Fifth (and Final) Annual Update

Fifth Year of Freedom

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve released an annual update every year since I quit my job.

It’s now been five years since I stopped working so this is my fifth (and final) annual update.

Why is it my final one?

I explain in today’s short episode…

Listen Now

Highlights

  • How the pandemic highlighted the power of having savings
  • Why FI is the ultimate shock absorber and cheat code
  • The reasons this annual update will be my last
  • What to do when money is no longer a source of motivation
  • Why “Lean FIRE” may be a bad idea
  • Warren Buffet’s plan for leaving money to his kids (and why it may change your FI target)

Show Links

Full Transcript

Mad Fientist: Hey what’s up everybody, it’s the Mad Fientist. Welcome to the Financial Independence Podcast.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last episode but after being trapped in Scotland for 15 months because of the pandemic, I was finally able to make it back to the States and I just decided to take a few months off so I could focus on spending a lot of quality time with the family that I had been missing over the past year.

So since it’s been a while, I just have a short episode today to get back into the swing of things.

If you’ve listened to the show before you know that every year on my anniversary of leaving work I’ve posted either a podcast or an article about some of the things that I’ve learned over the past year and this is actually my fifth one so that means five years ago, on August 1st, was the last day I went into a normal job and I really can’t believe it’s been five years but it has so this is my five year update and I actually think it’s gonna be my last and I’ll explain more as this episode continues on but yeah, I really don’t feel like I’m gonna do any more of these annual updates so rather than ramble on let’s just dive into everything that I learned over the past year of post-FI life!

So let’s start with the good stuff…so the pandemic has just highlighted how valuable having savings is and yeah, FI savings is obviously great because you don’t have to work at all but even some amount of savings just to give you the power to do other things is so important.

So many times over the last year, it’s been apparent that just how valuable that is…from Jill not having to work when she felt like it was unsafe to do so, to not really having to go inside anywhere for any reason at all and being able to just isolate properly when necessary, to just coming back from our travels to the States and having to quarantine for 10 days in the UK…that would have been extremely stressful if we were juggling full-time jobs or had some places we needed to be but we were able to just roll with it and be like, okay we just have to stay hunkered down for 10 days and it’s not fun but it’s not a huge deal. So this past year, more than any other, just really highlighted how valuable that is and I actually just came across a quote that perfectly sums it up and it was on the Planing our Pennies’ blog, and it was Mrs. PoP’s last article, and in it she said, “There’s no downside to having a high net worth…it acts like a giant shock absorber that smooths over life’s bumps and after a while it feels like life is a game and you’ve discovered the mother of all cheat codes.” That quote to me is just perfect because the giant shock absorber that smooths over life’s bumps, I think is the perfect way to describe that feeling of having a nice chunk of savings in the bank over the last year. As you know, the world has been so uncertain and everything’s a bit weird and scary and just having that financial peace of mind to know that you can roll with the punches and you can get over some of these hurdles that are unexpected and it just takes so much stress and anxiety away that…you know, when I was a teenager, what if my car breaks down? I don’t want to spend $500…that would use up all my money if I had to fix a car problem or if anything else broke that I wasn’t expecting and the more you build up the less stressed you get about these unexpected things that do happen in life and this past year just highlighted how important that is for my mental well-being…just to know that there’s there’s enough there and you can deal with things that happen and life’s bumps are going to be a lot more smoothed out because, as Mrs. PoP said, you have this giant shock absorber that can make any bumps you do face a lot smoother and easier to deal with.

Moving on to the absolute best thing that happened over the past year is that I finally released the album that I had been wanting to write my entire adult life. And this was the whole reason I wanted to achieve FI in the first place, actually. I thought it was my job that was getting in the way of me doing this and I thought I’d have to save up enough so that I would never have to work again in order to devote the proper time to actually achieve this big goal of mine and it turned out that I didn’t actually need to do that because the thing that was holding me back all these years of trying to achieve this is wasn’t my job, because I had plenty of spare time that I could have used towards working towards it. It was actually a lot of mental hang-ups I had about trying to pursue it, because I was worried I’d fail, and so I probably could have actually done it when I had a job, but it did take achieving FI, and then a global pandemic to lock me inside for a year, to do it.

But I actually did it and it is by far the thing that I’m most proud of and if you’ve listened to it, you know it’s not going to win a Grammy or be on the radio or anything like that but it was the thing that I really wanted to accomplish more than any other and it was definitely the most difficult thing that I’ve tried to do so the fact that I was able to actually do it after all these years of not being able to, and not really believing I’d ever be able to was just a huge personal accomplishment for me and is something that i’m really proud of and I look forward to writing the next one because I’ll hopefully be in a completely different mindset than I was leading up to this one and now that I know I can do it, then i’m expecting this next one’s going to be a lot more fun to make. So I’m really looking forward to that but since this was the whole reason I wanted to achieve FI in the first place, that’s why I don’t think I’m going to do any more of these annual updates because every other annual update that I’ve given has sort of been revolving around me trying to get to this goal because that was like the end of my FI journey so now that I’ve done that, it doesn’t make sense to do any more annual updates because now it’s just a case of just living life as anyone is living life. And the money equation is solved, and I was able to accomplish the thing that I wanted FI to lead to so any other future updates…I just don’t see the point of them really because it doesn’t have much to do with achieving FI in my eyes. So it makes sense to just end on this high note and this will be the the final annual update.

