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Money Lessons from the Wildly Popular FatFIRE Movement on Reddit

by | Sep 12, 2022 | Money, Personal Finance

 The FIRE movement needs to die.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. It’s the dumbest movement in history because it involves becoming a selfish tightarse for several decades until you’ve hit your retirement number.

The problem is living on peanuts kills the small pleasures in life.

You may as well go off to the funeral parlor now and have a dirt nap instead of adopting this FIRE movement gospel. The other challenge is the money you need to retire constantly changes.

One of my friends got brainwashed by the FIRE movement. He set his number at $2M. 5 years later that number is now closer to $10M. It’s a hamster wheel. We always want more money. Human nature.

So some genius on Reddit created FatFIRE.

What is this mysterious FatFIRE movement?

FatFIRE is about retiring early while maintaining a decent standard of living. Reddit user thebusinessbastard created it because he got tired of:

  1. Cutting expenses and being selfish towards others
  2. The cliche advice “buy the stock market index fund”

I, too, am sick of both of these FIRE movement messages. Not being able to spend money to save for some future fantasy sounds like torture.

In 2016 I had a near-miss with cancer. If I’d followed this dumbass FIRE movement and died from cancer, I’d never have got to enjoy the sacrifice I gave to earn my savings. That’s what’s missed: tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

Index funds piss me off too.

The preachers of this financial gospel forget:

  • The 2008 financial crisis that nearly permanently damaged the global financial system
  • The Lost Decade in Japan that permanently changed their innovative, futuristic economy for the worse.
  • The concept of money created out of thin air which contributes to inflation. Returns measured in dollars almost never account for the dilution of any currency issued by governments.
  • Tax is forgotten too. You make loads of cash on Index funds and then pay 50% in tax. The FIRE movement celebrates the pre-tax returns. Stupid.

FatFIRE is about not retiring with barely enough — but retiring with a fat stash of cash.

It’s the belief there’s endless money to be made online. It’s the idea you can always make more money if you have an abundance mindset.

Interesting fact: through my research, many of the FatFIRE community are software engineers that have earned enormous salaries.

Here are the lessons you can learn from FatFIRE (whether you agree with it or not, it can reshape your money beliefs):

Earning $2M per year doesn’t make your partner horny

Reddit user FatFIREworks says he remembers the day he made $2M in one year. He ran to tell his wife. He thought she’d be horny and want to make love to him on the spot.

Her response…

“That’s nice. Can you make me some breakfast?”

Not exactly what he was hoping. All she wanted was his time, and for him to make a simple bacon and eggs breakfast on sourdough bread.

Not too much to ask.

My wife is the same. The few times I’ve had some big paydays she doesn’t show an ounce of emotion. She just wants a loving husband and a strong man to raise our unborn daughter. Can’t blame her.

Stop thinking people care how much you earn a year. They don’t.

Oh, and marry someone who makes you humble. Humility equals enormous success in life. Ego equals massive failure.

The secret of the FatFIRE movement

I saw this lesson many times in my research.

Reddit user Snoo68013 says after a certain level of financial wealth, there’s no difference in quality of life between you and Jeff Bezos. Here’s what you share with billionaire rocket man:

  • Limited time alive
  • The same taste of oxygen
  • A cheeseburger is still a cheeseburger
  • Food to eat, internet, and basic shelter to stay dry

He says, money is nothing but a number in a phone app. His advice for the good life is simple:

  • Workout
  • Sleep good
  • Call your parents
  • Enjoy friendships
  • Earn enough to eat good food
  • Have some hanky panky time with a sexual partner

Time is the currency of life. Money is not.

Free things have more value after you retire early

Reddit user Lightxd says when he was busy making money there was no time for free stuff.

After he retired early, free things such as chess, going for a swim in the ocean, long hikes, walking the cute puppy dog, and cooking at home became some of his favorite things.

Turns out the thrill of chasing money is what he liked. Once that was over money felt completely overrated.

Photo by Mikhail Odintsov on Unsplash

The age you retire is the most important part

Cubicle workers often brag about their eventual retirement at 65.

The problem is much of our youth and energy is destroyed by that age. Climbing Mt Everest in your elderly years just isn’t the same.

Reddit user just_say_n says having money when you’re young enough to enjoy it is far more important than slaving away at a desk job to acquire as much money as possible.

I think back to my 20s. If I’d made 6-figures back then I would have lived like a King. I may not have been considered filthy rich, but I would have had a lot more options.

Value youth over net worth.

No surprise here about one of the greatest sources of wealth

I read through plenty of FatFire stories.

Another trend I saw is normies like Duck_Biglaw making stacks of cash from crypto and the Web3 revolution. No surprise here. People who invest in obvious future trends before they become mainstream make money.

People who call new innovation scams are broke. No surprise there either.

Early retirement can accidentally do this painful thing to you

Reddit user Galun got FatFIRED.

It’s where you lose your job and decide, screw it, I got enough money. With all the free time Galun ended up buying and running three businesses. His kind side led him to start a non-profit too.

Quickly, he says, he became busier in early retirement than he was when he had a dead-end job. To get out of retirement jail he hired managers to run his three businesses.

Hiring people made him less profit but it bought his time back.

Optimize for free time, not more money or business prestige. Nobody gives a crap if you run three businesses.

How to use FatFIRE to get an instant pay rise

Galun can teach us another kickass lesson.

His wife kept working her corporate job after he got FatFIRED. He did the math to see what would happen if they both were retired. The numbers worked in their favor.

Galun came up with a sneaky plan.

“Share this FatFIRE plan with your boss. Do it.”

When her boss saw the math and could see she no longer needed her dead-end cubicle job anymore, he instantly promoted her. She then got promoted a second time a year later. Badass.

When leaders or colleagues at work find out you don’t need the money from your job anymore, it changes everything. And you act different. You speak your mind — and leaders love it.

This expression is toxic: “If you have to ask you can’t afford it”

I went to buy a car a few years ago.

I asked a lot of questions about the maintenance costs of the car. Despite my high salary at the time, I wanted the car to be economical and cost-efficient. I wasn’t buying the car to be a Hollywood Boulevard show pony.

The car salesman said, “If you have to ask you can’t afford it.”

I regrettably flexed my ego and bank account. He got under my skin.

Reddit user notonmywatch178 had a similar experience to me. When he bought an exotic car people kept telling him not to ask about running costs. When he bought a new home he asked the previous owner to supply insurance costs and utility bills.

People said he was crazy. “Stop asking. It doesn’t matter.”

Knowing the cost of everything does matter. It stops lifestyle creep. It stops major expenses from taking you by surprise and wiping out your hard-earned money unnecessarily.

The people telling you “If you have to ask you can’t afford it” have dark secrets to hide. They don’t want you to know the true cost because that’s their advantage that gives them a hidden financial benefit.

Always ask the cost of things no matter how rich you are.

The real reason the retiring early movement has spread like wildfire

Let’s finish with what the FatFIRE movement is really trying to say.

Whether you follow FatFIRE, FIRE, or LeanFIRE philosophy it doesn’t matter much. These retire early movements seem to be about money or the pursuit of wealth or the false belief money can make us happier.

They’re not. Reddit user readsmathforfun summed it up nicely.

People are retiring away from a job.

This movement is about a rebellion against jobs and the chains they place on our arms and legs. We’re tired of being told what to do. We want freedom to do whatever we want more so than money.

That’s the biggest lesson you can learn from the FatFIRE movement.

Bottom line: learn more about the retire early movement. It’ll change how you think about money and life forever.

This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered financial, tax or legal advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

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