The Fear of FIRE or At least Talking About It

The Fear of FIRE or At least Talking About It

We are on track to meet our financial independence goal in the summer of 2020, the date my husband plans to leave the workforce for good. You’d think that we would be shouting this news from the roof tops, but instead, we’re reluctant to talk about our plans. We’re scared of the weird looks, the blank stares, the laughing and the endless questions.

Even though we’ve been planning his exit for some time (3 years to be exact,) it wasn’t until this past summer that I shared our plans with my family. And I mean, carefully shared the news. I didn’t just come right out and say that he was planning to quit, I said something like “He is planning to step back from the corporate world.” When said out loud, step back seems a lot less scary than quit. And for some reason, it seems a lot less permanent. If we have a setback, like the markets tank, and we have to delay our plans, I won’t have to hear anyone say, “But I thought he was going to quit.” At least, the careful wording gives us some buffer if the plans go awry.

I started slowly. My mom was the first person with whom I shared our FIRE plans. Her response, “I’ve never heard of anyone retiring so young.” Not an overwhelming endorsement. When I told her there are thousands of people who have already taken the plunge, she simply didn’t believe me. “Must be some new fad you kids are into, it will pass.”

I’ve never heard of anyone retiring so young. Must be some new fad you kids are into, it will pass.

Back in the day, my mom and dad worked until typical retirement age of 65 and no one they knew escaped any earlier. My mom’s skepticism only added to the fear of talking about early retirement with the rest of my family. Thankfully, those discussions went a little easier. Overall, we’re a pretty optimistic bunch, so my sisters and brother actually seemed to be intrigued by our plans. Even promising to cheer us on as we make progress toward the goal.

But that was family, how about sharing the news with the rest of the world? Say, our friends. Not so easy. This past weekend, I was having lunch with a girlfriend. Our daughters are best friends through school and dance. We started talking about what our lives will be like when the girls graduate from high school. Their family is from Belgium and she said they intended to stay put. When she asked about our plans, I said that we were planning to return to the southern US the minute our daughter graduates. She asked, “Is your husband going to transfer with his company?” And then I froze. Like deer in the headlights froze. I had never thought about how to answer this question. And so, I lied, well kinda lied. I said “He’ll probably look for a transfer, but if not, then he’ll just work somewhere else.” Really lame. And I felt ashamed afterward.

So how are we going to adjust to FIRE? We had a preview this past January when our family was vacationing in Daytona. My husband and I were in an elevator and a very nice, clearly older couple joined us. We started making small talk on the elevator and we found out they were snowbirds from up north. After a few minutes, they asked if we were retired? Wait what? I got off the elevator, fuming mad, looked at my husband and said, “Exactly how old do we look? Surely not old enough to be retired!” Obviously, I am going to have to change my mindset before the big day finally arrives.

Bottom line – We want to be retired, we just don’t want to look like we’re retired!

4 thoughts on “The Fear of FIRE or At least Talking About It”

  • We haven’t told our family that’ we’re aiming for FIRE. I think the decades of epic returns are behind us now so to FIRE today seems more risky as well. I don’t want to share especially if something does happen and we have to go back to work.

    • I understand. The fear of hearing “I told you so” is a big reason we’re selectively sharing our plans.
      We’re also worried about lackluster returns in the future. We invested money from the sale of a home in January of this year. We were nervous to invest because the markets seemed so high. Now we’re glad we did – 13% return on that investment so far this year.

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