Author Topic: your mustache might be evil  (Read 103635 times)

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
your mustache might be evil
« on: July 27, 2012, 05:24:05 PM »
Background:
 
One of the primary ideas presented by this blog is that individuals can free themselves to pursue their personal interests and values by freeing themselves from workaday slavery.  MMM says if you save a large fraction of your income you can retire early, and then spend your time on things that really matter to you.  He's chosen to be a full-time parent to his son, but someone else might choose to open a bike co-op or build orphanages or travel the world.
 
This ERE plan assumes that people have some value system that they wish to pursue, something they want to accomplish in life that they cannot do while working a 9-5.  I will not presume to tell anyone what that value system should be, but instead posit that everyone has one whether they recognize it or not.
 
The proposed method of achieving the financial freedom that will facilitate this goal is frugality; cut your expenses low enough by recognizing that you don't need "more" to be happy, and you can then save enough money to support those low expenses in only a few years.  Once you no longer need to work for money, you can chase your dream instead.  The more expenses you can cut, the sooner you can get on with the really important stuff.
 
Hypothesis:
 
The single-minded focus on achieving personal wealth through frugality has, for many people, displaced the larger focus on achieving freedom to pursue personal interests and values.  It's like some mustachians have turned to the dark side of the force.
 
Discussion:
 
If what you really value is the lifestyle you envision for yourself after early retirement, why would you sacrifice that lifestyle in the runup to retirement?  In MMM's case, would it have made any sense for him to have a child at age 23 and then work 15 hour days and never see his child until he achieved FI, retired, and became a full time parent?
 
What other goals that you value are you sacrificing in the blind pursuit of the financial independence that you think will enable pursuit of those same goals?
 
For me, one of my personal goals for my post-retirement life is to do my little part to make the world a better place.  Without any promise of rewards in an afterlife, I focus on the here and now.  Here and now, many of the 7 billion people on earth suffer horribly from preventable diseases, poor sanitation, oppressive governments, and a host of other maladies that individuals in the here and now have the power to fix, and I find it morally repugnant that a person with a million dollars in the bank would think it better to spend his money on a $4 latte five days a week than on feeding a starving child who would otherwise suffer and die a miserable death by virtue of having lost the lottery of birth.
 
I was born into an Amercian society that rewards hard work and ability with opportunities for wealth, opportunities that are not available to most of humanity.  I feel a certain sense of obligation accompanies my birth-priviliege, and I cringe when my fellow Americans instead claim they are entitled to third-row seating in their SUVs because they "earned it".
 
If you passed a child flailing in a duck pond in a city park, would you walk by and let her drown?  Would you call for help, or maybe even wade in yourself?  I think most of us would feel a moral imperative to offer help somehow, even to a total stranger, even at risk of personal loss, to help a drowning child.  Having travelled to the far corners of the world and seen the conditions under which much of humanity labors, I sometimes find it difficult to justify my continued devotion to growing my stache, to diligent savings and investments in the US stock market, to tax sheltered investments and asset allocations and Roth IRA rollover plans.
 
Sometimes I tell myself that this is the "accumulation stage" of my financial life, that after I FIRE I will have the time and resources to make a difference, but that just feels like an excuse to not make a difference today.  What's worse, I firmly believe that habits are borne of practice, and that by diligently practicing a rigorous investment plan that does not figuratively reach out to that drowning child by allocating a portion of my income to charity, I am instead teaching myself not to care, to ignore the needs of the less fortunate, and setting a poor example for my children, my family, and everyone else I know (including, strangely, anonymous you).
 
Conclusion:
 
I'm still conflicted about this aspect of mustachianism.  On the one hand, I fully support the idea of reducing your wasteful spending and freeing yourself from the need to work to support your family.  On the other, such dedicated focus on that goal can potentially cloud your vision of the larger goals that early retirement is supposed to enable.  In some cases, I think people might sacrifice their personal values while pursuing financial independence, thinking FI will allow them to enact and support those same value.
 
Please don't forget WHY you want to retire early.  Your motivations need not be the same as mine, but whatever they are, try to keep them in mind while you're considering which pennies to pinch, and which to use.
 

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3946
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2012, 06:44:54 PM »
I couldn't have said it better myself if I spent half a day writing, Sol.

We are creatures of habit, and daily practice instills those habits. This is the dark side and down side to material wealth and power. Let's be honest here, too... material wealth in this world does equate to power, and without material wealth, we cannot become independent. Unfortunately, as the adage goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

This is partly why I'd brought up the subject of charitable acts and organizations. In all life, there is balance. Deviating from that balance creates inequality... it's just how life works. When resources are finite, you can't have a rich person without creating a poor person in the process. Unfortunately, despite what I consider to be the third key tenet of Mustachianism being a very altruistic and self-aware sentiment regarding our impact upon one another... it's quickly lost much of the overall focus and balance within our own little community here lately with a shocking lack of compassion towards one another on this little dirt ball we call home. Even the ethical investing threads ran out of steam quickly early on with a general arrived upon sentiment by most of, "you'll wind up participating in the evil you don't like anyway at least on some level, so why bother at all?"

Why bother at all, indeed.

You want a reason why? Because we can and we should. Life is shitty and disconnected without one another. I mean, look at us right here! How many people on these very forums probably have more uplifting social interaction here through these (and other) boards than they do in their day-to-day lives with their own neighbors? We are social creatures, and society just doesn't function without one another. The fact that this community exists at all just reinforces that idea. We need one another to survive, which means we need to be decent to one another. We can't be decent to one another if we're stingy with the very material wealth that others have blessed our lives with if we don't at least give back a little.

What better way to return the kindness to those who need it than through charitable acts?

If you're drawing funds off of investment portfolios that make money off the brow sweat of thousands of people, do you genuinely think just helping one poor soul in this world with some of those gains is sufficient?

Shouldn't our reactions to someone who entered our homes given our wealth and resources (even amongst the poorest of us here) without invitation be, "Peace be upon you brother! You are here for a reason, let my home be your home. What can I do to help you?" instead of an immediate bullet to the face?

I'm not calling out for some socialist utopia or some cow fodder like that, I'm just pointing out the realities of our situations. Not to beat an old saw, but with great power does come great responsibility, and we've already established that money does equate to power.

You can't be what you don't practice at being. As it has been said, don't lose sight of why you're striving for financial independence. Nor should you forget the many other people you don't even know who helped get you there along the way from rare earth mineral miners to loggers to politicians and scientists and everything in between. Yeah, some of 'em are selfish and lazy jerks, but you know what? Being a selfish jerk right back while yelling about entitlement and a free market isn't going to fix the problem.

As a closing statement to this little bleat, I'm gonna mix my New Covenant teachings with wisdom from a Hindu mahatma, here: We should do unto others as we wish them to do unto us, and be the change we want to see in the world.

</soapbox>

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27691
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2012, 07:40:56 PM »
I agree with much of what both of you said, and thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts.

Unfortunately, despite what I consider to be the third key tenet of Mustachianism being a very altruistic and self-aware sentiment regarding our impact upon one another... it's quickly lost much of the overall focus and balance within our own little community here lately with a shocking lack of compassion towards one another on this little dirt ball we call home. Even the ethical investing threads ran out of steam quickly early on with a general arrived upon sentiment by most of, "you'll wind up participating in the evil you don't like anyway at least on some level, so why bother at all?"

I do want to address this.  My theory on this is that charity and such is not only a more personal thing, but also a thing more people have a handle on in their own lives.  Most come on here to:
1) Get help on a question they have.
2) Debate and discuss.

I don't think most coming here have questions on their charity work or donations (be it time or money), but need help with financial matters.  Ditto with the second, many of us have chosen our charities and that's not something that would be very interesting or productive to debate.  "Oh, you support medicine in the third world?  That's cool.  I support women's literacy."  "..."

It doesn't get discussed much, but I don't think one can infer much from that.  I would actually guess that most Mustachians are, in general, more charitable than the average person.

All that aside, I certainly think one must be vigilant to guard against what sol is worried about: singular focus on FI at the expense of our more important values.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Gerard

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1361
  • Location: eastern canada
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2012, 07:48:32 PM »
Sometimes I tell myself that this is the "accumulation stage" of my financial life, that after I FIRE I will have the time and resources to make a difference, but that just feels like an excuse to not make a difference today. 
This  reminded me of a comparative religion class I took years ago -- the idea that we do in fact have different duties at different life stages. Thrashing around online led me to this:
"Everyone at the householder stage of life (grihastha), between being a student and becoming a monk, has a duty to work hard and earn enough to support their family.
It is accepted for Hindus to pray for money, and at Divali (Festival of Light) many Hindu businessmen make offerings to Lakshmi asking her to make them prosperous. This does not mean that Hindus believe greed to be acceptable.
As a student a Hindu should live a simple life without luxuries so that he learns to live on the minimum. He should learn that the most important things in life cannot be bought. As a householder he will have to earn money to look after his extended family. The Hindu scriptures teach that money alone cannot bring happiness especially if it is not shared with the poor.
After the householder stage a Hindu should become less interested in money and possessions and more concerned with leading a religious life. Money is seen as necessary but it should not be seen as the most important thing."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/poverty/hinduismrev2.shtml

Replace "religious life" with "meaningful life" or "charitable life" or something and this kind of works for me.

