What caught my eye this week.
One thing that helped me through the worst of the pandemic was a newly-found love of South Korean ‘K Dramas’.
Like many others, I discovered these bingeable soap operas – with their wholesome story lines and fairy tale romances – to be wonderful escapism.
What my 19-year old self – neck-deep in Dostoevsky and Joy Division – would make of my middle-aged addiction, I’m embarrassed to think about.
Then again perhaps it’s just two sides of the same coin.
In those days I thought there were answers to the human condition, waiting for me to find them.
Much older and maybe very slightly wiser – or perhaps just more cowardly – I now suspect there are mostly only comforts.
Here, there, and everywhere
Enough metaphysics, and on to some on-topic reflections on the latest K Drama to soothe my days – the veritable chicken soup for the soul that is Hometown Cha Cha Cha.
It’s still available on Netflix and you should watch it. So I’ll try to avoid spoilers.
In brief it’s the story of high-flying dentist Yoon Hye-jin and her burgeoning relationship with the show’s other lead – a huge fish in a small pond named Hong Du-sik, or ‘Chief Hong’ to all his neighbours.
Besides making all real-life women pale for me compared to the fantasy of Hye-jin (and there’s even a t-shirt suggesting many viewers feel the same about Chief Hong) Hometown Cha Cha Cha showcases an alternative way of life. One that’s relevant to the way we do business around here.
You see, from the moment of her arrival in the small town where Chief Hong plies his many trades, Hye-jin is astonished to find him at work everywhere.
Here is Chief Hong directing fisherman at the docks. Now he’s over there at the coffee shop pulling lattes. The doorbell rings – Chief Hong has deliveries. His other occupations include estate agent, carpenter, and tech repair guy.
Naturally, hilarity ensues. And there’s a deeper reason for all this plate juggling, too.
But as I said, no spoilers.
Moe than his job’s worth
Just to generalise, Chief Hong is doing all these things because he wants to support – and be supported by – the local community.
Hong charges for everything he does. But he only ever charges an hourly minimum wage. Hye-jin argues he could pull big bucks in the capital, Seoul. But he prefers pulling espressos for his friends by the seaside.
On his days off he surfs.
Again dancing around revealing too much, we can see Chief Hong as sort of Barista FIRE1. He appears to have inherited his grandfather’s home (and to be fair what a home). Beyond that, the minimum wage – and endless payments in kind – keep him happy.
Hye-jin can’t believe he’s not working for a prestigious chaebol making megabucks. Chief Hong is frustrated that she can’t see why he doesn’t.
Less pain, more gain
I like the new FIRE definitions – Coast FIRE, Barista FIRE, and so on – that arrived in the more recent years of what we now apparently must call a movement.
These new definitions neuter that old enemy, the ‘retirement police’.
So you might say “yes I’m financial independent and I’ve retired from the rat race, but I’m Barista FIRE. I’m working at the pub because I like the social contact and the extra cream it puts on my post-work cake”.
Or perhaps you do some maths and see that as long as you let your ISAs and SIPP compound for 20 years, you’re already sorted. So you shift to a Coast FIRE way of life, ambling towards the end of your career at your leisure.
Many of the biggest voices on the Internet on this topic transition to one of those two lifestyles after finishing with formal work. Even our own Accumulator, I’d (gingerly) argue.
TA would say he’s ‘Lean FIRE’. He has a pot of cash that he calculates can get his household through the rest of his days, albeit without many fancy holidays.
But in practice he’s still doing paid work he likes. Because, well, he likes it, but also – I strongly suspect – because it takes the edge of that Lean aspect. So perhaps he’s Barista FIRE, but a fatter FIRE than his Lean FIRE sums suggest.
Still, a rose by any other name and all that malarkey, right?
You do it your way
Long-time readers will know I’m a fan of doing some work forever. And I do mean paid work.
The testimonies of the legions of early retirement advocates who either go back to work or do some sort of side hustle reinforce my case for me.
Volunteer by all means. But I believe in our society as we find it today, getting paid for doing something is about more than money.
I’ve always assumed work-with-FIRE should usually involve maximizing your Pareto-power by doing your best-paid work in the least amount of time.
But – call me slow – Chief Hong has opened my eyes to another way.
I wonder too if the government would have more luck tempting the retired back to work if they encouraged them to watch Hometown Cha Cha Cha, versus fiddling with the tax system.
