FAT FIRE: Why My Financial Freedom Would Be Expensive

Freedom is fantastic. Having the choice and the ability to do something, when you want to do it. When you reach financial freedom (also known as financial independence), you break through the “time” chains that bind you. FAT FIRE is a version of financial independence that allows more flexibility in how much is spent during retirement.

Having to go to work at a particular time, and complete specific tasks during the week restrict how you can use your available time. You might not have a choice. You’ve got bills to pay, and you might have a family to feed.

What if you can reach a spot where you could quit your job if you wanted to? Would you do it? How would you spend your time?

I’ve been thinking about what I would do if I no longer had a typical 9-5 job.  It’s an interesting thought because there is a lot I love about what I do now.

After spending some time thinking about this concept, I realized what I want to do is not going to be cheap. I started to hear the term FAT FIRE recently. The idea is that you build up large enough nest egg to not have to cut back on spending, and live in a very urban environment. I think what we are working towards is FAT FIRE.

What do you like doing now?

Thinking about what brings you enjoyment and makes your heart flutter like a hummingbird now, is healthy in figuring out what you will do when you reach financial independence.

Below are some things I enjoy doing right now:

  • Solving problems
  • Spending time with my family
  • Planning the future, which can include activities, vacations, and finances
  • Building stuff
  • Having focused time to work on passion projects (like this blog)
  • Reading
  • Spending time with friends I connect with
  • Being active: working out, riding my bike, going for a walk, etc.
  • Cooking

What would I do with financial freedom?

Reaching financial independence would mean I become the master of my time, and I have 100% say in how I use it.

In addition to focusing on things I already like to do now, there are other things I would like to pursue. Some of them are not activities, per se, but they are changes nontheless.

  • Not having to worry about getting paid
  • Traveling the world
  • Moving to a more walkable city
  • Not owning a vehicle
  • Downgrading our house and having less shit
  • Eating out more
  • Giving nice gifts to family and friends
  • Completing Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Reading more
  • Learning to enjoy nature and relax

And that is probably just a tip of the iceberg. And I hope to pursue some of these things before reaching financial independence.

Each of us has an inner dragon. What would this dragon do if it was unleashed?

Financial Independence Will Be Expensive

Looking at this list, I’m surprised at how much all of this will cost. Granted, some of these things cost nothing (or very little), but there are some big dollar bill items on this list.

Moving to a city in an urban environment that is walkable, will probably mean a higher cost of living. Traveling the world doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but plane tickets aren’t cheap. Going out to eat more means spending more on dining out. Purchasing more gifts for family and friends will drain my wallet.

All of this makes me wonder. Will our living expenses increase once we reach financial independence? How much of a nest egg will we have to build to generate a level of income that will support this lifestyle?

Defining Comfort

A common element I noticed once I started writing these thoughts down, was that we’re reducing the number of things we own, and the size, and focusing more on what will bring us value during this time in our lives.

Maybe we decide to move around or find a spot that acts as our base for long-term travel. Or perhaps we decide to move closer to our kids to help them out temporarily.

But the point is being able to change our plans, when we want, and having enough money to support our lifestyle.

The larger our nest egg, the more options we will have. I don’t want to be financially wasteful, but I also don’t want to feel like I am bound to be super frugal in everything we do. There is a time to be frugal and cut spending, but I dream about loosening up our budget when reaching financial freedom.

I don’t want extra space to store crap I will never use. We already have a large house full of shit we don’t utilize. We are beginning to change our habits, but I would like to simplify our lives even further once we reach financial freedom.

Let’s Look At the Numbers

If we assume we won’t have any debt, including a mortgage, I think the amount of money we will need to live on will be less than what we make now.

But how much money will we need to live this lifestyle?

That is a hard question. A big part of the equation is where we decide to live. If we can find an urban environment where we could be happy, that doesn’t have incredibly expensive real estate, we could live comfortable lives for much less money. But that is a big IF. Our options might open up if we look into cities outside of the US.

And we might decide to live in a cheaper location, that isn’t super walkable, to save money. It isn’t like there is any rule that says we can’t compromise.

For the sake of this article, let’s say bringing home $100,000/year before taxes, should give us enough options. Again, this assumes we are 100% debt free. We might be able to do what we want for much less, and I hope to calculate a more exact number as time goes on.

$100k per year may end up not being enough money to live where we want to settle down. The biggest risk I see is how expensive real estate is in the larger cities. Prices easily get into the $1m price range. We’ll either have to have a larger nest egg, live in a smaller place, or find a different location.

Rule of 33

An article on Financial Samurai inspired me called “The Ideal Withdrawal Rate For Retirement Does Not Touch Principal“. I think he is probably a little more conservative with his retirement funds than me. There was a comment on this article that talked about the “Rule of 33”.

The “rule of 33” in this context is about multiplying the amount you want to pull each year by 33, and that is the size of your nest egg you want to shoot for.

You’ll often read about the 4% rule, and this is more conservative than that. Especially if you are retiring early, I think fudging lower on your estimates is a smart move.

$100,000 x 33 = $3.3 million

I haven’t thought too much in how the different retirement funds, plus “hopefully” having some income from social security when we reach that age, play with each other. But generally, this is the amount we are shooting for, with our after-tax investment accounts.

