Don’t Get Burned – By FIRE 🔥

Don’t Get Burned Mike Zaccardi  |  March 17, 2021 HumbleDollar

WANT TO RUFFLE some feathers? All you have to do is utter “FIRE movement” on social media or in a crowded room of financial advisors.

FIRE—short for financial independence/retire early—has grown ever more controversial as rising stock prices have fattened the portfolios of super-savers and brought their early retirement dreams closer to reality. I fit the mold of the super-saver. I’ve saved 90% or more of my after-tax income over the past few years. Below, I’ll explain how.

That sky-high savings rate is on top of the solid financial foundation I built early in my working life, beginning in high school when I bagged groceries at Publix Super Markets. Still, I’m not a vocal advocate for the FIRE movement.

For background, those who buy into the movement look to accumulate a portfolio equal to 25 times their annual spending or more. Based on a 4% withdrawal rate, that should be enough to cover your retirement living expenses. To retire in their 40s or even their 30s, FIRE aficionados aim to save much more than they spend. They usually invest those savings in index funds, primarily U.S. total stock market funds.

According to the stereotype, once these folks hit their target, they relax on a beach, put out a podcast, write a blog or do whatever else they please. In reality, many continue to work in some capacity to keep busy and healthy. That’s the idea. Again, I don’t proclaim all this works as promised, nor do I subscribe to every FIRE movement nuance. But yes, at age 33, I am FI—financially independent—which is a nice thing.

But I’m not about to spend my remaining days relaxing on a beach. I need to stay active and social. No two ways about it. I also see being FI as more of a dimmer switch than some magical moment. There are so many risks out there—from a market crash to a health event to (God forbid) me finding that special someone. Certainly my “single dude” lifestyle would be far more expensive if I added a spouse, kids, a house and health issues. So much can change over a retirement that, for the FIRE folks, might last six decades. Uncertainty is high.

Right now, I’m financially independent according to all the metrics, having saved about 100 times my annual expenses. But I also know that could change quickly. I might go from 100 times to 50 times if my lifestyle changed. And then I might go from 50 times to 25 times if the stock market crashed. Even with all that, maybe you’re a little jealous. “It must be nice,” you might say.

How did I get here? Part luck, part intention. I was fortunate to hold a high-paying job in energy trading for six years, while keeping my annual expenses near $10,000. That allowed me to shovel massive amounts of money into the stock market every paycheck, much of it into tax-advantaged accounts. Matching 401(k) contributions from my employer were a handsome addition.

I also regularly maxed out my Roth IRA starting in 2005, when I was age 18 and working minimum wage jobs at a local golf course and at the grocery store. I took advantage of employer tuition reimbursement to help pay for college, and also when I got my MBA and Chartered Financial Analyst designation. My car has always been a beat-up, utilitarian but generally reliable set of wheels that gets good gas mileage. I have lived with roommates, renting a room to keep my housing expenses low.

Health is another important factor. I’ve had no big health scares, though I did spend $3,000 on Lasik surgery a few years ago. So now I’m FI and could RE—the retire early part. Big whoop. The work-from-home trend opened my eyes to the fact that I need to be around people. The past few months since I left fulltime work—and with the pandemic still raging—has left me feeling kind of, “Is this it?” Humans are tribal.

We also need purpose. I could find that by serving at my church or once again bagging groceries at Publix. But I’m too greedy for that.


Source: Don’t Get Burned – HumbleDollar

One comment

  1. I’m currently 58 (59 in a couple of weeks). Still working full-time. One of the lucky dinosaurs that has a very lucrative pension from a company with which I’ve been employed for over 34 years. Also, have been pouring money into a 401k for those same 34 years. No taste for debt, so debt free. HOWEVER, I fully subscribe to the FI. That’s been my goal since my 30’s. Less warm and fuzzy with the RE part. Especially when I see that being thrown around by 30-40 year olds (or even 20 year olds) who really have not had the opportunity to experience one of life’s curveballs. Great article.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s