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A Note of Cynicism

Richard Quinn, 2:57 am ET

DO YOU HAVE A LOT of stuff—all those things that fill your basement, attic and garage? Dealing with these accumulated possessions is hard. But there are folks who have figured it out: They sell everything, even their house and car.

I regularly read blogs written by people who “retired” in their 30s and 40s, all of them living in stressless financial bliss. These folks live frugally off their dividends, other passive income and, of course, by sharing their acquired expertise on their moneymaking websites. I’m addicted to these blogs. I don’t want to miss the latest message about their successful minimalist lifestyle.

If you detect a note of cynicism from someone who worked from age 14 to 67, you’re very perceptive.

Some of these retirees are self-described nomads who sold almost all their possessions and now travel around the world at will. Several live outside the U.S. at far lower costs or in relatively remote areas of the U.S. Some live in an RV fulltime. One man sent me a note saying he lives very well in an upscale condo community on less than $1,000 a month. It wasn’t until his fourth message that he mentioned it was in Thailand.

Often, these retirees claim to be living on incomes that most others would view as subsistence level and even in need of public assistance. Indeed, there are those who intentionally keep their income low to benefit from various government subsidies and tax credits, while at the time crowing about their seven-figure net worth. Hey, its all legal.

There are many tradeoffs involved in being a nine-to-five dropout, most of which few people would be willing or able to accept. On the other hand, there are lessons to be learned, like having lots of stuff isn’t necessary for happiness. Clearly, there are different definitions of happiness. Still, I take much of the “wisdom” from these super-early retirees with a large grain of salt.

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parkslope
parkslope
10 months ago

I’m not interested in reading the FIRE lifestyle blogs but I have to wonder about the extent to which the FIRE bloggers are representative of the rest of the FIRE community.

Last edited 10 months ago by parkslope
Purple Rain
Purple Rain
10 months ago

BTW, the guy who “retired” in Thailand was having visa problems after Thailand tightened its immigration policies, so he married a Thai woman, I think. This is not a practical solution for most people.

Purple Rain
Purple Rain
10 months ago

Richard, are you familiar with the couple who moved to Taiwan from the US to avail of free healthcare? I stopped reading their site when they put up a post about how to scam the US tax authorities (legally) by setting up a company in Bermuda. The product their company sells is advice on how to retire early through tactics such as these.

C’mon if you have millions, why are you so averse to paying your fair share of taxes in a country where all your income has been and continues to be generated? As it is, they pay next to zero because most of capital gains exemptions (through dividends).

We personally have no kids, have enough dividend income to “retire”, but are not officially “retired”, moved to a much smaller home with fewer possessions and like participating in our local community and paying our fair share of taxes.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

Another common situation is no children, but there are exceptions. In many, if not most cases they claim an extreme (IMO) frugality beyond what most would find acceptable. One blog claims, “ask us anything” and when you try their fee schedule pops up. I remember when ER was age 55.

Juan Fourneau
Juan Fourneau
10 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

The no kids is a big deal. I could retire before 55 if I didn’t have kids, probably now at 48. But I agree Richard I have taken some good lessons from how unnecessary many of our possessions are.

parkslope
parkslope
10 months ago

I think it is interesting to compare today’s FIRE crowd with the back to the land movement that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Although very different, both approaches are based on a rejection of the 9-to-5 lifestyle.

Mike Fuchs
Mike Fuchs
10 months ago

Great article Richard. They are all looking for the easy button. There is no easy button in life.

M Plate
M Plate
10 months ago

One should keep in mind that an early retirement guru earns money from selling the dream. Indeed, marketing his/her message may be a full-time job.

That skepticism aside, many honest early retirement bloggers provide extremely valuable strategies. I’ve long added many of their methods to my bag of tricks. I downsized, lost the clutter, and added elements of frugality to some areas of my life. It all paid off very well. I feel that retiring too early is very risky. I waited till my late 50’s. I sleep very well.

Guest
Guest
10 months ago

Yeah that seems like a requirement of the FIRE crowd that they each start a blog when they “retire” so they can make money telling the rest of the world how to do what they’re doing. No thanks.

parkslope
parkslope
10 months ago
Reply to  Guest

I haven’t looked but even if there are 1,000 FIRE bloggers that would be far too small a movement to be of interest of that is also the total number of FIRE enthusiasts.

Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
10 months ago

Reminds me of the movie called Nomad.

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