Friends and FI
Everyone striving for the goal of financial independence will eventually run into the question of how to approach this subject with friends.
It’s unavoidable, because of a few basic truths.
- You probably don’t want to go on super expensive outings with them anymore — at least not all that frequently.
- You will lose interest in 90% of conversations about “stuff,” while simultaneously developing a passion for personal finance.
- You will instinctively want to convert any and all friends to your new lifestyle.
Let’s examine various options for how you might deal with some of these newfound feelings, shall we?
Friends are Different
First off, be aware that your approach to the whole FIRE topic with your friends will probably not be the same as the one you use for your family or co-workers. I believe that a great deal of additional caution must be exercised when considering either of those two groups. For example, family you’re stuck with for life, for better or worse, and revealing details about your finances could have negative consequences that are tough to shake. And as for co-workers, well — things are even simpler. You probably shouldn’t share a thing, unless you have a particularly compelling reason.
But back to friends. They’re a different category because we choose to hang around them. They’re the only group of individuals in our lives that we have some control over, right? So it stands to reason that we’d want to make sure our relationships with them are worthwhile. Complete honesty typically plays a large part in what makes these connections so special.
After all, what’s the point of being friends with someone if you can’t share the details of stuff that you’re into? So what if that stuff happens to be the fact that you’ve decided to save tons of money so you can stop working before most people think it’s possible to stop?
So go ahead and do it. Tell your buddies your deepest, darkest dreams of leaving the bonds of traditional employment via saving and investing. It’s an important enough piece of your life that you ought to share it.
Still, there are still a few reasons to be cautious, even with friends, but we’ll get into that toward the end of the post.
So you’ve got some friends. You typically go out to restaurants or bars when you get together and blow money while you catch up. There’s no shame there — you’ve been programmed to know that there’s no other acceptable way to spend time with one another, and hey, you’ve gotta eat anyway, right?
But there’s a problem. You want to enable a high rate of saving, and one of the best areas of spending to target in order to achieve this goal are so-called entertainment expenses. High priced social gatherings are going to be near the top of your list when eliminating unnecessary waste.
What’s an aspiring FIRE-ist to do? Luckily, the solution is pretty easy. You’re going to have to tell people that you don’t want spending money to be a required part of the package when it comes to your friendship.
That isn’t to say you should never go out again. You’re making lifestyle changes so you can become financially independent, not a hermit. Even so, you’ll want to limit these events to special occasions, as well as being more conscious of how much you’re spending when you do go out.
Think of it like easing into an exercise program. You don’t go from couch potato to workout warrior overnight, and neither should you expect to instantly stop going out. Instead, consider making incremental changes, see how the new lifestyle feels, and then continue on the path toward bringing your social expenses down until it starts to hurt.
If it hurts too much, back off. It means you’ve found the point at which you’re uncomfortable. Striving for financial independence shouldn’t feel like deprivation. The sweet spot is going to be different for everyone here.
Also, suggest alternatives. See if they’re okay with having dinner at someone’s house and try your hand at cooking for each other. Chat a while, watch a movie, queue up youtube playlists, whatever floats your boat. You can also do something on the weekend instead of a work night. Try for something outdoors. Go for a long hike, a bike-ride, or <insert_other_activity_here>. If your iPhone loving friends give you a hard time about your requests to mix it up, get snarky and challenge them to Think Different. Your choice of material goods isn’t the only way to express creativity.
Flip things around, too — ask them what they’d like to do other than the usual. Frame the conversation in terms of doing something new and exciting. Isn’t it boring to always do the same thing every time we get together? What other things might you want to do other than order organic materials to consume while we discuss the flavor?
If your friends literally don’t want to do anything else but grab a bite or go party, maybe they’re not really all that into you anyways.
Got FI on the Mind
After a while, most people on this path find that they lose interest in a fair amount of conversational topics that used to provide fine entertainment — like talking about products A and B and should I take that expensive vacation to Las Vegas and what do you think about me getting a 4,000 sq. foot home?
