These days, I care a lot less about what other people think of me.
Perhaps it’s part of getting older, but I think it’s more likely linked to the sense of freedom I feel from being early retired.
Before, I had to care what my employer thought. My job and my paycheck depended on it. Now, the more than 50 hours a week that I used to spend at work are owned by me - that's a feeling that doesn't get old!
But I do still care about what others think. I guess that’s human nature. One area this applies to is my early retirement.
It seems that the majority of FIRE blogs lean towards frugality. I read how little some bloggers spend, how small their grocery bill or going out expenditure is.
Then I compare it to my own costs which seem much higher than most of the blogs I read. Should I be embarrassed? Am I being wasteful? Should I be doing better?
Will people think I’m Mr Fat FIRE, and that I should go on a FIRE diet?
First off I headed over to Physician on FIRE to check out a definition of leanFIRE and fatFIRE. He gives figures for the US, and I've assumed the numbers for Europe and Australasia are probably in the same ballpark. They may be significantly less in some other areas.
leanFIRE is living off a household budget of around $25,000 or $30,000 (£19,500 to £23,500), and
fatFIRE is living off a household budget closer to $100,000 (£78,000)
There’s a sizeable gap between these figures, perhaps that’s “chubbyFIRE”, which happens to be where my household fits.
So although I'm not fatFIRE, I still wonder if my middle ground chubbyFIRE is acceptable. Is a FIRE diet still required?
After some thought, I’ve decided I don’t need to diet. It’s my FIRE life, and it doesn’t have to be the same as other people’s - life would be boring if we all did the same. I earned my financial independence through hard work and I shouldn’t be embarrassed to enjoy it in the way I like.
The important points for me are:
I can afford it. My passive income is more than my costs. I still have to take care and make choices about my spending though. I’m not rich, I can’t do whatever I want - for example, I fly economy, make and stick to shopping lists, and I can’t afford to service a Ferrari let alone buy one, but it’s OK, because I don’t want one anyway.
I’m thoughtful in my spending. I might spend more than some others, but in general I don’t waste money. When I buy something, I know that I’ll get good value from it. Even my spend in coffee shops, which I know I can make for a fraction of the cost at home, is a thought out and worthwhile expenditure for me.
I could add some more, but these two points should be enough. I live within my means and I’m conscientious in my spending. What’s there to be embarrassed about in that?
The thought behind this post is that setting off on a journey to financial independence or early retirement is usually a venture into the unknown. When the years of saving are coming to an end, we start to think about whether we should really retire early.
That probably starts with weeks, months or even years of internet searching for early retirement information and moral support. How much do others spend and what do they do? I found that useful and confusing at the same time, and others probably do as well.
Most of what I read espoused frugality and low cost as the way to go because it gets you to FIRE more quickly. For many, it makes sense, but not everybody wants to follow that course.
When you do something different from the norm, it's easy to feel that you are somehow doing something wrong. It’s therefore useful to see a variety of blogs offering different routes and different lifestyle choices.
The low cost and frugal blogs have some great information and tips to get to FIRE in the shortest time, but there are other options as well. This post is a reminder that there isn’t a one size fits all for FIRE.
My favourite thing about financial independence is the choices that come with it. You get to do things because you want to, not because you have to. Some choose to spend a little less and others a little more, both are perfectly fine, there is no right or wrong way. And if you have a partner you mustn't ignore what lifestyle they want, which may not exactly match your own ideas.
For me, the important financial aspects are to live within my means and be thoughtful and conscientious in my spending. Sometimes I'll splurge, but not too often, and not without thought, and it is OK to treat ourselves now and again (new skis for example). There are also some financial areas where I'd like to improve.
I’ll keep looking at some of the frugal FIRE blogs because they’re interesting and sometimes I learn things and try to incorporate them in to my own life.
But I’m going to relax and try not to worry about what others may think about my own costs. And I’ll also enjoy reading the less frugal blogs, seeing how other people are enjoying their financial independence, and learning from them too.
As they say, variety is the spice of life.