Author Topic: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?  (Read 5858 times)

MrUpwardlyMobile

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How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« on: January 01, 2019, 02:05:24 PM »
Iíve read a lot of articles in 2018 trying to describe the FIRE movement as radical counter-culturalists. While Mustachianism might be described as countercultural to consumerism, I just find this to be a very inaccurate label for the FIRE movement as a whole. Low spending is just one part of the equation for reaching FI.

I personally view the FIRE movement through the historical lense of people pursuing the Gentry Class and people who have already declared FIRE as being new members of the Gentry Class. Effectively, the celebrated New Men and Women of the Gentry.

It got me thinking, how do you perceive yourselves?

Do you view yourselves as counterculturalists? Members of a new leisure class? Members of a Gentry Class? Do you view yourselves as totally normal, but retired? Do you see yourselves as aristocrats? Or are you bohemians?
« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 06:21:53 PM by MrUpwardlyMobile »

happy

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2019, 02:46:30 PM »
I'm retired at 60 , so in one sense I see myself as normal: plenty of folks retire at that age, although in Australia I suspect a lot of them will count on the public purse of the old age pension to support themselves. 

In fact though I guess I am  counter-cultural ...I was into simple living, anticonsumerism, sustainability and permaculture ideas before becoming mustachian, and MMMs form of retirement provided the financial mechanism to spend more time doing those things. I practice this gently, I am not a hard line radical or activist (I don't have a keep cup, so excommunicate me). So carrying a label of countercultural feels a bit strong to me.

I find your notion of the Gentry class interesting.  To me it carries historical aristocratic notions that absolutely I'd reject.  I do think however there is a reasonable number of folks on the forum who are practicing frugality with the aim of becoming very wealthy, so it will be interesting to hear what others think.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2019, 04:06:53 PM »
I'm retired at 60 , so in one sense I see myself as normal: plenty of folks retire at that age, although in Australia I suspect a lot of them will count on the public purse of the old age pension to support themselves. 

In fact though I guess I am  counter-cultural ...I was into simple living, anticonsumerism, sustainability and permaculture ideas before becoming mustachian, and MMMs form of retirement provided the financial mechanism to spend more time doing those things. I practice this gently, I am not a hard line radical or activist (I don't have a keep cup, so excommunicate me). So carrying a label of countercultural feels a bit strong to me.

I find your notion of the Gentry class interesting.  To me it carries historical aristocratic notions that absolutely I'd reject.  I do think however there is a reasonable number of folks on the forum who are practicing frugality with the aim of becoming very wealthy, so it will be interesting to hear what others think.

I tried to distinguish Gentry from aristocracy because aristocrats are generally a different tier of wealth and the term tend to be associated with political powers as well as wealth. The Uber wealthy of our time might be more akin to aristocrats.

maizeman

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2019, 04:31:54 PM »
I think both "gentry" and "aristocracy" have connotations of being both hereditary membership and loads of cultural signifiers to distinguish themselves from more common folk so neither is a good fit for the way I personally am pursuing FIRE.

While it was certainly possible to use money to move up in social station back then, the way you did so was by spending that money on a lot of the social signifiers of your new class (land, clothes, parties, etc) and also adopt new customs and habits (in the UK members of gentry, for example, would adopt a coat of arms).

On the other hand, most FIRE folks aspire to live a life that, from the outside, looks a great deal like their working peers, and the majority of the people who don't have that as a goal instead desire post-FIRE lives that include social signals that will be interpreted by their peers and indicating lower social and economic class (for example van dwelling). I think I am perceived as probably a bit poorer than average in my neighborhood and at my place of employment and I like that.

However, given your username, one might speculate you may be one of the exceptions who is actually trying to adopt signifiers of a higher social station in FIRE. Is that something that interests you? (Absolutely nothing wrong if it is the case, I just don't think it is a view held universally or by the majority of folks interested in this lifestyle.)

Frankies Girl

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2019, 05:13:46 PM »
I don't see it as class or gentry or whatever. I see it as having higher intelligence and adaptatability to what life throws at you and have higer levels of common sense/cleverness to work out different pathways. Plenty of FIRE folks don't have rich parents and fancy educations and managed to jump ahead by thinking and working smarter.

TL/DR: not class, just smarter than the average bear.

sol

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2019, 05:41:01 PM »
America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.

We also have a lot more social mobility in America than they do.  Rich people become poor and poor people become rich, and we're all sort of vulgar either way so it doesn't seem to matter much.  Even our wealthiest are nouveau riche here, so classy people and lowbrow people can both come from a variety of economic backgrounds.

