FIRE and F.I.R.E.

You’re probably getting confused and wondering what the post title means exactly. Let me explain.

The other day I re-tweeted Rick’s tweet and I really loved the message here.

Within the personal finance community, the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement is getting stronger and stronger every day. Truth be told, I don’t like the term FIRE and what the acronym stands for. As you may know, Mrs. T and I have been focusing on becoming financially independent. We believe in Financial Independence because FI gives us the choice. Once we are FI, we can choose whether to work or not. If we do, we are only working because we choose to, not because we have to. We aren’t focused on the retire early part.

Why don’t I like the term FIRE? Because it puts too much emphasis on the retire early part. If you happen to be financially independent, call yourself as FIRE’d, yet you continue to work full time or getting money from your blog or side businesses, the internet “retirement” police will be all over you.

The internet retirement police have called out on so many FIRE bloggers when their stories went live on major media like Yahoo, CNBC, MarketWatch, and Business Insider. Bloggers like Steve at Think Save Retire, Justin at Root of Good, Tanja at Our Next Life, Pete at Mr. Money Mustache, Jeremy at Go Curry Cracker, and Carl at 1500 Days, all have been called out by the internet retirement police.

Do the internet retirement police have a case?

I suppose they do, because how FIRE is defined – Financial Independence Retire Early.

The bloggers mentioned above all generate some sort of income still. So technically they aren’t “retired.”

But does it really matter whether they are retired in the traditional sense or not?

I think not. Personally, I think the internet retirement police just have too much time on their hands…but that’s a story for another time…

That’s why I like Rick’s other FIRE definition – Financial Independent Remain Employed.

Remain Employed can mean many different things.

You can remain employed by an employer, either working full time or part-time. You are working for someone, you have a boss, and you are working like the majority of the population. However, there’s one key different – you don’t need the money. You aren’t “slaving” away at your job. Your portfolio can sustain your current lifestyle if you choose to stop working. You have the power to call it quit. You are not relying on the pay cheque every 2 weeks.

You can also become self-employed by working for yourself. You can be generating income on something you enjoy doing, like photography, blogging, podcasting, carpentry, freelancing, etc. The world is your oyster. Again you are not dependent on the money. You are “working” on these projects because you enjoy what you do and money is just an extra gravy.

Once you become financially independent, the definition of “work” becomes unimportant and irrelevant.

I am not the only one in the FIRE community that thinks FIRE should be redefined to focus more on the Financial Independence part. Rather than using the term FIRE, some personal finance bloggers have even created their own terms.

Fully Funded Lifestyle Change (FFLC) – Slowly Sipping Coffee 

Financial Independence Before Early Retirement (F.I.B.R.E)Retire Before Dad

Financial Independence Optional Retirement (FIOR) – Mad Money Monster

The thing is, it doesn’t really matter which acronym you are referring to. All the acronyms have one common theme – a better financial future.

What does a better financial future mean?

For me, a better financial future means having no debt, spending less than we earn, cash positive, earning passive income, being able to afford things that we want, and having the ability to turn down money earning opportunities.

It’s really that simple. Becoming financially independent is just one part of having a better financial future.

It has been 7 years since we started our FIRE journey, we have learned what is important to us and what isn’t important. We have learned to enjoy our lives, be appreciative of what we have, and be open to opportunities.

 

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    CatfaceMeowmers
    July 25, 2018 at 5:49 am

    Great read! And it’s a nice pairing with the most recent Millennial Revolution post. Seems like there are trolls and haters on both sides of FIRE. But, like the great poet of our generation T.S. Wift taught us, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate”

    Like most things in life, the RE of FIRE gets the media pop & focus because it’s a social oddity. The FI is something that everyone should be doing and gets pushed aside. Thanks for the great posts!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:12 am

      Haha haters will keep hating, trolls will keep trolling. 🙂

  • Reply
    Joe
    July 25, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Sure, everyone has to find their own path in life. For you guys, FI is more important than RE.
    But for me, RE is more meaningful. Becoming FI didn’t change my life at all. On the other hand, RE improved my quality of life a ton. FIRE is just a guideline. You have to adapt it for your own situation. Good stuff.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:13 am

      Hi Joe,

      Given that you weren’t enjoying your manager role at Intel, RE totally makes sense for you. But I suppose technically you are still earning money through the blog, so the internet retirement police might come and get you. :p

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    July 25, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Nailed it Bob, I retired last year after reaching Financial Independence but still work. I am passionately enjoying growing my Mindful Explorer blog and social media. My side hustle once becoming FI allowed me the confidence to leave work but “not retire” and rather focus on having fun with my blogging as well as land freelance photo and writing jobs. Financial Independance allows us the opportunity to explore freedom and if that means work or retired, that is for each of us to discover. Great Post !

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:14 am

      Exactly, it’s a bit of a grey area whether you count side hustles as “work.” Many side hustles started of as hobbies and somehow turned into money generating gigs.

  • Reply
    Juli @ Written Word Nerd
    July 25, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent points! I find it quite silly that the “retirement police” can’t acknowledge that work you love still counts as retirement in the sense that no one is forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do… but since changing other people’s minds takes far more effort than making your own shifts, I like the adoption of a personal slogan.

