Author Topic: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?  (Read 3014 times)

TL8

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Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« on: May 10, 2018, 11:18:32 PM »
Last year, my wife and I downsized from a very expensive apartment and my (mostly enjoyable) small business reached a point of reasonable stability. Since then, I've become pretty content with work and our finances and haven't thought much about eliminating more waste from our budget. We live modestly in comparison to our friends but very extravagantly by MMM standards. I just scrutinized my online records for the first time this year and I see that last year we took in about $270K after taxes and saved about $145K (pre-tax we earned about $400K). We live in an extremely HCOL area, but even here I'm sure there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed off our $10K/month lifestyle if we worked at it.

Because I'm basically content, enjoy my self-employed job, and wouldn't want to stop working even if I were FI, I'm inclined to just keep doing things the way I've been doing them so far and focus my energy on other things. My wife is comfortable with our current lifestyle and the basic idea of FIRE, but doesn't feel the same kind of need to save that I do and hates anything that feels like penny pinching. We have different views on where to draw the line for spending/saving and her view is perfectly reasonable, just not the same as mine. Right now we've arrived at a pretty happy compromise. At our current rate we'll be semi-FI around 40-45 and fully fat-FI around 55.

Basically, under these circumstances, FI is no longer a high priority for me. I used to think about it often, but that's changed. I'd like to know if any people here have a different view and think I'm making a big mistake by not working to develop a leaner lifestyle. If so, tell me why!

Hula Hoop

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2018, 11:24:03 PM »
Different strokes for different folks.  You're happy working until traditional retirement age and not interested in FIRE and that's fine.  I'd question why you're on the MMM forum though as this is, obviously, for people who are pursuing FIRE.

I guess the only thing I'd say is that businesses and economies can change and your attitude to work can change so it's good to have a cushion.  You just never know what might happen next. But it sounds like you're saving a lot so that's fine.

TL8

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2018, 11:37:32 PM »
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Different strokes for different folks.  You're happy working until traditional retirement age and not interested in FIRE and that's fine.  I'd question why you're on the MMM forum though as this is, obviously, for people who are pursuing FIRE.

Fair question. MMM has had a pretty big impact on my philosophy toward personal finance. It may sound absurd given my monthly expenses, but I've become a much more conservative spender thanks to MMM. I'm curious to hear from people who are likely to have an opinion different from my own.

Quote
I guess the only thing I'd say is that businesses and economies can change and your attitude to work can change so it's good to have a cushion.  You just never know what might happen next. But it sounds like you're saving a lot so that's fine.

This does seem like one of the best arguments against my current plans. What's enjoyable now might not be in 2, 5, or 10 years. There is risk there.

Hirondelle

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2018, 12:11:22 AM »
First of all; great job on having such a great income and lowering your spending considerably. Sounds like your savings rate is hovering around 50%. I think it's fine to not prioritize FIRE - actually many people on these forums don't do that either. Even if you're not interested in getting out of the rat-race asap the forums are a nice place to meet likeminded frugal people and to find tricks on cutting your spending. Also applauding your curiosity of meeting/talking to people with different opinions than their own and getting out of your bubble (many people don't do this enough unfortunately).

As Hula Hoop also mentions, business and economy can change, but also your health situation is one of the things that might change your desire to work in a couple years. With your current "lower" (than before) spending and savings you'll always be better off than your peers.

As you're asking about other reasons than FIRE to develop a leaner lifestyle:
- More flexibility in case of a job loss/health problem/changed economy/changed desire to work (e.g. kids)
- Environmental reasons (less flying, less driving, less fancy gadgets, less stuff overall)
- Physical fitness (homecooking vs takeout, driving vs biking)
- If you have kids - being a good example; I've met quite a few people from rich families who're just totally used to superspendy lifestyles and if they don't manage to get into equally paid careers they're in big trouble unless parents support them endlessly.
- Being able to give more; even if you're not interested in saving more for yourself, it can be worthwhile to cut out a little spending and direct this to charitable giving.
- Being more mindful; I just personally hate mindless spending/unnecessary spending which has to do with my desire to optimize things (kinda what MMM describes a lot as well). So if I realize I'm leaking $10/month towards a subscription I don't use, I can't stand it anymore no matter how insignificant the amount of money might be.
- Being in control; kinda relates to the former one. If I'm very aware of where my money goes and that this is rather optimized + some frivolous areas I also know where to cut when SHTF and can act on it immediately without the need to figure it out first.

