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Why I don’t use the FIRE acronym for financial freedom

Why I don’t use the FIRE acronym for financial freedom post image

I don’t remember anyone talking about FIRE when I started Monevator in 2007.

Of course there were personal finance writers, and books and blogs about growing your pension or leaving the rat race.

But FIRE wasn’t a word. Or rather it wasn’t something you wanted to jump into:

  • a process in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and typically give out bright light, heat, and smoke; combustion or burning.

At some point though, I looked up from counting my pennies and heard the youngsters using FIRE in a new context.

Rather than something you’d shout in a cinema in a parable about crowds and exits, FIRE now meant:

Financial Independence Retiring Early

Some even named their blogs after it: FIRE v London and The FIREStarter.

As acronyms go, we could do worse. FIRE has connotations of danger and emergency, which is how some people see their working life (or their bank balance).

But for me yoking the concept of financial independence together with retiring early is not ideal. I just don’t see them as uniquely wedded at the hip.

Also, I suspect it causes confusion about goals, and even cultivates outrage from those dreaded ‘retirement police’ who get angry if a FIRE-ee earns a few bob on the side.

Fighting FIRE with FIDO

Not working is just one more option that comes with being financially free – such as taking three months out to learn Japanese or going for ice cream in the park on a Monday or telling your boss to shove it thanks but no thanks, or seeking a new career in a different industry.

We might have acronyms for these other options, too:

FIBS – Financial Independence Blatant Salary

FITS – Financial Independence Taking Sabbatical

FISH – Financial Independence Semi Halfhearted

FIDO – Financial Independence Doing Overtime

FIZZ – Financial Independence Zig Zagging

FIGS – Financial Independence Great Sex

FIVE! – Financial Independence Very Exciting!

FIEF – Financial Independence Extreme Freedom

I could go on, and so could you because financial independence gives you more freedom to do what you want to do, not what an acronym implies you should.

You can go your own way

My beef with the FIRE terminology isn’t mere pedantry. I suspect it encourages tunnel thinking, perhaps to some users’ own detriment.

I often read blogs and comments from people saying they can’t stand their work at the office, for instance. They must escape it at all costs!

But actually, the cost as they see it is working 10-15 years or more in a job they hate, saving 60% of their salary, and becoming D.I.Y. Buddhists in order to be happy on the leftovers.

Perhaps that’s fine for you. I’m no big spender and I think many of the best things enjoyed by billionaires are within our reach, too.

But I do wonder if there’s not be a better solution than both being in the rat race and actively hating it for two decades?

A new career? Or a different way of working?

Similarly, I read articles by early retirees that urge others to do it – because, they argue, working at a modern office is soul-destroying.

I feel that way, too. But as I’ve written many times, you don’t have to give up work to avoid the office.

You do have to take risks in working for yourself. But if you’re self-motivated and vaguely smart you can probably get the same income with many of the benefits you’d seek in being retired early.

Your time is far more under your own control, for instance, you can create a work environment that’s right for you, you can go to the cinema when it’s empty, and you can spend your days in your underwear if that’s your thing (though probably best to skip the cinema).

Early retirement can bring its own problems, so it’s worth questioning whether it’s really the best solution to your current ones.

Then there are the people who love their jobs and even the office, but who are encouraged, perhaps subconsciously, to think they shouldn’t by the term FIRE – as well as by its camp followers.

Happy workers may want financial freedom for its own intrinsic rewards. But they find themselves on websites frequented by a subset of readers who harangue them and say they’re actually 9-5 Stepford Wives who are deluding themselves by thinking they enjoy work.

Finally, plenty of people who retire early do so because they’re ill or incapacitated, or because they were fired the old-fashioned way. Living on benefits isn’t what whoever coined the term FIRE had in mind.

I’m not disparaging early retirement as a goal, if it’s what you want. I can see the appeal!

I’m just saying it’s but one of many things you could aim for – yet it’s embedded in the FIRE mentality.

There’s always one more year

This all came to a head when UK personal finance blogger and friend of the Monevator website Retirement Investing Today (RIT) declared that he was going to spend that dreaded extra year at work.

This despite RIT having already hit his purported freedom number a year ago, and now being well over target.

“Foul!” cried his critics. “We want our metaphorical money back!”

I can see both sides.

The ‘one more year’ problem is well-known. My father kept adding years to his tally – despite being fed-up and ready to go – in pursuit of extra security. In the end he was only healthy in retirement for a couple of years, and dead in much less than a decade.

So yes, I get it.

RIT also said very publicly he was aiming to retire after hitting his magic number. This probably made him more accountable, and may have aided his motivation. So I can see why some may feel letdown by their hero.

It’s true too that there will always be reasons to delay – that’s why One More Year is a thing. RIT points to Brexit uncertainty, and I don’t blame him. But perhaps next year there will be a stock market crash or a run on the pound? And Brexit won’t be done with, anyway.

Set against that there’s this (lightly edited) response from RIT in the comments:

For me the bit I missed was the difference FI would make to my/family emotions/well-being.

Like a project I naively thought I’d make it to the FI line physically exhausted/relieved/etc and then chase RE (a new project) to decompress.

What I didn’t bank on was the euphoria that came from FI meaning I have a spring in my step making the next step not so much of a rush.

