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Ether to FI: “I hate it. I hate it. I hate it!” Learning from Those You Disagree With & a Net Worth Update


We last heard from Ether to FI in December when he talked about having a frugal spouse makes early FI all the more likely.

Today, he returns with his ninth installment more than a year and a half after he finished his anesthesia residency and introduced himself to the world.

The initial plan was to reach FI with $3.3 Million within 10 years but continue working indefinitely. A few posts back, he and his wife were thinking more seriously about the RE aspects of FIRE.

The goal posts have been moved once again, as you will see below. I think it’s a good idea to make plans and have goals, but the more specific your vision of the future is, the more likely it will change. The same is true the further out that vision is projected.

Oh, and what’ this about “I hate it. I hate it. I hate it!” Those words sound vaguely familiar.


Suze Orman Tweet


Take it away, E.T.F.


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Learning from Those You Disagree With: Suze Orman and FIRE


What did I learn from Suze Orman? Initially, nothing.

Five months ago, Paula Pant interviewed Suze Orman on Afford Anything. The interview was one for the ages. Most notably, I had an anaphylactic reaction to Suze’s comments.

My symptoms were a mix of repulsion and rage with a side of nausea. In the New Year, I am trying to learn from those I disagree with. In this vein, I went back and listened to the interview.

The same symptoms occurred from my last exposure with a new sign of “you can’t be serious,” but I powered through. These are the things I learned, and this is how it’s affecting my financial plans.


Your money needs to last till age 100 / Taking care of aging parents.


I agree with this sentiment. Those of us planning on quitting the nine to five, or in our case the six till done, still have a long life ahead of us. Continued innovations in technology mean age 100 might be the new 50.

Our money needs to last through financial turbulence, new taxes, and your great-great grandchildren’s new business idea. There are a lot of things we cannot foresee, even with the best-laid plans. No one will cry about having more money, so I plan on saving a little extra before I stop working full time.

The E.T.F. household has decided to change our FIRE number from $3.3 million to $4.95 million. Some might question the drastic jump, but I have been thinking more deeply about helping to take care of my parents, and in-laws.

They are not getting any younger, they might also live to 100, and they have not planned for this outcome. We expect to help them when they no longer can help themselves. Hopefully, this is decades in the future.

We have “increased” our yearly spending projections to $150,000 as a buffer for this inevitable spending. We are not planning on spending $30,000 a month on our parents care like our friend Suze. The cushion is to help supplement their retirement plans without straining our own.


You need tens of millions at age 80.


Suze’s concept of the FIRE movement has many flaws, but this was a glaring one. It is the people in the FIRE movement who are best positioned to achieve the deca-millionaire status she believes everyone must reach. If you save a few million dollars early in your life, compound interest will make you a multimillionaire many times over without any additional work.

I see nothing wrong with having a lot of money in your old age, but you do not “need” it. Most people reading this blog can comfortably take care of their needs after a few years of diligent saving. $50-60,000 of our $100,000 projected spending in retirement is “wants.”

If you subscribe to a Mustachian philosophy, our $5 million FIRE number is overkill. I like the big buffer because I always know I can scale back drastically when the economy falters.

However, if everything is going according to plans, there are so many options for things to do with the money. There are a lot of causes we can help with the money. There are other people in our lives we can bless with financial assistance. There are over 190 recognized countries in the world, it would be a blast to see most of them.

My mindset is to work hard and enjoy life. Maximizing my income and net worth during my working life is motivating for me. We will keep saving aggressively and try to save a few million dollars as quick as possible.


Put money in Roth to avoid future tax increases.


This is not a political statement; taxes are going to go up. Enjoy the tax holiday while you can. I believe that people chasing FI and not necessarily FIRE should take advantage of Roth opportunities now because these are going to look like discounted rates in the future.

Something is comforting about knowing that there is a portion of my money which has already paid its dues and cannot face likely future tax hikes. If I am wrong, and taxes go in the opposite direction, I have half of my portfolio in pre-tax buckets.

