Don't Take a Gap Year - Take a Gap Life!

Don't Take a Gap Year - Take a Gap Life!

When you look at the current state of affairs in the United Kingdom (UK) and the rocky road ahead I can’t help but wonder, what does the future hold for young people? With this in mind and drawing on my experience as a citizen and long-term observer, I would like to suggest a different path to what's conventional or "normal". What exactly is "normal"? Ellen Goodman states "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it". This insightful quote doesn't mention other "norms" such as taking a short holiday every year but it aptly describes the lifestyle that is lived by countless people in the UK and elsewhere in the Western world. This strenuous, wearisome, and competitive existence is often referred to as the “rat race". Make no mistake; this frustrating, time-consuming and hard-to-break financial lifestyle is designed to enslave you. The definition of "insanity" in The Urban Dictionary is "doing the exact same f****** thing over and over again, expecting s*** to change. If you want to truly live free, you have to first recognize the things that are preventing you from doing that. Although this article is aimed at school leavers in the UK between studies, the information is pertinent to many other young people in the world such those living in the United States of America (USA). Some of my ideas and arguments are controversial and arguably far too pessimistic, but only time will tell how things turn out.

Higher Education

Many young people believe that they need a university degree to get a well paid job and further their career. A bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree is a necessity for certain career paths and professions but these degrees aren't required for a large number of roles in the workplace. The majority of UK university graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree! Almost one in three graduates are overqualified for their job according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Young people need to ask themselves whether university education will lead to greater success on the job market and surviving financially. I know a woman who works for a well-known international volunteer placement company; she didn’t go to university but instead took another route to senior management level, namely, through volunteering and travel. In her opinion this gave her very hands-on practical skills which a degree could not have provided. She speaks four languages as a result of travelling and working in many countries: English, Afrikaans, Spanish and Italian. There are plenty of careers where practical experience could be more valuable. And there are plenty of companies that don't require job applicants to have a degree such as Penguin and Ernst & Young. Other great examples of people who "made it" without going to university are former Conservative Prime Minister John Major who famously left his comprehensive school with just three O-Levels, the English broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson who got a C and two U’s, and Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal, who compared university to being “as corrupt as the Catholic Church was 500 years ago". If higher education is absolutely essential to pursue a chosen career path try and find a university with low tuition fees or where you can study for free. Scottish students get free university tuition in Scotland, as do students from other EU countries. There are 10 EU countries where a prospective undergraduate student from the UK can study for free, including Germany and Norway. Some companies offer sponsored degrees where students receive a salary and gain valuable work experience. Whatever you do, remember automation is coming so don't choose a career path likely to be affected by the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots.

Student Debt

High university tuition fees and living costs mean dept. It's puzzling why some young people, particularly from poorer backgrounds, want to saddle themselves with debt and liabilities right at the start of their lives. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) the average student in England will graduate with debts of over £50,000! This will without doubt affect lifelong finances and decision making. For example, a former student crippled by debt will be deterred from launching an entrepreneurial venture. This observation was recently confirmed by experts from the Centre for Global Higher Education. Their research found large student debt loans not only affected lifelong finances but harmed people’s physical and mental health, both during and after leaving university. Graduates can expose themselves to ongoing financial distress as most will still be paying off student loans into their 50s! Both the IFS and OECD state that 70% of all graduates will fail to repay their loan in full after 30 years! Owing large sums of money is no way start life and a life without debt means less financial anxiety and more freedom. The more debt you have, the more you have to work to keep up with monthly payments. Beware the pied piper saying university is the most important investment of your life. There is nothing “cool” about being financially responsible and stuck with a massive student loan for years on end. The opposite scenario gives you the best shot of living life on your terms and following your dreams. Ask the 44 million people in the USA that have $1.5 trillion in student loan debt what they think on this matter. It is easy to find college and university graduates in the USA who feel like they have been crushed by the system. Some Americans have taken extraordinary steps to escape the constant worry of student debt, including 29-year-old Chad Haag who found his monthly instalments so stressful, he just packed his bags, said goodbye to his life in the USA and moved to a remote jungle village in India. So much for achieving the American Dream! The assertion that university is the most important investment of your life is much like the American Dream – you have to be asleep to believe it!

