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FI and FIRE Are the Same Thing

Perhaps this will be my most unpopular opinion yet but here goes!
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
'Financial Freedom', 'Financial Independence' and 'Retire Early' are all the same thing people. While I respect your right to your informed opinion, I have noticed that vast majority people on the path to FI explicitly say they do not seek RE whereas those already at the finish line often use the two terms interchangeably. Why is this?

I have a few quotes that I'd like to put to the test. I hope I don't step on toes here.... just kidding. I'm actually hoping to break a few bones.

"FI and RE are totally different"

They are different because one is an action and the other is a philosophy but that's why they go together. You cannot have FI without RE and vice-versa. Think about it, this is why we save up a crap-tonne of money (the action) to give us multiple options of retirement (the philosophy). To put it a different way, FI and RE are the two sides of the same coin; one could not happen or even make sense without the other. If you never plan on retiring, don't bother to save money. RE is not possible without FI, and FI isn't worth it unless you're aiming for RE.

"Early Retirement will be boring"
For a philosophical movement centred around happiness via financial means, people sure do have this backwards. Early Retirement is meant to be the most exciting thing possible because your financial obligations have been taken care of. Blogs like Mr Money Mustache and Millennial Revolution don't beat around the bush on this one. You have been sold a lie from lottery advertisement campaigns about how substantial wealth transforms your daily actions and by super-wealthy villains like Suze Orman talking about their private islands. Flying in helicopters and lying on a beach all day is not the norm for anybody who's FIRE'd.

"But I love my job, I want FI but not RE"
This is perhaps the funniest thing people can say because they're actually trying to sell their happiness to other people on a mental level. When people say this, I usually just pat them on the head and say "That's nice sweetie". If your boss told you that coming to work was totally optional and the paychecks will be identical, you're telling me you wouldn't skip a day of work? Would you now spend half of your working hours instead at a charity? But wait, you're in love, aren't you? RE is not about ending paid work - it's about finding passion first and opportunity second. When paid work is mandatory, this video correctly argues that opportunity comes first and passion is second. This is great advice for the real world and once you achieve FIRE you'll get to ignore it unless you want more money.

"I don't like the FIRE acronym because it provokes arguments"
Good. It should, like all paradigm shifts in society this movement will come with a lot of growing pains. I want people to get made, throw a hissy fit and rant on the comments section about how FIREwalkers are idealistic millennials with absurd risk and no possessions. By having these conversations over and over again will bring more people to the party. Change is always hard but FIRE is the future of personal finance and it will come with its fair share of criticism before eventually settling in as a viable financial option discussed by many, from high-income earners in comfy armchairs in downtown Toronto to the regular newbie googling 'DIY investing.'

"These people didn't actually retire so RE is misleading"
Incorrect again. Mr Money Mustache is retired. Brad Barrett (of ChooseFI) is retired. The MadFientist is retired. Countless other thought leaders in our bubble have retired. Do you know how I know? Think about it like this: did Wayne Gretzky retire from playing hockey? He sure did, yet he went on to an ownership role with the Phoenix Coyotes. We are playing a similar sport constructed by society called the 9-5 or 'a job'. Yet when we retire early, we'll be able to quit that social construct and begin to do whatever our heart desires, which can include the same job you already have. Perhaps you'll keep the same hours or demand you work from home but you'll be quitting the obligation. You don't need to be there, you choose to retire to your current job. Quitting this societal expectation is a frightening experience for most (including me), which is why we seek community and leaders in the space to be able to concentrate our thoughts on what's actually important and to ignore the noise of the naysayers.

"I'm a blogger and I purposely only use FI"
I've noticed that quite a few established brands dodge around the early retirement elephant because of the provocation described above. It makes sense - why alienate your existing audience with a new philosophical stance that requires sacrifice, hard work and perseverance. When you're in the business of selling the simplest way of unlocking financial freedom why would you risk an already profitable business model? In case you are all missing my point, I think people who sell FI think about RE all the time - hell they have even planned it out in their own head. They simply don't say so because it would be unpopular and therefore unprofitable. It is also considered the end of the story - you retire and then you die. This blog's goal is to remove society's concept of retirement and to prove to you the years of early retirement is just getting to the good part of your story.

"FIRE is inherently biased towards younger people"
This one sadly has a bit of truth to it which is also why bloggers will shy away from using RE - most personal finance readers are high income earners in their 40's and 50's trying to figure out how to fund an RRSP. I'd like to address the 40 and over crowd right now - even if you're starting at $0 networth and you retire before the age of CPP, I'd consider you FIRE in a heartbeat. Seeing as how most Canadians haven't saved enough for retirement, you've retired earlier than most. Think about it, you just worked your ass off to accumulate a massive nest egg allowing you to theoretically forego government assistance. That's just as impressive as the 20 year olds accomplishing the same feat. The only difference is you found out now and not 20 years ago... but I'll say something I'm sure you've said to your kids and your parents to you: Don't cry over spilt milk. No matter the financial mistakes that have already happened you get started today and achieve FIRE.

Parting Words
I have always found it funny that people who dance around the acronym are the ones with the most product to sell. While Mr Money Mustache has certainly profited from his blog, this was mostly due to passive income like advertisements and a few affiliate links he mentions every now and then. He has by far the largest audience of anybody in the FIRE space and he doesn't shy away from the controversial topic of redefining retirement. I'd also like to mention I have paid him $0 throughout the years of learning.

The lower you go down the totem pole of people who butcher the acronym or try to avoid it altogether are the ones with crappy seminars, credit card balance transfer offers, high MER funds and books upon books for you to buy (no hint of using the library). You would do yourself a massive favour to cut out all that bullshit and stick to the material that focuses on research-based investing, tax planning, happiness and early retirement.

Tomorrow I'm going to curate a quick list of books relating to FI that I think Canadians should consider. I'll also reveal a dark secret.... I haven't read one of the most foundational pieces of literature in the FIRE community..... See you tomorrow.

Ryan Myricks

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