Mommy, my sister is teasing me!

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
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Sclass
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Post by Sclass »

I'm starting to get backlash from my older working siblings on my ERE. Bro and sis are 8 and 9 years older and indebted workaholics. Started with them saying things like I was from the slacker generation go figure. Then my sister asked tonight if I was planning on doing engineering consulting and I said I haven't taken any on. She asked my billing rate and I said about $150 I guess since that is what paid similar consultants in my field who helped me on projects. "that's all??!!" she said. She went on for ten minutes saying how she couldn't believe I was worth so little. She bills at $500 she claimed in her mega law firm as a patent agent. Wow I said, so you earn a million a year. Silence. No, the law firm bills at that rate. I started to fight back, "you must be really rich, maybe I should go back to work and try to bill like that...I'd probably still work if they paid that. but I've already given up on engineering because I've independently come to the conclusion my bosses were wasting my time. Thanks for reminding me."
Big sister went on about how unbelievably little engineers made compared to her. But the reality is she never admitted her take home salary which is undoubtedly less than $500/hr. I thought about her little kids $30k private school, BMW loan, home loan, HELOC, and all the other trash that keeps her working hard...she was calling on her 9pm commute home.
I realized this was my sister who never grew up. Who couldn't lose to her slacker brother who for some reason could wad up his career and walk out. Sour grapes I think. We got along so well when she thought she was prettier, smarter and richer than me.
ERE has messed up a lot of my relationships. Robert kiyosaki warned about this in his books. He said you will find new friends. It's a good problem. I don't want her black on black three series, she can keep it!
Sorry for the rant, I'm actually kind of hurt. Seriously why should we value ourselves by an hourly rate? How can somebody be proud of that when they are hopelessly in debt and given a small fraction of the billable hour by their handlers? I'm starting to see the weakness in my family relationships.


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Sclass
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Post by Sclass »

Actually I think the thought failure here is being too concerned with what one makes rather than what one keeps.


DutchGirl
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Post by DutchGirl »

Hmmm. My boyfriend's an engineer and he only charges 90 euros per hour, something like $120. Maybe he should go up ;-) .
Siblings don't always get along very well, it happens. Maybe tell her next time you don't want to discuss this anymore because you don't like to fight. And live your life like you want to live it :-) .
Or maybe tell her something like "I'm doing great, financially. I like my work and the money I make allows me to live exactly like I want to live, plus there's enough left to save for the future. So yo don't have to worry about me.".


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

This is common for lawyers -- they tend to work a lot of hours, and make just enough money to give them golden handcuffs. But at the end of the day, they are at the beck and call of the client. They are seen by that client as cost centers... at the very best, a necessary evil. They aren't the ones making tens or hundreds of millions. They will (almost) always be just out of reach of the upper class, but because they have enough contact with the upper class, they will always strive to get there. They are metaphorically the janitors of the 1%. This creates a lot of cognitive dissonance. They feel the need to justify the hours they put in, and their resulting unhappiness, by clinging to whatever indicator of value they can find... law firm ranking, hourly billing rate, fancy car, etc.
Just my amateur psychoanalysis of the industry, informed by many hours of reading abovethelaw.com.
Moreover, I have no idea how she can be in debt at that range...at $500/hr I'd guess she makes $200-300k (including bonus). Rule of thumb is that you take home about 1/4 of what the firm bills you out as. Maybe 1/4-1/5 goes to overhead, and the rest is pure profit for the fat cat partners.
She could buy a new BMW every year and still have plenty left over for a large mortgage. It's got to be the mortgage, right?


