The Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement is hot! But what are some of the not so obvious reasons why some people want to achieve FIRE? This is the question I want to explore in this post.
As a result of our massive increase in wealth since the previous financial crisis, many people are warming up to the FIRE movement where they retire in their 30s, 40s, or 50s to live the good life supported by their investments.
I define being financially independent as having enough investment income to cover your desired life's living expenses.
Some people go the Lean FIRE route by living relatively frugally. While others strive to go the Fat FIRE route because of their desire to live it up. Only you can decide whether you're truly comfortable with your finances.
For us, we're still about $50,000 a year short in passive income to feel completely independent financially. Ideally, we'd like to have a steady $350,000 in investment income each year. That's what happens when you have kids. Therefore, our FIRE journey continues!
Instead of glorifying financial independence and those who are financially independent, let's have a more difficult conversation. I'm sure some of you find it nauseating to read about some FIRE folk's fabulous lives.
Not all is sunshine and samurai swords in the land of FIRE. In fact, one could argue that most FIRE folks are maladjusted misfits who’ve never been able to fit in.
The Not So Obvious Reasons Why People Want To Achieve FIRE
Here are my 10 not so obvious reasons why people want to become financially independent. The truth hurts. But the truth also sets us free.
1) Can't find the right job. Nobody quits a job they love. But only truly fortunate people can find such jobs. Most of us are not smart enough, talented enough, connected enough, or attractive enough to work at a dream job. Instead, we toil around doing something we dislike simply for the money, aching to escape reality.
2) An easier way out. Instead of grinding for decades at a job we hate, it's easier to just give up and quit. Why keep on going as a cancer research scientist after not coming remotely close to finding a cure after 15 years? We might even love our jobs, but after working for years with no recognition, eventually the love wears out. Early retirement is like the coward's solution to not having to try our best anymore.
3) The desire for instant gratification. Instead of putting in our dues to get to the corner office, we want to be the big boss now. The internet and social media have made us expect instant success when we all know that it can sometimes take 10 years and 10,000 hours to make true progress. When we don't get our way, we quit, rather than acknowledge we lacked patience to reach our goals.
4) An excuse for being unemployed. During the last downturn, a large number of people began to write about location independent lifestyles that enabled one to break free from the 9-5 grind and do what you really want. In reality, we all know that what most of these people actually wanted was a good job and to be accepted by society because they got fired. Saying one is financially independent feels better than saying one is unemployed.
5) An inability to get along with others. When you have a difficult time conforming to the rules and being told what to do, it's much harder to stay employed, let alone be happily employed. FIRE seekers tend not to be very good at collaboration. Most are introverts and very awkward socially. Those with excellent social skills derive energy from being a part of a group. The desire for independence simply isn’t top of mind.
6) Realization that time is precious. With the median lifespan hovering around 80 years old, you only have 15 years of retirement to enjoy your life if you retire at 65. People in this camp have a heightened awareness of time and therefore do everything possible to make sure they are financially stable sooner, rather than later. Nobody wants to the climb the steps of Santorini on a bum knee.
7) Tired of making other people richer. As the wealth gap continues to widen, more people are realizing their time spent in the office is making someone else rich, not so much themselves. It's not very motivating to hear the CEO makes 1,000X more than the average employee's wage.
8) Declining physical and mental health. Roughy one billion people in the world, or 15%, have some sort of disability. For some, their disability will get worse over time. As a result, more people are feeling the necessity to live their best lives now.
9) Young children. It's bad enough if you already dislike your job. Life gets even worse if you have to leave the people you care about the most and must pay strangers to care for your kids so you can work at a place you despise. The desire to FIRE before kids is extremely selfish in comparison. Parental guilt grows internally, especially when you observe some households with a stay at home parent.
10) FIRE FOMO. The more people who have achieved FIRE and write about FIRE, the more people will become aware of this alternative lifestyle. Big media coverage about FIRE has also increased tremendously since Financial Samurai started talking about achieving financial independence sooner, rather than later in 2009. What was once thought possible only for the very rich now seems possible for any working soldier with the right financial framework and mindset.
The Risks Of FIRE
Now that we've discussed some of the real reasons why people want to achieve financial independence ASAP, here are some risks of FIRE once you get there.
1) You may look foolish if you change your mind. Imagine retiring at 40 after 18 years of work after college. You spend the next five years traveling the world, living a leisure lifestyle and experiencing new things. At age 45, you suddenly realize the reason why travel and play are so fun is because of work. You want to get back into the game, but who's going to risk hiring a 45-year-old with a five-year employment gap? The employer logically chooses to hire someone who's been continuously working.
2) You get sick and/or run out of money. No matter how conservative we are planning for our retirement needs, something unforeseen may happen. Maybe you have a medical disaster, or your house blows down. Maybe your investments tank due to a massive recession. Although I believe the risk of running out of money during FIRE is overblown, there is still the possibility of a negative sequence of events.
3) Friends and family fade away. It's nice to have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. But, if your friends and loved ones are busy working all day, they can't join you on your midday hike or adventure to Tahiti. They may also have a family to tend to during the evenings and on weekends. If you've ever taken a staycation by yourself, you'll soon realize how lonely it is when others are busy leading their own lives.
