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Early-Retirement Update (livingafi.com)
451 points by dkarp 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 430 comments

I had to quit reading any FIRE (financial independence, early retirement) blogs because they were full of people headed down this same path: Extreme frugality, bare minimum savings, assuming their lifestyle would never change and nothing would ever go wrong.

Retiring at 30 sounds great, but no one's life goes exactly to plan for next the 30-40 years until traditional retirement age. People change, expectations evolve, possessions wear out and need to be replaced. Living frugally may be fun when you're in your 20s, but it's not so fun when as you get older and your friends want to do things that require money (vacations, hobbies, dining out). Even worse when your romantic partner has different goals in life, as happened here.

Many of the leanFIRE stories have their roots in people who hate their jobs so much that the only thing that motivates them is early retirement. They grind through the job the hate, counting days on their leanFIRE countdown until they can quit working and never look back.

Most of these people would be much happier if they simply invested time and energy into finding a job they enjoy, or at least one that doesn't make them miserable. Even if it requires a pay cut and a later retirement date, it's much better to spend your time doing something you don't hate than it is to grind out a bad job in misery just to reach dreams of early retirement sooner.

I've had friends with trust funds, who just seem to dither around in life. "Making music" they never release. Picking up little "pass the time" jobs. And these are people that aren't living "leanFIRE"

It seems like such a nihilistic way to live. You're just floating along the stream of life. Things worked out for you, but you have no further passion or inclination to improve the world? No problems you could set yourself to solving?

As much criticism as Elon Musk gets (he's certainly not perfect), the path he took is the only thing that makes sense to me in that position. He didn't take his wealth and begin doing angel investing in new CRUD app startups, he wanted to solve real problems humanity faces.

Not everybody has that amount of money or skill, but it's surprising to me how many people's alternative to having a day job they're forced to do is just complete leisure time 100% of the time or picking up arbitrary hobbies.

In this guy's post, like with writing, it sounds like he wasn't actually passionate about it. There are plenty of places to post serialized fiction as you write in online and get feedback (Royal Road, Substack) but it sounded like the measuring stick he was judging himself was becoming a very popular/famous author, not actually writing great stories. It seems just like a different version of the treadmill he was talking about with other people.

Not just FIRE people, but 99% of all retirees at any age end up doing nothing of note with their time. But, and I think you aren't saying otherwise, this is also true of everyone who still has to work, while they are working. Your job is just the thing you have to do (if you are lucky you actually enjoy it). Bottom line, most people don't actually have a purpose or strong passions in their lives. Being retired young doesn't make that more or less true but at least you have more space to confront that void and just maybe find some purpose or passion. If you are totally time strapped with career, family, and other responsibilities, then you really really have no chance. OTOH maybe our outside judgement that these people are wasting their lives is misguided. Subjective reported happiness for retirees is much higher compared to the working world.

> Not just FIRE people, but 99% of all retirees at any age end up doing nothing of note with their time.

If you spend some years just chilling and and are actually happy, then sure, why not. But there are so many retired people who do nothing, and are not happy.

For example, my mother, my mother and father in law, my other father in law, my grandmother - all retired, and all do absolutely nothing but watch TV and moan about other people all day. And they are all very obviously not happy, yet suggestions for things to do or get involved in always fall in deaf ears - they'd apparently rather sit and do nothing until they die.

I really, really don't get it.

It makes perfect sense. It's very popular now to see everything as genetic. That is all our focus. We neglect how decades of being in the same environment with the same incentives wires the brain a certain way.

When you spend all that time disciplining yourself to work (against your own will) and having little time to develop your own interests, you become hard wired to do what is necessary.

When that necessity ceases to exist you no longer have the machinery to move yourself. A career and kids and church and a house and big yard to maintain can leave nothing left of you. It can erase your very identity as your brain is rewritten to subdue the self and pursue work, chores and favors over all else.

That's just my hypothesis anyway.

I think this is an unappreciated explanation, and is the biggest reason why I want to work towards some level of financial independence. I have no real desire to retire early, so I could take or leave that part. But being able to make decisions about how I spend my time without having to worry about my next paycheck seems like the obvious path towards long-term happiness. If a working environment becomes toxic I have the option to leave. If I feel like hiking the Appalachian trail I can go do it before I'm old and frail. If I'm tired of the field I'm working in I can take time off to study and do something else. If a loved one needs assistance I can go to their side.

Being compulsively tied to income generating work, and then all of a sudden being cut off from that seems like a surefire path towards unhappiness, since someone who has done that their whole life likely hasn't explored the mental space of what else they could be doing with their life.

On the other hand, being totally free from any restraints seems like it could be an almost worse curse. No pressure to complete any projects, to help anybody, to do something useful for the world. That also wires your brain in a particular fashion, and could be it's own version of hell. Perhaps this is sour grapes though :)

Totally agree,

I'd like only to add that, what many artists (and in general people who pursue their artistic passions) had, compared to the agerage workin-joe, is TIME.

The only way to understand your passions is by having time to observe your world, to reflect on people's actions, to contemplate nature. If you have to work (because you're the bread-winner and have 2 children already and an house to pay), your only glimmer of hope is to have already found your passion during your younger years.

Finally, your energy levels going on are never gonna be your current ones. Keep that in mind.

And I say that as a man who had a fair number of interests, never had time to really pursue them, and now has to to a work I hate and have no remaining passion at all.

I’ll add on to the other responses and tell you that for a lot of people getting old sucks and the thing that sucks worse than getting old is being old. Constant pain. Lipoma pressing against your spine means no matter how you sit or lay you feel uncomfortable. It hurts to take a shit, it’s hard to get all the piss out and even when you so you have to clean up the floor and toilet because it dribbled everywhere. You can’t remember the last time you jerked off and don’t care to try because it started hurting every time you ejaculate more than a decade ago. You can’t stand for more than an hour before your back is on fire forcing you back down to your sitting position which is “only” uncomfortable.

If you are reading this do yourself a favor and take your body’s health seriously right now before it’s too late. Exercise every day, get that 30 pounds of fat you jokingly call your dad bod off before it’s too late, go to the doctor and fucking do what they say instead of nodding and convincing yourself you know better and don’t really need to do that. Oh and brush and floss your damn teeth. The above story doesn’t have to be your story but if you sit at your computer all day everyday and don’t take care of yourself it very much can become your story.


I think it depends on who you are. I can't fathom not doing something. I want to retire, asap, though not FIRE-levels, but i know what i want to do. I want to do exactly what i do in my current off hours, which looks a lot like work. Because it is work. I want to work, when i retire. I just want to work on whatever i want to work on.

Which is the rub. Passionate people will be busy, all the time. Without it.. well, i can't even envision how to live.

I think parents need to help their children find hobbies. Find passions. Develop passions. You don't _have_ to be excellent at piano or whatever. I don't care what it is, be it games, wood working, farming, etc - but i feel like it is essential to the human experience.

But.. i've got an isolated view. So.. YMMV.

This isn't an isolated view, but in my view, it does miss a lot.

Most people have an idea of what they would ideally do if given unlimited amounts of time. The reality is, in my experience, that most people cannot put the same level of work, focus, and dedication into their own projects that they can into the projects an employer pays them to work on.

For whatever reason, most people need the structure, constraint, judgment, or whatever that an external authority imposes on them. Having the skill and motivation is not enough to bring your highest work to your own purposes. There is a second discipline that involves self-accountability, which runs orthogonal to capacity for the work.

Who is advocating that most people should FIRE? It's an individual choice and we shouldn't be telling someone they can't do it because, well, "averages".

Nobody is saying "you can't do it." But "averages" is 100% a valid reason to consider why you shouldn't do something, particularly something unknown to most humans.

> I just want to work on whatever i want to work on.

This is exactly why I'm pursuing leanFIRE. Even if I hit the jackpot, I would still be toodling on personal software projects for the rest of my life. Not saying I'm any Michelangelo, but I would have to be trained not to write software. I'm just aiming to set my own priorities instead of working on things I'm not passionate about because I simply need the money.

I keep wondering if I shouldn't quit the day job and start a software shop, but even that sounds an awful lot like work where you trade one relentless taskmaster for another. I sure as shit don't want to have to worry about market share, I just want to make cool (to me) software.

One possible explanation:

Their dream was to sit around, do nothing, and judge other people. And they have achieved it.

I used to work for a company that had a newsletter. In the newsletter they listed deaths. There was a common theme that people would generally either die shortly after retiring or a long time after. Talking with some of the folks near retirement I learned that people who didn't find things to do generally died shortly after retirement.

Basically, we live for work and when many people retire they loose the thing to live for and die. It's sad.

Long ago I learned to not live to work. I work but I have so much more to life... retirement is just a point in time where I don't need to earn income to live any longer and I can have more choice in what I do.

I have often heard this. And even witnessed it some. But i wonder if the phenomenon is actually due to the fact that people who are in good health and well when they retire are more likely to stay active and those who are not in good health or don't feel well, tend to not stay very busy after they no longer are required to.

My father noticed the same thing and feared it would happen to him, so he kept working part time after retirement. When he finally retired completely, he died within a few years at a healthy (other than sudden cancer) age of 74. I’ve suspected there is something about the pressure of work that “holds” us together, though I can’t put my finger on it.

I think it is depression. And once you are depressed, it is hard to find activation energy.

Plenty of depressed people will tell you about friends being frustrated at them "not snapping out of it".

In one of Dan Gilbert’s talks he cited some research around activities and how they correlate with happiness. Unsurprisingly people like sex and socializing. But “doing nothing” turned out to be about as enjoyable as work at the bottom.

I get it.

It's all explained by one simple fact: the average IQ is 100. In today's society, how many activities are there for 100 IQ people to engage in?

Are there animals to take care of? Is there land? Is there community to partake in? Are there things that need to be done by 100 IQ people?

When you build society optimizing for young people to work 8 hour days or giant factories and supply chains doing everything else, what is there for somebody at 65 to do but watch tv and wait until they die?

Young people barely even have children anymore and when they do, chances are their parents are still working, so by the time they retire, the children are 5-10 years old and playing on their own.

It's easy to blame the individuals for not joining a knitting club or whatever, but people are not built to do pointless activities, they are built to do activities that have purpose and those are not available in modern society unless you have high IQ or a talent in a specific domain.

Also one last point: moaning about other people is what people have always done, especially when you're older and you're almost certainly experiencing chronic pain of some sort. Younger people moan just as much, they just have youth and belief that things will be looking up on their side - old people have neither.

Apart from the fact that average IW has been rising dramatically, I guess your not a Forest Gump fan.

I think 100 IQ people are more capable than you realize - but it comes down to their attitude.

Nitpick: Average IQ cannot increase by definition. The median IQ value is defined to be 100 IQ points and one standard deviation in either direction is defined to be 15 IQ points. It's normally distributed so median==average as well. People overall can become more intelligent and the average IQ value will still be 100.

I believe the comment you are replying to is referring to the Flynn effect [1] which shows a ~3 point rise in IQ per decade in absolute terms. That is, someone who is 100 IQ in 1950 would only be 97 IQ measured by 1960 standards.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect

Yes, the score is always normalized like that, but the Flynn effect shows people getting smarter over time.

So intelligence is increasing while IQ stays the same, to be pedantic.

Aging is as big problem or probably even bigger, than having a job. I'm sure your grandmother wouldn't just watch TV if she looked and felt like a 20 year old girl. She would probably go party, hang out, get drunk, travel and socialize all the time.

Chronic illnesses at any age suck as much as having aging as a chronic illness.

> go party, hang out, get drunk, travel and socialize all the time

This is the 20-something version of being idle. Minus the travel, which isn't a given.

Being 20 doesn't mean you want to do something productive or meaningful with your life. There's plenty 20 yo that party, socialise, get drunk and never amount to anything. The reason it's just a phase is that it's not all trust fund kids and most need money (a job) to live.

If a baby would come out it, that is just as productive as a job (though more and more people do abortion nowdays).

I don't see why working/producing is anymore meaningful than partying / socializing. I think people can find meaning in their life in different ways.

>but at least you have more space to confront that void and just maybe find some purpose or passion

This is what I'm talking about. It's likely much harder to do this when you retire at a normal age after having lived most of your life. But if you retire in your 30s or 40s? Or your 20s!? Good lord.

Think of all the great companies that get started and then snapped up by the big boys because the founders want to become millionaires. Imagine if there was zero pressure to take an exit when offered. I believe our world would be in a better place. I don't want to just highlight companies, but companies can scale and affect change in a way that just volunteering or simple philanthropy cannot in our society.

That's why I think so called "Lean FIRE" is such a bad trap. You're giving yourself very little margin to explore new purposes and passions. It's a much bigger bet that you're going to be satisfied watching TV and going for day trips to Niagara Falls the rest of your life.

> but 99% of all retirees at any age end up doing nothing of note with their time.

Define "of note"

In my experience most retired people do productive things until their bodies confine them to home or an assisted living.

Most retired people I know of keep doing the things they were doing as hobbies before. Gardening, teaching kids piano, racing cars, etc. Most retired people I know are more active on the things they love in retirement. Sure they're not doing Elon Musk things but they don't have that budget either.

> Not just FIRE people, but 99% of all retirees at any age end up doing nothing of note with their time.

This is exactly why I think FIRE is a great thought exercise even if you don't actually care to do it. Given enough money to live for the rest of your life without the need for a job, what would you do with your time?

I don't see FIRE as literal retirement but as 'taking the bull by the horns' in terms of doing what you really are passionate about without having to worry you'd end up old and destitute. If I could FIRE I'd still do software development but I wouldn't do boring digital plumbing work and go through corporate cringe culture. And no, right now I could not do that because I have responsibilities that need me to slave away at a corporate job. It's sad when I think about it but I think I adapted and just go forward with it. FIRE seems like a liberation from all that.

This is mostly nitpicking: What you describe is the idea of FI (financial independence), no RE (retire early). In my impression, this is actually what by far the most FIRE-achievers turn into sooner or later (well-known examples: chooseFI, mad fientist, MMM). Or maybe the retired ones don't talk about it on the internet...

