My Problem with FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early)

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When I first started blogging back in late 2007 the financial world was coming to an end.

People were worried about upside down mortgages, a new recession and collapse of the financial industry, job layoffs and a rapid drop in their retirement balances.

Fast forward ten years and things look much brighter, at least if you read the Blogosphere.

These days, most personal finance bloggers spend their time sharing net worth updates and income reports which easily put the rest of us to shame.  But those aren’t the posts that get me.

What bothers me is the 29 year-old couple who reached financial independence/early retirement (FI/RE) after making six figures the last five years, delayed (or skipped) having children and now travel the world from a laptop.

Well, maybe “bothers” isn’t the right word.

I don’t begrudge anyone’s success, and I am not jealous…well, maybe a little.  I know most of them are writing from a spirit of trying to inspire motivation in readers to do the right (financial) thing.

FI/RE is just not realistic for most people, so stop telling us everyone can do it.

Parenthood is a Big Obstacle to Reaching FI/RE

I was raised by a single mom.  It wasn’t her choice.  After my parents divorced she worked two jobs most of my young life to afford rent for our 2BR apartment.

We were certainly not rich, but I never did without, thanks to her strong work ethic.  But the idea of saving and investing money was a foreign concept to my mom.  And who could blame her?

Most of her financial decisions centered on:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • New jeans and tennis shoes for her son
  • Food for the two of us

Loading up on shares of a high-yielding dividend stock or 30-year Treasury Bonds just wasn’t on her radar.

Now, maybe if the concept of FI/RE was presented to her earlier, she could have made that a goal.  Maybe if I had known about it earlier I could have made it a goal.

I digress.

Not Everyone Can Reach FI/RE

Financial independence is certainly a worthy goal, particularly for those approaching retirement.  However, for most of us in the middle class with two kids and a mortgage the concept is a pipe dream.

Even at 40 years-old I cannot imagine not “working” again.  Not having access to a 401(k) or company health insurance or having a steady W-2 income.

I suppose if I was wildly (and I mean wildly) successful with my blog I could work on it full-time in lieu of an 8-5, but I know that isn’t likely.

So more power to those who have retired early and reached financial independence.

Feel free to continue sharing your stories on Yahoo and CNBC, but instead of taking the position that “Anyone can do this!” perhaps recognize that you are in a very, very small minority.

The single moms are listening, as are the 40 year-old dads just trying to keep his head above water and bring down enough income to feed his family.

A great counter-argument to the Financial Independence Retire Early movement made popular by seemingly EVERY personal finance blogger

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