Set forth below is the text of a comment that I recently posted to the discussion thread for another blog entry at this site:
So instead of an easy job that pays money, you took a hard job that pays nothing. For 15 years and counting.
That sounds, now what’s the word? Dumb.
Most people would call it dumb. I think it would be fair to say that that’s why you don’t see anybody else doing it.
I do love my country, Anonymous. Some would call that dumb too. But I do love my country. I don’t mean that I go carrying the flag around on anything like that. I mean that I love the idea of progress, I love the marketplace of ideas. That runs very, very deep with me. I think that’s why I was the one who couldn’t turn away from the opportunity even when I saw the brutality that was going to be directed at me if I didn’t.
I have a law degree and a Masters in Tax Law. I obtained both of those degrees with zero intention of becoming a lawyer. I always intended to become a journalist. But I didn’t want to be an ordinary journalist. I wanted to be able to say something that mattered. Getting the tax law degree meant that I could understand and write about the tax reform movement in a way that none of the other journalists covering it at the time could pull off. So I went to that extra time and expense even though I did not have the money to spare. It was important enough to me that the work I did count for something that I was driven to go the extra mile.
Some would say that that was dumb too. People say all kinds of things. It wasn’t dumb for me. We all get to live one life. And we all have only so much money. I would rather spend mine making myself the best tax journalist out there than going on nice vacations or whatever. So I did what I did.
My Retire Early dream was the same sort of thing. Some people try to retire early to escape work. I wanted to retire early to do more meaningful work. That is what motivated all of my saving efforts. Again, this goes very deep.
So here I am. Yes, there are people who will say I am dumb. They have to live their lives and I have to live mine. If I didn’t jump on the opportunity that was presented to me to change the world in an amazingly positive way, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. So even today I don’t have any second thoughts. It’s just not in me to play it any other way. I am a child of the 60s. I see this as a 60s kind of thing to do. It’s idealistic. I am an idealistic sort of fellow.
For good or for ill, I am doing what I believe I was put on earth to do. It would have made my life easier if someone else had taken on the opportunity. But whatever it takes to walk way from it, I don’t have that thing inside me. I like to think that I would not walk away from a burning building if I heard a baby screaming inside it. And I cannot walk away from a situation I discover in which millions of middle-class people are looking for good information on how to plan their retirements and they are all being given information that is 36 years out of date. However things turn out, I will be able to go to sleep at night knowing that I did not walk past the burning building.
The part that you miss is that the fact that this job has not paid money for 15 years is what makes it so important that I take it on. If it paid a nice, steady wage, there would be people lined up to do the job. It’s very important work and, because it is such hard work and it does not pay a steady wage, there is no one else willing to accept the assignment. That makes it all the more critical that I accept it. If there were others taking it on, I could take a pass. Or, if it were not critically important work, I could take a pass. As things are, I cannot take a pass and live with the knowledge that I have done so.
I hope that helps you understand this particular aspect of the question a wee bit better, my long-time Buy-and-Hold friend.