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Fanning The Flames Of The FIRE movement

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You’re being intentionally dense by equating me saying most people don’t earn/have enough to FIRE with Suzi who says you need 10 million to even consider FIRE. 

I haven’t called FIREing delusional. I’m literally doing it myself. I’ve called your claim that anybody can FIRE delusional.

Math is never besides the point. 

You’re not listening. 

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32 minutes ago, EdLaFave said:

You’re being intentionally dense by equating me saying most people don’t earn/have enough to FIRE with Suzi who says you need 10 figures to FIRE. 

I haven’t called FIREing delusional. I’m literally doing it myself. I’ve called your claim that anybody can FIRE delusional.

Math is never besides the point. 

You’re not listening. 

1

Relax, not equating you with Suzi, but your negativity makes you sound like her. I don't listen to negativity about frugal living, learning the investing process, having dreams of financial independence with a stress free live and quality time with doing what you love whether with family or friends or another passion. These financial literacy ideas are for ANYBODY who wants them. 

I rarely watched Suzi's TV show. But I quit after she viciously attacked one of her callers on her TV show by calling her STUPID. I never watched again, so when she opened her big negative mouth about FIRE, it was not a surprise. 

 

 

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Math isn’t positive or negative.

I’m just reporting the numbers, which you perceive negatively because you wish the numbers painted a different picture. The numerical analysis is what it is. How you feel about it is up to you, but I’m just reporting the result. 

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Ed, I couldnt have said it better myself. It may, in the end, be a problem of teaching the heart and not the head of these eager go-getters going after FIRE.

Like you say, its something I aspire to myself. I have not inherited any direct wealth, but I did inherit the privilege of being raised in a stable environment in the west suburbs of Chicago (home to some of the best public schools in the nation.) That my parents moved here and provided stability for me means I inherited a future-orientation and the preference for opportunity recognition over risk avoidance. It also means I dont have so many structural and real obstacles to overcome in my life time. This inheritance is the direct result of federal, state, and local policies back centuries and most directly back to the New Deal.

What Ed and I are arguing for is a bit more transparency. It's in our own bias to imagine that anyone can do what we can, that we achieved based on our own efforts and creativity... but this is at best a half-truth and at worst a pernicious submission to what psychologists refer to as the superiority bias. If it werent for the government-policy-created inequality we've all inherited, then we'd still be up against our own evolved instincts. Its why I teach behavioral economics in my classroom and a mantra of those lessons is: To be rich, you must be extraordinary. The thrust is, by definition, that to live well below your means and to save/invest makes you extraordinary. The math bears this out and what psychologists and behavioral economists have studied confirms it. 

In the end, I think it may be a problem of educating hearts not heads, both of young people that dont inherit the financial vocab and knowledge from their parents/community and of those that do have this inheritance that perhaps their ability to be successful is connected to the forced sacrifice of others.

Not shaming the FIRE community, just some of its leading proponents.

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Steve, as I read it, Ed is not criticizing individuals for trying to find financial independence and happiness while living well below their means.  He and Dustin are raising a question about the effects of the rhetoric of the FIRE movement from a perspective of social equity; it's not about individual consumer choices or financial planning.  (Dustin and Ed, please correct me if I've got you wrong.)  It seems likely that most of the FIRE folks are coming from a position of social and financial privilege: people whose "natural" course in life would lead to substantial means and many options.  In a way, the FIRE movement is openly based on unequal privilege -- the fact that this country is awash with money (at least for some).  (It's hard to imagine the FIRE movement in places like Malawi or Bangladesh.)  As Ed writes, the claim that "anyone can retire early" may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing the notion that those who don't--including the large group of our fellow citizens who remain relatively poor their entire lives and, at best, retire with a Social Security check, Medicaid and little else—just aren't rich because they don't deserve to be.  That message--and perhaps the blind spot that some of the FIRE enthusiasts are exhibiting—is what is being criticized.  Nobody is suggesting that the FIRE folks all need to lease a new Lexus.