Although I wonder... is somebody really not playing fair on this site if their motives for FI don't resonate with the more commonly expressed world views here? Even somebody who reduces her consumption so that she can become a selfish prick is probably still reducing her environmental impact, at least. 

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2012, 08:22:35 PM »
All that aside, I certainly think one must be vigilant to guard against what sol is worried about: singular focus on FI at the expense of our more important values.

To me this feels like the central paradox of this whole shebang, more than just an aside.  The blog, the forum, the philosophy, all of it is geared towards showing people how to focus on their real values and not their material possessions, but the very mechanism of that focus is the quest for material wealth.

That doesn't strike anyone else as contradictory?

smalllife

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 983
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2012, 08:28:17 PM »

That doesn't strike anyone else as contradictory?

Yes, but is there anything in life that doesn't have a give and take?  I am looking forward to FI because I can donate something more valuable than money, my time and talents.  Fortunately many of my personal values correspond with a fairly high savings rates - environmentalism, minimalism(ish), learning, etc.   "Singular focus" is pretty extreme though, especially when you consider that this is a forum dedicated to achieving financial independence.  Of course our conversations are going to be skewed to those topics.

I think one can get around that paradox by delaying FI for creating a more barter-based existence.  Many Mustachians do this, others find money to be an easier form of exchange.  That is why humans started using currency to begin with.  My idea of living  within my values will be different than yours.  And that's okay.  It doesn't mean that one is better than the other (although debating it is certainly a worthwhile exercise), just different. 

fidgiegirl

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1078
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 08:36:40 PM »

To me this feels like the central paradox of this whole shebang, more than just an aside.  The blog, the forum, the philosophy, all of it is geared towards showing people how to focus on their real values and not their material possessions, but the very mechanism of that focus is the quest for material wealth.

That doesn't strike anyone else as contradictory?

I can see what you're saying, but no, not in all cases.  While you (the general you) may have to have a certain sense of mindfulness about money at intervals (one would if spending spending spending, too) there comes a point where you get on auto-pilot.  Like, I'm thinking, you stop and reconsider your telecommunications needs.  Do you really derive value from the amount you spend on your cell phone/home phone/internet etc.?  So you research, and change to a new and inexpensive plan.  Done.  Then you just use your phone, and maybe in a few years you'll reassess.  You're not obsessing that whole time about what you're spending on your cell phone. 

So, perhaps while paying off debt, one has to have a laser focus to get it done, but then things can go on auto pilot at different periods while amassing a stash.  I have been working toward FI since 2004 when I discovered Your Money or Your Life (familiar to many here, but if not, essentially the same as a lot of what MMM says but with a lot less swearing.  :)  )  In that time, there have had to be times where I am more aware of my money than at other times, but we still continue to get ahead.  I don't think we have to be obsessed with money at all times.  Mindful, yes, obsessed, no.

And, what about when we're gone?  DH and I have no kids . . . likely our stash would all go to charity.

I think I get what you are saying about balance.  For example, DH and I are teachers, and so we have summers off, which we treasure.  We COULD work all summer, every summer, to get closer to FI.  Maybe at some point it will be important enough for us to do so.  But right now, travel and balance are more important to us.  We keep chugging along toward our goal at varying speeds depending on the year.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 09:40:01 PM »
The thread that sparked this one was about how ridiculous it is that some people would spend 2% of their income on coffee, and had evolved into a discussion about how others were so proud of themselves for spending 1% or less on coffee instead.

Setting aside for a moment my belief that drugs like coffee and tobacco are a crutch for the weak-willed, reading that discussion in conjunction with the more philosophical discussion of the happiness principle and utilitarianism in the Rawlsian Theory of Justice thread just made me realize how fucked up the whole thing is.  Is it ever morally acceptable to leave your garden hose running while your neighbor dies of thirst?  To buy yourself a third investment property when there are homeless mentally disabled people in your city who freeze to death in the wintertime?  Yet this is the model of our economy, where everyone collectively and individually seeks personal profit at the expense of those who are less fortunate.  And we label it capitalism and celebrate it as a virtue.

I am a capitalist and should be free to do what I want with my money.  Ignoring the fact that I have paid and continue to pay a ridiculous amount of taxes (income, wage, sales, property, among others) into a system that doesn't work to largely support people that don't work.  I am all for help those in need and I do give to charity but I will take care of myself and my family first - I also work hard and earned what I have so if I want to by a coffee or a beer - I am fuckin entitled to it because it is out of my own pocket.  To many people (sounds like your camp) feel they are entitled to the same rewards but on someone elses dime.  Fuck that. 

Tooqk here is not alone in his assessment.  Many Americans willfully turn a blind eye to the fact that over a million American children are undernourished due to poverty, here on US soil, while at the same time proudly proclaiming their own entitlement to luxuries, because they feel those poor people somehow deserve their poverty.  This strikes me as the coldest kind of callousness, well beyond benign indifference.  This is walking by a drowning child and looking the other way.  Their sense of entitlement, even when expressed less profanely, usually offends anyone who stops to think about it too carefully.  Do you really think you're "entitled" to a 3000 sqft house and two SUVs?

TLV

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 492
  • Age: 31
  • Location: Bellevue, WA
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2012, 11:11:36 PM »
I don't  have a whole lot to add to these discussions right now, but I wanted to say that I appreciate the thoughtful and well-written posts many of you are making.

Some have said that a key part of mustachianism is spending resources (time, money, effort, etc.) on things that are valuable, and reducing or cutting out things that are less valuable or detrimental. And it's frequently been pointed out that values differ from person to person. My own values have been going through a dramatic upheaval in the past several years, and reading these discussions is helping me to think more critically about what's really important.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2012, 11:39:52 PM »
Even somebody who reduces her consumption so that she can become a selfish prick is probably still reducing her environmental impact, at least.

This is true, but incidental.  If she reduces her environmental footprint through mustachianism so that she can retire at 30 and watch tv for the next 50 years, then environmentalism probably wasn't high on her value list.  She hasn't fulfilled her values by adopting the philosophy.

This is also closely tied to a previous forum thread about how the economy would work if everyone adopted these ideas, if the average working career was only a few years long.  Opinions differed, but many of us felt that the system would collapse.  Personally, I've come to believe that capitalist economies only work because they are inherently unequal.  Our first world prosperity is predicated on third world poverty.  We can't provide an American standard of living to 7 billion people under the current economic model.  So instead, we blithely enjoy the luxuries afforded to us by the luck of our birth geography, filling our landfills with plastic crap while the rest of the world dies of diarrhea.

"Singular focus" is pretty extreme though, especially when you consider that this is a forum dedicated to achieving financial independence.  Of course our conversations are going to be skewed to those topics.

I have no problem with the discussions here focusing on financial topics.  What irks me is that our discussion of personal finance are so extremely personal, devoid of all connection to the rest of society that makes these choices possible.

We've devoted entire threads to asset allocation strategies, to technical analysis of the markets, to early withdrawal strategies that avoid tax penalties.  But we never seem to talk much about WHY people are so keen to retire, about what values have motivated such high savings rates, about how our financial plans are formed by and alternately help realize our life plans.  Isn't that more important?

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2012, 11:43:13 PM »
Life is shitty and disconnected without one another. I mean, look at us right here! How many people on these very forums probably have more uplifting social interaction here through these (and other) boards than they do in their day-to-day lives with their own neighbors? We are social creatures, and society just doesn't function without one another.

I think you are wrong in a lot of ways, but in one particularly practical one: participation in discussion boards (of any sort, not just this one).  It is just not practical to have any sort of reasonable discussion of ideas in "real space".  First, I just don't think that fast. I like to reflect on what others have said, and consider what I have to say before responding.  That may take anywhere from several seconds to several days, which makes a real-time conversation difficult enough. 

Then in any real life discussion involving more than a few people, I find there is always at least one jackass who will not let me finish a sentence without interrupting, if I can even manage to get a word in edgewise.  That means most of my attention goes into restraining myself from actually performing what the British call Grevious Bodily Harm on said jackass, rather than whatever the discussion was supposed to be about.  Not really a productive use of my time.

It's always been this way, at least since the invention of writing.  Serious ideas are almost always discussed in writing.

JJ

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 117
  • Location: On the road, Australia
    • A Philosopher and A Businessman
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2012, 03:18:48 AM »
Thank you, Sol, for starting this thread.  There are many important points raised.  I, for one, see a huge difference between frugality and miserliness which I think encapsulates the essence of this discussion.  Frugality=not spending money on stupid crap so you can spend it on things which matter and not be a slave to generating income.  This can be done with a generous spirit and is generally based on structural, big ticket, set and forget adjustments (e.g. getting rid of a car, moving interstate, getting rid of cable whatever) which yield large savings with little ongoing effort and no obsessing.  You can pick up the bill when you are having lunch with someone, put $10 in the homeless guy's tin, etc etc and still be frugal (in my opinion).  You can live a frugal life which is full, happy and beneficial to others.  In fact, you can often live a full, happy and useful life because you don't waste effort on meaningless "stuff".

