The FIRE Movement is Here to Stay

 
“I think we are at or near peak FIRE” – J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly

He then postulated that when the next market crash comes, and we know it will (and we did see a drop of about 20% in the US stock market since then), a lot of people who thought they had achieved financial independence would realize they are not actually FI.

J.D. was the moderator of FIRE panel at FinCon18 that included Pete of Mr. Money Mustache, Jillian from Montana Money Adventures, Carl a.k.a. Mr. 1500, and me. He asked us what we thought about “peak FIRE” and whether the FIRE movement would prove to be a bust with the next bear market.

Both Pete and I addressed the latter question and we both agreed that unless we see a crash like this country’s never seen before, a normal correction or even a nasty bear market is not going to take our financial independence away.

 

 

We didn’t, however, adequately address the first part of J.D.’s question. Have we seen peak FIRE?

I don’t believe we have and I’m not sure we ever will. The acronym and the media mentions may get less play in the coming years, but saving a substantial portion of your income to facilitate living the life you want is not a new concept or a passing fad.

FIRE is dead. Long live FIRE!

 

The FIRE Movement is Here to Stay

 

State of The FIRE Movement

 

The FIRE Movement in the Mainstream Media

 

You can hardly throw a stick at Business Insider, Marketwatch, or Yahoo without hitting another story about some yahoo retiring early. The New York Times, New Yorker, Kiplinger’s, and The Wall Street Journal have also gotten in on the act.

Every week there’s another story about the FIRE movement, and there is no shortage of FIRE bloggers eager to share their story with national media outlets to bring a little more exposure to their own blogs and to the concept and community at large.

In addition to the free publicity, the articles also serve to educate the uninitiated on the basics of financial independence and to make people really, really angry.

You’ll see it in the comments sections. When the featured person’s habits and worldview don’t jive with those of the reader, vitriol is spewed and misconceptions abound. I don’t know what motivates people to make these hateful comments, but their words are often flavored by some combination of disbelief, envy, and personal regret.

I can imagine it’s unpleasant to see millennials and young Gen-Xers traveling the world if you’ve put yourself in a position that demands you spend decades more doing a job you don’t love. Rather than get inspired, some get angry. I get it.

 

 

The FIRE Movement in the Tributaries

 

If large media companies are “mainstream,” the rest of the media we consume is something else. We’re operating in some sort of sidestream or tributary flow.

The tributaries include a bevy of blogs, podcasts, and books. Soon, there will also be a FIRE documentary.

 

 

The people who spend more time in the tributaries are a friendlier lot. They’re inspired individuals who are planning and forging their own paths to financial independence.

There’s no shortage of inspiration out there for them. Rockstar Finance currently lists 360 early retirement blogs among the 2088 personal finance blogs in their directory.

If you prefer the spoken word to the written word, you’ve got options. Most personal finance podcasts touch on FIRE concepts often and feature the topic occasionally. There are several popular podcasts that focus largely or exclusively on FIRE, including:

 

Do you prefer curling up with a good paperback book? Your options are growing by the week. Your Money or Your Life was recently updated, and The Simple Path to Wealth has been the book of choice for many recent FIRE seekers. Real Estate investors have Chad Carson’s Retire Early with Real Estate and frugal fans were treated to Meet the Frugalwoods in 2018.

Scott Rieckens released Playing with FIRE in January, a book that chronicles his journey from financial naivete to FIRE devotee. In 2018, David Sawyer published the 375-page RESET (currently $2.99 on Kindle), a take on financial independence and F.U. money from across the pond.

In one short week, we’ll have Grant Sabatier’s hardcover, Financial Freedom, and a week after that, Tanja Hester’s Work Optional.

 

books to fuel your FIRE

 

 

The FIRE Movement is Spreading like…

 

Well, you know.

Retirement wasn’t a common concept until the 20th century. The life expectancy of a typical human didn’t allow for it.

Social Security was introduced into U.S. law in 1935 and the first articles on early retirement appeared shortly thereafter in the 1940s and 1950s. The Early Retirement Dude has summarized the FIRE movement’s history in some detail.

There was the Tightwad Gazette, the safe withdrawal rate studies in the 1990s, and a few pioneer bloggers in the new millennium.

