trashed or whatever.

          1. Science KK*

            If I bought in 2019-2020 I’d be paying less than my rent is now. But I couldn’t afford it then, and now the prices are even more nuts where I am. And thousands of people are in my same boat.

        4. Engineer Woman*

          Because there’s a down payment component to the house purchase, not just the monthly mortgage. And most renters are working towards savings towards that down payment. Unfortunately, there needs to be some existing capital (down payment) on which to make the “risk” (mortgage loan)

        5. fhqwhgads*

          Where I live housing is so expensive, if I tried to rent a 2 bed room apartment it would cost at least $1000 more a month than my current mortgage. If I rented my house, the market rate for rent would be higher than that of a 2 BR apartment.
          It largely depends on when you bought, what the down payment was, what your rate is vs what things go for now.
          In other words, nearly every renter in my area affords to pay more than the cost of the mortgage in rent, and that is exactly why at this rate they also can’t save for a down payment and thus can’t afford to buy a home. I’m lucky I bought when I did.

          1. Boof*

            What about your property taxes? Where I live those are substantial, I’d say another 20% on top of my mortgage – and that’s not even factoring maintnenece stuff

        6. amanda*

          1) Regular mortgage payments don’t include cost of maintenance, repairs, and lack of liquidity. If you can *only* afford the mortgage payment, you can’t afford a house.
          2) Lots of renters could afford to buy, and choose not to, for various legitimate reasons.
          3) Housing scarcity is largely due to extremely stringent and burdensome regulation of housing construction and renovation. It’s not homebuyers who are responsible for the constrained supply. If the supply of housing could freely increase to meet demand, the price would drop.

          1. Twix*

            I’m glad you mentioned point #2. I’m physically handicapped and chose to sell my house and move into a rental situation because not being responsible for maintaining the property makes my life soooo much easier. I’m not saying renting is a great deal for everybody or that people priced out of buying property shouldn’t be upset, but it’s worth remembering that (good, law-abiding) landlords provide a service that some people actually want.

        7. Student*

          Down payment. The answer is “down payment”. Lots of people can afford the monthly mortgage payments!

          Far fewer people can save up the huge up-front down payment, and that number will shrink over time, especially as real estate inflation consistently outpaces average salary growth. You have to save up for roughly twice as long as it took in, say, 1985, if you look at how median home prices have changed relative to median family incomes.

        8. jtr*

          I think (and I am not an economist) that there are a couple of reasons.

          LW may have purchased their home several years ago. We bought our home about 8 years ago, when mortgage rates were very low, and we had a good bit of cash from selling our previous home. So our mortgage, property tax, and insurance costs for our home are about $900 per month. Which is half of what the rent is for both of our kids, who both live in large cities in the same state, in apartments that are smaller than this house.

          Coming up with 10 – 20% for a down payment for a first time home purchase is really hard without parental help. There are some programs to help with that, but the rates are higher than others, and there are often restrictions on what type and location of the home.

          And house prices have skyrocketed. Our home 8 years ago was $175k. It’s “zestimated” (which may be a bit high) at about $384k. We have improved nothing, except adding a fence.

          1. zeus*

            Or, where I live, 10 years ago for 1/4 what it’s worth now. Home prices here have quadrupled in a decade.

        9. LWH*

          Sorry but you’re extremely out of touch with rent in the US. My mortgage on a 3 bedroom (4 if you count the office with no closet) house is less than many one bedroom apartments in my area. The only reason I could afford it is because I stayed with my parents for a year and put all the money I would have put into rent into savings for a down payment. This is WHY people can’t afford houses, rent is absolutely way way more than a mortgage. It’s not even close.

    10. Isabel Archer*

      The LW specifically said they were renting out their home to cover their mortgage. Are they making additional profit on top of that? Who knows, depends on where their property is. But renting shelter to people who want to pay for shelter is hardly an egregious example of the Evils of Capitalism. Your snark is both unnecessary and inaccurate.

