Weekend reading: Trigger warning for FIRE fans

What caught my eye this week.

Charlie Munger used to say that to be really sure of our convictions, we must be able to argue the opposite side.

If you agree and you’re a fan of early retirement, then get yourself a glass of whiskey and/or a couple of Ibuprofen and buckle up to digest the anti-FIRE message loud and clear.

Because this week Jared Dillian of the punchily-named We’re Gonna Get Those Bastards blog took on The FIRE Movement:

Joe graduates from college and gets a job in the cube farm for $80,000 a year. He gets the cheapest apartment possible, rides a bike instead of driving, and eats ramen noodles.

He does this for ten years, saving up to 70% of his income, and investing it in low-cost index funds. At the end of ten years, he has a million or so saved up, more if he is lucky. At that point, he retires to play the guitar or paint happy little trees, and gradually draws down his savings over time.

If the stock market keeps going up as planned, he can stay retired for 50 more years, and get really good at guitar.

This the fucking stupidest thing I have ever heard of in my life.

I enjoyed the post, but then I often link to Dillian’s writing. He swears a lot and takes no prisoners – but hey, it worked for Quentin Tarantino.

Also, I don’t consider feisty articles uploaded into the void as a personal attack, which helps.

But of course there’s a lot that’s wrong in Dillian’s FIRE1 summary.

Nobody serious in ‘the movement’ uses a 12% expected return to underwrite their financial futures, as he claims.

Indeed, when outside-the-movement pundit Dave Ramsey suggested something similar recently, FIRE elders took him to pieces. As for The Accumulator, he is downright parsimonious.

More subjectively, Dillian’s take on whether and why people would pursue a FIRE-forward lifestyle is hyperbolic, and his love of consumption culture seems archaic to me.

That’s okay. We all think differently, and our views evolve too.

Monevator began life as a blog championing early retirement, but I don’t actually believe it’s a good idea for most anymore. We debated the pros and cons a while ago.

However I do love and cherish financial independence. And for me that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d lived life the way Dillian describes.

Know your enemies

It’s good to be challenged, so have a read of the whole article. He makes a couple of fair points as he sprays his gun around. Even if he’s targeting some of the least objectionable people you can imagine.

Where do I agree with him?

Well, I do think someone should probably change jobs if they’re that unhappy, rather than slogging it out for two decades on the prospect of a grand escape.

I also doubt whether most deeply unhappy people will be made happier by having more time to sit around thinking about it. There’s probably something else going on.

Finally, I don’t believe a 50-year long retirement – as in never working for money again – is optimal. In my observation though few truly early FIRE-ees actually end up never working again anyway.

You may think differently. Jared Dillian does. And again, that’s all fine.

One huge virtue of the FIRE concept is it’s not trying to change anybody else’s world. Your politics might have made our country poorer and my holidays more of a hassle. But your savings rate is your own affair. It hurts me not a jot.

Where some see solipsism in FIRE, I see humility and the serenity prayer.

I guess that sounds boring and worthy, and not half as much fun as swearing. Dillian’s post is more entertaining. No doubt it boosted his website traffic.

But you know what else is entertaining?

Being free to do whatever you want to with your weekdays before you’re 50. And not having to care what anybody else – boss, random blogger, or brother-in-law – thinks about it.

Have a great weekend!

From Monevator

The quixotic quest to live off a natural yield from ETFs and other passive funds – Monevator [Members]

How to make one million pounds – Monevator

From the archive-ator: Reasons to rent a house instead of buying – Monevator

News

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Interest rate cuts still expected, despite UK inflation uptick – BBC

