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The Philosophy of Don't Quit Your Day Job...

May 24th, 2012 by 
PK

One of the interesting things about writing on a Personal Finance site is that while you write for your readers and yourself, you are part of a broader community which informs your opinions and gives you reason to examine your own views on many topics. We at Don't Quit Your Day Job, as of today, have now been around for three years, covered a large number of financial topics, introduced a number of personal financial strategies, and delved into too-great detail on too many subjects which had mildly interesting data.

One of the things we've never done is written out an executive summary for our readers, a raison d'être if you will. What is the secret sauce of Don't Quit Your Day Job?  What will you find here that you can't find at any of the other thousands of Personal Finance blogs? And why now, why throw down the gauntlet instead of operating without a mission statement for three more years? (And why should you care?  Your call on that one!).

Let's go over the tenets of DQYDJ, shall we?

1. Save as Much Money As Possible To Attain Financial Independence or Retirement

The most important phrase or word in the above statement? The 'or'.

Milton Friedman has a quote which goes, “I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible”. Replace 'cutting taxes' with 'increasing savings' and you've got a pretty succinct summary of how we operate with this bullet point.

Saving as much as possible doesn't necessarily burning out when you're young, getting a stress-related injury or chronic disease, and spending all of your ample savings on palliative treatments – no, certainly not. We're rational beings – the reason you should work hard when you're young and able is to cover yourself when you're older and don't have the energy, flexibility and stamina of your younger self. What you do have when you're older? Wisdom – and usually the type that comes with taking risks and making mistakes in your younger years.

Our mission here at DQYDJ isn't necessarily to get you to extreme early retirement. It isn't even to get you to a career where you can be a “Lifer” and never quit your day job. It's to get you to a point, financially, where decisions about the lifestyle you lead don't necessarily take a backseat to the income aspect. This philosophy may mean that you get to a point where you have enough money to say no (there is an R-Rated term for this, click here to see it), exemplified by this quote by Bill Murray: “And they said, 'Oh, they give you $50,000.' So I said, "Okay, well, I don't even leave the [...] driveway for that kind of money."  The PG version?  A concept called 'Financial Independence", where you have enough money to do what you want.  Yes, even retire extremely early.

Not all of you will love your Day Jobs as much as Cameron, Bryan and me. That's fine. Our goal is to help you get where you want to be – and not have to constantly worry about finances when you go.

2. Strive For Impartiality, but Never Neutrality
Picture of Jeff Bridges from Wikipedia.

Don't be facetious, Jeffrey. (Wikimedia)

One of the most important tenets of Don't Quit Your Day Job is to strive to be impartial when approaching all topics that we write about. The articles we write may be based on original research or anecdotal experiences, but every time we sit down to write an article we will at least weigh both sides of an argument. Humans are, if not existentially, at least empirically biased – present company included. That means that the voices you read on this site will reflect similar patterns of thought – an optimistic view of technology, a tendency to advocate towards personal freedom, a desire for greater personal responsibility, and the belief that math and science can guide your decisions on any topic. For us, “ex nihilo nihil fit” - nothing comes from nothing - and decisions we make now and positions we advocate will positively influence the future.

Some of you may be shocked to see that neutrality is a negative here at Don't Quit Your Day Job. In our mind, to run a web site which people will take time out of their busy days means that the greatest crime is for us to remain neutral. Even if one of us seems facetious or even seems to be advocating the side the evidence is stacked against in our reader prompts, the subtext of every article will reveal where we think the truth lies. Neutrality and impartiality are often conflated; it would be irresponsible to not choose a side on many issues, but our impartiality will never be in question.

One of the reasons that blogs have been so successful is the failings of other forms of media. Media tends to be excessively neutral. As long as they can find someone arguing the 'other side' of a serious topic, they will treat both sides as equally valid. Any of you who have taken a logic class (a common feature of both liberal arts and engineering curricula!) should immediately recognize the Golden Mean Fallacy or the Argument to Moderation at work.

One of the worst arguments in political science is that moderation is the key to every issue. The belief is that both sides make equally valid points and the middle is the ideal answer. That's rarely the case, illustrated by the following example: If you are selling a used car to me and asking $18,000 for it, if I say you should pay me $18,000 to take it doesn't mean that we split the difference and I get the car for free. No – just because I moved to the absolute extreme and was willing to state my position doesn't mean that it was a valid one. Your position of $18,000 may not be correct (maybe it's worth $16,500?) but you should receive more respect for your position that I do.

In essence, any Argument to Moderation necessarily rewards the most extreme position. It's also generally the worst conclusion – usually, the right answer is somewhere in the middle but tending towards one side. Occasionally, one side is absolutely correct and the other side is absolutely wrong. While one should strive to be impartial and weigh both sides of an unfamiliar issue, neutrality and moderation is rarely the correct course of action... so on some issues we will come down heavily on one side of an argument.

