FIRE Confessionals: How A Bear Market Has Impacted The Financial Independence Movement

FIRE is a popular topic. But what about the dark side of FIRE? This post shares some poignant FIRE confessionals to help keep things real.

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.

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.

FIRE Confessionals In A Bear Market

The stock market has once again crapped out in 2022. As a result, these bear market FIRE confessionals are as pertinent as ever.

Trying To Make Working Moms Proud

As a working mother of two with a stay at home spouse, I was caught up in the FIRE movement because it felt empowering. The people featured in the FIRE movement tended to all be white male engineers. As a breadwinning mom, I wanted to show the world that women could be a part of the FIRE movement and be FIRE too.

I threw my hat in the ring and interviewed with a major media outlet to share my story. It was thrilling! But what I never shared with anybody were our financials. If I had, readers would have thought that I was just another working parent. I didn't want to let down my fellow breadwinning moms.

Now that the stock market is down a lot, I don't see myself retiring for maybe another 15 years. It's too risky for me to retire before my youngest graduates from college. However, I'm still enjoying being a part of the FIRE movement.

Creating An Image That Isn't A Reality

I presented an image where I was just enjoying life and traveling around America and the world. I liked to tell people that I was a millionaire by 32 because I thought it would help motivate people to do the same if they really wanted to.

The truth is, I was depressed and felt like I had no purpose. I had been chasing money non-stop for 10 years out of college, sacrificing friendships and my love life. I was burned out. I also gained over 60 pounds in these past two years.

Despite putting up a front that I was FIRE, I have been secretly working 50+ hours a week trying to make money online. I even hired a team of five ghostwriters to help me churn out as many money-making affiliate articles as possible. The strategy isn't working now because search traffic is down. But hopefully things will come back.

At 34, I'm technically no longer a millionaire because the value of my investments has declined. But I plan to make the money back and then some.

A Need To Be Recognized

For years, we've been sharing what it's like living a fabulous early retirement lifestyle. For the most part, life is pretty good. However, my wife has this type of “high school revenge fantasy” where she's on a mission to show off our lifestyle to prove all her haters wrong.

FIRE is bringing out a side of her I didn't really know existed.

I want a low key lifestyle, but she just wants to be on TV, podcasts, and write about us in big publications. It's kind of embarrassing. Every time I try to tell her she's good enough and doesn't have to do all this publicity stuff, she snaps back that I'm not being supportive. We're retired! Why do we need all this attention?!

Sometimes I wish we could just have children to focus our attention inward, not always outward. But we're a little too old now. I'm working part-time so we can have more space. At least we're having a lot of heart-to-heart conversations during the lockdown.

I hope to hear other people's FIRE confessionals.

Only The Positives Will Be Seen

It feels like everybody in the FIRE community is just faking it. Everybody is putting on a brave face and nobody seems to be hurting.

When the market was going up, I tended to tell people how much I made. Now that the market is down, I highlight how much cash I have. If people ask me about my investments, I just tell them I'm a long-term investor.

I had about a $1.5 million net worth with $1.1 million of it in the stock market, $350,000 in my house, and only $50,000 in cash and bonds. My $1.1 million is now down to about $800,000 and it is making me seriously depressed! I've got a couple kids as well.

I pray my stock investments don't get cut in half. I'm thinking about selling a lot of stock to de-risk in the rebound. But what if I sell and then the stock market continues to recover? This market is driving me nuts!

Never Going To Retire Early Now

I've been a member of the FIRE community for about five years, and I've grown to find it insufferable because of so many self-righteous people who can't help but rub their money and freedom in our faces. Then there are those who virtue signal all day long, yet don't actually do anything themselves.

The FIRE people love to show off their growing net worths each month and I'm glad many of them are getting hammered in this market. There is this one person who recommends everybody be transparent with their finances. But when you ask the person to reveal their finances, they don't share a thing. Absurd!

I want to have financial freedom too. I've lost about $150,000 in the downturn so far. But if I eventually amass enough money to retire early, I'm not going to shout from the rooftop how I've got so much money.

Related: The Negatives Of Early Retirement Nobody Likes Talking About

Not FIRE, But Teaching About FIRE

We're not close to FIRE, but we've positioned ourselves as FIRE experts because we don't look like the typical FIRE person living in the Midwest.

We're using our likeness to build a business around FIRE – coaching, writing, speaking, etc. My partner just quit her job so we need to make this business work. Unfortunately, the bear market has slowed business way down. There are no more speaking gigs because there are no more conferences. Freelance writing opportunities have also dried up. Nobody wants to spend money on coaching either.

Yeah, it feels a little off positioning ourselves as FIRE experts without being financially independent yet, but you gotta do what you gotta do. We'll eventually get there, so it's all good.

I Didn't Leave My Job On Purpose

I got let go from my job several years ago after 15 years at that damn place. It really wrecked my ego. Thankfully my old employer gave me a decent severance package. So, instead of telling people I got let go, I just tell people that I retired. It makes me feel better, and technically I can say that I am retired since I don't have a full-time job.

I'm thankful my wife has a job to provide us subsidized health care. We only pay about $600 a month for a family of four. I know my wife would rather work part-time and spend more time with the kids, but after this downturn, it's best she keep her job until the clouds part.

My Number Was Too Small

I had a goal of retiring at age 35 with $600,000. By saving aggressively coupled with an expected 8-10% rise in the market, I thought I'd get there by the fall of 2020. Unfortunately, my retirement portfolio is now down to about $450,000.

Some have asked how I was planning to live off only $24,000 a year using a 4% withdrawal rate. It's not that hard when you're frugal, don't have cable, take public transportation, and don't have kids. I also had some freelance opportunities.

The thing is, I also have a partner who will continue to work. We'll split all the bills and he has a relatively flexible job. A $24,000 lifestyle is only for me. Combined, we're living closer to a $50,000 a year lifestyle.

So long as my partner keeps his job, I think I'll be alright. However, if the stock market doesn't rebound, I'll probably have to work for three more years. Retiring at 38 is not the end of the world by any means.

We Miss Our Friends

I retired in 2019 with about 70% of my portfolio in VTSAX, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund. The rest of my investments were in various bond funds. In retrospect, I should have been more conservative. But my portfolio was only down about 18% when the S&P 500 was down 30%, so it's not so bad.

What I'm realizing now is how much we enjoyed living in New York City. Once I left my job in early 2019, my wife and 8-year-old son decided to go on a road trip for a month. We then decided to rent a home in Jacksonville, Florida given the cost of living was much lower. Unfortunately, we've found it difficult for all of us to make friends. We miss the food in New York City, the diversity, the buzz and our friends and relatives.

Don't get me wrong, we enjoy our freedom. However, maybe I should have kept working for several more years to save more money. I was making about $350,000 a year. I'm going to give early retirement a go for one more year and then reconsider my options.

Related: Overcoming Money Trauma: How I Retired Early To Taiwan With Only $600,000

The FIRE Movement Will Continue

If you are part of the FIRE community, I encourage you to share your failures, overly optimistic assumptions, or missteps. It feels great to get things out there. Nobody is perfect. Even the best plans go awry.

Very few people could have seen the coronavirus coming. Even if you did, I don't think you would have expected governments to force most businesses to close for an indefinite amount of time. The speed of the downturn was breathtaking, which makes me hopeful that the speed of the upturn will be faster than normal.

The one consistent theme from all these FIRE confessionals is that everybody keeps the faith. Like me, they are hopeful things will recover. The more time we spend working on our finances now, the more prepared we will be when disaster strikes.

Changes In Attitude For The Better

Due to the pandemic, I expect there will be a lot more humility in the FIRE community. It's easy to confuse brains with a bull market. Not being humble is one way to destroy your finances.

For people who claimed to be FIRE, but simply switched careers to earn money, the lockdowns are particularly difficult. Depending on how badly things get, there could be a winnowing as some people give up their FIRE identities.

Finally, I believe the FIRE movement will continue to grow because millions more people will be looking to improve their finances. When you are caught in a dire situation and survive, you tend to do everything possible to never go back to the way things were.

My plan is to continue encouraging folks to build up their after-tax investments after maxing out their pre-tax accounts if they truly want to FIRE before 60. Having enough investment income to pay for your desired lifestyle is the appropriate definition of FIRE in my book.

Once you get there, I promise you will no longer feel like an impostor. You will also feel free to do whatever you want without fear of judgement or ridicule.

Just know that once you get to your target number, you might find that your needs have changed. I never expected to have a second child at age 42. But here she is! I love her to death and I will do everything possible to take care of my family.

Check out the various types of FIRE: Fat FIRE, Lean FIRE, Barista FIRE, and DIRE.

Related to FIRE Confessionals:

FIRE Confessionals Part II

Preparing For A 50-Year Retirement With Lower Return Assumptions

Readers, please feel free to confess some of your financial mistakes as well. I promise you will feel much better if you do! Are there some things about the FIRE movement that irk you? Do you think people will be more humble about their finances going forward?

To sign up for my weekly newsletter, click here. We'll talk FIRE confessionals and a whole bunch of other things to help us live a better life.

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138 thoughts on “FIRE Confessionals: How A Bear Market Has Impacted The Financial Independence Movement”

  1. Hi Sam,

    I appreciate the refreshing tone of this article. All the best to your family.

    Can you please share your views on a choice of Retirement Planning tool as it relates to your #2 recommendation – tracking finances by Personal Capital – specifically, how this compares with Wealthfront’s Path? I feel Personal Capital have improved features in their tool related to on Cash flow tracking and the overall categorization of Income and Expenses. I have a Wealthfront account and like the features offered by Path – their automated planning tool. I’m doing my diligence on which platform has an edge.

