The Most Dangerous Early Retirement Strategy To Follow: Coast FIRE

In 2009, I established my first rule of FIRE: generate enough passive income to cover your basic living expenses. Once achieved, you attain financial independence and the freedom to pursue your desires. Since then, various permutations of FIRE have emerged, one of which is Coast FIRE.

Coast FIRE involves front-loading your retirement savings and then ceasing to save at a certain point, assuming that your investments will grow sufficiently to fully fund your retirement at the traditional retirement age of 60+.

Temporarily pursuing Coast FIRE can serve as a coping mechanism to feel better about your financial progress. However, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that anybody remain in Coast FIRE mode. Too much is at stake, primarily your livelihood.

5 Reasons Why I Don't Recommend Coast FIRE

Having embarked on the FIRE journey and encountered numerous unexpected variables, I can share my perspective on why Coast FIRE is not a sustainable retirement strategy. It is the most dangerous early retirement strategy to follow.

1) Too many variables that rely on chance

The formula for Coast FIRE is A / (1+r)˄t, where:

  • A = the amount needed to achieve financial independence (FIRE), which can be calculated as 25X your expenses or 20X your average gross income
  • r = the annual rate of return after inflation
  • t = the number of years investments have to compound

In essence, all the variables are more or less beyond your control. The amount needed to achieve financial independence relies on future expense projections, which are uncertain due to inflation and your changing desires.

Your Coast FIRE number also hinges on your annual rate of return after inflation, a figure that cannot be accurately predicted due to various return assumptions. Moreover, the number of years investments have to compound depends on your financial needs, annual rate of return, and lifespan.

With too many variables dependent on uncontrollable factors, Coast FIRE resembles the plot of the movie Memento, where one incorrect assumption can alter the outcome significantly.

Example of Coast FIRE using the above formula:

Let’s say you are 25 years old and determine that once you stop working at the age of 65 you need $40,000 a year from your retirement account for living expenses. Your expected rate of return is 5% and you hope to reach Coast FIRE by the time you are 45 (in 20 years). Here’s how the formula works for you:

A = $40,000 x 25 = $1,000,000 / (1+0.05)˄20 = $377,358 = Coast FIRE amount. You have 20 years to accumulate that amount, which can be done by saving $1,572 a month. However, given your savings will be helped by compound interest during this time, you likely won't need to save as much a month.

If you accumulate $377,358 sooner, you can then “coast” for the rest of your life. But let's be realistic here. In 20 years, the buying power of $40,000 will be more than cut in half thanks to inflation. In other words, by then, you'll need $80,000+ to live your same lifestyle today.

Further, do you really think you'll be comfortably taking things down and not saving anymore if you only have $377,358 at 45? Going from $377,358 to your desired $1,000,000 when you're 65 is a long ways away. Anything can and will happen.

2) Coast FIRE is a mental coping mechanism (good or bad)

Money is psychological, and the narratives we construct play a vital role in shaping our financial destinies. Achieving my version of FIRE is challenging, demanding discipline often sustained over decades. Consequently, many individuals find it daunting to reach.

To alleviate this challenge, alternative FIRE models like Coast FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Barista FIRE emerge, offering a sense of progress or a different lifestyle. This serves as a positive development, motivating individuals to stay committed to savings and investments. However, a potential pitfall lies in lingering too long at Coast FIRE station.

Embracing the Coast FIRE mentality temporarily can be a useful motivational tool. Yet, the danger arises when individuals remain stationed at Coast FIRE. The risk is succumbing to complacency. By the time those wish to rejoin the FIRE journey, they can't get back on the train because the ticket price has surged significantly.

The things we tell ourselves to cope

Asserting to be Coast FIRE is like attributing your shortness of breath to genetics. The truth is, smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for a decade has harmed your lungs.

It's comparable to asserting that losing the pickleball match was solely due to your partner's incompetence. However, a recording would likely reveal that you made an equal number of errors.

Saying you are Coast FIRE is like blaming your boss for showing favoritism to other employees. The reality is, your colleague who did get promoted has worked far more than your standard 40 hours a week for the past year. He stayed late in the trenches during a crisis while you checked out at 5 pm.

We often craft narratives to boost our self-esteem, but in the end, we're merely deceiving ourselves.