RIT goes on to explain how with financial independence achieved, work is more relaxed. He feels able to ignore emails out of hours, to delegate to his team, and so on.

I believe RIT has discovered that the Sword of Damocles hanging over your neck as an employee isn’t very threatening if it’s in a museum, and only over your neck because you’re taking a selfie.

FIRE in the whole

RIT says he’ll still be retiring in a year. I’ve no reason to doubt that or to wish him anything other than good luck.

Similarly, if the FIRE acronym describes your plans then by all means use it.

But let’s remember there are dozens of permutations of financial freedom. If you’ve clocked into an office every day and never thought about them, then in your desperation you might not know what you’re missing.

I’m pretty much financially independent these days, by my own terms. I once wanted to retire early. But I tried doing no work and discovered it wasn’t for me – or at least not yet.

My expectation now is I’ll earn at least some money for the next 30 years. I won’t state I’ve retired early and then find myself explaining why continuing to work is not the contradiction it clearly is. Rather, if the subject comes up I’ll focus on the financial independence part.

To me, independence is the bit that matters most. Retire early if you want to – absolutely. Keep working if you want to. Start a business if you want to, despite the risks.

Financial independence doesn’t solve all life’s problems – I’ve been stuck in a motivational rut for a year, for example – but it does make it easier to take a bird’s eye view of them.

Financial independence ultimately means the freedom to potentially do more of what you want to do – and to change your mind. When you get there you’ll probably find it’s intoxicating, at least for a while.

So good luck with your own journey to FIRE, FIDO, FIBS, or FIEF… or wherever else you’re headed!

{ 49 comments… add one }
  • 1 The Rhino July 6, 2017, 10:58 am

    I’ve always had a penchant for FIGS – they keep you regular 😉

    It was a really interesting post from RIT – something new and unexpected unfolding for him for sure..

    Now I’m not a huge fan of TEAs blog (it can’t be that bad though cos I keep reading it) but occasionally he turns out a gem, as was the case with his Scott Adams quote,

    ‘ Normally when you feel unhappy, you blame your mood on whatever your environment is serving up to you. It’s easy to blame your environment because you can interpret everything as bad news or potentially bad news. Just add pessimism or cynicism to any observation and you can manufacture bad news out of thin air…I’m here to tell you that the primary culprit in your bad moods is a deficit in one of the big five: flexible schedule, imagination, sleep, diet and exercise’

    No one wants to believe that the formula for happiness is as simple as daydreaming, controlling your schedule, napping, eating right, and being active every day. You’d feel like an idiot for suffering so many unhappy days while not knowing the cure was so accessible.’

    For my money FI gives you a little breathing room to attempt to sort out those big five issues in a way thats harder if you’re doing the standard 9-5 thus giving you a better stab at living the good life

    Theres little doubt in my mind, and I’m in full agreement with you here, that suffering for a couple of decades in a job thats detrimental to most aspects other than your wallet such that you can RE is not the wisest of moves..

    liberate life was on to something in this department before he got distracted by something more exciting than blogging.

  • 2 James McGrath July 6, 2017, 11:15 am

    Couldn’t agree more – I’ve been boring on about this subject for a while now.

    Sure, spending (say) 20 years doing a job you hate and saving hard is preferable to spending 50 years doing a job you hate with nothing to show for it at the end. But it seems to me that you risk either:

    (a) not actually retiring because of fear, or some external event making the situation more precarious (RIT)
    (b) retiring, and discovering you’ve worked so hard you have no idea how you want to spend your time now you have the choice (Jim)

    Working for yourself / starting a business / freelancing means you can more easily:

    (a) Build non-financial assets (skills, IP, networks) that will reward you even after you “retire”
    (b) Increase your income without asking anyone’s permission
    (c) “Retire” gradually, rather than an all-or-nothing “I quit” moment
    (d) Enjoy your work…which makes the retirement part irrelevant for as long as your health holds up anyway

    I’ve always found it odd that this approach isn’t talked about more in blog world. Even if it renders the “RE” part irrelevant, it’s still very much compatible with “FI” – because plenty of business owners spend like idiots and have nothing to show for their efforts, just like many/most employees.

  • 3 UK Value Investor July 6, 2017, 11:27 am

    Brilliant. I have never been a fan of FIRE. It’s freedom from the necessity to do paid work that matters, not whether you “retire”. Retiring is what you do when you go to bed. It’s a rubbish term.

    Personally I could not imagine spending ten or twenty years doing lots of overtime in a job I hated just so that I could stop doing that hated job in ten or twenty years time.

    I think Buffett said it’s like saving up sex for your old age.

    I say do the whole Jim Collins Hedgehog thing: Find something that combines 1) what you’re good at, 2) what you love doing and 3) what will add the most value to the world, and go do that instead.

    For most people the goal should be to earn money doing something so amazing that you would have to be crazy to retire from it. You may not quite get there, but striving for this goal should definitely make life more interesting.

  • 4 Gregory July 6, 2017, 11:44 am
  • 5 Mrs. Adventure Rich July 6, 2017, 12:20 pm

    I love your alternate acronyms! I had a good laugh as I read through those this morning 🙂 Thank you for the thoughtful article!

  • 6 P July 6, 2017, 12:21 pm

    > I don’t remember anyone talking about FIRE when I started Monevator in 2007.

    http://www.firecalc.com has been operating since 2004 according to http://web.archive.org .