The FIRE spread to me via Mr. Money Mustache, and I soon latched on to a number of other earlyish FIRE blogs, including the Mad Fientist, Root of Good, Go Curry Cracker, Living A FI, Financial Samurai, 1500 Days, Think Save Retire, and Retire by 40.

The FIRE discussions are not limited to blogs and podcasts. For every person creating online content, there are thousands of people using the same principles to accelerate their timelines to financial freedom.

You can find them, along with some great FIRE-related conversations in numerous online forums, including:

 

The Financial Samurai and Go Curry Cracker have also launched forums of their own in recent months.

All this talk online inevitably leads to talk offline. In break rooms and on bar stools, at the gym and on the phone, FIRE is spreading by word of mouth.

“Did you hear so and so is about to retire?!?” “You save how much of each paycheck?” “Tell me again about these index funds.”

I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. ChooseFI has popularized the phrase, which is obvious and true. The FIRE is spreading.

 

Dispelling the Myths of the FIRE Movement

 

I mentioned the naysayers earlier. You know, the tribe of pessimists that lurk online to take others down in failed attempts to prompt themselves up by making false accusations and assumptions about others.

They, along with some better-intentioned but misinformed individuals, have spread all kinds of myths about the FIRE movement. I’d like to address a handful of them.

 

Myth 1: None of Them Actually Retire.

 

People point to the most popular bloggers and get riled up because they’re still earning money doing something else after leaving the jobs that made them financially independent.

The first thing I’ll say is that I know this space fairly well, and there are maybe a dozen or so FIRE blogs earning enough money to cover their living expenses (or more). On the other hand, there are nearly half-a-million users on the FI subreddit.

Another problematic fact is that people have different ideas of what one is and is not allowed to do as a retired person.

The goal of financial independence is to be in a position to do whatever you want with the rest of your life without having to rely on a steady paycheck.

What do FIRE folks do once they’ve reached the finish line? Some keep working. Some become full-time parents. Some loaf around (I’m looking at you, Justin 😉 ). Some travel the world. Some reinvent themselves and launch an entirely new career.

As of this writing, I’m seven months away from my last day of employment, and a good three or four years past the finish line. When I retire from medicine, I do plan to continue blogging. It’s fun, and I’m helping people out while making some money and supporting a charitable mission.

 

 

Myth 2: The Bull Market Made the FIRE Movement.

 

It’s been a good decade. I’m not gonna lie. I finished anesthesia residency in 2006 and the stock market plummeted early in my career, allowing me to invest on the way down, at the bottom, and on the way back up.

The bull market from 2009 to 2018 bolstered the returns for those of us lucky enough to start making good money at just the right time. However, when you look at the returns of U.S. Stocks as represented by the S&P 500 by year in a chart from macrotrends.com, you’ll see that recent history doesn’t look all that different from distant history.

 

 

The returns of the last 10 years have been good for those of us with enough bravado to invest in stocks after they had been beaten down mercilessly for the second time in the preceding 10 years.

That being said, achieving financial independence in a short timeframe depends much more on your savings rate than your investment returns.

Solid returns in recent years may have acted as an accelerant to FIRE, but they are not responsible for the FIRE itself. You’ve got to Earn, Save, and Invest quite a bit of money to benefit from a booming stock market.

 

Myth 3: The FIRE Movement is Just a Bunch of White Male Tech Bros.

 

As a white male (but non-tech) bro, I’m not the best person to bust this myth, but I assure you there are people of all sizes, shapes, genders, and colors pursuing financial independence. Of those 361 early retirement bloggers listed on Rockstar Finance, 127 identify as white males. Granted, not everyone filled out each and every category, but there are 75 blogs on that list written by bloggers identifying as female.

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The diversity is easy to see at FinCon, the annual conference where many of us bloggers meet up to exchange ideas, collect free swag, and drink beer.

Well, we don’t all drink beer, though it does seem to be plentiful. There are also wine drinkers, liquor drinkers, and those who abstain from alcohol entirely. Like I said, diversity.

Myth 4: The Early Retired are Screwed When The Next Recession Hits

 

This is probably the weakest of these four myths, and the easiest to bust.

The argument goes something like this: “When the market drops 50%, they’re all going to realize they quit too soon and will run out of money. Having been out of the job market a while, they’re not going to be able to make money again. They’re screwed.”

So… what you’re saying is… the people who learned to live on far less than they earned, and were industrious and productive enough to save up more money in ten or twenty years than most people do in a lifetime… these are the people who are screwed?

