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.”


Mooji

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!

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Laura
    May 27, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Excellent post. I stopped reading some popular FIRE blogs (one in particular) some time ago because while the blog(s) talked about personal goals, the subtext was”if you don’t think like me you’re wrong and probably stupid”.

    We are parenting a very medically complex child. He could die tomorrow, or live with staggering health care costs (yes, even in Canada) for years. My husband’s health insurance is essential. FIRE isn’t possible, even with the most prudent financial management. My husband also really likes his job. He was recently asked if he would retire if he somehow came into millions (inheritance, lottery, whatever), and he said no. Without our son’s medical costs he could retire tomorrow, but wouldn’t. And without our son life becomes unthinkable, so frankly we don’t go there.

    I applaud the FIRE movement for encouraging people to think about intentional living, their relationship with money, and our out-of-control consumer culture. But I agree that FIRE communities, at times, have become judgmental and hyper-focused on money, sometimes over and above other important quality of life indicators.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 27, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Thank you Laura. I think a FIRE blog is more than just savings, investing, numbers, and simulations. We should focus on the life aspect as well. I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, that must be extremely tough. The health insurance is extremely helpful in your case and definitely something worthwhile to have while your son is going through such difficult medical complication. I truly hope that your son will get better so you don’t have to rely heavily on the health insurance.

  • Reply
    Fire Year FIRE escape
    May 27, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Ahh, don’t mention dying kids! This article was such an emotional roller coaster! I want to go to my kid’s school and give them a hug right now. Sheesh!

    I agree FIRE folks aren’t superior to normies but I do feel like we’ve figured something out that others haven’t. I can’t imagine having to have a job anymore. It just doesn’t seem right and I wish other people knew how amazing this way.

    Living independently is well worth a few years of effort to get there. People don’t get it!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 27, 2019 at 9:47 am

      I got pretty emotional when I received the news of these two deaths. The one of my coworker hit me quite hard, especially considering I have a daughter as well. While she is still very young, I can totally relate to my coworker.

  • Reply
    Frugal Fortunes
    May 27, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Insurance is a net loss for the average buyer (even after considering tax transfer benefits)… but it hedges adverse outcomes. I’ll only consider buying life insurance if I’m not Financially Independent (factoring in family expenses) when I start a family. Also, I agree that the FIRE movement isn’t a one-size-fits all. Everyone should take the core ideas and adapt to what best fits their situation. For example, I’m all about reaching Financial Independence… but I enjoy what I do so I have no plans to Retire Early.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 27, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      I believe having life insurance is quite critical when you have a dependent, especially when you’re early on your FIRE journey. Once you are FI, you can self insure yourself. 🙂

  • Reply
    PFI
    May 27, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    I really appreciate the reflective spirit of this post. You’re right – it’s very easy to fall into the ego trap of reaching FI. We see it a lot in judgmental comments about others’ spending choices.

    I’m with you on toning down the comparisons and focusing on the support. Thanks for writing this.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 28, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Thank you very much PFI. Your ego is not your amigo. Be humble and learn from everyone. 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    May 28, 2019 at 7:18 am

    Terrific post Bob and has gone over many things I have been thinking about lately. Do thank your wife for that quote though, it is something very important for all of us to reflect on. I need to make sure I am humble and that we don’t do any virtue signalling which is hard to not catch yourself doing every once in a while.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 28, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Mrs. T is great that way, she provides me with ideas for blog post.

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    May 28, 2019 at 8:48 am

    I completely agree, nobody is truly superior to anyone. We all have different circumstances and abilities. For some of us that means FIRE, but it doesn’t make us better than anyone else.

    Too many big egos in this world if you ask me. Not enough togetherness.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 28, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Exactly, stay humble is the way to go. My motto is – be kind and nice to everyone. Make friends not enemies.

  • Reply
    Joe
    May 28, 2019 at 10:30 am

    I’m with you 100%. Everyone has to find their own path through life. Some of us think FIRE is a good compromise, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Of course, it’s good to educate people about FIRE. That way they can make their own choices.
    We should all support each other. It’s unfortunate that some people are divisive, but I guess that’s life.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      May 30, 2019 at 9:13 am

      The FIRE journey isn’t the same for everyone. We need to find our own path and make our own choices for sure.

  • Reply
    Xrayvsn
    June 7, 2019 at 11:25 am

    That is the one trap people can fall into if they are reading other posts/blogs and then comparing themselves to that person. You can then leave feeling inadequate/depressed, and even take the attitude of why even bother.

    That is definitely not the purpose of most blogs discussing personal finance/FIRE. I try and share my failures (started out my blog with 5 posts on how I pretty much made every mistake in the book) in the hopes to show readers that everyone is allowed to make mistakes and that does not mean you can not progress to whatever goal you want, whether retiring early, late, or be financially free.

    My father died at age 50 (I was 15). I am now 48 and I can’t imagine only having 2 more years to live. He was a physician as well and worked way too much and didn’t enjoy life, putting it off for a retirement that never came.

    That experience sort of shaped me where I am trying to prioritize life over work.

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