I’ve seen a few articles (in pre COVID times), where the subject of the article was FIRE, and in most cases I see a lot of negative reactions to the FIRE principles. Either from the writers of the articles, although not always as there are some positive FIRE articles out there, but the comments … oh the comments! I can’t say I am surprised, as a lot of people have no idea how this works, but I think there are some deeper things going on.
The criticism I see leveled at FIRE tend to fall into the following:
- Its impossible; most people can’t do this
- you need much more money to retire on, this is all silly
- you are missing out on your best earning years
- you need to have a large income to make this work
- Real world vs theory
But why all the negativity?
Its not impossible, but it can be hard, especially if you are the lower end of the salary scale. Sure I can acknowledge that, but it is not impossible. It might require significant sacrifice and to some that may be too much, but impossible? No of course not, we have plenty of examples of people who have done it, and continue to live a FIRE lifestyle.
The amount of money one needs in retirement is never as much as the financial gurus tell you that you need. From a FIRE perspective, you need to calculate what you spend, not, as many finance people will tell you; 80% of your final salary. This in part is because they have a vested interest in keeping you working and saving. If you go and save a lower amount of money and live on it successfully, you absolutely destroy their narrative.
You are missing out on your best earning years? Give me a break! Those best earning years might also be your best living years while you are still healthy and able. Do what you want to do during this time and screw the rest of society who want to treat you like a damn ATM. You are not here to pay tax to keep your society greased and moving forward; you are here to live your life to the best that you can, so do that.
Those who tell you that you need a lot of money to make this work simply don’t understand money. If you live on 25k per year (notice I did not say earn – the two are very different), then you need about $625k in savings In order to replace your income that you use to live on. If you are close to retirement and can rely on social security, then it may be considerably less. Most likely you can save that in 25 years, Sounds like a lot you might say, but you are looking at a 40-45 year working life. Shaving 25 years off that is fucking huge pardon my French! Now you have the best years of your life ahead of you to do with as you will.
Suze Ormond had a lot to say about FIRE and how much she ‘hates it’. She gets hung up on the retirement thing, but here is the point she is missing; once you have enough money to replace your income you don’t have to work but there is nothing that says you have to stop. Perhaps you take a sabbatical every 3-5 years and this allows you to do that. Maybe you give up the day job and work for a non profit or start your own business even. The point is, you get to choose and she doesn’t get to tell you that you are wrong.
My own theory is that a lot of the negative comments come from people who into a number of categories; socialists, jealous fuckers and boomers. The socialists believe in collectivism meaning we all need to work for the common and good. Sadly for them, I think most pursuers of FIRE are individualists and will never be happy with someone telling them what to do until they are 65 or older. Jealous fuckers are exactly that; they understand what you have done but hate you for it because they didn’t do it or couldn’t do it. With the boomers, well I think Millennial Revolution have that sewn up nicely in their intro video.
Those peak earning years are also peak tax paying years – If you don’t pay tax because you have FIRED and are living out the winter in Portugal, oh my what happens to society, and me? I think that is one of the narratives that one often sees and of course it is all horse shit. Society will continue along without my tax revenue just nicely. Once I retire, I will not worry about it, nor will I let these people intrude upon my happiness.