They generally have better things to do than blog about financial strategies, yes.

I’m 37, nearly five years out of the game, and I’m busy, every single day. My time is fully absorbed in building up a homestead, and my list of projects is many, many years long yet, and as diverse as shredded encyclopaedia.

I can’t see myself running out of things to do before I myself run out. I occasionally tell people snippets of what I’m up to here or on Twitter, and people ask if I have a YouTube or a blog. I don’t have time. Or inclination, to be honest. I do this for me.

> "Making music" they never release. Picking up little "pass the time" jobs. And these are people that aren't living "leanFIRE"

> It seems like such a nihilistic way to live. You're just floating along the stream of life. Things worked out for you, but you have no further passion or inclination to improve the world? No problems you could set yourself to solving?

You seem to assume or take for granted that releasing music for an external purpose, improving the world, solving problems, etc have inherent value. I would 100% disagree with that. I don't think there's any greater objective value to raising orphans than there is to playing video games for the rest of your life. If somebody wants to make music and never release it, then they should have the freedom to do so. Your comment is on par with criticizing people for living meaninglessly just for not having children, when not everybody values or enjoys having children.

> complete leisure time 100% of the time or picking up arbitrary hobbies.

I'm at the opposite end: I'm surprised how many people care about solving problems or things like that. I couldn't care less. If I were to win the lottery or something, I'd immediately erase my identity and go live in a castle/farm in a forest somewhere, making music I'll never release etc until I die, etc

I think it's important to separate out the moral and psychological components here.

I agree with you that if your bills are paid and you're harming no one, then you have no moral obligation to do anything more than sit on your butt and play videogames. It's your life.

At the same time, humans are a social species. We have evolved brains and intrinsic motivation reward systems that only give us the real deep kinds of life-satisfaction emotions if we are putting real effort into something that we find to be meaningful in ways that help our perceived family or tribe.

There are of course outliers who can spend indefinite days just binge-watching TV happy as a clam. But most of us are wired like border collies. If we don't have a herd to take care of some real reason to get out of bed in the morning, we go crazy.

oddly, I somewhat agree with your position but in a reversed way.

> There are of course outliers who can spend indefinite days just binge-watching TV happy as a clam. But most of us are wired like border collies. If we don't have a herd to take care of some real reason to get out of bed in the morning, we go crazy.

I don't think these are outliers, I think these are a surprising majority. It's the classic bread and circuses or Soma concept: as long as people are fed a steady supply of moderate entertainment and material enjoyment, they are content to idle. And I would go further and say that you somewhat contradict your earlier position, which to me came across as being interested in solving problems and improving the world, not just your family/tribe.

I would also point out that binge-watching TV is different from creating music, never to produce it. Kafka created amazing works that he specifically wanted destroyed. So from my perspective it's unclear if you look down on anything that isn't sacrifice for someone else's gain (external reward), created for sharing with others (external reward), or engaging with others (external reward). I'm not sure where you get your data that most humans are like border collies, but at least based on your comments it seems like you really value socially-based activities, so you may be overlooking the many others who don't need social interaction or external reward/response to find meaning and fulfillment.

> I don't think these are outliers, I think these are a surprising majority. It's the classic bread and circuses or Soma concept: as long as people are fed a steady supply of moderate entertainment and material enjoyment, they are content to idle.

This is a typical cynical take, but not borne out by reality at all. Yes, people enjoy leisure, but look at how they really live and you'll observe that they enjoy it in the context of a larger meaningful framework. While there are many bullshit jobs, most people still work surprisingly hard at them in large part because they have at least some coworkers they care about and want to support. Even the most jaded employee does so to earn a paycheck that most use to take care of their families and loved ones.

Related: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2mS3uDqQL4

You're right that given the opportunity, many people will just idle and consume media. But if you notice, most of them aren't actually enjoying it much. It's a way to survive, but not to thrive.

> And I would go further and say that you somewhat contradict your earlier position, which to me came across as being interested in solving problems and improving the world, not just your family/tribe.

I said "perceived tribe", which for some includes the entire world.

> it's unclear if you look down on anything

Again, I'm making no moral claims. I'm not looking up or down at anyone. I'm just saying that if you observe humans as a species it is clear that most of them need meaningful social connections and effortful tasks that support those connections in order to thrive.

Imagine you were an alien species building a human zoo. If you gave each person their own cell with unlimited videogames and movies, they would wither and die. Give them community and something meaningful to struggle for to benefit that community and they won't even know they're in a zoo.

> so you may be overlooking the many others who don't need social interaction or external reward/response to find meaning and fulfillment.

I am fairly introverted and as a software engineer, I obviously know lots and lots of other introverts. I many think the emotional experience of introverts in today's society is "I want more solitude". But that doesn't mean their optimal state is hermitage. (True hermits are vanishingly rare in the human species, less common than many severe mental illnesses.) That emotional response needs to be understood in the context of their lives.

Everyone needs solitude to process their experiences, autonomous time to feel that they are the agents of their life, and time away from the draining experience of being surrounded by people we think of as "others" and need to raise some level of defenses of wear masks around.

If you live in an urban area as a lowly employee of a giant corporation and spend all your down time consuming media instead of actually just sitting with your thoughts, then you get little of those. But that doesn't mean most people want an unbounded quantity of solitude anymore that wearing a cast for the rest of your life is somehow healthier than taking it off once the bone has knitted.

What we need is balance, and while everyone has a different prefered quantity of solitude, there are very very few whose ideal is "no social interaction at all".

So, castle or farm? You can't just handwave this question away so easily! Would you hire people to take care of the castle or farm for you? I hear both are quite a lot of work! How exactly would you be spending your time, apart from making music?

excellent question, by f-you money I mean serious f-you money (we're daydreaming, after all), so my vision is a literal stone castle as well as a nice farm. ideally these would be maintainable just by myself so maybe a modest fort-like castle and tiny homestead farm. not necessarily a disney castle and hundreds of acres of corn.

aside from the farm likely taking up all my time (for however long i'm able to sustain that), pursue all my interests: exercise, language, reading, writing, watching movies/tv, taking photos, making films, lifting weights, kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, cooking/baking, biking, playing video games, drawing, spending time with loved ones, studying, the list is endless.

Yea I think the farm would just take up all your time, so no time left for the castle or any other of your interests.

But who will be cleaning toilets in the castle?

I have no problem cleaning my toilet; in fact, I quite enjoy cleaning. And with f-you money I'll make sure my castle has a modern toilet, or in the very worst case some kind of septic tank, rather than the medieval cesspit style toilet.

I'm not that commenter, but if I won the lottery, like the big one, I'd buy a castle, gild one toilet, and Instagram the shit out of it, pun intended. Then I will never have to work again because I'll become an Influencer.

*Gild, geld means to castrate an animal.

Thank you

I don't know. I'd love to have a basic level of income and then be able to dither around with random jobs. I'd love to be a bartender for 6 months, work in a bookstore for 6 months, become a carpenter for a year or two. I'd probably feel differently if I actually had a trust fund since my upbringing would be different but it does feel stifling that in order to have a financially rewarding career one has to stay on a relatively narrow path.

And I say this as someone who has made a major career change during their life.

I frequently have similar fantasies and have to consciously remind myself that I can get the same happiness in my current role.

When I think of opening a bar/restaurant, I'm actually just hoping for more quality time with friends.

When I think of opening a bookstore, I'm actually just hoping for more time to focus on reading.

When I think of becoming a cook, I'm actually just hoping for more passion and drive in the thing I make professionally.

Huh. Interesting way of looking at it. I don't associate wanting to work at a bar with spending more quality times with friends. I think it would be interesting to be in a customer service role and working in a fast paced environment where I have to make drinks/pour beers.

I like the little bookstore near me. They play classical music during the day and the lady who runs it seems nice. I'd like to work there for a while and see what that is like.

Carpentry (or being a cook which would also be on my list) is about doing something with my hands professionally. Can I make my living by creating something with my hands? What would that feel like? I know I can make a living using my voice. I know I can make a living with my fingers on a keyboard.

What would it look like to make a living building something physical? For me it's more about things that seem like they would be interesting life experiences.

That's a good way of looking at it.

This discussion point reminds me of a Sir Ken Robinson talk (not sure which one, but he has many). After a friend's musical performance on stage, he comments to his friend that he'd love to do what he's doing, being on stage, playing guitar. His friend quickly remarks that no, he actually wouldn't. If he really wanted to be a musician, he would've done it by now. He would've put in the work and toil to get there. Instead, he just likes the idea of being able to perform at a high level in front of other people.

I think so many of our fantasies are like that. We think of the end result and want that, but don't think about all the work needed to get there and whether we're up for that.

Yeah I agree to a certain extent. But I wouldnt LOVE to be a bartender. I think it would be interesting to try it for 6 months. Actually I'm quite certain at the end of the 6th months I'd be perfectly happy to never work behind a bar again. I might even dread the job by the 3rd month.

But it would be interesting to try. I was a life guard in college. I am probably the worst lifeguard of all time but it was fun for a summer. Same with being a basketball referee. I don't really know the rules well enough to officiate a game. But it was a fun job for a year.

It's things like that which I was able to afford to do in college or early adulthood that seem like they are not possible now. Not without significant financial sacrifice and a large detour of a career in motion.

I think this is a nice way to console yourself, but ultimately not true.

The reason people want to open a bar when they work in IT or whatever, is because most people don't want to do the same shit over and over again for 40 years.

That's just human nature, we are not robots, but society has been structured to commodify us and make us predictable producers of 'moar money' for people who already have money :)

It's called wage slavery for a reason, and no, a slave doesn't simply want more friend time or whatever, humans want to be free.

I have the similar fantasies but then remember I would already be doing things like this if half the jobs I wanted to “try” weren’t credentialized.

I regret that I never worked as a waiter in a cafe, and now it looks as if I can't afford it anymore. Or if I could afford it, I would be taking away the job from people who have a more urgent need for it than me.

There should be a class of jobs for retirees just working for health care and socialization.

Yeah this does exist/happen to some extent. My partners father retired young (40's) and spent a bunch of years kicking around doing odd little jobs. The issue for many employers is that people in these situations don't really NEED the jobs so they are less likely to stick around late or put up with any bullshit which many jobs contain plenty of.

This is just antidotal evidence of seeing my partners dad say yeah fuck that job after 6 months.

So much this.

Everyone gets old. How can we not want a society that would take care of them, including some form of worthwhile employment?

It is an inherently selfish setup as one day you too will be old.

Edit: trying to clarify my thoughts/point.

NHK US is filled with shows of retirees still doing their old jobs as hobbies. Several episodes involve repairing and running trains/tracks/stations on weekends for tourists.

But what kind of thing do you have in mind? Afaik actually taking care of old people is backbreaking work, probably not suitable for most retirees.

Well, that's the trick. I mean there are obviously a lot of details and varying conditions and possibilities.

But that doesn't mean they are all useless and should be in an old folks home.

To more directly answer your question.

Old people don't have to take care of even older people. I mean the whole point is to NOT cut them off from the rest of society.

It needs a social component and simplicity. However, simpler tasks are often more easily automated and people generally avoid social interaction it seems.

I get the feeling that people would rather a hot coffee vending machine than talking to ol' Carol or Bob at the mom & pop cafe.

Some random ideas: - Working the coffee shop on the ground floor of the corporate building. - corporate internal mail - storytime Reader at the local library - non-profit business pushbike/skateboard/scooter store - campus bus service

You can do that now. Why not? Bartenders make okay money, and you wouldn’t have to compete with like-minded people like if there was BI.

Elon Musk's life is at the opposite extremum of "floating through life." The man works 90+ hours per week, gambled his entire fortune on two risky hardware companies, serves as a prominent public figure, and destroyed many of his close personal relationships (e.g. remarried numerous times). He's having tremendous impact; I respect him like crazy & would happily back his endeavors... But I wouldn't wish for his lifestyle, let alone choose it.

I rather doubt that you would choose Elon's life either -- especially if you were in his financial position.

(Happy to stand corrected, since I don't know you.)

I’d be very surprised if Elon consistently works more than 60 hours a week, and pretty surprised if it was more than 50. It’d be a waste of his position and talent if he did. He has the capital and influence to have others do almost all other tasks, his main focus is likely to be on longer term strategy and thinking. He’s also a dad of 5 or so kids. His health is far more valuable than working 2 typical work weeks every week.

He plays up the uberworker shtick for the same reason Warren Buffet in his 80s tells everyone he has a coke and Dairy Queen everyday: because it’s part of his brand and very conducive to moving forward his pursuits. Warren buffet definitely doesn’t have coke and Dairy Queen everyday either.

Elon’s days of working to the bone everyday are likely long behind him, by decades.

The book about him[1] explains how he is a workaholic . Not just by the worked hours, but the intensity of those, context switching between projects and attention to detail, pressure teams, etc...

I understand your point about "waste of his position" and that he could have a more balanced life, but as the books depicts him that's not the case. Nor it was when he was at PayPal or Zip2.

Good (audio) book, btw. I would recommend.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25541028-elon-musk

Cars and rockets are basically his hobby projects. I wouldn't be surprised if he put in 90hr from time to time because he wants to. He has the free time to do that. The dude is rich enough to afford help. It's not like his kids are missing meals because he's at work or he has to use the extra daylight savings day light to trim his own hedges and mow his own lawn. I'm sure he doesn't do it every week but he probably gets carried away and books himself for a 90hr week just often enough to remember why he doesn't do that every week.

I have a friend who works for Tesla as a factory automation engineer, and just a few years ago he told me a story of Elon working with him 1-1 keeping him up in the middling of the night editing car welds. I very much get the impression Elon is a workaholic.

>Things worked out for you, but you have no further passion or inclination to improve the world? No problems you could set yourself to solving?

And why should they? I'm no fan of trust fund babies who coast by on life, but really, why does anyone have to justify their lives by doing something to improve the world? What are you and I accomplishing right now?

