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Debating FIRE: the final conflagration (Round 5)

Debating FIRE: the final conflagration (Round 5) post image

Round 4 saw The Accumulator and The Details Man exchange gestures of peace and understanding. But now The Investor looms in the doorframe. His eyes are glazed, perhaps he’s been drinking heavily? The Accumulator’s eyes narrow like his options. There’s no other way out. He spits on his palms and drops to a crouching position. There’s only one way to finish this: with a quickfire response round – TO THE DEATH!

The Investor: You articulate the reasons for financial independence very well. However, I feel like I’m one of those explorers in the desert who keeps walking past the same sand dune. Haven’t I seen this wadi before?

There’s almost no point making the case for financial independence because we both agree!

We have a disagreement about the mentality of the movement, which I believe tends to say “suck it up, work sucks, keep your eyes on the horizon” far more than it says “you’re right, 20 years of your life is far too long to stay somewhere mediocre when you only have maybe 40 healthy years left – get a new job first, your house is burning down!” which would be my response to someone who hates work but is getting through the day with dreams of early retirement.

The Accumulator: Come in from the desert, my weary friend. We agree that no-one should stick out a hateful job for 20 years. I’d note that job satisfaction surveys show that millions of people do not enjoy their jobs despite ‘get a new job’ being a well known option.

My conclusion: people don’t get stuck because they’ve read a few FIRE articles. I trust that people will get a new job if they can, but the FIRE movement can open people’s eyes to more unconventional possibilities and sources of strength.

The Investor: We also seem to disagree about timescales for the average person, but I’ve already given you my maths on that. The readers can decide!

Also, you have alluded to my rhetorical tricks but I feel you have something of the wily barrister about you, too TA… Money is a fallacious consumer narrative that is bought into, while a frugal FIRE-life is a life focused on friends, family, and experiences.

But as you know, money can help you make more of that, too. To return to my example of someone working an extra day or two a week post-FIRE for an extra £10,000 spending money above their reasonable FI requirements, that ‘fun’ money could be used to:

  • Go on two to five swanky holidays abroad with a partner.
  • Take your nieces out to dinner twice a week every week.
  • Do two to ten adult education courses every year.
  • Indulge a five-year project to buy, restore, and then use a six-person narrowboat for weekend adventures.
  • To travel to see old friends and to take them out to dinner every month or two.
  • Mix and match a myriad other options and combinations!

Money isn’t just for misers, in other words. Sure work is a sacrifice of time but by keeping your hand in indefinitely, you do get something back for your pains. (I’d agree that if it just goes on a bigger mortgage or a new car, then you’ve probably snatched defeat from the smiling face of freedom!)

I’ll conclude though by focusing on something I stated at the start that has been glossed over afterwards: paid work isn’t just about money or filling your hours. Paid work isn’t just about being massively happy at work, or middlingly happy, or miserable.

No, paid work is what makes our world go-around today. Anyone saying breezily that they are going to walk away from that at, say age 45, for various substitutes, probably hasn’t thought it through enough. Why should this be such a shock to us?

There’s plenty of evidence that being unemployed is bad for mental health and well-being, for instance, and also lots of studies that show that feeling important and useful in a community is healthy. So how best to keep enjoying those side-benefits of earning money in our society as constituted?

Not to denigrate people volunteering at the local half-hearted charity, but few of us in our early 20s would think most such operations were more than half-arsing it, frankly. Is the sort of focused / high achiever who is actually capable of hitting FIRE fairly young really going to be satisfied bickering about the posters for the village hall? Colour me deeply sceptical!

Someone will say they will do it at a higher level than that. Fine, but look through the Guardian adverts. Those higher-level jobs are hotly contested and come with decent salaries. Indeed, if this is your aim I say apply for them post-FIRE…!

The Accumulator: Two cunning sleights of hand got smuggled in there.

  1. If you’re not doing paid work, you’re effectively unemployed.
  2. Paid work equals feeling important and useful in a community.

Neither of which are true and overlook the billions of pounds generated in the economy by people who give their labour to worthwhile and personal causes for free, and which contribute to their wellbeing, sense of purpose and standing in their community.

You have a different relationship to money than me. I’d guess it’s more important to you as a measure of self-worth. This might help explain why earlier you seemed to buy into visions of a purposeful FI life disassociated from financial reward, only to fall back on these claims that paid work is vital for mental health, before moving on to slag off the charitable sector, and skipping the fact that there’s plenty of half-arsery in the private sector. I’m also pretty sure that with enough effort we could find voluntary work that meets your need for ‘action’.

It could also be that you compare yourself to a different peer group than me, or are influenced by the gold-paved standards of your fancy London life – stop hanging out in those Mayfair Clubs!

From my perspective, “thinking it through” doesn’t mean concluding that only paid work will cut it in the 21st Century. It means bending the bars of the mental prison that instructs me to value life in pounds and pence. Neither money nor time are enough. It’s what you do with both that counts. Your £10K extra revenue stream sounds great for so long as the time spent earning it is traded for a reward you truly value.

