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The "Dark Side" Of ER
Old 05-03-2010, 01:31 AM   #1
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The "Dark Side" Of ER

This is an article passed on by Jacob Lund Fisker's "Extreme ER" blog:
The Dark Side Of Early Retirement | Financial Samurai
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Now that the economy is in recovery mode, it’ll be interesting to see how attitudes change towards early retirement. Will those who’ve short circuited their careers feel the pull to return to full time work and maximize their earnings potential again? I believe so. What about all our “lifestyle design” and “digital nomad” friends who had a rough time landing something stable they truly love? Possibly they’ll come back too.
Those who are able to retire early are often cherished. I certainly admire those who are able to cut down their desires to the bare bones and live a very frugal lifestyle. I also admire those who’ve been able to strike it rich very early! That said, perhaps early retirement isn’t a good idea for the large majority of people. Let’s explore several reasons as to why people want to retire early, why they exist, as well as understand why it may not be a good idea. Someone has to argue the other side, so it might as well be me.
He goes on to list five pros & five cons.

Quote:
Early retirees will croon about how great their lifestyles are. I’m sure, in some ways they are spot on. But notice how they seldom write about the hardships they face. They can’t, because it’s important they continue highlighting how awesome everything is, to justify their decision to no longer work. Can you imagine spending 16 years going to school (grade school + four years of college) only to work for 10 years? Some would surely say that’s a waste, would they not?
Quote:
Early retirees sometimes like to pity those who have to work. Yet perhaps we should empathize with those who are lost and haven’t found something they truly love to do. It’s impossible to all be great humanitarians working tirelessly until the age of 65. It’s easier just to give up and tell the world how fabulous your life is, and how you’ve retired on your “own” terms.
As the economy recovers, we’ll be able to bring back our lifestyle design friends to their home countries to work again. Our early retiree friends will stop fearing failure as employers open their arms wide open and allow them to succeed. Entrepreneurial ideas flourish once again due to an abundance of capital. The more the wealth gap widens, the more the early retiree crowd will want to get back to work, and realize their full potential.
There comes a point when working isn’t about money anymore since we have enough. If we all reach this point, we’ll no longer be focusing just on ourselves, but on helping others as well. We’ll be doing something we love, that provides a sense of purpose. Here’s hoping we all get there!
His "do what you love" comment resonates, since that's one reason I chose to ER. OTOH maybe ER is my avocation!

The comments are just as interesting (and funnier) than the article. Unfortunately a notorious troll ER poster jumped in with the second comment and the blogger doesn't recognize him by name. Yet.

A poster by the name of "Single Mom Rich Mom" mentions E-R.org near the end:
Quote:
... where it seems that some people don’t have a ‘grand purpose’ or even compelling goals that they want to achieve. Their days are free, yes – but are they meaningful or just filled with mindless activity and minutiae – just self-directed rather than employment-directed?
So... back to work, good devil's advocate, or merely a strawman? Has this changed anyone's mind?
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Old 05-03-2010, 02:57 AM   #2
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Well, it is a devil's advocate argument, but not a very strong one except for needing to have some things you seriously enjoy more than work waiting for you in early retirement. This is essentially the whole point of ER, ER will not suddenly provide the ER'd person with activities that that the ER'd person finds really enjoyable, that they could do all year long. ER just provides the time to do activities which people are not paid to do, for some, that is exactly what they need, for others, work is exactly where they always wanted to be, they will just keep working as long as they can, regardless of the money (or somewhere in between, perhaps they really like doing charity work, or having complete control of their schedule).

But, FI is something different. I think just about anyone can benefit from FI, regardless of their interests, it provides security in most situations where stuff hits the fan, or when a person needs to change directions (or give the finger to their boss). People who think otherwise are deluding themselves to justify overspending.
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:58 AM   #3
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Sorry....but the only thing I hear is Colonel Potter (MASH) saying "horse hockey!"
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Old 05-03-2010, 06:58 AM   #4
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And her point is?? That the mindless activities and minutiae at work are somehow nobler, since the workplace justifies them as being In Support of the Goals of Our Organization?

Or that everyone needs grand goals in order to be happy?

