Random Thoughts – Are you superior because of Financial independence Retire Early (FIRE)?
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A few weeks ago, I learned a close co-worker of mine lost his daughter. Like the rest of my co-workers, I was completely shocked when I heard the news. His daughter was 19 years old and passed away from a natural cause during sleep. My heart went out to my coworker and his family. At the same time, I felt helpless. I wasn’t sure what to say to him other than that I was terribly sorry and that I was thinking about him and his family.
Having 2 kids of my own, I couldn’t imagine what my co-worker and his family went through that morning when they discovered her and the emotions they had. To be honest, I simply cannot and do not want to have to imagine what that would feel like. For my co-worker and his family, it’s a long road to recovery. Life will never be the same.
When I was browsing Twitter early in the morning on May 1st, I saw a tweet that said Jason Botchford, a popular Vancouver sports writer, died suddenly on the weekend, at age 48. He had died of apparent heart failure, leaving his wife and three children aged 8, 6, and 3 behind.
At first, I was completely shocked and surprised. Although I have never met Jason Botchford, I knew who he was. As a Vancouver Canucks fan, I read Jason Botchford’s columns often. He was also a regular contributor on the local sports radio. I respected his work. Then hearing that he left 3 young children made me extremely sad. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for his children. I couldn’t imagine what his wife would feel. My heart went to Jason’s surviving family.
The death of my co-worker’s daughter and Jason Botchford’s death for some reason shook me to the core. While I was sad about the passing of Mrs. T’s grandfathers, due to their ages, Mrs. T and I both knew it was inevitable. Because of that, when we were in Denmark last summer, Mrs. T made a lot of effort to spend time with her grandparents from both sides of her family. I think my co-worker’s daughter and Jason Botchford’s deaths had a bigger effect on me because both were completely unexpected and I was able to relate to both of them. Although I’m in my mid-30’s, I still very much feel like a 19-year-old at heart; I see the world with endless opportunities still out there for me to explore. I could never imagine leaving this world without exploring more of it and gaining more experience. In Jason Botchford’s case, he was 12 years older than me, but really we weren’t that many years apart. I simply could not fathom what it’d be like if I were to die suddenly and the huge void it would create for Mrs. T, Baby T1.0, and Baby T2.0. Not to mention my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my extended family.
Driving home the other day, I turned off the radio and began to reflect. It’s true that life is unpredictable. We can’t guarantee that we will be still in this physical world tomorrow. Yes, if you don’t have a known medical condition, there’s a very high probability that you will be around tomorrow, but you simply can’t 100% guarantee this. What if you got into a car accident? What if a natural disaster happens?
As I was thinking and reflecting, I started to ask myself the question: what can I do to protect my loved ones if I were to suddenly pass away? What should I do to protect myself from an unexpected passing for a loved one?
What can I do to protect my loved ones?
Before Baby T1.0 was born, Mrs. T and I both enrolled in a 25-year term life insurance. We recently received a letter from the insurance company stating that 6 years of coverage have elapsed. At the time we didn’t really think that we needed life insurance. We didn’t have any consumer debt, we were building up our net worth, and we had started our financial independence journey with the goal to have our passive income cover our expenses in our early 40’s. After reading through personal finance books and articles, however, we felt it was the right thing to do to take out term life insurance for us both, and so we did. Since then, having the term life insurance has created a peace of mind.
One thing we ignored for many years was having a separate will. We didn’t think it was a big deal not having one. We put off this important task until 2 years ago when we finally found a lawyer and had our wills done. It was money well spent.
When it comes to finances, I do most of the day-to-day tasks like paying for bills, moving money to different investment accounts, buying investments, etc. Mrs. T and I talk about investments regularly, but she is not as involved as I am. A while ago, we realized that this may create an issue so we sat down together and I showed Mrs. T the different accounts we have (and their login credentials), how to check and pay bills, etc. It’s important that she isn’t completely dependent on me when it comes to finances. We haven’t sat down together to go through these financial details in a while, so it is probably a good idea to do this again to refresh her memory.
Another way to protect my loved ones, I think, is to become financially independent. When we are financially independent, that means we no longer need to rely on working income. If I were to suddenly pass away, Mrs. T and the kids wouldn’t need to worry about money. In a way, we’d be self-insuring ourselves when we are financially independent. In addition, a good level of knowledge in personal finance is essential to make sure money isn’t wasted. Having two young kids, Mrs. T and I definitely need to teach them about financial responsibility when they are a bit older.
All these things mentioned above are protecting my loved ones financially, but it’s nearly impossible to protect them emotionally.
What can I do to protect myself?
Since Mrs. T has the 25-year term life insurance, in some way, I am protected financially during the duration of the term if she were to unexpectedly pass away. But if I really think about this question, I believe it’s a really difficult one to answer. In reality, while you may be able to protect yourself financially from a sudden passing of a loved one, emotionally, I don’t think anyone can ever protect himself or herself.
You just can’t. This is similar to the previous case.
I can’t imagine losing Mrs. T; I can’t imagine losing Baby T1.0; I can’t imagine losing Baby T2.0. I’d be heartbroken if that were to happen.
So, I don’t think I can protect myself at all. All I can do, I think, is cherish the time that I spend together with my loved ones. Create everlasting memories, and we can all cherish for many years. Enjoy experiences together and providing a helping hand.
(Sorry, I feel like I’ve been repeating myself a little.)
Financial independence Retire Early doesn’t make you superior
The other day Mrs. T sent me the following quote:
If you think it’s more ‘spiritual’ to become a vegetarian, buy organic foods, practice yoga and meditate, but then you find yourself judging those who don’t do all these things, you fell into an ego trap.⠀
If you think it’s more ‘spiritual’ riding a bike or public transport at work, but then you’re judging those in the car, you fell into an ego trap.⠀
If you think it’s more ‘spiritual’ to stop watching TV because it cancels your brain, but then you’re judging those who still look at you, you fell into an ego trap.⠀
If you think it’s more ‘spiritual’ to avoid reading newspapers and gossip magazines, but then you judge those who read them, you fell into an ego trap.⠀
If you think it’s more ‘spiritual’ listening to classical music or sounds of nature, but then you’re judging who listens to commercial music, you fell into an ego trap.⠀
You always have to be careful about the feeling of ‘superiority.’ It is the most important clue we have to realize that we are dealing into an ego trap.
The ego is cleverly hidden in noble thoughts like to start a vegetarian diet or use the bicycle and then turn into a sense of superiority towards those who do not follow the same spiritual path.”
The Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement is becoming more and more popular each day. More and more FIRE related articles are showing up on major media each day. While it’s great the FIRE movement is picking up steam and people are excited about FIRE, I think we need to avoid the idea that FIRE is superior. Just because that you’re pursuing FIRE and that you’re currently on the financial independence journey doesn’t make you “better” than someone who is clueless about personal finance and investment, or someone who is pursuing the traditional retirement path.
And just because you retire at 50 doesn’t make you superior over someone who retires at 65. And if you retire at 31 doesn’t make you any better than someone who retires at 50. None of us have the same life and none of us have an identical situation. We have our own financial path. My financial path is my financial path. We need to stop comparing our financial path to others. My financial path is not better or worse than yours. And your financial path is not better or worse than hers.
Instead of comparing each other, what we can do is help each other and encourage each other. Be supportive. Share ideas. Learn from each other.
So, let’s not divide the FIRE community into different subgroups and label each other. Let’s focus on the common goal – financial independence retire early, and figuring out how we can teach personal finance, investment, and retirement knowledge to the public, so more people are financially literate!