Since I’m talking about the album, I just want to thank all of you guys out there who pre-ordered it and made the release week of the album even more exciting and that is because you guys helped me actually get onto the Billboard charts, which is ridiculous, especially considering the type of music it is and has no business being anywhere near the charts, so just want to thank you so much for that because it made it even more exciting than it was to begin with. And even though nothing really came from being on the charts for one week, it just adds to the ridiculousness of my adult life so far. I still smile anytime that I think about it so thank you for the support, it really meant a lot to me. And if you haven’t checked out the album yet then you can go to madfientist.com/album and there’s a Spotify QR code that you can open up Spotify on your phone and do the search-by-image feature and then it’ll just pop up the album or you can just enter your email address and I will send you an email with all the links to the album and also tell you where I did end up on the chart for that amazing week way back in February. And while you’re there in Spotify or Apple Music or wherever you listen to music, if you could follow me there, that would be great because that’s hopefully where a lot more activity is going to be happening over the next couple years.

So those were the really positive things over the last years that are FIRE related.

One of the things that still is a challenge for me that i’m working through is losing money as a motivating factor. I’ve written about this in the past, and I’ve maybe even talked about it on podcast, but for someone like me who has been focused on money for as long as I can remember and has been trying to you know reach FI and do all these saving goals, money has been a huge motivating factor in my decisions. So from studying hard in high school, to what I majored in in college to what jobs I chose and everything. And now, when money isn’t as important or more money isn’t as important…losing that as a source of motivation has been really interesting and I’m still not exactly sure I’ve come to grips with it and it’s almost made me rethink what I recommend for other people because I think being motivated by earning money is a positive thing and…I just came across a quote from Warren Buffett recently and it’s actually a quote about how he intends to leave money to his children and the quote is, he plans to leave them enough money so that they can do anything but not so much that they could do nothing and one I think that’s a great way to think about how much money you leave your kids but it also made me reflect on where I’m at now and, like I said, there’s no really motivation to earn more money and even though I’m incredibly lucky to be in that position, it still comes with complications because technically, yeah I don’t have to do anything but a lot of things in life come when you’re being forced to do something maybe you don’t exactly want to do, like for instance, going into work…yeah, it’s not great but you get this forced socialization that you may not have had and you’re interacting with people that are outside your social circle that may be difficult at times but it is also really rewarding and…to go back to the album, right now I could potentially promote it a lot more, which would then maybe get me signed to an indie label, which would then open up a lot of doors for fun music festivals to perform at, and things like that. But since I don’t have money motivating me to reach out to the labels or get myself out there on social media or do any of these not-fun things in the short term, then I’m potentially missing out on a lot more fun in the long term so so that Buffett quote really made me think about FIRE in a new light and it made me think maybe the ideal savings goal to save enough so that all your essential expenses are covered and then continue working to fund your discretionary expenses. So to go back to the Buffett quote, that would allow you to do anything, because you could technically survive by leaving your job and doing whatever you wanted to at that stage, so you could do anything at that point but it’s not really enough to allow you to do nothing. Because you could get by and survive but there would be absolutely no fun in your life, which you wouldn’t want to continue for very long, so maybe that’s a good sweet spot…to save up enough so that all your essential expenses are covered so you can eat and you can have shelter and you can be warm and all the things that are essential for survival, so that then frees you up to do anything you want with your life but it’s not enough that you get comfortable and you do nothing. And that may be a good sweet spot for motivation but on the flip side, most of the really great benefits that I talked about at the beginning of the episode…feeling like you can handle anything that comes to you and not having the stress and anxiety about future bumps in the road and all those things…those only really started to come into effect when we felt like we had more than enough. So i’m not exactly sure what my conclusion is on this because on one hand, I feel like Fat FIRE is the way to go in in the sense that having more than enough and knowing that you’re gonna be okay no matter what comes around in the next few years or whatever, I think that is really valuable. But then on the other hand, losing money as a motivation is difficult because then you don’t have to do things and I think maybe you miss out on things just because in the short term, they may be a little uncomfortable and since you don’t have to do these uncomfortable things, you don’t but then you’re potentially missing out on some long-term benefits.

So I’m not exactly sure where I fall on this but I think that maybe Lean FIRE is something to avoid because you don’t get either in that sense so you’re you’re not feeling like you have so much extra that you can handle whatever comes at you in the future years but you have enough that you don’t really have that money motivation to continue doing things. So I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this but at least in my really early days thinking about this topic, I’m thinking maybe Lean FIRE is probably not the way to go and maybe one of those other two bookends is a better goal for your FI savings. But again, this is really early days in my thinking on this so i’d be interested to hear your opinions on it so head to madfientist.com/episode61 and leave a comment because i’d be interested to hear what you think about it.

Continuing on from the having more than enough idea, I’m trying to also think about my spending and trying to deprogram my frugality in a sense, because as I discussed with Ramit Sethi on the podcast interview I had with him, I know that I’m a bit too extreme in that sense. And now that the market has recovered and finances are looking good, I know that I don’t need to be that frugal with things and I know that there’s potentially ways I can increase my spending that are not wasteful, because i’ll never be wasteful with money, but at least I can start thinking about ways to use my money in a positive and beneficial way, so that’s definitely something I plan to either write about more or maybe get Ramit back on the show to talk about more because I i feel like that’s a common problem with people like me, who are naturally frugal or have a frugal upbringing, sort of trying to deprogram some of that when it’s no longer necessary to be that extreme in your frugality. So stay tuned for a deeper dive into that topic and if that’s something that you’re interested in, subscribe to the email list, which is definitely the best way to stay up to date with this stuff now because i’m posting even more sporadically than I used to in the past because i’m obviously working a lot more on the music project. So if you’re wanting to just get updated whenever a new post or podcast comes out, just head to madfientist.com/advice and you can put your email address in there and you’ll get a pdf of all the great advice I’ve received on the Financial Independence Podcast from my guests over the years. And if you want to check out the past four years of my annual updates I will link to all of those in the show notes of this episode so you can go to madfientist.com/episode61 and from there you’ll find all the other episodes and articles about everything that I learned in my previous four years of FI.

