A fun farrago of middle-class folly

The heady aspirations of the middle class wannabees over at the Torygraph often tickle my fancy. Last week with was the numpties who wanted to become BTL landlords and have some impecunious other suckers pay for their three babies, this time let’s hear it from Rik Thomas who earns £55k and wonders if he can pay for private schooling for his one year-old son and get to retire at 50?

Deconstructing this folly quite interesting. Although ambitious  it wouldn’t have been totally unreasonable for his father’s generation. Lots and lots of things are so much better now than they were a generation ago, but unfortunately for Rik it is increasing inequality that is turning this into a farrago. Some of the goods and services that people associate with the middle class are goods priced on perceived value, and while Rik’s salary is twice the average national household income and probably does put him in the middle class, he has been foolish with the purchase of one and his ambition of the another will cost him more of his lifetime salary than it did of his father.

Can Rik pay for private schooling and retire at 50? No. Maybe the Ermine is being a sourpuss here because I didn’t get to retire by 50, but really. Just. No. Not quite the wrong city but definitely the wrong ballpark in the wrong part of town. This fellow is saving £100 a month against school fees of about £8,000 p.a. He wants to pay for private primary school, indeed, so the problem is urgent, I believe children go to primary school at 5 in this country. I didn’t realise that private primary schools exist, but there we go, how the other half lives, eh. Anyway. Oxford degree or not the problem is clear and it’s in the arithmetic – his savings rate is way too low. Okay, maybe his good lady wife (warms the cockles of the cynical Ermine’s heart that there are two people involved in this grand ambition) will return to work when the sprog is parked in the primary school for most of the working day and may be able to make up the deficit, but whatever. Must. Do. Better.  – and sharpish.

By the time he is 35, he hopes to be earning £100,000. With the oil industry’s current woes, he is unsure if he will get a bonus this year.

The old triumph of hope over experience, eh, somehow the ‘unsure you’ll get a bonus this year’ doesn’t necessarily bode well for mahoosive future pay raises but I have to agree with him and that Mark Carney fellow that the current oil price doldrums will probably look different in seven years’ time, so let’s take this at face value. I do note, however, that project management is eminently offshoreable – The Firm has been outing project managers for years. He’s 27, so time is on his side, his son should be off his hands and making his own way in the world by the time dad is 50, though observation shows that this whole moving out and making your own way in the world seems to be an early 30s thing rather than the early twenties thing that it was in days of yore.

Let’s zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture.

Fee paying schools are a Veblen Good

In days of yore, bank managers and doctors , accountants and engineers sent their children to public school, because there was not such a disparity of incomes. Nowadays most of us have more Stuff, better heating and better cars than our forebears had in the 1950s and 60s, but there are some goods that are priced on perceived value rather than the marginal cost of production. I would classify public schools as Veblen goods, along with designer handbags, luxury cars, jewellery etc. You buy these for the message they give to other people. In the limiting case an oligarch doesn’t need a yacht, other than to make himself feel better than other people who don’t have one.

Only 7% of Britons go to public schools[ref]for any confused logical Americans, public schools a.k.a. independent schools in England are the sort your pay money for, as opposed to State schools that are funded from general taxation[/ref]. The promulgators of independent schools dress it all up with ethos and values and cobblers like that. However, the fact that 93% of Britons get dragged up in State schools and the country is still in the top twenty of GDP per capita  shows that this is not a need. It is in the top three of Maslow’s hierarchy


and you do it to be part of the group of Well Off People. There are practical advantages, of course – public schools teach their pupils how to be leaders of men much better than State schools, so as a result the well-off but dim will have a good place in society. But a large part of the spending on public schools is to show that you can. It performs the same role as the iridescent feathers of the peacock’s tail, an inefficiency you carry to show that you have the wealth to spare.

//ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=GB&source=ss&ref=ss_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=simpliviinsuf-21&marketplace=amazon&region=GB&placement=0231053576&asins=0231053576&linkId=ZPXWA2T7BAVYBJOR&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=trueI have personal experience of this. I went to a State grammar school, which chose to become independent in my last year because otherwise it would have been destroyed by the wreckers of the Labour Government in ’76. Let’s hear it from Anthony Crosland.

“If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland”

I must go and piss on his grave sometime. He caused my parents a lot of stress, because they couldn’t afford to pay and hadn’t expected to. As it was the ILEA grandfathered existing pupils and paid the fees in the last year (my sixth form).

Grammar school worked for me. I was the son of a blue collar worker and a SAHM, and I benefited from upwards mobility. At a guess working in industrial research and design was a middle class career. I was eventually able to see the argument that several teachers repeatedly put to me, that by skimming the able the grammar schools impaired the ability of the secondary moderns and early comprehensives to achieve balance, because they were teaching the less able. Aspirations are lowered and people learn to labour. So the grammar schools had to go. Their existence was inequitable to some extent.

Because my parents weren’t rich enough to do independent schooling, in a comprehensive system my end of the boat would have gone down, but overall the common weal would probably have improved. It’s easier to say that now that I have benefited from this and don’t have skin in the game. It took me until my late forties to finally surrender and accept the intellectual premise because I found its logic probably passes the balance of probabilities.

My personal experience of mixed-ability schooling is limited to primary school, and I very distinctly remember being in class where those who could read had to sit beside those who couldn’t and help them read. It was tedious, excruciating and hard work, and it wasted my own time at school. I had normally finished the school books for reading in about a quarter of the time allocated, largely because I didn’t have to vocalise as I read. In that year I realised the Ermine was never going to be a teacher, because I was unable to understand or to empathise how people could not pick up the rudimentary meaning and grammar of English. And as for this reading out loud lark, WTF was up with that? Seriously, don’t ever do that to people. Speech is about five to ten times slower than visual reading, if you teach people to read out loud and then only understand by listening to themselves you condemn them to a lifetime of sub-normal reading speed, because it’s hard to unlearn.

I was taught to read by my mother before I went to primary  school – English was not her first language. So while I accept that mixed ability schooling is probably overall for the best, as somebody who would (and had) lost out in it I’m never going to be an enthusiastic fan, it definitely falls into “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” territory, and that sucks if you’re one of the few. But I can understand that State schooling has to aim for the greatest good given the limited resources [ref]I would now counter that we should focus State schooling on teaching the basics of the three Rs and then target the brightest because our economy will have few jobs for those of average or even slightly above average ability. The quid pro quo for that is that taxation needs to be enough on the winners so that a universal income can be paid, and also that adult education in the Victorian sense of bettering oneself and general education should be free and promoted via MOOCs and free libraries. The whole point of State education has changed through my working life but this does not seem to be acknowledged. It taught the thee Rs so you would have life skills and subjects so you would be a cog in the industrial machine. The latter is becoming redundant for many future non-employees, and in a world with Google general learning is much easier to be had for free.[/ref].