Combined with a pre-tax retirement savings, hopefully we will have more money money saved up than $3.3 million.

$3.3 million is a large amount of money. But if we want to pursue everything on our list, I think this amount (plus a good amount in retirement savings) would provide us many options, plus the ability to leave an inheritance to our children.

I would rather set a higher number, and face the situation where we don’t spend as much as we think than run out of funds and have to go back to work. If I’m going to retire, I never want to have to enter the work-force, unless that is what I want to do.

The Passive Aggressive Investor has a great article that goes over how large your retirement fund needs to be, to pull in a certain yearly income with different percentages. I found it useful to see how changing the annual withdrawal rate changes the amount we should save. As pointed out in the article, you always have the option in adjusting how much you pull out every year.

Inflation

The above amount is based on current dollars. But as time goes on, inflation is going to decrease the value of $1. In other words, the $3.3m amount above does not account for inflation.

Military Dollar has a great article that covers how to handle inflation when creating retirement estimates. Let’s assume we are shooting to retire in 20 years, that inflation will be 3%/year, and that we are hoping to bring in $100,000/year. Here is our equation:

$100,000 * 1.03^20 = $180,611 (rounded)

This means that if we want to live on what is about $100k today in 20 years, we really should shoot for $181,000/year. This changes the numbers quite a bit. Using the Rule of 33 above, this now comes to almost $6m! If we use the 4% rule, instead of the rule of 33 (which is what Military Dollar uses), that value comes to $4.5m.

These numbers make my head hurt. How the heck are we going to get anywhere near this amount? I’m not 100% sure, as we are just starting our FIRE journey. But I’m going to continue thinking about this as our net worth increases this year.

What if we can’t reach our goal?

Life happens, and priorities change. If we can’t hit our goal, are we doomed?

It might require us changing our plans. Or it might mean we have to work a normal job for longer. But it won’t be the end of the world. We are still early in our FIRE journey, and we currently don’t have a goal date set.

But there is a good chance if we continue to push hard, we might be able to hit our goal faster. Reaching our goal earlier could be from job raises or increasing our income from side hustles. Also, when our nest egg starts approaching large numbers, we also have the option of going heavy into real estate or investing in other passive income streams.

If, for example, this blog takes off (big IF there), that might generate additional income.

At this stage, we are still trying to figure out ways we can increase our income, and we aren’t intimidated by this large number. In fact, we are motivated to reach FAT FIRE.

Setting a general goal, even if you aren’t sure you can hit it, can help motivate you to optimize your time.

Life is More Than Money

A re-occurring idea that keeps on popping up in my articles is pursuing our financial goals shouldn’t sacrifice what matters most to us.

And money is not the most valuable thing we have.

This idea is an area I’m constantly fighting. I’m super passionate about making this blog successful through pure grit, but it is not more important than the relationship I have with Andrea and my two girls. I would do anything for them.

Sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing and do a “time check” to make sure I’m not focused too much on my passion projects. I’m a very passionate person and can get lost on what I want to focus on in a given moment. This passion works great when pursuing goals, but it can also sacrifice what matters most to me.

Sacrificing my relationship with Andrea and my girls is not worth reaching my financial goals.

What do you think about my plan in pursuing FAT FIRE? Am I shooting to spend too much during retirement?

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Perpetual Money Machine
Guest

I am feeling the same as you about so many of the points in the article. My life is inexpensive now, largely because of our routine. Our spending is well-tuned. When I retire, I plan to sell the house and travel the world for a few years. I will mostly be in inexpensive places, but I will be out of my element, so I won’t be spending as efficiently as I am now. All that is to say, I think my expenses will be higher than now, at least in the first few years. Don’t be too alarmed by numbers… Read more »

Pai
Guest

As always, I really enjoyed this post. The 33x expenses “rule” is approximately a 3% (33.33333333 x is exactly 3%), 25x expenses is 4%, etc. studies using actual historical data and Monte Carlo simulations both suggest that 3% is “perpetual”. While we don’t know the future, based on historical and simulated data, it would theoretically last forever. Most suggest that 3.5%-4% is a reasonable starting point. The notion of safe withdrawal rates tends to focus on worst case, which is good. But, research also shows that 1 in 2 portfolios using a 4% withdrawal had more inflation adjusted wealth after… Read more »

Caveman
Guest

Really interesting stuff Chris. Reading it though I wonder if part of the issue is that you’re looking at this in too abstract a way? Is it worth breaking this down to put together what you expect your FAT FIRE budget to be? So, for example, you have on your list you want to eat out in retirement. Cool. But how many times a week/month do you want to do that? How often do you go out to eat now? What sort of places? That’ll give you a better guess for that line item. Similarly nice presents for family and… Read more »

PFI
Guest

I love this exploration. I’ve had similar thoughts and think we’ll end up landing somewhere between FIRE And FATFire. Some of it will just come down to how long we want to wait once we see a reasonable end in sight. In terms of the rule of 33 – I tend to think 3% is a little too conservative. If you haven’t, I highly suggest reading The Safe Withdrawal Rate series over at earlyretirementnow.com That series had a huge impact on my FI thinking, second only to JL Collin’s Stock Series. It’ll help solidify your thinking about what rate you’re… Read more »