So that was a short but sweet one today. I have some other interviews coming up that I’ll be publishing soon but I hope you’re all doing well out there hopefully you’ve been able to meet up with your friends and family that you hadn’t seen for a while. Anyway, thanks a lot for listening and I’ll see in the next one!
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    51 comments for “Fifth (and Final) Annual Update

    1. John
      August 20, 2021 at 5:12 am

      Thanks for the update. I hope that you do a few more life updates. I’m interested in hearing from people who have achieved FIRE, and been FIRE for a long time.

      Is FIRE worth it and does it cause unexpected problems? The only people who can answer that are people who have been FIRE for a long time.

      • Tarun
        August 21, 2021 at 6:10 pm

        +1 to this. Would love for you to just give life updates whenever you feel like it, so that we can learn how life has been years / decades after firing.

        • The Mad Fientist
          September 26, 2021 at 10:52 am

          That sounds manageable :) I’ll just post something when I feel like I have something useful/helpful to share.

    2. Tony Famiano
      August 20, 2021 at 5:44 am

      I always look Forward to your podcast. Your thoughts keep me centered on my own FI goals. The messages in your “final” annual podcast resonates more so than some of your past in that you articulate how you have pivoted in some areas from your original thinking (legacy for children, lean fire vs other forms of F.I.R.E etc.)
      My thoughts on the entire FIRE concept also pivot snd change with most all milestones we achieve. We are now well into FAT F.I.R.E with $3.8M of investable assets at a young 54 & 52 years old. We capitalized on the upbeat housing market this spring and sold our primary residence (only real estate property) and moved into a 2 bedroom apartment. This allows us to save the difference we are no longer spending on a mortgage, taxes and upkeep while also investing the equity from our home in the wild stock market of the past year or so.
      I cannot help but think about “when is it enough”. Savings, plan achievement, time served in our careers etc. We know we can leave our respective employment any time we want but yet we keep working and growing our net worth by $5-600,000 annually. In spite of all the wisdom shared by others who have gone before us, we are not yet pulling the trigger to step away from work and into our next chapter beyond work. Now we have a new goal of saving some more to build a new home in NC in a couple of years. Even purchased the lot for that development. But something tells me that when we build, move into that home and complete that milestone, we will have another deja’vu moment and think about one more year or more of employment. All the things I thought would never materialize or influence my decisions.
      Just cannot seem to pin point the why and keep pressing on as if there is no urgency to make a hard and fast decision. I am convinced now that I think too much about the things I should probably not think about at all .
      Keep up the good work on your end. We look forward to your next update (in whatever format that may be).
      Regards,
      Tony

      • Jack
        August 20, 2021 at 10:38 am

        Tony,

        I relate to your sentiment to M.F. and your personal situation. Thanks for sharing so candidly. Our situation was almost exactly like yours. Our FI allowed us to take a risk on a new job on the other side of the country. We moved away from our “dream home” and family/friends so that I could work a NASA project. Our thought was that we’d return home after a few years but it’s turned out that we have chosen never to return. Living in the southeast is much less expensive and nicer for us than the Pacific northwest, especially these days. That’s just our preference of course. Anyway, I just wanted to share with you that we were in the same FI place as you, and I kept working for 8 years knowing that I could leave any day I wanted. Like you, I couldn’t come up with a good reason to quit my job, so I allowed our FI to take a risk in the new job. As my new dream job slowly turned into a regular job with daily frustrations over the course of the last 8 years, I finally “retired” at age 47 in February 2021. Frustration at work became my “why” for pushing the button on going FI. Like you I was uncertain about that big leap, although I had expert advice and spreadsheets galore to validate our option was sound. It’s been just six months of retirement for me and it has been great for the most part. Our investments have performed incredibly and gained in value more than twice what my annual salary was. Financially the plan is working, but six months in and with high school kids back to school now, I am seriously considering returning to work someplace. Although money is no longer the motivation to work, I need something more to do. I am starting to feel “lazy” being at home when I’m still plenty young enough to work. However, before I retired I constantly debated with myself on the “how much is enough” decision. A helpful book I read is God and Money- How we discovered true riches at Harvard business school. Athours are John Cortines and Gregory Baumer. This is a helpful book even if a person has no faith. The authors introduce the concept of Finish lines. That’s the process of determining how much is enough and when you’re truly ready to enter FI and what to do afterwards. I recommend the book to anyone.

        • Cori Chekhovskiy
          August 22, 2021 at 9:39 am

          Thanks for the book recommendation. I am also struggling with losing money as a motivator. I’ll check it out. Trying to look at myself in a new way and figure out, what does motivate me? What do I like to do? And also, due to some others around me, is there a good reason to keep trying to accumulate more?

    3. Mikel
      August 20, 2021 at 6:19 am

      Hi Brandon,

      Wow, what a journey. We all continue to grapple with COVID-19, but for those of us with houses and stocks our net worth’s keep increasing! It feels like bizarro-world.