  • 7 rob o'shea July 6, 2017, 1:28 pm

    Excellent post Monevator. Trademark “heart of the issue” writing. Keep up the good work!

  • 8 Scott July 6, 2017, 1:49 pm

    I don’t get why RIT, and some commentators on his recent article, talk about the relief when FI is achieved at being able say “no” at work, at being able to finish on time for a change, turn off the mobile, etc. What I mean is I don’t get why anyone would allow themselves to be in that position in the first place. You’re contracted to do a job, not to turn over your life to your employer. Apart from some specific jobs, e.g. emergency services, nobody’s work is that important.

  • 9 Fremantle July 6, 2017, 2:10 pm

    Anyone not on welfare or being supported by their parents is financially independent.

    Being of independent means is what I think we really are referring to when we say financial independence.

    But essentially it boils down to being independent.

  • 10 FI Warrior July 6, 2017, 4:10 pm

    Take it from Darwin, it’s the most adaptable that win over the long term, this is awesome in that it gives any average person (most of us) a chance; we can’t always be the biggest/strongest/fastest, but everyone can work on being flexible.

    Independence = freedom first, all else can follow according to preference, effectively you’re just giving yourself options. Those options in turn can leverage opportunity to improve life disproportionately and that difference can be radical. I first started working in London (~2000) when the housing boom was at a crazier pitch than normal and actually even knew at the time that buying then would have sorted me out for life, but had student debt. If I’d had a deposit in that particular window of a few months back then, it would have been a game changer.

    A sibling a few years later walked into a bank and ‘bought’ a 250K flat, interest only, still in London, on a 20K starting salary because they had a deposit from family by their mid 20’s. (yes stuff like that’s why the crash happened a few months later) I still have that document from the broker and in the field for ‘how you intend to pay back the principle in a couple of decades or so’ there’s the cheerful one-word entry ‘speculative’. Now that’s how I see FI, once achieved, you can do what you want, no set rules, but if bad fortune hits, you can dodge most bullets, while if good fortune arrives and you see it in time, you can do something about it. In a word, empowerment.

  • 11 Matt July 6, 2017, 5:14 pm

    Great article. I’m still investing heavily, but I’m re-evaluating my goals since changing away from a job I hated. The ‘freedom from’ is steadily changing to ‘freedom to’, which is probably much healthier.

  • 12 Friendly Russian July 6, 2017, 6:00 pm

    Hmmm, your acronyms got me thinking and I found another one, which I probably will be using

    FIFF – Financially Independent Finally Free

  • 13 The Borderer July 6, 2017, 6:26 pm

    I made the same point to RIT when commenting on his latest blogg.

    I achieved FI about 18 months ago and retired 3 months ago. I could have retired sooner, but didn’t feel ‘ready’ – as I said to RIT, it’s a state of mind, not a formula.

    But lovin it, just lovin it – ( and I have spent an entire Wednesday in my underwear, just because I could!)

  • 14 Gregory July 6, 2017, 7:06 pm

    As the pension systems are in danger due to the population ageing the financial independence will be more popular goal for more people. Due to the increasing inequality this will be a common practice for some people but unreachable for the majority.

  • 15 Super Dan July 6, 2017, 7:17 pm

    In my late 30s with two little kids and feeling pretty financially free… I don’t have enough money to cover every eventuality and I’m a long way from retirement but we have enough money and savings to be able to cut our working hours down and spend more time with the kids in the day. In effect we’re spending some of our retirement money on quality time now when it matters. It was hard changing mindset when everyone else puts their kids in full-time daycare and works full time. We’re lucky to live in a country where it’s easier for parents to reduce working hours in regular jobs. (Sorry for the mumsnet style diversion)

  • 16 Living Cheap In London July 6, 2017, 7:43 pm

    You missed the good one that my friend coined once he moved frpm London to France:

    FISH = Financial Independence Seeking Happiness


    For me, going part time was the moment when i re-evaluated the balance of save now vs have-time-off-now. I am still saving hard, don’t get me wrong there, but i also have 3 more months off a year than i used to when i work FT. That time now, whilst i am fit & healthy, is priceless. To put this in perspective, my mum died aged 59 before she even made it to retirement.

  • 17 Retirement Investing Today July 6, 2017, 7:58 pm

    Thought provoking post as always TI. To maybe add something to the post let me pose two questions to myself. Before I do that though let me just say that I don’t believe I have ever said I was right or that my way was the only way. All I’ve ever done is simply transparently share the journey of somebody living a real life, with no guidance meaning those experiences are being shared for the first time with no knowledge of the consequences, in the hope that it will help others. So with that in mind…

    RIT, if you could go back to 2007 would you do the same thing again? Yes, I wouldn’t change a thing. In the UK I believe about 32 million people play the lottery on a regular basis in the hope of winning the big one to give them options. As I sit here at age 44 typing this I’m holding that winning lottery ticket. On top of that my life and that of my family outside of the PF is great. What more can somebody ask for.

    RIT, if a 30 year old approached you and asked you for some life guidance what would you say to them? It’s an incomplete list but I’d start with:
    1. Be the best you can be at everything you do.
    2. Don’t let others take advantage of you.
    3. Focus on quality of life and not standard of living.
    4. Take responsibility for your actions.
    5. Make informed decisions not guesses.
    6. You’re the only person who has any interest in you keeping the fruits of your labour.