With that said, I definitely think the current MMM movement is reminiscent of other leisure classes in various western societies.  We're not wealthy merchants or businessmen who earn lots and spend lots, and we're not landed aristocrats who inherited estates and then spend their money on buying social status.  I'm not sure there's been a very good analog, because most previous societies didn't have such an obvious and easy pathway for a personal of low birth to retire with such relatively wealth by age 40.  The Leisure Class also managed to be wealthy by owning the labor of others, just like we do, but they were typically born to it and we are merely emulating parts of their lifestyle.  We are definitely not emulating the conspicuous consumption part of their lifestyle.

It might be because we finally live in a society with a surplus of material abundance, for the first time ever.  Is it only because no one needs to ever go hungry in modern America that we finally have a class of people who don't feel obligated to work anymore? 

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2019, 06:05:49 PM »
I think both "gentry" and "aristocracy" have connotations of being both hereditary membership and loads of cultural signifiers to distinguish themselves from more common folk so neither is a good fit for the way I personally am pursuing FIRE.

While it was certainly possible to use money to move up in social station back then, the way you did so was by spending that money on a lot of the social signifiers of your new class (land, clothes, parties, etc) and also adopt new customs and habits (in the UK members of gentry, for example, would adopt a coat of arms).

On the other hand, most FIRE folks aspire to live a life that, from the outside, looks a great deal like their working peers, and the majority of the people who don't have that as a goal instead desire post-FIRE lives that include social signals that will be interpreted by their peers and indicating lower social and economic class (for example van dwelling). I think I am perceived as probably a bit poorer than average in my neighborhood and at my place of employment and I like that.

However, given your username, one might speculate you may be one of the exceptions who is actually trying to adopt signifiers of a higher social station in FIRE. Is that something that interests you? (Absolutely nothing wrong if it is the case, I just don't think it is a view held universally or by the majority of folks interested in this lifestyle.)

Maize, I think you might be conflating some of the terminology.

The Gentry in English history properly refer to the class of persons whose investments (generally rental income from rental property) are sufficient to maintain their lifestyle Without working. They are commoners lacking any nobility, titles, or aristocratic connotations.  Of course, a heavy focus on intergenerational wealth was a big part of the culture and mindset for this class.  The Gentry was most commonly the class associated with ďnew menĒ because the only thing separating the Gentry from every other commoner was assets and incomes.

By contrast, the aristocracy is necessarily associated with the economic and political power youre referring to. Indeed, by virtue of the honors systems, they are better associated with mere hereditary transition of power and means.

Your contention about outward displays of means are really not necessarily associated with the Gentry.  Those that aspired to join the aristocracy might be a bunch of spendypants, but not all members of the Gentry did so.  That would very much depend on a great many factors that arenít really productive for this topic.

I think the reason for the conflation of the two is that both experienced spendypants downfalls in the last 150 years, which garners far more commentary and literature than the boring tales of merchant families making their fortune over a lifetime (or several lifetimes as was more common), acquiring substantial land in the country and retiring with their families to manage those estates. Also, a great deal of modern literature is very lazy insofar as social standing and economic standing are almost always considered part of the same thing, despite the fact that one has to do with actual means and the other is better associated with disposing of those means.

The rest of your post is a bit presumptuous.  I was raised in a culture where those spending signifiers were viewed as gaudy, tacky, and indicators of desperately trying to appear wealthy, when one is not.  I view fancy clothes and cars, and ridiculous expenditures as not real wealth.  That said,  Iíve been on the forum long enough for it to be well known that I do fancy owning a small private castle in the country though. Thatís something I could reasonably acquire in the next decade though.

« Last Edit: January 01, 2019, 06:11:13 PM by MrUpwardlyMobile »

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2019, 06:06:45 PM »
America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.

We also have a lot more social mobility in America than they do.  Rich people become poor and poor people become rich, and we're all sort of vulgar either way so it doesn't seem to matter much.  Even our wealthiest are nouveau riche here, so classy people and lowbrow people can both come from a variety of economic backgrounds.

With that said, I definitely think the current MMM movement is reminiscent of other leisure classes in various western societies.  We're not wealthy merchants or businessmen who earn lots and spend lots, and we're not landed aristocrats who inherited estates and then spend their money on buying social status.  I'm not sure there's been a very good analog, because most previous societies didn't have such an obvious and easy pathway for a personal of low birth to retire with such relatively wealth by age 40.  The Leisure Class also managed to be wealthy by owning the labor of others, just like we do, but they were typically born to it and we are merely emulating parts of their lifestyle.  We are definitely not emulating the conspicuous consumption part of their lifestyle.

It might be because we finally live in a society with a surplus of material abundance, for the first time ever.  Is it only because no one needs to ever go hungry in modern America that we finally have a class of people who don't feel obligated to work anymore?

Thatís a really interesting take.  Thank you Sol.

deborah

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2019, 06:12:08 PM »
We're Bohemians

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2019, 06:21:17 PM »
We're Bohemians

Haha, I love that. Iím going to add it to the OP.

maizeman

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2019, 06:23:04 PM »
Maize, I think you might be conflating some of the terminology.