Productivity is obviously a non-negotiable human need. FIRE blogs are full of that. I think of productivity as making progress in every important aspect of life:

  • Physical
  • Communal
  • Familial
  • Spiritual
  • Financial
  • Intellectual

I’ve thought more than once during this debate of Keynes’ prediction that we’d all be working a 15-hour week by now.

Why aren’t we? Some people don’t want to stop working – fine. Some people just can’t get enough of the goods and services conjured by today’s economy – fine. Some people are driven to compete – status, position, housing, schools – fine. Some people have no alternative, don’t realise there is one, or can’t imagine it – not fine.

If the competing and materialism is wearing thin for you then the FIRE movement offers an alternative approach that might just change your life.

Going to the dogmas

The Investor: Imagine if FIRE dogma had it that you had to abandon relationships with a significant other, or you could never have children, or you could only see your friends at weekends. Most people would understand that these were all alienating behaviours and at least think harder about whether that trade-off was worth it.

Well, I am saying the RE bit of FIRE is similar. And I stress AGAIN, because we seem to keep debating it, not the FI part! No, the RE part. That’s the bit I want to throw down a well.

I agree 100% that someone can become FI, then float in and out of work and do myriad other things along the way. And I certainly agree that a radical career change towards something more enjoyable, even if it means a big salary cut and a big reduction in hours can get you most if not all of the benefits of working.

The easiest way to get what I’m suggesting is simply to achieve FI then cut down your hours dramatically and work a couple of days a week.

My experience is that people can definitely do this. I see it all the time. You probably have to put yourself in the right position before pulling the rip-cord, sure, but that’s why I am saying think about it now.

The Accumulator: There is no dogma! The community is highly diversified despite mainstream efforts to portray it as otherwise. It’s a small, loosely-affiliated band challenging convention – it’s not a cult of brainwashers.

On the thinking front, I came across three excellent questions that can help you evaluate how you want to spend your time:

  • How would you live if you were financially secure?
  • How would you live if you had five to ten years left to live? What would you change?
  • What would you wish you’d done if you only had one day left to live?

The Investor: I’m happy with radical changes of direction. To give one example, with my aquarium hobby since childhood, I can well imagine going from being a pretty busy higher-rate tax paying type to doing three days a week on £10 an hour.

This would make very little financial sense given I’d be financially independent – I’d earn much more in a morning doing what I’m doing now as a contractor – but it would bring me a community, a role, regular contact with customers with a passion I share, further interesting avenues to explore (writing a book about aquariums? Hunting for fish in the Amazon?).

Most people can think of examples that work for them.

Bottom line, I am arguing against the RE part of the FIRE hegemony on the grounds of (a) the evidence from other bloggers and from people who financially ‘make it’ in real life, who very often – if not quite always – continue to work (b) a clear-eyed look at how the world is constituted (c) the science, that suggests being engaged is important to mental well-being and so on (d) the benefits of playing with a spreadsheet while assuming you’re going to do some work indefinitely, which can bring you most of the benefits of the FI part of the equation (security, the ability to ‘walk’, flexibility) far sooner than pinning your hopes on the distant and potentially nebulous benefits of full-time never-working.

People are going to say “but what is to stop me doing some work in retirement, like Mr Money Mustache?”

Well, I’ve already had the retirement police label slapped on me once in this debate! So fine, let’s embrace it. If early retirement actually means “probably continuing to work in some form” (as opposed to volunteering at the local X or Y once a fortnight) then by all means keep saying you’re aiming for early retirement, and then do your work in retirement.

To me all you’ve done is condone a useless label, taking a perfectly good word – retirement, meaning the end of work – out of circulation for no reason except to support a snappy acronym. But all cults have their catechisms I suppose.

The Accumulator: Excuse me while I pop on my crash helmet and beat my head against the wall. It’s like listening to Boris Johnson argue his opponents are raving Marxists because they’re in favour of protecting worker’s rights.

As you’ve invoked top communicator and cross-cultural phenomenon Mr Money Mustache (MMM), let’s hear what he has to say on the topic:

“Everybody uses the FIRE acronym because it is catchy and ‘Early Retirement’ sounds desirable. But for most people who get there, Financial Independence does not mean the end of your working career.

Instead it means, “Complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.”

Doesn’t sound so awful.

The FIRE acronym stuck because it sounds cool. We can probably agree that ‘Early Retirement’ became the banner call because it was a good way to get the community’s ideas noticed in a crowded media landscape.

I agree that closing in on financial independence doesn’t half sharpen the mind on what your new life could look like. I’ve found that liberating.

There’s also a segment of FIRE-ees who’ve used the core principles to carve out a middle way. They start out thinking, “Screw work, I’ll make full FIRE in ten years”. They cut spending in line with their values, build savings and investments, then realise that they can happily live on the money from doing their job three days a week, plus a side-hustle.

They’re now living a life they enjoy, full FIRE goes on the backburner and you should be thrilled! Except that FIRE ideas empowered this group to redesign their lives, FIRE didn’t stop them.

As community figurehead MMM articulates, the movement barely recognises the distinction between FIRE and FI, and neither do I. It’s not important to me, but obviously it is to you.

