Pursuing FIRE in 2020 as a family
I first heard about FIRE a week before the COVID-19 quarantine, here’s why it was perfect timing.
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I must tell you that my husband and I were not on the FIRE track before COVID-19 but, man, do we want to be now.
Financial independence was something that I thought was for ‘rich’ people like electrical engineers who worked for INTEL or uber-gifted visionaries like Steve Jobs.
And, I thought, FIRE is for people who do not want a family.
Retiring early is almost everyone’s dream, I would imagine. To work because you want to, not because you have to, is living and breathing Maslow’s self-actualization. Too bad we have three kids.
A FIRE family is intentional and unusual. Whether you are planning to retire early or not, FIRE families choose a path that is largely defined by being financially independent. To be a FIRE family takes an awful lot of determination and you have to have your head in the game. With the right mindset, an ability to build wealth, and a lot of determination you can have both—financial independence and a family.
Do the FIRE families have the ideal mindset to prosper during a pandemic?
FIRE families are accustomed to sacrificing life on the outside today for your ultimate goal of financial independence and retiring early in the future.
So, I wonder, are FIRE parents and their kids able to do more than just cope with being cooped up because a) they have already committed to delayed gratification and b) they have a shared dream of living life on their own terms.
Maybe, you’re thinking, let’s wait until this crisis is over.
The self-actualized do not just appear, they develop. Sure, the FIRE folks among us already have most of their needs—for food and shelter, safety, love and self-esteem—met. When faced with sheltering-in-place for your safety and those you love for an indefinite period of time, a self-actualized person has something many others do not have that gets them through an upside-down reality like this one: purpose and a practice of living with less.
FIRE families are committed to a life on their own terms and that takes dedication to building helpful habits to reach early retirement.
FIRE Habits for Your Family
As I mentioned, I was not a FIRE convert before I had to run a household during the coronavirus pandemic, but, really, is there a better time to start building up helpful habits like conserving energy and engaging in money-making endeavors (as a family) than during a lockdown?
By starting small and focusing on habits that do not involve expensive equipment like a pilates reformer, a new diet, or giving something else up, we will reap the benefits in the future. Also, building habits as a family requires choosing new habits that are suitable for adults and kids.
Here are my top 5 attainable ideas for habits families can build during quarantine:
- Develop a mindfulness practice that encourages you and your kids to be present without judgement, be kind to yourself and others, and, most importantly, reduce the stress that we all feel. Hint: This habit is vital to living The Good Life!
- Learn a new skill such as baking your own croissants, learning to code, or designing a rain garden for your home and then teach your new found skill to your kids and vice versa. You never know, you may discover a new way to make some extra money.
- Plan your days and record (on paper or on video) the experience for you and your family. Reflecting back on how habits built during quarantine have helped to achieve future goals, like FIRE, will be meaningful and educational for the whole family.
- Speak openly with your children about household budgeting and get them involved in finding ways to reuse plastic bags, jars, and cardboard boxes as household containers for leftovers, propagating plants, arts and crafts projects, or as storage organizers. Then, encourage them to turn that know-how into a way to help your family save even more money at home.
- Make time to think about money’s purpose in your life and that of your families. If you’re really brave, go one step further and take a look at how you’re spending, saving, and investing your cash. If financial independence is what you want, does the picture you see on your bank statements reflect that goal?
Living The Good Life During Quarantine
I believe that the greatest strength the FIRE mindset brings to challenges like COVID-19 is living well at any level of spending. Though, being content with a 10-year old hand mixer that gets the job done rather than buying an expensive stand mixer to treat yourself does not happen overnight. To be truly content, we have to practice.
How can we practice contentment during a global pandemic? A lot is riding on YOU right now: the health of the free world, your kids education, and your family's financial security to name a few burdens.
Humor me. Remember flying? Before take off your friendly flight attendant says “be sure to secure your face mask before helping others.”
To all the domestic engineers out there, this is not the time to forget about your state of mind.
Now is the time to become familiar with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practice. Do yourself a favor and take 10 minutes to read about mindfulness from the good people at the University of California-Berkeley.
And, if you just can’t right now, here is a down-and-dirty summary on mindfulness:
- Mindfulness is a practice of noticing your state of mind in the present without judgement.
- Studies show that mindfulness increases compassion, resilience, focus, and boosts the immune system.
- The practice of mindfulness is sitting still, eating, breathing, or moving—moment, by moment, by moment, by moment.
I am not trained in MBSR. But I am an expert on how to quiet the negative thoughts in my own head (for a time). When I feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts, I find a way to do something positive in the face of paralyzing fear, like forming new positive habits.
Living The Good Life After Quarantine
I certainly do not want to make light of the financial hardship that COVID-19 has caused so many around the world. I have lost work and others that I know have had to take reduced hours, been furloughed, laid-off, or let go by their employers. We all have received countless emails from businesses and nonprofits asking us to chip in during this uncertain time.
There is almost no question in my mind that this period of living with less will change what we view as necessary for living a good life. If I were a gambler, I would bet that the idea of saving more than spending sounds downright sensible (and doable!) after quarantine.
Never Forget the FIRE
Getting on with life after the coronavirus pandemic will not be the same for everyone.
If you gained insight into what is important to you during the pandemic—never forget it.
If you were able to build a stronger bond with your children during your family’s quarantine—never forget it.
If you are more grateful for your ability to build wealth after COVID-19 shut down your business—never forget how powerful your FIRE mindset is.
FIRE people are driven more than most to live now for a life of their dreams, and FIRE families are creating a new generation of people fired up about seeking a life of meaning.
Do not forget what you have learned during this experience and take that love muscle you call heart and the sweat equity also known as courage out into the world and make something.
I’m all fired up to start habit-building during quarantine for my family’s life after we can leave the house!
You can do FIRE as a family.
Share your FIRE family pursuits, and inspire others, in the comments below.