3) Coast FIRE limits your ability to adapt to the future

One of the benefits of Coast FIRE is the opportunity to lead a more enjoyable life now rather than waiting until you're much older. I get it; we all want to embrace a YOLO lifestyle. However, such a lifestyle puts you at greater financial risk.

Because Coast FIRE is a coping mechanism to make you feel better about your situation, you may not push yourself to worker or take more risks to boost income and wealth. You may think the idea of purposefully living paycheck-to-paycheck to supercharge your wealth is absurd.

You might get lucky with your investments over the years, but if circumstances change, such as having aging parents to take care of or having kids, Coast FIRE followers will have a much more difficult time adjusting.

4) Coast FIRE forces you to make suboptimal partnership decisions

If you're in a committed relationship, life is better when both partners have financial freedom to do what they want. However, if you go the Coast FIRE route, one partner might be forced to work for much longer than desired, leading to potential resentment over time.

In the FIRE movement, some men claim financial independence while their wives continue working, covering all living expenses with their incomes. Additionally, these working wives often have retirement and health care benefits.

When these wives eventually consider retirement, they may feel bitterness for working many more years than their husbands. Some have sought my advice on stopping work after reading posts like Achieving The Two Spouse Early Retirement Household. They don't like their jobs but they feel trapped.

Promoting equality, I suggest wives work the same number of years as their husbands or match the working duration until the husbands retired. When that time arrives, the wives should stand firm and pursue their financial freedom, despite potential pushback.

To address the husband's concerns, I recommend that wives learn about engineering their layoffs, securing a severance package as they exit. This financial cushion can ease their husband's worries and provide time for the wives to plan their retirement.

Financial fear can be very hard to overcome. But if Coast FIRE husbands want to not feel like impostors, they would let their wives be free as well.

5) Coast FIRE may delay or eliminate your desire for having kids

Having kids or not is a personal choice, but if one partner desires children, adopting Coast FIRE may instill fear in the other partner. Couples break up all the time due to their inability to agree on having kids or not.

Given the numerous factors that must align for a couple to secure enough money for retirement by traditional retirement age, having kids significantly complicates the path to FIRE.

With college costs projected to surge to $400,000 – $1 million by 2042, alongside increasing healthcare and housing expenses, confidence in not wanting kids is crucial for those pursuing the Coast FIRE route.

Normal working parents already feel strain to provide for their children, especially those living in expensive big cities. The strain to provide will be even greater for Coast FIRE parents, which may more easily lead to divorce.

The irony of human nature is our tendency to change our minds. You might not want kids at 28, but you might at age 38. If you haven't properly saved, invested, and planned for them, life may become extremely difficult.

Example of a couple that missed out due to Coast FIRE

In 2013, a couple in their early 30s decided to pursue early retirement with a nest egg of approximately $680,000. Both held six figure jobs but chose to live frugally, residing in a studio throughout their entire working lives.

Accumulating $680,000 by the age of 30 is a commendable achievement. Opting for the Coast FIRE approach, they halted their aggressive savings and work routine and decided to go travel. With a 60/40 allocation, they allowed their retirement portfolios, to grow with the market. However, when the wife turned 38 and had a baby, their perspective shifted.

After a year of managing parenthood in a cramped 400-square-foot studio, the couple yearned for a change. The desire for a larger living space, preferably a single-family house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a backyard, became paramount. The hitch, however, was that the properties they now aspired to own ranged between $1.5 million and $2 million!

Should have bought the Vancouver property back in 2013

Despite their current net worth of approximately $1,000,000, securing a 20% down payment for a home would necessitate selling $300,000 – $400,000 worth of stocks. Consequently, this liquidation could lead to a decline in their estimated $40,000 passive income by $12,000 – $16,000. Raising a child on an annual income of $24,000 – $28,000 in Vancouver would pose significant challenges.

They would essentially have retired early to live in near poverty. And who really wants that after years of living so frugally?

Had they not embraced the Coast FIRE lifestyle, they would have continued to aggressively save and invest for the future. They would have purchased a two-bedroom property in 2013 for $500,000, which would now be valued at over $1 million. With a 20% down payment, their $400,000 mortgage would amount to approximately $1,700 per month.

