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A Reminder That What We’re All Doing Is Still Unfathomable to Most People

When you join the financial independence and early retirement community — either by writing a blog or reading blogs, or both — this interesting thing happens: You see or talk to lots of people doing the same thing you’re doing, working toward early retirement. And at some point, you forget how rare what we’re doing is, and the whole concept just starts to feel normal.

That for sure happened for us. Even though we’d never met another early retirement aspirant in real life prior to connecting with other bloggers and readers (other than our dads, but that was for different reasons). Even though we’d occasionally get funny looks, or the inevitable “How old are you?” when we’d tell seatmates on planes about our plans.

And that’s all human nature. We adapt to our surroundings. Even things we once found crazy can become our normal if we’re immersed in them. And this idea is nothing if not immersive. After most of us realize that we can shave actual decades off of our careers, it’s easy to become obsessed. Most of us go straight to the deep end and start doing everything we can to slash expenses and save faster. We read a ton about early retirement, devouring blogs well after we already understand all that we need to know financially to achieve our goals. (Thanks for that, by the way!)

If we’re lucky, we also start meeting other people doing what we’re doing in real life, and we think, “Look at all these other people doing what I’m doing! And they’re not weirdos!” (Except for Mr. 1500, of course. Huge weirdo.)

Early retirement/FIRE bloggers at FinCon16

My mask comes off Monday! Hanging at FinCon16 with the Mad Fientist (Brandon and his wife Jill), Joe from Retire by 40, Mr. 1500, Gwen from Fiery Millennials, Liz/Mrs. Frugalwoods, Mindy from Bigger Pockets and Brad from ChooseFI.

And realizing that all of these other people not so different from ourselves are actively pursuing and even achieving this huge, formidable life goal — well, it starts to see a lot less huge, and a lot less formidable. It just seems like what you do.


The last few weeks have been an intense time for us — the anxiety of preparing to give notice and actually doing it, the emotion of telling people we admire and love working with that we’re walking away and the relief of no longer carrying around this big secret — but through it, we’ve had an incredibly grounding and powerful reminder, too. And that’s what this post is all about.

A Reminder of How Unfathomable Early Retirement Still Is to Most People

Remembering That Our Normal Is Not Normal

Even with how relieved we’re both feeling, now that our news is out, there’s still a lot to process emotionally. I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to respond to every note that my firm’s leaders have sent me, because each one feels so big and momentous, and also because they feel like saying goodbye, and I’m not completely ready for that yet. (That’s part of why we gave two+ months of notice, so we’d have time to say our goodbyes properly.)

But beyond the personal sentiments in those notes, the thing that I’ve found most notable is how remarkable each note says what we’re doing is. And these are from people who outearn me. It feels wonderful to know that they are proud of me, of course, but what’s struck me is that people with even greater means than ours seem to be expressing some version of “I could never do that.” (No one has actually said that, and perhaps we’ve helped inspire some rethinking of life plans.)

And since those give notice conversations, we’ve talked to a few other people about what we’re doing who didn’t already know, and their responses have been hugely congratulatory. And, oddly, my first thought has been, Why should you congratulate us for doing something so normal?

Ohhhhhh, that’s right. This isn’t normal at all. 

Most people truly can’t fathom saving more than half of what they earn. (And I don’t buy that it’s just because they’re these mythical mindless consumer zombies.) Plenty of people can’t imagine not working, though I think their numbers are smaller, and the real perceived obstacle is in actually achieving early retirement, not just dreaming about it.

We used to know that, but along the line we forgot.

Remembering How Lucky We Are (#Gratitude)

I firmly believe that those of us who are able to pursue early retirement are the luckiest people who’ve ever lived. For most of human history, very basic concerns like obtaining food and shelter consumed most of our time and mind space. Most humans who’ve ever lived had very little in the way of free time, and basically knew a life of all work until death, whether that work was hunting and gathering, or practicing early agriculture, or even being enslaved. Then, as technology improved and we could be more efficient in our labor, some of us started to have a little free time, but the work itself was still intensely physical and back-breaking, and most people still only earned enough to subsist on. In the last century, work has become less physically demanding, with some of us starting to have no physical strain whatsoever in our jobs, but “retirement” was still a new concept, and not something that everyone achieved with any level of financial comfort.

It’s an extremely recent concept to be able to do work that doesn’t break our bodies or suck our souls, earn more than we need to survive, and retire young enough to be able to pursue things we dreamed of doing as kids. And even within this extremely recent concept, only a tiny fraction of us have both the means and the motivation to make early retirement a reality.

This is all something that we’ve known and felt grateful for throughout this journey, but people’s recent reactions to our news has cemented this for us in a much more visceral way. We feel it like we never have before.

We are so, so lucky, and so, so grateful.

Killing That Comparison Once and For All

When you join the early retirement echo chamber, you meet all these folks who are crazy extreme outliers by any societal definition, but who are just normal here. Folks who retired before age 35 — or even in their 20s. And in that whole “what you surround yourself with becomes normal” thinking, you forget that retiring by 35 is freakishly incomprehensible in the real world and just accept it. And maybe you even have thoughts like, “Wow, our retirement at 41 and 38 isn’t even special,” or you feel like you came late to the party. (Guilty!) Of course, those thoughts are bananas, but it’s easy to lose perspective.

Likewise, maybe you come in feeling pretty proud of how much of your income you’re saving. And then you read about people saving 60, 70, even 80 percent of their post-tax income, and suddenly your [insert your rate here] doesn’t feel so awesome — or maybe you even start to feel like you’re failing because you can’t save 70 percent. But the problem if you’re doing that is you’re comparing yourself to the wrong marker. That’s like saying that finishing a marathon isn’t good enough because you didn’t run it as fast as the world record holder. You still finished the marathon! (And maybe I’m just using this example because my marathon time was a sloooooooow 5:25. Hey, I was injured! And I finished!) ;-)

It’s so worthwhile to step out of our community sometimes and reground ourselves in the real world. A world where just being able to choose the timing of your own traditional retirement already puts you in the minority. A world where retiring any sooner than the average retirement age — 62 — is a big win. A world where just having an emergency fund saved puts you ahead of the masses — and gives you peace of mind most people never enjoy. A world where saving 20 or 30 percent of your income is already impressive and rare, and where saving more than 50 percent is essentially unthinkable.

So many of us here are beating many of those metrics, and maybe all of them. And that’s worth remembering.

Chime In!