TL8

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2018, 12:27:32 AM »
Quote
As you're asking about other reasons than FIRE to develop a leaner lifestyle:
- More flexibility in case of a job loss/health problem/changed economy/changed desire to work (e.g. kids)
- Environmental reasons (less flying, less driving, less fancy gadgets, less stuff overall)
- Physical fitness (homecooking vs takeout, driving vs biking)
- If you have kids - being a good example; I've met quite a few people from rich families who're just totally used to superspendy lifestyles and if they don't manage to get into equally paid careers they're in big trouble unless parents support them endlessly.
- Being able to give more; even if you're not interested in saving more for yourself, it can be worthwhile to cut out a little spending and direct this to charitable giving.
- Being more mindful; I just personally hate mindless spending/unnecessary spending which has to do with my desire to optimize things (kinda what MMM describes a lot as well). So if I realize I'm leaking $10/month towards a subscription I don't use, I can't stand it anymore no matter how insignificant the amount of money might be.
- Being in control; kinda relates to the former one. If I'm very aware of where my money goes and that this is rather optimized + some frivolous areas I also know where to cut when SHTF and can act on it immediately without the need to figure it out first.

Thank you, this is great food for thought. I like the mindfulness comment in particular. Although you didn't phrase it critically, it would be a valid criticism of my current finances. I can "afford" not to be mindful of spending, but maybe that's kind of like saying I can "afford" to eat unhealthy food because I can take drugs to lower my cholesterol. I've also thought about the idea that there is something fundamentally immoral about wasteful spending when a few dollars can literally save a life if donated to the right charity. I don't really buy stuff so the fat on my side comes from experiential indulgences like eating out, fancy gym membership, premium economy instead of economy plane tickets, etc.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 12:30:47 AM by TL8 »

SwordGuy

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2018, 01:06:16 AM »
It just takes one new boss to change your mind about whether you like working where you are -- or even at all.

And there are up to 3 different layers of bosses above you that can cause that reaction.   

The next person in the corner office may be the sociopath that changes your mind about FI priorities.

One of mine did.   

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Or someone in your family may get ill and suddenly work is now a burden that can't be maintained.  But if the bills are still there...

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Or your spouse could leave you and take the family, but leave you with child support, their car payments, private school tuition, and their mortgage and your spouse's fun money to pay for.

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In other words, if life is a bed of roses and everything stays that way, FI priorities can slip.

If you recognize that the shit could hit the fan and you don't like being in the target zone, FI starts looking better.



AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2018, 02:07:08 AM »
You're suffering from complacency. It happens to us all. It's very easy to ease off the pressure when things are going fine, but that's negating everything you know about life, really. Sure, things are great now, but shit WILL come down. It can be big shit of you're underprepared or small shit if you're better prepared - either way, you'll wish you'd not been as complacent.

Some other people have already mentioned all the other benefits of the MMM philosophy. Maybe time to rediscover a few of those non-financial points?

SpreadsheetMan

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2018, 02:22:16 AM »
You're suffering from complacency. It happens to us all. It's very easy to ease off the pressure when things are going fine, but that's negating everything you know about life, really. Sure, things are great now, but shit WILL come down. It can be big shit of you're underprepared or small shit if you're better prepared - either way, you'll wish you'd not been as complacent.

Some other people have already mentioned all the other benefits of the MMM philosophy. Maybe time to rediscover a few of those non-financial points?

Plus several to that. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in life and business and having the basic resources to sustain yourself and your family if it all does go pear-shaped is a massive benefit.

The RE bit of FIRE is entirely optional, but the FI bit is vitally important IMO - even if it is really barebones.

elliha

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2018, 02:44:43 AM »
I think that sometimes it can be better for ones state of mind to allow yourself to pause. I don't say give up but give yourself 6 months-1 year at your current level (do not allow yourself to go over that limit) and then take some time to evaluate what you could give up and what you can keep. I think that sometimes you need to room to think and enjoy things. You are living well within your means at the moment so this is a good moment to have a pause now if you feel it is necessary. If you after this pause feel like speeding things up due to the pause or changed thinking you still can.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2018, 02:46:19 AM by elliha »

Dicey

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2018, 04:00:18 AM »
We are FI, but only I am RE. For solid reasons, DH wants to work for four three more years. The freedom and peace of mind that FI brings is absolutely worth the effort, even if you have no urgent desire to RE. Do it because you can. There is no down side.

