Timing of FIRE

Among the FIRE community, there are many who wish to FIRE before they are or when they reach 40. Ms ZiYou is one of them and well on her way to achieving her goal.

And why not? Slog it out in the corporate world, maximising your earning power, living frugally and within your means, saving and investing as much as you can, building a pot of wealth so that you can call it quits on your work at/by 40, choose to do some other kind of work or really FIRE, as in retire early.

What’s not to like?

This got me thinking – imagine if I had learned of FIRE in my twenties just as I’d gotten  my first permanent job?

Imagine if I’d been able to save 40-50% of my salary (and save up all my bonuses) and invested it all. I was a different person when I was 24-25 years old, unlikely to have embraced the idea of FIRE but had I done so, my underlying character would have meant that I would have pursued it in the same determined fashion – what hasn’t changed since my younger days is that if I set my heart and head on something, I don’t give up too easily.

So, imagine I’d been on the FIRE path since my mid-20s. Coming up to the age of 38/39, I’d be planning to pull the FIRE plug; I’d be thinking about what I could do with all my spare time, what places I could travel to.

Except that my plans would have gone completely pear-shaped because I would have been pulling the plug just as the 2008 global financial crisis happened, a complete meltdown of the stock markets and the near-destruction of the global economy. Ouch.

That would have been really unfortunate timing, yet sequence of returns risk could still affect any of us currently on the FIRE path.

Older and Wiser

Caveman recently wrote that the best time to start on the FIRE path was in your 30s/40s and in much the same way, I’m glad that I didn’t discover FIRE in my 20s and stopped working at 40, global financial crisis notwithstanding.

That’s because in terms of job satisfaction, I’ve found that the work I’ve done and the jobs I’ve had between the age of 40-50 have been far more rewarding than any I’ve done or had earlier in my career.

No, it’s not the increase in salary – having spent most of my career with the same company for over 20 years, my wages were stagnating so did not really increase in any significant increments (or not at all for several years). I’ve never been one to chase the higher wages.

I think part of the satisfaction comes from experience – I’ve learned to work with all kinds of people at all different levels, managing their expectations, learned to work smarter, not be afraid when to speak up but also to know when to shut up/not say anything.

In my 20s-30s, i recall getting caught up in office politics, stressing about promotions (mine and other people’s), stressing about pay (what I earned and what other people earned), stressing about people’s time-keeping, the number of ‘sick-days’ people had,  the time they spent going out for cigarette breaks, people’s extended lunch-breaks, the overtime they did, the clock-watching, my long working hours, etc, etc. I was once labelled a ‘trouble-maker’ by one of the directors – well,  I obviously hadn’t learned at the time when to shut up!

That’s a lot of stress, with very little to do with me personally!

As I got older, I became only concerned about my own performance at work and that’s it. What anyone else did (or didn’t do) was their problem. My work ends when I leave the office – I argued that it was unnecessary for me to have a work mobile (and won) and I don’t take my laptop home (unless there’s an urgent piece of work that can’t wait). This attitude meant that I enjoyed my work a lot more and was able to concentrate and focus more on the job at hand. I have a good work/life balance.

You could argue that I was bothered and stressed by all those things when I was younger because my personal finances weren’t in a great way. I was carrying high credit card debts and funnily enough, once I’d paid them all off, I was a much happier person.

Final Stage

And so, I now move to what I believe will be the final stage of my working career. I’m not looking to progress up the career ladder – I’m just looking to remain gainfully (and happily) employed until I hit my FIRE goal.

I like my job and I enjoy the work I’m doing – I’m given a lot of flexibility and autonomy, the work is challenging, my colleagues are nice and I like and respect my boss. But I can see how just a few factors changing could make things really difficult for me.

I’ve mentioned that change/company re-organisation is on the cards, perhaps later this year but more likely to be next year.

The question is: will I be able to ride out the changes until I reach my FI goal?

And of course, another global financial crisis could still happen just as I reach my goal and I don’t know if I’d be any more prepared.

Since I can’t control what will happen in the future with my job or with the stock market, I will concentrate on what I can control, that is my spending, my saving/investing and living my life.

Update on Freetrade’s Free Shares

And finally, further to my recent mention of free shares via Freetrade worth up to £200 (previously £80), I’m beta-testing their referral scheme so if you want to check out their cool app and bag a free share, DM me via Twitter (@QuietlySaving) or via the Contact Me form for a one-use only link – first come first served!

UK only and Android users will need version 7.0 or above.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

23 thoughts on “Timing of FIRE

  1. Nice write up Weenie,

    I appreciate the common sense brought here and about how a crash could change the FIRE timing plans, specially as I am quite a newbie and I hesitate sometimes.

