Retirement

Meet the firefighters who retired early.

To my surprise, a large portion of the fire crowd at EconoMe was older. That wasn’t all that surprising to Bill Unit, a 58-year-old retired physician who recently started a podcast with Koski and another friend, Becky Heptig, that speaks to the older demographic. “The average American is a late starter,” Yount told me. “That’s just who we are, living in this consumer society and not having the mentality to save often or quickly.” And things are no longer the “9-to-5, 40 years and gold watch” they were for his parents’ generation: “I’m not in the gold watch generation. Gen X is lost, forgotten.

Heptig, who is 68, found herself in dire financial straits in her 50s, when her husband’s small business collapsed. “I was really scared, thinking we were never going to get out of this debt and we were never going to retire,” she says. She took a course with financial advice radio host Dave Ramsey, and her husband. Signed up for a W-2 job. After that he started saving like crazy. “We were net worth at age 50, and he retired at age 63 — so for us, where we started, we consider ourselves an early retiree,” Heptig says. ” says Heptig. He made the same wild discovery that everyone at FIRE does: that reaching early retirement really can take less than a decade, once you know about it and start planning. But as Yount told me: “You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t even know how to find it.”

Maybe that’s why I know too Much of the search for money I found myself, while reporting on this article, was particularly drawn to the subculture of FatFIRE—and its lavish, unapologetic, in-your-face money philosophy. The side Alan Wong and his ilk prefer. FatFIRE flies in the face of all other fire types. it is Opposite– Anti consumption. The usual standard is to accumulate enough wealth to comfortably spend at least $100,000 a year in retirement, but some high-flyers aim for much, much larger sums. It favors an unbridled maximalism, in which it is all abundance.

While most other FIRE communities tend to be friendly and pragmatic, FatFIRE’s followers tend to be nerdy, brash, laser-focused. They look for an “exit” in tech world parlance: a quick, profitable way out. On the r/FatFIRE subreddit, wannabes look at severance packages, geo-arbitrage, REITs, tax loopholes, high-risk options straddles and potential business moonshots. Successful FatFIRErs praise each other for reaching double-digit million net worths, debate the merits of second homes versus private jets, and fret over how ethical it is to set up a trust fund for their children. Is. And just as Fisker and Adeney were beacons to early FIRE devotees, Alan Wong is FatFIRE’s legendary hero.

Wong is quiet and unassuming in person. When I finally met him this spring — three years after we first started chatting online — near his childhood home in Queens, he wore jeans, Asics and a cautious self-awareness. Now in his mid-30s, he has comfortably enjoyed nearly a decade of leisure. He spends most of his days playing pickleball and giving online advice to strangers on how to follow in his footsteps. He’s not particularly interested in fame, so he posts under the name of his app company as a senior moderator of r/FatFIRE. For someone who is a living talisman against the rules of conventional life, he speaks with surprising calmness—though there’s a certain pride in his eyes whenever we talk about his childhood or his father. Shines from Although it only grew seven years ago, r/FatFIRE is on track to surpass r/FIRE in size, Wong told me. Membership doubled during the pandemic despite moderators deliberately hiding the forum from Reddit’s homepage, he said, showing me a graph, adding that most of its members were “early Career American Men” seem to be.


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