Ed, your frustration may be getting the better of you in that earlier post to Steve, you may want to reconsider your phrasing.

PS:  Dustin, I posted this before I saw your latest post, above.  Please feel free to correct my interpretation of your comments as needed.

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Dustin, Whyme and Ed,

I am surprised by all three of you. Why so picky? This issue has really pushed a button. And yet, I think we agree! That's the silly part of it.

My point is the negativity. A few Bogleheads literally hate this group! One so-called Boglehead said that he would take a "hard pass" at the FIRE documentary that will be released next year. I didn't know what "hard pass" meant until I looked it up. According to the dictionary: "An unequivocal rejection with no possibility of a later change of mind." Wow! Let me repeat, UNEQUIVOCAL REJECTION! I just don't perceive things as negative as this one Boglehead said of the idea of watching the documentary. I have been curious about ideas and things all of my life, and will continue to do so. 

I sense similar negativity and unwise judgments about these people whom none of you met. I am not just speaking an opinion here. MoeMoney and I  met 50 last summer and spent an entire weekend with them. They are NOT what you think. They are not filthy rich kids with big inheritances which they got from the inequality of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. This is FIRE, not a socialist revolution! And who cares if some of their leaders are filthy rich? I still share the ideals whether filthy rich or not. 

We cannot control the broad economic and political powers to be to make things economically equal. That's way above our pay stations. All we can do is VOTE.

But these young people are taking matters into their own hands. That's what I applaud and support 100%. I never waited until social or economic conditions were right before I took action. I lived below my means whoever was in office, or what ERISA rules were, or what I got as a pay raise over the years. 

Don't you wish our teachers would leap on the financial literacy bandwagon with a vengeance as these young people have? 

Can't you see how refreshing it is for these young people to get what we have been preaching for years around her, to protect themselves from the annuity sharks and to be financial literate? For FIRE people they are protecting themselves from needless materialistic stress and expensive financial advisers, and only wish to be FI or FIRE. 

My goodness, these young people have not finished the job yet and you say that their ideas are only "rhetoric," cannot be done, impossible and especially not at all available for the masses.  

I agree Ed is not criticizing individuals but he is criticizing the idea. As I have said over and over again, FIRE ideas are wonderful, there is NOTHING WRONG or "delusional" about FIRE or FI.

All great ideas start from the HEART, the love, the passion and all of that. MLK spoke from the heart in his "I have a dream" 1963 speech. Relationships start from the heart and later on decide if the relationship should move forward based on the head. 

None of you have met them, so how can you even speak about them when you have not read their books, or been to a conference, and seen them working, organizing, learning together, first hand, to achieve those idealistic goals. There is nothing wrong with idealistic goals either. They are organizing, so it's not just about the heart, it's about the head too. 

While all of you are rational, have good intentions, and you write eloquently about the economical, psychological, mathematical and political world we live in, you emphasize the negative rather than the positive about this tiny group of young people. But unfortunately, we live in a negative world too. I cannot fight negativity because it is everywhere, but I can stand by the ideals, the passions, and the wonder of what makes a life worthwhile. These young people are on to something, and the rest of our culture could benefit by their ideals too. I am not sure what the final product will look like, but to cut them off because they are different from mainstream America is uncalled for.

We will have to agree to disagree.  

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3 minutes ago, EdLaFave said:

Whatever you think I’ve said, I haven’t said. 

That's the "heart" of disagreement. You are an excellent contributor to this forum, and your comments made me think about the FI and FIRE movements. You helped me figure out why I love and respect these young people so much. Thank you. 

Yeah, a little more transparency is in order, that doesn't take away from what they are trying to do and to spread the word to more people.

BTW, I donated $10,000 to the documentary, I love this movement so much. 

 

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Steve,  I don't think anyone here is trying to "cut off" a group of young idealists, nor are those FIRE folks being labelled by anyone as "filthy rich."