The Rise of the Machines

Many young people view going to university as an invaluable rite of passage and a necessary step to pursue a career or secure a job. They will wholeheartedly disagree with much of what's been written thus far. Well, a word of warning about automation and the rise of the machines. A huge number of jobs will be at high risk in the future, with humans being replaced by robots and AI. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute says up to 800 million workers around the world will lose their jobs by 2030. They predict one-fifth of the global work force will be affected. A report last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that the jobs of more than 10 million UK workers will be at high risk from automation over the next 15 years. Imagine what the employment landscape for young people could look like in 2050 with further advances in technology? Some displaced workers may be able to transfer to other jobs, but others will be facing unemployment because they lack the new skill sets required for the role. Who will pay your bills when a robot takes your job? Whilst it's possible to choose a profession less likely to be automated in the near future (e.g. jobs requiring human interaction and specialised lower-wage jobs), today’s technological revolution should be of concern to every young person leaving school. I don't want to mention what else I see coming down the pipeline as the purpose of this article isn't to scare the life out of you! It's merely to give you a gentle nudge about the consequences of not thinking through your options when leaving school, what society could be like in the future, and the possible advantages of thinking "outside of the box".

Economics & Housing

Many young people in the UK do get through university and find a decent job; but can't afford the British dream of owning their own home. The Office for National Statistics figures show the average UK house price was £233,000 in August 2018 and the average rent around £850 a month. It's no wonder record numbers of those aged 20 to 34 are now living with their parents! The days when young people "flew the nest" at 18 appear to be long gone. High rents and daunting mortgage deposits and payments; coupled with stagnant wages, precarious employment, and high student debt is creating a generation of people who are not able to afford financial and social independence. The housing sector in the UK is on its knees and the problems could get a lot worse. Aspiring homeowners saving for a deposit face years of anxiety and sacrifice. Those who opt for rented accommodation because they can't afford to buy a property will be paying 30-60% of their salary on rent alone. Shocking figures from Nationwide reveal that 33% of people privately renting in the UK have just £23 left to spend each week! It's fascinating that most British people cite not earning enough money as the major reason why they wouldn't take their foot off the pedal and ditch the 9-5 grind; yet they often have less disposable income than someone, for example, giving surf lessons on a Caribbean beach in exchange for free accommodation, food, a small salary plus tips! Who has the better quality of life? Some people will argue it is worth taking the big leap and becoming a homeowner because you have an asset that will appreciate in value over time, but this is dependent on how long someone plans to live there and market conditions. Equity does not always equate to automatic profit, and things can turn soar quickly because of a recession or losing your job. What is most notable about the UK housing sector is how many people, including families with children, are in a precarious situation. A YouGov survey of over 2000 working adults who pay housing costs found that 35% - equivalent to 8.6 million people – could not pay their rent or mortgage from their savings for more than a month. This means that millions of people (one in three families) are one pay check away from being unable to pay for their home! A sobering thought.