Maybe it's just the severe burnout talking, but I for one would love to just stop everything and exist for a while with no tangible goals or requirements of me. Besides that, what good is a person who did the leanFIRE thing really supposed to do? The whole idea is to live cheaply, they don't have a lot of money to invest in making the world better. They have all the time in the world, sure, but if you're putting 40+ hours into "making the world better" (Whatever that means to you) then are you really retired? Or are you just doing the same thing as everyone else but living a much more meager life for the sake of it.

>why does anyone have to justify their lives by doing something to improve the world?

There have been a few replies in this vein, and I see where you're coming from based on the way I phrased what I was saying.

I'm not arguing that anybody should be forced by some external entity to do anything. I am advocating for a person in this situation to attempt to cultivate a passion/greater purpose because I believe it's something we need to be fulfilled. The man in this article designed a life for himself that was free from labor, but ultimately unfulfilling in many ways.

And if you need to find that passion, looking to improve society in some way is a great place to start. I can think of a few things in that vein that I would consider focusing on if I was in such a situation, and none of them are as far reaching as "make humanity multi-planetary."

The definition of 'retirement' is a common debate in the FIRE space. Often (not always!) it boils down to fights over definitions. Would you call daily volunteering at a soup kitchen (or church, or whatever) 'retired'?

By the way, "making the world better" doesn't need to be large or expensive, at least in my opinion: If I talk to the lone, probably widowed neighbour on my way home, I count that as "making the world better".

That's a good point about the scale of the "making the world better". It doesn't have to be huge.

I think at the end of the day, it's really about finding meaning in your own existence, and such a large part of that for a lot of us is feeling like we are giving back to society or helping our fellow humans somehow. I think this is where I can see the author's goal of just writing being hollow. He writes about his fears that maybe his writing won't ever be discovered. It makes me wonder if he's writing because he enjoys the craft or he wants the status of being known as a writer.

If he really enjoyed the craft, maybe he would've enjoyed writing more. The status thing would be nice, but maybe he would enjoy having other people read his stories and connecting with them. That could've been something to keep him going and give him some short-term goals, direction, and connection with other people.

I like the way you phrased this. Very in line with my thinking on this.

I see things similarly I think.

I figure that by definition, not everyone can be the 0.1% world changing person. Founder of Google/FB/Ikea or a Nobel Prize winner.

I want to leave the world better than when I came into it. It doesn't have to be gobsmackingly better, just fractionally better is fine. I try to apply this day by day.

> you have no further passion or inclination to improve the world? No problems you could set yourself to solving?

Nope! I know who I am and what I’m capable of.

If I could, I would do literally nothing besides wake up, go to the gym, go to the coffee shop, read, watch TV, and surf the internet until I die. I know this because I took several years off and did exactly this until I ran out of money.

Best years of my life and it’s not even close.

"This above all: to thine own self be true"

I didn't know you could post fiction on Substack, also never heard of Royal Road. Could you recommend anything to get started with those? Specifically with writing serialized fiction. Or some example authors that have used it with success that I can check out?

Substack is just a place to post writing and let people subscribe for money so it can be used to post chapters of fiction just as well as an article. I only know of one person who was posting a novel on there, and not sure if they were making a lot of money from it.

There's also tons of subreddits like r/WritingPrompts to practice or r/NoSleep to post short horror fiction. There are huge audiences on both of those. A post from NoSleep is getting made into a Steven Speilberg movie: https://variety.com/2019/film/news/spire-in-the-woods-steven...

RoyalRoad is huge though. Here's the top story from it: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/21220/mother-of-learning authors usually get a following on RoyalRoad and then they can start a Patreon where people who donate get early chapters. Other authors go the Kindle Unlimited route where they self publish their novel on Kindle Unlimited after they've got a fanbase and plenty of people make a decent living from it.

This is all the modern version of how older authors got started: by submitting short stories to be published in anthology magazines. You have to love writing and be willing to do it for a long time before you pop off though. The way he was describing it didn't resemble that to me.

It's not nihilistic, it's more absurdist. I think, for myself, it is in fact a better way to live life. Sure, I admire people with a life-long drive be it Musk or Michael Jordan (or even some ancient conquerors who clearly did it for lulz and not ideology), but I personally only feel driven for short, narrow projects at most. And the impression that I get is that this is already above median ;)

I find it quite different to find a meaningful occupation, it may not simply be a choice by those people.

I'm going to start blogging about FIRE from the other extreme end. I'm a principal engineer making serious dollars, and I'm writing down my playbook.

I intend to "Fat-FIRE", and the only reason I don't retire now is to see how much I can leverage my position to do crazy shit at massive scale. Paradoxically, this sets me up for larger windfalls because I can take risks that my peers do not take.

You should do that.

I am an early retiree, who sometimes thinks it would be nice to get back into the industry just to steer or at least nudge the projects I still care about very much into the direction I'd like to seem them to go. And because they are corporate-driven (hello, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google!) it is just too hard to do from the outside.

I have been tinkering with it off and on.

One thing that I see is that people complain about politics rather than recognizing the natural force it is and how to bend and master it towards your will.

The working title is "Way of Code"

You might try contacting them, indicating that you are passionate about their project, and would they be interested in hiring you as a 1099 for six months (or 20 hrs/week or whatever) to implement {feature}. I'm beginning to realize that while everyone (workers, businesses) have a fairly one-track assumption of what employment/work would look like, a lot of times businesses are open to non-traditional ideas. A lot of places are fine with part-time if they know they can count on you to get stuff done. PMs seem to value predictability over throughput. Also I think the trend to remote work will help the process of being able work on just a piece of a project.

Anyway, you might as well give it a try, see what happens.

I'm not sure what you are interested in, but there is an open source project needing your help to do that. But if you were really serious you would be there several hours a day doing it already. Instead it is just an idea.

Would be more boring than the OP, probably a waste of time to even write the brag piece.

I think it sounds interesting. Do you really like to spend your days trying to bring people down? Is that fulfilling?

+1. I get to be aggressive and do a 100% stocks allocation. Heck, I can even do sensible (I'm talking 1.25x-1.33x) levels of leverage. I get to invest in crypto. I get to borrow a fairly expensive mortgage. Etc.

Let's see where I can get to...

Nobody ever made it to the top by groveling, volunteering for scut, and accepting an annual 3% raise.

I noticed even with myself over the years I've flip flopped.

At first I thought I can do lean FIRE, because I was never a big spender in the first place. As I get older I started to gradually spend more on things and frankly enjoy the ability to do so as I earned more. For example, not having to take the crappiest flight to get some where. Recently as I get older, I question if I want to even retire early at all. Now I'm shifting more towards "I want to be financially independent so I'm not reliant on a job, but I still want to work".

So things change, and things change more and faster than we anticipate. And this isn't even accounting for externalities outside of our control.

> Extreme frugality

Were you reading FIRE blogs or extreme frugality blogs? Or maybe I can just ask "how do you define extreme frugality?" (I think of myself as kind of frugal, and planning to have the choice to avoid compulsory paid work before I'm 50, but I also live in one of the most expensive areas of the United States outside of big cities / California, with somewhat regular trips to Disney World and other countries.) But a blog like earlyretirementextreme.com isn't focused on high earners cutting down on consumption and retiring early (that's MrMoneyMustache.com) - it's a version of extreme frugality and self-reliance (and adaptability regardless of changing life circumstances.)

> bare minimum savings

I assume by this you mean "leanFIRE" as in "just enough of a nest egg to retire with 25x your annual expenses and everything goes perfectly?!" Of course, that sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I think in some cases it's a bit of a "oh I can quit my stupid job at the exact moment I hit this magic number" mentality, but a misunderstanding of putting a real plan in place for a future that is filled with variables. Depending on the blogs you frequented, they could be "copycat" blogs that just took the juicy headlines from more in-depth blogs and throwing up quick articles so they can get some ad revenue.

Any idea, handled poorly, is going to either come off unappealing or be riddled with shortcomings. That doesn't mean the original idea can't work (and it does for some - some by luck, others by proper strategy.)

Well someone spending 30k in Massachusetts living in a rental is got to be living extremely frugally. Then the woman had enough of the pennypinching. I see this so often in my circle - all the missed eating out and having fun is ultimately spent on marriage counseling and divorce lawyers.

My understanding was that they had separate finances, and 30k/year was just his spending. My spouse and I spend less than $60k/year in a comparable cost-of-living area (COLA), including flights/hotels/entertainment and other nice things to have (home, some land, modern cars, monthly massage, etc.). It's really not "extreme frugality" in my point of view, but I suppose some might see it that way.

There's a big difference between spending $60K/year on average, and having a firm upper limit of $60K/year that can never be exceeded for the entire rest of your life (inflation adjusted), lest your entire financial plan collapses.

If you had an unlucky year and had to spend an extra $10K on various things (car breaks down, medical expenses, moving for a job) it's probably not a big deal for you. If a leanFIRE person had an unexpected extra $10K expense, they'd have to cut $10K out of the rest of their budget for the entire year.

If you're already squeezing by on $30K/year like this author, somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of that might go to basic living expenses (rent, utilities, food). If the other 1/3 of your budget gets wiped out by an unexpected $10K expense, it's going to be a very lean year.

This is the problem with most leanFIRE plans: They only work if nothing ever goes wrong, no unexpected expenses occur (for 4 or more decades straight), and a person's lifestyle never expands at all.

This isn't really accurate, though. In most cases there is a large margin of error built into the 4% "safe withdrawal rate" - and that is that the investments "on average" do much better than 4% (easily 5-7% after inflation, in many cases much higher) and that you end up with much more than what you need to withdraw 4%.

The notable exception is called a "sequence of returns risk" (SORR) where either something bad happens in the first few years draining a really large portion of your original savings (more than $10k) and/or the market undergoes a recession during the first few years, and if you withdrew the full 4% from your investments while their value was markedly depressed, you would never recover (without additional income). In my opinion, a proper retirement strategy should account for SORR; some padding (i.e. the wants portion of your budget you can reduce during a lean year), reverse-glide strategy where you can draw from cash/bonds instead of equities in case of depressed value equities, etc. In many cases, this scenario happens so early in retirement that anyone retiring at a younger age has relatively good prospects of rejoining the work force to get to the other side, and then will likely be very well prepared for a second retirement with a decreased likelihood of yet another bad sequence of returns occurring before their nest egg has grown well beyond 25 times annual expenses.

And all retirement plans should be flexible - some years where you might spend a bit less than the target, but have room to change that, particularly if your invested assets grow beyond the original necessary funds.

> In most cases there is a large margin of error built into the 4% "safe withdrawal rate"

I don't think that's the case if you're retiring early. The 4% withdrawal rate was based on a 30 year retirement. You need to go a bit lower if you want to have minimal risk of running out of money for a much longer horizon.


You're more likely to die than run out of money!

Certainly, but with their example of retiring at 40, you have an 8.5% chance of going broke before you die and a 3.4% chance of going broke before you even reach a normal retirement age.

That's a much higher level of risk than I would accept.

I think this was covered in the article. His assets have grown 20% (inflation adjusted) since retiring and that's with a number of years having higher than average expenditures due to unplanned medical issues. His financial plan didn't really collapse per se.

Divorce is better than an unhappy marriage with someone who doesn't share values.

Even better is don't marry that person to begin with. Let them go off and enjoy their life with someone they're better suited to share life with.

The median household income in Massachusetts is $80k so between them they weren’t far off. Especially when you consider your costs tend to be lower when you aren’t working. I wouldn’t call that extreme frugality.

> Most of these people would be much happier if they simply invested time and energy into finding a job they enjoy, or at least one that doesn't make them miserable.

I don't think there is such a job, not at 8 hours * 5 days a week. Even if it's unfair towards people who have to work longer and harder - I find it grueling. And I believe it's not due to job (I'm a software developer) - I'm pretty sure if I did my favorite hobby full time for a year I'd start resenting it. It's not for lack of vacation either - 5 weeks/year is just enough to get me to baseline where I'm ready to enjoy proper vacation.

3 days a week * 4 hours + 2 months completely off each year could work nicely, but that's not available in a regular job. It'd mean switching to consulting and my selling skills are non-existent. So I'll probably grind for 2-3 years then take 1-2 years off. I did that once already and the main takeaway was that I could easily and gladly not work ever again, if I could afford it.

> I'm pretty sure if I did my favorite hobby full time for a year I'd start resenting it.

There are some ways around it:

- Have several hobbies and just do whichever depending on your mood and desire at the time. They are hobbies, not jobs; you don't HAVE to do them if you currently don't want to. It's OK to abandon some of your hobbies for years. (There is a good amount of stories about book authors who start seriously writing -- and become famous and financially successful -- at 50+ years old).

- Don't do anything "meaningful" for a while. I have found huge inner peace and improved mental health by just being completely useless for 3 months between contracts. Ironically, during these "useless" times of mine I've progressed hugely on numerous personal interests (some of which overlap with me being a programmer but are relating to things that aren't popular there).

- [Re-]Discover true leisure time: walks in nature and admiring the scenery, boat trips, lying on the beach, traveling to exotic locations (OK, this one is almost impossible at the moment), and many others. We don't live to only work.

> Even worse when your romantic partner has different goals in life, as happened here.

What stings (as I can't help but empathize with the author's feelings) in reading this blog is that it sounds like they were very aligned five years ago, but she discovered a gradual growing miscontent only once they tried the early-retiree life.

Not sure if there's a possible fix there, other than trying to compromise (only one of them working, which would probably just lead to more growing apart)

As many people learned last year, it's easy to gloss over the parts of someone you don't like when you're both actively working towards a goal. When you start spending too much time together, it's easy to have the relationship die from a thousand cuts.

I would add "...if you weren't a good match in the first place". Your statement kind of tries to make itself universal.

I absolutely will never subscribe to the BS notion of "couples love each other more when they don't spend much time together".

I'm with my wife for 7 years now and I already worked remotely by the time we met. Our relationship is actually getting better with time.

So what you say mostly applies to people who are, let's call them, good roommates, not two people loving each other.

You take exception to their generalizing and then generalize yourself which I'm taking exception to. I love my wife deeply, but work time apart makes our time together better. It takes all sorts.

