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How I got mixed up in this FIRE business

The ultimate passive investor

Today we bring you a stop-the-press Monevator exclusive! Mrs Accumulator has wrestled the keyboard away from her other half to smuggle out her side of The Accumulator’s Financial Independence Retire Early story. Is she really living the FIRE dream, as TA has always implied? Or did she just play along with it to stop him going on about synthetic ETFs?

Hello, this is Mrs Accumulator. (I would prefer to be known as The Organ-Grinder but apparently I have to let this outdated anonym slide.)

In case you and/or your biggest asset class are interested, I present here a one-off counterpoint to The Accumulator’s loooooong-running blog saga.

I think you’ll find it interesting. After all – I am the ultimate passive investor.

The early days

I have fond if distant memories of once being in charge of both my own and TA’s money.

We lived as part of a complicated renting community back then. In fact, in those days, I collected rent from The Investor too. Great times. (The things I could tell you! Are those beads of sweat on TI’s brow?) 

Due to what I shall term ‘burn out’ a few years later, the mortgage and bill-paying reins were handed over to TA. And that was the moment that a money-investing monster was born.

Over the next couple of years, I remember our walking holidays were constantly accompanied by the soundtrack of TA repeatedly explaining ISAs, diversification, and the inverse correlations of gold and Tamagotchis. Along with plastic (?), artificial (?), imaginary (?) ETAs.

Or were they ETFs?

Anyway, I was definitely listening.

TA fielded my questions about risk and sound-boarded me with options until we had a plan.

From then on, my role was simply making sure that TA knew that if all went the way of the Truss – or, in those days, Lehman Bros – I would never blame him. Much.

There were only a couple of questions I repeated over the years: “Can’t we invest in houses? I like houses” and “How many more years till FIRE?”

It seemed to me that TA gave the same answer every year, for however long was left.

I hit on the idea of sticking his projected date into a Google calendar to cross-reference as evidence – forcing him to be more realistic and enabling me to sound less like a petulant teenager.

Why was I on board?

I like cars, houses, holidays, and buying presents. None of which are conducive to FIRE.

Luckily, a couple of formative experiences made me an easy mark for TA’s ‘get a bit rich eventually’ plan.

1. Catastrophising as a child about the horror of a lifetime working 9-5; cold Wars turning hot; ageing demographics. These all put pensions ridiculously high up the list of my ten-year-old priorities. Albeit a few rungs below wanting a pony.

I really did worry about those things growing up! Thank you Mr A. Senior. (I feel like we’re pushing the pseudonym sitch further than anyone wants to go?) 

2. Then, oh so briefly working with my father in an Independent Financial Advisor’s office taught me a few rules: don’t bother with anything other than an index tracker, minimise investment costs and, no matter what – Covid, Putin, China – capitalism eats everything.

The markets always win – excluding a Godzilla-sized black swan or the Four Horsemen of the Environmental Apocalypse. It’s only investors who sometimes lose – when the scary black duck-thing lands – and then we’ve got other worries. 

The ups and downs

These life lessons primed me for the path TA plotted for us, and my memory is that I immediately signed up.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing / amiable dawdling.


Inevitably, on this journey the emotional bear market arrives first.

The annual, dreadful, first day back to work after the summer holiday. The only slightly less awful equivalent at the start of January. 

The tightly holding onto each others’ hands when careers were particularly demanding, and our time together was all too brief.

There were periods when it felt like a very long road. Was that a speck of light at the end of the tunnel? Or just another migraine coming on? 


The joy of paying off the mortgage – or having the money in the bank to pay it off, anyway. Only slightly dented by the lack of reaction from close family members as we whooped the news down the telephone. (I’m still surprised, although I think I now understand why.)

Finding a house that made us relaxed and happy just by being there – despite the 1980s kitchen and bathroom, and the Stranger Things-style portal in the corner of our bedroom.

That house might have played a bigger part in smoothing our journey than either of us realised. Nature and the fun of city life are both an easy bike ride away. Despite the input of friends and family, it never felt like we were sacrificing anything with our shaky sash-windows.

The day to day

It’s easier when I remember all the things I am grateful for. (Mainly freedom from DIY dentistry, killing the family pig, and giving birth to a football team’s worth of kids.)

Then there’s the wonder of living in Britain and next door to the miracle of a united Europe (which I hope we’ll once again view as a net benefit versus the mythical sovereignty we currently enjoy).

Also, the family and health. All those things.

It’s harder when I worry that we might be living too much for the future and not enough for the present. 

In the early days, we possibly did do that. But no longer.

