Like many FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) enthusiasts, I’m a flat-out weird guy full of many strange interests and beliefs. In the realm of FIRE, some of my bat-guano-crazy beliefs include: 1.) pursuing a 100% savings rate, 2.) frequent job changing to improve financial options, and 3.) teaching in the “boondocks” to maximize financial gain. In my personal life, my unconventional practices include: barefoot running, a no-low-slow carb eating protocol, expat living, and life-long interest in all things Bigfoot. (I was born in 1963 and the Patty film (see above) rocked my world in 1967, so I had the Squatch seared into my brain at an early age. There, that’s my excuse!)
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One day while I was going back and forth between FIRE blogs and Bigfoot blogs, I realized that these unusual topics had three things in common. Writing this post meant that I got to produce an awesome visual aid for my loyal readers:
Last week I worked an Esperanto greeting in a post; now I’m breaking new ground with the blogosphere’s first Squatchalicious FIRE post. Here are three similarities between two of my favorite topics, FIRE and Sasquatch:
1. Both Are Beyond the Limits of People’s Imagination
Do you like awkward moments as much as I do? You know, cracking a corny joke just to watch people’s reaction. As a teacher, I always had an audience to practice my material on. My personal favorite is to use a double negative or horrible grammar on the first day of class (“Hey y’all, this year I plan on learning ya good in this here Spanish class.” Students look up with terror in their eyes and wonder how Davy Crockett got certified to teach Spanish.) If you’re into all things awkward, try bringing up the subject of FIRE with your co-workers in the teachers’ lounge or at the water cooler. Drop this question on them:
“Did you know that it’s possible to retire after working only 5 to 15 years?”
If you ask that question, you will become the card-carrying freak on staff. You’ll be considered either eccentric, kooky, or nuts. Why? Easy, the question goes beyond the limit of most people’s imagination. “Work only five years and retire. Yeah right!” Such a question challenges the individual’s reality. “You mean I’ve been busting my butt for 20 years now when I should have retired 10 to 15 years ago?” That’s a lot for a person to process, so it’s often easier to just write the questioner off as a quack.
If you’re up to it, I recommend that you follow up your FIRE question with:
“Hey cats (outdated slang is always awesome), did you see the latest Bigfoot sighting this week in _____ ?”
Be aware that if you ask a Bigfoot question within a week of a FIRE question, you’ll become certifiably loony in the eyes of many co-workers. You’ll become THAT guy at the job site. After meeting new hires, they’ll whisk the newbie aside and say, “That’s Ed. He believes in Bigfoot and thinks he’s going to retire after working only five years. He’s a great co-worker, but he’s just a little different. You’ll get use to him, plus he’s harmless.”
Instead of trying to shine the FIRE’d-Squatch light on everyone you know, be prepared to accept the fact that FIRE and Bigfoot are just too much for most people to wrap their mind around . For 95% of the populace, FIRE and Sasquatch are mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting, and reality-altering. In short, most people won’t “get it” after a five-minute conversation.
2. Both Elicit Strong Emotions from Naysayers
While most people won’t “get it” when it comes to FIRE or Bigfoot, some of those non-getters will be incredibly hostile to the subjects. “What do you mean there’s a nine-foot hominoid walking the planet. You’re a &#$!* idiot!” For such people FIRE and Bigfoot are so mind-blowing that they feel obligated to prevent anyone from taking a serious interest in the topic. This is why many people who have had a Bigfoot encounter never tell anyone about it. Who needs the grief, hassle, and ridicule? (Great examples of reluctant Bigfoot “knowers” sharing their stories for first time: #1, #2.)
In the FIRE realm, the eternal vigilance of Internet Retirement Police (IRP) constantly tries to crush the dreams of all FIRE aspirants. It’s amazing to see the mental energy spent proving why FIRE is “impossible,” or why an individual is not really retired. At some point, most members of the FIRE community butt heads with the IRP who go to great lengths to “prove” why you can’t retire until you’re 65 or older: “The stock market will crash, and you’ll become destitute. You’ll have a medical emergency and your medical bills will devour all of your money. Hyperinflation will reduce your money to fancy toilet paper. Plus, you’re not really retired because you work on your blog (book, project, etc).” After exhausting all of the reasons against FIRE, they usually just resort to calling the FIRE enthusiast a liar or charlatan.
If you decide to share your interest in FIRE and Bigfoot with the larger public, be prepared to get push-back from a small but vocal group of dream-crushing whiny heinies. For these people a Bigfoot in a cage wouldn’t be enough proof for them. “That’s just a stupid hologram! That’s just a high-tech monkey suit!” If the IRP don’t recognize the success of awesome FIRE bloggers (such as Pete, Jacob, Carl, Jeremy, Justin, and Brandon), don’t expect them to go easy on your FIRE aspirations.
3. Both Are Surprisingly Plausible
As fantastic as FIRE and Bigfoot claims might initially sound, the more you explore the topics, the more plausible they both seem. For example, FIRE becomes a more realistic possibility when your learn about the following concepts:
- Frugal Living — What? You mean you can actually control your spending by learning how to “live low on the hog?” Frugal living teaches you how to lead a normal life at rock-bottom cost. Once you optimize you spending to get the most value out of your money, you then have more money to save and invest. For example, assume you’re a single person earning $50k a year with annual spending of $24k ($2k a month). If you managed to cut your expenses in half, you’d now have an extra $12k a year to save and invest.