Not at all, I said what I don't subscribe under and cited my anecdotal evidence. My "generalization" is actually putting people in groups, which by itself admits that a generalization is impossible.

But it could possibly be offensive to some people that I call their couples "good roommates" which is a fair reaction -- I still have the right to my opinion however.

That's fine, but I believe I'm still allowed to take exception to it and express my opinion.

I said it was an easy thing to have happen, not that it would happen. I'd argue that you took my statement in bad faith, looking for a flaw in it, and generalized more aggressively than I did.

Possibly. Sorry if it felt like it, there was no ill will.

Some people change, most don't, and when one person changes, the other might be comfortable and not want any changes.

Sadly these things can and do happen. But we the people usually make it much worse by holding on to relationships that are past their date, for much longer than it's healthy.

> this same path: Extreme frugality, bare minimum savings

The author is a literal millionaire living (when not working in a well-paid job) on what is roughly the median income for their state. This is neither extremely frugal nor bare minimum savings.

They downgraded from "upper-class lifestyle with upper-class work" to "middle-class lifestyle without work". Not exactly going poor.

> assuming their lifestyle would never change and nothing would ever go wrong.

They bet that nothing would go several-hundreds-of-thousands-dollars wrong. Sounds like a fairly safe bet. If it's likely that you'll get into a situation that costs you that much, having a job doesn't guarantee much either.

I think most people would agree with you. Often called "build the life you want, then save for it"[0]. It's not as sexy, though, probably why the extreme outliers are more written about (or vocal).

[0]: https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/58j8...

Furthermore leanFIRE is at least somewhat irreversible. Not literally, but if you retire at say 35 with a bare minimum nest egg and you decide 10 years later that this isn't how you want to spend the rest of your life, it will be at least more difficult to insert yourself back into whatever career track you were on.

>Most of these people would be much happier if they simply invested time and energy into finding a job they enjoy

Many people reach FIRE without much energy, it's an incredibly easy "set and forget" style of life. Many use its concepts to get in a position where they can find a job they enjoy.

This skips over the part where the individual might want to be entrepreneurial and needs the funds to be in a position to take such a risk. Or the job they love is inherently in a shitty position (passion industries teeming with bad conditions), so it's a "pick your poison situation" until they have leverage, and in many cases, both poisons make them feel miserable anyway.

The idea that there's a job out there for every person they'll enjoy doing as long as they put in the energy, is an incredibly idealistic and even privileged mindset we should be getting rid of.

It's interesting to me that so many people think the path to riches is paved with pinched pennies.

If some of my friends spent half as much time learning new skills as they do saving pennies - I think they'd be much better off. And especially because they don't even enjoy most of the ways they're saving money! Long commutes, cooking all their meals, doing all their dishes. Especially being overworked by a dead-end job they hate!

Spend your money, invest your time.

I know it's easier said than done.

> ...bare minimum savings, assuming their lifestyle would never change and nothing would ever go wrong.

Isn't the status quo of working a 9-5 and saving ~10% (aka spending 90%) of your salary exactly this? Having ~25x living expenses saved up seems like a significantly less fragile position than you're suggesting. Even this "failure" case, the author ended his 6 years of not earning a penny with more money than he started. And he was able to get a job when he decided he wanted one.

> Most of these people would be much happier if they simply invested time and energy into finding a job they enjoy

Lots of people don't enjoy things that are necessarily financially viable. Putting in a finite amount of time to free yourself to pursue interests without concern for the financials makes a lot of sense.

Isn’t that the point of financial independence?

So that you could invest time into finding a way to spend your time that pays less (or nothing) but which you enjoy?

I think what 99% of people need is a 1 year break from their jobs. If you can't find something meaningful in that 1 year, you'll never find happiness in FIRE. You need to find something that you'd be very happy doing, which also incidentally brings you enough money to supplement your FIRE.

> I had to quit reading any FIRE (financial independence, early retirement) blogs because they were full of people headed down this same path: Extreme frugality, bare minimum savings, assuming their lifestyle would never change and nothing would ever go wrong.

You should checkout /r/fatFire

Well said. I'd also add that frugality does not work very well when you have kids. You would want to buy time if you don't want to spend all your time with kids. That means baby sitters, nannies, coaches, and classes for extracurricular activities. Besides, not every parent is good at coaching or tutoring their kids. Given the education quality of the US, you'd have to pay for additional education unless you're the lucky few who have self-driven kids. And what if your kids get sick? The cost just adds up.

Not going to argue about having to spend money to get some time away from the kids. But education? If you retire then you have the time to unschool your children and while your family and friends will think you are crazy your children will get a much better education than anything that involves money.

> unschool your children

Via homeschool groups or via your own? I don't know much about homeschool group, so I'll comment only educating kids alone: parents tend to underestimate the skills required for quality education. You need empathy to understand that your kids may not get some seemingly simple concepts. You need skills to explain to kids complex concepts in simple terms -- and this is not about merely applying Feynman's technique, but about knowing what language is more accessible to kids. You need to know a subject well to teach your kids effectively. The list can go on. In a word, education is a profession, and it takes years of experience to become a quality educator. Why do parents think that they can magically give "a much better education than anything that involves money"?

By the way, I recognize that there are always exceptions, especially that smart and driven kids probably need just parents' guidance and advice instead of full-fledged "education". I mainly have ordinary kids in mind, though, as they are the majority to whom education makes a huge difference. Case in point, I didn't get physics, especially free-body diagram and optics when I started learning physics in junior high. It was a retired teacher who removed my conceptual blocks by giving me very targeted exercises. I got stuck again in high school when studying electromagnetism, and it was another teacher who opened my eyes by prescribing inspiring problems like how to accelerate a static electron without a push. I was also lucky to get a math teacher who somehow could find incredibly challenging yet accessible problems that kept me in the discomfort zone. I have similar stories for writing class, for history class, and for chemistry class. Oh yeah, chemistry. A teacher in my senior year was so passionate about chemistry that I didn't realize that he taught us how to reason about organic synthesis at college level, to the point that we could solve some of the IChO problems. And the truth is that my parents could never do what those teachers did. I'm not sure how many kids were lucky enough to have responsible and capable teachers around. And if they don't, finding tutors is not a bad choice.

I don’t disagree with you, especially if you are trying to follow the same curriculum as the schools and expect the kids to grok everything during the “correct” school year.

We are finding that concepts that the kids are ready for come super easily — Like, there’s nothing special that an educator is going to provide — And concepts that the kids aren’t ready for can still be taught but it’s takes much more time and effort. I think this is one of the reasons why school (and teaching) can seem difficult and overwhelming. We expect all ten-year-olds to be at the same level and for a single teacher to get these kids to all learn the same stuff at the same time. It’s Sisyphean!

If you decide to go-all-in with homeschooling you can tailor your child’s education to each child and go with the flow. The difficulty is if you want to be able to go back to regular school because they are going to all over the map, they might be 4 grades ahead in math and 4 grades behind in history.

You also get to choose what you want your children to learn. It’s a double-edged sword. My kids are getting a very science-heavy and pragmatic education while some bible-banger down the street might be teaching frickin’ creationism. For society, I don’t have a good solution to this problem. But as a parent I’m excited that I can ditch the memorization bullshit and focus on providing my children an educational and intellectual framework that will keep them growing intellectually for the rest of their lives, if they so choose.

The gist of my approach is: Know what subjects exist and what problems they can solve and know how to teach yourself those subjects when they are needed. That’s basically it. Teaching is helping them find ways to help themselves and talking through philosophical problems with them.

I found the notion of pushing my retirement needle up at at all, to be a really good revelation that got out of reading about FIRE strategies.

Even if only age 55 rather than 65, realizing I was not tied to one number, pre-specified by society, has been immensely valuable.

My FIRE goal is to simply be at a point where my job is optional. I'm no longer sure I want to retire early, but I like the option and flexibility that FIRE gives (and possibly reducing to part-time if it works out that way).

Lean-FIRE reminds me of the startup world's "ramen profitable."

Either I convinced myself of, or I realized quite early on, that I would not be happy if I just retired early. I need to be doing something, so I may as well be working.

Did you consider FatFire?


In my early twenties, I had a business mostly on autopilot that let me work maybe an hour a day. I mostly spent my time writing poetry, hiking, making friends, etc. It was great. It was not sustainable, but it was perfect for a twenty something exploring the joys and freedoms of youth.

Now, I work much harder, have kids, and responsibilities. That being said, I know the work I do is meaningful, and serves many people. We have significant savings. Though living in a big city means we can't retire early. That's beside the point though: I motivate myself to work because it is meaningful. The same with kids: I don't do things because I enjoy them, I do them in the service of my kids and my family. Reading the story in the OP, I get the sense that the OP hasn't made that transition to thinking about work in terms of serving others. A happy life is not a life of retirement, its a life of meaning. What was meaningful once (aiming for retirement), loses its meaning once it has been attained. You have to keep moving forward. This is not about "Keeping Up," but about stepping outside of oneself, and learning to put others ahead, even if it requires personal suffering. (Something parents of young children know very well.)

Both things can be true. I both enjoy the moments when I can be selfish and live for my enjoyment, and the moments when I focus my life and goals bringing joy to my child and family.

I also joke about wanting to do nothing for a year. About 2-3 weeks in I'm ready to take on a full workload again. I once was unemployed for 2 months, I thought it'd be a vacation. I hated it after the first month.

My problem with being unemployed is that because I know I can't live on my savings I can't enjoy my time because there is always one more part to buy for whatever that I don't dare because I don't know if I will need that money.

Now I have a better nest egg, but I also know my tastes mean I can't retire.

>>A happy life is not a life of retirement, its a life of meaning. What was meaningful once (aiming for retirement), loses its meaning once it has been attained.

Who said anything about happiness. We are mixing two different things 'retirement' and 'happiness'. Happiness is an emotional state, and Retirement is a financial state. Happiness/Sadness can apply to any situation. It has nothing to do with wealth or financial independence.

Retirement is about having enough to not worry about being in need of a job to just keep your head above water.

Retirement is just worth the independence and availability of options.

This is a beautiful comment. Thanks for sharing.

Kids, family and other obligations you opt in might define the meaning of life for you — For others it could be the exact opposite, or the beginning of the end.

Yes -- I agree. The specifics of meaning are idiosyncratic to the individual. We shouldn't assume that things that are meaningful to us will be meaningful to others!

you get what you give

> A happy life is not a life of retirement, its a life of meaning. What was meaningful once (aiming for retirement), loses its meaning once it has been attained. You have to keep moving forward.

you figured out the meaning of life for everyone?

maybe you are rationalizing your own lack of freedom from work and responsibility as "serving others" and secret to happiness. Which is fine but its a bit weird to say that applies to everyone and ppl who aren't doing have just not made that "transition" to a life of meaning.

I am glad You figured out formula of happiness for your life don't you think everyone else has the same freedom to figure out their own path and formula. Why do you think everyone should follow your universal formula.

I think you are not FIRE, and you want to be, lmao

Except "retirement" simply means "not having to work to survive". It doesn't mean doing nothing, it means having the freedom to choose to do things that are meaningful to you.

In common language it doesn't. Many people who choose to work don't need the job to survive. I know ridiculously wealthy people who just keep working the usual way. No one says those people are retired.

While retirement is cool, I think life goes better without thinking too much about it. Try to work at a job that doesn't suck ass, try to have hobbies and free time, focus on family etc, invest your savings, don't buy stupid stuff. The level of financial freedom will increase in your life just automatically if you live rationally.

In common language it might not, but in this "FIRE" context, it most certainly does. Arguing that FIRE is misguided because "why would anyone want to sit on their ass for 30 years" is a strawman.

FIRE = Financial Independence, Retire Early. What you are talking about is the FI part, retirement is a different concept and means not working. In FIRE context retirement means exactly the same as it means commonly.

>Try to work at a job that doesn't suck ass

I've been trying to do that since I entered the workforce. I still haven't found it.

Yeah we really don’t have a good word for this in English. I have trouble describing what I do. Being a parent and educating your children at home is exhausting so it doesn’t fit with the common understanding of retirement.

The word is "financial independence". It's only half for "FIRE".

"independently wealthy" is the normal word choice. Or "fuck you money" from the gambler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJjKP8vYjpQ

This was a really refreshing and honest take on early retirement, especially among the FI blogosphere.

> I looked at other FI bloggers who quit work and retired. They all appeared to be blissful. Stoic. Confident and without reservations. Since I ran into problems myself, I started to feel like I was defective. Like something was wrong with me and that’s why it didn’t work so well. Maybe it has to do with my personality (a nerdy introvert). Or it could be because I’m not trying to sell product and make money off of my choices, like almost everyone else who blogs about FI seems to.

There always seemed like a potentially strange conflict of interest with many of the FI bloggers who are ostensibly "retired early", but still earn a significant amount of money from their FI blogs. Which isn't to say they shouldn't be earning that money, but it does bring up questions about some of the conclusions that they make. (There's also a bit of a groupthink or even cult-like mentality among some of them, particularly in the MMM sphere.)

I really found this passage of the essay ironic.... he talks so much shit about his partner and other people needing to "keep up" with the rest of society and how he isn't like that.... but then he actually does feel the need to keep up with HIS community, which is the FI crowd.

I hate when people confuse not wanting to belong to and impress a particular community with not wanting to belong to or impress ANY community.

He is just like everyone else, just in a different group.

I didn't get that read at all. A desire to maintain happiness whilst having no job to dictate time and activities isn't "just in a different group".

I think they're somewhat non-conformist by posting about negatives and the fact that life will push you in unpredictable directions - even when you've done the maths.

But maybe that's because I tend to agree with the commentary around 'other people needing to "keep up" with the rest of society'.

I don't see how you can read this passage and not see that his feelings of inadequacy compared to other FI bloggers isn't the same "keeping up" that he criticized in his ex and others:

> I looked at other FI bloggers who quit work and retired. They all appeared to be blissful. Stoic. Confident and without reservations. Since I ran into problems myself, I started to feel like I was defective. Like something was wrong with me and that’s why it didn’t work so well.