Health & Wellbeing

It's interesting that some of the most popular TV programmes in the UK 2018 across the leading channels revolved around “drinking holes”, health, baking, and weight loss! The UK is one of the unhealthiest nations in the Europe, plagued by poor diet (leading to obesity or malnutrition), high blood pressure, physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, and problems resulting from drug abuse. Life expectancy has stalled and has already started declining in parts of the UK. Stress and anxiety are silent epidemics in the UK and this is clearly evident in universities. There is currently a mental health crisis and the number of students seeking help has increased fivefold in a decade according to the BBC. The reality of studying in the UK is taking a heavy toll on many students, leading to depression or mental health problems. A survey by mental health charity YoungMinds reveal the number of young people going to A&E with mental health problems has almost doubled in five years. Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that more than 7.3 million people were prescribed antidepressants in 2017-18. Multiple chronic diseases are on the rise including dementia which is now Britain’s biggest killer. The uncomfortable truth is that Britain has become a sick society. I don’t have the time to explain why cancer rates have skyrocketed over the last 100 years (processed foods, stress, vaccines, etc) but want to say a few words about something you are blanketed in at this very moment which is impacting our health at an unprecedented rate. It is widely acknowledged we should try and reduce our exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from Wi-Fi, cell towers, etc., for heath reasons. Smartphone’s and tablet devices have even been dubbed as the "cigarette public health threat of the 21st century". An American study published in the Preventive Medicine Journal claims the mental damage might start in users as young as two. This is why Bill Gates and other tech elites limit how much technology their kids use at home. Many Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids tech-free. Our bodies swim in an invisible sea of EMFs daily and things are about to get worse. The technotronic agenda that will soon be rolled out across the UK could have a devastating impact on our health. Fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) is being developed and implemented without adequate evaluation of the effect of this powerful technology on human health, other animals and the environment. Published peer reviewed science indicates that current low-level wireless radio frequency radiation exposes us to a long list of adverse biological effects. Nobody has been asked whether they consent to being part of a massive health experiment with regards to 5G and the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT). If you have never heard of IoT it is the absurd plan to connect every conceivable device to the Internet (e.g. washing machines, dryers, heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, toasters, television sets, cars, etc). A technocratic wet dream come to life. The radiation level is going to increase tremendously and this will have profound biological effects on our body. While 5G isn’t exclusive to the UK and will be everywhere, you should think about how to limit your exposure to 5G radiation in 2020 and beyond. It is worth asking why oligarchs and technocrats want to bring 100 billion new devices online considering the extreme health dangers, the excessive costs, and the enormous amount of energy needed? Aren’t we trying to combat climate change and save the planet from frying? Furthermore, why policy drivers and the government aren’t doing their due diligence?

Society & Culture

I don't take any pleasure in spreading doom and gloom but having observed life in the UK for many decades, and most importantly at what’s happening now, I see a bleak future for young people. The future is the present. Unless you are living in cloud cuckoo-land you can't fail to notice the descent into the abyss. Britannicus Titanic. The UK has a flawed democracy, run by the privileged for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Meanwhile, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation a total of 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty (a fifth of the population). A UNICEF report finds that nearly one in five children under the age of fifteen suffers from food insecurity in the UK. A family becomes homeless every 11 minutes, according to research by the housing charity Shelter. The latest report by Shelter states that 320,000 people were homeless in Britain at the end of March 2018. Britain's homelessness crisis is clearly deepening. If British people open their eyes they will see that their enemy is not Russia (the rich and powerful distract us with imagined threats to cling onto their gains), but the ruling class, as confirmed in a recent UN report into poverty in the UK. Complete freedom for the rich and powerful means poverty, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. I believe it's only a matter of time before the National Health Service and other public services are privatised. The handover of British policing to G4S and other major security companies is already underway. Democracy and the health and life interests of millions of people do not matter to billionaires and corporations. I have heard a few journalists say that the UK is sliding into a totalitarian corporatist dictatorship. It's hard to refute this claim if you look at the evidence. Economic decline, mass immigration, discontent, inequality, declining empathy levels in the general population, etc., means you should be fearful of a social catastrophe. This is tragic as there are many wonderful things about the UK, but I see a ship with a hole below the waterline. There are subtle and not-so-subtle warning signs everywhere such as the rising levels of anxiety and distress in children fuelled by social media, soaring wealth inequality, and the immense growth in foodbanks. I am not alone; a recent Ipsos Mori survey revealed that 57% of people believe the UK is in decline and are significantly pessimistic about the lives of future generations. Nearly one in five think the slump is "irreversible" and two-thirds feel the economy is rigged for the rich and powerful. Many people believe the current downward spiral is reversible and will attempt to ride out the storm. That is their prerogative but unless you have money and live in a desirable part of the country, the choice is to batten down the hatches or make a getaway plan!

