Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

Why am I going for FAT-FIRE?

Waves on our backyard beach

I’m going for FAT FIRE.

Why?

I’m working towards (what I consider to be) FAT-FIRE. I have a very important reason why I’m going for FAT-FIRE and it’s definitely rooted in my past and in my future. But what do I mean by FAT-FIRE?

I’ve seen many definitions for lean-FIRE and Fat-FIRE, and most of them put a dollar value on these terms. I think that’s pretty ridiculous, to tell you the truth. How does my lifestyle equate to anyone else’s? I’m going for FAT-FIRE, but the amount I’ll be pulling out is far less than the 100K/year which is “supposed” to be what the benchmark is for this.

The amount of money I’m aiming to amass in my portfolios and Superannuation is slated to provide me with around 20K – 25K/year more than I’ll need for my current lifestyle. That sounds like FAT-FIRE to me! I’ll be able to travel and indulge in going to the theatre, while still enjoying the frugal delights of growing my own food, walking the dogs on our “backyard beach” and reading, Netflixing and crafting. 

Aside from indulging myself with trips to Europe and the like, there’s another hugely important reason why I’m still working to scrape my FI number together. 

It’s my Grandfather.

We always called him George. Never Grandad, always George. He was my Mum’s father. He and Gran lived a couple of suburbs away when we were growing up, so we saw a fair bit of them when we were young. They were our go-to grandparents, because Dad’s parents moved to the Gold Coast, (aka ‘God’s Waiting Room), when we were little and so we only saw them every couple of years. 

George was old-school when it came to his career. He grew up in the Depression era and so had to leave school at the age of 13 and get a job as a packer in a clothing warehouse down on Flinders Lane. He worked as an unskilled labourer and brought his wages home to his mother every week. 

He was ambitious though. Every week he’d go upstairs and ask if there were any vacancies for salespeople. He was knocked back every week for 6 months or more, but he kept on climbing those stairs. Finally, probably just to shut him up, they offered him a place, but it had a pay cut of 6 shillings. When he ran home to proudly tell his mother that he was moving up the ladder, when she heard about the pay cut she burst into tears. In that era, they relied on every penny coming in to survive.

Over the years he rose through the ranks of salesman, travelling salesman, right up to being part of the management team. He stayed at the one company all of his working life in a career that was only interrupted by 5 years as an aircraft mechanic in Darwin during WWII. 

He bought their house in Murrumbeena only when his solicitor offered to lend him the money. He paid it off quickly, then in 1970, just a couple of years before he retired, he and Gran bought a little holiday house right on the beach at Inverloch for 10K. 

He retired when he was 59. I remember going over to their house to see the fat gold watch the company gave him as a farewell gift. Then he and Gran moved down to Inverloch, selling the house in Murrumbeena to pay off the mortgage. They settled into their retirement.

They were grey nomads, pulling their caravan up to Kurramine Beach, just past Cairns, for 6 months during our winter, then coming down again for 6 months during our summer. Even after Gran died, George kept up this routine until he grew too old. He then settled into Inverloch all year round, eventually dying when he was 94, after he took a fall and broke his hip.

The thing about this tale that impels me to aim for FAT-FIRE is what happened about 5 years before he died. 

George ran out of money.

I remember Mum telling me that George asked them if they’d buy the caravan from him for 5K. By that stage the van hadn’t been used for years and it was shabby and old. Mum and Dad definitely didn’t want it, but what could they do? They had to help him save his pride. So they “bought” it.

George had the Age Pension to live off, so the 5K was for extras. I can’t imagine that it would have lasted him the rest of his life, so I’m sure that Mum and Dad would have had to dip their hands into their pockets a few more times. Mum was his only child. He refused to sell Inverloch, telling Mum that “this block will be the family fortune.” (He was right about that – when Mum and Dad eventually sold it, they got nearly 700K for it. A buy and hold strategy for real estate certainly seems like the way to go!)

I can imagine the uncomfortable talk when George was asking for financial help. He was a proud man…

I NEVER want to have that talk with my boys. 

I truly believe that the best gift I can give them is the gift of my financial independence. 

When I’m George’s age… (well, he’s dead… I mean the age when the lack of money began to bite!) … my boys will presumably be raising young families, paying off mortgages, dealing with school fees and all of the expenses that come with being Dads of teenagers. They’ll be thinking of their own retirements and trying to put money away in investments, while still living their lives. 

The LAST thing they’ll want is for their Dear Old Mum to be holding out her hand for money.

The last thing I want is for their Dear Old Mum to have to ask them for money. 

If it ever happens, both they and I will know that something catastrophic must have happened, because nothing short of that would make it a reality. They’ll know that I worked my ar$e off to try and ensure that I’d be ok financially. It still wouldn’t make the conversation any less uncomfortable, though.

