Author Topic: What's up with the Frugalwoods?  (Read 139522 times)

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #650 on: October 31, 2019, 02:05:28 PM »
What? It doesn't say that. Please see comment #644.

To retire is an action. One can retire from the living room to the bedroom, from having a job to not having a job, or from the city to the country.

So unless they said it somewhere other than the comment you're referencing they did not claim to be retired.

Compare these two statements:

I'm retiring to Florida.

I'm moving to Florida.

If someone made the first statement, I'm confident it would be universally understood as "I'm quitting work and moving to Florida."   

While you are technically correct that the two statements could mean the same thing, in practice people would not interpret them the same way.

I guess this is a bit subjective, but I honestly did not interpret "retire to a homestead" that way. I thought the use of "retire" here was appropriate because they weren't just moving from one place to another, they were withdrawing themselves from their life in the city to a new lifestyle on a homestead. "Retire" was actually a better description of what they did than "move".

But if they really wanted to avoid confusion they should have said:

"and retiremove to a homestead in the woods at age thirty-two"

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #651 on: October 31, 2019, 02:16:06 PM »
She has never said she is retired, nor that her husband is.  She says they are FI.

What? It says right on their book that they are retired. Please see comment above mine that I was responding to.

What? It doesn't say that. Please see comment #644.

To retire is an action. One can retire from the living room to the bedroom, from having a job to not having a job, or from the city to the country.

So unless they said it somewhere other than the comment you're referencing they did not claim to be retired.

I haven't listened to the podcast, but things like this (from last year) certainly add to the confusion: #121: HOW I RETIRED AT AGE 32 Ė WITH LIZ THAMES FROM FRUGALWOODS

From the attached article. The bolded is highly misleading, as the husband never quit his very lucrative job, but I don't know whether this is Paula Pant's error that was never corrected or a misstatement directly from the Frugalwoods:

Quote
By age 32, they achieved financial independence. Their investment portfolio is robust enough that they could draw down, in perpetuity, for the rest of their lives.

They rented out their home in Cambridge, quit their office jobs, and moved to a 66-acre farm in Vermont. These days, they live on a combination of their rental income and Ďside hustleí income from their blog, Frugalwoods. They have two children.

Well, he did quit working in the office and now he works from home. So technically that statement is correct, right?

It's the same job with the same salary and benefits, only performed remotely. If we want to split hairs, fine, but both words and context have meaning.

Yes, I know. I was being sarcastic, but I wasn't quite sure how to show that. Do we have emoticons on the MMM forum? Am I 100 years old for using the word emoticon? I think I mean emoji...

I'm retiring to my living room out of embarassment. ;)

Aha! I thought it was sarcasm*, but I didn't want to rebut the appropriateness of your use of sarcasm without knowing if it was in fact sarcasm.

No, technically the statement is not correct because he did not quit his job, he only moved to a new office and continued the same job which would be aptly described as an office job even if he did not work from an office. The statement "and retire to a homestead in the woods at age thirty-two" is technically correct and as I detailed in my last comment, I believe appropriate given the context of withdrawing from one lifestyle to another rather than simply moving from one place to another.

*Sarcasm can be indicated by ending a statement with /s

OtherJen

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #652 on: October 31, 2019, 02:21:59 PM »
What? It doesn't say that. Please see comment #644.

To retire is an action. One can retire from the living room to the bedroom, from having a job to not having a job, or from the city to the country.

So unless they said it somewhere other than the comment you're referencing they did not claim to be retired.

Compare these two statements:

I'm retiring to Florida.

I'm moving to Florida.

If someone made the first statement, I'm confident it would be universally understood as "I'm quitting work and moving to Florida."   

While you are technically correct that the two statements could mean the same thing, in practice people would not interpret them the same way.

I guess this is a bit subjective, but I honestly did not interpret "retire to a homestead" that way. I thought the use of "retire" here was appropriate because they weren't just moving from one place to another, they were withdrawing themselves from their life in the city to a new lifestyle on a homestead. "Retire" was actually a better description of what they did than "move".

