When studying business at B.C.’s Okanagan College, Patrick Olsen wanted to be an investment banker. But watching his friends struggle to secure well-paying positions, he explored his options. “I could see I wasn’t going to make enough doing that so I left. I talked to one of my friends who made good money [as a millwright] so I jumped into it.”
For the past five years he has been working as a millwright for seven months of the year, travelling throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan fixing turbines at oil refineries. He sleeps and eats in camps set up at work sites. “They’re like a one-star hotel,” he says.
Though the job isn’t for everyone – “I’m only home for a couple days a month,” says Mr. Olsen – he has realized that being single and young has benefits. The job pays $126,000, includes benefits and a pension and covers his accommodation and meals when he’s working. “It’s an on-call role, says Mr. Olsen, “so there’s lots of standby. I work a lot of 12.5-hour days. After tax, the take home is about $4,200 per week.”
The means there’s lots of money in the bank. “I don’t do debt,” he says.
“I have an index fund I put $200 a week into. I’ll use $5,000 per month to buy individual stock. I have about 25 of those right now.”
The dedication has paid off: Mr. Olsen, who hopes to retire at age 55, has amassed $200,000 in savings in 3 1/2 years.
Not that he’s spending it: he drives a 2004 Ford Taurus with his firm chipping in for gas. Rent is his largest expense at $800 a month – which includes utilities. When he does go out – rarely – he splurges a little, hitting a restaurant like the Keg, or going drinking with some friends.
Next year, he plans to focus on his education, hoping to return to his studies. “I’m actually going to go back to school next year – I want to be a financial planner,” says Mr. Olsen. “I think I’m going to enjoy that more - and if it doesn’t work, I’ll come back to this.”
As for settling down, Mr. Olsen will have none of it. “I don’t want to buy a home – I find it to be a pretty crappy investment. You’ve got your utilities, insurance, interest – by the time it’s said and done the chances of making any money are minimal.
“I want my freedom.”
His typical monthly expenses:
$800 on rent. “That includes utilities – TV, Internet. It’s my friend’s house, so I rent a room out of it. I think I can save more money by renting so I choose to do that.”
$240 on eating out. “I’m not home a lot. I like my fast food but I’ll also go to the Keg, restaurants and bars. I’ll typically spend $75 per meal. In the morning I’ll probably go to Tim Horton’s.”
$0 on coffee. “It’s free at camp.”
$55 for cellphone plan. “I don’t like to have a contract so I buy a new phone outright every year. It costs a couple hundred dollars. I have a Blackberry Priv right now.”
$0 on a gym membership. “The camps are like a one-star hotel. They have big gyms.”
$200 on alcohol. “I like to hang out with friends. I like beer – I don’t like the hard stuff – just Corona. In Sherwood Park, I like the fact the liquor store is open until 11 p.m.”
$75 on car insurance. “I drive a 2004 Ford Taurus. There are no fancy trucks or anything.”
$40 on clothing. “Most stuff is the cheap stuff. I like the work shirts from Wal-Mart – they’re about $10 for four shirts – and jeans to go with them. For my going-out stuff, I like to wear a Hawaiian shirt and the more expensive jeans.”
$0 on holidays/trips. “I’ve never valued travelling too much.”
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