tv The Stream Al Jazeera September 17, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EDT
kill -- innocent americans. >> they also talked about to become the number 1 global jihad group that choirs attacking america. >> lisa stark reporting from washington. thank you very much. today at 2:30 pm eastern, john kerry will be testifying on the u.s. strategy against isil and also on the ally's effort to help the united states. we'll bring you his live testimony at 2:30 eastern, 11:30 am pacific. and we'll have special coverage on friday night, we will cover how isil became so powerful, the tactics in recruiting, and the thousands of people that are now refugees because of their
tactics. you can tune in to al jazeera all day long. the headlines this morning, the president saying he will not commit the troops to fighting another ground war in iraq. the president emphatic this will simply be air strikes. i'm david shuster. "the stream" starts now. >> hi i'm lisa fletcher and you're in "the stream." they're near retirement and living like slums, in vans and rvs. we explore their life on the road looking for seasonal employment, with no place to call home.
waj is out. asmat khan is here. >> great to be back. >> two distinct parts. people who have to live this lifestyle, people who choose to live this lifestyle. >> one of the recurring themes we've been hearing from our community is minimalism. how david oakes put it, you'll realize how much you can survive and do what you're destined to do. people like that on our show found that to be the case. >> we'll find out. retirement, relax, find leisure.
but there are a group of aging americans who just canned afford to do that. they live in vans and rvs, full time, crisscrossing from temp job to temp job to get by. it's hardly a relaxing lifestyle. >> we're all cognizant of corporate economy. they don't -- there's no business ethic anymore. there's no loyalty. there's no -- this is an old pan's opinion, okay. >> i think it's sad. i think it says america needs something different. i mean, this is supposed to be freedom. and a good life in america. >> so why is this a phenomenon that seems to be growing? what's daily life like for these elderly workers who are constantly on the move?
richard johnson, jessica bruder, recently wrote a piece in harper's magazine on it called the end of retirement. and with us from his van home and in arizona national park is bob wells. he's been a full time van dweller for nearly 20 years and has influenced many others to join this lifestyle through his blog, "cheap rv living. " i don't want you to think the phrase van dweller is pejorative. how did you become a van dweller? >> circumstances forced me into it. i was going through divorce. the economic impact was so big, that i simply could not live a normal lifestyle. and it was either -- i was near the point of where i was going to live in a van or a cardboard box. i was working had a good income
but i didn't keep much of it. and the van sounded a lot better than a cardboard box so i moved into a van and became unwillingly a van dweller. >> jessica, you examined the subculture of these people who moved from place to place living in older rvs, who are these people and how many them are we talking about? >> it's hard to say precisely when it comes to the numbers. counting nomads is about like herding cats. i can tell you the number is growing. couple of programs i looked at amazon's camper force which hires rvers to meet shipping needs, up to 2,000 people. it started in 2008. and has grown steadily since then. also you've got the sugar beet
harvest in the red river valley, there's nobody keeping track of how many folks are out there exactly you can see employers hiring more. >> i want to get back to the amazon program and others like it in a moment. first of all richard give us a little more insight about the kinds of jobs these people are doing. >> so in older ages we see people doing all kinds of jobs. lower income people many of them are in physically demanding jobs. 65 and older what you see is janitors for men, you see nursing aides, you see house keepers for women, truck drivers for men very common. so a lot of it is very physically strenuous. >> i want to step in and ask you jessica. i read the article in harpers and saw how many negative articles came from rv retirees. what was the response to your piece from people who live in these rvs and live that life
that you study? >> there's definitely a mix. the story was never an effort to characterize all of our rv nation. older americans whob doing these jobwho are doingthese jobs, at the same token i think we live in a culture right now where financial distress is shameful, where the attitude is, if you can't pull yourself up by your boot straps there's something wrong with you. so i think to a certain extent some of the reaction may have been a bit of defensiveness. i don't want to be lumped in with those rvers who are struggling, not all of us. but i think it's the symptoms of the economy and the times we live in. >> what happens when these people can keep doing the work they're doing, what is your take away on that? >> some of the take away was, i talked oa bunch of people who just didn't know what they were
going to do, or basically said hey i'm going to die on the road. i talked to some people, linda may who is a phenomenal character in the story, she has a lot of experience in construction. she and her daughter are trying to buy a piece of land and build a sustainable house on it. if anybody can do it she probably can. people will fall back on are their kids which has always been a retirement tradition even before the new deal. the idea was basically when you got older if you couldn't are go on your own you would fall back on your kids. which ask a dickensian nightmare. after a few dozen work campers, i'd already heard about two people who passed away in their rvs. one in a soup kitchen in arizona, and one in his rfn in a rv in a parking lot. the risks are very real.