But if they really wanted to avoid confusion they should have said:

"and retiremove to a homestead in the woods at age thirty-two"

Given the context of the FIRE community, Telecaster's example is exactly how I interpreted it.

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #653 on: October 31, 2019, 02:29:33 PM »
What? It doesn't say that. Please see comment #644.

To retire is an action. One can retire from the living room to the bedroom, from having a job to not having a job, or from the city to the country.

So unless they said it somewhere other than the comment you're referencing they did not claim to be retired.

Compare these two statements:

I'm retiring to Florida.

I'm moving to Florida.

If someone made the first statement, I'm confident it would be universally understood as "I'm quitting work and moving to Florida."   

While you are technically correct that the two statements could mean the same thing, in practice people would not interpret them the same way.

I guess this is a bit subjective, but I honestly did not interpret "retire to a homestead" that way. I thought the use of "retire" here was appropriate because they weren't just moving from one place to another, they were withdrawing themselves from their life in the city to a new lifestyle on a homestead. "Retire" was actually a better description of what they did than "move".

But if they really wanted to avoid confusion they should have said:

"and retiremove to a homestead in the woods at age thirty-two"

Given the context of the FIRE community, Telecaster's example is exactly how I interpreted it.

That's fair. Personally, I still like the way it's written but given the context of the community, they should have known how contentious the use of that word would be.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #654 on: October 31, 2019, 02:32:41 PM »
This is why I don't get fussy about the retirement police. Words stop having meaning if we're not all working from a reasonable and agreed upon set of definitions.

If you stretch the definition of normal/average and if you accept "not an investment banker salary" as correct on a technicality, and if you assume the non-profit nature of the work wasn't leaned upon to create an impression of low wages and if you stretch the definition of retirement to include working from home full time and if you assume that their concept of average was warped by the affluence that surrounded them and if you assume that all the misleading publicity was completely out of their control, maybe you can accept the narrative as reasonable in good faith. But that's too many ifs for me.

When my nephew lied about sneaking out of bed to play video games at night, I beat the shit out of him gently reprimanded him for his lie. Even though the consequences of him lying to play more video games are almost nothing, I still want to impress upon him, and the world at large, that dishonesty is bad.

When people grow up though, the clever ones stop telling bold faced lies. They get much more skillful about their deceptions. I'm not going to hold them to a lower standard just because they got more clever though. Especially when the implications are much bigger than playing Mario Kart at 11:45.

I think the FW are good people. And I think they probably know that this is "wrong" on some level. And that results in them awkwardly talking out of both sides of their mouth. In the end, it's not great tragedy. I just get concerned when people start making excuses for dishonesty from the rich and powerful.

Bloop Bloop

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #655 on: October 31, 2019, 03:05:06 PM »
I agree that what they were doing was tacitly dishonest but I wouldn't characterise them as rich and powerful. Rich, yes.

Davnasty

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #656 on: October 31, 2019, 03:09:31 PM »
If you stretch the definition of normal/average and if you accept "not an investment banker salary" as correct on a technicality, and if you assume the non-profit nature of the work wasn't leaned upon to create an impression of low wages and if you stretch the definition of retirement to include working from home full time and if you assume that their concept of average was warped by the affluence that surrounded them and if you assume that all the misleading publicity was completely out of their control, maybe you can accept the narrative as reasonable in good faith. But that's too many ifs for me.

Just in case it's been unclear throughout the thread my intention has never been to suggest that they were being honest and maybe they meant this, not that*. I agree that in all of your examples above, they were dishonest to varying degrees.

My defense is that if they had been honest, they would have lost readers for the wrong reasons. People would turn away if they knew their salary even though the advice was good. I'm very pro-frugality advice and I want it to reach more people. Ideally they could have just never mentioned salaries but readers are bound to be curious.

