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ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-03-2005, 11:11 PM   #1
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ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

Being away a lot on vacation this summer gave me some time to think. One idea that won't go away is that maybe we wouldn't all have felt such a need to ER if the worlplace weren't so darned toxic. I know work wasn't always all rosy, but there used to be some sort of unwritten contract that sketched out a relationship between a company and a manager or employee that involved mutual sacrifices and mutual backscratching, and a long term together.

Today, I feel talking to friends still in the workplace that the trends I saw are even more aggravated in the 5 years since I left full-time work. Specifically, with all the global competition and speed-up and so forth, you are as good as your last month's numbers, the company could get sold tomorrow, your division could get shut down tomorrow, your boss could be fired tomorrow, your pension has been underfunded or more likely, shut down and turned into a 401k you fund and manage yourself, and if you leave at 5:00, you're next in line for the firing squad. And, after that, maybe we'll hire you back as a freelancer with no benefits, no guarantee of monthly income, and no clout. Or maybe we'll just get somebody in India to do it for us instead.


Given all that, is it any wonder that smart, competent people are saying, 'where is the exit?'

In a work environment like that, it pushes people to ask 'deep existential' questions like, 'why in the heck do I even need to be here' and 'who is Madison Avenue and why am I working so hard to pay for all this cruft I don't need?" and why exactly is the government spending so much of my money and my kids' future earnings to buy stuff I don't know that I really want to be paying for but don't have a choice as long as I am earning salary income.

The way I see it, we here are just the leading edge of enabled people who are making a completely rational decision to pull out of the mainstream economy aka rat race.

So are we 'un-American' (with apologies to our Canadian and Euros/Australian friends out there) , a threat to capitalism, soft-headed or worse, lacking guts and courage?

Actually, I don't think so at all (no surprise). I feel like ERs and those planning to get there are actually the keepers of the flame for values that made America great but are at risk of being extinguished in the current culture. For instance, ERs may be some of the last holdouts for some pretty good old-fashioned values like thrift, like cooling down the conspicuous consumption thing, like making choices to spend more time with famiilies and friends and paying for thoses choices with fewer goodies or 'status', or values like staying out of debt, but, at least during our accumulation years, saving like mad.

Anyway, that is what happens when you spend too much time in the mountains -- you start thinking about stuff like that.



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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 06:59 AM   #2
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by ESRBob
... Specifically, with all the global competition and speed-up and so forth, you are as good as your last month's numbers, the company could get sold tomorrow, your division could get shut down tomorrow, your boss could be fired tomorrow, your pension has been underfunded or more likely, shut down and turned into a 401k you fund and manage yourself, and if you leave at 5:00, you're next in line for the firing squad. And, after that, maybe we'll hire you back as a freelancer with no benefits, no guarantee of monthly income, and no clout. Or maybe we'll just get somebody in India to do it for us instead. ...
Judging from that description, it sounds like we could have retired from the same place.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 07:16 AM   #3
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

The high cost of health insurance, definded benefit plans and energy are strangling all corporations (smart and dumb, large and small) which makes it tougher on all employees. I don't think corporate America should be singled out as the bad guy here. I put the "syndrome" squarely on American society as a whole. In a way we all take a tiny piece of responsibility for the system we have created.

I also don't think the small percentage of people ERing has anything to do with right or wrong any more than someone who has to work until death to support a consumption habit, or someone making minimum wage, or someone with old money and a dozen mansions.

The way I see it we have it pretty good in this country to even have the opportunity to ER. We really don't have to worry about getting blown up on the way to work on a daily basis, or starving to death, or 30% unemployment rates, or rampant corruption, or wars on our back doorstep. A bunch of young kids are still dying doing our dirting work overseas and even younger kids will get stuck with our deficits and under-funded programs.

Is it a toxic rat race under those corporate meanies? Sure, but just keep it in perspective.



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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 11:19 AM   #4
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by ESRBob
I know work wasn't always all rosy, but there used to be some sort of unwritten contract that sketched out a relationship between a company and a manager or employee that involved mutual sacrifices and mutual backscratching, and a long term together.
I think that refers to a period of post-WWII American history that was unprecedented, maybe even unique. It wasn't so much that the world was so good as it was that the preceding period had been so crappy. And most of the "good 'ol days" referred to WASP males. Many people don't miss what they never had...

In all fairness, while some choose to ER, many others just go out and find a new job. The big difference is achieving a position to choose!
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 12:07 PM   #5
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

I feel much more stress and pressure today than 20 or 30 years ago. I believe that this pressure has been a major contributing factor that has increased the desire to ER. Every day, many of us are bombarded and pressured to do more, more, more, faster, faster. At some point, we can't do any more, and start to feel like a failure. It is not that we aren't good at what we do, it is that we are subjected to unrealistic expectations. We think of all the things we've wanted to do and never had time for...and come to realize that there is more to life than chasing a paycheck.

