The ERE Wheaton Scale

Simple living, extreme early retirement, being wealthy, ...
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jacob
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The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by jacob » Sun Sep 04, 2016 3:42 pm

Feast your eyes on this: https://permies.com/t/3069/wheaton/Wheaton-Eco-Scale

I've found the Wheaton model tremendously helpful in terms of meeting people on their own terms. Especially the part about hiding the advanced stuff (five finger exploding heart technique, etc.) to beginners ... and even in terms of establishing a "jargonized" moat to keep the noobs out ERE-land.

I'd like to figure out a similar "road map" (see link) for ERE. The immediate problem here is that there's not just one road. In many ways, Wheaton levels for ERE is more about how far one is from the city-center in any direction, metaphorically speaking, and behavior could take many many directions and combinations.

For ecology, it's also pretty easy to let 99% start from consumer lifestyle. With money, people could be starting from 200k, 50k, 10k, ... or whatever. This could be a source of ["True Scotsman ... "] disagreement. In addition people could end at different levels too. How do you compare having a middle class life at 10/year to living like an emperor (whatever at means) at 100k?

I, therefore, think that mindset is a better guideline.

Lets do some levels then:

Level -1: ... ?

Level 0: Lives paycheck to paycheck. Uses phrases like "paying the bills". Doesn't cook. Eats a lot of junk food. Buys a lot of stuff. Buys lottery tickets.

Level 1: Focuses on building credit score. Focuses on building CV and career. Attempting to follow a budget. Save 3% in xmas account or 401k. Focuses on experiences instead of stuff. Eats out a lot.

Level 2: Has a good credit score (800+). Follows a budget. First impulse is to go to the big store whenever they need anything. Worships Dave Ramsey.

Level 3: Has a few months of emergency savings. Reads blogs about personal finance. Takes part in the annual buy nothing day. Feels to the need to save $1M for retirement.

Level 4: Frequently comments on blogs or forums. Has an investment plan. Buys stuff at thrift stores. Sells excess crap on craigslist et al. Learns about index investing.

Level 5: Has created their own blog or journal describing their journey. Has a spreadsheet to predict the future net worth. Knows about SWR. Does a craft or two.

Level 6: Works deliberately on developing more DIY skills. Don't go shopping non-consumables for weeks. Is able to find the best deals out there. Otherwise has a hard time enjoying recreational shopping or eating out. Is a public authority on the subject.

Level 7: Has a collection of DIY skills. Has their own garden. Has a collection of tools and parts. Is able to fix almost any problem in their immediate environment without spending money. Is a public and popular authority on the subject.

Level 8: Is Pareto efficient in terms of DIY vs buying consumer solutions. Spends almost no money aside from taxes. Has done seminal work on the subject. Hasn't gone retail shopping for years.

Level 9: ? ...

...

Feel free to add in the blanks? Or suggest more levels? Or split levels in intermediate levels? Or some behaviors should be moved to other levels?

The important goal here is to adhere to the general observation that anyone 2 levels above are extreme, regardless of level, and beyond that they are subject to ridicule; whereas anyone 2 levels are at best dumb and if further down, downright irresponsible. Levels need to be spaced more or less to retain this attitude over the entire domain of levels. I may have violated this rule above just to get the ball rolling/because I still don't "get it".

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by black_son_of_gray » Sun Sep 04, 2016 9:10 pm

Lots of Dunning/Kruger will arise from us middle-of-the-packers!
Nevertheless, I submit...

Understands personal economy as:
Level 0-1
linear (paycheck to paycheck, what comes in goes out, impressed by large numbers of $$)

Level 2-4
exponential (understand the 'magic of compound interest', understanding the risks of high interest rate debt, aspires to large numbers of $$)

Level 5-6
flows (an understanding of yields (esp. in contexts other than $$), and sophisticated management of inflows/outflows, realizes no need large $$ if inflow and outflow balance)

Level 7+
network/systems (creative constructing of redundant, stable, self-reinforcing systems of diverse elements where inflows and outflows are matched through the system, $$ is almost irrelevant to functioning of system, focus is on waste)

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by IlliniDave » Mon Sep 05, 2016 5:52 am

I am peanut buttered from 2-6 or 7 (have at least some characteristics of each). 2-4 often come in essentially a single step. Index investing is probably irrelevant (I was index investing at level 0). You seem to have two axes going on: "doing it" and "professing about it". Those not inclined to be bloggers or teachers will always be level 4 and below, strictly speaking. Is that the intent?