Have you had any recent experiences lately that have reminded you how rare early retirement is? Or how lucky we all are? Or have just re-grounded you in the financial realities that most people fact that are so different from what we all become accustomed to after we change our mindsets and start planning for early retirement? Anyone reading want to chime in that early retirement IS bonkers and we’re all bonkers? ;-) All thoughts welcome! Let’s chat in the comments!

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127 replies »

  1. Reminds me of that line from Alice in Wonderland: “Have I gone mad?”
    “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely Bonkers. But I will tell you a secret, All the best people are.”

  2. I need this reminder every 4 months or so. I have been blogging about FIRE before anyone had a cool acronym for it. I don’t even remember people calling anything “personal finance” 11 years ago. We were “money bloggers.”

    It feels a lot more normal now because the idea has spread whether it was from Get Rich Slowly, Mr. Money Mustache, The Simple Dollar, or *gasp* a book. So it feels like it is starting to trend, but big growth doesn’t mean it is anywhere close to the masses.

    However for what it’s worth, a friend from college and his wife retired at 40 a couple of years ago to travel the world. It wasn’t inspired by me or my blog which is something we don’t talk about much.

    • I long for those pre-“FIRE” days, because I actually hate the acronym. Hahaha. (Unpopular opinion, I know. But you may have noticed I almost never use it.) And yeah, I think “more popular” is still completely relative. A big share of PF blogs are now focused on FI, but I think outside of our bubble, there’s still very little consciousness of this idea. As for your friend, how awesome that they pulled that off! See you at FinCon? (And will you please come say hi? I’m only like 50% sure I know what you look like.) ;-)

  3. The few people at work I talk to about early retirement worry about what they would do with their time instead of working. I will spend my time spending time with family, friends, volunteering, exercise, cooking, home improvement, vacations, reading, watching movies, etc. I do not worry about being bored in early retirement. However, I will keep working until I qualify for health insurance under retirement. Less than 8 years to go and retire at 48 years old!

      • I really think most people pursuing ER are in this camp of not being able to imagine being bored. And for folks who worry about boredom (or lack of purpose), no shame in continuing to work!

    • That is a mindset I still can’t understand, but I’ve talked to enough people who fear boredom to know that’s a legitimate concern for a lot of folks. I wonder if Gretchen Rubin should create another pseudoscience personality divide model based on the bored-or-not factor? Hahaha. But really, I do think there are those for whom boredom is a real concern, and those of us (overrepresented here in ER blogs!) who can’t imagine being bored!

      • The boredom fear strikes me as misplaced. I don’t think it’s actually boredom. Let’s walk through this scenario.

        You have enough money that you never need to work for money again. But you’ve been told what work you need to do your whole life, since kindergarten through college and then your working life. It’s a fear of freedom. Someone hands you freedom of time for the rest of your life, and that’s terrifying.

        • I’m sure you’re right that that’s true for some folks! Though I think, like with most things, that there are a range of reasons. Lots of folks have seen a friend or loved one retire, end up bored and aimless, and wish they could go back to work. You don’t have to be afraid of freedom to think that could happen to you. And I’ve even gotten emails from several early retirees who were super excited to retire, then got there, ended up bored, and went back to work because that felt like the best option.

  4. We are all bonkers but that is what makes it fun!

    A few weeks ago I was talking with a co-worker About a $1500 car repair. Short story – they didn’t know how to pay, I blurted out out use your emergency fund and they said “you have one of those?”

    Awkward and a good reminder that we are in our own little world where even having an emergency fund is normal.

    • Amen, brother! And yeah, most of us are SO far down the rabbit hole that we forget that even having a month’s of expenses saved up is a big deal for most folks. Even among six figure earning households, the number who save is extremely small.

  5. The ancedote I like to think about regarding Fi rarity comes from a co-worker. I plan to retire later then most in the community, at the rope age of fifty five. I remember hearing about 55 to retire as a little boy, it’s not even a community exclusive. And yet my coworker has bet me I won’t do it. He doesn’t think it’s possible… It really is a different perspective.

    • Yeah, it’s important to have that perspective, sad as we all may find it that folks believe something as reasonable as retiring at 55 is impossible. And of course I’d put my money on you beating that goal! ;-)

  6. I love the picture you took at FinCon! It’s also great to see many of the bloggers I follow in the picture. I can’t go this year, but next year is a possibility!

    I have to be honest and say that sometimes I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of me not working. My parents are almost 60, but they still work hard everyday and expect me to do the same. But I think working hard when I’m financially independent will be different from when I need a paycheck :)

    • If you can make it work, FinCon is well worth the trip! Definitely a highlight of my year last year!

      And on work, it’s slowly dawned on us that we’ll never stop working. We just won’t have to do it for money and can do things that are fun, like this blog! I bet it would be the same for you.

  7. I am so grateful I found the FIRE community roughly three years ago. But it can be easy to forget that this is not normal (especially since some of my IRL friends are on the FIRE path too).

    Watching my parents and their peers slowly start retiring has highlighted how what we are doing is so unique. Many of them are retiring uncertain about the finances, or cramming to learn now. I forget most people don’t spend their twenties reading and writing about personal finance.

    • Gosh, so true! Most people never spend ANY decade reading and writing about personal finance! And I think that has ended up being a big motivator behind this blog over time — trying to spread the word that this stuff doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating! The more we can all talk about this, the better.

  8. Sometimes we’ll casually ask, “so, is retirement anywhere in the near future?” and most people look at us like we’ve just asked them to strip naked in front of us. “Ugh, maybe when I’m 90…” seems to be the average response. When we say we’re thinking of (full) retirement in 10 years (which is a long time IMO!!) they are amazed. So yes, we’ve learned not to really talk about it that much because it seriously weirds people out. Once you drink the Koolaid, though, it feels so infinitely achievable!

    • Yes! I get exactly the same kind of responses, I’ve stopped bringing it up and try to skirt around it if anyone else does now. Unless I already know it’s a “safe” place for that kind of talk haha like a FIRE meetup.

      We are also looking at about 10 years (optimistically speaking) and hubs wants it to be like 2 haha but I said sorry babe, that’s what happens when we start late, we finish late too. This article was such great perspective that 40-ish is nowhere near “late”…

      • Send your husband over if he needs a pep talk, and I will provide it. 40ish IS NOWHERE NEAR “LATE”! ;-) And yeah, it bums me out that retirement has become such a scary and loaded term to folks. We’ve had more success broaching the topic in asking people what they want out of life and going from there, rather than leading with the money discussion, which triggers that knee-jerk defensiveness for a lot of people.