That is the EXACT same emotion people feel when seeing their peers who are posting their wealth on Facebook. It might not be material wealth he is trying to keep up with, but it is still the same emotional desire.

He is still keeping up with the Jones's... just a different group of Jones's

There is nothing wrong with that, except he expresses such disgust for other people having that need, while pretending his own doesn't exist.

I can see your point, but I don't feel it. My mind wants to say those two things aren't comparable; apples and oranges. The only way I can explain it exposes my own bias, so I have to grant that you're right, but at the same time it doesn't change my bias as to which one is more "correct" or "wholesome" or "mentally healthy".

The need to have or display material wealth, on any level, as some kind of basis for happiness just isn't the same as the ability to be happy in ones self, naked to the world. One is unhealthy and unsustainable, the other isn't. "Like there was something wrong with me" more sounds like "maybe I do need that external validation more than I thought I did", more as a desire to be self-satisfied, or of a healthy state of mind, like (seemingly) other FI bloggers (the very fact they're bloggers may undermine the entirety of the argument, however).

OK, to put it into an analogy: if the Jones' were getting fit and healthy and looking after themselves would undertaking a health kick still be "keeping up with the Jones'" or would that be a good kick in the pants to get healthy yourself? (motivation and tenacity (w|c)ould be the differentiator).

If it's intrinsically positive, is that still pandering? If there's no perceived value other than the perceived value, then I'm on board with your argument.

It's likely to be a case of the ugliness of reality not often being blogged about, and so OP had an unrealistic expectation - in which case there's definitely an amount of Jonesing, but I'm maintaining there's a distinction between positive/healthy and negative/unhealthy Jonesing (so maybe I'm trying to move your goal posts whilst agreeing with you but still trying to appear to disagree).

This many words to justify my position. If it was anyone else I'd call denial.

So I think you might be confusing two different things.

One is the pursuit of wealth and the other is the need to seek validation and acceptance from your peers.

The writer (and you, it seems) believe the pursuit of wealth is unhealthy. This is a cohesive world view, and I feel the writer (and you) are fine for feeling this way. There are some compelling arguments against the constant pursuit of wealth, and nothing is hypocritical in the essay (or your comment) on that point.

The second point is where I have issue. Seeking validation and acceptance from your peers is present both in the people pursuing wealth and in the writer’s own life. He simply doesn’t see his own need for acceptance as being equivalent to other people’s, but it is. That is the part that I take issue with, not the anti-materialist stuff.

In addition, there is nothing wrong for wanting and seeking acceptance from your peer group. We are social animals, and this is normal and healthy (as long as it doesn’t lead to self destructive behaviors seeking validation!)

But: he's still giving investment advice and he still doesn't realize just how lucky he got.

You mean MMM or the author here? How do you know he "got lucky", since he doesn't mention how he got his nest egg? (Yes in a wider sense lucky to be born smart enough for a good job, in a country with good jobs and so on, but that applies to many people).

Maybe he took those FI blogs seriously and dedicated himself to reaching that goal, and he did. And then people who never tried say "he got lucky".

> Maybe he took those FI blogs seriously and dedicated himself to reaching that goal, and he did. And then people who never tried say "he got lucky".

My problem with most of the advice from FI and FIRE blogosphere is that it essentially boils down to "be the 1% (where you live) and live frugally". It's not wrong, per se, but it isn't actionable advice for 99% of the population[1].

In particular, while anyone could be MMM, not everyone can be MMM: There simply aren't enough people who read financial advice blogs to support a significant population of such bloggers living in rural LCOL-ville. Even if there were, someone has to stock the shelves at Walmart. Shelf-stockers simply don't earn enough to retire early, unless shelf-stocker wages rise to a level that makes blog-FIRE unsustainable.

It's sort of like asking why everyone doesn't buy a rental and become landlord. Who rents the apartment then? Or do all the landlords rent apartments from each other?

[1] Perhaps it isn't a 99/1 split. Maybe it's 90/10. But it sure isn't 50/50.

With advice, you have to read it, decide if it works for you and then utilize it or discard it. You do not have to decide if it works for everyone and discard if it doesn't.

There are aspects of MMM's that anyone can do, but obviously the huge income he got after retiring from the MMM blog is unique to him (and the few really successful FI bloggers) and for many, just having insufficient income compared to the cost of living will be a roadblock. In general, this post seems to be a rebuttal about these ideas people have about MMM - https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/10/05/the-fire-movement....

I mean if you want everyone to have the same opportunities, you are welcome to give up the advantages you might have so that others get better opportunities. Or you can look at your own life and decide what's best for you.

> You do not have to decide if it works for everyone and discard if it doesn't.

First, I am not discarding the advice. I was responding to the idea that successful practitioners didn't get lucky.

Second, my assertion is that the advice is useful for only a small segment of the population. The goalposts have moved to the opposite end of the field if we are now talking about advice for everyone except for a small segment of the population.

> I mean if you want everyone to have the same opportunities, you are welcome to give up the advantages you might have so that others get better opportunities.

Nowhere did I say that everyone should have the same opportunities.

Finally, your link does not seem to refute my point (I've seen it before).

"I was responding to the idea that successful practitioners didn't get lucky."

Of course they are "lucky", but only because they took the risks and went in prepared. There is no 100% guarantee for anything, so you also need luck. The article here actually shows that, because the blogger was unlucky to have an expensive disease that made his plan nonviable.

I think the point of FI is to lower consumption. As long as your total consumption matches your total production over your lifetime, it's sustainable. The level of consumption described in this post (30k/y) is at or below the median level of consumption, so it is certainly attainable for many people, even if they can't achieve it as quickly as the OP).

> In particular, while anyone could be MMM, not everyone can be MMM: There simply aren't enough people who read financial advice blogs to support a significant population of such bloggers living in rural LCOL-ville. Even if there were, someone has to stock the shelves at Walmart. Shelf-stockers simply don't earn enough to retire early, unless shelf-stocker wages rise to a level that makes blog-FIRE unsustainable.

If overall consumption were reduced by a factor of 10, everyone could work 10% as much over their lifetime. I see no reason that couldn't be a hard few years of shelf-stacking until you get together enough to retire. Maybe that would be a better way for society to operate.

> but it isn't actionable advice for 99% of the population

Should we stop giving advice unless it’s actionable for 100% of the world’s population?

I'm tired of this shelf stocker narrative (or more general, the "some people simply have no chance whatsoever"). I think most people don't remain shelf stockers forever. In my country, it is often pupils who do it, or retired people who make some extra bucks. I don't think anybody expects shelf stocking to be their life long career. And even if you were to do shelf stocking all your life, I don't think it means you can't do anything about your financial situation. Same goes for most other low wage jobs. All the "income equality" charts tend to omit the age distribution, a lot of it may simply be older people earning more because they had more time to acquire skills and progress in their careers.

I can perhaps agree that there is no single rule that everybody in the world could follow to become financially independent, like your "rent housing out to other people" example. Nevertheless, in most environments, there is something people can do. If you just have a house you yourself can live in, it also saves you a lot of money.

At the very least, most people have to retire eventually. And many manage to do so, too. As a last resort, perhaps try to have children who can take care of you.

Sounded like he did, no?

I really struggled with the author's tone. It dripped of condescension towards those who live a "normal" lifestyle.

I enjoy working. I find purpose and meaning it. I do not let it dominate my life, but without it I would feel incomplete. I run my own business now, and that is very satisfying - but even when I was a corporate consultant I found a lot of enjoyment from spending time with my coworkers, solving problems, and having something to do every day.

For me anyways, a nice salary is also a form of validation and affirmation. That the effort you're expending is valued - at least by someone.

"...she had acquired, somehow, New Life Dreams, which had to do with Conspicuous Consumption and Keeping Up and being Visibly Awesome..."

I was thinking the same thing: geeze, isn't there anything between virtue signalling early retirement and conspicuous consumption?

This aspect was so frustrating to me. He's far too dismissive of the reasons people spend money and buy things.

Yes, some people spend money on Louis Vuitton bags and fancy cars to show off. But other things people spend money on do legitimately make their life better, more comfortable, or happier. A house in a quieter neighborhood helps me sleep better. A bigger house, where my spouse and I can each have our private space helps our relationship. Clothes that fit well make me more comfortable. A reliable car makes my life less stressful. Are these things "keeping up" or "conspicuous consumption" just because I was not absolutely required to buy them? Is my partner a bad person if she'd rather have a quiet hotel room than stay in a hostel?

I do think that it's worthwhile to be introspective about how you spend your money, and if the things you're spending your money on actually do make you happier. But this black and white thinking is really counterproductive.

He mulls over and comes to the conclusion later in his post that he probably could have done more to save his relationship. Just based off of the sentence you quoted and other things he said, I wouldn't be surprised if he was very dismissive of his ex-wifes struggle to find meaning, or desire to go back to work. Cheating is terrible, but having a partner who doesn't try to see your struggles can be crippling.

> I wouldn't be surprised if he was very dismissive of his ex-wifes struggle to find meaning, or desire to go back to work.

What you are saying is in direct contradiction with what he says in the article:

> I encouraged her to explore her own life and find activities and goals that would help her feel better. I suggested therapy and offered to go with her. I was clear that if she wanted to go back to work I was eager to support her in this. I wanted her to do anything that might help. But my suggestions and support weren’t enough

Yea it sounds like he just didn't really beta test his FI ideas with his wife before launching, and then found out later that they have an irreconcilably different view of what life should be all about. She wanted to keep up with mythical Joneses and he didn't. Things were fine while their interests were aligned (accumulating wealth), but went south when the appearance of "falling behind" started in. I don't think anyone was wrong here (besides the infidelity)--just different world views that ended up being incompatible.

If I wasn't married with a kid, I'd be retired right now. I'd be perfectly content buying a $25K plot of land in the desert, parking a mobile home on it, and living out the rest of my life on $10-20K/year, but there's just no way on earth they'd stick around for that! Your FIRE plan needs to work with your whole family.

It specifically says that the ex was on-board with the idea. And given that they were together for 20 years and early retirement is a goal that takes 10+ years to reach, at a minimum, I'd say the OP did their due diligience.

The read I got was that the reality of retirement didn't suit the ex's personality. The lead-up was fine, being frugal, aiming for a long term goal, but the reality of it had unintended effects that the ex couldn't handle as well as OP.

"She wanted to keep up with mythical Joneses and he didn't."

And you are making the same assumptions the author did. Isn't there any other reason for her to realize she's unhappy?

It's pretty obvious that what she wanted was not for her to go back to work, but for _him_ to go back to work and earn more money.

It does read a bit absurd with the over-the-top proper nouns, but this being the author's description of their past beliefs led me to interpret this as their being self-critical about the less nuanced opinions they once held about their lifestyle, rather than seriously looking down their nose at the people who have chosen a different lifestyle.

Later in the article they divorce - I think the less-than-nuanced description of those beliefs is him looking down his nose at his ex-wife.

It is a little condescending, but I think it serves the purpose of illustrating the divide the author feels between himself and his peers. It's hard to relate when one side sees work as time spent purely for money, and another sees work as a source of satisfaction.

Eh the author was writing, not doing nothing. They just didn't have to worry about whether what they were doing could generate an income.

Umm... I didn't say he was doing nothing...

But to further clarify -

My point was that work/income generation can add meaning and validation for lots of folks. Even the author hints at this - his writing wasn't taking off, no one was reading what he wrote, and he was getting discouraged.

I dabble making music. I'm pretty good at it by hobbyist standards, but if I ever tried it "full time" no one would pay me and I'd never get huge. That's just the breaks in creative endeavors. My point is that I'd need a heck of a lot more validation and affirmation in my life than making music no one listens to. I suspect the same is true of the author and his writing.

You're right, I should've said he was working, just not for money. Your post seemed to be about how you enjoyed working, and how he was being condescending toward that, and that's why I mentioned that he was also working. You like running a business, he likes writing.

I thought the condescension in the author's post was more towards getting validation from buying material things and basing their sense of self-worth on that, and a criticism of that part of our culture, not so much toward the idea of people working for money in and of itself.

But that's a very fair point you make, about the need for validation, and how people get it from a job.

tbf he does talk throughout the post about what he was missing out by not having a "normal" lifestyle.

The only condescension I felt was towards his partner's supposed thinking, which if you read on (spoilers) is presumably due to a nasty breakup + cheating episode leading to an inability to view her position objectively anymore.

I've got 5 years of early retirement under my belt, and I feel like I've had the inverse experience of the OP. The first two years were an incredibly difficult transition period for me.

Losing the status of being a higher up at a successful (small) company was extremely painful, especially because I didn't realize how much of a perk of the job it was. Like many others in this thread, I realized work provided a venue to solve interesting problems with interesting people, and I knew I would miss that (but also knew there were other, non-work ways to scratch that itch). Looking back, though, the ego/status aspect was probably the biggest benefit, and I never admitted that to myself.

Fairly soon into retirement, I made the choice to address the issue by decreasing my ego needs, rather than pursuing another high status non-work position. In some sense, it wasn't too hard to do (though I did find that I had to give up programming for a while, since it turned out that, despite my love of math and puzzle solving, the real biggest draw of programming was the megalomaniacal sense of being a god in a universe of your own creation). The issue is, I went too far, and experienced pretty significant depersonalization, which, from the inside wasn't terrible, but I think made me too weird to interact with my family and friends.

I've currently accepted more ego back into my life (hence this self-centered posting, for instance), but kept it below the old levels. I'm happy with my life, and find it much more even keeled and comfortable than when I was working, though I still miss the emotional highs of succeeding in a big work project.

Anyway, I think what really got me to log on here and post this was seeing the various other posters claiming work as a source of meaning and maybe poo pooing the OP, a bit, for giving it up. Now, on the one hand, I'm not really disagreeing, but I just wanted to add the nuance that, for me, turns out most of that meaning was not coming from nice pro-social things like cooperating with a team and working on interesting problems, but mostly just base status drive and ego. Now, I don't know how much my experience applies to the general population and most jobs, but I have a feeling it probably does apply to a fair chunk of the readers of this forum.

