Cash Is King

Column by Retta Fontana.

Exclusive to STR

“What do we want?” “Freedom!”
“When are we taking it?” “Now!”

After a lengthy sabbatical, it’s great to be back at the keyboard! I’ve been through seven lean years of transition. (Hopefully to be followed by seven fat ones.) During my sabbatical from writing, I pushed a pencil, sold real estate and dealt blackjack. Now I’m beginning to settle into self-employment. It beats clock watching and I’m happier than I’ve been for a long time. It makes my days flow organically and freely.

There is something to be said for the predictability of working “for the man.” A steady paycheck is nice, but as we have all seen in the past decade with the earth shifting beneath many of our feet economically, a steady paycheck isn’t so steady. Pension plans are also nice, but are sadly going the way of the cassette player. (I won’t talk about employer financed pensions, as increasingly this only applies to those with their snout in the public trough. I doubt many of those are reading my work aside from the moles who are getting paid to do so with your money and mine.)

An employer can offer health benefits, but not always. Employers understandably dodge government mandates when they can because of the exorbitant cost. With ever rising payroll deductions, astronomical deductibles and copays, a lot of people are beginning to feel as though they are self-insured anyway. I had a friend say that her health insurance payment was now higher than her house payment! Many people I know have opted out of having insurance as the cost is simply too great. Obamacare and its fines be damned! (Personally, I’m convinced that they enjoy naming legislation the opposite of what it is “The Affordable Care Act,” for instance, among many others. Government interference in medicine is what created the problem of unaffordable care in the first place, but those are columns for another day.)

Then there is the top dog of all perks to working people: paid time off! Aaaaaah! Just the mention of the words is like the clouds parting and the sunbeams streaming through! There is something alluring and ever so sweet about doing what you love (or simply nothing at all) and getting paid for it. But when you think about all the suffering you must endure to simply not suffer it for a while, does it make sense? What if you were doing something worthwhile from which you didn’t need a break? It might mean having less money to spend on things, but things have less meaning than experiences. Most possessions won’t keep you warm at night and you or someone you love will just have to discard them one day.

Then there are the outright downsides to employment, ranging from mild intrusions in life (missing the baby’s first words and steps) to actual life and death. There is getting up in the dark with an annoying alarm clock. What an awful way to start a day! Are you feeling ill? Is your child ill? No matter, duty calls. Often you must also bear the expense to buy, wear and maintain special clothing that is uncomfortable, bad for your feet and something you likely would not otherwise choose to wear. Lastly, in a word “transportation.” If you are willing to take on the horrific expense of buying or leasing a car, you are responsible for insurance, gas, maintenance, mileage and road hazards. If not, you have the unreliability, unpleasantness and danger of public transportation. Do you sometimes feel that you work to live only to work?

Clocking into work naturally means being part of the domination culture, i.e., one person unquestioningly directing another, as opposed to a voluntary exchange of ideas. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve often had to take it up the tailpipe from someone who, a.) is not as smart or talented as I am, b.) is a micromanager, c.) may not always give you credit for your ideas, skills or work, and, d.) someone who is paid to mind your business, and e.) a downright sick person. Even if you work for a good manager, it is difficult to develop one’s self without a level of consciousness usually required to make decisions.

Do you like “the company” taking and forking over more than 25% of your pay protection money to the Leviathan which is feeding on you, controlling you, policing you, criminalizing you, killing people all over the world, and feathering their own nests with the sweat of your brow? They take this fat slice before you even see it, for your convenience. It would be like going to a cafeteria, paying for a sandwich and having the cashier taking a couple of bites out of your sandwich before making change!

As is the case with any advanced, bloated empire, the burden of taxation (theft) grows continually. A strong moral case can be made to withdraw all support of an overgrown police state like the one we have today in the U.S. I’ll simply go with the outrage and resentment that a normal human being feels when they are robbed (having one’s money or property taken by force.)

Was it easy saying, “sayonara” to the man and leaping out into the great abyss alone? I think we all know the answer to that, especially for someone like me who comes from a fearful, working class background. This leap was one of my greatest challenges. I had to be in an awful lot of pain to become willing to step off the known universe into a void. I had a lot of fear and conditioning to overcome and an almost total lack of experience in navigating life alone.

