ERE Objections

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

I keep a low ERE profile at work, but I've started discussing ERE with some of my other friends and have been receiving *massive* push back. I find their objections interesting in terms of refining my reasons for ERE, although I don't find any of their objections persuasive. I thought the members of this forum might also find some of their objections interesting:
1) Once you cover your own expenses, you are morally obligated to continue producing to help other people who are less productive. You are lucky and privileged to be productive, and you shouldn't forget this.
2) Raising kids on a frugal budget is selfish because it denies them important things that cost a lot of money.
3) Wouldn't it take like 50-100 million dollars in assets to actually live off your investments?!
4) If you realy believed this was the right way to live, shouldn't you be trying to convince everyone else to live like this too?
5) That's just plain lazy.
6) You say you want to be free of money as an influence on your actions, but now you're spending *more* time concerned about money, not less.
7) The desire not to work for money is indicative of a short-sighted need for immediate gratification. (I found this one particularly baffling)
Remember, these aren't my objections.
It was surprising to me what an emotional reaction I got out of revealing how I'm choosing to live my life. This discussion was with a "smart" group of people by conventional standards: Harvard grad & current analyst, Swarthmore grad & current doctor. I'm guessing they reacted so negatively because ERE undermines their entire way of life and recent sacrifices for their career.
Anyone else getting a strongly negative reaction? Anyone come across a persuasive ERE objection?


jacob
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Post by jacob »

8) Working is the only way to derive meaning in life. Life without work is pointless.
9) If everybody stopped working it would be the end of the world as we know it (you got that right!), therefore you can't stop working.
In general, I find reactions more positive than expectations. Maybe I have low expectations, but most people seem genuinely intrigued. Their usual objections are
a) I'd love to, but I got a mortgage, a car payment, a furniture payment, ...
b) I really DO plan to retire early, but I want to work just a little longer because I like my creature comforts.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

Also see this post


NYC ERE
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Post by NYC ERE »

@akratic great thread idea. WRT #1 and #5, this is the organism of society saying to one of its cells, "You are a BAD, LAZY red blood cell; you must pull your weight." The social rewards and stigmas are there to regulate us, ostensibly giving the most talented of us the most responsibilities; I am somewhat persuaded by this, and I'm still formulating my retort--something along the lines of striking a fair balance between the individual's needs and those of society; that we are adults and we should be able to largely choose what that optimal balance is for us.
The organism metaphor breaks down when you consider that by doing ERE, you, the cell, are able to transform yourself into another kind of cell, or maybe from a cell into ATP... or something:
Okay, here's my Reagan-style, trickle-down retort to #1 and #6: Any society--capitalist, socialist, fascist, or communist--requires capital. Until the robot era, it also requires people to work the capital. The better you invest your capital, the more value society extracts from it--creating jobs, wealth, and "helping other people who are less productive" through giving them jobs and/or handouts via tax revenue.
In fact, that you are productive enough to both A) accumulate capital to invest, and B) invest it successfully, I would argue, satisfies the responsibility presented to you by argument #1. Now, unlike a Reaganite, I agree with Jacob that a lot of what we call economic growth is really just "churn" and doesn't provide real value to society.
So let's say, akratic, that your fancy-pants computer/finance job you told us about that pays you so well is providing real value to our economy--not selling people things they don't need, not compelling upgrades of perfectly functional goods, not selling short-term thrills with long-term health consequences (e.g. nachos)--and you achieve financial independence in a couple of years, as you plan. ;) Having "retired," you go to a cocktail party with your friends, who now ratchet up the criticism about being lazy and irresponsible. You feel ashamed, and thus are compelled to revisit one of your old business ideas.
Your business idea is a reality TV show where members of the audience and viewers at home evaluate--one to ten--the good or bad looks of a panel of insecure young people; those deemed to be good-looking win prizes and become minor celebrities for a week; the less fortunate of the panel are also famous for a week--for being ugly. The show strikes a chord with insecure viewers across the nation, and you syndicate. By the end of its five-year run, "Hot Or Not: The Show" has put $50 million in your bank account. You are now in a great position to shoulder the responsibilities your friends spoke of--a better position than any of them can hope to be in their lifetime, in fact, since:
* your income is taxed at 40%+

