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I write a lot about our travels around the world, but the most memorable moment actually happened back in North America, in New York City. That was when I got to sign our children’s novel, thus realizing my lifelong dream of becoming a published author.
If you’ve ever tried to publish a book, you’ll know the gut-wrenching highs and lows of becoming an author. One second you’re invincible, and the next you’re down on your knees, gasping for air.
The highest of the highs, came from that moment. That glorious moment when I could FINALLY scribble my own name on a copy of my own book. Something I will remember as long as I live.
So naturally, I was ecstatic to share that moment with my first writing partner, a friend whom I’ve known since first Year University, a friend who’d been our cheerleader from the beginning.
I imagined after I told her, there would be lots of hugging and crying, followed by buckets and buckets of celebratory booze.
But that didn’t happen. Because as soon as the words “NY book signing” left my mouth, it got so quiet I could hear my heart drop in my chest.
She muttered something about needing to run an errand, while avoiding my eyes, and practically shoved me out the door.
I haven’t seen or spoken to her since. Every time I try to get in touch, she seems to be “busy” or conveniently “unavailable”. So after 2 years, I gave up.
But as unpleasant as that experience was. I did manage to learn one painful fact:
“Most people don’t want you to succeed.”
How do I know this? Because we experienced the exact same thing when we retired early.
And it wasn’t just us. Check out the comments on any news article about a celebrity, a successful entrepreneur, or FIRE person (like MMM, GCC, RoG, and our CBC article), and you’ll see that the amount of vitriol could fill an entire library.
And recently, one of our readers experienced this as well. He had finally come out of the FI-closet and told his friends he was working towards early retirement. The amount of backlash hit him like a ton of bricks.
So, to all the Revolutionaries out there, those of you who are working towards FIRE, and having a hard time with jealous haters, let me tell you this:
There are the 5 types of people we met on our way to financial independence:
#1: The Frenemy
The Frenemy pats you on the back with one hand, while secretly gut-punching you with the other. That’s why when you tell them you’re retiring early, in one breath they’ll say “good for you!” and then immediately follow it up “Feel free to ask me for a job reference anytime if you run out of money.” Or “40K/year to travel the world is amazing! I wish I could get used to eating beans and kraft dinners so I could do it too. But I can’t. I have standards.”
A frenemy is an expert at backhanded comments delivered so dripping in sarcasm you have to be careful not to slip on it on your way out the door.
#2: The Whiner
The whiner thinks they’re hard working, and certainly will make a big show of working hard (“I worked SOOO much overtime this weekend!”) but yet can’t seem to actually accomplish anything. And in their heads, this is evidence of a cosmic injustice that despite all their hard work they’re held back from greatness, and will spend HOURS presenting evidence of said injustice to you if you let them. Their boss is a tool, the system’s unfair, rich people are keeping them down…somehow. But every time I go over and endure one of their epic bitch-fests, I take a look around their swanky condo that I know they bought in a hormone-soaked bidding war, filled with luxury bags they can’t afford, and all I do is just smile and nod. Uh-huh. Sure, buddy. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Fortunately these people don’t stick around for long. When they realize that you succeeded by working hard and critically, NOT handing your hard earned money over to some bank or idiot retailer, that makes them look bad, and they quickly conclude that you are one of those rich bastards keeping them down.
I mean, what choice do they have? Actually learn new ideas and do stuff differently? Nah, they’d rather just stay stuck in their familiar rut while making up excuses about why life is unfair.
#3: The Hypocrite (“But there are starving people in Africa, so how dare you succeed!”)
The Hypocrite thinks you got lucky and don’t truly deserve your success. Don’t take it personally, though. They think EVERYONE who succeeds is somehow lucky and doesn’t truly deserve their success.
“Yeah, but you were born into privilege!”
“Excuse me? I grew up in poverty and crapped in a hole.”
“Yeah, but you had great parents!”
“My Mom beat the Hell out of me every day for no reason.”
“Yeah, but your brains is wired to…like…work hard and stuff.”
*chokes on coffee* “What?!?”
The Hypocrite fundamentally believes that being wealthy is inherently evil. After all, how can someone be rich knowing there are so many poor people in the world? However, when asked whether they are doing anything to help those people themselves, they will reply “No. I don’t have any money.” Followed by immediately going to their parents for a handout.
So The Hypocrite gets to simultaneously demonize the rich, while offloading responsibility for solving the world’s problems onto the rich, while excusing themselves from having to do a damned thing themselves.
