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Fanning The Flames Of The FIRE movement

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Steve, this thread has taken a strange turn.  First off, this isn't even MY argument--I just stepped in hoping (and failing, evidently) to clarify what I understood as the point that Dustin and Ed were making.  I simply don't recognize what I said or what they wrote in your characterization: no one here has suggested that the FIRE folks (or anyone else) should not pursue happiness.  Nor is there any attack on the idea of frugality or smart financial planning and investing.  Nor is anyone saying these are bad people because they have a relatively privileged background.  Indeed, Dustin talked about his own advantages in life, Ed seems to have a large salary at a young age, I don't know about his background but I'm guessing he'd count himself among the lucky ones, too.

I could also point to advantages in my own upbringing (stable food and housing, books in the house, some travel and a parent who sponsored my attendance at a fancy college) that stand in stark contrast to the circumstances that I see many of my community college students struggling with: homelessness, having to care for parents, grandparents, children and siblings, physical abuse, language fluency issues, or simply coming from communities with few resources, high crime, no culture that supports education and very few successful adult role models.

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I love FIRE. Materialism brings me great discomfort and American work culture repulses me.

I remember asking friends in college to sneak food out of the meal plan because I couldn’t afford to eat and despite always being skinny I lost 20ish pounds during the back half of my freshman year. I remember considering becoming homeless during college...could I clean up at the school gym, could I loiter on campus in the AC with bathrooms, could I keep my clothes and toothbrush in my car, was this viable? I remember watching my dad, who worked two jobs, cry when he filed for bankruptcy. I remember crying tears of pure frustration and rage when I couldn’t afford to have a cavity filled. I remember the irritation I felt when I learned that hard work isn’t financially rewarded and is often exploíted instead. My mom worked a job that brought her misery until she died in her 50s with virtually nothing to show for it.

None of this “made me stronger,” it left scars and I’m always going to reject lies like “everybody can FIRE” because it’s  out of step with reality and it’s  damaging to people who are truly trapped in struggle.

Have I said how much I love FIRE and how lucky I am to never have to experience any of that again? I wish everybody could be so lucky; they can’t. 

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11 hours ago, whyme said:

Steve, this thread has taken a strange turn.  First off, this isn't even MY argument--I just stepped in hoping (and failing, evidently) to clarify what I understood as the point that Dustin and Ed were making.  I simply don't recognize what I said or what they wrote in your characterization: no one here has suggested that the FIRE folks (or anyone else) should not pursue happiness.  Nor is there any attack on the idea of frugality or smart financial planning and investing.  Nor is anyone saying these are bad people because they have a relatively privileged background.  Indeed, Dustin talked about his own advantages in life, Ed seems to have a large salary at a young age, I don't know about his background but I'm guessing he'd count himself among the lucky ones, too.

I could also point to advantages in my own upbringing (stable food and housing, books in the house, some travel and a parent who sponsored my attendance at a fancy college) that stand in stark contrast to the circumstances that I see many of my community college students struggling with: homelessness, having to care for parents, grandparents, children and siblings, physical abuse, language fluency issues, or simply coming from communities with few resources, high crime, no culture that supports education and very few successful adult role models.

Hi whyme,

Yeah, I'll say this discussion has taken a strange turn. But its the nature of online discussions.

Since I have been posting on forums for 20 years, this and others, having a discussion here is different than FTF, obviously. Accusations of not hearing the other are frequent. I don't like needless negativity, and then all of you wrote that you love FIRE and hate materialism. Okay, that's my position too, as you all know that.  

Finally, we can close this discussion! 

Have a great day,

Steve

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12 hours ago, EdLaFave said:

I love FIRE. Materialism brings me great discomfort and American work culture repulses me.

I remember asking friends in college to sneak food out of the meal plan because I couldn’t afford to eat and despite always being skinny I lost 20ish pounds during the back half of my freshman year. I remember considering becoming homeless during college...could I clean up at the school gym, could I loiter on campus in the AC with bathrooms, could I keep my clothes and toothbrush in my car, was this viable? I remember watching my dad, who worked two jobs, cry when he filed for bankruptcy. I remember crying tears of pure frustration and rage when I couldn’t afford to have a cavity filled. I remember the irritation I felt when I learned that hard work isn’t financially rewarded and is often exploíted instead. My mom worked a job that brought her misery until she died in her 50s with virtually nothing to show for it.

None of this “made me stronger,” it left scars and I’m always going to reject lies like “everybody can FIRE” because it’s  out of step with reality and it’s  damaging to people who are truly trapped in struggle.

Have I said how much I love FIRE and how lucky I am to never have to experience any of that again? I wish everybody could be so lucky; they can’t. 

Hi Ed,

Thank you for sharing your incredible story. Your story offers hope for so many people no matter what their negative and deplorable upbringing. You absolutely deserve the respect of everybody in the 403bwise community.

