Saturday 23 November 2019

1 year and 10 year FIRE anniversaries

November 2019 marks a couple of significant anniversaries for me.  The first anniversary is that it’s now 10 years since I started this blog with this first very amateurish post.  As far as the FIRE movement goes, particularly when we compare it with the number of FIRE blogs today, these were very quiet days.  Notably Early Retirement Extreme wasn’t quite 2 years old while Mr Money Mustache was still more than a year away from making his first appearance.

The second anniversary is that it’s now 1 year since I pulled the FIRE’ing pin and for me at least I think that term is a good analogy.  It really was like a hand grenade going off in my world.

Looking back over those 10 years I’ve learnt quite a few things and I thought it might be useful to jot a few of them down in no particular order of importance:

1. FIRE is both solving a quantitative and a qualitative problem.  I also now believe in the early days of a FIRE journey it’s mostly quantitative problem solving but with time the problems become more qualitative in nature.   For example if you want to FIRE you need to quickly learn how to earn more, spend less (which when combined is save hard) and invest wisely, then choose which of those options you’re going to go for.  In parallel to this you’re probably tracking progress.  These are all quantitative problems to solve.  Looking back I was guilty of focusing on these topics for almost the first 9 years of my blogging which in hindsight was a mistake.  What I should have been doing is in parallel being qualitative which is why most of my learnings today are qualitative in nature.  Also where I sit today I know my FIRE problems left to solve are 100% qualitative.  Are you focusing on both the quantitative and qualitative weighted appropriately depending on where you are in your FIRE journey?

2. FIRE takes tenacity.  I’m not going to hide from it.  I found getting to Financial Independence quickly takes real determination when you live in a world where the herd is running in the opposite direction.  I took 9 years to reach this milestone and there were many days over that period when I so easily could have packed it in.  I think this blog greatly helped in those dark days as I knew I had some accountability to my readership.  So thank-you to all of you!  Today there are many others blogging about FIRE and I’m sure some are also doing it for this very reason.  It worked for me but there are of course other ways.  Do you have a partner of friend in the boat with you?  That would surely be helpful to keep you on the path.  Could you start posting on some of the FIRE forums?  That might also help when the going gets tough.  The dark days will come, do you know the tools you will use to help you not fall off the rails?

3. Start.  It’s so easy to start tomorrow, which of course never comes.  Instead start today even though you don’t know it all!  Also remember its ok for the start to be small!  Don’t buy that coffee you’re just about to purchase, apply for that higher paying job now, try those lower priced grocery items in this weekend’s shop and try setting the radiator 1 degree lower now...   Looking back over my very early spreadsheets I also had it all wrong at a high level.  I thought my savings rate would be lower, annual returns would be higher and my FIRE number was lower.  In the end it didn’t matter as I also thought FIRE would take me 16 years and in the end I achieved it in 11 years.  Starting is what mattered.  Have you started or are you just passively reading about it?

4. DIY.  I am so glad I went investing DIY and didn’t use a financial adviser or other forms of advice (full disclosure: For some specific topics, notably taxation related, I have occasionally paid for specific advice over the years).  Yes, I made (and I’m sure will continue to make) mistakes which cost me money and yes, I saved some expenses by doing it this way but that’s only part of it.  It also forced me to learn quickly and is forcing me to continue to learn which is incredibly empowering.  Are you empowering others or yourself?

5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because we learn from our mistakes!  But to minimise the damage mistakes can inflict try and learn from others mistakes first, try and minimise the damage by maybe starting small with a new concept and try, try and learn quickly and certainly don’t make the same mistake twice.  Have you made mistakes and are you prepared to make more or have you wrapped yourself in cotton wool?

6. Never become a victim.  It is so easy to say FIRE is impossible because it’s impossible to earn more than I do today or because everything is too expensive or any number of other hindrances we can project anywhere but on ourselves.  With this attitude you will be exactly where you are 10 years from today.  Go for FIRE and you might or might not be FIRE in 10 years but I would suggest there is a very high probability you will be a better person than you are today.  Are you playing the woe is me card or do you own it?

7. The power of AND.  To FIRE you don’t need to earn the most, spend the least or be the best investor out there.  AND is what makes FIRE possible.  It’s not about just one thing being done well but about many things being done to a competent level over a reasonable time frame.  Are you actioning multiple things in parallel?

