Frequently Raised Objections

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Many objections to ERE stem from looking at the world from a consumerist or careerist angle, and can be reduced to objections of the following archetype: "Isn't there a problem doing--or not doing--X because it's not in accordance with consumerist or careerist values? How is ERE even possible when society has been organized to support consumerism and careerism?" These objections are refuted below. There are only two seemingly irrefutable objections which can be problematic.

Irrefutable objections

  • Objection: When doing ERE, there will be a lot of objections from other people that I'll have to listen to.

Answer: These objections generally come from two kinds of people. First, there are those who within a few minutes try to fit ERE into a familiar box. Too long; didn't read, have opinion anyway. Such people are likely not worth engaging directly unless you like such discussions. Keep in mind that fully comprehending and internalizing a lifestyle that is so different from the consumerism and careerism that most people know usually takes anywhere from 6-24 months of deep thinking. After this period, it will almost be as hard for the ERE person to relate to the paycheck-driven consumer as the other way around. This leads to the second group of people: family and friends. The key here is to show, not tell. This is a process that can take years, but because ERE is rationally a better way of life, this will sooner or later become evident.

One option to consider is not talking about it with those that won't understand. The outward appearance of the lifestyle is quite similar to a normal middle-class lifestyle; in reality, nobody really keeps tabs on what size house you live in, what kind of car you drive, what you wore yesterday, etc. Conversely, do consider talking about it with those you suspect are like-minded. In the ERE forum's experience, those who choose this path have usually found at least one other person at their work, in their circle of friends, etc. who also save a sizable part of their money.

  • Objection: Since few people are ERE there will be few people to look to for inspiration to solve my problems.

Answer: See the ERE Journals.

Objections from a consumerist or careerist narrative

  • Objection: What if everybody did it, wouldn't society collapse?

Answer: One could make the same argument about any chosen path. What if everybody was a doctor? What if everybody wanted 10 kids? No kids? Even if everyone followed the tenents of ERE, society would maintain the diversity it has now. Diversity might increase if people were free to pursue their goals without the inhibition of financial obligations, which would strengthen society. Also read What if everybody decided to work much less.

  • Objection: Everybody has a duty to work.

Answer: Read A duty to work.

  • Objection: Doing everything yourself takes a lot/too much time.

Answer: Shopping and calling service professionals takes a lot/too much time too. Observationally speaking, time-wise ERE is a wash. It takes equally long time to do something yourself as it does to arrange a purchase of the solution. What does take more time is acquiring the skills to do things yourself. About 300 hours are required to become competent (markedly better than a layman) at a given skill. Considering that the average person wastes 3-5 hours per day watching TV, it is possible to acquire 3-5 skills per year instead of watching TV. Over just a decade, this adds up since skills are not forgotten once learned.

  • Objection: This way of living is too austere.

Answer: You're failing to see that $100 in cash buys vastly different amounts of things, experiences, and services depending on how well it is spent. Also read On living well.

  • Objection: Living on a low amount of money, e.g. $7000/year, is not comfortable.

Answer: Looking at it using Maslow's hierarchy of needs starting with shelter/utilities and safety, graduating to friendship, moving on to esteem, and ending with self-actualization, ERE can be very comfortable as it easily provides all of these. However, if comfort is defined as the ability to purchase consumer goods with little or no regard for the cost, or measuring one's self-esteem through buying/owning such goods, then ERE is not comfortable. The perception of a lack of comfort is thus partially rooted in the consumerist tradition of not thinking about purchases, and living under the assumption that one must buy things in order to solve problems, be entertained, or be comfortable. It may take 6-12 months to change one's frame of mind or world-view regarding consumerism.

  • Objection: It's just plain lazy not to work.

Answer: This is the Calvinist argument. Here it is presumed that work provides some utility beyond one's need to provide for oneself; usually if you can do that without work, even better, but not for the Calvinists (most people in the Western world). Calvinists (and by derivative, our culture) believe that work demonstrates that you belong to the Chosen ones. Ironically, work is considered a trait of the Chosen ones (like having red hair, say), but the Chosen ones are pre-chosen and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Thus work becomes more of a fashion statement; like dressing up your behavior to emulate others. This meme is now so ingrained in western culture that it's become universal and adopted by practically everybody without question.

  • Objection: It's not retirement if you work.