    Before hearing or reading anything about FIRE, I had read that the safest and surest way to retire is by being able to live out of interest returns from treasury government bills. As far as I am aware, these investments are the safest, as the FED (in case of USA) has the ability to print money, so a default on payments is extremely low.

    I don’t know how to fit the 4% rule, it doesn’t transmit safety to me, so I’m thinking about setting a plan in relation with the10 years rates and how much my fire fund would need to be assuming different rate values. As usual, it’s just a thought only.

    Even though I would be FI by 40, I would still work or try some new adventures and take risks. As we get older, we get wiser, so why not to use it to do, help or create, instead of only travel from beach to beach? Obviously it needs to be something that we truly enjoy (This is a very personal thought, sorry. Think I need to write a post soon!, hehe)

    I signed up to Freetrade long time ago (before realising the app for iPhone), but never invested anything. Could I still sing up using your link and get these free shares? Perhaps using another email?

    • Hi Tony

      I think soon after being FIRE, I may wish to do the travelling ‘from beach to beach’ as part of decompression – it make take a while for my brain to get used to not working and for me to relax properly. After that, then yes, it would be good to do something helpful or creative, although I don’t know what that will be, perhaps some volunteering or enrolling on some non-work related training course, ie learning something because it interests me.

      Look forward to reading your future posts on what you would do post FI, although you could be like those cows in my photo? 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed this write up weenie, thanks for sharing it.

    The contrast between the younger you and older you is well articulated, maturity teaching us to only worry about the things we can control. The modern day you sounds content with her lot in life, something many people never manage to achieve no matter what their bank balance may be.

    I think stepping out of the rat race will always involve a leap of faith. There is no perfect strategy or bullet proof magic number. There is just tolerance for risk.

    Retired folks do what they’ve always done, roll with the punches. If the market gods are unkind, they tighten their belts, and hope for improved conditions in the future.

    Perhaps not as reassuring as a nice smooth spreadsheet projection, but possibly more realistic.

    • Glad you enjoyed the read, indeedably.

      You’re right, the whole FIRE thing is a complete leap of faith – I say now that I will make the jump when the time comes but know that it will not be easy as there will always be some doubt.

      I’ll definitely be one of those retirees rolling with the punches, although perhaps more like flying by the seat of my pants, which is often when I do my best! 🙂

  3. I think it’s great that you’re happy with your choices/this proves ignorance (of FIRE) can be bliss!

    Having said that, and maybe I’m a bit defensive as a 20-something pursuing FIRE, you can’t predict when a crash could happen and in theory another could hit no matter what time of life you retire? I think everyone should consider how they’d deal with that, no matter if they’re retiring at 30, 40, 50 or later

    • Hi Left FI

      There’s no need to be defensive as I only write about my own experiences so the above applies only to me, I’m absolutely not knocking 20-somethings like yourself, who are mature enough to know what they want want in life and to pursue FIRE.

      Agree that no one can predict the next crash but my example of the 2008 crash was to illustrate what would have happened had I FIRE’d by 40.

      I hope a crash happens soon while I’m still accumulating. Having invested for 6-7 years, I have yet to experience any significant drop in the stock market, so I can’t even predict how I will deal with say a 30-40% drop, although I hope it will be in a calm manner!

  4. Cool article Weenie – I do think we all change as we get older, and I know I can identify with some of the younger characteristics.

    And I too wonder what life might have been like if I found FIRE earlier – probably not much, as I wasn’t really earning much and hadn’t yet cracked how to earn more money.

    • Hey Ms ZiYou

      I was earning very little back then so perhaps it’s unrealistic to even suggest that I could have been FIRE by 40. That said, I would not have been in debt so who knows!

  5. I’m with you on this Weenie. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    I’ve been there myself, and I hope to reach the place you are in now. Taking time out has helped me see lots of the silly things you mention you felt in your 20s and 30s. I feel like I can deal with them better now. Finding that balance is difficult. I can see it being a lifelong challenge.

    • Hi Mr YFG
      Glad you enjoyed reading and good to hear that your time out has enabled you to see past those silly things (and I agree, they are silly).
      Occasionally, I do find myself getting drawn in, particularly when a colleague is complaining/moaning and I have to remember to take a step back from it all mentally.
      Hope all is going well in your new job.

  6. It sounds like you’ve developed a really good approach to work and life Weenie- I hope to move in the same direction 🙂 I always find myself getting annoyed by office politics and bringing the stresses of work back home. Hoping that will change with the new job.

    • Hi Mindy

      There was a time when I would catch some some snippet of conversation between colleagues and I would immediately ask what was going on and end up getting involved. Nowadays, I pretend I didn’t hear anything as I don’t need to know! Good luck with the new job!

