What Everybody Is Getting Wrong About FIRE

Fig 1: Suze Orman’s opinion of our lifestyle, as captured in a crazy interview on Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast.

In case you hadn’t already noticed it in the news, it seems we are hitting a  turning point in how the rest of the world perceives this lifestyle that you and I have been enjoying.

First, we were ignored. Then, there were a few stories that just focused on the strange lives of  Mr. Money Mustache a few other freaky magicians, cataloging our feats of extreme frugality like “spending less than 100% of your money on a car” or “occasionally eating food from one’s own kitchen.”

But time went by, and our numbers kept growing. And we weren’t just thirtysomething white male tech workers anymore, we were women and men of all ages and professions in all different countries, absorbing blogs and podcasts from a thousand different sources.

Vicki Robin, author of Your Money Or Your Life came out of retirement to write a new edition of her foundational book on the subject of financial independence* and some prominent filmmakers have spent the past year making a documentary called Playing with FIRE about all of this too.

And suddenly, instead of just a blogger or a few millennials here and there, the media is starting to call it the Financial Independence Movement. And this is a big deal, because when it comes to cultural traditions, perception pretty much defines reality.

But when you look it up by Googling the FIRE Movement, you still get a pretty mixed bag of arguments.

The New York Times article looks very positive. But there’s another one in there called “Why I Hate the FIRE Movement”, another that complains our ideas are a “Massive fallacy of composition”, and any number of others saying that we have got one aspect or another wrong.

There’s a tricky paradox going on here: the more people you reach, the bigger the range of misconceptions that will come up, potentially cockblocking your movement before it really takes off.

So, with that in mind, let’s clean up the biggest bits of WRONG that are preventing the latest round of several million new arrivals from fully enjoying the fruits of their own labor.

Because as soon as you stop making excuses for why these ideas can’t possibly work for you, you can start actually doing them and seeing the benefits – today.

1: This is ALL WINNING and there are NO DOWNSIDES.

If you think there is even the slightest flaw with the ideas behind FIRE, you’re probably just not understanding it correctly. Because the whole reason for doing any of this is to lead the happiest, most satisfying life you can possibly lead.

Sure, there are a few tricks behind the curtain – I’m going to make you occasionally tackle some moderately difficult stuff instead of the lazy, easy things you are accustomed to doing. But this too is a win, because a lazy life is a sad, depressed, unsatisfying life. We are going to lift you up OUT of that bullshit. So from now, you can assume that any objections can be solved. Zero complaints allowed.

2: It Doesn’t Matter How Much Money you Make

Sure, many of the people most passionate about FIRE tend to be tech workers and doctors who happen to make a lot of money. When people with lower salaries notice this fact, they tune out and assume the ideas won’t work for them. When in fact, they work even better, the further down the income scale you go.

When I tell a Google employee earning $200,000 per year that she should not burn through too many $10.00-plus-tip glassses of wine at happy hour, she can rightfully respond that each one represents only about ten minutes of her after-tax pay. But what about the guy getting by on $20k? A ten-dollar expenditure is ten times more of a blow to his finances, and an even bigger portion of his monthly surplus income, if he has any surplus at all.

I’m not telling low-income people that they can retire in five years. I am telling them that they can make their lives better, RIGHT NOW, by spending less money on certain things that don’t improve any of our lives. Ten dollar drinks are one easy example, but there are dozens of other ones that I’m suggesting.

And dozens of ten-dollar bills start to add up to real money pretty quickly, which is something most people don’t realize. The vast majority of wealthy people are the ones who have figured out that a millionaire is made ten bucks at a time.

At the opposite end of the scale, earning more income will rarely solve your financial problems: most high-income people are still within just a few paychecks of insolvency, because it is possible to blow almost any paycheck, simply by adding or upgrading more cars, houses, and vacations.

A fundamental truth in society is that most people are pretty bad at math. At the core, these FIRE ideas are simply about taking some solid math, combining it with principles of human happiness, and then distilling it down into a list of simple tactics that will get you way ahead in all areas of life. The benefits go way beyond money.

3: FIRE Is Not Really About Early Retirement

Everybody uses the FIRE acronym because it is catchy and “Early Retirement” sounds desirable. But for most people who get there, Financial Independence does not mean the end of your working career.

Instead it means, “Complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.”

Does this mean you will quit commuting through traffic into a lame corporate office to sit in meetings about products you don’t really care about? Yes.

But does it mean you won’t work hard at things that are important to you, for the rest of your life? NO!

The people who lob this “retirement is bad” complaint against us are often the lucky ones – a professor who loves researching and teaching, or an established doctor who loves saving lives and happens to enjoy the work environment she has created for herself. But in real life, over half of people are in jobs they genuinely do not enjoy, and which they would immediately quit if they didn’t need the money.

Early retirement means quitting any job that you wouldn’t do for free – but then continuing right ahead with work in something that works for you, even when you don’t need the money.

If you’re lucky enough to find a job this good early on in your career, then congratulations, you can have the benefits of early retirement even before you have the huge nest egg. But don’t fool yourself  – having the financial independence side of things is very powerful as well.

And because of this tendency of early retirees to go on through life and keep earning more money – at least occasionally – the issue of running out of money is even more remote. Most of us end up with a higher net worth every single year, even decades after turning in the keys to the cubicle.

4: You Can Be Happy on ANY Level of Spending

As a society, we’ve been trained to assume that having a bigger budget is always better, and cutting back always means some sort of compromise. The Suze Orman interview above is just dripping with that assumption. The amazing news in this department, which will save you millions of dollars, is that this is complete bullshit!

Happiness is your goal in life, and it comes from meeting certain core Human needs. The thing is, that there are many ways to meet each of these needs – some of them free and some of them shockingly expensive.

For example, improving your physical health is one proven way to be happier. But you can accomplish this with a $2500 per month personal trainer or a $100 set of barbells from Craigslist. Same happiness, vastly different cost.

And as it turns out, there is a similar hack for every single one of life’s major expenses. You can meet all your needs at little or zero cost – it just takes a bit of skill. At this level, you would be able to save almost all of your income.

Or, you can substitute a bit more money and a bit less skill to meet those needs in an (only slightly) more efficient lifestyle, like the one I try to lead. This might allow you to save half or two thirds of your income.

Or, you can spray money in every direction randomly, trying to meet an unfiltered list of wants and needs, and end up with a random but very expensive life, while remaining almost broke throughout the entire thing. This is what most people do, and it leads to saving almost none of your income.

All three choices are possible to do with great happiness. But in a bit of a paradox, the last and most expensive choice is the most difficult one in which to find happiness, because you end up with so many distractions and so little free time.

5: It Doesn’t Depend on A Booming Stock Market

I started this blog soon after the crash of 2009. Now we’re in the boom of 2018. Another market crash of epic proportions is coming sometime, probably pretty soon.

Our uninformed opponents think that FIRE-style early retirees are extra vulnerable to this. But in reality, it’s just the opposite: we are on a safe island, far above the choppy seas of the everyday economy. Because here’s how it really works:

  • We have low and easily controlled expenses – remember, we got here precisely by being good at controlling our spending.
  • The stock market always fluctuates, and crashes are an expected and healthy part of the system. Then Human ingenuity continues its magic, we keep on striving and inventing great things, and the market goes back up. Stock market volatility is already built into the math we used to design this plan. Relax.
  • Even in the event of a permanent collapse (for example the end of the US or world economy), the FIRE practitioner would still come out ahead: instead of focusing your energy on leasing BMWs or dressing yourself up fancy, you have learned to live happily and work on your skills, health, and friendships. It’s a package that will make you wealthier in good times and bad.

6: Education, Health Care, or High Cost of Living areas are Comically Tiny Obstacles

FIRE is simply about making smart decisions with your spending so that you waste less money.  This means that you have way more money available to work with.

The potentially costly monsters mentioned above are simply things that cost money. So if you get better at managing your money, do you think these problems will loom larger, or smaller, in your life?

For example, my son will be reaching University age in just five more years. I haven’t bothered to set aside any money for this part of his education, because we already had way more than enough before he was born!

