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Your Road to FIRE Doesn't Need an SUV

Back in my day, SUV's were stupid!

Photo by Nico on Unsplash

I've made it a daily habit to cruise across the Canadian landscape of FIRE communities that have popped up here and there. Canadian's pursuing FIRE is not new but the community is emerging, ideas are flowing and I'd like to keep my finger on the pulse of the movement. Having a blog and podcast of my own means I should be somewhat up-to-date with the community across the nation and in my local area. So while hitting up my favourite bookmarks, I happened upon a thread of discussion that caught my eye.

A gentleman was asking the forum of FI seekers whether or not the community had experience with RAV4's. He was clearly interested in purchasing one for some reason he didn't explain (and probably couldn't). I thought it odd this guy would voluntarily admit to a FIRE community that he wants an over-sized, expensive and depreciating asset that is an SUV - probably a new one! Hasn't he listened to the True Cost of Car Ownership? Or how he's probably going to use it like a clown? He's gonna get roasted alive! I clicked the comments too watch his obliteration first hand... or so I thought.

Turns out, there are A LOT of Canadians driving RAV4's. They offered all sorts of advice. One respondent said they're great on gas and fun to drive. Another said it was a 'tight fit' for 4 humans and a dog on road trips. A third came out of nowhere and stated 3 car seats don't fit in the back due to the seat belt arrangement. The guy never mentioned anything about kids but did respond saying he didn't have any yet, just a chihuahua.

WTF is going on??

This guy should have gotten a fierce but fair ripping from the community for mentioning the purchase of an SUV. If I had asked about 2% MER mutual funds in the group, I'm certain I would have been demoted from my admin duties of ChooseFI Toronto after 20 or so members gave me the tongue lashing of a lifetime. You don't waste market returns on high-MER funds, much like you don't waste your hard-earned dollars on overly-spacious transportation.

Think about it. He will be transporting 2 humans and a dog that's the size of a cat. Nobody should consider an SUV, but especially not our subject. Is it marketing? Is it because he's had previous positive experience with one? Has he bumped his head and lost his senses? It must be the legal marijuana..!?

To be frank, I think its just Canadian culture that's gotten to him. We have such rugged roads in the Great White North, a compact simply won't due. You need a vehicle for the city AND for the off-roading you won't do in the mountains. Thinking of going camping? Forget it, you don't own an SUV so fitting a tent, a cooler and some other small equipment just isn't comfortable. You need space for that giant animal after all!

I've noticed a disturbing trend in the FIRE communities as of late - people are drifting away from the core literature I've linked above and are joining these communities with no actual intent to achieve FI or RE (if you consider those different things). I call these people the 'PerhapsFI' crowd and rather than harp on each other for seemingly poor financial decisions that will extend the amount of years working (like my high-MER hypothetical) we instead stay silent when people mention more personal life-style decisions. I'm guilty of this too, I didn't post the following: "Why do you need an SUV for just that?"

One of the core principles of FIRE is lowering your overall spending by realizing where cash is leaking - then optimize the difference by investing. 

So is FIRE just a fad? Are people joining for little tips here and a trick there just to be able to spend more money on other useless crap? "If I optimize my credit cards, I can spend more!" Is this what the community will become?

I think not. While I'm certain that most forums will devolve into useless TFSA vs RRSP debates, how to house-hack with 9 chihuahuas and where the best parking lot is, I think the true FIREwalkers will see past this crap and move onto quieter and more helpful forums, blogs, podcasts and youtube channels. The selection for Canadian content is limited, making this a frustrating thought of mine, but I think the more mainstream this idea gets, the more content will eventually pop up. The bandwagoner's will occupy the original domains and the rest of us will have no choice but to relocate.

Or... we can speak up. We can grow a pair (both men and women!) and challenge the cultural norms that impose on our will to be financially free. We can seek to understand eachother's motivations behind spending choices and build our own bank of knowledge. Perhaps there is a time and place to buy an SUV.. I haven't heard a reasonable argument from somebody on paved roads connected to electricity yet but I'm open to the debate. 

Or.... PerhapsFI.

You can email me here: canadianfire1@gmail.com
Ryan Myricks

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