You already solved the problem though. Here’s some alternatives to the FIRE acronym that you and a merry band of Monevator readers proposed a while back:

  • FILF – Financial Independence, Loving Freedom.
  • FISH – Financial Independence Seeking Happiness.
  • FITS – Financial Independence Taking Sabbatical.
  • FIBS – Financial Independence Blatant Salary.
  • FIEF – Financial Independence Extreme Freedom.
  • FIND – Financial Independence, New Direction.
  • FIDMOT – Financial Independence, Doing My Own Thing.
  • FIFO – Financial Independence, please go away.
  • FILL – Financial Independence, Loving Life!

The Investor: Hah, quoting my own article to end with an olive branch – well played sir. Well good luck to everyone pursuing financial independence and whatever comes next to them. I’d just conclude by saying please keep an open mind!

The Accumulator: Hear, hear. Now climb out of your Christmas trench and come have a game of football with me in No Man’s Land.

Wishing all Monevator readers a bright and rewarding New Year.

Please let us hear what you think in our poll below and in the comments, if there’s anyone left out there!

Exciting interactive democratic vote opportunity

You’ve heard the debate. Then you heard it again. And then again! Would they ever shut up?

Well now they have and it’s time to vote for your future of FIRE:

Which definition best fits your vision of FIRE for you?


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{ 95 comments… add one }
  • 51 blaine wheeler January 1, 2020, 5:01 pm

    I really enjoyed this series because it mirrors my life. Like many, I worked from ages 15 1/2 to 65. When I was young the FI and FIRE concepts might have existed but they were invisible to me. I discovered you could invest in my 20’s but it wasn’t until my mid-30’s after a medium long unemployment that I learned I could invest without already being rich and that was a mind blowing change. Our income meant starting at $50 a month but we never stopped investing and we increased contributions as our incomes rose over time.

    RE never occurred to us, we just wanted to not be poor or involuntarily unemployed so we saved and invested to have choices.

    Suddenly one day we woke up to find compounding had happened and we had options. Having choices means lower blood pressure, no stress meds, and time outs to think about what is important to us.

    I think that personal thinking time is the most important benefit of FI. What you choose is to do with your life is personal and changes but the big thing is to have options.

    When I discovered your site I was so thrilled to find your original thinking and approach to the world.

    Thank you. I share your writings with every person who asks how we got where we are

  • 52 Vanguardfan January 1, 2020, 5:10 pm

    I think my point was, that you only need to ask the second of those questions (would I rather spend this time doing something else?). But bearing in mind that that question also has limitations. When I’m putting out the rubbish, or doing the supermarket shop, then sure, I’d rather be doing something else!
    My point is that if you are working for pay at a point where you really don’t need the pay, then the answer to the first question is irrelevant. You’re choosing to do it anyway.

    I think the best conclusion I have come up with is that life is more like an unruly river than a carefully constructed building. It’s an illusion to think we can build a perfect life to inhabit, rather than mastering the art of enjoying the ride as it relentlessly surges along.

  • 53 The Accumulator January 1, 2020, 6:18 pm

    @ Vanguardfan – sorry to labour the point – but I find this fascinating – I don’t think the question is necessarily answered by a person working for money when they don’t need the money.

    Many of us do things because we’ve always done them. Or have been told it’s the right thing to do. Often our own motivations are hidden from us – wilfully or otherwise.

    Asking different questions can challenge your assumptions. For example, I find it easy to answer the question: “Would I do this for free?”

    The question cuts much deeper if I ask the question: “Would I do this if I had five years to live?”

    That question challenges me in a completely different way. Makes me look at things from an entirely new angle.

    I don’t think these questions work for everyone (and I’m sure there are other questions that better suit different personalties), but thinking about them is interesting to me.

  • 54 Vanguardfan January 1, 2020, 7:03 pm

    I find it interesting too, and did spend rather a long time agonising over whether to leave my career job (‘because I can’ didn’t seem an adequate reason).
    Neither me nor my spouse are working for the money. I agree it’s interesting then to speculate why we do it, and the reasons may be non obvious and include some that we may prefer to stay hidden even to ourselves.

  • 55 The Investor January 1, 2020, 7:28 pm

    I agree it’s interesting then to speculate why we do it, and the reasons may be non obvious and include some that we may prefer to stay hidden even to ourselves.

    These are potentially the sort of — to me very valid — personal motivations to keep working that I was pointing towards when I was urging @TA whether it might be worth the community wondering as much why people who are FI continue to work as to why they don’t give work up.

    I believe it isn’t all about money. But money is a part of what it is.

    This isn’t a zen koan. I mean it seriously. 🙂

  • 56 Xailter January 1, 2020, 7:36 pm

    Interesting that ~85% of people who have voted expect or wouldn’t be against doing paid work even when they hit FI. That mirrors my own expectations, but only because I do think I would get bored if I had nothing to challenge me, much like TDM. I’d be interested in the age range though – perhaps those who have done 25+ years of work already are more in the ‘yep, I’m done once I get there’ camp…? 🙂

  • 57 Mr Optimistic January 1, 2020, 7:37 pm

    Not sure I see it as a puzzle. If you leave the prison gates open, not all the prisoners will walk out, and some that do will go back. Money might grease the wheels but it isn’t the machine.