You survived and made good for yourself and your family. Stories like yours offer hope that others will survive too.  For many people, all they have is hope. When hope is the only line for survival, it's precious that we who have made in spite of all of the powerful social, economic, and political obstacles, share our stories.   Yours is one of the best because of the courage it took to survive and tell us.  

Have a good day, and thanks again,

Steve

PS you might want to read the best selling book: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance. The author has a similar story. Here is my review:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3GKP1H785UFO9?ref=pf_ov_at_pdctrvw_srp 

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Just to introduce some of the conferees who attended the FI conference in Joshua Tree CA last summer. 

By the way, FI stands for financial independence which I think is a more accurate goal. Retirement evokes all kinds of conspiracy theories. The feeling of Financial Independence is wonderful and a way of life that we all want to achieve. People can continue working as a choice, not as a requirement.

In addition to meeting MoeMoney our 403bwise.com forum contributor,

  1. Stephen is the leader and coordinator of the CampFI SouthWest conference that my girlfriend, Georgiana and I met. We got to know this 40-year-old well, and what an outstanding young man. https://www.facebook.com/stephen.baughier?fref=pb&__tn__=%2Cd-a-R&eid=ARD9tIGeNPX1C9SpUkqsBbgiKfDCfNLVW5W6EQlDK-7slj1BMxATPXB5wVZiLd530Ou39C3-IPiw9hMu&hc_location=profile_browser 
  2. Here is the young couple I talked about previously: https://www.facebook.com/azhalia.valenzuela?fref=pb&hc_location=friends_tab 
  3. Another attendee, very interesting chap: https://www.facebook.com/alchemizelife/ 

and here is the rest of the group:

CampFI.jpg

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12 hours ago, sschullo said:

Stories like yours offer hope that others will survive too.

I’d prefer that my experiences offer only slightly more hope than the story of a lottery winner.

Have you seen these stories of GoFund me pages that pay for life/death medical treatments? They’re actually calls to action and not heartwarming tales of hope because multitudes of people never get the happy ending.

Nobody should point to me and think, “he is evidence that anybody can FIRE.”

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With all due respect, what you've built from your beginnings is as unlikely as winning the lottery, from what I understand. You don't want to be portrayed as evidence that anybody can FIRE because of your diligence, dedication, sacrifices, ambition and commendable effort. That is what brought you to FIRE. To be seen as what you've done is like winning the lottery is insulting. At least that is what I am "hearing".

My worlds collided at Camp FI: I met Steve from my 403b world and I met people who had a sense of community unlike in the consumer-driven world in everyday life. I am among them. I am a consumer scientist. I am resourceful.  THAT IS HOW I FOUND THIS SITE in the first place. Why waste money on fees?????

To think that my kids can learn about this alternative lifestyle, that something else exists besides working, earning, saving some, working, working, working (read: same old status quo) is refreshing to me and beckons me to learn more, be among like-minded people (of any age, I might add) and find a way to teach it to my kids.

You've provided me with another round of intellectual conversation that can't help bring history and public policy into the mix.

All I want out of the FIRE movement is to teach that there is an alternative to common living as we know it. What is so wrong with reaching FIRE at 50 or 60 if that means not having to work until you die? What is wrong with trying to reach FI as opposed to having to work until you die because you never knew you could save money and not spend like everyone else?

False hope is one thing, but learning about an alternative to endless spending is another.

And that yes, you are worthy of and can adjust to having a surplus of money left at the end of the month, is another. And we've heard from people with that baggage too, they didn't want to be construed as better than anyone else and having money would make them feel that way so they never wanted to save money. But that is a whole other behavior economics topic...I learned so much about people, spending, investing, intentional living and behavior economics when I tuned in.

 

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2 hours ago, MoeMoney said:

With all due respect, what you've built from your beginnings is as unlikely as winning the lottery, from what I understand. You don't want to be portrayed as evidence that anybody can FIRE because of your diligence, dedication, sacrifices, ambition and commendable effort. That is what brought you to FIRE. To be seen as what you've done is like winning the lottery is insulting. At least that is what I am "hearing".

My worlds collided at Camp FI: I met Steve from my 403b world and I met people who had a sense of community unlike in the consumer-driven world in everyday life. I am among them. I am a consumer scientist. I am resourceful.  THAT IS HOW I FOUND THIS SITE in the first place. Why waste money on fees?????

To think that my kids can learn about this alternative lifestyle, that something else exists besides working, earning, saving some, working, working, working (read: same old status quo) is refreshing to me and beckons me to learn more, be among like-minded people (of any age, I might add) and find a way to teach it to my kids.

You've provided me with another round of intellectual conversation that can't help bring history and public policy into the mix.

