Are some people predisposed to embrace the FI mindset? Financial independence, money mindsetcommunity

Are Some People Predisposed to Embrace the FI Mindset?

Springtime in the mountains is a time of renewal, but it’s also a time of discovering the destruction that nature has wrought while everything was under a blanket of white. It’s discovering which trails are now blocked by rockfall, marred by erosion or washed out altogether. And — toughest for me — it’s seeing which trees fell during the winter. I definitely get attached to certain trees, and even name some of them — the Admiral, Medusa, the Gemini. Last weekend, while we were on our first real bike ride of the season, I noticed an absence in the skyline, and looked around frantically only to see the tree we’d secretly named the Wizard, and that I’d even more secretly always whisper-greeted as Dumbledore, lying on the ground, little more than a rotting, twisted, weather-bleached trunk. Circle of life and all that, sure. But it’s also sad, the absence of a friendly sentinel who’d marked my passage through space, and — more obviously when it’s gone — my passage through time. // The Evolution of our Early Retirement Vision, Summer 2016 Edition // How our thinking has evolved on our time, purpose and finances.

The Wizard (er, Dumbledore) in his former glory. Obviously he was a he.

When one of the majestic old-growth trees falls (even if it wasn’t technically alive any time recently), it’s a stark reminder that none of us are guaranteed any amount of time, even trees whose lifespans dwarf our own.

On some level, I think all of us who pursue early retirement know this.

We know we may not all get 80 or 90 years, and so we work hard to shift the timeline in our favor, increasing our chances of having as much free time as possible. There are plenty of people who prefer not to think this way, who look toward the future with blind faith. But we don’t.

I don’t believe this is the only thing we all have in common, though our lives may otherwise vary in every imaginable way.

What do YOU think we all have in common? And are certain people predisposed to embrace the financial independence mindset, while others are inherently ill-suited for it? Come chime in in the comments! I share my take below.

Are some people predisposed to embrace the FI mindset? Financial independence, money mindset

Calling a Splurge a Splurge

We jokingly call our higher spending era our baller years, but in truth we were only ballers in a few categories, namely travel, decent wine and fancy restaurant meals. Though the higher spending on travel was really just that we traveled, not how we traveled. We’d still stay at totally normal hotels and shop around for the best deals. And when we ate those expensive meals out, we still pulled up to the restaurants in our no-frills Honda Civic, wearing our <$60 shoes, me carrying a <$30 purse from DSW that had long since gone out of style. (Pro tip: Only buy black accessories. Then they’re passable forever.)

What we think saved us, and made it possible to transition into the early retirement mindset was that we never forgot what a splurge was. If we dropped serious cash on a meal, we knew we were dropping serious cash on it. The few very expensive things we ever bought — a Thomas Pink shirt for Mr. ONL, a Movado watch for me, a half bottle of Chateau d’Yquem — we viewed as massive treats, and didn’t shift our anchors to think that every shirt should cost $200, every watch should cost many times what a Timex costs (or that you need more than one or two), and every bottle of wine should be collectible, even if we could theoretically afford to pay those prices.

Meanwhile, some of the friends we might have stayed close to if we’d stayed on the other coast started to take those splurges in stride. They started to see a $200+ dinner as normal, a $300 purse as “just what a bag costs,” and whatever princely sum Blue Apron and others charge for a “home-cooked” meal as “totally worth it.”

Where Lifestyle Inflation Happens

I’m convinced that that’s the point where lifestyle inflation happens, not in the splurges themselves, which are fine in moderation and might be what we need to feel good about working hard at demanding jobs. No, where lifestyle inflation happens is that point where we forget that something is a splurge, and we let our anchors reset to make that thing our new baseline. 

And it’s where we stop splurging strategically, on those things that make us happiest (like travel and restaurant meals, and the occasional good bottle of wine), and start splurging on everything. If everything is a splurge, nothing is a splurge, or so it seems.

Somehow, we managed to never reset our anchors, even when we’ve been surrounded by people whose idea of a splurge has shifted considerably. We still think jeans should cost $40 at most (preferably less on sale or secondhand) despite having friends who think $200 is normal, and though I might tweet pictures of fancy salt, we’d never actually buy a $30 rock of Himalayan pink salt with coordinated grater with our own money.

@our_nextlife tweet

I bet some people reading think $40 for jeans is a ton, and others think we’re major cheapskates. The point isn’t that there is a “right” price for jeans, or anything else, but that we each have anchors that dictate what we think something is worth. And it’s easy not to notice when those anchors shift ever higher.

The Baseline Is What Matters

I’m not trying to downplay our spending in those baller years by talking about how it was limited to a few categories. We spent a lot on those splurges.

Confession: We had dinner at Per Se once. It was $1000. For two of us. It was amazing, and we’ll remember it forever, but we won’t blame you if you judge us, especially when I tell you that we also flew many hours to New York specifically to have that meal. I know.

I’m sure we sound like complete a-holes for dropping that kind of money, but we never for one second forgot that meal was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Which matters, because:

As long as you see a splurge as a splurge, it’s easy to let go of that spending, and just default back to your baseline spending.

In our case, even in our baller years, our baseline spending minus the splurges was pretty reasonable. I grocery shopped with coupons (don’t worry, I’m over that), we didn’t buy much stuff and what we did buy was deeply discounted, and we outsourced very little of our lives. It was actually pretty close to what we spend now, not counting the mortgage we’re no longer paying.

If we’d started seeing takeout dinner as a necessity, feeling like we couldn’t live without weekly maid service, or gotten in the habit of leasing a new car every few years because we deserve it, then our baseline spending would have looked and would probably still look very different. We’d probably be nowhere near retiring now. But because we kept the baseline low, it was actually easy to go from semi-regular big splurges to much less frequent small splurges once we understood the math on early retirement and realized we’d rather not work forever than live like ballers.

We attribute all of this not to some massive virtue (hi, I just said we dropped a grand on dinner), but to stubbornness. If you can get a perfectly good shirt for 20 bucks, our minds tell us it’s crazy to spend more than that. However, 20 bucks won’t get you a meal at Per Se, a trip to Japan or the chance to taste a Chateau d’Yquem, which is why we were cool with those splurges.

Are Some of Us Predisposed to This Mindset?

Thinking through all of this, and realizing that sticking stubbornly to our anchors is what allowed us to jive immediately with the FIRE mindset, made us wonder if this is something we all have in common. So that’s a question for you: Are you stubborn with your anchors, too? 

And something else that strikes us is that our lifestyle inflation was always strategic, a few dumb impulse buys notwithstanding. We didn’t start spending more on everything as soon as we could afford to, we just picked a few key areas that added value in the areas of life we care about most. So another question for you: Were you selective with your splurges or lifestyle inflation, too? 

That reasonable baseline spending is something we’re ultra grateful for now, especially whenever anyone asks us what we’ve had to sacrifice to achieve early retirement. We traded the fun of splurges for the thrill of checking off big financial milestones, but ultimately not all that much about our lives changed. So one last mindset question: Have you always had a level of baseline spending — your “enough” spending — that you could default to painlessly, even if you also splurged?