Environment & Wildlife

An episode of Blue Planet showed how plastic is having a devastating effect on the ocean and slowly poisoning our sea creatures. All around the world natural habitat is being destroyed for farming, logging and development, and more than 23,000 species are on the IUCN Red List threatened with extinction. It's incredibly sad that tens of thousands of orangutans have died because of palm oil deforestation on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Vast swathes forest cleared so that manufactures can make huge profits. I was gobsmacked to read in the Spanish newspaper La Gaceta that some displaced female orangutans have been forced into prostitution in some Asian and European countries. While female orangutans are tortured and prostituted, the male orangutans are used for boxing shows. Bestiality brothels are a sad indictment of society and demonstrate how easily the human mind can be corrupted. I'm drifting off on a tangent; the underlying message is that the world’s wildlife is being pushed to the brink because of habitat loss, poaching, hunting and disease. Some animals such as the pangolin, Javan rhino and black-faced golden tamarin monkey are worryingly close to extinction. Future generations will grow up in a world without many of the species that are alive today. Do not waste your time on this wonderful planet of ours. Do not let life’s preciousness slip through your fingers. This is not to say you should completely drop out of mainstream society to seek close encounters with wildlife and stay in remarkable places. Take personal responsibility by making informed lifestyle changes and consider using your voice to oppose the existing corporate and military paradigm that prevents us from living in harmony with nature (e.g. by opposing hydraulic fracking operations, multinational corporations plundering the Amazon rainforest for profit, confining orcas to concrete tanks in marine parks for entertainment purposes, etc). Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Freedom of Thought

The German Philosopher Johann Von Goethe, said "The most powerful and useful tool a person can ever gain in their life is knowledge, for with knowledge comes wisdom and a deeper understanding, and real truth can be exhilarating because real truth will set you free". Many people believe they will acquire this knowledge via the education system but its real purpose is to cultivate conformity and prohibit critical thinking about anything of real importance. In essence, we go to school to get programmed - to memorise and mindlessly recite information. Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. The current thesis on education rewards conformity, box ticking, and acceptance without question of both ideas and authority. The last thing governments and corporations want is to too many people thinking for themselves; otherwise they will be able to see through all the corruption and lies! It's all about programming (a coup d’état on the human mind), everything else is detail. The drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores is about transgender programming. The film Top Gun (made in collaboration with the Pentagon) is about military recruitment and pro-war programming. Today’s technologies are structured toward programming the human brain to become a part of AI. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, hit the nail on the head when he said, “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” I have a great example from my time at university studying environmental science but the following one is perhaps a little less controversial. When my mother was officially diagnosed with cancer and was told she needed chemotherapy, I made an appointment to see her oncologist. It was clear from his answers to my questions he had been taught (programmed) to depend on conventional modes of treatment for cancer. He was effectively a foot soldier of the cancer industry, headed by powerful pharmaceutical companies. He didn't spend one hour, let alone one term/semester, studying nutrition during medical school. If you know anything about health and how to make the immune system stronger, this is utter madness. You could say it's a "dereliction of duty" to cancer patients. Anyway, to cut a long story short we politely declined chemotherapy and decided to sort this out ourselves. With the help of an independent oncologist and a nutritionist she cured herself through organic food, natural juices and recommended supplements. The bottom line is that we need to question the information that is spoon fed to us or why certain information isn't fed to us. If you dumb people down through inadequate education this makes them dependent on the State and keeps them thinking "inside the box". The cancer industry is one of the most prosperous businesses in the world and relies upon a misinformed and dumbed-down population to keep it that way. They don't want people to know that chemotherapy kills more people than cancer itself and that there are effective alternative cancer treatments. In the book ‘The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America’, Charlotte Iserbyt reveals calculated plans to transform the education system into a means of mass perception programming to create ignorant and compliant adults who would serve government and corporations like unquestioning robots. This is totally consistent with these famous Pink Floyd lyrics, "We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control, no dark sarcasm in the classroom, Teachers, leave them kids alone... All in all it's just another brick in the wall... All in all you’re just another brick in the wall". The Establishment just wants you to fit into the system like a “brick” in a wall. Malcolm X said, “Just because you have colleges and universities doesn't mean you have education”.