    1 and 2 is what helped me increase my earnings rapidly.
    3 is what helped me minimise my expenses.
    4 is what helped me research investing.
    4, 5 and 6 is what helped me drive my investing expenses to small numbers
    4, 5 and 6 is what helped me minimise my taxes

    Good life guidance generally but also likely to put you into a position to have FIRE choices pretty darn quickly.

  • 18 hosimpson July 6, 2017, 9:21 pm

    But actually, the cost as they see it is working 10-15 years or more in a job they hate, saving 60% of their salary, and becoming D.I.Y. Buddhists in order to be happy on the leftovers.

    Oh, come now, TI. That’s a little harsh.
    Perhaps some people are just better suited to, y’know, working, than others? I used to think that my relationship with my jobs (plural, for over the years I’ve had several) was strained because the jobs sucked. Now I’m beginning to suspect that maybe it’s not the job – maybe it’s me. As they say, the only constant factor in all your shitty relationships…
    But the outcome is still the same. An irreconcilable difference is, by definition, irreconcilable.
    So yes, as soon as I’m financially independent, I’ll be retiring.

  • 19 John B July 7, 2017, 5:17 am

    FIND – Financially Independent, New Direction

    Wise investing/spending blogs, like yours, with general advice are the most useful. RIT also showed his working well. But an inspirational blog needs a goal, else it’s a neverending sequence of “monthly updates” which end up boasting. RIT shows that if you earn well above average wage and don’t spend it, you become rich, which isn’t a surprise. What we want emotionally is a, pardon the phrase, money shot to show how it changes their life. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who make lots of money, but aren’t interesting, as it just becomes a way of keeping score, because they met their goals running the business.

    For every tale of shaving off basis points we want stories like SHMD who can’t stop working, or SLIS who shows you can, so we can picture ourselves there.

    @hosimpson after 15 years and 6 jobs I didn’t enjoy, I decided it was me, not employment that was the problem. But I have no ambition, so after FI my ND was to potter, and RE fits that best

  • 20 The Investor July 7, 2017, 8:57 am

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and further comments — especially to RIT, whose own input is obviously super-relevant. 🙂 I expected a little more push back from the Retiring Early crowd, given how vocal I’ve seen some of them be on some articles before, but perhaps it’s understood that I am *not* against ‘RE’ at all, rather I am against the assumption that it’s the One True Way.

    A few individual replies:

    @TheRhino — I wonder what would happen if we had a universal income, combined with people concentrating on those attributes you mention? Would everyone have a better opportunity to say no to work they hate and eventually find something they at least half like? Financial independence is back-loaded, after all, which is not optimal from the perspective of ‘the search’. But as you say, two decades in a job you hate is pretty steep gamble.

    @James — Very well put. I think we probably have to accept though that not everyone can live like this, partly because they tell us they can’t, and partly because I’ve seen a good few people try to be more independent and then eventually go back into work. So it’s probably not a panacea. Still, at least being alert to the idea that there may be a better way to spend your working day should be on the table before seeing “RE” in the FIRE acronym, getting out a compound interest calculator, and buckling up for 20-years of self-described misery for 8 hours a day, I feel. If on sober reflection that’s the best approach for someone then fair enough, they have my sympathy. But personally I’d try to shoot for at least “boring but not a hell hole” for my working life. 😉

    @UK VI — I agree. People say this sort of thing is unrealistic, but I’ve changed path three times since leaving school. Admittedly not entirely radically, but enough to have to get over speed bumps and to take income hits. I do have a pretty flexible sort of mind though, not everyone is like this I know. And as I’ve said before, I have definitely earned less along the way because of it. There has been a cost.

    @Gregory — Love that video, thanks! Surely the movie is awful though, looking at the Wikipedia entry. And abounding in the “wrong” message. 😉

    @Mrs A.R. — Thank you!

    @P — Oops, good shout. Maybe some American usage then, that came here.

    @rob — Cheers!

    @Scott — They do it to get it into a position where they have a higher income I think. As someone who has blown up two attempts at a traditional career barely off the launch pads, I can’t hack it, I am closer to your mindset, but I do understand. Then there are those who feel they have to work that hard just to keep their jobs. A common example here is someone who is promoted in the good times and then has to double down in the bad times because their company/sector/industry is suffering, layoffs abound, and they are sort of over-paid for the common economic reality so they need to work extra hard (they feel, maybe rightly) rather than move to a new path at say 60% of that income.

    @Fremantle – That is more precise terminology, although I guess one could be pedantic about whether one can ever be truly free of the system etc. But it’s a bit wordy to catch on again…

    @FI Warrior — A mortgage broker basically telling me to lie on my self-cert mortgage application (which I didn’t/wouldn’t do, and ultimately never bought) in 2003 was for me a sign of the debt bubble that was running rampant. Little did I know that (a) “everyone” was doing it and (b) it wouldn’t matter because 5,000-year low interest rates would bail all these homeowners out. I am slowly moving towards a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude here. Inflating away the nation’s debts while I’m entirely debt-free would be just too annoying!

    @Matt — Interesting perspective. I’m very much a “get away from” type of personality, too. Maybe I am luckier than I suppose that my various lifestyle shifts have worked out for me. (Or at least that I see them that way now… There were years when I earned very little doing start-ups or changing my area of expertise…)

    @Friendly Russian — Nice!