Observations on Our Mindset in Common

If there’s something that’s struck me more than anything else in meeting lots of FIers, it’s that we as a group seem to genuinely care less about impressing others than the average person. To be honest, with my gold star problem, I feel like the anomaly here. Although, despite my love of pats on the head, I’m also rebellious deep down, and can’t think of a single time outside of work when I’ve done something because someone else wanted me to. So maybe it’s that we’re more headstrong, not that we don’t care what others think. (Thoughts?)

We are also people who aren’t satisfied with the conventional wisdom, and probably drove our parents crazy as kids asking them “Why?” and “Why not?” We’re skeptics, and questioners, and if we get some inkling that there might be a better, faster, more efficient way to do something, we will walk away from the herd to do things differently.

Are There Some People Who Can’t Get to an FI Mindset?

This is a genuine question: Could everyone, if persuaded effectively, come around to an FI mindset? Maybe not in the first conversation, or the first 10 conversations, but eventually? Or are there some people who couldn’t get there? Perhaps people who:

Have overly malleable anchors, and let them shift too high

Are inclined to inflate their lifestyle across the board, not strategically

Refuse to see the difference between “enough” and splurges, between needs and wants? 

Care too much about what they project outwardly

Are just fine with the status quo

Or, people who:

Can make the mindset shift but can’t see a path out of their current financial situation, so don’t bother trying to reach financial independence

I remain an optimist that people can change, though not everyone does change. Change is hard, after all. Introspection, facing up to our weaknesses, changing ingrained behaviors — none of those are easy. But choosing not to take on those hard tasks isn’t the same as not being able to change a mindset.

Now It’s Your Turn!

So many questions in this post you could choose to answer! Please chime in with your sense of things in the comments! I’d love to know your take on anchors and baseline spending, and whether you think some people are more predisposed to the FI mindset than others. Also any other traits you think most of us on the FI path share? Fire away! (Bah dum bum.)


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118 replies »

  1. I am stubborn with my anchors, too, and love living below our means. I left my hometown to get away from other people’s expectations of me and live in a different country- and, as an expat, you’re always going to have a pass on fulfilling certain cultural obligations. My lifelong disregard of caring what other people think, however, is hitting a wall now that my children are teenagers. I do care what they think about me and how they experience their adolesence, and, since they know our financial situation, I get pushback on my choices, even if I frame them as enviromentalism or mindfulness. One of my kids has developed an affinity for not-on-sale designer labels– not my deal at all. Yet we can easily afford these clothes and it seems important to my child. It seems weird that I wear thrift store clothes and my kid wears new season brands… but I LOVE my used clothing finds and don’t want new…this is a dilemma now but they are only home for a few short years so atm I am trying to be indulgent and avoid the miserly label. Looking forward to not having to explain my frugal preferences to a critical at-home audience.

    • Both of those facts are super interesting — that you get to shirk expectations as an expat, and that you indulge your child’s desire for designer clothes! I love that you’re flexible in your approach and don’t insist others follow your financial philosophy. But I do wonder about your kid’s anchors moving forward if they get used to that level of clothing spending. Just a question. ;-)

  2. I totally agree that lifestyle inflation happens when you no longer treat splurges as splurges and they become your new normal for spending. My husband and I do not have the latest technology or buy the most expensive clothes, but we do occasionally splurge on a fancy dinner out or tickets to a concert. I think that it’s important to have those experiences. We love watching Chef’s Table and dream of someday going to one of those restaurants, but that will be a very special treat and never part of our baseline spending.

    • I hope you can enjoy some of those crazy innovative meals! I know it’s hard for frugal people to contemplate spending that much on a dinner, but if you think of it as a life list experience instead of basic nourishment, it feels much more worth it. :-) And since you’re not splurging on lots of things, you can afford a few of those life list meals.

  3. Yes! I agree with all the things you mention that make up the FI mindset. Great post!

    I have also developed a test to tell whether my friends or a person I just met are “ready” to hear about FIRE and can “take it.” If I ask them what they would do if they didn’t have a job and they look at me blankly then I quickly change the subject. If they respond with a gush of words about their ten projects on the back burner then I settle in to hear about it. I think a key ingredient to FI-ers is that they can imagine what it would be like to have freedom. And if you can create that vision for yourself then a lot of other things can fall in line.

    • Thanks! And I love that test. I especially love that you start with a question about their own lives, rather than starting with your story or vision, so you know right away if they’re open to hearing about what you’re doing. So smart!

  4. The most common thing is a love for frugality. Frugality is a prerequisite to retiring early. I am not near the highest paid in my company but i will be retiring the earliest because I’ve always been frugal, mostly to the dismay of my wife.

    • What’s your definition of frugality? Because we’ve never thought that we are frugal by any of the standard definitions, and yet we’re still here. ;-) I do wonder, if you mention the dismay of your wife, if your definition feels more to her like “cheapskate” than frugal? ;-)

      • Well she owns a Louis Vuitton purse so it’s all in the eye of the beholder. I am quite spendy by world standards. The US just has a distorted view of needs vs. wants.

        You can get to FI without being frugal with a high income. With one income and 3 others dependent one that one income, being frugal somewhat (we paid 371k for our house, is that frugal???) comes in handy.

        We saved even more when we had two incomes.

      • Ah, gotcha! And you’re totally right about our skewed view here about needs vs. wants. Not to mention the inflated prices on plenty of needs (we may just be acutely aware of this because of the mountain tax on things like natural gas).

  5. It’s interesting to me that you started out with the story of old Dumbledore. I can’t speak for all, but recognizing our mortality is one of the main drivers of our quest for FIRE. We know we won’t be healthy forever, so let’s get out and enjoy life, enjoy freedom, enjoy free choice while we still can. Excellent post, love your stuff!

    Curious, tho, how do you KNOW Dumbledore is a he? Tee hee.

    • Obviously I know Dumbledore was a he because we’d have conversations. ;-) Hahaha. And yeah, I think lots of us here are motivated by that sense of our own mortality. I look at it this way: We could let that bum us out, or we can get busy creating more free time! Glad many of us here are doing exactly that!

  6. To each their own but I feel like a splurge is fine if you’re not going into debt to enjoy it and you’re making a conscious decision. Lifestyle inflation happens when you spend more on things you don’t care about or are unaware you’re spending more. That’s the worst because you’re paying more but not even getting any benefit of the higher price!

    We enjoy the same splurges as you, and splurge the same way (for us the mantra is – get there cheap, stay reasonably cheap, but enjoy lavishly while you’re there), but we’re aware of the decisions we’re making and we can support them financially.

    Are people predisposed? I don’t think anything is predisposed but I do think more people are aware.

