The Problem with Second Generation FIRE

The following is a guest post from my sister site, Kid Wealth.

We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning for the new year. One of the areas I’ve come across is my book collection. I feel like I’ve finished about ten books in my life, but somehow I’ve managed to own at least a couple hundred books. Of the ten books I’ve finished, at least two are by Malcolm Gladwell. You can read my Outliers review here and my What The Dog Saw review here. For some reason, I’ve never reviewed The Tipping Point or Blink on this website, which is weird because I would have thought those were the two Gladwell books I’ve read.

Wow, that’s quite a Grandpa Simpson story of a paragraph. In the cleaning, I came across Gladwell’s David and Goliath and realized that I’ve never opened it. Each chapter is a story of “underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants.” Gladwell makes the point that sometimes who we feel is the underdog should not be an underdog at all.

The second chapter caught my attention. The main point that Gladwell wants to make is that we think about school class size all wrong. We have always assumed that smaller classes help kids learn better and achieve more. He argues that’s simply not true.

To prove his point, he uses an analogy involving parenting and wealth. It can be hard to parent if you are very poor – “Poverty is exhausting and stressful.” A point that I’ve made many times on this website is that money may not buy happiness, but it can cure a lot of unhappiness. It is common sense enough that I don’t need to spend more words on this point.

As you go up the wealth ladder, it gets easier to parent. I enjoy having landscapers, which saves me time and energy that I can use to help kids with homework or another enrichment activity like Cub Scouts. However, there comes a point where more money doesn’t buy too much more time – the advantage of having enough money levels off.

Then something strange happens. Gladwell tells the story of a Hollywood producer who has hundreds of millions of dollars. Parenting becomes more complicated when you have too much money. The kids grow up spoiled. They see their parents with a Ferrari, and they expect that they can have almost any material object they want. Kids know you have more than enough for the PlayStation 5 and 40 new games. It’s much easier to explain that you can’t afford something than you won’t give it to them.

I think of my kids. They’ve seen me “go to work” once in their lives. (I had one meeting in Boston a few years back.) I write for the blog a lot, but they don’t see that as work. They don’t see my customer service gig as that’s through email. Fortunately, they actively participate in my dog boarding business. I can show them a lot about how money is earned. The dog boarding business was just supposed to be a little side hustle. I hadn’t planned on it becoming a full-time income. I got lucky.

In an alternate universe, my wife could have retired, and we’d use her military pension for income. Perhaps I have no dog business or a customer service gig. (These are new income sources over the last few years.) Our kids could grow up watching neither of us works aside from my blog hobby or answering a rare tenant’s phone call. For them, it would be normal that adults simply don’t work.

That could have been a big problem. What do kids think when they see that their parents don’t work? I tell my kids that doing their best in school is their job. I would have a problem telling my kids that they need to do their job while I spent the day surfing or golfing.

The biggest issue is when kids grow up with too much money; they don’t have to work hard to make money themselves. My wife was motivated to become a pharmacist because her family always had money problems. Pharmacy was a way out of a bad situation.

First generation FIRE has eliminated money adversity. The next generation has a very comfortable life. There’s nothing to light the FIRE fire.

Second-generation FIRE isn’t all bad, though. I haven’t met anyone who has said, “I wish I learned about compound interest and financial independence later in life.” They always wish they had learned it earlier. Second generation FIRE grows up with that. They know that a Kid Roth IRA can be worth a million dollars and can help them get started with that early.

Gladwell moves on from the analogy of kids, parenting, and wealth to get back to class size. His point is that there’s a Goldilocks Principle* where there is a “just right” class size. If you have a class too small, the group dynamic suffers, and you lose the diversity of class discussion.

* Gladwell never mentions the Goldilocks Principle. I stumbled upon it completely by accident. I thought that Goldilocks made sense to describe it, and I guess enough other people did as well.

The Google Pixel Watch is an Unmitigated Disaster, but…

The most significant part of this article is going to be a rant about my horrible experience with the Google Pixel Watch and Google’s customer support. However, you can skip down to learn how I returned it and got a brand new Fitbit Charge 5 at 60% off. Also, to balance out the negative product review for something I got at Christmas, I want to tell you about two awesome things I DID get for Christmas. If you aren’t interested in a Google Pixel Watch (maybe you have an iPhone), just scroll down to the next big heading.