4) It may be difficult to support a family. Unless you have a tremendous amount of after-tax retirement savings, raising children may be too expensive an endeavor to undertake as an early retiree. Loss of day job income plus the additional expense of child raising might simply be too much to bear. Parents regularly underestimate how much they want to provide the best for their kids.
5) You lose your own self-respect and the respect of others. Unless you're out there saving the world, you might start getting depressed because you're contributing very little to society. Others may stop respecting you because you may not be doing anything productive either. Traveling the world and writing about how great your life is on social media isn't helping anybody.
Final Idiosyncrasy Of FIRE
As I strive to fulfill my goal of FIREing a second time around, I've come to the realization I've been constantly chasing a moving financial target.
In 2012 at age 34, my goal was to achieve $100,000 in retirement income within three years post work. After my wife left her job in 2015, I increased our retirement income goal to $200,000. Then, after our son was born in 2017, our retirement income goal jumped to $300,000.
Does this mean if we are blessed with a second child, our retirement income target would now jump to $400,000? If so, I'm never going to be able to relax and smell the roses because generating $400,000 in non-401(k) income is a Herculean task.
But I can't even pick up my boy without feeling soreness in my back! Oh no.
This desire to build an ever greater financial buffer in FIRE is one of the biggest inconsistencies I've experienced since leaving corporate America.
Wanting more must be part of the human condition. Or perhaps I'm simply too afraid to let my family down.
Until I'm completely satisfied with my finances, I can't claim to be financially independent. Let the grind continue!
Readers, what are some reasons why people want to achieve FIRE?
Recommendation To Build Wealth
Sign up for Personal Capital, the web’s #1 free wealth management tool to get a better handle on your finances. In addition to better money oversight, run your investments through their award-winning Investment Checkup tool to see exactly how much you are paying in fees. I was paying $1,700 a year in fees I had no idea I was paying.
After you link all your accounts, use their Retirement Planning calculator that pulls your real data to give you as pure an estimation of your financial future as possible using Monte Carlo simulation algorithms. Definitely run your numbers to see how you’re doing. I’ve been using Personal Capital since 2012 and have seen my net worth skyrocket during this time thanks to better money management.
Fire Confessionals: How The Bear Market Is Affecting The FIRE Movement
74 thoughts on “The Not So Obvious Reasons Why People Want To Achieve Financial Independence”
Reason #6 was key for me. Especially when my father passed away in 2009. It was a very thought-provoking event that certainly played into my early-retirement moves in 2014. We all need to value every day we have here on Earth. Easier said than done, but definitely worth consideration.
I make great money, have little stress, short hours, nice coworkers, a short commute, flexible hours, strong benefits, and I get to do stuff I like, especially as no one else can do it, or even fully understands it.
All the same, the month my pension is vested will also be when I can start collecting it, and unless the economy is looking like something out of the 1930’s, that’s when I’m out of there. Why? Quite simply, I’m greedy. I want my time for myself and I want it long before I need a cane to get around.
Even more than that, perhaps, is that I want to be free of having to be somewhere. Free of being tethered to an office seven hours a day. I went on a vacation to Italy, when I really wanted to got to Greece, because Greece would have cost me an extra travel day each way. I’m also tired of vacations where I dash somewhere, do whatever, and dash away again because my week or two weeks is over.
Also, my dad said something not long after his retirement that has stuck with me, “I don’t know how I ever found time to work.” He’s still retired and doing exactly what he wants to do, whenever and wherever.
I get that. I’ve got lots of hobbies and interests (outside of work) and, although some are expensive, most aren’t, at least not in terms of money. But they all cost immense amounts of time. The sooner I know longer have to sell my time, the better.
We have a neighbor couple who both retired with government pensions in their early 50s, went on a few year of world travel, then came back to work in private sectors as consultant not because they need the money (they are very wealthy and have large real-estate holdings), but really because the boredom. They finally retired for the second time in their early 70s.
When they heard my plan to retire when in 3 years (I’m 52 now), both strongly cautioned me the downside of retirement (boredom, loss of social life) and encourage me to keep working. The head of the charity we sponsored also urged me to keep on working (and give more $$$ to his charity, of course!), he himself was a high achiever (Ph.D EE from Cal, tenured professor who still teaches and consults in his late 70s, while running his charity).
Instead of FIRE, I think we should focus on FI, and not being a slave. I’ve seen so mortgage slaves nowadays in Silicon Valley, who sell their $1M stocks to buy $3M $3M homes, only to take on $2M mortgages for the next 30 years (their monthly payment including property tax would be $15K). What we need more are FI people who are truly free and not slaves to any banks or corporations.
Our parents’ generation used to have more free men/women (teachers, government employees, private companies like IBM, GE, Boeing, used to be life-long employers until the 90s), unlike our generation (those who are 30-60), we are mostly slaves.
Some people, entertainers, politicians, business executives, keep working because once they know that once they stop they probably aren’t going to be able to get back. Frankly, I think they just like the power.
People in Congress were only expected to be there a term or two before returning to their neglected, farms, businesses, and practices. Now we have people that go there and have to be carried out when die because they can’t make themselves give up the power.