The Gentry in English history properly refer to the class of persons whose investments (generally rental income from rental property) are sufficient to maintain their lifestyle Without working. They are commoners lacking any nobility, titles, or aristocratic connotations.  Of course, a heavy focus on intergenerational wealth was a big part of the culture and mindset for this class.  The Gentry was most commonly the class associated with ďnew menĒ because the only thing separating the Gentry from every other commoner was assets and incomes.

By contrast, the aristocracy is necessarily associated with the economic and political power youre referring to. Indeed, by virtue of the honors systems, they are better associated with mere hereditary transition of power and means.

Your contention about outward displays of means are really not necessarily associated with the Gentry.  Those that aspired to join the aristocracy might be a bunch of spendypants, but not all members of the Gentry did so.  That would very much depend on a great many factors that arenít really productive for this topic.

As I understand it, in England the right to display a coat of arms was the key factor distinguishing the gentry from commoners. Now it is quite possible we simply were taught different definitions of the word growing up, but the definition I'm familiar with does appear to be supported by a fair number of resources online, so if that is the term you want to go with you should be aware that this is one of the meanings a fair number of folks will often take away from it.

It would seem a discussion of what people understand to be the meaning of the term gentry when they hear it would be rather relevant to a discussion of whether or not there are useful analogies between the fire movement and gentry.

Quote
I think the reason for the conflation of the two is that both experienced spendypants downfalls in the last 150 years, which garners far more commentary and literature than the boring tales of merchant families making their fortune over a lifetime (or several lifetimes as was more common), acquiring substantial land in the country and retiring their with their families to manage those estates. Also, a great deal of modern literature is very lazy insofar as social standing and economic standing are almost always considered part of the same thing, despite the fact that one has to do with actual means and the other is better associated with disposing of those means.

The rest of your post is a bit presumptuous.  I was raised in a culture where those spending signifiers were viewed as gaudy, tacky, and indicators of desperately trying to appear wealthy, when one is not.  I view fancy clothes and cars, and ridiculous expenditures as not real wealth.  That said,  Iíve been on the forum long enough for it to be well known that I do fancy owning a small private castle in the country though. Thatís something I could reasonably acquire in the next decade though.

Signifiers of social class are not restricted to fancy cars and clothes. If you truly want to be mistaken for wealthy, at least in my part of the world, much more subtle signals -- clothes that fit really well, an obvious lack of enthusiasm for fancy cars, apparent fitness and good health well into late middle age, anecdotes about vacations in exotic locations that don't treat those locations as exotic -- often prove far more effective.

But the key factor I will point out is that your last paragraph is clearly focused on how to distinguish the wealthy from those simply trying to appear so, which is only going to be important for those who want to be one of the wealthy and recognized as such by their peers.

Nothing wrong with wanting to own a castle, whether for personal reasons or to impress the neighbors. I will admit I struggle to keep track of everyone here on the forum so if you have previously mentioned this desire in a thread I participated in it has unfortunately slipped my mind at the moment.

Dicey

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2019, 10:56:24 PM »
Huh, most of our NW is in real estate, including rentals...but I don't think that makes us gentry. Mostly I just feel like...my normal self, albeit with less stress.

I do like what @Frankies Girl said, especially about having the ability to work out different pathways.

Edited for typos - gah!
« Last Edit: January 02, 2019, 09:43:04 AM by Dicey »

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2019, 05:39:32 AM »
Huh, most of our NW is in real estate, including rentals...but i dont think that makes us gentry. Mostly I just feel like...my normal self, albeit with less stress.

I do like what @Frankies Girl said, especially about having the ability to work out different pathways.



I have to double down on this. Just felt I didnt want to work past 50 and wasnt about trying to amass some fortune over and beyond living a comfortable life.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2019, 04:43:06 PM »
Huh, most of our NW is in real estate, including rentals...but i dont think that makes us gentry. Mostly I just feel like...my normal self, albeit with less stress.

I do like what @Frankies Girl said, especially about having the ability to work out different pathways.



I have to double down on this. Just felt I didnt want to work past 50 and wasnt about trying to amass some fortune over and beyond living a comfortable life.

So basically just retired person status?

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2019, 04:44:21 PM »
We're Bohemians
Aren't all bohemians living in their Moms basement being starving artists ;-). I joked about being a retired serf but most are probably closer to the tradesman, craftsman, clerks, schlors, shopkeepers, etc  or merchant class then the landed gentry - which have always seemed like a version of the Jones trying to keep up with the aristocracy. Do people here really aspire to owning a castle like the OP does? I don't think so.

Living in a castle has nothing to do with the thread.  Thatís more an eccentricity related to my fascination with various historical trends and love of architecture.

tarheeldan

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2019, 07:38:33 PM »
America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.

