So many people write about being in FIRE/FIREd. Many others document their journey leading up to FI/FIRE. I read so many of these blogs because there is so much amazing information, and even more to learn from each perspective. Even to those already in FIRE, we have so much to learn.
BUT, and this is very important if you’re thinking about FIRE—technically a person can be in FIRE while still having a partner/spouse who works, but that is not a fully FIREd household. Yes, it’s true that a smart household will continue to maintain an income, but I don’t believe that is the true idea of FIRE.
I’m not diminishing the FI portion of those blogger’s lives. I just feel that having only one “RE” spouse is quite similar to a stay-at-home spouse…even if that couple is FI and the working income is not required. It may also depend on how you personally feel about trading time for money (“work”).
I’m quite sure one “FIREd” person + with one working person is very different from a fully FIRED household.
The reason I feel this way is from firsthand experience. When the direct deposits from your employer stop as you RE, your life finances have an entirely different foundation. Monthly cash flow is the real deal. Companies want your money when you pay your bills. It is crucial that you have an income/inflow plan. It doesn’t matter if it’s the bucket strategy, dividend/interest, pensions/annuities, gifts, or from a side hustle—planning before your cash flows outbound is critical. It feels very strange at the start of FIRE to pay bills when there are no paychecks.
Most of us living below our means, and pushing towards FIRE, know the pleasure of saving and watching our accounts/net worth grow from our hard work and planning. It is probably a very similar feeling to someone living paycheck to paycheck who buys something new and shows it off (like a fancy car, home remodel, clothes/shoes, a new gadget to replace the not-even-old-yet gadget). Seriously, to each/their own—save or spend. No judgment here—well a little judgment of course.
I understand a couple could be fully FIREd, and one or both people could have multiple streams of income—both passive and active. Maintaining an income or multiple streams of income may be the true target for FIRE. It may be you FIREd from a career that wasn’t in your heart and now you are pursuing a passion that may give you some income. I can definitely understand following a passion or even just a strong interest. This is a major part of the “freedom” of FI. It seems obvious to me that many people who FIRE are high achievers who aren’t going to just shut down their skillset because they have FU money. They are going to use their FU money to allow them to live their lives in the manner they choose.
So when I think about one person blogging on their FIRE while someone else in the home is working, especially when that work income is counted in the budget/plan, I think that is still a step from a fully FIREd household.
To be very clear, my wife “retired early” but I loved my job so I kept working for 3 years (over working) because I had one of the best jobs in the world. I had planned to FIRE with her, but I didn’t feel the need to quit my career just yet. So “we” weren’t FIREd, but we were FI, with FU money to spare for years—which made working even easier.
Also, as I mentioned before, we lived off our retirement budget for most of those three years that I over worked like the Mock Retirement idea. Nearly every penny of that income went off to investments without being touched. Yes, our “retirement” budget was a little higher (trip to Paris for free using that ‘over working’ income) but our tracking showed we were smart in our yearly spend estimates.
When you read about people in FIRE, just consider the varying levels of FIRE.
- Fully FIREd household: Both partners not working traditional careers.
- Partially FIREd: One partner not working traditional career, the other working, hopefully in something they really enjoy
- FI household: both partners doing whatever they choose to do each day because the inflow of income is not required to live their lifetime. Working at what they enjoy is the nature of the FI over-achievers.
- FU household: working in careers to push up the net worth number. However, you are in control because of your savings/planning. It’s like FI jr. This is HUGE.
I think everyone who really works towards bettering their financial situation, especially consistently over the longer term, is so amazing. Planning far ahead, delaying gratification (a little), balancing life now and in the future is so very hard. But there’s a comic that has some logic:
“Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.” Keep stocking up so you can make your own rules!!!