    • I totally agree with you on splurges. I love your motto, too! That matches our approach, at least on trips where there is spending involved. (Doesn’t apply to backpacking, for example.) ;-) It’s interesting to read people’s answers today, but my innate bias leans toward your thinking, that anyone could get to this mindset, but that some people are more aware/motivated/inspired/etc.

  7. I do wonder about this from time to time. It’s a combination of your personality and your upbringing. My sister and I had the same upbringing. Although I made my fair share of mistakes, I was overall more frugal. She was on the spendy side. We both saw the light of early retirement eventually, but it was funny to see how we each treated our money.

    • I do wonder how much upbringing matters. I mean, it CLEARLY does for some people, but I’ve seen plenty of people (me included) go in a very different direction from how they were raised, even if there was no hardship in their upbringing to influence later habits. But it’s pretty cool to hear that you and your sister ended up on the ER path, but through very different journeys!

  8. Hmmm. I think I’m pretty stubborn with my belief that FIRE isn’t the only pathway to contentment, satisfaction, or any of those things. Spendy people can be just as happy; and vice versa, IMHO. And I’m also pretty stubborn in my belief that it isn’t human nature to splurge in moderation.

    I do think that money, frugality, and FIRE come much more naturally to some people. It can be learned, but if it’s not your nature, I do think it’s more difficult for sure. Having people blaze the way and speak so freely about it helps. So thanks for that! Hugely and sincerely :)

    • I completely agree! I have known plenty of people who are completely happy working and spending. I don’t think one is better than the other, by any means. (And I do agree with splurging in moderation. It requires discipline, which is also not in our nature!) And I could us in that group of people for whom this mindset does not come naturally. But once we became convinced, we grew focused enough to overcome our ingrained thinking. So we’re more FIRE nurture than nature. ;-)

  9. “We’re skeptics, and questioners, and if we get some inkling that there might be a better, faster, more efficient way to do something, we will walk away from the herd to do things differently.”

    You bet. This is exactly who we’ve become (or maybe who we’ve always been). My favorite question has always been, “Why?”

    In college, I worked at the local grocery store where I had regular conversations with various professors/instructors, some of whom were well aware of my stubborn, questioning nature. At the end of one conversation, I was given some advice, advice that’s stuck with through the years…”Never stop asking why.”

    But I did stop asking why when I accepted lifestyle inflation. Had I really asked myself why we were spending so much on stuff that didn’t align with our values, I can’t say I have a good answer. The best I can do is “that’s what I thought we were supposed to be doing.” Thankfully, those days are long gone.

    This week, we took a look at our financial plan, which is similar to the way in which you have yours constructed. When we figured out a more efficient way to achieve one of our financial goals, it saved us 4 years! I hope I never stop questioning again. :)

    • I hope you’re not beating yourself up for your past decisions. We can’t expect ourselves to know every question to ask “Why?” to, all at one time! You’ve always been a skeptic and questioner, but you’ve had to work your way through all the many questions life throws at us. What matters is where you are now, and your resolve to live your life differently than the norm. :-)

  10. A good friend of mine often repeated that she couldn’t spend money on such and such a thing because of her ‘midwestern upbringing’. I didn’t grow up in the mid-west, but this resonated with me. I think if you are handed things easily in your childhood and teens, then you don’t appreciate the effort to earn things, like money and what that money can buy. Mr.N2S and I certainly have worked very hard to get to where we are right now. We’ve done a pretty decent job raising our sons to recognize the value in hard work as well. And as several commenters above have said, on occasional treat or splurge is harmless, if you continue to recognize it as a splurge and it doesn’t derail you financially or become your new normal.

    Predisposed? Maybe we are just more resistent than our cohorts in that we don’t find any value in a $300 or $500 purse when a $30 one is just fine. Geez, I don’t even carry a purse most days anyways. Or a $1,200 watch, when a $80-$120 one is fine. Who wears watches anymore? When we have ‘extra’ money, we don’t go shopping, we go investing!

    • So I guess I shouldn’t share that I grew up in the Midwest, too, and still was a part of that $1000 dinner! Hahaha. But I know what your friend means. ;-) And I’ll defend wearing watches in that it means less dependence on technology, and is also acceptable to look at in a meeting, unlike my phone! (I’ll not defend buying THAT watch. A $25 Timex will achieve the same thing!) And I love that saying: “We don’t go shopping, we go investing!” ;-)

  11. I hate the “you deserve it!” line. Why do I deserve a new car for graduating college? Why do I deserve a house? (Although based on the way things have been going that’s a mixed blessing at best). I’d rather deserve a lifetime of freedom to do whatever I want after working hard at a job.

    I would say some people are better primed for FI than others and that it centers on imagination. Those without imagination can’t wrap their brains around saving for someday and what their life would look like without working. I have an overly active imagination, so it’s easy to take information in and imagine what life would be like and see that FI is possible.

    • I mean, I get the “I deserve it” thinking, especially if you work 60+ hours a week, feel like you never see your family, and are always reachable. You feel like you should be able to do something nice for yourself as a reward for selling all your time and mind space to work. (Like, I’ll be honest — I think I deserve to retire early! I’ve worked super hard for many years, not spent all the money, and done a ton of planning. I don’t think I deserve it MORE than anyone else, though, which feels like an important distinction. When “I deserve it” really means “I deserve it more than you,” that’s when it’s a problem.)

      I like your imagination definition for FI predisposition. Because the money logic isn’t hard at all — the hard part is imagining something different for your life (or maybe that’s the easy part for those of us here!). ;-)

    • Call me biased, but I actually think the FI crowd are the most interesting people, the ones with all kinds of hobbies and interests. When someone tells me or shows no interest in early retirement, my first thought is, “wow, this person is so boring that a corporate cubicle is all they have in mind for their lives for decades???????”

  12. Yes! I truly believe some people are more predisposed to having a mindset compatible with FIRE!!

    And also, we are very similar to you with regards to seeing a splurge is still a splurge and not an everyday. Not quite on the same level as your $1,000 meal tab(!) but we went to Charleston a few months back and had a really lovely meal in a steakhouse there that cost us $200. It was expensive, we acknowledged it was expensive and not the norm and we went right back home to our meal planning and cost-conscious cooking at home.

    • (I know! That meal was crazy expensive. But we’d still say it was worth it.) ;-) That’s awesome you guys let yourselves splurge too, but without changing your baseline spending. If you can afford it, which you can, splurges can absolutely fit into a solid financial plan!