We also have a lot more social mobility in America than they do.  Rich people become poor and poor people become rich, and we're all sort of vulgar either way so it doesn't seem to matter much.  Even our wealthiest are nouveau riche here, so classy people and lowbrow people can both come from a variety of economic backgrounds.

I wish that were true, but it isn't anymore. US social mobility is so-so.

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2018/02/14/americans-overestimate-social-mobility-in-their-country

https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Pathways-SOTU-2016-Economic-Mobility-3.pdf

As far as class, I really enjoyed Paul Fussell's (I think) very funny book on the subject called Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. It's a little dated of course, but a fun and interesting read and available on archive.org.

Dicey

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2019, 11:18:39 PM »
We're Bohemians
Aren't all bohemians living in their Moms basement being starving artists ;-). I joked about being a retired serf but most are probably closer to the tradesman, craftsman, clerks, schlors, shopkeepers, etc  or merchant class then the landed gentry - which have always seemed like a version of the Jones trying to keep up with the aristocracy. Do people here really aspire to owning a castle like the OP does? I don't think so.

Living in a castle has nothing to do with the thread.  Thatís more an eccentricity related to my fascination with various historical trends and love of architecture.
I too have a fascination with historical trends and a love of architecture but I'd ratherbstash that cash, RE asap, and rent (or just visit) my castles rather than buy. Eliminates all that pesky upkeep of the moat and rebelling villagers ;-).

But seriously, I really don't see historically that current FIREees would be viewed as anything but working class to lower middle class. And many would be viewed as poor with the older inexpensive car or no car, small house, and simple frugal DIY anti-consumer lifestyle. Damn we're practically hippies!
Bohemian hippies!

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2019, 11:52:44 PM »
I think mustachianism is a predictable outcome of decades of policies that have favored the rentier class. It's so much better to be over on the capital side now, rather than on the working side -- and it's so easy to stay there once you're over -- that it makes total sense to scuttle over that divide as fast as you possibly can. And once over, why keep working? You've got it made. Let the chumps and the unfortunates work.

The environmental element and the stoicism element are in response to other pressures, of course, but economically, I see it as driven by policy. Taxes mostly land on earned income, and social security doesn't give you enough to live on -- so if you don't save a pile, you'll be working till you drop. The calculus of a working life has totally changed since I was young. Earning a pile and quitting early is doable now, and the alternative is working crappy hours till you die... what I don't understand is why there aren't more of us.


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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2019, 02:59:22 AM »
Not FIREd yet, but I recently as my DH if he felt that we belong to the higher class, rather than middle class. His conclusion is that our pre-FIRE incomes are higher middle class. But our behaviour is in the middle of middle class, certainly not above that.

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2019, 05:58:01 AM »
Itís not true that there arenít classes in the US, although that idea is commonly held in the US and even promoted about it. There are highly refined ideas of class, especially in older areas like the Northeast. I grew up in Massachusetts were there was not just the upper class, there were the nouveau riche or new money and old money. New money spent a lot of money, drove nice cars, bought designer clothes, and flaunted their wealth. Old money was *old money* and generally could trace itself back to the days of the Revolution and beyond (I think some of them thought the Revolution was a mistake). Old money often spoke with transatlantic accents and was unfailingly Episcopalian. Old money dressed in LL Bean (expensive, but you could always return it if it failed you and it had a reputation for quality), drove reliable cars (we knew an old money family that drove a Toyota station wagon), and was frugal. Old money would have jobs for a time, then retire early to write books or do something else quirky. Old money rarely travelled, unless it was to a vacation house in Kennebunkport. Old money did not flaunt its wealth, ever.

New moneyíís goal was to say they had arrived. Old moneyís goal was to ensure their wealth would survive (so many familyís wealth had not).

Many moustacheans are more old money than new, minus the transatlantic accent. Others are happy to rely on government handouts (such as getting subsidized for Obamacare) so I suppose they are another category altogether.

Paul Fussellís book is great.

As for how we see ourselves Ö We inherited some wealth from my family, but not a lot. I managed to parlay it into enough to retire on (two years ago at 48 so not that young and in a dead end job in academia that paid the bill while our real estate business grew). I donít really see myself in the nouveau riche or old money camp. Weíve had our days spending a lot of money (where we live, everyone spends a LOT of money, except poor people), but I also am an artist (not that crazy, runs in the family and there is even a museum that bears our family nameÖalthough my father barely made any money at all doing that) and writer so thatís something Iíd rather do that than teaching millennials.