    So far, I find that Personal Capital, with the human augmented Financial Planner service is advanced with their scenarios on tax advantaged withdrawals and capital allocation recommendation specifically with managed allocation services. This comes with higher fees, but offers Monte Carlo simulations in the planning tool. Wealthfront’s Path appears to be missing the probability based view of making one’s retirement goal. Both appear to take the approach of growing capital by allocation in passive index funds with tax loss harvesting benefits.

    Thank you for the great website. Stay healthy.

  2. Gennadiy from Belarus

    Hi Sam, I am a guy who ate his first filet mignon at the age of 57 after becoming 401(k) million-er.
    Sins then I learn how to cook it by myself at 1/5 of price+tips of a steakhouse.
    In January I offered to my wife to move some stocks to bonds in our 457 s. We had 45/55 split. And she makes almost the double. She refused and started yell at me that I am jeopardizing her retirement. Now it is 55/45. And I am not million-er anymore for at least one year.
    My rugs to riches story was interrupted by my stubborn wife.

    However, I was fixing my Victory Steak for moving to money market 10 th. on that short, and sheared my spoils with her.
    Do I feel sorry for FIRE movement members? No. Keep working Guys.

  3. Ouch! I definitely wouldn’t want to be Tanja’s husband. Poor guy!

    And then that man-hating Bridget woman. At least the husband divorced her.

    So many of the angriest and judgemental FIRE people are women. And the vast majority of them are white.

  4. My kids and I were going to be on separate continents if I didn’t quit my sell-side fixed income trading job in an investment bank (22 years). (Without going into revealing details, my marriage is strong. The issue is kids having multinational backgrounds can get complicated when it comes to certain legal obligations kicking in at 18). So, I quit a high-paying job to move with them so that I would not miss out on their high school years. I can’t do my old job where we live now (basically in a rural area). I was 44 and am now 46. I have a lot of free time and am a much more relaxed person now. I went from a wildly stressful job to having my life back. I can’t stand pinching pennies though. I just don’t see the appeal of the frugal FIRE approach. If it hadn’t been for my kids, I would have, and could have, kept going with that stressful job. FIRE is a fraud. The only way you can retire early is if you earned and saved good money. I was never a big cheapskate except in my first few years out of college. Saving on little things is not how you build wealth. The only way I could afford to do what I am doing is by banking the bonuses I had in my 25-35 age range and we made good money on the house we sold in the city. By the time I left investment bank trading at 44, I was pretty much making what I made at 27 so I am thankful I had the wisdom to not think my income would grow in a linear or even flatline fashion. Anyhow, I still work hard at my investments. I would never in a million years admit to any one that I am retired. To me, early retirement is embarrassing if it is a FIRE angle.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Can you explain more about the separate continents part? Why not have your kids live with you while you make the big bucks? Or was all that work putting a strain on your marriage?

      1. Hi Sam,

        Thanks for asking. I spent my career overseas and couldn’t transport my skills back to the US. The boys didn’t want to do 2-years of foreign military service before college. To do things absolutely by the book, we decided they would go to high school in the US. So, it was either…US boarding school, wife in the US with me staying overseas (astronaut father), or all of us moving to the US together. I am glad we made the move. It is great to see the kids (and the wife) flourishing in the US. As you spent a lot of time growing up overseas from what I’ve read, I’m sure you saw these complicated family situations in international school.

        The reason I think FIRE is a fraud is that the proponents grossly underestimate the assets needed to make it work. Most of it is clickbait. Your website is totally the opposite. It is super honest and open about what it takes. I am totally with you on getting back to the basics of wealth accumulation and financial security.

      2. At 73, I think I am one of your older readers. I have lived most of my life. I will not live for 73 more years. Most of your readers are looking forward. Kids, college, homes, cars, vacation property, travel and having more money. I look forward to living one more day. My wife living one more day. At my age, people die.
        At 73, I can look back and see how I did.
        I have used 90 % of my money on fun with my family. We talk about our great vacations. We don’t talk about an expensive house or car I have owned. No one cares.
        In April I am spending $30,000 on a family vacation. This will be the first x my grandchildren will be on a cruise. They will always remember this.
        I give myself a B plus for the way I lived my life.
        My life tells me if you want to be satisfied with your life, give fun to your family. Spend the money. Old age will find you soon enough.


    Hello Sam – I hope you and your family are staying healthy and strong! Love your custom posts as always during these trying times!

    Do you think the so-called Buffett market indicator is worth following? Previously it showed the market overvalued for the past several years and it is fluctuating currently (still overvalued). Do people just ignore it due to greed?

    Thanks for your insights,

  6. The Choose FI guys have talked about how they are financially independent and have the freedom to do whatever they want and almost every single one of their podcast. But yet, in late March podcast, they are begging for their listeners and readers to donate money and sign up for all their affiliate products.

    They are nice guys, but it is weird that they are asking for financial help as people who are supposedly financially independent. This is the time where you will see people who are really living financially free with their investments or not.

    The second quarter is going to be tougher than the first quarter. So I assume a lot of people will go out of business Or drastically cut down.

    1. Interesting. It does feel weird to ask for donations if you are financially independent. Probably more logical to give money away instead. However, I don’t know their situation. I’m sure they are asking for a good reason.

      Everybody is hurting in some way. And money is not infinite, even if you are FI.

  7. I occasionally swing around to your site. That’s not a reflection of its greater value, it’s just not very applicable to the expat life. Plus, if ever I find myself swept up in a movement, I try to distance myself. FIRE was that case, kinda.

    When I read your post on FIRE confessionals, I just wanted to say, well done to you, Sam. I’m encouraged by the humanity exhibited in that post by your readers and yourself. You’re more the success-story than you let on, I reckon. And anyone who comes out of this current mess smelling fresh is likely going to be a champ, or maybe a thief. You’ll likely be the former.

    I’m not the retire sort, myself, I just like to give myself the space to choose my ventures and adventures. At 47, I’m good at lots of stuff, and interested in even more stuff. I just desire the time and space to get it as much as I can. Being single and independent helps. This economic crisis is and will be a real kick in the capital cojones (not exposed to equities so much as currencies and tourism). The health crisis will likely take a family member and I’ll likely not be able to be there for it, given the quick demise of the infected and the travel constraints.

    Still, we will fair far better than most. For me, there will be new ventures. There will be more adventure… until there will not be. That has always been the business plan.

    All my best,

  8. I do not believe one is truly FIRE unless one has enough saved/invested to choose whether or not one works at all. To say one is FIRE while still having to rely on any working income in a contradiction. I worked an additional six years beyond when various calculators and a financial advisor provided by my employer said I could retire if my spouse and I were willing to live on <90K a year. I was fortunate to be eligible for a pension. But we decided we wanted a very comfortable retirement lifestyle that did not require either of us to work.Having invested since since 1984 and surviving all of the major down periods since then, to build a buffer of at least an additional $1 million, as a planning point to sustain us through future downturns.

    Fortunately we both avoided layoffs for the ensuing year and were able to grow that total to $2.3 million by the end of 2017 (through both saving and investing). I shifted to 35/65, with the majority of that 65 in a stable value bond fund in my 401K. We set aside 5 years of cash to supplement my pension and cover our expenses without touching the stock allocation. I retired during 2018 at age 59. Since the peak in February we are down about 10% We have been living at a $140K/year spending level in my retirement so far. We still have over $2.3 million. The cash portion has been spent at half the rate we thought we would. We have not taken Social Security yet, but when we do, that plus the pension (which grew from 2012 to 2018, another reason I delayed) plus interest/dividends will cover our living expenses.

    Since retiring I have not worked a bit. I have received offers but I have no need or desire to. I spend my time on things I enjoy regardless of whether or not they pay. My spouse now works part time, but that is by choice, We do not need the $12-$14K earn, so that goes to charity and gifts. We will not miss that income when my spouse decides to fully retire the end of this year. With three passive sources of income – pension, investment income, and future SS, we could lose any one of them and, though not live at a luxury retired level, still live well enough to not have to work.

    I am no investing genius. We are fortunately better savers than investors. But our main goal for FIRE was "even if the economy tanks, we can sleep and night and not worry about needing even a 'side gig'". Yes, I delayed retirement for 6 years,getting to our desired buffer level was more important than retiring at a younger age.. To each there own, but seeing so many people who say that are FIRE now worried during the downturn about not having enough and losing their "side gigs" makes we wonder if the meaning of FIRE has been distorted.

  9. This crisis has re-affirmed my position to stick with a “permanent portfolio” style asset allocation of 25% each stocks, gold, short and long term treasuries (and rebalanced at 35/15 bands). Prior to the last crisis, I was 90% in stocks and realized that I just dont have the temperament to get through that type of thing– like most I sold low. My current portoflio has been boring to watch- it slowly climbs by 5-7%/year but when the shit hits the fan like now, I barely feel it. If/when I do decide to retire early I dont have to work about sequence of return risk either because the portolfio is far less volatile than a stock heavy one. The other nice thing about have various asset classes to play with is that it gives you something productive to do in times like this- you get to rebalance. Plus, since atleast one asset class is always out of favor, you get used to just tuning out the negative news while selling in-favor asset classes while buying out-of-favor assets in order to rebalance. Soon after I went with this asset allocation, Gold took a 20% hit right off the bat but the portfolio barely blinked. I have a feeling ill be buying stocks soon wile selling some treasuries.

  10. I am still working. I think the finish line has moved a few years further. But that is fine as long as I still have my job.

    I was 55% cash in my 401k at the end of 2019, so I missed out on a lot of the gains in 2019, but now I don’t feel so bad because I haven’t lost too much so far in 2020. I have invested $350k into the market already in March in chunks of $50k each time. I still have another $150k in cash in my 401k left to invest throughout this year.

    In my non retirement accounts I was even more conservative. However, I have too much company stock, which has not done well because I am in the oil industry. In addition, if the price of oil is low for an extended period, I am afraid I could be at risk of losing my job. If I do, I could leanFIRE, but most likely I will have to think hard about switching to a non-petroleum career.