8. Maslow is right.  The mechanical elements of FIRE certainly take care of the bottom 2 tiers – physiological and safety needs – but a fulfilling life is about all 5 tiers.  I freely admit I don’t have the balance right as yet, particularly belonging/love needs and self-actualisation, but FIRE is certainly giving me the chance to try and figure it out.  To all of you out there who say you’ll never FIRE / retire because you love your work please just make sure that in addition to work helping with all those esteem needs being met that work is also genuinely contributing to your self-actualisation.  Otherwise it’s just a job.  Also make sure that work isn’t blocking out belongingness and love needs as I know from experience it is very easy to do, particularly if you travel or even relocate for that work.  Do you truly understand what’s important in your life?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

9. FIRE isn’t a marathon, it’s a triathlon.  For the first 9 years of my blogging journey I thought of FIRE as a marathon.  That is I need £X.X million in investments at which point I’m FIRE.  I now know there are 3 phases to FIRE.  The swim which is getting to your FIRE number.  The bike which is the decompression phase once you retire early.  A phase which after a year I am still very much in. Then last but not least the run which is the “what am I doing with the rest of my life now that work is optional” phase.  I am not even close to figuring that out yet.  Are you focused on the number or are you also focused on what next?

10. Hurry up and do nothing.  I left my job, moved from my home, left friends and relocated overseas all within a period days.  In hindsight it created a lot of turmoil and maybe even stress.  If I had my time again I would have left my job then paused while I adjusted to that.  Be a human being not a human doing for a while.  Maybe then I should have done three months in a short term rental in my desired overseas location.  Again be a human being not a human doing for a while.  Maybe then I should have...  After all I had the rest of my life to do all the next bits.  FIRE is nothing like working for the man where it all needs to be done yesterday.  Are you racing or pacing?

11. What type of FIRE.  These days I hear about lean FIRE, fat FIRE, HIFIRE, flamingo FIRE and barista FIRE on top of the usual plain old vanilla FIRE I was going for.  The names aren’t important what is important is that FIRE is different for everyone and my type of FIRE is the one that’s right for me and me only.  Do you know how you’re going to use FIRE to your advantage?

12. DYOR.  These days there is FIRE noise everywhere as the concept starts to become a little more main stream.  In my opinion some of that noise is sound, some of it so so and some of it potentially downright dangerous.  Hindsight might just show some of what I’ve been writing about over the last 10 years to be any or all of those.  Have you done your own research from multiple sources and settled on what is right for you?

So there it is.  10 years of FIRE blogging and 1 year of FIRE boiled down to 12 learnings.  I guess the million pound question then becomes if I had my time again would I do it all again?  The answer for me is easy – Yes!  The journey has been and continues to be a tough one but at the same time so worthwhile as every day I become a better person because of FIRE. 

Finally, I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank all the readers who have helped me stay the course over the past 10 years.  I’d also like to especially thank all the readers who have commented, debated and shared their learnings.  I’m certainly in a better position because of it.  I hope you are as well!


  1. Congratulations on blogging for 10 years RIT. There aren't many bloggers in any niche who can claim such longevity.

    Many of your hard won learnings are comparable to my own experience. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

    I have a slightly different take on a couple of points.

    Not everyone will be equipped with the skills and experience necessary to get the basics right. I think it is important that folks take an honest look at themselves, and seek help in the beginning if required to ensure they are set up for success. I see it as being like engaging an architect to make sure your the house they are planning to build will be structurally sound and last for the long term. By all means DIY the build providing you are confident, capable enough, and willing to own the outcome whatever if may be.

    Also I think the race analogy is part of what gets people into trouble. The only true finishing line is when we're on the other side of the grass. Until that point we grow and learn and struggle. Anyone who claims to have finished, especially if they claim to have won, is trying to sell you something.

    Best of luck for wherever your journey takes you next.

    1. Thanks for the wishes i

      Re DIY. I guess the critical question is where does the basics transition into the services required of an architect. It's a good example as it's something I'm exploring currently. One option is to turn up to the architect having done no research and say help. The other option is to turn up with some floor plan sketches (approximately sized to suit your budget based on a m^2 estimate), preferred construction materials, a knowledge of construction methods and desired finishes with of course various levels in between. The second will save you money but importantly enable you to ask the right questions, pick the right architect and get to the answer faster. It's amazing how much of the basics you can quickly learn if you put your mind to it. This is what I think my full disclosure showed as well. DYOR and if you still don't understand or if the consequences of a mistake are high then by all means get specific help. The important bit is own it yourself and DYOR first rather than just passing the problem to somebody else.