In a "Maybury" world, there would be much less pressure to ER. Imagine if you were the barber. You get up on the morning, go down to the shop, talk with friends, have a leisurly day, close the shop for the afternoon and go fishing if you want to...no pressure....few worries.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 12:21 PM   #6
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by Mountain_Mike
In a "Maybury" world, there would be much less pressure to ER.* Imagine if you were the barber.* You get up on the morning, go down to the shop, talk with friends, have a leisurly day, close the shop for the afternoon and go fishing if you want to...no pressure....few worries.
That sounds like semi-retirement. Not a bad choice for some.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 01:08 PM   #7
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

I really agree with most of this. People who are ER or are contemplating ER are the ones who realize that they have control of their own destinies.

Sure, there are professions where there is not as much stress and politics, so a life of less work less stress is fine. But those caught up in the corporate politics who just feel like they have to be there in order to pay for their lifestyle are prisoners of their own making.

Fortunately, I worked for a small firm that had some good luck and I left before becoming too disillusioned with the whole thing. DH however, is neck deep in some ridiculous corporate politics that has a tendency to rub off on me. Just this morning he was on an early call from home and it sounded like half his job is to make sure other people get enough ego strokes to buy into his project.

Everyone can't just up and quit, I know that is not feasible. But for those who can it does seem to me more rational than to keep on working.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 08:11 PM   #8
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

My mom (who retired at 62 about 15 years ago) always tells me that she had it much harder than me (WHA??).

She drove 2 miles to work, came home for lunch each day and still has friends that she goes to lunch with that she worked with.

I, on the other hand, had cutthroat co-workers who I wouldn't trust with my sandwich, a commute of one hour each way, a job where I had to call in ON MY VACATION, and a boss who, if she wasn't making me scratch her back (literally), would constantly tell me how I had "to sacrifice" for my future ...

When I ER'd 2 years ago, first of all, I thought everyone would figure it out (how could you keep it a secret from Mom?), that I wouldn't know what to do with myself, and that it would be temporary ...

NOT HAPPENING. LOVING IT. Mom still doesn't know (don't tell her). I'm pretty sure this is permanent... I would rather cut back on expenses (or just about anything) than go back to work.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-04-2005, 11:34 PM   #9
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by Sparky
...I, on the other hand, had... a job where I had to call in ON MY VACATION, and a boss who, if she wasn't making me scratch her back (literally), would constantly tell me how I had "to sacrifice" for my future ...
Another "boss" horror story. Although, depending on the woman, the back scratching might be the pleasant part of the day for me. The "sacrificing" might not be so bad either, again depending on how that's defined.

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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-09-2005, 04:15 AM   #10
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

On the one hand, sorry to hear so many others have experienced the same, fairly rapid deterioration in the work place ... yet also glad to see the breadth ... misery loves company.

American business has become much, much more challenging in the last decade, seemingly at an increasing rate.* We're saving like mad for ER, and it is in sight ... but I do wonder and have concerns about what our kids are up against.

Seriously looking at joining a charity in my home state, which is offering nearly comparable pay, plus average work weeks of 45 hours ... as opposed to the 70 to 80 I'm doing now.* If it becomes a real opportunity, that may be where I spend the rest of my career.* Would rather sacrifice the usually illusory "upside" of stock / options, in exchange for a few years of actual life, and time with family.

To answer your question ... I think you're dead on that more folks are working towards ER because the climate is so negative ... while also recognizing that relative to other countries, we're still in great shape.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-09-2005, 05:10 AM   #11
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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... while also recognizing that relative to other countries, we're still in great shape.
For some reason that gives me very little comfort.

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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-09-2005, 08:47 AM   #12
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

I don't look at ER as a lottery ticket, a "slacking off," or any other kind of aberration. Instead, I think it's a rational labor supply response to a changing value equation.

Work don't pay like it used to, at least in many of the intangibles that make careerism bearable, and so it's only natural for some of the suppliers, i.e., us, to look for value elsewhere.

When I walked out the door I had the Invisible Hand pushing me square in the back.

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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-09-2005, 10:00 AM   #13
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by ESRBob
The way I see it, we here are just the leading edge of enabled people who are making a completely rational decision to pull out of the mainstream economy aka rat race.*
An interesting "chicken or the egg" question lies within this statement. Is it the relentless pressure of a competitive economy pushing us to produce more with less that ultimately drives us to escape the rat race? Or is it the relentless productivity gains and wealth creation of a competitive economy that allows us to accumulate a lifetime's worth of earnings at an early enough age so that escape is possible?

I'd be willing to bet that never before in human history have so many of us proles had the opportunity to work and save our way to financial independence and a comfortable retirement. I, for one, do not lament the stresses and strains of the competitive global economy because it made this wealth accumulation possible.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-09-2005, 10:07 AM   #14
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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I don't look at ER as a lottery ticket, a "slacking off," or any other kind of aberration. Instead, I think it's a rational labor supply response to a changing value equation.

