I’m a fan of the Stoic Philosophers. Stoicism dates back to 300 BC and had 3 ages. Stoic Doctrine covered these notions:
- Nature – Nature is rational.
- Law of Reason – The universe is governed by the law of reason. …
- Virtue – A life led according to rational nature is virtuous.
- Wisdom – Wisdom is the the root virtue. …
- Apathea – Since passion is irrational, life should be waged as a battle against it.
Stoics varied in station from the slave Epictetus to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the American experiment owes much to this philosophy. Heraclitus of Ephesus was pre-Socratic and his view was to explore the riddles and paradoxes of humanity the huge unconsciousness of life in it’s relation to the universe. His writings come to us only as fragments so you don’t have majestic volumes to contemplate but you have to make do turning snippets into whole cloth. Heraclitus can perhaps be summed up in one phrase, “the only constant is change”. In some respect he felt change was the cord that connected the future to the past. His famous saying is:
“No man ever steps in the same river twice” which is the basis of the philosophy of “becoming” where as Parmenides stood in contrast with “what is – is”, the basis of the philosophy of being. In these philosophies lives the tension of FI and the FIRE movement. Heraclitus is where I get the notion of “all time travel is forward moving”. If you step in a river, step out and then step back in, in the second step you’re in a different reality than with the first.
Retirement is nothing if not stepping into a different river. It’s a completely different reality than work life. There is all kind of discussion regarding RE and FI, much of it rationalization and marketing, about retirement. One comment is “retirement is squishy” implying retirement doesn’t have a “real” definition but is amorphous and subjective. That’s a pretend reality. The idea is you rebel “against the man” who’s got you enslaved under his boot. Somehow this “man” is your oppressor. He oppresses you by giving you a salary, benefits like paid vacation, health care, a stable environment in which to thrive. He takes on much of the risk you would otherwise suffer. If sales suck for the month YOU STILL GET A PAYCHECK. If the economy is in the dumper YOU STILL HAVE HEALTHCARE. That “man” is a real SOB that’s for sure! Why he expects you to actually “work” for those benefits or at least show up. He needs you to make some money so he can give you a paycheck and manage your risk for you. You want Freedom, you want Independence! No “man” gonna tell you what to do! Why Why I’ll save half and put it in low cost index funds till I get 25 times and then and then RETIRE EARLY! I’ll show that SOB! The drama, the pathos, the sanctimony, it’s all so pedestrian. If you retire at 30, you have 60 years of risk and expense left to cover on your own. Pathos don’t pay the bills.
I recently listened to a Podcast that was hawking RE. Nobody on the podcast was retired. Everybody was still working in some fashion. One had been through the ringer in her life and understood the real danger that looms out there. Under-employed, her husband got a diagnosis and she became “it”. She went into Wonder Woman mode and booted herself into financial security while her husband recovered, plus the kids got raised. It’s an amazing story. She stepped into a different river, but she has been scarred in the process. In her success she saw the bottom approach as she plunged toward the sudden impact. Pull up, pull up, and she did, but as a result she’s not in a big hurry to relinquish her security for “freedom” and “independence” because she lived the risk those words imply. Another just retired at 55. He was a well regarded corporate guy who grew weary of being a road warrior. He had a gig fall in his lap where he is a board member for a corporation and writes a blog, so he no longer fight’s the battle but still is employed. At 55, his portfolio longevity risk is 35 years, a damn sight better than 60 years and he’s spitting distance from SS and Medicare. I read on his site actually 55 is somebody’s boundary between retired and retired early. Either way he’s still working. Another writes a high profile financial blog that makes a lot of money. He sells courses and news letters and podcasts, he owns real estate has a stock portfolio, is a physician and group owner. He’s a natural marketeer. A real every day in every way Tony Robbins type. No problem with that except this guy is as far from retired as Pluto is from Sol. He the one with the notion of retirement is squishy. I guess you have to redefine retirement and make it “squishy” to deal with the cognitive dissonance of the paradox. Another is a real estate guru and is selling his knowledge of real estate investing while owning real estate as his business. His gig is “independence”. He perceives himself as independent. Maybe true but independent is not retired, it merely means you have taken back the risk you gave up when the “man” was “oppressing” you. You’re still working. The last is a physician who has made his life into precisely what he wanted it to be. He came to realize being tied to his phone managing hundreds of severely ill patients 24/7 was not how he wanted to live, so he cut back, started a blog and became a speaker and a podcaster. It’s an expression of freedom, it’s an expression of entrepreneurialism, it’s not retirement. It’s just stepping into a different river.
So what’s the point? People look at FIRE like the participants have 2 heads and 4 mouths. On the one hand they are “retired” on the other hand they clearly are working. On the one hand they are betting their future security on something flimsy like a blog or consulting or what ever. They come up with a “rap” that looks nothing like their reality and try to sell it as “reality”. It comes off phony and it comes off like multi-level marketing. People hear that story and understand it perfectly and say “no thanks, I’m not interested, I don’t do Amway” and the FIRE types just can’t understand the lack of appeal for adopting some “wacky theology” and then betting your life on it. I’m like Heraclitus sitting out here on the perimeter looking in to the unconsciousness of it all. I’m not judging any of it, just contemplating it. Contemplating how there are so many opinions on the state of “being” retired and how to get “to be” retired, while no one actually IS retired. I’ll probably do a post on what actually “being” retired is like from a financial perspective. A post about living in the bulls eye not just aiming at the bulls eye. I stepped into the different river and understanding where “here” is not where “there” was predominates. Can’t wait for 2019 to unfold. I’m a year and a half down the river and I want to know what 2 and a half is going to be like.