    • I can relate to both! Both how achievable this is, and how foreign it seems to most people. I do think it’s important to keep talking about it, though, just to demystify personal finance for folks who otherwise feel intimidated by it. Most people may not be able to retire early, but if they can at least retire with a little more security (especially because working until 90 is not realistic for most people, and 2/3 of everyone retires sooner than they plan or intend to), we will have done some good!

  9. I’m a new blogger, so I’ve been learned a TON about FIRE, frugality, etc. and I’ve started talking about these ideas to non-blogger friends. I was telling a friend about Frugalwoods and mentioned that I loved the idea of having a homestead. Her response: “That’s cool! What’s a homestead?”

    So incredibly easy to forgot that most people are not familiar with these ideas! Or that they will still you’re crazy after you explain :)

    • Hahaha. I don’t think homestead is in common parlance among anyone in cities, even the frugal ones, unless we’re talking about folks who’ve gotten into the back-to-the-land movement. ;-) But absolutely true that this stuff is foreign to most folks — but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to talk about it! You never know when you might inspire someone to learn more and change their life. :-)

  10. It’s funny because I also forget how “weird” our community is compared to most people! It usually happens when I’m talking to coworkers and they mention car payments or student loan payments, or other money frustrations. I’ve learned it’s best to keep my mouth shut instead of letting the cat out of the bag because it invites a loooot of questions. Once I had someone get downright aggressive, shooting off questions and rude comments like an interrogation. Ugh.

    • I’ve found that how we answer questions makes a big difference in how folks react. If we say something like, “We’d never take out a car loan,” that sounds judgy and folks will respond negatively. If we say, “We’d love to drive a newer car, but by still driving the 2004 Civic, we can put our money toward our life goals,” that leaves more room for questions and positive reactions. But there will always be folks who respond with hostility — we just haven’t encountered many of them lately, thank goodness! ;-)

  11. I’m so grateful we finally met last year and chatted about this. To be honest, I had already kind of considered that my husband and I might be in a unique position to quit working early, but I’d never been able to get my husband to see or admit that (especially HOW early) until you and I talked and you showed me that it can be reality. We’re still working towards a mid 2018 post ski season timeframe, yay! :)

    • The shift you guys have made makes me SOOOOOOOOOO happy! I’m super stoked for you that you were in a great position to pull this off so freaking fast, and that you get to join us only a few months after we pull the plug! (And after that, we have to swap ski trips to each others’ hoods!)

  12. Early retirement is definitely not normal in the clergy community. I’m learning to live with the critical comments my colleagues make when I mention it – and I’m going to retire at 60, which hardly counts as early! Whenever I get the “pastors should never retire” line, I always laugh to myself and wonder – when one of their parishoners announces she is pregnant, do they give her a lecture on the evils of overpopulation? Do they maintain it is wrong to have a baby, because not everyone can have a baby?

    • It’s so interesting to hear perspectives from folks in different communities! But I can definitely see how clergy in particular would not warm up to this idea. After all, you’re supposed to choose your path because it’s a calling, right? And then accept all the sacrifices that go with it, like a life of service — meaning your entire life. But I say good for you for creating your own path — especially because you will have done SO MUCH good by the time you retire at 60! You’ll always be able to feel good knowing that.

  13. Sometimes the echo chamber is bad (leads to likeminded thinking and lack of perspective, as you say thinking your normal is “normal”) but I think in this case the echo chamber is great – it keeps you on track, especially when FI becomes hard – and the end result is (presumably) good for you. It’s like being in a fitness echo chamber… it’s better! :)

    • Oh no doubt the echo chamber is great here (for the most part, not counting when the community does dumb things like shame people for not bike commuting to work in the winter on unsafe roads). But it’s still good to remember that it IS an echo chamber. ;-)

  14. I bet we are all a bit bonkers!

    I don’t have much luck speaking with others about FI let alone RE and I’m not even retiring that early (early 50’s). Most just don’t think retirement is in the cards until their late 60’s. Sad really. So I just keep trying to lead by example and hope the light bulb switches on for them someday.

    • Leading by example is a GREAT way to approach it! And giving examples of how doing X has made you feel more at peace, less stressed, more in control, etc. I’ve found that talking about how much better we FEEL, and not just numbers, invites people into the discussion more. But either way, we’re all still the wacky people of the bunch. ;-)

  15. Oh yeah, we’re all totally bonkers, and that’s what makes it so fun!

    It’s so easy to get stuck in the echo chamber and to forget that this isn’t normal for so many people! I’m absolutely guilty of feeling like I’ve failed if I’ve “only” saved 25% of my income some month because it’s not 80% and how in the hell am I going to be able to retire before 35 at that rate?? It’s good to be reminded that being able to think like that is a luxury in and of itself.

    Although I’ve been reminded this week at work that the FIRE mentality isn’t how most people approach life. A coworker is looking at buying a new car (“I’ll be happy if the payments are under $250/month”) and boy do I have Thoughts and Feelings about that. By which I mean I want to run around yelling “ahhhhh these casual suggestions I’m throwing out that you’re not listening to aren’t actually casual and I just want to help youuuuuuuu!”

    • Hahaha — I think all of us here have had those conversations at work! Like my recent convo with everyone who’s mentioned the new Tesla to me. “Have you crunched out the math to figure out how long it will take to come out ahead vs. just keeping your current car and buying gas?” (Shocker*: No one had. *sarcasm) And as for those comparisons, KNOCK IT OFF! ;-) Saving 25% is awesome, saving any more than that is crazy awesome, and don’t ever forget it!

  16. I appreciate this post. As a public educator who makes an average salary along with my husband in public education, it appears we’ll never make leaps and bounds toward early retirement in the way that others in higher paying professions do. We, however, have made leaps and bounds over a decade of changing our financial situation.

    So, while we can’t retire in our 30’s and maybe not even our 40’s we’re still ahead of the game in the grand scheme of things. Thank you for the reminder that we are still doing well despite it not being even remotely close to how well others are doing in the FIRE realm. There is still gratitude to be had!

    • I love this,it is good to keep perspective and be grateful we are have enough food, water etc. (Believe it or not but I think about this every day) I was bummed this week because I cut back my 403b contributions to 6% because I have had a ton of expenses lately and I won’t hit the max but then I thought of how far I have come in this year since I discovere FI and I felt better (I have always been a naturally frugal/ saver but didn’t have a clear goal) I might not be able to retire to 50 (45 stretch goal) but still better than average people I am if dont retire early by fire standars, everyone has their own path

      • Yeah, and remember that “by FIRE standards” is a crazy high bar. Retiring early by normal standards is still a HUGE achievement! ;-)

    • Glad it resonated with you! And I’m glad this provided a reminder that you guys are crushing it even if the timelines of a few extreme outliers on the internet don’t apply to you. Especially because it’s so much tougher to stay the course toward ER over decades than it is over a few years. So you guys deserve credit for a much bigger accomplishment!