As for everyone else? Unless they are artists, or doing something that’s more of a calling than a job (working with endangered autistic sea lions or something), that’s not hard to understand.
Even so, when someone has the resources to retire very nicely, and instead feels a need to go back to working in banking or insurance or whatever, that just seems very sad to me. Sad that they can’t find any other way to validate themselves.
While some of these have a ring of truth to them, I feel that a lot of these “hidden reasons” are either inaccurate, mischaracterize the reasonings of pursuing FIRE, or only apply to a small subset of people.
I’ll try to keep my focus for this comment on FIRE, which entails retiring early, and not just on financial freedom, which everybody should be seeking regarding whether or not you plan to keep working for retire early.
1) I don’t feel that this is entirely untrue. While I admit to bristling at first at the notion of being called “not smart enough, talented enough, connected enough, or attractive enough” if I have a job that I don’t love, I realized that “dream jobs” are essentially workplace unicorns that, for various reasons, are only available to the few. A “good job” or a “job you enjoy” is not a “dream job”. “Dream jobs” require Herculean levels of talent and work to obtain, or a Full House costar to bribe your way into an elite school.
2) I feel like this one is somewhat true, but greatly mischaracterized. First, most people in modern Western society don’t have jobs as important and heroic as “cancer research scientist”. People are working in meaningless office jobs or are serving the general public, for the most part at least (not EVERYBODY, of course). I work in AML, which aims to stop drug, weapon, and human traffickers and terrorists from doing their activities, and even I realize that my job isn’t some grand heroic endeavor but ultimately just an office job with policies and procedures that don’t make sense half the time. So I can only imagine how, say, the Materials Procurement Specialist at a toilet paper manufacturer feels about how he/she spends most of their waking hours. Probably the same as I how I felt when I was in retail banking.
Which leads me to the next point, I wildly disagree that early retirement is the “coward’s solution to not having to try our best anymore”. No, if your efforts are going to something that isn’t worth your time (or the effort you’re putting in) and diminishes your general long term happiness, then it’s not the “coward’s solution” to escape this any more than it is brave and heroic to grind for years at a job that’s meaningless, miserable, or both. That’s not to say one should do nothing and shouldn’t join some sort of cause after achieving early retirement, but one should still pursue early retirement in this situation. “Trying your best” in a vacuum is simply not the heroic endeavor it’s often made out to be, not when it yields no positive value in your life and hovers near being self-destructive.
3) While I definitely agree that instant gratification is a thing in our society today, I’m a little iffy on how much it relates to the FIRE community. I can see how the promise of “retire now, not later” can peak the initial interests of a few people who are just hearing about it for the first time (which may not be a bad thing if it leads to more research which leads to better financial habits being adopted), this doesn’t seem to be widespread in the FIRE community. If I’m to judge it by FIRE blogs, forums, and those who comment on them, there seems to be a general understanding that if one is going to achieve FIRE relatively early in life, then consistent hard work, frugal living, and general sacrifice today is going to be required. And while the ultimate goal is certainly “retire in your 30’s/40’s/50’s” which means achieving what one wants decades earlier than the norm, the whole “do so by working consistently hard and having a side hustle while cutting your spending and investing everything for 5/10/15 years” doesn’t exactly scream “instant gratification” to me. It sounds more like “earning your prize”.
And, honestly, a “corner office” doesn’t seem to be the big coveted prize anymore. That seems to be what the older generations coveted more than the Millennials and Generation Z. Who’s right and who’s wrong is an entirely different debate altogether. As an ironic aside, I have a corner office. I share it with three other guys. So I guess I made it ;)
Okay, okay, to be fair to some of these people, there WERE a good number of people who, after losing their jobs in 2008, did engage in geographic arbitrage and became digital nomads/freelancers/whatever else. They definitely pioneered that lifestyle and showed it was possible. But I’m also positive that at least just as many people said “I’m location independent! I CHOSE to move from my childhood bedroom to my parent’s basement! And my parents pay me a healthy passive income stream every week! I’ve achieved financial freedom!”
So, yeah, I can’t wholeheartedly disagree with you here.
5) A difficulty getting along with others, conforming to rules, and being told what to do? I think you just described why people pursue entrepreneurship, Sam, not FIRE.
I also think you may be conflating your terms regarding social skills and intro/extroverts. An introvert values personal time and expends energy from being in social situations. An extrovert derives energy from social situations. That’s it. It doesn’t say anything about social skills (not that there isn’t overlap). There are introverts who are experts at navigating social situations, and extroverts who constantly make fools of themselves. And people often act differently based on what group they are with (a close circle of friends, a group of strangers, etc).
None of this applies to me, of course. I, an introvert, have the social skills of Data from Star Trek and the collaborative skills of a lone White Walker.
HOWEVER, I will say something to your point: I do feel that the ability to no longer have to deal with the people who you don’t feel are important enough in your life to be a major part of it is a very valid reason for pursuing FIRE. My old branch manager remarked at multiple staff meetings that we spent more time with each other than we do with our families. That alone makes FIRE a very reasonable goal, in my eyes.
