What is your FIRE?

It’s been a while since I last published a post as I took my family on a much needed beach holiday. A beach holiday in Kent can be surprisingly cost effective and great value for money, provided the weather plays ball. Perhaps a topic for a future post…

Back to the topic at hand however. Two weeks of allowing myself some time to relax and put some of the everyday stressful thoughts and responsibilities aside for a little while allowed me some space for a reality check. For a few weeks before the holiday I was living high on the excitement of getting myself into a position to retire early, but I needed to return to the drawing board to redefine a few concepts for myself. Firstly, what does retiring early mean to me? What would it look like and what would I be doing during my “early retirement”? And the family, how do I want them to live and what will they do? What would life look like? Secondly, due to some less responsible and some downright stupid decisions in my twenties and thirties, I am already behind the curve of where I should be to retire at 65, forget about retiring earlier than that. As a result, I first need to do some serious catching up before I can even consider early retirement. And what is early these days anyway? My dad, a baby boomer, is already past 65 and is still working. My retirement fund broker doesn’t seem to even consider the possibility that I’ll be retiring before 70, not because I started late, but simply because I’m expected to live so far past 65 that it doesn’t seem sensible or financially possible to retire that early. Early? Yes, by the time I get to 65, retiring then will be seen as retiring early. So what is it exactly that I’m trying to achieve with FIRE? Let’s try figure it out…

What would early retirement look like?

In short, it depends. I can think of a lot of “better” ways to spend my time daily than I am now, for sure, but most would require either an insatiable source of funds, or an ongoing source of income that still frees up enough of my time to spend doing things I’d rather be doing during working hours than I am currently. So what would I want to spend my time doing rather than working my arse off to help my boss pay off his mortgage? And I’m trying to be realistic here. Sure I’d like to go surfing in Hawaii, scuba diving in the Maldives, climbing in the Himalayas and constantly chase adventure after adventure. But most adventure junkies who could afford to do that end up not doing it full time. Why not? For one, it must be very unsettling for a young family to be constantly jetting around the world chasing dad’s adventures. So I’ve got to find a relatively stable life where I could still chase an adventure or two or three a year, while giving my family the grounding of a life rooted in one familiar place. Phew, that takes some financial pressure off. Sure, some FIRE bloggers don’t seem to be able to blog fast enough to keep up with their travels, but I think my life is currently in a place that demands a more stable existence, for now anyway.
I don’t work crazy long hours, but it just feels like there are never enough hours in a day. A typical week day looks as follows: I’m up at 6am, I help get the kids ready for school and sometimes walk them to school so my wife can get to the office early enough to get back for school pickups, then I’m off to work and back home around 7pm. We normally start getting the kids ready for bed as soon as I get home, so not really much quality time with them during the week! Bed time is finished around 8 or 8:30, but if we run late it easily goes past 9. Then someone has to tidy the house, do the washing, do general admin and planning and get everything ready for the next day to be the same chasing your tail from 6am. And I haven’t even had a minute to spend with my wife by this time. Then we wonder why almost half of marriages end up as another statistic. By the time we crash exhausted and grumpy well after 11pm, no one feels like picking up a guitar, or going for a run or a swim, reading a book, or any of the other hobbies we’ve neglected or forgotten about for years. And the 2 or 3 glasses of wine have long since stopped being for enjoyment and started being the crutch that props you up until you can allow yourself to get some sleep to do it all again tomorrow. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned any of those ideas I’ve been mulling over in my head to start generating a small side income to take some of the financial pressure off, but I just never seem to have time to sit down and start getting it going. I wonder why?
I definitely need to spend more quality waking hours with my family, that’s priority number one! I also need to have time for those hobbies and ideas, and the groundhog days have to come to an end.
I don’t particularly want to stop working entirely, because I enjoy what I do, and so does my wife. It seems a half-day would probably be ideal, so income-wise, our FIRE fund will need to supplement the other half, plus some extra for chasing those adventures. Seems we’re getting somewhere now.

When do I want FIRE?