*My defense of the usage of the word retire over the last page or so has been more or less unrelated to my overall feelings about the Frugalwoods. Maybe it's just because I feel fancy when I say "I think I'll retire to the bedroom".

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #657 on: October 31, 2019, 03:14:10 PM »
I agree that what they were doing was tacitly dishonest but I wouldn't characterise them as rich and powerful. Rich, yes.

She has an audience of tens of thousands. He is a key figure at an org (ActBlue) that raised $1.6 billion dollars for 2018 mid term candidates. If the next president is a Democrat, it's very likely that they had a relationship with the ActBlue platform.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #658 on: October 31, 2019, 03:18:04 PM »
Just in case it's been unclear throughout the thread my intention has never been to suggest that they were being honest and maybe they meant this, not that*. I agree that in all of your examples above, they were dishonest to varying degrees.

My defense is that if they had been honest, they would have lost readers for the wrong reasons. People would turn away if they knew their salary even though the advice was good. I'm very pro-frugality advice and I want it to reach more people. Ideally they could have just never mentioned salaries but readers are bound to be curious.

*My defense of the usage of the word retire over the last page or so has been more or less unrelated to my overall feelings about the Frugalwoods. Maybe it's just because I feel fancy when I say "I think I'll retire to the bedroom".

That's a good point. Take the better with the bitter. If you have to do a little dishonesty in order to get people to adopt frugality, maybe that's worth it.

The flip side though, is that the message is being received by a bunch of people who are normal, with average, non IB salaries. And then these normal people beat themselves up for not accomplishing the aspirational lifestyle.

Malcat

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #659 on: October 31, 2019, 03:36:45 PM »
I guess I'm missing something here.  The author is a good writer, and has some interesting insights.  So she decided to try to cash in on the FIRE fad.  Good for her.  So her husband and she are doing very well economically AND are raising babies. That's great!  Last I checked, being FI didn't require taking a vow of poverty, chastity, or obedience.

Pretty sure no one is asking for this. And you can probably find at least a dozen examples of myself and other critics saying how we're happy for these people all throughout this thread.

It's not wrong to make a lot of money, become a rich person, and live a cool rich person lifestyle. That's awesome. It is wrong, in my estimation, to credit your cool, rich person lifestyle to anything other than being a rich person who makes a lot of money. And it gets iffier when you're profiting off of that.

Heck I think I originally defended them back in the annals of this thread.  Then I read more and knew I had been fooled. 


1. They aren't FIRE or even retired at all

2. Their spending isn't Frugal

3. Their "homestead" isn't any more of a homestead than my $620k house in the rural DC exurbs

4. I'm not certain but I bet they even have more than one toilet and possibly a garage type structure to house motor vehicles.
 


Suffice to say my command of the english language isn't as good tho :)

Bahahahahahaha!!!

Now that's some funny shit.


pbkmaine

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #660 on: October 31, 2019, 06:22:03 PM »
I think the Frugalwoods make thoughtful decisions about money, and they are good at explaining how and why they make them. They arenít the same decisions Iíd make, but I have learned plenty from their process.

Telecaster

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #661 on: October 31, 2019, 09:26:21 PM »
I think the Frugalwoods make thoughtful decisions about money, and they are good at explaining how and why they make them. They arenít the same decisions Iíd make, but I have learned plenty from their process.

^ The above is what I believe the take away message is.

AdamBe

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #662 on: October 31, 2019, 10:49:35 PM »
I have no problem with FW success and their frugal message.  I think it's great that they reached FI at such a young age and are living the life that they want.  They have also helped a lot of their readers with this message.

A frugal lifestyle (i.e. optimizing/lowering your expenses) will definitely allow you to reach FI(RE) at much earlier age than the general population.  That is a great message to share.  But also, having a larger salary will accelerate it even more.  Here are some relative examples:

Average Joe consumer = Is not frugal + has average salary = Retires at the standard age of 65
Frugal Fred = Lives a frugal lifestyle + has average salary = FI(RE) at age 55
AdamBe (i.e. me) = Lives a frugal lifestyle + has above average salary = FI(RE) at age 50
FW = Lives a frugal lifestyle + has very large salary = FI(RE) at age 32

In other words, a) being frugal + b) your salary are both mathematical factors in the equation that will determine at what age you can expect to achieve FI(RE).

