Beat the FIRE Joneses!

The FIRE community is great source for both technical investment advice and life improvement. Plenty of excellent sources out there. It is also a community where people FI early: mid thirties, early forties…. Where people share a lot of damn good numbers. Could it be that we now want to keep up with a new set of Joneses? Albeit, somehow a good version of them? The kind of Joneses that you beat and life will be good?

Being part of this, means you want to compare with the others in the community. There are (too) many metrics you can use for that. The savings rate is one of these. Your actual FIRE date being another, not to forget the age at which you will be FIRE. Being and option trader, my monthly option income is yet another metric.

Let’s look at some metrics

Savings rate

Our savings rate this year will be down from last year. Last year we had a whopping 56Pct (including mortgage payment). That is not bad! Actually, it puts is quite high on the Blogger Savings Rate Index. And compared to the average Belgian Family, we must be sky high. Even with the lower income this year and the fact that we decided to invest less and spend more on travel.

And yet, there are people out there that do better, that save 60pct, 70 pct of their income. Where do we go wrong? Do we need to side hustle more? Do we need to cut more expenses? No more cable, a shabby car, downsize to a cheaper area?

FIRE Age

We plan be FI by the age of 53. What, that is not early!!  Look at the community.  A lot of people stop sooner. In extreme cases, you can read stories at age 32, or older at age 34 or really old, at age 37! They retire 18 years before us! Looks like we are some loosers.

53, that is actually not that far form the current Belgian average. In 2014, the Belgian average for a man was 59,6. So, I gain about 7 years. That is already a better perspective! still, not early

Option income

This year, my first trading year, I expect to end around 2,5K in option premium income. Not bad. Comparing to others, It is nice, not outrageous. There is more, there is less.

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What is there to learn?

  • In life, there wil always be people that have more than you. More money, more cars, a higher savings rate. There will be always people that be FI sooner. Trying to be nr 1 might not be the best approach in life. Changes to succeed are low… That does not mean you should not try. Just have the perspective on your probabilities. Try to come up with achievable goals and wins that matter to you, given your situation.

 

  • When looking at numbers, the only thing you see are numbers. There is no background, no idea on starting point, sacrifices made to reach a goal. People that retire sooner might have worked double your hours in a more stress full and demanding job. They might live on half your budget.

 

  • Take things in perspective. The 2,5K option income is in fact enormous. It is money I would otherwise not have. At the current interest rate (let’s be optimistic: a  1pct on an internet saving account), this represents 250K that would be parked there or 82,5K worth of a dividend stocks, assuming a 3 PCT net yield (Living in Belgium, with a 30pct tax rate and some foreign tax, that is easily 5 pct gross dividend… where can I find that?)

How to move forward?

Focusing on your own plan and your own life is the solution. What is it that makes you happy. That should be the driver in life. That is personal for each and every one and for each couple. As a family of 4, we need to find out that target. We realise also that it is a moving target. We get new insights, gain new experiences,we have live events that push us in another direction.

I have to admit, it is not easy to find out what we want, what our target is. It has changed quite a lot and there are conflicting items. Finding the balance is hard. I am sure a lot of others, even reference points we have, struggle with the same doubts.

Also, the focus on a goal might not be the best thing. You reach your goal. What is next? Go after a new goal…? We came to realise that we prefer to have an intentional way of living that makes us feel good.

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21 thoughts on “Beat the FIRE Joneses!

  1. Those are some very wise words Mr. ATL. We think you are doing rather well and that you are reach whichever goal you are trying to make. Goals will change as life will happen, flexibility is therefore key but so is happiness.

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  2. Great message, ATL. While we all occasionally get caught up with what the Joneses are doing (or when they are retiring) we need to live our own life and make the best decisions for us. For instance having more kids or less, traveling more, and having more work life balance before retirement… All of which I plan on doing in some form or fashion. 53 is still quite early in my book!

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  3. Ciao ATL,
    The race is more with myself than with others…
    Through comparison one can adjust things and be better (the real soul of a sharing economy as it seems the world is slowly moving towards), eventually when you are in your bed at night things matters only to you and your family! So I am not too much fussed at what other people make, I have a plan and try to work on it, usually set a 3 years plan and then a more “yearly” management to see if we are walking the right path. I love the community because it allows me to think about things that maybe I did not see, but in the end the race is with yourself and yourself only. As you rightly said, we all have different backgrounds and experiences, they define how we trade and what we achieve.
    Ciao ciao
    Stal

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  4. I agree, while it’s fun to compare your stats with others we often don’t know how others reach those numbers. I remember reading a post somewhere about someone planning to live in a camper for a few years to maximize his savings rate, I find that a bit extreme.

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  5. Great message. It’s all good and fun compare your stats with others but this is personal finance we’re talking about here…. it’s PERSONAL! Since no two people will have identical life, it’s not fair to compare their finance. 🙂

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  6. I love the message and your attitude. We will be 51 and 45 when we hit FIRE if that makes you feel any better. It is important to push ahead with your own family goals, ignore the peripheral noise and be happy with all of that. It sounds like you are doing all of this. Remember blogging is to tell your own story and when / if that resonates with others, you have a win!

    All the best!

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  7. Wonderful post–I agree that if we’re all striving to be the richest, or earliest retirees, or any other superlative, we’ll be constantly discouraged. But if we are trying to live intentionally like you said, and along the way we are able to retire 7 years early (or whatever) then we’ll be grateful throughout the journey, and with the result. It is so easy to compare and become jealous when in reality I have it so good!

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  8. I hadn’t even heard of FIRE when I retired five years ago, having just turned 56. It was the best thing I have ever done. 56 felt quite early, so as far as I am concerned 53 is great, 35 is amazing! I’m not sure about using percentages for comparison. If there’s just one of you and you earn $100k, 60% is maybe easy, but if you earn $40k, and have a family of 5, 60% would be a real challenge. It totally depends on your circumstances. So if you are consciously doing the best you can, well done! Every little helps.

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  9. Great message here. I think the key takeaway is to remember that your situation is unique and design a plan that works for YOU! There are a ton of great FIRE stories to gather inspiration from and use as motivation as you embark on your journey. However, each person has their own set of circumstances that allowed them to pursue that road. 100 out of 100 times, those circumstances are not identical to yours. The worst thing you could do is constantly compare yourself to others and become discouraged if your results vary or aren’t moving as quickly as someone elses. Stick to your plan and do what is best in your current circumstance.

    Thanks for the read!

    Bert

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  10. I have to admit there are many times that I wish I was further along with my blog. My wife has to constantly remind me not to compare myself to others. I have to admit there are so many excellent writers and there are times that I feel inadequate. But like you said I need to stop comparing myself to them and do the best job that I can. Thanks for the encouragement!!!

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  11. Great post ATL!
    I had similar feelings few years ago, listening to stories like Jacob (ERE) or MMM that both retired before I even started making real money. It doesn’t make sense to feel peer pressure in a negative way. It should only be there to motivate you. If I start playing tennis I’m not envy of Roger Federer. I’m glad I’m able to compare myself to him!

    Btw, with a 50-60% saving rate how can’t you retire before age 53? are you sure you’re not overestimating your target?

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    1. Good question… The 50 pct savings rate includes mortgage payments. As I do not count our house in the amberindex, it adds nothing towards the goal. The real savingsrate will be around 25% this year.

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