    We’ll see!

    1. Sounds like you’ve made some rational moves to me! Time and time again, I am seeing rational people make rational investment decisions here. This is great. If we can get through this thing in 2 months and start gradually opening up the economy, I think things will be OK.

    2. Great to see you go back into the market slowly it makes me feel good. I have 20% cash and will start putting some to work. I do own a lot of oil related companies also, bonds etc, bcs of their dividends but now i am suffering bcs of the current situation but i believe oil will go back up in few years…

  11. “I also expect there will be a lot more humility in the FIRE community after the worst is behind us.”

    Sam, always the optimist. :)

    My little FIRE (the E is questionable at 55) story is I “retired” Jan 2020 but didn’t stop working as a hedge against sequence of return risk. Just went to part time status…kind of a DCA into retirement. That was either lucky or prudent.

    I will claim it was a bit of both. I was being prudent but if this happened a couple years from now it would have been less lucky.

    Yes, it was mental subterfuge but I had a heart attack last year and I didn’t want to die at my desk. Plus my wife wants to work until her pension is maxed so I might as well work until then too.

    But we are sufficiently FI that we could stop working even now and probably make it to age 100. It’s all dependent on long term health care costs of course.

    Something that lean FIRE tends to gloss over. That or they expect the government to pick up the tab if they run out during retirement.

  12. Hi all and thank you Sam for your great posts.
    I am not sure this is the right post where to vent a little but i guess i give it a try.
    My financial life up until january was great, I thought i was doing all the right thing and planned on working another 5 years or so before calming down and eventually retire. I am 48.
    Then the virus arrived and all of a sudden my portfolio lost 30% + of its value and it seems to have no breaks. I dont even want to look at it anymore, i let my advisor do that.
    Everything i own went down even muni.
    Everything including crowdfunding.
    I am not really seeing any bright spot.

    1. You didn’t ask my opinion but since it is free, I will give it to you anyway ;) If you have a good job that seems safe and you just stay the course, time is on your side. I was 51, pretty close to your age, in 2008-09 when we went through the sub-prime mortgage mess and almost broke the financial system. My portfolio was down about 38% but grew 26% in 2009 and 22% in 2010 recovering all the paper losses and turning positive in about 18 months.

      You are plenty young enough to weather this storm if you just stay calm and ride it out. Personally, I expect the market to probably go down some more but I also believe the recovery to be much faster than 2008-2009.

      Remember, “the night is always darkest before the dawn.”

      1. Thank you i actually was hoping for some responses to my post, i appreciate. In this moment you always look for some words of wisdoms and opinions from people who have been there before. Pls keep them coming! Thanks again

        1. I’ve lived and invested long enough to go through Black Monday in October 1987, the Internet Bubble burst in 2000-2002 and 911 crisis, Financial meltdown in 2008-2009, Q4, 2018 drop and now Corona. When you invest over a lifetime you are probably going to go through at least 4 recessions. Again, consistent investing for the long haul as you dollar cost average through the ups and downs seems to work pretty well.

          People have a lot of opinions on whether buy and hold is a good strategy. My feelings are it works fine most of the time but as you get older, you do have to think about your risk tolerance and adjust your asset allocation accordingly.

          For what its worth, I retired at 57 and feel fine about where we are. I adjusted our allocation down in our portfolio to around 60-40, Stocks/Bonds but in February I flipped it and went to a 40-60 allocation. The way this change works out it seems is that my downside has been about half of the market down with this allocation. With the market down about 25% from the peak, our portfolio right now is down only 11.7%.

          When it feels like are have set a bottom range, I will move my allocation back to around 60-40 and leg into some of the recovery upside. This should help us recover our paper losses a little faster.

          Best of luck to you and stay safe and healthy!

          1. For what it’s worth

            Paper tiger. You of all people should know you can’t time the market. No-one could have predicted this downturn from record highs unless you were on a Congressional committee addressing the Coronavirus. I doubt you were so lucky to rebalance right before the sh** hit the fan. If you did than you were just that lucky. Not smarter or more intuitive than everyone else. The market does not reward those hoping to get lucky but only long term patient investors. Most everyone should ride this out and not try to time things as you seem to recommend. One day out of the market could wipe out a typical years average gain. Remember the recent volatile 10% swings? There are likely more of those to come. Stocks are just one bucket and most investors should not have to sell right now or try to use false intuition to time the market.

  13. FIRE is essential for creating new growth and at the same time it’s fueled by incinerating the dead wood. From the ashes of the GFC we sought to be better not bigger. While others seemed to borrow on borrow we paid down debt and focused on old fashioned wealth creation i.e. keep cost low, build relationships, deliver value and certainty to our clients “audience”. This time is no different so again the opportunity we have is to reassess, discover our true core values and make our choices aligned to them. Knowing that history will repeat itself again in the future. However if you make the changes and are true to yourself and your core values, next time you will not only be prepared for it but you will thrive in the opportunity.

  14. I always enjoy the comments section here. My main question for everyone who wants FIRE more than anything is…”what do you really want to do once you achieve FIRE? ”

    The one thing I have learned at age 83, over and over again, is ” it’s all about the journey, not the destination.”

    I have been officially retired for 26 years after selling an adventure travel business and formerly as a tenured college professor. What I have learned from these experiences is how much I enjoy the opportunity of working different types of jobs, with different types of people, working in community for a common goal, and having choices along the way. Contrary to the FIRE movement, we do not have a million dollars, never had a million dollars, and at this age, could care less. After theoretically “making it” by retiring early due to cancer (age 56) and living in a gated community with the more successful people in our small city, we sold everything including our estate, at age 65 with only $200,000 in cash after paying for medical expenses and all the other expenses. Finally, debt free!

    With that $200,000 and living on Social Security at approximately $2000 a month, we were totally free to choose our new lifestyles without the hangups of having three advanced degrees. We didin’t have to prove anything to anyone, least to ourselves. My wife had always wanted to be a minister. I wanted to go back to college for a Master’s Degree in ESL so I could teach at the college level overseas. The best experience was playing on the college soccer team even though I didn’t know a thing about soccer. The coach took a gamble on me. So for five years, we did our own thing as I taught in Turkey and Jordan, and my wife as an assistant minister in Oregon. We got together every few months and the summers until we both retired again. Then we RVed for seven years full time working at a variety of jobs from Amazon to selling Christmas trees, to worning at Costco, wineries in New Zealand and Oregon, all the while traveling around the USA and Canada and other countries.

    My point is: it doesn’t take a million dollars to have a great life. It does take a positive attitude and a love for the journey you are on. It can be fun to work, especially with a group of people for a common goal. And, it’s even more fun when you don’t have to do it out of the need for making a million dollars.

    1. Love your story. One of the best responses I have seen in quite some time. God Bless you and your wife and I wish you the best of health and happiness as you continue your life’s journey.

    2. Positive attitude and a love for the journey you are on is a great statement. It’s loaded with truths too.

      I think some people want to retire early because their jobs are not fulfilling. We all have an innate desire to want to create, to fill fulfilled, to do something well. If a corporate job isn’t giving us the satisfaction, retiring early to find our passion is one of the biggest motivators. That or just having the option. Because have an option is powerful.

  15. Great post! Here is another post idea for you: do a sampling of the guru’s of FIRE’s stated message to what they actually do. How can a blogger who says 100% VSTAX is the only way to go and brags about no emergency fund in cash suddenly write that he miraculously had 2 years of expenses in cash? What about the “God Father” admittedly taking some chips off the table a few months ago because he wanted to guarantee he had funds to purchase a property in the future and the market had been a little frothy. Other tough guy bloggers have turtled and talk about have you need to frugal your way out of a bear market.

    End the end, I’m okay with what they did, because they essentially were having some common sense and not taking as much risk as their online alter egos espoused to their readers. What I take issue with is they didn’t say this in advance, it’s do what I say not what I do.

    Thanks for your truthfulness same, I hope someone writes about the hypocrisy of the FIRE gurus in the upcoming months. Stay safe and congrats on the new addition!

    1. I’d love a guest post if you want to write about it. I’m unaware of what “a godfather“ did or who the godfather is. Who are the people who started writing about FIRE before 2009?

      I think a crafty strategy a lot of FIRE people deploy is only revealing their wins or positive moves AFTER the fact. For some reason, people don’t pick up on it or don’t care. I’m not sure why.

      1. I believe the “God Father” would be JLCollinsnh. Interesting how some of these guys have changed their tune…

      2. You got it right without really calling it with this post here, I think: financialsamurai dot com slash seer-quantify-risk-tolerance-determine-appropriate-equity-exposure (from January 2019, you don’t allow links)

        I don’t agree with your formula in that post, but! All that text you wrote about how it was devised helped me understand that I was taking on too much risk and I made changes to reduce risk a bit. Finally! Reading Financial Samurai is profitable!

    2. Nbsdmp,

      There is another FIRE blogger who wrote articles about “100% Stocks” and “Emergency Fund cash is over rated” and then panicked and went ahead and sold his bonds and created a 7 year cash emergency fund. He panicked…

      I was extremely disappointed and thought he was very confident in his plan, especially about panicking at the bottom. I guess when shit hits the fan, you see what’s behind the veil. I guess the confidence was just cockiness and click bait titles.

    3. I read a few FIRE bloggers. Those few I read seem positioned to survive or thrive in the FIRE-sale (had to go for it) prices. I don’t know who these other panic-filled people are, but I’m glad I haven’t wasted time following them.

      Allegedly it was Templeton (Sir John) who said: “The most expensive four words in English are ‘it’s different this time.'” It works for bubbles (“companies don’t need profits anymore!”) and collapses (“We’re all gonna be dead and broke by 2021!”)