On top of that, financial independence gives us many more options to handle any unexpected expense, whether it’s education, health, or anything else. For example, as a team my son and we parents could easily:

  • shop around to find the most cost-effective way to get any given degree (start with community college for the first two years, compare different schools, etc.)
  • earn more merit scholarships to get through even an ivy league school for free.
  • earn more money to pay for any cost shortage
  • bypass university entirely and simply start a business
  • move to another state or even country in order to qualify for local tuition rates or more reasonable medical rates
  • use personal relationships to get cheaper or free education or medical care in exchange for helping teachers and doctors with something they need from us.

These are just a few ideas. The point is, every problem can be solved, and financial independence simply gives you more mental and money power to solve these problems.

7: The Only Thing To Fear, is Fear Itself

In the interview, Suze Orman goes on and on about what might go wrong, and how you need an incredible amount of money saved to protect you, just in case. But this thinking is completely backwards – money will not cure your fear, as megamillionaire Suze proves so clearly.

If you are afraid of what might happen in the future, you have a mental problem rather than a financial problem. So you should work on that first, by training your mind and body:

  • Start each day with at least a one mile brisk outdoor walk – before you even attempt to work.  This drastically improves your hormonal balance and reduces stress and fear.
  • Read books about managing stress and learn about meditation using something like Headspace, Camp Calm  or the free Insight Timer.
  • Completely avoid the daily news cycle, especially on TV or radio. If you insist on being a world events junkie, just read the Economist once per week. Focus on optimistic sources of information – like this blog!
  •  Seek out and hang out with more optimistic friends. Remove negative or gossipy friends from your daily life.

8: Place Your Bets Where The Odds Are In Your Favor

Because my brain has a math side I can’t turn off, I tend to see the world in terms of numbers rather than just emotions. And this is incredibly helpful, because by understanding probability, it helps me set up my life to ensure a much more joyful stream of those happy emotions.

For example: many people avoid cycling because they have heard from friends that it is very dangerous. But by doing so, they replace bike trips with sedentary car or bus trips, which clog their arteries and compound into fat gain and other medical issues which really are dangerous.

A lifetime of bicycling in average conditions might give you a 0.2% chance of untimely death due to accident – which can be slightly higher or lower than car driving depending on where you live. But a lifetime of drinking soda and skipping your cycling and barbell workouts gives you at least 50% higher chance of dying ten years earlier due to medical complications, while cycling reduces those health risks (and costs) considerably. So which activity is really the dangerous one?

With this in mind, which of these activities is more risky?

  • working ten extra years in a job you don’t love so you can have an extra million saved up in case you encounter heath problems later.
  • quitting that job right now and investing those ten years into living a healthier and less stressed life with more exercise, better relationships, and a more diverse range of skills. Focusing on you instead of your bank account.

We’ll skip the spreadsheets for now and just boil this into a list of habits that really do give you the best chance at a good life: more happiness, better health and less negative stress.

  • Physical health FIRST: your brain is a system of meat and tubes, just like the rest of your body. The whole system will only perform well if you place its wellbeing first, before anything else. Salads and barbells every day, no goddamned excuses.
  • Mental health NEXT: feed your mind with happy input and learn to practice mindfulness, educational reading, and meditation daily, which is simply a workout for the brain.
  • Daily hardship and Learning: if you are not sweating and learning and doing something difficult and solving problems, you are not living fully. Find a way to scale back the pampering and achieve more with your own body and mind.
  • Indulge, but only with Moderation and Self-Mockery: this country is rich enough that you can become wealthy even without perfect self-discipline – even on minimum wage. But the moment you think you deserve or need whatever indulgence you are currently treating yourself to, you have lost the game. Luxuries and treats are just short-term pleasurable distractions, like any other drugs. Indulge if you can afford them, but you’re not missing one ounce of happiness if you choose to go without at any given moment.

So that’s the FIRE movement.

It’s a system of living your best life in all ways rather than just the financial, based on our best understanding of human nature, with a bit of math and science behind it. Like science itself, it’s not a dogma or a religion, but more of a self-aware system that invites questions and experiments. It’s always open for modification or improvement, but like science itself, there’s nothing for a rational person to hate. Who hates learning?

The reason it has spread to millions of people is that it works. People try it, they like the results, and so they share it with their friends, and the cycle repeats. There’s no stopping an idea or a movement like that.



*and guess who had the honor of writing the foreword for the new edition?

Note that I use Amazon affiliate links to point to any Amazon products mentioned, which allows this blog to earn money – so many thanks if you use them.




  • Dylin October 5, 2018, 1:35 pm

    Great article. I always thought Orman had good financial messages, especially for finance newbies, but her FIRE rampage was overrun by fear and exaggerations. As with many over the top media messages, it seemed more like a siren song to get eyeballs to her brand and dollars to her products. On the flip side, I agree with your stance of being smart, calm, and strategic when dealing with money (and other) challenges in life.

    I also just want to say I enjoyed seeing you in person at FinCon last week, especially during the Playing with FIRE roundtable. It’s great to see you and some of the other FIRE leaders using your mantle to strive for doing important things for society as a whole. As someone who achieved a fat FIRE several years ago, that’s something I’m going to be working to do myself in the coming years.

    • Heather October 5, 2018, 2:17 pm

      Dylin, I agree that it was a bit overwrought and fear-driven. I do wonder, however, how many of us who are under the age of 60 feel this way versus those who are more advanced in age. I ask because Suze (and m y parents etc.) literally had everything wiped out over the course of two downturns. I am a 36 year old highly-educated and well-employed person who has never seen either. The podcast that we listen to talk about investing in low cost index funds and getting steeped in real estate. Yes, there is money to made and saved, but we (as in me and I would venture to say many here) have not lived through a downturn in the autumn or winter of their lives. How much more afraid would we be when we hear a soundbite saying save X amount of dollars and leave work to pursue your (non-paying) passion. How much more are Suze/older people/our parents afraid when they hear their children saying the same. The narrative simply does not make sense to them.

      I will say, I was quite impressed by Suze’s fatalistic vision of the American economy. I have to say, I myself am skeptical as well, but not to the extreme. One thing that keeps me up at night: 1) if more people are pursuing FIRE, that means that consumerism will be down and with it all of our equity returns…don’t we rely on the FIRE not spreading to keep this up?

      • Dylin October 5, 2018, 2:39 pm

        I hear you. However, my wife and I are in our late 40s and went through two major downturns (the dot com bust of 2001 and the 2008 recession). We continued investing for the long haul throughout both of those, and combined with living frugally and well below our means, retired several years ago with a 50+ FI (before we knew what FIRE even meant). Just saying all this to illustrate it can be done. Yes, be wary of the bear markets, but just be smart and patient, you’ll likely be ok.

      • Married to a Swabian October 12, 2018, 5:04 am

        Look at the German economy as an example: GDP on the order of 11 trillion dollars to our 17, but with a population of just 84 million people. How is this possible? They manufacture high quality, well engineered products that are exported all over the world! …and Germans are cash and carry savers. Cannot tell you how tiresome the constant media drumbeat of “consumer spending is 2/3 of the US economy” has been!

        • Married to a Swabian October 12, 2018, 5:09 am

          Correction: GDP numbers are $18 trillion for US and $3.5 trillion for German economy.

  • The Frug October 5, 2018, 1:39 pm

    Thanks for clearing the air on the FIRE movement. I also saw all the MarketWatch article highlighting some of Suze Orman’s fear-driven ideas and quotes. One of her craziest quotes in the interview was “Listen, if you have 20, 30, 50 or 100 million dollars, be like me, OK?” she said. “If you have that kind of money and you want to retire, fine.” Later in the same podcast, she talked about having no savings until she was 35. Clearly, she’s applying one set of crazy numbers to everyone and misses the whole point of FIRE. Securing your freedom early through financial independence granting you unlimited options in health, work, and life.

  • Financially Free, Pharm.D. October 5, 2018, 2:06 pm

    MMM, I can’t help but wonder what the furniture in your house looks like? I imagine a bunch of beautiful, solid, sleek looking furniture – all hand made by you in your workshop? My wife and I are currently (slowly, we bought our house in February) filling our house with furniture, and my wife has a very keen eye for quality and great-looking (read: expensive) pieces. As we buy our living room couch and chair, then move on to our dining table and chairs, etc, I can’t help but feel like we are temporarily abandoning our Mustachian ways. Granted, we still never go into debt, but it is lowering our monthly investments into VTSAX. Please give me your words of wisdom! Time to learn some carpentry skills?