  17. I just want to say THANK YOU for stepping off the beaten path and doing this ‘unfathomable’ thing and for documenting it on the blog. I’m so happy for your both and so grateful, too, to have been able to follow along on your journey and to learn from the two of you.

  18. Lately I’ve been reading through some of the Wealthy Accountant’s writing and I actually sent my husband a link to an article he wrote recently to the effect of “You’re an F-ing Failure if you haven’t retired by 30” (tongue firmly in cheek). I have such a tendency to think I’m in a race with everyone else once I’ve set my sites on something, but really, we’re all just running our own race. The bars we set for ourselves change with the years, our situation in life, our changing perspectives…

    Interestingly enough, while I know many people feel very isolated from the “real people” in their lives in their FI version, we’ve actually found many sympathetic and interested people in our small circle. We don’t generally talk specifics of $ amounts, but we’ve had many cool general conversations about saving more, freeing ourselves from the 9 to 5 (really more like “7 to 6” or more) routines, etc. It’s really cool to see everyone’s personal take and their own unique dreams of more freedom.

    I recently, too, saw an ad for a TV show about a man who was given 5 years to live at age 34 and it kind hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m 34. I’m hoping to retire (or semi-retire or something) in 5 years. It’s not a given that I get to do that. It truly is remarkable that I even have the option, and something not to be taken lightly.

    • I love your perspective! Though knowing that I could get what my dad has because we share the gene for his condition has been stressful, I’m also SO thankful to have had that as motivation not to wait until later to work on retiring. As you said, none of us are promised any amount of time, but I’ve been lucky in having a very in-my-face reminder about exactly what that could look like and when. So yeah, I know what you mean about seeing that show and it putting things in perspective! I also love that you have some folks in your immediate social circle with whom you can talk money and life goals! That must be a wonderful thing to feel like you have real life support, not just online support!

  19. Long time reader, first time commenter… just wanted to say I was also at the 5:20 marathon mark. Didn’t have an injury, just slow! But hey, we finished running 26.2 miles and that’s all that matters! :)

    • Absolutely that’s all that matters! I’m proud of my time, because I finished, and you should be, too! :-) (My only regret: they were all out of the snacks I was promised at the finish line by the time I got there. Hahaha.)

  20. Yeah, I too get a reminder every now and then of how unusual our plans are. I wish I could share the latest one, but it would cause me to share too many details (it’s hard staying anonymous!).

    But I remember another that really sunk in: every time I speak to a benefits person at an employer to change things, he or she looks at me like I have three heads. That’s when I know it really is unusual….so much so they never see it.

    I suppose I’m accustomed to being unusual; I’d say I almost enjoy it now.

    And yes, I couldn’t agree more with your perspective: we’re incredibly blessed and able to do what almost nobody in human history has been able to, whole living at a higher standard than ever before.

    I like to remember that on days when we’re stuck or making no progress.

    • That keeps happening to me. When I set my 401k contributions to 50% at my first job out of college, the HR rep at my company immediately contacted me to confirm this was a mistake and I must have meant 5%.

      • Ha! Yes, I had a moment like that once. ;-) Also, how crazy awesome that you saved so much so soon! It took me years to really get on board with saving.

    • I can So relate to the HR discussions. A few years ago, an HR person was hounding me to do a 401(k) info session, and I was like, “Oh, yeah, give my spot to somebody else. I’m already maxing,” and the response was, “What do you mean, ‘maxing’?” It would be funny if it wasn’t sad!

      I love your perspective, too, on staying grateful and remembering how lucky we are to be able to do this! Kudos to you for keeping that attitude!

  21. “Huge weirdo!”

    If you squint, you can see my dinosaurs in front of me on the ledge of the fire-pit. And I must warn you: they are coming to Dallas and are very protective of me. I’d watch your words ONLifers! One of them is a T-rex after all. :)

    But really, I wear my Weirdo badge with pride! FI has freed me to be who I really am. No more pretending.

    In any case, the dinosaurs and I will see you in Dallas. And remember, you may be a vegan, but the dinosaurs are not!

    • LOL — Thank you. This comment lived up to my high expectations. ;-) And fair warning — I may be partaking of some BBQ in Dallas… #wheninrome. Stoked to see you guys soon!

  22. I would have retired by age 45 with no problem at all if it were not for health insurance. My family and I are healthy (knock on wood) but I would not risk trying retirement without more clarity on healthcare. I knew the crap insurance also know as the affordable care act insurance was not going to last. So I continue to toil until now at age 53 and will work 23 more months until age 55 where I can latch onto my company’s Health plan in retirement. Somewhere I know there is an insurance executive laughing at me behind my back because I continue to pay crazy fees into his pockets. Its just sickening.

    • I definitely hear you on your ACA frustrations. It’s worth noting, though, that the ACA actually capped insurance profits for the first time ever, so they are making less than they have before. The seemingly higher costs are mostly a result of cost shifting because we’re now covering more people. So the insurance itself costs more, but the actual cost of care should moderate as fewer people are having to use emergency rooms for care that could have been prevented if they’d had insurance. The folks talking about the ACA as an insurance handout don’t actually understand what’s in the law and that abolishing it would result in higher insurance company profits, not lower.

      • Your reply on ACA is disappointing. The government has no responsibility to provide insurance and your last sentence proves how uniformed you are regarding ACA. It’s a prime example of your liberal bias showing up in your comments. First, profit is not a four letter word. Second, ACA premiums in many states are not affordable for the average person/family.
        You decide to focus on it’s not a handout and if abolished insurance company profits would be higher. Geez, why do you often decide to wear stupidity as a badge of honor!

        • I’ve been surprised in the best way possible how few of these there have been over the years! But yeah. ;-)

        • I totally agree Ms ONL. I was just thinking that the FIRE/Personal Finance community was pretty lucky so far when it comes to those comments. I hope it lasts (and doesnt become like youtube…).

        • I am not worried about this becoming troll central anytime soon. This community has too much love and support to share. Some of these negative comments always come over when we get media attention, and they’ll die back down again. :-)

  23. I just spent a week at Chautauqua, so I went ultra-deep into the fish bowl! Coming back out into the real world is strange, especially here in Ecuador where early retirement is even more of a pipe dream. Just having a well-paying job, taking care of your family, and living with financial stability is a welcome luxury.

