We are Chris and Sarah Fortunate. Well, not really… They are blogging pseudonyms we’ve chosen for this blog.
FIRE stands for Financially Independent and Retiring Early. We have been practicing FIRE ideas for years without knowing it was a “thing”. Most of that time was out of necessity. Our families aren’t wealthy, and neither are we. Chris was in college for 11 years seeking multiple bachelor degrees and eventually a PhD. During that time, he never took out a student loan – he took advantage of scholarships, worked hard, and scrimped by to make it work. When Chris graduated in 2010, he found himself in the height of the Great Recession and unable to find a job. Sarah started her career in 2004 after college as a bank teller, which also wasn’t part of her career plan. Living paycheck to paycheck was just a reality of life for a long time.
Eventually things got better. As it did, we didn’t change our lifestyle. And as things got better, we found our situation and choices more and more isolating – financial decisions we made that seemed obvious to us seemed foreign to others. And likewise, the financial decisions others make were equally mind-boggling to us.
Four years ago, we bought our first home. It was a stretch, but we made it. We still have a mortgage, but it’s given us the opportunity to start thinking long term, and that led to thinking about retirement.
The retirement landscape in the country right now is dismal. A large number of people seem to not care, are not ready, and are not preparing. The Social Security trust fund is predicted to be insolvent by 2034 – that’s a decade before we would traditionally retire. What happens then we don’t know. But it’s guaranteed to not be good and we simply can’t count on it.
So last year we set ourselves on a journey to try to figure out how to secure our own future. We started to put our ideas into practice, and as we went we started to wonder if it was possible to retire early.
Retiring early is such a taboo topic! Everyone fantasizes about it, but how pretentious must someone be to actually try? Society teaches us that retirement is around age 65 after working hard for 30 years or so. That is reinforced by age limits on IRA’s, 401k’s, family, friends, retirees, and just about every source imaginable. But when we ran the numbers, there didn’t seem to be any real reason why one couldn’t retire early. In fact, the only reasons for not doing so seemed to be all those mind-boggling decisions others were making that we don’t understand.
So the day we discovered the “FIRE” community was an exciting day. We instantly recognized FIRE, and felt validated and relieved to find others who seemed to be thinking the same way financially as we do.
Even if all goes well, we are years away from gaining financial independence. So we decided that writing a blog to record our thoughts and struggles on this journey may be the best way to help keep us on track. And maybe, we can help others along the way see they aren’t alone in having the same thoughts as us about their futures.
So this blog is our FIRE story.