    • Cathleen Hutchins October 5, 2018, 2:15 pm

      Financially Free- I have pretty much filled my house with Craigslist finds- be patient- even Ekornes chairs and couches are available. Those things are insanely comfortable and last forever. The only exception to buying second hand (or DIY) was the dinning set (big regret-should have just found a solid wood one on CL), our mattress, and the couch (which is a sleeper couch, and an italsofa so also should last forever). the couch was because my husband insisted “it come with delivery”. But, yeah, Ekornes chairs will fit in a sedan if you put down the back seats.

      • Financially Free, Pharm.D. October 7, 2018, 2:51 pm

        Hey thanks for the tip! Yeah we definitely use craigslist as well as fb marketplace… more for selling but we also browse what’s available. And you’re right, patience is the key!

    • That Frugal Pharmacist October 6, 2018, 9:40 am

      Hey there! Glad to see you’re still around. As a pharmacist- you should check out my blog to see what I’ve been up to lately. I don’t know what your practice area is, but, if it’s retail, keep up the Mustachian ways! You’re probably doing just fine.

      But our industry is shifting, and I hope that I can convince as many pharmacists as possible to live frugal lifestyles and eliminate their debt to the point they don’t need a PHARMACIST job. I feel our industry is at a juncture and the next 10-15 years could be pretty rouch. Walmart and Kroger among others have new labor models that say pharmacists who are full time are only guaranteed, say, 32 hours a week. I’d hate to be a student coming out with 200k in debt, kids on the way and a fat mortgage. Glad I could kind of take or leave pharmacy at this point.

      Anyway-back to your point. There is something to be said for learning some new skills. My house has quite a few handmade items from my husband. Bathroom cabinets, a giant shelf for our sons room, a laundry room revamped to a pantry of sorts in our small house (and the washer and dryer got moved outside).

      That plus craigslist… I DID score one of those Ekorne chair and ottoman combos the person below mentioned off craigslist a couple of months ago for $300 bucks. I rolled the pickup into a float shift 2 hours away so not extra travel was needed!

      You can always look into vintage pieces and have them reupholstered. I find the quality is much better and they hold up longer.

      And hey, I’ve joined the cult of VTSAX too. I rolled an old 401k over and am considering rolling over another into it. The question is, do I roll my longer time taxable growth goal accounts into VTSAX too? Still figuring that out.

      • HeadedWest October 6, 2018, 7:02 pm

        “I feel our industry is at a juncture and the next 10-15 years could be pretty rough” As a lawyer, I can tell you what it looks like on the other side of that 15-year period, and for a lot of JDs it isn’t pretty. I dropped out of the rat race a few years ago after hitting FI and I currently work as a temp, making about 20-25% of what I used to. Legal temp jobs used to pay more, before software dramatically cut down on the amount of work to do and altered the supply/demand balance of labor.
        The great thing, for me, is that I don’t need the extra money, there’s much less stress and I have way more free time to spend with my family. BUT – I work alongside a lot of attorneys who either never got the chance to make the big bucks, or did for a time but frittered it away, and I pick up hints of financial desperation from talking to them now. If you’re young and in debt with high earning potential, take heed – build yourself a stash before it’s too late. One day you will be older like me – put yourself in a position to thank yourself when that day comes.

        • Financially Free, Pharm.D. October 7, 2018, 3:13 pm

          Congrats for achieving FI! I can’t wait for the day I drop out of the rat race and choose to work when I want, where I want. We’re accumulating as fast as we can, minus some furniture purchases here and there ha! Thanks for confirming that the dream really isn’t too good to be true.

      • Financially Free, Pharm.D. October 7, 2018, 3:08 pm

        Yeah you’re right, I definitely feel like things are shifting in the pharmacy world. I’m lucky enough to have a natural hatred for debt and was aggressive in paying off my loans right after graduating, before even learning about the FIRE community. It just happened to be really good timing when my wife introduced me to the FIRE world early last year – I was able to read up and do my research and figure out what to do with the extra income once we became debt free, instead of letting it just accumulate in the bank or even worse, spending it!

        I’d say moving your taxable accounts into VTSAX would be a great move. Can’t beat the low fees of Vanguard and the solid 3,000+ companies that make up the index fund. I’d be 100% VTSAX if my 401k and HSA account offered it. Oh well, can’t win them all, ha!

  • Heather October 5, 2018, 2:08 pm

    I hear you on a ton of this, but challenge the section that specifically calls out health care as a comically tiny obstacle. Suze Orman presented a ton of legitimate examples where catastrophe is not comical or tiny and not something against which a $2M portfolio could withstand (please debate). I believe Suze’s legitimate gripes stem mainly from the fact that even some of my most admired personal finance voices do not speak with any depth or experience about the true cost of catastrophe. Suze seized on this time and time again and did to the benefit of Paula’s listeners. Early retirement will leave most of the $1-2MM FIRE pursuers woefully unprepared for a truly catastrophic event, as will major changes in the market, despite careful spending.

    Suze also seized on, albeit, likely unwittingly, something very dark about this community. For as many MMMs and Paula Pants that are out there spreading the gospel of frugality, value-based living etc., there are just as many hacks presenting FIRE as a get rich scheme. I sort of love that the ChoseFI eliminates the RE portion of the acronym (though loves to spread the fiRE hehe). They, like MMM, are giving a realistic picture of pursuing financial independence looks like, but do not advocate RE with nothing more as an end goal. There are plenty of blogs out there that effectively say stop buying a latte and you’ll be free. Then they try to sell you every affiliate course in the book and make you click all of their Amazon product ads. Those people are also spreading FIRE and it is the kind that destroys like the western wildfires.

  • Cathleen Hutchins October 5, 2018, 2:12 pm

    Found myself refuting alot of Suze Orman’s arguments- the ONLY one that I was not able to refute was the compounding time one. Yes, if you continue to contribute AND let your dividends compound, you will have more money than if you did not and stuck to a 4% safe withdrawal rate. The rest- (flood disasters, mudslides, significant health impacts like stroke, cancer, or disability) can and should be planned for first, and the costs included in your yearly budget. I am pretty sure most people that already “retired” early (hate that word- should be “freedomed early” instead) have optimal health insurance. BTW- her arguments about “you are going to be bored in 3 years” doesn’t make sense. What happens to the traditional track people? They’d also be bored in 3 years. Or dead.

  • snowcanyon October 5, 2018, 2:12 pm

    Great post, but is FIRE really possible for those of us who never want to work for money ever again? Or is FIRE really just about front loading your retirement savings and then becoming an entrepreneur? I agree that frugality and bike riding will make pretty much anyone’s life better, but financial responsibility and FU money is different from quitting and never having to work again.

    Some of us just aren’t entrepreneurs; I’m not sure where number 3 leaves the rest of us. Disappointed, I guess.

    • Heather October 5, 2018, 2:31 pm

      Everything about this post is amazing.

    • Cathleen Hutchins October 5, 2018, 2:32 pm

      Snowcanyon- I think that “FIRE” has a nice ring to it. So does FI. Probably rude to use “FU”, unless you can figure out a good “N” word to turn it into “FUN”. But, bascially- its just having enough FU money so you can choose what you want to do. Do work for the joy of it- whether that be your own business, or for someone else’s, or volunteer. MMM’s platform is be slightly less ridiculous about unnecessary spending so you can have the freedom to choose if you work, whom you work for, etc.

      • snowcanyon October 5, 2018, 2:42 pm

        I see your point, but a lot of MMM, and other similar blogs, have historically focused on never having to work again, not gaining financially from post-retirement work, unless such work is desirable. That’s fine, but if it’s really not possible, or advisable, to quit working and retire after “FI”, then the blogs need to be more honest about this, as YNL has been.

        Some of us really don’t want to work for money after retirement. Others do. But the movement and its bloggers should be honest about this, and I’d like to see more examples of people who do just that, if indeed it’s possible and/or advisable.

