I prefer Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT) versus FIRE

I prefer Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT) versus FIRE

We all know what FIRE is in the personal finance community but what is FIWOOT?

Read on and find out why I prefer FIWOOT vs. FIRE.

Why the FIRE burns bright on social media

Like any good movement, it takes courage to do what others don’t care to do. 

Financial independence takes know-how, it takes discipline to hone your financial behaviours; it takes time to remain invested when others are jumping in and out of the market.  It also takes saving your brains out thanks to a good salary and let’s not forget lots of luck.  Regarding the latter, you need a strong bull market – a long one – and we’ve had it for a decade or more.

It’s not that I fully disagree with the FIRE movement and what some folks are striving for.  I think many FIRE principles have great merit and kudos to those that live by these rare principles:

  • Live within your means or well-below your means ideally. 
  • Save early and often, in great quantities if you can. 
  • Avoid financial and lifestyle waste.
  • Avoid long-term debt that is not used for wealth generation.
  • Optimize your investing (i.e., keep your costs low and diversified).

I’ve written about FIRE before on this site.  A few times. 

I even questioned if FIRE was right for me.  I know that answer.

Why I’m tired of retire early in FIRE and why FIWOOT works

In some circles (not all thankfully), the focus of FIRE is on “retire early” part.  Work hard, make good money with the intention of leaving the corporate rat-race sooner than later.  That’s fine and definitely aspirational – if that was the end of it. However I’ve become tired (and maybe a bit cynical) of some members of the retired early crowd.  Why?

Because they still work and claim themselves retired…

If you expend energy, trade time or services for any income, that’s work people.

If that’s your blog endeavour – if that blog makes money and use that money for living expenses that’s work.

If that’s book royalties – if marketing and selling your book makes money and you use that money for living expenses that’s also work.

If that’s making videos or growing your influencer status online – if that too makes money and you use that money for living expenses this is also, guess what, work.

I posted a few tweets on this very subject recently – some of these concepts people agreed and disagreed with me on:

Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT)

For those that disagreed, maybe my definitions are too traditional.  I’m too old-school-Websters for you when it comes to word definitions like retirement.

However, I do feel if you perform duties for wages or expected income; if you exert yourself physically or mentally for sustained periods of time for a particular outcome (money); if you engage if any activity in any manner to earn a livelihood (to earn money, to spend that money eventually) – like it or not folks, you’re working.

Why I’m a fan of the financial independence part of FIRE

Maintaining your wealth and being happy doing it?  That sounds better and far more honest to me. 

That’s the perspective that CFP Graeme Falco once shared on my site – when discussing his practical guide to financial independence book.

Like Graeme, I believe far more in the FI part of FIRE than the RE (retire early) part. 

In my opinion, financial independence is the amount wealth you need so when you are no longer dependent on any active source of income (i.e., work), you can rely on the income generated or withdrawn from your savings to live from.  Those savings could be from stocks, bonds, gold, real estate, and much more. That could also mean you still wish to work – on your own terms.  More on that in a bit.

Is the 4% withdrawal rule for FIRE enthusiasts enough?

It depends.

Many claims have been written about the “safe 4% rule” by various FIRE enthusiasts.

Let’s back up and talk about that.

The 4% rule is the percentage of your portfolio you can safely withdraw per year, assuming no catastrophic poor sequence of returns occur, that will allow you to keep your portfolio “safe” to withdraw from using a balanced stock/bond asset allocation.

More specifically, in 1994, financial adviser William Bengen introduced the concept of the 4% rule – who found that retirees who withdrew 4% of their retirement portfolio balance, and then adjusted that dollar amount for inflation each year thereafter, would create a paycheck that lasted for 30 years.

This “rule” was stress tested using a range of withdrawal rates on differing portfolios of stocks and bonds using inflation data and investment returns from the mid-1990s going back to 1926. The rule used a balanced portfolio assumption and this included historical bond returns close to 5%.  Challenge #1 – good luck finding bond returns near that today. 

