@vezkor - Over the past 9 years, I have read thousands of comments on people's goals and situations and I have seen quite a variety of attitudes and strategies wrt FIRE. I think I have quite a good grasp on the statistical distribution of people. There are certainly many people out there who
* Only ever earn a piddling, i.e. 2-3 digits total, ever, from their various attempts at self-employment, e.g. blogging, selling crafts on etsy, paid guest posting, mechanical turk work. They're simply not as skilled or inherently driven when it comes to value-generation which is partially why some are looking for retirement in the first place. Many are quite content to watch TV or play computer games all day long. Only a few are innately exuberant enough to throw up project after project to eventually guarantee that one of them will almost surely pay off.
* Don't work the 10 years required to get the 40 points to collect SS because they retired extremely early. At a 50% savings rate, you'll have enough points before being FI because you had to work long enough. At 70%+ you won't ... then you'd have to find work that pays enough to collect points later on. Work pension plans typically require even more years to vest.
* FIRE'd on a minimum of expenses and a maximum of optimism and consequently aren't able to adjust downwards because they're already spending under $8k/year. This can be people desperate to leave work and thus presuming 4% SWRs and higher... and they pulled the plug as soon as they learned that cost of living could be lowered if they became expats. --- In particular, they were looking for a quick hack trying to push the envelope as much as possible.
* Already use the most efficient solution, e.g. eating bread instead of cake, drinking water instead of almond milk, living with room mates, riding bicycles, ... because they're minimalists, etc.
* Don't stand to collect inheritances. Not that many people stand to inherit six-figures which would be required to make a material impact.
* Already spend so little that cost of living will be pushed up by health insurance/care costs as they get older.
Point being ... while it appears that it's very unlikely that anyone would fall through the cracks of the 4% rule given all the "safe guards", I can easily imagine a very representative archetype who will do exactly that.
This is because THESE FACTORS ARE NOT INDEPENDENT. In fact, they tend to cluster. A few people, particularly successful bloggers, will have all of them filled. Many others will have almost none of them filled!
Imagine Joe-lifestyle/pf-blog reader who just graduated college. He still lives in a house with 3 room-mates while eating Ramen at home and restaurant food, paying $700/month in living costs. After using his degree in biology to get a job paying $40000/year as a lab tech, he reads a few FIRE articles. From this he concludes that if he sells his car, rides a bike, and downgrades to Republic Wireless he'll only spends $400/month. Not bad! However, he also gets the idea that he can retire once he has $400*12/0.04 = $120,000. Indeed, he learns that $400/month goes pretty far in Thailand or Ecuador, so that becomes THE plan. Based on success stories from the internet, he figures that he can make up for any shortcomings by starting a location-independent travel blog, copy-writing service, or dropshipping stuff via eBay. No original ideas or special talents here. Just lots of competition. A fact(*) he's yet to learn.
So 6 years later, he quits, packs a minimalist carry-on and heads off to expat land. The market tanks (see above) ... and after 5 years his broker account (with Vanguard, of course, who else) says "only $60000 left", so now he needs to sell $200+ worth of "guest posts" each month to keep going because he already minimized/"efficiencized" his expenses as much as possible. Well, eventually he does return because making $200/month consistently didn't work out due to the strong level of competition... and now he's competing with new grads for those techie jobs.
(*) I hit the delete button for 3-5 [desperate?] guest post writers for ERE once a day.
This type is much more common than a FIRE blogger making 5+ figures per year.
Why? Because there are a lot more people who can/will put together a simple plan based on a few ingredients---4% rule, expat-living, guest post blogging---than there are people who can/will put together all the factors required for FIRE blogging rockstardom. Maybe I "misunderstimate" people, but maybe I don't?
I don't think the Renaissance ideal has fully penetrated/been adopted on ERE and even less so on MMM. Many are still focusing primarily on a financial/consumer/lifehack solution to early retirement. This is my main concern!!
There's no dominant "Emergent Renaissance Ecology" to be found (yet?)
The question I struggle with is exactly how stupid people have to be before I refuse to, metaphorically speaking, hand over an assault rifle or the keys to a Ninja 650 or the 4% rule? Is there any kind of fiduciary duty towards potential readers or is it all on them if anyone proceeds to screw up their life?
I don't know the exact answer to that. I have, however, lived by this mantra for the past two decades:
The Master said: "I never try to make people open up [to the world of learning] unless they already have a pent up excitement about it. Then if I give them one corner [of a problem or point of study], if they do not come back to me with the other three corners I will not involve myself with them again."
This is also why I'm mostly being intentionally vague when it comes to dangerous stuff like specific numbers or investment strategies.