FIRE.016 What do you do?

Imagine saying this when you meet someone “..well you know, I enjoy my day—just doing whatever I want.” Oh man, let the judgments from social interactions begin. If you thought people base their first opinion on how someone looks, let me tell you that there is a WHOLE other level of judgment happening 60 seconds later.

Of course when you meet someone, one of their first questions will be “what do you do?” If you are FIREd with a MAJOR CAPITAL E (for Early/young) it is so shocking to most people that they can’t even comprehend what you’re talking about.

I’m sure you’ve read all the articles online and seen the news stories about American savings rate being extremely low and the fact that more than half of all American adults have to real savings for retirement. Even the number of $100,000 seems astronomically huge to some, whereas those nearing retirement realize $100,000 is nothing. There is no way you can live off 100k. Well, 100k is fine if you happen to have a pension that funds all your needs AND is inflation adjusted. That seems almost like winning the lottery to many people.

So trying to explain FIRE to people who feel like their finances are under fire is really like speaking two different languages. The differences are as clear as people who may see you spending less (driving older cars, living in the same/smaller house for decades, not having every new everything) and not realizing your spending patterns are designed to even out spending amounts while working with post work spending. One example might be work 30 years and spend half your salary and save half your salary. Then the 30 years of savings can be used for 30 years of FIRE. Compared to spending all (or more than) your income in the first 30, then having to work for the next 30 years to pay for the seconds 30 years.

The key is to find value and enjoyment from your life. We were not penny-pinching frugal masters, but rather spent smart and saved all the time. We planned what we wanted and saved for those items. Once in a while after having the money set aside, the item didn’t see as interesting.

So back to the topic of not having to grind at work every day. Is your job “what you do?” Or is your job what you have to do to pay for your lifestyle.

My wife told me before we FIREd it would be hard to explain to people that I was “retired.” I told her, no way, we worked hard and we saved well and it was our choice. Of course, she was right. FIRE seems unfathomable to most people.

So now I just say “I’m a consultant” or “I teach at the Community College.” Then I can see they think, “how nice, you’re a teacher.” It’s a much different interaction than when I was an IT professional. Either way, it stops the “what do you do” nightmare and lets me move the conversation on to a more interesting topic for them.

If you think I’m wrong, just try telling someone that you’re retired early (followed in a couple minutes with “just joking, I’m doing a study…”) and see how the conversation goes.

Hmmm “I’m a blogger…” maybe I could try that one.

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