* the show directly employed many people and created wealth

* the show indirectly spurred on more economic activity and growth via consumption stimulated by advertising sold by the networks airing your show

* even though the show is over, your capital gains and dividend taxes will continue to stream to the less fortunate/productive

* your four percent drawdown on the nest egg will be a handsome sum and will create jobs, etc.
Kraft Foods is one of your show's biggest advertisers. Because of the high consumption and gullibility of the audience, they're able to launch a new, very high-margin product called "No-Fat Cheez Snackz;" the main ingredients are flour, guar gum and sugar--no cheese. Kraft stock goes through the roof, the viewers are snacking like crazy--a spike in No-Fat Cheez Snackz sales is observed following the most brutal episodes of the show. Everyone is happy; all are responsibly contributing to GDP and growing the tax base.
Especially when 20% of the audience comes down with diabetes in 30 years--that's when the real economic growth starts: frequent doctor visits, insulin, emergency room visits.
If you have every hour of your waking days to allocate as you wish (financial independence), I would argue that you could do 10,000 times the good and wreak 10,000 times less damage--to our culture, to public health (mental and physical)--without spending a single dollar, than if you were blindly "productive" in order to satisfy your bourgeois guilt.


NYC ERE
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Post by NYC ERE »

Oh, you weren't asking for a counterargument? My mistake. :)
An interesting objection--not particularly emotional--I encountered this weekend actually referred to a book Jacob mentioned recently, "The Black Swan" by Nassim Taleb. I haven't read it, but I'm familiar with the ideas, and my friend mentioned that Taleb stresses the importance not only of negative Black Swan events--the mortgage crisis, for example--but positive ones as well:
Taleb uses the example of cocktail parties--don't know why that keeps coming up--and how you never know who you're going to meet at a cocktail party. Perhaps if Jacob were more of a cocktail party type and was invited to one around the time he started writing his book, for example, he might have met a like-minded publisher/editor who gave him lots of advice and connected him to a number of useful writing mentors, such that he finished the book a year ago and it was now in its 20th straight week on the NYT bestseller list. I know, weird example--but you know what I mean.
If you say "no" or, "Why not come to my place?" every time someone invites you out because of frugality, you are probably lowering your chances of a positive Black Swan event. If you live out in the country because living expenses are lower there, because of your pursuit of ERE, your happy Black Swan event is much less likely to come perch on your stoop.
This has been the most persuasive argument I've run across.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

"You are a BAD, LAZY red blood cell; you must pull your weight."
I am pulling *my* weight. The problem for them is that I'm not pulling other people's weight too!
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
PS: Zev, I appreciate your creativity. :)


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

Zev, that is a persuasive argument against the likelihood of getting extremely rich during ERE. But getting extremely rich is not the point of ERE. As Jacob has said before, he wouldn't really know what to do with a windfall, as he already has everything he needs. I realize a lot of us are not at that stage, but trying to plan my life around the possibility of a black swan windfall seems silly.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

The #1 argument is "To each according to their need, from each according to their ability". Communism on a large scale. The standard family contract on the small scale.
The #5 is the Calvinist argument. Here it is presumed that work provides some utility beyond one's need to provide for oneself; usually if you can do that without work, even better, but not for the Calvinists (most people now). Calvinists (and by derivative, our culture) believe that work demonstrates that you belong to the Chosen ones. Ironically, work is considered a trait of the Chosen ones (like having red hair, say), but the Chosen ones are pre-chosen and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Thus work becomes more of a fashion statement; like dressing up your behavior to emulate others.


NYC ERE
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Post by NYC ERE »

@Dragoncar That isn't my point. Black Swan events aren't necessarily financial--I should have given a less pecuniary example. The cocktail party Black Swan event could be meeting your mate, meeting someone who sparks a new passionate life activity for you, getting to sail around the world, learning about a fascinating new book that changes your life path entirely--hint hint.
Actually, the Black Swan event needn't be a cocktail party at all--obviously. My secondhand conception of it is, generally, exposure: On the positive side, you want to expose a few percent of your portfolio to extreme risk in order to have a chance at extreme reward; you want to go out of your comfort zone in whatever context--make eye contact with a stranger, scan a book in the mass paperback section, visit a country that most avoid--to expose yourself to the potential of great reward. On the negative side, you want to make contingency plans in case of a rare but massive bad event--precious metals, survival skills, a well-stocked pantry.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@akratic - My usual response to #1 is ... *mumble mumble* that sounds like communism *mumble*.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

Yeah, communism for sure!
I like how we both independently (presumably) quoted Marx regarding #1 within the span of a couple of minutes on the same thread.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@akratic - Yeah I hate it when that happens (unless I'm first :) ).


