My Personal F.I.R.E. Story

I have touched upon this background story more than once. It was not until FinCon that I realized how central it was to my personal FIRE journey.

Several times when I was trying to boil down my history with FIRE I kept coming up with the same short story.

My in-laws were wonderful human beings. We moved home to be close to them when we started having kids. They were 62 years old and had just retired. My mother-n-law got 1 social security check and my father-n-law got 2 checks.

And then they died, within 3 days of each other.

Perfect citizens. Paid into the system their whole lives. Did everything they were supposed to do. Worked hard and raised a great family. They had multiple pensions coming in and had nothing left to do but kick back and enjoy their grandchildren.

LIFE doesn’t care about your plans.

As I muddled through the paperwork of becoming their estate’s personal representative, it hit me. They had checked off all the boxes, done everything right, but the center did not hold, things fell apart.

LIFE is fragile and unpredictable.

I started second guessing my life track. Why am I going to work until age 62 or whatever? Because I am supposed to? I had already walked away from a lot of things that I was supposed to do. If we stop caring about what is orthodox, is there another way?

I have always been naturally frugal. Same with my wife, we are too blue collar for our white collar jobs. I was putting money away in all the right places.

The inheritance from my in-laws allowed us to get a jump on some important milestones. I was able to secure my kids college expenses.

We were able to consolidate ownership of our beloved family cottage and eventual retirement spot.

This telescoping of our original timetables, coupled with my hobby of reading personal finance blogs gave me a foundational awareness of a possible new path. My FIRE journey was born.

We weren’t going to go quietly into that good night, we were going to get financially independent as soon as comfortably possible and get on with what we wanted to do with the time we have left.

Horror stories about your mother-n-law are funny. They comprise one of my favorite reddit threads. But I don’t have any, my mother-n-law was a universally beloved woman.

My father-n-law was the male role model I never had growing up. He was a dichotomy of traits; a tall strong cop who knew when to take a hard line, but he was also a softie who doted of his wife and daughters and freely expressed his emotions.

Together the two of them showed me what a marriage was supposed to look like. A new perspective on family that heavily influenced my own parenting style. Trying to live up to them makes being a decent person relatively easy.

Many times good raw material is ruined in a bad environment. That could have been me. Meeting and marrying into this family probably saved my life. I would explain the juicy details of why that is not hyperbole, but I am just not ready yet.

“the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

Although I am loathe to admit this, I cared way too much what other people thought of me when I was younger. Some wisdom and some life behind me have done much to alter that trait.

Think about the things you might regret doing, or more importantly, things you might regret not doing. Make a Plan and get busy living your life.

Stack enough chips to live that life on your terms.



11 thoughts on “My Personal F.I.R.E. Story

  1. After the loss of my home in the Tubb’s fire my motto is we can plan but not predict. That is why I am taking 2 months off currently in between jobs. Sure it is costing me over $30k in salary, but it is giving me time. Time with my 3 year old son and wife. Time to travel. Time to reset before starting a new gig.

    The influences in our life come from all over. One of the men I most respect was my college girlfriends father. We kept in touch until his death due to pancreatic cancer. He was too young to leave us, but life is unpredictable. Better to live it while planning on the future instead of just planning.

  2. Sorry about your in-laws. Looks like you married into a wonderful family and was better for it (I’m the extreme contrast to that statement).

    I wrote how my father (an internal medicine doc) died at age 50 of pancreatic cancer when I was 14. He put off a lot of enjoyable things like travel etc for a time that never would come. Made me realize quickly that tomorrow is never promised and should balance spending and saving accordingly.

  3. i got lucky on the in-law part of life, too. they’re still alive and around 86 and i love going to visit them. i have to say this might also be a big reason why i got my financial crap together when i met mrs me. i didn’t want to let her down.

    it also makes me glad i sowed all those wild oats ahead of time. it’s probably enough to fill a bunch of peoples’ buckets lists. if i kicked tomorrow i can be pretty satisfied in using this life up. cheers!

  4. I really love the simple and undramatic way you told this. Just the listing of the pitifully small amount of social security checks made it really hit home.
    I guess it helps that I’m 55, so it REALLY hits home.
    I’m sorry for your loss. They sound like they were wonderful people.

  5. My FIL retired at 60 and died later that same year. My closest colleague at work was unceremoniously fired a few weeks ago after 30 years of service by her new “interim” boss. We never know what the future holds.

    My father, step-father, and FIL were all male role models who showed me what not to do. But it’s tough to get to positive outcomes from negative examples.

  6. Perhaps their impact on you and the family you are cultivating is their one investment that paid off.

    Don’t like how much that sounds like a bromide, but I still believe it.

    • I quite like it actually. Just this shy of cheesy and still accurate. But there are enough STEM types practicing FIRE that we need to clarify that you meant the second most common definition of ‘bromide’ and not ‘a chemical compound containing a bromide’.

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