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Everything posted by EdLaFave

  1. In my opinion, as long as you’ve taken the time to really listen then you can absolutely say you understand (despite not living it yourself). I really relate to your brother’s story because it was my wife who first suggested I might be autistic after she worked with several autistic kids at school. It was one of the best days of my life because it explained so much of my life and I was surprised by how nice it felt to not be alone (I’ve always felt like an alien born into human society). How did your brother respond to hearing this so late in life? I ask because people have asked me how they should “break the news” or if I was angry when my wife suggested this possibility. I was/am puzzled by the underlying premise because it fails to understand just how much my wife unburdened me and how I immediately found her suspicion to be both fascinating and entirely logical.
  2. With respect to your brother, I’ve got so much empathy for mental health issues. Any other part of your body is just a tool, but your mind is who you are. It seems we understand so very little about the brain. It just feels like we’re living in the dark ages and some day people will look back on our (lack of) treatments the way we look back at Europeans bleeding themselves to release bad humors (not to say we don’t have any effective mental health treatments because we do).
  3. My particular degree of autism is a gift because I function at an extremely high level. No suffering at all. If I’m honest, I think “normal” people are at a net-deficit and I’ve studied you guys my whole life because I think you’re the weird ones 😀 Loud noises and some textures bother me, but not to the degree that I can’t manage without most people noticing. Sometimes my unfiltered honesty/bluntness, tendency to ignore “useless” social conventions, and my less than perfect ability to read nonverbal communication has combined to cause ocassional and minor issues. Other than that everything else has been either benign or helpful. Most people think I have a quirk or two and will often assume I’m kidding if I tell them I’m on the spectrum. ...quick side note, I almost wanted to cry when I watched Netflix’s show Atypical. I related to the main character so much and to see that on screen was wonderful. Multiple times per episode my wife looks at me and basically says, “that’s you!” Your brother’s story is crazy sad. I’m sorry to read that.
  4. Not exactly. I don’t want anybody to use my experience to promote a pernicious falsehood. I argue that our economy guarantees a large portion of society will never make enough money to FIRE. Not only that, it forces tens of millions of people into a level poverty so severe that they can’t afford basic human necessities. Imagine every low wage worker going to school and entering the high wage fields. I contend that we’d all lose our bargaining power because the economy rewards workers based on how rare their skill set is instead of the profit workers’ labor generates...which the company insists they fully own. I believe our economy is structured in a way that guarantees lots of people won’t earn enough to FIRE no matter what we collectively do, which is why I say this is a math problem. So if the economic structure guarantees a collective failure, what about the individual? I argue THE reason certain skill sets are scarce is because a lot of people simply aren’t capable and/or are structurally denied access to these positions. Although, every individual isn’t denied access, lots are and to claim that they can FIRE requires you to both ignore math and be blind to the barriers in place. This is to say nothing of the systematic crushing of organized labor and the slide into corporate monopolies, which if taken to its logical conclusion can force even workers with scarce skill sets into lower wages. As far as me, I don’t want anybody to think my end result is based on dedication, perseverance, hard work, or any of that. I’ve worked every type of job along the way and the amount of grit and hard work required of me and my coworkers was always INVERSELY related to our compensation. My end result is because somebody told me what degree to get and I blindly followed that advice into a high wage job that few are capable of doing. I have autism, I’m highly functioning, my IQ is high, and several autistic traits are ideal for software engineering (being extremely literal, enjoying clearly defined rules, being very detailed oriented, etc). So the biggest factor in my success was pure luck. Yes I worked hard, but I’ve known too many low wage workers who work way harder and go through much worse (and do it with a better attitude) to believe I somehow earned it more than they have...or to think my current self is somehow more worthy than my lower paid younger self. I’m just lucky enough to have a high aptitude for a scarce skill set that somebody else pushed me to utilize in an economically profitable way...plus I’ve never been discriminated against in any way.
  5. I’d prefer that my experiences offer only slightly more hope than the story of a lottery winner. Have you seen these stories of GoFund me pages that pay for life/death medical treatments? They’re actually calls to action and not heartwarming tales of hope because multitudes of people never get the happy ending. Nobody should point to me and think, “he is evidence that anybody can FIRE.”
