Bible Verse of the Day

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

My Head is on FIRE

I am a material girl. I am not ashamed to admit it. But not in the pursuit of diamonds and luxury. I'm all about pragmatism and I'm hard-headed about numbers. Save now, spend later. "Only boys that save their pennies make my rainy day."

(I had fun blasting this song while driving through my little town earlier today...)

FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is all the rage. I see bloggers praising quitting your job and retiring once you have enough money to live on for the next 50 years. (Notably, the bloggers doing the praising are pulling down big bucks as famous bloggers, so, consider the source, y'all...)

Let me be clear: I am all for quitting a job you hate and following your bliss if you can do so! As most of us in their 60s and beyond could tell you, life is short. But I find so many of the FIRE bloggers rather clueless on the practicality of FIRE. They are in their 30s and they simply can't envision the day when they can't find another job because they have aged out of the market.

You have to turn 50 or 60 to run into that concrete reality.

I remember those days... basically I could go out and pick a job off the job tree and never, ever worry about periods of unemployment. But these days, after 50, especially in certain fields, doors shut forever. Don't believe me? Okay, go ahead.

I am all for frugality, for fun, for spending as much time as you can with family and friends, for doing only work you love (or at least tolerate well). But Millennials and Gen Xers entranced by FIRE should keep this in mind:

"Just go find another job" if/when you run out of money only works up to a certain age.

Trust me, you do not want to be still working at 67 because you must. Or be 67 and no one will hire you because you are old. Or be 67 and work at a job paying minimum wage that's beating up your body because otherwise you will starve.

Or be 67 and have all your money gone because health care costs were higher than you thought they would be when you retired at 35. As someone who has paid for their own health insurance, it only costs more the older you get. You might be shocked.

Yeah, you're 35, have a family, and think $500,000 that's well-invested will do the job for the next 50 years? Good luck with that. I do mean that. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who makes it work. Maybe you're a market genius and your investments will pay off wildly well. Maybe you will be spectacularly lucky with your health or with life in general.

Most people aren't.

Please, please, for the love of God, if you are considering FIRE and feel cocky about how much you have saved/invested, think again, or at least consider the following suggestions:

  • Find someplace that has a low cost of living.
  • Find something else to do if you truly hate your job that you can do in said location with a low cost of living that still supports you.
  • Be free of debt.
  • Know how to live without all the perks of 21st century life. (If you can't do without cable or a new phone every year, you might not be ready for FIRE.)

Take a look at our country. The trend is to provide less of a safety net, not more, for people in trouble. It's a cold world when you can't pay your rent/mortgage, when your EBT card (food stamps) runs out of money before you run out of days, when you have to get to work but can't afford to repair your beater car.

If you have never been there, you're in for a rude awakening.

FIRE is a fine goal. But know yourself, and be honest about what the next 50 years will cost you to live. I suggest FIRL (Financial Independence, Retire Later) and aiming for a 45-50ish retirement rather than throwing in the towel at 35.

In any case, may you never run out of cake to eat.

Photo courtesy of gorartser on pixabay. Creative Commons licensed.

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