I'm not #FIRE-ing but I am #FI-ing
Are you part of the #FIRE movement?
The best part about personal financial is that everyone has a personal take on it. As I've been writing over the past three months, I've also been reading a considerable amount of material from other personal finance blogs. There has been some repetition -I've seen more than a few "5 things you can x to y" posts- but most of what I've read has been insightful. One of the things that's interested me the most is the #FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement and the massive amount of discussion around it. Since this is my personal, personal finance blog, I'll come right out and say that I'm not #FIRE-ing, but I am #FI-ing. Here's why:
What is FIRE anyway?
Made particularly popular in the blogosphere by the likes of Mr. Money Moustache, the basic idea behind FIRE is to A) Spend as little as possible on the things that don't matter B) Save and invest as much as possible and C) Retire from the rat race ASAP (30's or sooner).
Within that larger characterization, there are two "sects" that I've noticed. The first are what I call the "Fundamentalist" FIRE-ers. These people save up to 80% of their income per year, cut every extraneous cost that isn't related to their FIRE goal out of their lives, and often have multiple side hustles to reach their goal even faster. On the other side, we have the "Relaxed" FIRE-ers, who still save 40-60% of their income but are a little less intense about their spending and might have just one, or even no side hustles.
What's so bad about #FIRE?
Honestly there's nothing wrong with FIRE from an intellectual standpoint. It's an awesome idea and I 100% support and admire the people that are FIRE-ing. In particular, I appreciate the focus on long term goals in investing, and the constant cycle of financial self-evaluation that FIRE folks have to put themselves through. Most importantly, I am all for financial independence, and am working towards it myself. But, there are three big reasons why I won't be FIRE-ing myself.
1. I may not love work, but I do benefit from it beyond my paycheck
I am lucky to have a job at a fast moving startup with bright prospects, and a great team. Largely because of that team, every day that I go to work I am learning new things and expanding my mind in ways that I wouldn't push myself to if I were retired "from the rat race".
The key benefit here isn't that I'm learning and interacting with people (which is super easy for retired people to do), but that I am learning about things and interacting with people that I wouldn't normally expose myself to. One of my colleagues -a former journalist- showed me the process that he uses to set up interview questions. I didn't need to know how to do that, but learning his process actually made me evaluate the way I talk with people and ask them questions in normal conversation, and I never would have been exposed to that if I didn't have to at work.
That doesn't even begin to cover the new technologies, ideas, and concepts that I'm introduced every day that I wouldn't even know to discover if I were retired.
2. I can experience life more fully and still retire 'early-ish'
One of the key tenets of the FIRE movement is the complete devotion to eliminating every extraneous expense, particularly from the Fundamentalist FIRE-ers. Most of that is good: a $150 cable bill and $800 car payment are two things that I used to have that I will never miss.
But, I've noticed a significant number of Fundamentalist FIRE bloggers with extremely condescending and judgmental views on what I would call "life experience" spending. Going on vacation with friends. Eating out with family. Taking SCUBA lessons. All of these things add value to my life in the form of deeper relationships or a more complete understanding of our world and what it has to offer. To many of these extreme FIRE folks, any expense that could be saved is heretical.
I understand that's their personal feeling, and if I know that if I wanted to retire at 35, I would totally have to cut all of those things out as well. My problem is the judgmental attitude that the most Fundamentalist FIRE-ers have towards others living their life their own way.
Personally, I am looking to save 30-35% of my income annually. At that number, I'll still be able to retire relatively early (mid-50s, hopefully) and continue to spend money on the experiences I want to with the people I care about. To me, that's much more fulfilling.
3. I don't know what the hell I would do
My eventual goal is to retire, manage my real estate investments, and hopefully volunteer and blog as well. If I were retired now, at 30, there's no way that would be satisfying to me. I would go stir crazy. I've read a considerable number of FIRE blogs at this point and although there are many who are very happy with their lifestyle, I tend to think at least 25% of the most adamant FIRE bloggers are bored silly. I happen to know that I'd be one of those people, so I am giving myself some more time to work and stay busy.
What's my alternative?
My alternative, for ME, is to reach #FI and retire a litttllle early around 50 or 55. Hopefully, I'll learn a lot in my career, experience everything I want to outside of my job, and keep myself and my mind busy in the process.
To all those FIRE bloggers out there, you have my admiration and support, but it's not for me.