Parents never like to think their children are stupid or even below average, though it must be happening 50% of the time. Independent schooling addresses this in two ways. One is it throws more resources at the problem. A stupid child with excellent teaching can probably be brought up to the level of a mildly above average child with average teaching. That’s the easy part. The second way is that independent schools are far, far better at teaching their pupils to be leaders of men. Presumably they don’t go round telling people everybody is of the same worth and ability, which seems to be a given in State schools despite depressing evidence to the contrary in terms of ability. The Ermine only learned to address crowds of a couple of hundred people in the second half of my  working life, and I learned elements of command presence by having to take decisions in public leading people because I had specific skills for the job. I was never taught this, and had to research  how to carry people with me by watching others do it, by reading some military descriptions and with Google.

My ability to do this is still a pale reflection of the typical public school alumnus. They were taught command presence. [ref]I have never been a paying independent school pupil. I offer this Guardian article into the stylistic differences between aims, and personal observation shows me that people who have been to public school are more at ease in leadership positions and generally giving direction[/ref]. I was taught subjects at school, but not how to lead people. I don’t find it that surprising that those who went to public school are much more likely to be in positions of leadership across the country, as evidenced in this Government report. And summarised by John Major in 2013

“In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class,”

I can see why parents like public schools. It softens that 50:50 chance of having to face up to having a stupid child, and you can still get them ahead of the 93% rabble, because leadership is a well-rewarded occupation. You don’t need to be bright to have command presence. The other area where public schools probably do well is where a child has an unusually unbalanced set of strengths and weaknesses. State schooling has to be one size fits all, once Crosland destroyed the grammar schools that specialised in academically biased pupils. We don’t want to pay the taxes that would ensure no child is left behind – it has to be good enough, not excellent, since we can’t afford excellence.

I am not saying people who went to independent schools are dimwits – probably on average the intake is a little above average, purely on the slight heritability of ability combined with cultural factors. But independent schools can probably make more of the academically challenged than State schools, which must be comforting for parents who want the very best for their child regardless of their natural ability compared with the 93% lumpenproletariat 😉

The trouble with Veblen goods is they have to be dear to be exclusive

And this is where Rik is SOL. He went to public school, so he thinks of this as the norm, but 7% isn’t a norm. The whole point of public schooling is to get ahead of the 93%. If we take a butcher’s hook at the Independent Schools Council’s report we can see that the cumulative rise in pupils in independent schools since 1996 is 8% (roughly when Rik was at his public school from 1993 to 2006). Since 7% of children now go to public school, my grammar skool edukayshun lets me estimate about 6.5% of pupils went to public school in his day, since the ISC report indicates the cumulative change in total pupil numbers is very small. However, with increasing inequality all those richer people are driving up the price of public schooling, and as a Veblen good they don’t just make more public schooling to meet demand. They’ll make a bit more to soak up the demand profitably, but the 0.1% is getting richer faster than the Riks of this world.

Britain has only so much space for dimwitted leaders  – we couldn’t have a 50% independent school population without some of the advantages going away. If we assume that half the intake of an independent school is below average, we can probably find space in the leadership structure of Britain for that 3.5%, whereas finding leadership positions for 25% of school leavers is going to be tough. And as conspicuous consumption, it has to be exclusive even if there weren’t technical reasons why it had to be. Imagine a world where all of us wore Manolo Blahniks, drove Rolls Royce SUVs and had Lear jets. The cognoscenti would have to go and find something else to make themselves feel special.

Public school is like that. It is a status symbol, it does have quality and does buy you favours and particularly for dimwitted rich kids[ref]clever rich kids would do okay in State schools as long as their parents taught them values[/ref] it keeps them in the style they were accustomed t because leadership is not widely taught.

I owe it to Prospect magazine for the official definition of these rich dimwits. They are the ‘second bananas’ identified in The Fall of the Sloane Rangers and they owe me a new keyboard. Apparently in the past according to the Torygraph

Public schoolboys married girls in pearls and settled down to an upper middle class life in the bosom of the Establishment. Diana, Princess of Wales was their poster girl.


Girls in pearls? WTF is this they speak of? Why was I as a student living in a Knightsbridge basement wannabe photojournalist shooting gritty Tri-X black and white pictures of the soup kitchens under Charing Cross railway arches and being accosted by jumpy coppers where I could have been using Kodachrome on girls in pearls…

Anyway, Prospect supports the thesis of Rik’s dad having it easier than Rik, although the Sloane Rangers were the London cream of the second bananas. To wit, the ineffectual toffs used to be the 5%. They are being nuked by New Money

Most of the old Sloane groups were originally somewhere in the top 5 per cent—it’s difficult to quantify a stance—and some of them at the ragged lower edge of the 1 per cent, where the household income threshold is more than £3,000 a week now.

“The Sloane population of the City was winnowed out—now they were competing with other types and other breeds from other places”

The combination of 80s Tory government and home-grown New Money—much of it smart, tough and well-educated—looked at first to most old Sloanes (instinctive Tories) like just what the doctor ordered. But they set about destroying the fixed points of the Sloane world—particularly the Old City at Big Bang (1986) and after. And then New Money started cherry-picking the trophies that Sloanes valued. The attractive London houses in SW3, 1, 7, 10, 6 and 5 (in that order), the prettiest rectories and miniature statelies in the best counties, the best university places. Big Bang reshaped the City and set the foundations for 21st-century financial London. There was a storm of acquisitions before and after 1986 in which a roll-call of familiar Old City names like Rowe and Pitman disappeared. Then their buyers were gulped down by still bigger fish. The familiar merchant wankers of a thousand Sloane jokes—the delicious histories, the panelled rooms and word-is-my-bondism—were replaced by global investment banks with soaring atrial offices in Broadgate and, later, Canary Wharf. The new players were American, French, German, Swiss and Japanese banks. The top bananas were toughs and technocrats from absolutely everywhere—people who didn’t know or care about subtle semantic class indicators or the significance of milk-in-first and who didn’t care if their suits looked a bit Charlie. People who didn’t know the Sloanes’ dads. The new bosses wanted “top talent,” wherever it came from.

