Are You a Good Fit for FIRE?

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
FIRECracker
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“The saddest people are those who don’t know what they want”

– Larry from the “Newness” movie.

I don’t know how many of you have seen the movie “Newness” on Netflix. I’m guessing not many since it’s a movie about swingers (and no I’m not talking about dancers from the 1920s). We watched it only because we have friends in the swinger community (No. Not us, FRIENDS. FRIENDS!).

Nope, not this kind of swinger. Photo credit: Michaelfoskett [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Anyhoo, so, basically the premise of this movie is about two millennials who use an online dating app (Tinder anyone?) to hook up. This happened after they both had crappy one-night stands and end up finding each other as sloppy seconds. Then quicker than you can say “genital herpes”, they fall in love and move in together. To the surprise of no one, they get bored of each other within weeks, especially given the female lead, Gabi’s confession that she’s obsessed with “constant newness” (Hence the movie’s title). So, they agree to start swinging.

Clearly, this isn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, but given my extremely low expectations for it (it has a 6.4/10 rating from IMDB), it had some depth that I wasn’t expecting. This movie taught me two things:

1) Swinging rarely solves relationship problems
2) The saddest people are those who don’t know what they want

Lesson one is obvious. Every fault you find in your current partner ends up being exacerbated, because of the “grass is greener” syndrome in thinking the new partner won’t have that issue. But eventually, you’ll start finding faults in the new partner also, and then want to trade up again. And the vicious cycle continues.

Again, this is NOT something I know from experience. This is me just iterating what I’ve learned from OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, NOT US—OTHER PEOPLE, and from the characters in the movie. *ahem*

Lesson 2 is less obvious, and I had to pause the movie to really think about this. The characters end up frustrated and constantly breaking up and getting back together because they don’t know what they want.

While their ex’s have moved on, gotten married, started families, they keep oscillating between having a serious, committed relationship to hooking up with strangers and enjoying a fun, hedonistic existence. Gabi and Martin couldn’t decide whether they wanted to commit to each other or continue boinking other people. As a result, they were sad.

This got me thinking about financial independence. (HA! And you thought I couldn’t write an article linking swinging to Financial Independence. Take that, brain!)

Before I become financially independent, I was terrified that I was wasting my life away in a cubical. I was also sad because I didn’t know what I wanted. I knew I didn’t want to be coding and writing up TPS reports in my 60s, but I also didn’t know whether I could make a living as a writer.

Being stuck in limbo caused me a lot of anxiety, and at one point I ended up being diagnosed with depression. Some of it was due to work stress, but the other part was due to my confusion about my identity. I’d been an engineer for 10 years, could I really just throw it all away to be a writer? Did I really want to be writer? Along with low earnings, the ridicule you face of being an artist (mostly from my parents) and the challenges with creating art that’s good enough to be at a professional level, could I handle all that?

And what about all my co-workers and friends? They all seemed to be following the prescribed formula—the status quo of working long hours, getting a mortgage and working until the age of 65. Few of them seemed happy. Many seemed to live that life because they didn’t think there were any other options.

I didn’t want to just copy them. I needed to find out what made sense for me.

It wasn’t until my FI armour took care of the money part of the equation that I could finally stop and think about what I really wanted.

And in order to do that, I had to think long and hard about my personal values. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down 3 top values:

1) Love
2) Freedom
3) Achievement

Status, people-pleasing, and, surprisingly, money wasn’t any of them. I simply needed enough money to cover my needs. Any additional money to buy fancy things, impress people, or gain respect don’t interest me in the least.

These values have led me to the very fulfilling, very satisfying life I lead today. I get to spend all my time with Wanderer, who’s my best friend and love of my life. I have tons of freedom to pursue my passions—writing, public speaking, travel, volunteering for WeNeedDiverseBooks, having fun with friends. And in terms of achievement, although I’m no longer climbing the corporate ladder, I can fulfill that value with Quit Like a Millionaire, speaking at Chautauqua, and working on this blog. Occasionally, if I feel like it, I can even take on freelance work (cue the retirement police).

This is why when we got over 1000 hater comments after our story went live on CBC, I was able to shrug it off.

When friends and family FOMO me for not buying a house, I ignored them.

When I see co-workers getting promotions and moving up the corporate ladder, I’m not jealous. I’m happy for them.

