Early Retirement Journey Season 1

Stop the Lies: An Open Letter to the FIRE Community

Possible titles for this post.

Personal Finance and Budget Lies: An Expose on the FIRE Community
FIRE is not FUN – It’s not for everyone.
Personal Finance Lies and Half Truths: A Rant on the FIRE community

Savings and budgeting was more fun until it became a requirement
Stop Lying: An Open Letter to the FIRE Community
Why I Came Back To Blogger

I used to be grateful.
I used to be so grateful that I had $300 to pay a fine. I’m talking about my towing experience a couple weeks ago. Before my FIRE journey, I would have paid that fine and thanked God that I had money to pay the fine. I would have thanked God that $300 wouldn’t mean I didn’t have food to eat or money for rent or money for my car or gas. I used to be grateful that a $300 fine didn’t create any meaningful loss or sadness. Now all I can think is in terms of my FIRE budget. That’s my FIRE food budget for 1.5 months. That’s 1% of my annual FIRE budget. This is a setback.

I used to be generous.
I used to give freely. I was generous with my time and money, if I needed to be. I willingly helped my family. Now I think only in terms of my FIRE budget. How will this impact ME? Instead of how can I be a blessing to someone else. Before FIRE, I gave 10% of my earnings away. I started my side hustle, and I’ve been paid 3 times. I only gave 10% away from my first check. Now I’m slow to act and I feel stingy. I’m tired mostly from working two jobs.

I used to love eating out.
Before FIRE, eating out was my reward. It was my comfort, my luxury good, my reminder that I made it. It was breathing room. I can do this without going into debt or neglecting essential expenses. FIRE says don’t treat yourself. If you treat yourself, you defeat yourself. Because of FIRE, eating out feels like I’m doing something wrong. I spend money and I think how will this impact my journey. I walked out of a casual dining restaurant on Tuesday because I was too paralyzed to spend $9 on a burrito bowl (especially after seeing their advertisement for it as a Friday special for $6.49). Before my FIRE journey, I didn’t care. That’s what money was for.

I still want nice things.
A beautiful house one day; maybe a fancy car. I want to fly first class somewhere; maybe even take a private plane. FIRE calls me names when I think like this – a consumer. Isn’t everyone?

I don’t want to hack anything.
I thought that’s what college and a good paying job was – the ultimate life-hack that afforded you choices, options; a way out of the struggle, out of the fire, so to speak, of financial worries. I thought I already did “everything” right. Now the “everything” has changed. Make up your minds.

I tried my side hustle and it sucked.
Teaching a night class seemed so easy and doable from the get go. I can teach. I know stuff. It’s what my first degree was in after all. This is perfect; it aligns with the FIRE tenet of earning more money. It wasn’t perfect. It sucked. It led to a longer workday, physical ailments: headaches, vertigo – twice; poor eating, poor dental hygiene. I’m even willing to blame my tow on it -maybe if I hadn’t been so tired that night, I would have moved my car after reading the email late that night. I figured I had until the next morning. I didn’t. It seems I’ve been figuring a lot of things wrong. How did I figure my burning desire to leave the workforce could be salved by adding a second job?

I feel like I’m disappointing the community.
I’ve never felt like a disappointment to anyone or myself before FIRE. Now I feel like I’m letting down an entire community…of people I don’t even know. I bought the website like they said. I joined the directory and forums, like they said. I joined the conversation, like they said. I feel inducted into a virtual fraternity and it’s icky. I was never one for organized fraternization or the pressure of other people’s expectations or norms. It’s why I left my small town; why I gave up my old friends; why I don’t have an activated cell phone all the time; even why I’m not on social media. Trying to fit in was never a priority…until now. I thought I’d found my people, my tribe. It seems not.

I find myself judging people.
I judge those around me on their consumerism. Why are you buying new pants? FIRE says wear the same old pants until they’re threadbare then wear someone else’s old pants. Why are you paying for so many activities for your children- do they need track, ballet, and travel soccer? FIRE says let them walk to school and play in the park for free. Who am I to judge…no really? Who am I? When did I start caring what other people were doing? I don’t want to be this person. I didn’t used to be this person.

FIRE says retire early then…
Spend all your time tracking and fretting about expenses and net worth fluctuations. Retire early they say, but “passively” earn income from your real estate investment; run your AirBNB; raise your kids; travel hack your next trip with spreadsheets. It takes so much time and effort either to make money or avoid spending it! Stop minimizing it! I generally believe in America you either spend money or you spend time. I prefer to spend money and save time. Isn’t that the point of money?

