On FIRE

In the Personal Finance community, FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. However, most people don’t actually want to retire. Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Warren Buffet, would never use the word retire. They want to continue to create and collaborate, but they do it with autonomy. Lori Greiner, from Shark Tank says an entrepreneur is someone who will work 80 hours a week, to avoid working 40 hours a week for someone else. However, regardless of spending 80 hours a week or 10 hours a week creating and making money, we should feel that we are free and have control over our schedules and our creative process.

The movie Revolutionary Road had a great line… when the couple first met, she asked him the ubiquitous question “what do you do?” and he said Longshoreman. And she replied that she wasn’t asking what he did for money, but what he did with his life. Being on FIRE, then can mean that we are free to pursue what lights up us… what sparks us. We are free from needing accolades and titles. We are free from debt. We are free from feeling that we have to explain to society how we spend our time. While financial independence can help, it is much easier to be free than most people think.

So, for those of us who don’t want to use the word retire, let’s reframe FIRE.

If you are on FIRE…

… you have Freedom.

… you have Intellect.

… you have Resourcefulness.

… you have Enough.

Let’s look closer:

Freedom: This is more than just financial freedom. Freedom from physical attachments and emotional limitations. Freedom from societal expectations. Freedom from needing external rewards and validation. Freedom from needing titles and labels. Freedom to be authentic.

Intellect: Most people who have high intellects have a hard time working for corporations that don’t give them autonomy or creative freedom. Being forced into a 9-5 work schedule doesn’t work well for the creativity of intellects. Intellects never “retire”, but rather they want the option to leave the “busy-ness” of their corporate careers and be able to have time to amuse their curiosities and ponder… or as Einstein called it, daydream. Daydreaming is very shunned in our modern work world, but it is essential to create something that matters.

Resourcefulness: Resourceful people are creative. They get more satisfaction out of what they have done, rather than what they bought. You could call this frugal, but I like to call it sustainable.

Enough: This story sums it up…  At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut tells his friend, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller said, “Yes, but I have something he will never have: Enough.