One of the criticisms the FIRE community gets is that FIRE is not for everyone. Some people argue that they’re not suited for FIRE. They don’t want to track their expenses, they don’t want to retire, and they don’t believe it’s worth pursuing.

And if they find that their values don’t align with the pursuit of FIRE, that’s a perfectly logical reason for not jumping on the bandwagon.

Some values that I think are well-suited for FIRE;

1) Freedom

 If freedom is one of your values, FI is worth pursuing because it gives you the ability to choose. No longer are you shackled to the conventional way of doing things. You can go your own way.

2) Independent Thinker

If you don’t enjoy following the herd and would rather carve your own path, FI allows you to take the initiative to do so.

3) Love

One of the best things that FIRE has given me is the time to spend with my loved ones. If you want more time to spend with your spouse, kids, pets, family, you’ll be able to trade the hours you spend at work with hours spend with your loved ones. This one is probably the biggest benefit of fire. No one ever said on their death bed, “I wish I could’ve worked more”. They usually say “I wish I had spent more time with kids/spouse/friends/etc”.

Some that I don’t think are suitable:

1) Agreeableness

 If you’re the type of person that worries a lot about what other people think of you, and you’re extremely uncomfortable with conflict, you may not be able to handle all the scrutiny that comes with an unconventional lifestyle. You may want to just follow the traditional path to please others and keep the peace.

2) Status

If you care about status and are unhappy unless you’re flaunting your work title or fancy things, then the down-to-earth, live on “enough” philosophy probably won’t appeal to you. You will probably want to keep working and earning money to elevate your status.

So on your path to FI, if you worry that you’ll give up or that other people will cause you to lose momentum, refer to your values.

Here’s a list I found of common personal values:

Core Values List: Over 200 Personal Values to Discover What’s Most Important to You

Sit down, write down your top 3-5 values and refer back to this list whenever you lose the motivation to build a life you love.

Now, keep in mind that values can change over time. As you grow older, as you meet new people who teach you new things, or as you age, your values can and probably will change.

So make sure you redo this exercise every few years to evaluate whether you are living a life that’s true to your values.

What are your top 3 values? And do you think you’re suited for FIRE?


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38 thoughts on “Are You a Good Fit for FIRE?”

  1. I just listened to a podcast on Hidden Brain about decision making. It was really interesting. Basically, once make a choice and you can’t change it, you’ll be happier. Your brain adapts to the new situation and convinces you that it was the right choice. If you have more choices, backup plans, and other fallbacks. You’ll be unhappy with your decision.
    It applies to FIRE 100%. Once I retired from my engineering career, I never looked back. Yes, FIRE is a better fit for some people, but most people can probably do it if they decide to do it. Swinging sounds like a bad idea. These people will never be happy as long as they don’t commit.

    1. “Basically, once make a choice and you can’t change it, you’ll be happier.”

      Yup, this is the paradox of choice. The more choices you have, the you get FOMO and regret not picking the other choices.

      As for swinging, yup, most of the swingers friends we know ended up breaking up. Shocking right? 😛

  2. I just got a copy of your book and can I just say–I am obsessed! I’ve been aiming toward the FI part of FIRE for a while, but I never though I’d be able to do it on my salary–turns out, I can! You’re right that this stuff isn’t for those who care about what their colleagues think. When I tell people what percent of my income I put away–you’d be surprised at how “unrealistic” my goal(s) are to them. Just gotta stay the course.

    1. Thanks so much for buying the book, Lindsey and I’m glad it has been helpful. While we were on the FIRE path, we told no one about it because of that exact reason. Don’t let negative people drag you down. You can do it!

  3. Hahaha what a fun article! We live in LA, so of course we know lots of swingers, and what’s funny is that you and Wanderer actually have a LOT in common with that lifestyle (minus, you know, the orgies and stuff). You love travel, adventure, trying new things, meeting new people, and living outside the box of traditional social constraints — basically, you’re swingers without the swinging!

    Anyway, as to our top 3 values:

    Health is definitely number 1, because without health everything goes to hell.

    Love is number 2, because love just makes everything better. The only thing better than exploring the world is exploring it with people you love.

    Adventure is number 3. There’s pretty much no adventure we won’t try, as long as it’s not life threatening. Life is brief and and we’re all about maximizing the short time we’ve got — which is why FI!

    1. “you’re swingers without the swinging!”

      HA HA. I never thought about it that way.