That’s completely normal. It’s a consequence of developing your financial-vision superpower, and as a result you’re going to begin to see many of these conversations for what they are: discussions about stuff collection, status, and culture.
Some of these topics may still hold interest for you. Maybe you’ve always been into gadgets and your friend just got the newest phone, or there’s some new bicycling gear on the market. But others will make your eyes glaze over. Your friend may tell you about a new set of knives that she got because they’re guaranteed to never get dull. Or maybe someone just signed up for monthly coffee delivery service and they’re super excited about getting a different outstanding blend every time.
After telling these stories, your friends will be expecting you to either a) share some of your own recent purchasing decisions or b) at least tell them how awesome you think their lives are now that they’ve bought items A, B, and C.
You’re going to have to sort of feel your way through these types of situations to figure out how you can participate in them without dying of boredom, offending your friends by your clear lack of interest as signaled by eye-rolling and snorting, or getting judgy/preachy on them and telling them exactly how you really feel about that brand-new Benz they bought with financing.
I wish I had some great advice here, but I don’t — your own actions need to be something that works for you. Personally, I usually play along and say things like: That sounds great, I’m glad you’re excited about that <thing you said.> Then I’ll try to turn the conversation away from material stuff and onto other areas that we both have in common and like to talk about — politics, sports, music, exercise, family drama — whatever the case may be.
The only exception that I make here nowadays is if a friend is considering buying something that is clearly outside of their means to afford, e.g. they’re about to take on consumer debt. In these cases, I try to stop the train wreck from happening, but on the everyday minor stuff, I just don’t sweat it. I think of this restraint as part of respecting my friends.
The flip side of listening to your friends yammer on about stuff you no longer care all that much about is that you will want to talk about your journey, too. One day it’ll be a challenge you set for yourself: No eating out for a month. The next it’ll be how you can hit the goal-post two years earlier than you originally thought — nine years instead of eleven! — if you can only cut yearly expenses by certain amount. Awesome.
And it doesn’t just stop there. Oh no — you’ll likely want to get your friends on-board this crazy train of saving and investing, because, hey, why wouldn’t they want to be on it anyway? You’re just doing what’s best for them. So you might make comments about how they really shouldn’t be commuting to work 45 miles each way in an SUV because it costs too much, or 1K/mo in grocery expenses is absolutely absurd even for a couple with a kid, or it’s not actually any harder or time consuming to make meals at home than it is to go out to a restaurant to eat. If you get really saucy, you might even start talking about how they should max out their retirement accounts and open Roth IRAs and use their HELOC exclusively as their emergency fund.
Thing is, unless you’re very, very lucky, most of your friends will not want to talk about this for very long. They might even get offended — most people don’t like to be told what to do with their money. If you’re going off on a financial rant or tangent, try to recognize signs of unease and/or boredom in your companion, and change the subject quickly if things are headed south. Talking about finances feels like work for most people, even though it’s probably a source of fun and pleasure for you personally. Do you want to work during your leisure time?
Personally, I generally only talk about FIRE with my friends when they bring the subject up. At this point in my life, they all know the basics, and they have varying attitudes which range from pretty positive to Oh My God Why Are You Talking About This Fucking Thing Again And Please Stop Immediately.
And I can totally relate, because my Uncle Larry recently discovered <Non Mainstream Political Party> and when I see him it’s always like:
HEY! <LAF!> YOU COME OVER TO MY WAY OF THINKING YET? IT’S THE ONLY ONE THAT MAKES TOTAL SENSE NOWADAYS! WHADDAYA WAITING FOR?
Oh, I dunno, Larry, hell to freeze over, maybe?
Anyways, point is, I get it. Some things come down to personality preferences, and there will be no changing them. So have a heart and keep things brief, unless your crew is reciprocating the FI love.