So, 65 will be early by the time I get there, but I probably won’t be able to play a pickup basketball game at that age, and I probably won’t feel like jetting around to those exotic scuba destinations. And god help me if I still need to to school runs. That probably leaves me with about a decade to get to a place where I’m still young enough to enjoy some of the lifestyle activities I’d like to enjoy now. The reality is I waited too long and I have to make due without some of the things I’d have liked to do daily at my current age. This is the price you pay for not getting going early enough, but all is not lost. I hopefully don’t have to wait until I need to take my mobility scooter on my scuba trips. The details of how I plan to do this will have to wait for a dedicated post, but for now I have to believe it’s possible!
I once worked with a guy who got fed up with the London rat race and left the country. He’s fortunate enough to be able to run an SEO business remotely, so he now posts pictures on Facebook of the view from his office window looking out onto a Thai beach. Wouldn’t that be nice FIRE?

What is your FIRE? What does retirement mean to you? Everyone has to answer this for themselves, whether it’s early retirement or not. And everyone has to work out for themselves how they are going to get there. It’s scary how many people don’t have the first clue of how they’re going to get to retirement, and they don’t even know what they’d like it to look like…

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Back to the beginning

Finding motivation to get rich online is easy. Finding someone willing to sell you a story, a failsafe plan or system, some magic beans, it’s easier than finding someone willing to share the cold hard facts with you. Search for “get rich quick” or “make money online” or anything related and you’re swamped by people with apparently proven and guaranteed ways to get rich. Everyone can do it they say. Follow this trick, subscribe to that blog and they’ll flood your inbox with ways you can start getting rich today. And we are dreamers, we are desperate to get out of this bog, so we’re willing to listen to them. If it worked for them, surely it can work for me. They’re living proof. After all, it’s only a small amount of my hard earned money, and if I can put that little bit towards achieving my dream of freedom, what’s there to lose?

Here is the cold hard truth: you have a lot to lose: money, time, your grasp on reality. The list goes on. Yes, there certainly are ways to get rich quickly online without breaking your back. There are many people who are the living proof. The problem is that they all need the rest of us to achieve that dream. They need the desperate and gullible ones who can pinch a penny, or sometimes can’t, to fulfill their dreams. Do the math. If you spend £10 a month to get their “expert” advice on getting rich quick for a year, you’re only down £120. You can live with that right? They only need less than 8,500 people hooked for one year, and guess who became a millionaire in less than a year. Guess who’s the one who got rich quick. You’d be surprised by how easy it is to get these numbers online.

Sure, I’m a pessimist, but make no mistake, I’d love to find a system that can make me rich quickly without expending too much energy. A system that doesn’t require mountains of self restraint and discipline. A system that will look after itself and make me rich while I sleep. The problem is I’m not sure I’ll be able to live with myself if I became part of one of these pyramids, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to fake it like these well groomed gems do. Maybe I’m just not motivated enough, or too lazy, who knows?

So that leaves us with the only way to really get ahead, and it’s not pretty. It’s not easy. And it’s definitely not quick. The only reliable way to really build that nest egg is to be a hoarder. No, I don’t mean fill your cupboards to bursting with crap you don’t need. Quite the opposite. Spend less, save more and make your money work for you. I’m far from getting this absolutely right. In fact, I’m getting it really wrong right now. But I do know that this is where it all starts. If it doesn’t start here, it’ll never really get going. The sooner we wake up to this fact, the sooner we can stop dreaming about retiring next summer and helping others do just that.

So, without further ado, here’s my 3-step plan to start getting it right, right now:

Step 1: Plan every penny
This is where most of us get it wrong. You know that annoying old cliche “fail to plan and plan to fail”? Well it’s a cliche for a reason. You have to plan where you’re going to put your money. Keep it simple and find a strategy that works for you. You can easily find lots of advice and templates online. Use them and make your budget work for you.

Step 2: Shave your pennies

No I’m not talking about manscaping or salami slicing, which reminds me of one of my favourite movies. Anyhow, I’m easily distracted. I’m talking about, firstly keeping track of every penny you spend, and then reducing your expenditure by every single penny you can. Another cliche comes to mind about the rich guy who sees a penny on the street and picks it up. I think a lot of us misinterpret this as a story about greedy Scrooge McDuck, when in fact it talks of a single-minded determination to not waste any of your hard earned cash, whether it’s a penny or a pound. I wish I could add up every penny I’ve ever wasted with the attitude of “it’s ok, it’s just one penny/pound”. I bet I’d be a lot closer to having my fuck-you-money stash.

Step 3: Put your pennies to work

Ok no corny jokes here. There is no point stashing your cash under the mattress, or in a savings account. In fact, that’s a stupid idea for so many reasons. Inflation should be enough of a reason to convince you. You’ve already worked hard enough to get to this step, so it’s essential you get this one right. Your money has to grow, and it has to outgrow inflation. There are lots of ways to achieve this so find something you might develop a bit of interest in, it’ll make the journey more fun. It can be investment in property or stocks etc.