The people who are screwed are the poor souls who never learned to save. When a recession hits and they’re out of a job, those are the people we need to worry about.

The recent government shutdown made this crystal clear. There were a lot of people who missed two paychecks and were visiting food shelves or staying home because they couldn’t afford the gasoline to make their usual commute.

I’ve argued that high-income individuals with ample savings don’t need a large cash emergency fund, but everyone needs an emergency plan.

I would also argue that no one is better prepared for an economic downturn than the FIRE community. We’ve demonstrated the drive to become successful and we’ve got plenty of time to learn new skills when needed. We’ve mastered the side hustle and we know how to cut expenses if times call for austerity.

For the sake of the middle class and the 42% of Americans who’ve saved virtually nothing for retirement,  I don’t wish for a recession. But don’t worry about those of us “caught up” in the FIRE movement.

We’ll be just fine.

 

 

The Future of the FIRE Movement

 

The FIRE movement isn’t going anywhere, but I don’t think for a second the lifestyle will become the norm. For much of the population, salary versus cost-of-living simply doesn’t allow for a 30% to 70% or savings rate.

For those who do earn enough to afford to live on half, marketing and peer pressure are powerful, and embodying the image we want to portray to the world can be costly.

FIRE is, and will be for the foreseeable future, for a fairly small subset of the population, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be better understood and recognized by the public in general.

Ten years ago, people who retired early may not have known of anyone else doing the same. Five years ago, they were connected by the forums and blogs and realized others were living similar lives.

Today, the benefits of living well beneath your means to achieve financial freedom are recognized by millions of people who are making meaningful changes in their lives in this pursuit. This site alone has had over a million visitors in its first three years, and I think Mr. Money Mustache sees that many users in a normal month.

The terminology may change. The more time I’ve spent reading, writing, and reflecting, the more emphasis I place on the first two letters (FI) and the less I place on retiring early. For me and for many, it’s not so much about quitting a job as it is about being positioned to spend your days and years as you please, with or without doing anything that could be considered work.

We may eventually see communities heavily populated with early retirees. Mr. Money Mustache has talked about planning the ideal city for the active, civic-minded, environmentally friendly early retiree. I’ve got a friend in Georgia working to slowly transform a neighborhood of low-cost single-family homes into an enclave for FIRE devotees.

Finally, I think we can expect to see great things from some of today’s early retirees. If a person can earn and save enough to take care of herself and her family in just 10 or 15 years, what do you suppose she’s capable of in the next 10, 15, or 50 years?

Amazing things.

 


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Are you pursuing FIRE? Do you believe the FIRE movement is here to stay? What do you see in the future of FIRE?

48 comments

  • The FIRE community is vibrant, fun, engaging and growing. Just take a look at the explosion of physician FIRE blogs in the last couple of years.

    The more exposure and the more we talk about it the more the last taboo will continue to fade. Money talk is tough and most people don’t like it.

    I’ve noticed that with the residents talking about money is fairly easy. Everyone knows everyone’s salary and most of them have student loans and it is easy to commiserate over. I talk about it with my residents at every opportunity!

    Nearly all of us physician, FI-minded folk are fortunate to make high salaries and FI is a lifestyle choice. We are choosing to live differently and to make these choices more accessible by demystifying and stigmatizing them.

    ~Kpeds

    • Excellent point, K-Peds. If the millennial generation and the next one can be comfortable discussing money, financial literacy could be so much higher than it is among my generation (X) and the baby boomers. If more people adopt a high savings rate as the new status symbol, this movement will only continue to grow.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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  • One of the best things about the FIRE movement, especially in the physician community, is that it exposes some of the things in the past that have typically sapped away a doctors finances so that no matter how much they earn, he or she lives paycheck to paycheck.

    I wish I stumbled on this community (or that it even existed) back when I was a resident. Just a reframing of my mindset and basic knowledge of finance (which I did not have) would have gone a long way.

    The fact that medical students are now aware of these things (as evidenced by a recent guest post on White Coat Investor by an incredible medical student who is planning to get through medical school debt free) gives me much hope that doctors being financial sitting targets to predatory finance people will soon be a thing of the past.

    I agree that a recession is not all of a sudden going to create an anti-Fire movement or that people who have retired early will be left high and dry. The FIRE community is super conservative and they plan for so many contingencies such as sequence of return risks, etc. Most likely the issue will be dying with too much money rather than not enough.