  13. Growing up my parents never had a lot of debt but they also spent every penny that came in as soon as it came in. The result was life revolved on getting to the next paycheque. It also meant that money spent to repaint the kitchen in the new colour fashion of that year, complete with new matching curtains and cupboard hardware, meant there was no money for things important to me, like a bike to ride to work as teenager. Life revolved around payday and the towering rages and fights stand out as the major feature of my parent’s marriage. I also got a lot of money that always had emotional strings attached. if my mother gave me $5 to spend for the next month I would hear “How could you do X after I gave you that $5, you ungrateful……!?!” I also had periods of time when I didn’t know where money for rent was coming from or how I would pay for my next meal as a young woman in school. I also had spells where I had only oatmeal and macaroni left for the last three days until payday. The worst was the period after a layoff where there was no paycheque coming in and the fair, horrible fear, about how we would survive. For me, having my own money meant I was free to do with it what I wanted with no emotional strings and mostly that was putting it away for an emergency to make sure I never had to go without food again. I am very frugal generally. I am not content without an emergency savings account, readily accessible but 100% secure. I can’t bring myself to spend money unless I have that. For me the best possible financial feeling is to pay off every credit card and utility and know I am in the clear, my savings account has been topped up, and I owe no one anything. If I have anything left over, then I spend it. It’s not virtue. Sometimes I wish I could just let go and spend $1000 on a meal. I just can’t. I’m too afraid.

    • I definitely know you’re not alone in having a financial philosophy that’s heavily colored by fear. And it makes total sense — you had a ton of financial insecurity in your upbringing, and how could that not influence you? I do hope you can allow yourself a few splurges here and there, and truly enjoy them, because you’ve worked hard to save for so long!

  14. I bought a Mercedes. There I said it out loud. I tend to feel embarrassed when I buy nice things. Even when I can afford it. I don’t do it to impress others. I just really liked the car and it was the same price as the Toyota but safer (there I go explaining again-hoping you won’t judge me). It thas taken me a long time to get to this place. Somehow I have survivor syndrome and think I shouldn’t have money because I have always had to be frugal…my whole life. It takes time to feel okay. And getting the car was a splurge.

    • IT’S OKAY! :-D But I understand that it’s hard to admit that stuff, especially in a space like this, where there are oodles of frugal people in every direction. ;-) Whether your car was safer or a better value, who cares! You bought it for you, you knew it was a splurge and (it sounds like) you didn’t go overboard in every area of your life. So congrats for being able to enjoy the rewards of your hard work!

  15. Back in the day, I didn’t know how to achieve FIRE, or that it was even a thing. I was naive enough to think that if I saved enough, I might live indefinitely off tax free muni bonds that were paying double digit interest. Well, then there was inflation, defaults (WPPS, whoops!), and interest rates plummeting to where they are now. The 1980s and ’90s were good to investors, and were my first two decades post college. By the end of the ’90s, I could project retiring at 50 without much effort. We saved automatically to capture the employer match, lived in appreciating homes, and were generally frugal, but chose to spend on our kids (music, private education, etc.) because we could, and because we decided it was in their best interests. Looking back, they were good choices.

    The 2000s hit and rained on the parade. ER would not be so easy to achieve, or so I thought, or it might not be on my own terms. Job loss, age discrimination, and the housing bubble came along with college expenses (kids, and my own as I went back to earn a Masters.) But the job, stocks, and housing markets recovered on their own schedules, not mine. Once our kids were out of college, we started maxing out employer retirement plans, and downsized our house, selling high. It seems we have achieved FI, but we still are working, though less than full time.

    Maybe the biggest contributors to FI predisposition have been being married to a spouse with a stable, well earning career, and education, which has been a huge enabler for both of us. Along with the automatic saving and general frugality mentioned above, we have achieved FI over a longer accumulation period than some. Perhaps we have also benefitted from some of the sequences of events, having been blessed with good market returns early, and being able to sell high in the real estate market.

    • First, it makes me super happy that you see the investments you made in your kids as good expenditures! So often I see people lament past spending, even if it added tremendous value to their or other people’s lives, and that bums me out. Money is a tool, and if we can’t use it to help others or enrich our lives, what’s the point?! And on the rest, it’s interesting to read about your trajectory. It sounds like you’ve all lived a pretty great life in those accumulation years, which is the best part of all. And now that you’re FI, do you have a plan to scale back work further, or are you both happy at the current level?

      • I lucked into working four days a week through a synergy between a serious family health issue and corporate management desiring reduced FTE in our office. I was glad to volunteer, and the boss hasn’t asked me to return to FT even though both situations have since resolved. He knows I could just walk away due to FI, so he treads lightly. I never had JLCollins’ FU money before, and it is sure nice. I wished I had it on several occasions before in my career, and just had to put up with distasteful situations.

        My wife is reducing her work hours to three days a week, the minimum needed to keep full benefits with her employer. One of us might need to work to keep benefits going forward (until Medicare at 65), as proposed changes in healthcare/insurance may be prohibitive without it. I am ready to stop working now, but she isn’t quite there yet. Maybe with more time off, she’ll appreciate the contrast vs working, and her thinking might come around. But working or not, we’re happy and blessed.

        A pretty good life during accumulation years? Ok, sure. We never missed out on anything important, and never lost a home to foreclosure, etc. But I stared at probable and actual job losses on several occasions. A number of years I was unemployed/underemployed in my 40s-50s. I wondered if I would ever be fully employed again in my profession due to age discrimination. Still, it has been networking with former coworkers/managers that has provided opportunities in the past 10+ years, people that valued my work. I had serious fears of retiring early, as in before FI.

      • Gotcha — good to know more of your backstory! And I don’t blame you guys at all for seriously eyeing continuing to work just for the sake of health care. We are exploring limited contract work we could do, essentially just to pay our insurance premiums, if it comes to that. Still hard to know how that will all shake out!

  16. Damn…you’re not joking when you say you had some baller years! I’m not judging — I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity like that dinner either, as long as I had the means.

    I wonder if it’s predisposition or just being ignorant about the other options available. I assumed I’d work until 65 so why not spend my money? It wasn’t until I learned about FIRE that I changed my ways. Until then, I didn’t have a problem with lifestyle inflation as long as it didn’t drive me into debt. Now that I’ve found a better use for my money, I’m much more price sensitive in my everyday expenses.

    Getting older also helps. As my friends have gotten married and had kids, I spend less time with them so it’s much easier to be a frugal weirdo. To them, I haven’t changed at all even though I spend way less money now.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t joking! ;-) And it’s cool to see how things can change back — I’m currently drinking a $5 Starbucks cold brew (paid for by work!) and it feels super luxurious. Hahahaha. And yeah, I tend to lean toward your thinking, too. I think people who aren’t on board with FI either just don’t have the info we have, or they have other priorities. I’ve said to people before who WANT to work forever, “Well then why don’t you spend more?!” You don’t get extra karma points for hoarding your money if you truly don’t need it because you have an income! And I know not everyone here will agree, but I think there’s nothing wrong with spending to enjoy life more, so long as you can afford it. :-)

  17. Interesting examination of your spending habits and attitudes. I totally agree with the idea that while one can allow some occasional splurges, the baseline spending can’t really change. For example, my family is going to France this summer: I think it is really important to take the 16 and 12 year olds travelling in Europe as a family while we still can. Yes. That is a splurge! However, we saved the money for the trip and now the trip is pretty much paid for already. But my primary goal remains the house paid off in 2019, so that’s where almost all the peak income I’m earning now is going (I’m committed to ‘gutting it out’ with the high paying job!)