Don’t overthink it, but get a solid plan that fits your goals. Again, there are lots of sources of information at your fingertips, both free and paid for. I’m not vouching for anyone just yet as I haven’t got this right myself yet, but there is some information I’m a fan of, such as Millennial Revolution, Investopedia and Robo Advisors. Maybe one day I’ll be in a position to write my own posts like this. For now I take advice from other more experienced than me. You might want to start/stay with a reliable and honest final advisor. Just be careful, there are a lot of charlatans out there, ready to sell you their magic beans. Perhaps ask a friend who got this step right to refer you. First though, work out what your goals are, the timeframes you’re looking at, your appetite for risk etc. Be ruthless but realistic. You’re not going to retire in a year off £1,000 savings a month, but you’ll certainly be closer than you are now.

A word about stock market investment: if you thought it was a get rich quick solution or I was going to give you the keys to the safe, you’ll be disappointed. Because it’s not and I don’t have them. If you attempt to get rich quick through stock trading, 9 out of 10 times you’re going to lose your shirt. Just ask Nick Leeson. Investing in stock markets is about the long term returns effect because you are going to experience downturns and you need a long term strategy to survive those. I personally am a fan of portfolio rebalancing, but find a strategy to fit your goals.

My commitment to myself, my family, and everyone who reads my blog, is to get this 3-step plan right! And l challenge you to do the same. Unless of course you want to get 8,500 subscribers for a tenner a month and keep them hooked for a year…

PS – as I’m not a financial advisor, please have a look at my disclaimer.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to have a look around.

So what’s this blog all about? In a word, or 2, financial freedom.

Have you ever felt like your boss is a complete tool and doesn’t give a shit about you or your well-being, and only worries about the bottom line and his/her own relentless march up the road to success? Have you ever felt like you can’t just turn around and tell them to fuck-off and treat you with the appreciation your addition to their value deserves, because you need them? You need their validation of your worth in order to keep your position in the rat race. You need their generosity in paying you for what you bring to the table so you can keep up with the Joneses and not fall behind on that ridiculous mortgage. And for business to work, employees have to be paid less than their individual worth by definition. The notion that the value of the business is greater than the sum of its parts is utter bullshit! The difference between the sum of the individuals’ value and the sum of what they get paid is the big boss’s new car and reduced mortgage. In other words, you’re trapped. Sure, you can quit your job and find another where they will hopefully treat you with more respect, but you know what they say about the reason the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and about a bird in the hand etc etc etc.

The fact of the matter is that you’re trapped. Perhaps not in this job, but certainly in the unending sausage factories of the capitalist machine that require your blood, sweat and tears to keep ticking over. You can’t escape from them. I can’t escape from them. Not just yet anyway. But that is going to change, and today is the first step towards that goal. I AM GOING TO BE FREE!

I might not have the exact strategy worked out yet, but I have the end goal in sight. I might not have all the answers, but this journey is about finding them. I have some pretty good ideas of where to start, and the first few steps to take. I believe that if I start with the first few steps I know to take and carry on plugging away, I’ll get there eventually. It’s a bit like being stuck in a bog, and you can’t see your way out for the thick fog, but you can see a few stones ahead you can tread on to start moving. And you know there must be a way out of this mess, if you just make your way towards where you believe the firm dry ground is. I mean, what have you got to lose? If it breaks down you won’t be worse off than you are now. You’ll just still be stuck in the bog for the rest of your life.

What I do know is that the way it’s working now is not bringing me closer to the dream at any rapid rate. And this blog is a commitment to following that dream. For me, for my family and all those of you willing to come along for the ride. And I’d like to share this journey with you, and anyone else willing to learn with me. Or to offer advice.

Why share my journey? Well, I believe that putting my commitment and actions down in writing where everyone can see them will motivate me to actually do the things I believe I should be doing in order to be financially free. It sort of puts a responsibility on me to stay true to this commitment. And it’ll hopefully become a place I can visit myself to recap on how I got to where I am now, the future now that is.

There will be talk of budgets, investments, frugality, stupid mistakes, brilliant ideas and insights and who knows what else, I’m sure. So do keep an eye on new posts, buckle up and enjoy the ride…