As one of the original modern day FIRE members since 2009, when I started Financial Samurai, I have encountered the FIRE Police on a weekly basis. The frequency of encountering the FIRE Police is almost as often as encountering racist people when I went to high school and college in Virginia.
When I graduated from college in 1999, I thought I'd be done with the constant criticism about who and what I am. After all, I moved to the vibrant city of New York for two years and then to the incredible diverse city of San Francisco in 2001.
Unfortunately, as Financial Samurai continues to grow, so have the number of FIRE police who continuously want to criticize the way I'm spending my money and living my life.
When I retired from finance in 2012, the Internet Retirement Police (IRP) said I wasn't retired because I spent time writing on Financial Samurai each week. I made a promise in 2009 when I started Financial Samurai to write regularly for 10 years. Writing is something I love to do and I achieved my 10-year goal in 2019.
Then in 2017, I decided to coach high school tennis for four months because I love tennis and teaching. We ended up winning back-to-back Northern California Coast championships, which was a first in the schools 75-year history! I was so proud!
Then the FIRE Police came after me again, saying that I wasn't able to say I'm a tennis coach because I own Financial Samurai and worked in finance for 13 years before I left for good at age 34. So weird because you'd think the FIRE Police would embrace people who openly admit they've taken on some type of job.
Nope. The FIRE Police go after people who they think are not FIRE by pointing out the ways they are making money. They also go after people who are FIRE, but openly share the other ways they are making money and living their lives. In other words, according to the FIRE Police, there is no way out.
Since this site has grown into one of the top personal finance sites today with roughly 1.5 million organic pageviews a month in 2020, the FIRE Police say my FIRE status is not real. But if Financial Samurai remained as a small unknown site, then for some reason, I could retain my FIRE status. Funny isn't it?
The FIRE Police Have Nothing Better To Do
Check out one of my Tweets that enraged the FIRE Police. Most normal people would either see my tweet as a positive or at the very least, neutral and think nothing of it.
The last thing a normal person would do is try and bully and shame someone for trying to help teachers share their stories. As a parent and as a coach, I really admire teachers who spend a lot of their time trying to educate our youth for not much money. Teachers are not paid enough!
I empathize with the financial struggle of fellow teachers in expensive cities and wanted to help shed light on the situation using my platform. After all, Financial Samurai is a relatively large platform and I want to do my best to help as many people as possible achieve financial freedom.
The FIRE Police became incredibly angry that I wasn't more open about my financial situation in the tweet, despite highlighting very clearly my financial situation in my About page, my Twitter bio, and also publishing yearly passive income updates since 2012.
Financial Samurai has been one of the most transparent personal finance sites in the world. I write from first-hand experience, and you would think that after a 10+-year journey writing about achieving FIRE, I'd get a little more respect. Unfortunately, newcomers and miserable people will always try and find a way to knock me and others down.
I also published the extremely detailed post about my path to a one million dollar net worth. It's one of my most popular posts and has been around for years. Here's a very transparent chart about my journey.
Interestingly, the FIRE Police told me I wasn't allowed to identify myself as a tennis coach even though that's exactly what I identify as for the three-month long season. I define who I am and nobody else.
Instead of letting the FIRE Police get me with their extremely vitriolic feedback for wanting to share new perspectives, I decided to be proud of my new occupation and write a new post called, Taking Care Of A Family On A Tennis Coaching Salary In Expensive San Francisco.
Then to my surprise, Business Insider decided to syndicate my post and change the title to, I'm a high school tennis coach making $1,100 a month and my wife is a stay-at-home parent. This is how I support a family of three in pricey San Francisco, to make the FIRE Police blow a fuse!
Please note, whenever you see a guest post of mine on another major publication, I am not the one who comes up with the title. Further, there are sub-headings that are changed as well.
It was so funny to see the FIRE Police get all hot and bothered by the Business Insider article!
Check out some of the responses below to the Business Insider article from Twitter. They all come from people who want to FIRE as well.
Here's one of my favorite responses below. He's highlighting info in my About page, which is transparent.
Here's another one of my favorites from a woman who reads and follows everything I do (also known as a stalker) because she wants to retire early as well, yet hates on everything I do. Her tweet is a clear demonstration that she does not understand that major media publications choose the titles for guest posts.