  • 58 xxd09 January 1, 2020, 8:58 pm

    Mr Optimistic
    All I meant that it is not given to us to know when the end will come-live to 100 anyone?
    I do not want to be living on cat food and having to work at B&Q because I have to and not through choice
    So your pot should be sustainable to the finish which means at the very least it maintains its value-in fact if you are more cautious with your withdrawals ( the position of most people) the pot will probably rise slowly
    If you have no one to leave it to-use your favourite charity
    Enjoy your retirement!

  • 59 Mr Optimistic January 1, 2020, 9:50 pm

    @xxd09. Cheers. Have a good new year.

  • 60 Neon Leon January 1, 2020, 9:53 pm

    The details man sounds suspiciously like he is married to Mrs Young FI Guy

  • 61 Moneydog January 1, 2020, 9:56 pm

    FI/RE is ultimately about increasing options in the face of external (redunancy, economy, politics, environment) and personal (boredom, job stress, health) risks. I see the RE part of FIRE as an optional tack-on that appeals to some, but being productive, happy, and healthy are really the underlying goals for most of us. Whether or not that comes from paid employment/volunteering/unpaid hobbies is down to individual life stage, circumstances, and outlook. Perhaps one solution to this debate would be to stop thinking of retirement as all or nothing, and to use labels like semi-retired for those pursuing side gigs, etc.

    One factor I don’t recall being mentioned in this thread is that lots of people who retire at a conventional age have existential crises and financial problems, too. The counter-examples to conventional and early retirement are similar: some do meaningful paid work and don’t want to stop, some need to work for financial reasons, some keep working because they can’t figure out anything better to do. True, with RE there’s an additional “against the grain” social factor, and there’s more risk due to the longer time period, but essentially the mitigating strategies are similar: on the financial side, have a solid stash with a comfortable margin for error, and on the personal side, have some non-work hobbies that have a creative/constructive element, preferably which involve some social contact.

  • 62 Gentlemans Family Finances January 1, 2020, 10:36 pm

    This was perhaps the best xmas present!
    I am leaning towards FI being just that – independence.
    What you choose to do thereafter is up to you.
    And I am getting increasingly bored by people starting their fi(re) journey with a big focus on calling it fire and dreaming of giving up the day job when they still need to grow up.
    Plus having spent almost 20 years studying and working in a profession – for me to take the attitude that it was all terrible and a waste of time then wouldn’t I be better just gaming the benefits system from day 1 and loliving the life of Riley instead of wasting my good years doing meaningless and inconvenient work?

  • 63 Steve January 1, 2020, 11:31 pm

    Gosh, please don’t have another debate for a few years. A normally wonderful website turned into the rest of the Internet for a while. Please go back to normal again!

  • 64 John B January 2, 2020, 12:20 am

    You can view working as piloting an aircraft, and finances as height. You take off and set off on an upward trajectory, tuning your earning engine and reducing expenses drag. If you turn off the engine early you’d be wise to be still climbing hard, with excess income over expenditure, so you can glide so much farther. You might want plan side jobs to boost your range, or rely on state pension parachutes.

    Some people enjoy flying planes so much they never want to stop the engines, and entrepreneurs keep climbing hard as they view their height as a measure of their success, far beyond their future consumption. Others try to survive as gliders, releasing the tow early and hunting for thermals,or perform aerobatics. You might go for a long trip, or circle your starting point, and so the analogy continues.

  • 65 JimJim January 2, 2020, 7:44 am

    @John B (or can I call you Sloop Dog???) Et Al, From reading these posts I would say that there is more agreement than discord amongst us, It has to be a personal choice. The one thing I find is that most people in the position of having FI that I have met or interacted with are very very independently minded and utterly individual. Most hold some contrarian belief and, as we witness on the answers to these posts week after week a consensus is a hard thing to find. Even reading the main body of these posts from TI, TA and TDM I would argue that consensus shines through. Retire if you want to, have the option to do so.

  • 66 Passive Pete January 2, 2020, 10:24 am

    Thanks for the great discussion and follow up posts. From my viewpoint having given up working some years ago I think you’ve covered the main points, and identify that we’re all different and so will have different outcomes.
    Two comments that stood out to me, which I’m not disputing, but are different from my experience were: @ TI saying he doesn’t see any of those people who reach FI actually giving up working in some capacity. Perhaps this is another difference between London and the provinces. I’d say the ratio was about 50:50 based on those people I know well enough, some of whom have ‘downsized’ from their former home in London to God’s Own County. The second point was @ TDM saying that when he finally gives up work he’d still be a retired chartered accountant. That’s exactly what I thought when in his position, and what I became once I stopped working. However, after several years it dawned on me that paying the annual fees was just a work habit that I didn’t need to continue – just like getting my hair cut every month or subscribing to the FT. Another factor in that decision was the tripwire in the lifetime membership rules – you need to have been a member for 30 years (tick) and be 60 (D’oh – I’m still a few years away from that!).

  • 67 Scott January 2, 2020, 11:59 am

    I’ll post my comment before reading all the others, so apologies if others have already expressed similar thoughts.

