The FIRE Movement: Sheep in Wolves Clothes (Part 2 of 2)

In my last post, I outlined what the heck the FIRE movement is about. Again, it’s extreme saving early in your career, stockpiling investments for 10 to 15 years, and then using that nest egg to fund living expenses for the remainder of your life. Honestly, it’s no different than traditional retirement. You just condense the process from 40 years to something much shorter and shifting your peak retirement savings to the left.

Here’s my stance on the movement, I love the premises but hate the model.

FIRE Premises

  • Resolve – Determination to achieve an objective. Come on with it.
  • Persistence – Focus on a goal despite setbacks. Yes sir.
  • Reflection – Time off to refocus, reengage, and reenergize. Preach it.
  • Thriftiness – Your spending is more important than your income. Check.

FIRE Model

  • Lousy – Enough said. Just kidding, below is my rationale.

Lots have been written about the financial concerns so I won’t go into those. The main math issue I’ll highlight is that you don’t know how long you’ll live and if you’re wrong, you’re wrong when you’re in a nursing home. Good luck with your resume at that point. The FIRE proponents will argue the math. I am an expert on the math.

Here’s my biggest beef with FIRE though –

The approach is about taking as much from a system as quickly as possible and then withdrawing from it as soon as feasible.

I have no problem with the “F” and the “I”: Financial Independence. In fact, that’s an admirable item to achieve. I take issue with the “R” and “E”: Retire Early. The FIRE approach means you stop working from an age range of 35 to 45. This age bracket is some of the most influential time of your career.

FIRE proponents argue that work is the antithesis of your life. I get the symptoms. Work feels like what it is…work.

Training for an Ironman or a Marathon is filled with the misery of daily training. However, it has moments of small victories throughout and a culmination of success by achieving your goal that far outweighs the toil. It motivates your friends, family, and coworkers to develop their own goals. It forms communities and life-long friendships.

Work is no different. We just need to adjust our thinking to approach work more like training. There will be periods work feels awful but adjusting your mindset to achieve goals, instill positive values, and build community will shift your perspective.

It’s not about withdrawing. It’s about what you are depositing.

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