A little over a month a go, my weekly blog post was: FIRE (financial independence and retiring early), easy or difficult?
I looked at four aspects of this question and ranked each on a relative easy to difficult scale.
I received some mixed feedback. Some thought I'd got it about right, others weren't so sure. One commented that most people will find it much more difficult to amass the money to FIRE than my "somewhere in the middle" ranking, breaking things down into bite sized decision points seemed to get support, and it was generally agreed that deciding when to quit work was more difficult than expected.
These different views are a reminder that there isn't a one size fits all version for FIRE. We can endlessly Google and read blogs, but eventually it comes down to making a call on what we think will work best for us as individuals.
Personally, I find different perspectives helpful, I get confidence and inspiration from what others have done. And I'm definitely not too proud to steal a good idea! Speaking of others, Vince left a particularly detailed comment, so I asked if I could share his views and experience. This is what Vince had to say:
"It will be different for everyone's situation. I think that once you acknowledge that there is such a thing as FIRE and that you decide to be part of it, there are many different ways to follow it through. For my part:
Decision 1 - do you aim for FIRE?
I was always good at saving for some reason, though not investing, so my "pot" has not grown as much as it should have over the years. My reason for saving was for flexibility and allowing me and my family to have the means to follow opportunities; hence we aggressively paid down our mortgage in the first years and then didn't allow lifestyle inflation after that. Having ready cash allowed us to move countries and continents 3 times in 10 years which is an expensive upfront cost, and not to be dependent on banks being prepared to lend you what you need or want - apart from our early mortgage we have never owed the bank. I am glad we took those opportunities. I only discovered the wider RE (retiring early) potential in the past 3 or 4 years and am moving towards structuring my finances to generate income rather than just a lump sum. The Monevator article on net worth vs. income was a good read on this topic.
Decision 2 - amassing enough money to FIRE?
As with David @iRetiredYoung, I have made mistakes and even though these have been mainly opportunity costs they have probably been just as expensive in terms of bottom line. As mentioned above, I am in the process of belatedly trying to put that right which is psychologically quite hard but I am gathering the tools to do this.
Decision 3 - when to quit work to retire early?
This is a hard one. I actually quite like many aspects of my job and colleagues and so just the feeling that I can walk away if I start not enjoying it is good in itself. On the other hand, there are plenty of other things I would like to be doing with my time which is marching on and I won't ever get it back. Quitting at this stage is also a one way ticket with no turning back which means it needs a higher level of certainty for such an act of finality. I am in the process of agreeing reduced hours at work as my way of dealing with all these issues so maybe that will lead to a gradual extraction from the work place to reach a point of natural conclusion. OMY (one more year syndrome) is a definite risk for me as a certified procrastinator!
Decision 4 - what will early retirement look like?
I would hope that would be quite easy as I naturally always have projects on the go and not enough time to do them. My reduced work time will allow me to experiment with a structured or not so-structured approach, and I will be happy as long as I feel I am not wasting any of my time. A good mix of projects around the house, involvement in community projects, travel, day trips out or exercising and quality time with family/friends all class as legitimate, hours browsing the internet, watching Youtube/Netflix would not.
Hope it gives some insight to what other paths can look like, even if it is still in the planning stage in my case."
Thanks to Vince for sharing his views. I definitely think it's helpful to have insights to what other paths can look like.
I like his plan to work reduced hours, a kind of trial run is definitely a neat idea. I wonder if the forced flexibility in working arrangements during Covid-19 will be carried forward when normal times return and make reduced hours opportunities possible for more people? That could be really helpful for people who want to dip their toe into early retirement but aren't quite sure whether to fully jump in.
I wasn't sure that I agreed with Vince when he said that "quitting (his job to retire early)...is a one way ticket with no turning back". I get that the exact same job might not be there or the wage may not be the same, but are those things an essential if turning back is required? For me, they're not - a different role could be interesting and a lower wage isn't really an issue because if money was that tight the notion of retiring early wouldn't have been possible. In which case, I wonder if "no turning back" is more a perceived barrier than a real obstacle?
I contacted Vince to ask him about this and he explained that his concern about not being able to turn back is more connected to his work erring more towards a vocation and the enjoyment he gets from mentoring younger colleagues. So my thoughts about different jobs or a lower wage was wide of the mark - a reminder that everyone looks at things differently and we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions.
Because I'm a little inquisitive (nothing compared to my wife Sally's nosiness though!), I wanted to find out a bit more about Vince, beyond that he has some thoughts about retiring early. The thirty second elevator summary is that his career plan was to enjoy his work (after seeing his father didn't) and if he could find a career that paid him to see some of the world, well, how cool would that be! Engineering hit both of these ambitions, with long term stints in the UK, Canada and now France, plus various short term assignments to other places. Along the way, his kids have grown up bilingual (I'm so envious!), exposed to different cultures and comfortable to step outside their comfort zones. Financially, finding a niche skilled role let him get paid reasonably, if not exceptionally, well - enough to meet their needs and give them flexibility to make decisions they want to rather than because they have to. I love this last bit, it reminds me that the FI part of FIRE is the best bit as it opens up so many choices, and retiring early is only one of them.
Thanks again to Vince for sharing your views.