Monday, May 13, 2024

The FIRE is Still Burning

Reading the retirement issue of the New York Times Magazine this weekend reminded me that I still have things to say on these topics, despite the lack of posting! The "FIRE" acronym has been around for years, but now, beyond just "Financial Independence Retire Early," there are subgroups like Fat-FIRE for people who retire early and have luxurious lifestyles, and Lean-FIRE for people who are managing their early retirement by being extremely frugal. Coast-FIRE means you save a lot early on so you can kick back later. Barista-FIRE means you are sort of retired but working part time in some sort of job to get health insurance.

Now I feel like I'm at the supermarket looking at all the different types of yogurt. I guess it wouldn't be America if we didn't figure out a way to expand every concept into a million different flavors!

I guess my FIRE flavor is a bit of a smorgasbord. I'm probably least aligned with the Lean people. While I have always valued fragility and spent many years trying to live well below my means, I've never felt really hard core about that approach, as I allowed myself plenty of little splurges. Coast sounds a lot like me: I wouldn't be in my current financial position if I hadn't saved big chunks of my earnings starting in my 20s and 30s. Barista doesn't seem like quite the right word for my current work status, but I do feel like I'm off the career track, working rather lightly so I can feel productive and get benefits. 

How about Fat? I've never felt particularly fat. But now there's that pandemic and perimenopausal weight gain that has forced me to buy more new clothes than usual in the last few years. I'm NOT enjoying THAT kind of fat. But I'm feeling a little chubby in the other way too, in terms of living well. In the last couple of years, I've felt secure enough to start spending more money. Some of those new clothes were at price ranges I never would have even imagined before. If I told my 35-year old self I'd someday spend $350 on a scarf, she'd have been horrified. But I did, and it's a gorgeous and unique scarf that goes with everything and elevates any outfit and I wear it a lot and feel like it's worth every penny for how happy it makes me. Maybe it even makes me look thinner??? 

And Sweetie and I have decided that when we do our next big trip, hopefully to Asia sometime next year, we're going to stop torturing our bodies and fly business class. We're also going to upgrade one of our cars sometime soon-- not to a Maserati or anything, but something with more comfortable, power-adjustable seats for both driver and passenger. It's shocking how hard it is to find a sub-compact SUV with a power-adjustable passenger seat-- many brands just don't offer it, even in the top-level models. So it looks like an Audi, BMW, Lexus or Volvo is in our future, for probably somewhere between $40,000-50,000. This feels so splurgy to me, but then I found out that my sister and her husband have two new (bigger) cars that have each cost more than that, all while they have two kids in college who will be graduating with some big debts, it sounds like. Auntie X will try to reserve some funds to help the kiddos out, of course, but I'm prioritizing my spinal health for the moment! Being able to do this feels like true luxury to me. But I don't think I'll ever quite fit in with the true Fat-FIRE adherents, as they seem to mainly be Silicon Valley entrepreneur types who cash out of a start-up and have more extreme lifestyle goals. (Or else, as one person in the NY Times article points out, they are people who are raising kids in expensive places like San Francisco, and therefore have huge budgets for lifestyles that might seem not that fancy elsewhere.) I still have a lot of Lean moments of watching for what's on sale in the supermarket, using coupons, and picking up coins whenever I spot them!

Anyway, that is my little flicker of FIRE for today! I haven't posted in forever but life is good! I continually resolve to dump all my money thoughts in this blog where they belong, so maybe one of these days I'll start posting more again. Thank you to those of you who still stop by and leave comments!


Anonymous said...

Keep Posting!! I always enjoy them.

Anonymous said...

Am a long time reader and still look forward to your post.

Anonymous said...

I missed your posting! Keep posting and always look forward to your posts..

Anonymous said...

Madame X, I was thrilled to see your post today! Love your observations on the many flavors of FIRE. Depending on the day, I think we can all lean a little in all the directions!

I've been reading My Open Wallet for almost 20 (!) years and as someone who is roughly 10 years younger than you, I've always looked up to you as a financial mentor of sorts. I still check in regularly to read your archives. Often, I'll find a post of yours from when I think you were the age I am now and I'll compare my net worth to see if I'm on track.

I'm 43, single, and own my decidedly not fancy urban 1 BR/1 BA condo, and my net worth is approximately $1.3 million, give or take market fluctuations! Pretty sure this is close to where you were at my age. It doesn't mean I never have to work again, but it does give me a sense of confidence and independence. Just like you, I saved a ton in my 20s and 30s and lived well below my means. And now I feel like it's paying off! It gives me great confidence to know that I get to be the architect of my future thanks to these financial cushion, much as you have been of yours.

Anyway, I always enjoy seeing your updates and how your financial life has evolved from the early days of this blog. From one FIREr to another, cheers to your continued success and happiness! And please keep posting—I'll be reading!

Anonymous said...

I think I last visited your blog in 2008 ish. Amazed (and pleased) to see you still do this. I would recommend a Toyota RAV 4 and in fact I will, but they stopped making them in v6 in 2010, the year of mine. Leather interior, Bose stereo system, power everything. I wouldnt drive a v4. Not enough power. Mine has only 80,000 mi. on it and I bought it around 2012 for like 26K (all cash) when it had around 36,000 mi on it. I dont drive much but I’ll never buy another car. Had a couple of Audis in the past (also purchase used, off lease) but those are not only gas guzzlers but made like absolute crap and have high maintenance bills. Never buy one. Only buy Japanese.

We’ll be in Asia this Summer, not business class but flying Singapore Airlines Premium Econ, which you should look into. they have daily direct flights from jfk/ewr to sin only business and premium econ class (last three rows have single seats on side aisles. if you book far enough in advance only around $1300-1500 sometimes including the connecting flights to BKK or SGN. Fly that route for work often. Best deal in aviation but a monster long flight, but the service is impeccable. best,

beth said...
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bethh said...

So nice to see an update! I also have been reading you for years and years.

I have flown fancy class (using miles) several times on long-hauls, including Chicago to Addis Ababa in 2022 (I never thought I was a safari person but whoa I loved it ... food for thought for you). My favorite trick is to fly economy class to the vacation - when I'm excited - and fancy class home, to make the end of the trip something worth looking forward to in its own way. But that's when I'm doing US west coast to Europe - I imagine US east coast to Asia is an even longer flight and VERY worthy of good flights both directions.

I'm coast FIRE, I guess, which feels weird to say - I'll work to my late 50s but I have enough saved that I'm only saving 7% for retirement in order to get a 3% match. I still have a bit of a mortgage but I believe I'm in good shape and am not worrying about the long-term picture, just letting my money grow.

I took a year off work to travel and loved it, but am definitely not able to stop yet, and not certain I'm ready to anyway. Though let's be real - I'd manage! I might do some barista FIRE near the end of my 50s, very much a TBD thing.