- 4% Rule — This rule suggests that if you take withdrawals of 4% or less, your portfolio has a good chance of lasting your entire lifetime. Another way to view this rule of thumb is that if your portfolio is 25 times greater than your living expenses (100 / 4 = 25), you are now financially independent. So, if your living expenses are $12k a year, you’d need $300k to FIRE. Okay, but how do you save so much money?
- Hardcore Savings (75-100%) — Here is a topic very dear to my heart! Hardcore savings means that you use your paycheck for savings, investing, and wealth building. I recommend shooting for a 100% savings rate, but I can live with a 75% rate. In my experience, it’s always best to use your tax-advantaged accounts (401k, 403b, 457, IRA, HSA) for your savings because they also dramatically reduce your tax obligations. If you saved 75% of your salary in these accounts, how long would it take yours to hit $300k? (We’ll assume you’ll earn 7% on your savings.) Here you go:
Take a look at what a 100% hardcore savings rate does over 5 years at 7%:
Would it be easy to hit those savings rates? Heck no, but are they impossible? No, especially if you worked your plan in a low cost-of-living area, got yourself a few roommates, and picked up spare income via a side hustle or other employment. My buddy Josh at Monkey Free Me wrote about a first-year teacher at his school pulling in a robust $71,100 a year. The kicker: he’s saving 75% of it. Think about that, a guy probably in his early twenties saving about $53k a year. Way. To. Go! How butt-kicking is that?! (Okay IRP, that’s your cue to go over to Josh’s blog and take a dump in the comments section. Sadly, the Monkey Free Me blog is no more.)
I know what you’re thinking, “Okay Ed, you persuaded me on the possibilities of FIRE, but Bigfoot is as fake as a cross-dresser’s boobs.” Yeah, I agree that Bigfoot is a real “mind-bender.” Nonetheless, here are some reasons to reconsider your position on the Big Guy (or Big Gal):
- Numerous Sightings — Every year there are hundreds (if not thousands) of hominoid sightings all over the world. It’s natural to assume that some sightings are the result of hoaxers and loons trying to pull a fast one on the Bigfoot community. It’s also true that some cases are probably the result of misidentification (for example, an individual sees a bear and swears it was a Squatch). However, every year there are still hundreds of sightings by normal people like us you. I’ll leave it at that; here are some interesting websites full of sightings: #1, #2, #3
- Footprints and Tracks — New Bigfoot tracks are found about every week in most of the U.S. There is a growing database of such prints. In my mind, hoaxing thousands of footprints all over the U.S. would require massive coordination and lots of time and energy…all just to do a little hoaxing. (My favorite footprint is the Elkins Creek cast for a number of reasons: it was scrutinized by an anthropologist and forensic scientist, it was taken an hour away from my old hometown of LaGrange, GA, and the print was cast by my cousin’s police academy trainer!)
- Bigfoot in the Historic Record — Most people don’t realize that Bigfoot is not a recent phenomenon. Native Americans of varying tribes have names for Bigfoot. Lief Ericson also reported a run-in with creature as far back as 986 AD. Did Daniel Boone have an encounter with the Big Guy? We’ll never know! Here’s an interesting podcast on the history of wild-men. All I know is that if this Bigfoot thing is a massive hoax, it has been going on for a long time.
Here’s a YouTube playlist I put together for your viewing pleasure:
Now that was my kind of post! I know many of you are wondering if I actually believe in Bigfoot. That’s kind of a tricky question because I have never had an encounter; I’m not a “knower” as they say. However, I have met normal people with incredible Bigfoot encounter stories. When I say incredible, I mean “Monster Quest” caliber stories: a meek lady who swore to me she hit one with her car, another woman who saw a Squatch run off from a remote trash dumpster, and a life-long south Georgia hunter who will no longer go into the woods after his sighting. None of these people are trying to earn fame or fortune from their stories. These people don’t believe they saw Bigfoot; they KNOW they saw Bigfoot (at least in their minds). The prospect that there is either a case of mass hysteria causing “Bigfoot sightings” or that there really are nine-foot hominoids walking the Earth is fascinating indeed.
FIRE and Bigfoot appear to be passing through Arthur Schopenhauer’s three stages of the truth: first, they’re ridiculed; second, they’re violently opposed; and third, they’ll be accepted as being self-evident. The FIRE truth is in stage three while the Bigfoot truth is still in stage two. With more and more FIRE knowers gaining financial independence and reclaiming their freedom, it’s become more difficult to deny the FIRE truth. Are we getting closer to knowing the Bigfoot truth? I’m not sure, but there are a ton of regular Bigfoot knowers that walk among us. Are they all crazy?
Before I wrap this post up, I have to ask my millionaire readers if any of them have had a Bigfoot encounter. Feel free to post your story in the comments or send me your story via email (I promise not to blow your cover).
Thanks for reading.
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