      1. It wasn’t that they were panic filled, it is quite the opposite. They espouse being fully invested in the market at all times and very high equity exposure, little to no cash on hand. They do the self fulling analysis explaining why it is a terrible move to pay off your mortgage or even own a house in the first place, because you will always come out ahead investing in the S&P 500. The reality of their actions in their own lives is much different than what they’ve preached in their online persona, that is all I’m saying.

        1. “very high equity exposure”

          Well, aside from being a demonstrably bad idea (unless you can put yourself into stasis inside a mortgage-free house during recessions), the fact they changed the script means they either panicked or they don’t believe their own BS. Both are bad.

  16. I’m taking this situation as a personal stress test. Not retired but was considering it in a few years at age 45.
    My major concerns are how my rental income holds up and how much my dividend income will fall.
    Since I still have my job and plenty of time in the worst case scenario I actually consider this a financially beneficial event for me. This is a once in 100 year event. If my income drops 50% and that lasts X amount of time then I know that’s the buffer I would need to build before retirement to be very, very safe.
    Unfortunately or fortunately I’ve always been very financially conservative. It was drilled into me since a very young age. So my investments have certainly been hit but we have a large cushion and no debt. That has helped quite a bit. The downside is when all is said and done with this situation i’ll probably need such a huge nut to meet my personal safety margin that I may not retire early at all. My kids will party like rockstars though.

  17. I was disappointed when you announced a break from your early retirement. I thought you were being too conservative or greedy (like no amount of money will make you feel secure). This crisis is a set back for everyone and will impact many people’s early retirement plans. Although, I can envision a bit of Schadenfreude over such people’s failures, it is still my contention that people who attempted early retirement, despite it’s temporary setback, are better positioned for the financial crisis than those who didn’t plan.

    At the depths of the 2008/2009 crisis, my net worth was down 50% with a newborn and another one the way. I was 100% in stocks. My home equity came close to zero. But both and my wife were gainfully employed and we only needed one income to survive.

    In the last 7 years, I’ve shifted half of my net worth from stocks to real estate. I’m still light on bonds. I also early retired around that time but my wife continues to work. So despite taking a big hit, I feel better and smarter than the last downturn. The real estate hit is coming soon. It will be my first downturn as a real estate investor with high leverage.

    I look at this situation as a stress test. If I can survive this, then I know my early retirement is set.

    1. I was waiting for your second part of how you feel about me.

      Do you think I am still too conservative or greedy for preparing for my future?

      It’s a tough time for us all and we’ve just got to do our best to hang on and build our buffers.

      1. We will see how it plays out. You know to get better returns you have to take more risk. If you can stomach the ups and downs you will be fine. For me I have anxiety and OCD issues which had led to major depression. I am much better now with meds and counseling. I would play those loses in my head a million times. Sure I’m a perfectionist and can’t stand losing. It took me along time to get that straight in my head. I wish you well and good luck with your financial independence goal. You will surely get there maybe taking a little longer than you think. Remember being retired early leaves a lot of years to find things to do.

      2. At 25% (or less) invested in the stock market, I feel you like you are very well positioned for the downturn. I also believe that you tend to keep cash reserves for just such an opportunity. You will pull through stronger than before. You’ve been talking about preparing for a downturn for months so this event was not completely unforeseen.

        I’ve always been impressed by how you’ve prepared for the future which I assume planning to have kids. It’s when you thought you needed $X more in new capital to maintain your retirement status, that’s where you lost me. This downturn doesn’t change how I feel about how well you’ve already prepared.

        I’m a few years ahead of you in terms of kids and age (but not necessarily ahead of you in wealth), so I get the anxiety you feel. But whether your net worth is $3M or $5M or $10M, even living in a high cost of living city, you’re going to pull through and can probably comfortably remain retired as you currently define it (e.g., working on Financial Samurai).

        Based on what you’ve written regarding your wealth and your spending habits, I just don’t get where you’re coming from when you say it’s not going to be enough. I don’t perceive any lack of preparation on your part or that returns were below expectations over the years (in fact quite the opposite). The only change I detect is a heightened level of anxiety as a new parent.

        1. Cool, thanks for your thoughts. I do try to skate where the puck is going. If I thought expenses would be flat and/or if I thought the bull market would keep roaring for a while, I may have had a more kickback attitude when I made my announcement on Jan 2,2020.

          But it was clear then that I could not stay complacent b/c we were 10 years into a bull market and I just had a baby. Now, millions of us have the challenge of our lives. Some have it harder than others. There is no downside in preparing for the future. Preparing makes me happier because I get to run through multiple scenarios and plan ahead. I hope everyone practices the pre-mortem as well.

          I am still very hopeful about the future though!

          1. Even though I just started replying recently, I’ve been reading this blog for a while. I hope you find a good job that is the right fit for you. I think you will enjoy it immensely and the only real effort will be the search itself.

    2. I am 70:now and been retired 5 years. My goal was to retire at 40 but I am glad I didn’t. My story was he I made a lot of money but lost most of it during my thirties. I had invested the money in 15 real estate partnerships , mortgages, apartments. The fact is when real estate collapsed I lost my entire investments maybe $500,000. I was invested in real estate all over the country all promising 15 % returns based on past returns. All of them broke went broke and I got a big fat 0 dollars back and got dear john letters from the brokers that sold me them. After that I put my money in CDs and muni bonds and never lost a penny and could retire at age 65 with a great lifestyle. Sure it pissed me off that I wasn’t making big money in the stock market. But it’s looking pretty good right now. The moral of the story is when you lose a lot of money in investments it makes you more conservative going forward.

  18. I don’t associate with FIRE, but it seems so much about the achievement of retirement that the journey is missed. My approach has been to expand my freedom and choice, and to do that, I have tried and learned in cycles for 20 years. I don’t consider myself retired, but I don’t have full-time work either. I manage my rentals, real estate projects, and investments. My wife has a training/coaching business but works 8-10 days a month. Not retired, but a lot of free time. We skied (cross country) 80 days this winter even with the corona shutdown of resorts. To me, the goal is continuous improvement of cash flow, free time, work as much as we like on what we like, and access to the things we like to do with the people we like to be around. 20 years is a long haul, but we have a huge amount of freedom even if it’s not the same as FIRE. I worry about the folks who are so focused on reaching the goal that they overlook the risks they take to get there as fast as possible. We learned a lot the hard way and experienced financial and health armageddon, years (more than 10) of recovery, and we are still learning all the time. What got us on track was the focus on cash flow, building good credit, building and holding large cash reserves for living and rentals, using strategic leverage, and avoiding volatile assets. Risk management – covering the downside – is far more important than going as fast as possible and having major setbacks.

  19. @Financial Samurai

    I’ve been thinking about your “Engineer your layoff” book.

    Too many people are afraid of losing or quitting their jobs, and are afraid of getting the coronavirus from work. They’re in a terrible double bind.

    More people need to be quarantined, but don’t know they can get unemployment or don’t know about the government stimulus bill.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t understand today’s unemployment insurance or workers compensation. The coronavirus has changed unemployment insurance. The department of labor has new guidance. (I.e. FMLA leave -quarantine doctor note, etc– because of the coronavirus can often qualify for unemployment) Different states have different rules. There are also some moratoriums on evictions, options to quarantine with extended family, options for debt forgiveness, bankruptcy, etc.

    Your book needs to be updated and published broadly. The more people who can be quarantined, the more lives can be saved.

    ——>>>> Please help save lives by helping people get unemployment so they can quarantine!!

    1. Jason, I’ve done my best since 2012 to help educate people on how to negotiate a severance package, qualify for unemployment, and make sure they leave on good terms. I can only lead a horse to water.

      The principles in my book don’t change because it is focused on severance package negotiations not unemployment benefits. Receiving unemployment benefits is a derivative benefit of engineering a layoff, but it is an important one and I’m GLAD the government is stepping up to provide more aid, such as $600 more per paycheck and 13 weeks longer of unemployment benefits.

      One important point people need to realize is that you want to be FIRST IN LINE to get laid off and negotiate a severance and not last in line. If you’re last, your severance package will be way smaller than those who were first. I’m the flip side, unemployment benefits may be better towards the end like the 99 weeks of UB during the 2009 crisis.

      My book is regularly updated to reflect this changing world. If you would like to help save lives helping people get unemployment so they can quarantine, I’m totally open to hosting a guest post from you about the subject.

      Doing is always better than telling. Let’s do this! Thanks!

      1. Charles Conrad

        I must be a weird duck. I am 70. At this age, I don’t want or need much. When I was younger, I spent most of money on incredible vacations with my family. I didn’t care about saving money. I knew if I did not take family vacations when my children were still home, I never would. And I was right.
        In America, I am an old man. Just some old guy. Believe it or not, society does not see old people. We become invisible.
        I work. Four days a week I go to work. WHAT A JOY. I get up, shower, brush my teeth and hop in the car. At work, I am not an old man, but a lawyer who knows what he is doing. I am needed by my clients. Work has value besides money.

        1. I am 71, still working in the Aerospace industry, love it. Something about launching rockets that just never gets old. Sure, someday I will retire, but today isn’t that day. I do take my full vacation time every year, get a lot of federal holidays off and in my present position I work very little overtime, life is good. It is sad though to see so many people who really hate their jobs, yet they stay there for 10, 20 or even 30 years, can’t imagine that regardless of how much they make.

  20. A very good post. To paraphrase a famous athlete, “Your gameplan goes out the window when you get punched in the face.”

  21. Very interesting post Sam. At the end this is a marathon and you are only at the beginning. Thks for posting. Regards from Spain!

    1. Looking at 2020 as the beginning is a nice way to look at things. Imagine just starting out and being able to accumulate capital in a bear market. What a blessing! This is my viewpoint for my 13-week-old daughter and young son.

      Hope you are doing well in Spain!