6) Agreed. Nothing to add.
8) Again, completely agree.
9) At first I was going to compare the line of “The desire to FIRE before kids is extremely selfish in comparison” to the type of person that feels that “childless couples” shouldn’t be allowed at Disney World. While I don’t feel that the word “selfish”–with the negative connotations that come with the word–can be reasonably used to describe ANYONE’S pursuit of FIRE, yeah I guess TECHNICALLY the parent who pursues FIRE so that their child can see their mommy/daddy more often during those early years is acting less selfishly. TECHNICALLY.
Of course, just because one doesn’t have a child doesn’t mean one is incapable of considering the needs of others in their pursuit of FIRE.
10) Yeah and no. I think this is such a gray area on the macro scale that this can be debated forever with no real conclusions coming out of it. Namely, is everything that you said in this point (all of which I agree with) really FOMO? Or is it just “awareness”? But now we’re debating when FOMO becomes awareness and vice versa, and I think that’s just me nitpicking semantics at this point.
Definitely a great article, Sam, even if I disagreed or had major issues with half of it. Anytime you get people talking or debating, I think you’ve succeeded.
ARB–Angry Retail Banker
ARB, is it possible FS is trolling us? (i.e. “not smart enough”, “cowardly”, “selfish”…) That’s part of the fun of reading him, and why he is so provocative, imo. Always enjoy your comments.
Mark me down for 9 of 10 not-so-obvious reasons.
FI/RE is meaningful only when compared to alternatives, and my #1 (obvious) reason is to eliminate the Uncertainty/Risk of relying on clients, owners, colleagues, competitors, government, etc. to act right. Got the receipts for too many times sociopaths, liars, bullies, etc. acted wrong, without a care for the ones who pay the price.
P.S. – Public school systems all over the U.S. are broken. They exist to serve the Teacher’s Unions and Bureaucratic sinecures. They may be “try-hards”, but the problem is the students. Look a who your child is going to school with; then homeschool or private. Leave the virtue-signaling to those who don’t mind “sacrificing their children at the altar of political correctness.” – former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Agreed 100% on public schools.
And I will add a thing here:
PUBLIC SCHOOLS are broken around the world.
Here in Brazil the education is really bad.
Wow – thanks for sharing.
This public school teacher wrote this regarding schools in sf:
I’ve read this and the fact this “teacher” can’t write grammatical sentences (or sometimes even coherent ones) make me question their abilities, rather than the problems in the schools they work in. If any of this is true, of course…
I think school is mostly what a kid makes of it. You can put your kid in the best school in the world, but if they don’t give a shit, they won’t learn anything and won’t succeed. Of course there are some particularly bad schools, but as someone who went to a public school in a state with very poorly funded public education (admittedly, a decently rated one, according to greatschools.org), I felt extremely prepared for college by my high school education. I wouldn’t be concerned about my kids attending public schools in the slightest. The result they get will be proportional mostly to the effort they put in and their general intellect.
The troubles of not yet defining “Enough” and “Purpose” are taking a toll.
I retired November 2017 at age 49 with FI numbers providing decades of current lifestyle expenses. Personal Capital places the passive income and portfolio probability at 99% and with the portfolio alone scenario, without anymore passive income, at 79%. Both scenarios include expenses per year at the same spending levels. Retired savings rate averages 38%. A comfortable lifestyle – but void of greater fulfillment thus far. The numbers are becoming moot in my little world. Eventually the unicorn will fly away with the pot of gold still strapped to the saddle and no rider upon its’ back.
So, I still struggle with defining enough and finding a greater purpose.
The article, and the follow on comments and conversational comments are helpful – thank you.
Can you share more about your search for purpose?
If you have kids, how do they play a roll or not in your purpose?
I feel my purpose is renewed once I had my son. But perhaps that purpose fades once he turns 18 or graduates from college?
I’ve found a lot of purpose in helping others for free with their financial lives using FS. The random comments and e-mails I get from time to time are very uplifting.
Thank you for the generated avatar, albeit green and scowling a frown, it told me to “suck it up buttercup.”
I fell right into the mistake of retiring from something and not to something – yet.
Yes, children are a great purpose, I strive to earn Dad/Father of the Year Awards from each. In return, time and fate will reward me with two teenage daughters as I see my early 60s.
Perhaps setting a higher standard for Enough, volunteering or teaching will assist in purpose.
I get the argument about FIRE being a way of coping out of trying hard at work but I think it goes the other way around, or at least it did for me.
Once I realize that I cared about time, my young kids and I didn’t really need to keep working I couldn’t invent a reason why I would keep working.
Did I cop out? I guess so. It just becomes very inconsequential once you change your priorities.
Very well thought out post. I can definitely see myself in a variety of points you raised. One thing that stuck out to me was this:
“I’m never going to be able to relax and smell the roses because generating $400,000 in non-401(k) income is a Herculean task.”