    Some time ago, I decided mine was FITE – Financial Independence Transition Early, because (a) my goal has always been to ditch the office job, but still work a significant amount of hours at my (much lower-paying) side-hustle (teaching Pilates), because I adore it, am in a total flow state whenever I am doing it, AND derive great purpose/meaning from helping others through it; and (b) phonetically, it reads like “fight”, which feels inspiring, as often feel I’m “fighting” for my freedom. 🙂

    But, since the greater FIRE community still calls it FIRE, I just generally go with FIRE when talking to others about it. ;P

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:16 am

      Exactly, I think “working” on something that you enjoy isn’t working anymore. Since you wouldn’t need the money, you really don’t feel the pressure of actually making money. I think the no pressure mentality only helps you to make more money through these side businesses.

      FITE – that’s the first time I heard that, I like the term. 🙂

      And yes, I’ll probably continue using the term FIRE because that’s the common term.

  • Reply
    Financial Samurai
    July 25, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t know man. I guess to make myself feel better on my path to early retirement, I could embrace financially independent remain employed. But the reality is, nobody works at a job if they don’t have to. There are so many more enjoyable things one can do with one’s time.

    Keep up the good fight. I know it’s hard when you see a lot of other people highlighting their fabulous lives on social media talking about retirement and freedom and stuff like that. You just have to focus on your own life and stop following birds keep up the good fight. I know it’s hard when you see a lot of other people highlighting their fabulous lives on social media talking about retirement and freedom and stuff like that. You just have to focus on your own life and stop following theirs.

    Sam

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:22 am

      Haha I guess you’re right, people don’t usually work at a job if they don’t have to. But what constitutes as a job? Would you say blogging as a job? Would you say part-time photography as a job? Some people would say yes. Some, however, would say no because blogging and photography are interests/hobbies and earning money is a bonus.

      Love your point on social media. Nowadays it’s easy to fall into the social media trap and look at the fabulous lives other people might have. What we need to realize is these pics/videos on social media may not be a true reflection. Focusing on what you want in life and what makes you happy. That’s the important part. Stop caring what other people think & want.

      • Reply
        Frankie
        July 27, 2018 at 9:23 pm

        Completely agree with this, and Sam has some wise words – but I think the only practical way to achieve not caring what people think is to not be on social media at all. Its just far too hard to try and ‘compartmentalize’ what you see and tell yourself you won’t be influenced by it. There’s plenty of other ways to stay in touch with the people you care about!

        Am also with you on the FIRE thing – work is great when you’re working on things that are important to you, and you don’t necessarily have to be financially independent to do that (although it sure does make it a little easier…)

        Cheers, Frankie

        • Reply
          Tawcan
          July 31, 2018 at 5:43 am

          Very true, not care about what others think is very important.

  • Reply
    Owen @ PlanEasy.ca
    July 25, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Maybe “Financial Independence Remain Engaged”? I agree that the emphasis on “Retire Early” misconstrues the whole concept behind financial independence but “Remain Employed” puts a lot of emphasis on “work” in a traditional sense.

    Being “Engaged” could mean engaged in meaningful work, it could mean a hobby, it could mean a side business or a new business, or even volunteering etc etc.

    I agree though. Retire early isn’t a huge appeal to me. I want the freedom of financial independence so that I can spend time doing in the things I love.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:23 am

      I like that term as well. Remain engaged in some kind of work/side business makes sense, even volunteering makes sense.

      The important part is once you are FI, you can spend your time doing things that you enjoy, regardless whether they make money or not.

  • Reply
    DivvyDad
    July 25, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Personally, I don’t give two hoots what the “retirement police” think, and I suspect most really don’t at the end of the day. But, with that said, to me FIRE definitely means that I will transition from work that I feel I need to do to support our FI goals to work that I just enjoy doing—whether it pays much or not.

    Definitely an interesting topic though, as I do agree that there seems to be more focus on the RE side of the equation. Maybe my acronym will be FTDWTFIW—Freedom To Do Whatever The F&#$ I Want lol. Doesn’t roll off the tongue very well though.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Yea most of the retirement police are trolling/hating because they can hide behind the computer screen. It’s easy to be anonymous these days.

      I think most of us are aiming for the same thing – reach FI so we can transition from work that you need to do to work that you just enjoy doing, regardless whether it pays or not.

  • Reply
    Dr. McFrugal
    July 25, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    How about this FIRE acronym:

    Financial
    Independence
    Rest
    Easy

    In this case, you will be so financially independent, you can rest easy because you won’t need any alarms to wake you up. Sleep in if you want to! You’ll also rest easy because you can work on whatever you want and when you want. You’ll never have to worry about anything 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 26, 2018 at 12:46 am

      Ha Rest Easy, I love it! Do what you want and love, and not have to worry about anything. That sounds perfect.

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    July 26, 2018 at 3:12 am

    I’m in the FIRE situation where I could call myself “retired” but I really don’t. The word retired really evokes old people who play shuffleboard or watch TV all day. Basically waiting to die.

    That’s not me at all.

    I’m a big believer that words have power. Choose your words carefully!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      July 27, 2018 at 1:22 am

      Right, the traditional definition of “retired” is do nothing. 🙂

      I think most FIRE folks that have “retired” from their full time career are not just sitting around and doing nothing all day.

  • Reply
    Dividends Down Under
    August 8, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Interesting different acronyms Tawcan, I would just say we are aiming for FI and if we want to RE as well we will 🙂 But, like you and many other bloggers, I don’t think we will completely stop doing any form of activity that produces income. 40 years of just travelling sounds like a bit too much!

    Mr DDU

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:10 am

      You can always travel for 10 years then work a little bit, then travel a bit more. 🙂

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