    @The Borderer — Congratulations! Put some clothes on! 😉

    @Gregory — Perhaps. Signs of a backlash continue to grow, though.

    @Super Dan — In terms of the benefits of countries, the UK and Europe has a far more accessible healthcare system, too, especially the NHS. Plenty of people in the US keep working indefinitely just for the employer coverage of healthcare costs.

    @LCIP — Yes, I think saving pretty hard should be a part of every strategy. There’s nothing in this post that says don’t try to be FI. 🙂

    @RIT — Thanks for the thoughts. Well the good thing about sunk costs is if you can look past them without regret then they’re done and dusted. I’ve really enjoyed your blog over the years as you know, and this post was as much prompted by some of the harsh comments you’d got as by your tweak of stance. That said, I read about your punishing working habits and the stress a few years ago with horror. I know I would have found another way, because I have, at the cost of something of course (income in my case).

    @hosimpson — I don’t agree it’s harsh, it’s pretty much a statement of the facts and their strategy. I suppose the Buddhist bit could be read a bit snarky, but we need a bit of colour in writing don’t we? 🙂 If you feel that way about all jobs (or, as I would say, “all ways of making money”) then I obviously agree you may be someone for whom total escape is the best plan. (“Some of my best friends” too, etc — your approach and @RIT pre-financial independence is closer to @TA’s attitude, in many respects).

    @JohnB — Agreed, stories are compelling and are arguably always over-simplifications. (e.g. I’d argue from my lens your view in this short snippet of entrepreneurs is too simple a story! 🙂 ) And you’re right that RIT’s blog was more compelling with the concrete goal, and also I guess that @ermine’s is better for his take no prisoners attitude to earning another penny from work after he retired. (I know he has done a little recently, but there was a five-year decompression beforehand! To me another symptom of the potential problems of the “on/off” attitude of hardcore retiring early. Although of course he came to it late). Not sure who SHMD is?

    Think that’s everyone, apologies if I missed you! 🙂

  • 21 FrugalFox July 7, 2017, 9:07 am

    Over on the site “Divnomics” they have a new acronym that I saw this morning….
    It’s H.O.T

    Opportunity rich
    Time rich

    It could be genius or maybe not.

  • 22 John B July 7, 2017, 9:33 am

    SHMD = Sex Health Money Death, https://sexhealthmoneydeath.com/, not that we get much Sex! He tried so hard to retire, but couldn’t hack the lazy days.

  • 23 The Investor July 7, 2017, 10:02 am

    @John B — Oh, of course, ta. Yes, as you probably know I like that blog and link to him all the time (including in this article). Too many acronyms!

  • 24 JonWB July 7, 2017, 10:16 am

    FIRE is incredibly useful as it picks up a lot in a google search very easily and that is probably the most useful function to me.

    I am thinking along these lines for both my wife and I:

    1) 5 days per week for 10 years (new graduate, career focus)
    2) 4 days per week for 10 years (family focus, pre-school and infant school age children, begin investment journey)
    3) 3 days per week for 10 years (family focus, junior and secondary school age children – get involved in helping them manage their interests/hobbies, manage family investments, wealth structuring and active tax planning)
    4) 2 days per week for 10 years (location agnostic, lots of flexibility to travel for pleasure and travel for work, children finished at school and at university/early stage of careers, comfortably live off of assets accumulated during stages (2) and (3))
    5) 1 day per week for 10 years (keeping active and in touch)

    We actually spent 9.5 years at stage 1 and we are at 9.5 years on stage 2 at the moment. My wife is currently working 5 days per week as she moved jobs, but hopes to go down to 4 days per week soon.

    Stage 2 might end up being say 11 or 12 years. But for us stages 1 and 2 worked very well. Most importantly, as we had time in stage (2), I think we are much better off with regards to health, wealth and happiness.

    I guess the key is to find out what works for you and your family and try to avoid sleepwalking into the future.

  • 25 liberatedotlife July 7, 2017, 11:03 am

    Hey TI.

    Excellent (and very welcome) article!

    Whilst hanging around certain parts of the FI blogosphere over the last few years, I came to the conclusion that it was a bit ‘when all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail’. For most people, a year or two spent looking for a different tool might be better than 10 or 15 years of slogging it out with the hammer.

    For me reading the blogs of the FI ‘movement’ over the years just helped me to join several dots and set myself free. I’ve never wanted a lot of ‘stuff’ or status. I’ve always dabbled with income streams that didn’t involve being an employee and I value controlling most of my time. I call what I have ‘Pareto Financial Independence’ (i.e. I have way more than 80% of the benefits of being independently wealthy but have less than 20% of the wealth required to give me that status).

    I might as well throw another terrible acronym into the pot too: TMONFI – Time Mostly Owned, Not Financially Independent. No? OK I’ll get my coat…

    Aside from the ’10 year slog’ disadvantage, I also think that people should look at the RE part of FIRE from another angle: retiring completely destroys your biggest asset.

    I consider the skills I use to generate my income like one of the assets in my portfolio. Now, let’s be realistic, I’d need a *lot* of equities to generate the sort of income my engineering skills generate. My career is the goose which has laid the golden eggs which have given me choices in life. If the shit ever hits the fan and the problem can be fixed using money, I damn well want my engineering skills at my fingertips.