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Sclass
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Post by Sclass »

Nice analysis. I'll take your word. Whenever I stop by her firm she shows me the Ferrari lot of the partners cars. Big deal I think, they belong to somebody else. So there is a ring of truth in what you say. Actually I hope she is doing well, she is my sister after all and I love her. Thanks for the estimates.
The mortgage...not sure actually, I just had a feeling she was spending more than she earned. I guess because her personality has always been to turn it up as high as she can bear, when I see her pulling back here and there I get an idea she's hit the stops. Honestly I try to keep my nose out...it wastes my time to do sister financial analysis and the roi sucks. Nah, something is amiss...she drives a BMW but she asks my dad to pay for its repairs. She's 51 for crissakes.


irukandjisting
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Post by irukandjisting »

U don't have to do or say anything...
When you are sitting back or travelling and the world is your oyster - she will know who travelled a better and wiser road


mikeBOS
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Post by mikeBOS »

A nice rant feels good once in a while :-)
I've decided that my immediate family knows where I stand on money issues, so there's no point in repeating myself when the topic comes up. Recently I heard about my brother's plans to carefully manage his credit so he can take out a HELOC and put a $30k addition on his house. In an unguarded moment I said to my brother, "Sounds like a lot of trouble, why don't you just save up $30k and do it with cash?" Immediate guffaws and backlash. WHOOPS!
And when people try to show off to me their "nice things" I just admire them and try to appreciate the craftsmanship.
And you can do your own showing off. You just have to wait for when they complain about work and then say something like, "Yikes! I wouldn't know what it's like to be stuck having to put up with a crazy boss / grumpy co-workers / stressful deadlines. Sounds rough."


aussierogue
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Post by aussierogue »

Great post Sclass
I can only say that time will be your champion. Stay on the road and sometime within the next 10 years she will be in some kind of crisis (befitting most people on the treadmill) and she will be crying inot her martini whilst telling you heartfelty that she admires your choices...
The bad news here is that 2 weeks later she will then go back to her old rituals and mock you once again (only this time with slightly less venom).....and so it will go for a few more decades with the venom slowly receding until you are both old and grey and less competative and then finally she may admit the truth...(and capitulate)....lol...let us know what happens.


lilacorchid
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Post by lilacorchid »

I don't think there is anything wrong with valuing your time by the hour if that's what floats your boat, but I don't think it's okay to crap on someone because they value their time differently.
Family can be really hard to deal with because our roles are so locked in at times. I suspect all that stuff she said was all about her situation, not you.
(Edit to say I don't think you are in the wrong quietly going about your business, but that she is in the wrong for trying to make you feel bad about your own business.)


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jennypenny
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Post by jennypenny »

The biggest problem with my family is that they think not wanting "the good life" is somehow defective. I found out they actually got together recently and discussed this (us). My brother said "we know you have money, but you drive those old cars, you grow your own food, you never hire someone to work on your house...Jenn, I've seen you wash out a ziploc bag and reuse it!" They seriously thought those were all signs that we were descending into mental illness.
I think people are most suspicious when you say you're not interested in those things. You are essentially saying that you are not interested in living a "normal" life. The next thought is that you must not be normal, hence something is wrong with you. (if you weigh the same as a duck...)


Chad
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Post by Chad »

...then you are a witch. BURN HER!
The inability to think outside of a structure created by others is a huge blindspot for many people.
@Sclass

I would also doubt your sister bills out at $500/hr on every job. I'm in professional services, though not law, and that rate will fluctuate a lot.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

Crickey! I should have been an engineer or a lawyer. Once converted into hourly rates (e.g. a salaried 60 hour slacker-level week at $40k/year), a physics postdoc makes something like $13 per hour (you don't want to calculate what a grad student makes!). As a quant, this particular physicist makes somewhat more but nothing near those amounts.
Anyway, what's important is earning more than enough (and admittedly, physicists don't have the time be develop a fascination with bling). Being on the ERE path, one can drop a few bombs, that'll shut down any further pecking-order bragging from most consumers. Try the following:
"I just sent of a market order to purchase $50,000 worth of BOND. That was exciting."
"I increased my gold exposure by $20000 today."
"I just received a $300 dividend from my timber investment. That and the dividend from the phone company will pay this month's food. Next month, it's my utility holdings..."
I guarantee, one month's worth of occasional mentions will solve the problem permanently.
(It may create other problems such as lending requests.)