      1. Boof*

        I’ve stopped following at least one person I’d otherwise like on FB becuase they cannot seem to stop commenting on how they think landlords are subhuman. Like, it’s just another job? I don’t want to always have to buy/sell a house when I move! Sometimes I just want to rent a little while!

        1. Some jobs are unethical*

          That’s great that rentals fit your needs, but the vast majority of people who rent would rather own, they just can’t afford the huge up-front costs. I was fortunate/blessed/privileged to finally buy a house recently, and it took financial help from family and friends (that most people wouldn’t have access to) and years of a DINK life (that most people don’t have) to afford a down payment. 30 years from now I’ll have a financial asset that can support my retirement, but if I were renting I would have nothing – just 30 years’ worth of mortgage-payment-sized rent payments.

          1. Not A Manager*

            Is this true? Most people don’t live in one place for their whole working life. Selling a home is costly, and buying a home requires a down payment and frequently floating interest rates. Resale values are volatile. Insurance can be a nightmare. Taxes are high. You’re responsible for maintenance and capital improvements.

            If you’re only going to be someplace for a few years, one monthly payment and no headaches is a very reasonable choice.

            Some jobs are unethical, but one person renting out their primary residence to cover the mortgage is not one of them.

          2. Boof*

            Ok, but why blame small landlords for this? They serve a major need. It seems like it’s air b&b that’s making things go crazy / eating up houses for short vacations

            1. Properlike*

              Exactly. If I could be assured that my rent wouldn’t double in 5-10 years, I’d honestly prefer renting. We’ve gotten unlucky in the timing of one house sale, and could get unlucky again – for instance, we bought our current home when interest rates were super low. Now they’re more than twice our current rate, in a big city. Sometimes life events mean you have to move suddenly.

              Apartments and rentals are necessary. Corporations and VC firms buying up all starter homes to flip them – or turn them into Air B&Bs – is the real issue. And remember back in 2008, when the banks foreclosed on everyone, then turned around and rented back those homes to their former owners at significantly higher monthly rents that kept increasing?

              1. Boof*

                I tried doing a little reading, it sounds like The housing shortage is complicated and multi factorial as you might expect for any major problem. It sounds like it dates back to the housing crash of 2008 which caused less construction. Then Covid and supply chain shortages I have made it hard to build more as well, and no low unemployment rates. All these things together basically makes it hard to construct houses and take a very long time and therefore more money. And I guess some things about zoning, End it being hard to find zones where they can build small starter homes

          3. Properlike*

            I’m a homeowner, and wouldn’t mind renting if I could be assured my rent stayed within a certain percentage over the next fifteen to twenty years.

            “Most renters want to be homeowners” is a sweeping statement. I think it’s one of those American myths, like “own your own business.”

          4. Twix*

            I’m physically handicapped and sold my home a while back to move into a rental situation. Not being responsible for maintaining the property hugely improved my quality of life. It’s true that I’m not accumulating equity in the property, but a large amount of that is offset by the fact that I’m also no longer paying property tax. I view it as the landlord providing a service that I’m choosing to take advantage of, which includes access to the property but also having the landlord be legally, financially, and practically responsible for it. Yes, that costs money.

            I am by no means unaware of the problems with the rental market and its impact on the housing market, and am very much sympathetic to the people who like to own but are priced out of buying a house or qualifying for a mortgage. In particular I’m aware that because I’m not having kids, I have the freedom to budget without considering generational wealth, and the pros and cons list may read very different to parents. My point is just that it is possible for a landlord/tenant relationship to not be exploitative.

      2. Mel99*

        I’m pretty sure they literally said it was for their mortgage and a bit extra.

