In Defense of The ER/ERE Crowd

I came across this particular post earlier this month. I have to say, I got pretty annoyed reading it, so let me mount a defense on behalf of the early retirement crowd (Not that they need me to, though).

“They compromise on everything, continuously, to fund a lifestyle of compromising on everything, continuously.”

See, the assumption that the early retirees are sacrificing and compromising living in pursuit of early financial independence and retirement is tiresome. Good to know that the blog author values healthy eating and is in a position to do it. But how does that translate to the ER crowd not eating healthy because they don’t pay a premium on it? Good to know that the blog author can afford to go to museums, eat regional specialties, visit historic sites, or see local shows, but how does that translate to the ER crowd not living a life worth living because they don’t do, or might not care to do the same things?

This argument presumes that early retirees don’t know what makes them happy, or that we don’t know what makes our life feels rich and worth living, or that we are living in an unhealthy way just because we are not paying for what mainstream society deems we should. That is so condescending. Why doesn’t anyone realise that most of those who participate actively in the pursuit of early retirement do so by their own choice, willingly? And that if we choose to do so, it would presumably be because the lifestyle makes us happier than our current one does.

The argument also seems to presume that there is only one way of living – the YOLO way. Yet, not everyone views ballet concerns, travel and coffee the same way. Me – I could live perfectly fine without all those without feeling like I’m sacrificing living. I don’t understand the “Because I can’t live this way, so it must mean that you are miserable or lying” argument. Why does the YOLO group get to define living for all the rest of us?

“For me, the point of frugal living is to give us financial security and to enable us to do more of the things we love.”

And that is also the same attitude that the ER/ERE crowd has. The YOLO group and the ER crowd are actually on the same side. We are all about conscious living, about spending life energy on what matters to us most and discarding the stuff that doesn’t. It just so happens that what is important to each of us is different, so we hold on to and discard different things. Why the conflict then?

“To say, “Oh, I’ll never really want to do anything that costs hardly anything” is an awfully big gamble to take.  And the saddest part is, if you realize you’re wrong too late, you won’t be able to make a change.  The skills you once had that gave you a decent-paying job are so out of date as to be worthless, you’ve been out of the job market for several decades, and now all you’re qualified for is a low-paying job that offers none of the flexibility, interest, and satisfaction that you could have found on your previous career path.”

This argument assumes that one needs a work-place and a job to continue the building and mastery of skills, which seems like a faulty premise to me. It also assumes that one needs a formal job to earn a living; rather interesting given that the rest of blogosphere is touting entrepreneurship and self-employment like it is the solution to all woes. I personally find the over-emphasis on entrepreneurship in the PF blogosphere troubling, but even I can allow that one can earn a good living via other means other than a salaried position if one is creative enough, and the ERE crowd is nothing if not creative.

“At the end of my life, I don’t want my primary material accomplishments to be the work that I avoided but the things that I did and made  – my work, my family, my friends, and my recreation.  I’ve written books and seen them in bookstores, traveled to other countries, hiked mountains, raised kids, learned SCUBA and languages, tried out acting and canoeing, danced competitively, designed gardens, grown food, built bookcases, renovated bathrooms and kitchens, gotten married, started successful companies, taught myself graphic design, learned web development.”

What is the author implying here other than the humblebrag? That ER/ERE-ers just loll in their pile of gold after achieving ER/ERE and congratulate themselves on avoiding work? That is the grossest assumption I’ve ever read. The author seems to have fixated herself on the financial aspects of ER/ERE and assume that just because she did so, that must be all ER/ERE is about. Most ER/ERE’ers end up pursuing this lifestyle so that their WORK is not their primary material accomplishment in their lives, but the things that they did and made in the remaining 40-50 years that is their ER/ERE lives. The only difference is that the author is doing those activities as she makes her living, and the ER/ERE’ers decide to complete making their living before pursuing those activities. Who is she to say she is right and they are wrong?

I am normally very open to alternative arguments, but I find the whole blog-post full of empty assumptions. My take-away from the whole blog post is that the early retirement crowd value different things from the author, so she is calling them out. But who made her the internet police of LIVING LIFE?

I’ll also say this. The ER/ERE’ers are actually a pretty much a live and let live group. They don’t really care if you live your life according to other philosophies as long as you let them live theirs their way, or if you don’t go to them with “I want to retire but I cannot because…” or “I can’t live this way so you must be miserable/lying” complaints. And even in that particular case, most of the responses I’ve seen from the ER/ERE group seem mainly to fall in the “You can do it this way.” Not – “You have to”, or “You should”.

They are also a pretty closed group, in the sense that I have never found any ER/ERE-er to push the ER/ERE lifestyle outside of their respective blogs and forums. They openly offer their opinions and solutions if you seek them out on their homegrounds, but they don’t go proselytizing elsewhere.  The few times I have seen ER/ERE’ers actually comment on other blogs about their chosen lifestyle is when they come under attack from others. If the ER lifestyle seems to be pushed in the faces of people these days, blame it on mainstream media picking it up as the “lifestyle of the moment” due to the current economic situation that world is in. The ER/ERE crowd is certainly not responsible for that.

So I guess I’m not really understanding where all this bashing of the ER/ERE crowd is coming from.

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One comment on “In Defense of The ER/ERE Crowd

  1. […] also write about my journey to an early retirement, a lifestyle which is already fraught with many negative connotations to many people. I don’t really want my personal struggle to muddle the positive message that […]

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