Hey everyone, it’s Finance Fridays again. Today we’re going to examine “An Unpopular Opinion about FIRE”.
An Unpopular Opinion about FIRE
First things first.
Perhaps you may be thinking that this post is going to go into a heated debate about FIRE and whether I like/dislike it. Maybe you thought I was going to Suze Orman style and talk about how “bad” it is.
I’m not here to talk about those things. I’ve already talked about Playing with FIRE in a previous post. In general, I think the idea of FIRE is a good one at its core. In general, it tends to celebrate the freedom of financial independence as well as get off the hedonic treadmill of “stuff”.
However, the idea of FIRE is a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum you have the extremely frugal super savers and at the other end you may find some who only retire a year or two early.
Different strokes for different folks… different numbers for different people.
However, whenever people talk about FIRE, one of the first things people tend to talk about is:
Usually, it’s something like a family of 4 lives in [insert high cost of living place here] and wants to save money and retire early. One of the first things that people will jump on is simply:
Now then, this isn’t a wrong answer. In fact, from a financial standpoint it’s the best (and easiest) answer. Very few things in life will impact your bottom dollar more than moving from a high cost of living area to one with a lower cost of living.
So, where’s the unpopular opinion then?
I don’t want to.
In fact, I would say a lot of people “don’t want to”. There are a multitude of reasons for “not wanting to”.
A for me, here is some background on places I’ve lived.
- Southern California
- An island in the middle of Caribbean (St. Maarten)
- Staten Island, NY
- Albany, NY
- Baltimore, MD
- Providence, RI
- An island in the middle of Pacific Ocean (Oahu)
I’ve lived on both coasts and on two different islands. Snow doesn’t really bother me either (see Albany, NY and Providence, RI). The truth of the matter is that I could probably live anywhere.
So then, if I really wanted to, I could move to a lower cost of living area and probably be just fine. Here’s the thing:
I don’t want to.
I like my life here on Hawaii. My family likes living here. My wife (and her aversion to the cold) does well here. My kids, who are hapa, fit in well here.
The laid back lifestyle fits who I am as a person, and works for my family. I don’t have any shoes except slippahs. They’re nice Olukai slippahs, but they’re still slippahs. They’re the only thing I wear, so I’m ok spending a little bit of money on them. I only buy one pair of them every year or so. The last time I wore a suit (or even a tie) was when I went back to California for my friend’s wedding. The most formal piece of clothing I wear here is probably a polo shirt for a “nice dinner out” once in awhile.
The other thing is that my job is kind of special in that it doesn’t really exist anywhere else for the hours I work. I could probably find a similar job in a different area. However, it would probably not be the same kind of shift, and it would almost certainly not be a government job.
Here’s the other thing.
I also don’t need to move.
My FIRE plan is still in place. My goal of a 20 Year Career is still in place.
Could I have made it an 18 year career (or less) somewhere else?
However, I’ve chosen to live where I want and have amended my retirement plan to allow for it. Now then, you can’t have it all.
You can’t expect to live in a high cost of living area and still get a new car every few years, go on lavish vacations, wear designer clothes, etc etc. I am well aware that living in a high cost of living area means that I need to “make up the difference” elsewhere.
As such, I probably go on less vacations than all of my other doctor friends. Also, the vacations we do go on probably aren’t that expensive relative to the others as well. We’ve been mostly just doing staycations or trips to the other islands the last few years. Our last major trip was The California Trip back in 2018. While it was expensive, I felt we got a lot out of it as a family.
This year, we will probably do the The New Jersey Trip of 2020. This is something that I have planned and budgeted for that since we returned from California. We’ve also budgeted the time as well, planning ahead with my wife saving up her PTO days (which she doesn’t get much of). The airfare and hotels will be expensive for a 10 day trip, but this was all planned for. That said, having the kids and inlaws see family back in New Jersey is important. Kylie and Lucas’s great-grandmother misses them dearly, and she is unable to fly out to Hawaii to see them.
I also have plans for another California Trip in 2021. However, this one will probably be a lot more relaxing than the previous one where were trying to hit Disneyland, Legoland, and Sea World in a small time frame. Perhaps we’ll just do Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm. Then maybe we can think about our first international trip in 2022 or 2023. I was thinking maybe Japan (or maybe Australia?) for our first one. It kind of depends on a lot of things.
All I’m saying is that it’s easy to just tell people to move out of their high of cost of living (HCOL) area.
Oh you want to FIRE? — Just Move!
However, the answer is just not that easy for many, many people.
I think the more appropriate response is that if you make the choice to live in a high cost of living area, you will need to make up the difference elsewhere. You probably can’t have it all and still FIRE in the timeline you want. You will need to alter your plan to suit your wants/needs.
It kind of goes back to how to choose a job:
Money, Location, Lifestyle — choose 2.
For FIRE, you just need to balance things out. The first thing to do is to decide how early you want to retire and put together a game plan to achieve it. Then make changes as things change. Your job may change. You may have more (or less) children than you thought. You may decide to go down to part-time earlier than you thought.
Your plan for FIRE should be fluid… but the underlying goal should remain the same.
Just an unpopular opinion about FIRE.
I live where I do because I want to and because I don’t need to move.
My FIRE plan takes this into account.
Please don’t shame people for wanting to live in high cost of living areas. You really don’t know their reasons for wanting to stay.
That said, HCOL or not, your plan for FIRE should be fluid. However, the underlying goal should remain the same.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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