    • “Too much money”?

      Sounds like a great “problem” to have. You’re right though, in that at most points in history, following the 4% rule would leave you with more money at the end of life than you started your retirement with. It’s only a particularly poor sequence of returns that leaves you with dwindling assets a few decades later.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • SG

    Great content as always POF. I think the main issue I have with myth #1 is that great content producers/bloggers don’t really get to live out the math. It would be interesting to see how not having additional income would influence their retirement date, and how their behavior changes etc. For “male tech bros” the decision to go back to work, I have to assume, would be much easier than a physician (especially procedural related physicians). As I have said before, that is why I find your story so interesting. I wouldn’t have the guts to step away without a viable income stream, even though I am a full believer in the math especially at 33x expenses. All power to you for using your talents to set up your ideal life.

    Do you think it is a limiting belief that a procedural physician can take a few years off and go back to work?

    • I’m becoming a worse and worse case study as this site grows. No doubt.

      I do believe in the FI math, as well, but I probably would have remained a full-timer longer and worked another year or two before calling it quits if I didn’t have this additional income source.

      Regarding the limiting belief, I think it would be very tough to be out of the game in a procedural game for an extended period of time. If I was unsure of what the future might hold, I’d try to work locums at least once every 6 to 12 months to avoid any gaps of a certain lenght. It will make credentialing easier and you’ll have less explaining to do on separate pieces of paper if you’ve got no lenghty gaps in your work history.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

    • Laci

      SG: I tend to agree with you on myth #1 and find myself skeptical of how people portray themselves. Are you “retired early” or are you a stay at home mom with a blog?
      POF: No doubt your income from this blog has grown as you’ve gained popularity, and for good reason! Your mission of giving half the blog income to charity really adds weight to your words and I find that I trust you more than other FIRE bloggers.

  • KR

    In a ripe 22 years or so of being an internet native, I’ve learned to practically ignore all comment sections on general mainstream stuff. It’s almost all trash. The only comments I take the time to read through are ones on personal blogs, like the ones in the FIRE community. I don’t blame anyone for turning off comments on their blog either. Even though I hate Facebook, the ChooseFI group is fantastic and the only reason I spend time there.

    Like most I came across MMM randomly and got hooked. Quickly I latched on to the FI part as well vs. the RE (though I have no qualms doing that!). For me, it is all about the financial freedom and the ability to pursue what I love doing in my free time as full time work, without worrying about the steady paycheck. My wife and I are super lucky and privileged to have good jobs that we enjoy and she may not want to stop working for awhile, especially while the kids are in school. For me, I want to do my own work at home and build things that may or may not eventually earn money, maybe do some remote consulting gigs and such.

    So for me, the journey is enjoyable and I look forward to the day I can safely go ahead and pull the plug on 9-5 work. Until then, I’ll be focusing on the Earn part heavily and saving the difference. I’ve made sure to spread the fire to my friends, who’re mostly on board though at different stages in their journey too.

    Thanks for the blog and keep it up!

    • Thank you for the comment!

      It’s better, I think, to focus on FI rather than RE unless the RE part is really motivating. If you focus too much on wanting to retire, you’ll start to like your job less and less. Also, you don’t really want your employer to realize you’re gunning to leave your post as soon as its financially feasible. That knowledge could limit your opportunities and upside, potentially prolonging your path to FI.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • The movement is here to stay. Yes there might be less ppl that are actually FIRE’d when the next recession hits but after a few years they’ll get back to that status again. Having seen my own dad retired in his 40’s and seeing how he reacted to several market crashes (Asian crisis, dot com, financial crisis, etc), I remind optimistic with FIRE. Yes there are FIRE myths but only if you beleive them.

    • That’s pretty cool that you have your father to look up to as a role model and a case study.

      Regarding losing the FI card in a bear market, I’ve argued that the SWR studies have already factored in a poor sequence of returns, so dropping from say 25x to 15x (temporarily) doesn’t make you no-longer-FI. It would be prudent to consider not blindly following the 4% rule and spending a bit less from the portfolio under those conditions, though.

