The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) has taken the personal finance blogosphere by storm of late, with numerous bloggers chronicling their journey towards financial independence. Several high profile bloggers have even achieved FIRE, gaining wide spread attention from mainstream media and leading to book publishing opportunities.

The quest for financial independence certainly isn’t new and often boils down to a desire to ditch the cubicle and “find your passion”, whether that’s blogging full-time, writing a book, or living a location-independent lifestyle.

But there’s an air of privilege surrounding most FIRE stories: A stereotypical tale is the high-earning, childless couple living in remote U.S.A., saving 70 percent of their income and looking to retire by 40.

There’s also the question of what early retirement actually means. Leaving a corporate job to pursue your passion isn’t retiring; it’s called a career change. Instead of answering to an employer, you answer to yourself. While that’s a dream pursuit for many of us, by definition it’s called entrepreneurship, not retirement.

The FIRE community is also dominated by men, a fact not lost on lawyer and freelance writer Madeleine Holden, who documented the batshit lengths these guys go to retire by age 40. Gender discussions are quickly shutdown on FIRE forums, ignoring the unique challenges of saving while female.

Another problem with FIRE is the idea that anyone can just pull up their bootstraps and save enough to leave their job within a short period of time. In conventional FIRE wisdom you need to save 25x your annual expenses before you call it quits. That’s a tall order for most of us, especially those living on a modest income or dealing with any number of challenging circumstances (health, location, etc.). It’s easy to preach FIRE from a position of privilege.

Michael James argues that FIRE is within reach even for those with modest means, but the problem he says is that we design expensive lives for ourselves with big houses and long commutes.

“A few good early choices can set you on a great path for life. But make the wrong expensive choices early and you’re committed to a path of paying off debt for decades.”

My issue with the FIRE community is not the pursuit of financial independence but the Derek Foster-ian “I retired early, and you can too” articles that fail to highlight the unbelievably extraordinary circumstances that lead to someone retiring at 38.

It’s no secret that I’m pursuing financial independence, but the idea of early retirement hasn’t entered the equation. If I decide to leave my public sector job it will be to continue promoting financial literacy through this blog, writing my column at the Star, and through my fee-only financial planning practice.

When work is highly enjoyable and fulfilling it ceases to become “work” and the thought of retiring full-stop rarely enters the mind. That’s my FIRE pursuit.

This Week’s Recap:

On Monday I wrote about solving the home bias in my portfolio by switching to Vanguard’s new all-equity one-ticket global ETF (VEQT).

On Thursday I offered some suggestions for what to do with your tax refund.

Promo of the Week:

TD Bank has released a trio of excellent offers for its travel cards that are worth a serious look for travel rewards collectors. First up, you can get up to $400 in travel and the first year free when you sign up for the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card. I’ve used the card in the past but have never seen an offer this strong. Best to redeem these points for hotels on Expedia.

If you don’t meet the income requirements for the Visa Infinite version you can grab the TD Platinum Travel Visa Card. You’ll still get the first year free and up to $250 in travel rewards.

Finally, the best offer of the bunch is the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card, which comes with a steep annual fee ($399) but offers a juicy 50,000 Aeroplan miles (25,000 miles after first purchase and another 25,000 miles when you spend $1,000 in the first three months).

Weekend Reading:

It’s been a while since the last U.S. recession (2007). Morgan Housel shares his thoughts on what lies ahead.

Squawkfox blogger Kerry Taylor looks at behavioural economics and how to rewire your brain to master money.

The Irrelevant Investor Michael Batnick explains the irrational behaviour of what happens when you win and lose.

Speaking of irrational behaviour, PWL Capital’s Ben Felix thinks one of the single biggest challenges for investors is understanding that dividends do not matter:

An interesting piece on why insurers write off your car rather than paying for the repair. It seems like new tech is to blame:

“We actually see more cars getting totalled than we have in the past because the cost to repair them is higher than it has been historically.”

Downsized: How a late-career job loss during prime earning years can derail retirement plans.

Are you the money person in your relationship? Here’s why that’s problematic.

On that subject, Mark Goodfield of the Blunt Bean Counter blog shares some advice to help bridge the financial literacy gap with your spouse.

Is your company Group RRSP any good? Here’s how to make the best of a bad plan.

Nick Magguilli says the difference between the natural world and the investment world is there are no laws, only tendencies.

Cut The Crap Investing blogger Dale Roberts takes a long look at annuities and reviews the excellent book, Pensionize Your Nest Egg.

Finally, this father was shocked to learn the incredibly high fees charged on his child’s RESP, which his “advisor” put into segregated funds with an MER of 3.61 percent. Criminal.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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