        I don’t disagree with your overall point, though.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Thiiiiis. We’ve sinced moved, but our old neighbors moved to Florida during Covid (fall 2020…) and used their house as an AirBNB until finally selling it this summer. It was so annoying. There was no street parking on our street, and they’d have multiple cars all along it to the point we couldn’t get out of our house. At one point I had to reach out to the people running the AirBNB, our neighbors had someone else managing it, to ask them to please please please remind people of no street parking because we need to be able to leave our house. The record was 15 cars.

    11. OP*

      Yup! To the extent possible we’re participating in a terrible system while limiting our own exploitation of others. Our home will be rented out at well below market rate in an area with a dire housing shortage. Rent will cover the mortgage and utilities. If we also choose to rent out the portion of our home we live in we could lower rent further for multiple renters and earn a small passive income. Not enough to stop working ourselves. I understand your frustrations with the housing situation in the US, and have grappled with the ethics if what to do with our home while we’re away.

      1. CatHerder*

        There is, but rental income counts as income, so if they are working on top of that, they are likely to have hit that threshold.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          I guess it depends on how much income they actually generate. If rent is just marginally higher than their mortgage and they are only doing part time gig work, they may stay below the threshold.
          The thing I wonder about is healthcare. This would not be a concern in the UK but in the US can you leave jobs without worrying about healthcare?

          1. Anon E. Mouse*

            Depends on how dangerously you want (or need) to live, I suppose. ACA and COBRA plans are expensive (but oftentimes better than nothing if you can afford it?). Tying your continued health to your continued employment is a stupid system; but I also know several folks who are willing (or forced) to live without insurance. Those who are willing seem to be genuinely unworried about medical care (young, relatively healthy) and those who are forced either live in perpetual anxiety (that was me when I was uninsured, and that was only for a month!) or they’re exceptionally good at not worrying.

          2. Beth*

            You don’t *have* to worry about it ;) you can always just assume you won’t get sick or hurt!

            In all seriousness, yes, healthcare access in the US is usually through our employer and that makes this kind of precarious employment very risky. If OP is planning to spend a lot of time internationally, that might not matter–typical health insurance isn’t likely to cover that anyways. And it’s also possible they have access to health coverage through other means (e.g. through a parent if they’re under 26, through Medicaid eligibility, through the private market–which is expensive as an individual but maybe they’ve got funds saved up, etc). But I think most Americans would feel worried about a move like this.

            1. misspiggy*

              Isn’t that interesting. It’s a bit scary to think about what my career choices would have been if I hadn’t been able to rely on the NHS. It would have shaped my mental universe so differently.

            2. Yikes Stripes*

              OP has already said that they’re both going to qualify for Medicaid, which in California at least means an income of under ​​$27,214 annually if they’re married. It’s $20,121 each of they’re unmarried.

  4. WillowSunstar*

    I agree that capitalism, at least as it’s currently practiced in the US, is broken. Good luck to you.

  5. Ann Stephens*

    This scenario appeals to the wanderer in me, but as an accountant I can tell you all the things ‘wrong’ with it. I’m embracing the former, ignoring the latter. Enjoy, OP!

  6. SuperDoctorAstronaut*

    Just stopping by to say —
    Capitalism isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as designed: Capitalists make money by exploiting the labor of the workers they hire, giving no ownership of the products/work created by that labor back to the workers.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      You need moderation and appropriate regulation for Capitalism to work effectively.

      I’m generally very in favour of Capitalism over other economic systems, but things are shifting too far towards unrestrained capitalism, which leads to serfdom and slavery (in fact or in effect), with wealth overly concentrated in a very small proportion of the population. This is not sustainable, not equitable, and not efficient (from a greatest good to the greatest number perspective).

      Believe me, if I am starting to question Capitalism, it really is going too far towards an unhealthy extreme.