>> bob, you are considered the father of rv living. you have a hugely popular blog, tons of followers. jessica mentioned people talking about the shame associated with this. you've been doing this for a long time. how do you maneuver around that? how do you maneuver around feeling shamed by this lifestyle or i would imagine people that pity you when they see you living out of a van? how do you help people through that who choose this lifestyle probably because they don't have other options? >> well, i emphasize the positive aspects of this. to me, although i was -- did not like living in a van at first i soon fell in love with it. and two things i loved. the freedom, and the simplicity. back to the minimalism that was because u brought up earlier. i emphasize the latter, this is not a shameful thing, not a last resort man this is end of the world. when i moved into my van the
first day i literally felt that, i cried myself to sleep. today i'm extremely proud of the way i live, i have a blog and a website that encourages as many people as will listen to do it by choice. it's a wonderful life. it's a better life, chosen something better, you've not sunk to the bottom. >> richard, the big trend over the last 25 years is continued employment by older adults. what's triggering that? >> well, several things. it is both people who want to work longer and who are physically able to work longer. the incentives are changing so now the financial returns to work longer are better. social security has changed. there's more of an incentive from social security to work longer. >> death of pensions. >> death of pensions certainly plays a role. usually was the case when you have defined benefits plans, they would penalize you. but now, your nest egg continues
working. at the same time, people don't have enough saved up so they feel like they need to continue to work, so they can afford to retire. eroding essential retirement security, why people feel they need owork longer. both good things and bad things. added financial pressures, people feel like they cannot retire but it's also people having more work opportunities at older ages now. people are open to retaining older workers so that's a good sign. >> some companies like amazon and general plan mentioned them earlier are using them more actively. they call them camper force. >> nights, weekends and overtime maybe are required as well as some holidays. each position in our fulfillment centers requires lifting up to
50 pounds with assistance, repetitive motion, bending stooping squatting standing or walking for extended periods of time. >> so jessica it's a pretty triive attractive campaign. do you see it as a positive? >> they advertise quite a bit. while i'm loath to assign a value judgment it is really staggering when you go into an rv and you meet a 77-year-old gentleman who has had a pretty astounding career in the past. he got whacked by a divorce that decimated what would have been his pension and he's performing all these repetitive motions at that advanced age. while a lot of people i met do need to get an income somehow, the company is definitely capitalizing on the fact that there are people out there that need to bring this in. i'll let the audience judge whether it's opportunistic or whether it's just a force of the economy. >> richard, is this group that
we're talking about a one-off or do you think that it is the foreshadowing of something that is to come for more americans based on some of the things you were just talking about like pensions going away? >> right. you know, i think what jessica found in her piece and i recommend her piece, it's a fantastic article, highlights just the fact that we don't have a safety net for older people. and that's not going ochange. it's highly unlikely that it's going to change. it should change. there's no minimum benefit for social security. right now about a third of all social security benefits are less than the poverty level, income that doesn't pull people out of poverty. now for 85-year-olds we know that older people, the oldest old get much smaller benefits. but even among newly retired folks, quarter of those benefits are below the poverty level. african americans, 43% of their benefits below the poverty level. when we think about reforming
>> this is going to provide my kids christmas this year. it's going to provide food for the table. and give us a means to get through. until the spring. and there's a lot more jobs available in the spring. we're not living big. but you know what? we're happy. and it's for me this is an upward move. >> welcome back. that was joshua lindsay, an amazon camp worker who lives on less than $25,000 a year with a family of five. a former stockbroker and real estate investor who used to make six figures who says he's happier now. are there practical ways to live this lifestyle? jamie gave up her home at 47 and chose to live a life on the road working temp jobs. jamie, it is perfectly akin to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. why would you choose this life? >> we weren't happy with where
we were living, had a long commute. went out west, to see whether we could commute there, and we met people with the escapees rv club and were introduced to work camper news which i write for and we found out there are jobs for rvers. >> what kind of jobs? what were you doing? >> we work mostly for national parks as seasonal workers but there really are all kinds. a lot of rv parks hire people and that's great for rvers because you usually get your site for free or work a few hours for it. people work in amusement parks, or dollywood or hundreds and hundreds of different ways. people have businesses on the road, people go to shows and sell things. really it's almost unlimited. >> richard is there a danger to veeking that kind of freedom
especially iseeking that kind of issue? >> at an employer that doesn't have a 401(k) plan, any kind of a retirement plan it's really hard to saif fo save for retire. whenever you start collecting social security that's really all you have and that is a real risk that people face. on the other hand one of the things we're seeing is throughout life people face so many risks that can drop you into poverty. so for example heal problems crop up and you -- health problems crop up and you have to stop working earlier than expected. it's really hard to plan for those. >> i'm curious about some of the costs you incur. the price of rvs, used rvs can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 and higher. what about that?