Answer: If retirement is seen exclusively as a lifelong vacation, this objection is true by definition. However, ERE should be seen more as the possibility of retiring from one line of work in order to do something else, but not necessarily needing to. For example, Benjamin Franklin retired from publishing to become a politician. Joseph Conrad retired from being a seaman to being a writer. Historically, it has not been uncommon for successful people to quit their career to start a new one. Out of the many possibilities that open up to someone who no longer needs to work for a living, a lifelong vacation is only one of these possibilities.

  • Objection: Why not just do something you love [with a passion] for a living?

Answer: The problem, as many unfortunately discover, is that doing something for a living can make it less enjoyable than doing it because you want to. It's similar to how enjoying an ice cream cone from time to time is a treat, whereas an entire diet consisting of nothing but ice cream would eventually be nauseating. If you're truly able to enjoy the doing same thing for the next 30-50 years however, go ahead. ERE simply provides you the freedom to do something else should you lose your passion.

  • Objection: What if you don't live long enough to enjoy retirement? Then you'll regret that you didn't enjoy the time you had.

Answer: This is the fallacy of presuming that ERE is somehow a sacrifice. ERE is the quickest path to reclaiming your time to enjoy as you wish. Furthermore, pursuing ERE can be quite enjoyable if you like learning new skills or reclaiming your independence.

  • Objection: If you ever need to go back to work you'll have a hard time since your resume and marketable skills will decay.

Answer: ERE frees a person from working endless hours using only one skill, and allows time to learn many skills. More options exist for a person with several marketable skills instead of 10-20 years of experience with only one skill.

  • Objection: I don't see myself living the same way as a poor person.

Answer: What defines living "rich" or "poor" differs with each culture and generation. No universal definition exists for those terms beyond the concept of poverty that refers to meeting your basic needs. If a person can meet their basic needs, any other external standard is culturally defined. Redefine "rich" in non-consumerist terms.

  • Objection: This only works if you live on government support.

Answer: ERE promotes the idea of an honest, independent society. The aim of ERE is not to replace one's need to work with redistributed income from other people who work. The aim is to replace one's need to work with investment income from putting one's savings to work.

  • Objection: You're obviously a talented person and it's a waste not to use that talent.

Answer: Many talented people waste their talents in jobs that serve no purpose other than making useless products intended to end up in a landfill in return for a paycheck in order to buy useless products made by other people doing the same thing.

  • Objection: By spending so little, you are hurting the economy and stealing jobs.

Answer: Spending money to purchase items you don't need so someone else can have a job producing those unnecessary items is the equivalent of one person digging a hole so the next person can have a job filling in the hole.

  • Objection: Sure, it's easy to save a lot when you make $100k+, but I earn much less than the median US salary.

Answer: So did I.

  • Objection: You have to be really smart at investing to do that. Can "normal" people ERE, or must you be an investing whiz?

Answer: ERE is predicated on a 3-4% return rate. You do not need to be a whiz at investing, but it is recommended to pay some attention since you will be making a living off of your investing after all.

  • Objection: I'm frugal with most things, but there's no way I could ever give up my {cable TV/sports car/horses/country club/etc.}

Answer: For every extra $100 you spend per month--because, as you say, there's no way you could ever give up X--you'll either have to find a substitute (the typical ERE solution) or save $40,000 extra to cover the expense. There's no way around that.

  • Objection: I have kids.

Answer: Kids need food, shelter, and adequate clothing. Those items don't add much to household expenses if ERE principles are followed. Other items that are deemed "necessary" are usually culturally defined needs, not actual needs. Study after study shows that kids benefit most from time with their parents (reading, playing games, exercising) more than anything else. Early retirement provides that time.

  • Objection: Good luck ever finding a mate. Variation: your poor wife!

Answer: Live by example, compromise when necessary, and realize that financial problems cause more than half of all divorces.

  • Objection: That's fine if you're healthy, but I have a health condition which means I'll need an employer-sponsored health plan forever.

Answer: This is almost exclusively a problem for Americans. For serious conditions, there's no real answer to retiring within a decade. Instead of extremely early financial independence/early retirement, it's necessary to settle for early retirement, i.e. 40-50 years old, since a larger amount of savings is required for a more expensive health plan.

  • Objection: I have $200k student debt and digging out of that will take practically forever, so FI is inconceivable.

Answer: It will take longer to reach FI starting with a deficit, but ERE is still the fastest way to dig yourself out. When you calculate your time to retirement, add the additional $200k to the front end. An 80% savings rate=6.25 years until retirement. If you have $50k in net income, only 5 additional years is needed to reach retirement.

Also see the forum thread on ERE objections.