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 in 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.
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!
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).
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 years 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!