My issue is that when they are sending out their messaging (via their blog and book and media interviews), that they manage their audiences expectation as to what age they can realistically reach FI(RE).  They seemed to have skimmed over the salary part of the equation.

Being ok with media headlines such as, "How I Retired at Age 32", with the inference being that it was mostly through "frugal living" doesn't help spread the FI(RE) movement message as being realistic to the general population.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #663 on: October 31, 2019, 11:15:50 PM »
I thought that the Frugalwoods did a great service to the FIRE community when they admitted to the privileged situation they enjoyed - https://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/02/16/the-privilege-of-pursuing-financial-independence

I haven't really followed their journey lately - I hope they are doing what they enjoy but I no longer have much interest in their interests nor do I enjoy her writing style.

I'd be pretty disappointed if they were self-aware about their privileged situation and continued to sell their story as 'income independent', just like I'm a little disappointed that MMM still has 'Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage' up on his site.  And don't forget Part 2!

lemonlyman

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #664 on: November 01, 2019, 08:09:13 AM »
Articles:
https://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/02/16/the-privilege-of-pursuing-financial-independence/
https://www.frugalwoods.com/2016/04/22/the-finances-of-our-city-rental-and-country-homestead/
https://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/01/09/well-hot-damn-frugality-works-our-2014-savings-rate-revealed/

Savings rate: 71% (doesn't include mortgage or 401ks)
2014 Spending after Mortgage: $13000
Assumed disposable income: $44,828

Mortgage cost in 2014: $20,124
401k contribution: $35k

I've read earlier in the thread that just the ActBlue earnings in 2014 was $225k from public filings not counting her earnings. It's hard to understand a savings rate of 71% even if the mortgage is included.

mathlete

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #665 on: November 01, 2019, 09:05:41 AM »
I'm a little disappointed that MMM still has 'Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage' up on his site.  And don't forget Part 2!

Can you expand on this? I remember not caring much for it, because I felt it caricatured anyone critical of the message.

But I'm interested to hear what you think.

englishteacheralex

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #666 on: November 01, 2019, 09:32:02 AM »
This might be a bit off topic, but I just read up to chapter 3 of Quit Like a Millionaire, which is "Firecracker's" book from Millennial Revolution, and I'm really, really liking it so far. It's got a similar memoir flavor, but Kristy Shen's story is fascinating.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: What's up with the Frugalwoods?
« Reply #667 on: November 01, 2019, 11:14:58 AM »
I'm a little disappointed that MMM still has 'Is Mr. Money Mustache Ruining Your Marriage' up on his site.  And don't forget Part 2!

Can you expand on this? I remember not caring much for it, because I felt it caricatured anyone critical of the message.

But I'm interested to hear what you think.

I personally think Pete should either update the post, add a disclaimer at the bottom (since he talks about his wife and solid marriage), or simply take it down if it is misleading.  I'm not sure if people stumble on to that series when they are searching for how FIRE might influence marriage dynamics, but it seems relevant to disclose that he is now divorced and/or that the divorce had nothing/something to do with the FIRE lifestyle.

I think that the posts are well-intentioned, but they do seem to blow off the fact that being on different pages on finances can end a marriage if you aren't careful and flexible.  This little quote always got me a bit riled up -
Quote
As you can see, quite a battle has formed between the three of us, and it scares me a little, since itís a battle in a much younger couple with a much newer marriage than my own. Are these folks doomed?

They may be. Some people just develop drastically different perspectives, which may not be compatible.

Maybe that is his view on marriage though, that it is disposable if need be, or that FIRE is more important?  He is handing out advice, so it would be good to understand where he is coming from.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2019, 11:19:18 AM by EscapeVelocity2020 »