Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

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SustainableHappiness
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Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by SustainableHappiness » Thu Mar 16, 2017 10:52 am

I've been reading "Sapiens" by Yuval Harari and although it romanticizes the pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer lifestyle a little too much for my taste, it did spark an existing thought that searching out and capitalizing on shorter commitment income opportunities might be a more engaging work-life to live.

This raises the typical FI-focused question of security, but if security isn't all it's cracked up to be, you aren't a victim of the "poverty of imagination" leading to no better daily solution then sit-watch-eat, and you are comfortable with dipping into a cash supply in times of income drought, it seems this is a good route to look into. Plus calling it Hunter-Gatherer Economics feels hot right now, maybe book worthy?

I've seen topics before on semi-ERE which seems to typify what I am referring to. But, my questions are, has anyone tried this and found out that they couldn't take the pressure of finding the next income stream?

Has anyone taken the leap (into what now feels like freelancing across multiple channels), lets say with <10x annual expenses saved, and what was your experience like as a hunter-gatherer of cash, any regrets on not sticking it out to build a bigger safety margin?

subgard
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by subgard » Thu Mar 16, 2017 12:20 pm

Most people that tout this plan seem to have one or two major income streams and a few (if any) smaller ones.

Once a capable person sets their mind on fearlessly expanding their skillset, they run into irresistable opportunities to specialize.

It seems that it's abundance that destroys the scheme, not scarcity.

Or, that's what it seems from reading about people that supposedly do this.

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chenda
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by chenda » Thu Mar 16, 2017 12:39 pm

Become a fisherman ;)

I have a friend who rents rooms in his house and ubers as and when he needs to. The ubering is totally flexible, and the rent money is fairly reliable.

George the original one
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by George the original one » Thu Mar 16, 2017 3:27 pm

Out here in the rural tourist zone, there are quite a few people living such lifestyles. Kind of a subsistence living, often phrased by the locals as "make money any way I can". Clean weekend rentals, sell firewood, make art, & guide tourists... and some illegal things they try not to draw attention to.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by Riggerjack » Thu Mar 16, 2017 8:05 pm

You have 10x savings, why not just start a business? I mean, unless you just want the variability.

Mastering a trade takes like 5-6 years. Then just do as much or as little as you like, freelance.

Tooling up for a specific trade means minimal continuing tooling costs. A jack of all trades is always trying to make the tools he has, do the work he has. You either need to many tools, or you need to make the wrong ones work.

I imagine the give and take of negotiating your skills and expectations against the customer needs and ability to pay sounds like fun to extroverts. To me, that's exhausting before the job starts.

I don't mean to be discouraging. I mean to be realistic. If you want to work for yourself, do it with skills and/or equipment that sets you apart from every other Joe.

classical_Liberal
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by classical_Liberal » Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:21 pm

Such a plan depends on the personality of the one undertaking it. I intend to make something similar to this work, I just haven't completely determined a "safe" level of monetary assets (apparently I haven't reached it yet?).

A few likely prerequisites to the personality-type this would appeal to:
  • Tires of an activity relatively quickly once they have become competent and/or prefer learning new things over mastering/mentoring in what is already known.

    Prefers other benefits wage income offers, but does not want to be dependent on the income should other opportunities arise. Example could be social aspects(extrovert), the structure jobs can provide, resources companies or investors provide to meet personal goals outside of income, or [insert reason here].

    Cash outflows that are legitimately low end (7K ERE to 20K MMM), this level of income is easily earned in most of the western world.

    Older start to this lifestyle (mid30's+?), as the timeline for the potential future value of dollars saved at present is reduced. Time now becomes more valuable than money later.
Personally, I have all of these tenancies. Regular career turnover at the ripe age of 40 has provided competence in several different fields which are enjoyable in small amounts, but not so enjoyable in excess. Any of these fields could individually provide for low cash flow needs at part-time levels, but in tandem (say 2 different, one day a week) would provide excess. Any new interest wage labor would provide excess at entry level wages. Anecdotal experience has shown no better way for me to develop a social network in a new city than through wage work, this is where most adults "hang out". In fact, the only limiting factor to socialization when employed is preference and time, both of which would become more abundant when time spent at workplace is minimized. Lastly, sometimes working on goals bigger than oneself is desirable. The easiest way to meet other adults cohesively attempting to reach a mutual goal is through the workplace.

There are also some pretty large advantages to this, the largest being a progressive tax system. Working full-time+ in a well paid specialization provides income to the level in which total annual expenditures are dwarfed by payroll tax obligations alone. In an "earn as you go" approach, net tax rate would be very low. Low income would allow for lower taxed solutions to shifting funds from deferred accounts (again a late comer issue). Additionally, most social programs, including health insurance programs, are income based. Low income would allow one to maximize these benefits (Yes, I realize ACA in jeopardy, but even pre-ACA many US states had income based health insurance options, this will likely continue).

SustainableHappiness
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by SustainableHappiness » Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:18 am

@ George the OG (Original Gangsta) - Any insight into whether or not those people choose to live that way versus feeling forced to live that way? Is their any difference in opinion on the lifestyle between the two mindsets?