I fear the obsidian Ermine heart fails to bleed…

But while Rik’s dad could afford to do this public school stuff, Rik can’t. He needs to choose now – public school, or early retirement. He can do one or the other, not both. And if he wants public school, he needs to suck in his gut and start saving, because he has 15 years of laying out £10k p.a. plus starting in four years time. Yes, his wife and lodgers may make up some of the shortfall, but public school gets dearer at secondary school.

The best laid plans get sucker-punched by lifestyle inflation

Now Rik will be doing better than I did, and he lives in Aberdeen rather than the Great Wen. But he’s already collected airs and graces at 27. Living three people in a five-bedroom house, FFS. At 27 I was renting a house with four other guys to save money because rent is throwing money away. I had yet to discover how much money you can throw away buying a house at the wrong time! At least Rik is figuring to rent out a room for £6k p.a. Call me an antisocial git but living in a house owned by the bank  with strangers is not my idea of living the middle class dream even if it does have five bedrooms and Italian hand-made tiles in the kitchen, but each to their own. Exactly how well it works for a lodger with a one-year-old in the household beats me. I’m assuming that Rik’s desire for early retirement will make him circumspect about adding extra mouths to his household – the late Cynthia Oti’s secret for a secure financial future was to

“never take financial responsibility for something that eats.”

which may be taking it a little bit far, though I recently heard reports of one lady friend whose children are sort of off her hands declaring

“I’m not surprised people get themselves into money trouble, they accumulate accessories like dogs, children and stuff without thinking about how much it all costs”

so maybe Cynthia was onto something 🙂 The five-bedroom house of course says Rik is Mr Big and worth something, but he only needs three bedrooms and all the rest will continually bleed him, needing heating, decorating, repairing etc. Let’s hope that North Sea Oil will confound the Hubbert peak and still be bringing in shitloads of money at least until he can downsize.

Either way, the problem with retiring early is that of course Rik can lob his salary over about 43k into his SIPP and that’s all very sensible, but that kinda clips his net income to £32k (corresponding to gross of about 43k, anything over goes to his SIPP). Of that he wants to spray £8,000 on school fees in the near future leaving him with £24k. Computing everything in today’s terms and anticipating that equity gains will at least compensate for inflation, if he wants to retire at 50 then he needs to have enough in an ISA to run him from 50 to 58, at £25,000 p.a which my trusty calculator makes £200k. He can run this capital into the ground because he will have a decent SIPP income for afterwards, and he has 23 years to do this starting tomorrow. He also owes £200 k on his house. Let’s say he saves into an ISA £10k p.a. and his mortgage costs him £4,000 pa @ 2%. Let’s ignore the tedious concept that you are supposed to pay down the capital on a mortgage, this family now needs to run two adults and a child in the style public school people like to live on  – on £10,000 a year[ref]£32k less £10k ISA less £8k public schoolery less £4000 IO mortgage[/ref]. TFS has an example of what that looks like and it probably suffices to say that this is easier in theory than in practice. Now the Ermine household could do that, but I am almost twice Rik’s age, have no mortgage or public school spending. Your mid twenties to forties are the worst time for calls on your income, and this goes in spades if you have children.

Early retirement is doing different – and to do different you have to be different and live different

One of the observations I made at The Firm was that those who cleared off in their early fifties and retired were the child-free. As long as they had managed to avoid the D word parents were on their way about five years later if they worked at it. Everybody was retired at 60, because that was the normal retirement age.

The original fellow who gave me all the sage advice to save into AVCs is still working for The Firm, despite being well over 50 and his younger self declaiming “you’re stupid if you dont’ save into AVCs and retire by 45″. Why is that then? Well, his wife and kids took issue with the grand plan – basically they wanted to have this nice middle class lifestyle and that doesn’t go along with dropping your salary even to the 40% tax threshold. Whoops. Nice plan, Stan. They preferred daddy in the office behind a screen where he belonged[ref]I don’t know enough about his domestic circumstances to know how much his wife added to the household economy though from his talk I figured he happened to be the larger part of it[/ref] so they could could have it all because they were worth it. Early retirement fail. If you want to retire early, you have to live differently to your peer group. In particular you have to spend less!

Earning more doesn’t help most people, because as a rule to earn more you have to push yourself more until you reach CEO level. At board level to earn more you simply have a word with your mates on the non-exec remuneration board to loot the real owners of the firm more and award yourself a pay rise, but for grunts you normally have to do more or eat more stress by doing unpleasant shit. So you get to earn more, but then you are in the circle of more spendy people and you may be more pissed off with work so you need to spend more to make yourself feel better. So while earning more seems the obvious way to go it only works for some people. Less than 1% I would guess 😉 If earning more were the answer, footballers would never go bankrupt.

The fellow who taught the younger Ermine all about tax-advantaged pension savings was right you’re stupid if you dont’ save into [pension savings like SIPPS] AVCs – but not right for himself. His words gave me hope that there was a way out of there and the plan was put into action with extreme prejudice. It’s not a barrel of laughs, I can tell you, driving one’s salary down to a whisker of the minimum wage threshold and saving into pension AVCs using salary sacrifice. And then trying to save into an ISA. Because if you save so hard you can’t do shit because you have no bloody money left. When that shit is fast and furious desperate holidays because you’re so worth it cube slave, two weeks of respite in return for 48 of humdrum existence then one can do without it when the win is the rest of your life on vacation. Gets more challenging as you drive out of wanton consumerism and then start moving down Maslow’s hierarchy. It’s the in-between bit that suckers First World cubicle slaves. They want the trappings of their peers that cost money, but then they are trapped by the trappings.

Rik is gonna run into the same sort of problem that my colleague at the Firm ran into. His family are going to want holidays in Tuscany and somewhere exotic. They are going to want kitchens with handmade Italian tiles, a butler sink and matching luggage. They will probably want something German on the driveway. How did the ermine get round that?

I went on fewer holidays. I have less house than my colleagues[ref]but it is mortgage-free, which is rare amongst my colleagues[/ref]. I drove my cars into the ground – two of my last four cars I took to the scrapyard personally. I spent less than I earned. But make no mistake – my colleagues had more holidays, Italian handmade tiles and all sorts of other goods and chattels to show for it. On the other hand, this week one day I got to go out and look at this in the Suffolk sunshine

bloody hell, what's that noise - ah - incoming Brents at 2 o'clock
bloody hell, what’s that noise – ah – incoming Brents at 2 o’clock

Yesterday I went up to a recording studio in Norfolk to be a judge in a sound competition. While my former colleagues were looking a Microsoft Excel on their screens, or filling in their objectives. You pays your money and you takes your choice. I don’t have fancy tiles in the kitchen and haven’t been on a plane since 2007, whereas some of them go on five city-breaks a year.