Was it satisfying? I can’t begin to tell you, dear friends! I make my own hours. I wake up of natural causes, so I’m happier from the getgo. I don’t have anyone keeping track of how many times I make a phone call, go the restroom or leave early or stay late. No one keeps track of what I earn other than me. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do things a better way when it occurs to me or take a day off to go hiking or fishing. No one undermines me or my work if they try to, then don’t get another appointment. I meet a lot of nice people (after all, this is the South!) Life flows naturally. Best of all, I make the decisions about the money I earn. I can donate as much or as little to the thieves in Washington as I please.

Maybe you’ve thought about stepping out of the squirrel cage of “employment” that is working, paying fees and taxes and buying things so that you can work. There is a huge black market economy that knows no borders. With the burden of tyranny always nipping at our heels, it grows continually.

What assets do you own or have access to that have value to others? What skills do you have that may be marketable for cash? You could start offering them before you make the leap.

I don’t have just one thing that I do to make money. I made an inventory of skills I possess and possessions I own or I’m able to access. (The latter was a short list!)

Years ago in Detroit, before the economic collapse, I used to do massage therapy. One day the stock market cracked up and my phone stopped ringing. I never imagined that there would again be a good demand for those services. Now that I am here in the mountains ten years later, I placed an ad and my phone began to ring! All I do, like any good capitalist, is offer a lower price and a better service. Because my prices are low, I attract a lot of customers and sometimes make obscene tips. I found out that charging more usually meant getting an appropriate tip, but charging far less, people are surprised and delighted at the level of service they receive for a low price and often tip me what it’s really worth—sometimes 30 to 50 percent.

Business is not taking off like a rocket, but I’m making good hourly money, I’m getting by and my clientele continues to grow. Often my customers are invited to stay for dinner and they become my friends. (This never happened when I worked in a salon.)

When the massage business is slow, I head to town and Uber drive. For that I target high demand days (weekends) to maximize income-to-time ratios. I take breaks when I need to and run errands when I’m in the neighborhood anyway. I don’t always know the little ins and outs of my new home, but I’m pleasant and try to give the best customer service possible. I’ve met a lot of nice people and I network for my friends and myself. I take business cards from customers looking to network, too. I’ve also learned the subtle art of talking to people who I don’t know and getting to know them in a few minutes. I draw a steady income and I get paid to learn my way around Asheville, NC.

Another asset at my disposal is a furnished spare bedroom and bath in my mountain home. I found out quickly that it has seasonal demand for tourists escaping summer heat in June, July and August, color hunters in October and skiers in winter. Airbnb was a logical option and I took it. I described on the website what I have to offer and what is allowable. For a $60 a night stay, I pay Airbnb a $3 service fee. Yes, the Leviathan would like a bite of Uber and Airbnb bucks as these services are “over the table”--that is, unavoidable. I won’t make enough at either of those two to matter to the tax man.

The best part about Airbnb is the unexpected. I thought I was renting out a room to make some money. It turns out that it restores my faith in humanity and the understanding of the universal experience of human life. I’ve met so many kind people and learned about their home and how they live. It has enriched my life unimaginably.

Recently I hosted a sweet couple from Taiwan. I learned about their families, their joys and their struggles. Their sweetness made my life more wonderful, in sharp contrast to the constant suffering of the domination culture. (If you’re unsure what I mean, think of how you’d feel if you got a letter from the IRS. Yes, that kind of suffering.) They had—get this —no sense of entitlement. They were delighted with every single thing I offered them! They seemed to even value my time! It made me want to give more and more and I was sad to see them leave. I insisted that they come visit again and they don’t need to pay. I feel that I am making lifelong friends. Today I’m preparing for the arrival of another couple, this time from New Zealand. The world is my oyster!

I cannot stress this enough—this is the beauty of voluntary exchange. It is something that is nearly lost culturally and something that legislators, bureaucrats and the hopelessly entrenched cannot fathom. It is all due to the Information Age. I believe it will be the end of the long age of tyranny under which we were born into and have all toiled. All we have to do is withdraw consent, pick up our own lives and make them into what we wish them to be.