Moreover, they would have accumulated over $900,000 in equity, putting their net worth closer to $1.6 million, compared to their current $1,000,000. Factoring in savings and investing for eight more years, their net worth could potentially approach $2.5 million.

In essence, due to adopting Coast FIRE, the couple finds themselves at least 60% poorer and grappling with higher living expenses. If they bought a $1.5 million house today with a $1.2 million mortgage at 5.5%, their monthly mortgage payment would be $6,442.

Canadian real home prices vs disposable income
Click the image for more comparison between U.S. and Canadian real estate

Temporarily Enjoy Coast FIRE, Then Move On To Real FIRE

If you're feeling fatigued or contemplating giving up on your financial independence journey, consider adopting the Coast FIRE identity temporarily. It’s nice to run the numbers and see how large your investments could grow with reasonable assumptions.

Although Coast FIRE isn't fundamentally different from a regular person working a day job with retirement savings, identifying as Coast FIRE can provide a psychological boost regarding your progress.

However, it's essential to bid farewell to the Coast FIRE identity once you've derived the psychological benefits and return to a more active financial approach. I recommend limiting the duration of identifying as Coast FIRE to one year. Beyond that, there's a risk of becoming too complacent, and your once-healthy financial habits may deteriorate to a point where recovery becomes challenging.

Instead of completely easing off on saving and investing, consider finding a job that brings you genuine enjoyment. While it may not match your previous income, it can imbue your life with a sense of purpose and meaning.

Yes, absolutely go see the world and take that RV around the country during your temporary Coast FIRE phase. However, do not stop saving for your future. As someone who lived abroad for 13 years and has traveled over 60 countries, travel will eventually get old.

Coast FIRE Is Better Than No FIRE Mentality

The reality is, for many knowledge workers, the need to achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early is becoming obsolete. Post-pandemic, there is more work flexibility and opportunities to make money online than ever before.

For example, I'm part of a WhatsApp pickleball group filled with individuals in their 20s and 30s who play pickleball every day at 3:30 pm or 4 pm. They all work in tech and make between $150,000 – $300,000 a year. If I had the option to enjoy such activities while working, I could have easily continued working for another 5-10 years without any issues.

If you have the flexibility in your work, Coast FIRE might not be as risky of an early retirement strategy. As long as you persist in saving and investing for the future, your retirement is likely to unfold favorably.

Always bear in mind that you are the only one who gets to live your life. Plan ahead and be ready to adapt when circumstances shift. Be transparent about your financial situation. Your future may well unfold differently than you anticipate!

Reader Questions

Do you believe Coast FIRE is a coping mechanism? What are some of the narratives we tell ourselves to make us feel better about our progress? Why have so many different types of FIRE emerged since 2009?

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46 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Early Retirement Strategy To Follow: Coast FIRE”

  1. Hi,

    What are your thoughts around coast FIRE in another way. For me, I’m considering saving heavily into my pension (401k), frontloading it. Then when it hits a certain amount I carry on working but stop contrinuting to my pension, letting compounding do the rest of the work over the next 20 years. I then cut my hours so I can spend more time with my kids due to the pension contributions I no longer have to make.

  2. As someone who has (sort of) reached FI, has kids and is working lot less than he did 4 years ago, I found his post interesting because I don’t agree with the premise.

    I don’t know who will put their finger in the air and say “$388k and not a penny more”.
    It seems like madness.

    The real problem is that (when I look at my own financial projections) we’ll all end up with too much money (or more than we need).
    Also, if you are Coast Fired and living in poverty, wouldn’t you find some way to bring in more money?
    Jobs can suck but finding money can be real easy – especially if you have made it before.

    My own approach has been to reduce earnings (or working so hard) and putting the FU money to good work. Life is good and easy for us.
    If someone is seriously Coast Firing, it might just be that their well-paid job is killing them and stepping off the career treadmill to Coast is the best option.
    Of course, putting up with he’ll for decades so that you can leave seems not as sensible as just leaving he’ll ASAP, but we all make our right and wrong choices in life.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. I think she and net worth level have something to do with it too.

      How old are you and can you provide your net worth range? I’m assuming the higher the net worth, the more comfortable one is.