The Disastrous Google Pixel Watch

To start, I’ve always been a bit of a Google fan. I don’t like to pay the “Apple tax” and think that competition works better when hardware and software can be separate companies. I’ve read that Samsung makes a good watch, but Samsung likes to put its own apps that compete with Google’s apps on my Samsung S10 phone. Samsung makes the best Android hardware, so I accepted that annoying aspect. For a watch, I have been looking forward to the Pixel Watch for over a year.

I would have been happy if the Google Pixel Watch only functioned as a watch. Unfortunately, it did not.

The battery on the Pixel Watch would die after five hours. That would happen even in power-saving mode. It would happen in bedtime mode (it’s supposed to measure sleep).

So I did my best to charge the watch three times a day. It would usually die for an hour before I could get to the charger, and then charging time would take most of an hour. I reached out to customer support after about three days of this. My wife had bought it over Black Friday and given it to me for Christmas, so I was concerned I might not have a long return window left.

The Google representative in the online chat pointed to all the Google resources online that I had already gone through. My phone has a way to see which apps are using the most battery, so I asked for a similar diagnostic tool. Either one doesn’t exist for the public, or they wouldn’t give it to me. Google customer support just changed the subject.

The person in the customer support chat set me up with an email ticket. I gave them all my account information so that they could look into it. The representative said that they escalated it to a higher tier of engineering. Three days went by with no email. Then the first week passed, and no response. I emailed and asked when I could expect an answer. Another three days pass, and the original customer support person responds that he did indeed escalate it. The second week passed, and I emailed again to tell them that they really needed to respond. Two weeks simply isn’t reasonable.

After another few days without a response, I’m getting angry at them. That’s a long time to have to charge your watch three times a day. That’s around 50 charges which would have been enough to get through a year with my old Fitbit.

Then I got a strange text. My wireless provider said that I used up all 16GB of my data plan. I typically use only 4GB a month because I’m almost home (since I work from home). It was also only the 25th day of my billing cycle. I went to look at my phone’s data usage, and the Google Pixel Watch had churned through GB after GB. Not only that, but the Google Chrome app also used several GBs of data – more than five times as much as I typically use in a whole month.

I suppose this was the diagnostic app that I was looking for. Something on the Pixel Watch was connecting to my phone constantly and making huge data requests. I don’t know what kind of data it was asking for. I tried to reach out to Google customer support one more time, but I admit that I was even angrier than I was previously. With my data plan used up, I was reduced to only extremely slow data speeds. I couldn’t navigate to a web page on my phone without waiting at least a minute. The alternative was to buy more data from my mobile provider, but I knew that Google’s lack of customer support was going to make reimbursement for that a non-starter.

I told customer support that I’d have to return the watch. My wife looked, and we had two days, so we rushed it off. Customer support got back to me a few days later with a one-liner, “Just to confirm, we do not have to initiate the replacement on our end anymore, is that right?” There was no apology. There was no offer like, “I understand how bad this has been for you. Let us give you a 20% discount on a Fitbit, so you can get back to what worked for you.”

The escalated customer support representative never entered the email thread in the entire three weeks. I had pleaded with them multiple times that I just wanted to donate my time to help debug their device. I was happy to be a QA (quality assurance) engineer for them for free and they simply couldn’t respond back to the email.

I can only imagine the situation will only get worse as Google, like many big tech companies, is laying off thousands and thousands of people. I am used to poor customer support from Google for their free products, but for the hardware that I purchase, I have a much higher standard.

Get 60% off a Brand New Fitbit Charge 5

With the Google Pixel Watch returned, it was time to get back to a regular old Fitbit. I have loved Fitbit as far back as 2012. Back then, you’d clip it to your pants or put it in your pocket. I ended up putting quite a few through the wash. I’ve been through a couple of wrist trackers. The Bluetooth died on the first one, so it would no longer sync my data with the web. The screen died on the second one making it useless for telling time or seeing my step count. At least I got 2-3 years out of each.