  7. Carol the happy elf*

    In case you’re interested: here’s a link for where to be on April 8, 2024 for a longer-than- normal total solar eclipse.
    Eclipse-hunters will already have the hotels booked, but camping spots can be found, and emotionally, this is a bucket-list event you might enjoy.
    The air gets still, owls and bats come out, the temperature drops, and I am so going to be on that ride! (We’ve been in the path of 3 so far, and it’s one of my favorite things.)
    You can order eclipse glasses online (everybody looks like viewers at a 1950s 3-D movie with dark glasses.)
    Just incase here’s the link:

    You can also check out timeanddate for more info:

    1. LawLady*

      I was in the path of the 2017 solar eclipse, and it was astoundingly, life changingly cool. I hadn’t anticipated how cool it would be.

      1. call me wheels*

        I should have been watching it but making eggy bread for breakfast took too long and by the time i came out it was mostly over! :( huge mistake :’)

      2. Starbuck*

        Yes, I saw the 2017 one as well and even with all the pre-hype, found that it exceeded my expectations! I’m definitely making plans to see the 2024 one. It’s so worth it.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        We booked a rental in Mazatlan two years ago (maybe more – can’t remember). In 2017 I was traveling with my kid looking at colleges and we weren’t in the path of totality. My husband ended up camping in a city park somewhere in Kentucky. He’s a geologist and general earth science geek and as soon as he saw the path of the 2024 eclipse he announced we were going to Mexico. I did not argue. So excited!

    2. pally*

      Okay I have to ask: do waves in a body of water stop as well?
      See, decades ago a friend of mine flew to a location to witness a solar eclipse. No, I cannot recall where or when.

      She described it similarly to what you wrote. But she was near a body of water and she noted that the waves stopped for a bit. True?

      1. Properlike*

        What would stop waves from continuing when it’s merely the moon moving in front of the sun? Except potentially the cooling affecting local wind patterns…?

        How are we defining “waves?”

    3. dryakumo*

      My fiance and I are using it as an excuse to take a road trip to San Antonio (his hometown) and we’re planning to view the eclipse from his great uncle’s farm! Also going to try to go deep sea fishing if the season starts early enough.

  8. Melissa*

    I read your account and thought “Not for me…. But go you!” I’m glad you found something you love, and best of luck to you and yours. Keep us posted!

  9. Abogado Avocado.*

    Could those without law licenses here hold off on declaring that OP is committing tax fraud?

    The US Internal Revenue Service requires the filing of a tax return only when certain gross income thresholds are met. For example, single taxpayers under 65 must file a return only when gross income exceeds $12,950; for heads of household under 65, the threshold is $19,400. If OP is a resident of a state without a property tax (hello, Texas!), has savings and manages to keep their gross income below these levels, it would be possible for them to live without paying income tax. Further, for all we know (and OP isn’t obligated to tell us), they may have engaged in tax planning with a lawyer that allows them to further lower their gross income.

    This is why I ask those on this board to stop declaring that a crime is being committed. There are ways to plan to live without paying income taxes (as wealthy politicians demonstrate each time they share their tax returns with the media). It might not be the way you or I are able to live, but it is possible to do so within the law.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      OP said spouse so I think married filing jointly and the federal limit is $22,000. That will buy a lot of gas and food and camping fees (especially if parking on public land).

    2. m2*

      They also said they are renting their house. Rent is income just FYI. Associated expenses can usually be deducted, but rental income is still income.

    3. Robin Squeaks*

      Texas has property taxes, it just doesn’t have state property taxes. The taxes are levied by counties, cities, towns, and other tax districts.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, when you factor that in, Texas actually has some of the highest property tax rates in the country! Like well in the top 10.

    4. JR*

      Yeah, but the filing threshhold is way lower for self-employment income. It’s just $400 because that’s when self-employment tax kicks in.

  10. pandq*

    I am a member of a Facebook group called Road Trip Her which is less about a trip and more about a lifestyle. Many of the women in the group (US based) are traveling and living in their van/rv/car because they can no longer afford rent. Probably comes of no surprise to folks that trickle down Reaganomics didn’t work for most people.

