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What FIRE Means To Me

I don’t remember the exact day, but I remember the feeling like it was yesterday.

After a long meeting at work, I got back to my cubicle in the late afternoon of a warm summer day.

I sat down, exhaled, and smirked to myself as I thought, “well, only 40 more years of this.”

I’d made that joke many times before amongst friends. We’d all laugh and joke around about how one day we’d be making the “big bucks” where all our hard work now would pay off.

In our minds that’s just how it was, everyone worked into their 60’s. It was a normal thing.

However, this day was different.

For some reason, after that thought, I felt a chill go down my spine.

Maybe it was from the extreme coldness of the a/c my company blasts all summer. Maybe it was something else.

All I know is I felt an eerie uneasiness spread over me for the rest of the day. This was something I wasn’t accustomed to, yet I ignored it.

By the time I laid down to go to bed, it still hadn’t gone away.

As I thought back through the day, the reason of the unease finally hit me.

I didn’t want to work for 40 more years.

Let’s take a step back..

These thoughts occurred to me last year around the late June 2017 timeframe.

At the time I was nearing the completion of my third year of working after college.

Now, the first two years of work I was spoiled.

As part of my company’s Leadership rotational program, I worked four different 6 month rotations at various groups within the company.

This allowed me to get different job experiences within the Finance function at my company, as well as live in two different cities (with a third right after the program ended).

In addition, we would have quarterly Training Sessions, in which they would fly us out to different cities our company is located in to learn more about the company and strengthen our skills.

Sounds pretty ideal right?

Well, this wasn’t real life.

And by the time I was nearing the end of my third year at the company, it had been just about a year after I had finished the program.

The reality was starting to sink in.

That year after had no more work travel, no moving on to a new position after 6 months, and I was really beginning to realize the monotony of my position.

Could I really do this for 40 more years?

I immediately felt guilt.

By all means I’m in a pretty good situation, and it’s not exactly like I hate my job or anything.

I have a good, stable job that pays above average compared to other industries, has good benefits, and the work/life balance isn’t so bad either.

I know some people that would love to have this job.

But for me, I couldn’t imagine doing it for 40 years anymore.

There had to be another way.

The Discovery of FIRE

The next day I began to think.

I remembered seeing an article a few months back about some guy who had retired at 30.

At the time I had just glanced at the headline and moved on to the next. The guy obviously must’ve had a super wealthy family or invented something for that to be possible.

I decided I’d look into a little further now. Maybe there was something I could learn.

I did a quick google search, and low and behold, as many others have, I stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache.

Reading through some of his main posts, not only did I discover this world of FIRE (Financial Independence / Early Retirement), but how attainable it actually is.

His in your face style of writing made me question how I never had thought of this before. It was so obvious!

The post, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement was what really brought it home for me.

In order to make early retirement a reality, there were a lot of changes I needed to make though.

While I immediately optimized my finances and began tracking my net worth, overall expenses and savings rate, it took until the fall for me to really crack down and realize what I needed to do.

Shortly after that, I went full convert and started this blog to help me reach my ultimate goal: “Retire” in my 30’s.

What FIRE Means to Me

I’ve been hesitant to state my ultimate goal, as for a while, I was still trying to figure out exactly what that was.

However, in the last section I put retire in parenthesis for a reason: I don’t mean to traditionally retire as someone in their late 60’s might.

I mean to put myself in a financial position where I’m able to walk away from my corporate job and go do something I’m passionate about, even if that means making much less money.

This has been coined “Barista FIRE” – where you would only need to make a few thousand dollars per year (like a part-time barista) in order to fund your lifestyle.

I have a long list of things which I’d love to do in my life. Passion projects you might call them.

The unfortunate thing though, is that most of these don’t have big earnings potential.

By setting myself up financially now, I could walk away from the corporate life, work on my passion projects and not have to worry about making a ton of money off them!

That sounds like a win-win scenario to me!

Doing this, I also would get the flexibility to travel as often as I’d like – a huge priority.

I hesitate to go into too many details or provide an exact number/date as there is so much in my life that’s up in the air and has yet to be determined.

As a single guy, I have no idea whether by this time I’ll still be single, married, have kids, etc. all of which play a big role in what my priorities would be at that point.

This ultimate goal of mine, at the very least, should not have to change based on this status.

At this point, it’s just a matter of how fast I can get there!

My Path Forwards

I now know what I need to do: to get to Barista FIRE, I need to do some combination of lowering my expenses or increasing my income.

I do not want to go find the highest paying job I can that has awful work life balance and where I’d be miserable, and neither do I want to cut my expenses to the point where I miss fun, memorable events because I don’t want to pay a certain amount of money to do it.

It’s all about finding the right balance.

Already, I have a lot of interesting ideas to help me get there faster while maintaining my quality of life.

I look forward to being able to share them as they come to fruition!