It Isn’t Working Out
It happens to everybody. At some point you’ll look around to discover that people you used to enjoy and care about are no longer doing it for you. Maybe it’s your old drinking/karaoke friends, or your buddy Lane who always wants to go to the mall and buy video games at Gamestop before going to a fancy-pants restaurant and eventually ending up at an expensive club and embarrassing himself. (Of course he does. His name is Lane, for fuck’s sake.)
Thing is, striving for financial independence usually isn’t really about being rich. At its core, the quest to ditch your job has a lot more to do with an increasing awareness that your time on this planet is finite, and you don’t want to spend the vast majority of it in an office working or otherwise frittering your time away engaging in activities that don’t make you happy.
In other words, you’re beginning to plan your future out more carefully because you want to get more out of your life. Being efficient with your earnings is a means to hit these broader goals — to have the time, money and freedom, to, say, stay at home and raise your children, or slow-travel for two years in Mexico, bike across America, walk the Appalachian trail while you’re still young enough to do it without a cane. Shifting your life and finances around to enable these goals is forward-looking and a sign of maturity.
And it may just be that your friends have not hit the same stage of development as you. Sure, it’s possible they’ll still get there, but it’s also possible that they won’t. If your goals in life have changed to the point that hanging around an old friend is just no longer satisfying, then chances are good that it’s no longer doing it for him or her either.
In these rare cases, I feel it’s honestly OK to ditch. Friendship is more than just mindless loyalty — it’s about shared interests, commiseration, and maybe even having fun. Friends can move in and out of the fabric of your life, so as you develop and change as a person, it makes sense that your set might need to be occasionally updated for compatibility.
Note that this really has nothing to do with FI. People change friends for all kinds of reasons, most of which bear no relation to money.
You don’t keep wearing clothes that don’t fit, do you?
Of course not. You get others that do.
There are a few additional considerations before you go and divulge your new path to folks.
- Legal and safety issues should be examined before revealing any information about your own net worth. It’s one thing to tell people that you’re planning on being relatively rich someday, and quite another to broadcast that your household’s net worth is now <some amount>. Some disreputable people might go after you because they know you have deep pockets. I personally do not recommend ever telling people what you are worth. It’s considered crass in U.S. culture anyway.
- Instead, keep your conversations generic. Stick to strategy and not the hairy details of dollars.
- Related to the above: I would exercise extreme caution telling any of my neighbors — even if I already consider them my friends. For the record, I haven’t found a single reason to reveal anything FI related to these folks. It’s harder to swap out neighbors than friends if the relationship dynamic changes for the worse because of the obvious: You live next to them. Neighbors can do wacky things like slip on your sidewalk and sue you because they know you’re good for damages. There’s real risk here.
- Most of this article has been written from the perspective of telling old friends about your new path. If you’ve just met someone new and are considering adding them to your circle, I’d like to suggest not telling them about the whole FI thing until further down the road. Once you’ve known them for a while, you’ll be better able to determine whether you sufficiently trust them to discuss your longer term goals.
Bottom line: Use common sense. Don’t treat everyone in your life equally when it comes to sharing these details about yourself.
Stories from Old Man LAF’s Past
I’ll share a couple of quick stories on this subject.
I lost a few <air quote> friends </air quote> a long time ago. In my early twenties I moved to San Francisco to find work, and eventually I found myself hanging out with a bunch of people at restaurants and bars — mostly bars, I’m afraid — that I called my own. Every night out cost a minimum of twenty five bucks, and we’d go out two or three times a week.
In my mid-twenties I wised up and realized I didn’t want to throw my life away working and drinking with idiots, so I stopped. One of these people was completely OK with the new path and we started having dinner at his place as a substitute. As a result, our friendship actually improved and we eventually branched off to do other, healthier activities.
Everyone else was discarded. Once I explained what I was doing (cutting back on expenses that don’t provide return on investment so I can achieve other goals), they told me I was being — and this is their politically incorrect word, not mine, so forgive me — retarded. I’d hardly consider the departure of these folks from my life to be a loss, given the superficiality of the relationships.