I don’t think Rik has jumped to this. To live different you have to do different. Not only that, there’s a second problem in town.

Increasing inequality means you must be richer than your parents were to give you children the same class experience your parents gave you

It’s those Veblen goods again. The trouble is there is one asset class that’s in the needs category that is typically the one single biggest part of most Britons’ net worth, provided that we overlook the inconvenient truth that they usually have it on borrowed money. Until 1979 Britain had a workable housing market where renting was a perfectly reasonable option, but since ownership has been promoted over renting. Even if the ownership is not for occupation. I found it brave of the Guardian to tackle this emotive issue and remind us that owning your home wasn’t widespread for an awful long time and isn’t the natural order of things. Indeed, home ownership is increasingly ill suited to modern working patterns where you may need to move to follow work. Most of the people at my grammar school were in rented accommodation, but in contrast to Generation Rent they had better security of tenure – many of these families were in council houses.

More of Rik’s lifetime earnings will be consumed by housing than his parents’ earnings were. Should he go the public school education route, more of his lifetime earnings will be consumed by that too, relative to his parents. He is very unlikely to be able to retire early if he wants to indulge in such conspicuous consumption, although to him it will look like the normal spending of his peers. That is because most people spend as much as they earn, if they are lucky. To retire earlier than the norm, Rik must spend less than the norm. With his five-bedroom house and his public school aspirations, he is not on the right path. Something has to give. Pick any two of the three, Rik. Peer-group middle class lifestyle, school fees, early retirement. You’re just not rich enough to do all of them.

46 thoughts on “A fun farrago of middle-class folly”

  1. Hi
    Just to say I have recently discovered you, enjoying the wide variety of subject posts and am working my way though past ones…reverse chronology, this may take some time…
    Finance is not my bag, but I enjoy your perspective on things fiscal and otherwise.
    And, can you point me to some posts which are more attuned to simple living in lovely Suffolk?


  2. @ermine It’s amazing how your academic experience parallels mine – separated as we are by an ocean and 15 odd years.
    I attended a tiny academic only high school that closed in 1963 – the year I finished 12th grade. Those boomers who followed me had to attend a large collegiate institute with multiple streams of students.
    My education facilitated entrance to a fine university, rigorous scientific training and a career as an industrial chemist/food scientist. My parents were working stiffs, BTW.
    My daughter went to a rather large secondary school but did fine because she excelled academically and socially, and had the benefit of a scientist and teacher to help her at home. She’s a manager in government service today.
    My grandchildren will also go to a state supported school, but they’ll have two generations of professionals to give help, advice and example.
    I believe that home environment does a lot. In Canada the “prestige” way of education is home schooling rather than private schools.


  3. ‘…I do note, however, that project management is eminently offshoreable…’

    This might be true for IT projects, but it’s not necessarily the case for most manufacturing works and large industrial construction projects – PMs really do need to be in the thick of things and based at or near the facility at which the product is assembled or at the site where the construction will be implemented. You can’t solve the problems that arise, which some may say is the only real function of a project manager, if you’re based in India and the company’s building an oil platform in a north-east UK shipyard.

    That said, I’m not sure what sort of projects this guy is managing, but they’re obviously not particularly large or important if they’re only paying him £55k to do it. If he’s any good and proves his worth in the ‘..oil industry..’, whatever that might mean, then in ten years time he could be earning at least three times that amount in project managing a major job.

    I’ve been considering writing a post on my own working life (which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and continue to do so) and how the world of work, at least in my sphere of engineering, has changed much less over the last thirty years than many commentators (!) would have us believe. It seems to be a common theme in the blog world that the UK is going to hell in a handcart because johnny foreigner is cheaper and can do everything we need from remote locations.

    Admittedly I’m much nearer the top of the tree than the bottom, but almost everyone of my professional engineering acquaintance and even the young ‘uns, or at least the good ones among them, are likely to be able to find suitably rewarding employment for as long as they want to continue working. They might have to borrow Tebbit’s bike at times, but working away from your home location or even as an ex-pat can be a great experience.


  4. On the education theme, I missed out on going to grammar school by just one year. I’d even done mock 11-plus exams at 10, but to no avail when the system changed.

    It was strange to me at the time that I couldn’t go to the same school as my elder brother, but I came away from the new comprehensive with more and better qualifications than he did from the grammar.

    That said, I was mixing with all sorts of oiks and assorted low-lifes that likely he didn’t have to put with….


  5. @Ray perhaps the similarities reflect a shortage of scientific and engineering staff in those years across the West. The education systems were unashamedly selective up to the 1960s in the UK and companies seemed to invest a lot more in their staff and building skills then.

    Interesting that homeschooling is favoured in Canada whereas here it is definitely fee-paying schools that carry that aspiration here. I would imagine the opportunity cost is high if it is a parent who does the schooling, unless homeschooling means private tuition at home?

    @DM I was thinking of IT, and in all fairness IT where a large part of the work is already done offshore. I guess London 2012 wouldn’t have been so great offshored 😉

    You’re getting sample bias in the PF community. By definition the people who are prepared to learn how to retire early and to make the lifestyle choices necessary are those who for some reason are discontent with the status quo.

    I probably do most snarling about that because the transition caught me by surprise and though I was able to get a decent project for the last couple of years I never wanted to be under anybody’s control ever again. Others (RIT, UTMT and TEA) are doing/have done it for more positive reasons, but discontent with working for The Man is behind all of the aims for early FI. So you’re seeing the scribblings of the malcontents 😉

    Maybe cut young Rik some slack – he’s 27! I like to see some grey hairs in a project manager before I’d give them the big fish! His narrative isn’t at odds with “in ten years time he could be earning at least three times that amount in project managing a major job.” The overall principle will still hold, however – here is a fellow with a five bedroom house at 27, beats what he’ll ‘need’ earning three times as much in the company of spendy peers if he is into such conspicuous consumption.

    I’m genuinely surprised you haven’t seen great changes in your field of engineering. I was originally an electronics engineer but I saw the writing on the wall for that in the late 1990s, and the seeds for the changes in software were set in the 1999/2000 capacity crunch combined with much better communications.


  6. ‘…I’m genuinely surprised you haven’t seen great changes in your field of engineering …’

    It’s just that a lot of what I actually ‘do’ now is unchanged from 30 years ago. It’s the tools to assist me which have become very much more sophisticated (and expensive !), but they are only the tools.

