What caught my eye this week.
The FIRE1 gospel has probably spread so widely because people can quickly grasp the point of Retiring Early, even if they struggle with the airier notion of Financial Independence.
Wrap-up it up in a catchy acronym like FIRE and boom! A meme was born.
Just compare FIRE to a standard DCMPA strategy – that’s Defined Contribution to Minimum Pension Age, and no, nobody ever typed that before – and it’s obvious why FIRE is massive on TikTok, while sorting out your DCMPA paperwork is at the bottom of most people’s To Do list.
Yet I’ve been reluctant to subscribe to the FIRE terminology myself. Partly that’s due to my inherent hipster snootiness, but it’s also because being Financially Independent was what got my imagination going, and that always seemed second fiddle in the FIRE sales pitch.
For whatever reason, thoughts of a bucolic early retirement just aren’t as inspiring to me as staying economically active but with a F-U fund / Death Star in my back pocket.
I’ve tried the term Financial Freedom, but that phrase always seems to come with connotations. Maybe it sounds vaguely hippie-ish?
Also, if what exactly qualifies for Early Retirement is a can of worms for pedants to kick about, then Financial Freedom is a mass of fish in a barrel to shoot.
How free is financially free? Free to get a bus when and where you’d like to? An Uber X? Free to catch your own private jet?
Debating an early retiree with a side hustle is child’s play by comparison.
I’ve now learned of another term for the ‘economically purposeful semi-loafing but with a healthy bank balance’ lifestyle I aspire to.
Apparently, we’re time millionaires.
According to The Guardian this week:
First named by the writer Nilanjana Roy in a 2016 column in the Financial Times, time millionaires measure their worth not in terms of financial capital, but according to the seconds, minutes and hours they claw back from employment for leisure and recreation.
“Wealth can bring comfort and security in its wake,” says Roy. “But I wish we were taught to place as high a value on our time as we do on our bank accounts – because how you spend your hours and your days is how you spend your life.”
A quick skim reveals the term ‘time millionaire’ to be ill-defined, of course. But I can definitely get behind the notion.
I’ve always valued my time (especially the ability to do nothing ‘productive’ whenever I want) more highly than putting extra money in the bank – after a certain point anyway.
At my best as a freelancer I was a samurai-level time-manager. Not in order to squeeze more work in, but to squeeze more work time out.
When friends ask why I quit my little leg of the rat race, it’s hard to explain that the ability to wander into the British Museum on a Tuesday afternoon – or just to pop to Waitrose for one of its middling free coffees, whenever I wanted – inspires me as much as writing a novel or founding a startup.
Even when I was employed I’d make a point of taking the whole hour for lunch, wherever I worked. Nobody else did – not consistently.
Worse still, some co-workers put in very long hours, and it’s especially silly to throw 12 or more hours at work every day. Studies show that doing more than 55 hours or thereabouts actually makes you less productive. The extra effort is pointless.
Even if you do manage to squeeze out some useful effort, Parkinson’s Law will get you in the end.
The living is easy
I doubt the Time Millionaire lingo will catch on. But I am on-board with the idea and my money is where my mouth is.
Or rather, the money I haven’t got because I wasn’t working is!
(Okay, that’s a moutful – or is it literally not? Hey, we’re talking about ‘time millionaires’ so we’re already off the reservation.)
Regular readers with great memories might recall I quit my main work contract a year ago. I thought I’d put many more hours into growing Monevator, as well as a couple of other nascent projects.
But 12 months in and that hasn’t really happened. Not yet, anyway.
There are some good personal excuses for this, which we won’t go into today.
Not least because I can’t help thinking it’s mostly that I’ve been busy doing nothing (much).
Thank goodness they don’t tax free time!
What do you think? Would you rather be a money millionaire or a time millionaire? Can these two systems be fused with a Grand Theory of Everything Financial? Or does the FIRE lingo already do that?
Let us know in the comments below. And have a great weekend.
- Financial Independence Retire Early. [↩]