First off, let’s get this out of the way–FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. This concept is something that’s been informing many of my decisions lately and I wanted to take some time to talk about why.

I’ve always been somewhat mindful of saving, and aware of the need to save for retirement and be prepared for unexpected expenses. I thank my parents for this, for two very different reasons:

a) Enter Mom, wildly financially unstable and one minor hiccup away from poverty at pretty much all times

b) Enter Dad, financially comfortable, thrifty, big believer in saving

I should have prefaced that by saying they divorced when I was young (obviously). Bottom line is that I’ve seen firsthand what happens when you DON’T have any cushion, and likewise I’ve seen my father build a comfortable life for himself by working hard and saving his money.

Work Hard and Save Your Money.

Get an education. That sums it up for most of us, right? That is completely normal advice that all of us have heard from our parents, our teachers, the internet, basically everywhere.

It wasn’t until I read Rich Dad Poor Dad that I realized how incredibly vague and incomplete that information is. I realized it wasn’t just me, or us (“us” being the Millennial generation)–this information has been passed down for several generations now, and why would we question it?

Some else happened when I read that book. I realized how much of my financial thinking has been motivated by fear. I realized that I’ve pretty much always had a scarcity mindset about money, and as much as I do at least somewhat attribute that mentality to my upbringing, we must face reality:

a) I’m a grown up (crap!) and now have the freedom to question things and decide for myself (brilliant!)

b) My parents, just like me, are also largely a product of their upbringing

You Mean…I Can Do Something Else?

It’s been a slow realization that I still have time to course-correct and build a different life for myself than what is mainstream. I’ve fully embraced that reality, though, and couldn’t be more pumped about it.

I do not have to work until I am in my 60s. I do not have to have a mortgage until then (or worse, longer). I do not have to have 3 kids and drive a Tahoe (I could, and still do this, but that’s a different subject).

The Gateway Blog

The first time I heard of FIRE (it wasn’t called that at the time, but catchy, huh?) was about 4 years ago. I was seeing a rockstar esthetician here in town who is a brilliant entrepreneur. We were discussing our shared tendency toward frugality and she told me about a blog she loves called Mr. Money Mustache.

And I binged.

I understood.

I obsessed.

That was the first step in what evolved to be a years-long journey to fully understanding what I wanted, why I wanted it and how I would get there. Something finally clicked, and not just the financial independence part. It was also the notion of TIME–I’ve always had this nagging feeling.

There must be more to life than this.

I’d long ignored that feeling, because… Who doesn’t want the freedom to do whatever they want? What makes me special?

Am I really that lazy that I can’t deal with a normal job like normal people do?

Why am I taking so long to adapt to “the real world?”

The few times I’d attempted to talk to those close to me about these thoughts (which admittedly hasn’t been much because it’s awkward and difficult), I was pretty much often met with things like, “You’ll get used to it,” or “You can’t expect your job to make your happy,” or my personal favorite, “Welcome to Adulthood.” 

So naturally I began to feel pretty ashamed of these feelings, as I suspected I should, and I learned to quiet them. They were quiet. Until they weren’t.

Discovering FIRE and reading the journeys of all the people who have achieved it or are working toward it made me realize that my feelings were normal. They articulated thoughts I’d had for a long time but didn’t take the time to really examine.

There are other options.

This is not a universal reality, it is a societal construct. The economy needs you to work. It needs you to spend money. But you don’t have to do things that way.

Early Financial Independence is Not for Everyone

That’s okay. If everyone tried to do this, and succeeded, it would be an economic catastrophe. It isn’t lost on me this not only takes hard work, but the opportunity to even try is a privilege. I can feel guilty about the opportunity in front of me, or I can haul ass and snatch it up.

This also requires the ability to delay gratification. Have you heard of the Marshmallow Experiment? Basically they did an experiment with a bunch of kids, and offered them each one marshmallow. Next, they told said children that if they could wait 15 minutes instead of eating that one now, then they would get two. DOUBLE MARSHMALLOWS. The same study followed these children into their future and determined that the kids who wound up more “successful” were the kids who were able to wait for the bigger reward.

There is some debate about the validity of this study, but regardless of whether the marshmallows predicted anything, we can all agree that self-discipline makes a huge difference in what one can accomplish.

Saving money, going to the gym, eating healthy, holding down a job, avoiding credit card debt…It all requires some sort of self-discipline. If you can’t get a handle on that, then you are not ready to embark on this journey.

Pro tip, though, for overcoming that: Ask yourself whether you’d rather have a 30 year vacation, or that new Lexus.

I’m choosing to follow a life I can feel truly excited about.

A life where I can travel for a month with my husband without worrying about job security.

A life where I can spend time with him everyday, and if we choose to have kids, with THEM everyday.

I want the freedom to do work that I’m engaged and connected with, not just for a paycheck.

I’ve done some calculations with the help of a few other blogs (this one is a good one) that came before me. I think that’s hugely important in terms of keeping one’s eye on the ball–know what you’re working towards!

My goal is reach my number by 2029.

What about you? What does financial independence look like?

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