Emanuel
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Post by Emanuel »

I just keep my mouth shut most of the time, some sarcastic quotes here and there. The faces people make when you re-frame their entire existence in seconds makes me laugh inside, those peeps will never understand. In the end, some people really need something to occupy their lives, it takes a rare bread to fully understand and execute the concept of ERE or similar.


Cashflow
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Post by Cashflow »

Although contracting is not the same as ERE, what it has in common with ERE is that most people don't do it, nor do they understand it.
When I converted over to working strictly as a contractor (which was 15 years ago), I at first tried to "sell" others on why contracting is better than being "permanent." I stopped doing so when I realized no matter what I said, people had their preconceived notions of contracting and weren't going to change their minds.
Now I just quietly go about my business and enjoy my lifestyle.
BTW, Black Swan events are by definition unpredictable. They can happen anywhere at any time for any reason. In my opinion, being ERE or not makes no difference. But as the ERE book points out, if we should happen to have an economic collapse, being ERE puts someone in a good position to survive (although there are no guarantees).


dragoncar
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Post by dragoncar »

Zev, sorry I misunderstood. Yes, I agree that exposure can be a problem with ERE, although the Internet does help to a degree. I'll probably end up doing ERE in a major metropolitan area for this reason... some place with plenty of free events and confluence of smart people. Actually any town with a major university would probably suffice.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

@jacob, thanks for the link to Personality psychology and early retirement resistance. I had read that before, but not recently. I never read the comments though, and the dicussion in the comments on that post is particularly interesting.
Perhaps a re-read of your blog is eventually in order, this time paying attention to the comments. I shudder to think of the time commitment.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@akratic - If you read 10 comments per day, you'll be done in about 3 years time :-D
@all - I tried to make a point of the benefits of being able to see and seize opportunities in the book. It's possible to attribute many distinct events to luck. However, what goes missing are the unseen events. For instance, I got my first crew position because I played hockey with someone who knows someone who has a boat and who's looking for crew. A rare event, eh? But they're actually not that rare. I've crewed on 3 other boats simply by cutting out some of these links and going to a crew list.
The general rule is ... do something visible and things happen. The more you do, the more happens. This is the case with ERE or a career regardless.
WRT Black Swans, it comes down to heuristics. How can you tell the difference between an unknown-known and an unknown-unknown. Well, in principle you could ask everybody. However, I don't see unknown-unknowns as being a distinct class from unknown-knowns or possibly known-unknowns (noise, chaos, ...).


Sven
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Post by Sven »

If people respond with such objections, then maybe they are not ready yet to understand ERE/FI. They just need to come to some point first themselves and from there you can guide them.. but they first need to be 'open' for it. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"

Or they even don't want to understand it.. Having a degree from some well known university can also be a disadvantage if the opinion of others really matters for you. One day those people will face their co-students and they don't think it is nice to tell them they retired early.. so they just follow the path society is expecting them to run as fast as they can.. even when they are aware that the alternatives would give them a full life as well!


AlexOliver
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Post by AlexOliver »

It may be out of the norm, but I've never received any negative reactions from the people I've talked to about it. Maybe it's my subculture. We use the term "wage slavery," are veg*n, wear black, etc ;) Mostly people either 1) find a low-paying low-stress job, live on almost nothing, save like crazy, take a few months off, repeat, or 2) find a way to play music or write full-time. ERE is very future-oriented. Their objection is usually, "Oh that's nice, but I'm way too lazy to WORK for five years."


Q
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Post by Q »

Two days ago I just said how workin towards syndication is the same timeframe as ERE. Funny. And then, after you get a guaranteed check for quite some time, you try and land roles in movies and stuff...cameos, etc. Funny


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