Nonetheless, an interesting endeavor. Hard for me to relate to since I'm really only leaning towards ERE from a different scale where I was already well past its level 0. I've mentioned this idea before. The core idea is not mine. I listed it in terms of the role of money. It's a more concise scale:

Level 0: Thinking limited to terms shorter terms than a day up to day-by-day. Young kids, homeless persons, the significantly poor, and others fall into this. Primary concern is getting through the day with food and shelter. Money is almost irrelevant due to near nonexistence.

Level 1: Thinking primarily limited to week-by-week (paycheck frequency). Tomorrow's check is continually needed to cover today's bills. Older students (through college), the "working poor", and lowest tier of middle class are typically here. Life is about bridging paychecks and getting to the next weekend. Money scarcity is a constant limiting factor.

Level 2: Thinking primarily limited to month-by-month. This is the oft discussed middle class/"salaryman" hell. These are peak consumers, the rhythm of life defined by the frequency of bills and payments. There is enough money for it to be a tactical tool, but it often becomes a trap.

Level 3: Thinking in terms as long as year-to-year. This is the subset of the middle class that tends to make it to the upper middle class or higher if the transition happens at a relatively young age. It's also those who well into midlife begin to realize that they need to change their ways if they want to retire per the traditional concept of retirement. Rudimentary future planning emerges. A small fraction of money is reserved for strategic purposes.

Level 4: Thinking in terms as long as decades. These are often the folks that achieve real wealth. Money is a strategic asset. The more ambitious proprietors and entrepreneurs typify this group, although aggressive save-and-invest types are there quietly here as well.

Level 5: Thinking across generations (and across societies). The folks who have "won" at level 4 relative to their own criteria who begin to turn their attention towards legacy and philanthropy.

It's not necessarily a serial process. For example, a student largely stuck in level 1 due to circumstances can be thinking at level 3 when choosing a major/future career.

There is probably an ER(E) analog. Ironically the goal with ERE is, in a sense, to operate level at 0 in terms of the irrelevance of money, but with the mentality and resources of the upper levels. The real launching point towards FI would occur when the transition to seeing money as a strategic asset occurs (level 3). That's where I broke off this scale (full disclosure: I wasn't even conscious of this scale concept at the time). There's a fork on the path from level 2 to level 3/4 where one path prioritizes achieving wealth gains that swamp consumption. The other which veers in the direction of ERE dials down consumption to get more bang for the buck, as it were.

So my take in FIRE terms is that levels 1 and 2 are where the "problem" is identified. Level 3 is re-characterized for the FIRE aspirant by maximizing savings rates and prioritizing asset accumulation "in place" (i.e., they might keep the slightly oversized suburban home and continue commuting by auto, but otherwise drastically scale back consumption and begin to accumulate significant assets). In other words, making the best of the present situation. Level 4 is where the big lifestyle changes are made: selling cars, downsizing homes, looking at housing alternates, moving to LCOL areas. Diversity of income which might begin at level 3 can blossom at level 4 with fully realized "side gigs" beginning to generate reliable income. At level 4 investment strategy/goals become tuned to the person's needs/aspirations. Level 5 is where ERE becomes a vocation and end-in-itself rather than a means to an end; where it is perfected for it's own sake, the gospel is actively spread, a person self-identifies as an ERE-er, and except for the presence of a lot of capital (money, human capital/skill, and perhaps social) there is a deliberate return to level 0 as pertains to money. Sort of the stage analogous Zen enlightenment.

The FIRE transition can occur at Stage 3, 4, or 5. The upper edges of level 4 and level 5 are the domain of ERE.