      1. Early 40s, married with 2 kids.
        Net worth around $1.6 – $2m depending on what you include/exclude.
        Living in the UK in a LCOL location, and healthcare is not a huge issue if you aren’t working (UK has the NHS)
        But I’m still working – but managing it around the kids and Full time WFH.

        I did have a Coast FIRE number that I hit a few years ago – but found hitting it demotivating – from a collecting money point of view, it didn’t hit my work ethic.

        1. When do you think you’ll actually stop working? I’m unfamiliar with the UK except for London. And London is way more expensive than San Francisco and slightly more than Manhattan. So I wouldn’t be able to FIRE with $2 million in London.

          The other X factor is whether your wife works.

          1. Gentleman's Family Finances

            I wouldn’t have thought NU or SF were cheaper than London. But I’ve never been.
            What I would say is that $2m is more than most/many people will earn in their lifetimes – and having the money upfront saves you a ton on servicing debt.

            We live in a LCOL area – making every penny go further.
            And my wife works (although is thinking of quitting soon to pursue more free time for her own interests plus the kids could benefit from more attention.

  3. Buddhist Slacker

    Let us know when those 2:30 pm pickleballers get laid off Or some are probably working past 11:00 pm. It’s common for parents to do kid stuff at 3 then pick up work into the wee hours. In case you haven’t heard, remote work is being phased out. You can check out the Crunchbase article on tech layoffs picking up again.

    1. Just played pickleball yesterday from 3-4:30pm with techies all in their 20s and 30s. I would have stayed but had to pick my kids up from school.

      All of them work remote or hybrid. There’s no going back to the way things were.

  4. Happy Investor

    Amazing post thank you.
    What safe assumptions can be used for coast fire. Is it just safer to assume that money would grow inline with inflation?
    So say you need $1M and you achieve this at 45 then you could stop saving but not plan to touch assets until 55, its safe to assume the $1M will be inline with inflation at the least?


  5. Well thought out article, Sam. One important consideration that’s missing here is health. The people who don’t have the opportunity to provide their opinions here are those who are no longer with us. They may have made it all the way to full FIRE at 45 and then passed 3 years later at 48. Perhaps they were coast FIRE at 38 and would’ve preferred to work 1-2 years past that and then enjoyed their last 8-10 years on earth, but we can’t ask them.

    Or the gentleman at my gym who is 41, was just diagnosed with cancer and will have portions of his intestines removed – significantly impacting his future quality of life. Is tomorrow likely? Yes, which is why saving is crucial, but tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Much less a tomorrow where our bodies will allow us to do the things we want.

    My wife and I’s plan is somewhere in the middle. We plan to get to the coast FIRE number that will allow us to full FIRE at 55. When we hit that Coast number, we’d still like to continue saving minimal amounts of money, but our goal will be to find work that covers living expenses and maximizes our enjoyable time together doing things we love while we still have our health (hopefully). Likely this will mean one or both of us being self employed and neither of us is opposed to hard work, we just don’t enjoy being tied to a screen 8-10 hours/day.

    We’ve planned it to give plenty of buffer to minimize the financial risks of coast FIRE:
    1. We’ve planned our coast FIRE number as if we’ll spend more (inflation adjusted) money in retirement than we do now (despite the fact that our primary and rental mortgages will be paid off by then)
    2. By planning for full FIRE at 55, we have plenty of buffer if we get sub-optimal returns and need to work our coast FIRE jobs longer before hitting full FIRE

    Given those two assumptions we have quite a bit of buffer to work longer and/or cut expenses if market conditions require it. As a couple where we’re both currently in great health, but one of us had a very close call a few years back, this is our approach – at least for now.

    1. Good point about not knowing our ultimate demise and making the most out of each day while we are still alive.

      The health benefits of early retirement are priceless. All my chronic pain went away within six months after I left in 2012.

      There is definitely a balance at play here. I just encourage people to not rust on their saving and investing laurels once they calculate Coast fire or reach Coast fire. Just keep on going.

      Good luck with your journey!

      1. Thanks, Sam. You as well. As a long time (10+ year) reader I’ve enjoyed following your journey and being inspired by it. I’m so glad I found your site while I was young to open my eyes to what’s possible. My wife and I have always used your average NW for above average couple article to track our progress with the goal of beating each milestone.