The "negativity" that seems to weigh so heavily in your response could also be called critical thinking.  I think it is not a contradiction for us to encourage the path to a sound retirement--frugality, long-term compounding, low-cost index funds, staying the course, etc.--and to also at times step back to question the version of capitalism and government regulation in which we find ourselves operating.   We can and should try to make the best of our situation, but that doesn't mean the current system is natural or inevitable. 

You mentioned the precedent of the 'sixties movements that rejected consumerism and "straight" society.  The leaders of that era were largely young people of privilege, mostly white males, many of whom were connected to elite universities (Berkeley and Columbia were big h o t-spots).  Those folks were rejecting the path that had been laid out for them: highly paid professional or corporate jobs, a wife and single-family home, acquisition of both social position and consumer goods (while watching many of their less fortunate age-mates get screwed up or killed in war).  In that case, (Harvard professor) Tim Leary's call was to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out," a much more meaningful idea if you knew that between family resources, your education and government benefits, you had a safety net.  Subsequently, that movement was criticised by others on the left--women, people of color--on grounds that the sixties "revolution" reinforced a lot of the old patriarchal power structures.  It wasn't that those critics were on the side of Ronald Reagan, against all that the Berkeley radicals were doing, but these later activists were trying to discover contradictions and limitations in the prior generation's thought so as to move the dialogue--and the social change--further in the direction of justice and equal opportunity. 

I think something close to that is the goal of the critical comments by Dustin and Ed.  Make sense? 

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56 minutes ago, whyme said:

Steve,  I don't think anyone here is trying to "cut off" a group of young idealists, nor are those FIRE folks being labelled by anyone as "filthy rich."

The "negativity" that seems to weigh so heavily in your response could also be called critical thinking.  I think it is not a contradiction for us to encourage the path to a sound retirement--frugality, long-term compounding, low-cost index funds, staying the course, etc.--and to also at times step back to question the version of capitalism and government regulation in which we find ourselves operating.   We can and should try to make the best of our situation, but that doesn't mean the current system is natural or inevitable. 

You mentioned the precedent of the 'sixties movements that rejected consumerism and "straight" society.  The leaders of that era were largely young people of privilege, mostly white males, many of whom were connected to elite universities (Berkeley and Columbia were big h o t-spots).  Those folks were rejecting the path that had been laid out for them: highly paid professional or corporate jobs, a wife and single-family home, acquisition of both social position and consumer goods (while watching many of their less fortunate age-mates get screwed up or killed in war).  In that case, (Harvard professor) Tim Leary's call was to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out," a much more meaningful idea if you knew that between family resources, your education and government benefits, you had a safety net.  Subsequently, that movement was criticised by others on the left--women, people of color--on grounds that the sixties "revolution" reinforced a lot of the old patriarchal power structures.  It wasn't that those critics were on the side of Ronald Reagan, against all that the Berkeley radicals were doing, but these later activists were trying to discover contradictions and limitations in the prior generation's thought so as to move the dialogue--and the social change--further in the direction of justice and equal opportunity. 

I think something close to that is the goal of the critical comments by Dustin and Ed.  Make sense? 

4

Hey whyme,

Sure your points make sense, the revolution was supported by money and power. Gandi had a wealthy supporter so he could make speeches and activate. You are cleverly pulling in the theories of sociality, capitalism, and their oppression to make your points. None of that applies here. These young people don't pretend to be revolutionists, they just want to be FI and FIRE. 

What is the matter with anti-consumerism? That's one of their major skill, nothing more or less. They hate debts and excessive spending, just like I do. What is the matter with that? You are making this WAY TOO Complicated. That baffles me!

Just because you claim that anticonsumerism started with wealthy elites doesn't degrade the idea. For goodness sake, I THANK THEM those wealthy elites for bringing anti-consumerism to the forefront. Now we are talking about patriarchal power structures?  That the leaders real intent was to preserve patriarchal power structure and not reject consumerism?  I guess you're serious? That's interesting, I heard at the time was about anti-consumerism and meditate, do yoga, attend encounter groups to learn about myself or others, read or eat healthy instead, I didn't even know what patriarchal meant! :- ) 

This is a national movement to be financial literate and therefore FIRE or FI is not a revolution. I believe that all of those theories you draw upon won't address the terrible situation many people face, but that financial literacy could go a long way. But you have to give it a chance. Everybody wants quick answers. You should know by now that this website has been in existence for almost 20 years and the 403b reform has not happened. But we will never give up until our teachers have a fair process that is free from annuity predators. 