      Since living in the States (a few years ago), I started delving into the concepts around Financial Independence. Not far into this research, one starts to run across the “good stuff”. A door that’s been left ajar… Or someone who cracks the door open just a little to allow me a glimpse into my FI future. I am fascinated that you are still grappling in your recommendation as to where to set the “preferred” dial on FI (to lean-FI, or not to Lean-FI?). Your post-FI “Annuals” are important touchstones. I know you feel that you’ve released the last one, but I would like to hear about your continuing thoughts, feelings and conclusions as you move further into the future. There’s a “Playing with Fire” (13min 54sec) clip with Vicki Robin that is awesome…

      Ultimately, with – say – 7 or 8 years to run, I’m starting to build that “bridge” that I need for life once I hit FI. I’m OK. As always, you can’t (and shouldn’t) wish your life away…

      I just wanted to pass on my sincere thanks for adding your personal honest thoughts to the dialogue. It has really made a difference in my life, and I’m sure the life of others…

      Cheers,

      M.

    4. Aussie Firebug
      August 20, 2021 at 6:37 am

      Nice update MF.

      Here’s my take on your question.

      I’m still a few years away from full FIRE but have recently dropped down to 20 hours a week.

      The work life balance for me personally is at an all time high.

      I think reaching a point (maybe a little over halfway) where you can start to reclaim your time back is the sweet spot. It’s only a matter of time after that before the snowball reaches critical mass but you can start to reap the rewards a little bit earlier instead of grinding it out for a decade or so.

      I also found it interesting on your point of avoiding uncomfortable situations because being FI allowed you to but then perhaps missing out on even better outcomes.

      So true!

      My greatest accomplishments in life have always been a direct result of putting myself through/in uncomfortable situations.

      Hope all is well mate and I’m glad to hear your back in the states with the fam.

      *excuse the typos and grammar
      , I’m on my mobile

      • Mary
        August 20, 2021 at 9:59 am

        I’m with you Aussie Firebug! Working part-time while the savings take a “snowball effect” has been great for me and personally I’m in no rush to get to Full FIRE but I love seeing the progress and enjoying life along the way (I’m 43 years old and about halfway to my goal).

      • Dan
        August 20, 2021 at 12:27 pm

        I completely agree with the sweet spot of seeking better work/life balance earlier! This has been my situation for the past five years or so. I fired all the clients I didn’t like and kept the ones I did. While some of my peers would consider this risky, it allowed me to focus on the truly important stuff while working while at the same time freeing me up to have a more flexible schedule.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 10:55 am

        Hey dude, great to hear from you! I agree that part-time work is probably the sweet spot because it gives you enough free time to do anything you want but you still have most of the benefits that come from working. If I was starting my FI journey over again, I think that’s what I’d work towards first (instead of full FI). Hope you guys are doing well!

        • Glincoln
          October 4, 2021 at 8:23 am

          I am hearing that more and more (i.e. that part-time work is the way to go). I am in healthcare in the US and part-time is certainly doable. I am really struggling with the full-time grind. Man on man Monday mornings really suuuucckkk. Alas, I have hope and that glide path is my hope. With over $1.4 M in retirement savings all I would really need to do is cover my expenses and back off on the savings/stock investing and smell the roses!

    5. Zara
      August 20, 2021 at 7:26 am

      I Lean FIRE-d when I was 24. I agree it’s too much to force you to do anything and not enough to do nothing. I also found myself unsure what to do after I FIRE’d, felt a lack of purpose in life with expatriation and few friends. I started working again after a year to have more discretionary income. And also in the hopes of raising my net worth so one day I’d be able to do ‘nothing’.
      Another issue I’ve come across with Lean FIRE is separation and divorce. Expenses as a single person are different from that as a couple, so for each person to take half leaves neither person with FIRE. It’s not something most people consider.

    6. Phil Drake
      August 20, 2021 at 9:18 am

      Good to hear from you sir. Hope the next hiatus doesn’t last too long…
      Mostly I hope to hear more from you on Spotify soon ;)

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 10:56 am

        That’s what I’m hoping for too :)

    7. ChuckA
      August 20, 2021 at 9:43 am

      Brandon,

      Thanks for another insightful update. I enjoy each one of them as you’ve come to many of the same conclusions I’ve come to (although it took me to a later age to reach them). I think you should continue with the updates but, it should be a different focus. Maybe ” What I learned this Year” .

      I think it is interesting you reached your goal of the album which was your “why” on the FI trip and you are at the “now what” point. So what is your “why” now? (I assume there is a why for the second album.) How are you going to measure the success of the next album? Artistic endeavors seem hard to measure and I get the feeling you’re a measure everything kind of guy.

      You like quotes, so here is one of my favorites:
      “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” re-quoted by Theodore Roosevelt

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 10:58 am

        Yes, a second album is going to be my core focus once I get back to Scotland and get settled again.

        And as far as success is concerned, I’ll consider my next album successful if I level-up my songwriting and production skills and release something I’m even more proud of (from a musical standpoint). So it won’t be anything I can measure with numbers (i.e. downloads, sales, etc.) but it’ll just be something I feel.

    8. Prob8
      August 20, 2021 at 10:38 am

      Always good to hear from you MF! Although being able to afford the basics may be considered FI to many, to me you aren’t “independent” until you can lead the life you want with the assets you have. Until you reach that point, money is still a meaningful limiting factor. Also, I’d suggest people should not underestimate the mental/emotional side of retiring early. While the spreadsheets, blogs, and Trinity Study (etc.) might say you have enough, the transition from growing assets to living off them is a very difficult one. Even more so when you have “just enough” for the basics. Life is much easier/less stressful when withdrawing 4% (or less) leaves plenty of room for discretionary reductions should the need arise. At that point, money is truly no longer a primary motivator and you are then free to make choices with your time that aren’t otherwise available.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:01 am

        Prob8, great to hear from you again! Hope you’re doing well. And I agree…you aren’t fully independent until you have more than enough so that’s why I think Lean FIRE is probably the wrong way to go (because the last thing you’d want is to start worrying about money even more after you’ve achieved your biggest financial goal).