Yet another challenge with the 4% rule is it won’t really hold up to a poor sequence of returns.  Imagine your healthy $1 million dollar portfolio dropping 10% in year 1 of retirement, then another 10% in year 2 of retirement – when a bear market finally hits us.  Your portfolio balance is now down more than $200,000 in just a couple of years of retirement thanks to two very bad stock market years AND your $40,000 per year inflation-adjusted withdrawals.  If this occurred to you, and it could, withdrawing 4% as a starter and rising consistently in future years of retirement would probably make you a very nervous retiree.  Luckily retirement income needs vary over time from “go-go”, to “slow-go”, to “no-go” years.  Hopefully some FIRE folks are considering living off much less than the 4% rule when times get tougher.

Another big issue with Bengen’s study is that it’s focused on portfolio longevity versus income security as the primary driver.  I personally have a bias for income from my portfolio whereby I can spend the dividends earned and/or spend the capital as I please.  

FIRE enthusiasts or other investors would be best-served to explore one or more of the following ways to ensure they don’t blindly adopt any 4% rule as their golden financial freedom ticket:

  1. Consider a more bonds or fixed income or a very large cash wedge of 10% or more during retirement. I intend to employ some form of a cash wedge in retirement myself.
  2. Consider variable percentage withdrawals. I wrote about the VPW method and tool here.  I believe this method would result in a far more sustainable portfolio over time.
  3. Consider buying an annuity as you get older. I demystified annuities on my site here with CFP and annuity guru Alexandra Macqueen.
  4. Get a side-job or part-time job to cover variable retirement or semi-retirement expenses.

Reminder to the marketing masses:  side-jobs + side-hustles for income = working

And so item #4 above brings me back to my thesis of this post – side-jobs or blogging or selling books or making money online with videos or selling courses or influencing various brands is working. 

And that’s OK! 

Good on you to be an entrepreneur. 

Great on you to be a successful entrepreneur at that! Celebrate and market that! Just don’t hide it as a FIRE enthusiast.  If fact, celebrate it with more transparency. 

This is how I feel in the same thread on this subject:


Why I prefer Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT) versus FIRE

So, do I hate the FIRE movement?  It might seem that way from this post but hardly.

I just don’t agree with all of it including often tabloid marketing that goes with it.

Highlight one 30- or 40-something to me that never works for income. Maybe I’ll change my mind on the “RE” part. 

Which means, I feel Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT) is a FAR more accurate depiction of what I’m personally pursuing. I suspect that is the same for others as well who would like to work on their own terms – as long as they wish. 

(Note: as far as I know, this is the first time FIWOOT has ever been referenced. You heard it here, first friends :))

FIRE is not for me, which includes the do-nothing-retire-early and never work again part. 

FIRE by definition is therefore not a claim I wish to personally pursue.  I might always work for a living which includes some form of Victory Lap Retirement.

I bet if some FIRE die-hards used my interpretation above, FIWOOT, my theory is this would be a much better and far more honest depiction of what they are striving for or have already accomplished without some of the sensational marketing surrounding it.

Let the hate-mail arrive FIRE folks.  FIRE principles have merit but let’s have a real conversation about this FIRE-stuff. Most 30- and 40-somethings “that FIRE” simply choose to work on their own terms. 


My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

71 Responses to "I prefer Financial Independence Work On Own Terms (FIWOOT) versus FIRE"

  1. FIWOOT for me means working part-time (a few hours a day, a few hours a week) during the school year and having school holidays off entirely (including summer and Christmas break). Working on projects I like with clients I respect can be a good break from the day-to-day of homemaking and parenting. I just don’t want to be tied to it 8 hours a day, 250 days a year! 🙂

    1. Great stuff Kim and you seem to be in a financial place where you can work on your own terms.

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to work >8 hours per day ~ 250 days per year.

      From what I know of you, you’ve certainly earned your FIWOOT!

      Stay in touch!

  2. Love reading your comments section, agree wholeheartedly. I like the term FIWOOT. The humblebragging is kind of annoying but I guess it’s a way of marketing to the masses to buy books etc. That being said, I’m not the IRP either, people can do what they want to do, but I guess the main thing is be transparent about it. If the blog income is helping provide security and cash flow for the investment portfolio and continued early retirement, maybe readers should know about that.

    1. Indeed. I mean, is my blog, your blog, others, likely making some income? Yes. Mine is helping my journey for sure (not by a lot mind you) but I wouldn’t claim to be fully retired and running a blog that supplements my “retired” lifestyle. That makes no sense to me but to each their own!

      All the best GYM.