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

I think fighting fire with fire will give these people their just desserts. I read Sclass's original post with a mix of familiar disgust and sadness. Of course, in NYC one comes across this a lot and it is one of the biggest problems with an otherwise great city. I dislike the competitive A-types that this city attracts, especially because I have relatives like Sclass's sister. I find it particularly sad to see people in their 50s acting this way, but it's unfortunately not uncommon.
I read the post and wondered if this might be a midlife crisis manifesting itself in a kind of materialistic competition. Men do it all the time with those Ferraris in the parking lot mentioned above, and women are certainly equally capable of such childish games.
I have little advice on how to put up with such nonsense except to be more introverted and deal with the outside world less. Or maybe a more healthy alternative would be to surround yourself with like-minded people. Maybe it's time for another ERE meetup.


Dragline
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Post by Dragline »

Well, sclass, if you are truly living up to being a younger sibling you should shoot her with rubber bands, run up and pull her hair and then run away shouting "Nyah, Nyah-nyah, Nyah! Nyah!"
Just recognize that what she is saying to you really has nothing to do with you -- she is probably feeling inferior to the lawyers at her firm that are even wealthier than she and she cannot hope to keep up with. In large firms you will find lawyers worth anywhere from negative $100Ks to positive tens of millions of dollars. The sad and natural reaction in such situations is to try to denigrate or find superiority over others, as in "at least I'm not as low as so-and-so".
I would try to avoid discussing money with her -- what's the point? "You take the high road, sis, and I'll take the low road, and we'll see who gets to Scotland (Nirvana) before ye." But if you really want to get her goat, tell her you correspond with lawyers that bill at higher rates than she, drive Hyundais and Chevys, send their kids to just-fine Catholic schools, own several houses with no mortgages and almost never stay late at work because they don't have to. And they don't understand why she can't get her shit together. ;-)
In the end, Aussierogue is absolutely correct. By the time you are in your forties, the world will be your oyster and everyone will be asking "How did you do it?" Patience really is a virtue here.
And be careful about taking Kiyosaki too seriously. He strongly resembles "The Sociopath Next Door" (an excellent book about the worst people you know -- perhaps a former boss or two).


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C40
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Post by C40 »

I read this paragraph from Epictetus last night and your post reminded me of it. (And I've added the rest of the section as it is also applicable)


"Suppose you have a brother or sister who treats you poorly. What difference does that make? There is still a moral imperative to recognize and maintain your fundamental duty to him or her. Focus not on what he or she does, but on keeping to your higher purpose. Your own purpose should seek harmony with nature itself. For this is the true road to freedom. Let others behave as they will - that is not within your control anyway, and thus it's of no concern to you. Understand that nature as a whole is ordered according to reason, but that not everything within nature is reasonable.
When you are faithfully occupied with performaing the acts of a wise and decent person, seeking to conform your intentions anda cts to the divine will, you do not feel victimized by the words or deeds of others. At worst, those words and deeds will seem amusing or pitiable.
Except for extreme physical abuse, other people cannot hurt you unless you allow them to. And this holds true even if the person is your parent, brother, sister, teacher, or employer. Don't consent to be hurt and you won't be hurt - this is a choice over which you have control.
Most people tend to delude themselves into thinking that freedom comes from doing what feels good or what fosters comfort and ease. The truth is that people who subordinate reason to their feelings of the moment are actually slaves of their desires and aversions. They are ill-prepared to act effectively and nobly when unexpected challenges occur, as they inevitably will.
Authentic freedom places demands on us. In discovering and comprehending our fundamental relations to one another and zestfully performing our duties, true freedom, which all people long for, is indeed possible.


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

@C40: Great quote.
Short of pure stoic indifference, I think Jacob's solution is the best. I'm gonna start throwing out that 10k to my gold position line. Even if in my case it's only 1k. 10k for effect!
Just don't overdo it, then you become the smug braggart.


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

>10k to my gold position
Don't try this with a Boglehead. You'll never hear the end of criticism for buying such a useless metal that pays NO DIVIDENDS!


Spartan_Warrior
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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

Haha, true, but I'd sooner fight that battle than the one over not buying the latest iThing you CAN'T POSSIBLY LIVE WITHOUT!


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

Excellent transition... ask them what kind of return they are getting on their iThing.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@dragoncar - Put this on a tshirt and wear it.


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