@ Riggerjack - A business is on the docket for pursuing during my 8-month pat leave coming up in the fall. I'm going to try to abuse the fact that pet owners like spending money on unnecessary things. But as you hinted at correctly, the variability is the key motivator, this could be a factor of my young age (27), but every time I move into a different role or company, I get bored within 6 months and companies are hesitant to move you even with peak performance faster than 16 months in a role (my last one was 8 months, but that was due to weird circumstances and consequently they definitely don't want to move me quickly again). I assume based on your comments you are involved in the trades? How long did it take you to get bored of your current one/are you bored?

@ classical_liberal - I hit on 3 of the 4 of your pre-requisites, (un)fortunately no mid-30s+...oddly enough I viewed that as a positive thing since I can really fuck it up and still have significant runway. A little spin on your last point on social programs is I am from Canada, eh. Same progressive tax and social programs concepts apply, but the ACA and health insurance debacle you guys face in budgeting is maybe 1/10th of the bugbear as you (i.e. will my children be able to get braces if their teeth are wonky?)

George the original one
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by George the original one » Fri Mar 17, 2017 12:24 pm

SustainableHappiness wrote:Any insight into whether or not those people choose to live that way versus feeling forced to live that way? Is their any difference in opinion on the lifestyle between the two mindsets?
It's a choice. If they didn't want to work (earn money), then they'd be the drifters & local bums rather than settled. They either don't want a boss or have something in their past that prevents them from being easily employable. Typically they either grew up here and learned firsthand what it takes -or- they settled here because they want to be located near the beach/woods with an outdoor lifestyle. Sometimes the settlers come with a grubstake and sometimes they don't. The entrepreneurs carve a niche for themselves, usually thinking things like "how can I make money off all these cars going by?"

My neighbor moved here 30 years ago because his mom became ill. He had been working in a shipyard in the big city, but grew up with this lifestyle (only in the Cascade mountains rather than the coast). He paints houses and builds fences and makes art and guides hunters. His wife cleans vacation rentals and has a slowly growing business. He is phasing out the work as he has begun collecting social security and his health declines (lifelong smoker & broken ribs twice in the 5 years I've known him). Together, their family income is $30k-40k.

SustainableHappiness
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by SustainableHappiness » Sat Mar 18, 2017 11:51 am

@ George - Thank you.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by Riggerjack » Sun Mar 19, 2017 10:45 am

I started in low energy cabling. Running cat5 and fiber optic cables. I did that for 10 years, never got bored, but most of that time was a foreman. I'm not temperamentally suited to leadership, and my relentless need to optimize combined to make mine the most productive crew, and also the crew nobody wanted to be on for too long. It also caused me enormous stress. 12 years ago, I transferred into engineering. This has worked well for me. Now I have a relaxing, stress free job that I can use to recover from weekends. Working 4/10's means I can get busy on real projects, then rest at my desk and plan the next weekend.

But I don't need much variety in my life. As I make more in my life the way I want it to be, the less often variety is an improvement. Still I need enough change to keep me flexible. YMMV.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Hunter-Gatherer Economics?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 12:18 pm

subgard said: Once a capable person sets their mind on fearlessly expanding their skillset, they run into irresistable opportunities to specialize.

It seems that it's abundance that destroys the scheme, not scarcity.
Absolutely true in my experience. In fact, it does not even take anything resembling "set mind on fearless expansion of skill set" level of functioning for this to occur. Just being capable and "doing the work in front of you" in the presence of others is pretty much enough. Sometimes it will be a level of already achieved competence that will cause you to not-be-able-to-not-see-the work-in-front-of-you. Other times the just-doing-of-the work will create the competence.

Also, having an abundance of free and/or flexible time at your disposal will give you the same sort of ability to take better advantage of good opportunities as they arise as having an abundance of free and/or flexible funds at your disposal can offer. For instance, it is only my own preference to focus my energies on my perma-culture project that limits my ability to spend the majority of my time doing something like going on a free cruise with an old sailor.

I also totally grok/agree with what classical-Liberal wrote. My current total expenditure level (not inclusive of investment in current projects towards future yield) is $8000/year give or take. I can very easily net that amount working two short or one long day per week (or 100 short-50 long days/year) at a variety of activities from which I also derive other benefit. Also, due to my age and other semi-related factors such as tax structure and physical maintenance requirements, the level of earnings at which working-for-money begins dip towards favoring present-me over future-me in alignment with total maximized utility is currently right around $18,000/year. IOW, my most rational future-me favoring choices are:

1) Work some pattern of 225 short days/year with some variety that provides other benefits.

2) Work some pattern of 112.5 long days/year with some variety that provides other benefits.

3) Work for greater hourly wage with less variety and fewer other benefits for some period less than 225 short days or 112.5 long days/year.


So, maybe "busy beaver" mode or choice would be start in on choice (3) on January 1st of each year, work 7 long days each week at highest paid not-thoroughly-repugnant assignment, and then be done with work-for-money on Day (18,000/12 X highest-possible-hourly-rate.) "Low energy steady sloth" mode might find me working only two short days/week at otherwise beneficial variety of assignments throughout the year. And I would imagine "Hunter-Gatherer Mode" as being more varied with seasonal bursts of activity. For instance, if it made sense or seemed enjoyable for me to substitute teach in January and February, market-garden mostly in May and October, and attend book sales mostly in September and December.

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