    9. Fredrik
      August 20, 2021 at 11:14 am

      Hi!
      Your story is very inspiring.
      I totally missed out on your album-release when it went live. I am very sorry for that. I think I had too much work going on at that time.
      But I have listened to the album now on spotify, and you have one new follower there! As someone born in the 70s, I grew up with all great synth-music coming out in the 80s, so this is perfect! Not really Billboard music, so that must have been fascinating! But I am really looking forward to your next album.
      I signed up to your music email list, so now I will follow your recommendations there.
      This is especially inspiring for me, because I am somewhat in the same situation.
      I am leaving the corporate world on September 30th this year. One strong reason for me to aim for FIRE was to be able to focus more on making music!
      Maybe we could start a new flavour of FIRE, “MusicFI” :-)
      I actually managed to release one E.P. this year, before leaving work. But it took forever to make. If this is inappropriate here, I am sorry and please remove my comment. But if you like FIRE and synth music, maybe you would enjoy it. My music is instrumental and is inspired by the masters such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. You can find my E.P. if you look for “J. Fredrik Andersson”. The title is “A Mind Forever Voyaging”.

      To be able to really do what you like and want is for me the greatest thing with the FIRE-ideas. It is really about the FI, not the RE.

      All the best
      Fredrik from Sweden

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:06 am

        Really glad you liked the album!

        And big congrats on your EP! I just listened and really enjoyed all those beautiful synths :) Look forward to listening again when I’m reunited with my studio headphones (so I can truly appreciate everything).

        Best of luck with leaving your job and can’t wait to check out all the new music you release after you leave the corporate world!

    10. Matthew
      August 20, 2021 at 11:14 am

      Long time follower here. Paula from Afford Anything just yesterday sent out an email reiterating the truth that we don’t buy products we buy feelings. I think this informs our motivations. So for example in the case of a FIRE devotee we buy security and independence. The price to buy these feelings is pretty well set with the 4% rule. So once we reach the price of admission the motivation leaves as well. Compare that to someone like Warren Buffet, who has obviously chosen a feeling that has no cap on price. I have personally found that focusing on goals that bring me a feeling of accomplishment or stewardship for my kids have helped substantially with the motivation piece after FIRE.

      It is sad to hear that this will be your last update. Rather than being less valuable because you have achieved your goal of producing your soundtrack. These updates gain value each subsequent year because it gives a better sense of “what now” and “it still works” post- FI.

    11. Dan
      August 20, 2021 at 12:13 pm

      My view is how you feel about FAT fire or Lean fire is just like asset allocations. It’s best to think about this over time and explore different scenarios to make sure that it will sit well with ones gut. The danger in FAT fire is trading time when it may not be needed, the danger in lean is there is a lot more risk, primarily in that you lose career equity at a time when others are gaining it in a maximum way.

    12. FrugalRoadie
      August 20, 2021 at 2:12 pm

      I have definitely had the same question you are pondering about motivating factors. My industry shut down during the pandemic, I work in entertainment, and thankfully from being in the FI movement for a while now I did/do not need to find other income while I wait for the industry to restart. While being at home during this time I have also dove into minimalism and have been selling possessions on eBay. I’ve found that I enjoy the process, and have even debated trying to make it a side hustle, going to thrift stores to try to find items to flip and such, but since I don’t need the income the motivation lacks to drive around. Similarly my real estate endeavors, own 3 units/5 doors, I love owning properties and am always “looking” for other deals, but it is a much more “passive” form of looking than if I really needed the income. I’ve pondered the quote often, “necessity is the mother of invention” and have wondered if by not needing the money am I missing out on things I could create?
      All that being said though, I also enjoy the life I have now. Since I enjoy my life as it is now, and am happy, what need is there for me to invent or pursue things I am not motivated to pursue? I also feel that if I really really want to do something I will pursue it, but pursue the parts I want. Like with your album, you give the example of reaching out to record labels and such and how you are not “motivated” to do it, but you are working on making a second album. So, do you really want a record label, or do you just want to make music? Would having a record label really be “fun”, or would it force you to deal with parts of the industry you do not want to deal with and make music that you do not want to make, as opposed to you currently having the freedom to produce what you want to produce?
      All that to say, I struggle with the question as well.

    13. Z
      August 20, 2021 at 6:55 pm

      OK you sold this as a brief update but you have a serious thought experiment and mid-FI-crisis rolled in the middle.
      I’m poking fun, but a really appreciate how open and genuine you are in sharing these thoughts. It makes me think of Coach Carson’s various FI levels and finding what suits you at whatever stage of life you’re in.
      Glad to hear from the Mad Fientist again!

    14. steveark
      August 20, 2021 at 7:53 pm

      To me you are one of the giants in the FI world. A great writer, a great speaker and just an incredibly cool person. I retired about six months before you but I was already an older guy at 60 who just slightly early retired. Having goals and achieving them, the sad truth is few people actually do that, but you do and you did! I did that too in my world, and it changes you. It gives you confidence, it gives you courage and makes life fun. If you don’t want to post an update again, that’s good. If you change your mind and do, that’s good too. Know you have a lot of fans, friends who may not have met you yet but consider you a bud. And someone we admire.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:08 am

        Wow, thanks very much for the kind words and big congrats on your retirement :)

    15. Dave
      August 20, 2021 at 8:02 pm

      Hope you keep giving updates – telling the story of what happens AFTER you achieve your post FI goal is definitely an important part of the FIRE story in my mind.