  6. I love FIRE. Materialism brings me great discomfort and American work culture repulses me. I remember asking friends in college to sneak food out of the meal plan because I couldn’t afford to eat and despite always being skinny I lost 20ish pounds during the back half of my freshman year. I remember considering becoming homeless during college...could I clean up at the school gym, could I loiter on campus in the AC with bathrooms, could I keep my clothes and toothbrush in my car, was this viable? I remember watching my dad, who worked two jobs, cry when he filed for bankruptcy. I remember crying tears of pure frustration and rage when I couldn’t afford to have a cavity filled. I remember the irritation I felt when I learned that hard work isn’t financially rewarded and is often exploíted instead. My mom worked a job that brought her misery until she died in her 50s with virtually nothing to show for it. None of this “made me stronger,” it left scars and I’m always going to reject lies like “everybody can FIRE” because it’s out of step with reality and it’s damaging to people who are truly trapped in struggle. Have I said how much I love FIRE and how lucky I am to never have to experience any of that again? I wish everybody could be so lucky; they can’t.
  7. I am those young people. You're still not listening.
  8. Whatever you think I’ve said, I haven’t said.
  9. Math isn’t positive or negative. I’m just reporting the numbers, which you perceive negatively because you wish the numbers painted a different picture. The numerical analysis is what it is. How you feel about it is up to you, but I’m just reporting the result.
  10. You’re being intentionally dense by equating me saying most people don’t earn/have enough to FIRE with Suzi who says you need 10 million to even consider FIRE. I haven’t called FIREing delusional. I’m literally doing it myself. I’ve called your claim that anybody can FIRE delusional. Math is never besides the point. You’re not listening.
  11. Suzi is shockingly incorrect. This absolutely is a math problem. I haven’t said FIRE shouldn’t be done. I’m literally working on FIRE for myself. I said the majority of people don’t have/earn enough to safely retire early. That is an inescapable mathematical reality. Positivity that isn’t grounded in reality is dangerous, just as any delusion is.
  12. This is untrue as proven by mathematical analysis. At best statements like this provide false hope, at worst they lead people into an early retirement that their portfolio can’t sustain. A small percentage of this nation earns/has enough to retire early in the way most would define the term and certainly the way some FIRE folks present it (i.e. retiring at 50 doesn’t count, having to work after you “retire” doesn’t count, etc). I know most can’t do it no matter how frugal they are because I’m part of that lucky group who can, I’ve seen the income distribution in this nation, and I’ve done the math.
  13. In my view it matters because... The wealthy have a long history of creating and perpetuating the (false) narrative that a person’s character determines their level of success. This means that the wealthy/powerful aren’t inclined to address structural issues in our economy because anybody struggling “deserves” to struggle. It also means they segregate themselves from these “inferior” people, which is bad for everybody. Interestingly this narrative is often internalized by those struggling, leading to a sense of inferiority and shame, which also prevents them from pushing to address the structural issues. So if FIRE folks are incorrectly claiming that anybody can FIRE if they just stop their indulgent behavior, then they’re contributing to that culture.
  14. I love the fire movement, but people safely retiring in their thirties (and many in their forties) were either born rich or are making obscene amounts of money. The math behind that is inescapable.
  15. I don’t follow the individual people who FIRE or how they tell their stories. However, anybody who starts their analysis with the math should clearly understand that you need to earn massive sums of money and/or receive an inheritance. There is absolutely no way around that. I hit the FI part but haven’t chosen to RE yet. I grew up in a family/community where college wasn’t optional and my dad told me to get a Computer Science degree so that’s what I did without even knowing what it was or how much income it generated. When I was in school I vaguely heard how India was going to decimate my field with cheap labor, that ultimately didn’t happen but it could have I suppose. In my career I’ve had a couple connections that led to faster/larger raises. I also graduated at just the right time to prevent me from buying a house at the peak, instead I bought at the trough. So I got lucky and I’m now able to save roughly 100k/year plus whatever my spouse saves. My perception of my spending was in the right ball park, but when I began tracking my spending I realized that I’m not exactly the minimalist I thought I was and I realized that even fewer people were FIRE candidates than I originally thought. I think it is easy to live in your own bubble without a lot of reflection and mathematical analysis, so your assessment definitely rings true to me.