    If I didn’t use my skills at all for 10 years, they would lose a lot (the majority of?) their value. For this reason, I’d never abandon them completely, unless I had such a ridiculous safety margin in my SWR that only nuclear armageddon could derail my retirement.

    The thing is, the amount of freelance work that I’d have to do to not throw my skills away in retirement is pretty similar to the amount I already do to live a modest but comfortable lifestyle with ~5 out of every 7 days to do as I please (and save at a high enough rate to be pretty wealthy way before I’m 60). So why did I ever think I needed to save 800 grand in 10 years again?

    One last point: RIT is a legend. I can’t get across just how much his blog has motivated me and helped convince me that extreme saving for FI is a brilliant thing to do if that’s just something you want to achieve. He has climbed that mountain and is rightly looking back down the path he’s trodden over the last 10 years with pride. Well done RIT!

    However, extreme saving for FI is pretty much the worst, least efficient and most unimaginative way of solving the problem of working 9-5 ’til 65 for The Man I can imagine. If you’re over 50 and nearly there, or ridiculously well paid and within a couple of years of your ‘number’, then fair enough. But if you’re 30 or 40-something, starting from zero and on £50k, please listen to TI and ditch the tunnel vision!

  • 26 FIEF July 7, 2017, 11:21 am

    Great post and really gets to the heart of something important for all of us in this space.

    I was fortunate to attain FI in early 2016 and retired early at that point at a natural break (deal closure). Knowing the break was coming allowed me to work as hard as I needed to in the lead up to the deal close (being taken over). And I had done plenty of research in preparation and thought I would be well prepared for that next phase. I then spent a year doing some great stuff and some really practical house things that were overdue but what I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of sustained mental stimulation. And while there are plenty of good quite menial volunteering opportunities, it is much harder to find and convert ones that will give you really great mental stimulation. I’m contemplating an academic route when I next retire but in the meantime I’ve ended up back at work, and enjoyably so because it feels like a free choice.

    For this reason I favour FIEF.

    Your post frames it really well and while RE was crucial for me immediately prior to reaching that point, I recognize now that the freedom that comes with FI is what I value most about it. I think that is what RIT is also recognizing too and admire his candor in sharing it so insightfully with his readers.

    Thank you

  • 27 Playing with Fire July 7, 2017, 12:23 pm

    “I expected a little more push back from the Retiring Early crowd, given how vocal I’ve seen some of them be on some articles before, but perhaps it’s understood that I am *not* against ‘RE’ at all, rather I am against the assumption that it’s the One True Way.”

    I’m in this crowd as I don’t want to work more than I need to. I know that as soon as I am obliged to do something it sucks the fun out of it (again, for me). I’ve tried ‘loving work’ and it isn’t for me. But what is right for me is wrong for someone else, and that’s okay.

    A range of new acronyms is great (and fun). My heart sinks every time I see someone being told that they are doing FIxx “wrong” online. The ridiculous notion of judging whether someone is “really” retired or treating “one more year” as a dirty phrase doesn’t help anyone to find their way. I like FIDMOT – Financially Independent, Doing My Own Thing or if the internet retirement police are banging at the door FIFO – Financially Independent, please go away.

  • 28 weenie July 7, 2017, 12:39 pm

    Congrats on being FI, TI!

    Since joining the FIRE bandwagon later than most (in my 40s), I’ve never thought there was anything wrong with ‘one more year’. I do admire those who walk away as soon as they reach FI, but understand those who change their plans or their minds (ie Jim from SHMD).

    RIT’s situation is very different in that a big part of his plan is to relocate his family to another country, so it’s no wonder he may wish to tweak things a bit or wait a while longer.

    I’m one of those who’s done 20+ years working for The Corporate Man/Woman and not minded at all. In fact, most of those years have been enjoyable due to good work/life balance. It’s perhaps due to the good work/life balance that I’ve never achieved dizzy salary hikes but I think I earn ‘enough’ for my needs.

    When I get to FI, if I’m no longer finding work enjoyable, then at least I’ll be in a position to choose to walk away.

    And anyway, what is the definition of ‘retiring early’?

    The youngsters aiming for FIRE seem to think that early is retiring at 40-45. For me, I’d consider anything before 60 as early!

    Here’s another acronym – FISH (Financial Independence, Side Hustles)

  • 29 weenie July 7, 2017, 12:42 pm

    @Playing With Fire – FIDMOT and FIFO – Love it!

  • 30 Gadgetmind July 7, 2017, 1:02 pm

    I dropped to a four day week (mainly for tax reasons) just over a year ago and it’s made a huge difference to my lifestyle as I get a lot more time for my hobbies, which are mainly based around engineering of various kinds.

    Changes at work may mean that I go even before age 55, which is March next year. I’ve got enough saved up for the 4% rule (yes, I know!) to give me more after tax income than I have currently, and a couple of other companies I’ve been involved in setting up recently should also generate a few bob, all being well.

    What mainly holds me back is waiting for some share options to mature and also the scary prospect of moving from caring for my investments like they are a clutch of precious ducklings to actually spending them!

  • 31 south_bound July 7, 2017, 1:04 pm

    I think what this shows is that people are fairly well aligned on the FI bit, but RE and what it means is all down to the individual.