Snowflake Factories

A popular media narrative at the moment is that universities are creating a generation of "snowflakes", desperate to be politically correct and kowtow to every tiny minority. We have had Manchester University students voting to replace audible clapping with silent “jazz hands" over fears noise could trigger anxiety among students, lecturers at Leeds Trinity University being told not to use "frightening" capital letters, staff at the University of Sheffield being told not to force students to write essays or answer exam questions on subjects that they might find distressing, and more. This generation of students are hostile to free speech and are keen to ban opinions they don't like, according to a YouGov poll of British students. They are perceived to be over-sensitive and intolerant of disagreement. No wonder many people over 25 roll their eyes. Universities appear to be turning into snowflake factories. Some say it is about giving every student the support they need to realize their potential. What, the potential to be triggered, anxious, offended and ineffectual? Once upon a time students came out in force to protest against war or apartheid but activism today is asking their fellows to stop using the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ because they make ‘assumptions about identity’. They don't have a problem with the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia but take offence when a leading feminist (students attempted to stop Germaine Greer from giving a lecture at Cardiff University) wants to speak because of her views regarding transgender women. The evidence suggests university is not the place to properly explore challenging, complex and yes, sometimes offensive ideas. This new breed of hyper–sensitive censorious students demonstrates they are definitely suffering from psychological issues and there is a pernicious culture of narcissism and self-obsession at our universities. Some students are so frightened of being offended that they require ‘trigger warnings’ before having to deal with even the tamest material. The collective mania which seems to have seized Britain’s campuses doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it is a product of a hyper Westernised upbringing and a society blighted by general stupidity. Some argue these snowflakes are products of our making and parents are ultimately to blame for raising a generation of children to believe they are as special and unique as a snowflake. The emphasis on self-esteem by protecting children from criticism and disappointment explains why many young people are psychologically incapable of handling defeat or setbacks. Remember how many young people threw their dummies out of the pram and had a tantrum when the vote didn’t go their way in the US election 2016? The images of triggered young liberals crying and letting out agonising screams will be ingrained in people's minds for generations to come. Undoubtedly, parents are partly responsible for generation snowflake but they are products of a society that has been manipulated to influence particular attitudes and social behaviours. Social engineering is a tool used to programme adults and young people to act and think in a certain way. Education is a major player in social engineering as the engineers are able control entire generations and shape and future of society. The dogmas and opinions of students today will seep into mainstream national life and be the dogmas and opinions of people in the future. Social engineering techniques are clearly evident in universities to encourage a particular reaction or opinion, or to engineer consent. Political correctness is one of the most effective and dangerous psychological tools - designed to stifle free speech and control the way students think. Another prevalent social engineering agenda involves gender politics. Do you think the students worrying about such pressing issues as gender-neutral toilets formed their opinions using their own free will? The gender agenda is an extremist social engineering agenda which is borne out by the way children are being aggressively targeted. We are told this is about inclusion and teaching toddlers about sexual tolerance and the unique problems of young transgender people, but what does a 10 year old know about ‘gender identity’? Because of the actions of LGBT change agents more and more children are receiving gender-altering hormone treatments and going through sex-change procedures. They wouldn't have been confused or questioned their gender identity without the propaganda. The American College of Pediatricians has described the transgender programming of children as child abuse. They are right. The gender agenda is clearly harming our children and the fundamental fabric of the family-oriented society. When the BBC push a show called ‘No More Boys and Girls’ for social engineering purposes everyone needs to start paying attention. Transgender politics and ideology is being thrust upon the entire population and in universities via the shaming tactics of political correctness. Some students may think they are promoting ‘alternative lifestyles’ and protecting transgender people from discrimination but they are actively engaging in destroying the family model and advancing the non-binary synthetic human. The transgender agenda endgame is transhumanism - combining technology with humanity. The transhumanist movement is brewing in the shadows of the LGBT movement. The pro-LGBT agenda prevalent in universities and elsewhere is psychologically preparing people for the future. Many other social engineering agendas are “steering” society into a certain direction and one great example is the surging popularity of veganism. The ultimate goal of social engineers is to “sell” lab-grown meat (plant based) to meat eaters but will stop myself from rambling. It is evident universities in the UK are becoming toxic environments, and the traditional values of free and open academic debate are in decay. This risks destroying the very fabric of democracy. Of course, not all students are snowflakes and many of them are relatively sane and sensible people. They know it is all a bit OTT (over the top) and must be shaking their heads at the barmy campus bans and ‘safe space’ shenanigans. Those brave enough to take on the snowflake speech police and those supporting spurious agendas must be prepared for all sorts of weeping and wailing. They are strongly advised not to take a box of “man-size” tissues into university to wipe away all the tears! Carl Sagan said "One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we've been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back”.

