Today’s recommended reading comes courtesy of Bob Lai writing at Tawcan: FIRE. RIP. 2014-2018. It’s a long but good read that really speaks to the motivations behind the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) mindset. A lot of people (me included) get all tied up in math and numbers, with scant thought as to the rationale for it in the first place. I can tell you the how and the what, but can I tell you the why?
Included below are the key themes I took away from reading it as well as some of my favorite lines. Follow the link above to read the original post.
- FIRE as typically presented in the popular press is anything but. There is a lot more focus on retiring early vs. financial independence and only presents a sanitized version. Most people have an idealized vision of retirement and that’s how they think early retirees are living. At best, they’re jealous; at worst, resentful.
- People view FIRE as an escape from a job/life they aren’t satisfied with. They view retiring early as a finish line and their lives will drastically improve as soon as they cross it. In reality, whatever baggage they had before will still be there. Becoming financially independent doesn’t mean all your problems magically disappear.
- Focus on financial independence, not just retiring early. If you’ve reached FI, you can make a choice whether to continue working or not. Financial independence gives you options.
- Define success on your terms, not someone else’s. And quit comparing yourself to others!
- Be grateful. We have a short time on this planet, so don’t get so focused on working for tomorrow that you completely miss today. To that end, he concludes with an emotional letter written by a young woman coming to terms with her own mortality days before her death. It was a nice punch in the face to keep things in perspective.
My Favorite Lines
- Happiness needs to come from within and finding this internal happiness is a daily practice.
- …[N]o matter where you go, you will always bring yourself. So if you are not in a happy place while pursuing FIRE, you sure won’t be happy once you reach it.
- The root of the problem is that too many people hate their jobs. They despise what they do at work, they don’t like their bosses, they don’t like their co-workers. To them, FIRE is an escape. The happy ending. The escape route. The finish line. They tell themselves that they will only be happy once they are retired. Before they get there, they will never be happy. They constantly remind themselves how miserable their life is and how wonderful their life will be once they are free from their 9-5 job. (Note: Anyone else read this part as Tyler Durden from Fight Club? You’re not your F#$%-ing khakis!)
- If you are not happy and content with your life right at this moment, what makes you think that you will suddenly become happy when you are financially independent and/or retired early?
- To me, FIRE is more of a lifestyle rather than a key life milestone.
- Really, FIRE is more than having enough money to sustain your entire lifetime. It is a mentality, a lifestyle of self-improvement and sustainability.
For those of us working towards financial independence, we need to have our reasons and rationale figured out first. Otherwise, it’s a bit like “ready, FIRE, aim” (Note to self, that’s a great name for a future post). The math is the easy part, having the right frame of mind is more difficult.
Readers, what did you take away from Bob’s article? How did your impressions differ from my own?