Over the years, I’ve retained two core groups of friends from both high school and college. Everyone in these circles is aware of what I’ve been up to, and they respond with varying degrees of interest. A couple don’t give a crap at all and would prefer I didn’t talk about it. A few others are mildly interested and occasionally bring the subject up, at which point I’ll provide updates and we’ll get into things for a little bit. One guy in particular knows everything, including my NW — it’s accurate to say that he finds the topic exciting and we talk about things without restraint.
When I get together with these folks, I completely focus on the things that we mutually enjoy, instead of money. The spendiest of these friends is also one of my best — we play guitar together and go to jazz clubs, local concerts, that sort of thing. He very unapologetically doesn’t give two turds about FIRE, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest when it comes to how we get along. I just flip that particular switch to the off position when we get together.
It helps to remember that the FI part of you is sort of like a personality trait. It shouldn’t be the only thing that defines you. You’re a complete person with a lot of other interests and things going on — focus on the other bits of yourself when you’re sharing an evening with others.
I’d like to add that a few of these people have slowly started to adopt some frugal habits into their lives. It’s taken some time, but they’ve been able to witness the drastic changes in my own life over the years, and they’ve come around on certain aspects.
Now, my own group looks more like this:
What challenges have you had with your own friends and social groups? Have you felt it necessary to find new people that share your goals, or are you figuring out how to integrate the FIRE lifestyle into the relationships you already have?
I wonder about this topic a lot myself actually. A good friend of mine recently got a 10% raise at work and I so badly want to tell him to stick it all in his 401k but I have no idea how he would respond to such a thing?
Without knowing more about your friend and the context of your relationship it’s hard to say. A couple of no-brainer guidelines, though: 1) If you’re going to bring it up, do it in a 1:1 setting. 2) Perhaps mention that if YOU got a similar raise, you’d invest it and see what s/he says. That way you’re not directly telling this person what they should do, while still expressing your preference and inviting questions if they show any interest. This approach might feel less invasive to your friend. 3) If you’re getting a weird response and it seems the other party is uncomfortable, change the subject — don’t push too hard. Good luck!
We should hang out. I cannot tally the number of times Mr. Frugalwoods and I find ourselves parroting some version of “That sounds great, I’m glad you’re excited about that ” It is so difficult to feign interest in conspicuous consumption after about 30 mins or so (according to my unscientific observations). Fortunately, we’ve gotten into a rotation with most of our friends of having each other over for dinner. We just have to duck out of the restaurant & bar invites (everywhere in Boston & Cambridge that our friends go is about $1M/entree). I’d really like to meet more FIRE folks IRL because sometimes we do feel a bit like we’re on a frugal island populated solely by me, Mr. FW, and our frugal hound. But, it is a happy island.
What do you mean by “$1M/entree”? What does the M stand for? Surely not for million. 😉
Maybe it’s a roman numeral thing — 1M = 1000? It’s good to use math notation from a couple of thousand years ago once in a while just to keep things real.
But if we hung out, you’d learn my secret identity!
So true! And if we hung out, then you’d know that I’m not actually a talking greyhound. $1 million=hyperbole :). But sometimes restaurant prices SEEM that high…
Yep, they do. Let’s work something out offline – can you PM me on the MMM forums, or use the contact form to send me an email? Thanks!
I have a couple very close friends that are collectors of certain items. It’s their thing. They hang out on forums discussing these items, buying, selling, trading, reviewing, etc. and they love it. When they discuss them around me I’m interested to a point, and I ask some questions, but they both know I collect something else. We all joke that I collect money, which is true really. Not out of greed or to become rich, but as a way out of the rat race. They get it, and they show interest to a point in my passion for personal finance. I’m slowly learning about their stuff, and they’re slowly learning about my stuff. The great thing is, they both make good money and max out retirement contributions so they have a decent shot at retiring in their 50’s at least. I’m trying to slowly lower their FI age so we have some real life FIRE friends.
At work it’s not discussed at all. A few family members know I don’t plan to work until retirement age, but very few details are shared. Good post LAF!