  22. I’m really enjoying this!

    In Corona Land, the lifestyle of an introvert/loner/hermit is finally paying off!

    Social distancing alone has kept me bug-free.

    All my life I was mocked; made fun of for being Cheap, Frugal, for living Below my means. For Saving and Investing! Minimalism. Voluntary simplicity. Making sacrifices. Financial independence and simple living (as in Not being a phone-carrying internet fanatic, as in Not buying bottled water or driving a luxury car, SUV, or truck!). Assuming the banks don’t go under, I’ve enough money in banks alone to last a decade. The rest of my money in stocks and mutual funds I will touch later on–presumably after the stock market has stabilized and gone up. My net worth has dropped but I’m still up there in the 5% region.

    I’m laughing at Those People who crapped on me all my life out of status cars; those who live in palaces paid for via massive borrowing and debt in their paycheck-to-paycheck life styles! The Starbucks crowd who cackled behind my back for going home and boiling water on my stove readying a cup for a 2-cent tea bag.

    None saved money or invested. Just spent as fast as it came in.

    It’s all collapsing for them. All the high living and luxuries. All the elite services which are evaporating. Some of them might even have to learn to drive their own cars (and get drivers licenses at that!)!!! I read online how they’re crying over not getting their nails done or their hair cut!
    Poor fake-rich people!

    1. I hate to say this but I agree. It makes me feel petty. You see I am a successful attorney, but I drive a Honda Civic. At work, I park next to very expensive vehicles owned by lawyers. They look down on me, because of my car.
      I agree with you because if these lawyers “lost” their vehicles, I would be elated. This is petty, but this is how I feel..

    2. Isn’t this how you become more and more isolated? It’s OK to be frugal, to be introverted, but being a lone-wolf has an expiration date. People were meant to have relationships and to connect with each other. We’re all social beings.

      Choosing to be isolated and alone while secretly hoping for their life to worsen and celebrating it alone when it finally does due to a global pandemic sounds extremely petty to me.

      I mean, if you planned well enough to live through this time without getting affected at all, kudos to you. That was all you and your hard work. What does that have to do with people buying starbucks or taking out loans to buy a house or a car? By your criteria, I should be living paycheck-to-paycheck.

      1. I’m in DC Metro. As the pundit said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”. I am an introvert. I have a dog. It works. It takes all kinds to make a world.

    3. Well said Hermit! I will say I share your viewpoint on some of the rich executives, corporations and Kim Kardashian types of the world. Let them sink to the bottom.

  23. The bit which has irked me is when a FIRE blogger will talk about going with 100% VTSAX and how their money grows… and yet they live off earned income in the meantime. It’s kind of like the definition of retired is “not going to an office” or “I don’t get a W2 at the end of the year from an employer” as opposed to really living off of enough of a nest egg.

    The whole term FIRE I just find silly. I know that the “FIRE police” will get annoyed that I bring this up but I’m at a loss when people, or someone in their household, puts in time and effort to earn money that they need to survive as they don’t have enough passive income to live off of. Then claiming that they are retired. I typically call that either working or being a house spouse.

    And there are good debates on how to define passive income and what retirement really is, which are totally fair to have. But don’t be pulling in blog income to more than cover your expenses and brag about how your stock portfolio keeps growing as proof that FIRE totally works with the 4% rule. It’s a great career change for those where it worked of course.

    1. Peter, I totally agree with you. I’m not here to crap on FIRE, I think it’s a fantastic goal. But it’s faking FIRE if you *need* a partner’s income to pay bills and to have health insurance.

      “Financial Independence” is having enough passive income to never need to work for income again, and not relying on anyone else for income either. That’s “independence.”

      I’m already 50, and I’m not there yet, so I doubt I would qualify for the “early” part, but like others here I’m pursuing financial independence at whatever age, and it’s coming within view. Still working at a major brand name employer, but had accumulated about $2.5 million in liquid assets by early this year. About half was in equity mutual funds, and yes they are down about 25% from recent highs. But those funds are all in a pre-tax IRA, I won’t touch that for at least a decade so who cares? As Sam has been teaching, more important in the near term is accumulating a big after-tax fund so that you can retire as early as possible (or not, but at least you have the choice).

      For me the magic number is $4 million — $1 million in IRA (and growing with the market) and $3 million after-tax, primarily in CA munis and some Vanguard equity funds. That amount will generate passive income that will more than fund my day-to-day lifestyle including vacations etc.

      I recently scooped up $100k in S&P 500 from my after-tax fund when it hit 2300 (bought $50k) and then 2200 the next day (bought another $50k). Don’t know if that’s the bottom (see Sam’s recent article) but it was discounted enough for me to recognize a good deal. If the S&P 500 drops again into the low 2000’s (or lower) I’ll buy some more. This is literally buying FIRE and low risk because I’m still working.

      I hope we can all take advantage of the current disruption so help the journey to true (not fake) FIRE, or at least FI.

      1. I also don’t want to try to douse FIRE, Rich. I love trying to make work optional. Same general plan as you.

        About 3 mil for me and I’m actually fine going for age 55 and drawing down from the 401k that way. Granted, no 4% for me given that potentially very long time period. More like 3.25% or less.

    2. Heh. I had a feeling you’d like the “FIRE police” to your who are the retirement police post. Well played. :)

  24. Things about FIRE that irk me?

    It seems like much of the movement for many is a competition of how fast you can get across the finish line (i.e. assuming retirement is the finish line), and I hate races. I’m just not that competitive of a person nor have I ever been. It’s not because I can’t compete or maybe even win, but I enjoy the journey much more than the finish line. I just want to play and have fun, and when you play with competitive people, the playing and fun is generally over that much more quickly. (Not that there isn’t more fun beyond the finish line, but for now, I am very happy within the race–I have never asked, but I would suppose a similar ideology difference between sprinters and distance runners.)

    I enjoy my work, my family, my current life, and honestly, I would slow it down if I could. I work in construction, and we will build some really interesting and exciting structures, and I constantly think back to some of the projects and Teams that we work with and wish we could go back in time and do it again. I hope by the time I get to retirement I will feel satisfied and fulfilled both emotionally and physically that I will be ready to move on to the next phase, but I don’t see that for a long time…

    But to race to retirement as quick as possible? Not for me. Same reason I don’t drive 190MPH into the office in the morning.

    1. It definitely was interesting to see people try and compete on who can try and retire the youngest. Everything is so hyper-competitive nowadays. There is a strong desire for younger folks to get as much attention as possible.

      I hope I can protect my kids from this attitude.

      1. You and me both Sam.

        The hyper-competitive and attention-seeking attitude of today’s generation is concerning and I see a serious gap in the abilities of the general workforce in 10 years when the boomers finish retiring. The boomers might be the last of the population (as a whole) that respected the journey, worked hard, played fair and prepared for the finish line rather than raced to it.

        Rather than the generations following that constantly sought the shortest and quickest path (Not always Gen-xers, but I think their children and advancements may have tainted them the last 10 years). Everything today is built around speed, simplicity, ease of use and manufacturing it cheap enough that people are immune to its short life. This is going to be a problem for numerous reasons over the next 50 years, I can assure you.

        The key is figuring out what people like you and I should be teaching our young children to give them the best position to lead into this landscape and not only better their own position, but be prepared to help the greater population, who I sincerely feel, is going to need it.

        (For context–I am 37 years old and son of boomers–born in 55).

  25. I think unfortunately there is an important lesson here: markets are cyclical and the truly best time to invest substantial sums in the market is when everybody is running for the hills.
    1930-31, 1974-5, 1987, 2002, 2009, and now perhaps late 2020/2021.

    I have followed your blog and I think you’re good at what you do, and also very transparent. What I find interesting though is that people have perhaps taken the wrong lesson, ie a lot of people went heavy on equities in 2016-2019, without realising that the smart investors were heavy equities 2009-2015 and made an absolute killing.

    In fact the market probably has another 15-20% to fall and I believe your 2000 target on SP 500 isn’t far off. The buy and hold strategy is truly dead though and investors are going to have to go back to working harder for returns by buying quality businesses with sound dividend yields and fundamentals , rather than chasing absurd growth shares and speculative bets.

    I live in Europe at the moment and it augurs the challenge that the US is going to face in this crisis: expect 2 months of pretty much complete lock down and a L shaped recovery on the other side.

    Keep the faith though and understand that when you’re going through hell: keep going (as Churchill said !)

      1. Things will definitely get better over time

        But come on: the market rallied the day the US announced a 3.1 million person rise in unemployment. Explain that to me! The greed and euphoria of the Everything Bubble hasn’t fully unraveled yet!

    1. What about 2017 and 2019? Huge market gains to have missed if you were “smart money” and cashed mostly out in 2015. The real smart money stayed in the market to appreciate those market gains. The really really smart money will (1) not try to time the market (no-one is that lucky); (2) never leave the market (except for rebalancing) and (3) ride the ups and downs while being diversified and having other investment buckets as well as a safe haven emergency cash position.

    2. Also, L is not a recovery. What say you of the V or U recovery mindset? If you have to guess I’ll pick V because why not.

  26. Financial Planning is nothing more than a personal theory. Bear Markets determined the efficacy of the plan.

    Embrace them!

  27. Frankly I don’t understand people who were caught by surprise by this downturn. No one could have guessed a virus would be the catalyst but thinking this bull run would go on forever, come on. We were into the longest bull run in history, COVID-19 was just the catalyst for this correction but it could have been anything.

    I got a huge financial hit from these events but it doesn’t change anything in my FI journey. It’s just part of the game.

      1. My wife has an investment advisor. Of course, she has made money for the last ten years. Because of that, she understandably believed, own stocks and make money.
        Yesterday, she tells me how much she has lost. I told her I have lost money. Because I own Netflix and Amazon, it hasn’t been too bad. The point is she did not understand why I wasn’t upset. She thinks I don’t support her.
        Three times I have had substantial losses since 2000.
        Read as much as you want, but you will never understand how a bear market feels, until you see 30% of your money disappear.

