The Race to FIRE - Financial Independence, Retire Early

Beware the spelling. FYRE – Bad. FIRE – Good.

Beware the spelling. FYRE – Bad. FIRE – Good.

I became familiar with the debacle known as the FYRE Festival when it first occurred in 2017. The festival was marketed to millennials (with a severe case of FOMO) as a 3-day luxury music experience on an exclusive island in the Bahamas. It was supposed to make those sad sacks attending Coachella jealous since they weren’t fortunate enough to score a ticket to FYRE.

The festival didn’t pan out quite as well as expected and it quickly became the butt of late-night jokes. Everyone thought it was funny. Except, of course, those who had a ticket.

Recently, my interest in the FYRE Festival has been renewed with the release of the Netflix documentary, FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. A documentary which showcases the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of smooth talker Billy McFarland. And what happens when a cocky entrepreneur gets in over his head. Way over his head.

Initially the festival was promoted by social media influencers as THE EXPERIENCE of a LIFETIME. It turns out that was true.

No doubt anyone who got stranded (or locked in an airport as the documentary shows) will ever forget the experience. The nightmare of being trapped on an island, with little food, water or shelter and no working plumbing has got to be THE EXPERIENCE those poor souls will indeed remember for the rest of their lives.

If you’re going to play with fire, make sure you’re playing with the right kind. FYRE – bad. FIRE – good.

Three Ways FYRE is Bad and FIRE is Good

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Those poor millennials who fell for the hype of the FYRE Festival. Admittedly, the marketing videos of the festival looked amazing. Pretty girls in bikinis sipping mixed drinks while coasting on a yacht in a crystal blue ocean.

But that kind of bliss is hard to achieve when you start selling tickets to thousands of wannabes promised a premium experience on a secluded island. Did organizers truly believe it was a good idea to pack scores of people onto a tiny island with little infrastructure, lots of drinks and inadequate staff and security?

In reality, the pursuit of FIRE (financial independence, retire early) often isn’t fun. It isn’t pretty. It’s definitely not a yacht-ride on beautiful blue water. In fact, it’s slow, deliberate and requires delayed gratification. In other words, the concept of FIRE is the EXACT opposite of FYRE.

Beware of the Billy McFarlands of the World

There are scammers all around us whose main goal is to separate us from our money. In the case of FYRE, his name was Billy McFarland. But his name might also be Bernie Madoff or Charles Ponzi. Or it might be a broker, financial planner or salesman. Not that there aren’t professionals in these fields who are honest, reliable and have your best interest at heart. Just be careful with whom you trust with your money. Nobody cares about your money as much as you do.

Look before you leap

It’s clear that the patrons or attendees who invested money in the FYRE Festival didn’t really understand what was going on. They were duped.

They blindly trusted in the illusion rather than focusing on the reality.

They climbed aboard a plane bound for a site in which there had never been any published photos. They bought add-ons (in addition to the entrance tickets) without understanding the cost structure. And they went along with the crowd.

With FIRE, we realize that everyone’s path is different. That’s why it’s called personal finance. It’s not about following the lemurs off the cliff. It’s about designing a sustainable plan and following through.

FIRE is about delaying that once in a lifetime experience until you can actually afford it.

Maybe one day, while others are still dreaming about retirement, you’ll be sipping mixed drinks while coasting on a yacht in a crystal blue ocean. You know, your very own private FYRE Festival.

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