FIRE is not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not for everyone.
Not one thing I’ve done has been 3 easy steps, no matter how much it’s touted on multiple blogs. It’s pain-staking, arduous, confusing, circular; sometimes you feel stuck in a loop of indecision. I feel sold, duped. I usually see a sales pitch a mile away (I’m talking to you Avon, Pampered Chef, DIRECTV). This was so new to me. I didn’t know to put my defenses up; be-spectacle myself and read the fine print. I didn’t see through the smoky pyramid scheme. FIRE was the best salesmen of all because I didn’t see them coming, and they came from so many directions. Satan, is that you?

FIRE repackages financial worry.
You go in thinking this is the way to financial freedom. Maybe you were free-er than you thought. FIRE doesn’t remove financial worry. It doesn’t financially free you. FIRE re-brands the worry as financial control and financial responsibility. It doesn’t change it or lessen its impact.

I need to go back to me.
I’m partly to blame for my current state. I wanted so much to belong somewhere; to find my tribe; to find my people. I attach quickly and ask everyone to love me best (ala Grover from Nanny Diaries). I need to go back to me, the person I was before I began this journey. What does that look like now knowing what I know? How will this affect my journey?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    [originally published Apr 21, 2018]


    Apr 21, 2018 tuppennysfireplace.com
    Ouch! I feel ya!
    When you find something that you think will solve all your problems it’s very easy to jump in headfirst and think you have found THE answer. But as you have found out it’s not that simple.

    You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything. This applies to FIRE as well.

    Sounds like you may have mentally cut too many things out? FIRE needs to work for you now and in the future otherwise you won’t remain on this path. But it’s early days and perhaps you needed to reach this point in order to find your balance.

    We gave up holidays initially but after a year we felt deprived so added them back in, but in a frugal, self catering way. You’ll find your balance, it will just take a little time. Don’t give up!

  2. Anonymous says:

    [originally published Apr 22, 2018]

    Mr. Financial Freedom Project

    Apr 22, 2018www.thefinancialfreedomproject.com
    I too am sorry to hear your experience has been so crummy, for lack of a better word! I agree that FIRE is not for everyone. And pursuing FIRE for its own sake can lead to burnout and a lack of fulfillment.

    For example, I’ve seen a lot of budgets fail because people try to budget for sake of budgeting alone. Whether out of a sense of responsibility, peer pressure, “I must do this to be a proper adult”… the list of reasons goes on. Budgeting should simply be a means unto an end, it’s not the final destination itself!
    Just like exercising. It’s hard to stay motivated to run / jog / work out just for health’s sake alone. But find a hobby that you enjoy which incorporates healthy activity (cycling, hiking, racquetball, etc.) and all of a sudden the exercise simply becomes a means of enjoying a greater good.

    FIRE should be an enabling force, not a constricting one. Don’t let a pursuit of FIRE consume you! All things in moderation. Most people’s goal is simply financial freedom. While FIRE is the ultimate form of financial freedom, there are many others. Pursuing the ultimate financial freedom of FIRE while sacrificing others like giving or eating out doesn’t sound very fulfilling.

    It sounds like your goal is primarily to use money to live a fulfilling life that enables you to pursue your values, goals, and dreams. Don’t let some arbitrary “FIRE” mold shape your ideal future lifestyle. Make it your own, girl!

  3. Sometimes we really need a great vent.. and will say I'm much more of a "ChooseFI" or "Physician on FIRE" person than a Mr. Money Mustache FIRE person. Don't get me wrong because I love a lot of stuff about MMM, but the dogma… it's overwhelming.
    I love to eat out, and I'm not going to stop. I like to travel. I'm not going to stop.
    I like to learn from the FIRE community about ways to optimize doing the things I want to do. How can I go out to eat for a little bit less? How can I spend less on those plane tickets (the travel hacking in this community is so on-point). But I'm not going to turn into a dumpster diving freegan. My experience has generally been that there's a place for everyone in the community, but finding that niche of people that don't make you feel like you suck can be a little challenging.

  4. Haha…yassss! I too love to eat out, but you're right they make some great points. I guess in retrospect, the FIRE originals serve as a great starting point for the journey! I love that you stopped by! Thanks.

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