When you say: " We can and should try to make the best of our situation, but that doesn't mean the current system is natural or inevitable." I NEVER waste my time on things that I cannot change, all I can do is change myself to make the best of my situation, and VOTE to make an attempt to change the "current system."  The current system doesn't prevent anybody from "making the best of our situation" (YES!) by living below our means, creating a low-cost diversified portfolio, etc. etc. 

If a lot of teachers went to these FIRE and FI conferences, don't you think our colleagues would be inspired to be financially literate? I think so. I also see the inspiration energy when teachers finish one of our investment workshops. They love it, especially the young ones.  

But here is my question that none of you can address.

How can you use "critical thinking" when you start out being very critical to a group of young people whom you never met?  That baffles me. 

Have a great day,

Steve

 

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Steve: Dustin and Ed are raising a criticism about one narrow aspect of the FIRE discussion: the claim that "anybody" can become financially independent at a young age.  They are not attacking the people you met (nor am I).  As Ed points out, he is among the FIRE aficionados himself.

As to why think critically about the FIRE movement and its claims--maybe because they take it seriously?

 

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46 minutes ago, whyme said:

Steve: Dustin and Ed are raising a criticism about one narrow aspect of the FIRE discussion: the claim that "anybody" can become financially independent at a young age.  They are not attacking the people you met (nor am I).  As Ed points out, he is among the FIRE aficionados himself.

As to why think critically about the FIRE movement and its claims--maybe because they take it seriously?

 

whyme,

Of course, they should take it very seriously. What is the alternative, never-ending borrow and spend with a high status, a high-stress corporate job they hate? Of course, some FIRE people are privileged and come from good homes.  Some have the brains and talent to could take the corporate executive career road and go down that track and make lots of money with high status and power, but the FIRE community rejects that option. They say it over and over again, that they want quality time and no stress with status and material things. As I have said over and over. 

What I object to here is that you are making assumptions about these privileged people because of your social and economic values. I believe ALL PEOPLE have the right to their pursuit of happiness. Those barriers are a result of something a lot bigger than all of us put together. Believe me, I ran into them when I was younger but all of the barriers were in my head! I saw a shrink, did yoga, went to encounter groups to find out about me for a few years and it was great. Those social and economic "barriers" disappeared slowly over time.

Again for normal healthy adults, it's not what is OUT THERE that makes you tick, it is what is between your ears. It has always been that way. Also, it is not about how much you make that counts its what you do with what you make (I repeat it here because I think the three of you either have not learned that or have forgotten it). 

There are countless stories of people doing amazing things, so retiring in their 30s is not that far-fetched, and retiring in their 40s can be a snitch. Sure its tough requires a lot of discipline, knowledge and financial literacy, but that's with the FIRE movement is all about supporting each other. Of course, the math doesn't add up because I have been talking all along about the human spirit and determination to achieve that laudable goal. Nothing is going to stop them except themselves.

How and where the FIRE people will end up is anybody guess, but to discourage people because you reject the sincerity of the leaders is unwarranted. 

 

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2 hours ago, EdLaFave said:

I am those young people.

You're still not listening. 

Yeah, its been quite a day with the three of you ganging up over the future of FIRE and how misleading their leaders are. I listened to your math analyses, of course, you are correct, but there is somebody else in the equation you are missing. It's about the human spirit, living a fantasy, coming together, feeling the excitement, and all of that. Bottom line there is nothing wrong with dreaming.  I shutter the consequences of never dreaming... Relying on an equation is limiting, and discouraging without getting help. That's where the conferences come to play to offer comradery, presentations and support! The math is taken care of too! FIRE knows what they are doing because they are doing the right thing, and my hat is off to them. 

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