      Cheers, eh!
      -PoF

  • There has always been those who spend all they have (and more) and those who save money. In the 70s, when I was a teenager, my friends came to me to borrow money. I had money and they didn’t. I did things to earn money and they didn’t. When I earned money, I saved it, they didn’t. They paid interest, I earned interest. When they were out goofing off, I was mowing lawns. Fast forward to today, after many years of this behavior. I’m travelling the world, they’re still working. I’m debt free, they still live paycheck to paycheck. Good habits pay big dividends.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • That’s a great approach. A dollar in your youth has so much time to compound. My father teaching me the Rule of 72 at a young age was a great gift.

      I’ve taken a similar approach with my career, working hard in the first 6 to 8 years, taking extra call and weekends, making hay while the sun was shining, and now I’m free to do as I please, just like you. Also like you, I don’t like to be idle, so I’ll likely always be doing something productive in some way, shape, or form.

      Best,
      -PoF

      p.s. hope to see you in AZ next month!

  • 🙂

    I agree that the movement is here to stay. No question. But I also stand by my statement: I think we’re at or near peak FIRE. I believe 2019 is the peak of the FIRE fervor — and February 2019 might actually be the pinnacle.

    But hey, who knows? I’ve been wrong on lots of things before. I could be wrong on this.

    Whether we’re at peak FIRE or not is irrelevant on a personal level, though. Plus, there are ALWAYS going to be folks like us who are interested in the concept, so we’re going to have plenty of fun meeting up and sharing ideas. Ultimately the “peak FIRE” thing is just a fun debate and doesn’t mean a whole lot…

    • Whether we’re at peak FIRE or not is irrelevant on a personal level, though

      Important point!

      I have no idea what’s going to happen regarding markets or FIRE fervor. But, I suspect we’re at or near peak FIRE blogging. I get the impression from non-FIRE-blog communities that this is a welcome sight for most. I just hope any lack of enthusiasm for FIRE blogs doesn’t bleed into a lack of enthusiasm for all FIRE-related communities out there. Some of them frequently make just as big a personal difference to people as a blog with massive reach like MMM. [insert plug for r/financialindependence]

    • I hate to admit it, but you may have actually called it. We’ll see what happens if the FIRE documentary has a similar effect that the Minimalism doc did. We could see a new peak, but it looks like September of 2018 was the peak thus far according to Google Trends. The results for “retire early” look similar.

      https://www.physicianonfire.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/FI_Search.pngFI Search

      Not surprisingly, that was also pretty close to the most recent peak in the in the stock market.

      Good call!
      -PoF

  • The FIRE community will always be a rare breed. As you know, having a high savings rate (50%+) is hard, even when you’re making mid 6 figures per year. And by hard, I mean it still takes discipline to save at that rate. It’s well worth it, and there’s no better feeling than when you’re net worth starts climbing to some really big numbers, but it’s all about financial discipline, and it takes time. FI is ultimately about buying your FREEDOM, and there’s no greater feeling.

  • FIRE only goes out when it’s doused with a lot of water. This FIRE is stubborn, and I suspect the embers will glow for years to come. The flames may be less visible, but there will always be folks living on FIRE.

  • Viva la FIRE! Yes, I do think it’s here to stay.

    This is a great tribute to some of the early FIRE starters and the great people who are spreading it.

    Great job in busting the myths that are perpetuated by the naysayers. I agree with you 100%.

    For the people who claim that people who FIRE aren’t actually retired, I say so what. There’s nothing wrong with retiring from one job to work in some other capacity. In fact, I like to think of F.I.R.E as Financial Independence, Recreational Employment. I’m almost at a point where I don’t necessarily need to practice medicine for monetary reasons. Sure, the paycheck is great… but I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t for the enjoyment and fulfillment.

    Can’t wait to see what your life will look like seven months from now when you kiss passing gas good bye!

    • “I like to think of F.I.R.E as Financial Independence, Recreational Employment”

      That’s good; I hadn’t heard that one before.

      I’m impressed that you’re approaching FI — how long have you been out of residency?

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Thanks!

        I’m 5 years out of residency. And I project we will be FI in 4 years or so.

        This is all thanks to you, WCI, and the many other bloggers that have helped me gain financial literacy from the beginning. Can’t thank you enough! 🙂

    • Dave

      I think one of the most controversial aspects of using the term FIRE is an issue of etymology. I live in France and the when you get money from an ATM, it always says “retrait” or withdraw. Coincidentally, retrait is also the word the French use for “retired”. In other words, when you are withdrawing or retreating from work, you are leaving work. When you are doing work, whether its blogging, building, side hustling or some other form of activity that earns income, it is work (whether its mandatory or not doesn’t really matter). If its some other activity, it would probably fall under volunteerism. Using words to accurately and precisely describe ideas, thoughts, concepts, movements and many other things in life is important and I don’t see why the FIRE acronym should be exempt from this kind of precision.