    Firstly, I’m with TA! I don’t really understand what TI is railing against – I appreciate he probably reads way more FI blogs than me, so maybe he’s getting a different message, but I can’t recall anyone in the community stating that “this” is the way it must be done. Surely FI blogs serve two main purposes – for the writer to share their experiences, and to make the reader think about their own options, wants, needs, etc? Not to dictate how life must be lived.

    I do agree with TI that the FI part is what’s important, what happens after that is up to each of us.

    Just picking on one of TI’s points re working a few days to earn an extra £10k for holidays, etc. But if you already have enough, why would you need an extra £10k? Work part time if you want, but if the money’s not an issue there are many other ways to spend your time (I adhere to the Ermine’s school of thought in this area.)

    For info, I FIRE’d early forties, haven’t worked in the three years since. I wasn’t a high achiever, nor a very high earner (above average, sure, but not Finance-type salary.) I didn’t need to scrimp and save for 10-20 years, it was only really in the final couple of years that I decided to aim for FIRE (I’d always saved a bit, got lucky with job, buying my home at the right time, etc. – not saying I could do it this way if I was a young person starting nowadays.)

    I went for 2nd option – wouldn’t rule out paid work if I felt it was beneficial to me in some way, but haven’t gone out of my way to look for anything so far.

  • 68 Scott January 2, 2020, 12:36 pm

    @Neon Leon #60 – there’s nothing suspicious about it – read his introductory post on this site.

  • 69 Ecomiser January 2, 2020, 1:44 pm

    @ xxd09

    I do not want to be living on cat food and having to work at B&Q because I have to and not through choice

    I find the State Pension to be more than sufficient for an adequate human diet and keeping the lights on.
    The FI pot is for the luxuries of life, and so long as it is on target to last until I’m 110, I wouldn’t mind it getting slowly depleted. So far, it’s going up.

  • 70 The Borderer January 2, 2020, 1:56 pm

    I think that one of the chief determinants of one’s attitude to RE is the age it is achieved.

    Speaking for myself, I retired at the age of 62, having worked for 44 years (I did my degree on a ‘sandwich course’ – if anyone remembers those, starting work at 18), so the idea of retirement was just that, finished, finito, goodbye to all that etc.

    Not that I hated my job, it was fulfilling, I had autonomy, it was very well paid and interesting. I’ve worked everywhere in the world except for the former Soviet Union and South America. But I’d put in my shift. Time for a rest.

    So, my ‘early’ retirement was no actually very early – but early enough for me.

    But if I had reached FI 10 years sooner than I did? Or 20 years?

  • 71 Grand January 2, 2020, 5:02 pm

    I haven’t commented in quite some time, so I thought I’d let you guys know that I really enjoyed the debate.

    I guess for me, the whole purpose of more my view off FIRE is, it’s about creating further options for spending my time whilst maintaining a steady state of being.

    Keep up the good work and I hope 2020 brings you less wrinkles, greater happiness, and more wealth.


  • 72 The Accumulator January 2, 2020, 5:08 pm

    @ Moneydog & The Borderer – I wonder too about whether retiring at a more conventional age is easier psychologically and socially than for a precocious FIRE-ee in their forties or thirties.
    The people I know who’ve retired in their sixties near-universally love it. Some have found new ways to stay engaged and productive (doing the books for their church or researching local history come to mind), others seem like they’re on perpetual holiday – always travelling or visiting old friends. One sure way to make their eyes sparkle is to ask them how they are enjoying their retirement.
    There’s evidence that people find it easier to do their own thing and disregard the opinion of others later in life – they’re more comfortable in their own skin. I also guess that retirement is simpler for a sixty-something because it’s widely considered a conventional choice.

    @ Pendlewitch – it would definitely be preferable I think to wake up one day and discover that we were accidentally FI. Through lack of skill and natural inclination, I had to plot a course and chain myself down with detail. There’s certainly a bleak middle section where the planning is done, the shininess has worn off, and there’s not much more to be done but keep going. The final laps look set to be amazing though.

    @ Tuko20 – thank you for sharing the Drucker article. Lots of condensed wisdom there, especially in the ‘Second Half of Your Life’ section, as you mentioned. A couple of things stood out to me:

    “What one does well-even very well and successfully – may not fit with one’s value system. In that case, the work may not appear to be worth devoting one’s life to (or even a substantial portion thereof).”

    “In a knowledge society, however, we expect everyone to be a success. This is clearly an impossibility. For a great many people, there is at best an absence of failure. Wherever there is success, there has to be failure. And then it is vitally important for the individual, and equally for the individual’s family, to have an area in which he or she can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. That means finding a second area – whether in a second career, a parallel career, or a social venture – that offers an opportunity for being a leader, for being respected, for being a success.”

  • 73 The Accumulator January 2, 2020, 5:10 pm

    @ Grand – what a surprise! Hope you’re doing well!

  • 74 Dan January 2, 2020, 6:37 pm

    Seems like the conclusion of the debate is that the FIRE community is a spectrum – where you lie depends on you aims and objectives. I feel it is still an appropriate name for the collective that follow those principles, however extreme or loosely.