All I want out of the FIRE movement is to teach that there is an alternative to common living as we know it. What is so wrong with reaching FIRE at 50 or 60 if that means not having to work until you die? What is wrong with trying to reach FI as opposed to having to work until you die because you never knew you could save money and not spend like everyone else?

False hope is one thing, but learning about an alternative to endless spending is another.

And that yes, you are worthy of and can adjust to having a surplus of money left at the end of the month, is another. And we've heard from people with that baggage too, they didn't want to be construed as better than anyone else and having money would make them feel that way so they never wanted to save money. But that is a whole other behavior economics topic...I learned so much about people, spending, investing, intentional living and behavior economics when I tuned in.

 

Hey Moe,

One thing that I try to practice (and sometimes fail) is not to make judgments about others whom I had never met. You feel exactly like I do. Why? because we mingled with this group for three full days, and got to know them. These young people are truly amazing and earned my respect. Do you wish our young teachers would become financial literate as these young people do?

  1. anti-consumer
  2. anti-debt 
  3. anti-stress 
  4. Pro building wealth now, through a combination of stock investing but especially passive income via real estate
  5. Pro time, that is, QUALITY time living life on their terms, not somebody else's for an entire working career.

BTW, Stephen has planned for a return visit next October 2019 when the climate is a lot more favorable. 

Have a great day,

Steve

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4 hours ago, MoeMoney said:

You don't want to be portrayed as evidence that anybody can FIRE because of your diligence, dedication, sacrifices, ambition and commendable effort. That is what brought you to FIRE. To be seen as what you've done is like winning the lottery is insulting.

Not exactly. I don’t want anybody to use my experience to promote a pernicious falsehood.

I argue that our economy guarantees a large portion of society will never make enough money to FIRE. Not only that, it forces tens of millions of people into a level poverty so severe that they can’t afford basic human necessities.

Imagine every low wage worker going to school and entering the high wage fields. I contend that we’d all lose our bargaining power because the economy rewards workers based on how rare their skill set is instead of the profit workers’ labor generates...which the company insists they fully own. I believe our economy is structured in a way that guarantees lots of people won’t earn enough to FIRE no matter what we collectively do, which is why I say this is a math problem.

So if the economic structure guarantees a collective failure, what about the individual? I argue THE reason certain skill sets are scarce is because a lot of people simply aren’t capable and/or are structurally denied access to these positions. Although, every individual isn’t denied access, lots are and to claim that they can FIRE requires you to both ignore math and be blind to the barriers in place.

This is to say nothing of the systematic crushing of organized labor and the slide into corporate monopolies, which if taken to its logical conclusion can force even workers with scarce skill sets into lower wages.

As far as me, I don’t want anybody to think my end result is based on dedication, perseverance, hard work, or any of that. I’ve worked every type of job along the way and the amount of grit and hard work required of me and my coworkers was always INVERSELY related to our compensation.

My end result is because somebody told me what degree to get and I blindly followed that advice into a high wage job that few are capable of doing. I have autism, I’m highly functioning, my IQ is high, and several autistic traits are ideal for software engineering (being extremely literal, enjoying clearly defined rules, being very detailed oriented, etc). So the biggest factor in my success was pure luck.

Yes I worked hard, but I’ve known too many low wage workers who work way harder and go through much worse (and do it with a better attitude) to believe I somehow earned it more than they have...or to think my current self is somehow more worthy than my lower paid younger self. I’m just lucky enough to have a high aptitude for a scarce skill set that somebody else pushed me to utilize in an economically profitable way...plus I’ve never been discriminated against in any way.

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Ed,

You are an inspiration to the 1.5 million Americans with autism. You have been there, and experienced the suffering and for that, it takes a lot of guts (and grit) to share it here. 

Thank you again for sharing your incredible and very painful story of your parents, of going hungry and your struggle against all odds to be where you are today. Many of the world's gifted leaders, politicians, inventors, artists, writers, scientists, and CEOs were autistic.  https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/ 

My older brother might have been autistic rather than his clinically diagnosed, paranoid schizophrenic. He suffered all of his adult life, along with my mother who supported him. But my brother was uncooperative, anti-social, recluse, intelligent and a cruel intellectual bully to my mother and me during my teen years (after my father died when I was 13) and when I visited my mother as an adult. He was very angry all the time. He didn't want me around and hated the entire family for decades. When my mother could not care for him and she had to live with my sister, he left in his car 20 years ago, never to be seen again. 

Steve

 

 

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My particular degree of autism is a gift because I function at an extremely high level. No suffering at all. If I’m honest, I think “normal” people are at a net-deficit and I’ve studied you guys my whole life because I think you’re the weird ones 😀

Loud noises and some textures bother me, but not to the degree that I can’t manage without most people noticing. Sometimes my unfiltered honesty/bluntness, tendency to ignore “useless” social conventions, and my less than perfect ability to read nonverbal communication has combined to cause ocassional and minor issues. Other than that everything else has been either benign or helpful. Most people think I have a quirk or two and will often assume I’m kidding if I tell them I’m on the spectrum.

