As proponents of FIRE, we often laugh at those who wish to keep up with the Joneses, but we have to take care not to fall into that trap ourselves as it is easy to do. I don’t mean buying a Mercedes or a new house or any of that jazz. What I am talking out is keeping up with the Joneses on FIRE!
We listen to other people’s stories and we are inspired to do better. This is a good thing, but there is also a dark side to this. Sometimes that inspiration can turn to competitiveness. This is the path to despair and pain (yes I have recently been bingeing star wars movies)
Keeping up with the new Joneses is about keeping up with savings rates, travel points, FI numbers, frugality etc. There are many aspects to this but focusing on them can lead to the same results as keeping up with the old Joneses; we end up broke, miserable, struggling in life. The only difference this time is that in keeping up with the new Joneses we have stacked 401ks, IRAs etc. Sure our retirement will be great but getting there is a journey that frankly sucks.
This relates to a post I made about how systemic spending related to FIRE. While prioritizing savings rate, frugality and other aspects of FI are important, what is also important is to maintain a healthy mentality and healthy relationships; both work and personal. If these relationships get broken due to the pressure of keeping up with the new Joneses then reaching FI becomes less likely.
Having a few beers with friends and not worrying about the savings rate might be the price to ensure the success of your journey. Or in my case, DoorDash on occasions. The new Joneses may be flashy with their 80% savings rate, but how happy are they right now? How likely are they to make it in the long run?
I know from personal experience that our sweet spot for savings is maybe 50%. With this rate we can keep our momentum long term. Anything higher definitely puts a stress on us that we frankly don’t need.
The message here is that your path should be set by you with no regard for how others are doing. Do not use others as a measurement for your own success because there are always going to be people who are going to be annoyingly more successful than you.
Be like Elsa and let it go.