    I’ve always been naturally frugal–not really sure where that came from, since my mother was all about having the right stuff–and as I became more conscious of FIRE in the last few years, one of the things that really helped me reorient my approach is to realize that I don’t want to be what Mr. Money Mustache calls the “consumer sucka”!

    I still remember when my former boss said about planning his wedding –it made he and his fiance feel like “two fat little piggies” when meeting with vendors–i.e., there to be feasted upon. Made an impression on me! The world works hard to separate us from our money, and the world is good at it. Every time I spend a bunch of money on dining out, etc., I feel as if the consumer culture has scored one on me and I don’t like that feeling. That I’ve been separated from my money almost by a con! If I carefully choose the spend, then I feel good about it, but otherwise I feel like a chump.

    • I totally get not wanting to feel like part of the capitalist consumer machine! (And I get sticking it out in a high-pressure job and paying off your house before you quit! Full support on that!) It’s interesting that you don’t know where your frugality came from — I do think it’s hard to figure out the origins of that stuff! My financial habits and mindset don’t match either of my parents’, and Mr. ONL’s habits match his parents’ NOW, but he was the way splurgier of the two of us when we first met. (Supports my belief that people can change, or at least change back.) ;-)

  18. Good questions.

    I think it isn’t all as bundled together as it may seem though.

    Some people think they can save their way to financial security. Others just decide to earn more. The end result may be the same, but the motivation is very different.

    Some people don’t spend because they are consciously being frugal, others just don’t feel compelled to buy lots of stuff. The end result may be the same, but the motivation is very different.

    Some people want to retire early to escape from something (a crap boss, a long commute, a meaningless role, whatever). Others want to escape to something (long term travel, a new career, stay at home parents, whatever. The end result may be the same, but the motivation is very different.

    Your “anchor” observation is very astute. I believe it is where we each define “normal” that has a large influence on how happy and content we are.

    The key point is what we choose to spend our money on doesn’t really matter, providing we can afford it without endangering our financial wellbeing. As J Money observed the other day, working is when we save, retirement is when we spend. Our baseline of “normal” heavily influences how comfortable that retirement will be, and potentially how long it can sustain us.

    Good post.

    • I wouldn’t say that I think it’s all bundled together, it’s really more a question! We’re not typical “savers” not hustle-at-all-costs folks, so I don’t know we fit on either end of the spectrum, and yet here we are! I think your point is super good, though, that people can come into FIRE from either end of the spectrum and arrive at the same destination with very different mindsets. Likewise on reasons for not spending, motivations to leave work, and the rest! And thanks! :-)

  19. “We’re skeptics, and questioners, and if we get some inkling that there might be a better, faster, more efficient way to do something, we will walk away from the herd to do things differently.”

    This hit the nail on the head. I’ve always looked at the world a little differently than everyone else. It didn’t stop me from falling down the consumerism trap but I was spending money on hobby supplies rather than designer clothes. I didn’t have the time I wanted to spend making things so I spent the money on supplies instead. I wasn’t interested in keeping up with the neighbors or impressing them. That was never my motivation.

    I didn’t learn frugality from my parents and it doesn’t come naturally to me. I watched my parents make big financial mistakes and I made financial mistakes right out of college. I learned from those mistakes originally. I had a couple of really frugal years and then I slid into lifestyle inflation and rewarding myself because I deserved it because my job sucked and being a single mother was hard.

    I’m making the changes now because I’m tired of not having time to do the things I really want to do.

    • I think what sets you apart from your parents is that you learned from those mistakes early and resolved to do things differently. We’ve ALL made mistakes, and I hope you don’t spend time lamenting them, but instead see how remarkable it is that you moved forward in a better direction! We’ve for SURE had the overspending on hobby items, too! (::cough, garage full of skis, cough::) ;-)

  20. I think certain people are more disposed for the saving lifestyle then others. I view it as similar to certain people are more predisposed to addictive behavior. As such some people can follow the FI lifestyle easier. In the same way weight loss comes easy to some and is a constant struggle for others. But I also think its possible for everyone, even if it can be more difficult.

    • I definitely want that to be true! I’d like to believe anyone CAN get to this mindset, even if they aren’t currently there for any number of reasons (haven’t heard about FI, don’t see how they could achieve it, etc.).

  21. For me personally, the two biggest contributors to my “FI compatibility” are a personality trait and a personal experience. The personality trait is straightforward: a high tolerance for delayed gratification. Anyone who’s saving enough to credibly be considered on a path to financial independence could obviously afford a more expensive lifestyle. So we’re all working harder than we have to today in order to reap a reward that’s in many cases a decade or more in the future.

    As for the personal experience… when my father was in his late 30’s he died in an accident, leaving my mother to take care of my four siblings and me. The situation was heartbreaking and very hard, but my parents had chosen to live conservatively with financial independence in mind (although my mother never called it that), so our house was paid off and their investment dividends were able to support us indefinitely. I don’t remember every worrying about finances growing up.

    I intend to live a long life and enjoy every minute of it, but if something *does* happen I’d like to be in a position to provide that same security to my survivors. Luckily, I work in an industry where I can save enough to provide that security while still living well and enjoying my job!

    To your last question, it would be interesting to tease apart the difference between someone who “isn’t compatible” with FI vs simply uninterested in the idea. That is, I know a lot of people who genuinely enjoy their jobs, or at a minimum enjoy the expensive lifestyle they lead more than they would a life of free time and relative poverty. My siblings all drive nicer cars than I do (a pretty low bar to clear, to be fair) even though they’re earlier in their careers and aren’t earning as much. And that’s fine — if somebody is happy with their life, I’m the last person to judge them because they have different values/priorities than I do! :)

    • Wow, what a traumatic experience that must have been, to lose your dad at a young age. But what a wonderful gift he gave you, both in providing for the famiy after he was gone, and in teaching you the value of FI. It’s fantastic you’ve carried that thinking forward into your own finances (even though it seems like your siblings haven’t done exactly the same). And yeah, we have the dumpiest cars among everyone in Mr. ONL’s family despite him being the oldest sibling and us earning the most. So we can relate to that! I agree with you, too, that what matters is if someone is happy with their life. There’s nothing wrong with high spending in my book, so long as you can truly afford it — and in fact most of us who rely on stock values and dividends for our passive income should be thankful that lots of people DO spend like that!

  22. Ooh a juicy topic!

    I am definitely pre-disposed to spending too much and wanting luxuries, despite growing up in a pragmatic, frugal home. So I believe it’s part of my innate personality. BUT, I do think you can change someone’s behaviors! My husband changed my behaviors from chronic over-spending to diligently saving and investing in our future.

    Because it doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to make consistent efforts to check in on my lifestyle inflation and do what I can to outsmart myself. So, I automatically invest my raises and bonuses so I don’t see them, and periodically we force ourselves to manually document our expenses to see where we’re creeping up.