Miserliness, on the other hand, is when you hope the other guy will pick up the bill, get uncomfortable if you are in a restaurant and start adding up the cost, ignore the homeless guy in the street, eat crap food because it's cheap etc etc.  Misers may die rich but they never die happy.

Worsted Skeins

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 384
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 07:00:43 AM »
Stepping in gingerly as I was the one who was spanked in the other thread for her coffee consumption.

Perhaps I have ventured into the wrong playground.  It seems that the average participant in this forum is in his 20s or 30s which I am not.  My husband remains gainfully employed beyond the age that many here aspire to retire.  We made the choice years ago that I would not work for pay because my husband's salary is more than enough.  Quality of life has always been more important than stuff. Instead of working for a pay check, I spend time on an almost daily basis volunteering with some community non-profit or just doing things for neighbors or family.  Of course we contribute financially to a number of charities and eductional institutions. We are joyfully funding my son's college education so that his start in life is debt free.  And retirement for my spouse is just years away should he choose. He really enjoys what he does though so I suspect that he'll do some consulting or temporary gigs--particularly if travel opportunities are a fringe benefit.

I began my financial self education before Roths existed.  My first IRA was opened with the Pax World Fund.  Sol, I do get it, despite my coffee consumption and the fact that I had a glass of wine with dinner last night.  I am not Mother Teresa but I do believe that I live an ethical life, even if you choose to judge me otherwise.

By the way, I am all for an increase in the capital gains tax. We can afford it.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 08:24:39 AM by Worsted Skeins »

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2012, 07:52:41 AM »
Even somebody who reduces her consumption so that she can become a selfish prick is probably still reducing her environmental impact, at least.

This is true, but incidental.  If she reduces her environmental footprint through mustachianism so that she can retire at 30 and watch tv for the next 50 years, then environmentalism probably wasn't high on her value list.  She hasn't fulfilled her values by adopting the philosophy.

....  We can't provide an American standard of living to 7 billion people under the current economic model.  So instead, we blithely enjoy the luxuries afforded to us by the luck of our birth geography, filling our landfills with plastic crap while the rest of the world dies of diarrhea.



I think you are grossly underestimating the environmental impact.  The whole reason Americans have 20 times the footprint of the average human is our cars and our consumption.  A person who lives a deliberately frugal lifestyle - regardless of the motivation - doesn't have an "American standard of living".  They aren't buying and throwing out endless plastic crap.  They aren't driving 50 miles a day - both from their home in the 'burbs to a job in the city, and to the corner store 2 blocks away. 
According to various online footprint calculators, if everyone in the world lived like a typical American, we would need 5x the resources than exist on the planet.  If everyone lived like - oh, I don't know, say, like me - it would be sustainable for the entire (current) human population indefinitely. 
It is precisely because so many American's feel the same self-righteousness as tooqk that I find the growing mustachian movement so exciting - it doesn't matter if people are doing it for the wrong reasons, if the results are positive.

carolinakaren

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 171
  • Location: Charlotte, NC
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2012, 07:54:58 AM »

If what you really value is the lifestyle you envision for yourself after early retirement, why would you sacrifice that lifestyle in the runup to retirement?   
Conclusion:

This is a very insightful post.  I have thought about this a lot lately.  I know I could suck it up and work longer hours, make more money, and reach FI sooner.....but I don't.  I'm glad to know that other mustachians are thinking this way.  I can't go balls-to-the-wall for years on end without sacrificing quality of life.  Nurturing relationships, peace if mind and continued charity contributions are things that I have to do to be happy.  These things take time and sometimes money (for the charities).  FI will come a little later for me, but that's ok.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2012, 08:09:33 AM »

Sometimes I tell myself that this is the "accumulation stage" of my financial life, that after I FIRE I will have the time and resources to make a difference, but that just feels like an excuse to not make a difference today. 

There has to be some pragmatic trade-off here.  As you (I think it was you) have noted in previous posts, there comes a point at which many people on this path to ERE can expect compounding returns to go exponential, and far surpass what they need to be FI.
Lets say you make 50k, and spend 10k.  You could be very generous, and give away that 40k difference every year.  And you will always be at the same level of savings, have to work forever.  Or you could invest it all, and in 5 years when your investment returns pay your living expenses, you could start putting that full 50k of income to giving - while your net worth continues to rise, allowing you to add in even more to that amount.  In 10 years you could be donating 40k worth of investment returns AND be able to retire giving you time to volunteer full time.

The way to not let the accumulation phase not be an excuse is to know (in advance) how much is enough.  That is what sets this way of FI apart from the "make as much money as possible" methods.  The lack of lifestyle inflation.  When you reach your goal, don't move the goal post. 
If a non-profit tried to start helping people on day 1 - without having taken the time to do some grant writing and fundraising - its going to close down on day 2, and will not have done anyone any good.

tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2195
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2012, 08:13:28 AM »
The thread that sparked this one was about how ridiculous it is that some people would spend 2% of their income on coffee, and had evolved into a discussion about how others were so proud of themselves for spending 1% or less on coffee instead.

Setting aside for a moment my belief that drugs like coffee and tobacco are a crutch for the weak-willed, reading that discussion in conjunction with the more philosophical discussion of the happiness principle and utilitarianism in the Rawlsian Theory of Justice thread just made me realize how fucked up the whole thing is.  Is it ever morally acceptable to leave your garden hose running while your neighbor dies of thirst?  To buy yourself a third investment property when there are homeless mentally disabled people in your city who freeze to death in the wintertime?  Yet this is the model of our economy, where everyone collectively and individually seeks personal profit at the expense of those who are less fortunate.  And we label it capitalism and celebrate it as a virtue.

I am a capitalist and should be free to do what I want with my money.  Ignoring the fact that I have paid and continue to pay a ridiculous amount of taxes (income, wage, sales, property, among others) into a system that doesn't work to largely support people that don't work.  I am all for help those in need and I do give to charity but I will take care of myself and my family first - I also work hard and earned what I have so if I want to by a coffee or a beer - I am fuckin entitled to it because it is out of my own pocket.  To many people (sounds like your camp) feel they are entitled to the same rewards but on someone elses dime.  Fuck that. 

Tooqk here is not alone in his assessment.  Many Americans willfully turn a blind eye to the fact that over a million American children are undernourished due to poverty, here on US soil, while at the same time proudly proclaiming their own entitlement to luxuries, because they feel those poor people somehow deserve their poverty.  This strikes me as the coldest kind of callousness, well beyond benign indifference.  This is walking by a drowning child and looking the other way.  Their sense of entitlement, even when expressed less profanely, usually offends anyone who stops to think about it too carefully.  Do you really think you're "entitled" to a 3000 sqft house and two SUVs?

Sol - your original post is thoughtful and does make you think.  I do take exception to your interpretation of my comment.  I don't feel I am entitled to a 3000 sf house or a coffee or material possessions....but I do feel I am entitled to spend my money the way I see fit whether it be on those material things, my kids education, charitable activities, investing in business that give those less fortunate an opportunity to get ahead and not need me to support them, or even apparently early retirement (which in itself by your view is a form of egregious wasteful spending akin to consumerism/materialism - afterall why retire early when you can work forever and funnel every penny to someone in need).  Clearly you must be living your values, right? So that means you will withdraw all your funds and donate them immediately along with every paycheck you earn right?  Not to mention people spending money, whether it be in like the general population or MMM style, provides opportunity and jobs. 

Clearly being sarcastic, but you are losing sight of the fact that an individuals ability to earn more and possibly retire does allow for more resources and time to help people.  Hate to admit it but it is very complex world and is not always just, and that is unfortunate but we all do better but it doesn't mean we will be perfect.


amyable

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 295
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2012, 08:26:48 AM »
Quality of life has always been more important than stuff. Instead of working for a pay check, I spend time on an almost daily basis volunteering with some community non-profit or just doing stuff for neighbors or family. 

I agree!  I also admitted to (gasp) spending around $20 a month on coffee in the other thread.  I work as an ESL teacher, and I love my work partially because it gives me the opportunity for additional nonprofit work during the summer.  I'm not even sure my goal at this point is early retirement--I chose a career that is in line with my value system, and I will continue to work as long as I'm of value to my community.

spider1204

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 244
  • Location: Lexington, KY
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2012, 09:17:40 AM »
Quote
Please don't forget WHY you want to retire early.  Your motivations need not be the same as mine, but whatever they are, try to keep them in mind while you're considering which pennies to pinch, and which to use.

I completely agree with this statement and with this argument, however I don't think that you really do.  You say that our motivations need not be the same as yours, yet for the rest of the thread you seem to be arguing otherwise.  If your going to start talking about morality then on some level you are going to be judging other people for their motivations and actions.

As far as the morality thing goes, it's just human nature really.  We're pretty tribal creatures, so yeah we'll be all kinds of helpful to the people around us, but we're not going to care as much about the people far away from us that we don't know.  You can argue all you want about whether that's morally acceptable, but it's how we are wired and probably won't be changing anytime soon.

fidgiegirl

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1078
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2012, 09:57:46 AM »
Quality of life has always been more important than stuff. Instead of working for a pay check, I spend time on an almost daily basis volunteering with some community non-profit or just doing stuff for neighbors or family. 

