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Why FIRE “Freaks me out, man!”

WHYOver the last few days, I’ve had a bit of a revelation regarding FIRE and my comfort level with it. I realized that I’m pretty uneasy about walking away from our nice paying jobs with paychecks that come in every other week. Trading that to enter a life that depends on a pile of cash not getting drained, and even growing while we whittle away at it year after year hoping we planned correctly and it lasts until we die, makes me a wee bit nervous. The biggest revelation wasn’t that I’m nervous about that being successful, it was the WHY behind me being nervous. After some contemplation,  I realized that it boils down to this: In my childhood, I was always subjected to fears about money, specifically, not having enough of it, and not utilizing what we did have effectively at all. And now as an adult, I worry that I could end up back in that situation, by choice! Gah!!!

Here’s the back story:
My parents fit the typical American model of “no emergency fund so to speak, definitely no savings, no concept of financial responsibility or good decision making with money”. Yep, typical American. We lived literally paycheck to paycheck, and there were times we would have $0 until dad got paid. Sometimes it might only be a day, sometimes 2-3, it just depended on what bills REALLY had to get paid and which ones could be pushed off. The cars were NEVER reliable, so there was always an impending car repair being put off until it really broke as well. This was always stressful, although I’m guessing my parents didn’t realize how stressful it was for us kids. I don’t know if my brother or sister ever noticed or worried about this, but man, it was one of the loudest things in my head. “Where is grocery money coming from? Why are they buying that, that’s our lunch money. How are we going to get the lights turned back on and have money for gas to get us to school, the grocery store, dad to work, etc… why do other families not seem to struggle with this so much?” Seriously, if anyone is familiar with the show Malcom in the Middle, or Shameless, those shows were more in line with my childhood, but more like Shameless and less funny than Malcom in the Middle. We couldn’t win for losing.

For those reasons and others, I’ve been working since before I was legally able and was the “best” in my family in regards to money sense. If you’ve read any of my Bad Decisions posts, you’ll think, “Holy hell, if Mr SSC is the best in his family, that is a pretty bad situation!” Anyway, I hate the feeling of being broke. I went through that for another stretch in college when working full time and doing school full-time. I broke my collarbone, and was laid up for about 8 weeks with no work, which meant 8 weeks with no income, you know, I think this was what kicked off my student loan becoming my emergency fund money and more problem. I burned through my meager savings pretty quickly during then, but fortunately had a super awesome landlord that let me repay back rent, with no penalty, over the next few months. Still, except for that time and growing up, I usually had a decent savings fund, paid bills on time, sometimes even early, and tried not to overspend my income. Yes, the wheels came off that in grad school, but I was within sight of a great paying job then, so it’s okay, right? According to my family, sure!

Back to the point of this post. Even thinking back to those times makes my skin literally crawl, and makes me feel frantic and I go into hoarder mode. The stress levels peak (I’m seriously stressed just writing this post and being so deep in thought about those times, ugh…) and I just want to get a second job as a buffer to ease the worry about money, lol. It’s ridiculous. On the one hand, I’ve done my best to avoid turning out like that in my current life. I told myself in 7th grade, I’d never live like that and I’m not settling for that to be the lifestyle I strive to achieve. Rather, I promised myself I’d do better and find a way that I wouldn’t have to worry about money 24/7/365. So far I’ve done pretty good on that promise. I’ve had my own missteps, but not really lifestyle failures, just bad, bad decisions here and there…

That gets me long-windedly to the point again. I have this constant fear of ending up like that again, which if you’ve read any of my “light-bulb” posts realize, I am NOT down for the Ramen, trailer lifestyle just to not have to go in to the office, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Maybe this sheds more light on why, but this was my main criticism with FIRE in the beginning. Now that it’s something we’re both on board with and focusing on, I still have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me, “You’re not saving enough… This will never work… You’ll quit your job and be dumpster diving in no time, stressing about how to pay utilities, find food for the kids, etc…” I know it’s silly because the numbers work out, the calculators and simulators show we’ll be fine, and that’s with all these extra “cushions” built into the yearly budgets. Growing up how I did, I KNOW we can live on WAY less than we have planned, if need be. I have no problem doing that. I just get freaked out thinking about giving up a really good paycheck.

In the end, I know if our FIRE fails, there will be lots of other people, companies, economies in more dire straits than us, because something really big went really wrong at a higher level than just our financial planning. I also know I’m strong enough to survive anything life has thrown at me so far. And I know that more likely than not, it will all just work out fine, but that doesn’t help to quiet that little voice in the back of my head telling me otherwise.

What types of fears do you have over FIRE, planning of it, and the success of it coming true and holding up for years and years? Let me know, because I’d like to know I’m not the only one out there with these types of fears.

14 thoughts on “Why FIRE “Freaks me out, man!”