Ah, I feel this. Kind of funny (funny ha ha or funny ouch?) but on my last two projects, I was definitely riding a high of sorts. New languages/frameworks but before long, I had figured out the lay of the land and some of the quirks of these languages and felt like I was really productive, and able to help teammates with questions.

In both cases, 6-12 month long projects ended with basically being thrown in the bin. So, yeah, you can imagine any sense of purpose I may have assigned myself by being involved in these projects was an illusion. Nope - I just enjoyed getting good at something!

Then I spent six months unemployed, and spent some of that doing hobbies I enjoyed... even getting half decent at some things I've tried before. But by the end of the period, given the constraints of the pandemic, I was missing that feeling of doing something on work days that felt like accomplishment. I definitely think for anyone retiring, early or otherwise, you will have to spend a period of decompression and adjustment, either learning to accept consumption over creation, or finding new ways to create. You'll need to find a new balance, and you'll have a lot more time to do it.

> but mostly just base status drive and ego.

I see this. Props for understanding yourself!

The number of status updates I see from former work colleagues who, pretty transparently, just want to Let You Know they are Still Really Important is astonishing -- especially ones close to normal retirement age. My reaction is something akin to (e.g) "what have you done wrong that you're over 60 and are still climbing the greasy pole?"

But it takes effort to check out of the game. I felt _exactly_ the same internal pressure after leaving one job to "update my status" once I started my own, next, Really Important Role - even when doing so was blatantly at odds with my values.

It takes a lot of knowing yourself and your own motivations to come to terms with this. It reminds me a great deal of Kung Fu!

‘Have you no ambition, Master Po?’ -Disciple Caine ‘Only one. Five years hence, it is my wish to make a pilgrimage to the Forbidden City. It is a place where even priests receive no special status. There in the Temple of Heaven, will be a festival The full moon of May. It will be the thirteenth day of the fifth month in the Year of the Dog.’ -Master Po ‘That is not such a great ambition.’ -Disciple Caine ‘But it is ambition, nonetheless. Who among us is without flaw?’ -Master Po

> work provided a venue to solve interesting problems with interesting people

I wish there was a way to find a more balanced work culture (in the USA, other countries may have this already) to be able to continue solving interesting problems with interesting people, as you say, but also live life outside work.

I'd give anything to be able to work maybe 15-20 hours a week at half or a even a third of my salary. But employers will only take 60 hours a week of full-steam burnout, or zero.

Find a different industry. You can make 6 figures in des Moines and they assume you only work 40 hours.

Mind you I know several people who did that for a while and then decided insurance software is soul sucking and so they took a pay cut to work for someone else with more meaning in life. (But they didn't leave des Moines so still 40 hour weeks )

Yes, I'd also like to work in a collaborative setting about 15 hours a week, contributing to a project or research. One thing holding me back, though, is I just can't stomach the idea of some capitalist stealing the fruits of my labor for themselves! I know, extremely hypocritical, as I've benefitted tremendously from capitalism, and continue to do so. That said, I'd be happy to give up my wealth, as long as all rich people had to, and we magically found some stable equilibrium where it stayed that way and society could still function.

I did get into open source work, for a while, contributing to improving the software I used the most. Unfortunately, that mainly resulted in work on Chrome and vscode, and other pieces of software owned by giant, richer-then-god corporations, so the same frustrations applied :p

Did you tame the ego via meditation? If not what other method? Curious about the path that lead to depersonalization. It’s discussed in meditation circles as a fear some have, but really, many monks and “enlightened” are interesting characters eg. Shinzen Young

I've experienced depersonalization because of meditation, and I didn't even know that: (1) what depersonalization was and (2) that it could be cultivated by meditation.

I immediately stopped meditating all together and slowly got my sense of self back. Since then I only briefly meditate when I feel I can use the benefits of it (e.g. enhanced emotional perception or more focus etc.).

It was mostly an ad hoc CBT approach. I spent more time introspecting my motivations, and if I decided I was doing something mainly for ego gratification, I'd stop. At first, that left very little. As I said earlier, programming was out, also most gaming and working out, watching sports, pretty much anything that generated dopamine. I spent a huge amount of time listening to comedy podcasts, and the rest reading. Eventually, though, a big positive was opening up more mental space for my partner, whom I'm sad to say I neglected pretty badly during my working days. After that, I spent more time with a local community group, and, yes, puttering around the house making home improvements.

I actually did try joining a meditation group, but I had a very bad time. I have a loud and constant inner monologue, but when I calmed my thoughts, all I experienced was primal negative emotion. Some mixture of shame and terror. I don't mean this literally, but it felt like a demon was trying to posses my mind. The instructor was a very nice person, but not a professional, so maybe I could have had a better time with a better guide.

Finally, I've stopped trying so hard to suppress my ego. I'm very curious what living in a society that supports low ego would be like, but the one I live in doesn't. Ego has many used (especially in a corporate setting, it's a tremendous asset), and the experiences of ego and dopamine are part of the richness of life, even if, when viewed at a society level, they often seem so dysfunctional and defector-ish.

Very interesting. I know that most of the things I do are ego driven, but it’s so ingrained in society It’s tough to let go of.

For meditation I worry your teacher or the type may have been a bad fit. Meditation teachers I follow encourage looking for joy and savoring the sweet feelings of being in the moment. It feels comparable to enjoying a beautiful sunset.

It's nice to see someone's honest thoughts. Though I can't help but find the person a little judgemental of their prior partner, or people who don't mind working. I also feel like they must have had a strange group of friends, 30k is the US median income, but it seems they only had friends making way more and also somehow being money obsessed.

I do like the conclusion though, we're social animals, and the issue with early retirement is that you're the only one with free time during work hours. They were lucky to have a partner to share their time with, but in my humble opinion, it isn't healthy for a relationship to depend on a single person that heavily. The lack of time spent with others means this one person is all you have to distract yourself, and I think that puts stress on a relationship.

I've never tried FI and early retirement, it's never really been something I've found appealing. That said, I've heard some takes on FI where they say it isn't so much that you'd stop working, but that you no longer depend on work. That means once you have financial freedom from work, you're free to see work as a hobby, and be much pickier about what work you do, where you work, how you allow yourself to be treated at work, etc. Since you know you can walk out at any time, since work isn't something you depend on. It gives you the big end of the stick in negotiating with employers, and that in itself is freeing. I think if I were to do FI, that's the type of FI I'd be interested in personally.

Yep, that's the point of FI. You can pick what you want to do with your life, whether that's working or not. Those who say "I don't see the point of being FI, I want to work my entire life" is like saying "I don't see the point of a BATNA in a negotiation".


Best Alternative To Negotiation Agreement

I've only seen this acronym in a negotiation course at uni, I'm sure not everyone knows what it means ;-)

> That means once you have financial freedom from work, you're free to see work as a hobby, and be much pickier about what work you do, where you work, how you allow yourself to be treated at work, etc. Since you know you can walk out at any time, since work isn't something you depend on. It gives you the big end of the stick in negotiating with employers, and that in itself is freeing.

You can get this if your skills are currently in demand and have a few months of expenses saved up. You don't need to get to financial independence to have a healthy relationship with your job.

There's a big difference between "If I lose/quit my job I really need to find one in the next few months although it shouldn't be too hard" and "If I lose/quit my job, I don't really need another one but maybe I'll find one if it's a good enough match someday... or not."

The second is a lot more relaxing.

Short Version:

- LeanFIRE in 2015 (~30Kish USD annual spend)

- first couple years were great, in the third year cracks started to show

- they and their partner's goals were no longer aligned and they ended up splitting

- OP was diagnosed with a genetic condition that changed their expenses and lifestyle

- Ended up getting a job again at the end, but while "retired" their net worth actually increased by 20%

The whole thing seemed weirdly condescending towards people with normal working and spending habits, especially because it's not obvious to me what was so great about what the author was doing. The dude hung out for a few years, failed to become a writer, and did some travel, bored his partner to tears, and ... "sucked down an awful lot of media — movies, video games, books", then learned the shit that normal people already know (that unexpected expensive things happens in life).

"To me, these people on their exercise machines were standing still — nothing was happening in their lives". Um, ok.

One of the richest and busiest people I have ever met - like serious 0.1%-percenter rich - is always off hiking in Papua New Guinea and spending shit-tons of money getting wells dug in crappy areas and fighting dysentery and improving the lot of young girls by funding schools and so on. If that person gave me shit for my materialistic lifestyle it'd be one thing. I also know plenty of broke people who do incredibly righteous and interesting stuff, and I'd happily cop the same line from them.

This bozo? Not so much. It's like Holden Caulfield, but middle aged. He barely mentions anything outside himself aside from his partners, old and new (aside from the vague genuflection to CO2 as a justification for his lifestyle, which sits rather poorly with "A trip to Hawaii. Another to Portugal and France" if he's aiming for secular sainthood over an allegedly low-emission lifestyle).

In a shocking development, life spent as a bizarrely young version of one of those old retired people who doesn't do anything beyond travel and putter around isn't that great.

Calling someone who has made himself remarkably vulnerable and open a "bozo" because he doesn't have the same values or life experiences as you do is unkind and uncharitable. We all experience things in our own time and our own way, and while I have my own thoughts about his experiences and areas that he might examine more closely, I'm also not revealing personal details of my own life for public examination.

I called him a bozo not because we don't share values, but because:

(a) he doesn't seem to have any particularly profound values aside from "avoid the discomfort of working" and "it's nice to travel", and

(b) he devoted large amounts of his post to slag off most of the rest of the world (including his ex-wife - and there's of course even more to read, if you're a masochist) in astonishingly adolescent terms. If you're looking for "unkind and uncharitable" takes, you might try rereading the article.

When the subject of your blog post is about your personal life experience, I think that opens you up for public examination. It's not like GP is going around critiquing random HN commentators, or even random public figures.

You're leaving out that he mentioned that a lot of his friends weren't really into their work and used shopping as a way to alleviate that form of suffering, at least that's what he seems to believe.

Maybe I read too much into that part, I've certainly seen it with some of my friends. Some of my friends hate their job, other friends of mine are okay with their job. In any case, it isn't hard to imagine a big group of his friends being unhappy with their job.

After having read this, I kind of come to the realization that some serious research needs to be done to the psychological state of people in general and working. The results are all over the place [1]. For example, Pew Research Center seems to claim that Americans as a whole are pretty satisfied with their jobs [2], whereas an article about a Gallup poll claims that 85% isn't [3].

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=statistics+us+people+unhappy...

[2] https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2016/10/06/3-how-a...

[3] https://www.staffsquared.com/blog/why-85-of-people-hate-thei....

The question of whether people say they like their jobs is, frankly, moot. As the Hungarian economist used to say, when asked "how are you?", "compared to what"?

More important to this discussion is whether they would be happier if they could instantly retire, and whether this happiness would last. People like to complain about their jobs, but a lot of retirees subsequently complain about being bored.

Also, I wouldn't read too much into his commentary about other people. By a strange coincidence, he seemed surrounded by cardboard cutouts, designed to prove him right about things. If you were ever curious about the opinions of a Holden Caulfield who didn't really grow up, but worked in tech for 18 years, you could find a lot of answers on his blog.

His blog is morbidly fascinating. His previous post is a long, very detailed assessment of the prospect of Trump ending Obamacare - couched 100% in terms of what it means for him and people exactly like him. Then there was a huge post doing amateur psychoanalysis of his ex, with a heaping helping of Myers-Briggs types and (I kind you not) the Houses from Harry Potter. That's as far as I got.

Would love to hear his ex's version of all this...

One can only wonder what the literary world has lost, given that he abandoned the project of being a writer.

I have a high school friend who retired around 40. He came from a family of money, but worked in corporate IT sales for a large, well known vendor. We had lost touch with each other until 5 years ago when he reached out to me via FB and wanted to call. We spoke for a few hours about our lives, and I realized he was a lost soul.

He had a wife and children, and had been retired for over twenty years. His kids were now all grown and out of the house, and it seemed like he was asking "what should I do now." In contrast to him, my kids were in middle school, and retirement was 15 years away, at a much lower standard of living.

My friend had spent the last two decades traveling; he would travel to a country, live there for 3-6 months and immerse himself in it. His family would stay for a while, but then return to the States when school started, while he would remain. He seemed very curious about "normal" life which he seemed to have growing up. His father was in financial services, and he had a stay at home mom.

I envied my friend's financial independence, but nothing of his retirement life other than the opportunity to travel on a whim. Life without moorings is to be adrift, forever seeking the oxytocin rush of new things, and then being disappointed when it fades.

I haven't spoken to him since, though he randomly posts to FB; I hope he's found real happiness and acceptance in his wanderings.

I like this article around this topic. I read it many years years ago and it rang very true for me. Traveling can be fun but it doesn't solve the problem needing purpose (for those with that need).


reminds me of the demotivator "those who do not have the courage to lose sight of the shore will never know the true terror of being forever lost at sea".

That's magnificent.

I sometimes have to force an alternative perspective when things feel like they're getting on top of me:

"this is just an unfamiliar challenge, which should be treasured, because the unfamiliar becomes less frequent throughout life"

"Money magnifies who you already are"

I've noticed this as well when I started to get to know some rich people. Their personality seemed magnified to me compared to people with a similar personality but less money.

To me the emphasis on the FIRE community should be on the FI part of the equation.

For many people in many countries, there is no concept of "retirement". It seems so silly to me that people would go and say "I'll work really hard and do all this stuff for 40 years so I can sit around and do nothing for another 30 years".

What's the point? It's unsustainable. It's like doing a crash diet - it may work for a minute, but to have long-term results you need to have a lifestyle change.

Focusing on financial independence means you can achieve better long-term results. Living within your means over the course of 80 years instead of balls-to-the-wall for 30-40 and then a quick and silent death for 30 seems to be a better course of action and would lead to longer lifespan.

Once you reach financial independence - whatever that means to you - you can take on other interests. It could be working at a startup, or a non-profit, or volunteering, or gardening. You name it. But financial independence enables such things. FI > RE.