If your wife's not fully on board, I'd suggest practicing stealth frugality without appearing "cheap". Cut costs in places she doesn't see or feel and don't discuss it ad nauseam with her. For example, switching to less expensive insurance, cell provider, or to lower cost investment options could be completely invisible and not seem like deprivation at all.

*Yippee! A milestone date passed last week while we were on vacation.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2018, 02:01:04 PM by Dicey »

crxpilot

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2018, 06:33:50 AM »
We are FI, but only I am RE. For solid reasons, DH wants to work for four more years. The freedom and peace of mind that FI brings is absolutely worth the effort, even if you have no urgent desire to RE. Do it because you can. There is no down side.

If your wife's not fully on board, I'd suggest practicing stealth frugality without appearing "cheap". Cut costs in places she doesn't see or feel and don't discuss it ad nauseam with her. For example, switching to less expensive insurance, cell provider, or to lower cost investment options could be completely invisible and not seem like deprivation at all.

Lol........stealth frugality........the unsung thankless heroes moving forward one quiet step at a time! 
Now that would make a great thread.

TL8

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 06:57:07 AM »
Just want to drop another quick note to say thank you for the feedback to those who have responded!

genesismachine

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2018, 06:05:55 PM »
Your business could also be torpedoed by technology or some other unpredictable influence. Not sure what your industry is, but history is full of major disruptions.

I'm kind of in the same boat. I had a savings rate around 50%, and my wife quit her job to improve our quality of life/grow our side business. Now we're saving 30% or so.

I have a pretty sweet job right now, so I feel I'm getting complacent with savings.

If you retire earlier, you may regret it slightly if things turn out ok, but if things turn out really badly, you might really regret not saving more.

FIRE47

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2018, 06:38:43 PM »
Last year, my wife and I downsized from a very expensive apartment and my (mostly enjoyable) small business reached a point of reasonable stability. Since then, I've become pretty content with work and our finances and haven't thought much about eliminating more waste from our budget. We live modestly in comparison to our friends but very extravagantly by MMM standards. I just scrutinized my online records for the first time this year and I see that last year we took in about $270K after taxes and saved about $145K (pre-tax we earned about $400K). We live in an extremely HCOL area, but even here I'm sure there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed off our $10K/month lifestyle if we worked at it.

Because I'm basically content, enjoy my self-employed job, and wouldn't want to stop working even if I were FI, I'm inclined to just keep doing things the way I've been doing them so far and focus my energy on other things. My wife is comfortable with our current lifestyle and the basic idea of FIRE, but doesn't feel the same kind of need to save that I do and hates anything that feels like penny pinching. We have different views on where to draw the line for spending/saving and her view is perfectly reasonable, just not the same as mine. Right now we've arrived at a pretty happy compromise. At our current rate we'll be semi-FI around 40-45 and fully fat-FI around 55.

Basically, under these circumstances, FI is no longer a high priority for me. I used to think about it often, but that's changed. I'd like to know if any people here have a different view and think I'm making a big mistake by not working to develop a leaner lifestyle. If so, tell me why!

How old are you now?

Just because it might be worth it to batten down the hatches so to speak for 1-2 years if you are still young before going on autopilot and letting loose just in case things go pear shaped like others have said, you would still be set at that point just with a few less frills. If you are already late 30+ with a good stache I would just go with what you are doing now.

I'm in a similar situation mentally to where you are in a very LCOL area (but making half of what you are) and late 20s - I am already starting to get complacent especially with the prospect of our income increasing each year for the forseeable future. I am trying to stay focused though in my case as I am still young enough that things could really get knocked off course.

All that being said as long as you aren't going badly into debt on non-productive assets and you are saving 10-15% you aren't making a mistake, anything after that point is simply a matter of preference.

Liberty Stache

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2018, 07:46:04 AM »
My wife and I are in a similar spot (high income, HCOL, 50-60% savings rate) but sounds like we didn't have the high lifestyle inflation you did originally so we are targeting late 30's FI / 45 fat FI on a similar budget as you. We developed and agreed upon a contingency plan if income takes a hit (drop organic foods, stop traveling, drop the second car and/or drop daycare if we lose a job, etc.) and evaluate what spending level we could easily drop down to if needed. For us, we'd still probably save 20-30% on a single income. Other than housing (which typically is a big one), we try to keep all other fixed expenses very low so we can scale back quickly if needed. I also know, based on our current skill sets, that we both could drop a level down and make >$100K working for different companies in the greater Boston area (we see job postings ALL the time).