The good news is that by switching to the $150 Fitbit Charge 5, I’d save $200 over the $350 Pixel Watch. The Charge 5 has been around for a little while, so I thought that maybe I could hunt for a deal on a refurbished one. In hindsight, I don’t know why I thought going refurbished was a good idea for a product that seems to be designed to break. In any event, it led me to eBay, where I found that I could buy just the Charge 5 core (they call it the pebble) for $50. A bunch of sellers had them – all brand new. Maybe they fell off the back of a truck because they don’t come up with boxes, watch bands, chargers, etc.

I bought the Fitbit Charge 5 “Pebble” ($50), this watch band for $6.75, and these two chargers for $9. I didn’t need two chargers, but I couldn’t find a way to save money buying just one. Add it all together, and I have a brand new Charge 5 (with an extra charger) for about $67. That’s a lot better than a new one for $150 or a refurbished one for $100. (If you buy anything from the Amazon links, I may earn a commission.)

That’s almost $300 less than the Pixel Watch.

The Two Best Things I Got For Christmas

My wife has been on me for owning a long black wool winter coat. It’s not a good fit if you have a dog boarding business. I don’t need to bring the dog hair everywhere I go. Last year she invested in an expensive winter coat and was so happy with it that she thought it would be a good idea for me. She got a Vineyard Vines coat that looked very nice, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be warm enough. We did a little more research and found that it wasn’t going to be warm enough.

I did a little research and found a “best of” Travel+Leisure article that mentioned LL Bean’s Maine Warden’s 3-in-1 Parka. The article mentioned that the coat might be too warm, according to their reviewer. I’ve been out in 30-degree weather without zippering it (though I usually do). It’s been a warm winter, so I haven’t had the opportunity to test that aspect too much. It has about 200 pockets in all the right places. The standard ones (where you would normally put your hands) are perfectly angled in such a way that nothing falls out.

The best feature is that you can take out the liner and wear it separately as its own coat. As we move into spring, I’ll separate the liner from the GORE-TEX shell. The shell can be a raincoat, and the liner as a spring jacket. At $400, it isn’t cheap, but I’m getting to the stage in my life where I’ll pay extra for quality.

My other favorite Christmas gift was the The Green Bamboo Brush by Bass. It’s weird to be excited by a hairbrush. Nonetheless, here I am, excited to brush my hair. Kids love it, too, and they normally hate to brush their hair. My hairbrush from a few years ago was plastic, and it had a good run for about a decade. It was cheap, though, and it was time to move on. My next brush had metal brushes with soft rubber tips. It was fine until the soft rubber tips fell, and I was scraping my head with knife-like spikes. The curved bamboo wood is much softer, and the handle is a much better grip.

Final Thoughts

Did you read through my rant or just skip through to the good stuff? I was really torn on what to do with this blog post. On one hand, I wanted to warn everyone to avoid the Pixel Watch at all costs. On the other hand, who wants to read an article that’s all negative?

Kosmo’s Greatest Hits Volume 2

The following article is the second part of Kosmo’s Greatest Hits. It’s his subtle grift of getting me to pay him twice for the content he’s already written – like a sitcom clip show. I appreciate the lazy factor, so I’m embracing it. You can read Kosmo Greatest Hits Volume 1 here.

Welcome to another installment in my walk down memory lane.  Let’s take a look back at a few more of my favorite articles from the past.

The Great Baseball card regifting

The article details how I took a 1976 Topps baseball set that I was given, broke it into team sets, and sent them to fans of various teams.

Looking back at the article, it mentions that I set aside the Cardinals set for my son.  That’s news to me.  At some point, I’ll have to dig around in the storage closet to see if I can find it.  I’m sure I put it somewhere safe.  (Translation: I have no idea where it might be.)

The Expos set went to Jonah Keri.  At the time, he was a prominent sports writer and author.  He was one of the foremost fans of the Montreal Expos.  Unfortunately, the only time he has been in print lately is as the subject of news articles detailing his abuse of his ex-wife.  Sometimes people who seem like nice guys really aren’t.

When I wrote this article, Lazy Man sent me a 1983 Fleer card of my childhood idol, Ryne Sandberg.  That card is in a prominent location at the top of my desk.

Pizzagate and financial fraud

Remember Pizzagate?  The basic idea was that a pizza restaurant in DC was a front for a child trafficking ring.  Proponents of the idea “discovered” coded language in emails.  When an email said that Hillary Clinton needed ten large pepperoni pizzas delivered to an event, this was actually coded language for something far more nefarious.