Crucially, we constantly checked in with each other about our choices. Often one of us would play devil’s advocate for the high life. Sometimes it resulted in us adjusting our aims.

Consequently, we have enjoyed fabulous holidays and fine-ish dining, own specialist biking kit, and we’ve never put off buying something we really wanted.

(Apparently I don’t really want an Aston Martin Vantage V600.)

Easier for me than others?

My job doesn’t require much in terms of appearance, which helped. Although I am perhaps pushing the outer limits of their expectations!

Hate clothes, love messing about with TA

No kids – although I would absolutely recommend FIRE for people with kids. I teach, and it’s an amazing thing to give kids the confidence to not judge themselves by the standards of others or social expectations. Even if they only manage to distance themselves a tiny bit.

The FIRE approach is compliant with our risk-averse mentality. A mindset that prevents us from setting up in business, true, but which does motivate us to take on the responsibility of researching, understanding, and choosing our own investments

How successful is our version of FIRE?

If retirement means no longer working for The Man – or woman in TA’s case ­­– then we’ve nailed it.

If it means no paid work at all… well it hasn’t turned out quite like that.

Our FIRE is being in charge of our own destiny. Which is wondrous, and partly why we did the freeze for fun challenge this winter. It was another chance to question convention. The presumption that:

  • We should be warm as we are well-off
  • We should be warm as we are in a technologically advanced society
  • We should be warm as everyone else we know is
  • We need to be warm to feel happy

All BS, surprisingly.

For us, FIRE is work that is not alienating. It is retiring from the marketplace to work for fulfillment. Consequently this feels better than retirement (redundancy, hanging about, time-wasting, haunting the world?) It is comparative heaven. 

We tend our garden in our own sweet time. Purpose with balance is contentment.

Happiness is fleeting. Doing nothing for no reason feels like death, or perhaps hell. You can’t even blame your unhappy restlessness on someone else. Unless you read The Spectator.

You may not need any work to achieve this purpose. But for us, right now, it helps.

In truth I’m not sure we’ve found the perfect balance yet, and I’m guessing that any such perfection is illusory. Nonetheless, we are cheerfully filling the hours before inevitable heat death by coming up with our bespoke answer to life, the universe, and everything.

And that answer swirls around the idea of belonging, not belongings.

We did it our way

I do not regret a single choice we have made – as far as I can remember anyway. We made them all with full knowledge of the risks.

The biggest fear I had was saving for a future that we couldn’t guarantee we would live to see. Even this niggle evaporated once we worked out how to spend our money and time in a way that didn’t feel like a sacrifice.

In fact – as I guess many people here already know – there is collateral salvage from pursuing FIRE. Namely, a firm grasp of your finances, of your values, your non-negotiables, and of yourself.

You don’t even need to spend a fortune sitting cross-legged in L.A., self-consciously humming while an ethereal chap disparages your aura.

It may say too much about TA and I that we prefer charts to chakras when it comes to plotting our independence. But the point, if there is one, is that a bit of enlightenment, a bit of distance from the daily struggle, and a greater connection to those at your side – these are the main reasons I’d recommend FIRE to anyone. 

It isn’t all about the future. It’s quite a lot about realising what you treasure right now.

If FIRE is important to you, it’s probable that the rat race isn’t. And happily the road to FIRE immediately distances you from that highway, as you set off down your own path.

If all had gone wrong – if all goes wrong tomorrow – there is nothing to regret. We had to work hard anyway, and by choosing not to spend money to fill the happiness void, we discovered the values we truly held. As my earlier comments indicate, we aren’t exactly spiritual people, but we have learned to love the little things. 

One thing I will say about TA, is his many, many, many faults (perhaps that’s one ‘many’ too many? – TA) are easier to overlook when weighed against his assiduous pursuit of FIRE-necessary insights.

While you don’t need his sub-atomical knowledge of investment vehicles (literally no-one needs that), the fact that TA did his due diligence has made life a lot less unnerving for me.

When the world lurches into crisis, I raise an eyebrow in TA’s direction, he gives me a nonchalant thumbs-up, and on we go.

(I would say ‘he smiles reassuringly’, but if you’d seen him smile… chance would be a fine thing).

Last words

To all on the FIRE journey, I wish you a fair wind. I hope you can treasure the days along the way, even the absolutely god-awful ones.

Just one last thing… If there is no mention of an incident involving sunglasses, a surprising drunken revelation, a glow-stick, and a trip to A&E, then you know that TI has left his heavy-handed editing fingerprints all over this piece of harmless whimsy.