I have other skills that I will employ if it becomes necessary. I can cook and bake (the cupcake craze has not yet arrived in Asheville; I may have to help usher it in). I have sewn since I was a child and can create or repair just about anything made of fabric. I can paint a room or give a decent haircut—not a $45 cut, but a $20 cut. I can pull weeds—a job many people would pay cash to have done. I love children, so I have other options to explore as time and necessity dictate. Shame on anyone who makes it to middle age without acquiring some useful skills!

I don’t have to earn as much money as I did previously because of the lack of tax burden. In fact, the greatest thing about being self-employed is this: I no longer have to finance the police state, the killing of innocent people, wars, and tyranny of any kind. Living a lifestyle that does not subsidize those things has integrity, which is very important to me. I sleep better at night and can look anyone in the eye.

If you like what government is about, tell us how often you pull out your checkbook and write them a check—you know, just a little something extra, whatever you think they are worth. Do you even think about it? Do you know anyone who does? Because if not, then all the excuses for government ring hollow. People go along with the status quo because of ignorance, laziness and fear. Voters will keep getting worse and worse candidates plastered across the tv news, become more and more deeply entrenched in mediocrity in themselves and their relationships, and of course, worse results in the outcome of these actions.

If you want more taxes and intrusion into your life, then keep doing what you are doing. If you want less, then stop begging the ruling class for a better life, for a morsel of your freedom back while repeatedly going away with empty hands and empty pocketbooks. Maybe it’s worth reconsidering having an employer who withholds your pay and hands it over to keep growing the criminal class of government. You’ll have to do it sooner or later anyway as the top-heavy leviathan of government becomes less sustainable every day. Eventually you’ll find that you don’t have to be a cog in the wheel to get paid to do what you love—you can do it every day! You won’t get freedom by voting. You’ll get it when you take it.

What do you want? Freedom! When are you taking it? Now!

Your rating: None
Retta Fontana's picture
Columns on STR: 59

Retta Fontana lives in the Great Smoky Mountains. Children are her favorite people. She loves to connect with readers - please writer to her here:


Alex R. Knight III's picture

Retta, good to see you back here again lately, and that things are going well for you!  This is a great one, and crystallizes what I've felt for a long time now.  I've REALLY had it with employers and LONG to be rid of them once and for all.  No matter what it takes.
I've tried for years now to make it as a writer, but that always seems to be a "someday never" proposition.  I have been learning welding, however, and have been approached about the prospect of doing some private tutoring.
Maybe something will bear fruit.  Regardless, this essay gives me the motivation keep trying to break free.  :-)

rettafontana's picture

Hey Alex! Thanks so much for your comments. It is thrilling to know that I have inspired you!

One thing I've learned is that what works well this month, doesn't work at all the next month. I have to keep experimenting and try not to project. Shoulder to plow! I am happy to be back at writing again. I'm just a bit rusty but I feel happy with myself.



rettafontana's picture

Alex have you seen this? "The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live More" It's a kind of "how to" by
Chris Guillebeau. I started reading it on Amazon and it has a lot of practical advice.

Jim Davies's picture

You hit another one for six! (That's the English, cricket equivalent of out-of-the-ballpark.)
Cash is indeed king, which no doubt explains the current rumors about de-throning it. Any practical experience yet of Bitcoin, or other forms of non-government money?

rettafontana's picture

Thanks, Jim!

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Retta:  You may have already seen on Facebook, but I just also read this great e-book (for free!), and it compounds and expands on what you have to say here.  You may want to check it out:

Jim Davies's picture

A friendly amendment: a "black market economy" might be better called white.
Also a question: from which do you derive more pleasure,
(a) knowing that you own yourself, regardless of how you choose to earn bread, or
(b) earning bread by serving several customers instead of just one?

rettafontana's picture

Knowing that I own myself - of course!!

Jim Davies's picture

Of course!  Thanks for confirming.
So I'm going to take all the joy you express in this great STRticle and square it, to describe the pleasure of having that knowledge - even in our presently heavily-governed environment.

Jim Davies's picture

Your article inspired today's Zero Government Blog, called Freedom, Now and Then - see my entry "Delights to Come" in

Bob Sherman's picture

Things have less meaning than experiences -> Well put! We all invest too much of our time in working to buy stuff we don't need or won't even remember we've bought 2 years from now.