    The thought processes, the challenges to overcome, the technical, schedule, budget, cashflow and resource constraints have always been there in the same form. IKB, Robert Stephenson et al would have had exactly the same pressures from clients and investors over 150 years ago, the same constraints and similar problems to overcome as they would encounter nowadays.

    The mathematics behind much of the analytical processes in engineering remains unchanged, a lot of it arising from calculus developed centuries ago – the modern tools merely help to greatly speed up the process and reduce arithmetical errors, but actually defining the inputs and then interpreting the outputs are still the key parts of my engineering analysis work.

    On the PM side, if you’re behind schedule or over-budget, no amount of manipulation of spreadsheets and fancy powerpoint presentations is going to make a blind bit of difference – in the end, you have to DO something. The tools can help inform you there’s a potential problem but it usually can’t be solved except by direct intervention, which has always been the case.

    And I suppose one of the main reasons that I’m not at all disenchanted with it is because I haven’t worked for ‘The Man’, at least not directly, for around twenty years now.

    In my case at least, I can successfully include work as part of my lifestyle choices. I’ve never been a subscriber to this ‘work-life balance’ bollocks – and nowadays, for me the work is just part of life – I can set the computers away doing analyses, and then go outside and plant something in the garden while they’re running…


  7. I would agree that “command presence” and the ability to assume entitlement is primarily what paying for private education gets our offspring, and that this (along with networking) is an important factor in conventional “success”.

    However,there are easier, more effective (and cheaper) routes to happiness for our children and these can be built by allowing them to find their own way in a mixed ability environment.

    Life-enriching “involvement” in society does not depend on expensive and exclusive schooling. The ability to mix, understand and empathise with people from many types of background is far more important (in the long run) than an extra “A” level on the CV, or £20,000 in the pay packet.


  8. @ermine Home schooling normally means a stay at home parent does it with tutelage as needed. I have a retired math teacher friend who supplemented parental teaching.
    You are right in that there is a significant opportunity cost.


  9. On private schools you miss out two important points:

    – the schools get to pick who goes there, a huge difference to the state system

    – if your child is not doing well at a private school he/she will be “asked” to leave

    Therefore not only is the intake highly selected to “fit in” and do well but any mistakes that are made in the process are quietly eliminated

    Its not surprising that people who make it to the end of the process look like they are supposed to


  10. @DM those principles sound like those of civil/mech engineering – even there I would have thought improved materials would have transformed things!

    In the case of electronics I started in analogue discrete parts, over my career there has been the massive changes of digitalisation, then followed by first larger scale integration and then DSP. Things which I never thought were possible in my 20s are now routine signal processing in consumer electronics.

    Software has changed less in outline but more in detail. There is still no true pluggable software design despite the rise of OO design, and the mythical man-month is still as true as it was when I did my MSc. Nevertheless we seem to be better at scaling and using large teams, particularly with open-source. Thus I’d say the changes have been revolutionary, not evolutionary in both fields, though more in electronics than in software.

    @Cerridwen I wasn’t advocating it as a way forward, I don’t have a dog in this race 😉 I was merely trying to understand why people who seem rational in other ways dive down that rabbit-hole as a given win. If I look at what the future holds I think Piketty is right. If I suspected my child were dim I would focus on passing on inherited wealth because the future economy would have no roles for them. Independent schooling was rational for the slow but I think this is breaking down now as Prospect magazine indicated.

    The theory of mixed ability is all well but there is also the bahavioural issue. I was shy, somewhat different and not particularly physically strong as a child. I would not have won enough fights in the comp that was the alternative. I know this because I lost them outside it until I learned to avoid.

    @Ray I think what stiffed this option in the UK is the cost of housing and childcare, though maybe the tide is turning. It certainly worked for me in reading – my reading speed remains a fair bit higher than average, particularly from paper. I’m still gobsmacked when I hear people reading aloud to themselves as adults – some school very seriously failed them teaching them that.

    @neverland I thought selection was by parental ability to pay, although bursaries and whatnot probably do some academic selection by accepting clever paupers who will shift the average and flatter the ‘outreach’ image.

    Certainly those people I know who went to public schools have tales to tell of kids booted out for bad behaviour, but not for stupidity!

    Looking at Eton it appears there is some sort of exam. Since I don’t move in the right circles I don’t know how much a generous donation to some part of the School might shift the results/cause eyes to be averted from the printed rules 😉


  11. @Ermine

    The more academic private schools (which are the top ones nowadays) are highly selective to maintain their rankings obv

    Unless your parents will “donate” seven figures if you are going to drag down the GPA and your parents aren’t important you will likely be asked to find somewhere “more suitable”

    I don’t know about this from personal experience but I have read about from many different sources and heard about it from acquaintances

    As your original article postulates life is hard for those trying to maintain their position near but not at the top of the pyramid

    Nonetheless it was ever thus, otherwise the Sloane Ranger handbook would never have sold so many copies to wannabes who wanted to be told where to live, how to dress and how to speak


  12. ‘…I would have thought improved materials would have transformed things!…’

    The improved materials don’t change the calculation mathematics and methodology, only the values of their inputs and outputs.


  13. @ermine To be fair, home schooling makes up a tiny percentage of Canadian education – far less than private schooling in the UK. One difference here is that in Ontario at least we have a Roman Catholic school system that is state supported – it’s an alternative to the Public System and does have a slightly higher reputation for rigor and discipline.


  14. Me and my siblings spent all of our school lives as the only ‘non-whites’ in all-white schools (primary and high school) – can’t really get more different than that!

    The schools were mixed sex and mixed ability and I guess I could say that we were all just naturally academic (taking after my mum) so we all did pretty well in our education, all went to uni, all graduated.

    The first time I met anyone who had public schooling was at uni – all I could think of was all that money spent on their education yet they still ended up at the same place as me!

    That said, I have to admit that said people did already have social skills that I did not learn or develop until later in life, including leadership skills, prowesses in debate and a certain social confidence etc.


  15. The thing that struck me about Rik Thomas was the fact that he anticipated being ‘special’ enough to earn 4 times the median salary – but needs to ask ‘financial experts’ (now, there’s an oxymoron) whether he can ‘have it all’.

