AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

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jennypenny
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AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by jennypenny » Tue May 28, 2019 8:14 am

Here's an interesting paper from MIT's AgeLab: Describing Life After Career: Demographic Differences in the Language and Imagery of Retirement

I'll admit I might find it more interesting than most because of my interest in language. Still, it was an interesting look at how people frame retirement and how limited the vocabulary is on this particular subject.


One thing that jumped out at me was the difference in how people view their own futures. From the paper "Other contributors to future planning behavior include people’s goal-setting tendencies and how distant they feel to future goals. Hershey, Mowe, and Jacobs-Lawson (2003) found that people provided with goal-setting exercises were more likely to engage in financial planning. The effects of closeness to future goals and the future self have been studied as applications of the construal level theory, which describes that distant events are represented in more schematic and abstract ways while closer events are more concretely described (Trope and Liberman 2010), and that people who feel less connected to the future seek immediate benefits rather than accept later rewards (Urminsky 2017).

That might seem obvious at first, but it made me wonder whether the different approaches to ERE on the forum are influenced by goal-setting abilities. Things like 'semi-ERE' might be an approach that closes the gap between the goal-setting necessary for ERE and the goal-setting ability of the individual, making success more likely. It might also be that the most successful EREs are the ones who are naturally drawn to that particular time frame and who are best equipped to set goals that complement ERE/FIRE.

Anyway ... maybe someone will find it worth the read.

bigato
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by bigato » Tue May 28, 2019 1:31 pm

The marshmallow experiment again

Fish
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by Fish » Wed May 29, 2019 10:10 am

One of the more interesting quotes in the paper which reminds me of what you had said in this post about how women may be less interested in the RE part of FIRE because the opportunity to work is viewed as a privilege.
Men talked about freedom from responsibilities (e.g., “retirement” and “relax”), and more women gave words describing achievement (e.g., “accomplished,” “fulfilled,” “success,” and “complete.”)
I also found it amusing how younger participants had a vague vision of their plans for retirement (“cool”, “great”). In Table 4, comparing the travel column for “life today” and “life after career”, I also noticed that at all income levels up to 150k, it appeared a significant fraction had deferred travel dreams, while at 150k+ it appeared that all that cared to travel were already doing so in the present, and planning to continue it in retirement.

classical_Liberal
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by classical_Liberal » Wed May 29, 2019 9:06 pm

Very interesting. This stood out to me, I went through a phase about a year ago and read most of the referenced sources from the original research.
Studies on happiness and well-being have stated that, after middle age, reported happiness generally increases with age (Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz, and Stone 2004; Steptoe, Deaton, and Stone 2015). Kahneman et al. (2004) also reported that happier people were likely more optimistic.
This is a slight misinterpretation of the research. While it's true happiness increases after middle age, there is actually a large U-shape happiness curve across the human lifespan. This is a cross cultural effect and appears pretty much everywhere on planet earth. So, it's not so much happiness increases after late 40's/early 50's, rather it returns to baseline of teens/20's. Then beings to surprise even those previous highs in late 50's/early 60's+. Anyway, I found it interesting that this "U" was not reflected in the results summarized in table 3A, life today. Which showed a steady increase in positive tone/decrease in negative tone with age.
jennypenny wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:14 am
Things like 'semi-ERE' might be an approach that closes the gap between the goal-setting necessary for ERE and the goal-setting ability of the individual, making success more likely. It might also be that the most successful EREs are the ones who are naturally drawn to that particular time frame and who are best equipped to set goals that complement ERE/FIRE.
Agreed. I think those who tend to reach for a full ERE lifestyle also have much more concrete (less abstract) ideas on what this lifestyle will entail for them. However, I think there are many confounding variables to this hypothesis. For example, ERE preaches a 5 year work period from page one. Whereas more popular FIRE approaches, like MMM preach 10-20 years. Clearly a much longer time frame, yet it tends to appeal to the masses despite this longer, hence more abstract, working towards goal period. Another example, one this study found correlated to older age cohorts, is physical health. Someone discovering the concept of early retirement at age 40 is well aware that physical health has diminishing properties, whereas a 25 year old mostly still feels immortal. There is great appeal to rush to the finish line if some of the post work life goals have a physical component to them (ie think of all the folks on here wanting to hike the AT or PCT, ect.) I would also bet that anyone with relatively negative views of current life are highly correlated with folks who want to take the quickest path possible to something different.

jennypenny
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by jennypenny » Thu May 30, 2019 9:10 am

I think there are a lot of ways to frame the difference between an ERE approach and a longer MMM/Boglehead approach. One is whether a person focuses more on cost or value. Someone focused on cost might view ERE as too expensive (sacrificial) and prefer a longer trajectory where the current costs (as they see them) are minimized. Someone focused on value might view the same sacrifices as worth it if they are focused more on the value of achieving ERE quickly.