  6. Midwest Dentist

    I’ll chime in on the college costs. There’s no written rule that says you have to pay the cost of college for your kids. You could pay for all of it, some of it, or none of it. I prefer to help pay for some, but not all. Kids need some skin in the game. I took out loans for college and graduate school. I have had a successful career. It’s ok if you don’t cover all of the college costs.

  7. It’s funny how so many FIRE men are making their wives work to support the family. Lots of men in the FIRE community are working as hard as ever to earn money podcasting especially. It’s a pretty weird phenomenon.

  8. I really dont understand why a still young and abled bodied person should stop working, even if they have the resources for not having to work. Arent there any enjoyable jobs in the USA anymore or what?

  9. I think your main point is correct, though you overstate things in your example. Aren’t you double counting the impact of inflation when you say that the person will no longer be able to live on $40k/year due to cost inflation? You already reduced the expected investment returns to a post-inflation 5%.

    That said, I think you’re right that a lot of coast folks are coping with reality and would be better off adopting a bigger margin of safety – downshifting, not coasting…

      1. Maybe I misunderstood, but my thinking was the 5% rate was post-inflation (perhaps assuming a 3% inflation rate and an 8% nominal rate of return). Doing this makes sense to me because it lets you figure out how much you’ll need in the future, using today’s dollars.

        If I do the same calculation but use an 8% rate of return, you’d end up with about $1.9m after 20 years – giving you $76k/year in nominal spending power using a 4% withdrawal rate.

        1. Ok. So the risk are the assumptions. What inflation rate do you use?

          I would argue a 8% nominal rate of return is aggressive for Coast FIRe.

          The #1 problem with Coast FIRE are there are too many assumptions left up to chance.

          What’s your current financial situation and what type of returns are you estimating for what age you plan to retire?

  10. I am effectively now in this coast-FIRE mode for the last few years as we are spending what we earn more or less and trying to get our portfolio to grow. Well we are paying our mortgage at the minimum amounts and getting employer contributions to our retirement accounts and we are also topping up my wife’s retirement contributions to near the same level as mine, which is the maximum tax advantaged amount here in Australia. The twist is that I am 59 and my wife is 48 and we have two children of 4 and 8 years old… Before we had children we saved aggressively and then we got a large inheritance in 2018… (about 60% of savings is our own effort and 40% from the inheritance). There is no way we could have hit the retirement goals at a much lower age and then just coasted. Our required withdrawal rate is 3% currently if we both stopped working. But there is no way I want to see our net worth fall while our expenses continue to rise. Our passive income wouldn’t cover our expenses: I’d need to sell investments…

  11. I’m 35 and have been considering Coast FIRE recently. I just got to $1 million in mostly liquid investments. I have another $250k in equity in my properties. I work full-time in healthcare and also have a semi-passive rental property that actually covers most of my expenses; some years I am able to save 100% of my salary. I have been toying with the idea of decreasing my work to only part time (25-50%) and not saving as much. My thought process is if I don’t touch that $1 million for the next 30 years I would hope to have at least $3 million waiting for me to pull from. I also have already maxed out social security for enough years that I think my current benefit amount not accounting for inflation would be about $3k/month. Lastly, I could either continue collecting semi-passive income from my rental, or I could just sell it as the mortgage will actually be paid off in about 12 years.

    On the other hand, sometimes I tell myself I should just continue to buckle down and try to get $2-3 million saved by 40 and then pull the trigger and I could realistically choose whether I wanted to work at all. For me the hard part is breaking the scarcity mindset, I am stuck in work mode and don’t want to ever be poor again and feel that at 40, even if I hit $2-3 million I will just keep raising the goal- $5 million, $ 7million, etc. and never truly feel comfortable to participate in any type of FIRE.

    1. Keep working and max saving for a few more years. Your future self will thank you. The last thing you need in your mid thirties is to be staring at your portfolio everyday praying that the market keeps rising. Work, save, invest for a few more years and then you won’t even sweat a correction or even a bear market. You’ll just view it as a stock sale for bigger returns down the road. For the sake of soothing your psyche, save enough that even if there is a bear market with an average % drop in stock prices, that drop will still leave your portfolio with 7 figures. That’s a comforting place to be. Read my post further down the line. Although I’m older now, my situation at that age was eerily similar to yours. Then I had kids (starting at age 37)…and everything changed (although my desire to FIRE grew stronger at that inflection point, the desire to provide long term financial security for the family overrode other base instincts).

