FIRE Bloggers

Are FIRE Bloggers Truly Chasing FIRE?

Neither of us had ever heard the term FIRE before becoming a part of the personal finance blogger community.

This is pretty ironic being as Sebastian IS financially independent and retired early and I’m well on my way to being able to do the same (although it’s not my goal to retire super early). Plus, we’re both pretty savvy with money and voracious consumers of knowledge.

Although we clearly don’t know everything about money, the fact that we were unaware of the FIRE movement until recently does suggest that it hasn’t yet spread as fast as wildfire outside of those in the blogger community who claim to be pursuing it.

However, the more we read about the FIRE community and philosophy, the more we began to question it. Sure, amassing enough wealth to be able to retire early sounds like a great idea, but is that what’s really going on?

Are FIRE bloggers truly chasing FIRE?

Let us be blunt and say we don’t think they are.

 

What is FIRE?

As most of you probably know, FIRE stands for financially independent, retire early.

The movement was unwittingly started by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez in 1992 when they published their bestseller, Your Money or Your Life. The book charted the course for escaping the traditionally 9-5 job, which many FIRE advocates follow today.

Essentially, the goal of FIRE is to accumulate enough wealth to be able to leave your rat race job and pursue your own interests, thus, making you an early retiree. While there is no set age-range for one to be considered early-retired, most FIRE enthusiasts strive for retiring ASAP, many in their 30’s and 40’s.

Being financially stable enough to leave the traditional workforce years early means you’re free to do what you want to do at a much younger age. Many retirees travel or take up a new hobby. Others volunteer their time.

But there’s just one problem with the FIRE bloggers concept of early retirement.

They’re not really retired.

 

What Does It Mean to Be Retired?

One reason we think FIRE bloggers aren’t truly chasing FIRE is because they’re not really retired.

Yes, FIRE bloggers have left (or are striving to leave) the typical 9-5 workforce, but that’s not what being retired is all about.

In fact, the definition of retired is “having left one’s job and ceased to work.” Look it up anywhere and you’ll get a similar definition.

Literally, you are retired if you’re no longer working for an income.

This means that you’re free to pursue travel, volunteering, hobbies, or anything else as long as you’re not working for money.

Well guess what? FIRE bloggers ARE working.

Those in the community who have already left their job are subsidizing their lifestyle with the income from their blogs, and those that haven’t yet been able to leave their day-job are only sticking around long enough for their blogs to make the money to do so.

Even better, many bloggers make ends meet by partially supplementing their income through freelance writing and other side hustles.

That isn’t retirement, that’s trading one job for another.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness, so Why Pursue FIRE?

It’s a well-established fact that money in and of itself does not buy happiness.

It seems a month doesn’t go by where we’re hearing about some fresh tragedy involving someone who seemingly had it all. Celebrities commit suicide, star athletes disclose their battles with mental illness, and all of the above use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate their pain away.

If millionaires with the world at their fingertips can’t find happiness, then the answer is clearly much more complicated than money.

Yet, the FIRE community places much emphasis on money through gaining financial independence. They have to.

You need money to live, but be very careful that you don’t begin to live for money in your pursuit of FIRE.

But most of you already know that, and you know the money isn’t what you’re really after. Nor are you really after retirement, because very few people can amass enough wealth at such a young age that they never need to work again (even if that’s what they really wanted).

 

We All Work for Someone

Many FIRE bloggers claim that they are pursuing FIRE so they no longer have to work for someone other than themselves.

Well, that’s not really true either.

Having the funds to leave your 9-5 and having the freedom to have more choice over how you spend your life is admirable and a worthwhile pursuit.

But don’t be fooled into thinking you’re completely free just because your income comes from your own business.

I was recently watching the movie McLintock! when this idea was eloquently demonstrated in John Wayne’s southern drawl.

Wayne plays George Washington McLintock, a self-made wealthy cattle baron who owns and controls most of the land around Mesa Verde. A hired hand develops an interest in his daughter, but doesn’t think he has a chance because he’s just one of her father’s employees.

McLintock declares, “Everybody works for somebody. Me, I work for everybody in this United States that steps into a butcher shop for a T-bone steak, and you work for me. There’s not much difference.”

There’s obviously a little more difference, but the underlying concept still rings true.

We all work for someone.

Whether for a corporation or your readers, as long as you’re working you are offering value to someone in exchange for money, even if you’re an “early retired” FIRE blogger.

But, if early retirement, money, and not working for someone aren’t what FIRE is truly all about, then what is?

What are FIRE bloggers really chasing?

 

What are FIRE Bloggers Really After?

Freedom.

Plain and simple.

The FIRE movement isn’t about retiring early, nor is it about money or not working for someone else, it’s about gaining freedom.

Many people are dissatisfied with their career. Maybe they feel trapped, unfulfilled, or just would rather be doing something else with their time. Whatever it is that makes you want to leave the traditional workforce, what you’re really after is freedom to choose.

I read somewhere that FIRE would be better termed FIFE, because that’s what the movement is really all about.

Financial independence so you can have freedom early.

That’s what FIRE bloggers are really pursuing. Blogging allows them the freedom to choose where their income comes from, as well as the freedom to choose when and where they work. This freedom also allows FIRE bloggers to pursue more of their personal interests.

FIRE was never about money, retiring early, or not working for someone else, it was about having more freedom and choice.

