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Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:22 AM   #1
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Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

I need some help.
As some of you know, I've been writing a book about ER (I'm not any more expert than anyone here, but my dream in life was always to be a writer and ER has given me the chance to do it). After more than a year of writing, final deadline is this week.

Now I'm getting a lot of pushback from my editor who wants to kill the last chapter -- she doesn't believe the premise. I figured the best people to tell me are my fellow early retirees and those aspiring to get there.

Basically, my premise is that if a lot of people start early retiring, doing what they love instead of heaving themselves into jobs they hate, that the overall effect for society could be positive. Beyond all the relaxation and recreation, ER lets people figure out and delve into the stuff they were born to do, or just hang out with the time and enthusiasm to pitch in when they see something needs fixing. Add this up across lots of people and you could see things like families, marriages and communities rejuvenated, improvements in men's longevity and people's health, and a general leavening of the culture derived from people's 'labors of love' -- more balloonists and sailors, fewer attorneys and investment bankers. Heck, FIRECalc itself and this Board are the result of ER inspiration and sharing, and we all know how valuable that has been to us.

The editor thinks this is far-fetched. She agrees that early retirement can help the person doing it, and their family, but beyond that it's pretty much just a spit in the ocean.

What do you all think? Any stories you can share? Is there enough here in FIRE to be worth hoping other people do it too? Or is it just some wierd alternative lifestyle that makes sense for a few whackos like us but is of no wider interest?



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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:28 AM   #2
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

ESRBob,

I'm not far enough along in my retirement to have any factual data to add to your premise, but tell your editor (politely) that she is full of it. The positive effect on society of early retirement is entirely logical and reasonable.

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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:40 AM   #3
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Washington married money and had slaves - as did Jefferson.

Soooo - why don't you start with the poster child for ER - Behjamin Franklin - with a partial list of his modest contributions to society - after he made his pile in printing - and went on putz with a few things that interested him.

A trip down history lane might turn up a few more examples.

Like this is a new thing? - find out at what age your editor fell off the turnip truck - but be nice.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:44 AM   #4
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

ESRBob,

I'm not sure I buy your premise. Those who are motivated to apply their energies to benefit society probably found jobs that did just that. Those same folks, when ER'd, may still undertake activities that benefit society as a whole. Or they may just chill out.

Also, one man's definintion of what benefits society is another man's waste of time and resources. I made my career with NASA. I have always felt that advancing man's knowledge of the universe was a benefit to society. However, there are many who view space research as a welfare program for scientists and a waste of resources that could be better applied to more urgent social problems. Now that I am retired, I think of this as "my time" to do what I want, even if what I want only pleases me and contributes not at all to the "greater good".

It would take a massive number of motivated early retirees to have the kind of impact you postulate.

Good luck with the book.

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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:48 AM   #5
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ESRBob
What do you all think?* Any stories you can share?* Is there enough here in FIRE to be worth hoping other people do it too?* Or is it just some wierd alternative lifestyle that makes sense for a few whackos like us but is of no wider interest?
Probably many stories out there to be found. *I don't think ER is some weird alternative lifestyle for a few whackos. *I think most would prefer ER as opposed to working into their sixties. *That said I don't think many have the luxury to do so in light of rising health care costs and many having lived a champagne lifestyle on a beer salary. *
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 10:51 AM   #6
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Is this your first book? Would you like to continue the relationship with your editor and your publisher? Then tread lightly, my friend.

Ed
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 11:06 AM   #7
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

ESRBob,
I think the effect of a lot of people RE would not be positive. For example:
Macro level:
- Less people paying into Social Security, withdrawing early and maybe living longer
- Less consumerism - most people consume less when RE
- Lower savings rates over time
- Less money passed onto the next generation

Mico Level:
- Places to go would be more croweded during the week
- More travel by RE - all these REs would go where they always thought they would like to travel to
- More divoice? Married couples realize they don't have the same life goals, or have grown apart or ....
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 11:30 AM   #8
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ESRBob
I'm getting a lot of pushback from my editor who wants to kill the last chapter -- she doesn't believe the premise.

