I Told My Friends About FIRE, And They Weren’t Impressed

Not impressed with FIRE

Yesterday something interesting happened.

I decided to tell a few friends of mine about FIRE.

I’m from a business background and work in management consulting. Most of my friends have studied something similar and also have a corporate life.

This means that most of my friends feel like me. If money wasn’t a problem, they probably would work less and probably with something different.

But yesterday I was together with some of my creative friends. The type of friends that have followed their passions and are now actors, choreographers, designers and musicians.

Most of them do not have a lot of money, and they never really know whether they will be able to pay the bills next month.

They are very frugal by nature and hate consumerism – and most things associated with big businesses and capitalism.

Therefore, I was waiting in excitement to tell them about FIRE.

I wanted to present to them their best opportunity to fight the system. To escape the claws of capitalism and live a life free from the worries of money.

I thought it would be a super nova explosion of enthusiasm as it had been for me when I first discovered the concept of financial independence.

I was ready to tell them that it didn’t matter how much money you made (at least not only). That it was more important what your savings rate was, and so on…

The moment finally came when I presented FIRE as best as I could.

To my surprise, they didn’t really follow why financial independence and early retirement was such a great thing. They had a few questions and comments, and then they just proceeded with talking about something else.

What?! Here was the single best concept I know – and it is even fully aligned with all of their values, and they weren’t really interested.

I couldn’t believe it, but it made me reflect on what they said.

Why my friends weren’t impressed with FIRE

My friends weren’t impressed because they don’t work as much as I do and they work with something they are truly passionate about.

My friends have weeks where they are employed and weeks where they aren’t. Some of them only have weekend work, some of the work a few evenings a week. You get the point. They are not forced to sit in a cubicle all day.

They don’t experience the corporate treadmill like I do. Nor do they dread the next 40 years of 9-5 jobs, because they don’t have one.

My friends work with something that they are very passionate about. They spend all of their working time (and free time) on music, painting, acting etc., which means that they don’t necessarily experience it as what we would call “work”.

Sure, they would like to have an infinite amount of money, and this was the only part of the concept they bought. They agreed that it would be nice to be able to travel the world and live well without having to think about money.

But they all agreed that if they had all the money in the world, they would still do exactly what they are doing today.

Isn’t that amazing? They are already following their passions and doing what they want. Therefore, to them, FIRE isn’t as relevant as it is for us.

I truly enjoy being a consultant, but I would rather spend my time differently (or at least have more flexibility in terms of when to work). I would actually do things differently if I had enough money to cover my expenses without having to work. This is why the whole concept of financial independence and the freedom that it brings is so relevant for me.

I wonder whether are actually more happy than I am at the moment. They might not earn as much, but they have a lot of free time and wouldn’t do anything differently if they could.

I might be sacrificing too much present happiness over future happiness when I could have both.

What do you think? Are my friends more happy? Am I just wasting time trying to achieve FIRE to then follow my passions instead of just following my passions right away?

 

14 comments

14 comments

That guy, Nick from the TotalBalance.blog September 27, 2018 - 14:04

Hi Carl,

I can totally relate to your experience. It really does emphasize, how silly our current money-making consultant lives are 😉
It’s so cool that you have friends like that though! I’ve always been envious of people like that. People that are actually truly happy, doing what they do. I guess wisdom really does come with age. My family never pushed me to get a good job, and make good money. They’ve always been happy (at least I think?) doing what they do. And yet, most of my (adult) life, I’ve been obsessed with making more money.
Since I discovered FIRE and the whole community around it, it has really given me a sense of hope. A hope that I can honestly raise my daughter to follow her own dreams, no matter what they might be. Money should never be the life driver. I’ve only learned that recently, and it pains me to look at how our society is teaching us to believe just that. That money=happiness. Because it’s not!

I look forward to follow your journey towards FI 😉

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Carl September 27, 2018 - 22:18

Nick, I get so happy when I hear about other people who discover FIRE and have the same life changing experience as I had myself 🙂 and yes, it was quite an eye-opener for me to speak with my friends about it and discovering how happiness is not necessarily a high net worth (or financial independence).

.. and congratulations on your new blog! Looking forward to following it 🙂

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Anom June 12, 2018 - 09:34

Interesting man. I’m actually applying for jobs right now and I applies for big strategy consultancy firms earlier this year. First I considered doing that for a few years for the learning experience before I’d move on to something more chill, but then I realized that as a starter you don’t even make that much money at an hourly rate. At BCG etc. in the Netherlands you earn about 4.000 euro per month gross, but you’re also expected to work 50-60 hours per week. If you work at the government you might earn 2700 euro for a 36 hour work week, which is comparable in terms of hourly wage (and actually comes with better benefits in terms of pensions and vacation days). Plus, it leaves you more freedom for leisure, as well as starting to pursue some side hustles, like the blog you are writing.
What were your considerations for starting to work in strategy consultancy back in the day?

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Carl June 12, 2018 - 21:32

Super cool, Max! I definitely don’t think you should choose consulting for the initial hourly wage, because as you say, it will never be competitive to other jobs. However, your net present value is much higher in consulting than in other places because 1) you get exponential salary increases in a short time (I have increased more than 100% in three years from my starting salary and decreased my number of hours worked) and 2) you can exit to jobs that usually have higher salaries.

I didn’t know about FIRE back then, so my main reason for choosing consulting was actually that I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, I wanted to learn the consulting toolbox, I liked the people that I knew in consulting… and I didn’t know what to specialize in or which other companies to apply for. And then of course the prestige, travel, salary etc. also was an indirect motivating factor I guess.