  11. RJ*

    OP, live your life and see the world. I had a co-worker who was planning to do that when he retired (he had a year to go), but he was taken by COVID. Time is a commodity no one can afford to waste and for some of us it’s working/saving for future goals while for others it’s opening themselves up for adventures on the road. Enjoy your travels and be safe!

  12. AK*

    my company is going through layoffs. I got a call from my boss last Monday that said performance metrics are going up and pips will be implemented for people who don’t meet it by the end of the year. I might be able to meet the new goal, but it’s kind of a sucky place to work right now (and I like my job! it pays well! I learn a lot!).
    talked to my spouse, we have 3-6 months of living expenses saved. decided that this is a good time to move abroad and stretch that 3-6 months to 12 months and have a cross cultural experience for our kids (3 and 6yo).
    So planning to quit in Jan! excited and scared.

  13. Not Necessarily Non-Taxable*

    If you are a U.S. citizen or green card holder, except for very few exceptions, you are required by law to report all of your earned income, even if it’s gig income or you’re paid under the table. It doesn’t matter if you received a 1099 or any other documentation. You are required to keep track and report it appropriately. Even if it doesn’t rise to amount that is subject to income tax, it may be subject to self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare). How do I know? I’m an Enrolled Agent and represent clients before the IRS.

  14. Stuart Foote*

    I don’t want to defend capitalism too much, but it seems to be working very well for OP. Generally, it seems that relatively privileged people love to talk about how evil capitalism in the US is, while people from countries with other systems take huge personal risks to come to America and are extremely happy to be here.

    Americans also love talking about how great European countries are to live in, but I work with a decent number of European expats and while they often miss home, they definitely don’t seem to consider Western Europe some sort of utopia compared to the US (except for maybe crime rates).

    Again, I am well aware of the issues here in America, but the account of a person who worked a great job for many years and is now traveling the world working enjoyable, low pressure jobs is not exactly a great example of any of those issues.

    1. OP*

      I’m incredibly privileged- not like 1% or even 50%… or even median household income for my state… privileged. But I will freely admit that I have advantages like birthplace, historically /relatively secure food and housing (I’ve only been homeless twice, and fairly briefly- for example), able-bodied-ish-ness, access to education and countless other opportunities. I’ve also been lucky; I was able to buy a house because someone hurt me quite badly many years ago and I received a small settlement which I used to buy an incredibly modest (though mostly habitable at time of purchase) home in an area where home values have since grown. My life at many times could easily have gone a very different direction and I am frequently aware that many members of my generational cohort (Millennials) will never have the luxury of making the choices I’m making now. To the extent possible I try not to hurt others; I disdain the current economic system, and I sometimes benefit from it, and I often hurt others with my choices as much as I would prefer not to (example: I buy vegetables that have hurt humans, the environment, and communities just by traveling to my local grocery store). My choices are indefensible and sometimes unavoidable. Sometimes I have a better opinion and I still choose the worse choice because it is easier or cheaper – it benefits me in the short term, while harming us all in the long run. My good news is obviously not good news for everyone.

    2. Properlike*

      Y’all seem to think OP is claiming the banner of anti capitalism, and then snarking they’re not doing it to your satisfaction.

      Who cares? And also… so? You’re arguing that someone’s good news shouldn’t be good because they’re not “walking the talk” they never claimed for themselves?

      OP shouldn’t be defending a single thing, nor should they be getting so much semantic pushback from the commentariat.

  15. Not Mindy*

    Congratulations OP! I know of others doing something similar.
    If you haven’t considered it, you might want to look into housesitting and petsitting. There are a lot of opportunities. There are both paid and unpaid sits with varying levels of responsibility.
    My mid-term plan is to start doing this within the US after I don’t have any pets left in my own home. I will continue working my regular job, which is 100% remote. I’m hoping to get some 1-2 month sits in a warmer place when upstate NY is buried in snow.
    My long-term plan is to do this internationally! I have done very little international travel but I’m looking forward to trying something new.

