Letter Re: Retreat Options for a 20-Something with Cash Savings

Hello Jim,
I’m a 26 year old guy living in the city in Washington [state]. I’ve been watching the world deteriorate over the past five years, and suspect it will get worse faster. For a long time, I’d simply resigned myself to dying young. It didn’t really bother me (probably because it was not at hand.)

But recently I’ve been thinking that I might have a chance, and anyway I’ve never liked this “labor for dollars” way of life. I’ve saved up $140,000 and about 3-to-4 year’s worth of stored food. I have very low expenses, no debt, and no attachments. (Though I don’t have much of a support network either.)

I’m smart and have plenty of ideas, but little experience. I’m not afraid of hard work though, and I want to get some space so I can stop daydreaming and start working. (I don’t even have space for a garden here in the city.) I’ve quit my job so I’d have time to dedicate to this.

I was thinking that I could get a small amount of land, and start building it up towards self-sufficiency. I checked out SurvivalRealty.com, but [the current listings there are] all out of my price range.

I’m trying to find about five quality acres, about half wooded, with a good water source that I can begin to cultivate. I would live there full time, and work on it full time. My “dream” is to simply live, and not have to deal with dollars and bosses ever again, preferring to trade and share with neighbors as much as possible in the kind of meaningful community that’s hard to find in the big city. I have vague worries about property taxes since I’d have no income, but I could pay them from savings for a while.

At this point, I’m honestly not concerned about defensibility (although I do want it “out of the way”). Land seems very expensive in most places (about $50,000 for 5 acres), but I think I don’t know where to look. I’ve found better prices in Arkansas ($15,000 to $30,000 for 5-to-10 acres), but of course I haven’t actually seen the properties. I was thinking to spend a maximum of $70,000 on land, so I’d have $70,000 left for everything else.

I could always go back to work and save more money, but I feel like world events are accelerating and it might be now or never. Do you have any advice for me? Methods to find good land, other approaches I should consider? Thank you very much, – Adam M.

JWR Replies: Wow! Yours certainly is a different story from what I usually hear from SurvivalBlog readers! The majority of my readers have no savings and plenty of debt. Normally, I recommend that folks in their 20s–who are usually cash poor–join an existing group retreat. But in your unusual case, I suggest that you form your own group, handpicking a few individuals–namely: a jack of all trades, a doctor, a master gardener/small scale farmer, and someone with infantry combat experience. (My novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse” shows a retreat group with a good mix of skills. Since you have the cash available to buy the land, you can call the shots–you would pick the locale, you would form the group, and as the land owner you would effectively control and direct the group.

As I almost always advise my consulting clients: Unless you can work from home, and hence live at a rural retreat full time, it is important to recruit someone that is willing to live at the retreat full time and be the caretaker. See my Finding Like-Minded People in Your Area static page for some recommendations on networking in a discreet manner.

It is probably not realistic to expect that you can live entirely self-sufficiently and not eventually eat up your retained earnings. If you would like to to be your retreat’s resident caretaker, then I recommend that you develop a recession-proof home based business so that you will have cash available for necessities and for paying your property taxes. (See the SurvivalBlog Archives for details on self-employment and home-based businesses.)

If you’d like to stay in Washington (I assume for the purposes of avoiding a state income tax) one area that I recommend for retreats is Winthrop, Washington. If that doesn’t appeal to you, see my other retreat locale recommendations, as well as the greater detail included in my book “Rawles on Retreats and Relocation” In particular, see my warnings on the Olympic Peninsula and its proximity to the hordes of Seattle. Also see the discussion in the blog a few months back about the the limited number of constrictive highway routes across the Cascades.

If income tax is not a big issue for you, then my top choice for retreats is Idaho. In the portions of Idaho that are beyond commuting distance of the population centers (where jobs are plentiful), the land prices are still affordable. Towns like St. Maries and Bovill are semi-remote. Towns like Elk River, and Elk City are truly remote. That is where you can find some bargains, especially in the “buyer’s market” that exists today.

Please take full advantage of the SurvivalBlog archives before sending any follow-up questions. (Most of what you’ll need to know is in the archives!)