Hey Cheddar, thanks for stopping by. Love your collection analogy, it’s spot on. “I’m trying to slowly lower their FI age so we have some real life FIRE friends.” Right, same here. I’m optimistic that some of them will make an exit at least 15 years earlier than normal. To your point on collectors: I have this theory that people in their late 20s/30s develop quirky hobbies to help give them a mental break from the grind and something else to focus on in life. Examples: One of my coworkers is breeding heirloom chickens, and another builds his own RC planes, a third is trying to collect a complete set of original 8-bit NES games. Pretty neat activities, actually, but I think my own desire for a quirky obsession has been channeled into FIRE — for now. I should point this out to my wife –things could be so much worse for her if I took another path, like getting obsessed with playing atonal jazz flute day and night.
The part that worries me is that all of my current friends (frugal and not) are still going to be working when I FI at 40…probably until they are 65, because even the frugal ones aren’t on a FI path. Although my husband will probably stop working at the same time as me, I am afraid I will become very lonely during the day when everyone else is at work. When I have all my errands run and chores done before 5pm, they will just be starting them, so not so sure I will spend much more time with my friends in FI.
Jennifer – interesting questions, and I think about this challenge as well. Unfortunately since I haven’t left employment yet I don’t have personal experience making the transition, but folks like MMM and JlCollinsnh have immersed themselves in personal projects, family life, and social gatherings with people in the FIRE community. It helps to have a few specific things to retire TO other than just leaving work, and I do think that hobbies and some socialization will need to be a part of your new life. How to make those new friends is up to you. You could check the MMM ‘meetup’ forums to see if there’s a group in your area, or volunteer, join some kind of club, etc. The cool thing about not having to work is that you’ll have a lot of hours available to explore options and find new things and people that make you happy.
I’m not retired either, but being on the path, I can see the end. I’m also comfortable enough that I can enjoy some “retirement” type experiences while working away.
That being said, I’ve tried to help some of my friends also see the light with no luck as shared by most everyone commenting here. I’m not married nor have a GF, but I already end up having to not do things now or do them alone because my friends aren’t as good at saving and planning as me, and I can see that it’s not going to change going forward.
I echo Mrs. Frugalwoods desire to find more likeminded people as I think those of us striving for FIRE are some pretty cool people. I’m from San Diego and keep an eye out for meet ups or announcements on the MMM forums but haven’t seen much if anything. Perhaps I need to take the lead myself.
Regardless, I think we try to help our friends so they can join us, but if they don’t, it looks like we’ll have to make some new friends.
Good post and commentary.
My wee family is probably more frugal than aiming for FI because we have to be. We live in a very expensive city and have chosen to live in the ‘posh’ part so my child can get the best (free) schooling. We downsized to a small flat to be able to do this and will be mortgage free in a few years. Every single person I know, thinks we should get a bigger place and mortgage ourselves up to the eyeballs. They also can’t understand why we don’t have a car. We don’t have a car because they are a huge depreciating drain on resources. ‘Get a loan then’ is what my father says every time I try and explain. My best friend is in terrible debt and I have offered a friendly ear but it is awkward. Most people think my husband earns more than he does because we give off a comfortable vibe I think. That’s fine, I’m pleased they think that. I have worked really hard to trim the fat. I wish there were more people to chat to about this stuff though as it is quite isolating.
>>as it is quite isolating.
It can be. But there are also opportunities to connect and reach out to like-minded folks on the MMM forums and other PF blogs. I know internet chatting isn’t the same as the real deal but it’s still very enjoyable. If this were the mid-70s, for example, I bet everyone on this path would think they were literally the only people on the planet striving for FI, and I think that’d be much tougher. BTW, I love your comment about the comfortable vibe. The reduction in daily stress is a great side benefit of having your financial act together.
It’s true that blogs etc really do help. I find the MMM forum a tiny bit intimidating to comment but I do enjoy reading it. BTW I just cut open a pillow to reshape the inner foam, rather than throwing it out. I don’t think that’s the kind of chat people are interested in 😉 During the second world war it would have been common behaviour with ‘make do and mend’ such an important thing.