  28. Thank you Sam for another insightful post. I have been following you for a couple of years and your posts really makes me reflect. Unfortunately, I was too slow to act on my new learnings about risk exposure before the bear market came.

    I am the CEO of a medtech start-up. After reading your post about start-ups I realized I was focusing too much on it making me rich in the future and had not clearly seen the risks I exposed my family to by having a lower salary, less benefits and less security than my previous big corp jobs. I still love it, but in a bear market even the coolest tech start-up has serious difficulties. It only took a week of covid-19 and I had to begin letting people go.

    What I have learned so far from this bear market is that my husband and I have taken way too much risk in order to reach FI given we have a family with three small kids to support. The combination of working in a start-up, high exposure to the stock market in the portfolio and a low cash buffer is clearly not a responsible combination for us going forward.

    My husband’s grand mother (who is 100 years old) has always told us we need to have 200 000 USD cash for emergencies and we have joked about the insanity of that level of cash buffer for years. We are not joking anymore. Our heating system in the house just broke and we had to use up our entire cash buffer to implement a new one. Now buffer is gone, stocks are down and my job highly insecure. Because of covid-19 my best friend with family fled the country she was in working in with just a couple of hours notice before borders closed and paid 15 000 USD cash for the plane tickets. It scared me when I realized I could not have done the same to save my family.

    This bear market has humbled me and has already made me change my perspectives. I can’t have the risk exposure I need to reach FI. My number one goal is and needs to be to care for my family and make sure we are stable no matter what hits us.

    1. Hi Hanna,

      Best of luck to you and your family. Nothing is harder in business than having to let people go. I hope this won’t last for longer than a couple months. Instead of being permanently laid off, hopefully people are just furloughed, like government workers were during various shutdowns.

      That’s nuts about your best friend fleeing the country last minute. Hopefully she arrived in a better place.

  29. I think some people choose to purse a FIRE lifestyle for the wrong reasons. As research has shown, only a small percentage of Myers-Briggs personality types are set up to be truly happy in retirement. I am one of those. I am lucky to be in that tiny minority and have (luckily) been much happier in retirement than when at my job. I think you really have to know yourself for succesful FIRE, and not just pursue FIRE because it sounds good as a dream rather than because of truly/deeply understanding your emotional needs.

  30. Thanks for this post. The only way to achieve success is by understanding your failures. FIRE is a narrative, it’s not necessarily the truth. The average return, inflation adjusted, dividends reinvested of the S&P 500 from Dec 1999 through today is 2.275%/YR. Google “S&P return calculator” and plug in the numbers if you doubt that. Here is a quote I use as an investing guide:

    “We will only prosper if we relentlessly search for nothing but the truth, otherwise the truth will find us through volatility”

    Today we live in the land of volatility. To paraphrase Buffett, Volatility will reveal who’s been swimming naked.

    1. 2.275% is the real return, nominal return which I think everyone understands better is 4.47%. Cumulative real return 57.7% and cumulative nominal return 142.5%. Still pretty good

      1. Umm, no it’s not. Doesn’t quite stand up the the 4% rule now does it. Granted this is picking numbers at certain times that exaggerate the paltry returns a late 90’s retiree has experienced, but it should ring home that the whole 100% stocks is the way to salvation doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  31. I find this very depressing. I was made to feel so totally stupid for not investing heavily when I felt the market was crazy and overpriced. Everyone was making millions! Why wasn’t I retiring early?!
    Like so much you see on line, it was a scam?! Now we are in lockdown and looking at more on line. How much of it is a time wasting bunch of phony garbage?
    I feel sorry for everyone. Sorry people did this. Sorry people are losing their jobs. Sorry people kept this irrational exuberance going for so long. Sorry the irrational exuberance went further than normal because of social media. Sorry our great grand kids are going to be working to pay off this debt. What a mess.

  32. 6 years ago, I came across your blog while searching online for ways to negotiate a severance package. Your advice on that topic was so eye opening for me, it really made me think of earnings, careers, and finance and economics in a way I had never previously, as a non-finance professional.

    Following said severance package I successfully negotiated (thanks to you!), I went on to pay off tens of thousands in debt, and stockpile even more in savings and investments, while increasing my income. This post is so refreshing, though I have to admit, your site was one of the first I checked once my area’s shelter went in place. FIRE is a great goal, I think for anyone to strive for, and will only help people to prepare for rainy days…though myself, I am nowhere near it, if any bit of changes to my habits can help me get to retirement earlier than 65-70, I will see that as a success.

  33. I think the recent WFH (work from home) policy imposed by most companies have a bigger impact on the early retirement movement: it’s like WFH but without the W, or money :) :)

  34. Fascinating confessionals! I think it’s so important to expect the unexpected and anticipate lifestyle changes when even just thinking abut FIRE. There are so many unknown variables that some people in the FIRE movement fail to take into consideration. The confessions above are quite understandable and don’t surprise me. Great features!

  35. SeattleMomofFour

    My husband and I have 4 kids – that makes FIRE extra challenging. Nevertheless, we’ve been incredibly diligent about creating passive income via single-family rentals. Not so diligent about deceasing spending. We’d expected to be 5 years from FIRE. I’d be 45, he’d be 47. I didn’t think we’d actually retire, but just do part time work, more volunteering – that sort of thing. Our net worth is $3M+ but we live in a coastal city. Say what you’d like – but we’re solidly middle class for our neighborhood. Because 75% of our net worth is in passives investments I don’t expect to see a huge drop. What we do have in the market is mostly in tech or index funds and has aggressively lost value. Our big worry though is that our tenants will stop paying rent. Depending on how many stop, and for how long, we could have to dump properties and that would be emotionally and financially ruinous. We hung on to our rentals during ’08/’09 so hopefully we can do the same things go around. Granted we only had 2 then and we have significantly more now. Our plan is to just buckle down at our regular jobs (tech & real estate sector) – try to keep our W2 income steady and maybe if we’re lucky pick up some more rentals on the cheap side a few months from now. If we’re less lucky – you can pick up our rentals on the cheap side…

  36. Great article and a good reminder that the best laid plans may blow up. FIRE was built mostly on a amazing stock market run that wasn’t going to last. 3rd major stock market correction for me, and they all have hurt. I remember losing 1/2 of my 401k in 08 and 09, and that was painful. Fortunately wife and I have great jobs and still employed, and still putting money in the market right now. This might not be the bottom, but stocks are on sale. Great companies are 30%+ cheaper than a month ago.

  37. I guess it’s because I come from another generation but what is the obsession with retiring so early? I get that having more time to spend with loved ones is a good thing and that living a less stressful life will probably allow you to live longer and happier. But it just seems to me that people today are obsessed with getting to the finish line so quickly that perhaps this miss the joy of the journey. Maybe it’s a west coast versus east coast thing. Not sure. I was a Police Officer early in my life and was amazed at how hard people would work to get that job. And then once they were on the job all they talked about was “doing my 20 years” so they could retire with a pension from that job. Really? I’m 62 and planning to retire sometime in the next 4 -8 years but am in no rush. I like to work, I enjoy the climb and I am still learning new things every day. Would I like to have Mark Cuban money and be able to just throw in the towel? Maybe, but what I know is that I don’t want to spend the lion’s share of my life living on money I accumulated during a short span of time as I would be much too stressed that someday I would run out of money and be too out of the real world for too long to start over again. Good luck to those of you who are working hard to get to your “number” and “get out.” I think that strategy may be worth another review.”

    1. Frank, I am 62 as well and could not agree with you more. I think whoever came up with FIRE did everyone a disservice. The focus should have always been on reaching FI which then gives you many options for the rest of your life of which RE just happens to be one of them but not the sole end goal. In my case, I was able to retire from my corporate life at 57 in order to become a startup entrepreneur but also to spend more time on some of my volunteer interests.

      It would have been better for the world if we had a focus on FISO instead, where maybe you reach FI as early as you can and dedicate some of your time to “serving others” who may be less fortunate than you. Either way, I counsel my 21-year-old daughter to focus her future on becoming financially independent whenever she can so that she has many options to choose from thereafter.

      1. Agreed! Somewhere I saw a definition of FIRE as Financial Independence, Recreationally Employed. For me it is all about taking control of my finances to the point I can choose what to do and if and how I continue to make money/use my time.

        1. Love it! How about Financially Independent, Resting Easy? ;) Maybe Sam could have a contest to rename the acronym of FIRE around what it means to you!

    2. I can relate to your comment Frank, I’m an early Gen X’er at 54 soon, with older siblings in your cohort and younger nieces and nephews. I think a BIG part of this is the widening gap in wealth that we hear about. That aspect hasn’t affected my ability to survive, because I was always being frugal, having grown up with depression era parents. However, after the financial crisis of 2008, it started to become the norm for companies to not provide (or severely trim) annual cost of living increases. Once they got used to that, it became the new norm. The last 3 FT position I held, I had an agreement that I would achieve X-Y-Z in exchange for a % incr in salary. I did my part and then they pulled the rug on the increase. I honestly think that a LOT of young people have been going through that kind of duplicity. I think that’s the number one reason for the surge in interest over the last 10 to 15 yrs.

  38. Thanks for the testimonials, they showed we all are human after all. I was hoping to see more answers to your questions in the comments but instead read about people’s predictions.