    2. Social Security is calculated on 35 years of income. For all years less than 35 worked years, $0 is input into the calculation.

      Your probably thinking of the number years you need to have in the system qualify for SS benefits which is 10 years.

      I’m a SS employee.

        1. Do years before 18 count? I actually started as an infant in commercials like Tide and what not, so on the SS website it shows income every year for 35 years. Or do those <18 years of age not count?

          1. All the income on your social security statement can count towards the calculation of your retirement income amount. Each yearly amount income is index for inflation. Then the highest 35 yearly earning amounts are used to calculate your retirement benefit amount.

            So if you made big money from birth to 35, what you see as an estimate might be fairly accurate. However, if you didn’t a lot as a child and you stop working, your estimate will be grossly overstated as they will put in $0 for all years with no ince and use small dollar years that are on your record.

            1. Got it. Thank you. Yeah the child money is a fraction of what I make now. Was just kinda once or twice a year lucky breaks.

  12. The MOST DANGEROUS?!!? hyperbole much?

    there are other retirement “plans” that are much more so than this. how about “spend money like it is on FIRE”. No joke, a medical professional told of an otherwise healthy & wealthy — but spendy patient — who decided to live it up now, with the plan of euthanizing themselves when the money ran out. after comparing notes with their colleagues, this MD discovered that this patient wasn’t the only one with that plan.

    coasting in based on fiscally sound projections seems responsible by comparison.

    1. Yes, most dangerous due to the reasons I stated.

      “ spend money like it is on FIRE” this is not an early retirement strategy. Hyperbole much?

      I would say good luck to that strategy food

  13. Great article Sam. I think another important point is that many people don’t understand how the stock market works well enough to make these kind of assumptions. For example, right now we are sitting at a CAPE ratio of nearly 35, and when you consider that profit margins are near all time highs, as well as the near record amount of corporate debt on balance sheets, the outlook is even worse. Expecting a historically normal return/equity risk premium on US equities from here is quite optimistic, to put it generously. Most people don’t consider these things when making these calculations, and may not even know that their expected return is highly dependent on starting valuations. Therefore, it is definitely best to be conservative as you say.

    Having said that, I don’t think coast FIRE means never contributing to investments. It means you have built enough of a nest egg that there is less pressure to stay in a high stress job just for the pay. It makes it easier to consider other paths for yourself and your family.

    1. Yes, a bear market could certainly return with valuation so high and concentration risk, and potentially higher interest rates for longer.

      I think if you want to FIRE, I need to focus and go all in or not. You could use Coast FIRE as a psychological feel good tool if you’re tired and need a break. Just don’t stay in this mindset for longer than a year if you really want to FIRE.

      Life is too uncertain and difficult want FIRE AND take it easy by coasting.

  14. I am definitely not comfortable leaving that many variables to chance. Markets, global crises, healthcare, inflation- there are too many things that can have a huge impact on our finances. Coast fire is not for me and not something I would recommend for my kids either.

  15. Great perspective, Sam. In my own life, I used Coast FIRE as a base benchmark. Reaching that number before I hit 30 and before I had kids allowed me the freedom to say, “It’s okay if I want to focus more on family and less on work during this chapter.” I knew that a) My wife and I would have enough to retire even if we never contributed another penny and b) Every extra penny we did contribute would simply allow for a larger safety net due to the variables out of our control.

    With a strict FIRE mindset it’s easy to focus on the financial opportunity cost of temporarily shifting priorities in your life (travel, kids, mental health, etc).

    But there also an opportunity cost to pay when becoming overly focused on money: relationships, family, marriage, happiness.

    The Vancouver couple you highlighted is, to me, a great example. They saved aggressively. They used coast FIRE to travel. Now they’re resuming savings based on a shift in their initial plans. You could argue that without the travel, they would have been far better off financially. You could also argue that without the travel, they would have faced burnout that could have caused marital issues, and they may never have started a family.

