Money

Dispelling FIRE Myths

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A specific narrative pervades our society. There are many powerful interests that perpetuate it.

Get a “good education” (at any cost). Get a “good (i.e. high paying) job.”

Be a good consumer, buying the biggest house and nicest car you can afford (defined by the largest amount someone will lend you). Pay your taxes (income, property, sales, etc.)

Make sure you don’t forget to save a little so you can eventually, hopefully, retire in your 60’s or 70’s. Then you can stop working so hard and enjoy your life.

Hire a financial advisor to help you navigate this path. Don’t concern yourself with how or how much they are paid. Investing is complicated so their advice is necessary.

I think this narrative is bullshit! I wasted a decade believing a version of it. If I hadn’t found FIRE blogs and podcasts sharing different ideas, I would likely still be following that narrative.

So it is important to me not to preach to the FIRE choir. I want to reach outside this community to people who otherwise may not be receptive to these principles.

I’m trying to change other lives the way my life was changed. That requires me to meet people where they are, which often means first addressing misconceptions about what FIRE is.

Changing Behaviors

I originally thought changing financial behavior was simply a matter of financial education. But all the knowledge in the world is useless if you don’t act on it. And it is hard to take action if you don’t first believe a different way forward is possible.

As I attempt to spread the principles of FIRE to people unaware of the concept, I don’t start by talking about financial tactics and FIRE principles. Instead, I use the power of personal stories to get people to drop their skepticism and ponder the possibilities.

I used this tactic in the Choose FI book. It was the tactic I used in a recent talk I gave at the Bogleheads conference.

Addressing FIRE Skepticism

I assumed when giving this talk to the Bogleheads that the audience would be skeptical of FIRE. So the primary theme of the talk was dispelling FIRE myths. I was nervous about how the talk would land.

On the eve of the conference, a number of speakers and organizers had a private dinner.

One told me he was surprised to see someone at a Bogleheads conference talking about FIRE.
“Aren’t you the crypto people?”

Two others thought some things they read about FIRE were interesting. But it all seemed “so extreme.”

As the evening went on my nervousness subsided. My confidence grew. I prepared the talk this audience needed to hear.

I hope you agree that I presented FIRE in a way that is approachable and attractive to people previously unaware of FIRE. If so, please share it with those people in your life who may be receptive.

You can find my full talk embedded below:

For regular readers of the blog and followers of my work, there were many other great talks at the Bogleheads Conference that will likely be of more value to you as you manage your own investments and navigate your personal finances. You can find all of the talks and panels from the 2022 Bogleheads Conference by clicking through this link.

Enjoy and happy holidays to you and yours!

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at chris@caniretireyet.com.]

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