    Anyway, I’m brave enough to say yes I’ve made several bad investments on start ups and random tech companies and lost thousands in my early investing years. Ofcourse I have a crapload of unrealized losses now (I don’t plan to see anything though, heck I don’t even want to log into my account). Yes there have been times in the past couple of weeks I have been pissed off (glad I got a small gym with a heavy bag in my basement to burn off steam) :-)

    I support and respect the concept of FIRE, but I’ve found through my years of reading that some people don’t have humility and seem to be unwilling to share their mistakes. I don’t think this experience it will make people humble (I really hope I am wrong). This is because few of us change whom we really are in terms of our behaviors. Sorry for a such a pessimistic comment.

  39. I really appreciate this article and it helps keep things in perspective about how you can really get blown out of the water when you rely too heavily on stocks or not enough diversification.

    I had a 5-year plan that I put into action 5 years ago. I had a mix of ideas on how I would make it work, but it relied on me – continuing to earn a decent salary, get additional raises, bonuses, extra side income, and basically have nothing go wrong. Oh the follies of youthful optimism. I think a big issue with FIRE is that there are bright dreams from young 20 year olds who haven’t had enough life experience or perspective to really be able to plan for longer term. Myself definitely included.

    I was in a really good position 5 years ago – as a late 20-something I was already a homeowner with no student loans or credit card debts. I didn’t have a crazy high salary, but I had a decent one, and I had a good chunk invested. My plan for early retirement focused mainly on continuing to invest in the stock market and leveraged rental properties. Flash forward 5 years and things have mostly turned out pretty well, but there’s been some real challenges and headaches.

    1) I had job instability – I was let go from one job and another job was about to let me go just as I got a new job. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad I enjoyed a few months of unemployment the first go-around and had insurance from my old employer and severance – spent a few months job-hunting, picked up some fun part-time work, traveled a bit and took some fun classes at community college.

    2) Vacancies/maintenance for homes – anyone who’s serious about rental properties all talk about putting aside money for these, but these can be really painful especially if you have a multi-family home and you lose income from multiple units at the same time. It got so bad that I recently switched property management companies. Even still, I’ve put in a bunch and had some losses this year, sure I can deduct it from my taxes, and overall I’m doing OK, but it’s definitely delayed my FIRE plans.

    3) Increased costs for real estate taxes, insurance, and utilities. Sure you can kinda negotiate these – you can do appeals to tax to try to get a lower rate (I’ve done this a few times) as well as call utility companies to try to negotiate a better rate (done this too), insurance you can change your coverage or call a few different companies to get a better rate. However, this is time and energy and even still costs still seem to go up each year. I hadn’t realized this when I started investing in real estate – I figured with a fixed rate loan there wouldn’t be as much variance in my costs. I was sorely mistaken. Overall, I’m glad I did it – I’ve been able to raise rents which has helped off-set these costs, and I just got approved for a tax appeal which should save me about 13% of taxes. Once I hopefully get the vacancies rented out again I should be doing well.

    4) I’m not freaking out as much as others about the stock market because I’m not as invested in it as others are, but I did lose a good chunk on paper which is always unsettling. For me it’s just a reminder that I need to continue to build up additional reserves to feel more comfortable with the market ebbs and flows. Also, if I can hopefully pay off a mortgage or two before calling it quits that will also help me feel much more comfortable.

    5) Main changes are that my expenses went up – not by a crazy amount, but they did go up overall that’s probably partly due to inflation.

    6) This resulted in me not getting as many rentals as I had initially hoped to by now and the additional rentals I have gotten while cash-flowing are not as lucrative as I had initially thought. When I eventually pay off the mortgages the cash flow will increase significantly, but for now I’m still planning on continuing to prioritize getting more properties and stocks.

    7) I’ve been able to do a bunch of the larger goals that I had and work towards a better work/life balance – but I’m still working full-time currently. Looking forward to eventually changing towards P/T work in the next few months or years.

    I don’t regret the path that I’ve chosen, but it has been a longer one than what I had initially predicted.

  40. Hi Sam,

    Been reading your blog for a while, and I love your perspective and honesty. I consider myself part of the FIRE community, although I don’t actively blog or talk about it regularly. Something that has bothered me over the years with FIRE is how people share all of their expense and net worth information monthly, quarterly, etc. and claim that sharing this information is motivating and encouraging for others.

    I compare that complete transparency to only posting pictures and posts on social media that portray your “amazing, perfect” lifestyle. It looks nice on the outside, but it doesn’t show the whole picture.

    I actually think sharing too much information like someone’s net worth and expenses can be discouraging to a lot of people. There is a time and place for sharing the details, but sometimes it doesn’t feel productive to do so in the name of motivating and encouraging people.

    I have recently started shifting my mindset on how I think about financial independence after reading The Last Safe Investment. I am more interested in investing in myself to learn valuable skills that can increase my value to other people which in turn increases my earning potential now and into the future. That seems like the most secure form of financial independence to me rather than relying on things out of our control (viruses, stocks, etc.).

    Will definitely never stop investing, but am starting to think more about other types of investments (i.e. building my skills) more so than just investing in stocks, bonds, RE, etc.

    Thanks for all of your continued work on this site. I love reading your articles.


    1. Hi Tanner,

      Yeah, there’s a lot of “curation” going on in the FIRE world, where folks tend to only show the best of things. Perhaps there will be some interesting revelations during March 2020 net worth season.

      What you are talking about investing in is one’s X FACTOR. I used to write about the X Factor all the time, and included it as part of my recommended net worth allocation post. But I stopped. Perhaps I’ll write about it again since it’s like we’re back in 2009.



      1. Excited to read the X Factor posts! One thing I meant to mention in the first comment was that I left my job to take a 4 – 6 month sabbatical starting December 2019, and negotiated having my healthcare paid for during that time thanks to your severance negotiation content. Thank you so much!

        Interesting time to take a sabbatical, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it pays to be prepared. I had 12 – 13 months of savings in the bank before leaving in case of the worst case scenario. Here we are!

        Stay healthy and safe in SF.

  41. I’m not FIRED, but COVID-19 has definitely impacted how I think about FIRE as a goal. Rather than counting down the days until I can retire, I’m grateful I still have a job (and nervous about losing it). I doubt I’d FIRE now unless (i) we have no mortgage (primary or investment properties); (ii) we have enough low risk money in 529 accounts for both kids to attend college; and (iii) we have enough low risk money to cover all our current expenses (maybe using this month as a test case, since like many people, we’ve stopped discretionary spending).

    I’m also nervous about about investment properties, which have always been a safety net (if all hell breaks loose, at least we’ll have a decent amount of net rental income). One of my tenants has already asked for a break. If more tenants ask for rent reductions or start defaulting, I’ll eventually have a real problem.

    I’m definitely nervous about the economy, my job, and my investment properties. I was positively affected by the last financial crisis because I was just starting out and everything was cheap. This is different because I have something to lose, and kids now.

    For now, I’ve cut way back on spending (cut spending on dry cleaning, restaurants, gas, entertainment, childcare, travel, and anything nonessential), and stopped extra principal payments on mortgages (saving cash instead), but otherwise, no change to contributions or allocations in investment accounts.

    1. The investment property income will be an interesting one. Lots of people are nervous about what happens on April 1, May 1, etc. I’m assuming the government will continue to provide if they continue to force shutdowns.

      A shutdown that lasts longer than June 1 (75+ days) will probably be the breaking point for many investment property owners.

      My vacation property is now shut down b/c the Resort and mountain is shut down.

  42. Ms. Conviviality

    I discovered FIRE in 2015 when I stumbled onto FS while looking for answers to a financial dilemma I had. I’ve read other FIRE blogs since then but none kept my interest except for FS and Coach Carson (FIRE from a real estate angle). I will continue reading and doing what’s helpful to me and letting go of the rest. It doesn’t really matter to me how well someone else is doing financially, except maybe it gives a little credibility to their blog if they have amassed a fortune. In the end, it’s up to me to create a plan and back up plans that I’m comfortable with. With the assets we have today, even with depressed stocks, my husband and I would live a comfortable life when we retire in 12 years, at age 52, when my pension kicks in. The plan is to have a total of 6 investment properties paid off by then. Worst case scenario is we end up with five. Our Airbnb and boat rental income took a hit this month since all guests cancelled but we did end up getting two new Airbnb bookings which helped us to break-even. Plans don’t always work out but it is comforting to know that we can decide to continue working 1-2 years more to acquire that sixth property if we really wanted to.

    1. What will you do if your pension blows up? I’d this shutdown lasts much longer I fully expect state and local governments budgets to be destroyed and pensions cut or eliminated and stocks significantly lower. STR is forecasting hotel revenue will be down more than 60% this year, and still down 20% to 2019 in 2021 and typically about 17% tax on that goes to local/state gov. Then think of the adjacent industries.

      My suggestion for all is plan for retirement like SS, Medicare and pensions won’t be there, because they may not.

  43. Sam, thanks. As a financial planner I find your articles and insights illuminating and refreshing. Truly appreciate Financial Samurai.

    I’m 57 and not a FIRE, it just never crossed my mind and I never had the kind of income that could do it. That said I support those that can make that work.

    Instead, I used leverage and bought property. I currently own my primary residence (still have debt), a rental property with positive cash flow and a mortgage, and another property where my mother in law lives, which will become income at some point.

    I have multiple income streams and money in the bank. 4-5 years ago my wife retired and has pursued her passion which may become income at some point.

    I’m comforted in the understanding that if all hell broke loose, we have enough options that we could retire. It makes me truly happy to know its possible and I have options, but I don’t want to quit. I have freedom (currently reading you from a lake house after bailing on Thursday and will return to our regular life Mon or Tues). No bosses. We travel when we feel like it. That is important to us.

    I’m saddened by the stories here on a few levels. I never wish this kind of financial stress on anyone. And I understand it, having gone through a failed business and bankruptcy in 2000 with a 5 yr old and a 3 yr old at home. Walked out of BK with a few credit cards and $2,400 I’d hidden in my fridge. Oh and a mortgage etc etc. Financial stress sucks. But my experience is that it will pass. The market will come back and all of us will be stronger and wiser for it.