The Gap Life

The definition of "gap life" in The Urban Dictionary is "when one, after finishing high school, decides to (instead of just taking a year off) remove themself from the education system entirely, in order to Live Their Life". Oscar Wilde said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all”. I wholeheartedly agree with him and that’s why my advice for young British people would be to go and make the most of your life, explore the world, seek out real truth that will set you free - living each and every single day as fully and joyously as is humanly possible. Some may think this is a ridiculous proposition and will rightfully ask "how can I make money while travelling" or "how will I survive on the road"? The truth is there are millions of people travelling the world full-time and working along the way. This ranges from jobs that provide free lodging and other perks (e.g. working in hostels, house-sitting, volunteer programs, etc) to high paid jobs (e.g. successful bloggers, freelance writers, social media influencers, etc). You've probably read about people who travel the world full-time and fund themselves through their online activities. I have met many people who travel full-time because all of their work is done from a laptop. I once met a girl in Costa Rica who was designing a website at a hostel swimming pool bar. In Panama, I met a guy writing articles for an international boating magazine. One guy I will never forget was trading crypto-currency from a backpacker’s hostel in Bangkok, Thailand! His bank balance was $300,000 in the "black" by the way! The possibilities are endless. You just need to be self-motivated and get creative. If you can be a front runner in a new and fast-expanding niche market all the better. Put on one's “thinking cap” and do some brainstorming. This website materialised after pondering on a conversation with some disenchanted volunteers! The digital nomad lifestyle isn't for everyone for one reason or another. Perhaps someone doesn’t possess the necessary skills and experience to work remotely. The good news is that there are hundreds of other ways to make money while travelling such as fruit picking or teaching English. You might already have the skills to earn money on the road such as being a chef or tour guide. Some of the other skills you can offer while travelling include being a hairdresser, carpenter, massage therapist, photographer, dance teacher, musician, bartender, translator, and scuba diving instructor. You don't need to go to university to acquire useful qualifications and skills such as TEFL or yoga certification. And there are many jobs out there for people without any specific qualifications, skills and/or experience. Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.