I think it’s all perspective. Sure $400,000 a year in passive income outside of retirement accounts is a hefty sum. But if you already have $250,000+ is it? I would have to say I would bet on you Sam to be able to close the gap if you were working 60-70 hours a week still in finance. Probably within a few short years. But would you want to spend all that time away from your boy? I think you know the answer to that. It comes down to what we’re willing to sacrifice and perspectives. To me, $100,000 in passive after tax income a year is a herculean task. To say The Wealthy Accountant? $400,000 is nothing.
Looking forward to my Blazers beating your Warriors in WCF! ;)
I love a challenge! Let’s bet a friendly $100, and up to $500 that my Warriors will beat the Blazers! Always put your money where your mouth is. Otherwise, what’s the point right? It’s a great bet since we don’t have KD and Boogie, and Steph is injured.
We can settle over Paypal.
If you thought it is a great bet (for me) then you wouldn’t propose it lol.
Still like the Blazers in the series just not enough to put money on it. Should be fun to watch. Happy to be here after 19 years!
Thumbs down! Talking a big game and not backing it up is why people can’t get ahead in America!
All ideas and talk, not enough action!
I digress. Friendly jabs between sports fans about their teams is a lot different the having ideas and talk and no action pertaining to getting ahead in America. Let’s not use the old straw man argument here. Rooting for a sports team and what a sports team does is beyond your control. If I wanted to make a bet on the Blazers i would go to Vegas where I could get favorable odds instead of a straight 1:1 bet…
I became financially independent in the early 1990s. Back then there was no term like “FIRE”. I just made a crap ton of money and retired. I was 35. Within a year, my wife divorced me and took 1/2 the money, I was in a massive car accident where my friend’s girlfriend died and spent 6 weeks in an induced coma, before eventually recovering (today I’m full of titanium rods), and basically lost most of what I had. Do I blame retirement? Somewhat.
Why? Because a life without purpose is not a life. Money is not the most important thing in life. It might seem like it is when you either don’t have it, or are stockpiling it for the winter. But the reality is that life is much more than a measurement in $. It is about peace, happiness and fulfillment. And those things can come with or without money. That’s a personal choice.
If you are living in a place or have a job, where you are constrained, then change things. Move. Go somewhere cheaper. Get a passport, and go live in Mexico or Thailand or Bali or wherever. Seek out a purpose for yourself that doesn’t necessarily revolve around money. But find a place where you can do that unencumbered.
This whole mania about FIRE is kinda stupid, IMHO. Sure, no one wants debt. So stop making stupid decisions to get debt. That’s not FIRE. That’s you being a bloody idiot. Own up to your mistakes, and fix them. Be willing to be radical. But you don’t need to live like some Tibetan Buddhist to fix your money problems.
The thing you realize after you are financially independent is that the key is “independent”. That is you have the choices to do anything you want in life. Try learning how to fly a plane if you are living frugally on FIRE. Not gonna happen. Want to go to space? Not going to happen if you are frugal. Big things do take money, but you have to decide if you want to live a life of big things or a life of little things. One other thing is for certain. Your decision to follow FIRE is selfish, unless you have your partner and kids 100% on board with it. Because if you decide to deny them the things they expected in life, you won’t have them around for long. Unfortunately being a frugal follower isn’t that attractive to a large portion of the opposite sex. Just sayin….
I have made millions and lost millions. Thankfully I’ve made it all back. I don’t work – I never really have. I live. I love making money, so that is part of what I do. The knowledge & skills that come with that life will sustain me in the good and bad times. Just remember, this Bull market that we have had for 10+ years now, will not last much longer. If you have a real life, have adverse events, lose a job, medical emergency, parents need your financial support, get sued, theft, enter a bear market, you will realize that the most important thing you have isn’t a big bank account. It is the skills to know how to get through those things.
Sure, build passive income. That’s smart. Buy assets that make you money. But the skills to know how money really works, and how to make it are just as important as the skills you have to know how to save and live frugally. Unfortunately you must counter balance both sides to make this work.
This might help you:
Let us also not forget the time you scored four touchdowns in a single game while playing for the Polk High School Panthers in the 1966 city championship game versus Andrew Johnson High School, including the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds against your old nemesis, “Spare Tire” Dixon
Wow, your story is epic. I agree you don’t want to deny your family from things they want. Mine wanted to spend more time with me though so making more money was not the answer.
Being retired, very much the right choice.
One more good reason to not get married.
I totally agree. Nothing beats better than FIRE which gives one the options. FIRE does not always not working at all. One has the options to do the things he/she like to do with FIRE.
I enjoy working as a physician and see myself working for as long as I have the ability to work since I derive a lot of personal satisfaction from being productive and creating value. My motivation for building up passive income streams is to increase my risk capacity (even though I don’t necessary want to voluntarily take on additional risk) I want to be in a position to be able to take extended time off if needed for personal or family emergencies or not have to ramp up work if reimbursements for my clinical work decline.
I think your comment about friends and family fading away is spot on.
Last year, when I went to FinCon, before I really knew any of the other attendees, I spent a lot of time by myself because all my friends and family were at work! They could not just stop what they were doing and put their lives on hold to travel with me to a conference. At times, it did feel pretty lonely.
I was thinking what good is it to have money or freedom, if you are all alone and have no one to share it with?
Therefore, I try to join groups or clubs with people of similar interests and we stay in touch and meet up.