  3. good article Mark, I agree with you that many of the FIRE blogging crowd play fast and loose with the definition of “work” and “retirement”.
    When I commented on one of the more strident blogs I was denounced as part of the Internet Retirement Police 🙂 ,accused of living in a small unventilated dump and having no life because my comments were not 100% in line with their POV and praising the bloggers.
    So be careful when pointing out the obvious!
    What concerns me is the inability of their acolytes to see anything save the mantra – a lot of Koolaid ™ going down.
    btw the bloggers are the ones claiming to be Canada’s youngest retirees – and have been for several years – seems time keeping is also very fluid.

    1. Ah yes, the famous or infamous IRP 🙂

      I think my post was really to try and enlighten folks that drank the proverbial Koolaid ™.

      I’m all for FI but please don’t call yourself retired if you’re out there selling or marketing your online empire 🙂

  4. Some good points.

    Man, I missed my opportunity to brand Financial Samurai as a FIRE blog! Despite writing about financial independence since 2009, I diversified my topics into things I was interested in post work life. I didn’t want to incessantly talk about FIRE because that’s not what life is like after FIRE. Instead, you move forward and focus on doing things you like after e.g. travel, being a SAH parent, etc.

    If you were me, would you recommend trying to more purposefully get on the FIRE train by writing more on the topic? I feel I have the credibility given I live off our investment income. Also, what about doing the things you mentioned in the post and focusing more on making money online? I’ve basically just written stuff I like to write all these years, and passed on writing a lot of affiliate review posts etc. But it feels like a no brainer to earn more money if one can.



    1. Good to hear from you Sam. I’ve followed your site for a few years now. I didn’t want to incessantly talk about FIRE on my site when I knew I would never really retire – at least that’s the plan.

      As for you, I think ultimately you need to decide on what your brand is (for the site) and be true to that. If that’s sponsored posts, that’s fine; that can certainly make money but I know for this site it’s not my direction.

      All the best in San Fran.

      1. You might have a change of plan if you do retire. It is hard to resist shouting from the roof top how FIRed you are. But I think for most normal people, they move on and live life. But I have noticed that if you do not have enough investment income to cover your desired living expenses, then it’s logical for folks to do a lot of hustling to make money.

        1. I have no problem with the hustling-folks or those that enjoy the gig-economy – that’s great if that is their choice but it’s a bit of a sham if folks say they are “retired” and 1) still work many hours per week for income and then potentially on top of that b) they market themselves as “retired” while relying on blog ad income, affiliates, royalties, etc. to fund their lifestyle.

          It’s about telling the truth regardless how much income or not you make – that’s largely my issue. Just me. Integrity in life is important but I know some folks don’t share those values and that’s fine. All good. The world will continue to churn!

          Hopefully in a few years we’ll have reached our dividend income goals/portfolio goals and if I decide to work (and I will, I like being busy and productive) then I can simply work more on my own terms.

          Nothing wrong with that either as long as I’m making some valuable contributions to society.

          Cheers Sam.

          1. “it’s a bit of a sham if folks say they are “retired” and 1) still work many hours per week for income and then potentially on top of that b) they market themselves as “retired” while relying on blog ad income, affiliates, royalties, etc. to fund their lifestyle.”

            If someone in “the movement” could coin a catchy acronym that’s better than FIRE, the problem would be solved. But so far, no one has.

          2. I have a real problem with the “FIRE movement”. Blog technology being what it is, it allows anyone who is persistent and obnoxious enough to be a self appointed leader of “the movement”. With the ability to shout down or outright censor discussion or commentary that doesn’t toe the party line. They’re the ones who demand to use the word “retired” (which already has a clear and generally understood meaning) when they’re obviously not. I’ve written many times what you wrote here – they changed careers to blogging and writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. But just don’t use the word “retired”, which we all know to mean not working at all, and not planning to return to work.

            1. Well put Larry. I’m a fan of some FIRE blogs – they are pretty clear they make money off their blogs and books and videos are more. Others, ugh, not so much transparency whatsoever.

  5. Good article Mark. I, too, give little credit to the hype often surrounding the FIRE movement. I aspired and have achieved early FI.

    I would turn “If folks want to pursue extreme frugality, that’s fine, it has benefits as long as one doesn’t hurt their mental or physical well-being because of it.” around and say:
    Start by being mindful of the big picture and draw a soft plan for now and the future, including retirement that is consistent with your mental and physical well being in all of those years. In the end, in our own ways that’s what we all aim for: happiness. In FI, FIRE or whichever other method are not consistent with it, they are not worthwhile (you could say delusional, as likely just resulting from greed).

