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
Stop Lying: An Open Letter to the FIRE Community
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?