For me, FIRE is a moving target 🔥

I’m still relatively new to the whole FIRE concept. My parents, both in their early 60s, are still working and most of my friends have never even mentioned the word “retirement.” The thought of retiring earlier than when my pension is “fully funded” never occured to me until a year ago.

For those who are unfamiliar, FIRE stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early” and it’s a popular idea among those in the personal finance community. I’ve been staunchly on board with the FI component since January 2018, but the RE part is still a moving target for me.

Although FI–basically the idea that you don’t need income from a job to live because of savings and passive income from investments–may look drastically different from person to person, I’m still VERY early in the process toward FI. I have student loan debt. My current emergency savings could not cover a full 6 months of living expenses. The mortgage may not be paid off until around 2040. But FI is a real, tangible goal for my fiancé and me. We are taking small steps toward increasing our savings rate and paying off debt. However, RE is more of an abstract notion at this point.

I love my teacher summers

I love my summers and, since I’ve already maxed out my education level on our pay scale, I no longer take classes to fill my time. This may be blasphemous to some, but since I don’t *need* extra income, I don’t work during the summer. No side hustle. No part-time job. (Yes, I do realize how lucky I am that we can live comfortably on our salaries.) Sure I do a lot of lesson planning, but mostly I enjoy slow mornings and exciting travels. June and July are like “mini retirements” for me, glimpses of what it might be like to retire early. Since I have a taste of the RE life during my summers (while still getting a paycheck because my salary is spread over 12 months), I do not feel the pressure to get to RE as fast as possible.

There are some who pursue an all out early retirement plan. They target retiring by 40 or even 30, as in the case of APurpleLife, a blogger who’s goals and writing style I deeply admire. I have nothing but respect for those who have a clear vision and the determination to reach their goals. Tanja Hester’s Work Optional outlines specific exercises and strategies to help anyone considering an early retirement — it’s full of practical advice and inspiring stories. (Her blog, Our Next Life, also includes wonderful content.) Although I do not have precise RE aspirations, the ideas from APurpleLife and Hester help me understand ways to optimize my financial life right now.

Despite my admiration for RE, this is where it starts to get a little complicated. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have a steady job I love, a strong relationship with an ambitious and accomplished partner (not to mention he’s handsome, kind, smart, and hilarious 😍), great health, and so many available opportunities. It’s the amount of choices I can make and all of the things I want to experience that make it difficult for me to nail down a set FIRE target. Most books and posts I read about RE include a visualization of your early retirement life, but we still struggle with that part. Since everything is a possibility for us, nothing emerges as a clear winner for a set-in-stone RE plan.

My fiancé and I share our goals and our “wouldn’t it be awesome ifs” pretty frequently since we came together to work toward FI. The interesting thing is we throw around new ideas and possibilities each time. We talk about selling our house and buying a large rental property to “house hack” (living in one unit while renting out the others) since his construction background would be an asset. We talk about moving to Australia — a country where we both have personal connections (although their strict dog quarantine policies put a damper on the moving talk 😭, so then it turns into a conversation about the logistics of taking a sabbatical year there).

And then we talk about how much we love our beautiful house. How much we love living close to our families. How we both want to have children, which will undoubtedly affect our lifestyle and priorities for the future. (Stephanie from Graduated Learning outlines some considerations for opportunity costs when having children here.)

I can clearly articulate what my ideal day looks like, but my ideal retired life is a little different. The idea of planning and saving for potential sabbaticals as opposed to a full early retirement appeals to me because I’m nervous about a permanent target, a fixed path. I am unsure what challenges we may encounter in the future, especially with regard to our jobs, health, and family. It makes me a little uneasy to create a set plan for “future us” when I’m not sure what adventures and obstacles “future us” may experience.

Tony gets me when I think about committing to a concrete RE plan

I don’t know if this is a by-product of me feeling “in limbo” until I get my debt paid off, or if it’s a natural uncertainty in the face of an infinite number of possibilities. Going back and forth between my desire to strive for early retirement and pumping the breaks to ensure my lifestyle is aligned with my values now provokes a sort of “analysis paralysis.” In one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite shows, Tony Soprano states, “more is lost by indecision than by wrong decision.” But with something as serious as early retirement, is fictional mob boss Tony right? (Side note: After Googling the quote to make sure I got it right, it seems Tony was inspired by Marcus Tullius Cicero.)

This week The Fioneers shared their new series about “slowing down.” This couple writes about their perspectives on personal finance, but also about work, meaning, and busyness. I appreciate the conscious attempts to build a happy, fulfilling life instead of focusing on a miserable slough that will end when a fixed number is reached in the brokerage account.

I’m looking forward to reading the stories of others who made mindful decisions to do what is best for them on their own FI (or FIRE) path. I hope that as I get closer to getting a handle on my FI blueprint, I will have a clearer view of retirement. For me, the RE part of FIRE is still a work in progress.

Do you have an RE plan? Was it difficult to decide on a set path or are you still questioning your vision for the future?

8 thoughts on “For me, FIRE is a moving target 🔥”

  1. My husband would like to retire early, for me I think I am not cut out to be home all the time. I love my job and will keep doing it as long as I can. We are debt free and would love to have him retire while I continue to work part time.


    1. I feel the same way! I love my job and still have time off for travel. My fiancé’s job doesn’t have as much flexibility for longer trips so we’ve talked about the possibility of him transitioning to some sort of position with more potential time off if full RE isn’t feasible.

      Congrats on being debt free! That is awesome 🙂


  2. I get where you are coming from. I am definitely on the FIRE path, but the RE is in question. It’s more about getting to the FI and then having the option to RE for us. We also have no interest in side hustles that we have to manage ourselves. 🙂
    Thanks for writing!


    1. Yeah, I always get questions about why I don’t work in the summer. I used to have a job and take classes just because I thought I had to, but I’ve come to appreciate my time more than an extra paycheck. The ironic thing is that I’m saving more money now than when I had an extra job and I have more flexibility to travel.

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We are definitely in the same boat! We are still a few years away from early retirement. I have lots of ideas about how I’d spend my time but am also unsure if I want to leave a job I enjoy most of the time. Getting close to FI has definitely improved my life quite a bit. So I’m focusing on FI for now and once we get closer to RE, will start to focus in on something.


    1. Yes! I love how empowered I feel with FI, but it opens so many doors. With a sizable bank account balance and the freedom to not “have” to work, there are so many more options than if I just kept my head down until full pension time. I understand the focus on FI first, RE after.


  4. I feel the exact same way. As teachers, I do think it’s different. You talk about summers, but for me, it’s the idea of giving up a full pension that scares me.

    I think your mindset is perfect though as long as you still have the motivation. My guess is that most FIRE people suggest you have an end goal in mind so you will be motivated to move toward it. But it seems like you (and your fiance) are motivated either way, which is so awesome!


    1. The pension thing does complicate some of the FIRE calculations and mentality. Although I realize pensions can be an amazing thing, I signed up for whatever I chose as a 23-year-old and I can’t change it. I met with one of our STRS reps and talked about my options (which aren’t terrible) so that factors into my approach to RE or taking sabbaticals.

      And thanks for the kind words 🙂


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