I agree!  I also admitted to (gasp) spending around $20 a month on coffee in the other thread.  I work as an ESL teacher, and I love my work partially because it gives me the opportunity for additional nonprofit work during the summer.  I'm not even sure my goal at this point is early retirement--I chose a career that is in line with my value system, and I will continue to work as long as I'm of value to my community.

amy, I was thinking about this yesterday, too.  I really find the flexibility of being able to work part-time appealing, but I don't know that I would ever quit working, because just how much can I putter around the house and read books, anyway?  Especially when all the causes mentioned in this thread, and 100 more, make me feel like I need to DO something.  I think that's why I first liked the MMM blog so much.  He works often, creatively, etc.  And then when he doesn't want to/can't for health or sanity reasons/wants to go to Canada for six weeks, he can!  Now MMM's work is in carpentry, but the whole concept could easily be extended to any kind of task.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2012, 10:33:22 AM »
Life is shitty and disconnected without one another. I mean, look at us right here! How many people on these very forums probably have more uplifting social interaction here through these (and other) boards than they do in their day-to-day lives with their own neighbors? We are social creatures, and society just doesn't function without one another.

I think you are wrong in a lot of ways, but in one particularly practical one: participation in discussion boards (of any sort, not just this one).  It is just not practical to have any sort of reasonable discussion of ideas in "real space".  First, I just don't think that fast. I like to reflect on what others have said, and consider what I have to say before responding.  That may take anywhere from several seconds to several days, which makes a real-time conversation difficult enough. 

Then in any real life discussion involving more than a few people, I find there is always at least one jackass who will not let me finish a sentence without interrupting, if I can even manage to get a word in edgewise.  That means most of my attention goes into restraining myself from actually performing what the British call Grevious Bodily Harm on said jackass, rather than whatever the discussion was supposed to be about.  Not really a productive use of my time.

It's always been this way, at least since the invention of writing.  Serious ideas are almost always discussed in writing.

I agree 100%
In fact, when I have something really important and personal to talk about with a close friend or partner, I almost always do it by email or text document - even if we live together and see each other every day.

But also, the internet allows us to find people with whom we share interests.  I interact with my neighbors, but we have very little in common, so it consists mostly of meaningless chit-chat.  I come here precisely because I CAN have more uplifting social interaction here through these (and other) boards than I do in my day-to-day life

darkelenchus

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 290
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Akron, OH
  • True wealth comes from good health and wise ways.
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2012, 11:45:32 AM »
Personally, I've come to believe that capitalist economies only work because they are inherently unequal.  Our first world prosperity is predicated on third world poverty.  We can't provide an American standard of living to 7 billion people under the current economic model.  So instead, we blithely enjoy the luxuries afforded to us by the luck of our birth geography, filling our landfills with plastic crap while the rest of the world dies of diarrhea.

Motivations for FI can and will most certainly differ. For those of us who seek to attain and to maintain FI through a peculiar capitalist mechanism so that we might be able to contribute to the improvement of humanity, there is a real tension, however.

The very capitalist mechanism that fuels FI may be one impediment to improving humanity, precisely because it promotes a social arrangement that necessarily denies some portion of the population the necessary conditions for cultivating habits of self-improvement. There was a brief post on the ERE site that raised this issue ( On Elevating Humanity), couched in terms of job-owning and job-working. FI essentially involves freeing ones time from job-working to pursue activities of "self expression," to use Jacob's works, via becoming a job-owner. Of course, you can't be a job-owner if there aren't any jobs to own, which means that you are an agent in denying others the very leisure you seek for yourself and for humanity in general. In later posts, Jacob seemed to rationalize this state of affairs by ascribing to the notion that the Aristotelian conception of "natural slavery" - i.e. some people are just mentally incapable of leading a self-directed life, and so their best hope for leading a meaningful life is through the guidance of others - applies to the mass populous, and thus they need to be job-workers.

Though I think that the notion of natural slavery can be applicable in some cases (e.g. the mentally impaired are dependent on others for for development and improvement throughout their lives), this use of it really boils down to a sophisticated way of expressing what some others in this thread have said in so many words: "the inequality of our system is predicated on certain features of reality that there's no way to get around; so suck it up and stop being complany-pantes." I question many of these "features of reality that there's no way to get around." For instance, there's no real or major difference in potential ability between the students I teach at a top-rate university and the people in the economically depressed neighborhood I grew up with. But there is a major difference between their actually developed abilities, and it's largely been due to one group having more opportunities than they can do anything with and the other group having little or no opportunities at all. Among one group, their social environment promoted (and in many cases) required acting on those opportunities. The other? Well, not so much. If you were to take an arbitrary but particular individual from one group and swap them with another arbitrary but particular individual from the other group, the social environment and opportunities (or lack thereof) will make a massive difference in the development of their respective potential; all other things being equal, the one with greater opportunities and a supportive social environment will almost certainly see greater development.

More generally, to rationalize the inequality that stands in the way of improving humanity by way of some theory of genetic determinism, scarcity of resources, etc., almost always a) begs the question or b) commits the is/ought fallacy (or both). Quite simply, our current state of unjust inequality might be the way things are, but it's probably not the way things have to be and it almost certainly isn't the way things ought to be.

We've devoted entire threads to asset allocation strategies, to technical analysis of the markets, to early withdrawal strategies that avoid tax penalties.  But we never seem to talk much about WHY people are so keen to retire, about what values have motivated such high savings rates, about how our financial plans are formed by and alternately help realize our life plans.  Isn't that more important?

I have to say that I largely ignore the financial discussions on the forums. In fact, I was somewhat taken aback by how disproportionately represented the financial the discussions were when I first dipped into the forums, in comparison to MMM's concern with emphasizing meaning, value, and quality, which gives the "F" in FI its raison d'etre. Once the FI concepts and general strategies are understood, there's not much to talk about and it's honestly kinda boring. FI is a means to an end, and that end is to create meaning in and for the world. The questions that surround the latter are difficult, but infinitely more interesting.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 12:44:27 PM by darkelenchus »

Sylly

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 267
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2012, 11:47:36 AM »
Any use of you is general you. I'm participating in the discussion and not really intending to single anyone out.

If what you really value is the lifestyle you envision for yourself after early retirement, why would you sacrifice that lifestyle in the runup to retirement? 

To me, the answer to that question is the answer to the contradiction sol is seeing.
There doesn't have to be a single minded focus to cut out anything that's not bare necessities. It's all personal choice. I may choose to forgo most things but the bare necessities to reach FI goal sooner. Or I may choose to keep things I consider important that will push my FI goal back. IMO, charitable spending is one of those choices people make.

So instead, we blithely enjoy the luxuries afforded to us by the luck of our birth geography, filling our landfills with plastic crap while the rest of the world dies of diarrhea.

What I dislike in this discussion is the underlying implication that to be on the upside of unequal is evil. Yes, I, and I suspect most of us here, won the birth lottery to varying degrees. And people have varying levels of charitable tendencies, often correlated with their varying levels of 'good' and 'bad'.

apparently early retirement (which in itself by your view is a form of egregious wasteful spending akin to consumerism/materialism - afterall why retire early when you can work forever and funnel every penny to someone in need).  Clearly you must be living your values, right? So that means you will withdraw all your funds and donate them immediately along with every paycheck you earn right? 

tookq took the idea to its ridiculous extreme, and I think it illustrates the grey-ness of all this. It's not as clear cut as either walking by, or saving a drowning girl. There is no clear dividing line. To realize that we are fortunate, and to give back is good. But does that mean you're not allowed to spend some of your money for your own simple pleasures? Maybe some you think so, and you're surely entitled to your opinion. You are a much better person than the rest of us if you actually live by that principle.

Tyler

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1138
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2012, 02:06:41 PM »
Very insightful post, Sol.

The root of the intellectual contradiction here is the concept of purpose and how that relates to money.  IMHO, let's not get too far down the rabbit hole of the what the correct purpose of every individual should be (whether that is humanitarianism, environmentalism, or painting the next Mona Lisa) and instead focus on that first contradiction and how it hinders us from doing something truly meaningful with our lives. 

I first noticed that contradiction in myself when thinking about what I want to do when I retire.  Here's the brief conversation in my head:

"I've always had a passion for art, and would love to paint again."
"Great!  Why don't you do that in the evenings now since you enjoy that so much?"
"Well, paint is expensive, and it'll slow my advancement towards my goal."
"Hold on -- what's your goal again?  To paint, or to be wealthy?"

I actually see this same inner conflict in MrsMM's most recent post about the evils of sharing ice cream at Dairy Queen with family because it's wasting money.  That may be completely true, but isn't spending quality time with family a big motivator for FI, and why should a few dollars distract from that experience?  (BTW, I'm not criticizing MrsMM at all -- just noticing that sometimes even the most admirable among us may struggle with similar issues).

IMHO, it's important to remind ourselves occasionally that saving is not our purpose in life, it is our method for allowing us to get by while pursuing our true calling (whatever that may be for us individually).