3. Practice Political Realism

Some people have the opinion that politics has no part of a personal finance blog – we beg to differ! It is in the constant back and forth process of the political market that most of the things we talk about – 401(k)s, IRAs, 529s, HSAs – all originate! If something is happening politically which will have effects on your finances directly or indirectly, you better bet it's relevant.

At DQYDJ, we have a lot of respect for the individual. We understand that a lot of political situations lead to economically unoptimized results – but as long as there is some sort of market mechanism in our country, there will always be a way for an individual with the right mindset to get ahead. The very concept of political parties means that no matter the stated objective of a political party, the unspoken objective will actually be to get more power. The means that any party looks for ways to expand its influence – which generally means there will be various degrees of creep towards greater control. To declare yourself a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Communist, Marxist or anything else without knowing that fact is to be willfully ignorant about the true nature of political power.

Living in a republic also means that we need to accept that the so-called “tyranny of the majority” will lead to some policies, regulations, and laws with which we disagree. That doesn't mean we can't complain – the argument that “living in a society means we have to make sacrifices” or “society did this for you now do this other thing” should be rejected on its face – politics can't change human nature.

That said, there is an element of truth in those statements; we do live in a society. That means that we have to obey the rules of the game. Just because you don't agree with tax policies doesn't mean you can blatantly ignore them, for example. That rule applies both ways – just because you believe taxes should be higher doesn't mean it's a valid argument to tell you to write a check to the Treasury for the difference in your own rate (although it is humorous!).

By following the financial strategies we highlight on DQYDJ and knowing how to optimize your cash flows, you should be able to do well financially in any political environment.

4. Highlight Both Interesting and Complex Topics
Picture of dictionaries and thesaurii

Sometimes It Seems We Get Stuck In a Thesaurus Loop... Circle... Ring... Hoop... Whorl...

DQYDJ has an Economist/Mathematician – Cameron Daniels, an Electo-Mechanical Engineer – Bryan Sullivan, and a Computer Engineer – PK. Even though we could find a designated expert for most of our articles, there are no restrictions on any of our writers. That means that you'll see Cameron writing articles about technology and automation, Bryan writing articles on philosophy, and PK writing articles about economics.

Why wouldn't we be this way? One of the things that we collectively hate is the idea that just because you didn't specialize or major in a certain subject means that you don't have valid inputs on that topic.  We would never reject an article out of hand because one of us wasn't considered an "expert".  Just like people who are really good in one field often make contributions to other fields, we feel that sometimes the lessons learned in our own experiences inform our opinions on other topics (in a good way!).

The only thing that we aim for here on DQYDJ is highlighting interesting and important topics. If we find something complex, like the relationship of salaries and home prices in the Bay Area, we're willing to go the extra yard because it is interesting to us as well.  We will strive to bring you relevant, interesting conversations on random stuff for as long as our fingers work. No promises about our brains.

5. Don't Take Ourselves Too Seriously

Our final tenet is mainly a reminder to have fun. That might mean way too many jokes, or battles to see who can insert the most movie references in an economics article (go through the archives...). It also means way too many jokes and way too much sarcasm - dry humor is the way of the game here.

Our site name, “Don't Quit Your Day Job...” is a flippant remark used to disrespect an opponent in an argument - basically saying that one is in over their head and should continue to work in their regular profession.  Like I said in the 1,650 words before this section, we aren't experts on most of the stuff we talk about... maybe 1% of articles are on something we practice daily. That means that while we aren't going to quit and travel the country as experts in any of this stuff, we will strive to become as knowledgeable as we can about interesting topics.

You know what else it means? Feel free to hurl insults our way or trash talk about our articles. Just make sure your argument is sound – being (self-titled) Renaissance Men means we know a little bit about how to argue!  If you do make a good point, we'll be sure to highlight it... and yes, enter it as more evidence on why Quitting Our Day Jobs is a bad idea.

The Don't Quit Your Day Job Philosophy

Even though we've been hitting you with this stuff 3-5 times a week for 3 years now, this is the first time we really sat down and put together all of the things that makes DQYDJ what it is. Now you'll think that even though we tend towards irreverence, sarcasm and pretentiousness, we actually have very good reasons for what we are doing – to open our ideas up to the marketplace of opinion and hopefully hone them further.

We hope you continue to visit us, to agree or disagree, sharpen our wit, and contribute to the community of not-quite experts we cultivate on DQYDJ. No matter your background, you have a voice. Even if, as in the immortal words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"... I hope you come and say it.

So, say it below, and we hope to see you often!

-PK, Cameron, and Bryan

Don't Quit Your Day Job...

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