  1. Justin @ Root of Good

    I think you’re looking at FIRE from a healthy perspective. You don’t want to be splitting a pack of Ramen in the trailer park as you say. Keep saving the money until you feel comfortable enough that there is a very high likelihood you won’t ever be living in a dilapidated house with wheels against your will.

    If you retired without enough money, you would end up suffering psychologically and wouldn’t be able to enjoy your early retirement. What’s the point of that? :)

    1. Mr. SSC

      I think the comfort level will be there by the time we get to that stage, it’s just hard to shake those nagging thoughts.
      Definitely don’t want to retire and end up like my father-in-law his first few years. He watched the stock market and investments and freaked out at every bump. He’s mellowed out, but his first few years retired seemed stressful. :)

  2. Sue

    FIRE scares me as well-especially since we have a comfortable income and I like the security it brings. I grew up in a family where my father saved and my mother spent. Thankfully, his savings should be enough for their retirement. Once they hit 90-things may change but that’s a long way off.

    My father was born in the middle of the depression and his stories of growing up very poor were enough to scare me. Frankly I need to have a large emergency fund to sleep well at night and I know it comes from hearing all those horrible stories. No enough to eat, no birthday presents, etc.

    Long story short-I can relate and I’m working on my FIRE comfort level. Working for the man for the rest of my life is pretty depressing too. Once I find a balance, I will let you know : )

    1. Mr. SSC

      I do NOT want to be working for the man the rest of my life either. Blech!

      I just need to get comfortable with the idea that 1. we’ve planned well and it should be fine, 2. we already live off our retirement amount (I just like the added security of money coming in every 2 weeks), 3. We have cushions built in, for unexpected expenses, sour economies, etc.. and 4. We know how to frugal it up, and aren’t above getting jobs if need be.

      Keep me up to date on finding a good balance!

  3. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    With FIRE I figure if it isn’t working out, you can just get another job and go back to work. You don’t lose much for trying. We’re planning to be FI but FIRE isn’t on the table right now, so I can’t share your fears, sorry. (when we get to FI we’ll see how we feel then though)

  4. Mr. SSC

    That’s true, we can always go back to work. Moving away from O&G job hubs though makes going back to that kind of work harder.

    I’m willing to go for broke and move away to a new retirement town when the time comes though. If it all goes pear shaped, we would probably try to make it work in our new town, rather than go back to a life of hectic pace, long commutes, and working for the weekend.

    Fingers crossed, we’re planning well! Hahahaha

  5. Jeremy

    This is completely normal and natural

    A couple years before you quit, everybody is worried about finances or what they are going to do with all that time or (insert your favorite thing to worry about here)

    A couple years after quitting, everybody wonders what they are worried about and why they didn’t quit sooner :)

    1. Mrs SSC

      Its the finances that I worry about – I keep worrying about some one-off event that will cost us a gazillion dollars… but I try to reel myself in by telling myself if I prepare for 95%, then I am sure I can find a way to conquer those unexpected once-a-decade situations. It is nice to hear that people often over-prepared and wish they did it sooner!

  6. Felix Money

    Just found your blog and I’ll be following for sure. Good luck with your journey to FIRE. We don’t have such plans yet. My spouse is just starting a new career as a teacher, but I do plan on quitting my day job soon, to be a business owner. For me, it’s been a dream of mine to be my own boss, and although it’s still basically working (probably even more than I do now), I consider it as FI, since I’ll be making my own income. If our plans work out, we’ll have a better life style with our new careers, with more vacation and time off and hopefully still be able to contribute towards creating passive income.

    1. Mrs SSC

      Good luck! It is great trying to get to a more secure financial place so you can take some risks and try your hand at a job you are more passionate about. That is part of our motivation – or at least mine – to get to FI, spend some more time with our kids while they are little, and then as they get older get into teaching or maybe more charity based work which might may little or none.

  7. Isaac

    The thing that makes me hesitate when thinking about it is that it’s SO unconventional – pretty much everything in everyday life directs you in the direction of retiring at 65, so it’s tough to sometimes drown out that noise. Even yesterday my boss mentioned about a career being 40 years long, and I had to stop myself from blurting out that it doesn’t have to be!

    1. Mr. SSC

      I had a conversation with a supervisor that has about 25 yrs at work and is astounded how all these other people have enough saved to retire before 65. He just spent almost $8k on a road bike, and accompanying electronics…. It’s all about your spending mindset more than your saving mindset. If you spend all your money, you can’t save any…. Astounding!
      But yeah I hear it constantly that you have to be near 60 to think about retiring. I think not if you play it right, not if you play it right.

    2. Mrs SSC

      I have to hold my tongue often at work. Yearly we have to discuss our 10 year plan with our supervisor as part of career development, and this year I just kept thinking “TO NOT BE HERE!”.

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