    • I agree with you absolutely — we might be prewired one way, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change if we’re motivated. Good for you for being willing to make that change! And we feel your pain with having to consistently check ourselves. It does seem to get easier over time, but I don’t think that old wiring ever disappears.

  23. LaVar Ball says you’re not a big baller if you can’t afford his $495 basketball shoes, but I’d say $1000 NYC dinner for two gets you in the club! As for the FI mindset, I agree that some are more predisposed than others but does FIRE alone correlate to having a great life? I don’t buy that. For that I think it has more to do with autonomy, mastery & purpose (Dan Pink) and there are many ways to solve that problem that involve both work & play. It really depends on the individual. We are by no means frugal, but I’d like to think we’ve been deliberate. We certainly have had a plan that has turned into reality. We don’t have any idea how to turn nothing into a million dollars, but we definitely know how to take $100k and turn it into a million. Rinse and repeat and you end up being surprised at yourself. Lastly, I think non-conformity is a big attribute. Think Different. That applies even to the core FIRE followers. Your path is not mine, mine is not yours. Take what resonates and leave the rest behind. Ok another last, I’d say another attribute is open to learning from anybody. I look forward to your reading your blog (and a couple others) that make me re-examine how I might look at things differently. That’s why I’m REALLY looking forward to your next chapter, because the money part is really the easy part. What’s more interesting (to me at least) is learning what you guys do in 2018 and beyond. More posts about that!! And I hope that you will occasionally dust off that big baller mentality that I am sure lives inside both of you.

    • So funny how relative that stuff is, because I would never in a million years pay $500 for a pair of shoes! Do they help me jump high enough to reach the moon? Maybe THEN I would consider it. ;-) But yeah, we’ve also spent amounts on meals that plenty of people would find shocking. Haha.

      I think you’re totally right that none of this necessarily relates to happiness itself, though of course not having to work does reduce UNhappiness. ;-) I think happiness is a whole other thing, and something we’ll absolutely keep writing about. And not to worry re: 2018 and beyond — we are absolutely going to keep writing, and have a ton of post ideas for things we can’t write about now because they give away too much, but can share once we’re “out.” So much more to come!

      Also, I LOVE your point about being to learn from anyone. I think that’s super true of so many of us. I’m always amazed when I hear from folks here who’ve been retired for years and read anyway. Like “What could we possibly have to say that you find interesting?!” I really admire that openness!

  24. Resetting your anchors seems to be a rite of passage for most physicians upon residency completion. Delayed gratification is the mantra for years, and it’s almost expected that you’ll spend the pot of gold when you get to the end of the training rainbow.

    We were more likely to splurge in the first few years out, but the anchors never moved. Over on Budgets are Sexy today, J$ lists the frugal habits of millionaires, and I can still check almost all those boxes. Apparently we overspend on travel, and I’m OK with that.


    • I totally see that, given that you guys have this “light at the end of the tunnel,” extra-long schooling experience. So you get extra high fives for not adjusting your anchors, and for recognizing the splurges as splurges! I’m sure that seems natural to many of us here, but it’s certainly not the norm more broadly!

  25. I love this topic! Let’s get the most important thing out of the way: How was Per Se??? I haven’t been there yet but lately they’ve been getting some bad press.

    I think a lot about why someone is good at money and another isn’t. For example, my sister and I grew up in the same house, and yet, we couldn’t be more different with our money. So, what’s up with that? I believe there are predisposed traits that enhance the FI mentality:

    -The ability to think systematically. Can you see the big picture? Can you break that down into steps? Can you see how certain behaviors yield certain consequences? Do you understand opportunity cost? Is it a happy accident many of the folks on this track are STEM people?

    -A strong sense of self. Lots of spending happens due to emotionally reasons, not logic. If you understand what makes you happy and don’t need to fill a void, you won’t have a problem with confusing splurges as normal spending or keeping up with the Joneses. Our culture doesn’t encourage introspection, but if you’re naturally that way, I think it’s a lot easier to knowing who you really are and what makes you tick.

    -A realistic outlook. I find many people are overly optimistic about things just ‘working out for them’. Maybe they’ll find a rich spouse, or inherit some money, or win the lottery. The ones who aren’t afraid to face reality are the ones who will be more motivated to execute a plan, even if it’s difficult.

    Note on the jeans thing:
    $40 is nothing for me in terms of jeans, because I know I can’t get ones that meet my criteria at that price. I’ve been super picky and discerning since birth. Like, my dad would drop me off at the mall to buy school clothes and I’d emerge empty-handed. If I didn’t find the right thing, then I didn’t want it.

    • We were lucky to go to Per Se well before the bad press began, and it was absolutely incredible. The food, the service, the wine, getting to see the kitchen… totally a life list event.

      I definitely think there’s something to the idea of seeing the big picture and thinking systematically. Neither of us work in tech, but it’s still how we think, and we both COULD have gone into tech if we’d felt like it. The introspection and realism note is one that I for sure THINK should be true of all of us, but I have for sure met some exceptions in this space. Though my sense is that those folks at least had realistic, introspective partners. ;-) And I love that you have a clothes shopping approach that works for you. I’ve become pickier over time, but then I still hit a point of “But I just need some jeans!” And then I buy some imperfect cheap pair out of desperation. ;-)

  26. There are so many interesting directions one could go with comments on this post. I wonder myself sometimes… Nature or nurture? How did some of us become so practical? Note – I dislike the world frugal for a lot of reasons – some folks who say they are frugal can be condescending to folks who aren’t and folks who are spendy may think frugal people are cheap as %^&k. I like to think of myself as practical and mindful and hopefully that keeps away those negative connotations. Personally, I’ve been guilty of throwing money at my problems over the years – for example, an unhealthy relationship, and reset my anchor to try and fix it. Silly me. I think maybe a lot of FI folks may have realized early on that if you are responsible with your money, you are free to pursue happiness on your own terms. Even though I’ve veered off the path from time to time and cluelessly took forever to figure out this was a possibility, I intuitively always knew that freedom to live life on my own terms was worth mindful and practical spending.

    • Oh yeah, frugal is a bee in my bonnet in a big way. First because it means something different to everyone, and second because I think frugality without necessity is TOTALLY different than if you’re truly poor and have no other choice. I don’t think those of us with resources should get to brag about our frugality when it’s fundamentally a choice and essentially a hobby, not a do-or-die like it is for plenty of people. But now I’ll get off my soapbox. :-)

      • YES. Get on your soapbox all you want – it’s your blog. We have so much gosh darn privilege (in real life I would curse, but I’ll respect how polite you are in your blog) – that these choices between different levels of pure abundance are kind of silly sometimes. Behavioral economics and other fields of study shows how much poverty can rewire folks’ brains further making choices difficult.

      • Truth. It makes me nuts whenever someone says or writes that a poor person is a fool for not making the same choices the privileged person is making, with zero clue that you can’t even begin to do an apples-to-apples comparison.