  16. I don’t know. I’m not sure that when a downturn happens is particularly relevant because aren’t we going to experience multiple downturns before retirement? The article suggests starting off with a bear market followed by a bull market is superior to the reverse, but that analysis stops calculating right before the next impending bear. I suppose if you wanted to maximize your results you’d have a bear market during your highest earning years? I suppose that may or may not require that you start with a bear market? If you’re cheering for a pullback because you think returns have been based on speculation, I guess that’s one thing. However, aren’t some pullbacks caused by a poorly structured economy that causes real economic damage to parts of the economy that were well structured (2008 crash for instance)? That doesn’t just return us to sane levels, it actively hurts us. Nobody should be cheering for that because it depresses profits, not just speculative returns, right?
  17. The plague is a really interesting example. I wonder how the European economy was structured then. If the goods/services the laborers produced were consumed by those same laborers, then I wouldn’t expect a change in wages because although you lost a third of laborers, you also lost a third of consumers. Suppose the laborers weren’t also the consumers, then maybe consumption wouldn’t fall in proportion to the deaths of laborers. In this scenario I can imagine laborers benefiting because the labor supply shrunk faster than the labor demand. I’m really interested. Where are the economic/history teachers who can lay this out for an ignorant person like myself?
  18. You’re suggesting that population growth has had a negative impact on wages. It isn’t clear why you’re drawing that conclusion. Your last comment seems to suggest you’re saying that not enough jobs were created to accommodate the new population? The fact that we have historically low levels of unemployment suggest that job creation isn’t the problem. That conforms to my view that when people are added to our population, they create jobs because they buy things. Or maybe you’re saying not enough “good” jobs were created? I’d argue there is no such thing as an inherently good job. The issue is that companies have found ways to pay less for “good” jobs, which converted them to “bad” jobs. ...if companies paid employees based on the profit their labor generated rather than the degree to which they can be exploíted, then I think the problem would largely be solved. Getting them to do that is where the real work begins. Every company wants poor employees and rich customers, hard to have both.
  19. I don’t believe that wage stagnation over the past several decades is a result of increasing population. I believe wage stagnation is the result of exploíting dirt cheap labor abroad, permitting monopolies and mega-mergers, automation, and political and judicial decisions that have decimated unions.
  20. Capitalism pays labor as little as possible and that is largely determined by how scarce your skill set is and how organized workers are relative to companies. Here’s a personal anecdote: In a previous well paying job, I told my boss that the company would love to pay me minimum wage, but the scarcity of my skill set made that impossible. I said the company determined my salary by estimating how little they could pay me before I stopped showing up. He adamantly disagreed and claimed they “wanted” to pay me exactly what I was “worth”. Some time later I asked that same boss for a raise based on the fact that other local/equivalent companies were paying more for my skill set and therefore the market had decided I was “worth” more. He denied the raise and insisted I was incorrect in believing I could make more (I had written job offers before having this discussion). I believe companies bet on you being willing to accept lower income because switching jobs is uncomfortable. In my case, that’s a bad bet. This series of exchanges stood out to me because my boss was so desperate to maintain the charade that he continued to make claims that he knew I knew were false. He pressed on against all logic and evidence. Power dynamics and lying have always fascinated me.
  21. Pure free market advocates tell us that when unemployment plummets wages are forced upward due to competition for labor. I’m told it is supply and demand 101, elementary really. Well, we’ve got unbelievably low unemployment and apparently this industry can still capitalize on the financial trouble seniors are in. I struggle to imagine that seniors in the future won’t be in the very same spot. I’m not in the predictions game, but I worry that a consumer based economy is going to have a real problem when so many people lack the money to participate. Over the coming decades I wonder what will come of that.