... my premise is that if a lot of people start early retiring, doing what they love instead of heaving themselves into jobs they hate, that the overall effect for society could be positive. Beyond all the relaxation and recreation, ER lets people figure out and delve into the stuff they were born to do, or just hang out with the time and enthusiasm to pitch in when they see something needs fixing. Add this up across lots of people and you could see things like families, marriages and communities rejuvenated, improvements in men's longevity and people's health, and a general leavening of the culture derived from people's 'labors of love' -- more balloonists and sailors, fewer attorneys and investment bankers. Heck, FIRECalc itself and this Board are the result of ER inspiration and sharing, and we all know how valuable that has been to us.

The editor thinks this is far-fetched. She agrees that early retirement can help the person doing it, and their family, but beyond it's pretty much just a spit in the ocean.
This reminds me of my thesis "advisor".

Gee, Bob, I don't know. In the military your appeal tactic is called "jumping the chain of command", and having to sic us ER big guns on your editor might be a sign that the relationship is over. But if you want big guns then here's some ammunition.

You have my permission to liberally use this post to help change her mind. Give her my e-mail address and my phone number too. In fact she's invited to join me out here for a free surfing lesson to help her understand what ER can do for the individual, for the family, and for society. I'll even drop in on your Oahu book signing and buy copies for my shipmates that haven't learned how to turn it off yet.

But let's talk about her. First there's the credibility issue. What the ^%$#* does she know about ER if she's still working for a living? What would have happened if Henry Ford had listened to his old boss Thomas Edison? What if Fred Smith had listened to his college professor and stayed in school instead of starting Fedex? What if Cervantes hadn't lost his day job? What if Grandma Moses had remained "Old. Smart. Productive." (to quote Business Week) and employed instead of daydreaming over a paint bucket? What if Habitat for Humanity decided to support the government's housing programs instead of taking matters (literally) into their own hands? Sure, people that enjoy their work are welcome to keep doing it (and probably should). But what if they didn't have to grub for money while they were fulfilling their avocation? What about those of us who are still searching for our avocation?

Second there's the brainstorming issue. A book's final chapter is the inspirational missive that hypothecates all the rosy possibilities evoked by ER. ("Edit that, lady.") Your editor is behaving like that killjoy we've all seen in brainstorming sessions who can't get with the program and keeps saying "Yeah, but!"

Third, it's not her job to find a "believable premise." If you were dangling participles or libeling Bill Gates or not organizing the manuscript in a logical flow, then I'd completely understand her stepping in to fix things. But she's not in charge of deciding whether or not the great reading public will believe your premise. In fact, she should welcome the controversy and use it as a marketing tool-- "The NYT bestseller my own editor didn't believe in!"

And finally, her alleged logic is just plain wrong. You've spent an entire book developing the thesis of why/how people should ER. Presumably she doesn't have a problem with this first 90% of the manuscript or you guys wouldn't be bickering over the final 10%. So now that you've persuaded your readers that they CAN ER, how else do you motivate them but with that final chapter on WHY they should ER? ER is good for society and the whole world, not just the individual!!

Maybe she should consider the obverse (or the converse, or whatever editors call it)-- what if no one could ER? Would the world be a better place if we were all chained in our cubicles until Social Security rescued us?

Maybe we should discuss the controversy using her vocabulary. Has she read anything by Ernie Zelinski? What about all the inspiring stories in Marc Freedman's "Prime Time" (see this post or Po Bronson's "What Should I DO With My Life"? What if their editors made those authors rip out the final chapters to save valuable printing resources for more believable conclusions?