As bizarre as this idea was, it actually got some traction in various groups.

Ultimately, a guy drove from North Carolina to DC to break up the “pedophilia ring” and fired several shots inside the pizzeria.  He was sentenced to four years in prison in June 2017 and was released on May 28, 2020.  In addition to traumatizing the employees at the pizzeria, the gunman threw away his future just because he got sucked into a conspiracy theory.

Sadly, this was just a single point in a journey toward an increasing frequency of conspiracy theories.


This article focused on paying attention to what you are buying to ensure you pay the lowest price for a bundle of items.  The example in the article was piecing together items from a McDonald’s value menu to create the same food bundle was the McDonald’s value meals but for a lower price.  While prices have escalated in McWorld lately, the basic premise remains valid.  In the McDonald’s universe, the twenty-piece a la carte nuggets and the $1 any-size drinks are the foundations of an economical, albeit unhealthy, meal.

I’m ashamed to admit that I recently failed a McEconomics test.  My wife wanted two McRibs.  I ordered two McRibs for her and a drink ($1) for me.  The cashier asked if I wanted the McRib meal plus a bonus McRib for $1.  Since I didn’t want the fries, I said no.  A few minutes later, I realized it would have been cheaper to do it this way and just tell them to keep the fries.

[Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to check the McDonalds app for free fast food.]

How to bribe your coworkers

What’s the best way to bribe your co-workers?  With donuts and chocolate, of course.

At my current job, I have pivoted a bit.  I still occasionally bring donuts, but I’m mostly known as the guy who keeps the ice cream stocked so that there are always some tasty treats in the freezer.  It’s not particularly expensive and helps me maintain my image of being a nice guy.

What’s my angle?  When I need a favor from a co-worker, they know that I have already done them a favor in the past by bringing in ice cream.  It’s a reasonably cheap way to build some team chemistry.

A killer made me do it

This article is the first of two on the topic of stamp collecting.  (The second was “what’s worth collecting“.)

I’m not spending quite as much time on my collection as I was in the early days.  One reason is that we’re no longer in COVID lockdown, so there are other activities to consume my time.  Another reason is that I don’t have too many gaps in my primary collection (New Zealand, 1855-1970).  I have all the stamps from 1940-1970.  Most of the stamps I’m missing are from pre-1920.  These stamps are either expensive, ugly, or both (high-value fiscal stamps).

True to my frugal ways, I primarily collect canceled stamps, which are almost always cheaper than mint stamps.  In addition to the fact that they are cheaper, I like the idea of owning stamps that actually served their intended purpose of getting a letter to its intended destination.

Job Search Journey

Job Search Journey was the most cathartic content I have written for Lazy Man and Money.  It started with me losing the job I’d had for more than twenty years.  The company simply decided to cut loose hundreds of remote workers, and they chose to focus on co-location of team members.  Remember the old days, pre-COVID, when “remote worker” was a bad word?

This series of articles was written as I navigated a foreign process in an attempt to find another job.  Although I had occasionally interviewed for other jobs, I hadn’t had a real job search since leaving college.  It was a very frustrating process but ultimately became great for me professionally.  I have upskilled considerably in the past five years.

If you’re currently a job seeker, this series may interest you.

The Whole Job Search Series:

1. You’re Fired

2. Assessing the Situation

3. Networking

4. Learn

5. The Interview

6. Frustration

7. Success

8. Sink or Swim

9. Search for Stability

10. Job Search Journey: The Interview that Lasted for Seven Months

11. Advice

Another job hunt

Three years after the job hunt chronicled in Job Search Journey, I decided to spread my wings and look for a different challenge.  Another job hunt details the reasons for the job hunt, as well as the initial steps in the process.  This was a different job hunt than my previous one because I wasn’t losing my current job – thus, it didn’t require the same level of urgency.

Although urgency wasn’t required, things unfolded very quickly.  I launched my job hunt on December 12, interviewed on January 6, accepted an offer on January 8, and started the new job on January 25.

It ended up being a great move.  Not only do I enjoy my current work, but a subsequent layoff at the previous job would have almost certainly affected me.