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Ever since the New York Times featured the FIRE movement, our inbox has been flooding with requests from reporters all over the world, wanting to talk about FIRE. Needless to say, the flames have been fanned. The fire is spreading. And now the truth can’t be put out.
But where there’s truth, there’s also hate. Because when it comes to going against the herd, an angry mob inevitably follows, torches and pitchforks in the air.
Having dealt with haters for the past 3 years, none of this is new to me. I mostly view the hate now with a sense of wonder and amusement. Wonder at how little the average person knows about investing. Amusement at all the people seething in front of their computers. How bad is their life that they want to waste it giving a shit about what I do with mine?
And just because it’s fun, let’s pull back the curtain on some of this vitriol.
“FIRE is elitist. Only rich assholes can do this.”
Based on our blog location stats, if you’re reading this, you likely live in a developed English-speaking country like the US or Canada. And if you do, then a yearly salary of just $32,400 USD a year makes you the top 1% of the world.
Dismissing other people’s success and attributing it to privilege doesn’t help you fix your problems. All it does is give you an excuse to “feel” better.
There are many stories from the FIRE community showing examples of people who grew up in poverty, crawled their way out of it, and became financially independent not in spite of it, but because of it. I am one of these stories.
Using “elitism” to avoid financial education is a self-defeating attitude.
No one said becoming financially independent is easy. It is SIMPLE. But it’s definitely not EASY.
If you made a mistake and picked the wrong career, make a change—like Rob and Robin. If you grew up poor, pulled yourself out of it, only to get dragged down by overwhelming student debt, find a way out—like our reader and subject of one of my favourite reader cases MillennialAcademicScientist. Hell, even if you f**ked up so badly you were sentenced to 10 years in prison, you can STILL pick yourself back up—like Bill.
Your past doesn’t define you. What you choose to do going forward, does.
FIRE isn’t just for the rich or privileged. It’s easier to become FI if you were born into privilege, but it’s not a pre-requisite. In fact, those who are privileged are less incentivized to become FI. After all, if they ever run into trouble, there’s always the bank of Mom and Dad to bail them out. The rest of us have to save ourselves, and that’s what FIRE does. It allows us to save ourselves if we run into trouble.
“No way their funds are going to last 30-50 years. You can’t tell what’s going to happen in the future.”
Ahh the good ol’ excuse of “I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’m never going to change my life, because bad things could happen.”
News flash. Bad things will always happen. Jobs are getting less stable, pensions are disappearing, people are working longer and longer hours. But would you rather be prepared or caught with your pants down?
Becoming financially independent protects you against all those things. It’s precisely because bad things can happen that you need to become FI.
Would I rather rely on a job or a portfolio? Even if the markets crash, I still get paid dividends and I have a cash cushion. In a market crash, a job isn’t safe—so you’d be unemployed with no passive income. The choice is easy.
“It’s only because you don’t have kids.”
But Jim “The Godfather” Collins does. So does Jeremy from GoCurryCracker. And Mr. MoneyMustache, Mr.TakoEscapes, Mr.1500days, Justin from RootofGood, and Retireby40. I could go on, but it won’t matter. Because the haters will find something else to hide behind. Because doing things is hard. Excuses are super easy.
“Why bother becoming financially independent? Just find a job you love.”
Where can I get one of these magical jobs that, apparently, they’re handing out like candy?
The idea that you could just “find a job you love”, have it pay you a living wage, be secure, and stay “likable” forever and forever is laughable. If your passion happens to be in a lucrative field, good for you. You are the lucky exception rather than the rule. For the rest of us, we have to face the reality of having to give up our dreams to make money because we don’t have rich parents to bail us out.
The world doesn’t owe you a job you like. And even if you manage to get one, no one can guarantee said likeable job will stay that way forever.
Dismissing Financial Independence because you are one of the few lucky people to have a job you like is like refusing to wear a harness while rock climbing. Maybe there won’t be any wind. Maybe you’ll never sweat and lose your grip. Maybe you’ll never get tired and slip. But more likely, any of those conditions you have no control over can happen at any time. Not wearing a harness and just “winging it” is idiotic. Maybe you have a death wish or are hoping a trampoline will magically appear underneath you. In my life, the lesson has always been “no one is coming to save you”. We need to save ourselves.
But more importantly, too many people focus on the RE part of fire, which means “Retire Early”. FIRE doesn’t mean you have to quit your job. RE is optional. FI is mandatory. If you like your job, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep working. Becoming FI simply saves you from plunging off the cliff because you were too arrogant to wear a harness.
“Why would I want to live like a miser now so I can live like a miser forever?”
This is the biggest misconception out there about FIRE. That it’s all about frugality and clipping coupons and eating cat food. It’s not. We’re just better at spending money than the normies.
As I write this I’m sitting on a balcony in Riga. Next month I’ll be flying to Greece for our Chautauqua. Then after that, who knows? Maybe we’ll be in Morocco. Maybe we’ll be in Singapore. Maybe we’ll be in Australia. We literally don’t know because we haven’t decided yet, but the world is our oyster, and somehow travelling makes us money because it allows us to spend less than our 4% withdrawal rate.
Does that sound like deprivation to you?
So there you have it! Whenever you try to do anything contrarian, there will always be haters. That’s how you know you know you’re doing something remarkable. Haters are a badge of honour.
Whether you are for or against FIRE, it doesn’t matter. Every day more and more people are waking up, and realizing that FIRE is a real thing. It’s been tried, tested, and vetted. And we all know, in the end, it’s not about getting rich or quitting your job. It’s about freedom and choices.
Even if you don’t become fully FI, having FU money gives you choices. To ignore it is to be fooled by the haters. The ones who never stand FOR anything, but are always AGAINST something. The ones who can give you a hundred reasons why something won’t work, but not one example of something that does work. Beware of those people. They just want to drag you down to their level or sell you something that lines their pockets, not yours.
When it comes to the debate about FIRE, one thing is clear.
FIRE is the single most life-changing thing that’s ever happened to me. And I’ll be shouting about it from the roof tops because of all the ways to “get rich” that I’ve tried, this is the ONLY one that’s proven to work. And the amazing thing is that even if I didn’t, the movement will continue to live on. It can’t be stopped and it’s bigger than any individual blogger.
The FIRE movement is here to stay. And it’s spreading…
What are some of the cases you’ve heard against FIRE? Do you agree or disagree?
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