Of course, that's the view of an outsider as pertains to ERE. I'm at the re-characterized level 3 stage and other than a few nods towards level 4 immediately after my FIRE transition (downsizing home and re-positioning some of my invested assets) that's where I'll likely stay.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Sep 05, 2016 6:24 am

@jacob: I think you kind of nailed it already with the chart in the book that is divided into the 4 quadrants of the Working Man, Salary Man, Business Man, and Renaissance Man, except you need to flip loose vs. tight coupling, so that "freedom" can increase over the range and domain.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by Ego » Mon Sep 05, 2016 8:40 am

jacob wrote:
I'd like to figure out a similar "road map" (see link) for ERE. The immediate problem here is that there's not just one road.
Essentially what you are trying to do is convert people. There are ready-made models for conversion that have worked for centuries. He is using one of those models brilliantly.

Image

Ten years after the conquest of Mexico the Spanish Bishop Zumárraga co-opted a pre-Aztec goddess and created the Virgin of Guadalupe. The conversion was so successful that five hundred years later she is still the most recognizable symbol of Mexico.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAC_5ZEa2i8

Despite saying the he wants to keep to himself the stuff several levels ahead, he offers up the saints and a version of heaven in Sepp Holzer's Krameterhof farm.

Image

Image

@jacob, you are understandably reluctant to offer yourself as an example. You don't have ERE saints. You haven't identified ERE heaven.

To get people to follow a road map, you've got to convince them that the road goes somewhere they might want to go. Pick historical saints. Co-opt a god. Decide on ERE heaven.

Otherwise, you are just creating a hierarchy that will be used to point out how Dunning-Kuger ignorant others are.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by BRUTE » Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:14 am

interesting. brute agrees with previous posters that there are probably several axis.

here's how brute would describe his changes in perspective so far:

level 0: child

money is what brute asked from for other people if he wanted something that cost money. it was essentially play money.

level 1: student

brute got a fixed amount of money from allowances and side jobs, and had to make it to the end of the month. if he wanted something fancy, like a new computer, he had to save money or find another income source.

level 2: employee

same as before, but way more income and a different social sphere/expectations of spending. the first time brute really had the chance to waste money. (he mostly didn't, cause he's an anti-social loser).

at this point, brute didn't even think about investing or retirement or any of that stuff.

level 3: accidental saver

this started with the employeedom, but brute basically never managed to spend all his money, and began to tire of toys relatively quickly. so he ended up with a 30%-50% savings rate just by default. he didn't spend more when he got raises, because why.

brute had some vague ideas of investing for retirement here, because that's what responsible humans told him to do.

level 4: financial goal-setter

this didn't happen until brute read the ERE blog. the idea that if he saved up enough, he could eventually completely live off the interest! brute had of course known about interest before, but this idea had never even occurred to him, and without this goal, why even invest.

the math was beautiful.

level 5: ERE-minded

a few years after being infected with the ERE mind virus, brute has read tons of stuff about ER and financials. not all of it, which is impossible, but enough so that he can talk about economics, investing, financials, etc. with any human he knows, and usually at least know what they're talking about. or, and brute enjoys this immensely, school them ;)

this is where brute is stuck right now. in all honesty, brute usually gets stuck at this level in any domain of life, because he enjoys reading and discussing stuff much more than implementing the details over a decade. brute is an information creature more than an action creature.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by Fish » Mon Sep 05, 2016 11:51 am

Starting from viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7870&start=75#p120658 and extending the Wheaton levels to other areas of personal finance, I ended up with this. Not going for precision here, just a concept.

Anything non-financial was intentionally left out because the ERE philosophy acknowledges that each individual has his own optimal solution based on temperament and circumstance, and consequently the book is a set of guiding principles instead of a list of tips. I think the challenges in developing a single ERE Wheaton scale are that (1) the behaviors at higher levels are unique to the person’s situation, and (2) measuring along a single dimension such as expenses makes or implies a value judgment of one level being better than another. Instead, I see ERE more like the decathlon of personal finance with progression along the Wheaton levels in permaculture, systems thinking, frugality, investing, life skills, etc. Maybe instead of defining a single ERE ideal, we should define the Wheaton levels in the subjects that ERE borrows from such that additional progression generally correlates with being better able to apply ERE concepts to life. I used the personal finance example because it’s easier to see that a person can be at different levels across the categories. This is the argument for separating it out into individual domains instead of the single scale, linear progression originally suggested.

