What’s FIRE for me (Part 1) - Retirement
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What’s FIRE for me (Part 1) - Retirement

FIRE movement—Financial Independence, Retire Early—has become more popular in the last years because of the possibility of creating your own online business very easily. Achieving it is also one of the main objectives I have before I’m 40. On simple words, there are two main goals to achieve:

  • Financial Independence: having enough income from any kind of investment or passive income that allows you to cover all your expenses and makes you not depend on work for anyone or in a formal employment.
  • Retire Early: retiring much earlier than usual. When you are 30, 40 or whenever you decide, but before the typical or standard retirement age—which is +65 in most countries in 2020 and it will probably go up to +70 for my generation if things don’t change radically, like basic universal income or similar solutions.

The objective here consists in obtaining financial independence as fast as possible so that you can retire as soon as possible. Or, at least, earlier than the average. Depending on where you live and what’s your profession, this could sound more or less realistic. The truth is, many people already achieved it, and you don’t need to be a famous football player for that. For many of us is a priority because FUCK, I have 40 years until my official retirement. 40. If it really happens. And I’m already tired of working for others in my “long” career of 8 years—it’s, in fact, long and very productive comparing it with my generation. I don’t want to imagine how 40 fucking more years could be. 40. Fucking. Years.

To illustrate the idea, in the following image, you can see different and simplified approaches to a person’s life, my life, dividing it into different periods. Trying to reach FIRE is just an option, and it’s not easy. Also, it doesn’t assure you that you are going to be happy. The path is hard, and I don’t know how do you feel when you achieve it. Yet. ☝️

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1 Normal life. After your childhood or studying, you work over 40 years and, if you don’t die before, you can rest the last days of your life. The problem is that, usually, in these years you are not the fittest, healthiest and most energetic person. And no one assures you that you will live them. 2 Life with mini-retirements. Having retirements months or years in the middle of your career instead of waiting until the end. Tim Ferris popularized this model in his book The 4-hour workweek. It is nicer. But it doesn’t remove the fact that you will need to worry about earning money again in 3/6 months. 3 Classic FIRE. You work very hard or very smart at the beginning of your career trying to earn and save as soon as possible all the money you need so that one day you don’t need to worry about money anymore. 4 My way of doing FIRE. With a smooth transition trying to reduce the amount of time you worry about money as soon as possible. Even if it means to achieve financial independence later. Adding little by little new things in your life experimenting and gathering feedback continuously.

When I talk about this with many people, their reactions and questions are usually very similar. Like:

“Ok, you want to earn a lot of money and be rich. But, are you going to stop doing things in 5 years? What are you going to do? You are going to get bored, very bored, of drinking mojitos on the beach.”

Or any similar stuff.

Any person that have goals in their life adjust them to their personal needs and perspectives. FIRE is not an exception, and there are many valid approaches to it. If you want to get rich and drink mojitos on the beach every day, it’s OK if that’s what makes you happy. Nevertheless, I’m going to explain my perspective and why such reactions miss the point of FIRE entirely.

Retire Early

From my perspective, both parts are usually misunderstood, but what retirement means and its implications are usually even more out of the point. I’m also starting for the end because it’s, actually, the most critical part of FIRE even if it’s at the end of the acronym and people usually focus more on the money part. So, let’s forget about the money for a second.

Retirement is the most important part of FIRE not only because what you plan to do when you retire influences directly how much money—and time—you need to retire. Also because if you don’t reflect about what you want to do and you have a basic plan about how to do the transition, when you achieve it, you will find that from one day to another you will have insane amounts of time to spend. And you’ll probably not know in what to spend that time. A quick search on Google can show you how achieving FIRE for many people that thought about the moment as the Nirvana created only problems and unhappiness to them. It’s also the most important thing to consider because if you are not doing already some of the things you would do when you retire, you may need to rethink what your priorities are.

“In what hobbies or activities should I spend my time if I’ve dedicated almost my entire life to work?”