For the religious among us, this reminds me of the Parable of the Rich Fool. 

http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/12_13-21.htm


Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #24 on: July 28, 2012, 02:31:09 PM »
The very capitalist mechanism that fuels FI may be one impediment to improving humanity, precisely because it promotes a social arrangement that necessarily denies some portion of the population the necessary conditions for cultivating habits of self-improvement. There was a brief post on the ERE site that raised this issue ( On Elevating Humanity), couched in terms of job-owning and job-working. FI essentially involves freeing ones time from job-working to pursue activities of "self expression," to use Jacob's works, via becoming a job-owner. Of course, you can't be a job-owner if there aren't any jobs to own, which means that you are an agent in denying others the very leisure you seek for yourself and for humanity in general.

I don't think this is true.
It ignores the truly massive increase in productivity due to increases in technology that have occurred over the past couple centuries.
It would be possible for everyone in society to have basic necessities covered by a tiny fraction of the labor that it would have required any time previously in human history.  Productivity has increased something like 10-fold since the 1950s alone, which means that we could all live lives of material wealth equivalent to those times with 10 times less labor per person.  That could translate to either 4 hour work weeks for a 40-year working life, or 40 hours a week for 10 years, or any combination in between.
What we as a society have chosen to do instead is have meaningless lifestyle inflation at every level of income, and make the wealthy unimaginably wealthy.  Nearly all of the gains in productivity have been distributed to the top 0.01% (where they have the least marginal utility).

The only reason everyone needs to work 40 hours a week for a lifetime is to keep producing all the crap that we ourselves are consuming.

If everyone here was trying to retire as millionaires living a lavish life, then yes, it would inherently require exploitation.  But retiring by consuming less means there is less work that needs to get done (no one has to produce all the crap you aren't buying)

I don't believe there is any inherent reason that society couldn't chose to institute (for example) a 10 hour work week, and/or a sharply progressive redistribution system with no ceiling bracket, which would mean everyone would contribute less, and everyone would be able to pursue non-work goals in life

darkelenchus

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 290
  • Age: 40
  • Location: Akron, OH
  • True wealth comes from good health and wise ways.
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #25 on: July 28, 2012, 06:44:51 PM »
The very capitalist mechanism that fuels FI may be one impediment to improving humanity, precisely because it promotes a social arrangement that necessarily denies some portion of the population the necessary conditions for cultivating habits of self-improvement. There was a brief post on the ERE site that raised this issue ( On Elevating Humanity), couched in terms of job-owning and job-working. FI essentially involves freeing ones time from job-working to pursue activities of "self expression," to use Jacob's works, via becoming a job-owner. Of course, you can't be a job-owner if there aren't any jobs to own, which means that you are an agent in denying others the very leisure you seek for yourself and for humanity in general.

I don't think this is true.

And yet it's true under our current social arrangement despite the potential that increases in productivity have brought about.

What we as a society have chosen to do instead is have meaningless lifestyle inflation at every level of income, and make the wealthy unimaginably wealthy.

What's the standard basis for FI? Investing, typically in the stock market. In other words, owning jobs. And what are those job-workers largely doing? Producing things that fuel meaningless lifestyle inflation.

Obviously, it doesn't have to be like that, as your other comments indicate. But it is like that. And this is something of a conundrum for those who seek FI as a means of helping realize a better world.

velocistar237

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1422
  • Location: Metro Boston
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #26 on: July 28, 2012, 07:45:58 PM »
But we never seem to talk much about WHY people are so keen to retire, about what values have motivated such high savings rates, about how our financial plans are formed by and alternately help realize our life plans.  Isn't that more important?

Yes, it's a lot more important. It's also hard, so I'm not that surprised that we talk about it less. It's also not a big topic on the blog. Glance through the post list and see what percentage of posts are about the big picture rather than finances. It is, after all, a personal finance blog. The forum reflects that.

Frankly, the WHY is a scary topic. On a personal level, it's about figuring out your life purpose, and deep down inside, we all have a lot of nihilism and selfishness. On the communal level, it's terribly overwhelming. Donations just don't seem to do much.

Still, I would like to see more of this on the forum. If someone wants to be financially free in order to be more involved with their local government (or whatever), they should talk about their development toward that goal before they achieve FI. It will help them keep their eyes on the prize, and it will help others develop an understanding about how our values should drive our finances. It would be a valuable thing for this community.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #27 on: July 28, 2012, 10:23:32 PM »
If everyone lived like - oh, I don't know, say, like me - it would be sustainable for the entire (current) human population indefinitely.

Hate to burst your balloon, but there is no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely.  You might manage several generations, but eventually environmental degradation would catch up.  I don't know what a sustainable population would be, but I'm willing to bet somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #28 on: July 28, 2012, 10:44:14 PM »
But we never seem to talk much about WHY people are so keen to retire, about what values have motivated such high savings rates, about how our financial plans are formed by and alternately help realize our life plans.  Isn't that more important?

Yes, it's a lot more important. It's also hard, so I'm not that surprised that we talk about it less. It's also not a big topic on the blog.

Maybe I'm the odd man out, but I have raised the question a time or two, because I have no desire to retire at all.  I'm interested in financial independence for a lot of other reasons: because it lets me choose to do work that's more interesting but less remunerative, because I like the security of knowing I'm not one paycheck - or one decade of paychecks - from being out on the street (been there, it ain't fun). because it just gives me a lot more options in life.

The frugality is in part a natural consequence of wanting FI, but it's also just in my nature to dislike waste.  I like to get value for money (thus generic coffee at home vs expensive storebought stuff, 'cause I can't tell the difference).  I can (and have) spent what some people would consider excessive amounts on things that I value, but most of the time a little thought shows me that the things I really like most don't cost much at all.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #29 on: July 28, 2012, 11:48:10 PM »
If everyone lived like - oh, I don't know, say, like me - it would be sustainable for the entire (current) human population indefinitely.

Hate to burst your balloon, but there is no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely.  You might manage several generations, but eventually environmental degradation would catch up.  I don't know what a sustainable population would be, but I'm willing to bet somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion.

What are you basing that on?  According to people who research the details of such things it can.  If the population continues to increase exponentially (as it will, unless something very dramatic changes) it will become unsustainable.  If everyone alive today were to suddenly live average American lifestyles, that would be unsustainable.  If everyone alive today lived like the average person in the third world, we would use a fraction of the resources we use today. 
What do you think would be the limiting factor?

gooki

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2373
  • Location: NZ
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #30 on: July 29, 2012, 01:55:26 AM »
If I retire after 10 years of employment out of an expected 40 years of employment, I have effectively donated enough to support 3 lives of modest luxury by forgoing 30 years of wages.

This is without making any moral choice about supporting specific charities.

carolinakaren

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 171
  • Location: Charlotte, NC
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #31 on: July 29, 2012, 08:01:18 AM »
I was just reading the updates and saw that my post from yesterday included my response as if it were part of the quote from Sol's original post.  I'm sorry about that Sol, I obviously didn't do it the right way. 

Karen

deciduous

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 63
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #32 on: July 29, 2012, 09:32:39 AM »
That's a beautiful and accurate original post, thank you, Sol. I have been wondering the same things lately so I'm glad to see this discussion.

I'll see if I can contribute once I've read the rest of the thread.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3946
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #33 on: July 29, 2012, 09:33:04 AM »
Life is shitty and disconnected without one another. I mean, look at us right here! How many people on these very forums probably have more uplifting social interaction here through these (and other) boards than they do in their day-to-day lives with their own neighbors? We are social creatures, and society just doesn't function without one another.

I think you are wrong in a lot of ways, but in one particularly practical one: participation in discussion boards (of any sort, not just this one).  It is just not practical to have any sort of reasonable discussion of ideas in "real space".  First, I just don't think that fast. I like to reflect on what others have said, and consider what I have to say before responding.  That may take anywhere from several seconds to several days, which makes a real-time conversation difficult enough. 

Then in any real life discussion involving more than a few people, I find there is always at least one jackass who will not let me finish a sentence without interrupting, if I can even manage to get a word in edgewise.  That means most of my attention goes into restraining myself from actually performing what the British call Grevious Bodily Harm on said jackass, rather than whatever the discussion was supposed to be about.  Not really a productive use of my time.

It's always been this way, at least since the invention of writing.  Serious ideas are almost always discussed in writing.

Seriously? All you have to say is that I'm wrong on a whole bunch of stuff, and then you focus the crux of your argument about why I'm wrong on a paragraph of my post where you completely miss the point of what I was trying to illustrate. Then you go on a tear defending why the quality of your interactions with people over the internet is superior to those with your neighbors, because the people around you are jerks who inspire you to violence. I'm actually at a bit of a loss, here.

That paragraph was there with a purpose, and I'm sorry that you missed that and it makes me wonder exactly how little of what I wrote out that you actually comprehended given your stark and complete condemnation of it. Maybe I wasn't clear enough with my points, I don't know. Let me try rephrasing the quote for you:

We are social creatures. Look at how much we thrive around one another and we're not even in the same geographic location. This forum wouldn't exist the way it does if we didn't need friendly and supportive interaction in our lives. Society on a whole requires us to be social, and being social requires a certain level of civility and kindness.

Followed with the subtext of:

Maybe if we extended that spirit of kindness and support we get here out to others around us, it might improve our lives further.

Does that help?

However, since you brought the subject up, I'm going to respond to what you did write. Your assertion that nothing of substance and value can be discussed in real time is an incredibly narrow-minded and thoughtless statement.