See also

https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2017/03/how-old-money-and-new-money-habits-differ.html

But just to confuse matters, Iíll upend this post by saying that things are very different today. Old money has dwindled, while new money has expanded and its ways of spending money have proliferated. The classes have also greatly changed. A working class immigrant family and a family with deep roots in this country that make the same amount of money have very little in common today. The former often strives to get into money, the latter often is accustomed to its plight in life and turns to escape measures such as opioids, ATVs they canít afford, and watching TV all the time. Social mobility is much less common in this country than it used to be.

Take a look at the research Claritas has done on the segmentation of consumer demographics in this country, here. https://claritas360.claritas.com/mybestsegments/#segDetails
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 06:25:23 AM by smoghat »

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2019, 07:11:45 AM »
I think mustachianism is a predictable outcome of decades of policies that have favored the rentier class. It's so much better to be over on the capital side now, rather than on the working side -- and it's so easy to stay there once you're over -- that it makes total sense to scuttle over that divide as fast as you possibly can. And once over, why keep working? You've got it made. Let the chumps and the unfortunates work.

The environmental element and the stoicism element are in response to other pressures, of course, but economically, I see it as driven by policy. Taxes mostly land on earned income, and social security doesn't give you enough to live on -- so if you don't save a pile, you'll be working till you drop. The calculus of a working life has totally changed since I was young. Earning a pile and quitting early is doable now, and the alternative is working crappy hours till you die... what I don't understand is why there aren't more of us.

Agree with this 100%. Capital is kicking the living shit out of labor these days. Income inequality, the steady decline of unions (also a deliberate policy choice), stagnant wages (despite record corporate profits), etc., etc. Hell, the fuckers (viz., Reagan) even went so far as to TAX SOCIAL SECURITY.

stoaX

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2019, 03:33:35 PM »

It got me thinking, how do you perceive yourselves?

Do you view yourselves as counterculturalists? Members of a new leisure class? Members of a Gentry Class? Do you view yourselves as totally normal, but retired? Do you see yourselves as aristocrats?

I'd say "sort-of normal but about to be retired".  I've never really thought about it and never really think about class at all.  But then I'm more of a transactional thinker, not a big thinker or visionary. 

Mr. Green

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #22 on: January 04, 2019, 09:52:27 AM »
You're over thinking it. Most people don't think about any of that, just their own life and trying to make it better.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #23 on: January 04, 2019, 10:20:42 AM »
I think the varying views on this are really cool.  Itís an interesting topic of conversation thatís garnering a lot of attention since we began discussing it.

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2019, 12:18:13 PM »
Old money was *old money* and generally could trace itself back to the days of the Revolution and beyond (I think some of them thought the Revolution was a mistake). Old money often spoke with transatlantic accents and was unfailingly Episcopalian. Old money dressed in LL Bean (expensive, but you could always return it if it failed you and it had a reputation for quality), drove reliable cars (we knew an old money family that drove a Toyota station wagon), and was frugal. Old money would have jobs for a time, then retire early to write books or do something else quirky. Old money rarely travelled, unless it was to a vacation house in Kennebunkport. Old money did not flaunt its wealth, ever.

I laughed at this because it is such a good description!

Growing up as a midwestern Catholic I would have said there were no classes in the US. Moving to the North East and then DC for college and grad school (and converting to Episcopalianism) I learned differently. It took until joining my second Episcopal congregation before I noticed that parish members coincidentally had the same last names as those on two hundred year old stained glass windows, nearby streets, and historic estates. Going with friends to their parents for a nice weekend introduced me to the Vineyard and Montauk and their friends from Miss Porters. There is a whole system in the US that you might never know existed!

You're over thinking it. Most people don't think about any of that, just their own life and trying to make it better.

Funnily enough, DH and I just started talking about this recently (as in the last year) not quite in the terms of class but enough that we referred to ourselves in Austenian terms (like- we will not be like Mr. Bennett - we will make plans for our children!). We are in a weird place where we've recently learned that both of our parents have way more money than we thought and both sets are attempting to leave legacies for their children (not out of control amounts, but enough that we could retire immediately) - though we obviously hope our parents all live incredibly long and healthy and fun lives.

All of the sudden we feel at least one (or two) rung up the class ladder from a financial stewardship perspective and we're starting to talk about things like setting up trust funds or whatever for our kids, even if we aren't flush with cash right now. So I guess we're sort of like the historical definition of upper middle class. In ideals, lifestyle, and generational wealth building, we fit that definition. I'd compare that to tech and finance bros who I definitely think of as more new money. Or my friends from college who were actual old money.


I think this is a neat topic! One mustachian might see themselves as full on hippie - where I clearly see myself as boring traditional UMC.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2019, 12:27:58 PM by StarBright »

maizeman

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2019, 12:34:09 PM »
Old money was *old money* and generally could trace itself back to the days of the Revolution and beyond (I think some of them thought the Revolution was a mistake). Old money often spoke with transatlantic accents and was unfailingly Episcopalian. Old money dressed in LL Bean (expensive, but you could always return it if it failed you and it had a reputation for quality), drove reliable cars (we knew an old money family that drove a Toyota station wagon), and was frugal. Old money would have jobs for a time, then retire early to write books or do something else quirky. Old money rarely travelled, unless it was to a vacation house in Kennebunkport. Old money did not flaunt its wealth, ever.