  6. I like the concept and dream of FIRE. I’ve told my kids how I wish I’d known about the basic principles of achieving FIRE. I do want them to follow many of them; budgeting, saving, low cost diversified investments, avoiding consumer debt, think before you buy, not paying bank fees, etc. The dream of FIRE has had a good impact on their lives. When they actually hit the 25x income level, they can then choose if the RE makes sense to them. I sell the FIRE concept to them as freedom to choose. I do point them to a few select FIRE blogs and, of course, this one, so they get a balanced view of their prospects.

    1. Thanks for that Bob. I’d like to think my site is balanced but I am biased since I run it!

      I too have my blind spots but I think on the whole, I’m striving for some increased financial, physical and mental balance with time. I feel I’m definitely getting there and this blog is a vehicle to share those thoughts and where I’m going. I appreciate your readership!

  7. Like a lot of the other comments I too agree with the FI more than the RE. I love FIWOOT! Becoming work optional is definitely a goal I’m pursuing. Being able to live my best life on my own terms without having to work at a 9-5. Does that mean I won’t work – absolutely not. Just want to be more in control of my time.

    1. I hear you Maria re: more control of my time. I think that’s a great goal and something I’m striving for, for sure!

      All the best in your pursuit!

    1. I’ve been a fan since it launched and I think Mr Seed knows that too. No cyclicals, good sector balance, good methodology. Nice outperformance vs. XIU or XIC since launch in ’11. At some point there will be a reversion to the mean….

      For those without a globe sub. this is an excerpt from that piece.

      “The implication here is that a retiree would do better with a portfolio of defensive stocks than with stocks or an ETF reflecting the S&P/TSX composite index or S&P 500. Fortunately, the ETF world has a tonne of options for focusing on low beta stocks. Check out the Canadian and U.S. equity installments of the Globe and Mail ETF Buyer’s Guide for mention of several of these funds.

      One is the BMO Low Volatility Canadian Equity ETF (ZLB), which delivered an annualized return of 11.5 per cent over the five years to the end of June. The S&P/TSX composite index made just 4.7 per cent over that period.

      Theoretically, low-volatility stocks should disappoint at times when the stock market is surging. But ZLB has actually done just a bit better than the index’s 16.2 per cent gain over the first half of 2019. Don’t count on low-volatility investments to keep up this pattern of providing less downside risk with equal or better upside. Low volatility stocks can be a good option for retirees, but they will at some point lag the more growth-oriented part of the stock market.

      And, yes, they can lose money. Defensive stocks are sensitive to rising interest rates, not that this is an issue right now.”

      — Rob Carrick

    2. I think ZLB is a great product. I recently added it to my ETFs page and favourites:

      I like ZLB, (despite the higher MER) because although it contains interest-rate sensitive stocks it contains some of the “essential” companies we need (housing / offices to work in = REITs + housing energy / electricity = utilities). Throw in a handful of consumer discretionary stocks (groceries) and you’re good to go!

      I just did a count. I own 10 of the top-25 in ZLB myself for dividend income. I own most of the top-20 in XIU as a comparison. Probably will never buy it for that reason since I’ve essentially built my own DIY/Defensive/Income machine. Using more VYM and HDV state-side is a different matter!

      1. I own only 4 of the top 25 and 10 of the 46. What I like with ZLB is it has proven to be a superier growth machine since inception (my priority re total return), with decent income generation,and contains low beta (defensive stocks) which theoretically should be less volatile in the next downturn – and has many stocks which I tend not to own.

        In hindsight this would have proven to be a winner had I kept it before building my own CDN stock portfolio with a high concentration of dividend payers/growers. Previously a split between VCE and ZLB. Lol, hindsight is always so easy but kind of useless.

        I definitely don’t like the idea of changing again but there may be some way to incorporate this etf as my equity and CDN stock allocations rise as planned. We’ll see.

        1. I don’t yet own WCN in this list and might buy it. It’s interlisted so I can buy some on the CDN side and journal it to the USD side. Low-vol stock and great capital grower as well.

          As you know, high or modest dividend yield is not everything!

