This book by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine has to do with a radically different idea of financial management and retirement planning. While many self-help professionals preach the idea of saving religiously while working at a job which not only meets your financial needs but also provides a source of satisfaction, this book has basically the opposite approach in mind. Instead, this book advises people to go out and work for money, rather than satisfaction, using cash to pay for purchases instead of borrowing, and continuing to work in some form or fashion as long as you are alive. After all, you’ll be burning through all of your cash before you die anyway. His four-step approach works this way:
- Quit today. In other words, stop thinking that your job will bring you satisfaction. Instead, use your job to bring in the money that will help you get your personal goals accomplished.
- Pay cash. Save until you can afford new things. Until then, don’t buy them.
- Don’t retire. Get into your mind the notion that you will always be financially productive. This will keep you more active, more satisfied, and wealthier.
- Die broke. Get rid of all the money you’ve earned, and don’t worry about an estate.
Pollan puts it this way: “By choosing to die broke, you turn the future from something to fear to something to embrace and rejoice over. Dying broke offers a way out of your current misery and into a place of joy and happiness.” This basically tells people to enjoy the short-term future, as well as the present, rather than living in a constant attitude of sacrifice.
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My initial response to this is that, while it comes across as abrasive advice, it acknowledges a lot of the realities of work in the 21st century. The era of loyalty to a company, as far as the idea of spending an entire career with one employer and making a contribution to that company’s abstract qualities, is obsolete now. Companies will downsize longstanding employees at the drop of a hat, or find ways to renegotiate the benefits that workers were promised when they came onboard. As a result, it is up to each individual to take care of his or her own financial future, and if that means maximizing income and finding ways to reach personal satisfaction outside the workplace, then so be it. My grandfather worked for General Electric for 43 years, and then he had a pension and benefits up until he passed away. My employer isn’t offering me anything like that – just some contributions to a 401(k), if I contribute too.
Companies would like employees to think that there is some magic carpet ride awaiting them at the end of their career, at least during the recruiting phase. But then, when a lot of professionals have moved well up the management ladder, they get hit with an “early retirement” package when they still have a lot of productive years ahead of them, but they can’t find work because they are too old or too experienced to get into another company – especially when those companies are getting rid of their middle management professionals as well. The key is to make a reputation for yourself that will make you attractive to other companies. The more options that you have professionally, the less stress you will have – and the more income you will have over time.