I laughed at this because it is such a good description!

Growing up as a midwestern Catholic I would have said there were no classes in the US. Moving to the North East and then DC for college and grad school (and converting to Episcopalianism) I learned differently. It took until joining my second Episcopal congregation before I noticed that parish members coincidentally had the same last names as those on two hundred year old stained glass windows, nearby streets, and historic estates. Going with friends to their parents for a nice weekend introduced me to the Vineyard and Montauk and their friends from Miss Porters. There is a whole system in the US that you might never know existed!

Agreed. Even minus the religious part, having lived in the midwest and the north east, the north east is definitely more class conscious. Although in fairness, the current families have also just been living there longer so it's had longer to gel. In the parts of the midwest I lived in, most of the cities themselves are less than 200 years old (Chicago was founded in 1837), so not a lot of 200 year old stained glass windows to go around.

So when we compare the degree of self-assorting and subtle signaling by class between the western half of the country (<200 years old) and the east coast (400 years), keep in mind that in parts of europe they've got systems of class that have been gelling for 1,000 years or more. So I can understand how a person coming from that context would think there were no classes in the USA.

freeat57

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #26 on: January 05, 2019, 07:52:21 AM »
America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.


I also don't fully agree with this notion. I was a lower middle class boy from the country, who went to an Ivy League university on scholarship.  As others have noted, there is a very prominent contingent of old money, in some cases, old world connected families in the northeast.  Some of my friends were from these families.  While these folks were extremely nice and even gracious toward me and other "common folk", it was somehow clear that I was not and never would be "like them", no matter how accomplished or wealthy I became in life.  I say this without resentment and still treasure my experience there.  It was there that I learned the term Noblesse Oblige, not in the classroom, but from fellow students.

As far as how I view my situation? I'm a fortunate and clever fellow who gamed the system in order to live however I want.

G-dog

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #27 on: January 05, 2019, 08:22:13 AM »
I think I am just as historically irrelevant post-FIRE as I was pre-FIRE.  Or at least that leaving work didnít change anything.

SwordGuy

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2019, 08:30:43 AM »
Do people here really aspire to owning a castle like the OP does? I don't think so.

Check out my handle here and guess my answer to that question...

Dicey

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2019, 09:22:49 AM »
I think I am just as historically irrelevant post-FIRE as I was pre-FIRE.  Or at least that leaving work didnít change anything.
And I didn't know I could love you more. Your perspective nails it!

G-dog

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #30 on: January 05, 2019, 09:52:10 AM »
I think I am just as historically irrelevant post-FIRE as I was pre-FIRE.  Or at least that leaving work didnít change anything.
And I didn't know I could love you more. Your perspective nails it!

Irrelevancy for the WIN! Wait .... 🧐

sol

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #31 on: January 05, 2019, 12:07:02 PM »
I think I am just as historically irrelevant post-FIRE as I was pre-FIRE.  Or at least that leaving work didnít change anything.

Individually, of course we're basically irrelevant unless we decide to do something impactful.

But as a group, we're collectively part of a movement.  I don't think early retirement has ever been quite so easily achievable by people born with nothing, until the latter half of the last century.  Capital markets are suddenly much more widely accessible, and political stability has made people comfortable with participating in them. 

America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.


I also don't fully agree with this notion. I was a lower middle class boy from the country, who went to an Ivy League university on scholarship.  As others have noted, there is a very prominent contingent of old money, in some cases, old world connected families in the northeast.  Some of my friends were from these families.  While these folks were extremely nice and even gracious toward me and other "common folk", it was somehow clear that I was not and never would be "like them", no matter how accomplished or wealthy I became in life.  I say this without resentment and still treasure my experience there.  It was there that I learned the term Noblesse Oblige, not in the classroom, but from fellow students.

Like I said before, class is a very complicated subject.  I stand by my assertion that America does not have classes in the same way that Europe does.  We definitely have old money.  We definitely have upper and lower classes.  This is worlds apart from the class system in the UK. 

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #32 on: January 05, 2019, 03:06:33 PM »
Iíve read a lot of articles in 2018 trying to describe the FIRE movement as radical counter-culturalists. While Mustachianism might be described as countercultural to consumerism, I just find this to be a very inaccurate label for the FIRE movement as a whole. Low spending is just one part of the equation for reaching FI.

I personally view the FIRE movement through the historical lense of people pursuing the Gentry Class and people who have already declared FIRE as being new members of the Gentry Class. Effectively, the celebrated New Men and Women of the Gentry.