Some of the greatest, most incredibly deep discussions I have ever had in my life have occurred at times where I have been able to speak my mind and look the people I'm speaking with in the eye. It's a real shame you have never gotten to experience that in your life, it's incredible when it happens... but it requires an effort of patience and kindness in your interactions with others to truly make it work. Character traits, in my humble opinion, that are fostered through deliberate acts of selfless generosity.

I could cite entire civilizations and schools of religious thought throughout history that valued open and immediate group discussion. Heck, most of our modern legislative governments are built at least partially around open live debate! Just for starters, there's the Romans, the Greeks, the Jews, the Muslims... even Benjamin Franklin and his entire Junto would argue your assertion that no meaningful topics can be discussed by any means other than the written form with you to your face.

Yes, serious topics are written about and it's valuable to do so, but physically talking on those subjects is just as equally important. If you have trouble doing so, perhaps it should be a moment of self-reflection upon why.

(Yes, I see the irony of the written form and time as a function allowing me to better respond to what you have to say, but it doesn't disprove my own points.)

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3946
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #34 on: July 29, 2012, 09:51:05 AM »
If I retire after 10 years of employment out of an expected 40 years of employment, I have effectively donated enough to support 3 lives of modest luxury by forgoing 30 years of wages.

This is without making any moral choice about supporting specific charities.

There's a fallacy to that logic, Gooki. You're building your entire philosophy of giving upon not taking, which although isn't necessarily a bad thing and is part of the spirit of generosity, is only a fraction of the whole. You can't decide what others do with the resources you don't take. What's stopping a selfish person from taking the share you left behind and hoarding it all for himself?

Granted, you also volunteer time, but again... only a portion of the whole.

In addition to taking less for yourself and giving time, you also need to proactively give some of what you take back to those who don't get a chance at the table to begin with. Between what you said here and in the charity thread, it appears your entire philosophy of charity is built upon the idea that everyone gets an equal crack at what you don't take for yourself.

Let's revisit Sol's example of the drowning girl. Your approach to giving could almost be described as, "Well, the girl is drowning. I left part of my share of water in the pond for her to have so it's deep enough for her to swim out on her own, and I'm standing here on the shore yelling instructions to her about how she needs to hold her breath and rhythmically move her limbs, so I don't need to do anything else."

ShavinItForLater

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 149
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #35 on: July 29, 2012, 11:08:34 AM »
I don't think working to achieve FI is in conflict with helping others.  Achieving FI is about achieving an abundance of resources--you have more than you need.  Almost by definition, that means you therefore have the *ability* to help others. 

The bible advises you to provide for your own household first.  Airplane attendants tell you in the event of loss of cabin pressure, put your own mask on first, then help others.  There is a reason for this kind of advice--if you can't even support yourself and your own needs, you have nothing to give to others.

You can argue about the evils of capitalism all you want, but in my opinion it is superior to most other attempted economic systems at rewarding people for doing their best, and at providing value to others around them.  It promotes those opportunities to surpass your own needs and create surplus to help others much more than more communist sorts of economic systems.  It also encourages people to improve the world around them, because they directly benefit themselves by doing so.  Yes it means that people could choose to turn a blind eye to those in need--but the reality is that the wealthy give more to charitable causes than the non-wealthy.  Not exactly rocket science to see why.

That said, that doesn't mean that people should give nothing to those in need while in the accumulation phase.  Research also interestingly shows that being generous throughout your career *causes* you to become wealthy.  Makes perfect sense--if you're a greedy bastard, looking to only take and not give, cheat when you can, etc.--nobody will want to do business with you.  Even as an employee, if you are just doing the bare minimum, you're not going to get as far as someone busting his ass to provide the most value to his employer, and by extension to the customers who benefit from that employer's products/services.  Being involved in charitable work (with both time and monetary contributions) also creates natural opportunities to network and develop relationships with people that can multiply your opportunities for your own success. 

The list could go on and on--giving helps others, and it helps you.  I think the key is having balance.  The bible recommends the tithe--giving 10% of what comes in.  They say to give it to the church, but that's from a time when the church was the provider of just about all charitable services--nowadays other charities provide a lot of what the church used to do (and I'm surprised at some churches at how little focus there seems to be on charity).  I don't know that 10% is any sort of magic number, I would argue what's most important is that you are able to support your own family, move towards FI, and still give something.  If you want to give nothing and plan to give a lot after FI, hey you're free to do so--I'd argue that you're going to have a tougher road getting to FI with that kind of attitude.  Generosity breeds financial success.

My overall point is that in my opinion, there is no fundamental conflict here.  Yes we should save the drowning children, in our own communities and around the world.  But just as we talk sustainability from a global perspective, we should also seek sustainability in our own finances--if we drown trying to save the child, we've saved no one, lost ourselves, and lost the ability to save more in the future.

Luxury purchases on lattes or whatever is another deal--but I don't think anyone is arguing that Mustachian attitudes are encouraging wasteful or luxury purchases.  However, I would say that there is an element of bettering your own life, whether it's through luxury purchases or achieving FI or whatever a particular person values, that underpins the argument above that capitalist economies encourage people to help others through business--when you provide a valuable product or service to others, the profit (or salary) you receive is a natural reward, and encourages you to try to produce even more value. 

In my opinion this is a virtuous cycle, at least relative to a more communist philosophy of give what you're able, take what you need.  If you are expected to be 100% altruistic and don't see any personal benefit from your work, then the system lacks that natural incentive to cause people to work more or better, to improve their own lives and communities.  I don't think being prosperous is evil--on the contrary, if you don't prosper, and don't have any surplus to give (time, money, etc.), then the whole world suffers more.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #36 on: July 29, 2012, 12:50:18 PM »
Seriously? All you have to say is that I'm wrong on a whole bunch of stuff, and then you focus the crux of your argument about why I'm wrong on a paragraph of my post where you completely miss the point of what I was trying to illustrate.

It's called thread drift.  Better get used to it :-)

Quote
Then you go on a tear defending why the quality of your interactions with people over the internet is superior to those with your neighbors, because the people around you are jerks who inspire you to violence. I'm actually at a bit of a loss, here.

(Exercises admirable restraint in not taking cheap shot)  I think you misunderstood: superior?  I don't believe I said that.  What I said is that writing, and now internet, is much better for the thoughtful discussion of ideas.  I might help various of my neighbors cut firewood, fix their kid's bike, feed their dogs when they're away, swap plants & garden produce with them, even drink their homebrewed beer on occasion.  Such things are neither superior nor inferior, they're just of a different nature.

That paragraph was there with a purpose, and I'm sorry that you missed that and it makes me wonder exactly how little of what I wrote out that you actually comprehended given your stark and complete condemnation of it. Maybe I wasn't clear enough with my points, I don't know. Let me try rephrasing the quote for you:

Quote
We are social creatures. Look at how much we thrive around one another and we're not even in the same geographic location. This forum wouldn't exist the way it does if we didn't need friendly and supportive interaction in our lives. Society on a whole requires us to be social, and being social requires a certain level of civility and kindness.

Speak for yourself.  I'm not all that social, myself.  But indeed, you're perfectly illustrating my point: this discussion and many others can thrive specifically because we are NOT in the same physical location.  The nature of the medium itself enforces much of that certain level of civility that is needed for reasoned discourse: you simply CAN'T "talk" over me, interrupt my train of thought, shout me down, or keep me from taking time to think out my responses.

Quote
Some of the greatest, most incredibly deep discussions I have ever had in my life have occurred at times where I have been able to speak my mind and look the people I'm speaking with in the eye.

Well, that's you.  You may be fortunate, but it's always wise to remember that we are not all constituted alike.  Take that "looking in the eye" thing: where I come from, it's either deliberate rudeness or a challege.


dancedancekj

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 78
  • Location: Nebraska
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #37 on: July 29, 2012, 08:13:54 PM »
I believe there's something to be said about the means of which one obtains their Mustache.

I chose the health care field because I like taking care of people. I could have utilized my skills in another way, but chose dentistry because I knew I was doing something meaningful for myself and for others. I could have made more money (and assumed a whole lot less debt) in another profession, but delaying FI is OK if it means that I can do it in an ethical way.
There's also the ethic of your work as well. In my case, doing good dentistry for a smaller number of patients and achieving FI at a later point is more important than doing crappy dentistry for a larger number of patients and achieving FI more quickly. I don't believe that accumulating my money in a way that involves screwing over others would allow me to sleep at night.

If you obtain your Mustache in a way that deliberately and overtly exploits others in a way that is substantially destructive, what's the point? Throw a couple dollars at a charity later to make yourself feel better?

Obviously there is a wide spectrum here as well. What is ethical to me isn't to the next person, and what some may see as destructive others may find negligible.

James81

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 49
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2012, 08:43:44 PM »
I think the idea is that you'd be surprised at how much money you save when you cut unnecessary spending from your budget. Just the sheer idea of budgeting is a concept foreign to a LOT of people. And I also think that a lot of people are truly unaware just how much money they waste on things that have nothing to do with what brings them enjoyment anyway.

In that sense, then, I think that the idea is to focus on the things you can cut from your budget without losing the focus you talk about on things that really DO matter to you.