        • Cathleen Hutchins October 15, 2018, 2:43 pm

          Snowcanyon- I’m working towards what you just described- ability to make money at what I like, rather than being beholden to a specific job. Pretty sure MMM makes money doing stuff he loves (construction work, the blog). The point is that the “RE” isnt that you necessarily HAVE to retire. Just that you have the option. I hate that FIRE includes “retire early” because that turns off alot of people. My thoughts are I’m saving for a case where my job may or may not get replaced by automation, or that I get tired of waking up at 5am everymorning to do this job.

    • Matt October 5, 2018, 2:50 pm

      What do you want to do? Play video games and watch Netflix all day? Travel the world? Let’s say you do something along those lines for 1 full year after FIRE. Nay, let’s make it 3 years. Then what do you want to do next?

      If you don’t need to make a single penny at what you’re doing and you can work as few or as many hours a week as you want and you get to make all the rules, would you come up with your current job? Or can you come up with anything, even if it’s not something you wouldn’t really call a job, that you’d rather do instead? If you came up with working 40 hours a week, sitting in a cubicle at a Fortune 500 company, pushing papers in a circle, that is a sad state to have reached. Hell, at least use FIRE to drop down to 20 hours a week.

      • snowcanyon October 5, 2018, 3:23 pm

        This isn’t the point- FIRE bloggers (not MMM specifically or solely) have marketed itself as just that- financial independence, retire early, however one defines retirement.

        I certainly don’t knock others for working or otherwise earning money, but some of us envision retirement differently, whether it’s painting, writing poetry, backpacking, traveling, gardening, or learning French. All of these are highly worthwhile, generally non-remunerative pursuits.

        Is there space for this, or do we all have to keep working, even part-time, or become entrepreneurs? Can we do this, for those of this that have such a dream?

        If one has to work 20 hours a week, FI has not been achieved.

        • Ron Cameron October 5, 2018, 4:37 pm

          Snowcanyon, I think you’ll find once you don’t HAVE to work anymore, you’ll eventually find something to do that you love and are passionate about. Those sorts of things, in those specific circumstances, will often bring money magically to you. Sometimes not. Ultimately the key is it won’t matter! Because you’re FI, baby.

        • Matt October 6, 2018, 12:35 am

          That’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you. If you want to spend all your time painting, writing, traveling, learning, and the like, FIRE makes you perfectly free to do that. Most people find such a purely hedonistic lifestyle dull and unfulfilling and look to create meaningful work for themselves after a period of catching up on leisure. But if that’s what you want forever, you’re free to do that with FIRE. Financially, you’d have no problem doing nothing but watching TV for the rest of your life, but the people with the personality to pursue FIRE and then write blogs about it typically want to do a lot more.

          The 20 hour a week suggestion was, if you really love your oh-so-meaningful little office job (or whatever you do), the ability to work less than 40 hours a week should be an incentive to pursue FIRE. But 99% of people who find W-2 employment meaningful have delusions of grandeur and are beyond help.

          • snowcanyon October 6, 2018, 11:07 pm

            Lol. Yes. Agreed. Totally delusional. Great comment!

            I work in healthcare and unfortunately got a needle stick today from a high-risk patient, and it made me realize how misguided Suze Orman is. She seems to see work as an entirely risk-mitigating endeavor and doesn’t mention all the health risks of work. Injuries, violence, repetitive stress injury, needle sticks- many, perhaps most, jobs involve a higher risk of injury or financial loss than the possibility of a hurricane, flood or tornado.

            I will be quitting sooner rather than later, and cross your fingers I don’t get sick!!

  • Bart October 5, 2018, 2:23 pm

    Hi everyone, greetings from Poland!

    Great article, well-written summary of the FIRE mentalilty. It is also applicable in my country despite the fact that we don’t earn as much as you, Americans. Nevertheless, we begin to face the same first-world problems as you do – consumerism and what being happy really means anyway.

    Previous generation worked really hard and most of our parents started poor and now live comfortable lives. Some of the next generation – my generation – feel that consumerism is not the answer, but most equate happiness with income and spending. It breaks my heart as most of Polish people think that Western Europe or the US of A is the dreamland and dream of emmigrating there so that they can earn more and spend more. What a fallacy. If only more of us here get to know MMM and this philosophy…

    Thank you for the inspiration and for the much needed optimism about life on general!

  • Matt October 5, 2018, 2:37 pm

    Maybe it would be useful to have rigorous mathematical derivations and detailed spreadsheets posted to prove the FIRE concept to critics. I know when I first discovered this I had to derive every single equation myself straight from the time value of money, look up studies and finance textbooks discussing the 4% rule, and anally monitor my spending for months before I knew that not only could some people do this, but I could do it.

  • Alex October 5, 2018, 2:40 pm

    I couldn’t finish the interview because of Orman’s nonsensical self promotion and the lack of thoughtful pushback. If your retirement planning is based on paying $250,000 a year for your parents’ hospice care then you are fucked whether you’ve retired early or not.

    • snowcanyon October 5, 2018, 4:42 pm

      Seriously. She’s basically saying no one can ever save enough to retire, and that people should work at their crappy McJobs until they are physically incapable, which sounds like a pretty miserable life.

      When you throw out impossible numbers like she does, people get discouraged and end up throwing up their hands and stop saving because it just seems hopeless. After listening to this, I began to wonder if she might be cognitively impaired as her assertions were both insane and counterproductive to the people she is ostensibly trying to help.

  • Michael B October 5, 2018, 3:20 pm

    For some reason when people hear that I live on a FI/RE $20k/year withdrawal scheme, they assume I’m arguing that poor people making minimum wage can do what I do and that I’m so out of touch to talk about financial independence and this is just making a mockey of poverty because someone working two fast food jobs just doesn’t have time to dig their own french drain okay?!

    And that’s true. But that’s not the argument I was making. What people don’t seem to understand that the FI/RE messaging is MOSTLY about telling highly paid yuppies they don’t need to wear corporate casual and work in corporate office parks for the rest of their lives if they don’t want to.

    It’s true that actual poor people who get paid crap are going to take a much longer time to reach the financial independence quadrant of the galaxy because they’re running on impulse thrusters instead of warp drive, but even if they can’t ever quite retire the frugality lessons and DIY attitude can only help.

  • Dan October 5, 2018, 3:26 pm

    Thanks again for refreshing what is and what the goal can be.

    What is: schedules / deadlines / beancounters / doing it their way / ruled by fear

    What can be: calm walks along lakes with cool breezes, watching snowflakes lazily fall, shaping a piece of wood until it is just so, enjoying the crinkles in faces as people smile, pleasant conversation, sunlight (These things don’t cost a lot.)

    Suzy Orman – This sort of fits from the Desiderata: Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit..

  • caryatis October 5, 2018, 5:22 pm

    >Start each day with at least a one mile brisk outdoor walk – before you even attempt to work. This drastically improves your hormonal balance and reduces stress and fear.

    Glad to see I’m already following this advice! I live a mile from work, so I get at least a little physical activity before doing anything harder than getting dressed and sipping tea. It’s not the adrenalin-fueled, testoterone-building thrill of a bike commute, but better than nothing.

  • Jack October 5, 2018, 5:36 pm

    I listened to Suze’s podcast earlier today. I am convinced that the acronym FIRE is a big source of misunderstanding. To retire is universally known as never working again…..relaxing into your sunset years and then kicking the bucket. Maybe we need a different acronym. To me, the MMM recognized “thing” being done is indeed being financially independent but not RE….DN (downshifting now). FIDN. Hmmm, sounds like a government agency. Maybe someone can figure out equivalent words that make a cool acronym. Downshifting involves everything from dropping the number of days a week worked in the cube farm to leaving the farm and doing what you always wanted to try. Or job hopping whenever you see another thing you want to try. What do you think?

    • Nanci Casson October 8, 2018, 9:06 am

      How about FiFE – Financially Independent/Freedom Early because isn’t FIRE more about freedom than retiring early?

      • Jack October 18, 2018, 1:19 pm

        Nanci, That’s certainly better than FIDN. And you’re right. I think regular readers here and on the MMM forum do think of whatever it is we’re looking to do as attaining real freedom. Freedom from the cube farm. Freedom to say “I’ve always wanted to drive a big rig….maybe I’ll give it a try even if it pays 1/5th what the cube farm dwellers make. The classic “retire” just doesn’t cut it in this vein. I know my father in law really and truly did retire. Never took any other job, putters in his garage, probably yells “GET OFF MY LAWN!” now and then, collects his pension and social security. I think we’re looking for something better than that.