  • I’m excited about the diversity push! I look forward to meeting more FIRE bloggers who live on the expensive coasts for one. Given half the US population lives on the coasts, there definitely needs to be more diversity here. Just look where most FIRE bloggers are based.

    Good point on surviving a downturn better since FIRE folks are much more frugal. We’ll just have to wait and see how things go.

    But let’s not kid ourselves. A Bull market has made anybody who invested regularly for the past 10 years pretty well off.

    Best,

    Sam

    • No doubt, there are a lot of us benefitting from that sweet geographic arbitrage, and it’s even better in medicine as the higher salaries tend to exist in the lower cost of living areas.

      In your neck of the woods and in places like Manhattan, there is a concentration of finance and tech workers earning in the high six-figure and seven-figure range. If they can avoid the lifestyle that tends to accompany it, FIRE can be achieved in short order once you’re in a position with that kind of income.

      I ran some quick numbers through a compound interest calculator — investing $100,000 a year for 10 years with 0% returns obviously gives you $1 Million. A 5% return gives you about $1.3M and a consistent 10% return would give you $1.7M. Obviously, the returns could be the difference between FI and not-FI, but over the relatively short-term, it’s brute force savings that does the heavy lifting. Once we look at multiple decades, compounding easily wins.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Some loaf around (I’m looking at you, Justin 😉 ).

    As your fake attorney, I must advise you add the disclaimer: Look at Justin at own risk.

  • notadoc

    Marketwatch has a subsection of their retirement section dedicated to FIRE.

  • There are now 2 others in my cycling group interested in FIRE, and they don’t know about my blog and I never told them a thing. They started the convo. Now we talk about it all the time, and they still don’t know about my blog because I’m undercover. It’s like I’m a secret mole in my cycling club 🙂

    Spreading indeed.

  • Harjot

    I think the FIRE going mainstream is good for many reasons-
    1. It has increased awareness of the concept of Financial Independence – with or without retirement or changing jobs.
    2. It puts a person directly in-charge of their own lives, and responsible too. (For example – pros and cons of deciding to live in Minnesota right now, LOL)
    3. It allows such people to exist and support each other.
    4. No numbers available, but I hope it improves Financial Literacy.
    5. Many models available to reach FIRE

  • Kristina

    I saw my family physician today for an annual exam, and was wondering how I would explain (succinctly) my recent decision to quit hospital OB and go to part time office only practice. Had to laugh when suddenly she was telling me about the FIRE movement and all the blogs she was reading (yes I’ve heard of that one, I did a guest post!) Thankfully I was her last patent because we talked excitedly for almost an hour. The FIRE is definitely spreading and I’m so proud and happy to be part of this community!

    (PS- clicked on the alcohol abstinence link and loved the Sober October story. Counting down the last 2 day’s of our Dry January and feel like a million bucks (will add that to our net worth! :))

    • Really cool that you and your FP could share that moment!

      Also, way to go on the dry January! We may do another sober October this year, but in the meantime, we’re scheduling one dry week per month. For the next 7 months, it will be my 7-day workweek each month. After that, we’ll have to figure out a different method of scheduling it.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • I think the FIRE movement is here to stay. We’ll always be a very small percentage of the population, but we’ll always be there. I have to wonder if the media is creating a fad, though. Maybe FIRE will be like the hippy of the early 21st century. Lots of people jump on the bandwagon and then it will peter out a bit. There are still some hippies around, but most people have moved on.

  • Phil

    Long time reader here. I’ve left comments similar to this on other blogs, so don’t take offense. Personally, I would recommend that all FIRE bloggers follow the <a href="“>”Manifesto” that OurNextLife put out a while back. As a community, you guys are ignoring how important steady INCOME is to the psychology of retiring. You all downplay the income from blogs, while ignore the incredible importance this plays in the confidence to quit work.