    In my case I have changed job whenever I felt I wanted to do something more interesting, as long as it was financially acceptable to me and my family. In the main that has resulted in moving between countries and continents to experience a range of cultures and settings, and giving my family the opportunity to do the same. While I might have been financially better off following the traditional career route and aiming for earlier retirement, I personally prefer enjoying the time it takes to get there even if it takes a bit longer. The other, less obvious impact of this route on FI is that it is harder to plan as you need a bigger cash buffer to pay the moves (even with good relocation packages, it is not free) and you have to get your head around the changing tax jurisdictions (not every country has ISAs and SIPPS schemes).

    Now that I am at the point of planning for RE, I think a glide in of gradually reducing the length of the working week sounds tempting, with the freedom to adapt if my employer doesn’t play ball or I start not liking what it expects me to do. Just my two-peneth worth on this subject. Thanks to all you bloggers on this subject (many mentioned in this article above) for raising my interest and motivation while on this journey.

  • 32 cat793 July 7, 2017, 3:58 pm

    Great Post. I agree it is the independence that is the critical bit not retirement.

    I can see a lot of sense in RIT’s actions. I am technically FI but do not have enough wealth to feel completely financially secure so I keep working. However I am able to work part time. I would prefer to push any kind of retirement into the future by working part time rather than work 60 hours a week and retire earlier. I have seen too many people close to me die young for that to be attractive. I also want to enjoy life now while I am relatively young, fit and attractive.

    Like RIT I find that being FI has a valuable side benefit – I can ditch my job if I really have to without facing disaster. This means I have more freedom to be myself and relaxed at work. The bosses don’t have any leverage over me or power to intimidate and they know it so they don’t bother. They save it for the frightened guys struggling with big mortgages in a recessionary economy where other opportunities for similarly paid work are rare. Lucky I do have a measure of FI as it looks like my job will be automated in the next two to three years anyway.

  • 33 Haphazard July 7, 2017, 8:00 pm

    I wonder sometimes if there are Monveator readers out there who are not really expecting financial independence+ e.g. early retirement, but are just desperately hoping that they will one day be able to retire, say, by state pension age… people don’t talk very much about how to deal with setbacks like job insecurity, redundancy, chronic illnesses, periods of unemployment, while saving for retirement. Perhaps plain old “Retire” is a worthy goal in itself.

  • 34 Optimistic July 7, 2017, 8:35 pm

    “Independent means” equals allowing choices….

    I was fortunate when younger to possess confidence to make life choices that in hindsight were ..risky, along the lines of literally hitchhiking away from home with a suitcase, but the optimism of youth is truly wonderful. Things worked out just great.

    Later one has responsibilities to family and employees, in a stressful business and when I disposed of it 10 years ago at 49, I truly hated it, It provided me with modest independent means, then ‘retire early’ was great for six months and subsequently I have run two small low stress businesses and will ‘retire’ again in a week or so. Throughout these last 10 years I chose to do things I wanted to do and work is just fine if you like it and it allows room for other things.

    My independent means are now less modest after a great 10 years of investment returns, but the choices it brings are fabulous, several months of overseas travel coming up.

    When you can afford expensive things, then you see them as totally unnecessary and a more modest lifestyle becomes the norm, which in turns allows surplus income to be reinvested in a virtuous circle.

    Its easy to suggest that people who save hard boxed a job they hate are doing the wrong thing, if they are earning really significant sums and an exit is not too far away.

  • 35 Vanguardfan July 7, 2017, 10:10 pm

    @haphazard – totally agree.

  • 36 The Accumulator July 8, 2017, 1:13 am

    Doing most jobs at a level where you can earn a competitive wage requires considerable dedication / specialisation. Which doesn’t leave enough time over to play at all the other things you can be. And that’s it in a nutshell for me. It’s not about hating a job. It’s that a job usually channels you down one road and closes off too many others that look fun to explore. FIRE is the chance to open up all those avenues again. If you’re paid to do something that you feel born to do then I tip my hat to you. Little could be more fulfilling. I’ve never found that calling. In the meantime, I have fun changing myself rather than the job.

    FILL – Financially Independent, Loving Life!

  • 37 LukeM July 8, 2017, 9:27 am

    @TA – I think you’re spot on there (#36). As a geeky teenager, I loved messing around with my Commodore 64. But a ‘career’ then got in the way, albeit a lucrative one that got me on the road to FI. Now, at 44, having wound down the paid work, I’m learning web development for a bit of fun. No idea how long the fun’ll last. But then I can always try something else.

    FILF – Financially Independent, Loving Freedom.

  • 38 Vanguardfan July 8, 2017, 10:04 am

    I find discussions about work and RE very interesting, but for me the elephant in the room is children and family. It’s very hard to hold down the sort of job that thinks they own 100% of you (i.e. RIT, TEA, LivingaFi) if you have children and don’t have a spouse you can delegate care to (outsourcing childcare only covers the actual hands on hours, and there is a lot more work to it than that – and of course the childcare takes time to manage). I worked hard prechildren, but since then have traded earnings for time. Pretty much all the time I’ve gained has been spent looking after others, rather than pursuing my own absorbing and self actualising projects (same goes for spouse too, to be fair – we’ve both compromised on earnings, and personal projects, to gain family time). Going to work is actually a great way to maintain your adult self and identity in those circumstances, although it hasn’t turned out to provide the personal fulfilment and purpose I naively hoped it would….