  • vis October 5, 2018, 5:42 pm

    FIRE does feel like a movement. I asked a guy on my street if he reads Mr Money Mustache. He suddenly looked very serious and after a moment he said “yes I do, you too hey?”. I showed him our air BNB. He told us how he is buying houses in a small town for cheap and renting them out. He also fixed our garage door. Immediately we were like family. MMM has done so much for me. Its not just financial but it is also the rational approach to happiness and how to live life that I appreciate now. Great article.

  • Jim October 5, 2018, 8:25 pm

    Suze needed an angle to get back in the personal finance spotlight and sell her book. What better way to get attention than to take on the dominant new trend in the personal finance space. I think her rant was contrived.

  • Ed October 5, 2018, 8:46 pm

    My jury is still out on the FIRE concept, pending a major market downturn. I want to see how a 50% downturn, rising interest rates and skyrocketing taxes effect the movement. Good luck! I truly hope you have all of your corners covered.

    • Matt October 6, 2018, 12:41 am

      The calculations already assume that will happen on a regular basis. If it never does, you could retire with saving a lot less. But if you’re smart you know it will happen, so you follow the normal calculations for FIRE.

    • Laurent de Lageneste October 8, 2018, 7:31 am

      A 50% downturn of the market would roughly lower my revenues by 25% so the question is, will I be able to lower my spendings by the same amount ?

      Let’s see: no mortage, no credit card bills, I moved 5 years ago to an area where everything can be done on foot or bike, I live 5 minutes from the beach and my windsurfing equipment can hold on a few more years if I don’t get hammered by a treacherous wave…

      Heck, I could always find some alternative jobs that pay surprisingly well (giving private maths lessons works a treat for example)…

      Yes, I think I’ll be fine…

  • Ted Bendixson October 5, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Much of Suze’s reasoning boils down to “unexpected things happen and then you’ll be forced to pay unpredictable sums of money to deal with it.”

    Well, isn’t that why I’ve been paying these insurance premiums for all these years? I am paying for the privilege of being able to predict how much my healthcare is going to cost me, no matter if I get a little sick or get hit by a bus. If I stay on the plan, I have an out of pocket maximum each year.

    If you want to be in a better position to predict how much money you are going to spend, you simply need to purchase more insurance products.

    It seems quite silly to spend the money that is supposedly purchasing a certain peace of mind and then not be able to enjoy the peace of mind you just paid for. In Suze’s world, you might as well stop paying those insurance premiums since anything can happen and you’ll be forced to spend like $30K every month.

    There comes a point where you have to be able to say “fuck it,” I’m living my life right now and that means taking some small amount of risk. If something bad happens, I come from a very long line of primates that kept surviving because they adapted to these sorts of situations. Or I’ll just die, but that was going to happen anyway.

    Maybe underneath all of this is a certain “eh, fuck it” attitude that you’ve just gotta have to be comfortable with some level of uncertainty.

  • Cheryl October 5, 2018, 9:29 pm

    Moving from payday to payday living into financial independence is a slow paradigm shift for most people because the idea that you need hundreds of thousands of dollars is so prevalent. When an unplanned thousand dollar expense is a big deal, it’s hard to ever see yourself as one of the ‘rich’ people. Once you’ve started taking control and have no debt, or just the mortgage left and there’s always money in the bank it looks a little different.

    The next shift in putting that spare money towards freedom (whatever that looks like for you) is the one where it really changes your thinking and the habits seem to just roll on from there. Or maybe it’s just been the slow process cementing the sensible money habits? :)

    We’re currently living on around $40k pa after rent and $30k going to the mortgage. Hubby has the option to retire early from the military in a few years with a part pension of $35k and since the mortgage will be done, (and the bottomless pit of a teenager out of the house) we could live on that with very little change in lifestyle, except the 5 days a week of going to work. Hubby is vanishingly unlikely to sit around and be ‘retired’ but it will be his choice, not a necessity to find a job.

    I always thought the point of FI is to be able to sustain yourself in what you choose to do. I don’t want a new shiny car every few years (I quite literally can’t sit in new cars without becoming ill, so, just, no) or a massive house, so my figures will look different to someone who does. And I do think that it’s when people sit down and really look at what managing their money can do, what their future freedom can look like, that the stuff is outweighed by the freedom to choose.

  • Gordo October 5, 2018, 10:16 pm

    I agree with your ideas, but you may have noticed there has been a new crop of FIRE “examples” appearing in the media which are clearly people that are either delusional or heading for trouble- I read one such article on Marketwatch a couple months ago. One young guy lost his day job and just thought he had enough to not work anymore but he wasn’t even close, another example was clearly just some married guy who figured he didn’t need to work anymore because they could live off his wife’s income (uhhh, OK). Also almost all examples including MMM are not actually retired by traditional definition of that word, they work hard and earn income- this is really just self employment. True passive income is rare, even rental properties are work. The focus should be on optimizing life satisfaction and use of time for the long haul, which of course includes health optimization for the long haul, happiness research, helping others, doing things you are passionate about, etc.

    • NoClaude October 5, 2018, 11:32 pm

      Hey Gordo,

      but why do we get so stuck on the definition? Financial independence is about stepping out of the hamster wheel, that will mean different things to different people. Realizing a family can live on one income and still have enough stashed away for when they’re older, that’s a MASSIVE shift of paradigm. Kudos to the guy who “figured out how to live off his wife’s income” – which probably means doing the shitload of unpaid work that a household entails, and at the end of the day everybody’s happier.

      • Laurie October 10, 2018, 1:06 pm

        Well, I HOPE the guy didn’t just take the ‘opportunity’ to live of his wife’s income, if you see what I mean.
        “Hey honey, great news, I’m retiring early! Uh, you’re keeping your job, right?”

  • Ulf October 6, 2018, 12:10 am

    As much as I like this article, it does not adress her argument. Her main thing was that there are unknown things that will happen that people of the FIRE movement fail to budget for – like having to care for elderly parents at home and blowing the budget on that or accidents. Do we need to, maybe, budget for some extra insurance?

    • DaveNItUp October 15, 2018, 6:54 am

      We put my wife’s parents into assisted living last year (88 and 85) after 3 emergency room visits each. We’ve joked for years with our own kids that we’re jumping off the Grand Canyon before we get too old. Watching my in-laws deal with failing health over the past 10+ years and then in assisted living only confirms our resolve. We joke about taking up smoking and other life shortening habits at some point and are discussing an age where we stop going to the doctor. Definitely thinking about things like Dignitas to go out on our own terms.

      I’m sure this thinking is unconventional to many, but so is FIRE. There are powerful forces looking to separate us and our families from our time, money, and freedom. It takes unconventional thinking to stay ahead of them. There’s all the consumer stuff that can be somewhat ignored, but what about the things we really need like housing, transportation, education, and health care. We can try our best to be nimble, but they’re intent on restricting our choices in order to funnel us where they want us. Even if that means legislation to “protect” us. Keep fighting the good fight out there.

  • Nathan October 6, 2018, 6:20 am

    Do you think happiness or meaning is more important? It seems impossible to be happy every second of your life but if you have something meaningful to focus on, that can bring you through the unhappy times. just curious on your thoughts.

  • Tony W October 6, 2018, 7:22 am

    Every time I hear Suze Orman spout her nonsense it sounds like so much fear mongering.

    It seems to sell well, but I’ve never understood the appeal to fear and uncertainty.

    She is somebody who made her way by being bold and taking risks, but she advocates for the rest of us to stay on the treadmill for our entire lives.

  • Katie October 6, 2018, 8:48 am

    I always thought the word “retired” in this sense is slightly misused, but I am not going to be an early retirement policeman. I like what jcollinsnh says, it’s not about retirement, but having FU money.
    My family is in no way retired but we do have FU money so that we can choose to pursue “life giving” careers rather than soul-sucking ones. My husband is a professional musician, FU money gives him the ability to turn things down that don’t align with his life. It has enabled me to only work part time and both of us to be present in our children’s lives. We live in a high cost of living area (we choose to rent instead of own.) Just wanted to add this because FIRE is accessible to everyone, and what most naysayers don’t understand is that the root of happiness is a lot less expensive then they say (as happiness is not found in owning things) and that you don’t even need to have all the money saved for the rest of your life to pursue this lifestyle.