    A good debate which filled an otherwise uneventful afternoon!

  • 75 Kraggash January 2, 2020, 8:56 pm

    I became FI around the year 2000.The internet crash reduced my assets value, but I could have stopped work then without too much economising. Instead, I took a few risks (working with tech start-up companies) and then later, as an independent consultant. When the asset pile had built up again, I was ready to do some adventuring: I fancied sailing around the work (slowly) and also moving to a nicer part of the country/world (less commutable, but more country and sea). Sadly, spouse’s parent become increasing fragile, and spouse felt she needed needed to be close at hand to them. Over the following years, FiL died, and MiL had increasing dementia, eventually going into care.
    I working fewer and fewer hours, going down to one day a week. Eventually, we decided to move house, but also keep in easy range of MiL, who was in care. I stopped work fully on moving. Three months after move, MiL died….

    I think the time has passed for sailing around the world, or moving again.

    Life events get in the way of plans.

  • 76 Matthew January 3, 2020, 10:17 pm

    I persue FI due to medical uncertainty about how long i can work, I want to work, at least somewhat, but the wife wants me to RE. I think it could be difficult spending every minute of every day with each other all of a sudden and perhaps not good for marriage so I think a phased retirement is best, that way I can target a more comfortable, secure, retirement

  • 77 Matthew January 3, 2020, 10:26 pm

    I had considered setting up a fake office & company post FI so I can look like I’m going to work but I can really go on the xbox and order pizza, 9-5, pay myself an income so I could still pension it

  • 78 Factor January 3, 2020, 11:16 pm

    @weenie #16

    With you all the way weenie on not working at all after RE.

    I started employment aged 16, held two professional qualifications by my mid 20s, and retired for good aged 62, but work for me was always just something that I did between week-ends. Accepting philosophically that at that stage in my life I had to work, my personal benchmarks were simply, “Am I earning at least as much as an MP?” and, “Am I (and my significant others) living in the part of the UK that I want to be living in?”, with the answer to both questions being in the affirmative once I had the letters after my name.

    I am blissfully happy to not now be working in any way, shape or form, and with many interests I am never short of enjoyable things to do. The big difference is that now I am free to do what I personally want to do, not what someone else tells me I have to do.

  • 79 Mr Optimistic January 4, 2020, 1:30 pm

    @vanguardfan on another thread :). Wasn’t there a recent survey about the perception of wealth which pointed to everyone thinking they would be well enough off if they had twice what they currently have? Applicable to the filthy rich and those of modest means almost universally. Oh, and to me!

  • 80 Pea January 4, 2020, 3:46 pm

    Really interesting posts and comments! I’m not aiming for FIRE as such, but being very late to the game and only paying off my debt aged 43, I’m now saving money for emergency fund before saving for a flat deposit (I still rent!). I have a good pension but only had it for 7 years, so at this rate I’ll be working until I’m 65. That used to horrify me as in my head I always wanted to retire early (maybe I thought I’d win the lottery to sort out the money side!!), but actually now my aim is to make hay while the sun shines, in the hope that in my late 50s/early 60s I’m financially secure enough to take a lower paid / less stressful job if I want to. Maybe I’ll be happy to keep going? Who knows. One thing that has always driven me to an extent is that I don’t want to put off my life until retirement. My Mum died at 54 and didn’t get to enjoy retirement, and that has influenced my life. I’ve done a lot of great things in my life to date that I’m proud of, and would never have done if I’d saved all my money for retirement. So while I save now, I still have holidays (cashes flowed now though!) and try to do the things I want now rather than waiting until I can retire, because a) I may not make it to retirement, b) what if I don’t have the health/mobility to do what I want then? I’m not trying to be doom & gloom, but I think for me living for now while keeping an eye on /planning for the future works for me. Oh and also I very much agree with voluntary work – I did 5 years of it recently which took up a lot of time, was a fair responsibility, didn’t earn a penny from it and I wouldn’t want to. I loved it. Hoping to return to it this year too.

  • 81 Aidan Williams January 4, 2020, 6:22 pm

    A great series and you also spoil us with a poll! One thing, I’m not sure most of the supposed health benefits of employment are relevant to those that are not economically active; i.e. if you are not seeking work then you won’t be stressed due to unemployment.

    Having said that, I am working PT having reached FI and it’s great. FIRE isn’t just a spectrum @Dan, I think some of us at least are FIRE-fluid too. Having dreamed half my life about FIRE when I got there I realised that I actually enjoy my job just not the time it consumed or the stress it caused. FI – as well as giving me a complete existential crisis – gave me the confidence and the power to shape the role I wanted and to reduce my hours down. And along with B*, it gave me the excuse to emigrate somewhere warmer; sooner rather than later. 🙂

    Would I do the job for nothing? Yes, without a 2nd thought. Working from home a couple of days a week solving techie problems without any of the usual office politics is surely an INTP dream come true? But equally I am more than happy to leave when the time/redundancy offer is right.