The government could change their mind in the future and decide to tax Roth accounts so my plan could fail, regardless. Based on the information we have today, I think a balance including Roth accounts is appropriate for the ETF family. Since I am not planning on retiring until I approach 50, I still have many years of work ahead of me.


Retire to Something


This is one of the reasons my retirement date is approaching two decades in the future. If I magically received $5 million today, I would keep working. I would cut back to 50%, but I would keep working.

I still have not found what I would necessarily retire to. Travel and lounging would be great for six months, but I would get bored. This thought was the best part of Suze’s message.

Retirement sounds good, but we gain a lot of structure from our jobs. Those of us who are physicians might not realize how strongly we identify with our occupation. After all the training and sleepless nights, it’s not just what you do, it is who you are.

Before I pull the plug on work, I want to identify with something else. Professional lounger does not have the same intrigue when you do it day in and day out. I am going to spend the rest of my career trying to find what I want to retire to.

I might see I still like what I am doing, and just keep on my current path.


Live below your means but within your needs.


This basically summarizes the financial independence path. Suze uttered this statement but somehow did not like the FIRE movement. Well, maybe when she learns a bit more about us, she will realize we are just regular people who have discovered a different path. Passionate about giving ourselves the option to have extraordinary lives.

What do I think about the FIRE movement?

I love it, I love it, I love it, and I hope I can continue to share with you why.

The Most Valuable Player for FIRE for 2018 goes to… Paula Pant!

You are fantastic at baseline. I am now convinced you are a saint. How were you able to get through this interview without reacting poorly? You are a much better person than me.


Net Worth Update:


Bumping steadily along, soon we will be able to say we are half-millionaires. I am guessing that is not a thing, but I will be celebrating nonetheless. I feel like this is the part no one gets to see, just making steady progress month to month.

When I go back and look at where we started at the end of residency, we have increased our net worth six times over. However, looking at last month, it feels like we are jogging in place. Well, I am going to continue jogging, and I will see you guys in a few months.




[PoF: Would you look at that? A half-a-million bucks is just a few good days away! 

I like E.T.F.’s take on the Suze Orman fiasco. A lot of the details were wrong and her delivery made her sound incredibly self-absorbed, but there were some takeaway points that should not be ignored completely.

I continue to be impressed by the net worth gains by this young family as they continue to jog along on their FI journey.

As far as moving the goal posts, I think it’s reasonable. Knowing what I know about the E.T.F. family, I think $3.3 Million would be plenty for them to retire today. But they’re still $2.8 Million away from that initial goal, and by the time they reach it, $3.3 Million won’t have the same purchasing power that it does today.

When they do eventually reach that $5 Million dollar mark in maybe 12 to 14 years, inflation will likely make it pretty similar in value to $3.3 Million in today’s dollars.

I wish them success in reaching those lofty goals and enjoying the ride while they live below their means and within their needs.]


Follow Ether to FI’s progress to FI in his previous posts:



Are you able to learn from those with whom you disagree? Are you as impressed as I am by the E.T.F. family’s steady progress towards financial independence? Sound off below!

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27 thoughts on “Ether to FI: “I hate it. I hate it. I hate it!” Learning from Those You Disagree With & a Net Worth Update”

  1. E.T.F. –

    Just made it through reading your whole series of posts. Love the series, it’s very helpful as someone around the same age as you (I came out of residency one year later than you).

    I thought I was doing great in terms of savings rate, but seeing your net worth grow has been truly humbling. I don’t even have the childcare expenses that you do. How on Earth are you able to grow your net worth the way that you do?

    I realize you’re going to want to withhold some details, but is your wife’s income high enough play a major role in your savings rate? I’m wondering if the solo income is the reason I’m lagging behind. I suppose it could also be the fact that I’m not in anesthesiology in the Midwest.

    Just looking to re-evaluate and see if I need to be doing anything different. Like WCI says, this is a one-player game, but I find it incredibly helpful to watch your net worth grow and use it as a model for what I want to attain, even if I know I can’t reach it.

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  3. Wow, thank you for this article ETF! It actually opened my eyes to the part I have overlooked (I guess mainly because I’m 26?).