    16. Scott L
      August 20, 2021 at 9:32 pm

      Brandon,
      Thank you for the update and for everything you’ve done for the FIRE community.
      The question you posed is a very interesting one and it has really made me think. I agree that it is preferable to have the security of Fat FIRE. I also agree that the need to make money can be a source of motivation.
      What if one were to reach their Fat FIRE (or other form of FIRE) goals then adopt a new use for their excess income. This new use could be anything, but maybe a different goal such as supporting a favorite cause, charity, etc. This would provide the “need” to continue making money with the goal now being to support this new initiative instead of the pursuit towards FIRE. This approach would also provide the security of Fat FIRE and knowing that if the work required to generate this income became unappealing, one could just stop and not have a negative impact on their personal finances.
      It’s not the answer for everyone, but I would be interested to hear from those who have chosen to do something like this and their thoughts on your question.
      If you are going to provide thought-provoking questions like this during your annual updates, please don’t make this your last one :-)
      Thanks again and take care.

    17. Life Outside The Maze
      August 21, 2021 at 1:24 am

      Great to hear an update MF and I will offer an answer (opinion) to your question on the sweet spot. Buffett’s quote is from a guy who has Billions but still gets up every day for other reasons beyond money. He works for achievement, because it is fun to become awesome at something and keep kicking ass at it. It gives him community, purpose, and the achievement. It reminds me of the Ben Franklin quote that when you chop your own wood it warms you twice. So it is with FI as well. Buffett wants his kids to experience that joy of chopping the wood and it warming twice. Hence they need to do something but can do anything. However I agree with you on the giant shock absorber being pretty great and can vouch for that too. So the answer to me and in my experience is to keep doing meaningful or fulfilling work but not for the money. At the same time if that work is of value, it will generate additional wealth since we live in a capitalist world. This is how lean fire folk who remain engaged in something inevitably would move toward fat fire. So if one is lean fire but not engaged in doing anything well then they have no shock absorber but also no motivation (worst of both). Versus being fatfire and motivated beyond money (best of both in some ways). I think I am agreeing with you here and adding that motivation is key not just to money but to contentment. I mean philosophically speaking someone with zero initiative is dead right? No initiative to breath, eat, strive, achieve…What do you think?

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:19 am

        That’s a great way to think about it. The engagement/motivation needs to be there, regardless of the money (Lean FIRE, Fat FIRE, etc.), because happiness doesn’t come from money in the bank…it comes from doing hard things, striving, achieving, contributing, etc.

    18. Matt
      August 21, 2021 at 10:04 am

      Please don’t quit! People need more reminders that FIRE is not just about numbers.

      I would love for your lab to investigate effective strategies for how people can “build the life they want to retire into”. We don’t want people to follow solid financial advice only to become unhappy misers!

    19. Jason
      August 21, 2021 at 12:29 pm

      Brandon,

      I loved your discussion on money as a primary motivator. My wife and I have reached or exceeded FatFIRE. We keep working part time because we enjoy it. I’ve been wanting to write an article for The Pilot Network called “Beware the Golden Handcuffs.” Our society is so focused on money that, even when you don’t necessarily need more of it, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of chasing it. I’m an airline pilot and my job pays so well that I get a significant amount of clear, direct feedback (on my paycheck) anytime I do a little extra work. Most airline pilots pursue those opportunities because they have to…they can’t make ends meet otherwise. It’s easy to get caught up in their pursuit of money out of necessity and pursue it myself just because it’s a common measure of success. I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t actually need that money. It’s okay to go earn it because I enjoy the flying and the paid travel; however, it’s tough balancing that against it being an unnecessary burden.

      My primary job gives me so much free time that I’ve been able to spend more time on side hustles I enjoy. I published a book (lifetime achievement, like your excellent album) and get more offers for paid writing jobs online than I want to devote time to. I enjoy flight instructing and have far more demand than I could ever meet. I’ve used money to help throttle those opportunities. When someone asks me to write, I quote a fee that feels way too high. Either they balk and rescind their offer (great for me), or they agree to it and I make even more money than I ever imagined. I’m trying to do the same with flying.

      The funny thing about these side hustles is that when they’re your primary and only job, they don’t pay enough. You’re always scraping, wishing for more, waiting for the day when you can make the big bucks. Since I’m already at FIRE, and money doesn’t matter all that much, I could be doing them for free. That is a position of strength that allows me to enjoy those things more and do them on my time. Ironically, I’ve started making more and more money from them since I reached my position of strength.

      Although money isn’t a primary motivating factor, I’m happy to continue earning it. I have a long list of dream airplanes and few of them are cheap.

      Thanks for what you do! I’m where I am in large part because of your work and your example. You’ve already made a big difference in this world and we’re both just getting started.

      Jason

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:22 am

        That’s really great to hear, Jason. And yes, it’s amazing how much more money and how many more opportunities fall into your lap when you don’t need them. I actually wrote an article about something similar many years ago – The Power of Quitting

        Huge congrats on achieving your lifelong dream of publishing a book and thanks a lot for your comment :)

    20. Nick
      August 21, 2021 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’m in agreement with Buffett in letting the kids make it on their own (we paid for our daughter’s education, but then said “Good luck!”). But I don’t think I need to work to be motivated — that seems to imply that I have nothing that I care enough about to do it without being paid. On the contrary, I retired about 4 1/2 years ago, and I have no problem finding things that I’m interested in and care about, and none of them pay me a dime. Which is just fine by me!

