My Tuppence Worth

The question of the week in the UK FIRE blogshphere is: Could Channel 4 have made a less effective TV show about “How to Retire at 40” if they’d tried? The answer is a resounding “NO!”

For me, the show didn’t get off to a great start. As a thick, Northern, Brexit-loving, neo-fascist who could hate gays, women and disabled people, I have to be reminded to celebrate diversity by my intellectual superiors at Channel 4 through their selection of presenters. Patronised? Moi? Surely not.

Putting aside my petty hatreds, the first couple of minutes of the show sounded promising.  The presenters announced that there was a growing amount of people interested in the concept of Financial Independence and Retiring Early in the UK and that they were going to explore the subject from a variety of angles. This seemed like a decent premise, and I felt a wee glow of pride in that I found the book “Early Retirement Extreme” back in 2010. “I’m a pioneer!”, I cheered, and then quickly warned myself not to become the FIRE equivalent of someone who claims that they were at the first Sex Pistol’s gig in 1976. It’s really not that big a deal.

The show quickly went downhill from there, and it soon became clear I wasn’t the intended audience and neither was any of the rest of the FIRE community. We wanted to see the elegance of the maths (which The Escape Artist made a heroic attempt at, no doubt, only to edited down to about thirty seconds of soundbites “You only need to save 75% of your income and you can retire in seven years!”) We wanted to see the heroes of FIRE, Jacob Fisker, Mr Money Moustache et al, and not some bloke selling potatoes who was happy to tell us what his profit was, but not his turnover, and young Pippa of Nut Butter fame, who was happy to tell us the turnover of her business, but not the profit. I held my breath to hear what Huw from Financially Free by Forty would say, but clearly the editor had decided his contribution was going to be his startling good looks alone.  As for Julie and Jason, whose blog I follow as they wander around Europe on permanent holiday, if they’d a point to make I must have missed it.

The following day at work, the couple of colleagues I’d nudged to tune in informed me that they’d squandered an hour of their lives on “utter crap”.  “What was it all about?” they asked, and I was at a loss to tell them. As I’ve tried to evidence on this blog, I’m no evangelist for Retiring Early but would like to see a rise in interest on Financial Independence. I had harboured quiet hopes that this show would at least spark some interesting debate on the subject, but judging by the complete lack of reaction following it in the national press I can’t help but feel an opportunity has been missed.

It’s easy to criticise and forget that while we in the FIRE community had this show planned as TV event of the week, the rest of the nation were immersed in the body-shaved car crash that is Love Island. We find this stuff incredibly interesting and appealing, but 99% of the rest of the population couldn’t give a toss about it. That’s what the producers were up against. But when the Mad Fientist can string together a bunch of immersive, informative and entertaining podcasts on FIRE and the people involved in it, is it beyond TV to produce something of a similar ilk? As it stands it seemed all they managed to do was annoy anyone interested in the subject while failing to interest anyone else. Bit of a shame really.


16 thoughts on “My Tuppence Worth

  1. A whopping clue to the likely quality of the show was that Anna Richardson was a presenter – on that basis alone, I avoided it.
    Her main competence seems to be being willing to front a load of superficial gubbins which has only the faintest of relevance to the advertised “hook”, without displaying even a hint of embarrassment.


  2. If I was a conspiracy theorist I’d even suggest the show was trying to turn people off going for FIRE. It really was that bad IMHO. I was contacted by a researcher for the show and I’m so glad I decided to not take it any further after an initial call.

    “As I’ve tried to evidence on this blog, I’m no evangelist for Retiring Early but would like to see a rise in interest on Financial Independence.” For 8 years now I’ve been trying to get the FIRE message out through both my blog and book. So far I’m failing dismally. I’m going to console my under performance by suggesting the consumerist standard of living pull is very strong and certainly much stronger than a life focused on quality of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d started a blog post to have a rant about the programme but knew that others would do a better job of it – cheers Jim, haha!

      Yep, big disappointment, big opportunity missed to ‘educate the masses’.

      I’m liking RIT’s conspiracy theory – keep the masses ignorant/dismissive of FIRE, keep them all spending!


    • HI RIT, you’re not failing and at least you’re trying – and, after 8 years and a book, trying pretty hard! As I try to keep up weekly posts on the same damn subject I know how hard this must be. Wonder what makes us do it?


      • I’m guessing because it’s forever interesting to you. Some people get a tiny bit obsessed about Star Wars/Wedgewood/visiting every country in the world etc, your interests lie in being able to retire and how you ahieve(d) that.

        I don’t have a TV (or broadband), so shucks, I’m going to miss it.


  3. I don’t watch much tv, but had this on in the background to see if it was of interest. I hadn’t realised until I read this post that the guy giving the “save x%, retire in y years” spiel was TEA. Let’s just say the quality of his tv output was about as good as his blog.


  4. As soon as I realised the show was only half an hour long and then saw the intro, I knew it would be utter crap, and I was right. I can only assume that Channel 4’s target audience for this (and most of its shows) are people who need supervision to prepare corn flakes. To be fair, the BBC isn’t much better. Right on the Money my arse.


  5. Still sounds better than what we have in America. Sometimes there’ll be a short series about people living frugally, but it’s marketed like a freak show. Meet the man who re-uses a cloth instead of buying toilet paper! The guy who brings his family to eat at a buffet, and has everyone eat off the same plate because you pay per plate. Then there are the couponing shows with people hoarding shelves of on-sale Gatorade… It IS like a conspiracy, because why would anyone want to live like that?


  6. I caught it later online and saw that it was nominally just 23 minutes before pressing play. I was confused as to who the program was targeted at, consumers would reverse the pattern by watching the ads and muting the ‘content’ instead, if they weren’t watching reality TV in the first place. Freethinkers can handle the intelligence, so they could have given our bloggers a real go at explaining the concept, rather than collating a circus act of seemingly random characters. (message on a potato seriously) Channel surfers/the neutrals might then have paused and checked that out, just out of curiousity, but as already mentioned in previous comments it only upheld the belief FI/RE isn’t really attainable for ‘normal’ people.

    ‘If I was a conspiracy theorist I’d even suggest the show was trying to turn people off going for FIRE.’

    Hmmm, channel 4 is paid for by advertising, which preys on consumers and the content was supposed to show the possible benefits of mindful spending. I don’t believe in aliens, Trump keeping his genius incredibly well hidden or conspiracies generally, yet……


  7. As I walked through a shop the other night, I looked around and questioned who would buy all the trinkets, baubles, cleansers etc if FIRE became a more popular and bigger movement.
    We should be thankful that only 1% of the population are interested in the idea. Someone will eventually need to fund our modest lifestyles.


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