> Living within your means over the course of 80 years instead of balls-to-the-wall for 30-40 and then a quick and silent death for 30 seems to be a better course of action and would lead to longer lifespan.

I think you have two things wrong here:

1) Most people don't plan to live "balls-to-the-wall" for 30-40 years before retiring. They work hard (maybe too hard!) so they can retire early. They don't live like kings and queens for that time; that would probably make it impossible to build that nest egg and actually retire. To do this right, you need to build enough wealth to maintain your lifestyle post-retirement. For most folks this means that their pre-retirement lifestyle won't be particularly extravagant.

2) Just because you retire, it doesn't mean you have a "silent death for 30" years. That's absurd, and plays into the whole "life is meaningless without work" idea, which I categorically reject. Maybe life has no meaning for you without work, but that's you, and not everyone. There's plenty to do in those last 30 years of life that will keep me fulfilled, happy, and busy, and none of it needs to have anything to do with drawing a paycheck.

"Retiring" doesn't mean not living, or even not "working". It just means that you get to do whatever you want without worrying about whether or not you're getting paid for it. Which is essentially what FI is as well, just with the added bit that you've decided to avoid gainful employment.

Just wanted to say I read this, and thanks. Great points you’ve brought up here.

I guess I’d say I would need to specify my definition of “work” a bit more. I wouldn’t view work strictly as employment, but as productive tasks with some means to an end, but that could also include hobbies like cooking, or wood working, for example.

I would definitely challenge from a general standpoint any life where you’re not doing something productive. Not in the hustle culture sense, but in the means-to-an-end sense.

I do think we are in agreement though. Financial independence is the most important aspect here.

Sure, retirement and those other kinds of work you mention aren't incompatible. I think when we talk about retirement and not "working", we're specifically talking about not having a job that pays money. Though many people still consider themselves retired while holding a part-time job or working freelance some number of hours.

This is why in part I think the distinction between "FI" and "RE" is pretty small. I absolutely agree with you that the important part is financial independence, getting to a point where if you quit or lost your job tomorrow, and never brought in any labor-related income again, you'd be fine. From there it's just defining what life means to you. You might stick with a 9-to-5 for a while because that makes you happy. You might drop to part-time. You might quit entirely and focus on personal projects and interests (like the hobbies you mention). Or you might take 5 years to focus on personal projects, but then take a full-time job for a couple years just because you feel like it, with the knowledge that you can quit at any time if you don't like it.

> I would definitely challenge from a general standpoint any life where you’re not doing something productive.

Eh... if someone decided to retire and spend every day of the rest of their life going to the beach and lying in the sun, that's... fine? It's not what I'd do with my retirement, but I don't think I'm qualified to tell someone else what to do with their life, especially if they're financially independent and aren't a drag on anyone else.

But yeah, for me, I do agree that I want to be productive to some extent. But I love the idea of even that being infinitely flexible. Right now if I don't feel like being productive I can dick around on HN for a little while (like I am right now), but I have to limit myself, and get back to work soon, hoping that my short break will help me gain some desire to be productive. My midafternoon time is not my own; to a very real extent it belongs to my employer. I feel guilty about not being able to focus on work right now, and I hate that feeling. If it were just me doing whatever I want to do, I might feel guilty about not finishing a fun woodworking project, but that guilt would be isolated to myself: I'm not depriving someone else (like an employer) of something they're entitled to.

And with that... back to work.

Another great post. Thanks a lot.

I definitely would say “doing nothing” - however we would define that isn’t something I’d put a moral judgement on. I think maybe the colloquial “relax on the beach” isn’t really possible long term. Maybe a year at most. I think most people historically at least just say on the couch. Contrast with maybe the idea (reality is questionable) of the old man in the Italian country side or woman in Okinawa tending to their gardens and walking to the market each day. At least maybe there are some items to discuss further when thinking about what retirement really means.

Really enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Yeah, I feel the old "relax on the beach for the rest of your life" trope is trotted out often enough but is fantastically unrealistic. I wouldn't say that literally no one would be happy doing that, but I feel like it'd be incredibly rare.

For myself, I'd probably be happy to tinker with open source software and small electronics projects for most of my days, along with some language-learning, cooking experimentation, and other random hobbies, and relaxing, therapeutic tasks like playing with my cat (perhaps similar in feel to tending gardens).

> ... when thinking about what retirement really means.

The nice thing about approaching retirement from a FI perspective is that retirement can mean whatever you want it to mean, within your financial projections, at least.

> Really enjoying your posts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

And yours as well! Thank you!

What surprises me is the lack of creativity that comes from people planning to work into their 60s. To be sure, in this year of a pandemic, not working but also having a lot of other options outlawed or discouraged made for a less than ideal lifestyle. (Source: I was unemployed for six months.)

Even so, the freedom to... saw/split/stack firewood when the weather was perfect, build a movie nook for my wife, go on bike rides on a Tuesday afternoon in a warm breeze, take our dog on a long, leisurely walk at a local park, read a book in the shade out on the deck...

...or pre/post-pandemic visit a brewery or winery on a slow Thursday (and all other forms of travel that are less ideal right now.)

But also FIRE doesn't demand that you "work extra hard" during the accumulation phase. At least, I have been fortunate enough to avoid that fate. I've rarely worked overtime in my entire life as a software developer. And of course, given this career and income, living within my means (actually well below them) doesn't mean horrible deprivation, either. Sure, I can't go on a $20k weekend trip on a whim (at least not regularly!), and we have to research our options for vacation so we don't blow a lot of money, but again - it doesn't take much creativity to have a really rewarding life that doesn't necessitate spending at or above your means. (Again some of this assumes you have a "good" income. There are stories of those with lower income making it work, but the challenges change!)

> Even so, the freedom to... saw/split/stack firewood when the weather was perfect, build a movie nook for my wife, go on bike rides on a Tuesday afternoon in a warm breeze, take our dog on a long, leisurely walk at a local park, read a book in the shade out on the deck...

I had a job where I could do this. On any given week I worked normal(ish) hours, but I had pretty close to full control over when and where I worked, with significant autonomy on what and how. I spent most of my afternoons outside unless I really felt like working on my project. At the same time, being at a company gave me resources, teammates and scope I would have struggled to recreate working on my own open-source projects. I had just come off a one-year break and I ended up enjoying working more than I did not working. It's a real shame that we can't have more jobs like this; it requires giving people a level of trust and autonomy most organizations can't stomach.

If I could arrange a role like that into the indefinite future, I'd have absolutely no questions about working well into my 60s, and not at all thanks to a "lack of creativity".

A few people ITT seem to think FI people just do nothing all day. I'm kinda wondering if you folks know of anything but work.

ITT: "Why would I want the choice about when/if/where/how I work? I want my exact work specifications to be imposed on me, without any negotiating leverage."

Wanting to spend more time doing things such and volunteering or gardening are exactly reasons why someone might pursue early retirement. It sounds like you agree with the concept but are getting distracted by terminology.

Yea or maybe the terminology itself is bad and the “RE” aspect of FIRE might need to go away. If you’re volunteering for example are you not working? What is work? Definitions definitions...

But that’s my fault. I wasn’t specific enough. :) thanks!

Yes, this!

Having enough money that you don’t need to worry too much about work seems like 95% of the benefit. Spoken as someone fairly early working towards FI.

Having a paid off house, no debt, and enough money to survive tragedy unscathed is really the goal. I want to be able to work whatever job makes me happy without feeling the need to be competing for the highest salary. Take a few months off work here and there without sweating about getting a new job. To let my future wife or I stay home with the hypothetical kid without needing to think about the money.

Ok, but just imagine for a moment that working a job doesn't make you happy. Consider that most employment arrangements aren't all that flexible. You can't just suddenly decide to disappear for two months because you feel like it, whenever you want, and expect there to be a job waiting for you when you get back.

This extends all the way down into little things. Maybe I'd like to go for a walk right now, but I can't because I have a work meeting in 10 minutes.

I doubt there is anyone in the world who can say they are 100% happy with their job 100% of the time. While you might not be 100% happy 100% of the time in retirement, that is something you can control and change. You generally can't change many of the things about a job that make you unhappy.

I just feel like most people are so socially conditioned to believe that working a job is The Correct Way To Live Your Life that they simply can't imagine anything different.

> I want to be able to work whatever job makes me happy without feeling the need to be competing for the highest salary.

Why does it have to be a job? Why can't you just do things that make you happy? Why is it necessary that happiness falls into the narrow range of an employer-employee (or freelancer-client) relationship?

I get where you’re coming from, but getting to a place of being truly retired with enough money to live indefinitely, and account for most disasters like the one in this post, is much more difficult. Especially with healthcare in the US.

I’m not saying having enough money to retire forever isn’t better. I get that you have even more options. But why not also be semi-FI all along the way and afford yourself those things that make you happy, even if it means you save more slowly and retire a bit less early. It’s about the right balance.

I’d rather take 3-months of unpaid leave to backpack Europe at age 30 than skip the trip in a saving-frenzy to retire. That same backpacking trip would be way less enjoyable at age 40, or even impossible with kids.

Plus, my job does make me happy — I know it may not forever, which is why I save so much money. But assuming I keep enjoying work, it doesn’t hurt to keep making money even after RE. I really just see FI as giving yourself options.

I don’t foresee it being a huge event when I hit my “FIRE number” since I’ll already be living the life that I want.

Oh, absolutely agree. But everyone needs to find that balance for themselves. For some people that balance may truly involve working themselves to near death in their 20s and 30s so they can retire with a more-than-comfortable lifestyle. That's not for me, but I see no problem with someone doing that if that's what they truly want.

I'm lucky that I'll be able to retire soon and still be financially secure against all but the worst medical disasters (agree that the US sucks in this regard), medical disasters that would likely bankrupt me even if I was working (and would likely mean I couldn't work anymore anyway). I know this isn't possible for many people in the FIRE crowd, let alone most people in general. I've also been lucky that I've been able to travel a lot in my 30s and a decent amount in my 20s, despite working hard for most of it. So it's not like I've been all-work-and-no-play up until now; it's a balance I've been mostly happy with (certainly with some exceptions), but I know others might want a different balance (in either direction), and that's ok.

Just a bit on "enjoying work": I really want to make sure we're talking about the same thing. For the most part I enjoy and love the work I do, but overall I don't really enjoy "the job". I don't enjoy the meetings, the process that caters to the lowest common denominator, the politics, the fight to get things done the way I think they should get done. There are definitely some aspects of my current work that I probably couldn't do without all the other stuff (because they require a large organization with considerable financial resources). But there's a lot of it that I could do on my own, or (for example) in a small group of people working on an open source project. Retirement for me doesn't mean I stop being a software developer; it means I stop developing software on an employer's terms, and stop doing it for a profit motive. And if I get temporarily (or even permanently) tired of it, I can simply choose to do something else, on a moment's notice, without financial consequences. I'm not sure if this is the popular definition, but to me "retirement" means I do whatever I want -- including "work" -- without a care toward how it affects my income, and with the ability to shift my priorities on a dime.

I've essentially been FIREd for almost 18 months now (except for a very brief gig last fall). I really didn't realize that I was kind'a sort'a retired at 57 until just a few months ago. I was in a startup that ran out of money towards the end of 2019 and they kept telling me through 2020 that they'd get more funding soon and call me back to work - but of course, that never happened, and at this point it's not gonna. So that's how I eased into "early" retirement - if 57 is early. But really, what I've realized in the last few months is that I don't dislike working as long as I'm working for/with nice folks doing interesting work with a good amount of autonomy (all true in the case of the previous startup gig). But what I do hate with a burning passion is looking for work and interviewing - the terrible tech interviewing situation has been well documented here on HN, so I won't say more. So at this point I consider myself retired from interviewing, but not from software development. The short gig I had in the Fall was a contract with a previous employer who needed a quick project done (no interviewing required).

Like the author of the article I have had some issues with finding "purpose". It can be hard to relax into this kind of nonemployed situation and when you do get relaxed then you start to wonder if you're losing purpose and drifting. This is the battle - you're going to face it whether you retire early in your 30s or if you retire at the traditional age of 65. I'm trying to keep reading papers and doing some coding but I often come to the "what's the point?" crisis while working on something. Many times that's led to just dropping said project and going on to find another, but now I'm trying to push through the "what's the point" point.

During the short gig last Fall, I did notice that working more than 24 hours a week is difficult at this point - fortunately it was a 24 hour/week gig, but I'd get to the middle of that 3rd day and be like "Yeah, I'm really ready to not be working anymore this week". This was after about a year of not working. I suppose that if that short gig had lasted longer I would have gotten more into the rhythm of work again.

I always get a kick out of people who think they’re financially independent with such a small stash. Outside some regions with relatively extreme living conditions (e.g. undeveloped and underdeveloped countries), the amount he retired with was never going to be enough to sustain even minor shocks and last the rest of his life.

He had a minor shock (breakup) and a major shock (health condition) and realized this error early enough to have time to correct. Not everyone who follows the “leanFIRE” approach is they fortunate.

Even with the minor and major shocks in his life, he ended up with 20% more money than he started with. The main reason he wants more money now is that he wants to share it with his new partner, and enjoy some lifestyle inflation.

So I don't think it makes sense to extrapolate "leanFIRE cannot sustain minor shocks" from his circumstances." It certainly cannot sustain a certain level of lifestyle inflation, or (more generically) big enough changes to your expense sheet.

The 20% gain is 100% a consequence of the Fed and the market mania. This experiment attempted in another 5-year span would have worked out totally differently.

The largest pitfall is definitely housing. He mentions not wanting to own a home. He also must accept that rent rises faster than inflation, and he may have to move every few years to cheaper and cheaper places to keep things balanced.

If you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stay in your community, with your friends and family, for the rest of you days, what’s the point? Moving sucks. Not being able to eliminate moving is a huge lifestyle and stress liability.

OP addresses this. He points out that when he retired, one of his fears was that his nest egg was propped up by market mania. But since then his nest egg has increased. Sure, you can say it might have worked out differently in different time periods, but that's not necessarily a problem. The point of making these models before retiring is to also take into account the pessimistic conditions, and it appears he did so, and judged it all still possible.