Work don't pay like it used to, at least in many of the intangibles that make careerism bearable, and so it's only natural for some of the suppliers, i.e., us, to look for value elsewhere.
I like this response. It seems employers need to rethink their value equation to keep us
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 02:40 AM   #15
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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. . . I feel like ERs and those planning to get there are actually the keepers of the flame for values that made America great but are at risk of being extinguished in the current culture.* For instance, ERs may be some of the last holdouts for some pretty good old-fashioned values like thrift, like cooling down the conspicuous consumption thing, like making choices to spend more time with famiilies and friends and paying for thoses choices with fewer goodies or 'status', or values like staying out of debt, but, at least during our accumulation years,* saving like mad. . .
Maybe . . . but I think you would be hard pressed to prove this. Wanting to ER may make us different, but I don't think that it makes us better. We are different enough from the norm that we tend to become defensive -- even self-riteous -- about our choices. Still, I'm not convinced we are "keepers of the flame" or anything.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 03:57 PM   #16
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by . . . Yrs to Go
An interesting "chicken or the egg" question lies within this statement. Is it the relentless pressure of a competitive economy pushing us to produce more with less that ultimately drives us to escape the rat race? Or is it the relentless productivity gains and wealth creation of a competitive economy that allows us to accumulate a lifetime's worth of earnings at an early enough age so that escape is possible?
Yrs 2 Go;
Neat perspective -- hadn't looked at it quite like that but it makes sense. I remember a line from an old song that used to go through my head, "You gotta get in to get out..." as I realized the paradox of working within 'the system' with all it's foibles and compromises to escape from 'the system'. At the same time, I want to be on record that I appreciate the system as a consumer and investor as the one that makes my continued lifestyle possible.

So I guess ER could be described as a personal journey that some people will be fortunate enough to make -- you suck it up and play adroitly within the system to escape the system, all the while knowing that some people, who will never be able to escape, are the ones delivering the dividend on your stocks and the low-priced food to your supermarket.

Is it any wonder ERs are sometimes edgy about the morality of what we're doing?
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 04:13 PM   #17
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Originally Posted by ESRBob

So I guess ER could be described as a personal journey that some people will be fortunate enough to make -- you suck it up and play adroitly within the system to escape the system, all the while knowing that some people, who will never be able to escape, are the ones delivering the dividend on your stocks and the low-priced food to your supermarket.

Now that sounds like a good idea for a book!
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 06:44 PM   #18
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

When it comes to the ER Mentality, some people get it and most do not. LBYM, staying out of debt, saving and investing for future income is NOT the way most Americans live. Most seem to live paycheck to paycheck and savings are what you have before you write the last check of the month. Investing is for the rich and to hell with them!

The economy over the past several decades has allowed those that wish to save and invest to do so. The mainstream culture in America says to spend today and worry about tomorrow later. People deep in debt will continue to spend because they do not wish to change their lifestyle. They are incapable of seeing their future beyond what they own today and what the lust for tomorrow.

ER types know the value of planning and of being aware history and the effect that can have on their future incomes and expenses. They wish to see into the future and to plan to live comfortable for many years without the need for regular wages and all that goes with working for someone else. Those that wish to ER have experienced the "do more with less" management style and have endured more than their fair share of HR Programs of the Month. They have endured bad bosses that got there because of who they knew and not what they knew. They have lived through cut backs and the fear of job loss while at the same time being told that their loyality is being evaluated as part of their job success. They have seen the politics of the promotion systems and it makes them sick.

ER is not a right, it is a choice that people make to get back to the things that make life meaningful. Todays work environment is not what our parents experienced. Do we have it tougher? Who is to really say? We have it different, whether that is better or worse is a judgement call. ER is the end of the work world to a few that have been able to work the system to their favor while learning that all that glitters is not gold and a dollar saved in not a dollar earned unless it is invested in something.

Have pity on those that have not yet seen the way. They are doomed to live in a world of endless work to survive in their old age.
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 07:03 PM   #19
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Have pity on those that have not yet seen the way.* They are doomed to live in a world of endless work to survive in their old age.* * *
I "pity the fools" with apologies to Mr. T

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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy
Old 10-10-2005, 07:18 PM   #20
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Re: ER - the Rational Response to a world going crazy

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Now that sounds like a good idea for a book!
yakers,
Ha ha!
Actually this aspect of it was considered too 'hot' for the book -- not PC enough -- mostly I think because pretty much anyone in the publishing industry is underpaid and has no hopes of early retiring, so drawing any unflattering distinctions between the folks who 'escaped' and the ones still stuck in the ratrace turned out to be tricky. The kind of free-for-all we enjoy here is hard to duplicate in a book, where the shadow of the guillotine for the rentier/nouveau aristocracy is never far away.

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