Image

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by Kriegsspiel » Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:04 pm

BRUTE wrote:interesting. brute agrees with previous posters that there are probably several axis.

here's how brute would describe his changes in perspective so far:

level 0: child

money is what brute asked from for other people if he wanted something that cost money. it was essentially play money.

level 1: student

brute got a fixed amount of money from allowances and side jobs, and had to make it to the end of the month. if he wanted something fancy, like a new computer, he had to save money or find another income source.

level 2: employee

same as before, but way more income and a different social sphere/expectations of spending. the first time brute really had the chance to waste money. (he mostly didn't, cause he's an anti-social loser).

at this point, brute didn't even think about investing or retirement or any of that stuff.

level 3: accidental saver

this started with the employeedom, but brute basically never managed to spend all his money, and began to tire of toys relatively quickly. so he ended up with a 30%-50% savings rate just by default. he didn't spend more when he got raises, because why.

brute had some vague ideas of investing for retirement here, because that's what responsible humans told him to do.

level 4: financial goal-setter

this didn't happen until brute read the ERE blog. the idea that if he saved up enough, he could eventually completely live off the interest! brute had of course known about interest before, but this idea had never even occurred to him, and without this goal, why even invest.

the math was beautiful.

level 5: ERE-minded

a few years after being infected with the ERE mind virus, brute has read tons of stuff about ER and financials. not all of it, which is impossible, but enough so that he can talk about economics, investing, financials, etc. with any human he knows, and usually at least know what they're talking about. or, and brute enjoys this immensely, school them ;)

this is where brute is stuck right now. in all honesty, brute usually gets stuck at this level in any domain of life, because he enjoys reading and discussing stuff much more than implementing the details over a decade. brute is an information creature more than an action creature.
This describes Kriegsspiel's experience nearly exactly. The only difference is that Kriegsspiel had no clue what interest (or stocks or bonds) was. All the money he didn't spend just piled up in his checking account. Kriegsspiel is a bit peeved that brute threw that "of course" in there.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by Ego » Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:27 pm

It occurred to me while I was riding that Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin and Monica Wood created the New Roadmap Foundation that would go on to become Your Money or Your Live. Seeing that you want to create a roadmap yourself, that may be a good.... er .... roadmap. :D

http://www.financialintegrity.org/index ... Foundation

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by BRUTE » Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:08 pm

roadmap to a roadmap?

such meta.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by GandK » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:48 am

jacob wrote:Lets do some levels then:
...
These are great. By and large I think you've got it.

Thinking through what might make this useful for communication: the usual method for ascending. @Ego is right that YMOYL should provide a good model for that. People who change their position usually go from 0 to 1 when... what?

Other observations:

Status anxiety tends to be greatest in 1-2, which are solidly aspirational.

Vacations are funny across the types. 0 goes to places like Myrtle Beach or the county fair, 1 to Disneyland/Disney World, 2 on cruises, 3 to Paris on a Rick Steves tour, 4 to Europe for two weeks in a rental car without a guide, 5 thinks vacations miss the point and is trying to turn his career into his vacation but is failing miserably, 6 spends a quarter of the year in public parks trying to escape human overindulgence including his own, 7 is either backpacking permanently or has gone to the far East teaching English for food money, and 8 just stays home and reads a book. Or maybe attends the county fair. :-)

All millionaires I know personally outside of this community (there are many) are in the vicinity of 3, but 3 isn't written to include either the "I kept my head down my whole life, and now I'm old and rich and shop primarily at local Mom and Pop businesses that my friends own" or the "My parents died and left me the family business and connections, and now I'm middle aged and rich and shop primarily at Costco" contingents. So we may be missing a level: people who are done because they won, and therefore have no interest in moving up the ladder any further.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by BRUTE » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:59 am