It got me thinking, how do you perceive yourselves?

Do you view yourselves as counterculturalists? Members of a new leisure class? Members of a Gentry Class? Do you view yourselves as totally normal, but retired? Do you see yourselves as aristocrats? Or are you bohemians?

Without question, I do have a bohemian bent.

If I were not bohemian I still would not consider myself totally normal for the simple reason that it's not normal to FIRE: That is, most people don't FIRE.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 03:18:46 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #33 on: January 05, 2019, 03:10:09 PM »
America doesn't really have "classes" in the way that Europe does.  We never had nobility in this country, so we're not dealing with those same relics.  Class is a super complicated subject.

We also have a lot more social mobility in America than they do.  Rich people become poor and poor people become rich, and we're all sort of vulgar either way so it doesn't seem to matter much.  Even our wealthiest are nouveau riche here, so classy people and lowbrow people can both come from a variety of economic backgrounds.

With that said, I definitely think the current MMM movement is reminiscent of other leisure classes in various western societies.  We're not wealthy merchants or businessmen who earn lots and spend lots, and we're not landed aristocrats who inherited estates and then spend their money on buying social status.  I'm not sure there's been a very good analog, because most previous societies didn't have such an obvious and easy pathway for a personal of low birth to retire with such relatively wealth by age 40.  The Leisure Class also managed to be wealthy by owning the labor of others, just like we do, but they were typically born to it and we are merely emulating parts of their lifestyle.  We are definitely not emulating the conspicuous consumption part of their lifestyle.

It might be because we finally live in a society with a surplus of material abundance, for the first time ever.  Is it only because no one needs to ever go hungry in modern America that we finally have a class of people who don't feel obligated to work anymore?

Thatís a really interesting take.  Thank you Sol.

I concur.

Basenji

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #34 on: January 05, 2019, 04:03:56 PM »
Maybe Keynes' 15-hour work week came true.

https://www.npr.org/2015/08/13/432122637/keynes-predicted-we-would-be-working-15-hour-weeks-why-was-he-so-wrong

Quote
The economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote an essay titled "Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren." It was 1930. And in the essay, he made a startling prediction. Keynes figured that by the time his children had grown up, basically now, people might be working just 15 hours a week.

Lots of articles say he was wrong, but maybe he just got the work scheduling wrong. I don't see what the retirement age was back then (or if there WAS a retirement age!). However, if we divide the hours a FIREd MMMer worked before said person stops working by, say, (65 - 18), does it average out to 15 hours per week? That is, Keynes thought a FUTURE person (future to him in 1930) might work around 15 hrs * 52 weeks for maybe 47 years = 36,660 hours of lifetime work.

Whereas a modern worker might work 2,080 hours per year (including paid holidays and vacation). If that person FIREd after 17-18 years (or about age 35-36), that would be the same amount of work Keynes predicted. So, all we are doing is taking advantage of the economic efficiencies he predicted in one shorter chunk of time rather than spreading it out over a lifetime.

The essay: http://www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf

Mustachian quote:
Quote
Thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem-how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well. The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 04:12:48 PM by Basenji »

G-dog

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #35 on: January 05, 2019, 04:13:48 PM »
I think I am just as historically irrelevant post-FIRE as I was pre-FIRE.  Or at least that leaving work didnít change anything.

Individually, of course we're basically irrelevant unless we decide to do something impactful.

But as a group, we're collectively part of a movement.  I don't think early retirement has ever been quite so easily achievable by people born with nothing, until the latter half of the last century.  Capital markets are suddenly much more widely accessible, and political stability has made people comfortable with participating in them. 


I mostly agree @sol. Though my FIRE was extremely early, so my position is that I am still irrelevant to the collective.

I was lucky to hit a sweet spot in the working world of pension, 401K (and equivalents), healthcare options, index funds (!!!), affordable education, and open markets, as you have noted. I was held back some by gender, and wages/salaries being relatively flat (when COL is taken into account) during most of my career.

I do wonder what the future holds for folks (education is far more expensive = student loan burdens, automation, flat wages, etc.) who launch careers with far more debt.

aceyou

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #36 on: January 06, 2019, 05:21:06 PM »
I think mustachianism is a predictable outcome of decades of policies that have favored the rentier class. It's so much better to be over on the capital side now, rather than on the working side -- and it's so easy to stay there once you're over -- that it makes total sense to scuttle over that divide as fast as you possibly can. And once over, why keep working? You've got it made. Let the chumps and the unfortunates work.

The environmental element and the stoicism element are in response to other pressures, of course, but economically, I see it as driven by policy. Taxes mostly land on earned income, and social security doesn't give you enough to live on -- so if you don't save a pile, you'll be working till you drop. The calculus of a working life has totally changed since I was young. Earning a pile and quitting early is doable now, and the alternative is working crappy hours till you die... what I don't understand is why there aren't more of us.

