Build it yourself, own your life

By Marion Tucker-Honeycutt | Jul 03, 2019

Was watching a YouTube video the other day about a man who turned his land, including building his house (two-story, about 2,000 square feet) with next to no knowledge in the building trades as to carpentry, electricity, septic, solar, etc.) in two years.

He got pushed into it involuntarily. After clearing much of his acreage and then approaching banks for a loan to build his house, he found that banks wouldn’t touch him because his land was too remote, far from power lines.

Now what? Well, he buckled down and tackled the job on is own, even though all the training he had was in plumbing — the rest he learned as he went. He built a 2,000-square-foot house for $16 per square foot versus what it would have cost — $150-plus per square foot — had he paid to have it done, had he been able to get a loan.

Turns out, that was fortunate: He built his own house for around $32,000 and is mortgage free! That's a lot of money in his pocket every month for 30 years of mortgage which would have been north of $300,000. That's a savings of $268,000 — keeping nearly $9,000 a year in his pocket. No, actually, double that when you add 30 years of interest on a mortgage.

His task would have been much easier had he gotten training in the construction trades from a vocational school and/or apprenticeships.

Vocational schools and apprenticeships in the trades and other professions are an old idea that has been systematically shoved aside for the “everyone must go to college” mantra. Of course, that’s a good deal for the government and the banks that get all that college loan money that basically lands a college grad with diploma in hand straight into what is little more than bankruptcy with tens of thousands in loan payments for many years.

Indeed, many of the millionaire/billionaire entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, etc., quit college because it was slowing them down from building their businesses. One interesting YouTube video is "The Most Successful People Explain Why a College Degree is USELESS.”

It may not be that extreme. Not everyone has the capacity to create their own business. But in between college and entrepreneurship are the trades. Even hundreds of years ago, in Europe, it was the norm for a student, while getting an education in “three R’s,” to also apprentice in some trade or skill, from the building trades to things like becoming a jeweler (a silversmith, for example), a musician, artist, etc. By the time a young person was 12, if they had an obvious talent toward something — like Rembrandt at 12, they were apprenticed out to a master in that field. Then by the time they graduated from school, they were also a master in a craft and without loans to pay back. This method gave us the “Old Masters” in music, art, etc.

This is a practice President Trump espouses via vocational schools and apprenticeships that train young people for very good-paying jobs —  many of which can be worked into their own businesses. And four years spent in an apprenticeship to become a professional allows a person to be paid while learning, unlike four years of college while not only not having an income, but also piling up debt.

Yes, some professions do require college. But, not everyone needs to go to college to become financially successful. Besides, where are people going to find a house to live in without the carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc?

Here’s another good video, “Ted Talk: Toxic culture of education.”

So, back to building your own house. So what if one included some building classes in tech school — like carpentry, wiring, plumbing, masonry, etc., which could be followed up after high school with an apprenticeship in a trade or profession, like the building trades, for just one field, or welding or landscaping?

Well, think of the things you hire and pay people to do, to fix at a cost of $75 to $90-plus per hour? Think about how much you pay to get a massage ($75 an hour plus tip). What if you get PAID while learning and then move into a profession that brings in $50,000 to $80,000-plus a year (with no student loans that start you off in life basically bankrupt as you pay back — for years — two or three times the amount of your loans with interest) and in a profession that allows you to move on into your own business — a win-win?

There are many young people here in Waldo County who have built their own homes. One couple that I know of built their own two-story home, often trading skills with others — like masonry for wiring — and owed not one penny when done. Later, they built a two-story addition for a workshop to house materials and workspace for a second business they have built up. That building is also mortgage-free. And that debt-free situation has allowed them financially to be able to buy, upgrade and rent properties. They own their lives. This is real “social security.”

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast schools. She now lives in Morrill.

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