Here's a final thought. Maybe she can't imagine a world of ERs because she just doesn't know what all of those people would do with their time. IOW she's fallen victim to the "But waddya DO all day?!?" syndrome. Once she recognizes her limitations then I'm sure she'll acknowledge your wisdom and that the chapter should stay. And she'll have taken the first step on the road to recovery.

On second thought, she's absolutely right. Cripple the book by hacking out that final chapter. Otherwise millions of people would ER, I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the quiet places created by the rest of the world being at work, and we'd never get to experience a rush-hour traffic jam again.

You've published a few things before, right? How critical is this editor to the successful conclusion of this project? You're on the cusp of creating the ultimate grass-roots movement, in the best Ayn Rand tradition, and all she can do is snivel about credible premises. Maybe you don't need a different final chapter-- maybe the final chapter needs a different editor. It's worth sharing this sentiment with her one-on-one.

Perhaps you should settle the dispute by offering to donate a percentage of the book's profits to her personal ER portfolio. Oh, wait, you're already doing that!
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 11:54 AM   #9
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Hey, wasn't Jesus a retired carpenter?* * And Howard Hughes did some cool stuff simply because he was FI.

But even if you can justify your thesis, I would drop it.* * A final chapter that tries to cast FIRE in the light of some movement to save the world seems kind of off the wall, and certainly doesn't jibe with the mindsets of most retirees (early or otherwise).

If you need some Grand Analogy, I would simply stick with personal freedom vs wage slavery.* * But, personally, I would avoid a neat-and-tidy summary/visionary chapter.* * The motivations and methodologies for ER are as varied as those for employment.* * ER is simply an enlightened alternative lifestyle.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 01:19 PM   #10
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dex
I think the effect of a lot of people RE would not be positive. For example:
Macro level:
- Less people paying into Social Security, withdrawing early and maybe living longer
- Less consumerism - most people consume less when RE
- Lower savings rates over time
- Less money passed onto the next generation

Mico Level:
- Places to go would be more croweded during the week
- More travel by RE - all these REs would go where they always thought they would like to travel to
- More divoice?* Married couples realize they don't have the same life goals, or have grown apart or ....
Doesn't this ignore all the work, savings and taxes paid up to the point of ER?* I'm still in the accumulation phase and I know I paid in more to Social Security and saved more than the average 40-hour-a-week worker.* When I was working 60 to 80 hours a week, I was not available to make places more crowded (except my office) either during the weekdays or the weekends, nor did I travel much.

That's not the case today, but I know there is someone else out there trying to ER that has taken my place.* We do not all have the same ER date.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-26-2005, 02:02 PM   #11
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ESRBob
The editor thinks this is far-fetched.* She agrees that early retirement can help the person doing it, and their family, but beyond that it's pretty much just a spit in the ocean.
I agree with your editor.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 11:12 AM   #12
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Thanks all for your insights and suggestions. As you can see, this isn't a simple issue. But have no fear, the editor and I have tussled over plenty of other things (and she usually but not always has a kernel of a valid point, though the killjoy streak is in there for sure) One way and another, our relationship is surviving fine.

Will probably end up with something very muted that just points out how your ER can have a wider impact than just your own personal happiness-- a good thing -- , but stays well clear of trying to push ER on others, even if they could accomplish it. Still anybody who bothers to read to the end of the book is probably open to a few inspiring words, and Ben Franknlin as an ER archetype sounds pretty inspiring.-- will have to look into that one.

Maybe Nords and I can collaborate on the next book -- with a new editor! -- that will be so out there it will make even Ernie Zelinski look like a conservative stick in the mud.

