A blender after making Soylent V1.3, a meal replacement powder, San Francisco, May 11, 2015. Soylent, and other mixes like it, is increasingly popular among Silicon Valley’s tech workers, since it lets them get back more quickly to their computer work. (Peter Earl McCollough/The New York Times) (PETER EARL MCCOLLOUGH/NYT)
Jeff Campbell leads a decidedly futuristic lifestyle at the age of 27. A bilingual aerospace engineer with the Royal Canadian Air Force based in Ottawa, he’s a cybersecurity expert who lives frugally and drinks Soylent, a bio-engineered food replacement (a la Soylent Green) for lunch, because “it’s inexpensive and efficient.”
“[Cybersecurity] is a very interesting domain – it’s dynamic, it changes a lot and it evolves quickly,” says Mr. Campbell, who had his education and co-op-type roles at the Royal Military College and Carlton University paid for, in exchange for 8 years of work in the military. His role, which began in 2014, has led to postings in Kingston, Trenton, Borden, Inuvik, Yellowknife, Abbotsford, Ottawa, Toronto, Saint-Jean, and San Diego.
“Our goal is to ensure that computer systems are secure. Beforehand, I spent some time researching artificial intelligence, machine learning and their use in robotics,” Mr. Campbell says.
Having just bought a house this past summer in Ottawa’s west-end with his wife, a lawyer specializing in family law, Mr. Campbell is keen on paying off his $300,000 mortgage as quickly as possible. “We’d like to pay off our house by the time we’re 30, and go on autopilot by 35.” To that end, he invests in stocks, hoping to one day live off income from dividends and capital gains.
Mr. Campbell also likes to save, opting for staycations spent hiking in the Gatineau hills and cooking meals at home, where “we basically throw a whole bunch of things in a pot.” When he splurges, it’s usually on a “big bucket” of Shawarma or pizza “like our student days.”
Other expenses include gas for his “scratch-and-dent specials:” two low-price used cars that the couple bought via Kijiji that have been outfitted with insurance devices that track their driving – and reduce their insurance premiums. And when it comes time to update his computer, he relies on castaways from friends that he is able to hook up to his own system, saving money on computer upgrades.
“Stay a few years behind the technology curve, and everything is free,” Mr. Campbell advises. “Mostly, I get people’s computer things and put them in mine.”
In the future, Mr. Campbell wants to stay on in his aerospace engineering role, parlaying that into the generous military pension. He’s currently working towards an MBA at the military college. “If you work here for 25 years, you collect 2 per cent of your salary for every year. And when you’re going to school, that time is also pensionable.”
He is cognizant that his role could include military service. “Theoretically, I could deploy at any time. But in this position, that’s not very likely.”
For now, it’s all about maximizing savings, with an eye on a comfortable lifestyle in his 40s. “We just try to make the most of our student lifestyle,” Mr. Campbell says. “We try to avoid lifestyle inflation.”
Top financial concern: “We’d like to reach financial independence rapidly. If we could pay off our house by the time we’re 30, and go on autopilot by 35, that’s one idea. So we don’t need to work but can if we choose to.”
His typical monthly expenses:
$1150 on mortgage: “We just bought the house in west-end Ottawa. Only half is interest.”
$200-$300 on utilities.
$750 on groceries. “I try to convince both of us to go to Costco. My wife is a good cook – our favourite meals are when we’re taking a bunch of things and putting them in a pot. I’m too lazy to make lunches. I eat Soylent – it’s nutrient dust. It’s perfect for work lunches. I enjoy its efficiency.”
$60 on eating out. “We do not usually go out. We like to order take-out – I like Shawarma and my wife likes Greek food. And definitely pizza – [it’s a holdover] from our student days.”
$40 for cellphone. “My wife has a basic plan with Virgin. Where I work I’m not allowed to have a cellphone. And I can’t drive and use one. So I buy an app for $1 a year – Bongo. It’s VolP/SMS over VoIP. It’s the cheap man’s app.”
$0 on gym membership. “The military has a gym at work. My wife has an elliptical.”
$80 on car insurance. “We both have scratch-and-dent specials from Kijiji. My wife has a 2007 Ford Focus she bought from a farmer for $3,700 – and had to fix something. I have a 2004 Chevy Cavalier which I bought from my step-grandmother for $4,500. Hopefully it will last a long time.”
$250 on gas. “We live a bit far away from work. And I travel to Kingston sometimes.”
$0 on vacations per year. “We like staycations – we like to go for hikes in the area – in the Gatineau hills.”
$0 on pet. “We would like to get a dog – we just haven’t got around to it.”
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