    On the subject of renting – although it may not be, at various points in time, the most convenient way of living viz-a-viz work – I firmly believe in the merits of home ownership. When you own your own home, you are in a much better position to put two fingers up at the world, save a bit of money up, and take a year off. If you rent, you are stuck in the 48 weeks work / 2 weeks holiday you can’t afford rut – all your life. And, when you retire, you have to throw yourself on the mercy of the state to pay your rent.
    Tracts of land around towns should be made available to young people to self build. They are never going to be able to afford our ludicrously over priced hovels otherwise.


  16. Ermine,
    Your writing is passionate and well worth reading, but please could I make a small request?

    If you use acronumns and TLAs, please could you define them on first use in the piece – ‘SOL’, ‘SAHM’ – I had no idea.
    If one has to jump over to Google several times whilst reading it kind of interrupts the flow of the message.

    Many Thanks


  17. @weenie – it’s that confidence in handling people and leading that shows through later on. It just wasn’t part of the curriculum and my school, and indeed it puzzled me at times how people who didn’t have logic on their side could carry the argument with wordplay.

    @Mike – on the subject of renting, the assumption that buying a house is the only way of getting benefit in kind of the shelter is easy, but I’d challenge it. I give you… Monevator. The money I spent on a house saves me £7k p.a. in rent (what it would take to rent a similar house). I’d add another three grand on that for security of tenure (I am not going to have to move to chase work, natch) and the lack of hassle, say £10k p.a.

    A stock market portfolio on a average CAPE returning 5% as 10k (ie about £200,000) would sort my accommodation requirements. I could put part of that in Hearthstone on Grainger or Castle Trust Housa if I wanted some exposure to the asset class. That’s what I’d do if I wanted to sell up, move abroad but retain the option of returning to the UK.

    It happens to be cheaper in capital terms to own a house round here, but there isn’t a huge amount in it. I personally have not experienced notable capital appreciation over a working lifetime of leveraged house ownership because of that bad start. Not everyone mints in on property.

    Owning a house is therefore not the only way to FI regarding accommodation. That equity portfolio would sort you for the year off and carry you into retirement.

    The issue for the young is a separate issue, although note I bought at a 5* income multiple which is similar to what prevails now. My experience was that these situations do not persist for ever

    @Yorkie hands up, it’s a fair cop, and indeed you’re the second person to charge this. I will consider drafting a glossary/cast of characters page.


  18. @Ermine … ‘A stock market portfolio on a average CAPE returning 5% as 10k (ie about £200,000) would sort my accommodation requirements’

    The stock market has been flat for about 15 years. 5% a year is a big assumption these days. Few pension funds are getting anywhere near that. I don’t want to be at the whim of a BTL landlord in my dotage – able to kick me out whenever he feels like it and with some spotty article from a letting agent inspecting how I live every 3 months.

    I don’t live in a flash house or in a particularly nice area – but to rent my house would cost 2 grand a month. £900 a month gets you a pretty grotty flat.


  19. I must start reading the Torygraph, I didn’t realise there was such a rich feast of comedy to be had there.

    Interesting post – I’d never heard the term “Veblen Goods” before and “Command Presence” describes exactly the primary benefit of public schools as far as I perceive it.


  20. @Mike > The stock market has been flat for about 15 years.

    I have to point you to another of Monevator’s posts because the FTSE100 index excludes dividends. And you’re selecting as your datum a massive all-time high. Few people will have invested a 200k hunk of cash exactly in June 1999 to eat that suckout – they will have rattled in over the previous 10years + and bought a lot of it at lower prices.

    Choosing where to live and how to buy it is an intensely personal decision and nobody can fault you with buying. After all I paid down my mortgage knowing it was vaguely irrational. But nevertheless the alternatives should be critiqued on the basis of fact. There is nothing wrong in choosing one alternative because it feels better or it matches one’s circumstances better. The security of tenure you get from renting from a bank is far better than that you get renting from a landlord. That’s an argument for improving the rental sector – I thought Thatcher’s selling off of council housing was wrong at the time and nothing much has changed this view since. It is the private and BTL rental sector that is toxic IMO and needs the German treatment.

    I have just confirmed on Zoopla that I can rent a 3 bed semi in my area for between £700 and £800 pcm. I’m guessing you live in the SE, but when retired you don’t need to be near work it’s worth considering regions of the UK that have lower costs and arguably greater natural beauty.

    @SpreadsheetMan Thorstein Veblen’s 1899 Theory of the Leisure Class opens with the ripping sentence “The institution of a leisure class is found in its best development at the higher stages of the barbarian culture” and his critique is still appropriate 😉 I confess I first came across the concept of command presence in a Lee Child novel, but when I chased it up on Google it seemed to fit some of what I saw in the alumni of public schools.


  21. I have friends with kids at public school that can genuinely intimidate me with their confidence if they choose to.

    At about 8. I’m not joking.

    Of course they also cry and stamp their feet and won’t eat peas and are children, but already they have it coming on.

    Whereas I came out of a massive comprehensive school that tried its best, where the only boys who had that sort of confidence by even 13 or 14 were the ones used to punching whoever they liked on a whim.

    Which they did.


  22. 1. First comment on here (and indeed on any FIRE blog but have been devouring FI for the last month or so – like many the gateway drug was MMM…which led to you via the hilarious Money shop rant:-) ) – so many many thanks to you and all the other Early Retirement good examples who have given me the inspiration to stop burying my head in the financial sand and take charge of my finances and stop living for today.
    2. Ref the TLA thing mentioned above – I’ve noticed a preponderance of this across many blogs in the FI line which I think is inevitable given the nature of the beast, however its always good to learn new stuff so I’ve been googling it up whenever I strike one I’ve not come across yet. As a suggestion there seem to be some word press keyword/glossary plugins that may help with this (I think you’d be the first FI blog I’ve seen if you used one!) – a quick search for “Word press auto glossary plugins revealed” : https://wordpress.org/plugins/bluet-keywords-tooltip-generator/ – hope that helps!
    3. Wish me luck on my journey! – I’m starting late (46) from a position of mild debt and low income but your blog and others have encouraged me to grasp the nettle. It may be a mid life crisis for me but at least it’s not a train wreck!


  23. @Monevator – I’ve only met ex-public school adults. The kids sound hard to take 😉

    @NewlyMinting good luck – if it’s any comfort I only started at 47 🙂 I did have a fair few bits of luck in what I started with. I personally believe that controlling costs is the biggest win. RIT shows why and of course MMMs simple math post shows that analytically.

    I found the change tough at the start but it got easier after the first 3-6 months. Seek interest in Nature rather than the mall, as MMM puts in his own way 😉 I have made more use of the lovely county of Suffolk since making that change. Maybe I should take a lead from Adrienne and feature more of nature here – the county is an easy day-trip reach from London and many UK personal finance folk are from London.

