Wall Street Journal FIRE article

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Allagash
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Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Allagash » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:00 am

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-new-re ... _lead_pos6

Not sure anyone has posted about this article. This has been front page on WSJ.com for a few days. I was so disappointed they didn't interview Jacob! The article was more about extreme levels of frugality (lady profiled is a high paid lawyer trying to have $2 million in assets before she hits 40....so she lives like she makes minimum wage).

Some of these bloggers talked about in the article are making huge amounts of money. "Mr. Sabatier, 33, says his Millennial Money website made $401,000 last year." Is that all from ads I wonder?

And they mention the lady who runs the Frugal Woods blog her husband makes $270k a year from his "work from home" job at a non profit! Man, didn't know "non-profits" paid that well! And she did not disclose how much she makes from her blog. So they are likely pulling in well over $300k a year. Boy, tough job "homesteading" on that meager pay.

IMO it makes a blog or book slightly less authentic to me when someone runs a "frugal blog" making a high end upper class income like that. All power to them and there is nothing wrong with making a ton of money, I've done it myself at times. But they certainly don't have the absolute requirement to pinch pennies as someone trying to start a rural homestead on a much lower income would.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by jacob » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:53 am

They did in fact interview Jacob for more than an hour! This was back in May.

I even introduced the lead author to skype so she could talk to other bloggers.

In fact, I've talked to about a handful of journalists this year in detail, but they often end up leaving me out entirely or giving me a brief mention (e.g. "blogs like .... and earlyretirementextreme.com" even as I can see they're using my comments (as they tend not to be the standard talking points) for insights and background.

It seems that the media has gravitated towards a narrative of FIRE as a "Millennial movement" of high-income techies who think of normal #adulting skills like painting your own walls, cooking your own food, buying cars used, and otherwise figuring out how to live on $30-40k/year as an some kind of innovative "app", so the media picks their examples to fit that profile.

I think many regular [median-income] people are miffed if not insulted that the media also refers to normal spending as "extreme frugality". Perhaps it makes sense to the NYC journalist crowd, but the majority of people already live on median incomes and based on the comments/blowback here and there are generally "not impressed". Well, maybe people with median incomes don't read WSJ, so maybe that's fair here ... but it also holds for other outlets.

Personally, I feel that FIRE and "extreme frugality" has been co-opted into the regular "save $1-2M and live a middle class life"-narrative as the ideas have spread to commercial outlets. I see what's happening now in the following lens https://meaningness.com/geeks-mops-sociopaths (*) ... There has been some disagreements between the original geeks about how FIRE is now being framed/popularized and I sadly admit I might have contributed to this and for that I am sorry.

(*) Which gives me some comfort knowing what to expect and that this is a normal progression.

What I'm trying to do or remember is to use Wheaton's observation of instinctively feeling that folks "one level back are ignorant" and "two levels back are assholes". So while I feel that using super-high income examples to describe the movement is ignorant and that referring to spending under $40k/year as "extreme frugality" downright assholish, I also try to remember that this is better than nothing and that it might get more mops interested in not wasting all their monies.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Allagash » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:15 am

To me Jacob you are the best, least commercialized, most cerebral, and most authentic guy writing about this stuff. You would have been the first person I quoted if I was the journalist. And your book is true "ERE" (emphasis on "extreme") not just normal frugality. Vicki Robin is the real deal too.

With the Frugal Woods blog thing, this whole idea that you "moved to the country" to do a "frugal homestead" when your husband rakes in $270k working from home, strikes me as a little non-authentic. When you make $270k a year, you don't really have to bootstrap any "homesteading"...you can absorb any big costs or mistakes with that huge income...there are no big financial risks. And Ms Frugal Woods has one post where she says she "doesn't mind" paying Vermont's high property taxes (hers are $8k a year I think). That sounded a bit insincere. Sure, great for you to pay high taxes when your husband makes $270k a year.....but the other guy making maybe just $70k a year those taxes are a major burden.

That "non-profit" her husband works for, must be making some "big profits" somewhere to pay work from home employees $270k:)

A lot of these frugal blogs remind me of the old saying, "it wasn't the gold miners that got rich, it was the business owners selling the picks and shovels to the gold miners". So they aren't necessarily getting FIRE by extreme frugality & investing, they are doing it via selling "picks and shovels" to those researching FIRE. Kind of like the real estate gurus or stock/option traders who sell expensive seminars....they didn't get rich off what they are teaching...they got rich selling seminars to the masses.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Stahlmann » Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:34 am

[enraged second world's citizen comment]

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by suomalainen » Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:22 am