Do you or have you ever attended any FinCon’s?
Thanks for your post,
I went twice: once to Denver and another to San Diego.
It was a lot of fun! But I really don’t like to travel to go to conferences. And with a boy to take care of now, I can’t or don’t want to spend time away from him and his mom.
I’ll go if the next conference is in San Francisco or Honolulu though! After you go to a couple conferences, it tends to be very similar to the past.
I hear you. And I completely respect that.
This year’s conference is in my backyard; Washington DC. That is why I’m going. I totally get the not wanting to travel part. But you are right. It was so much fun. I spent most of my time talking and hanging with folks I met while blogging and tweeting online.
I do want to go if there is one in SF though. If so, hopefully our paths will cross.
Thanks for the reply and hope you have a great day!!!
I had a friend retire at age 40 back in early 2000s, long before any FIRE movement. He was single, no kids, paid off house, $1+ million in investments. He lived a low key lifestyle. I watched him from afar to see how this went. He spent the first year day trading then he realized this was a dead end. He seemed to be doing it to fill his time and made no money. He told me how bored he was as no one his age was available to hang with during the day. He was very lonely. After two years, he went back into the workforce. Why? Boredom. He was a cautionary tale for many of us who were accumulating wealth in our 30s at the time.
Wait, are you saying it costs $50,000 per year to raise a kid in San Francisco? Or just that because you have a kid, you would feel much more comfortable with a $50,000 bigger “safety net” to fall back on because you’re now responsible for another person’s life?
I have no kids, so I have no idea how much they truly cost, but man that seems like a terrifying number.
Probably even more. For example, elementary school tuition cost $35,000 a year after tax. Then there is the mandatory $1000-$5000 donation per kid. Then you’ve got a pay for food clothing and toys for your kid as well.
If only parents could send their kids to the public schools in their neighborhood. Especially parents who pay property tax to fund these schools. But there are no guarantees with the San Francisco public school lottery system.
I’m in Chicago and things seem decently expensive here. It’s really difficult to wrap my brain around just how wild San Francisco/New York can be when it comes to prices.
Gotta put those kids to work early to recoup their cost!
That really sucks to have a PUBLIC school lottery system. You would think for the amount you pay in property taxes that your kid is guaranteed a slot.
Is this only in the Bay Area or all over CA?
Be the change you want to see, and send your kid to public elementary school. He will be absolutely fine if you are as involved in his life as you are now. We live in Oakland and plan to send our daughter to public school. You have a platform and public schools are a collective action problem.
Will do. Please let me know about your daughters public school experience. Thanks!
Homeschool is a great alternative, saves money, and ultimately it’s the parent’s responsibility to educate children.
Would never do public school for my kids. The things they are ‘learning’ are not things I want my kids to learn. Taking care of one’s family should not be a collective problem – each parent is responsible for their own children.
lol, there’s no way FS is sending his kid to public school. he’s made that very clear numerous times
Get points. I don’t understand why FS wants to move to Virginia possibly to toughen up his child but not send child to PSs. I live in South with mediocre PSs but have found great programs within the school system (have a wife in school system so a little insider trading).
Anyway, I get that this is HIS child but there is no difference in PSs and public college that FS attended. I too wanted my children to have more, so I worked the system instead of abandoning it and my children have far more than I without feeling privileged (though they are.)
I graduated from both and have meandered my way through thirty years of work and do more than okay for my area. andy is correct and on a larger point the article is good but full of self doubt – much of which I too share. I won’t go too far off the range tonight as this is a post on PS. If they suck it’s because parents aren’t involved. If teachers suck, it’s because they get no support (not the money, just no offing support , mostly because too many parents believe their kids instead of listening to their kids. If they suck, we suck. And we can stop that one school at a time. I know my wife and I have.
Ugh, I’m sorry. SF is messed up education-wise. NYC and the LA area have amazing public schools- Beverly Hills, Whitney, Stuyvesant, Hunter, Bronx Science, La Guardia…list goes on and on. Sorry SF doesn’t have such options, although I hear the suburbs (gasp) do. Hawaii…that’s a mess.
My fear of retirement would be boredom – not having enough productive things to do during the day – keyword productive. I feel like traveling, recreation, etc. may get tiresome after a while as I’ve learned from articles I’ve read of people who have retired, but you never know.
Just curious, why doesn’t your passive income target include 401k income. Do you not want to draw down the principal or not even drawdown the dividends earned from 401k investments?
for the smidlap household i would say we’re already enjoying a version of financial independence even though i’m still working. we did enough earning/saving/investing during the grind of our 40’s (late start) that when mrs. smidlap’s job went away a couple of years ago she didn’t NEED to try and find a full time replacement. at the same time i took a pay cut for better working hours. so we lost more than half our income but it was no big deal. she was able to be VERY choosy and wait for a cushy part time gig 2 miles from home that pays a good rate for 4 hours a day while i’m at work. that job isn’t guaranteed past the end of the year but it it goes away it’s still no big deal or anything to worry about. if my job goes away it’s the same. i keep doing it because it doesn’t wreck my life and very rarely required more than 40.0 hours of my time.
i don’t know what i would do with 24/7 free from anything scheduled. my choice would be to socialize but the people i really like are still working. we don’t want to force it just to proclaim we’re retired.