  22. Aspire is the 4th best plan I've documented, you can read about it here. They allow you to build a fully diversified 3 fund portfolio for a 0.208% annual fee or a fully diversified 1 fund portfolio for a 0.26%-0.3% annual fee. Plus a $40/year fee. I'd prioritize maxing out an IRA. I'd push hard to add Vangaurd (documented here) and Fidelity (documented here) to your 403b/457b list. I didn't bother to look into the state 457b, but from the sounds of it that would be the next be choice. After that I'd opt for Aspire. However, it is worth pointing out that all of these options are superior to investing through a taxable account.
  23. asdf Renting out rooms in your house is a fantastic financial decision. However, with that partial income I remain skeptical that it can be considered an investment when the S&P 500 is historically delivering 7% real returns. A few considerations about renting rooms in your primary residence: It is a decision very few will make. I've found that living alone is literally the first "luxury" my college friends/acquaintances purchased and they purchased it with glee. They seemed to view it as a measure of their success and/or "adulthood". I believe many of them feel bringing in roommates would represent a failure akin to having to move back in with their parents. Living with roommates is also possible when renting. Having roommates creates a steady of work for you because it almost guarantees high turnover and therefore a constant search for roommates. It introduces risk. I don't fully understand the law, but I'm under the impression it takes a while to remove somebody from a property once they've stopped paying for it. There is also the risk of a spoiled relationship and all that it entails. It is a decision that complicates your taxes. I couldn't support that decision more strongly. I have used real estate agents up until this point, but if I'm involved in any further transactions then I will take this advice. I suspect some folks aren't really aware that this is an option. I suspect some folks feel incapable and I suspect some may very well be. I couldn't agree more strongly and coincidentally I believe they have the same minimum required time frame. If you don't intend to own stocks for a decade(s) then don't buy them. If you don't intend to own a home for a decade(s) then don't buy one. I suspect after 10 years of home ownership most people will at least break even relative to renting. I'm not suggesting that ignorance/misunderstanding make home ownership a mistake. I'm not suggesting that owning a home is a mistake. I'm saying that an unacceptably large percentage of people don't understand: How much they'll pay to buy and then sell the home. How much they'll pay in interest. The fact that they'll pay most of the interest in the earlier years of the loan, which means their principal won't change much. How much they'll pay in taxes or that it'll increase over time. How much they'll pay in insurance or that it'll increase over time. How much they'll pay to maintain the home. I'm saying that perhaps because of that ignorance, lots of people buy and sell homes within 5 years and have no idea that they just spent more during that time window than they would have if they remained renters. In fact, most of these people likely believe they actually made money because the sale price was greater than the purchase price. If anybody wants to buy a home and live in for a decade(s) then I say go for it, you'll probably save money relative to renting. However, understand you may still end up at a net loss. Home ownership isn't a cash machine and simply reducing your expenses relative to the alternative is a win. My understanding of the data may be incorrect. I've read somewhere, maybe multiple places, that a good chunk of people sell their home before a decade has passed. Anecdotally I've observed that behavior as well. Remember, I'm 34 so a lot of the folks buying homes that I know are young. They get into a home either realize it isn't right for them or their life changes. I suspect if we're talking about folks in their 40s and 50s you see more long term thinking/behavior. I believe the best financial decision is to buy the cheapest/smallest house in an area that you'll want to live for the rest of your life. Then stay there. I'd advise renting for people who aren't ready to make a decade(s) commitment.
  24. I could easily get side tracked arguing that there are free ways to improve/change yourself, that there are free ways to de-stress, and that promotions often beget vacations rather than the other way around. But my point is that owning a house for less than a decade is often an inferior financial decision relative to renting. Even when you own a home long enough to beat the alternative of renting, you're most likely still going to have a net loss, just not as big of a loss as renting would produce. The collective wisdom that buying a home is an "investment" and is obviously superior because you gain equity and you avoid wasting money on rent...well it is a superficial analysis that ignores math and ignores the reality that a huge percentage of people don't live in their house long enough to offset the large cost of front loaded interest and the costs associated with the purchase and subsequent sale of a home. ...my secondary point is simply that if somebody understands the finances and wants to buy a house for whatever quality of life reasons they may have, fine. However, I bet most people completely misunderstand the financial aspect; I certainly did when I bought my first house.
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