I noticed a tweet from Mr Money Moustache the other week that an article about him that appeared in the New Yorker magazine was one of its “most read” in 2016. He couldn’t quite believe it, but was happy to shout about it with a #Humblebrag handle to show he was proud, if somewhat abashed (I think), with this success.
Good for him, though. He is the preeminent writer on FIRE in my opinion and must have inspired tens of thousands of people to think about the way they are living and to make changes to both their finances and lives, inspired by his example. He wasn’t my original inspiration, though. That was Jacob Fisker with his book and blog Early Retirement Extreme, which I somehow came across back in about 2010, giving me almost five years to think and plan on how to get out of the workplace a lot sooner than I’d ever previously considered.
Fisker’s book, to be fair, can be quite heavy going and almost preachy. You can tell – and he often lets you know – that he’s a pretty smart dude. So smart, in fact, that he clearly pined for more intellectual stimulation than his Early Retired life was giving him, and returned to work as a Quant in finance, or something equivalent.
I often feel I struggle to put into words exactly why I went back to work when I probably could have stayed retired. I often ask(ed) myself if I just didn’t have the imagination, motivation or smarts to keep myself occupied? So I take solace from the fact that Jacob returned to work after literally writing the book on Early Retirement. There’s something about paid work as an employee that offers something different to both self-employment and Financial Independence. One day I’m hoping to be able to begin to formulate an idea of what that might be!
If Fisker is the philosopher of FIRE, Mr Moustache is the populist preacher, but what they have in common, from a British perspective, is that their blogs are very American in both content and tone. I hankered after something that related more to my own situation and cultural background and soon found the Monevator and Simple Living in Suffolk sites which, in addition to some great content, seemed to have a much more “British” take on FIRE. (I’ve listed some of the others I regularly read on my Blogroll and Books page.)
It was through Monevator that I recently learned about the demise of my favourite UK forum on the Motley Fool UK website. This was like a blow to my heart, because it was The Fool’s original book The Motley Fool UK Investment Guide that inspired me to take control of my own finances and start investing. They taught me about Index Trackers and passive investing which, prior to that point, I’d never heard of. They wrote with such an easy style and “You can do this!” attitude that I was totally inspired to take their advice. The fact that I was latterly able to financially afford full retirement at the age of fifty, more than fifteen years after I’d picked up their book, I put totally down to the simple core advice they gave: invest regularly in tracker funds and let the markets and compound interest (and one or two other factors) do their work over time.
It seems I wasn’t the only one dismayed about the demise of the Fool’s forum because a couple of regular contributors immediately set up an alternative, The Lemon Fool. The boards there are already quite active, and I was pleased to see that one of the most popular threads on the Retirement Investing forum is about FIRE. As Mr Moustache found in the New Yorker, there is definitely a lot of interest in this subject out there.
It’s funny though – I can sit for hours browsing the Fool’s forums or the investment advice in Monevator, or tracking back through ERE and Mustachian posts, but when Ros Altman (ex Pensions Minister) tweets a link to yet another dreary, but no doubt important, article on pension issues, I quickly lose the will to live. I know that, at the moment, populism is getting a bad name, but it is the blogging “investment poplulists”, including some of my own favourites that I’ve mentioned here, that have had a big impact on my life. Here’s hoping that they continue to flourish.