      Love your priority list! I actually forgot about health. When you’re young you don’t think about it that much, but it’s so true that without it, everything sucks. Need to take care of your health before you can do anything else.

      And yes to adventures all the way! That’s what we live for 😀

  4. Totally agree FireCracker, it’s not for everybody. You have to be a really independent personality that can shrug off the criticism of others AND continue moving forward when thousands of people are telling you, “No! You’re wrong! Turn back!”

    The number of people that can do that is pretty limited I think. Humans are generally pretty social creatures that seek the affirmation of others, so reaching FIRE is pretty hard for most.

    1. Gotta know yourself 🙂 Though it does help surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people, which is why I’m grateful for the FIRE community.

  5. My spouse and I are definitely suited for FI, before we found this blog we were already working towards paying off huge chunks of our mortgage every year so I’s only have to work part time to support us while my spouse while he pursued his art career and so we could spend more time together working on our art. We were about 4 years away from that when I found your blog and within an hour of finding it realized if we sold our place and invested the money we could mostly live off our portfolio and rent if we moved somewhere cheaper. I work part time from home now and I still got to keep my lofty job title that makes my job sound a lot more important than it is despite the crappy pay, so a little bit of the best of both worlds I guess.

    1. You’re doing great, Liz! Looks like love and freedom are the priorities that drove you toward FIRE. Are you enjoying retirement? Do you think it’s more suitable for introverted people?

      1. Thanks FIRECracker! As an introverted person, I would say that the way we live in retirement is definitely more suited towards introverted people compared to travelling all over the place like you guys are. Being able to work from home I only need to leave the house for my daily walks and usually once a week I’ll go to the grocery store. This summer I also started playing at the open mic once a week. I am not really retired but I enjoy working from home a lot more than working in the office, it’s nice to not have to get dressed for work or commute. My spouse loves our life now that he no longer needs to work a day job. He has been working hard on his art and a few months ago he released the first issue of his webcomic!

      2. I don’t know about that. My partner and I are definitely extroverts and love being centre of attention but I am also very frugal and FI-minded. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. In fact, I would say I am money obsessed and an attention-whore. I dream of being FI so I can maybe pursue stand-up, acting, writing or local politics, as money would no longer be a concern.

        Some of my friends who are worst with money are introverted which is another reason why I just don’t know if there is much of a relationship but introvert or extrovert, I would say you need a healthy disregard for the opinion of others. In the words of RuPaul, what other people think of me is none of my damn business.

        1. “I am money obsessed and an attention-whore.”

          Sounds like my kind of people 😀

          Yeah, I’m not sure about the introversion, extroversion combo with FIRE, but I do know that people who are independent minded are a good fit for FIRE. I guess if you’re extroverted, once you lose your work friends, you’ll just go out and find a whole new group of friends 🙂 It helps if you have a FIRE community near you so they can hang out during work hours!

      3. Interesting observation. The common theme between introversion and FI is that both are not socially accepted norms.. I read Quiet by Susan Cain a few years ago and it changed my life. In every way imaginable. And just when I thought it couldn’t change more, I discovered FI. I’m happy to discuss more with anyone that is open to learning about either subject, but otherwise I just quietly pursue both in my calm manner, and don’t care about justifying either one in my lifestyle. SO liberating. Will be almost done by 35, and I love having more time even now for art, music, reading and writing, in addition to nature walks! Helped that I loved to read all the books/blogs on the subject, think, over analyze, build spreadsheets, with minimum distractions quietly without outside opinions/social judgements. Though I’m mighty glad you chose to voice your experiences and build this website! Big Thank You!

        1. Congrats on almost FIREing! I’ve yet to read the Susan Cain book ( I have so many books on my TBR list). What was it about that book that spoke to you?

          1. Difference between shyness and introversion, how/why we went from being a character based society to a personality based society, quiet leadership (yes it’s possible!), unfortunately how education is becoming geared to raise people-pleasing adults in the rat race rather than ones with creativity, independent thinking, problem solving, and consciousness. If you are short on time, I’d recommend starting with her Ted Talk, its inspiring. Oh how I wish everyone would read that, specially anyone that is leading teams/involved with children/young adults. I keep buying my copy and gifting it away.

