leanFIRE and fatFIRE definitions

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Re: leanFIRE and fatFIRE definitions

Post by IlliniDave »

Tyler9000 wrote:
Sat Mar 20, 2021 11:50 am
Lean FIRE: I'd have to cut spending somewhere.
FIRE: I could continue living exactly as I do now.
Fat FIRE: I could spend even more and live like a king.

So for people new to the concept, it's a sliding scale of sacrifice. That's how you get multi-millionaires in HCOL areas talking about how living on double the national average is completely impossible. They just can't comprehend the level of change required to do it any other way.
Astute observations.

In years past I had the underlying discussion to this topic over on BH many times. It's a really diverse group there that spans a wide swath of financial circumstances. Some of the folks look at the leaner side of the FIRE continuum (or even ER itself) as an inherently deprived and miserable way of living, populated only by those with pathological mental/emotional issues (i.e., the, ack, frugal people) that results in a sad, miserly, existence. That even applies to high savings rate people (YOLO, so why subject yourself to squalor during your working years by being an "oversaver"). Others there are a lot more modest in their needs and appetites. The former group provided motivation to test how low I could drop lifestyle spending before it impacted my well-being. Through the latter group I ultimately found my way here.

One early participant in the thread over there described the levels as "base plus $X" where X varied across the lean->fat scale. That's pretty close to what my thought process evolved to, patterned somewhat after YMOYL, where in their terms I came up with "necessities plus a few ongoing comforts plus the option for an occasional luxury" as my aim point. Of course "necessities", "comforts", and "luxury" are all subjective, but I thought it was pointless to derive a plan that wasn't calibrated to me, so I've not scrutinized those terms much. Absent from the process was using current spending (~$75K/yr at the time) as any sort of reference. By working from the bottom up I avoided the deprivation POV trap.

Unfortunately the "conventional wisdom" pumped by the industry frames the financial retirement readiness problem based on replacing current income without much consideration of where the contentedness sweet spot is. Much discussed here is the fallacy of using income as the primary measure of means, so I won't hop on that soap box. But I think it drives the scarcity flinch a lot of folks seem to experience when they contemplate retiring to an "income" demographic they see as beneath what they've earned, without realizing they could have an equivalent or better lifestyle without riding around throwing $20-bills out the window all day.

I was a little humbled when recently I did the obligatory "Am I ready to retire?" inquiry over there. I expected something between push back and derision over my relatively low spending plan (I got a lot of that when it was still an unfolding plan). But it didn't come. Instead I got a lot of encouragement, and even a couple "must be nice" and "showoff!" sorts of comments, which made me feel bad for flaunting my success. I'd thought maybe the group over there had changed over the few years I was mostly absent. The lean/fat thread illustrates the bogleheads.org I was accustomed to is alive and well!

I've never been able to discard the attitude that it's reasonable to use money when it presents the most efficient means to an end--making the act of spending a neutral one and reserving judgement to the end in question. I think it promotes a healthy relationship with money, but one that has kept me from ascending the ERE Wheaton Scale.

One thing I'm trying to fully understand is that once I gave verbal notice to my boss that my formal retirement notice would be coming soon, my day-to-day living expenses have fallen sharply. Maybe there's enough traditional boglehead in me that I've triggered a subconscious scarcity reflex? Maybe finally getting the wheels in motion (albeit somewhat slowly) there's a well of subconscious peace I've tapped into to fill an equally subconscious internal void I've been unknowingly trying to fill with money? I'm actually looking forward to learning what this embarkation will teach me about myself.

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