    Given all of that, I think your comment on gratitude rings true the most to me. It humbles me, but it also inspires me to help others who want to improve their lives – whatever that means to them.

    Look forward to hanging out at FinCon! Hopefully there’s another cool firepit.

    • I bet living in Ecuador this year is putting a LOT of things in perspective for you guys! Even basic things that we take for granted in the U.S. aren’t true everywhere. And I’m super excited to hang out next week! Safe travels!

      • I was at the Chautauqua as well, and I found it great to be hanging out with like-minded people and talking openly about finance. There are other people out there who get it (and seem to drink a lot of beer). Another advantage of the Chautauqua is too meet so many different kinds of people who pursue FI; especially if they don’t live in the tech bubble like me.

        Gratitude is a big thing and was a recurring topic as well. I’m now experimenting with a gratitude journal. I’m grateful for living in a peaceful part of the world, for being able-minded and able-bodied, for being raised by frugal parents and for the internet were folks like you spread the ideas of FIRE … I know you don’t like the term, but you have to admit it’s catchy. :p … Chad, you can call it FIREpit … scnr

        • ;-) So glad you got to go commune with the FIers at the Chautauqua! So cool. And I love, too, that you’re focusing on gratitude. That practice is good for you mind AND your health!

  24. We’ve been on the Voyage for the past 7 years. Recently we’ve noticed so many of our friends and acquaintances who lament, “I’ll NEVER be able to retire!” or “I’ll probably have to keep working until I die.” There are those who can hardly stand the last ten years or so of their working careers, and they seem to look at us as if we had two (or four) heads! Also among our friends are those who have “retired” with little else than social security, and they pretty much can’t afford to do much. Guilt, guilt, guilt everywhere! Sometimes I just want to scream, “You KNEW this was coming, didn’t you?” Anyway, thanks for letting me rant with others who will understand ~ Lynn

    • We do understand! But I understand the other side, too, because I had that mentality for a long time. Financial information is purposely written to be intimidating so that you feel like you have to hire a pro to manage your money. And on top of that, humans are not wired to think long term, and favor short-term gratification. But all the more reason we should all keep spreading the good word so we can help more and more people at least get themselves a more secure traditional retirement, even if an early retirement isn’t realistic for everyone.

  25. This is why I finally started writing a blog – I’ve tried to even broach the topic of financial independence with people in real life (who make more than I do), and the concept is so weird and foreign that the conversation doesn’t go anywhere.

    In a world where people show off their brand new car (payments), talking about your financial successes seem weird and uncomfortable bragging. Interesting to think about what things would be like if people were sheepish about a brand new car instead of shouting it from the rooftops.

    • I definitely understand the challenge of trying to have the FI convo with non-converts! For what it’s worth, I’ve found the most common understanding if I talk not about the financial side at all, but just about wanting something different from life, and then planning everything we do, including our money, around reaching that goal. That way people get the inspiration first instead of feeling judged for their financial choices (not that you’re saying anything in a judgmental place, but people just tend to get instantly defensive on money stuff).

  26. Yes, I agree we can lose sight on how utter odd we appear to the rest of the world. But on the plus side everyone is sort of weird, it just manifests differently for everyone.

    Just one little fact check for you. You state “For most of human history, very basic concerns like obtaining food and shelter consumed most of our time and mind space. Most humans who’ve ever lived had very little in the way of free time, and basically knew a life of all work until death, whether that work was hunting and gathering, or practicing early agriculture, or even being enslaved.”

    Well that may be utter untrue. Check this out in the original affluent society (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society) “these studies show that hunter-gatherers need only work about fifteen to twenty hours a week in order to survive and may devote the rest of their time to leisure.”

    So perhaps we are just swinging back to the way things used to be. ;)

    • Yes! This is covered in the book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. He argues that the agricultural revolution worsened human beings lifestyle.

      • See my comment to Tim. When I studied anthro in school, this theory was widely believed to be false, and based on more recent conversation I’ve heard about the paleo diet, it seems that that’s still the belief — that this romanticization of paleolithic humans is not based in science.

    • I wouldn’t put too much stock in that theory. I studied anthropology, and this idea had been thoroughly debunked by the late 90s when I was in school. Also from that wikipedia page, under criticism: “Sahlins’ theory has been challenged by a number of scholars in the field of anthropology and archaeology. They assert that hunter-gatherer societies were not “affluent” but suffered from extremely high infant mortality, frequent disease, and perennial warfare. This appears to be true not only of historical foraging cultures, but also prehistoric and primeval ones.”

  27. GRATITUDE! All the feels of appreciation! Pinching myself!
    I know a few people IRL who are probably at least FI, but they have stepped on the hedonic treadmill sense reaching that point. One in particular doesn’t seem to understand that he can stop working well before his vested pension kicks in.
    I had an eye-opening conversation with my boss yesterday. He’s at least 25 years older than me and laments that he will never be able to retire. His wife is a school nurse and picked up a second job during the summer. Things are so tight that she wasn’t able to quit that second job and it’s causing strain for both of them and their relationship. I may not be very far on my FIRE Journey, but I will reach six figures for the second time next week, and that feels so amazing.

    • Aww, I love that! :-D And congrats on being on the verge of that big milestone!

      This is probably not a popular opinion in the FI community, but I think if people truly love buying more things and doing more expensive travel and activities, and think it’s worth it to keep working forever, great! I think any life plan is fine so long as it’s intentional. (And within reason on using resources — you know how I feel about our disposable culture!) But most of the time people spend mindlessly, feel trapped and then don’t see a way out — and that’s when it’s a big bummer. But all the more reason to keep leading by example!

  28. Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now!

    Wait, right. Focus. I was just remembering being a kid growing up in the cheap apartments, going to the laundromats with my mom because they were cheaper than our apartment’s washer and dryer. And now I have the literally awesome luxury of my own working washer and dryer that I can run whenever I need to without putting $3 in the slot.

    It’s easy to lose sight of how not normal our new normal is, but I remind myself periodically that while I love it, it’s also a huge change from the life and mentality we used to have. And that’s a good reminder, and catalyst, for more transformations. We’re not on the road to early retirement yet, not in my opinion, but we are absolutely willing to work on making that version of bonkers OUR version ;)

    And I’m slowly planting the seeds for my favorite cousins too. They’re all on the same hard grind forever road that I was on when in my 20s but I’m slowly pulling them like a mental tug of war over to our side. Early retirement is more fun when you have someone to share it with! (I’m just guessing.)

    • ;-) xoxoxo (And THANK YOU for taking me to Hamilton!! A highlight of the year for sure.)