  27. For us, it was less about changing than staying the same. We were both raised in lower middle class families and never got used to a baller lifestyle. Being in fancy places makes me downright uncomfortable most of the time. When we finished school, there was some pressure to keep up with our friends and coworkers, but even more to not seem like we were too good for our families. We live a wonderful life, but try really, really (really) hard to seem as normal as possible and not forget where we came from.

    • I think never having had the baller phase is a GOOD thing. I sometimes worry that we’ll default back to that, and it worries me. While you’ve only ever had one mode, so there’s not the same concern!

  28. I grew up as a person who was 1000% into conventional wisdom, and neeeever questioned my parents because oh my goodness, you don’t question traditional Asian parents when you’re young. I grew into being able to have conversations with them, and discussions where we didn’t agree but were able to civilly disagree, but it took quite a bit of work.

    I did grow up as a person who didn’t care *that much* for what people thought of me, though, whether it was about my non-conventional hobbies or how I dressed (like the least fashionable person in existence). I’d think that trait is maybe one of the most important ones for being open to picking your own path.

    Can’t decide if that means I was persuadable or already predisposed to being persuadable.

    • It’s an interesting question! Plus I also know that you won’t feel comfortable FIREing until you’re got boatloads and boatloads saved, which I think makes you a unicorn here, too. ;-) And your note about least fashionable is making me wonder if there are any FIRE people anywhere who are fashionable, or if we can all pick each other out by our frumpiness? Hahahaahaha.

  29. Out of my experience, having early on in life an idea of what money is and how to handle money might be what drives people to be money and budget aware adults. Needing to make some money choices early on in life creates that habit.

    That being said, once I started to make money, I did splurge on travel and experiences… (recurring theme in the community?). My anchors were guarded by my parents and by regular budget checks.

    Add to that a mindset that worries and thinks about the future: will I keep my job in a recession, what if something bad happens, will pensions last. That makes you save.

    It then takes some serendipity to find FIRE blogs and off you go…!

    • Yeah, I don’t know! I got lots of money coaching early on, but I still ran up some very dumb credit card debt. But I guess I did bounce back from that quickly, which perhaps I wouldn’t otherwise have done. It’s interesting you mention the worry as a motivator to save — I definitely see that, but I find it fascinating that that has not generally been my pattern, though I clearly worry about some of the same things. It’s been more of a motivator in my case to find a cheaper apartment than I could afford and eventually buy a cheaper condo than we could afford and eventually a cheaper forever house than we could afford. I answered the worry by focusing on spending less, not saving more.

      • This makes me think: what is the difference between focus on save more or spend less. In my case, focus on saving more happend by being more intentional on my spending. Maybe it is the same, just expressed differently (like FI or RE… :-) )

        And I do think that the lessons we got were the theory, then you practice and make mistakes.

      • I definitely agree that theory is different from practice! And I think about this question a lot, too, of whether it’s better to come at all of this from a saving perspective or a spending less perspective. They get us to the same place, but I think they are very different. So interesting!

      • I could definitely change my mind on this, but right now it feels like the difference between focusing on a problem vs. focusing on a solution. It’s not a perfect analogy, but a primary focus on saving seems more like a solution-oriented mindset vs. focusing on spending less which is more based on a problem. But again, not at all attached to that distinction. ;-) What do you think?

      • That makes sense to addressing the problem – the spending – you get to save more. With hindsight, that is probably what I was doing – I had a budget sheet that allowed me first to stay in budget and then have money left to save. And to track results, I was measuring the savings, the visible part of the equation.

      • Fortunately, I don’t think one is right and the other is wrong. Any way you come to FI is good! ;-)

  30. My husband and I are just starting to look at, discuss the possibility of, and work towards FI, and we are definitely coming out of what you describe as “baller” years. I grew up with a *very* frugal mother, who instilled in me early on that a shirt never costs more than $25, pants shouldn’t be more than $40 (Where did this number come from? It matches yours exactly!), and a dress should preferably never exceed $50.

    We have a baseline, autopilot level of spending that actually is very close to the Frugalwoods’s expense report (minus mortgage/rent), but our initial income is, I’m guessing, much lower, which means our savings rate isn’t as high as I’d like it to be. However, we, like you used to, do strategic splurging. Recently, we went to Restaurant Gordon Ramsey while in London and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Saint-Germain in Paris. Both trips were done extremely frugally otherwise, and we acknowledged that these were major splurges for us. Travel and restaurants continue to be our weakness, but we also search for ways to cut corners in other places to afford those (By the way, how was Per Se?? I’m salivating just thinking about it!)

    The thing I notice in my friends who are not receptive to the idea of FIRE is the “treat yourself” mentality. They think that they deserve better than what they have so they treat themselves frequently to new experiences or things without realizing that they’ve changed their baseline/”moved the anchor.” Typically they’re so bogged down by debt (student loans plague most of them) that they can see no way out so the treats also become their way of forgetting reality. It’s difficult to convince someone who’s never seen a life other than one filled with debt that there is an alternative path and that debt doesn’t have to be their narrative just because it’s how they or their family has always lived.

    • Oh man, you went to Joel Robuchon!! You know we’re jealous about that! We opened his place in Las Vegas after we had started to reform our ways, so we’ve never tasted his food. But Per Se was incredible. This was before it started getting bad press, when it was still completely on top of its game, and not only was the food extraordinary, the service was unbelievably personalized. At the end, they took us back into the kitchen, and we got to watch the live videoconference with the French Laundry kitchen. It was pretty rad. :-)

      As for your friends, perhaps when they see you guys achieve your independence, they’ll have a concrete example and change their ways. In the meantime, there’s no harm in mentioning small hints, like that you’re so much happier now that you are only spending money on things that truly bring you long-term happiness. ;-)

  31. I think people fall into 2 main categories – those who will never have enough and those that know when is enough. There is probably a 3rd larger group who have not decided where they fall. This is not just about money. It can involve many habits and vices.

    Maybe you can think of the 1st group as people with an anchor point well above their means. They will indulge any chance they get, and let the consequences be damned. Unless they are trust fund babies, they will not reach FI, and maybe not even then.

    The 2nd group has thought about what makes them happy and figured out what that looks like. They are probably aware of the trade offs that are needed to get more. I personally don’t want to work 80 hour weeks and spout management-ese, but I could make a lot more money if I did. Or listened to too much Sheryl Crow, “Be happy with what you’ve got.” It would be much easier to agree if I had SC’s money, however.