    Also, the grass isn’t always greener. I know lots of people that could retire today but choose not to. Don’t want to lose friends, business relationships they find empowering and the connection to something greater than themselves AND for some it’s the MONEY! That’s never been my thing.

    I think we all have to find what makes us happy and if FIRE gets you there great, if not great. But my experience is that money after a certain point isn’t it. So what is it for each of us. That’s the million dollar question. What is the meaning of life, your life.

    What I do finally understand is we have to be careful of the shinny objects.

    With gratitude,

    1. “And I understand it, having gone through a failed business and bankruptcy in 2000 with a 5 yr old and a 3 yr old at home. Walked out of BK with a few credit cards and $2,400 I’d hidden in my fridge. Oh and a mortgage etc etc.”

      Thank you for sharing your experience. Man, that must have been a super stressful time. Would you agree this time around, it doesn’t feel as bad since you’ve gone through bad times before?

      I am sad we are back to bad times. But even with two kids to support, I feel more at ease now b/c I went through the 2000 dotcom bust and the 2008-2009 financial crisis with a significant amount of assets.

      It’s the same old rodeo, just with a couple different characters. Perhaps this time around, I just feel so blessed to have a family. Family feels like everything to me right now, and sheltering-in-place is a great way to protect my family.

      Best of luck to you!

  44. Canadian Reader

    We just “retired” July 2019- my husband was finally laid off from his engineering job. I went on maternity leave October 2019 from my nursing job. We owned 2 houses and 1 condo. Our one house had a mortgage so we listed it as soon as my husband lost his job- it sold in 2 days. We moved into our mortgage free condo and continued the renovations on our other mortgage free house- which we plan to live in eventually.

    Our invested money took a 17% hit so far.

    I thought I would be done with nursing work but this scenario has changed my mind. Turns out the skill set is a great hedge.

    We both grew up in working low-income households and are used to frugal living. This whole crises really hasn’t impacted my day-to-day except for going to the gym and seeing family. We are prepared to keep our spending at the poverty line as long as conditions remain unstable.

  45. Great article. Everyone certainly has their opinion of the definition of FIRE.

    My current situation: the downturn has certainly battered and bruised my wife and I’s 401k plans. But that’s okay…our primary focus right now is paying off our mortgage. I’m not going to get into all the details but our mortgage is our only debt and we just took the loan out this past November and should have it paid off by June 2021.

    We’re only 38 and I’m pretty happy where we are financially.

  46. “Keep your shadows in front of you—they can only take you down from behind.” – Carl Jung

    Some years ago I told my story, found by clicking my handle. Lots of regrets, anger, self-pity, etc. Not sure anybody learned anything from it, but I learned that people do love to hear about somebody else’s poor fortune!:-) Anyway, I appreciated the chance to share my confessional, maybe new readers will like it or long-time readers will re-read. One thing FIRE content-providers are doing is providing entertainment, as well as some basics.

    I appreciate the community, and (mostly) encouraging mindsets and attitudes shared. I also came upon our host’s book “How To Engineer Your Layoff“, a great read for anyone not yet FIRE’d. Buy it, especially now if your confidence is shaken, you will be grateful. Maybe I should have put this reply in the “Gratitude” post!:-)

  47. As someone who loves to do magic tricks, I’m constantly in awe of some FIRE personalities who are able to convince their readers and viewers how they did it without sharing any of their financials. You won’t be able to find out how much they made, their net worth, their net worth allocation, nothing. Yet people still listen to them and believe them.

    Thanks for sharing so many concrete examples over the years Sam. It is so much more helpful to look at real numbers.

    Worst thing about the bear market is that I will probably have to work for 2-3 more years.

    Oh, and please keep me away from the high school revenge fantasy person!

    1. Hah, it is interesting to see how personalities emerge during difficult times. So much psychology goes into the way people react.

      Slight of hand is a great trick my some. I’m impressed with folks who call for transparency, yet don’t share any of their finances, and nobody says anything. Truly a super skill!

  48. Wow, I’m kind of shocked that there aren’t a LOT more comments on this post, but I think people are still “shell shocked” and busy with other things right now. I’m with you on the point of “how I failed at retirement”. It hasn’t been fun for me and I’m still spinning my wheels on finding direction and purpose.

    Job opportunities for me started to shrink in the 4 or 5 yrs leading up to when I left FT work at 50. 4 years later, I’m still struggling. Wife is still employed FT and enjoys it, I don’t hide that fact, and it’s enough for us to get by fine, especially considering the healthcare coverage, but that job is in serious danger now too.

    Because I’ve been conservative in my approach since leaving FT work, I feel like the story of the pig who built his home out of bricks in the 3 little pigs story, but that’s not specifically helpful to others. There are a lot more people that are simply going to “run out of time” to put their plan in place, so managing expectations is very important.

    Role reversal for Boomer’s and Gen X is also a very real challenge. People can’t truly learn without going through these types of lessons, as difficult as they are. I’ve had some people comment that they feel like losing the money is like “monopoly money”. That’s really dangerous. In the end, it’s just like the business outcomes: Some will survive, some won’t, new one’s will be born.

    1. Having a working spouse and a defensive portfolio is very helpful in times like these for retirees. Can you elaborate on why you’re still struggling, four years after leaving work? It seems like with your situation, and ~28 years of saving/investing, things are OK no?

      I’m assuming there will be more commentary as time goes on. The post just went out when you commented.

      1. Just seems there is usually a crush of comments on a lot of your posts, but maybe I’m wrong, it’s compelling content that’s why I mentioned it. I’m sure it will build. My reflection on “what do I want to do for money?” has me stuck, which only leads to “what did I do for money?” My parents goals were never to “sail off into the sunset”, so reconciling that has me evaluating the values that they wanted to pass on and how I can honor that. If you can’t answer those types of questions, the difference between $2M and $1M doesn’t really matter all that much. Life goals at mid-life seem difficult to define. Also, it’s about acknowledging the life goals of my wife who happens to be focused on bread winning. In the Johnny Depp movie, Don Juan Demarco, Marlon Brando asks his wife what she wants to do in retirement, and he is surprised at her reaction…she says: “You’ve never asked that before.” It’s more about building a reasonable daily routine. Since I’ve had a few things going on the past few years, that has prevented traction on some of that, (the hip replacement, bone marrow donation, etc.) It’s starting to come into focus though.

        1. Takes time for folks to read, digest, and share.

          Also, sharing failure isn’t common or easy for most folks. Maybe it’s more common here in SF startup land.

          For me, I like to discuss the good and the bad. The bad is especially poignant during bad times.

  49. Very interesting insight. The thing I love about this blog is it tells it’s truth, even if that is sometimes alien to the average reader.

    I hope one silver lining of this mess is that it matures the FIRE movement and challenges it’s thinking to evolve in interesting directions.

  50. Like you Sam, I am hoping that the market will do a V shaped rebound once things get under control (fingers crossed).

    My personal financial plan was to build multiple margins of safety before I pull the plug. This current event highlights the dangerous tightrope people walk if they chose the lean FIRE model.

    My biggest concern is how accurate the biggest driving force in most peoples investing views is, that the market will always trend up in the long run. The big hole in this theory is now the Japan markets behaved. It’s over 30 yrs now and it still has not recovered from what happened decades ago.

    If something similar happened to the US we will be screwed as a lot of people are buying the dip thinking they see getting stocks on sale. Hopefully they are right as the alternative is pretty bleak.

    I might be even more cautious now and push my retirment age back a few years (was shooting for 53). That’s 4 years away still so hopefully the market rebounds and the stuff I “bought on sale” really was on sale and I am in a better position than I was before this

    1. I’m doubtful we will turn out to be Japan. We are to capitalistic and innovative to leave progress behind.

      If the recovery is quick, I’d say your plan of 4 years until leaving medicine is highly probable. But even a couple more years of savings isn’t so bad.

      I did a telemedicine consult the other day. Very good user experience. Could be something you could do!

      1. I don’t think we will either since.

        1. We have population growth
        2. We have too many people who don’t want to see the Fed’s balance sheet at 4.7T never mind 8.7T.

        Though, at this point I would be weary of anyone who thinks they’re going to get 10% growth for 25 years. Maybe peel some back and plan on a 7%, maybe even a bit lower if they’re extremely risk-averse or panic prone during retractions (to make up for low return bond exposure)

        1. I use 6-7% growth for all projections. More importantly I use different rates of return by year, so I can actually represent good years and horrible years. I have a 20% negative year in my projections every 5-7 years. The last 10 have been a gift.

  51. FIRE is harder when the market is down, but I think many of us will come out okay.
    It’s just temporary. I underestimated how much impact COVID-19 would have on the economy, like everyone. My plan is to have enough passive income to cover our living expenses.
    The problem is all sources of income decreased or dried up in a huge downturn like this one.
    Luckily, we live modestly and didn’t inflate our lifestyle much during the last 10 years.
    Our passive income will be short for a few months, but we have some backups. We have savings and my wife is still working.

    This is a good test to see if we can survive without her income. I’ll run the numbers at the end of the year. It’ll be a tight race. Although, we’re spending even less this year because no travel…
    Stay healthy!

    1. As a frugal family, I’m sure you guys will do great during this downturn. Hope your mom is well-provided for. She is the first person I thought when you commented.

      I hope my parents will be OK. I will continue to send my dad a lot of articles for him to edit to keep him busy :)

  52. I think my plan will stay the same as always: Get to the point where I can decide to retire, but not necessarily do it. I think I’ll definitely be able to find ways to continue making money once I reach the point of financial independence. Which now that makes me think, maybe FI was the only goal in the first place, not the RE part.

  53. I have been wondering if all the leanfire and baristafire folks have been crapping their pants during this recent downturn.

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