#4: The Closeted FIRER
This type of person I was genuinely surprised to find. The Closeted FIRER has actually read all the same FIRE blogs as you. They know what SWR stands for, they can discuss in detail the subtleties of the 4% rule, they can rattle off their favourite low-cost Index ETFs. But they don’t. Because they don’t want to admit that they’re also trying to jump ship from their job too.
It’s a feeling I know well. When you’re just starting out on your FIRE journey it seems like such a pipe-dream, way off in the future. But as you actually execute on your FIRE plan and get closer and closer to your actual early retirement date, you start going “Holy crap this actually might work!”
And as you’re getting within a few years of pulling the trigger, you start getting a little paranoid. Mentally, you start packing your bags and start picking out all the countries you want to go visit, but physically you have to keep working for just a little while longer. And then the challenge becomes not letting it slip that you’re planning on quitting. After all, if your employer found out you had one foot out the door, you can kiss goodbye to any bonuses or raises you would have gotten. Hell, you might even get fired which would REALLY throw a monkey wrench into your spreadsheets.
So it sometimes happens that you discover another person at your workplace ALSO following the path to FIRE. And they too, are desperately trying not to get found out.
It can come out in subtle ways. Like in lunchroom conversations when people are discussing how to invest their retirement funds, and the Closeted FIRER will reveal they prefer low-cost Index ETFs rather than mutual funds. And then you will jump in and go “Oh, you know about Index Investing? Do you use Vanguard?” At which point the Closeted FIRER will freeze up and say “Uh, Vanguard? Nope, never heard of ’em. Don’t know what you’re talking about. I think I hear someone calling me. BYE!”
Or you might walk by their cube and see Mr. Money Mustache’s blog on their screen. “Oh, you know MMM?” You might ask innocently, at which point they will turn beet-red, stammering “MMM? Uh…this was just some spam someone sent me. Never heard of it. Doesn’t look interesting anyway. I think I hear someone calling me. BYE!”
And at this point, every interaction turns into a shifty-eyed suspicious glaring contest. “Does he know about FI? Does he know I know about FI? Does he know that I know that he knows about FI?
But as awkward as this phase is, once you pull the trigger and quit, the Closeted FIRER becomes quite relieved that they can finally drop the pretense, and can often become…
#5: The Genuine Friend
A friend who is actually (gasp!) happy for you! Once they found out you’re retiring, they became genuinely interested in how you got here, and wants to learn about how this whole investing thing works. If they were Closeted FIRERs before, they will finally have someone to talk to about their own journey, and will be grateful for your friendship as well. If they’re anything like you, their family and friends also thought they were crazy, their co-workers were also head-bashingly obsessed with houses, and they probably felt alone in their journey as well.
These are exceptional friends that you’ll want to keep for life, because these people, whether naturally a #5 or a #4 that graduated to a #5, are rarer than purple unicorns. These are your village, and you will need them as you embark on the next part of your journey.
Obviously, #5 The Genuine Friend is the best but RAREST type of all. We’ve met each of these 5 types of people on our path to FI, and whenever we actually meet a Genuine Friend, we’re pretty shocked. Genuine Friends are the best type of friends because they are the people who are happy with their lives, and aren’t trying to compete with you. Your happiness and success do not take away from theirs. Also, it’s much easier to be a Genuine Friend yourself, once you are happy and living a fulfilling life.
That being said, I get that, to some extent, as human beings, it’s hard for us not to be scared of something new. It’s been around ever since our first caveman ancestors emerged from the woods with a flaming torch, having mastered FIRE!
“Yeah, that fire seems OK,” his fellow caveman would say. “But I like being cold. Is he too good to be cold like me?”
“He thinks he’s so great, with that FIRE,” another caveman would chime in. “But he not know that the greatest joy in life is PILES OF ROCKS. I have more PILES OF ROCKS than him, and that makes me a better caveman! His FIRE is stupid and pointless.”
“You have PILES OF ROCKS? I want PILES OF ROCKS! Can I buy your PILES OF ROCKS?”
Caveman Real Estate Agent: “I’m sorry, we will not be accepting offers for this PILE OF ROCKS until Wednesday. Please come prepared with your best offer and a certified check from Caveman Imperial Bank of Caveman.
Hordes of Cavemen with Certified Checks: “DAMMIT!”
So yes, on your way to FI, you will get haters. Lots and lots of haters.
Whether they are Frenemies, Whiners, or Hypocrites, they all secretly want you to fail and stay mediocre, in order to justify their own mediocrity.
Don’t let that happen.
Stick with Closeted FIRERs and Genuine Friends. They are the ones who will lift you up, help you grow, and applaud when you become unstoppable.
And the haters? Well, I have a VERY nice pile of rocks with their names on it….
So tell me, what type of people have you’ve met on your way to Financial Independence?