      I really appreciate the recent convo we had about seeing all of this differently when you’re aware that financial peril is possible. I never had anything like real financial hardship in my life, but I was always aware that it was possible. And I’m aware that it’s possible again. So yeah, lots of those little things spark gratitude for me in a big way, too! I also love that you’re working on converting your cousins! I fully endorse. ;-)

  29. Normal no, but also not new. The FI movement goes back decades and even centuries, yet the lifestyle/benefits go unheeded by the majority. Lucky for me I ran into Paul Terhorst’s book long ago and many, many since. But why is it so hard for people to go down the path so brilliantly paved by others. The list go’s on, and on, and on. YMOYL, Tightwad Gazzette, Zelinski from years ago. Bernstein and Bogle from more recent. And don’t you think there is an over saturation of FIRE blogs out there now? Not quite to iPhone/Android app saturation levels, but more and more difficult to find ones that offer a differentiated & relatable view. I’m not too optimistic that even with the tools and info available that there will be a huge surge in this movement. Call me jaded … but the power of marketing and necessary gadgets is too strong. And finding purpose (whether paid or not) is ultimately the goal, so I have nothing but admiration for those that find work long into their life. I just have little sympathy for those that end up not at FI. It is so easy, just takes time and discipline. The later is maybe not so easy.

    • Not new, but even now, when FI feels so trendy (and also maybe saturated, as you said), it’s still a mostly unknown idea when we look around outside this bubble. So I think I differ from you in believing that most people who don’t pursue or achieve FI don’t get there because they don’t get the info. Financial services companies talk about how you need $5M to retire, which sounds totally ridiculous to most people (and even to us!) and scares people out of even trying. I don’t think we can blame people for it not occurring to them out of the blue. But I DO think we can try that much harder to spread the word! ;-)

  30. YES! I was just talking to my husband about these two things:

    1.” Plenty of people can’t imagine not working” – i cant tell you how many conversations I have had with people where it is clear that the issue is that they literally have no identity without work (I work in retirement services). I can see one more year syndrome maybe for me but NEVER worry about ‘what am I going to do if I don’t work?” I LOVE my job but it is not my identity at all. I will miss it but I will very quickly fill it with things I enjoy more AND with things I can contribute against that are more important to me (environment, education, etc).

    2. I am not one to care much for fancy stuff (meh debatable on travel or experiences but not so much material stuff ;)) – I work with a group of people for whom evidently the right car and house is particularly important to show that they ‘made it’ abroad. I admit sometimes in my head I go ‘how can these people afford all of that” because I ALWAYS assume that they are also saving as much or more than us ($130k – $140k a year). Then I remember that it is probably not the case for a lot of them and that is cool because they really don’t care much about retiring. They like things as they are (or they say that at least). For those that do both and make a ton of money I remember that it comes with a cost – their time and often their health. The single most important thing we have.

    And then, I read about the average salaries and savings rates (and I ca see from our clients their retirement balances) and I feel incredibly grateful. INCREDIBLY.

    Thank you for such reminders. I have been blessed with having people around me that achieve extraordinary things (billionaire entrepreneurs, top players in the world in our sport, super early retirees, etc) so it is helpful to realize that this is indeed, not normal.

    This is also why I have my life goals written and check them once a week at least – to remind ME what I decided was the life I wanted to craft based on what I think is success to ME. https://traveltravelandretire.com/2017/07/08/2017-mid-review-calm-after-the-storm/

    The only competition I have is with me – to be a better person that I was a moment before and to take steps towards reaching MY life goals for which money is a means to an end.

    As always, great post!

    • I love all of this. And I’ll add to your #2 that I don’t think most people don’t care about retiring, I think it just doesn’t occur to them that what we’re doing here is possible. We were certainly in that boat! We wanted to not have to work forever, but we didn’t have a roadmap to follow, and so we just spent most of our money! But once we could see the map and the destination, everything changed. So I think the best thing we can do for others (you included with your blog!) is keep helping others envision the destination and create their own map! If we can give more people that, I think we’ll see lots more folks do what we’re all doing!

  31. I discovered the FIRE community about 2 years ago. At the time the biggest benefit to me was it gave me a way to figure out if I could possibly retire and not run out of money. I’d never heard of the 4% rule-of-thumb and when I did it was music to my ears.

    I been down the rabbit hole since then – many of them in fact – and have learned a lot. I’ll barely retire early at 60 y/o but I now have confidence that I can successfully do it. That gives me peace. I’m not so stressed out about money and I’m not depressed thinking that I’ll never get out of this crazy rat race.

    • Retiring at 60 with peace of mind is a HUGE win! I’m thrilled for you that you’re making that happen! I know it’s easy to compare yourself to the freakish outliers online, but given that most people don’t even get to retire when they intend to, and most people have essentially no financial security in retirement, you’re going to be WAY ahead of the game. And you’ll sleep so much better every night of your life knowing that! Congrats!

    • As you should! I’m incredibly proud of my 5:25 time, because I FINISHED! And because I did every bit as much training to finish as did those who ran it in 3:00 or whatever faster time. ;-) (And, I’d add — In a weird way I actually feel *more* proud of a slow time because it means I’ve run for a longer amount of time than virtually anyone I know, ultrarunners notwithstanding.) ;-) Nice job!

  32. Yes, I’ve heard the line “I couldn’t do that” many, many, many times. I’ve been pretty open with many friends and colleagues about my situation. 42 now and just a few thousand under $1,000,000 all in an ETF portfolio.

    I’ve known many of these people for years and so they’ve known my path for a while and how I’ve done it. Along the way, I’ve repeatedly offered to show them how I saved my pennies, the stocks and now the balanced and diversified ETF portfolio makeup, the returns achieved year over year, and the consistency and relative low volatility I incurred. And yet for all of that, I still get “I couldn’t do that”. I just don’t understand. And yes, my reasons for sharing how I’ve done it all are somewhat selfish. It’s so much better to enjoy FIRE with friends than alone and the loneliness is what concerns me most considering how the drift in mindset has grown over time.

    For now, I continue to work as I feel the need to grow my nestegg to include all the needed buffers to feel safe however with the approximate 3 years to pulling the trigger completely remaining, I’ll need to consider how to tackle what you’ve done a super job at achieving. Building a network of like minded individuals to enjoy your time with. Your posts since you’ve started writing have been very helpful and now I just need to take the plunge as well so that I don’t end up in the end saying “I couldn’t do that” and instead can say “What took me so long?” LOL

    • I commend you for not giving up on your friends and continuing to try to share what you know! I think it’s easy not to understand the “I could never do that” mentality around saving for a huge goal like this, but I really think we all do this, just in different subjects. Lots of us think we couldn’t run a marathon, or write a book, or win a seat for elected office, or [FILL IN AUDACIOUS BUT ACTUALLY ACHIEVABLE GOAL HERE]. ;-) It’s all about what you want to focus your energy and attention on, and this will never be the thing for everyone.