RE: Pillow, that’s neat. There is a thread somewhere on the MMM forums titled something like “Small things you did today to save money” where this would make for good reading, though. On a related note, my wife got goop in the inside edges of a bathroom mirror that dried and was uncleanable. Rather than get a new one I took the frame apart at the seams, removed the mirror, used a straight razor to clear the gunk out, reassembled the frame and got it back on the wall. Also repainted the frame. Total cost: Virtually nothing.
Thanks for the post! I’ve only recently begun my FI journey, being 2 years out of school. In that time, my friend group has shifted slightly, as some think buying round after round is a good way to spend their time and money. Others at my age are in very entry level jobs and have no choice but to find alternatives to expensive hang outs. I’ve had success with pushing activities (free summer concert, hike, etc) and I think some may even prefer that to a night at the bar. It will be interesting to see how things change as we all shift to (hopefully) higher paying endeavors in the next few years, though I have a feeling that the pressure for fancy dinners and vacations will only rise.
Thanks for sharing, and it’s cool to hear you’re taking a leadership role within your group(s) in terms of pushing other things to do when you get together. BTW, your suspicions are correct: Folks who make more money usually buy bigger toys and go to fancier restaurants. Must… resist… lifestyle… inflation…
I’m thrilled to hear some of slightly younger crop (I’m 36) have gotten on the FIRE wagon so early. I wish I’d been wise enough and motivated enough to do the same ten+ years ago, but it’s never to late. Better now than never.
I think you’re totally on to something, too: the best way to spread the word is to change people’s paradigms. As a society we’ve been traditionally indoctrinated to think only of every increasing levels of consumption. But if we can show people a better way then I suspect the rest follows. For instance, hanging out at a friend’s house and chatting over ice tea, watching the game together, cooking up a meal with friends, going to the beach, hiking, and doing any number of free or low cost activities which, surprise surprise, are really actually fun when done with people you like or love. Money doesn’t have to be spent to enjoy time with others. Plus, simply not stressing when we don’t have all the standard stuff like a big apartment, two cars, cable TV, the newest smart phones, etc can be pretty persuasive because people see how much more “free” we are and often find it appealing.
Some people, I’ll admit, like my brother, are bemused by the whole movement because he likes to make money and spend it. He likes what he does to make money, and really doesn’t want to retire. I point out that it’s a frame of mind, even if he wanted to continue “working” after accumulating whatever net worth he desired, but he doesn’t really see it. To each their own, I suppose. His experience has been that he likes his work, mine has been more like that of the author of this blog: work sucks, and I’d rather not literally with myself to death chasing more stuff or merely subsisting. I’ll work for the day I can do the things I value: spend time writing, following my many technical hobbies and interests, spending time with my family and friends, going to the beach, surfing, exercising, and just chilling the heck out.
Thank you for your remarkable blog!
Thanks for the comment, Abe — and you’re 100% correct, it’s never too late. That’s the beauty of adopting this lifestyle. It doesn’t take long to make real changes, and many of the benefits are reaped long before hitting the FI goalpost.
I break most of the rules. I blog under a pseudonym but it’s linked to my real name Twitter and Facebook. I share my budget and NW to the penny. I’ve told a few co-workers, nearly all of my family, and the few friends we have.
Mostly it’s accepted with polite disbelief.
Eh, rules are meant to be broken, and I’ve broken a few myself. I think of these approaches as more recommendations and guidelines than laws. Anyone who’s trying to tell you that there’s only one right way to do things is full of it, IMO, anyway — individual decisions are very context sensitive.
Like you, I’m married without kids and we have high income. Sometimes when I mention FI to friends it is hard to relate as the different economic circumstances combined with more family members makes it more challenging for them. I try to give advice in general terms without radical suggestions like trying to save 70%, as for many it is difficult if not impossible. Most of my close friends are co-workers and as you have noted through your own experiences it is next to impossible to go into the details with them. They have a general idea that I am frugal and have lived in the house I bought for $80k at 25 years old. None truly realize that I am 23 miles into the FI marathon and could vanish any given time without any warning. That is when my friends will truly understand what FI looks like.