    The whole “there’s a possibility you could be taking care of your aging parents in their old age so you should factor that into your FI number.”

    Goes to show you can stand to learn from someone you disagree with if you’re willing to take the time to listen to their side of the argument lol.

  4. There is so much noise for all of us to filter through in the world we live in today. Suze’s interview was clearly very promotional for her book and her starting a fight really get’s press especially when you are a big name. Yes the $10M figure was a bit out of touch and yes she brought up some good points, I would hope so after being a financial guru for several decades. The broader takeaway I have though is that there will always be people saying that you are wrong, there will always be edge cases where the 4% rule does not hold or some looming worst case catastrophe where you could end up broke. However, we each need to make a choice of whether to be fearful and pessimistic or to be rationally optimistic in our sound personal financial plan. When putting these plans together, we need to consider ulterior motives and conflicts of interest from the source as well. I can say that I have chosen realistic optimism and as crazy as it sounds, not only does it feel good every day but somehow less fear and being a positive person seems to create more opportunities. Is that crazy talk?

    • It is not crazy talk, rational optimism in all areas of life is definitely a good thing. If your plan fails, its better than 99% of peoples without a plan.

  5. I think $5m is a good FAT FIRE number. In fact, that “might” be closer to what we shoot for. But it will take us more than 10 years to get there, most likely.

    Our issue is if we want to move into a more urban/walkable area with a higher cost of living, that is going to increase our housing costs dramatically. Who knows, we might change our minds by then and that is okay. In either case, we will be better off than if we do nothing.

  6. Yes, Suze made a lot of good points (during an otherwise crazy rant).

    She was genius to call Paula Pant (an angel on earth, BTW) and complain about the FIRE community. And right before Suze’s big new book launch. She got thousands of dollars of free advertising from FIRE bloggers. Brilliant actually.

    We do tend to underestimate costs as we age. Health care is more expensive than we thought. Life is less predictable than we would like. And sitting around on the beach is great in the short-term, but not for a decade. Even if you own the private island as Suze apparently did.

    It looks to me like she “failed” retirement. Not financially, but otherwise. She had the FROM but not the TO. And so she is back. So yes we can learn from her and you did. Congratulations on staying positive. That wasn’t easy. And yes Paula is a saint. Did I mention that?

    I started telling doctors to shoot for $5M. I’m sure that is too high for some and too low for others. Most of them don’t want to hear my more detailed custom version of what they will need. Most of them spend too much and don’t want to know more about finances. $5M at a 3% withdrawal still provides $150K annually. That’s more than twice the average household spending and is a conservative withdrawal rate, so I don’t think it is as far off as it may seem at first.

    • I felt like halfway through the interview I was trapped inside an infomercial for Suze Orman. Brilliant marketing on her part, but I will not be buying the new book. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Wow. That is quite a jump. So is the goal now $4.95 million in 10 years and excluding your net home value??? I’d say that’s really ambitious. But I definitely appreciate the ambition!

    I think I could get to that if I really tried. But that would mean I would have to work more than I want and scrimp and save ultra-frugally. At least for me, it would hinder my ability to optimize and enjoy my life right now.

    When I listened to Paula’s interview with Suze, I certainly did not have the same reaction. “A mix of repulsion and rage with a side of nausea” is a bit dramatic. When you take away her tone and some of the inflammatory rhetoric, Suze does make some valid points. And it’s clear that she doesn’t truly understand the FIRE movement at its core. Her idea of FIRE is folks who Lean FIRE with very little money, no goal in mind, and no plans to contribute to society. That does not represent the FIRE movement at all. And it’s very diverse too. Her claim that everybody needs tens of millions is certainly false. But it’s also true that not everyone can live like a Mustachian. Everybody has their own unique approach to finance and life.

    Btw, nice work with the net worth. Having only been 1.5 years removed from residency, you’re totally killing it!

  8. I always get annoyed with the guidelines that say you need to save “X” amount times your current income. Those of us who aggressively save are living on far less than our income! It’s the EXPENSES that matter, and a safe withdrawal strategy to meet your expenses (some of your wants and all of your needs) is what you should be planning your retirement strategy around.