He barely kept up with historical inflation rates (3%/year). Given the free availability of money in the last 2-3 years, it's hard to say a 20% appreciation on his capital is a success. In terms of real dollar value, he likely is losing year-over-year.

No, he says he has 20% more after adjusting for inflation. He has gained 20% in real dollar value. Even if that's only ~3% per year, that's fantastic on no (traditional) income, after accounting for expenses.

Regardless, even if he was break-even or negative, that might be ok; most people don't expect their retirement savings to last forever, just until they die.

Are you accounting for his spend or only looking at beginning and ending balances? When you retire early, you don't assume you'll beat inflation while also spending some of your principal.

I used to work in financial services. I wasn't client-facing but because I had experience with financial modelling so I got roped into these discussions...in my experience, everyone gets this wrong. Advisers get it less wrong but I have still seen comical errors from people who should know better.

But most people significantly overstate future returns (particularly now), they significantly understate the effect that volatility can have on strategies with withdrawal rates (any strategy involving withdrawals has to optimise for returns AND volatility...this is counter to the "time in the market" logic that most people read so can end up going very wrong), and they model for average final period wealth rather than 5th percentile (generally speaking, this happens everywhere in finance...modelling percentile outcomes is tricky...so most people just don't do it). I am not in the US but health costs seem to be an issue, inflation is another "black swan" that tends to go unconsidered.

In my experience, the FIRE group are the most difficult to convince because the whole concept is a lifestyle or way of thinking not an actual strategy. I also don't understand what is so appealing about doing nothing...but that is maybe just me (I have had times in my life when I was doing nothing, those weren't choices and they weren't fun).

Tools like cFireSim get this much more correct than what you describe above and takes literally just a few minutes to do basic modeling. They're still limited by historical returns, which is both good and bad, but certainly model very prominently the risk-of-ruin.

https://www.cfiresim.com/ (no connection, other than very occasional user)

From what I can see, that doesn't look too good. There are likely issues with the data, which is not easily solvable given that complete databases are expensive. And there are likely issues with the modelling, it looks like the model is just scenario analysis. This is better than a misspecified parametric model (most advisers don't do scenario analysis either, so it is definitely valuable...although requires market knowledge to parse fully) but relies on good data...the data is not good.

The correct way to do it is a Monte Carlo simulation using either: a good parametric model (this is very tricky, something like a T distribution is least worst...but is still bad, the ideal is some kind of regime model, proper volatility modelling, and something that models expectation accurately between regimes...tricky), or using block bootstrap on good historical data (more robust quantitatively...but again, good long-term data costs $100k+).

So...it is straightforward if you have good data and understand how to build a proper event-based backtesting system (or code something good enough)...but, as said, 99.99% of advisers do not have the resources for this. In most cases, they are unable to buy software implementing this or even know they need it (I have seen this software but it is usually at advisers that require liquid wealth of $10m+...it isn't only the cost of the software but most advisers below this level have no quantitative skills/staff so don't understand why it is necessary).

Again, I would be cautious about any numbers that come out, and focus on the 5th percentile (and understand that it is a wild over-estimate if the data isn't good).

I think there's a reasonable question of whether a Monte-Carlo simulation is better or worse than applying actual sequential returns from all 100+ starting years (which is what cFIREsim does and the data of which is available to all).

For me, I'd rather backtest against all the actuals than to look to a Monte-Carlo sim with a distribution which is the same as the per-year returns, because I don't believe that sequence of returns year to year are entirely independent, but rather have a relationship to each other because of the longer-term business cycles. This is naturally accomplished by using sequential year actuals.

I agree with you on focusing on the low-end/worst-case outcomes. I'm planning our family's retirement based on a 98% success rate as a minimum (and where the 2% cases can be managed by scaling down lifestyle rather than by starving).

I am not sure what you mean. Using sequential returns from every starting year in your database is, if I have understood you correctly, the same as using block bootstrap (at the limit, sequential returns from every starting year is the same as block bootstraps of lifespan length taken an infinite number of times).

You don't look at yearly returns. There are many reasons for not doing this but the basic one is volatility clustering. Yearly returns are mostly independent, but volatility is not...again, that is why you use a block bootstrap (you can vary the length of block but for this kind of analysis more than once decade makes sense).

> You don't look like at pear returns

I don't understand what you mean here, but I'd like to. Could you explain?

I'm using cFIREsim to simulate 100+ different retirement trajectories based on historical results and ensure that 98% of them exceed my desired spending in all years.

> There are likely issues with the data, which is not easily solvable given that complete databases are expensive.

>> cFIREsim uses historical stock/bond/gold/inflation data from 1871 to present[1]

I am not an expert here buy my impress is that this data is publicly available. What data is this model missing?

[1] cfiresim.com/about/

It isn't, it is expensive and time-consuming to collect this data, and the edge is huge (I know a fund manager who has been spending several million a year for the best part of a decade collecting historical financial statement data). Also, a lot of the large databases are known to be inaccurate (for example, CRSP). I think the best long-term data is Credit Suisse DSM and Global Financial Data (I can't attest to the accuracy of the latter but have heard it is good).

The website says it is using Schiller's data...so the model is missing almost everything. Stock markets have existed in multiple countries for centuries, using one country makes no sense. It also looks like the bond data is totally wrong (prices rather than total returns).

I was thinking about making a monte carlo simulation for my own use. Obviously I'm not going to be spending millions for the data. What's the best freely or cheaply (i.e. not "call us for pricing") available historical data for stocks and bonds? Or is the free data just so bad it's not worth doing at all? And what are the typical problems with the free data?

I feel it is more about escaping the corporate machine than "doing nothing." For many the modern office workplace is insufferable.

You could argue they should go into business for themselves and some appear to do so.

It's not "doing nothing" it's "choosing to do nothing for anyone else", which is very different.

It is the same. What is the point of being alive if you aren't providing value to other people? Just sitting on your mountain of gold, and count it all day long.

If that's your view of early retirement (or retirement in general), you are very very mistaken.

There can be more to life than working for a paycheck, regardless of what we've been socially conditioned to believe from childhood.

So what's a safe withdrawal rate then?

We live in the UK, in an "expensive" region (south-east). Our average expenditure, excluding mortgage payments, over the last 10 years has been, roughly, £25K p/a.

We're hardly living a bread and water lifestyle.

When we hit 67, the state pension alone will give us > £18k. You just need enough to bridge the gap.

The truth is - most probably don't need anything like what they think they need to retire early.

The system just wants them continually on the hamster wheel.

Especially not in the USA when the least of a health issue can eat up your savings in a couple of short months unless you have extremely good health coverage, which only the rich (who don't actually need it ...) have.

Not sure what the definition of rich here is, but people in the 10% of income earners most definitely still need health insurance and suffer from illness. For example, my psych meds would be $1500 a month without insurance. Even on a software engineer salary, that’s quite a hit.

>> ...still need health insurance...without insurance..

I think the point is that even with health insurance you can be wiped out. I dont think any reasonable definition of FI/RE would suggest being without health insurance.

The thing is that in a small % of cases, even with health insurance, you get one bad examiner, one by-the-books administrator who denies coverage for something, and you're done for.

Some of those dudes (eg MMM) do go without health insurance. Personally I think they are nuts unless they are OK to pack it in the moment their appendix bursts.

MMM is almost certainly wealthier than he lets on, started from a position of wealth more than he lets on, and derived substantial income in his “retirement” from his work on his site.

This is one of the advantages of an HMO. In an HMO it’s medical staff making these calls, not random administrators second guessing medical professionals.

It's not perfect, but maximum annual out-of-pocket for an individual ACA plan is $8550, plus premiums. If that's your entire savings, you were certainly not FI.

I think the author is going to require expensive care on a yearly basis for the rest of their life. if you can't absorb $8550 one time, yeah you're definitely not FI. but if you end up maxing out your out-of-pocket every year until you die, that is really going to mess with a $30k/yr spending target.

Right; an extra $8550 per year might not be hard to absorb if your budget (supported by a larger nest egg) is already $150k per year, but when it's $30k per year, that's a good 30% increase. Not small.

Yes, healthcare in the US is a major concern. Hopefully we'll see the ACA get shored up here with a much more favorable administration - it certainly won't get any worse for the next ~4 years anyway. A couple that's withdrawing $40K/year from their retirement accounts is still going to get a pretty good subsidy on their premiums through the ACA which makes FIRE possible if you keep your income (and thus your expenses) down.

What interests me most about the FI community on reddit is how they split into two very different subgroups(leanfire and fatfire). Part of it is a difference in frugality, but part of it is is a fundamental difference in modeling risk.

Do you mean that fatfire folks calculate a greater margin to handle risk or the other way around?

Well, fatfire just has a larger bucket. If you've calculated a budget down to the penny (or even have a budget outside of in a generalized way), it's a lot harder to absorb unmodeled risks.

If he had emigrated to Canada, he gets a 30% boost in currency and his medical bills drop to closer to $0.

1.2M is more than most people earn in a lifetime, so seems he should be set up for leanFIRE.

That said, the article seemed pretty hilarious. I think this guy might be a little bit unobservant. The cracks form early but he insists that he's blissfully happy. It seems like he didn't really know his partner that well to begin with.

You cannot immigrate to Canada if you have a medical condition that is deemed expensive. Also, even without health issues, immigrating to Canada is far from trivial and not something many can do.

30K/year on a 950K stash is only a 3% draw-down, which is considered pretty reasonable.

It's assuming you will be fine with 30K/year over the next 40 years that is not reasonable. So many things can change or go wrong and you end up needing more than that (exactly what happened here). If this happens relatively early and you are in an in demand job market, then it's not too bad. But if you haven't been working for the last 10 years and you are in a not super in demand market, you are in for a pretty bad time.

950k isn’t a bad stash but he’s a fool limiting himself to 4% withdrawals and a paltry $30k a year.

He should build an aggressive stock portfolio of growth companies with about 60% IV each while he’s still young and going back to work is a good emergency fallback, but for primary income he could just sell OTM options against his stocks and be making about $2k to $3k a week fairly conservatively with little risk of assignment at low deltas.

OTM options is one of those things where it works great until it doesn't and then when it doesn't it REALLY doesn't. This is almost literally how we ended up with the inverse volatility trade collapse in 2018. Look up "XIV blow up".

Betting against volatility will *never* not be "picking up pennies in front of a steamroller".

Retail investors should not touch options under any circumstances, anyway. They're hedging tools for institutions and cannon fodder for day traders.

EDIT: I missed that the OP was saying to sell options for stocks already in your portfolio. I'll address that now:

I feel like this makes it even less worthwhile? Remember, black swan events happen once a month in trading. I think people would be really surprised at how far OTM they need to go to truly get to a "minimal" risk of their options being assigned. At which point the premiums are going to truly be pennies. If you're making any interesting amount of money off of a covered trade like this, it's because you're taking on an interesting amount of risk.

Selling OTM covered calls is not a trade that's going to blow up your account. The worst case is that you suffer a drawdown in your account (which is a risk of all investing). The second worst case is that you miss a massive, short-term rally.

>> Selling OTM covered calls is not a trade that's going to blow up your account. The worst case is that you suffer a drawdown in your account (which is a risk of all investing). The second worst case is that you miss a massive, short-term rally.

Depends on whether youre fully cash secured or not. If you are fully cash secured, you barely make $. If you're not, now you're leveraged and a steep draw-down can wipe you out.

A covered call by definition means you own 100 shares for every contract you sell. Even if you own some of that stock on margin you are not increasing your risk by selling the calls.

The parent was referring to OTM call selling, not covered calls only. Covered calls are pretty low-risk. Selling OTM calls includes selling puts, which is not low-risk unless you're unlevered (everything covered by cash.)

The top parent suggested

> sell OTM options against his stocks

I don't see where you get the impression they were ever talking about selling uncovered calls. Selling out of the money calls has nothing to do with selling puts. As yes selling cash secured puts even with some leverage is considered very safe. Here is a fund that does just that.


Probably 35% of my individual stock purchases are done via a series of (hopefully more than 1) naked puts until I finally get assigned.

True, but that is the case by virtue of the underlying investments, not because of the decision to sell OTM covered calls.

You are wrong and need to educate yourself.

Covered calls don't add risk of ruin, you just have potential to miss any potential further gains if you pick a bad strike. This could happen anyway if you were to sell a stock at the wrong time for example.

Selling cash-secured puts and covered calls is one of the safest things you can do. You take on less risk (and less reward).

Ah I missed that he was selling calls for stocks he owns. That makes it even less interesting IMO? The premiums on these options are small enough and now you're also capping upside on stocks you already own. And remember that black swan events happen once a month in finance, so I think people would be surprised how far OTM they need to go to actually get to a "minimal" risk of them being ITM.

Normally you'd wait until the volatility is a bit higher, sell a few covered calls against 5-10% of your shares. If the market jumps up, roll the calls out and sell more.

If you get assigned, that's great, immediately sell a put. I've been able to do this against SPY/QQQ, rolling and never getting assigned. So it's all gravy on top of the existing market returns.

You can eke out a few pct a year this way, but from a SWR perspective it's like doubling your hoard.

> remember that black swan events happen once a month in finance, so I think people would be surprised how far OTM they need to go to actually get to a "minimal" risk of them being ITM.

I think you're talking about the wheel strategy. Keep reading this at r/thetagang but I believe the premiums lately have been higher than normal so that's why lots of people suggest this. HN was one of the last places I would see this suggested.

Yep, I basically do the wheel but I try to avoid taking assignment. I just roll out calls if the stock start creeping up. I initially only sell against a portion of my shares so I have the ability to sell more options, at higher strikes, and not take a loss.

If I'm underleveraged, on a weekly expiration date (MWF) I'll sell a bunch of options a few strikes out a few hours before expiration, with stops. Usually they decay down and you get a lot of premium in an hour.

There’s no need to wheel. Do you own stocks? Yes? Do you own them in blocks of 100 shares? Yea!? Then you could be making extra income just buy selling covered calls on them while you hold them long term.

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