  • That Frugal Pharmacist October 6, 2018, 9:27 am

    I think the thing that stuck out to me the most, or the one “new” concept (that I already knew but had never put any thought into) was how those of us pursuing financial independence are actually MORE suited to weather financial storms such as down or destroyed markets than our non FI (or FI seeking) peers.

    How I would weather a long running slump in the market has been something I’ve wondered about. And all I could ever come up with is, exactly how I’m acting now.

    And if the global economy takes a total shit – as I’ve told more than one person who questions why I SAVE SAVE SAVE (these are the live for today type folks), well, I’ve got bigger problems than a lack of money.

    But, as you say, I’ve already become accustomed to a life of relative austerity. Just as hedonic adaptation comes easy if you’re not actively fighting against it… frugality is a habit, and the longer you practice it the less you feel in any way deprived.

    On a personal note, I’ve now been without a regular job for a month and a half. Other than my own mental stresses at lack of regular work and coming to terms with not watching my net worth steadily rise every month (I’m one of those lucky ones who can see those gains monthly at a higher pay rate), we haven’t really felt the effects of it!

    Ok, so, we didn’t buy pizza once last month when we wanted to because I’m still sorting out what this all means and have implemented even stricter measures while we figure out what the adjustment in finances means to the family.

    But really, if “major cut backs due to job loss” at our house means we skip $30 pizza and salad that 2 adults and a toddler share and we didn’t grab the cheap mexican burritos when we took our biweekly trip to the “big city” to go shopping, I think we’re doing pretty good.

    In fact, as seems to be common among many FI evangelists, I’m finding some fun in seeing how much more money we can save.

    To be transparent, the money hasn’t totally dried up, I’ve managed to work about a day a week average (or gotten equivalent pay) in the time that I’ve been off. And when unemployment kicks in I’ll be getting about a days pay per week in benefit if I don’t work.

    But, the time off is making me rethink how much I really need to work. Can I work two days a month as a pharmacist and pickup odd jobs (in the $15 an hour vein) and income sources (like the $250 in mushrooms I sold last month… a multi-perk hobby, as I spend 3-4 hours out hiking and exercising and make some money while I’m at it for each trip).

    It’s hard to re-think your identity, going from a 6 figure earner to contemplating near minimum wage jobs. But I am SO MUCH LESS STRESSED, and how much is that pay difference worth it? And, honestly, I’m excited to see what new things I can learn, what new skills I can build, and what new people I could meet exploring new ways of supplementing income.

    I’m still going to aim to work a few days a month as a pharmacist, but, I’m not really sure I want to go back… even if I could be taking a 75% pay cut.

    • Nanci Casson October 8, 2018, 10:12 am

      I went through the same thing so I decided to work IT contracts that typically lasts only 6 months. So I typically work a 6 month contract at around 50.00 per hour. IT contract positions are plentiful in my area and have been for at least 18 yrs (that’s how long I’ve been in the field) so I don’t look for them to dry up anytime soon. Even if they did, I would just join the gig economy where I can schedule my own hours. Anything is possible and doable with FIRE,

      I love the balance of working 6 months, then off six months. I usually get tired of working after about 6 months and when I’m off, if I’m not traveling, I usually start getting bored after 6 months. Try temp agencies or even the gig economy. Both can help you build new skills and keep you engaged. My biggest fear with being FIRED is not remaining engage with the public and my mind turning into mush so that is why (at least for now) that I still don’t mind working. I’m still uncomfortable with not having any income come in so that also keeps me working but at least it’s only for part of the year. Plus the hourly rate usually allows me to save at least 78% over a 6 month period. This way, I don’t need my FU money to pay bills.

      That covers my bills for the year, allows me to contribute to my portfolio and not have to touch savings for living expenses and I am not at all frugal (well maybe just a little bit)

  • freddy smidlap October 6, 2018, 10:57 am

    i think there is some misconception that these life principles are binary; that you either adopt 100% of them or 0% of them. life has momentum to it and sometimes you can dip a toe in the water of part of FIRE and try to apply some of that to your life. maybe just start saving or exercising incrementally better. once a person tries it out and sees a positive outcome or two they can start to turn the momentum of the big battleship around. it might not happen in the first week but once the direction is correct the results can really build steam towards a more satisfying life.

  • Nick October 6, 2018, 11:06 am

    Love how she views risk 100% wrong.

    “You get hit by a car. You fall down on the ice, You get sick. You get cancer,” she said. “If a catastrophe happens, if something goes wrong, what are you going to do? You are going to burn alive.”

    FMLA (unpaid leave) lasts 12 weeks and an employer can legally terminate you if you can’t return to work. The average saver is the one who will burn alive. Financial independence would only make you more resilient.

  • Steve October 6, 2018, 12:05 pm

    These naysayers HAVE to deny the plausibility of the FIRE movement. Most people like to think they’re smart. For someone to admit that this movement works, they also have to admit to themselves that for much of their lives they have been pretty stupid. I was one of those people, the smartest thing I ever did was admit I was getting it wrong and change. Now I’m three-quarters of the way to badass.

    • Cameron October 11, 2018, 12:43 am

      Exactly. Next time someone’s teaching why not get taught? Run DMC said it so well.

  • dharma bum October 6, 2018, 12:40 pm

    This post resonates with the reinforcement of many great concepts, points, and aspects of Mustachianism that have been expounded by MMM for almost a decade.
    Consumerism does not equate to happiness.
    Material possessions do not equate to happiness.
    Early Retirement does not equate to laziness and idleness.
    Physical activity, moderate hardship, and putting effort into one’s pursuits is better than driving around in a car for hours, sitting at a desk all day, then lying on a sofa and watching TV until you fall asleep.
    Healthy eating and cooking at home with fresh ingredients is better than eating in expensive restaurants and scarfing down fast food.
    The advantages of financial independence and early retirement are myriad.
    FIRE is Enlightenment. (I do NOT mean the historical European “Age of Enlightenment”.)
    There are also people who scoff at and criticize and disparage enlightenment.
    Most people are so hopelessly deluded and brainwashed into thinking that straying from the “system” they have been dogmatically led to believe that they must conform to is akin to heresy.
    It is only once you are able to see reality – to perceive and recognize the truth that exists beyond the illusion and the lies – that you can appreciate the real life changing opportunities that financial independence has to offer.
    It has nothing to do with being able to “buy whatever you want”. It’s not about having money for stuff and luxuries.
    FIRE is an awakening to the realization of what your life has the potential to become.
    FIRE is a state of awakened understanding and the means of transcendence of suffering and desire in order to obtain liberation from meaningless work, endless consumption, crippling debt, hollow pursuits, financial stress, inefficiency, laziness, unhealthiness, and mind numbing rat-race conformity.
    Those that oppose FIRE are simply either in a state of denial, or are not yet evolved enough to comprehend it.
    In many cases, those that criticize or mock the people who have attained FIRE are jealous and resentful.
    FIRE is Nirvana – a state of consciousness that is free from the bonds that enslave our minds and souls, a state of profound peace and serene wisdom, and a lifestyle and philosophy that keeps us on a path of common sense to prevent us from relapsing into the old habits of doing stupid things, lest we become consumption addicts and debt slaves again.
    FIRE is not just about the accumulation of money.
    There are people with millions and millions of dollars who have not achieved FIRE.
    FIRE is ultimately a state of mind.
    Only those that have reached it, ultimately understand and appreciate it.
    Thank you MMM for helping spread the word and doing a fantastic job of explaining the finer details to those that seek the enlightenment of FIRE.
    Love, your humble disciple,
    Dharma Bum

  • Liesbet October 6, 2018, 9:50 pm

    “The less money you spent, the less money you need to make,” I always say. I’ll never be financially independent, but I will have never worked a job I didn’t like either. As far as challenges go, what’s life without a little bit of a risk or a challenge to keep you on your toes? And, with those sentiments, I can’t retire, but I have lived a fulfilling life on the road and the water so far, being a happy nomad, picking up freelance work along the way, since I was 27. Life is about priorities, your own choices, not what society tells you what the do. Not sure whether that fits into the FIRE momevrnt or not. Fact is that new movements and terms come up all the time, yet, who cares about these “boxes” as long as we are happy (and healthy) with the lifestyle we choose?