  16. Rosyglasses*

    I love this! I have 4 more days left at a pretty good company where I’ve been over a decade and am starting my yoga teacher training next month, and figuring out the adventures that lie ahead. So amazing to hear about someone else taking the plunge!

  17. bunniferous*

    Some people hike the Appalachian Trail, some do the van life thing. YouTube is full of folks doing this sort of thing.

    I’d like to hear from these folks in a year to see how it went.

  18. Bubble Dweller*

    Reading the criticism of this writer has been a wakeup call of… something. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. I know that I have never seen or heard what this writer is doing (saying “capitalism is broken” while renting out their home, “untaxed income” which I agree is a mysterious phrase, quitting a good job) challenged maybe… ever. It is how most people I interact with talk, a set of values that is unquestioned. Grateful that I read the comments so that I could step outside of my bubble and just see that it’s there.

  19. wombat*

    “the people my work helps only need help because the larger systems in my country are failing them.” the fact that there are jobs like this is really sad and I can totally imagine that doing such a job would eventually make someone want to just turn their life upside down like this.

  20. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    People in W European countries do this too, dropping out of the rat race to become Travellers for a year or forever. Some fascinating but very low COL Asian countries are popular destinations for this.
    Some, like the OP, have the advantage of a home to return to when they finish or pause their wanderings.
    Working peripatetically abroad for cash is unlikely to be traceable by the home tax authorities.

  21. OP*

    Hi AAM friends – A few general responses: I intend to commit little (or ideally no) tax fraud. My spouse and I have a not-shady accountant who will help keep us above board. I don’t want to reveal too many details about my personal finances or the plan for our home to internet strangers, but I can assure you the amount of money we’re discussing is very unexciting. To those of you as hung up on capitalism as I am: I fully acknowledge my privilege, hypocrisy, luck, and inability thus far to adequately/consistently match my actions with my values.

    1. Boof*

      We do the best we can with what we have an imperfect world. Your adventure sounds exciting, and his ethical as one can be. If I quibble about verbiage and systems, it’s not really having anything to do with your action just an interest in exploring what ideal to strive for.
      Also, OMG, Handy person for small jobs. You And your husband are gold.

      1. Properlike*

        I believe the OP’s spouse is a wife, and I sure wish I could connect with them to find out if/when they’ll be in my city – I have some household tasks in need of a handyperson, because homeownership means I gotta do this crap. :)

  22. StarTrek Nutcase*

    Congrats on your escape – I sincerely hope it’s what you hope for. However, I don’t believe dropping out will fix anything in the long term. As a taxpayer and proponent of capitalism (even when imperfect), hopefully you’ll never experience hardships that will drive you back to obtain services supported by US citizens’ tax dollars.

  23. 109question*

    love this update, and love the idea that people read AAM even when it’s not totally applicable. Alison really is just that great. enjoy your adventures, LW!

  24. Humpty Dumpty*

    Amazing! Such a great update, enjoy your travels!
    I wanna do this too, but my main concern (albeit a rather silly-sounding one) is always: where will I receive my mail? I live in Europe, and there are astoundingly few options to get your mail if you don’t have a fixed address.

    I once got a mailbox at one of those mailbox service providers and they suddenly sent me an email saying: we are closing within 1 week (!!!) due to the government ordering us to (something about the government combatting tax fraud being committed by people using these mail companies).

    So I was scrambling to quickly inform every person and company of a new address and have since just rented a flat again. :/

    Any European nomads having found the perfect solutions to this (I live in the UK)? I hear this is much easier to arrange in the USA.

    Many congrats to OP for going on this amazing adventure!!! :-)

  25. Jinni*

    I have a friend who did this (rented out low mortgage Silicon Valley home), and five years later she and her family have zero regrets. Go you.

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