You’re right on for the reasons I wanted to FIRE. The only one not on my list is #10. FIRE wasn’t well known when I retired in 2012.
That’s interesting with your cost of living. Once the family situation stabilizes, it should hit the plateau. Our cost of living increased by about 30% after we had our son. It’s pretty stable now. But you’re right, everything keeps getting more expensive. It’s a moving target. Luckily, the investment outpaced the inflation up to this point. It’ll be tougher without the cheap Chinese imports.
Another not so obvious reason why people want to pursue FIRE is feeling or being stuck at a job and there is limited ability for advancement.
I noticed too my financial independent number is a moving target. It has moved up a few times. Now I know how much my family of 5 spends a year to live a happy and rewarding lifestyle. I am close to hitting my current FI number but now I’m thinking about increasing it once again (instead of public school I’m thinking about private middle and high schools for the kids).
This will increase the FI number by quite a bit and will result in more years at work.
FI rule number one:
Slay your “enoughusaurus!”
Variant on 5) TO GET AWAY FROM PEOPLE!
“Humanity? Not a fan…” – Ricky Gervais
Reasons #5 and #6 resonate with me the most. Working and dealing with people at work make me exhausted at the end of the day. Also with my two parents living abroad, I never have enough vacation time in a typical corporate job to spend more time with my family AND travel the world. If there exist high-paying jobs that only require less than 30 hours per week and give me 2 months of vacation per year, I probably would go for that instead of FIRE.
When John D Rockefeller was asked once, “How much money is enough money?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”
Great response. Just a little bit more.
Very much like the One More Year Syndrome for folks who can’t break free from full-time work. I’ve seen the one more year syndrome in action with several of my friends for the past 10 years!
They are no happier.
You make a lot of points that resonate with me. I was unaware of FIRE until I started reading your blog in 2013 when I was laid off.
What’s most striking about your evolution is the continual increase in what you need to feel comfortable. Maybe I misread the details, but when you posited $250K per year as the ideal income to make, I assumed that was for a family of 4 in a HCOL area (not just for yourself as an individual). The best that I can tell, your and my standard of living and extravagances are quite similar (and modest).
$250K of passive income certainly works for my family of 4 but I’m still working on it. I haven’t felt the need to move that goal post. I must have lower expectations than you since my FIRE was not planned and net worth growth in the last 6 years have far exceeded my expectations.
The $250,000 is what I posited would be the ideal amount before I had kids, about 9 years ago.
Due to the rising cost of living (tuition and housing mainly), $350,000 seems like the new $250,000.
But I’m pretty conservative overall, so I won’t really know until I’m ever a father of two. More is generally better, but $300,000 is probably good enough!
Did you just say that you are pretty conservative and that $350K is the new $250K for annual expenses? What are your thoughts about incorporating some frugality rather than raising your number? If other FIRE bloggers are able to comfortably raise families on less than $100K per year (this one included), I have to think that the data is suggesting you may be experiencing lifestyle inflation even in a HCOL area?
I think so. But I think $300,000 should be good enough with two kids.
How would you suggest I become more frugal based on my budget? And can you share your budget living in a high cost of living area with kids? Which city do you live in and how old are your kids? It would help me see some areas where I could cut.
For example, since 2012, the median home price in San Francisco has risen by 70%. Going from $250k – $350K is a 40% increase.
Related: Are You A Real Millionaire? $3 Million Is The New $1 Million
“Why keep on going as a cancer research scientist after not coming remotely close to finding a cure after 15 years?”
As a drug-discovery researcher myself, I can say this applies to most scientists, very few of whom have been both smart and lucky enough to come up with a cure for anything. Hepatitis C is one of the few true success stories in the past couple decades, and even HIV is still not cured, despite the fact that most patients in the developed world can lead normal, healthy lives.
What are some of the incentives that keep you guys going? And could you share some of the science behind Why you take so long to discover cures? Is it basically endless trail and error?
I hear 23 and Me has been a great genetic resource.
Personally I keep going for two reasons. First, there is always the chance, however small, of making a (literally) life-changing discovery: see hepatitis C and HIV, for example. How many other careers offer that possibility?
Second, as you note in risk #5, I think I would feel guilty if I chose to waste my decades of hard-won experience in early retirement rather than try to contribute to the world.
As to why drug discovery is so difficult, I’d recommend a blog by industrial scientist Derek Lowe called In the Pipeline; the link in my name is a recent post that touches on this question.
Love this post! Some are kinder than others, but I see a lot of them in me. I decided to take some time off (3 yrs now) based around you pointing me to your other post…”You might not need as much as you think to retire..” (paraphrasing) Lately, my time has been spent, “reverse engineering” what took me so many years to achieve. I want to spend my time doing more than collecting empty vodka bottles or being “hypnotized by daytime TV” (Collateral) The reality, is, it takes a lot of reflection and contemplation to do this right. That’s where I’m focusing now, and it feels like being reborn. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.
