The Rat Race to FIRE

During a rather fun weekend with 19 other FIRE enthusiasts in a castle in Limburg, the Netherlands, we had many conversations about FIRE. Primarily the “soft” side of it. There are many aspects of FIRE that are simple, such as spend less then you make and invest the rest. But the mental side can be challenging. It’s easy to get lost into the rat race to FIRE!

The FIRE Joneses?

“We” in the FIRE community sometimes pride ourselves of being able to get away from the rat race. “We” often pride ourselves of not becoming like “the joneses”. But we sometimes (unintentionally?) get back into a rat race, a rat race to FIRE!

It seems to be in our nature to compare ourselves to others. This might not always be a bad thing, but you have to be careful to not let it control your life, your journey to FIRE, your HOT journey, or whatever else you are striving for to make your life better for that matter.

Savings Rate

One of the metrics people often use to define how well they are doing on their journey to FIRE is the savings rate. Here is also where the problem starts, because not everyone calculates their savings rate the same way. We define how we do this here. You don’t have to agree or do it the same way! But this makes comparing yourself to others rather pointless.

Plus, your savings rate is a reflection of two things: how much money you make and how little you can spend. The first one is heavily dependent on your type of work, education, entrepreneurial skills/success, (life) knowledge and/or luck in life (having health issues, disability or being born in war torn country is not helping for example).

The second one is more a personal choice. You ultimately decided how much money you want to spend to live comfortably. You decide where you want to live, what food you eat and how many times you take a holiday. You have control over this, use that. Make wise choices and explore your personal boundaries and comfort levels.

Everyone is different, celebrate this, don’t use it as a tool to compare yourself!

Net Worth

Another metric that is having some follow the rat race to FIRE is one’s net worth. Some people have a lot, and I mean a lot. Should you look at this with envy? NO, definitely not. It would only make you sad and demotivated (“I could never do that”). These folks either have had great success with their business(es), had amazing incomes, are older then you and have been investing a lot longer. Face it, life can be “unfair” sometimes!

So what should you do? Pick the people/bloggers that your admire and that have a similar lifestyle, and are in a similar position (i.e. job, family type, country, etc.). This should help you with more realistic goals and perhaps motivate you to work just a bit harder and stay focussed.

On a personal note, I’d love to be a (multi) millionaire too. It would give great financial security and choices in life. But ultimately we don’t need to be, we can do with less and still have a great life. That being said, it is just a matter of time before we become millionaires. That’s the power of investing and simple living (without being highly accomplished or hugely successful in business) . So it’s important that you start spending less and investing the money you have left (if you have not done so already).

Age

The final metric that is used in the rat race to FIRE is age. You can retire at a very young age. But you either need to have had an amazing income and/or be hugely successful in business. Whatever the reason, it’s just not for the majority of the people. Heck, even retiring in your 30’s is a challenge for the vast majority of people! You are privileged if you have been able to work your way into such a position.

I had a good chat with Miss Mazuma about retiring very young. Both of us agreed that it’s not (always) a good thing. There is nothing wrong with having to work a few years and experience the ups and downs of the job and life. Especially the downs make you appreciate what you have. It also makes you appreciate the control you have on your life with the money you saved and invested.

When I was in my 20’s I was pretty much clueless (as are most people). I wised up over the year and got control over my life (becoming a parent helps here too!). I’ve experienced things now that I wouldn’t had if I would have found the journey to FIRE at age 25 (when I graduated). For this I’m grateful. Although I would have loved to have bumped into the FIRE community sooner, obviously.

It’s your journey, try to enjoy it!

Whether you are on a journey to FIRE, HOT or something else, don’t forget to enjoy it! You will certainly appreciate all the hard work you put into it. Don’t focus on what others do, focus on what you can do and excel at that. Don’t get into the rat race to FIRE and compare yourself to others. It’s simply not worth it!

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20 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more! It’s a very real observation you call out here, my friend. Either we’re chasing others’ tails up the corporate ladder, or, we’re setting new bars for each other in the arena of FIRE. Relax? How can we, when there’s a savings rate, net worth, side hustles, and pajama parties to attend?

  2. Cool post, thanks a lot!
    Certainly, you can observe a certain obsession with savings rates, net worth figures and the age of early retirement. I fully share your perspective that all along the journey to financial independence, there should be fun and enjoyment not yet an other rat race 😉
    FIRE will be very individual for each and everyone of us. I am deeply convinced that it is impossible to apply a standard recipe which make it actually pointless to go with the KPIs mentioned before.
    All the best with you individual journey!
    Lukas – author of myfinancialfreedom.blog

    1. Thanks Lukas! Appreciate the comment and totally agree that there is only basics that are similar for everyone, but the details of the journey vary big time!

  3. As someone who is around the FI mark.and contemplating RE I think .It’s more than anything a race with yourself.

    When i read blogs of people with a fraction of their FIRE number saved I don’t take too much if what they say as being all that serious regarding fire.
    I have been working towards FI for over a decade and in that time my priorities and focus have changed. We all grow up and maybe FIRE isn’t for the very people who a focused on it now.

  4. Hi Mr/Mr.s CF,

    Nice post. I guess that human nature automatically drives us to compare among each other. Especially nowadays when we have access to tons of information on the internet. In the past, we may compare us with some neighbour, family member and it was all.

    The way that I see this comparison is that you can have 2 choices: First, complain about how life can be unfair and get frustrated with it. The second is to look what others have done and try to extract some lesson from it that would support my own path to FIRE. I belong to the second group, always trying to learn from others success.

    All the best and success on your journey to FIRE.

    Cheers!

  5. This story really hits the mark, thanks CF! I am now 38 and almost 50% FI (and it keeps going up faster every year). But I must say I sometimes feel I have money on my mind a bit too much; I really dislike letting go of my hard earned cash nowadays .

    On the other hand I am actually happy I did not know about the FIRE movement when I was in my mid twenties and had plenty of money to spend. I had many careless adventures all over the world, which I might not have done and had the memories from if I started being frugal already 15 years ago…

    1. I am also happy to have not cared about retirement in my twenties. But I am also glad I pulled the corporate plug at 34, only to decide to go back and make more Money later. FI allowed me to take 2-3 years off (well still in progress) and enjoy my spoils, recover from the rat race, travel the world. I am glad to go back for a few more years and work towards FatFire in the future. I realised being frugal is not how I want to live the remainder of my life.

      I don’t feel ‚privileged‘ to have reached FI at 34. Rather it was a string of good decisions and very hard work.

  6. Stop comparing yourself to other people… because everyone’s situation is different. There are so many factors that can influence your savings rate, net worth growth, and result in when you FIRE. For example, if you live in a lower cost living area vs. higher cost living area, or how much you’re getting paid, etc. It’s not an apple to apple comparison. Stop worrying about other people and just be happy with your progress. If anything, use other people’s stories as inspirations.

  7. Great post and funny to realise that there is something like the FIRE Joneses 😉

    It is one of the lessons I learned from the book ‘If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?’: comparing yourself to and competing with others doesn’t make you happy. Apart from the winner maybe, but that is only one person. So better concentrate on your own journey!

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