Work attitudes in FIRE : Financial Independence Retire Early
There’s a recent trend called FIRE in Millenials and young adults today who have recently entered the work force. It’s a movement aimed at work attitude and extreme maximization of savings. The savings are usually put into low cost index funds or real estate to be able to live off the returns before retirement age.
There are many things that the FIRE movement gets right and wrong. I support the general sentiment of prudently living a non consuming lifestyle geared towards non-conventional measures of Wealth and Success. By this, I mean that maximizing social / mental health, and freedom in general is more valuable than an arbitrary number in a bank account.
Here’s what we can learn about the FIRE movement.
The Fear of, and about, Work and Immobility
I believe that the recent breakout of the FIRE movement is nothing more than the expression of young adults’ fears after entering the work force.
These young college graduates are entering offices and jobs filled with older adults in a late stage in life, either near retirement or with matured families. Millenials see these fellow coworkers whom are often in bad health, sitting in their greyed out cubicles drearily working at their office jobs.
The young worker thus becomes scared as they see a future mirror of themselves in the office.
Imagine you are such a young worker. Would you wants to work for thirty or fourty years slaving away at a desk? Only to cash it in on a retirement at 65 with crappy health resulting from an American Lifestyle?
How about this? What if you are this same young worker, but working at a dead end job with no future prospects? And college debt as well?
This is the fear and thought that goes into pretty much everyone who has joined the FIRE movement. Because the reason is, if you maximize your savings, the theory goes, you can retire by your 30’s or 40’s.
It’s a rational fear to have, and a reasonable reaction. However, it’s not a healthy attitude to have about work.
Work Attitudes and Fulfillment
Work has meaning, most people, including you, need to realize this. Every person is a contributor to the economy, and our work ends up as a service or product to one another.
This “FIRE” attitude also assumes that one’s life is compartmentalized.
I honestly don’t know what it is about our American Society, but there is such an ingrained mindset in our culture today of “compartmentalizing” our lives.
THINK to yourself! In many conversations, notice how many times people talk about their “childhoods”, “teenage years”, “college days”, “work-life-balance”, and “retirement years”??
Who even says that life is segmented that way? Why does Work-Life balance even exist? Isn’t work part of our lives, and our lives part of our work? What you do on a daily basis IS your identity. Thus we should aim to integrate our lives together into one experience.
Our lives are filled with experiences which interweave themselves through time. By avoiding a compartmentalized mindset where you grind out a salary, then start a family, then retire, then this, then that…. we should instead aim to live highly integrated lives. We should strive to find fulfillment throughout all of our activities combined.
Life As an Integrated and Fulfilling Experience
The “new Rich ” which Tim Ferriss talks about in the 4 Hour Work Week, live highly integrated lives where work is enjoyable and flexible. The “new Rich” enjoy and combine their travel, hobbies, and family time as a wholly integrated experience.
Specifically, the “new Rich” have jobs which are not dependent on Geography. The “new Rich” either work for someone, or themselves, and can set their own work schedule. They are allowed to work in the most efficient way possible — where success is driven by the merits of the results. Not just the “hours put in”.
The “new Rich” aren’t necessarily high income individuals. They just have the freedom to work in any style they want as long as results are delivered to stakeholders.
In this new internet era, work is not about labor, it’s about resulting merits.
It all culminates into this: The freedom centric attitude about work emphasizes quality and meaning, instead of rote labor. One is able to travel and spend time with whomever they want, whenever they want, at any time, while earning a living.
With this new attitude, and the more that young people realize this, they will be less afraid to quit jobs which limit their freedom, and seek meaningful work that emphasizes it.
This way, the FEAR of work turns into a meaningful enjoyment of a big aspect of life — our work. Thus one is able to integrate their work life, into their own chosen lifestyle.
What FIRE gets wrong about the attitude of work is that work is a stage of life that you have to endure. One must grit their teeth in their working years to save as much as possible and eventually reach the green grass of freedom in retirement. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
On the contrary, by finding work which is meaningful and integrating it into the lifestyle which we desire, work becomes a fulfilling experience of our lives.
Many people today don’t try that hard to find meaningful work. Meaningful work doesn’t necessarily correlate to your “passions” or what’s “fun”. It merely requires a mature understanding that through your work, you bring value to others. It also requires that you obtain an internal satisfaction for doing so. A healthy work attitude relieves years of suffering of workplace depression.
Finding meaningful work that matches the lifestyle you want is much harder — but also much more valuable. It takes time an effort to find an employer that lets you work remotely and set your own hours — who only cares about the quality and timeliness of your results. However, once found it’s more valuable than anything because it is your life.
Comment below: What do you do for work, and is it meaningful? What were some of your most meaningless work experiences and how did you overcome them?
This post was inspired by Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. In it, he talks much more about the practical ways to live and work the way you want.
Check it out.