For example, buying a jar of JIF peanut butter when the cheap peanut butter tastes exactly the same for half the price. Stuff like that. Things you can cut out or reduce that do not change the quality of your life one bit, but do change the amount of power your wallet has.

The big one is buying huge lavish houses and throwing your money towards maintaining a living space, a large portion of which you do not NEED. Living in the 1000 square foot home as opposed to the 4000 square foot home until such a time as you can rightly afford said home.

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2012, 10:54:45 PM »

I, for one, see a huge difference between frugality and miserliness which I think encapsulates the essence of this discussion.

That's certainly part of it, I think.  It's easy for all this talk about frugal living to cross a line into supporting habits that detract from quality of life instead of enhance it, but that's a delicate point to make when talking about reducing wasteful spending.  One man's necessity is another man's luxury, all the way to the bottom of the scale.  If your family can't afford food, then keeping the heat on is suddenly a luxury.

But my concerns aren't just about people who pinch too many pennies.  I'm still struggling with the notion of a website that proposes seeking a meaningful life without excessive material wealth, yet claims that amassing material wealth is the way to find it.  How is this conceptually different from someone who wants you to buy their book to learn how to save money? Wouldn't it be more consistent to either give up on the whole notion, or swallow it hook line and sinker?
« Last Edit: July 29, 2012, 11:58:09 PM by sol »

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2012, 11:15:25 PM »
Sol - your original post is thoughtful and does make you think. 

Mission accomplished, then.  I can die happy.

Quote
but I do feel I am entitled to spend my money the way I see fit

I'm not suggesting that anyone should deprive of you control over your own finances. 

I'm suggesting that the money you earn is made possible by an economic infrastructure that extends beyond your own labors, and that part of that money (aka taxes) thus rightfully belongs to the society that provided that infrastructure.  You can't start a successful business in a country overrun with barbarians, so you pay a little for national defense.  You can't find competent employees for your business if your neighbors are uneducated twits, so you pay a little for public education.  You can't transport your goods to market without roads or rails, so you pay a little for those too. 

Whenever I hear someone say, as you did, that our taxes are an unfair burden and rob you of the sweat of your brow, I feel compelled to suggest that said sweat is first due back to the society that made your work possible in the first place.  Your taxes aren't a burden, they are repayment for services you have already received, and you should offer them up thankfully and with a smile.

Which is not to say I support everything my government does with my tax dollars.  But I pay them all the same, because I wouldn't have had the opportunity to make any money at all had I been born in Rwanda or Haiti.

Quote
Clearly you must be living your values, right? So that means you will withdraw all your funds and donate them

It's a fair point, even when made sarcastically.  I stated up front that I struggle with these ideas myself.  I give both of my time and of my paycheck to support causes I believe in, but I also toss the majority of my income into the stock market, where oil companies use it to pay mercenaries to assassinate local community leaders, or Walmart keeps 90% of their workforce at 36 hours per week so they don't have to provide health insurance.  These are not practices I morally support, yet they get more of my money via the market than my chosen charities get by direct contribution.  It sucks.

Quote
but it doesn't mean we will be perfect.

I don't expect perfection from anyone.  What I would like to see, though, is that people who can comfortably allocate some of their income to their future financial security also allocate some non-zero amount to charity.  Just anything more than zero.  Any charity, whatever you happen to believe in.

For the past few years we've been awash in studies document that the key to long term happiness isn't buying things, or having things, but rather giving things away.  Here are the first few google found for me, but they all say basically the same thing different ways.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/money-can-buy-happiness_n_1467789.html
http://www.livescience.com/2376-key-happiness-give-money.html
http://www.spring.org.uk/2011/10/why-spending-money-on-others-promotes-your-happiness.php

Do you want to retire rich, or happy?  Maybe a little bit of both?  If you come up with more of one than the other, here's the best way to convert money into happiness: give it away. 

Is that anti-mustachian?

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #41 on: July 29, 2012, 11:36:09 PM »
I completely agree with this statement and with this argument, however I don't think that you really do.  You say that our motivations need not be the same as yours, yet for the rest of the thread you seem to be arguing otherwise.  If your going to start talking about morality then on some level you are going to be judging other people for their motivations and actions.

Yes, you've caught me mixing my messages. 

Message 1:  devotion to saving for early retirement so that you can live your dreams might cause you to abandon your dreams, depending on what they are.

Message 2:  My retirement dreams involve trying to make the world a better place, and I've realized I don't need to be financially independent to do that.  I can give back to my community right now, while still working.

They're not totally independent, obviously, but I accept your distinction.

Quote
We're pretty tribal creatures, so yeah we'll be all kinds of helpful to the people around us, but we're not going to care as much about the people far away from us that we don't know.

How do you feel about this apparent disconnect?

I think this perceived separation is always artificial.  I don't think it should matter who or where the drowning child is.  If you have the power and opportunity to save a life, and you choose not to, how do you sleep at night?

For most people, I think the answer is just ignorance.  They don't want to think about it.  Children dying of thirst in Sudan are carefully compartmentalized away in a different part of the brain than the one that sets your lawn sprinklers to water every morning, so that we don't have to face up to the moral implications of our own decisions.  We try not to think about it.

And that (grant) is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned the dark undercurrents of our forum discussions.  We've talked about charities, and about how most of our lives are unnecessary luxuries, and how we can save money for our future selves so that we can stop working and relax, and yet we've collectively failed to connect the dots. 

From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter. 

I realize this is going to ruffle some feathers here, so I'll just come right out and give you all an easily quotable target to aim at:  shooting for early retirement is evil.  By walking away from income that could be used to save a child's life, knowing you have the power and the opportunity to save her, you have actively participated in her suffering and demise.

Now I expect everyone to throw e-tomatoes at me.

Jamesqf

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4047
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #42 on: July 29, 2012, 11:46:48 PM »
Whenever I hear someone say, as you did, that our taxes are an unfair burden and rob you of the sweat of your brow, I feel compelled to suggest that said sweat is first due back to the society that made your work possible in the first place.  Your taxes aren't a burden, they are repayment for services you have already received, and you should offer them up thankfully and with a smile.

I think you are interpreting the term "tax burden" incorrectly.  It's not all taxes which are burdensome.  But the part of my tax that goes to cover things such as that is what, maybe 10% of the total?  Let's be generous, and say it's 25%.  That leaves the rest going to things which are wasteful at best, and at worst are things which I've from time to time given fairly significant amounts of money (and personal time/effort) to try to abolish. 

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8480
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #43 on: July 30, 2012, 12:33:46 AM »
More generally, to rationalize the inequality that stands in the way of improving humanity by way of some theory of genetic determinism, scarcity of resources, etc., almost always a) begs the question or b) commits the is/ought fallacy (or both). Quite simply, our current state of unjust inequality might be the way things are, but it's probably not the way things have to be and it almost certainly isn't the way things ought to be.

Mmmmm, meat.  This is a chewy paragraph.  I'm not sure where to begin.

The economic inequality that makes capitalism possible isn't (IMO) a product of genetics or resource scarcity, but positive feedbacks based on luck.  Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" makes a pretty solid case that Europe rose to global prominence by virtue of circumstance, not genetic superiority, and I think the argument extends neatly to economic dominance.  In a capitalist system, the rich (be definition) get richer and then use their power to solidify their positions, enhancing the stability of capitalism as a system that can then further enhance the inequality. 

Bakari's suggestions about cutting to a 10 hour workweek have come up a few times, but I've yet to hear him suggest how to prevent some enterprising young soul from working a full 60 hours instead to amass more than his fair share of the wealth, then using his surplus capital to be a "job owner" and thus make even more money, cementing the cycle.  Yes, technology has made it possible to work less.  Human greed still requires us to all work as hard as possible to avoid falling relatively behind the Joneses, though, lest Mr. Jones create a monopoly.

And in relation to dark's previous posts about utilitarianism, capitalism is perhaps a defensible evil.  For the reasons above, I think that appealing to individual greed and fear as motivations for productivity works really well, and the neocons would argue that such inequality is in fact a prerequisite of greater prosperity.  Their theory has been previously discussed here, but basically boils down to trickle-down economics; the rich get way rich and the poor might end up slightly better off, so isn't that moving towards maximum utility?

I won't rehash previous discussions of relative wealth, other than to say that this system of an ever-widening wealth gap seems to me to be the single greatest threat to democracy that I can imagine.   The elite cannot maintain control indefinitely in a majority-rule system, and I have more faith in the self-preservation instinct of the elite class than I have in the democratic instinct of the working masses.

It's precisely because I agree with dark's assessment that the current system isn't the way things ought to be that I started this thread in the first place.  Our financial decisions do support this system, and I don't exempt myself from that judgment.

Quote
I have to say that I largely ignore the financial discussions on the forums. In fact, I was somewhat taken aback by how disproportionately represented the financial the discussions were when I first dipped into the forums, in comparison to MMM's concern with emphasizing meaning, value, and quality, which gives the "F" in FI its raison d'etre. Once the FI concepts and general strategies are understood, there's not much to talk about and it's honestly kinda boring. FI is a means to an end, and that end is to create meaning in and for the world. The questions that surround the latter are difficult, but infinitely more interesting.

