When I started writing about achieving financial independence in 2009, there wasn’t a lot of hoopla. We had people mainly discussing how they were building large enough investment portfolios to sustain their early retirement lifestyles. There was a thorough discussion and analysis of these investment portfolios.
Sure, there were some interesting folks who went to extreme frugality, like living on a boat, to try and retire early. But for the most part, everybody was focused on building enough passive income to genuinely retire before tapping their 401(k), IRA, and Social Security.
By the end of 2019, the definition of FIRE had strayed away from building up a large enough investment portfolio to the definition of FIRE becoming anything and everything. Everybody was FIRE if they just said so.
So on January 2, 2020, I tried to see if I could move the dialogue back to center by writing, Why I Failed At Early Retirement: A Love Story. By declaring myself a failure, perhaps others might feel OK to admit the same. Alas, nobody joined me. I was left for dead like John Snow battling a hundred horsemen.
Besides getting back to FIRE’s origins, in the post I admitted that my passive income would be severely tested in a couple years due to rising health care and child care costs. Further, I discussed the need to boost our wealth to buffer against an impending downturn during the same time period.
Unfortunately, after I published my post on January 2, I did not anticipate how quickly the bear market would arrive. As a result, roughly 20% of my net worth got blitzed. I’ve since increased my equities allocation to 25% of my net worth based on my stock market bottom analysis. But only time will tell if I made the right move.
As the stock market was cratering, I reached out on Twitter to see if anybody would like to share a FIRE confessional. Surprisingly, several people did. Here are their stories. I’ve changed some of the details to protect their identities.