And fear not if whimsy isn’t your thing, normal service will be resumed next week with the latest from The Accumulator.

In the meantime thank you for your patience. (Perhaps I’ll see you again in another 15 years?)

The O.G.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • 1 Dorf Diva April 18, 2023, 11:41 am

    I LOOOOOOOVED this article! I love the Organ Grinder’s perspective, I love hearing about your journey, and I love your philosophy. Please don’t make us wait another fifteen years to hear your p.o.v. again.
    Btw, props to you on the heating experiment, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Although we keep a cold house, too – always.
    I hope you’re working on a follow-up article right now, would love to read more.

  • 2 The Bonce April 18, 2023, 12:07 pm

    What a hugely enjoyable contribution – fascinating, informative and amusing. Not too difficult to see what the attraction is for TA – you are clearly a formidable team! Don’t leave it so long next time….

  • 3 Hospitaller April 18, 2023, 12:49 pm

    Mrs Accumulator writes very well. Please do not hide your talent again for so long.

    “Then there’s the wonder of living in Britain and next door to the miracle of a united Europe (which I hope we’ll once again view as a net benefit versus the mythical sovereignty we currently enjoy – ).”

    I love it.

  • 4 xxd09 April 18, 2023, 12:58 pm

    Great article from one couple being read by another a long way down the road-we fired at 57-now 77-both of us-arguably now home and dry till old age strikes one or both of us out!
    Partner/wife a teacher too but with 3 kids so frugal living was the way
    It can be done
    Financial matters mine -mutually agreed division of labour but she is deep in the loop via a weekly Quicken input
    Many roads to Dublin-stay the course!

  • 5 Mark April 18, 2023, 1:06 pm

    What a joy to read, thanks OG. The piece about the collateral salvage of FIRE resonated with me. Our path to achieving FIRE similarly involved a gradual realisation of how much we didn’t subscribe to the normal view of success, possessions etc.

    Thanks for guesting, and please do another sometime soon.

  • 6 weenie April 18, 2023, 3:32 pm

    A fascinating and most enjoyable read, let’s hope we don’t have to wait so long for your next guest post!

    (still trying to figure out the puzzle of sunglasses, a surprising drunken revelation, a glow-stick, and a trip to A&E…)

  • 7 AndrewfromAus April 18, 2023, 4:08 pm

    Great article and thank you for sharing. With every great person is their true partner!
    Lovely writing. I’d love to read some of the 2-3 most intense disagreements (Fire related!!) as there are lots of relevance and information and am sure you would both make it entertaining.
    Aus based but living in Paris and yes the EU sails along – can’t wait to have UK back in at some point

  • 8 London a long time ago April 18, 2023, 6:18 pm

    Ditto above from me … Would 100% read any novel you wrote – Richard osman-level funny…

  • 9 JP April 18, 2023, 6:47 pm

    Such an enjoyable read – what a team! Loved hearing your insights into your journey towards FIRE and life after reaching it.

  • 10 never give up April 18, 2023, 8:58 pm

    My goodness, I can’t really remember seeing the initials OG much before. Then all of a sudden last week OG was arrested for leaking Pentagon documents, and the next week an OG is writing on Monevator! What a couple of weeks it has been for those initials!

    I enjoyed reading that immensely. It’s so enjoyable to hear how well you must have worked together. I always thought there could have been a couple rowing together in the doodles in TA’s Ten Year Plan series. Well done on being the ultimate passive investor.

  • 11 Mr Optimistic April 19, 2023, 6:36 am

    If you’re keen to keep the ‘OG’ handle but with a more acceptable expansion, can I suggest ‘Old Girl’ ?

  • 12 BinaryTreeHugger April 19, 2023, 7:53 am

    Excellent article!
    My other half and I are comparatively near the start of our FIRE journey, but you two sound like us and so are providing some inspiration. Thanks. =o)

  • 13 ChesterDog April 19, 2023, 9:05 am

    Probably the most simple enjoyment I’ve er… enjoyed here. Ever.

  • 14 sam April 19, 2023, 9:43 am

    I’ve been reading Monevator for almost a decade now and this is the first time i’ve commented. More – Please give us more that was absolutely brilliant and so interesting to see a partners side to the FI journey

  • 15 Always Late April 19, 2023, 10:53 am

    If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended—
    That you have but slumbered here
    While these visions did appear.

  • 16 Barry Maud April 19, 2023, 11:05 am

    There are often references to ‘collateral damage’ but not often to ‘collateral enhancement’ but can you imagine How much the pride love and respect I have for my daughter (OG) and my wonderful ‘civil’ son-in-law (TA) has enhanced my life!