I have also found the forum less entertaining since getting a better handle on the numbers and legal sides of the question.  So if you're interested in other questions, I would be happy to contribute to any new threads.  I think a site about early retirement should be at least as much about the whats and whys as it is about the hows.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #44 on: July 30, 2012, 02:38:05 AM »

From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter. 

Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 

Most of us in this discussion seem to agree that those with the means may be in some way morally obligated to help those in need, but this does not make each individual personally responsible for saving the world. 
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly. 

Each of us is ourselves also a living being with the capacity to feel pleasure and suffering.  If we ignore our own lives for the sake of service, we are likely to end up doing more harm than good, as the marginal utility of our time and resources we spend on others drops relative to the utility it would have if it were used "selfishly".

The difference between the latest smart phone and retiring early is that the phone brings extremely little real, meaningful, or lasting joy into the life of the consumer, while (depending on your job on your personality) early retirement actually can.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1796
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #45 on: July 30, 2012, 02:45:58 AM »
Bakari's suggestions about cutting to a 10 hour workweek have come up a few times, but I've yet to hear him suggest how to prevent some enterprising young soul from working a full 60 hours instead to amass more than his fair share of the wealth, then using his surplus capital to be a "job owner" and thus make even more money, cementing the cycle.  Yes, technology has made it possible to work less.  Human greed still requires us to all work as hard as possible to avoid falling relatively behind the Joneses, though, lest Mr. Jones create a monopoly.

When there was no such thing as overtime, it was normal for workers to work between 80 and 100 hours per week.

What would prevent people from working more to make more wealth?  Well, for traditional employment, if employers had to pay double time, they won't want to let you.  What stops someone from having two or three jobs?  Nothing.  Just like nothing stops a 9-5 worker from taking a 2nd job and working 100 hours a week.  It can be done.  Some people even do.  Most wouldn't want to.
There may be the odd exception, but in general people who end up with dynastic levels of wealth didn't do it just by having 2 or 3 regular full time jobs, and there is no reason to assume that would change just because we adjusted the labor laws to match the present reality.

If some people want to work harder than others and make more money, they should have every right to do so.  But it should be our choice.  The situation we have now, where most work 40 hour weeks, some have mandatory overtime (unpaid if your on salary) and 8% of workers are unemployed, that's kind of ridiculous given the surplus productivity we have available.

If we divided the available labor (and the wealth it produces) more equitably, society would be in less need of charity in the first place.

atelierk

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 98
  • Age: 62
  • Location: Central New York
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #46 on: July 30, 2012, 06:34:06 AM »
Fascinating discussion.

By walking away from income that could be used to save a child's life, knowing you have the power and the opportunity to save her, you have actively participated in her suffering and demise.

Doesn't this presume that the only way to help people and alleviate suffering is by donating money? I think there are other options as well. If you retire early with your own modest needs covered, then you can donate your time and skills toward empowering others. Money is important in many situations, particularly in overseas relief efforts* but there's much suffering in our own communities that would benefit from other assets - freed up now that 9 to 5 is no longer necessary - that early retirees have to offer.

*I recall reports of some half-assed shoe company donating hundreds of pairs of women's stiletto heeled shoes to the Thailand tsunami relief effort a few years back.


tooqk4u22

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2195
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #47 on: July 30, 2012, 07:31:40 AM »
I'm suggesting that the money you earn is made possible by an economic infrastructure that extends beyond your own labors, and that part of that money (aka taxes) thus rightfully belongs to the society that provided that infrastructure.  You can't start a successful business in a country overrun with barbarians, so you pay a little for national defense.  You can't find competent employees for your business if your neighbors are uneducated twits, so you pay a little for public education.  You can't transport your goods to market without roads or rails, so you pay a little for those too. 


Where have I heard this nonsense before.....oh and weren't taxes collecected when these things were created and on the ensuing commerce that resulted from it. 

Whenever I hear someone say, as you did, that our taxes are an unfair burden and rob you of the sweat of your brow, I feel compelled to suggest that said sweat is first due back to the society that made your work possible in the first place.  Your taxes aren't a burden, they are repayment for services you have already received, and you should offer them up thankfully and with a smile.


Actually I don't think I said taxes are an unfair burden but:

(1) the tax system, as you want it, is already geared to have those who have/make more pay more and those who don't pay less - sure there are some instances where A billionaire pays a low effective tax rate but the amount paid in absolute dollars is still sizeable and lets not forget that about half of the population pays no federal income tax and some even get money back - so if that doesn't balance it out I don't know what does. 

(2) the government is horribly inefficient with its resources and as I said I believe that in my hands the dollars spent would be far more impactful and to more people.  Ok, so maybe you think that if they cut my tax rate by 10% I would just pocket it/invest it and the system would just be out 10%, fine then give me the option to pay the 10% tax or do something charitable with it.  Oh wait a minute we already have this and it drives wealthy people to donate, which BTW results in a lower effective tax rate.

It's a fair point, even when made sarcastically.  I stated up front that I struggle with these ideas myself.  I give both of my time and of my paycheck to support causes I believe in, but I also toss the majority of my income into the stock market, where oil companies use it to pay mercenaries to assassinate local community leaders, or Walmart keeps 90% of their workforce at 36 hours per week so they don't have to provide health insurance.  These are not practices I morally support, yet they get more of my money via the market than my chosen charities get by direct contribution.  It sucks.

It is no doubt a dilema.  I don't want peolpe to suffer solely for the sake of progress but our history (and I mean the global history) has nothing but this - please illustrate for me any time in history of human existence when this was not the case (like from the Matrix and somewhat to your point humans are like a virus/cancer) - sometimes bad things happen to good people and vice versa.  As for your Wal-mart example, it is their business and they should be able to do what they want and if it is unfair/undesirable then people can choose to not work/shop there and it would all end.  My view is that they have been trading near term profits at the sake of long term value - I don't shop there as stores are not that nice, the people are not helpful and seem miserable, and I really don't like their business practices (as I said I am a capitalist and they can do what they want but that doesn't mean I have to support them).  Of course this is assuming that the people working in WalMart are miserable because of their job but conversely it could be that they are miserable and couldn't get jobs at other more friendly/better paying/better benefit places (starbucks comes to mind - they give benefits to part timers).  Besides the idea that Wal-Mart has lower prices is absolutely marketing magic because it just ain't so, but thye say it on the idiot box so the idiots believe it (also supports my point that no TV/Radio or mass media ads of anykind should be allowed for political campaigns).


igthebold

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Age: 40
  • Location: NC Piedmont
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #48 on: July 30, 2012, 08:44:49 AM »
Maybe I missed the boat on replying to the OP, but the reasons I don't get into discussions about charitable giving are twofold:
1) like arebelspy mentioned, I'm among the people who are here mostly for pragmatic reasons. It's motivating to find people who are interested in frugality and FI. It's also helpful not to have to make all the mistakes I could make all along the way.
2) also like arebelspy mentioned, charitable giving is a personal issue that I don't need to discuss here. It's not something I discuss in particulars with friends, and it's not something I'm going to discuss here.

However, I do agree with sol's hypothesis that it's easy to lose sight of the WHY of FI. The process of becoming FI is downright interesting.. and fun!

As for whether you put things off, it simply depends on the context. Some things are fine to put off, others aren't, and it's going to depend a lot on the values and circumstances of the individual. One should never put off operating according to one's conscience, for instance, so if you find investing in big companies immoral, then you shouldn't buy index funds, nor justify it by being in the "accumulation phase." On the other hand, if I want to perform small-time concerts doing solo fingerstyle guitar, which I do, the realities of my life at the moment make that something I'm going to put off. I'll keep practicing, but it's a romantic and often foolish notion that one should follow one's dreams. At least when one's responsibilities suffer as a result.

madgeylou

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2373
Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #49 on: July 30, 2012, 09:04:46 AM »
i don't see striving toward early retirement as evil. i think that there is as much value in a person with lots of opportunities making use of those opportunities as there is in giving to charity. like, should einstein have gone to work as an engineer and made a whole lot of money and donated it all to charity instead of pushing forward into a new conception of what the universe is like?

we in the western world have enormous freedoms -- more than anyone has ever had in all of history -- and i don't think that leaving those freedoms on the shelf is helpful to folks who don't have them. far better for us to take the advantages we have and use them to push forward to a new level of development -- mentally, technologically, philosophically -- that opens up possibilities to others.

no, the part of early retirement that i struggle with morally is participation in the stock market, and all the horrible things that are being done in the name of increasing quarterly profits. the stock market fucking sucks in terms of morality. investing in the stock market via a broad index fund is troubling to me, because i have no desire to participate in most of the things that most of the big companies are doing.

i don't have much of a stash at present, so it's not a big concern. what i'm working on is the idea of self-employed partial retirement -- build up income streams, maybe have a part time job, and exercise my freedoms in a way that expands freedom for others, too, like writing, giving talks, helping people think about things more rationally, being an awesome grownup and thereby inspiring others to do the same. i would like to rely less on the market and more on my own hustle.

but it's a complex issue and i'm not sure there's any one answer that ticks off all the boxes on what i consider moral ...
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 09:06:53 AM by madgeylou »