  16. Using coast FIRE (and cash) to justify my self-funded, year-long paternity leave for our second child. Best decision I have ever made. I get to watch my two kids grow without feeling guilty about not saving for retirement. But now I’ve gotten a taste of the good life. Going to be hard to go back

    1. That’s a nice positive benefit! Guilt of not raising your baby versus the guilt of not making and saving money for the family is a hard one to wrestle with. I’ve been wrestling with this dilemma since 2017. As a result, I’m tired as hell b/c I decided to try and do both by waking up at 4am-6am and writing on FS before the family wakes up, then doing more online work after 9 pm.

  17. What about coast FIRE while still bringing in a little income? For example, a family in their forties saved up 0.75 million dollars, owned their home and still earned $50k yearly so they didn’t have to touch the nest egg, could they coast FIRE (not saving as much as they wish)?

    1. Yes, that is a good combination and what I recommend. Don’t just never save and invest again after reaching Coast FIRE. Instead, keep on saving and investing what you can as you never know what the future holds. It’s better to have a little too much when you’re old than too little.

  18. I completely agree with your post. I feel bad for the 30 year olds who have been financially successful and think they can retire very early. Most will be derailing the potential for a really cush retirement if they can just keep at it for a bit longer while significantly reducing financial stress along the way.

    To reach a point of being able to realistically consider such early retirement they must possess a combination of intelligence, personal finance skills, and dedication to the cause. However, most likely lack wisdom. They just don’t know what they don’t know.

    They can not anticipate how their view on money and life will change in time. From personal experience, I was one of them. I considered early retirement in my late 30’s, knowing I could likely coast off of my semi-passive income from real estate investments. Fortunately, I decided that was foolish thinking of a young dreamer.

    I have continued to work for a decade since that time and very happy about that decision. Two kids later and wow, what a game changer they are! My view on money and life have changed dramatically in the past decade. No longer do you think just about what you’ll need for retirement.

    I find myself still living below my means while saving and investing as much as I can in order to support my children through life on the chance there is a worst case scenario. That wouldn’t be possible if I derailed my earnings by retiring in my late 30’s. And who knows how I will feel when I reach my target retirement age at 50. Time will tell!

    1. Yes, time will tell indeed. I would say by age 50, you won’t feel that much different as you will still wrestle with money/time with children/the desire to provide, even with a much larger net worth. It’s the human condition!

      In retrospect, I should have probably worked 5 years longer instead of leaving at 34. What a young, young, age to give up a career and all that income.

  19. I think one narrative of FIRE in general is the lack of early retirement. I wonder how many people actually retire early? To me, retiring means not working. Shifting from a 9-5 to some other form of work isn’t really retired. It’s just a change of professions. To me, retiring early is waking up every morning with no work required to generate income. How few can actually say that?

    1. I retired 10 years ago at age 55. Does that count as “early”? LOL

      I’m also not working … oh, wait. My spouse and I bought a single family residence for rental purposes about 18 months before I retired. Since I share property management duties with my spouse, does that mean I’m not really retired? Oh, wait … I do wake up every morning with no work required to generate income, so maybe I am indeed really retired after all? A non-monetary reason for purchasing our rental property was to have a property for our second of two children to inherit (our first child will be inheriting our primary residence; both houses are approximately the same size and value).

      Regarding “Coast FIRE”, I always thought that sounded pretty stupid due to all the unknown variables involved.

  20. I would say that what you’re describing is definitely a coping mechanism. That being said, I’m not sure if the broader questions and risks you raise are specific to Coast FIRE – is your budget realistic financially (returns, inflation, etc), how flexible is your plan to change (switching from a renter to a home owner, switching from childfree to having kids etc), how well do you know yourself (20 year old just out of college vs 55 year with a stable lifestyle)? These seem like critical considerations for whatever FIRE path you chose.

    Coast FIRE might be more subject to these risks. Though, wouldn’t you have as much risk if you follow the #1 rule but establish a very tight / frugal budget as a 20 year old living in a studio with no kids?

    I think all the flavors of FIRE are just ways to summarize some of the more common tradeoffs people decide to make on their journey. There’s a lot of variability and discretion that goes into an individual’s financial plan. The important thing is being thoughtful and informed when setting the plan. But you also have to establish objective ways to validate your plan as things go on and change things as needed. For example, if you are taking a tight / frugal approach to the expense side of the equation, make sure you actually try living at that level for a few years.

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