  • 82 Phillycheese January 4, 2020, 7:41 pm

    Thankyou xxdo9, This is just the stuff I need to hear! As a keen monevator follower (marvellous stuff) My husband and I are now tipping our toes over the edge and about to fling off the precipice into the unknown RE (slightly early that is, at 58/60). I have loved my dream job. All 35 years of it. Mortgage paid early, passive investor – but I’ve been terrified of the RE bit. Until my lovely sister gave me a book called ‘not fade away: how to thrive in retirement’ by Celia Dodd- this book lists, and deals with, every single one of my fears. I realise it’s as I suspected- whether we work (I will part time) or not work (will happen eventually) it’s the next bit, a major life change to be grasped and lived, it’s not predetermined and it’s up to me to make it work. It’s time. Can’t wait!

  • 83 hare January 5, 2020, 12:01 am

    3 points.
    1. There are assumptions about receiving the state pension. That’s been changed to a minimum of 10 contributing years to get anything (e.g. at age 42, I’m only at 9 years contributions due to working abroad and reasons as stated below). It could easily be changed to 40, then 45 years for the full pension with 15+ years for anything at all, or a higher amount required for a contributing year. That really kicks it for the millions who don’t fit into the workplace, have struggled with self employment, don’t tick the benefits boxes or have taken time out for caring/childcare etc.
    2. The debate is centred around the assumption of full time work (also see pension contributions point above, which is based on earning capacity). There are many people who receive their income out of full time work: rentals, investment income etc? Some recognition of that would be helpful as it makes the numbers very different.
    3. @Cath. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Those of us who have been forcibly retired at a young age (mid 30s myself) and struggled for income before that, we need financial independence so we don’t end up on the street. Completely different numbers.

  • 84 ZXSpectrum48k January 5, 2020, 1:10 am

    One factor that has been hardly mentioned is the impact of FIRE on children. Retiring early, reducing your income, is clearly going to have an impact on them: reducing the amount of support the children can receive in terms of deposits for houses, helping with student debt etc. FIRE blogs like to justify this in terms of “making children stand on their own two feet”. Some even argue it would be negative for the children to receive financial support, private education etc despite evidence to the contrary. People like me need to be “punched in the mouth” for our stupidity in wanting to help our children. I see this as simply reverse engineering the answers that suit their dogma. Providing support to children would add to the money and years needed to hit the magical number so it must be a bad idea …

  • 85 Learner January 5, 2020, 3:33 am

    Pea #80 refreshing to hear from someone trying to jump start their finances mid-career! Not many 40+ renters in the FI/RE world it seems.

  • 86 Gentlemans Family Finances January 5, 2020, 11:11 am

    @ZXSpectrum48k the topic or problem of kids is not covered enough by fire bloggers and there are many reasons for that.
    It’s a shame because of course it’s easier to be frugal when it’s just you on your own.

    We have two kids and are facing tough headwinds in the form of nursery fees and everything else from housing costs to clothing and food.
    Add inheritance on top of that and it makes the situation look a lot worse – maybe £40k for uni costs and another £60k for help/deposit? Per kid?
    It all adds up.
    Of course there’s decades of compounding and maybe pension money to help but it’s a lot!

    But the problems of affording children plus life in general is not unique to fire or early retirement types. Pop over to mumsnet to see how it really goes.
    In the past the choice was for one parent to stay at home – and that wasn’t considered early retirement.
    These days the benefits system makes working part time a no brainer if you are eligible.

    The truth is that early retirement is achievable with kids but it doesn’t make it easier. Also the benefits trap can mean having even modest savings means that you lose out on enough money to retire on / live off.

    On the belief that early retirement would mean losing out financially – the sacrifices of work and / or career are often substantial. Like I am away from home for 13 hours a day.
    But there’s more of an advantage to our kids to focus energy on them when they are young (under 5) than all the money you can throw at them later in life.
    For us – with kids aged 1 & 3 we are at a difficult position in our early retirement plans. The bridge to normal retirement isn’t ready yet but we are moving in the right direction.
    Who knows maybe we’ll soon be PITKWO
    Passive income, two kids, work optional instead of wage slaves with two brats we hardly know.

    Early retirement for me is about spending more time together as about family.

  • 87 The Accumulator January 5, 2020, 2:35 pm

    @ ZX – Golly, the most famous FIRE blogger of them all – Mr Money Mustache – regularly writes about the impact of his life choices on his child. There are others too who have tackled this.

    The trade-off is the standard one: money vs time, as GFF says. I think you’re really going to struggle to find anyone legit who says you’re stupid to help your children. The debate is over how to do it and, when children are involved, that’s even more of a personal choice than usual.

    @ Phillycheese – I’m excited for you! Good luck and I hope to be right behind you. Thank you for the book tip. Will check it out.

    @ Aidan – haha, like the idea of being FIRE fluid. It sounds like you’ve engineered the perfect situation for yourself. Great to hear!

  • 88 Brod January 5, 2020, 5:38 pm

    @GFF – good points about kids. We’ve got an 8 y.o. and a 6 y.o. so we’re more or less nailed to the floor location-wise. But we’ve paid off the mortgage which makes a big difference and I have a decent size SIPP and ISA pot. So I’m part time, mostly FI but not RE. Now my wife’s working to build up her pot.