      Thanks for the nice compliment! And don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel on community. I think there are going to be more opportunities for meetups (in fact, we’re going to be doing more next year!), so you can supplement what others are doing! ;-)

  33. The financial circumstances you find yourelf in are important factors. A good job, salary,benefits, etc. But its also about lifestyle and how much that’s going to cost you. The lifestyle stagnation ( at whatever applicable point in time you so decide) becomes a turning point. For me, it meant a lot to be be able to appreciate life with the same or less. And then you discover that its quite alright…this thing about living with same or less You begin to slow down and see how others are struggling to keep up / exceed the pace because of all their financial committments from increasing life-style creep-ups. Its here where you begin to appreciate truly the path you have taken. A huge peace of mind takes root and your don’t want to go back to those days of having to be concerned about one’s “future at the workplace” and all things worrisome related to that. But I am grateful for my job and what it has given me. I continue to do the best I can while executing my FIRE plan. When the time does come for me to do what you have just done (serving notice), it will be a natural consequence of what we had planned for. And then we move on to the part we all dream off and now are able to do – To Live and Embrace a Passion Filled Life.

    • I love your way of putting it: “a passion-filled life”! Lifestyle is absolutely key, but I think we can’t look at lifestyle in a vacuum. We’ve worked hard at demanding jobs for years, and I think it’s completely normal and understandable that we’d want to treat ourselves some of the time as a reward for that hard work. If you accept that work is inevitable until 65, then you’d be crazy NOT to treat yourself sometimes if you had the means to. (What good would your money even be, then?) Of course, we all know work until 65 isn’t inevitable, but that’s not obvious to most folks. Once you make that connection, it’s amazing how easy it is to give up the superfluous spending, but without making that connection, I totally sympathize with those who carry around a “treat yo’self” mentality.

  34. Over the weekend I said ‘I figure I’ve got 10 more years…’ and the person was skeptical, so I framed it as a career shift. I didn’t want to get into that it might be shifting out of a ‘career’. Ideally FI let’s me turn work into a contract position so I chose where and how much I work, which would be a career shift. :)

  35. My wake up call and realization about how abnormal our plans to retire early are always come when I look around and see both Mr. Adventure Rich’s parents and my parents (both in their mid-60s) working with no clear end in sight. I keep thinking our plans seem so “average” and un-extreme (likely retire in our 40s or so)… but in reality, they are radical and crazy!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

    • Good for you for keeping your eyes open and having that perspective! We’re so thankful that three out of our four parents are secure in their retirements, but yeah… the other is a big reminder of what a lot of people are facing!

  36. Perception is everything and the context is shaped by our environment. It’s nice to ground ourselves in reality every once in awhile to re-align that perspective. Maybe I did retire early but I think I am more financially independant. I think because I am still hustling my writing and photography that people believe I still work and have a job. The reality is I do it because I love it and it allows me to be involved in my passion of exploring and being outdoors. My hobby during my career was able to become my focus of that early retirement. Only my online FIRE community understands this and it is a bit weird at times I guess.

    • See, I think it’s no one’s job but yours to decide what label applies, so if you want to say “early retired,” then you get to say that! Who cares if someone else sees what you’re doing and calls that work? ;-) I’ll still look like I’m working, but it will only be on passion projects, and that equals retirement to me. ;-)

  37. I share our journey to Fi/Re with a close friend. I hope to influence him that it is possible. He’s coming around slowly, at least to the “Freedom” part of FiRe if not the actual retirement part.

    Just this week I stumbled on some numbers that very much are in line with this post. (See: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/07/how-much-the-average-family-has-saved-for-retirement-at-every-age.html )

    Mean retirement savings of families between 44 and 49: $81,347
    Median retirement savings of families between 44 and 49: $6,200

    Mean retirement savings of families between 50 and 55: $124,831
    Median retirement savings of families between 50 and 55: $8,000

    Mean retirement savings of families between 56 and 61: $163,577
    Median retirement savings of families between 56 and 61: $17,000

    And this related factoid: “In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), around 29% of households age 55 and older have neither retirement savings nor a pension. “

    • Those median numbers should scare the crap out of everyone, because those matter a whole lot more than the means, which are skewed by wealthy folks and people like all of us here. And that 29% of households over 55 who have no savings really should be expanded to include those who have *essentially* nothing, which is well over half. :-(

  38. I definitely need this reminder from time to time. Every time I hear about an FI blogger that has already retired or is about to, I feel both jealousy and a feeling of being somehow lesser, because I still have a few years to go to potentially “retire” in my mid 30s. Clearly, by normal standards that IS bonkers, as you said, but I get so caught up in the few extraordinary cases in our FI echo chamber that it feels inadequate. So, thanks for the reminder and helping me get back to a place of gratitude!

    • So glad I could help! :-) We all think this way sometimes, so don’t beat yourself up about it. But that’s like if we all compared our looks to supermodels, our intelligence to Einstein, and our sporting ability to Olympic gold medalists. ;-) Keep looking around at the real world whenever you feel discouraged.

  39. Thanks for another wonderful post!

    I’m finally ready to claim my virtual medal, I read all the comments as well because obsessive is my middle name. I actually caught up about a week and a half ago but I needed to take a break and remind myself that although you and your readers are my new best friends you dont actually know me. Now I know how a stalker feels lol!

    We are continually reminded how weird we are and I love it! I have never wanted to be the peg that fit in the hole. My husband and I talk about our plans a lot because it is hard to find others on the same wavelength.

    So happy for you and I look forward to seeing how this blog evolves after your time becomes your own.

    Now back to my Spanish lessons as our mountain town is in Costa Rica.

    • Wohooooooooo! Virtual medal bestowed! (And lots of thanks and admiration — so touched you felt that was a good investment of your time!) ;-) And a second medal for reading all the comments, too! That’s more words than the posts themselves. As for not knowing you, stay tuned in the new year for meetups that we’re going to start hosting. It would be great to know you in actual reality, not just the comments! ;-)

  40. We’re still in the fringe, but I see a few more people doing it. My friend just quit working to sail for a few years. That sounds like a lot of fun.
    You’re right about falling into the rabbit hole, though. Once you get into the FIRE movement, you see much more of it.

