I have a plan. I mapped it out a few years ago and I’ve been sticking to it— save $1,200,000 by the age of 32. It is a cautious plan that assumes I could double my expenses in retirement. It even has a buffer of $200,000 for just-in-case scenarios. Yet recently I’ve been wondering if this is the right plan for me.
FIRE Plan Inspirations
I keep tabs on others’ FIRE journeys, and one that sticks out to me is that of my friend A Purple Life. She is retiring this year with $500,000 in the bank. Reading her story made me realize— I could do that too. Her goal is to decompress and shed a decade’s worth of stress from a demanding job. Her plan includes Mai Tais on a beach, traveling on luxury airlines using credit card points, and rocking a nomadic life for the foreseeable future. She will see loved ones, stay with friends, and read lots of books— this is a DREAM!
While sitting with a bit of envy, it struck me that I’m not too far behind. I could feasibly save $500,000 by next year. I have about the same yearly expenses as Purple (less than $20k a year). I could meet her at Playa Del Carmen, bring a book, and let all work-related anxieties melt away. In just one year I could start my work-free life.
I could retire next year by the age of 28.
I won’t, but I could.
FIRE Plan Differences
Less Lifestyle Flexibility
Every FIRE plan will look a little different, depending on a myriad of factors. Here are a couple key differences between my plan and Purple’s:
- Purple has a partner that can work remotely full-time, but my partner has committed the next five years to medical residency in one spot.
- She can lower her expenses by living in lower-cost of living areas, but I’m following Mr. Mechanic to California, where my rent will be triple what I currently pay.
- Purple has fully committed to a child-free life, and although I think I don’t want children, I don’t want money to be a limiting factor in case I change my mind.
All-in-all, it boils down to flexibility. Her flexibility allows her to take on more risk because she can adapt quickly. My situation is a little less flexible, so taking on the same amount of risk doesn’t make sense.
Lifestyle Inflation Expectations
I am also hedging against lifestyle inflation. While I have happily lived on less than $20k for the last few years, what happens if my partner wants to spend more money when he makes more money? I just searched average salaries for a radiologist and almost fell out of my chair. I knew doctors make a lot of money, but the average for Mr. Mechanic’s field is over $400,000 a year.
Before I started talking about financial independence, Mr. Mechanic dreamed of all-inclusive vacations and second homes at the base of a ski lift. While he’s willing to reconsider a mountain home in the pursuit of a simpler life, he still wants us to budget in some lifestyle upgrades. Visions of heli-skiing on the weekends got him through his medical board exams, after all!
If I stop working too early, I either wouldn’t be able to participate or he would need to cover my expenses. I’d like to get ahead of any resentment by couching the financial imbalance in our relationship, where we currently keep our finances split. As partners-in-life, we’ll likely have to figure something out sooner or later because even my engineering salary can’t compete!
Enjoy The Journey of FI
Even after I consider the differences in my and Purple’s FIRE plans, it is so tempting to contemplate moving up the timeline. I want to write a book, to coach people on their finances, and to pick up some design work. Though I could feasibly start doing those things on the side, I end up drained after a full day at the office. I could ‘coast to FI’ by cutting down my hours and working part-time, but I earn a high salary with a lot of flexibility, so the trade doesn’t seem worth it.
Sometimes when I get sidetracked thinking about all the options, I remind myself to pause. Financial independence is not a race. It’s not a panacea. In the end, it’s just a journey we should stop and enjoy.
When I think about the above, I remind myself that I don’t have to wait until I’m 32 to start living. Even though I am not planning on retiring next year, I should still make time and space for the things that matter.
I can still visit Purple on the beach and learn from her early retirement escapades. I can start planning what I’d like to write about (a finance book? A fictional dystopia? Both!?) and design logos and resumes for fun. I’m going to keep working, get better at what I do, and develop more passions over time. So, even though I could retire next year, I won’t. I have bigger plans.