    That said we all know that costs do go up. So planning for a little over the target FI dollar amount won’t hurt anything.

    I figured out that achieving my FI goal basically gave me the “FU” money even though I hadn’t given it that name. Once I read it labeled such (on this PoF site), when I quit laughing I realized that’s exactly what it is. Having that freedom was a relief!

    • I am jealous Lynne, hoping to get to that FU money, sooner than later. There must be a weight lifted off your shoulders, and you probably have a much lower tolerance for B.S. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Congrats on reaching 500K, ETF.

    >>I am trying to learn from those I disagree with.

    This is important. If you live life with your fingers permanently stuck in your ears saying “la la la”, you’ll rarely learn anything new. You learn most new concepts from people you think you disagree with.

  10. I was all distraught from this post until I saw the net worth update. Guess I’m doing OK after all!

    Now that I’ve reached Lean-to-HWP FIRE, I’m realizing (as POF, WCI and others have) that the headaches of my job (nights, weekends, holidays, crazy patients, P-G etc) have really become much less tolerable.

    My point is that when a goal is really far away, it’s easy to make that goal even harder to reach, but once a person hit the double comma club and quitting/cutting way back seem actually possible, those numbers may paradoxically decline unless there’s a nice, easy retirement gig waiting.

    • Cheers to the nice easy retirement gig then. I am pretty persistent when I put my mind to something, but only time will tell. The good thing is you can call me out on it later. Thanks for commenting.

  11. Good stuff. I graduated at the same time from the same specialty, although went ahead and did a fellowship. I like being able to see a side-by-side from someone in the same position. Bravo on the progress

  12. I would not consider his pace a jog. More like a run. The amazing thing is they seem to have the stamina to keep it up long term.
    I do not see a taxable account listed. Can you fit all your retirement savings in tax advantaged accounts?
    Keep up the great work!

    • Taxable accounts will be incorporated within the next year. I have some other goals, including paying off our house early. Thanks for the encouragement.

  13. I am in debt to Suze Orman. Before the fire movement, she was one who educated us all to keep expenses low, save early, stay away from leases, whole life policies, take care of your momma…. At 45 (14 years post training), our family had $4M+ net worth because we did the things she recommended. When I first started listening to the FIRE movement for physicians, I was perplexed. Mostly because the perspective I had was that ‘why would someone who spent 10 years training for a highly sought position, in which the shortages impact the safety of patients, bow out early?’ I still struggle with this one. But I have now seen physicians who truely needed to retire early to be happy.

    In the end (or middle per say), what we needed our FIRE money for was more along the lines of FU money, which is kinda what Suze says in her advice. If you lose your job or want to leave your job, or don’t want to work anymore- you are safe. Because you saved early and kept expenses low. I save Best when I don’t think about how I’m going to save the money. I have no goldposts, but if I was to guess, maybe $10 M. 40x expenses

    • The whole FI or FIRE concept at its root is about giving yourself choice. That is all I want at the end of the day. Work less or even work more is possible if you are there because you want to be. Thanks for reading.

  14. When I first got bitten by the FIRE movement (I guess it is now 4 years ago) I just arbitrarily chose $5 million as my goal for net worth.

    I had no real reason for choosing that number, hadn’t even come across the concept of safe withdrawal rate yet. I chose it because it sounded like a good number to shoot for.

    I personally have brought that number down and feel that $4 million in today’s dollars would be a better goal to shoot for (primary home excluded). I figure $125k/yr would more than be enough for me to live in my LCOL area.

    Very impressive start to your wealth. Hitting $500k is remarkable that soon out of residency. After 1 million I feel it’s the financial tipping point and your money starts to do some heavy lifting on its own (capital is great)

  15. I’ve always really enjoyed these posts because ETF and I graduated at the same time.

    While he came out with half the student loans that I have (which slowed down our savings a bit over the same time period), his progress on the investment and savings side has been nothing short of impressive.

    I don’t know that we are going to have a $5 million net worth goal. Probably something closer to $3.5, but I understand the reasoning.

    Keep the ETF posts coming.



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