Here are more examples of the FIRE Police trying tell me what to say and how to say things on Twitter after my initial tweet looking for teachers to interview.
Again, this all stems from that last sentence in one tweet about trying to help teachers and sharing that I make $1,100 a month as a tennis coach.
I don't follow these people and I have never heard of most of them. Yet, it seems like they somehow follow everything I do even though they don't follow me on Twitter.
It is truly incredible how much time people have on their hands to judge others.
Who Are The FIRE Police?
After 11 years of running into the FIRE Police, I've noticed some common factors many of the FIRE Police share.
1) The FIRE Police are mainly made up of people who want to achieve FIRE but are struggling to do so themselves based on this definition: have enough capital that generates enough income to cover your desired living expenses. If you can't get ahead on your own, then it's human nature to try and bring others down. Many of them are Fake FIRE.
2) The FIRE Police contain many bloggers, podcasters, and vlogggers who are trying to make money online but are struggling to make enough to leave their jobs or live a comfortable life on their online activity. They see other FIRE bloggers with tremendous traffic and probably tremendous revenue and hate on them for not having the same.
3) The FIRE Police mostly reflect the demographic of the U.S. population which is mostly white and from non-coastal cities. Take a look at all the hater responses from the FIRE Police above. It's almost as if they are extra angry that someone who is not white has achieved FIRE and is writing about it.
4) The FIRE Police skew more towards women (~65%), perhaps because more women are content creators and more women spend 30% more time (2 hours) on the Internet than men according to Comescore. When I asked Twitter who do you think is meaner boys or girls, 90% said girls/women. When I ask fellow parents who have daughters and sons, all of them say their daughters are meaner, hold long-term grudges, and have a proclivity to form cliques.
5) The FIRE Police are often hypocrites. They like criticizing people for not being truly retired, but they would gladly live the retirement life they are criticizing. Many FIRE Policemen and women are furiously trying to make money from their blog, or a book, or a course, or through freelancing, which is absolutely fine. Yet the FIRE police look down on those who do so successfully.
The most funny example of being a hypocrite is when they encourage bloggers to write a “transparency post.” Yet, when you click on their transparency post, they don't reveal any details and say why they don't want to share their numbers!
When you ask them directly about their income, net worth, and passive income figures, they refuse to say anything because they “don't want to let their privilege” discourage other readers. Their logic and lack of transparency is comical.
The FIRE Police Are Unhappy
With so much joy and love in the world, only unhappy people spend the time to police other people on whether they are retired or not. Only people who are dissatisfied with their lives would spend energy telling other people how they should define themselves.
“Hurt people, hurt people,” as Dr. Sandra Wilson wrote. ““Each one of us has been hurt to one degree or another. As that damage causes us to become defensive and self-protective, we may lash out at others. Hurting becomes a vicious cycle.”
It is almost always the case that the FIRE Police have something bad that's going on with them. As a result, they project their anger by lashing out at others who are minding their business and trying to live their best lives.
See below the admission by the woman above who was was trying to tell me how I should tweet and what I should say online. It is good she became more open and aware of her issues after trying to govern what I do.
I spoke to one reformed FIRE Police member and he told me he was very angry at life. He bought property right before the bubble burst and lost all his equity. He admitted at age 36, he looks more like he's 46 because he's morbidly obese and often depressed.
Folks, you've got to learn to love yourself before you can love others.
Dealing With The FIRE Police
Let us be clear that the FIRE Police are bullies. The best way to deal with bullies is to ignore them or fight back.
However, I do my best to stay positive because you just never know what type of pain the FIRE Police are going through. Remember, most of them are jealous and unhappy. You have what they want, which makes them very angry.
To the FIRE Police and those who have FIRE Police tendencies, I suggest focusing on how you can make yourself better rather than trying to tear someone else down.
I'm lucky to have grown up in a middle class household, gone to college, got a job in finance, and ride the bull market. I also know I'm lucky that Financial Samurai has grown large enough to help millions of people slice through money mysteries while also providing a steady source of revenue. However, don't let me luck bring you down since it does not. Focus on building a better life for yourself.