  • Dunny October 7, 2018, 2:15 am

    I find I can save agressively and not give up too much, by just applying a little effort and setting priorites and goals. I still enjoy luxuries and travel a lot but my basic overhead is quite low, and I can cut back to about $15,000 a year if required (because my housing and transport is covered by rental income) and still eat and dress well. By most high consumption standards I still go way below. I don’t even do DIY or renovations — just live with what I have, which is quite nice if not the latest. I don’t buy DIY gear, but rather let the man or woman who already has the tools make a living too. All the while I have been saving, I have been investing, and after a point, the investments snowball (real estate and stocks), and I now I have to think of things to spend it on, and I still save most of it. I do not think people realize that the sacrifice is minimal and the slight bit of extra effort of forming good habits, is not very hard either.

  • Kim October 7, 2018, 12:22 pm

    The one thing I agreed with Suze about is the unpredictable health care costs and the expenses of long-term care. Yes, you can buy barbells and work out, eat healthy, meditate and do your best to control all the lifestyle factors–but unexpected things can and do happen to the healthiest of people! And the idea working your whole life to have your entire nest egg taken away from you is scary. I do agree that you are likely to need several million if you plan to stay in the US unless something changes with healthcare.

    • EL October 9, 2018, 11:30 am

      Emergencies do happen, but for most of the issues with healthcare, it is the system and the charges associated with it. THe insurance companies are to blame too and the hospitals charging an arm and a leg. Getting extra insurance coverage once your in FI will solve many of those fears. You can always pick up a part time to cover healthcare costs, if the situation arises. While still enjoying more free time than the average person. I am for FI.

  • mdc October 7, 2018, 3:33 pm

    FIRE is valuable even if you only get part way there. How many employees have 2 years’ expenses saved up? That is not retirement money by any means but it’s enough money to not need to fear any one particular employer.

  • Miles October 7, 2018, 6:58 pm

    I don’t think it’s fair to lump the rest of the world’s religions into the same boat as Christianity on the whole self awareness issue. All other modern religions (except one particularlly unpopular sect of islam) encourage debate and growth on what beliefs are most accurate so to speak

  • Matt October 7, 2018, 7:01 pm

    The FIRE movement is here to stay. No doubt about that. However, the perception of this movement we all are a part of is our responsibility to correct and shape in our own communities wherever we are.

    I actually enjoyed listening to Suze’s perspective on the FIRE movement. I think if you felt irked by what she said then you may want to double check your plan of being financially independent. Might be a sign of doubts one may have and time with a financial professional may be of some benefit.

    I really love this post, because as I’ve tried to share FIRE isn’t just about money in the bank. This movement is about the mental and physical health of each of us and the people we love.

    Kudos to you MMM for this!

  • Ned October 7, 2018, 9:30 pm

    A free and very good recommendation to mindful meditation apps: https://www.smilingmind.com.au/

  • Jeremy October 7, 2018, 9:39 pm

    It’s official. Pete started a cult =) And the high priests are angry!

    Joking aside…what does the FIRE community expect but retorts like this? One of the prevailing tenents to this VOLUNTARY lifestyle is to question the rampant consumerism and lazy/crazy spending that turns us into indentured servants of sorts. My experience thus far is that this lifestyle can feel like a slap in the face and maybe even a threat to ‘normal society’. It could seem (to most) that a growing FIRE community could equal less productivity and certainly less book sales and ad revenue for Suze and the likes. The hippie me says “duh! that’s the point”, while the Alex P. Keaton me says “I wonder how this will effect my index funds”. Then the hippie me tells Alex to go to his room.

    All that said, I’ve always been served well to absorb and ponder conflicting opinions and thoughtful challenges to my position. Therefore I’m glad to have taken the time to read this post and entertain the interview.

  • Alex October 8, 2018, 4:23 am

    Is there something here I just don’t follow? I retired 10 years ago at age 36 with about a $3m portfolio comprised of blue chip stocks that have at least a 20 year history of paying consistently rising dividends. I look at other investment criteria as well, but stable and rising dividends is my most important criteria of all.

    From day 1 of my retirement onwards, I made sure to spend less than I earned in dividend income, and to reinvest the savings into more shares of blue chip stocks that raise dividends. That is my entire investment approach, in fact. Spend less than I earn and reinvest the savings into blue chip dividend stocks to compound my income. When the financial crisis hit, I dramatically cut my spending so I could take advantage of the bear market by purchasing more dividend paying stocks at rock bottom prices. Some of my companies cut dividends during the crisis, but my overall portfolio income held up pretty well because I was reinvesting heavily and increasing my base of income-producing assets in the process.

    Fast forward ten years. I’ve moved from the DC area to Lisbon, Portugal where living expenses are a fraction of what I was spending back in the USA. Since I am so-called “NHR” resident, I pay no Portuguese income taxes on my non-Portugal source income. My portfolio income started growing rapidly in 2011 – about 12% a year on average. This year, it’s grown 15% since January 1st. Rather than opt for a more lux lifestyle, though, I’ve just stayed in the same 2 bedroom apartment I bought here in the aftermath of the financial crisis (real estate here was dirt cheap back then, unlike now). Basically, my income is almost thrice what I was earning when I retired, and my living expenses are about half what they were when I retired.

    I could care less whether stock prices rise or fall because I haven’t ever spent a penny of principal. I mean, who cares what stock prices are if you aren’t selling? In fact, since I save and reinvest 75% of my after-tax portfolio income each month, I’m actually hoping and praying for another global financial crisis so I can buy cheap stocks again, like I did during the last crisis.

    Now, CLEARLY there is something that I don’t understand. Can anyone explain why I needed almost twice as much as I had when I retired ten years ago? What am I missing? Is it wrong to live off a fraction of my dividend income, and not care about stock prices? People talk a lot about how much I can safely withdraw each year from my retirement. Is there something wrong with a 0% withdrawal rate? I mean, I guess what I’m missing maybe is that I have a negative withdrawal rate, since I’m constantly buying more shares with my dividend savings. Is that the mistake I’ve been making all these years?

    • TO_Ont October 10, 2018, 2:26 pm

      There actually is one thing. You seem to be defining ‘withdrawal rate’ in an unusual way.

      If you withdraw less than the stock earned (whether in dividends or in capital gains, it doesn’t matter) that’s not a ‘negative withdrawal rate’ as far as any definition I’m aware of. It’s just a withdrawal rate lower than your effective interest rate. Which is great. And some people’s version of a safe withdrawal rate does do that.

    • TO_Ont October 10, 2018, 2:29 pm

      Actually many ‘safe withdrawal rate’ calculations do leave most people with their net worth growing over the course of their retirement. That’s not unusual if you pick a low percentage.

    • Ms Blaise October 11, 2018, 2:06 am

      Well done, Alex. Just in case no one else says it. It sounds like a smart way to live, and Portugal is beautiful and you have Europe and Africa at your doorstep.

    • Posted On October 15, 2018, 12:55 pm

      A “negative withdrawal rate” is the same as a “positive deposit rate.”

      Alex has a negative withdrawal rate because he is increasing the number of shares he owns.

      • TO_Ont October 19, 2018, 8:38 am

        You could define it that way, I suppose, but generally when you read about ‘safe maximum withdrawal rates’ they don’t distinguish in any way between growth from stock value increases, from interest payments, or from reinvested dividends.

        Those are differences in the details of implementation rather than differences in the basic principle – withdraw less than your growth. The exact form the growth takes doesn’t change the principle.

        So by having dividends to reinvest he’s not doing anything different from the people who talk about a safe withdrawal rate, which he’s criticising.

      • TO_Ont October 19, 2018, 8:45 am

        Withdrawing dividends is still withdrawing. If you then reinvest some of them, you are withdrawing a positive amount and then depositing a smaller amount.

        So no, by any common definition of ‘safe maximum withdrawal rate’ I’ve ever heard, he has a small but positive withdrawal rate.