  • 89 xxd09 January 5, 2020, 6:15 pm

    Ret 17 yrs aged 73
    Re kids
    I would put the work in-I never thought much about RE till they were well underway
    Raised 3-all married with jobs and children of their own and independent of me
    If you don’t get them launched with jobs/ qualifications and no debt(we paid off their student loans)- they will fail and come back and haunt you mentally and financially the rest of your life-and they will live longer than you!
    Having no children would have made us filthy rich but more to life than cash-no regrets-benefits far out way the drawbacks
    Back in those far off days -no one thought about kids -you just had them
    You also had them young @25 in our case and close together
    Different times or are they?

  • 90 Phillycheese January 5, 2020, 6:24 pm

    @Gentlemans Family Finances, I totally agree and think family issues are a huge part of this – speaking here as a parent much further down the line, I believe my young adults still need my time, support and attention and I would bet that family reasons are a big part of RE for others as well as myself. But I want to bring in another angle on this : I sit glued to any monevator posts dealing with SWR as I am really concerned how old/exhausted my kids might have to be before they collect their state pension (in their 70s??) and I am determined to keep my SWR as low as possible (whilst still having a worthwhile, if not extravagant, quality of life with my husband) in order to Try and leave some sort of inheritance for them. I think they’ll really need it. And I think that an inheritance isn’t as much use if you have zero financial literacy or interest, and pay extortionate amounts to an IFA, as it might be if you already have a basic understanding of passive investing through cheap index funds for the long term. To that end I think trying to get my kids interested in Lisas/ investing and understanding the importance of trying to work towards a degree of FI for themselves is one of the best legacies I could leave. My mum was an avid investor and saver, and made a little go a long way. We have been funding Lisas for our 2, and I’ve tried to persuade my son to download the platform app so he can see the amount going up and down, just to try and get him interested .. not much success yet, but I’ll keep trying!

  • 91 The Accumulator January 5, 2020, 6:50 pm

    William Bernstein wrote a very short book to try and put young ‘uns on the right path. There’s a free pdf download here: https://www.etf.com/docs/IfYouCan.pdf

    I’ve also had some success with Andrew Hallam’s The Millionaire Teacher.

  • 92 SemiPassive January 6, 2020, 7:38 pm

    I would have faced a cliff edge FIRE decision if I stayed working in London, but have managed to relocate to a nice part of the country after an opportunity presented itself where I could work from home in a similar role. The downside is less money, but the upside is no more hideous commuting and I’ve moved to a location I had always sought to retire to anyway. I don’t hate my job anything like as much, and it won’t be any great hardship to hack it full time for at least the next 5 or 6 years. The FIRE journey has ultimately become longer, but more bearable.
    While still nowhere near FI yet, I have a plan where I can at least have the option to go into some form of semi-retirement at 55, although that may require downsizing our current pad to wipe out any outstanding mortgage if I can’t clear it by then.

    I used to be fully in The Accumulator’s camp, I thought people who don’t fully quit working once they have reached FI must be either brainwashed by the corporate machine/society, or lack any kind of imagination over what they could or should be doing with their time.

    While I still largely believe that, its true that as The Investor points out, the value of even pulling in as little as £10-15k pa from part time work means you can quit full time perm employment many years earlier compared to the cliff edge full retirement scenario.

    After all that would be another £250-300k that you’d need to sock away to provide the equivalent income. How long does that take your average Joe (or Joanna) to accumulate? Excluding these ERE types that live in camper vans, at least a decade if not more, unless you are closer to earning a 6 figure income than a middling 5 figure income.

  • 93 Xailter January 7, 2020, 6:55 pm

    @The Accumulator (#91) – thanks for the link to that, I’m going to share it with my younger cousins who were asking how to get started. Saves me writing it!

  • 94 David Larkinson January 8, 2020, 10:54 am

    Lots of interesting discussions. I’m currently running a 90% savings rate ( yes I know I’m an extreme case ) I have a young son and we don’t really sacrifice anything. I’m running such a high savings rate as I have a couple of extra income streams that meet our basic needs. I’m FI now and I’ll be exploring reducing my working hours this year. I’m fortunate that I don’t have a hideous commute ( it’s a 20 minute bike ride) and my working hours mean I get to have a decent amount of family time. Those facts make it tricky to decide to leave even though I don’t really find the work terribly engaging. Being FI gives me the ability and confidence to say no to things at work that I’d rather not do and I’m not worried about office politics. Previously making some sacrifices means I’ll also be able to help my 5 year old son with a house deposit ( perhaps even a fully paid off house ) or education fees.

  • 95 Tony January 11, 2020, 3:17 pm

    @Sara: “But my immediate problem is tangential to all of that… How will I cope with the (to me) major psychological shift away from actively investing and accumulating wealth to drawing it down? I look at parts of my portfolio and feel almost sentimentally attached to some of my holdings, and dread the day when the numbers start to (at best) plateau, and then gradually decline over time.”

    Yes, totally agree! This is one of several issues I’m trying to deal with. I think I became addicted to investing over the years, and growing my stash and seeing those returns coming in was always a buzz. I console myself with the idea that *in theory* I should always have enough according to the 4% rule – but *in practice* you are absolutely right!

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