As a minimalist and student of Stoicism, I’ve been intrigued by and read lots about this movement. I’ve even locked horns with the movement’s most popular spokesperson. Steven Kurutz does a nice job explaining the phenomenon. And he provides lots of good links for readers who want to dig deeper.
There’s lots to admire about FIRE folks, but too many of the movement’s advocates wrongly assume anyone can save $1m and retire in their 30’s. They argue on their numerous blogs that people can do it if they only follow their steps which start with securing a high paying job usually in engineering or computer software. To which Kurutz writes:
“They are. . . benefiting from an lengthy bull run in the stock market and, in some cases, the privilege of class, race, gender and background. It’s difficult to retire at 40 if you work a minimum-wage job, say, or have crushing student-loan debt, or did not have the same opportunities as others because you grew up poor in a crime-ridden neighborhood.”
Those two sentences will not go unchallenged by the FIRE orthodoxy. Probably skimping on humanities and social science courses in college, FIRE zealots tend to overlook the fact that the US economy is not a level playing field. Their counter arguments will not be convincing. It’s their blindspot.
It’s okay that they have a blindspot, because there’s a lot to admire about the movement, including the practitioners’ disciplined saving, their rejection of mindless consumerism, their emphasis on family, and their determined nonconformity especially in creating non-work identities.
You don’t know because Jack was right.
I hope it’s a lot less than mine. All numbers are approximations.
• 40 weeks x 4 days commuting per week = 160 round trips of about 65 miles = 10,400 miles/year. Divided by 36 miles per gallon = 289 gallons x $3.25/gallon = $939. Because I like round numbers, let’s say the cost of gas continues creeping upwards, so let’s round up to $1,000 year in gas.
• $846 in insurance, but since 20% of my mileage is non-work, let’s pencil that in as $677 (I will resist rounding).
• Approximately $500 in routine services, tires, general wear and tear, so a work adjusted total of $400.
• 80% of my $65 annual registration is $52.
• I paid $38.5K for my car in 2015. Let’s assume it will be worth $5.5k in 2024 when it will have 150k on it. That’s $33k in depreciation over ten years or $3.3k per year.
So $1,000 gas + $677 insurance + $400 in maintenance + $52 in registration + $3,300 in depreciation = $5,429. Are we done? Unfortunately, no, we’re not even close.
Why? Because I haven’t added in the cost of my time spent behind the wheel. Without traffic, my 65 mile roundtrip commute takes 1:25-ish, adjusting for traffic, let’s call it 1:40, or 6 hours and 40 minutes per week for a grand total of 267 hours per year or nearly 7 weeks of full time work sitting behind the wheel.
Hmm, how to value that time? If you or your workplace want to hire me to edit or write something or consult on a work or life problem, I’ll charge something north of $100/hour, but that doesn’t mean all my time is that valuable. How much should we discount my commute time? By half? If my commute time is worth $50/hour, that adds $13,350 to the above total. What if we discount it by half again, using $25/hour as our estimation, then we add $6,675 to our previous total.
At $25/hour, it costs me $12,104 to work each year. At $50/hour, $18,779.
Drumroll. This is as painful a sentence as I’ve written in a long time. It costs me somewhere between $12,000 and $19,000 getting to and from work each year.
If you’ve ever read one of my 1,348 posts and thought there was some semblance of intelligence evident within it, this 1,349th one should disabuse you of that idea forever and ever amen.