    • I think that’s almost certainly true by default, though I think (or at least I’d like to think) that people could switch to the “enough” group with the proper jolt. Like I’ve known people who’ve changed massive things about themselves after illness or accidents or some other tragedies. But maybe I’m just being blindly optimistic! ;-)

  32. I enjoyed this post. I think some people come around to the FI mindset and others were born that way. I was obsessed with being FI since I started working a full-time job. I spend money on what makes me happy and on quality. For example, I only buy Johnson and Murphy shoes. They cost $100-$150. I wear them for 5-6 years. That is more frugal than buying $50 shoes that fall apart in one year. For jeans, I only buy Levi’s for $40. I guess shoes are different than jeans.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! And I think shoes ARE different from jeans. Jeans can last a super long time at a lower price, but I guess it makes sense that the things that keep us off the ground would cost more for equal quality. ;-)

  33. My baseline spending has definitely changed over time but I like to think it’s happened in a positive way. I used to spend way to much money on cheap clothes, shoes, make-up, etc. This meant I thought that a $20 pair of shoes was perfect but in actual fact they were just junk and would wear out in a month. Now I shop way less but try to focus more on quality that will last me years not months and might be a higher expense up front but will win the cost per use war. I still always try and wait for a sale though!
    I’ve also tried to keep lifestyle inflation in check by increasing my savings rate whenever I bring in more money. It’s too easy to get accustomed to a new income level and not even realize how much your spending has increased.

    • That was totally me, too. I fell into the cheapness trap instead of focusing on value. The cost-per-use metric is such a better way to look at things — and of course if you can get the price down for something high-quality, all the better! (BTW, this is my justification — cost-per-wear — for still paying more than the minimum for haircuts. But after we quit, I’ll probably cut it myself.) And high five for increasing your savings rate when you get raises — that’s the single biggest secret to our success, other than underbuying housing.

  34. I wont be commenting on this post other than I am glad I broke out of that “normal” and finally clued in to what a better FI future looked like. What I want to comment on is that the thought, length and detail that you put into every single post is staggering and impresses the heck outta me. You rock

    • Awww, thanks pal! :-D Appreciate that so much! And I’m so glad you broke out of that normal mindset, too!

  35. When I started following the FI scene I noticed right away an abundance of engineers. I think the consensus reason I got was that engineers focus on efficiency and are relatively well paid. Both of those qualities fit well with FI. My hunch is that, for some (not all), the engineering profession is a bit of a grind and worthy of being escaped.

    I’ve been wondering about myself lately, because none of my friends would consider me conventional / status quo. I’m a contrarian and a skeptic. With a significant lifestyle change I could probably in 5 years rather than 15, assuming I’d be willing to maintain that lifestyle for 40-50 years. So why don’t I do it?

    A few reasons off the top. First, there’s something to the intrinsic value of work. It’s true that I could work on my own terms with FI, but my current work is engaging and I wouldn’t trade it for entrepreneurship or side hustles. Second, I really like my lifestyle — not the extravagance but the freedom from any money worry. And I know if I continue to work to around 55, I’ll be able to continue this lifestyle indefinitely. To me, it’s a trade off. I’m choosing between 15 more years of work to live the current lifestyle indefinitely and 5 more years of work to live a different lifestyle.

    Finally, I’m going double contrarian! Is that an oxymoron? I’m a contrarian with regard to the conventional American dream (I don’t want a house), and after spending more time with FI blogs, the contrarian part of me bucks against the primacy of efficiency. I like a little inefficiency.

    Unfortunately, going double or triple contrarian means I’ll have a hard time being part of any particular “movement” … annoying personality flaw …

    • I’ve written before about how odd it is that we have this movement of contrarians, and yet it feels like, even as rule-breakers, we have this list of unwritten rules we’re all supposed to follow. ( So I definitely support the double contrarian thing, and applaud you for going your own way! We’re similar in that we could have retired already if we wanted to go super frugal, but we don’t. We like not living in a tiny house. We like having money to spend on travel and the occasional meal out. So while we aren’t willing to work as long as you are, we’re somewhere in between your point and the consensus spending level on ER. And I think on the “intrinsic value of work” point, that’s totally fair. I see that instead as “the importance of contributing in some way,” and we just plan to contribute differently after we leave our careers, not to check out from society. ;-)

  36. I raise my wand for Dumbledore, the tree.

    I think maybe stubborn folks can be predisposed to FIRE. As a lesbian, no matter what my choices in life are, they will be read as unconventional. So I just go ahead and make the choices I desire and use being a lesbian as an excuse. “Oh, I’m sorry. Lesbians don’t have to do x.” Works every time. ;)

    • Thanks. :-) And is it weird that I hope we get to a place not too long from now when you can’t make that excuse anymore because being a lesbian won’t be stigmatized anymore? ;-) Not that I want you to be held to conventional standards, but I just hope those conventional standards and judgments get tossed altogether as younger generations take over.

      • It is incredibly hard to imagine such a place. The backlash against us in the US and throughout the world has been intense since the US got marriage equality. The largest percentage of hate crimes in the US are committed against LGBTQIA folks. No matter how liberal the city we are the biggest target.

      • That is undoubtedly true. I guess my hope is that that view continues to become fringier and fringier (overall public opinion polls continue to show things shifting quickly in the right direction), and in not too long, those hate-filled folks will die off. Perhaps too optimistic, but I’m keeping hope alive.

  37. I love the way you think. It’s truly a joy to read your posts! I do think people are predisposed to finding the FI lifestyle if they are very goal oriented and constantly seeking a challenge. It fell into my lap after starting my first full time job. I let some of my anchors go once I started making money (mostly dining out and Amazon) until I realized nothing I was splurging on was making me happy. I eventually found my anchors again. I think people are on a broad spectrum when it comes to their mindsets and most often they find the path that suits their unique money story. For example, my fiance was raised in a household with very few splurges that was quite often in poverty. She worked hard to come to this country, get a good graduate degree with as little debt as possible, and find a high paying job that would ensure she never had to worry about money again. She has quite literally never given in to her desires but designed her life to be able to one day do just that. She is fulfilling her American dream and forging her own path.
    She is on board with planning for FI but I believe she would have eventually found it without me introducing her to it because of her nature. Her mindset of saving every dollar was never something she wanted but rather a necessity for survival. Unfortunately that leaves her feeling restricted in her splurges on our journey to FI, similar to how life was when she was growing up. I try incessantly to convince her to take vacation or buy something she wants. I think ultimately it comes down to perceiving a life of abundance or a life of depravation. It seems old mindsets die hard. My hope is that we find the right balance of spending and saving, enjoying life to the fullest on the ride to FI.
    Maybe other foreigners can relate to this. For me frugality and striving for FI is novel and fun, but for her it’s like taking a step back in time to a very unhappy upbringing. Frugality was a kick in the pants that I needed, for her it’s her nature. Anyways, just wanted to share some of our journey. I haven’t heard from anyone with a similar perspective but I’d love to hear your thoughts :) keep up the great posts!

    • Thanks so much! :-D Your comment reminded me of Penny at She Picks Up Pennies and her post on “the privilege of pretending.” It really ties into how frugality is a hobby for you, but feels elemental and existential to your fiance. On the surface, it may all look the same, but you’re coming from very different motivations and fears. What’s most important is that you recognize that difference and can communicate about it!

  38. You’re so right! It is such a privilege to pretend. Thank you for pointing me to that post :) have a wonderful week!