Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Chess Pieces to FIRE

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash
I thought it might be fun to showcase my army of actionable tips in the form of a Chess board. This should hopefully illustrate how useful some tips are for building wealth compared to others.

Without an philosophical rambling, here are my 16 Chess pieces that make up my side of the financial game in Canada. To keep the post moving along, I'll be explaining each piece with only one to two sentences. Feel free to ask me for more elaboration in the comments below :)

Pawn #1 - Communicate! Nobody can read my mind and I cannot read yours, so if you want to learn finances and build a safe-space to talk money, you must begin talking to other humans! I began hyper focusing on my finances after talking to so many other people on the same journey as me - but I made the conscious decision to make first contact. A lot of those relationships directed me  to products and apps I had never heard of before, saving me money and sparked more creativity - such as this blog!

Pawn #2 - Food! I make sure my budget has an absolute cap on the amount of money spent on all meals, including those delivered or dined-out. The goal was $2/adult/meal on average that I heard from the ChooseFI Episode (America is Fat and Broke). I recently combed through my credit card spending and updated my Fixed Expenses with my average food spending, achieving $1.6/adult/meal on average. Not bad!

Pawn #3 - Free Banking! There is no excuse to pay for any type of chequing or savings account in Canada, nor should you be leaving thousands in your account just to waive fees - that's a ridiculous opportunity cost. There are plenty to choose from including: Tangerine, Simplii and Coast Capital (if you're in BC). I personally recommend Tangerine.

Pawn #4 - The Low Information Diet! This MMM article says it all but I'll boil it down: Mainstream media is designed to get you to keep reading and all forms of irrelevant information should be discarded at once since it won't further your personal goals and definitely not your happiness. Perhaps a blogger shouldn't say this but if this website won't further your FIRE goal, perhaps you shouldn't be reading..  =[  Be sure to tell me I suck in the comments below so I can help correct my message.

Pawn #5 - Discount Phone Plan! I pay $5.65 for a phone plan with Public Mobile (as of this writing) - let me guess, yours is $50+? No thanks.

Pawn #6 - Workplace Retirement Program! If you work for a company with a Group RRSP or a DCPP that you can pay into for a match, use the shit out of that.

Pawn #7 - Use Your Library! As JLCollins says, "I have so many books I need a separate building with several rows of multiple shelves and the staff to manage all this inventory.. and it's all done for me for free."

Pawn #8 - Regularly Assessing My Risk Tolerance! Don't just go with VGRO because all the cool kids are doing it. Take Vanguards own test here and see where you stand. It's okay to have any type of risk tolerance and don't forget to reassess if your priorities change. My priorities changed when I switched jobs, the birth of my kid, etc.

Those were the easy pieces. Let's get a little more complex...

Rook #1 - Ride a Bike! You might think this is easy but if you have built your life around a car, it is VERY hard to physically and emotionally get back onto a bike. I'm lucky enough to have bought a home besides a bike trail that brings me to big-box plaza without any street lights. Here's the legendary MMM article that started it all.

Rook #2 - Insure for Catastrophe and Nothing Else! It's very easy to overpay for insurance because you want to do right by your family - but if you adopt a frugal lifestyle which is living within your means, you only need to insure that your family won't be financial screwed without you, not rich as Scrooge McDuck.

Knight #1 - Shop Used! This is another one that is harder than you think because of a mental barrier constructed by society. There are enough people that are willing to sell perfectly good items at 50% off online at Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace, or at used car dealerships, or at thrift stores such as Once Upon A Child and Value Village. Stores that sell brand new items are always easier but they damage the environment and your finances with the single tap of your credit. You should only buy food new and shop used for everything else as much as you can.

Knight #2 - Ultra-Low Cost Investing! VTSAX has made this seem very easy but simply put Canadians have a much harder time accomplishing 0.04% MER. The Dividend Tax Credit can help here, so can holding VTI in USD in your RRSP.

Bishop #1 - Credit Card Churning! Signing up for credit cards to bank points and redeem travel has to be on of the sexiest things about the FIRE movement but it takes a lot of work. There is also a misconception about being able to travel for "free". There are always airport taxes and fees and sometimes the annual fees on a credit card make it worth it depending on your travel destinations. Canadian FIRE Blog highly recommends you check out the Prince of Travel for AMAZING Canadian credit card information.