    <a href="“>Research pretty much proves what is obvious – the vast majority of people are not comfortable “spending down” assets. They need or want the majority of their lifestyle to be supported by income. Income is usually, but not always, derived from work. Real estate is not a good investment for everyone – especially outside of the 3 or 4 hot markets on the coasts (I’m looking at you Sam Dogen). Personally, I have no interest in starting a blog, much less monetizing one. So, if I want enough income to support my spending I need to have a big enough portfolio or a job. The average income thrown off by a 60/40 asset allocation is about 2%. (Focusing on dividend stocks is the equivalent of tossing potential capital gains out the window, so I’m not going there.) That means saving well more than 30x or 40x my expected spending. Looks like I’ll need to keep that resume polished once I “FIRE.”

    In the interest of your readers you, and other FIRE bloggers, need to ask yourself if you are of selling a lifestyle that is going to work for most people. I think the evidence indicates that most FIRE bloggers are ignoring reality. Financial independence, for most people may give them the ability to change careers or work less but not “retire early.” “Financial Independence Change Careers (FICC)” isn’t as catchy as fire, but its much closer to the truth.

    • No offense taken.

      I responded to ONL’s Manifesto with a “coming clean” post of my own. I failed to see a lot of the shenanigans she was referring to, but then it became apparent that there had just been a bit of an uproar after a certain frugal homesteading blogger published a book and some information about her husband’s incredibly well-paid work-from-home job for a “non-profit” came to light.

      I like to focus on total return as income or dividend focused investing doesn’t account for capital appreciation, which is where the bulk of the returns from stock investing come from.

      As far as what someone does after FIRE, the most prominent examples are obviously going to be of people doing other productive things, as we are the most visible. I think most people will want to be productive in some way, shape, or form. That’s human nature — it’s mine, anyway.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Fay

    I agree with Phil. No one has actually lived to be 100 on this amazing FIRE concept to say yay it does work. I agree it is physiological to believe that this may work. I’m following in doing this but I’m just doing it I don’t have any evidence apart from believing what’s on the FIRE blogs. It’s the same as what if you get ill or are disabled this hasn’t really been investigated or looked into

    • You can insure for illness and disability, but you can never insure 100% against every conceivable catastrophe. That was Suze Orman’s argument against FIRE.

      Probably the biggest risks to “success” after FIRE are dying prematurely and never enjoying the large pile of savings or getting divorced and seeing half of it disappear.

      Best,
      -Pof

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  • I loved this. Best defense of FIRE that I’ve read recently. This was my favorite excerpt:

    “Today, the benefits of living well beneath your means to achieve financial freedom are recognized by millions of people who are making meaningful changes in their lives in this pursuit… For me and for many, it’s not so much about quitting a job as it is about being positioned to spend your days and years as you please, with or without doing anything that could be considered work.”

    Well said, sir! FIRE or FI helps people live meaningful lives, the kind of lives they would design without worry of making ends meet. Great read.

    DeForest

  • The shutdown showed that many people do not plan for rainy days. I was lucky. My father, union man all his career, had to plan for strikes every 3 years. There were a few long ones when I was a kid. Mom did clerical work, and dad made much more than her. They were smart and saved some un each paycheck for that strike. Most cycles nothing happened, and we had a great vacation. The strike years we cut corners and dad found temporary work. The strike fund was a big help. My wife had a similar experience growing up, and this is why our emergency fund is about 1 year worth. That’s high by most standards, but that’s what our piece of kind demands. I am a white tech guy, but I grew up poor to middle class as dad’s salary grew, but I still had to join the military to pay for college. I would have served either way coming from a military family, but it was my only way to pay for college in spite of the grants and scholarships I was awarded.

    At the end of the day, much like my parents wisdom with the strike fund, the FIRE movement is needed in America at least as shown by the shutdown. People need emergency funds, and hopefully every learns from this.

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  • The FIRE movement is definitely here to stay. And why wouldn’t it be? Sure, some people love their 9-5s, but that lifestyle just isn’t for everyone. Through a combination of working hard, smart investing, and saving, most people can get there if they really put their minds to it.

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  • I like the idea you mentioned that for every person creating online content, there are thousands out there using these principles to accelerate themselves into financial freedom. I was one of those people for years, slowly optimizing my life in background. I followed a similar progression as many, following an un-optimized version of this this lifestyle on my own until I stumbled across random people on the internet who were doing similar things, only 10X better than me. The acceleration that stemmed from that in a few short years was pretty amazing.

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