Should The FIRE Movement Be Even More Ambitious?

FIRE movement ambitious

Lately I have been thinking quite a lot about the FIRE movement. A movement I consider myself lucky to have found and proud to be part of.

I love FIRE and everything it stands for. I believe taking charge of your life and your own happiness is an amazing thing that will bring joy to many people who would otherwise have suffered and been miserable in their jobs for most of their lives.

Recently, I have started questioning whether we as FIRE bloggers and FIRE practitioners could be even more ambitious than we currently are.

Challenging the focus on the individual

People in the FIRE community tend to focus on the individual. I do this myself all the time on the blog.

We make monthly reports on our net worth, we write about what financial independence means to us and what our ‘ideal weeks’ look like. Most articles on FIRE are focused on individual journeys.

Common for the majority of these articles is that the individual is the center of the story. At best it includes our family, our closest community or other personal finance bloggers.

Don’t get me wrong; this is amazing and it serves as inspiration to (hundreds of?) thousands of people every day.

I have rarely experienced such a big group of driven, intelligent and kind people as the ones I have met in the FIRE community (and more broadly in the personal finance sphere).

This is also why I have the feeling we can accomplish so much more than achieving our financial independence number, do a few side hustles and live happily ever after while documenting our retirement (this we should of course also do!).

What if we increasingly shifted our focus away from the success of the individual and instead towards our community, country and perhaps even humanity as a whole?

The bigger picture

In all developed and developing countries across the world we see people living in poverty who can’t afford to feed their families. Mental illness is on the rise and people are more unhappy than ever before.

Humanity is facing the biggest crisis in the history of humankind with climate change. The irreversible damage it will do to life as we know it with extreme weather and millions of climate refugees is incomprehensible. Combine this with rapid technological change e.g. making the working class useless and an ongoing nuclear arms race, it’s no longer something anyone can ignore.

Who will find the global solutions needed to solve these global problems so our grandchildren can enjoy the benefits of FIRE as we know it? I don’t believe our politicians will (remember, greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing despite centuries of promises).

Can the FIRE movement take on bigger challenges than teaching people how to become financially independence and retire early? I believe we at least have an obligation to try 🙂

So what should we do?

Alright, I know the FIRE movement is not going to solve these problems tomorrow. I might also paint a very dark picture of an otherwise in many other respects well-functioning world.

However, with all the knowledge, all the drive, all the power (our combined global reach is huge) and all the wealth our movement possess, is it time we start shifting our focus a little away from the individual and a bit more towards the bigger picture?

This is not a critique of anyone in the FIRE movement and I’m not saying we are egoistic or narrow-minded at all. I know there’s plenty of FIRE people out there who are doing amazing things for other people every single day.

I also know the whole purpose of FIRE is to be doing exactly what you want all the time, and if you don’t want to spend time on any of this it is totally fine by me.

The only thing I am asking is whether we as a community should start striving towards even bigger and better things for more people while still encouraging and reporting on the amazing individual achievements that form the basis of our movement.

I know I will challenge myself to think more broadly of what FIRE can actually do and what I can do as a future financially independent citizen of the world.

So what can we actually start doing as a community? I’m not sure, which is why I need your help, but even though it is a small thing, my first steps pre-FI have been to donate some of my blog profits to charity and start investing in ethical index funds rather than traditional index funds.

Your turn: What do you think? Should the FIRE movement become even more ambitious and strive towards solving bigger problems than today?



Roar November 21, 2019 - 22:55

We can make a difference so we should try.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

“With great power comes great responsibility” -Uncle Ben

Carl Jensen November 22, 2019 - 08:33

Excellent quotes! I also believe we can do more than we think. Just look at Greta 🙂

Peter Magistrale March 3, 2019 - 18:14

This is an exceptional thought. The FIRE movement will liberate thousands of people from making life decisions purely on money. What could thousands of highly motivated highly intelligent people achieve and what could they contribute to humanity? It could be the beginning of a Renaissance in America. I wrote about this subject recently here:

Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Carl Jensen March 3, 2019 - 22:24

You are very right – and interesting article you wrote. I also have high hopes for the FIRE movement even though we are still an extremely small group of people in the grand scheme of things 🙂

Mrs W February 4, 2019 - 13:17

Hi Carl,

This is an excellent post – we all tend to be too inward-looking. But imagine what we could do if we joined forces and tried to do something about all the problems in the world. There’s a guy who’s starting a website to try to bring people together to make some changes: Maybe you guys could join forces with him?

Carl Jensen February 4, 2019 - 22:37

Thanks, Mrs W! Sounds super interesting with Impactivated. I have just signed up – looking forward to hearing more about it 🙂

Mikael January 25, 2019 - 08:38

Carl – I love your thoughts!
Everyone is on their own journey and that is what makes all these blogs so interesting. Jakob Lund Fisker also comes to the conclusion in the recent documentary, where he points out, that he actually have too much money piled up, and he says he will donate it when he gets old.
The FIRE community have, as you say, a lot of money. But in the bigger picture it is a small amount. But the FIRE community has a even bigger power: our voices.
A lot of people reads these blogs and get inspired. My idea is, that we join forces in ONE idea to make a difference and inspire people to join. The idea must have it’s roots in financial independence. That is why I thought of the World Index Dividends Fund.

The plan is to create a foundation, which people can donate money to. FIRE blogs who want’s to join buys x amounts of an index fund which pays dividends. Every dividend is then donated to the foundation. In that way the FIRE blogger still gains profits from the statistical increase of the value from their index shares, but the dividend goes to work for a bigger cause. In the foundation the money donated are used to buy index funds and the dividends gets distributed: 70 percent is given to sustainable charity projects votes by the FIRE bloggers giving the money, and the last 30 % is reinvested.

Even though I know it is a tough idea to follow through and has potential problems regarding tax etc., the idea shows how early investments create a snowball effect, and reinvesting a bit of your profit can make a big difference over the years. The advantage for the bloggers who donates money is the possibility to vote in the foundation and to be a part of this new community. If the foundation is set up properly, they should even be able to deduct tax from the donations.

Sorry for the long comment. I just had the exact same thought about the FIRE movement a few weeks back.

An other idea could be anew tradition for the bloggers in the FIRE community. We select a date, where we all donate x amount of the past months profit from our blogs. (the blog profit is a great idea. I don’t think any bloggers started out thinking they could earn money on the blog nevertheless have they calculated this money in their budgets.). In that way we could penetrate the media like the movember movement, world AIDS day and so on.

Maybe we should attend a Fincon / FIWE convention in Europe together and make a speech? 🙂

Carl Jensen January 25, 2019 - 10:55

Mikael – what an excellent idea!

I also believe our voices are a big asset. Collectively, we reach millions of people each month 🙂

I love the idea of creating a foundation focused on donating and reinvesting dividends – this way it wouldn’t only be my profits I invest every year, but the snowball of my profits over time. As you say, I’m sure it would require a bit of work, as soon as you start receiving donations, handling money, investing and giving voting shares, there’s some legal entry barriers I would assume.

An alternative to creating a foundation would be to create a concept (like the one you describe with investing and donating the dividends), an easy way for bloggers to sign up and then broadcast the bloggers’ self-reported results on the website to show the impact we are creating.

It would be cool to make a speech about this together! I might not be able to travel so much this summer given we are having a baby, but I’ve been speaking publicly at conferences previously and would love to take part in something.


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