+1  Well said.

kei te pai

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #37 on: January 08, 2019, 02:22:39 AM »
I view myself as pretty damn extraordinary! Surely of the first generation in human existence to have the opportunity as a single (but not unpartnered at various times) woman to live independently, safely, and financially securely. FIRE is the icing on the cake.

CSuzette

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #38 on: January 08, 2019, 10:38:37 AM »
Boston Brahmins.    Very snobby.

CSuzette

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #39 on: January 08, 2019, 10:41:40 AM »
I have been to the NE genealogy society and if you are not Mayflower you are dirt!  Funny though my ancestors settled Boston in 1630 and owned an island in the harbor. So I am more Brahmin than they are!

aceyou

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #40 on: January 08, 2019, 02:07:45 PM »
There was the belief decades ago that as capitalism advanced, people wouldn't have to work nearly as many hours.  That didn't come to pass because almost everyone just worked and worked to consume even more. 

If it continues to grow, then historically I think the FIRE movement will represent the shift in thinking when people finally start converting their extra wealth into time instead of stuff the way it was predicted. 

If it doesn't continue to grow then FIRE probably won't register to history at all other than as perhaps a footnote. 



Oatmeal Stout

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #41 on: January 09, 2019, 07:03:34 AM »
I view myself as a living GOD.
The peons must work their pathetic lives away to make sure I am fed and entertained.

SwordGuy

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #42 on: January 09, 2019, 02:38:16 PM »
Like I said before, class is a very complicated subject.  I stand by my assertion that America does not have classes in the same way that Europe does.  We definitely have old money.  We definitely have upper and lower classes.  This is worlds apart from the class system in the UK.

Many years ago (pre-Internet age), I decided that writing and publishing a technical journal in my field would be a good career move.   I convinced one of my colleagues at work to write an article for it and help me distribute it at the next technical conference we went to.   We handed out copies to people who gave good presentations or asked good questions on matters relevant to our publication's subject.

He said something to me afterwards that I've remembered for over a quarter century.  (He was from India and this all happened in the USA.)  This is what he said:

"I love this country.  Here, I hand this publication to someone.  They take it and then judge me by the quality of my work.   Where I am from, they would not even take it from my hand until I had established my right to do this work."



SwordGuy

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #43 on: January 09, 2019, 04:30:31 PM »
As for the OP's question, I consider myself to be "damn lucky" in the historical context.

Since we have some rental property and a sense of noblesse oblige, I guess I would say "landed gentry".

Miss Piggybank

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #44 on: January 11, 2019, 02:01:13 PM »
My path to FIRE started from my desire as a young person to become a "country squire," by which I mean FI enough to spend as much time as I like reading in a snug room in a comfy chair with a dog by my feet and a view of nature out the window : ) If this is what you mean by "gentry," then count me in. I've also always been fascinated by how people who don't have to work spend their time. Historically, a lot of it seems to be doing silly (to me) things like changing clothes multiple times a day just for meals, and of course "sport" (i.e. killing things). But some also were self-taught scholars, artists, philanthropists, philosophers, etc.

SachaFiscal

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #45 on: January 12, 2019, 01:45:34 PM »
I think of myself as part of the upper middle class in terms of my net worth and my family household income (husband still works).  However when we have enough for both of us to retire I think I would consider us part of the new gentry. The reality is that other people have to work hard in order for our investments to grow enough that we can live off the growth. Most of those people won't be able to retire, they'll just work until they die.   I guess I choose to ignore the suffering of everyone else because that's the system and I can't change it and I just want to enjoy my piece of the pie. I suppose that makes me a little bit horrible and selfish.  That's the reality but I still don't want to work anymore. I do a little volunteer work to assuage my rich guilt.

koshtra

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #46 on: January 13, 2019, 08:20:26 AM »
Nah, nah, you're taking on more than you need to. We all respond to our circumstances as best we can. Joining the unfortunate wouldn't be doing them any particular favor. They've got plenty of company. What they need is different policies.

EricL

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #47 on: January 13, 2019, 10:22:27 AM »
Historically, I already had my walk on part in the war. 

Now Iím just Fucking Weird. 

canuckiwi

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #48 on: January 22, 2019, 03:20:40 PM »
I see FIRE as the opportunity to be a modern version of the Victorian era "Gentleman scientist" i.e. free from money worries with time for noble scientific, engineering or social pursuits.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: How do post-fire people view themselves in historical context?
« Reply #49 on: January 22, 2019, 09:19:09 PM »
I see FIRE as the opportunity to be a modern version of the Victorian era "Gentleman scientist" i.e. free from money worries with time for noble scientific, engineering or social pursuits.
Very cool.