80K? Incredible. In my area, that might be enough to buy a shed in someone’s backyard. Major high COLA. On your point, sometimes I feel almost embarrassed talking to friends with kids about this subject. Mentally they look at us and think: the only reason you’re able to do what you do is the fact you don’t have children. They’re wrong, of course, but it’s just about impossible to explain otherwise to a couple who is sending their younglings to private school, buying gadgets, and generally overextending themselves in a futile attempt to assure the perpetual awesomeness of their offspring through spending.
I actually find the no-kid thing useful in friend discussions. I can talk with friends about my plans to leave the workforce earlier than expected, and have it be slightly believable. I’m the only one of the group without children. So my statements like, “Instead of paying to feed/clothe/etc the kids and save up to send them to college, I can save to buy my freedom a little earlier,” almost make sense to them. I haven’t been open about just how much earlier my exit will be, though.
I am petty tight lipped about finances, the whole rude/crass thing you noted. It also seems like such private information.
I only woke up to the FIRE possibility recently, so:
A. I’ve already wasted a lot of money amend am not obviously frugal;
B. I’ve been saving my whole life and tend to be frugal ($ pissed away on little things, very little debt);
C. It is to late for me to pull off an apochryphal FIRE story like retiring at 22yo; and
D. am still in the hyperexcited OMG! Can you believe it you don’t HAVE to work to 65!! Phase
So I really want others to join me in the revolution, but not talk about specific money details. I try to slip things into conversations like max out your 401 and let the magic of compounding grow your money.
I love the hyperexcited phase, actually – still remember how lifechanging it was to realize that I didn’t have to work formally for the duration of my existence on planet earth. Gotta bottle that feeling and store it up, because it’ll help you through the work grind on the bad weeks. Thanks for stopping by.
As you point out, it’s a tricky subject. I tend to judge the person as to whether they would grasp what FI is before I mention anything about it. All close friends know I’m FI and early retired and knew about it for years leading up to it. I knew they could handle it and there would be no point lying to them and dancing around my lifestyle and being coy about it.
For other friends or general acquaintances, I’m a little more reserved. I’ll sometimes even describe myself as “taking time off work” (which is true; it’s an indefinite break from work!) or “staying at home to take care of the kids” (also true, and a big part of what I do each day). I’ve found I don’t have to reveal anything about my wealth that I don’t want to, and I don’t have to always explain how I have unlimited free time during the working week. Less chance to experience awkwardness that way.
Good approach, all around, and similar to what I do currently and am planning after RE’ing — particularly the whole “taking time off work” way to describe your position to people you’re less familiar with. Everyone can understand the drive to spend time with your children, and the money you save on things like daycare. I’m going to go with “freelancing” or “on sabbatical” myself. When I was younger it was my fantasy to tell everyone I was a gentleman of independent means but thankfully the addition of years has helped me to see the problems that story can potentially bring.
My friends know I am frugal and they know I am investing for my future, so I do get questions from people learning. I am more open when them. However, my husband and I do have kid so saying we need to be frugal is expected. I don’t think anyone knew we were trying to save my entire salary, which helped when I lost my lab spot and now am finishing my Master’s unpaid.
>> we were trying to save my entire salary
That’s awesome, thanks for the share. This story is proof that stashing money away is pretty much always a good thing – it allows increased flexibility down the road to handle changes in plans or unexpected occurrences.
We run into this quite a bit, but we’ve come to learn how to deal with it and what subjects to talk about with whom, and which are best avoided. For instance, Mrs. SSC’s family was a loud naysayer until her dad realized we’d retire with more than he did, we will just be doing it about 20+ years sooner than he did. Our co-workers though, vary from “OMG, Quit talking about this!” to “Who’s your financial advisor? I need to meet with them.” Then I say, “That would be my wife.” Hahahaha
In general, I try to keep the FIRE talk and frugal living sorts of talks to a minimum unless someone is really interested. As far as avoiding going out… With an 18 month old and 3.5 yr old, when we get invited out (rare) we go! It’s a sort of forced frugal approach to spending on eating out. However, had this whole FIRE concept taken off when I was single or even before kids it would be a totally different ball game.