  6. I definitely match the FI profile. Even as a GenX that just turned 50, when I say I am retiring soon, and have asked for a package, older baby boomer family members and friends ask what other paid employment I will seek. Sigh. Starting a blog on sandwich generation issues sounds interesting though…

  7. Great post FIRECracker. You’re right – FIRE isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be.

    Just like any way of living, not everyone has to live it, but it’s astounding how many people get upset over a decision that doesn’t affect them! Usually I find that those naysayers have their own agenda; it’s (usually) not nefarious, but unconsciously they want you to do what they are doing to validate their actions.

    My partner and I outwardly conform to most of the norms, but inside we are preparing for FIRE. Our values are love, health and freedom. We are both accomplished according to the norm, but as we age we care less about status and material items, and more about how we spend our time and creating new experiences.

    We can’t outrun time, so we are determined to spend our remaining time as wisely as possible, with the money that we are saving and investing. And no, we aren’t dying – we are just philosophical, yet also practical 🙂

    1. “it’s (usually) not nefarious, but unconsciously they want you to do what they are doing to validate their actions. ”

      So true. It’s usually about their hangups and not about you. The more I’m in the spotlight the more I realize this.

      “as we age we care less about status and material items, and more about how we spend our time and creating new experiences.”

      LOVE this! Way to think about what really matters in life 😀

      1. Thanks FIRECracker! FYI I’m reading your book now, and among other things it’s inspiring me to do, reading about your cost of travel has inspired me to travel a LOT more. I’m heartened to realize how affordable it can be without living in crappy hostels and eating cat food 🙂

  8. I feel like I have been a swinger of careers (not partners!!!). I haven’t found one that suits me…Initially, the “newness” is exciting but after a few years, I get sick of it. I guess that’s why FI is so appealing to me. Perhaps, if I just settle for one career and learn to like it, I can live with the 9-5. But I don’t want to settle! So confusing.

    1. Ha ha, swinger of careers, that’s a good way of putting it. Well, FI does give you an armor so you can try out different careers without getting hurt financially. Here’s to hoping you find one that fits!

  9. 1000 hater comments when your story aired? I find it incredibly sad that there are so many unhappy, dumb people in the world, yet someone must have voted for Trump.

    Great idea to write down your core values from time to time. It can be hard to stay focused with so many distractions in the world.

  10. Another great post with a pretty well crafted teaser! Well done Kristy!

    The value exercise you recommend is a great idea! We actually did a version of it recently where we ranked our top (nine!) values before we met (ie. pre-FIRE) and post-FIRE. We noticed that before meeting some of our value weren’t in alignment. However after we met and discover FIRE, our value ended up pretty aligned. (For details on our value you can refer to this blog post: https://www.nomadnumbers.com/our-life-journey/).

    What about you? Were your values similar before we met? Did they change after we met? Did FIRE affected your value system or was it actually the opposite?

    1. Thanks, Mr. NN! I didn’t even think to put 9 values 🙂 Not sure I even have that many but very cool that you guys did that.

      I think Wanderer and I had similar values. After we met, I pulled Wanderer toward writing and creativity and he pulled me toward adventure ( I was even more risk adverse before we met, if you can believe it). After FIRE, our values have veered even more towards independence and freedom. We have zero patience for stupid rules now 😀

  11. I can’t think of a more useful character trait than the ability to live, happily and confidently, according to one’s values without caring about what the herd thinks. FIRE is the ultimate expression of living according to one’s values, without regard for what others may think about your choices. The herd wants you to conform to their brain-washed ideas about gender, career choice, marriage, adulting, etc; their egos are fragile things, always needing positive reinforcement for their own choices. The need for paid employment is the biggest stick society can wield to keep the herd in line, and make sure we don’t colour outside the lines. Think the wrong thoughts, you risk being ostracized, and can lose everything. The only truly free minds belong to the financially independent! FIRE on, screw the herd.

    1. “FIRE on, screw the herd.”

      Well said! We are also creating our own herd–the FIRE herd ;D Maybe if it starts to go mainstream, the naysayers will be the ones not following the herd.

      Working on making that happen 🙂

  12. My top 5 values that are important to me are (not in particular order): peace of mind, family, freedom, happiness, health. I just read your book. I enjoyed it.

  13. If you are bringing home $40,000 after tax income and have the willingness to save 25 percents into any low cost index fund – in 30 years, you will retire as a millionaire.

    This simple financial math implied the mass, 70 to 80 percents of the population, has the opportunity to FIRE.

    The million dollars question remains – do you have the self-control and the discipline to build a financial security life for yourself and your family?

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