GandK wrote:Vacations are funny across the types. 0 goes to places like Myrtle Beach or the county fair, .. and 8 just stays home and reads a book. Or maybe attends the county fair. :-)
there's beauty in circles.

the question is, even though level 0 and 8 both attend the country fair, is it the same experience if the individual hasn't traveled through levels 1-7?

maybe it's like that saying where one can't appreciate one's place of origin unless one has left it.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by GandK » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:11 am

BRUTE wrote:the question is, even though level 0 and 8 both attend the country fair, is it the same experience if the individual hasn't traveled through levels 1-7?

maybe it's like that saying where one can't appreciate one's place of origin unless one has left it.
:D Did Bilbo feel the same way about the Shire after returning from the Lonely Mountain?

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by BRUTE » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:20 am

highly likely. or at least that's what brute's telling himself.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:27 am

Clipped from Permies:
Scenario Ferd: Ferd works a job in the US for 40 hours per week. Ferd spends about a half hour commuting each way. So that is now 45 hours per week. Ferd spends 10 hours per week on food stuff: driving to restaurants, waiting in line at restaurants, ordering, waiting .... driving to grocery stores to get his favorite foods with the best price, shopping, waiting in line .... Between income, monthly expenses and whatnot, Ferd has about $200 per month of disposable income. Maybe $800 in the bank. Ferd spends nearly all of his disposable income on fun things. Ferd is looking for entertainment and life substance. Ferd dreams of having a million dollars so that he doesn't have to work anymore. If he had a million dollars, he could buy a better house, a better car, awesome toys and would no longer have to work at this sucky job, or any sucky job. Ferd earns $40,000 per year now. In 20 years he will have had several small raises such that by the time 20 years has passed, he will have earned a million dollars.

Scenario Gert: Gert has realized the permaculture dream. Gert lives on a few acres and eats the food that grows there. During the warmer months, gert spends some time harvesting and preserving food. During a week or two in the fall, Gert is working a good 50 hours a week. But for most of the year, Gert is working less than ten hours a week. Gert does spend about 10 hours a week making her meals. Usually it is something quick, but sometimes she makes something more elaborate. Some neighbors sometimes buy some of Gert's excess food. And once a year Gert will help with a permaculture design for somebody. Gert has a little pickup, but she hasn't fired it up in three months. Gert has about $300 per month of disposable income and $4000 in the bank. Gert has trouble spending this extra money. She's not sure what to spend it on. It just sort of accumulates. Gert earns about $7000 per year now. She intends to earn less money in future years. Over the next 20 years, Gert will have earned $100,000.

If Gert had a million dollars, what would she do with it? How would her life change? Since Gert is a fictitious person in my head, I hereby declare that her life would not change. If your life does not change if you have a million dollars, then is it fair to say that you are living the life of a millionaire? Maybe we could call this being a "permaculture millionaire"? - Paul Wheaton
I am totally yo-yo-ing all over the spectrum in all the different realms of my lifestyle where I am attempting to apply general systems theory, but I think that one sign you are approaching a high level is that very weird things will start occurring. For instance, the wealthiest person I know in real life recently gave me two pairs of hand-me-down shoes he didn't like because we wear the same size, and that was a win-win for both of us, whereas if he had given me some money that would have been a lose-lose. I think if you move upwards from the Level 7 suggested by black-son-of-gray, you stop focusing on "waste" because somebody who was at level 10 (God?) would know what everything is, how it was created, how it functions, and where it belongs.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by jacob » Tue Sep 06, 2016 11:33 am

@7wb5 - Quick question: Does permaculture require some kind of teaching as part of the permaculture ethics? IIRC, it does.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:38 pm

@jacob:

There is no accepted central authority on the ethics of permaculture. In fact, there are well-known and well-regarded permaculturists who do not think that permaculture is inclusive of ethics. That said, it is my belief that teaching is not a requirement of permaculture, but it is a highly likely outcome. It is almost bound to happen if you are attempting the practice of permaculture with anything resembling a human community around you. Permaculture isn't just about carbon sequestration, by a long shot*, but there is a limit to how far into the negative an individual human being can go with the sequestration of carbon, unless you start including influence on others to limit use and/or sequester carbon themselves. So, for instance, even though you still use a little bit of grid energy yourself, and you don't plant or bury very many trees, you are somewhere above the negative zone on Wheaton's chart because you have influenced quite a few people to transport themselves mainly using bicycles rather than cars. Just on that factor alone, (I am making up the numbers) you could give yourself 2000 "students" X 200 gallons of gas/year X 20 lbs CO2/gallon = -8,000,000 lbs.= -4000 tons, you might place yourself at level 8 or above on the chart, depending on what cut or credit you think your "students" should be giving you. There's probably some convention already determined in the martial arts for this sort of thing?

My own experience attempting the practice of permaculture in a densely populated urban area has had the unintended and unexpected result of engaging me in local politics to an extent that I am NOT currently enjoying. But, you can't rationally engage in the practice of permaculture and isolate yourself from interaction with other human beings. You can draw some lines on paper, purchase a deed, and even erect a spiny hedge and a wall around MY DOMAIN!, but the vectors that flow through your domain, such as the wind, the water, the homeless cats, the bees, and the cottonwood fluff are all going to be influenced by the behaviors of other people on their own domains, in the public commons, and the wilderness.

Also, permaculture promotes free, beneficial trade as much as it promotes self-sufficiency, and many interactions involving the trade of goods, tools and resources will also naturally result in the trade of information, or teaching. For instance, the political action group I joined because I was concerned about water pollution, holds its meetings at an urban farm site. So, it is natural that I would ask the farmer about what he feeds his hogs and how he constructed his ingenious straw bale planters, and at some later date bring some of my other friends over to see the hogs and the straw bale planters. Monkey-see. Monkey-do. Monkey-babble.




*For instance, IMO, although she doesn't self-describe as a permaculturist, the work Carol Deppe has done to back-breed and improve important human crop species, such as corn suitable for drying and grinding into flour, is HUGE!

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by jacob » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:18 pm

Awright, the table below is how I spent most of my Tuesday amongst other stuff :-P

I stole and creatively collated the comments from above and arrived at the following table. I frivolously copied&pasted from this thread so LMK if you want credits/disavow all further responsibility/want to rearrange entries. In that regard I think the time, the investment, and the teaching dimensions were too "all over the place" to really incorporate. I settled on using bsog's structure for the overall arrangement.

I want this to be a more or less precise reflection of where people are and where they can/could go, potentially. I don't see this as a Dunning-Kruger-exercise (dumb people thinking they know more than they do or smart people thinking they know less than they do) as much as I see it as a Dreyfus-exercise (people not knowing exactly what's ahead or behind them in terms of insight). In particular, I see people (including myself, but thanks to the Wheaton scale, I think I'm gettign better) recommending stuff that's inappropriate/not useful to the recipient all the time these days, like handing the ERE book to someone who'd gain a lot more utility from reading Dave Ramsey. Also, I agree that ERE lacks gods or saints. The pantheon of Greek Heroes would be a total mess anyway.

Hence my desire for an accurate Dreyfus map.

Give me your comments and I'll forward it to JD and MMM for approval or changes.

Image

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by jacob » Tue Sep 06, 2016 5:25 pm

PS: I made the table in a dumbass texteditor and I'm running out of "page" space. Should I switch to a spreadsheet or a DTP program because things are already get ridiculous. In particular, the number of columns could be significantly expanded, but modern text docs (libreoffice writer) don't go much wider as far as [the little] I know.

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Re: The ERE Wheaton Scale

Post by IlliniDave » Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:31 pm

Interesting table. I'm spread over 4-6. I guess my problem is that at this stage of the game it's just too easy to take the sledgehammer approach and pile up money to the <3% level without taking the extra effort to diversify income streams.

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