  7. Check out Quit like a millionaire by kristy shen. She goes into detail about how to effectively mitigate all risks in the event of a downturn within the first 5 years of FIRE. She uses something called the yield shield and cash cushion to ride out the storm at any given point. It’s also an excellent read otherwise.

    • Hi Meagan

      I heard about the book and it sounds interesting – I’m not buying books right now however, so will need to see if it gets picked up by my local library (or perhaps I could request it be added). I need to ensure that my own portfolio is suitably diversified so that it can ride out the storm as much as it can.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Excellent posts Weenie/Ms ZiYou,

    I’m in that period that feels like a final swan song of my traditional working life being 6-10 years away from feeling I’m ready to call it a day. I’m not a careerist, early on for a long time I was under paid, I’d be in those circles where you moan about it with your peers and the chatter over inflates what you think your worth is, while doing little about it. Like you I figured it’s self defeating and better to remove one’s self from office politics. Finally someone spots you and moves you on to the right path, I’d been on that salaried path for 15 years with the last 5 being where I’ve felt I’m valued and comparable to the market.

    I’m happy where I’m at position wise but recently I came to a bit of a cross roads, expected it to come up at some point and was hoping it would be within a couple of years from pushing the button rather than 6 plus, a line management role came up and the powers that be were heavily coaching that I should seriously consider it. Well I got myself into a bit of a state with it all, alot of the elements I thought would be the role I was already doing without having to be involved in the bits I don’t enjoy/hate so I put in my mind that I’d go for it and implied to management that I would apply. Then the job description came, how it was written alot of it I didn’t understand and I got cold feet with the realisation I’d be joining the politic’s of performance management BS. I concluded the role would make be unhappy, unheathily stressed and I wouldn’t be able to do the changes I feel would be needed. I was abit emotionally letting my line manager know but they were fine with it. The person who got the role is similar to me, seeing the role in reality has confirmed my decision was right, I would of been very unhappy and constrained, I see the role as one at risk. If I was a year or 2 from retiring them I may stupidly had taken it.

    Turning down this opportunity has opened up the path to reskilling in my current role for the next generation, it’s going to be hard but I’m hopeing it’ll be simular to previous periods of learning when I look back on them being enjoyable times. Would be a good time to finish on and may give rise to some flexible retirement/working options when I get to 50 in the freelance space.

    • Hi reckless saving

      Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your experiences in detail – it was fascinating to read.

      Great to hear that you made the right decision about that position which sounds like it would have made you unhappy. I’ve not been one to go for the bigger role, bigger salary because I’m well aware of the BS that comes along with it and I just can’t/don’t want to play that game – never had the appetite for it.

      Here’s to a good finish for you so you get those opportunities for flexible work options – good luck and all the best!

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  10. Great article. The prospect of potentially losing can be a financial benefit. As you’ve worked there for 20+ years, you likely get a big payout.

    They will boost your fire fund, maybe enough to retire? I guess your outgoing are low and you’re not far off anyway. Or you just get another job.

    If I started in my 20s yes I’d be able to retire sooner. However there is other priorities like first home, settling down with someone, getting career started etc so rare to be sensible enough to save and invest then.

    To be honest not sure I’d want extreme ER before 50 anyway. I like working, but just not for too long

    • Hi Adam

      I did get a decent payout as I was made redundant by said company after nearly 21 years and the money boosted my pot by a chunk. Not a life changing amount obviously and yes, I got another job (my current one) after taking a few months off for a break.

      Agree that 20s is probably the time in your life when you don’t have to be sensible – although I did have debts back then, I also remember how much I enjoyed spending and buying stuff!

  11. In my view achieving FI and deciding on RE are two separate events. Achieving financial independence enables one to retire early but it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should do it. Your financial life may not synchronize with your working life.

    Also, 2008/2009 would have been a good time to do “one more year” in the workplace!

    • Hi Getting Minted

      Yes, achieving FI and decided on RE are two separate events but in my case, I’d say there’s unlikely to be a significant gap between one and the other

      2008/2009 definitely would have been a good time to do ‘one more year’, assuming one kept one’s job (I did, just!).

  12. For me, The reality is, everything that happened to you good or bad has helped get you to where you are now. Who really knows what would have happened for sure had it of been discovered earlier. You discovered it at the point it could still give you an early retirement compared to so many and also at the time of a huge bull run for growth…Very interesting thoughts indeed though Weenie, thanks for sharing.

    Chris

  13. Love this, thanks for sharing.

    In my work as a Certified Financial Planner, I regularly meet young professionals who are focused on achieving FIRE by X date. Over time, many of them get ‘goal fatigue’ and burn out.

    My experience has been that FIRE is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

    Keep up the great work.

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