In your case, I would do the following:
-Evaluate how secure your small business is from outside market forces (new entrants, new technologies, shifting demographics, new substitutes, loss of biggest customer, etc.)
-You didn't say what your wife does. Does she work outside of the house? What's the split in income potential between the two of you? There's a difference between being highly concentrated in one business with one main customer vs. the business has 100's of customers and your spouse earns 30-50% of the household income.

I saved the best for last:
-How can you increase your income further? While cutting expenses works (and this community heavily focuses on this aspect), increasing income while holding expenses flat can work even better. What would increasing your income by 50% mean for your FI timeline? This doesn't necessarily mean working more hours ($$ for time trade), but rather how do you become more efficient / outsource some lower value tasks to focus on higher value work.

Jrr85

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2018, 07:57:12 AM »
Quote
Different strokes for different folks.  You're happy working until traditional retirement age and not interested in FIRE and that's fine.  I'd question why you're on the MMM forum though as this is, obviously, for people who are pursuing FIRE.

Fair question. MMM has had a pretty big impact on my philosophy toward personal finance. It may sound absurd given my monthly expenses, but I've become a much more conservative spender thanks to MMM. I'm curious to hear from people who are likely to have an opinion different from my own.

Quote
I guess the only thing I'd say is that businesses and economies can change and your attitude to work can change so it's good to have a cushion.  You just never know what might happen next. But it sounds like you're saving a lot so that's fine.

This does seem like one of the best arguments against my current plans. What's enjoyable now might not be in 2, 5, or 10 years. There is risk there.

This is really the answer, but as people have noted, it's not just about what's enjoyable.  You don't need to live in fear, but you shouldn't just assume that you can keep it on autopilot for another 5 or 10 years and especially not 15 or 20.  If you are two or three years from semi-FI, then it's probably fine.  If you are 10 years from being semi-FI, I might try to accelerate that a little. 

That said, you are spending just over $10k a month in an extremely HCOL area.  Depending on how much of that is going to housing, that's not necessarily extravagant, even if it's a lot by MMM standards.  We spend about that in a moderate COL (although around $2500 of ours is childcare and related expenses).  Definitely not frugal, but it's not a jet setting lifestyle either.   

Rosy

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2018, 03:20:11 PM »
I would not rest or even begin to feel complacent until I had reached full FI. I had a small business that was just taking off - no debt, rising income each month, I loved it and wouldn't have dreamed of quitting.
Then I got hit with an immune disease that among other things gave me severe brain fog and days that I could not function at all - you can't meet deadlines or put out fires when you are down and out.
You have to be present and reliable to stay successful and attract new clients.
Add to that a series of severe anxiety attacks that made it impossible for me to drive to long distance appointments and it was all over.

It would have been devastating if I'd had business debts, still, it was a big blow to my finances and my self-esteem. It forced me into semi-retirement. It was a life-changing experience.

... and all those other reasons already given. 

Depending on what your wife does and what options she might have; I'd think at least semi FI is a reasonable and in my view important threshold to meet asap. Full FI would obviously be the best option. 

daschtick

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2018, 08:04:53 PM »
It just takes one new boss to change your mind about whether you like working where you are -- or even at all.

And there are up to 3 different layers of bosses above you that can cause that reaction.   

The next person in the corner office may be the sociopath that changes your mind about FI priorities.

One of mine did.   

This is my trouble.....my immediate boss is okay, but there are rumors that his days are numbered, and the next most logical replacement is absolutely a psychotic micro manager.  This wouldn't be that big of an issue if the next layers were reasonable, but that is not the case.

This kills me, because I like my job, I like the company, and I like the people, except for these 3!  I toy with the idea of changing roles, but I am unsure if that is a good solution.  I have about 4 years to go, which normally wouldn't be an issue, but it has become uncomfortable, with no real improvement in sight.

TL8

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2018, 05:23:16 PM »
I don't have time to respond to each post individually, but I appreciate the input from everyone who has responded.

The advice here is good and my view has changed a bit. As a starting point, I'm going to try to maintain more consistent mindfulness about my spending with a focus on avoiding unthinking, wasteful expenses. I'm also going to see if I can nudge my wife further in this direction, though she's already come a long way toward my way of seeing things and I don't want to be overbearing.