    Thanks for the tooltip ideas. I’ve added most of the common acronyms, though I suspect the tooltip method may cause some systems grief – at least Safari on a mobile seems to work sensibly.


  24. @ermine thanks for the encouragement – it’s good to know its possible from a late start – I’m trying hard to not beat myself up about what a financial idiot I’ve been to date while acknowledging that if MMM ever vsists these parts I’ll likely be nursing a well deserved bruised face 🙂 My plan initially is to clear debt (this year), Next year emergency fund build up (tail of this year and most of next), Year after that Investement (so have plenty of time to research & plan this stage). Luckily I’ve never been a partciularly wasteful spender although in the past a bit of a gadgetophile…

    Who knows I might even start blogging about it 😀

    Wow! you’ve certainly implemented the glossary thing PDQ! FWIW (two for the price of one there!) the glossary plugin seems to works ok via Firefox browser on Android. Chrome on android shows the popup but then takes you to the definition half a second later (may be a plugin config setting to tweak? might also be good if it gives you an option to style the link slightly differently for glossary terms as opposed to regular links too). Tricky this cross-browser stuff isn’t it? 😉 Chrome & Firefox on standard (win 7) browsers both work ok. It even works ok in IE11! Haven’t got safari installed so can’t let you know on that score.

    I think I’ve always been a Nature type – living in Yorkshire I’m a bit spoilt that way as we have splendid scenery available not too far out of town – one of the worst things about working a conventional life is it takes so much time away from appreciating the natural world around you : “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare” indeed…


  25. My wife and I own our home but we’ve never seen it as anything but a lifestyle decision. Any money we have in it is basically a sunk cost although it does pay an imputed rent. We got our mortgage paid off 30 years ago when interest rates were 15%. We’ve been careful to keep our real estate percentage low as a proportion of our net worth.


  26. From a more personal point of view I feel strongly on this issue as I am fairly certain I would have failed the 11+ (the majority of my reading up to that age consisted of a weekly copy of the Beano), however, around age 16 something clicked and I got straight A’s in my A levels. The idea I could have been written off at age 11 (had I lived in an area with grammar schools) is somewhat frightening. Streaming within a school is a much more effective system as it encourages the bright kids to keep working and allows the other kids a shot as moving up at any age, not just based on a test at the arbitrary age of 11 (which is is very much open to gaming).


  27. “In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class,” – Maybe so, but is this just a case of Swimmers Body Illusion? With the parents and opportunities they have would they not have done just fine, private school or not? Rik should seriously consider this as the value add of a private school compared to the sacrifice he will have to make given his income is likely to be a very poor deal indeed.


  28. @L I took the long-form version of that 😉

    @Ray > We’ve been careful to keep our real estate percentage low as a proportion of our net worth.

    Oh that this kind of attitude would prevail here. For many decades the mantra has been buy as much house as you can afford, you can’t lose. You see that in Rik’s five bedrooms for three people (and presumably staying there) and Britons’ networth shows an unhealthy bias to property until they get stinking rich.

    It ties up lots of our national wealth in property, we end up with the problem of the widow who has a house worth £500k but can’t afford £200 for the electricity and generally misallocates capital. We need some Canadian sense – we’ve already hired it at the BofE 😉

    @EP this is a tough one and everyone’s experience is different. Were the roles reverse I would have lost out simply by not being that good at fighting, and while nobody is allowed to say it, schoolkids haven’t stopped fighting. Thus I query the universality of

    > streaming within a school is a much more effective system as it encourages the bright kids to keep working

    In a wider mixed ability the geeks will get lamped more often. I don’t know what the right answer is there. It’s probably smaller classes which we don’t want to pay for – in my London schools 31 was typical and it could drift up, though this halved at sixth form because many left at 16.

    I like the term “swimmers body illusion“, which seems to be a special case of correlation not causation. Parents aren’t noted for being rational about their offspring, which seems to be part of Rik’s problem. He’s an engineer/project manager and you can do that without going to public school 😉


  29. “mixed ability schooling is probably overall for the best”: bollocks. In virtually every human activity specialisation is for the best. How come it isn’t for schooling?


  30. @NewlyMinting You start from where you are – past mistakes are done. Mind you, they are sometimes good for a yarn later 😉

    As well as the benefit of natural beauty living in Yorkshire is going to do you a lot of good on the financial front, because the cost of living will be cheaper, particularly in housing. Expensive static costs in housing are a thief that keeps on taking.

    @dearieme although on a gut level I am with you I think the argument is that specialisation obviously benefits the able, which is good. It’s that the less able can tend to get left to rot in sink schools that is perceived as the downside. The winners shout from the rooftops about how great selection is and they get to write the history.


  31. @ermine Re cost of living in Yorkshire – That’s one positive we have in that the mortgage is paid off. Mwahahaha! (sorry but I always have to do the evil laugh thing when I say that 🙂 )

    Of course living in a hard to insulate, roomy Victorian mid-tearrace carries its own penalties in terms of cost sinks (boohoohoo 😦 )


  32. @ermine Sad to say the general thinking in Canada about real estate is the same as in the UK. Namely embark on a one asset retirement strategy, borrow up the wazoo to do it.
    For more info on the Canadian situation refer to:
    It’s led to an overheated market here as well – especially in Vancouver and Toronto. Why people can’t realize that they will never be able to eat their granite countertops is a mystery to me.


  33. Grammar schools to comprehensive – governments do things that mess up your life! So you have to fix it yourself, often when others are smugly satisfied. My grammar school changed to a comprehensive of teacher baiting and mob rule, and I didn’t have the helpful parents others had. I fixed my education after I left school.
    Government messing up the housing market? Yes, suffered that, and became an obsessive saver to get a roof over my head. Banking crisis, recession, redundancy and unemployment? Sorted it! Woman born 1954, saving for retirement and now I’m not going to get the new fancy state pension either? More saving and becoming an expert managing what pension funds I have. It all comes out in the wash I suppose, but it does leave a nasty taste. I must have benefited from other things, but don’t remember ‘cos the pain of the others was sharp.