          1. Looks like a good one -very low beta & growth. Dull basic business that isn’t going away anytime soon. Extremely expensive but that seems to be the case with a good chunk of these types of stocks.

            Indeed, I think we’re both on the same page re the yield and the total picture.

    3. I’d be looking at it for a non-reg account to throw occasional funds into. I don’t want the hassle of tracking a bunch of ACBs so a decent ETF will do just fine. I’ve been “contemplating” this for a few months now (I’m bad at procrastination). Probably time to get off my butt and actually do something. Maybe after harvest. 😉

        1. Just checked how many holdings in ZLB I already have elsewhere. I only have 2 of their top 10, and 9 of the total 46. Just for comparison, I have 6 of the top 10 in XIU and 15 of the total 62.

      1. Think its a wise call for you Lloyd, based on what you’ve stated your priorities are and considering your current holdings. Its very tax efficient. I know I did some homework on that a while back.

  8. Mark,
    Another great post as usual.Another one to validate my financial direction. You state: “Financial independence takes know-how, it takes discipline to hone your financial behaviours;etc” Thanks to your educational blog, I’ve got the confidence to take control of my finances. Your readers comments have also provided valuable insight and helped me stay on track. It is a learning curve but if I can do it anyone can. Your blog helps me stay focused even when the markets are jumpy. Thank you.
    If you were closer you’d be getting my pickles and raspberry jam preserves. :))

    1. Boy that sounds great!

      You’re welcome Bonnie but you do all the work! There will be correction coming, a major one likely (?), so be prepared and make sure you invest with cash + bonds + stocks aligned to your risk tolerance. I’ll try and do the same here.


  9. Great article Mark. I don’t get worked up about the FIRE police. Each people has a different outlook as to what “retirement” looks like to them. My view is similar to yours. I intend to ramp down at some point (I’m 45) and pick and choose assignments in 5-7 years. I have a high paying, high stress job and don’t see doing this in my late 50’s. One of my approaches is to have a contingency in my retirement budget to adjust my spending based on market returns. For example, my yearly trip becomes a 1 week road trip to upstate New York instead of a 1 month trip to Europe when markets tank. In general, I currently place a high value on financial flexibility and that’s how I plan to approach retirement.

    1. I’ll try not too KB. Kudos to you with your high paying (but unfortunately high stress) job – so clearly you have an exit plan. Smart.

      I also hope to have a modest cash wedge and some part-time work in semi-retirement that will hopefully provide the odd luxury whereby the capital can deliver dividends and distributions to cover basic expenses. I figure our basic expenses will hover around $30k after-tax per year.

      I might be going to NY state area myself next year. U.S. Open is there.

      Congrats on having a plan – you’ve clearly thought some things through.

    1. You bet. FI = I understand. RE (retire early) when people still work but claim they don’t really work = I don’t understand (nor support really).

      See you in a few weeks!

  10. Great article Mark. I read some of the FIRE stuff for ideas. As a long time self directed investor I am always looking for ways to be more efficient. None of us know it all and the rules constantly change. Love to read others opinions but also want to think for myself. We are all on a slightly different path in our financial journey. Work is good. Slave work you hate is not. Do what you love if you can. My motto is FILE. Financially Independent Life Engaged. Have a great day everyone.

    1. I too enjoy the opinions of others – even if I disagree with them 🙂 I think that’s ideal right? Do what you love in life if you can – as much as you can. FILE IT!

  11. Perhaps it’s better stated at “FIDSIL” – Financially Independent Doing Stuff I Like. Not retired, but not doing the 9-5 grind, doing stuff you like to make some spending money (or more perhaps if you’re really successful…). As with almost everything in life, it’s about perspective – one persons “financially independent” is another persons “how can you possibly live on that little?”

    1. I like that too…sounds like a comment above Robert. His motto is FILE = Financially Independent Life Engaged.

      Good to hear from you and thanks for the social media follow. How is the investing coming along?

  12. If any person is actually working, saving, reducing debt or doing anything else to achieve what they call Retire Early, good for them. If it’s all talk, than they just likely want to hear themselves dream about what will never happen, especially those with 170% debt over their current income.
    Personally I’m always skeptical of anyone who spends more time talking than doing.
    What I do wonder is if they realize how long retirement can be and what might happen 20, 30 or more years down the line. Look back 30 years and see what has changed and how much one would need to live on today on the old money.
    No pennies earned from my blog, just free opinions that one can ignore.