  • 39 The Accumulator July 8, 2017, 1:46 pm

    FILF is my new goal in life!

    Also couldn’t help nodding my head at RIT’s maxim – raise quality of life not standard of living. The road to FIRE / FILF has helped me work out what quality of life really means to me and that’s been worth the admission price alone.

  • 40 Lee July 8, 2017, 1:59 pm

    The way I feel about my work at the moment it would be FIFY and out.

    It’s a shame how what should be my dream job in terms of content is totally destroyed by office politics.

  • 41 Gregory July 8, 2017, 2:08 pm

    @The Investor — “Love that video, thanks! Surely the movie is awful though, looking at the Wikipedia entry. And abounding in the “wrong” message.”

  • 42 Lauraw July 9, 2017, 10:29 am

    Excellent article TI, I heavily read a lot of the FIRE blogs but have eased back recently having come to this conclusion myself, that working towards FI is good but maybe taking advantage of more flexible working to gain some time back now is better than sacrificing everything now to achieve RE.

    The quality of the comments here are great too – I had missed the Scott Adams quote on TEA so was grateful to read The Rhino’s comment with it in as it makes a lot of sense.

  • 43 Carolyn Gowen July 9, 2017, 11:03 am

    Great post Monevator, I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on this subject. It’s never about stopping work.

    I never mention the ‘R’ word – the focus is on FI, which is defined as the point at which paid work becomes OPTIONAL. Many, many people enjoy working and don’t ever envisage not doing so. The important thing is they work because they WANT to not because they HAVE to.

  • 44 freebird July 9, 2017, 2:51 pm

    Seems like a bubble in escapist fantasy if you ask me. Decades ago it was Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on the telly showing how conspicuous consumption was done. Now it’s blog posts from slacker exhibitionists conspicuous leisure stealing corporate drone eyeballs during coffee break. So how about “feckless youth refusing employment”? Where’s the caviar? What do you mean OMY?

  • 45 romiccio July 11, 2017, 11:47 am

    @The Investor: “Why I don’t use the FIRE acronym for financial freedom”

    Perhaps not the acronym but you do emphasise early retirement. It’s in the strapline of your website: make more money, invest profitably, retire early.

  • 46 The Investor July 11, 2017, 12:19 pm

    @romiccio — Hah, fair point! That strapline pre-dates my shifting *personal* position about early retirement, it hails in fact from day one. 🙂 And as I say I am not against early retirement. I’ll have to have a think about the strap, must admit I’ve developed a sort of ‘blindness’ to it! Maybe it can stay, anyway.

    I mean, to @VanguardFan’s point, for a lot of people retiring even 3-5 years ahead of their expected date (/early) is potentially a lot of extra life quality, without some of the existential risks of ultra early retirement. My dad would have been in this category for sure, with the benefit of hindsight. (Well, not even hindsight so much but ho hum).

    @Vanguardfan — I hope we don’t make discussion seem overly focused on extremely early retirement. Sometimes we will because, as @romiccio says, it is certainly part of the buffet. But @TA’s articles on retirement planning for instance did not presume an early retirement date (despite his own aims). And @Greybeard is still working into his late 50s, on a more conventional track.

    Thanks for all the additional comments everyone, a great discussion.

  • 47 theFIREstarter July 17, 2017, 8:55 am

    Totally agree with you on this one despite using the FIRE pun in my blog name (and sub heading of Financial Independence. Retire Early!)

    Maybe I should change the capitalisation to theFIrestarter and delete the ER part of the sub heading as well…? 🙂

    I remember ERE had a post regretting having early retirement in the blog name but let’s be honest if he called it something else he’d have gotten a lot less google search traffic because I bet “early retirement” is one of the key phrases people search for and that’s how they found his site. Whether people decide to be pedantic about a name or read the blog in more depth and get the more nuanced underlying message is up to them 🙂

  • 48 Adam September 22, 2018, 5:36 am

    For me it was never about the retire early but just getting to the stage where I’m financially secure. I was 32 when I got into investing and that led me on to this site after a fortunately brief period of buying individual shares and trying to trade which fortunately apart from easyjet losing a third of my investment didn’t do too much damage before I learned about index funds.
    Now 37 and if I hadn’t bought a relatively silly house 8 years ago and got divorced I’d probably be there or there abouts. Too much of my equity is caught up in my house (about half) and pension for the tax breaks so I’m redressing the balance now increasing my isa savings. I’d say I’d want my net worth to more than double from here but I know things tend to snowball as you go along. Looking forward to seeing that now I have 6 figures in both pensions and isas I should start to see decent increases I imagine. Now All I need is a good crash. Come on trump Where’s your itchy twitter finger lol

  • 49 abbie July 27, 2019, 5:45 am

    I’m mostly annoyed at the fact that people now feel need to add “retire early” to their “financial independence” almost as if those things have to be together but financial independence in itself is just having the freedom to do whatever you want. To see something so simple get twisted into something it doesn’t need to be in the name of clicks and views actually annoys me. Too many bloggers I’ve seen have no clue what to do when they retire but they “know” that they need to be retired in 5-10 years and this is their retirement journey but it isn’t, it is a journey to become independent financially and the rest is life and there isn’t much more to it in my opinion.

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