The answer to that question, if not reflected before, has been very similar for many people, even in many older people who don’t want to retire. In both, examples of people who achieved financial independence and people that because of Coronavirus crisis and remote work had more time to spend, people tent to continue working in their steady jobs, even more time than before and even during the weekends. Even if they hate their boss or hate the fact that they need to go to the office every day. Because that is what we are used to do. If you don’t work, what do you do!? If we don’t work, we’ll get bored! 🤷‍♂️

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For many people, retirement means, literally, to do nothing. And that’s a very nice thing to do for some hours or days, but with time you will get bored of doing nothing, and probably also depressed. For sure. The point of retirement for me is not about not doing anything at all. Is about answering the question:

If you wouldn’t have to worry about money at all, what would you do in your life? What would you do right now?

It doesn’t matter the answer you give. The important thing is that you should be honest with yourself. And for being honest, the answer to that question requires exploration and experimentation. It would be best if you tried different things to answer that question. How would you know if you enjoy playing the guitar, hiking or repairing with your own hands your broken chair if you never tried before? You can only answer that question with the things you have experienced or having a curious mind. So if you aren’t curious or you haven’t experienced too many things, you can barely know. If you only work, you can’t go outside the bubble of your job, and you will think that you enjoy working and that your job is your passion. But that could be because it’s the only thing you’ve done and know how to do.

Being said that, for some people, the answer to that question can perfectly be to continue working, or maybe they would like to work but just part-time. Maybe they really love their jobs and are very passionate about it. As long as the answer is honest, that’s OK. But for others, like me, that is not the answer.

The truth is, the human being is a creative animal that loves to produce things. If I answer to that question now—and whenever I retire—I will continue producing things. But what about not having the need for producing things that produce money and contribute to the global economy? Again, forget about the money. Producing could be to write my thoughts, to fix my bike, to help someone, to learn a new language, to build something with my own hands for my brother’s house or to learn how to do any stuff.

Humans celebrating their success after creating some random thing.
Humans celebrating their success after creating some random thing.

As summarized in the book Digital Minimalism—a good book I recommend for reducing how much digital shit you use—, the examples of successful and happy early retirees follow a pattern of things they do before and after retirement in their leisure activities. Oh, they do things, yes. They:

  1. Prioritize demanding physical activity over passive consumption.
  2. Use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world.
  3. Seek activities that require real-world, structured social interactions.

You can learn how to play the guitar or the piano, learn a new language, help one friend that needs help with his business, actively contribute with a non-profit project that helps people in Africa or in your neighbourhood, go to the forest and cut the wood for your house fireplace, prepare and have a fantastic breakfast with your couple, go to the mountains to hike and read a book at the top, go to the south pole, cook for your family, teach your children how to play football, create ceramic bowls by yourself, join a class to learn how to cook a new type of exotic cuisine, enjoy the air and the smell of the flowers, play cards with your friends, paint something, create a web app that tells a story you wrote... Even create a business that solves a problem and helps people! Many things that usually have two things in common, people and learning.

As you can see, I can actually do—and I do—many of these things today, and it’s fine. If not, I wouldn’t be living the life I want. Even if I would have a steady 9 to 5 job in the weekdays, I could do them. But the point and critical differentiation factor is the money. And doing all of those things, even creating a business, without worrying about the money. How would be a business that doesn’t need to be profitable?—only sustainable. Definitely, the world needs more non-profit organisations.

So, what the hell is Retire Early?

Retire Early is not about not doing anything. Is about answering the question What would you do in your life if you wouldn’t need to worry about money at all? It’s about answering that question and, actually, doing it. Because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future and if you will no longer be able to—or even want to—do something you were waiting for during years. It doesn’t matter what it is. But doing it. Every day. Starting from today. That, for me, is to be retired. Because the end game is living life, loving, reading, laughing, playing, learning, creating, interacting, exploring, meditating, socializing...

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