give me some examples from yourself. >> one of the great things about the rv lifestyle is some of the expenses are less or flexible. if you can at least buy a used rfp rv and not have an rv flexibility. there are places that you can camp for free, i have a feeling bob was in one of those places, 14 days before you have to move. or in a place that cost $100 or more a day. you can have memberships that keep your cost down. you have a be distance you can travel, rvers are minimalists, you don't pay a lot for clothes or what we call stuff. what ring does is allows you to live on less money, to be flexible and to get more for your money and you can have the chance to travel and have
adventures while you're doing it. >> bob, i imagine this is probably sounding fairly appealing to some of our viewers. is there a certain personality type that it takes to sustain this lifestyle? >> i think you have to understand there are multiple -- rvsing a large -- ring is a large segment of the population, people who are living on thousands a month and people who are living on hundreds a month. i'm one of the ones that are down in the hundreds per month. so i look at a completely different audience from a different point of view. so my van -- i live in a van that cost $3,000. i have a used cargo trailer that i converted to live in and it cost me $2,000. so i have $5,000 invested. i hear on my -- from e-mail and on my forum and the blog, people who want to live this life by choice, and they're moving into their car.
they're moving into their mini van. and my whole purpose is to show them how to do that and be as comfortable as possible. in the last six years i spent $30 on camping. i create my own solar electricity. i use 10 gallons of propane a month -- not a month, per year. you can live extremely cheaply and live extreme, freely. the home page of my website, the opening line is, "welcome to the best times of your life. " life." i think that's what it should be. >> i got a lot of interesting comments about living on sail boats. maria said, she would prefer a sailboat and she wasn't alone. costing a little from his own sailboat experience, founder to $700 a month. people find it romantic and exotic.
retying dock lines skins the boat is bouncing around. he had some interesting thoughts he lives in san francisco where rent is extremely high and he made the case for sail boats, some people who come to your blog are they also maybe trying out these alternatives to rvs things like sail boats? >> actually, living on water is similar to living in an rv. i've not done it myself, so i can't directly address it. on my website i have a story, living, i can't remember the title right now living on a boat, at one time googled living on a boat, that would be the number one hit. living on a boat is very viable alternative. things are changing. society does not like a -- they barely tolerate rvers. they're turning against them. but if you are living in the
3,000 dollar van or a $10,000 sailboat, society is starting to turn against us and find ways to shut us down. one of the ways that i know about pertaining to boating is -- >> about ten seconds left there bob. >> it's getting harder and harder to park your boat. it's becoming much more boat. >> all right. thanks to our guest richard johnson and jamie brucenet. coming up they call themselves techno-meds, they have found a way to have financial stability and have freedom on the road, can their way work? we'll be right back.
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organically terldz foorganicall? >> i'd say it was a way of be evolving. >> technology should let you be free of location. >> so when we met we were able to combine that. i kind of brought my existing career on the road. was able to continue consulting to my clients. and over the years our income sources have changed to be where they incorporate into our mobile lifestyle into the sorts of products we create and the sort of consulting jobs that we now get. >> away does your lifestyle look day-to-day? >> right now we're at cape blanko light house, in southern oregon. >> our day job is to be working in a light house and our night job is right now we just finished writing a book. >> and we'll be working on some more mobile apps later this month and we have consulting
clients that we will be helping devise some strategy and technology plans for their companies. >> sounds like very busy life. >> very fun by those pictures. >> it looks great, beautiful. a woman named rachel says, since my husband travels for work, rv life lends a rich family life. i got to thinking for the two of you, you are living in a small space. in her case and in your case it sounds like it was a smart move. it brought out things in one another that you may not have seen otherwise. i can only imagine with two people living in a small space that could back fire. >> we've heard of it back firing but for most people most col together. yocome together. we've got miles and miles of trails and light house outside. >> yes, wire always changing locations, we're meeting new people all the time. there's always new experiences
to have and because we're both very online and focused on our computer work, we can be in the same physical space but mentally be in different spaces. >> yep. >> and our entire reciprocate has been formed on the road so we pretty much our first date was traveling together. so we've -- our relationship has grown through this. >> bob, i know that you are in a national park right now in arizona. and you have had a lot of rich experiences that you've talked about and blogged about. when you look back is there anything you would have changed? would you do anything different? >> i'd make one big change. i'd start earlier. >> no kidding? >> i regret not not raising my children this way. if i had the courage to do it and break out of society's mold, done it in the mid 20s many, 20s, that
was my one regret. >> in a way that doesn't jeopardize your future, you guys are young and you may want to do these things at some point. >> i've already done all those things. >> i've had a house, and i never really -- a house feels like a big anchor. it's a place that accumulates stuff. >> we do have savings. we take our careers on the road, we're still earning similar sorts of income levels as before we hit the road. we have the means and ability to settle down, to cover our health care expenses, the means for saving for retirements, we're paying health insurance, we're paying everything we used to when we lived in a sticks and bricks home. if we want to go back to a stationer stationary lifestyle. >> focus on doing light house hosting and dial our cost way do
down because we have a free camp site. >> unfortunately we're out of time, i want to thank you. what a wonderful conversation. until next time, we'll see you online >> our reach is long. if you threaten america you will find no safe haven. we will find you eventually. >> on a mission to destroy the islamic state in iraq and the levant. president obama vows to go after the group but rules out using ground troops. where. >> you're watching al jazeera live from doha. i'm jan d