  13. What I’ve never understood is if FIRE is so great, why the need to talk about it all the time and dedicate a whole blog to it. Why not just do it?If these blogs were all about the journey to FIRE, they’d immediately quit after achieving their goal.

    There are a million things to do once you hit your retirement number, and some folks decide humblebragging about their lives on the internet is the most worthy use of their time? How is that any better than working?

    I gotta stop. The whole FIRE culture gets me all riled up.

    1. Good to hear from you Nelson. I hope your semi-retirement (?) is treating you and Vanessa well – I thought you were done with full-time work in a traditional sense yourself? On that note – are you still running any sites? I recall you ran Canadian Dividend Investing for a bit?

      Anyhow, I have no problem with folks striving for FI in FIRE but the RE and claiming they are retired when they are working or they need their blog, books, videos other to make a living while they can themselves FI really bothers me. Just be more transparent is all I ask but I suspect that’s a losing battle to say the least.

      1. Hello , What we did was to semi retire at ages 52 and 48 and use only 3/4 of our total interest off investments and both work part time to earn additional 20,000$ between us yearly . Life is laid back , lots of travel time and life is so short and we enjoy every day . We plan on working the part time gigs til 65 , the jobs have flexibility and low key . We enjoy your posts .

      2. I guess you could call me semi-retired today. I just try to find opportunities that are interesting with people I enjoy working with. Thus usually means short-term projects or longer-term part-time employment. Basically I’m the poster boy of the gig economy.

        My wife enjoys the structure of a regular job, so she has one of those.

        The focus is on living my best life rather than talking about it, if that makes any sense.

        I do update Canadian Dividend Investing periodically, but don’t hold your breath. It’s a low priority for me at this point.

  14. Nice article Mark. I fully agree that the key part of FIRE is the FI, after that its a question of organizing your time to do what you want to do with your time. If that means Work On your Own Terms, then perfect.

    It’s a question of a lifestyle choice.
    Thanks for the article.

      1. Hey Mark, what if ‘retired’ means different thing to those folks? Retiring from everyday drudgery of their career…. and they have moved on to another fun filled adventure for them, that happens to be giving them money. Why be so picky about their definition of retirement? And who says retired means just living off passive income?

        So, by your definition, after retirement, If I grow roses in my garden and share with neighbors for free, then you are ok with me calling myself retired. IF they buy a dozen roses from me once in a while, you don’t want me to call myself retired. LOL

        1. Fair points Kay. I think if you’re actively working for money, it’s working for sure.

          Are you retired? Maybe and maybe not. There are absolutely shades of grey on that which is fine.

          What I struggle with is millennials or GenXers who claim to be retired, financially free including from any corporate world they distaste, but who are not because they use blogs, books, and online revenue for their lifestyle. They are both working and not retired if they need that money to live from for the necessities of life. I hope that makes sense? 🙂

  15. I have same definition of retirement as you, Mark.

    Another thing I don’t like about FIRE is the extreme frugality. I want to live comfortably.

    Also, I don’t like the motive for FIRE to be escaping the rat race. Come on, the society needs people to work to run. Contributing to the society is not rat race. If you don’t like your job, find a new one. This is a free society.

    I really like the FI part just like you, Mark. Retire or not, FI reduces stress in life a lot. I am not really FI yet, but half there already makes me less worried.

    1. If folks want to pursue extreme frugality, that’s fine, it has benefits as long as one doesn’t hurt their mental or physical well-being because of it.

      FI will eventually absolutely reduce my stress and I think we’re getting there slowly.

      Thanks for your comment May.

      1. We have been kind of forced to be extremely frugal for a while. We came to Canada with me not working and going back to school and paying international tuition fee, and my husband with a very low income doing postdoc research. If I have to, I have no problem going back to that life style. But having enough money to live that life style and call myself retired? NO, not if I have to.

        There are things in life enjoyable without requiring any money. But there are also things in life you cannot enjoy without money. My kids enjoy the free public swimming pool in summer, while they also enjoy the Disney world trip that cost me $10K. Disney world trip is definitely not mandatory for a kid growing up properly. But if we could afford it, why not? Why should I want to sacrifice that just in order to retire a couple months earlier?

