Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inferior vs Normal Goods

In my assorted reading, I come across several new (to me) concepts and ideas. Quite often, these concepts seem to apply to my situation at the time I encounter them.

Recently, in an economics book, I read about what economists refer to as inferior goods as contrasted against normal goods. This seemed to have implications for those interested in early retirement.

First the definitions: An inferior good is something that people want less of as they get richer.

Examples of inferior goods include eating street food (as opposed to eating in white-tablecloth restaurants); buying new items (versus settling for used ones or getting old items repaired); and taking bus rides (compared to driving one's own car).

A normal good is something that people buy more of as their incomes rise (better clothing, getting a bigger house, fancier entertainment etc.)

In my own case, the goal was to get time off. Now, I am very aware of how important luck is in our lives and I won't deny that my wife and I are extremely fortunate. But we also planned for and made numerous adjustments in working towards this goal of getting time off (which in our case means no steady income). In retrospect, I see that starting from years earlier, we consciously opted for the so-called inferior goods.

To me, this choice seems to be another necessary condition. It strikes me that those who are serious about taking time off (by giving up their regular salary) have to opt for at least some "inferior goods."

You make all the adjustments you can, and then you hope for luck.

1 comment:

Retired Syd said...

Great observation. In my case the inferior good would be the travel that I do by exchanging my home. The "normal" good would be paying for a hotel or renting a vacation apartment, but in order to travel more while enjoying the life of leisure, I welcome the inferior one.