I’ll leave you all with one last nugget:

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”
– Leo Tolstoy

Who else has that warrior mindset!?

17 thoughts to “What FIRE Means To Me”

  1. I think the FIRE movement is about having choices – to be able to walk away from the day job of you want / need to.

    Besides, I think it makes sense to set oneself up financially than not to do so. Best to not be on the wrong side of 30 and wondering how you’re going to survive financially!

    1. Absolutely, I agree with all of this! By setting yourself up financially early on you are giving yourself more options. And who doesn’t love having a lot of options knowing whatever you choose you’ll be secure financially!?

  2. Hah I would honestly love to see a breakdown of how many people found FIRE through MMM (and especially that “shockingly simple math” article). I suspect it’s by far a majority of us, myself included!

    Your first two years of work where you changed every six months sounds like a dream, since with every new job I’ve had it’s taken that amount of time or less for me to get bored at work (I’m sure there’s a comment in there about millennials being unable to commit and always needing something shiny to distract themselves 😂). Too bad that couldn’t last for you!

    I’m also looking to go to the Barista FI route, and like you, at this point in life it’s a nebulous goal subject to adjust due to any number of changes in my life situation. I don’t know what I want to do in life (besides travel and volunteer and read ALL THE BOOKS) and I’m going to use FIRE as an opportunity to explore that since I’ll have the financial safety net and freedom to do so (I also suspect that my passions won’t bring in a ton. And that’s fine!). At risk of having the Internet Retirement Police come after me for saying this, I need structure in my life and don’t mind working, as long as it’s something that I WANT to do. That rules out a traditional 9-5 but opens up oh so many options, and I’m glad I’m already on the FI path so I can take advantage of that as early as possible.

    1. I’d say it has to be the majority too, I’ve seen a lot of people say that!

      Oh that program was the best though! I feel like it’s strictly because I went through that that my regular job seems so much more mundane haha. If only I could permanently do that!

      Agreed though! What I would really value is the flexibility and extra time that I simply can’t get working a 9-5 with a long commute…

      1. Haha maybe I’m glad I never had that and it’s just been regular old boring and mundane work from day 1 so in theory I don’t know what I’m missing! 😉

        Flexibility is so important. I wonder how long (if ever) it’ll take for economies and workplaces as a whole to realize that. A girl can dream! Although I hope to not have it matter to me one way or another by that time 😂

  3. I’m impressed you actually went hunting for FIRE after skimming that article. Though I too am one who stumbled on FIRE through MMM, but the other common path: through the debt repayment process 🙂

    And the beauty of FI, no matter how your life situation changes between now and then, is that it gives you the opportunity to chose what gives you the most happiness.

    1. Haha well I went hunting for it, but there was definitely a few months lag between when I found it to where I finally embraced it and made the necessary changes (I still spent a lot during those summer months).

      But yes exactly! While this is my plan now and I’m sticking to it, life has a funny way of changing things so I reserve the right to change this up along the journey as necessary! 😉

        1. I feel like everyone has their “aha moment” at different times. All of us can look back and think “I wish I had done…” probably for many things. The important thing is that we eventually DID let it sink in and we’re on the path now 🙂

  4. 100% on board with barista FIRE. Every time I picture the post-FIRE future, it involves 3 things: a big garden, complete with chicken coop and beehive, volunteering with Ocean Conservancy, and opening up my shop. I won’t be retired by any means, but I will have the financial flexibility to spend time on these passion projects.

    Cheers to getting there in our 30s!

    1. Yes absolutely that sounds amazing! Barista FIRE will allow us to walk away sooner than if we were to wait for full FIRE so we can do the things we’re going to end up doing anyways!

      Should be a fun ride! 😄

  5. I can’t pinpoint the exact time I found out either, but mine was a similar experience. I always was conservative with money but never had a concrete plan/goal/purpose. I had always assumed people retire in their 60s (50s if they’re lucky). Then I saw an article about someone retiring in their early 30s (wouldn’t it be funny if it was the same one you saw!) and that piqued my interest. From there I found more articles and blogs (eventually yours!) and now I’m hooked.

    It’s not easy for me to set a hard target date but I’m not sure I even want to. I just want to accumulate as much wealth as quickly as possible to get to the point where I’m FI and can still work if I want or walk away and not worry about it.

    As you said, life can change and who knows what it will bring? I don’t want to lock in and say something like, “I must be FI by my 40th birthday!” If it comes a month or a year before or after that, it really doesn’t matter. The point is we’re all doing the right things and building up to that point, whenever it arrives. Make no mistake, it’ll arrive far, far earlier than people spending money like crazy when they’re young and going the “traditional” retirement route!

    1. Glad you found your way over here! 😄

      I totally agree with that approach, as long as our ultimate goal is to accumulate wealth as quickly as we can, the FI date will work itself out and we can adjust our target as necessary as it gets closer.

      Glad we both found our way towards this lifestyle!

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