        Of course, that’s only me.

        1. You seem to have a great balance for your family re: kids enjoy the free public swimming pool in summer but there is Disney to enjoy as well.

          Ultimately everyone needs to decide what they want out of life – always tradeoffs to be had.

          No need to “sacrifice” only to retire a couple of months earlier!

        2. May, you have done extremely well for yourself and your family. Hats off for moving to a new country, making sacrifices, and doing so many things right that you’re way ahead of what the average Canadian is.

          I agree with you on the FIRE extreme frugality. To me – crazy. And yes, there are lots of worthwhile things to do that cost nothing to very little. And there are also different things that are important to each of us. You work and save for those things. Nothing wrong at all with having or doing some expensive things if you can truly afford it. Avoiding that and retiring earlier, or avoiding that in retirement was never and isn’t my plan either.

      2. Good article Mark. I, too, give little credit to the hype often surrounding the FIRE movement. I, aspired and have achieved early FI.

        I reply to this post because there is a very important nuance in it. I would turn “If folks want to pursue extreme frugality, that’s fine, it has benefits as long as one doesn’t hurt their mental or physical well-being because of it.” around and say:
        Start by being mindful of the big picture and draw a soft plan for now and the future, including retirement that is consistent with your mental and physical well being in all of those years. In the end, that’s what we aim for: happiness. In FI, FIRE or whichever other method are not consistent with it, they are not worthwhile (you could say delusional, as likely just resulting from greed).

        1. “In the end, that’s what we aim for: happiness.” Agreed.

          I would argue greed is not consistent with happiness = emotional or mental well-being. It certainly implies you’re taking advantage of others. Not good in my book!

          Thanks for your comment.

  16. You nailed it here Mark. I see it pretty much the same way the same way on many of the FIRE claims and putting the focus on FI and then doing what you want on your own terms.

    My wife fully retired when I was 52. I had been working in a phase down (non management or owner) employment role for 2.5 years at that point. When she retired I went to p/t 3 days/wk. and 2.5 yrs later I fully retired. Those 2.5 years were my FIWOOT period. As time passed and the reality of not really needing to work I decided to pull the plug before my performance or customer service suffered in any way (worked in full pay for performance role and my employer tried really hard to get me to stay).

    It was a great way to (likely) end my working career and 5+ years later no regrets. My former boss stays in touch periodically.

    1. Pay for performance can be stressful and I think people that are only wired a certain way can do it so long – the ante is always “upped” on you.

      I think if you can stop working, for good, with no regrets that is definitely a sign you’ve reached FI.

      1. Thanks.
        I worked for 34 years in pay for performance roles either for myself or someone else (basically all of my f/t working career). Yes, you were as good as your last week. A bum or a hero. lol. It definitely isn’t for everyone. Although it had it stresses I enjoyed it and was highly motivated by it. I wouldn’t have wanted anything else.

        1. Wow, 34 years in pay for performance roles, please accept my admire. I will not be able to handle that kind of stress. Great for you being able to do things you like both in working and in retirement.

          1. Thanks. It was stressful but also rewarding. However many jobs have significant stress in a lot of different ways even if they don’t affect pay. I like to go 100%. I felt I was going to lose that so I stopped working altogether, even though my results and earnings were way above even when I worked f/t in the years before at that job.

            I like having goals and being challenged. I expect many folks on here are the same.

  17. I freely admit I’m a skeptic and cynic. Guilty. This whole FIRE issue is a load of crap. Most of these folks need to invoke FIRE so that they get exposure to hawk their book/site/blog/etc to earn more income to sustain their FIRE dream. Media picks up on it without a clear look at the picture thus becoming the venue for the exposure. Then there is a small number of these FIRE enthusiasts that either got bankrolled by family or did something lotteryish (I know that ain’t a word but I’m sure you get the drift) that can not be easily replicated by the average person. They put forth their “astuteness” as if it was anything other than blind luck thus perpetuating their own self delusion.

    Sorry, I don’t buy the FIRE thing and I have a lot of disdain for the media folks that hype it. They above everyone else should know better.

    1. Certainly the mainstream media loves their headlines too. It sells. It’s sexy.

      When people go from “I had $60,000 in student loan debt and I now have a net worth of $500,000 in 3 years” – that’s completely unrealistic.

      Everyone else should know better but many don’t!


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