Record 50,004 limited buy-to-let companies set up in 2023 – This Is Money

London property price falls in 2023, by borough – Evening Standard

Home Office U-turns on rights of EU citizens in UK before Brexit – Guardian

Blackrock beats spot Bitcoin ETF rivals in race to $1bn in assets – Blockworks

‘Manipulative’ dating app fraudster jailed – BBC

Why is it still so hard to build new homes in England? [Search result]FT

Products and services

Seven tips to get a UK train ticket as cheaply as possible – This Is Money

How to plan and pay for your funeral in the UK – Guardian

Get between £100 and £1,500 cashback when you open an ISA with Interactive Investor before 31 Jan. New customers only. Minimum £2,000 deposit. Terms apply. Capital at risk – Interactive Investor

Six things you need to know before using equity release – Which

Is HelloFresh good value for money? – Be Clever With Your Cash

Electric cars will get cheaper in 2024 thanks to an imminent price war – This Is Money

Open an account with low-cost platform InvestEngine via our link and get up to £50 when you invest at least £100 (T&Cs apply. Capital at risk) – InvestEngine

LNER scraps off-peak rail tickets between London and Edinburgh – Guardian

Homes for commuters, in pictures – Guardian

Comment and opinion

Divert national insurance cut bonus to a pension, experts say – Guardian

How to avoid becoming miserably rich – A Teachable Moment

Will ditching coffee make you a millionaire? – Morningstar

Despite everything, UK house prices rose in 2024 [Podcast]The Property Podcast

Should you put all your investment eggs in one basket? [Search result]FT

Bad luck BeansMoney With Katie

What do the rich really think about a wealth tax? – Guardian

The noisiness of financial factors [Search result, nerdy]FT

Advice for landlords – Humble Dollar

Five simple investing ideas – Darius Foroux

What makes a good prophecy? [A few weeks old]Tim Harford

[US] stocks versus bonds mini-special

The Holy Grail of portfolio diversification – A Wealth of Common Sense

Stocks have not always beaten bonds. Should you care? – Morningstar

Historical returns for US stocks, bonds, and cash – A Wealth of Common Sense

Naughty corner: Active antics

FTSE 100 valuation and forecast – UK Dividend Stocks

Investors to avoid – Investment Talk

There’s a record $6 trillion sitting in US money market funds – Apollo

Using a negative checklist to reduce investing errors – Novel Investor

The S&P 500 looks as expensive as ever… – Apollo

…but US small caps are historically cheap – Institutional Investor

Kindle book bargains

What They Don’t Teach You About Money by Claer Barrett – £1.99 on Kindle

Kleptopia: How Dirty Money is Conquering the World by Tom Burgis – £0.99 on Kindle

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb – £1.99 on Kindle

Make Your Bed by William McRaven – £0.99 on Kindle

Environmental factors

Why nuclear energy is the best energy- Uncharted Territories

Brexit divergence from UK destroying UK’s vital environmental protections – Guardian

Turn wasted wind energy into green hydrogen to save UK billions, study says – Recharge

The fight against blast fishing in Tanzania – Hakai

Climate change warning over Scottish forestry cuts – BBC

UK water industry’s ‘urgent’ plan to tackle sewage delayed by four months – Guardian

Return to the office latest mini-special

Don’t sleep with your boss – Dror Poleg

UK judge rules against FCA manager who wanted to work from home [Search result]FT

60 Minutes on US commercial real estate – The Big Picture

Robot overlord roundup

A.I. heralds the next generation of financial scams [Search result]FT

Is A.I. the death of I.P.? – The New Yorker

Off our beat

The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same – Guardian

Information that would get your attention – Morgan Housel

Is it any wonder Gen Z struggles with job interviews? – Guardian

Wine was my poison. Now it’s my sober passion [Search result]FT

When one twin goes vegan and the other doesn’t – Vox

The labour of inspiration – More To That

And finally…

“Quite possibly there’s nothing as fine as a big freight train starting across country in early summer, Hardesty thought. That’s when you learn that the tragedy of plants is that they have roots.”
A New York Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin

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Financial Independence Retire Early.

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Someone is pissing on your FIRE, plus the rest of the week’s good reads…
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