Amethyst

A poster by the name of "Single Mom Rich Mom" mentions E-R.org near the end:

Quote:
... where it seems that some people don’t have a ‘grand purpose’ or even compelling goals that they want to achieve. Their days are free, yes – but are they meaningful or just filled with mindless activity and minutiae – just self-directed rather than employment-directed? ... where it seems that some people don’t have a ‘grand purpose’ or even compelling goals that they want to achieve. Their days are free, yes – but are they meaningful or just filled with mindless activity and minutiae – just self-directed rather than employment-directed?
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:10 AM   #5
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Meh. I guess I am less impressed with ideological extremes as I get older. I am not entirely sure what Fisker is on about, but a point in the wreckage is that not everyone is cut out for a self-directed lifestyle. Similarly, some people cannot stop scratching the itch of employment/income/status, no matter how much money they have. These folks should not be looked down upon. We are all different and if chasing your dream includes non-toxic employment, have at it. Just make sure its not being done out of a sense of duty, guilt, or excessive Protestant work ethic.

Personally, I fully intend to chase some modest employment or business endeavor in the first 5 or 10 years of ESR/ER. It will reduce my financial risk, provide an interest and hopefully keep my brain sharp. But it will be on my terms. That is something I have never had in my career and I am looking forward to it.
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:17 AM   #6
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"Notice how seldom [ERs] write about the hardships they face."

Maybe it's true that ER's don't mention much about the downside of ER--could be some of us don't really have any, or because most of them pale compared to the hardships of the working world (for me, that was stress of deadlines).

If work in general is fulfilling from a nonfinancial standpoint, interesting that the first thing lottery winners do is.... keep working? No.
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:29 AM   #7
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Yet perhaps we should empathize with those who are lost and haven’t found something they truly love to do. It’s impossible to all be great humanitarians working tirelessly until the age of 65.
Of the many working people I know and relate to regularly, almost none of them have found something they "truly love to do". The very large majority of them are working for 'da man and are there simply to collect a paycheck with which to pay their bills.

I've always thought that those few folks who find something they love to do and are compensated well for it are very fortunate indeed. I don't begrudge them that, it's just that it didn't work that way for me or for almost anyone else I know.
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:45 AM   #8
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Reading that was like eavesdropping on the conversation between the five blind men who all touched a different part of the elephant and are trying to convince each other what the true nature of the beast is.
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Old 05-03-2010, 08:51 AM   #9
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Early retirees sometimes like to pity those who have to work. Yet perhaps we should empathize with those who are lost and haven’t found something they truly love to do.
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Of the many working people I know and relate to regularly, almost none of them have found something they "truly love to do".
Aye, there is the rub. I envy people who make a paying career out of doing something they love. But they are few and far between and those that truly fit that category seem either to have always known what they wanted to do, stumbled onto something fulfilling, or are inherently happy no mater what they are doing. They have no real answers for how the lost can become the found. Over the years I ran into a few allegedly self actualized folks who professed to pity the rest of us who haven't taken the steps to align our inner passions with our work. But most of them were consultant poseurs looking to make a buck advising the toilers in the field about how to get whole.

So, for the rest of us, I guess the lesson of the recession is to avoid bailing on the narrow end of the FI curve unless we are prepared to return to work if things get rough. I was lucky that I liked most of what I did most of the time and thus stayed on long enough to make sure that when I pulled the plug I would not have to go back. I empathize with those who are so unhappy with work that they have no choice but to leave before they are sure they can make it.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:22 AM   #10
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Also I don't think ERs necessarily pity those who "have to work" per the blogger (but if he thinks people "have to work" does that mean he doesn't think most working people are doing it out of passion, which he pities ERs as not having?).

Also I think the blogger should pay e-r.org a commission for sending people to his blog
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Old 05-03-2010, 10:38 AM   #11
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Those are the words used by the author to describe early retirement and early retirees:

sub-optimal performers, failure, give-up, cowards, suicide, lazy, couldn't reach their potential, hopeless, rusty, depressed, not doing anything productive, waste, selfish, unhealthy...

It sure paints people on this forum as a bunch of losers... hum.

The funny thing is that he seems to assume that people who retire early never really worked hard for their money. He paints early retirees as underachievers who do not live up to their potential as if the money necessary to retire early just kinda fell magically on their lap. Which strikes me as odd because a lot of people around here seem to have been far more successful in their careers than the average Joe... That's part of the reason why many of us were able to achieve FI way ahead of our peers.

It's not like I haven't heard all those arguments before. They are mostly put forward by people who wish they could retire early but are not in a position to retire early themselves. How can someone who has never experienced ER be so certain that ER is such a horrible thing? If you work hard enough at it, you can convince yourself of anything I suppose...

Not to say that some of his points are not valid, but I would have preferred a more balanced article that didn't stink of jealousy...
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:00 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
His "do what you love" comment resonates, since that's one reason I chose to ER. OTOH maybe ER is my avocation!
Avocation is a key here and a terrific reason to ER. Avocation implies something you love so much that you a devoted to it, even though there is little or no monetary reward.