This is why I’m not paying for their Uni degrees. This is why I’m still at work, putting money into investments instead of setting up a glide path towards the Age Pension and leaving work now. Future Frogdancer, along with Present Frogdancer, wants to stand on her own two feet.

This is why I’m going for FAT-FIRE. 

Serene waves and blue sky.

20 Comments

  1. Tell us more about George –

  2. Yep, makes a bunch of sense! I’m also working towards that because I have no kids, and I do NOT want the US government making my medical and living decisions for me when I’m old.

  3. My father just retired and having been tight-lipped about finances all my life, he’s started to open up a little more (I think he’s also got the hint I might be into money stuff…). From the figures he’s hinted at, sounds like he and my mother will be fine well into old age, so I’m pleased that this isn’t something I have to worry about too much. As for me, not being sure that I will have my own children, this gives me even more motivation to achieve a solid FI number, as I may not have a close family network I could use as a backup plan (not that I’d want to!) Thanks for sharing your motivations.

    PS. I agree about your idea of Fat FIRE. While some definitions online say that it is living on $100k income per year, that is well and truly excessive for me! I’d call myself living a Fat FIRE lifestyle on half that, given my usual living expenses.

    • Your parents sound like mine. To take the worry from their kids about having to provide for them in their old age is a gift with no downsides.
      As for your good self, you’ll have set yourself up for total control of your destiny. Not a bad thing!

  4. Yes, yes, yes! I agree with this entirely. My grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 94. Her net worth was nearly $500,000, but even with that money should did not move into the retirement community she wanted to live in. It was nice and clean compared to the other places she visited, but it wasn’t fancy by any means. The retirement community required a downpayment as well as monthly fees. Although she had enough for the downpayment she was worried she would run out of money to pay the ongoing fees. She feared getting kicked out and getting sent to a “hell-hole” in her final years. In the end she decided to stay in her condo. Thankfully she was well enough to continue living on her own, but I do think her life was shortened by this decision. (I wrote about it recently.) I think her health failed because she wasn’t eating well and interacting enough socially. It seems unfair to win the lottery of a long, healthy life and then realize you cannot pay to live it the way you want to.

    • Ouch. Those last 2 sentences are really sad.
      It’s tough, isn’t it? We all want the people we love (and I include ourselves in this) to be able to see themselves out with dignity and to not have to worry about the sordid details of finances after a lifetime of work.
      What frightens me is people in my own family who blithely say, “I’ll be working till I die!” Life usually doesn’t work out like that.

    • >>It seems unfair to win the lottery of a long, healthy life and then realize you cannot pay to live it the way you want to.

      I don’t believe people think enough about just how long they can live once into retirement age (60’s). Most have at least 10 years and some 30 years. That’s a long time to not be working and wondering if your money will last. I’m a big believer in “Fat FIRE”.

      • So am I, hence why I’m still plugging away.
        I’m writing this at 6:04 AM on a Monday.
        One day, at this time on a Monday morning in term time, I’ll still be sleeping… one day…

  5. Yeah if I were going for FIRE I’d definitely be leaning toward fat fire. (My version, anyway, since like you I don’t need $100,000 a year to live on.) I wouldn’t want to run out of money and be a burden on family. I think what you’re doing makes the most sense to protect yourself, your loved ones and, yeah, your pride.

    • Thanks.
      I want to be like my grandmother on Dad’s side. My grandpa left her very well provided for and even when her wits were wandering at the end, so was well looked after in a great nursing home, because she could afford it.
      I want Future Frogdancer to land on her feet.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. I don’t ever want to be a burden to my kids. The eldest is at uni, living at home and working part time so he can pay his uni fees off every semester. Graduating without a debt is I hope setting him up for a good start in life.

  7. I always remember my parents giving money to my grandparents. And my Dad telling me that he never wants to be in that position, that he will not rely on his children to provide for him. I am very grateful that my parents are financially independent- they set a good example for me to follow

  8. I think you are on the right track. Having more than you need in old age will bring a level of comfort and you will be able to enjoy more. The last thing we want is to be stressed about money. At least this is what I think.

    • I agree. I’ve spent more than enough years stressing about money when I was younger. The least I can do for my future self is to try and avoid that for her when she’s old.

  9. This post resonated with me so much. Like your parents, we helped both my husbands parents and my parents at various stages. We were fortunate we could afford to do it. Any gifts were ultimately more than repaid when their wills were settled. (Good old buy and hold strategy)
    Equally I don’t want to have to ask my boys for any help, so we also FAT FIRE’d, way before I had ever heard of the term. I hope we have built in enough FAT, so far, 8 years in, it is looking good, long may it continue to be so!

    • It’s good to hear from someone who’s further ahead on the path than I am. My mother just had a fall and broke her arm, so we kids are all cooking meals for them and rallying around. I think we’ve officially entered another stage of life – some bits won’t be much fun, it seems. But yes – I can afford to kick in if needed, though Dad has done a good job with their portfolio. He also subscribes to ‘buy and hold.’

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