  41. I never thought that this was normal for other people. Most people don’t know about FI and and a large part of those who know about it still think that it is not achievable.

    But I do put big pressure on myself when I read about everybody else achieving FI before me. I am even later than you to the party, I am 45 aiming to FI in 5 years. The thing though is that I am just a bit sad that I didn’t figure this thing out 10-15 years ago. Retiring by 50 is still really early so it’s ok, and the road that I have travelled along the way to get here was fun and interesting anyway.

    I did stop reading forums, twitter and reddit about FI/FIRE, this helps me enjoy the life as a non FI, it a great goal, but we need to live and enjoy our life until FI is achieved.

    Also, reading about FI non stop won’t help me make any progress as the compounding effect needs time … not more information.

    You are the only one that I still read everyday one Twitter ( and here ) because your writing is great, with subjects that force me to think about life, choices, and many other things. It doesn’t feel like a business, thank you :)

    Many of the early FIRE persons changed once they reached RE. Talking about FI became their job. So on twitter there is a non stop feed of cross posting of each other posts or even going back to archives and posting old materials. Meh!

    • Thank you for that wonderful comment! It means a lot that you still find it worthwhile to read here despite having filtered out the rest of the FI content! To your point, it’s intriguing to me that so many folks seem to make their blogs MORE like a business after reaching FI, because FI gives us the privilege of not having to chase money! I am definitely glad that I don’t need ads to make this worth my while, and I promise I won’t bombard you with old recycled posts on Twitter. ;-)

      And I’m super glad to hear that you have found it helpful to tune out the FI outliers online and focus on how incredible your journey is compared to most folks in society. Retiring at 50 is still a HUGE FREAKING DEAL, and something you should be crazy proud of. *Especially* because you’ve also had a fun and interesting journey in the years before you got on your FI path. ;-)

  42. Lucky, grateful, and PROUD. That’s what you should be. <3
    This was a good reminder. Had to deal with some expensive emergencies recently, which got me worrying about money. But then I remember people who don't have the robust emergency fund and self-made safety net that I do. Comparison'll kill you.

    • We for sure are proud. Though few can do what we’ve done, we also know many with our means or greater who aren’t doing this. We know what a big deal it is on both levels.

      And so glad you had that reminder recently, though of course what a bummer to have to spend those emergency dollars! Reading that stat over the last few years that 75% of Americans couldn’t float an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt was hugely sobering for us.

  43. I don’t tell many people. My girlfriend knows that I want FI and so do many of my best friends. That circle stays small. Easier to do since RE is a very different trajectory for me.

    • Nothing wrong with a small circle! The most important thing is to feel that you have the support you need. If you have that, then great!

  44. the smidlaps sort of tripped and fell into this movement, not knowing that it had a name. around 2007 i was working a ton of mandatory overtime at a shift job in manufacturing with good pay and zero job satisfaction. mrs. me had her own employment thing. the lightbulb for me came on when i refused to frivolously spend any of that overtime on “stuff” or on anything. i saved nearly every penny to wipe out debt, pay off our house, and once on the right side of the ledger the peace of mind was so great it just snowballed. it really was evolution from the bucket system of saving and paying cash for things like cars and vacations. no money in the bucket, no spend. i started like you blowing up and balling in my 20’s and part of my 30’s and better late than never is much better than never. i tell anyone who will listen.

    • Congrats on finding your own way to the FI lifestyle! And I love that: “Better late than never is much better than never.” ;-)

  45. Now I wish I had made it to FinCon this year. I am another latecomer to the FI community, or so it feels. Working to harvest a constant feeling of gratitude for what I have and share my story with others in order to inspire. I am about the least boastful person you will ever meet, but I still worry about coming off as bragging about this great thing I have going on. Trying to walk the line. Suggestions?

    • My best suggestion is to remember at all times how lucky you are — which it sounds like you’re doing. We know that we worked hard for this goal, but we also know we were in the position to pursue it in the first place because of a bunch of factors beyond our control, which we group together and call “luck.” So leading with how lucky and grateful you are, too, will go a long way toward heading off any possible bragging. But beyond that, try to let go of your anxiety about it all. You are doing something awesome, and it’s okay to share that. ;-)

  46. It’s always been hard for me to get through “normal” money conversations with friends and colleagues without outing myself as a personal finance crazy person. When I was in my 20s especially, I felt I had to hide the fact that I owned rental property and saved a lot of money. It’s hard to share without coming across as judge-y or privileged. But I’m also not comfortable biting my tongue when I have an opinion! It’s hard to nod and smile as childless engaged friends mindlessly shop for 4 bedroom houses 40 minutes away from work, or to hide my disbelief when my boss says he doesn’t know what funds our 401k plan offers.

    I’ve finally reached the point (mid 30’s, 15 years into my career, in a lower leadership position at my firm), that I have gotten comfortable being myself and letting some FIRE light shine through. It’s actually been a relief! I openly joke/refer to the fact that I could retire in 4-5 years at work. This has opened up discussion with my boss about his own retirement plans and my future role with the company. He sees me more as a peer and has asked my advice about whether I think he needs long term care insurance and other financial matters.

    I didn’t hide my shock when a (very well paid) colleague admitted she still had a big student loan; I sincerely asked her why she and her (very well paid) husband don’t just live off one income. She responded by inviting me to lunch to discuss her 401k and has asked me for advice on several investment options since. When she showed me her new luxury car the next month, I did not fake enthusiasm; I risked offending her by shaking my head and giving her a look. It opened up a good conversation about prioritizing goals – and it turned out the car was used and a LOT cheaper than I had guessed.

    I have become known as a person who knows a lot about personal finance, and people now use me as a resource – which I love. There have been a few kinks; I found out my best friend hides some of her spending from me and even asked a waiter once not to tell me she’d ordered the much more expensive wine when we were out together. That’s bonkers – but she also thanks me regularly for being a good influence on her savings rate (a term she didn’t know existed when I met her). I realize what we all do isn’t normal, but come on. I’m talking about friends and colleagues who make 6 figures and don’t even have kids in most cases. I’m not lecturing single moms making minimum wage here. There is a certain amount of “normal” that I am just not going to keep my mouth shut about any more.

    • I think it’s great that you’ve broken through the taboo and so many friends now come to you with their questions! Re: your friend who hides spending from you, I do wonder if you’ve hit the responsible spending side a little too hard and haven’t focused enough on spending freely on what’s truly important to you. Always good to balance both sides. But I also know some folks just feel judged no matter what, so it’s entirely possible that it’s just all her. But I am generally a fan of taking an accepting and non-judgmental attitude if I want folks to listen. ;-)

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