Another way to state that is whether a person focuses (mostly) on production or consumption. For traditional retirees, especially those who rely on pensions and social security, they view retirement as something that happens to them. ERE-types tend to view retirement/FIRE as something to attain through their own efforts. The former group will give lip service to earning their retirement through a lifetime of hard work, but what they are really implying is that they are owed a retirement after a lifetime of hard work. The latter group aren't waiting around for someone else to award them a comfortable retirement.



If you read Range, Epstein discusses short-term goal planning and how it trumps long-term planning. He gives several reasons that reinforce the idea (to me anyway) that one should put their most focused effort into short-term goals, limiting long-term considerations to making sure that future-you will not be negatively impacted by today's goals and choices. Changing to that strategy would require a pretty severe change to the language we use regarding work/careers/retirement/etc. Personally, I'll be more careful with my language in those areas around my children.

eta: I realize ^^that's a hard sell in this crowd. Think of it this way ... future-you might be better off if you focus on shorter-term goals (hard ones) and learning how to learn by doing deep into a few different areas. When you compare that idea to the language used by both men and women in that paper, as a culture we use language that makes that approach harder to express as well as achieve.



As far as what Fish mentioned, I wonder if women are -- in general -- more wired for breadth than depth, which might turn them off to the laser focus required for ERE-type goals. That might be a social construct though since it would complement traditional male roles and make long-term pairings more successful. I don't know.

Jin+Guice
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by Jin+Guice » Fri May 31, 2019 11:24 am

jennypenny wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 9:10 am
He gives several reasons that reinforce the idea (to me anyway) that one should put their most focused effort into short-term goals, limiting long-term considerations to making sure that future-you will not be negatively impacted by today's goals and choices.
IMO this is the best strategy and why I'd rather focus on semi-ERE rather than full ERE. The marshmallow-test study implies that delaying gratification and having the ability to set long-term goals is the key to long-term happiness. However, I think this is subject to diminishing returns. Delayed gratification needs to be tempered with discounting the future and current gratification.

Long-term goals are also inflexible. I read a lot of journals here where people are 3/5s to 4/5s of the way to their number, but are clearly miserable and burned out. Quitting 80% of the way into a long-term goal is very difficult if you are goal oriented and good at delaying gratification, even if there are viable alternatives available.


A focus on short-term goal setting helps keep you focused on the current world you actually inhabit, while still engaging the need to strive towards a goal. Keeping an eye towards future you is always wise, but pouring every ounce of yourself into a goal that you won't realize for 7-20 years seems like a misguided extrapolation of the marshmallow-test findings.

classical_Liberal
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Re: AgeLab Paper: Describing Life After Career

Post by classical_Liberal » Fri May 31, 2019 8:25 pm

jennypenny wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 9:10 am
Another way to state that is whether a person focuses (mostly) on production or consumption.
Agreed, this has been discussed regularly by our host. I also think it applies to life satisfaction and happiness as well. It "feels" much better to be a giver than a taker. In general it's jsut a better way to live life.
jennypenny wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 9:10 am
If you read Range, Epstein discusses short-term goal planning and how it trumps long-term planning. He gives several reasons that reinforce the idea (to me anyway) that one should put their most focused effort into short-term goals, limiting long-term considerations to making sure that future-you will not be negatively impacted by today's goals and choices.
Interesting... I'll have to read the book. I tend to agree with this, more so through the happiness lens. While its great to have long term goals, and making small progress towards them is a nice thing, it does little if day-to-day life is dragging a person down. I think enjoying the process of reaching a goal is much more important than actually reaching the goal. I've become a huge fan of the idea of eliminating things in the short term that cause misery if it's within our power to do so. Keeping future self in mind.
Jin+Guice wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 11:24 am
Long-term goals are also inflexible.
But they don't have to be! This is why I despise the idea of SMART goals. Specifically the S & T in totality and how we M for longer term ventures.

For FI it's a $ amount, for health a specific weight, on and on and on. Over a longer periods of time this causes us to shift our focus away from the original goal. We oversimplify a problem and then think attaining a certain measurable change will solve a problem(s). I don't want "X" dollars or to weight "X" pounds. I want to be free to pursue work/leisure based on my interests. I want to be healthy enough to remain lifestyle disease free and engage in activities I enjoy. Those are not specific, less easily measured, and may not even have a time component. When focused on a specific thing that is easily measurable our goals inherently shift. Breaking down into shorter subgoals makes things more attainable, but still keeps focus on the wrong thing.

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