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Thoughts on FIRE

November 20, 2019

Financial Independence seems close enough that it feels possible, yet far enough to feel out of reach.

The fact that we still need income in our late 30s shouldn’t be surprising or frustrating. (But it is!) It is a luxury and privilege to even consider being able to thrive without an income. That is a goal most people work their entire lives to achieve.  But, I want it now.

Despite not being a superfan in general, I occasionally navigate to the classic Mr. Money Mustache post The Shockingly Simple Math of Financial Independence and look at this chart.  Somehow, it surprises me on an intuitive level that if you save 50% of your income, you need to work for 17 years to achieve financial independence. It feels like it should be faster, because 50% seems significant, and 17 years seems like a very long time.

Besides the fact the 50% doesn’t get you there as fast as it seems like it should, these timelines are ballpark estimates.  Any savings rates I calculate serve as fine metrics to monitor trends in our income and spending, but it isn’t real math until I sit down and do more careful calculations to properly consider health care, taxes, and many other details I gloss over in the name of simplicity. Then there is the variability of the market and so many other assumptions. We wouldn’t do anything differently based on more detailed calculations, so I don’t bother with it.  (Then again, I also ignore the mortgage principal, so maybe errors cancel out.)  Calculating progress to FI is skewed as well, as we (probably) sit on top of a market peak, with a recession sometime in the future.

It isn’t that I want to quit my job today. There are so many great and cool things about my job. It is more that I depend on my job to enable this really nice life I have, and I don’t like that.  If my job ends, my next step is unclear. (This is also some imposter syndrome, like EVENTUALLY someone will realize I have no idea what I’m doing!) At the most basic level, I would search for similar work within a reasonable commuting distance, and see how that goes. That will probably work out, pending economic conditions, but it can’t be as nice as this job (especially with the commute).  I don’t have a back up plan if I can’t turn up something suitable.  As someone who likes contingencies for contingencies, I’m gunning for FIRE to be my backup plan.  But we aren’t there yet, nor will we be there in the next handful of years. That frustrates me,  even if my frustration is ridiculous. We can swing life on a single income (save childcare), which is huge… but not quite enough.

So, this is just impatience with the middle years slog, and I probably need to shift my attitude back away from this and back towards more near term plans.  More to come on this soon!

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 4, 2020 9:43 pm

    YES. This post has perfectly summarized how I feel about our FIRE journey, such as it is. It’s nice to see that we can accommodate a bare-bones version of our lives (but not including healthcare), but I don’t particularly want something bare bones.

    All I want is to be able to afford worst-case spending + healthcare costs using an extremely low withdrawal rate (~2%), preferably in the next 2 years. Why is that so hard?

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