I'm sure my liberal friends here are all for the working class. But what role does early retirement play among blue collars? Of course, too many of my blue collar comrades are spending all their money or more on consumer junk, and saving little or nothing. Too many will wind up injured and unable to work, or laid off with few prospects and little in the way of assets. A number in those categories sleep under bridges or in cars or trucks in my working class neighborhood. Early retired, after a fashion.But being blue collar doesn't necessarily mean being stupid.While frugality, thrift and investing are deviant values among blue collars and the middle class as a rule, and efforts to promote such values will often be met with angry hostility, a subculture of frugal blue collars usually exists if the work group is large enough, and frugal people wind up recognizing each other just as gays did when they were forced into the social closet.So there are blue collars who are saving and investing their money in the stock market, in rental property and in businesses they have built and run. Some can earn loads of money for savings and investment merely by working overtime that is offered at premium pay rates. I happened to encounter two of my former blue collar co-workers six months ago, and stopped to chat with them. The first words out of the mouth of one were to tell me I should buy a new car, since he apparently held my '85 Plymouth Reliant station wagon I used in my repair business in contempt. I sloughed off that comment and enjoyed chatting with them for a bit. The first guy, about my own age of 57, asked me what my plans were, and I mentioned I was planning to retire within the next year.He was shocked and angry by that response, and immediately said in tones that were contemptuous, "So you have all the money you will need for the rest of your life?" When I said, "Yes," he shut up.The other guy, somewhat older, responded by saying, "You need to get married." He had a plan for this lifelong bachelor as well.Some are prepared. Some will never be prepared. And other can't imagine being prepared for unexpected problems or opportunities.The utility company I worked for had a number of different blue collar job positions, but most paid pretty much the same wage rates after a while. After twenty years or so of similar opportunities and incomes, it was interesting to note that some of these people were recently bankrupt, and others had a million dollars or more in net worth. you could see the long term results of varying choices in how people spent or used their money. I worked with one well paid fitter who drove his large company truck to buy cocaine at his drug dealer each morning on the way to the worksite ---he wound up being fired when a neighbor complained. But lots of people merely spent their money on consumer junk of various kinds.On another occasion a year or so ago, I stopped in for coffee among some other of my former blue collar co workers. The subject immediately turned to investments and 401K strategies. One of the people at the table was a twenty something recently hired employee who could hardly believe or understand the conversation going on around him. A final observation dating back to shortly before I left my blue collar job in 1999 in favor of self employment in my furnace repair business. For decades my blue collar co-workers tended to impress each other by buying new cars, boats or other such stuff and hauling them into the company parking lot to show off. But a new status symbol was now being trotted out to impress people ----401K balances in excess of $100,000. I thought that was very interesting. Judging from the conversation described in the previous paragraph, perhaps that is an increasingly powerful status symbol. Seattle Pioneer
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