...quick side note, I almost wanted to cry when I watched Netflix’s show Atypical. I related to the main character so much and to see that on screen was wonderful. Multiple times per episode my wife looks at me and basically says, “that’s you!”

Your brother’s story is crazy sad. I’m sorry to read that. 

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Thanks for acknowledging my brother. I think about where he is now. He is 83 if he is still alive. My other brother tried to locate him by hiring a PI but because he had no employment and isolated for 40 years by living with our mom, there is no record. He could have gone a long way in this world. He was tall, dark, and very handsome, a larger than life character but he was very sick, and he absolutely refused any help. What a family tragedy. 

I watched Atypical too. I identified with the socially awkward part, especially with girls. During my entire teen years, I stayed away from girls like the plague. I was shy or an introvert but eventually, I turned out ok. I was just a late bloomer. There is a bad rap about late bloomers, I think we just wait until we are ready. I think late bloomers are better adjusted, just takes us a little longer. Simply put, I was not ready for a relationship until I was 25, after a lot of humanistic growth experiences. I met my first real girlfriend in one of those group encounter meetings. 

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With respect to your brother, I’ve got so much empathy for mental health issues. Any other part of your body is just a tool, but your mind is who you are. It seems we understand so very little about the brain. It just feels like we’re living in the dark ages and some day people will look back on our (lack of) treatments the way we look back at Europeans bleeding themselves to release bad humors (not to say we don’t have any effective mental health treatments because we do).

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This conversation has been marvelous to read here, in the most unlikely places. What open-mindedness, trust, compassion and risks we are witnessing. It is inspiring. Personally, I thank you both, and the others who took part in this thread too. Steve, wow. I can’t imagine you as an introvert. And Ed, wow, thank you for opening up to us (though I don’t like that phrase, “opening up”).

As a special area teacher, I am fully aware of the broadness of autism spectrum, though I have no right to say I understand what it’s like to live with it. I always said our schools are full of students on the spectrum and then they age-out of the education system and get absorbed into every-day society, left to mange, fit in, and/or struggle. And how would the world know how to interact with them like kids and staff at school do? I worried about that. Still do. I took a credit course on Autism as a first year teacher and discovered that my older brother had what was referred to as Asperger’s. Nobody knew because he was in his 40’s by now but no one in my family had any schooling or familiarity with it. He is tenacious, kind, and plays the piano better than Liberace. The furniture handles always had to be down, never up, and he triple checked that he had what he needed before leaving the house. What did we know? 

Perhaps the current economic system in place makes it difficult for the masses to accrue $1,000,000. But beyond the math problem are lifestyle choices that make it plausible for people to be able to spend much less than “normal” and therefore reach their lower FI number earlier. Some people do have difficulty comprehending or believing that anyone “needs” $500,000 a year to live comfortably just like they have a hard time comprehending that one can live comfortably on $40,000. If they’ve invested enough to generate that amount yearly and have a back-up plan in place whether it be side hustles or emergency money, etc., then they have, by their definition, reached FI.

it’s really not a math argument, or an economic policy argument. Those are valid points and have their place.

The perspective of the FI community is simply to spend intentionally while enjoying a lifestyle that suits them. It is an alternative to the spend, spend, buy, buy philosophy and an “I can support myself” mentality. Pure and simple without economics or policies on the surface.

I’ll check out Atypical. 

 

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34 minutes ago, MoeMoney said:

As a special area teacher, I am fully aware of the broadness of autism spectrum, though I have no right to say I understand what it’s like to live with it. I always said our schools are full of students on the spectrum and then they age-out of the education system and get absorbed into every-day society, left to mange, fit in, and/or struggle. And how would the world know how to interact with them like kids and staff at school do? I worried about that. Still do. I took a credit course on Autism as a first year teacher and discovered that my older brother had what was referred to as Asperger’s. Nobody knew because he was in his 40’s by now but no one in my family had any schooling or familiarity with it. He is tenacious, kind, and plays the piano better than Liberace. The furniture handles always had to be down, never up, and he triple checked that he had what he needed before leaving the house. What did we know?

In my opinion, as long as you’ve taken the time to really listen then you can absolutely say you understand (despite not living it yourself).

I really relate to your brother’s story because it was my wife who first suggested I might be autistic after she worked with several autistic kids at school. It was one of the best days of my life because it explained so much of my life and I was surprised by how nice it felt to not be alone (I’ve always felt like an alien born into human society).

How did your brother respond to hearing this so late in life?

I ask because people have asked me how they should “break the news” or if I was angry when my wife suggested this possibility. I was/am puzzled by the underlying premise because it fails to understand just how much my wife unburdened me and how I immediately found her suspicion to be both fascinating and entirely logical.

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