    BTW I love the Suffolk link, you’ve put up some great new photos! They haven’t taken the outdoors and birds away from us yet! 🙂


  34. Hi Ermine,
    It’s funny how I (female, engineer, 33) understand all your acronyms. Perhaps it is something endemic in engineering?
    Anyhow, I’ve been lurking on the site for nearly a year and I thought I’d say hello today.
    I admit that discontent working for the man is my primary motivation. Agile kills me.
    Taking the aptitude tests always turned up contradictory results and the answer to ‘what would you do if you didn’t have to work for money?’ was always, “well, then I wouldn’t work (for money)”.
    It just took me a while to put two and two together. I would postulate that conformity was/is part of my problem. That is one of the detriments to attending public school in the USA. Everyone is treated equal, taught that jumping through hoop = reward and original thought is confined to creative writing class.
    Five years into my journey to financial independence, I wanted to thank you for repeatedly bringing home the point that early retirement isn’t an easy thing to achieve. It requires determination, sacrifice and grit to hang in there while everyone is shopping it up and jetting across the world but the “win is the rest of your life on vacation”.
    I admire your comprehensive and honest view and also plan to do some schizophrenic investing of my own.


  35. Interesting point you raised about focusing only on the brightest at schools.

    It seems like a good idea, and especially when you consider that you surely can get just as good a general education in “subjects” just from reading wikipedia nowadays for the rest of us. The thing that would concern me is what would we do with the rest of those kids? Sure the parents would be able to look after them due to having the universal income and no job to go to. But there would be an overwhelming amount of parents that just won’t bother, and kids need direction.

    I am sure if I were left to my own devices and had the choice of reading Wiki all day or going out and playing, I’d be out 8/10 times. And the other 2/10 would probably be playing video games instead 🙂

    I like the new acronym plug in btw (well I haven’t seen it before anyway). The only one I didn’t get was MOOC which was the only one with no glossary provided for… hah!

    Final note totally unrelated to the post… I was up your way the other week! Stayed overnight in Claydon, very nice little village. Do you know it? Then we went to Clacton on Sea on the way home which was very quiet and pleasant as well. I can imagine it being a bit hectic in the summer holidays though 🙂



  36. @Rowan Tree the outdoors we do still have, in its magnificance. We could do with thinking about our birds though… it’s not just the spadger of London who have thrown in the towel, though happily skylarks are doing well in my particular area!

    @Rowan Agile, eh – and it’s evil handmaiden pair programming. Fortunately I left coding jsut before all that came into vogue, and now I code as that anathema, the loner…

    FI isn’t easy, as you say. But it is delicious when you have it. I haven’t done a stroke of work since leaving. That doesn’t mean I haven’t shaken things up, created stuff or made things happen. But I’ve done it on my own terms, not on The Man’s – and that is the prize. It can be had, with persistence!

    Engineering does love its TLA s eh 😉 But I’ve had too many people call me out for that to not address the subject now!

    @TheFireStarter I don’t know. Those parents, unfrazzled from the need to work of the Man, could both spend time with their kids and see them grow. Hopefully they would kick balls around in the rec, they would show them the birds in the air and how to make fire. They’d teach them the value of persistence, and indeed their own values. I am still child of the 60s enough to believe in the human spirit. We can do better than consumerism and knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    We have measured the shit out of all sorts of things, and yet along the way we have lost sight of value. As Einstein said “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    Claydon is nice – next to the Gipping and some great walks around the countryside through the fields over to Barham and back. Did some bird surveying for the BTO atlas a way back over there and was pleasantly surprised by the number of skylark territories. Is the pub any good – I’ve heard mixed reports on the Crown…

    I’ve only ever been to Clacton in the winter too. Well, as an adult – I believe I went there on a summer day-trip as a primary school kid but I don’t remember much!


  37. I commented a bit early as hadn’t read the rest of the post… I find they can be a bit too long to read in one sitting for those of us still bogged down with crappy jobs 🙂

    Nice round off to the post. It’s a shame about the guy who gave you the advice turned into a walking wallet for his family!

    Re Parents etc… You seem more optimistic on those sort of themes than I do I think, which is strange as a lot of the blog comes across with you being quite a pessimistic sort? Or maybe I am way of the mark on that one… apologies if so!

    Funny you bring up the metrics bollocks and an earlier commenter mentioned Agile. They’ve just implemented it at our place, literally like 2 days ago, and it’s safe to say I hate it already. We have spent already far less time doing coding than before and I can’t really see how they expect us to make that time up (and we are already hard pressed to meet deadlines).

    I am glad I will be out the door in 8-9 months time, I think I am jumping just at the right time, although I hope it’s not out the frying pan and inot the fire! 🙂

    Claydon – The Crown was rammed to the rafters and we had to stand up for a quick drink, while the other pub (Greyhound?) was totally dead… we couldn’t work it out. Both seemed like nice pubs and I’d definitely go back to explore the area better.



  38. @TFS on parents since I am child-free perhaps my views are clouded by the favourable childhood summers effect. People’s time on and off the clock was much better defined in the 1960s and 70s.

    Although better comms means parents can now ‘work’ at home they seem to be all at sea doing everything and nothing. I think it was Mrs MMM who nailed it that one of the greatest gifts parents can offer is them – or rather their time. Which in a universal income system would be possible.

    How the hell did you manage to avoid Agile for so long – it came in at The Firm in 2007 with bollocks like Agile evangelists and pair programming and cock like that. I was chuffed to be able to switch back into the niche of electronics and CATV to get out of that garbage. It seems the most arrantly stupid way of trying to get any sort of focus, it’s like a introvert seeking missile to try and run them all out of the company by promoting the hive mind above all else.

    Get out if you can 😉 Agile sounds like a great idea in theory but in combination with ordinary human frailties it seems to end up in rapid response crap. In all fairness I was never a brilliantly talented coder, but agile seemed to destroy the productivity of everyone else too. But it was the latest management fad so it had to run through the company like a dose of salts. Stand up SCRUM meetings etc – it’s all just people flapping their lips.

    As a user of code it’s a bastard too – endless updating and flakeyness as the notion of quality control goes out the window.

    But not my problem any more I’m happy to say 😉


  39. I do love those DT case studies for a chuckle. This week’s is a good one – ‘can I retire at 42 and maintain my £120k lifestyle with a nest egg of £680,000, most of which is sitting in cash’. Err, that’d be a no then….
    I don’t understand why these guys don’t do a bit of googling and discover concepts like SWR themselves?
    And why they have never done the basic step of working out what their spending needs are?
    Reading between the lines of this one, my guess is that he’s inherited most of that big cash dollop (from the same source as his BTL flat) and has chucked in his job in the heady euphoria of unimagined riches, before he’s done the math. But then, I think most people act first and think later, and perhaps that’s not always a bad thing, necessity being the mother of invention and all that.


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