Outside the Box

The first step toward escaping the "rat race" is to acknowledge its existence. I think many people in the UK do realise they are living in the “rat race” but because of family bonds, insufficient capital, worries about finding work, and taking a drop in salary, they stop short of chasing their dreams. The thought of missing friends and a lack of courage are other factors that keep the masses on the treadmill. Okay, you might not want to take a "gap life" or escape the "rat race" as a young person but there are actions you could take that will make your life far easier and less stressful. The number one rule is to eliminate debt (mortgages, rent, car payments, etc). I know people living in the City of London paying between £1800-2500 per month rent for a one-bedroom flat. This is absurd and is keeping them in an endless cycle of working and spending. They would be better off buying and converting a large vehicle or small boat. Some may regard living in a van or old bus as hippy nonsense but however unconventional, at least you own it and are not wasting money while others are profiting. Unfortunately, a lifetime of conditioning and manipulation has programmed people not to look for alternatives to what the herd is doing or thinking. "Normal" people drift through life; whereas "abnormal" people live with purpose! Think "outside the box". This is imperative in these changing times and will help you deal with or capitalise on a sudden turn of events. For example, the global financial system is a ticking time bomb and it's just a matter of when it explodes. Some analysts believe it could be student loan debt that brings down the economy but this may be inaccurate. Whatever causes the next financial crisis it is wise to avoid being financially stretched and posses some physical gold in such circumstances. Jim Rohn said, "If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much".