Certainly that is my husband's nature photography - a true avocation. He might as well be a professional photographer - he has all the top equipment, produces that level of quality photos, puts in the hours, publishes art prints.

He has the advantage of pursuing the subjects that inspire him rather than are commercially in demand, and he doesn't have to deal with finding customers or marketing his work - something that can be a considerable time and energy drag for a professional in the business.

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Old 05-03-2010, 11:08 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
Those are the words used by the author to describe early retirement and early retirees:

sub-optimal performers, failure, give-up, cowards, suicide, lazy, couldn't reach their potential, hopeless, rusty, depressed, not doing anything productive, waste, selfish, unhealthy...

It sure paints people on this forum as a bunch of losers... hum.

The funny thing is that he seems to assume that people who retire early never really worked hard for their money. He paints early retirees as underachievers who do not live up to their potential as if the money necessary to retire early just kinda fell magically on their lap. Which strikes me as odd because a lot of people around here seem to have been far more successful in their careers than the average Joe... That's part of the reason why many of us were able to achieve FI way ahead of our peers.
Not only losers - but morally corrupt!

I also think that there are plenty of folks who believe that if you are not paid for what you do, it doesn't "count" somehow. That the time spent in unpaid activity is wasted time. This is just a really strong bias with some folks. I'm glad I don't have that problem, and I don't have to justify my life to people who do.

I really like your counterpoint that ERs are often very successful in their careers and thus the achievement of FI. With the exception of heirs and lottery winners (who all seem non-existent on this board) it certainly is NOT laziness that brings FI - it takes careful planning and dedication to achieve.

I have a couple of engineering degrees, yet only worked 18 years in the field before retiring. I was very successful (and lucky too - no doubt). I don't see my degrees as a "waste". And 18 years was all I needed to feel that I got everything I wanted out of that career, and I was ready to move on to other things.......

Audrey
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:13 AM   #14
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Why do these articles reek of sour grapes? ER's are a self selected group of people who chose actions to render themselves financially able to ER. Duh! If you can't do do that, you aren't here.

Oh and why would this self selected group whine about the downside? If we didn't like being ER, we would go to work and join the masses. Another duh!

And more of that pie in the sky nonsense about just finding the perfect rewarding job. The vast majority of jobs are just that and we do them because we like eating. Isn't that why we call it work?

You want to find unhappy non working people, go look at the unemployment line. Not the FI ERs
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:16 AM   #15
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We all have different goals and lifestyle desires when we call it quits on our primary career. Some people don't aspire to more than sitting in the house all day in front of the computer and/or the TV. Some people want to use FI as an opportunity to "reinvent" themselves in a "second career." Some people immerse themselves in their hobbies or in volunteer work.

While I personally believe that the mind, like the body, should be regularly "exercised" to stay healthy, I simply don't see how it's necessary that it come in the form of paid employment.
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:37 AM   #16
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Reading that was like eavesdropping on the conversation between the five blind men who all touched a different part of the elephant and are trying to convince each other what the true nature of the beast is.
Good analogy!
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Old 05-03-2010, 12:52 PM   #17
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"Notice how seldom [ERs] write about the hardships they face."
The blogger doesn't seem to have read our forum. A number of members have had their share of problems ranging from boredom to lack of funds. You can't live and not have some hardship sometime, somewhere in your life.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:28 PM   #18
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The author would benefit from taking a Dale Carnegie course. Making an argument by calling other people cowardly, lazy or selfish is unlikely to influence their behaviour.

If someone enjoys their job and wants to continue, more power to them. Conversely, if someone doesn't enjoy their work, or can imagine more fulfilling things to spend do with their time, they should be free to choose ER (on their own dime, natch) without this sort of petty vilification.

Realizing one's "full potential" can involve paid employment; but it certainly doesn't have to.

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Peter Gibbons: It's not just about me and my dream of doing nothing. It's about all of us. I don't know what happened to me at that hypnotherapist and, I don't know, maybe it was just shock and it's wearing off now, but when I saw that fat man keel over and die - Michael, we don't have a lot of time on this earth! We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:32 PM   #19
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"I'd rather sell a kidney than go back to work." - intercst

I totally agree.

Retirement has enabled me (as Nords has said) to be rather than to do.

I garden, feed birds/squirrels, give time & money to causes & people.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:34 PM   #20
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Peter Gibbons: It's not just about me and my dream of doing nothing. It's about all of us. I don't know what happened to me at that hypnotherapist and, I don't know, maybe it was just shock and it's wearing off now, but when I saw that fat man keel over and die - Michael, we don't have a lot of time on this earth! We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.
Indeed, I was just another cube rat.
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