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M. Storm May 24, 2018 - 19:20

Great points. It reminds me of the story about the fisherman in a small village. I heard the story in a talk and later read it in “The 4 Hour Work Week”. I just googled the story and found a version for you here: https://bemorewithless.com/the-story-of-the-mexican-fisherman/.

I think we sometimes need to stop and ponder over what we are really trying to achieve. And if you find your own happiness suffering from specific elements of your life, the smart choice is to look at your life and scale down the amount of time and mental energy (and even money) on those elements. The hard part is to act on it.

Sorry I never got around to answering your question about call and put options a couple of months ago. I’ll be starting a blog soon though to share some of my own experiences. I’ll keep you posted.

Keep up the great work.

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Carl May 24, 2018 - 21:12

Thanks, Martin! I absolutely love that story. I had forgotten about it, but also remember reading it in “The 4 hour Work Week” many years ago.

I agree that the hard part is to act. I see a lot of people not being the happiest they could, but being stuck in a sub-optimal life because of financial, psychological etc. reasons.

Looking forward to reading your blog! Let me know once it goes live, and I’ll give you a shout out 🙂

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Blog om Penge May 19, 2018 - 12:43

Very interesting observation.
I have not shown my blog to any of my friends, but many know that I want to “retire” before I am 40.
I thing that it is very important to mention it to close friends. I now have 2-3 friends who has redifined their goals and are also going for finansial freedoom. Most people just does not know that it is possible. You are helping alot by showing the way!

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Carl May 21, 2018 - 19:02

Interesting, BoP! I have also told a few of my friends that I want to retire early, but not about the blog. I agree very much with you that it is so important to spread the message! There’s so many people that just don’t know about it – also some of the smartest people I know. I remember 2-3 years ago, I also didn’t know there was any alternatives to study-work-retire at 70. Glad I found out about Early Retirement Extreme in a Danish newspaper article 🙂

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TalkAboutFinance May 17, 2018 - 22:55

Interesting reaction from them. I think the identity and social circle keeps many Danes emotionally attached to their jobs. Furthermore I think people with long hours like management consultants are more prone to consider the direct opposite of working all the time than someone with more balance in their work/life.

Did you just tell them about fire or also about your blog? If so, I thing that is a much larger thing. At least for you who seem to have kept it relatively secret so far 🙂

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Carl May 18, 2018 - 22:51

Yes, you are absolutely right with the social circle.

I wonder whether it is possible to find something that you are truly passionate about, still spend long hours on it, but not wanting more work/life balance. In management consulting I see some people that are simply so passionated about it that they voluntarily choose to spend a lot of extra hours on work every month. I believe they would think FIRE sounds like a joke.

I didn’t tell them about the blog, no 🙂 I would like to keep a secret for a little while.

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Steveark May 17, 2018 - 19:38

I never considered FIRE and worked until my retirement could only be considered slightly early even though I was financially independent for years before that. I liked my job and I liked the position in society and in the states business and political circles and was not ready to trade that in for what might be boredom and anonymity. Eventually the job did take a drastic sharp turn toward awful and by then I had been reading enough about FI and FIRE to realize that I had multiple times as much invested as most people pulling the plug on work and I also figured out some side gigs that would keep me in my business and political tribes but only require a day or two of work a week. But, to answer your question, I do not think FIRE appeals to people who love their jobs because they know full well how wonderful but rare that is. And when you have something wonderful and rare then you fear trading it for an unknown. I would not have done it except wonderful turned woeful and in retrospect I’m glad. Because life now is as good or better than my best work days! But I do get why it doesn’t interest people with passion for their jobs, and on top of that your friends can barely pay their bills so talking about 50% savings rates when they are scraping by just isn’t going to seem realistic to them, even if it probably could be done. Great post and very thought provoking!

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Carl May 17, 2018 - 21:23

Very interesting, Steveark! I believe you are absolutely right in terms of people not wanting to trade in something wonderful for something unknown. I believe wonderful jobs like you describe are quite rare and that most people would trade their jobs in for FIRE if they knew about it. I think you are right that it really comes down to whether you are passionate about what you are doing and don’t see the point in changing that. If you really enjoy what you are doing, then the concept of FIRE might not be as relevant. Then my biggest question is: why should I spend 6-7 years pursuing FIRE in an OK, high income job, if I could follow my passion (most likely with a lower salary) and be the happiest I could be already now? Well, I guess here the best argument is that what I might be passionate about today might not be the same thing I will be passionate about in the future, or it might turn awful as in your case, and then FIRE gives you a unique flexibility to change direction and constantly optimize your life. It is just important to remember that this unique flexibility might come at a cost of a few less wonderful years and that FIRE might not be the only option to live a wonderful life. As a FIRE blogger, I have a tendency to forget this sometimes 🙂

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Ruben June 6, 2018 - 23:07

Hi Carl, don’t you think you could find a job you are passionate about now, even with lower salary, and then if you don’t like it anymore, you look for a new one? You can still build on your financial independence although it will take a little longer… But if that means you are happy now AND in the future… isn’t that the best you can have? Actually, this article made me think about it and I think your friends have a great position! I would love to be able to be happy the whole time, not only after reaching a big sum of money.

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Carl June 7, 2018 - 11:24

Hi Ruben,

You are really hitting the nail on the head with your comment. My girlfriend and I are talking about doing exactly this at the moment.

The only problem is that we are already somewhat happy in our current situation (I mean, we are definitely not unhappy, but we know that we could be even happier with more free time), and we are making quite good money for our age and experience (I expect a yearly income of above 1 million DKK next year before taxes), meaning that FI will come a lot faster than if I find a lower-wage job. It is really a tough trade-off, but I guess the only way to find out is to try it and see how it works, and one of us might do that initially to see how it works.

All the best,
Carl

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