    21. Cori C
      August 22, 2021 at 9:43 am

      I’d be interested in more post FI money talk like this. And since you’re at FAT FI, it’s statistically highly likely that your wealth will continue to snowball. And then what??

      I’ve also been loosening the belt of budget. On some levels, it’s easier than I expected, but how much to loosen? And why not more, as that net worth number grows??

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:23 am

        Look out for an article or podcast episode about this exact topic soon!

    22. Andrew
      August 22, 2021 at 10:59 am

      You mentioned your wife not having to work in unsafe settings during this pandemic. Would you elaborate on this, please? What kind of doctor is your wife? I am also a doctor and cut way back on my work because the available working environments weren’t safe, mostly due to the behavior of other employees at the practice (Freedom, Trump, no masks, etc). I suppose you could call us lean FIRE at this point, although my wife still works a good safe job. I hadn’t planned on a relatively early career mini retirement, but it sure was nice to have savings/investments and no debt when my working conditions deteriorated. God bless the Federal Reserve.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:29 am

        She’s an optometrist but she works with very old patients in a hospital glaucoma clinic. At the beginning of the pandemic, she didn’t have proper PPE and since a lot of her appointments at that time were routine check-ups, she felt she was just putting her elderly patients at risk unnecessarily so she stopped going in. Her work had more than enough optometrists there to handle the urgent cases so she was happy to at least remove one potential source of infection from the equation (i.e. her).

        A few months later, they started limiting the clinics to only essential/emergency cases and they also provided sufficient PPE so she went back.

    23. KY Looi
      August 22, 2021 at 11:45 pm

      Reading many books has convinced me that human is built to suffer, or at least always find problems when we don’t have any. Think back to our ancestor time, those that get comfortable will die very quickly, so only those that are nervous and always look out for problems that can survive and pass down their genes.

      Learning about some high profile FIRE bloggers that get divorces several years after retirement, has strengthen my thoughts in this. Example when they have no more problems in life to look forward to, they start to have problems within their relationship.

      Brandon can live a good life with FIRE (or Fat FIRE) because he has the “problem” with coming out with an album. A lot of the bloggers that have retired but have their passion projects don’t suffer with the “no problem” symptom. And it’s great for them because they pick a “problem” that they love and they can continuously doing this, without money in their way.

      Knowing this, my view on Lean FIRE vs. FIRE vs. Fat FIRE is very different. I think the question has to be framed as, “without money being a problem, will your life still have meaningful problem?” And if the answer is not, then really important things such as relationships and health will become the problem. This is another way of interpreting Buffett’s comment – “I am not sure if my children have such meaningful problem, so maybe let’s not completely remove money as a problem so that they can use this opportunity to find their own meaningful problem.”

      Now I do recognize that I am using a negative connotation of “problem” vs. other people talking about a positive “passion” when they are indeed two sides of a same coin. But it’s very well intended because a lack of positive “passion” is no big deal, but a lack of negative “problem” will start to manifest itself in other places.

      The answer then is start to find some other problems when you reach Lean FIRE when money will quickly become a non-problem. If not, stay there and don’t vacate your life with problems.

      Just like yin and yang, we need a healthy balance of good and bad. But the problem is rarely there are bloggers that talk about the negatives that we do need.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:42 am

        This is an incredibly insightful comment and is one that I’ve been thinking about a lot since you first posted it. I’ve not thought about this in those terms before but I couldn’t agree more.

        I’m thankful I had the album as my problem (and I have my second, “better” album as my new problem) but I worry about FI people who don’t have a big “problem” to focus on because of all the reasons you mentioned.

        I can see myself writing a full article about this at some point so I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

    24. Jim
      August 23, 2021 at 5:54 am

      Good to hear the latest update. I’m interested in a couple of things you raised. Firstly I agree on the challenge of losing the motivation that needing to earn money brings once you’ve reached “comfortable” FI (i’d hate to try “lean FI”). Secondly, losing the psychological attachment to being frugal. The switch from relying on earnings for income to relying on your savings and investments is a massive step, or so I have found in retirement. The two things are heavily connected – I feel on the one hand that I can’t spend the money I’ve saved for retirement, but act in a way that tends to suggest I might run out of money unless I earn some! For example, I could afford a new car and I could afford to take more holidays, but hesitate from doing these things because they feel to be gratuitous and wealth threatening. The probability is that I can easily afford these things – but how do I know my savings will last? Thus I miss the real security and motivation of a wage, despite not really needing one.

    25. Josh Inya
      August 25, 2021 at 1:31 pm

      So Honest and open about the real life of Post Fi. Love it Brandon! Thank you for all these, and look forward to anything you put out in the future, ie. music, podcast, blog posts, or anything else! Big fan and thanks for staying so real. Agreed with your thoughts on the Lean/Fat Fire topic. Great to have options. Not sure if you read this post, but sounds like you might be interested based on your mention of lean fire: https://livingafi.com/2021/03/17/the-2021-early-retirement-update/

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 26, 2021 at 11:43 am

        Yeah, that’s a great post that I think everyone should read!

    26. Joseph Beckenbach
      August 26, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      Dude! Sweet! I laughed like a maniac when I heard you actually made the charts with your album. How many people can say they charted? Mad props for style, atop making a life-dream happen.

      For the “enough to do anything, not to do nothing”, I’m grappling with that myself. My household’s financial plan is somewhat more than “LeanFIRE”: all the basics and a few ongoing luxuries, with larger discretionary spending (including launching the children) bounded by extra earnings and savings. That feels like the best balance so far. And, like many, I’m not at FI but still reaping the confidence that comes from no longer having money concerns “in the picture”.