Bishop #2 - Geographic Arbitrage! Whether local or international, being mobile with your belongings and your lifestyle is a major financial advantage. On a local level, I moved from 700k homes in Mississauga ON to 300k homes Kitchener ON. That 400k of opportunity cost can now fund an actual income source like stock market investing.

Queen - The Smith Maneuver! I thought it fitting that the most useful piece on the board get one of the best financial tactics in Canada today (this EFIC episode also reveals Megan and Chrissy using the SM, so the Queen piece is even more fitting for these ladies!). Here's the elevator pitch: you'll convert bad debt into good debt, become a homeowner, and develop a rental property OR taxable portfolio worth hundreds of thousands providing income. If you can stomach the risk, the SM is bound to reward these folks in a 20-year time span or perhaps sooner.

King - Save at least 50% of Your Take-Home Pay! The King is the reason Chess is played at all. If you're going to play the game of FIRE, you'd better start saving AT LEAST 50% of your take home pay. That 50% should be invested in some form to enable the life you want free from financial insecurity. As a bonus, if and when you get your savings rate this high, you'll find that life is much easier living this way. You will have less stressful things to do and more time to focus on things that expand your horizons and make you happier. You will achieve Mental Liberation.

  • As a side note, if 50% seems completely unreasonable, don't despair or toss my recommendation out the window. Achieving a high percentage savings rate takes time.. and a lot of it. There are no overnight success stories here. The next time you renew your insurance, buy a vehicle, upgrade your phone, plan a vacation, get a raise, any money-related event - remember the 50% and see where you can make cuts, compromises, or simply spend more strategically. Hopefully the information available on this site will help you lower your fixed expenses so your discretionary spending won't be burdened with guilt.

Thanks for reading, tell me what your board looks like? Have I overlooked anything? It's harder to nail down than you think.

With all these pieces in play... can you Go The Distance?

*Any of the text you've seen in red are future posts during the Daily October Challenge. Stay tuned!*

Ryan Myricks
You can email me here:
You can listen to me here:


  1. Ryan,

    Nice post. I happen to like Chess, so I felt the analogy was apt and interesting. For those of us who might be less nerdy, the 16 pieces might not be so familiar. I don't find credit cards for travel miles to be worth the hassle in Canada (c.f. ChooseFI and the US situation). Smith maneuver - juice isn't worth the squeeze (for me). Cheap food ... doable if I were a bachelor. But my family would lynch me if I pulled that $hit (I eat to live, but some of them live to eat). Ride a bike. I appreciate the sentiment. I used to ride around 15 km to my job at the army base. I now work from several different locations such that bicycle transportation is impractical (I also must dress professionally and do not have access to showers on-site). And then there is that thing called "winter" that makes bike riding difficult and dangerous. I agree with most of the rest. I will suggest one other idea... "Time Arbitrage" By this, I mean working like a fiend and saving a bunch of money when you have a higher cost of living (e.g. family with multiple children). But since you are saving toward a day when you have a lower cost of living (yourself +/- your spouse / life partner), you can use a lesser "cost of living estimate" for your future self. Of course, you have to be honest with how much you will actually spend. But paradoxically, for most of us, the most expensive time of your life probably occurs during peak earnings. If you combine "Time Arbitrage" with Geographic Arbitrage ... you can probably drop your cost of living by FOUR TIMES. Consider living with a family of 5 in say, Edmonton ... and "making hay when the sun shines" ... but when you are "retired" it is just you and your wife, but you're living in Costa Rica or PEI or Vietnam or something. That is what I mean by combining Time and Geo Arbitrage.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hey Doc, thanks for the comment. My biggest comment yet!

      Interesting concept combined Time and Geo Arbitrage together. It's why I don't include child care or my mortgage as part of my annual expenses. Since both will be eliminated for me to be at FIRE, why would I include them? In the meantime, you're right I am front loading my earning potential by working longer hours while my cost of living is higher but I plan on lowering that cost of living by being a stay-at-home Dad rather than waiting for the day my kids leave the nest.

      Thanks again for the insightful comment, looking forward to hearing you on a certain podcast... ;)