Student Strategies

I chatted with some ex-students recently over a cold beer to gain insight into how they viewed their debt and why those chose to go to university. They owed around £50,000 each but rather than feeling encumbered by student debt they saw their loans as handouts they hopefully will never have to pay back. In their eyes the government through the Student Loans Company (SLC) was giving them cash to get through university and enjoy themselves. They had all found work since graduating and their salaries were under the weekly or monthly repayment threshold. They were all quite happy with how things had turned out but will not be able to escape paying back their debt forever unless they avoid higher-paying jobs and career advancements. They were not too bothered about having to make loan repayments should their salaries go above the threshold in the future. What might shock them though is the £1,000s of added interest! Cue that sinking feeling when they look at their loan statements. Graduates do not have to begin repaying their debt until they earn at least £25,000 (£18,330 for pre-2012 loans), but the loan accrues interest in the meantime. According to forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility the government is expected to rake in £8.3 billion from student loan interest by 2023/2024. This is morally wrong as young people shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of unfair lending practices. Anyway, getting back to my conversation with this small group of ex-students; not only were they unfazed by their debts but were quite certain of getting their foot on the property ladder. “My sister and boyfriend done it with a combined student debt of £100,000 so why not” said the one earning £21,000 per year working for Unilever. He displayed an extraordinary sense of self-confidence and entitlement! I pointed out that he will have to earn more, get rid of some debt, or both, to improve his debt-to-income ratio before applying for a mortgage. Alternatively and more realistically, buy a home with someone else. This was his plan so if there are any young females out there looking for a nice Irish lad drop us a line. A word of warning though, his current salary is £43,000 short of what Shelter state first-time buyers need to be earning right about now if they want to buy a house by 2020! Ouch. Good luck to him but his prospects are hugely unrealistic as a first time buyer. I thought this particular student was delusional about the ease of buying a house but his reasoning behind going to university in the first place was questionable. Unilever offer a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities so he could have taken this route rather than incurring an excessively high level of debt to finance university. “But then I would have missed out on university life”, he said. You could sense his nostalgia for the good ol' (university) days. This seemed to be the general consensus in the group. For some young people the fear of missing out on "university-life" is why they go! Known as FOMO in Millennial-speak. A survey in 2017 of more than 60,000 students revealed that 22% of them ranked “to experience university life and have a good time” as one of the top three reasons for wanting to go to university! Universities in the UK do provide endless ways to enjoy oneself and make new friends. Nights out and drunken student shenanigans are often par for the course. However, "university-life" does not compare with the party hotspots and amazing nightlife around the world. In my opinion, you would be better off spending a fraction of the money needed to attend university in the UK on a long-term holiday or backpacking trip and fully enjoy yourself. Working holidays are a good option if you have limited funds but want to explore the world. You definitely will not miss the money worries, workload, stress, and possible mental health problems. University is not all fun and games. Even without travelling you could have a good time by going out with friends after work or during an apprenticeship. Perhaps the people that keep telling us that the university years are the "best years of your life" have failed to do anything of any significance after leaving university? This statement was more likely to ring true in the past when students received grants to cover living costs, fees were paid in full by local education authorities, and there were no student loans! Students in the past were also socializing more and feeling less depressed. This was the good ol' days for students in the UK. Maybe Millennials are more realistic about the drawbacks of debt but I fail to see the logic of paying for education to get a job, just to get a job to pay for education. This has to be one of the greatest sources of investment delusion out there. Likewise, making "university-life" an underlying reason for going is delusional and lacks perspective. I am man enough to admit I might be totally wrong but at the end of the day it is just a matter of opinion. Differences in age, backgrounds and life experiences are some of the reasons why everyone has different values, beliefs and preferences. It was indeed an evening of engagement and thought-provoking conversation. We should all embrace face-to-face interaction as an antidote to these digitally toxic times and ever-present Smartphone zombies.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully I have encouraged some UK school leavers to take stock of what has been learned about going to university and getting into debt. Why are young people getting into crippling debt while multinational corporations are getting sweet tax breaks and often pay no tax? Every young person in the UK could have a free education if the tax system was fair. This is clear evidence that the system is rigged and the UK is not a democracy but a corporatocracy. The corporatocracy exploits student loan debt to both rake in easy money and break young people's spirit of resistance. School leavers are sold the lie that taking on a lot of debt will be worth it in long-run. This isn't true for many former students and that's why we see deep frustration and depression among young people. Student loans are a massive generational scam and those experiencing the nightmarish consequences of being in debt and facing decades of monthly loan payments have my deepest sympathy. To be clear, I'm not faulting anyone for living however they choose and it's quite frankly none of my business. Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom. I do feel however that an inexperienced young person will not have the necessary wisdom to weigh up all the options and they are forced to make career decisions too early. James Altucher said, “Kids at 18 have no idea what they want to do in life. The world is a very big place. It’s bigger than five classes a day on philosophy or chemical engineering”. What you want to be when you grow up requires careful thought and this is why it might be a good idea to take some time out. You could combine this personal thinking time with boosting your CV through voluntary work, paid work or learning a second language. After a period of reflection you may decide a traineeship or apprenticeship is far more beneficial than a degree. There is also the possibility you might decide there is some merit in the "gap life" and plan accordingly. The "gap life" isn't for everyone as there are some trade-offs and sacrifices that need to be made. To make the shift also requires discipline, motivation and hard work. The person must be compatible and a match to this type of lifestyle. Some people simply won't have what it takes to work abroad on a long-term basis or make the world their office as a travelling digital nomad. Of course, there is no obligation to travel abroad or constantly be on the move. Some people prefer to slow-down and base themselves in one location. I know several couples who live on the outside of society, moving from one festival or farm to the next. However, this existence will become much harder to sustain in the advent of the cashless society. It is not uncommon for digital nomads to give up full-time travel because they seek a more balanced life. This often benefits their business as they have more time to concentrate on their work. Digital nomadism is the ultimate way to take a "gap life" because of the flexibility it provides. You can work from your best friends flat in Brighton & Hove in England or from a coffee shop in Utsunomiya, Japan. It's a 21st century approach to work and adventure. As stated above taking a "gap life" requires a serious change in mind-set and some sacrifices and effort, but you'll soon realise you've enrolled at the leading educational establishment on the planet - The University of Life. I will leave you with a comment from another ex-student, but one that quit after just two terms/semesters. He said he walked away from university because he couldn’t see how four years “of this” was going to stimulate and encourage him to be a critical thinker and global citizen. What this underlines is the importance of being true to yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else. Universities are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed. Follow your own star.

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