I’m probably talking sh*t about you


There is an XKCD for all occasions

I ended up in a personal finance conversation with a colleague earlier this year where he said, “Retire early? Why would I want to do that? What would I do with my time?” I walked away completely shocked: my colleague is 21 years old. If a 21-year-old can’t think of a million and one things to do with his time no wonder some people are scared of being bored in retirement.

Naturally, when I went home I recounted the tale to Mr. Tucker who also had a PFFFT reaction.

*clutches pearls* “Can you EVEN imagine?!”

* * *

We have tons of conversations with many different people every day. We speak with colleagues, friends, our partners, people on the internet. We are constantly interacting and constantly judging – even when we think we aren’t. We do this because we are wired to learn and part of that learning process is weighing other people’s thoughts and ideas and deciding whether to incorporate them into our own beliefs.

A friend may voice an opinion that I disagree with and I may retell that to anther friend, “I can’t believe that Bob thinks X, Y, Z when really it’s A, B, C; how can he not see that?” That friend may either agree with me, or they may agree with Bob, or they may counter with another perspective – or perhaps a mix of all three. As the conversation continues we may both either reject or incorporate this new information but either way we are exposing ourselves to new ideas.

Gossip and conversation are often looked at negatively. There is a great quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that goes, “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. We are constantly gossiping because that is how we’ve historically transmitted news and I would argue that most of the interesting tidbits from history are almost all gossip.

Not all gossip is bad, either. Telling someone a mutual friend had a baby is discussing people but it’s also relaying important social information. A friend may mention to me that another friend is going through a hard time and could really use support. By knowing that, I can reach out and offer help without even having to discuss why I am doing it. A friend may have had a bad experience with someone and needs an objective third party to help them sort out their feelings on the issue and decide a course of action. Every day we are commenting on the things we experience.

In the world of personal finance advice this is even more apparent. To be fair, a lot of personal finance bloggers also have tenets they feel are inviolable: THOU SHALT SAVE 10% OF ONE’S INCOME. THOU SHALT BROWN BAG IT. Advice that works most of the time but that isn’t for everyone and opens them up to a lot of harsh criticism. To the extreme, we have the trolls in comments sections jealously judging and whipping out cruel commentary to everything without even considering it. On the other end, we have reasoned arguments and discussions all across social media. Whenever you put yourself out there with ideas that counter the norm you are going to get the naysayers. Heck, just being on the internet and having an opinion opens you up to a whole slew of comments – both positive and negative.

It may sound weird but am grateful for this gossip. I know people are talking shit about me and I am fine with that. It means that they’re paying attention to what I say, do, and write. The world would be an incredibly boring place if we all had the same opinions and all did the same things. I am grateful for a world in which people’s different experiences can be relayed to me and I get to learn new things or solidify how I feel on certain issues. By keeping an open mind we all get to learn new things and better ourselves (or worsen, depending on your opinion).

As for my colleague, maybe he went home that night to his girlfriend and said, “you won’t believe what this middle-aged crazy colleague of mine said today!” However, maybe his girlfriend may think it’s not crazy at all, or maybe he’ll sleep on it and think, “Huh, maybe I could do that?”

4 Comments on “I’m probably talking sh*t about you

  1. I love your attitude! I know I get judged on at least three counts. One, I was a high earner so financial independence was too easy for me. Two, I also received a large, nearly seven figure, inheritance so, being financially independent is undeserved and unearned in my case. And three I only retired a few years earlier than full retirement age so I don’t belong in a community full of dedicated early retirement devotees. It doesn’t matter that my wife and I did it on one income, or that we’ve given (adjusted for time value) millions to charity or that we had an aggressive savings rate or that we live frugally (only paid $7,000 for my latest “new” 2008 car I bought last month). There is room for all of us here and we can stretch each others thinking in a good way.

    • There is room for everyone in the FIRE community, IMO. I mean, just think: there is probably someone out there who has had similar experiences to yours but who has pissed away all the money and living pay check-to-paycheck. I bet they could have used your example! There is so much variety in the human experience that I feel I have something to learn from EVERYONE. Congrats on early retirement, btw! I think anyone who manages it before traditional retirement age should be commended, that’s awesome!