1,5 and 9 resonate with me. I’m not a very social person and also have a good deal of social anxiety. Typical work environments are quite stressful for me. But, I’m also terrible at self-direction and coming up with my own ideas for what to do. I’ve managed to amass a good chunk of money and could theoretically quit my job and just be a full-time dad. But, with my kid now starting school, I’d still have atleast 30 hours a week to fill plus I know I’d stress about stuff like rising health insurance costs. My compromise is that I found a low stress corporate job in an industry that interests me. Yet, I feel a sense of listlessness and also hate having to conform to strict office hours and vacation policies. If there was an ideal job for me, it would probably have the following characteristics:
-Work no more than 20 hours a week wherever/whenever
-Managed by a computer (So I don’t have to deal with people)
-Involve problem solving
-Pay atleast $70/hour
I’ve found about 20-25 hrs of work a week is my ideal amount too.
It feels good to do something productive, just not for many more hours than that! So much time in the office is wasted surfing the Internet and commuting.
To me it is the realization that time is precious (and at 45 years old half the ride is over and pending any unexpected health issues you can really only count on mobility, mental acumen, etc. up to 75. After 75 it’s a crap shoot) and young children that I want to have energy and presence with rather than wanting to tune out because I am stressed as a result of the uninspiring corporate grind topped off with none other than a lengthy suburban commute. My idea of FIRE is having enough assets/passive income to hedge working for myself which is what I really want to do. If you have work that energizes you rather than draining you I would imagine the other pieces of life flow a little better. I wouldn’t know since I fell into the corporate trap after college. I am grateful to have a good job but I just know what I am doing is not my best life.
I have a couple of reasons why I found myself on the path of FIRE.
The first is that the world of medicine that I am a part of and has been constantly changing and not for the better. I feel I have to run on the hamster wheel faster and faster every year and still lose ground as there are reimbursement cuts annually, more hoops to jump, etc. Couple that with the weight of a potential lawsuit always hanging over your head makes it feel like I”m playing a game of Russian roulette when I am close to winning the game already.
The second was my dad, also a physician, died at the age of 50 of pancreatic cancer (I was 15). Time is not promised for everyone. I just turned 48 myself and it is scary to think that what happened if I died in 2 years, did I live the life I want or did I just keep working thinking of a retirement that will never come like my dad.
One of the reasons my wife and I are planning on delaying retirement a couple of years is our kids are in school and still at home. Almost impossible to retire and travel the world when you have teenagers who have swim practice, and homework. Teenagers really don’t want to spend large amount of time with Mom and Dad, so being home when they are not in school has little value. The transition to adulthood for teenagers is about spending time with friends their age, and building non family relationships.
Financial independence amount does change as you get older. Also the number of children and the expense of kids driving a huge part of that! Wife and I have 4 children between us our amount to be financially independent is significantly more than 1 child.
I believe everything you say Robert! I’m finding this out first hand.
And as a tennis coach to 12 high school teenagers, I see first hand that teenagers don’t really want to hang out with mom and dad, and are embarrassed to be around them too.
I think when my boy is a teenager, I’ll be more motivated than ever to work or do something outside the house. Then again, maybe my boy will need me more. We shall see.
There was a book called, “The Number”. It was about how much money does one need. The conclusion was you’ll never have enough because once a target is met you’ll keep increasing the amount until times up. It is our nature.
I never ended up reading the book, despite it being recommended to me in 2012 by an old client who made millions. It was I who was living the finance world behind, but he could not.
Did the book not provide a solution to how to be satisfied with the number?
From what I remeber there was not much of a solution other than be aware of time and the concept of the ever self induced moving target. Most concentrate on the y axis which is money and ignore the x axis time. I found even after reading the book i kept increasing the target once met. I have accepted that i like moving the target and plan on gifting dividends to orphanages long after i pass. I’m becoming the tree in “The giving tree” lol.
Ah, I think that’s why I didn’t read the book. No solution!
Focusing on time becomes very natural the older we get and the more injured and sick we get for sure.
Self-awareness at an earlier age helps! I realized at age 22 that I could not go on getting in by 5:30am and working past 7:30pm every day, so I saved everything I possible could.
What is your definition of financial independence?
Having dat cash flow enough to cover me for life without working!
Have you noticed your retirement income goals have changed over the years?
Yes, big time.
If so, how come?
#1 on your list. If I love my career then hopefully I’ll never end up wanting to quit!
What are some other not so obvious reasons why people want to achieve financial independence?
Power. When you no longer have to worry about money, that is a powerful thing. No need to take orders from anybody because you are now in control.
Risk #3 is the same regardless if you have a day job.
It’s probably why I don’t fixate in financial Independence rather focus on financial wellness. Sometimes working and making money feels as good as sitting on a beach with a drink. I tend to go with setting goals and adjusting them as life changes and evolves. This takes into account my mental, emotional and physical well-being.
Ouch, this hit a bit close to home, especially #1,2,5,6,7, but like you said, the truth also sets us free. It’s taken me a long time to fully come to grips with some of my “hidden” reasons behind pursuing FIRE, and these sorts of posts really help. In general, I love your writing when it grapples with the messy stuff. Great post, thanks!