Allagash wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 9:15 am
A lot of these frugal blogs remind me of the old saying, "it wasn't the gold miners that got rich, it was the business owners selling the picks and shovels to the gold miners". So they aren't necessarily getting FIRE by extreme frugality & investing, they are doing it via selling "picks and shovels" to those researching FIRE. Kind of like the real estate gurus or stock/option traders who sell expensive seminars....they didn't get rich off what they are teaching...they got rich selling seminars to the masses.
Couldn't agree more. But it does remind me of some of the discussion on the zero wasters thread. I don't begrudge anyone making money, but for some reason, I do get all amped up over someone being a prick about it, and that includes being haughty and/or hypocritical. But that's my issue. Maybe it's just I like the geeks, don't mind the mops, but hate the sociopaths.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Allagash » Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:54 am

I think "frugal" woods is just mis-titled. It should be the "rich persons guide to rural homesteading".

Anyone know what type of job at a non-profit gig pays $270k a year and you can work from home? Would be good info for college age ERE-ers looking for career possibilities.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Dream of Freedom » Sun Nov 04, 2018 12:46 pm

If these articles showed people living off of 7 or even 10 thousand a year wouldn't a lot of people would say "But I don't like lentils" and dismiss it out hand? It was an uphill struggle here because of that. Maybe it's okay to get people listening to you first and introduce people to your ideas in a way that won't cause peoples emotions to interfere.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Seppia » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:32 pm

Jacob, you simply don’t “sell”.
These days all that matters to the media is engagement/clicks, and stories like yours don’t generate clicks.
“Guy lives on $7k per year and retires comfortably in his early thirties on an average salary” is boringly straightforward and logic.
Hell, it might even push people to actually trying this ere thing out!

If, instead, you write about this couple where the guy makes more than five times the median salary of one of the richest countries in the world working from home, people will not be able to relate and will get angry instead.

Angry = clicks (this is why Facebook doesn’t regulate extremism: they make a ton of money off of it).

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Seppia » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:51 pm

Also:

The ‘Radical Saving’ Trend Is Based on Fantasy
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles ... mpractical

I agree with the “FIRE is the ultimate bull market phenomenon”, but really, the rest of the criticism sounds really weird.

“I’ve done the numbers and they don’t add up”
Uh, well, you could maybe provide some numbers to back up your claim.

“I like to consume” “the point of saving is to consume later”
Has this guy ever heard of the concept “decreasing marginal utility”?

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by unemployable » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:55 pm

Allagash wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 11:54 am
Anyone know what type of job at a non-profit gig pays $270k a year and you can work from home? Would be good info for college age ERE-ers looking for career possibilities.
Probably something like a PAC or lobbying organization. That's not out of line for higher-up jobs at endowments and foundations either.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by unemployable » Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:21 pm

Seppia wrote:
Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:51 pm
Also:

The ‘Radical Saving’ Trend Is Based on Fantasy
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles ... mpractical

I agree with the “FIRE is the ultimate bull market phenomenon”, but really, the rest of the criticism sounds really weird.

“I’ve done the numbers and they don’t add up”
Uh, well, you could maybe provide some numbers to back up your claim.

“I like to consume” “the point of saving is to consume later”
Has this guy ever heard of the concept “decreasing marginal utility”?
There's an entire wing of Bloomberg News devoted to writing articles about overpriced crap you can blow your high-finance salary on, so this doesn't surprise me.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by Jason » Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:16 pm

Well, I'm cancelling my subscription to The Wall Street Journal. Um...well, I would...

Seems to be the way of things. Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and sold his soul but The Rolling Stones sold the albums. It is kind of ironic that ERE needs to be properly packaged like everything else. Post-Modernism and shit. I have to admit that I'm surprised the Frugal Woods guy makes 270K a year being that he looks like he shaves with a bowie knife with the lights out. But I guess doing it from home, he won't walk in and scare the shit out of an office environment.

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by BRUTE » Sun Nov 04, 2018 7:31 pm

first comment:
I just bumped up my savings after reading this article :)

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Re: Wall Street Journal FIRE article

Post by prognastat » Mon Nov 05, 2018 1:27 pm

Unfortunately the Wheaton level's work both ways and just like we may think that the make multiple times the median wage and spend like you're middle class is ignorant, but I would say ERE is probably at least 5 levels above what is probably the target audience of those articles putting us squarely in the crazy category for them and as something they shouldn't listen to. They are more likely to dismiss it as a whole without even going over the concept and numbers to make sure it actually is crazy.

I suspect that the more mainstream FIRE bloggers probably have a higher conversion rate from the average readership of mainstream media than ERE would have, hopefully a portion of those convinced by the more mainstream FIRE bloggers will eventually end up here.

It might not be the seismic shift we would hope for, but I think the incremental steps is eventually better than no progress at all.

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