FIRE bloggers aren’t truly chasing FIRE, they’re chasing FIFE.

 

Moral of the Story

Hopefully we’ve helped you FIRE enthusiasts to think more deeply about what it is you’re really pursuing, because it sure isn’t FIRE.

What you’re after would better be termed FIFE, or the pursuit of financial independence so you can leave the traditional workforce and have the freedom to choose how you make money and spend your time.

What you’re really doing is trading one job for another, albeit a job that allows you much more freedom and flexibility.

After all, financial independence and release from the rat race in themselves won’t give you happiness, but they will give you the freedom to pursue what you want in order to try and find what makes you happy.

And that, FIRE bloggers, is what you’re really after.

Talk about Money Saved.

 

 


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Tawnya Redding

Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night. She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University and has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer. Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money money, save money, and understand money.

20 thoughts on “Are FIRE Bloggers Truly Chasing FIRE?”

    1. Thank you. FIRE has been mostly contained (pun intended) to the personal finance blogger sphere. While retiring early is a nice idea, what we would really encourage people to pursue is financial independence.

  1. I agree 100% – for me personally chasing FIRE is all about the freedom it can bring. The freedom to decide how I want to spend my precious time. Even if that means continuing to work, so not really FIRE, but rather FI. Having said that, even if I do continue working after hitting FI, it will NOT be a full-employment 9 to 5 treading on the corporate hamsterwheel as is currently the case.

    1. That is a great goal, especially if you are not satisfied in your career/job. That’s exactly what we were getting at in the article, that it’s not really about retirement but rather control and freedom over how and where you work.

  2. I whole heartedly agree. It is truely about freedom and not retirement. Unfortunately freedom always comes at a cost and in the the case of FIRE it means hard work and sacrifice on the front end to get to financial independence. Thanks for writing such an insightfully post!

    Mr. PFC

    1. Thank you for reading it! You’re right, there is a ton of hard work and sacrifice in order to reach financial independence at a young age. We don’t think people truly know how much money it would take to retire early.

  3. Great post. This has been a criticism of the pro-bloggers that make big money and claim they retired early. While not a flat out lie it can be misleading to say are retired and earn $100k per month. I speak for myself as a non-pro blogger, My goal is financial independence. I will probably always look for some source of income, just not from my 9-5.

    1. Agreed, bloggers that make tons of money are not retired, although we don’t begrudge them making a good living with their business. Financial independence should be a goal for all.

  4. Great read and I agree with your conclusions for the most part. I think we might be a minority in that we are pursuing actual FIRE. Neither of us has worked a 9-5 per se but we plan to cease working for an income around 40 years old. While I do blog, I don’t actually make any money with but who knows maybe that will change down the road.

  5. You’ve hit the nail on the head! The goal of early retirement isn’t about not working, but having the freedom to leave the conventional employment. Freedom to follow your own path and fulfil your passions. I would be bored senseless if i didn’t ‘work’ but having the freedom to work my way and doing the work that i love means that it isn’t work to me. “Do a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life”

  6. What I learned from the FIRE movement was what it looked like to be rich. Seeing people that earn good money living on half is something you almost never see in the real world.
    It gave me a realistic goal for my savings FI

    1. We appreciate your perspective. Yes, sometimes it does feel like FIRE people are high income earners and so have a leg up. There are some we’ve seen that do not have the same level of income, but something we have noticed is that almost all FIRE people (or those pursuing it) have an education and many skills. It’s much easier to cut your spending and save when you have a lot to begin with.

  7. I’ve heard it put as: “everyone should pursue financial independence, but retiring early is optional”.

    Absolutely agreed with your points. Most people in the FIRE community don’t just want to sit on the beach or stay home playing video games all day.

    The pursuit of freedom is what they’re after. The freedom to pursue things that you are passionate about (whether they pay or not), the freedom to take a few months or years off.

    Cheers, and thanks for the nice read!

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. Sometimes it seems like the focus is on “retiring,” which essentially means leaving the traditional workplace, and people reading it may be mislead a bit. No matter your thoughts on what constitutes retirement, we can all agree that what people are after is freedom to choose how they want to spend their time.

  8. I plan to FIRE once my passive investment income consistently breaches $300,000 to take care of my family. Due to the pandemic, I decided to focus more on making money until there is herd immunity. Once achieved, then its living the early retirement good life again!

    I enjoyed early retirement for one year after retiring in 2012. But after a year, I wanted to get back to working on my own terms.

    It’s been a great ride. At the end of the day, if your investment income cannot cover your desired living expenses, I don’t think you are really retired.

    I’m new to this site. Have you shared what your investment income is and living expenses are? I’d love to see them as well.

    Thanks!

    Sam

    1. Hi Sam, thanks for reading!

      We haven’t shared our specific investments and expenses in relation to moving toward FI or anything like that because our focus is more on providing financial literacy and helping people save and make more. We do talk about our personal experiences in relation to other topics but not in that level of detail. This post was just a commentary on what we perceived from a lot of FIRE bloggers: essentially that they switched careers as opposed to being retired. It’s just a matter of opinion.

      In terms of FIRE, I have no current plans to “retire early” but I do want to reach FI and am working toward that. Sebastian is already retired although he has done part-time work here and there.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope to interact with you more in the future!

      Tawnya

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