      Re race analogy. I agree with you 100%. The FIRE run ends when you take your last breath not when you reach your number and resign from the current job.

    2. > I guess the critical question is where does the basics transition into the services required of an architect.

      For mine, there are two main check in points.

      First, at the very beginning. The person isn’t sure whether they should be trying to build a house, a swimming pool, or a boat. A good advisor can help distinguish between what they want and what they actually need, then set them on the right path to achieve their desired outcome. A bad advisor will spot an easy mark, and fleece them so they can acquire their own boat.

      Second, when they arrive at the point that you well describe. They’ve reached a critical mass of knowledge and understanding, able to ask well thought out questions specific to their own circumstances and goals.

      Those who play with spreadsheets for a living, or who have a serious financial bent, could probably skip that first interaction. The rest of the population would potentially save themselves years of trial and error by seeking it out.

  2. Real lived experiences always produce the best articles. Thank you, and I hope you continue to share your journey as you work your way through "Phase 3".

  3. Congratulations, and thank you very much for your insightful updates. Over the years, I've really enjoyed reading your posts.

  4. I read this yesterday and sat on my reply over night to think it over.
    There's no shortage of blogs now from people on the long road to FI but the remind me of Aesop's fable of the kid and the wolf.
    It's easy to be brave when you are far from danger and it's easy to say that you have the balls to pull the trigger when you are years from FI.
    RIT, you've been on the journey years ahead of us and you are an inspiration to me (anyway) - and I wish that you have more posts post FI because whilst the "steady as she goes" posts on the way to FI are great reading (and re-reading) it's the "what's next" that are of more interest.
    When you put up Maslow's hierarchy of needs it really made me put my own recent experiences into focus - I am not sure that Early Retirement is quite what I want and we've probably already reached FI, so what about belonging, love, esteem? Well, I get them from a variety of places but YOU CANNOT BUY THEM and the long road to FI may actually hurt them (like working harder means less time with friends/family).
    The question of self-actualisation or to put it another way - finding meaning in your life (and doing it) is something which will keep being remoulded over the years. If you are lucky enough to be free (from money/work/debt) then the harshest master can often be yourself.

    Finally, I look at my own net worth spreadsheet too much and measure performance and predict how things will be. I am not a slave to it but I certainly would benefit from thinking about the value of FI instead of the cost of it - call me a cynic but there's a more noble way of envisioning one's life and very few people in the modern world are in that position to do so. You RIT are one of them (but possible just the avant garde) and it's in your footsteps we follow.

  5. Massive congratulations on your 10 year anniversary, RIT!

    Again, I thank you for letting us share the highs and lows of your journey over the years and for providing great motivation and insight - you were about half way when I started reading in 2014.

    As @GFF mentions, there aren't nearly enough blogs post-FI in the community - I guess such folk are too busy getting on with their work-free lives at this point but I would love to continue to read about what happens next, in particular re decompression, decumulation of investments etc.

  6. Congrats for ten years. I've enjoyed reading your blog and book.

    I think you can still track your progress. I view Fire like a hill. You've done the hard part the accumulation, reached the summit, can now track your spending, as you deaccumulate as you reverse your saving, unless you choose to plateau and maintain your investments. Either way requires a degree of management. Cheers

  7. Congratulations on this milestone. Have followed your blog since I discovered the FIRE community and the fact that I managed to retire early was in no small part due to your work, Thanks for that. Hoping you continue blogging as I will certainly continue reading.

  8. > The bike which is the decompression phase once you retire early. A phase which after a year I am still very much in.

    That's really interesting. I was surprised that it took two years to get more than halfway through the decompression phase, at the time i assumed this was because towards the end work was seriously impairing my mental health. From reading other people's reports in seems this period was usually called at about six months. Those reports came from people who retired in a more planned way closer to normal retirement.

    Perhaps there is something about having to live so differently for so long that makes the recovery period longer for FIRE people. I have only known one other colleague who crossed the early retirement line, and I'd say his recovery was also a matter of years, not months