Thanks again to all
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 11:31 AM   #13
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ESRBob
... Ben Franknlin as an ER archetype sounds pretty inspiring.-- will have to look into that one.
Great point, Unclemick, I think Walter Isaacson's Franklin biography mentions his ER (at 42?) and how it facilitated a lifetime of putzing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ESRBob
Maybe Nords and I can collaborate on the next book -- with a new editor! -- that will be so out there it will make even Ernie Zelinski look like a conservative stick in the mud.
I'm ready. I'd like to write "The Military Guide To Early Retirement" but I don't think there would be any customers...
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 01:41 PM   #14
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

I'm not sure ER has any further benefit to society other than for the individual member. Actually, it seems to be good and bad for society:

Good:
1) ERs likely live on less, thereby less consumerism, thereby less waste and pollution to the planet.
2) If you ER, you effectively open up another employment slot for someone else.

Bad:
1) ERs don't pay into SS which helps to cripple an already screwed up system.
2) ERs pay substantially less taxes so the effect on (likely inefficient) gov't programs is negative.

When only the privelaged few retire, none of this matters. If ER become ALOT more common, it would be interesting to see if the net effect would be positive or negative. If you take the environmental perspective, however, I would say it would almost certainly be positive.

just my $0.02,

Pan
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 01:57 PM   #15
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by panhead
1)* ERs don't pay into SS which helps to cripple an already screwed up system.
2)* ERs pay substantially less taxes so the effect on (likely inefficient) gov't programs is negative.
I'm still trying to figure out why these two things are bad. Maybe it's just Darwin's natural selection at work?
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 04:29 PM   #16
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
I'm still trying to figure out why these two things are bad. Maybe it's just Darwin's natural selection at work?
Nords, you have some of the best postings and I think you know the answer. I would choose to say the reason this will not all work out is that humans are not purely Darwinian. We are in part social groups and "commonwealths" of various types. It would be hard to not want to help starving people, even ones who substantially conributed to their condition. And there would be plenty of decent people caught up in serious financia declines who did not live excessively (thinking of the 1929 depression). And that is just if it is up to me to worry about such contributions. The other matter is that a lot of poeple facing serious financial declines would still be voters and that would probably make things even worse.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 05:26 PM   #17
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by yakers
Nords, you have some of the best postings and I think you know the answer. I would choose to say the reason this will not all work out is that humans are not purely Darwinian. We are in part social groups and "commonwealths" of various types. It would be hard to not want to help starving people, even ones who substantially conributed to their condition. And there would be plenty of decent people caught up in serious financia declines who did not live excessively (thinking of the 1929 depression). And that is just if it is up to me to worry about such contributions. The other matter is that a lot of poeple facing serious financial declines would still be voters and that would probably make things even worse.
Well, yeah, but thanks. My point was that I'd much rather give my money to a charitable organization than to a government. By a happy coincidence, ER gives one that choice. And I think my time is of much more value in some circumstances than my money. If I ever get tired of surfing I'll probably haul wallboard & clean up at a Habitat for Humanity site.

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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 06:18 PM   #18
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
She agrees that early retirement can help the person doing it, and their family, but beyond it's pretty much just a spit in the ocean.
You could point out that the male 45-59 labor force partipation rate has been declining for decades. There is now quite a large number of male ERs compared to the previous generation.
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 07:27 PM   #19
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemick2
Washington married money and had slaves - as did Jefferson.

Soooo - why don't you start with the poster child for ER - Behjamin Franklin - with a partial list of his modest contributions to society - after he made his pile in printing - and went on putz with a few things that interested him.

A trip down history lane might turn up a few more examples.

Like this is a new thing? - find out at what age your editor fell off the turnip truck - but be nice.
This is a good good post. Kudos to unclemick! Being cynical and
misanthropic, I kind of watch out for myself (and my family).
Everyone else is mostly on their own. That said, you all know that I believe
the greatest good for the most people comes from everyone pursuing their own interests. If you buy into that, the answer is obvious.

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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?
Old 06-27-2005, 07:50 PM   #20
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Re: Imagine: Can lots of people ERing make things better for everybody?

Quote:
Originally Posted by yakers
The other matter is that a lot of poeple facing serious financial declines would still be voters and that would probably make things even worse.
Nothing that a nice steep poll tax couldn't cure!

Ha
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