As you mentioned, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this problem. It helps to know your audience and feel them out a bit. Thanks for the comment.
I share with a few friends at work, but mostly say it jokingly, like who doesn’t want to retire early, haha. I share it with a couple old friends, but I get more excuses about saving money and retiring early is impossible type of stuff so I don’t talk about it very much. Yeah I do my best to speak when spoken to on the topic, but it’s certainly tough since it’s fun to poke and ask questions.
Love the humor-based approach. Sounds like a good way to reduce tension and break the ice so you can gauge interest in a non-threatening way.
#firstworldproblem but then you actually up and retire at some tender age, start doing a whole lot of nothing that produces income, go traveling a lot and find you have no camouflage. The best I have to offer if intending to be discrete are eiter vague non-answers that involve various levels of lying or bizarre non-disclosure when anyone in any of your circles say “so what are you up to these days?” and then inevitably “what?/how?”. And family members (extended even) of course have a reasonable expectation that they’re going to get a straight answer.
I must admit, still struggling with this one. In all things I attempt to be scrupulously honest and actually consider strategic omission to be a lie, committed for social grace when necessary but never lightly.
But there’s so much baggage on money and working. My own mother can’t even bring herself to use the “R” word when she talks to me or to others about me. She can only go as far as “sabbatical”.
Unfortunately, no deep insight or strategy to offer here other than a) peoples expectations and their stated desires vs their actions are just whacky from an FI perspective and b) During the initial work-ending moment and to this day I usually just go for simple honesty e.g. “I’m retired” (possibly expanded to “I’m really frugal, I saved like crazy, and I have more interesting things to do with my time”) and the conversations are invariably way more interesting then before when it was however we try to dress up “I type on a keyboard all day” while employed.
At the same time, once honestly discussed with a person it usually doesn’t ever come up again no matter the closeness of relation, as if you just mentioned a flying saucer that went by and mutually agreed not to discuss it openly again because crazy. Which touches on a) above – everyone will say they want wealth and personal freedom but my god don’t join forces or share knowledge on acquiring them! The cognitive dissonance is mind-bending.
Anyone else have good thoughts?
Thanks for the detailed comment, and you raise some interesting points esp. re: differences between people’s stated goals (values) versus actions. I also run into this.
Love the flying saucer analogy, btw.
I feel like most of my peers are in my income bracket so there’s not much issue there. We probably still are a bit spendier than many here, so we don’t mind a night out for dinner or something. It’s mainly been a focus on big wins (cheaper house w/ a roommate, no car payments, etc) For the most part we just don’t talk about the details of an early retirement goal.
It sounds like you’re on the right track. The journey to FI is about finding balance and spending consciously, not depriving yourself. Thanks for the comment.
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My parents have a reasonable idea of how much I save. My mom was actually one of the people who first suggested I might be able to retire early. I explain my plans to retire early by the fact that 50 year old engineers are unemployable and I’ve had enough sexist managers at this point that I want to be able to change careers in my thirties.
My boyfriend still doesn’t completely believe this is possible, but he’s starting to see it better I think and my constant talking about saving has increased his savings rate too! I’m totally fine with retiring first – then I can use his health insurance.
As for most friends, I don’t use real numbers usually until I suss out if they care about this stuff. I told a female friend who wanted to quit tech that I save 75% of my income so I can and her response was “but my rent is 60%!” Surprisingly when I took almost 2 months off between jobs and went to NZ for a month, no one wondered where that money came from…
So many of our friends have their entire net worth in their employer stock and think it’s a great investment strategy Thankfully my boyfriend and I can rant about that to each other because there’s no way to show reason to these otherwise logical people…
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