Maybe getting these over-50 dropouts to do just a couple of days a week part-time doesn’t suit their diabolical economic plans?
I don’t know. But as we’ve discussed before, just a little extra income is worth an awful lot, especially in retirement. Making £10,000 a year doing a couple of days of engaging work a week pretty much doubles the state pension. It is equivalent to perhaps £250,000 extra in your retirement pot.
I understand taxes and allowances complicate the maths, but again I think that misses the point.
Yes, I know wild horses wouldn’t drag some of you back to anything resembling work. Fair enough, whatever is best for you is grand with me.
But at least schedule Hometown Cha Cha Cha into one of your endless days of leisure. You might just get a glimpse of what you’re missing…
Have a great Easter weekend!
p.s. Sending my links early ahead of the long weekend as The Accumulator and Mrs TA are visiting Monevator HQ for an overnight stay. Of course, generally we don’t even travel on the same planes, in order to avoid a tragedy bringing down this blog forever. If you never hear from us again, you know that freak gas explosion you saw in the news had our names on it…
The Slow and Steady passive portfolio update: Q1 2023 – Monevator
From the archive-ator: My law of crazy big numbers – Monevator
Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view click through to read the article. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing to sites you visit a lot.
Global economy set for weakest growth since 1990, says IMF boss – Guardian
King Charles banknotes printed – but not ready yet – BBC
UK firms try to lure Gen Z workers with ‘early finish Fridays’ – Guardian
Twitter is no longer policing Russian or Chinese state-backed media – Semafor
Have we reached peak inequality? – Prospect
Products and services
Fintechs face reckoning over customer service [Search result] – FT
How to pay in a cheque online with your phone – Be Clever With Your Cash
Open a SIPP with Interactive Investor and pay no SIPP fee for six months. Terms apply – Interactive Investor
What is a joint mortgage and how does it work? – This Is Money
What it’s really like to win a dream home – Guardian
Which supermarket is currently the cheapest? – Which
Homes with room to extend, in pictures – Guardian
Comment and opinion
What Gillian Tett learned from three banking crises [Search result] – FT
Bracing for job loss – Humble Dollar
Will you have ‘retirement regret’? – RAD Reads
Over-confidence in investing – Best Interest
What if you owned no US stocks? – Meb Faber
There’s so much to like about a bear market [US taxes but relevant] – Humble Dollar
Generational wealth and the angst of the not-rich-enough class – Financial Samurai
There’s exactly one good reason to buy a house – The Atlantic via MSN
The active management delusion – CFA Institute
Everything you can’t have [Podcast] – Morgan Housel
Fruition – Indeedably
One of the biggest mistakes in investing – A Wealth of Common Sense
Why this blogger sold her rental properties before retiring early – Business Insider
Aging in retirement mini-special
The real secret to retirement happiness – Think Advisor
Today’s old folks are set to smash through longevity records… – The Register
…though shorter life expectancy are giving UK pensions a windfall [Search result] – FT
Naughty corner: Active antics
The ABC of noise traders – Klement on Investing
ITV and The Investment Potential of Commercial Television [Podcast] – via Apple
Are cheap European stocks more likely to profit from disruptive tech than the Nasdaq? – Verdad
Kindle book bargains
Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe – £0.99 on Kindle
Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley – £0.99 on Kindle
The Almighty Dollar by Dharshini David – £2.19 on Kindle
The Nowhere Office: Reinventing Work and the Workplace by Julie Hobsbawm – £0.99 on Kindle
‘Forever chemicals’ linked to infertility in women, study shows – Guardian
Gone to the dogs – Hakai
Glaciers may melt even faster than expected – Scientific American
Why is LED light so bad? – NY Mag
Robot overlord roundup
Can we backtest an asset allocation model in ChatGPT? – Quantpedia
Finally, a climate-friendly trashcan – Slate
An interview with Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI [Video] – via YouTube
Why can’t we see the impact of automation in the economics statistics? – Uncharted Territories
The ground is quaking – The Reformed Broker
Off our beat
You will be discriminated against – Contessa Capital
How Fox and Murdoch are destroying US democracy – Prospect
Be dignified, as a rule – Raptitude
The daughter who fled North Korea to find her mother – BBC
Computer-generated diversity: fashion turns to digital models – Guardian
Your phone is ruining your vacation – Vox
“All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Rings
- Financially Independent Retired Early. [↩]