  • 17 The Accumulator April 19, 2023, 12:21 pm

    If this OG tag catches on I guess I’m gonna have to rebrand to ‘The Monkey’. Sounds about right.

  • 18 Grumpy Tortoise April 19, 2023, 2:26 pm

    A lovely piece of writing OG with some truly wonderful insights. Please don’t make us wait so long in future.

    Myself and Mrs GT are on a FIRE-lite path given that we’re longstanding (albeit on our last legs) public servants so both have good DB pensions to look forward to in the next few years. Our aim is to retire early and then use the FIRE monies to boost our work pensions over the next 10 years until the SP kicks-in at 67.

    FIRE seems like such a long slog, but reading your thoughts and those of others on this site makes it infinitely more bearable and adds validation to that niggling feeling that there’s more to life than constant work and buying the latest gadget.

  • 19 SirRik April 19, 2023, 10:51 pm

    Dear OG, thanks for this excellent article. Really interesting and really appreciated your writing style. As usual, a big “Ciao!” from Venezia to you…and to the readers!

  • 20 The OG April 20, 2023, 11:21 am

    Just a quick re-appearance to thank you for the lovely, generous comments. What a delightful community you all are. On a personal level, it is really esteem-building to be seen as a team by several of you, so thank you for that as well.

    In many ways we are a team, but in terms of the information on which we base our decisions, that all comes from TA. My role has been to ask questions like “What if this happens?” or “Are we sure that makes the most sense?”

    Initially, my questions and evaluation of TA’s answers were a bit more forensic, as he hadn’t much of a track record in this area! These days, however, the questions are all about trying to work out how to sensibly re-weight our spending in favour of more immediate gratifications rather than continuing to delay.

    We are getting older, the future is getting shorter and every day carries an objectively greater risk so it IS time to spend, but I have to admit, I am finding it a tad more difficult than I ever imagined to inhabit this new mindset. Which takes me to:

    @AndrewfromAus – We genuinely had no arguments about FIRE. I mean we HAVE arguments, they’re just not about FIRE! There were, initially, some intense conversations where I slightly interrogated TA’s plans, but this was from a point of comparative ignorance, so it was more about making sure he had the answers and had thought about the issues I raised. However, things have slightly changed since TA’s FIRE. We do now have some money related disagreements. When on the road to FIRE, the yardstick as to what we would spend was solid and real, “if we spend this then we have to work longer, is it worth it, usually not”. Now it turns out that we do have a slightly different view of what is worth spending our hard won dosh on. Turns out I’m living with a spendthrift!

    @DorfDiva – thank you for your enthusiasm – as my first comment – it was a massive relief to find that not everyone saw this as a massive waste of Monevating time!

    @xxdo9 – I think it is very important for people to know it can be done with kids. It is the one thing TA can’t really say much about, as we haven’t experienced, first hand, the power of pester! Congratulations on your amazing 20 years of independence.

    @weenie – sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever manage to get the full details past the moderator!

    @London a long time ago – will cherish this compliment for EVER

    @Mr Optimistic – not great, but still better than Mrs Accumulator.

    @BinaryTreeHugger – wherever did you get that name?

    @GrumpyTortoise – it feels great to make any positive difference to people on this journey. The overarching purpose that the path to FIRE gives to the everyday “pitch-and-toss” might be the most special aspect of it. I wish you the absolute best of luck with your FIRE-lite.

    Thank you again for making my foray into this sacred space extremely rewarding. Maybe see you all soon.

  • 21 Al Cam April 20, 2023, 12:09 pm

    @OG (#20):
    Nice post!
    With your post and “Mrs Ermine’s Seasonal Salads” a few weeks back we seem to be on something of a roll – long may it continue.
    Re: “so it IS time to spend, but I have to admit, I am finding it a tad more difficult than I ever imagined to inhabit this new mindset”. I fully recognise that. And, it must be even more difficult if you really are “living with a spendthrift”?
    When you find a solution to this mindset issue that would make for a really good post!

  • 22 Tom-Baker Dr Who April 23, 2023, 2:08 pm

    Great post! I think this might be the only Monevator post I can imagine my wife reading until the end without getting bored by the investment/finance bits. Bravo!
    Perhaps Mrs TA (aka OG) could be persuaded to become a regular?

  • 23 BBBobbins April 24, 2023, 10:51 am

    All for more from The OG perhaps focused more on the spending / lifestyle side of the equation.

    Essentialy “Deliberate decumulation”, being not something people who have wired themselves for FI are necessarily best equipped to come to terms with.

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