      Earning money as a motivator? Hmm, I see “enabling X” as my usual motivator, which has ‘money’ as one component. The money part buys back a lot of my time, but I still have to set my calendar and circles of friends/contacts to enable X as well. Frankly, as an extreme introvert’s introvert, the finding and nurturing others is roughest for me — necessary, and rough. So I do it, badly if I must, since I must.

    27. Richard Hineline
      August 26, 2021 at 11:22 pm

      I have always enjoyed your journey as you are a bit ahead of mine. I really relate to some of your comments in this update. I reached my version of FI two years ago when I was laid off with a big severance package. I could live very frugally and not work. But I like working. So I do work that I enjoy. I often say I now do odd jobs. Now I am fortunate that I often make really good money at my odd jobs. But I have done some (substitute teaching at the middle school, helping former colleagues buy businesses…) that pay little but were interesting. As you say, it is not NOT WORKING that is the goal. It is being able to do what you want. And during the early part of the pandemic we packed up and lived at the beach for a few months. I look forward to hearing more in the future from you.

    28. Jenny
      August 27, 2021 at 11:04 am

      I just listened and love the update! I’m so happy about your album and can’t wait to hear what you come out with next. I have some thoughts about the motivation vs money question. I’m FIRE and quit my job two years ago this month. I was LEAN FI when I quit and I went to school to learn a new skill and started a business related to that skill. In the meantime, my net worth grew beyond my full FIRE number but I think I want to keep the business anyway. I have been working the last few months on how to find the motivation within myself to do difficult (but cool and fulfilling) things, rather than relying on external motivation. For me, that’s part of the fun/challenge of the whole FIRE situation. I think if you can learn to self motivate, it’s a great life skill, no matter whether you are working or retired. I’m just glad to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with motivation (frankly, it was a struggle even when I had a traditional career!).

    29. Beth
      September 2, 2021 at 6:07 pm

      Hey there, Love that you’re asking all the right questions once the labor of earning a living is in the rear-view mirror. I’ve studied what makes people happy for years and the most happy are those in the upper middle class due to the exchange factor: they do high-end work and get paid well. If there was a bell-curve for happiness and income, they’d be at the apex. The far left is not getting paid and working hard, the far right isn’t working and making great money. If makes sense you’d start to question if you’re happiest now that you’re not participating in a robust exchange. We are all community creatures and feel great when we’re needed. Judging by this podcast’s comments, you’re needed here, if it makes you happy. If not, where else are you needed? Best of luck and look forward to your next creative endeavor!

    30. Hana
      September 7, 2021 at 8:40 am

      Congratulations again for your album.
      I am semi-retired since 2012 (I work one hour a day on my paid job), and I use my free time to draw manga and illustrations, and take care of my two young kids.
      You said you don’t feel the need to promote your album. Maybe it is because it is the first step of your artistic journey ? Maybe the one you will really want to promote will come after?
      PS I really liked the podcast with your brother and his crazy lifestyle (it’s my favorite from Madfientist). I was wondering what your brother thinks about it?

    31. Dave
      November 19, 2021 at 9:53 am

      I’m fairly new to learning about FIRE and personally come from a financially privileged position. I would anticipate hitting my FIRE number at around 40-50 depending on a lot of variables.

      I was listening to you talk about how it could be good to go for FatFIRE to avoid running into the trap of not having money as a motivator anymore but still have essentials covered. I would worry about the hedonic treadmill with the FatFIRE lifestyle. Being a kid brought up with that lifestyle you learn looking back on it how unhealthy that can be. One alternative could be to aim for living like a typical FIRE person not lean or fat. Then with excess money that you know will take you from that sweet spot donate it to something you truly believe in. This is my plan once I reach FI, I think I will still want to work where I am even after I do. However I had that same worry you would be having and I think the donating plan will be my way of avoiding it.

      A more “selfish way” to avoid this trap, could be to lock up the money with investments that you aren’t able to touch. I always find GICs pointless but I know there are other options where you can guarantee 5% a year if you invest enough in a locked account. So basically remove the liquid money you have only down to the essentials so that you need to keep earning.

      Just some thoughts on this. I could see myself doing a bit of both to help avoid that trap.

      Great content by the way! Love what you’ve done here! Just came across your site a couple months ago

    32. Dan
      November 24, 2021 at 1:15 pm

      Mad Fientist, thanks for the post. You talk about money no longer being a motivating factor after FI, which can have the unintended consequence of curtailing your dreams, since oftentimes the financial motivation pushes you to do things you otherwise wouldn’t have done. Which begs the question (that you pose): can achieving FI actually make you less likely to work towards things that bring you true happiness?

      One idea I had was that money can still be a motivating factor even after you’ve achieved FI. The whole idea of achieving FI is that you can choose what you want to do with your time. But I think FI can also be viewed as having the ability to choose what you do with your money.

      When you’ve achieved FI, you have enough money for your own expenses (needs and discretionary). So any additional money can go towards whatever you want to make the world a better place. You can donate to charities or organizations whose work you’re passionate about or support. Or you can use the extra capital you earn to start a business, charity, or organization that does meaningful work to make the world a better place.

      Essentially, money can still be a motivating factor after FI. The difference is that you’re motivated to earn money not for yourself, but to make the world a better place. And that motivation can be just as strong (or stronger). This allows you to reap the benefits of being FI so you don’t have to worry about your own living situation, while also still being motivated to earn money to improve the world for everyone else.

      Curious to hear your thoughts on this idea, as I’m currently grappling with some of the same issues of motivation you lay out in this podcast!

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