        Dividends are counted the same in safe withdrawal models as any other form of growth or profit.

    • Steve October 16, 2018, 9:24 pm

      Alex – I think you don’t have a negative withdrawal rate. A 0% withdrawal rate would be reinvesting all dividends and not selling any stock. A 1% withdrawal rate would be withdrawing 1% of your portfolio’s current value, and reinvesting the remaining dividends, etc

  • Jay McConnell October 8, 2018, 8:06 am

    Thank you for pushing back on this mainstream media nonsense. I have to admit I’d read a few, and they we’re starting to get to me. You really get at the essence of the movement in this post. It’s not about being cheap and fearful. It’s about being free and pursuing “good work” in the broadest sense. -Mr. Maryland Mustache

  • Ellie October 8, 2018, 8:08 am

    As much as I would love to hate all of Orman’s points about future financial expenses and disasters some of her numbers are spot on. My father in law just passed away and was living in a retirement community that had a $300,000 buy in and monthly charges of $5,000. We did get most of the buy in back when he died but not a cheap place. Then the last 18 months of his life we had 24 hour care at $20/ hour . So keeping his life going cost him hundreds of thousands a year.
    College costs at an Ivy League tun about 60,000. There is no MERIT AIDE at these types of places, only financial aide based on need.

  • Nanci Casson October 8, 2018, 8:36 am

    What I have notice about people who are against FIRE is they get stuck on the whole retiring early part of it. They think retiring means never earning income again and this where they miss the whole point. In my opinion, FIRE is about freedom to choose what you want to do as stated in this post. I love having the freedom to pursue whatever I want.

    I am a 54 yr old black female so it’s not just young white tech guys doing this, it’s also older black women doing this as well. I have been pursuing FIRE now for the last 10 yrs (only found out about the FIRE movement this year).I finally reached the point where I can retire if I so chose too. I recently downsized by home (mortgage free now) and now I am semi retired (I work 6 months a year and love it). Although I have enough money to not have to work for at least 30 yrs, (forever if you throw in social security), I personally don’t feel comfortable not having an income coming in. My monthly expenses are extremely low and could work the gig economy to pay all my bills if I wanted too and not touch any savings or investments. In fact, I still contribute.

    So maybe to solve some of the wrong perceptions of what FIRE is, maybe a new acronym is needed. For me FIRE is more about freedom than it is about retiring early. I love knowing that if I don’t want to work anymore, I don’t have too. I have freedom and FIRE has given me that.

    The other thing about the FIRE movement that I haven’t seen discussed is it’s political ramifications if enough people were to join it. Because the FIRE movement basically removes any control corporate America has over your life, I wouldn’t be surprise if corporate America is putting out articles to discourage people from joining the movement. If people consume less, corporate America can lose a lot of money.

    Another benefit that I didn’t even factor in is as a black woman in the IT field, one of the unexpected benefits is that it minimizes the effects of racism and sexism particularly in the area of employment. I can chose to walkaway without risking any change in my lifestyle or I can choose to stay and fight. When you are debt free and have a massive portfolio, how you react to racism and sexism is much different.

    Anyway I love this article and I thought Suze was just being a bitch. the FIRE movement completely throws away the idea that you have to be filthy rich to be financially independent. I’m not rich but between being debt free, low monthly expenses, an income and a healthy portfolio, I am financially independent.

    • Ms Blaise October 11, 2018, 2:11 am

      Full respect for this comment. I especially like the point about FIRE being a threat to the corporate world.

  • Andrew Mullen October 8, 2018, 10:25 am

    I am so onboard with all of this! I have completely redesigned my lifestyle thanks to this blog and the results are almost unbelievable…I have come so far in the last few years, unfortunately though, my wife was completely against every single FIRE idea/concept and fought me every step of the way. I finally decided to file for divorce and she quickly landed a spendypants Doctor with a $60,000 clown truck. It’s been a rough period, but I’m remaining positive because I know I’m making all the right moves and everything will pay off in time. Let’s get that mustachian tinder going!

  • Tracey October 8, 2018, 2:16 pm

    My husband and I agreed from the outset that investing was a priority, and sometimes laughed at the small amounts we were putting aside. Eventually those amounts got bigger. We had full-time jobs, a great house. We did not submit to the urge to upgrade to a larger house; we drive used cars. Here’s the thing – my plan to work full-time was changed by a layoff. Since then, I have found occasional contract and part-time work. It would be a nightmare but for the other thing – we can live off a small percentage of our investments (4%), travel extensively, and I don’t have to find full-time work unless or until I want to. My husband quit his brain-draining job 10 years ago to start a small business, which now employs 6 people full-time at well-above minimum wage jobs. Argue all you like, people. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Thankful we only sipped the consumer Kool-Aid (not to say we never made mistakes – we did), and yet live in a 2000 sq ft house in a good neighbourhood and I can’t remember when I ever felt deprived. My favourite thing to do in the mornings is go for walks with my husband in the am and wave to the commuters.

  • Suchot October 8, 2018, 8:57 pm

    Suze is a great salesperson. The biggest tactic for getting sales is poking at people’s fears, just like she did in that interview. Your point was a good one that it’s a mental problem not a financial problem. She sounds like one stressed out person. I work part-time and mainly take care of my toddler. My husband and I combined don’t make a lot of money. No STEM careers here. But we’re content with what we have, we’re good at saving, we love our small house, and we live in an awesome walkable neighborhood. My husband walks to and from work every day by choice. I would say our quality of life is very high, though I’m pretty sure Suze would disagree, especially if she saw how much we make in a year. I feel like it would be stressful to be in her brain, if she really does believe all the things she says.

  • MrsM180 October 9, 2018, 12:10 am

    Anyone who makes their living selling you garbage you don’t need will be resistant to you realizing you don’t need that garbage. A gym will always encourage you to only work out there, a car salesman will always point out how unsafe your bicycle is, a realtor will always encourage you to buy a place with “room to grow.”

    Always consider the source. What does this person gain by convincing you they are correct?

  • j21a2t89 October 9, 2018, 2:36 am

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
    Looks like you’ve made it to stage 3 then.

  • Emiliano L Leal October 9, 2018, 9:59 am

    I am a nurse and am one of the people that love my job ( do it for free, just volunteered for Chicago Marathon Medical Tent, anyone here run it?)

    FIRE will allow me to take less paying/ volunteer positions (teaching is basically volunteer work, compared to what I make as a nurse!) that are MORE interesting/rewarding to me at this stage of my life/career without affecting the finances of my family.

  • EL October 9, 2018, 11:26 am

    The movement is real and saying she hates it is wrong, and when I heard that I was shocked. People who want freedom and got out early to enjoy life is a bad thing in her eyes. She wants people to be more secure and that’s fine, but don’t say you hate the movement. Instead say work on the other variables and find alternatives to the risks associated with leaving traditional work early. Healthcare is a problem but it is more of a systematic USA issue more than individual. Sad thing is healthcare is fueled by money.

  • John N October 9, 2018, 11:47 am

    [off topic, feel free to delete]

    Not only does Longmont house MMM headquarters, since January it is also home to the Left Hand Church, a “church with an evangelical style of worship that is open to everyone, including the LGBTQ population”. Amazing. Let’s hear it for Longmont, CO!


    [/end off topic]

  • Frugal Surfer October 9, 2018, 5:43 pm

    Suze Orman might agree 100% with the ideas posted on this blog but she can’t do so publicly because all of her income comes, either directly or indirectly, from the advertising. I imagine Ford would be a little angry if their million-dollar ad for the new F-250 extended cab came right after a rant about how you don’t need a car at all and you should feel stupid for buying a truck to drive in the city.

    She still gives (mostly) good advice to a much larger audience of normal people and made me feel the urgency to pay off my student loans within a year so no hard feelings to her. She just can’t crank it up to 11 like Mr. Money Mustache.

  • Kyle Hale October 9, 2018, 11:05 pm

    Thanks as always for your mental philanthropy, Pete. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read “Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. There are a lot of parallels in the way his business operates (buy it right, or buy it twice, fix / repair your gear, environmental awareness / protection and anti-consumption) and the mindset of FIRE. He infuses a lot of Zen and Stoic practices in his personal and business life as well, which dove tails with the FI / frugality mindset.


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