I didn't mention this in my initial post, but we have some insurance against catastrophic life developments. My business's sources of income are pretty diversified and it's extremely unlikely they would all disappear, even if there were another 2008-level financial crisis. We have about $900K in liquid investments, so we could retire now if we moved to a LCOL area. Finally, several members of our immediate family are modestly wealthy and would help us financially if we needed support (of course this would be an absolute last resort for us, but it does offer a layer of protection that makes me less fearful of worst-case scenarios like a long-term debilitating illness).

All of that said, thinking about this more deeply I do agree with the consensus view here that there are a lot of risks that could knock our well-laid plans off course and the closer we are to FI the more we'll be able to cope with those risks while maintaining a good quality of life. The fact that we can already retire in a LCOL area gives me some comfort, but I don't know how realistic that idea is for us as we are both happiest living in big cities.

dustinst22

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2018, 06:45:36 PM »
I'm in a similar situation as you.  Self employed business owner, HCOL area (Orange County beach), but income is higher than yours.  I also didn't prioritize FI several years ago, and that was a dangerous mistake.  There's no telling when your business will no longer be viable, things change very fast in this economy.  This is why it's important to prioritize hitting FI while you still have high earnings.  Once you're within range of your FI target, you can begin to relax things more.

I would buckle down and try to hit your FI target as quickly as possible, then sit back and relax.  Your future self will be very thankful.

For me, once I had started reading this blog and others, I realized I never wanted to work for a company again.  To secure that desire, I had to really get my expenses down and hit my target asap.  Of course, it was easier for me as my wife was already very frugal compared to me.

Also, from a philosophical standpoint, it was nice overcoming my consumerism addiction.  That was a real crutch that kept me from happiness.   This change in perspective allowed me to attain my goal quicker and be more content.

Now I"m FI but continue to run my business as it's enjoyable (and I work from my laptop while traveling, etc).  But I no longer have any stress of "what if my revenues stop".
« Last Edit: May 23, 2018, 07:05:13 PM by dustinst22 »

undercover

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2018, 11:06:08 PM »
I mean with a shift in priorities/values/requirements, you could technically retire today. If you change nothing and maintain a savings rate of 50% then you'll retire in just 16 years which of course by American standards is still kicking a ton of ass. Looks like you're almost halfway there.

Everything is subjective and depends on your perspective. Why speed the process up? Clearly if you don't despise your current situation why change it? The primary rebuttal to that of course is that you have no idea how you'll feel in the future about your job but you know for sure you'd love the peace of mind of knowing that your job isn't necessary to maintain your lifestyle.

This site is more about philosophy than finance. It's about challenging what you perceive to be necessary on a daily basis so that you'll end up happier, wealthier, and smarter. But really, becoming wealthier is simply the side effect to becoming more efficient in the areas of your life that matter.

edgema

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2018, 02:46:05 AM »
I am not sure I agree with the complacency comments here given that you are asking the question and are very well set up financially. You comment that you have $900k in investments (perhaps more in net worth) and that you are saving $145k a year on top of that. I think if you did the 'what if' analysis of your life (which is to throw increasing bad fortune at yourself) you would have to start getting to some seriously harsh stuff to be in a bad place.

There is an argument that you could be saving more, we are after all on a forum based on $25k a year being enough for a badass life, but each to their own. On the income levels you have I suspect many of your peers are spending everything and picking out holiday homes, while you are here worrying if you spending too much. You are ahead of 99% of the population in that regard.

Of course there are risks to everything but you are fortunate in having high incomes which you are saving a lot of and have ample resources if things go wrong. It is unlikely that two high earners are suddenly going to collapse to minimum wage but only you can assess that.

That said, of course it makes sense to analyse how you spend your money and be mindful of what you get out of the things you buy.

In the words of Charlie Sheen you are 'winning'. Relax.


boarder42

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Re: Is it a mistake not to prioritize FIRE? If so, why?
« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2018, 04:28:19 AM »
With 900k saved it's very difficult to care assuming it's invested aggressively. I run piles of different numbers on our 725k we have invested and basically due to expected growth there is little that we can do to change our fire plans outside of cutting spending dramatically. You've basically won the game by investing so much already and it's just a game of compounding at this point. If you don't like your job in 5 years or definitely 10 you'll have more than enough to FIRE at your current spending levels.

This is the part where it gets harder and lifestyle creep does start to set in.