Over 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.