Last week, Suze Orman set the personal finance world ablaze. She went on the Afford Anything podcast and threw down the gauntlet.
She challenged the entire concept of the F.I.R.E. movement. This stirred the many followers of this practice. Many response pieces were written and swear words were exchanged.
There is a solid pun about the controversy around FIRE since its inception but I’ll spare you this time.
Before I get really going I’ll let you know right now this is not a response piece. I will carry the white knight shield for many things on the internet but the F.I.R.E. lifestyle isn’t one of them.
Not because I disagree or agree with either side of this argument. Just because I chalk it up to different opinions and lifestyles for different people.
Suze’s words and the many response to them made me think about something loosely related to the F.I.R.E. movement (henceforth referred to without the periods).
How Many Of Us Actually Want To Retire?
I am being hyper-literal when I ask this question.
I mean the true definition of retire. No work, just 12 hours of fishing or Sudoku a day. The full on riding off into the sunset never to punch any type of clock again. Even if you own that particular clock.
If I am honest I don’t see most of us doing that. After working for the majority of your life do you really think you will be able to switch to doing whatever you want for every day forever?
I like to think of this as the reverse of how school was for me.
From ages 5-17 I was put in a system where I went to school for 9 months a year and then took 3 months off. I got used to this and for some reason thought this would continue forever.
Then came my first job and there was no 3 month break. I was flabbergasted. Never mind the fact that I have worked a job pretty consistently since I was 15. Or the fact that even when I had summers off from school I was still working.
Regardless, of all that foreshadowing I still found myself confused. Why had I been programmed to expect this time off for almost my entire life?
I expect this will be the case for those of us lucky enough to retire.
If we are constantly angling to retire I feel like we will find we have a lot more time on our hands then we had planned to. Anytime I think about how many hours are in the day I think about being deployed. Sitting on a site in the middle of the dessert with no shade or things to read makes you feel every second.
You’re Not Really Going To Retire
I know there are some people out there who are planning to travel non-stop or go cross country in their RV. IF that’s you then more power to you and I hope you enjoy your well earned retirement.
However, I am beginning to think there may be more people like me out there than I had originally thought.
I don’t know if I will ever retire in the truest sense of the word. My real goal is to quit corporate America and take matters into my own hands. I don’t even mean the FI piece of the FIRE equation.
I mean full bore entrepreneurial and freelance endeavors.
I then plan to do that until the wheels fall off or I get to be a guest “shar” on Shark Tank.
The more I hear about stories of FIRE “retirees” the more I realize that most of them still do some type of work. Furthermore, many of them return to the workforce under their own terms.
In reality what most of us seek is the freedom to choose how we live. If we make our own money outside of having to be somewhere for 40 hours I think we will reach our actual goal.
Who Said Retirement Lasts Forever?
Another idea that I have been seeing more of is the repeated retirement.
Some people call this a sabbatical but that feels like something only professors do. What I am describing is instead of waiting 40+ years for an eternal retirement you wait 10 and take a year off.
Just think about being 30-35 and taking a full 365 off of work. Doesn’t that sound magical?
This is another example of a non-real retirement. Or at least a non-traditional retirement. Just like school prepares us for an unrealistic life so does our traditional retirement idea.
We are always told that we should put in the majority of our life in one big block to work. Only after we have paid this penance can we receive the sweet reward of retiring.
Why are we still following this idea?
FIRE has shown us one path and that tree has many branches. Still, there are many more trees in the forest.
What about the gap year tree? The go freelance tree? Or even join the Peace Corps tree?
We live in this wonderfully dense forest and we only talk about the one tree. Sure, those branches are nice and can support the weight of most of us.
Life isn’t one size fits all though.
I invite all of us to think of a non-conventional plan for our work life.
Do you want to take a year off? Switch to a lower paying but more satisfying career?
Whatever your idea of a way to live that life I think we can do better. We can’ all be 40+ years to retirement or FIRE.
Surely, some people want to come up with their own acronyms.
What acronym are you going to start?