By Ryan Kosakura, CFA, CFP® with Cheryl Nobusada
What does Financial Independence mean to you – and how badly do you want it? People often talk about the FIRE Movement – Financial Independence Retire Early – and there are many resources out there covering its history, ways to get there and the cost/benefits. I’ve linked to some of those at the end of this article.
This is my family’s FIRE story. My version is first and my wife, Cheryl, then shares her side of the story.
Back in the late 90’s, I read the cult classic book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. This sparked my FIRE journey. The authors advocated financial literacy and financial independence by investing and owning businesses. The next FIRE marker was getting married, and this is where Cheryl and I concocted our Do-It-Yourself (DIY) plan to reach FFF (Financial Freedom by 50). We didn’t have children, were both working and good savers, and our mortgage was our sole debt. We planned to save 40% of our income, invest in low-cost and diversified mutual funds, and track our net worth every month. After about 10 years of DIY FIRE, we started working with Barry to get us to the finish line. We defined “enough” as having our basic needs covered for the rest of our lives; with Barry’s counsel, we reached our goal in 15 years. This took a great financial burden off our backs, giving us the freedom and flexibility to pursue things in life we have always dreamed of.
Once we got there, I quit my corporate job, traveled for six months with family and friends, and then started an encore career in wealth management to help others achieve their goals. One important point with our version of FIRE was not to vilify spending or put too much focus on saving/investing. We are happy to spend money on the things that we value most; in our case it was travel and family, which now includes our rescue dog, Teddy. One of the things I’m most grateful for, as a result of our FIRE journey, is taking back control of my time and doing the things I want to do versus what I have to do. FIRE allowed me to be an active caregiver to my mother during the two years she battled late-stage cancer and also help my dad transition to a new life without my mom.
My FIRE journey started with my mom. When I graduated college, my mom told me that, while it’s easy to match your spending patterns to your rising income, saving is just as important so your later years can be without financial worry. That conversation has stayed with me to this day. Once I defined a life without financial worry as the availability of 12 months’ expenses, I saved what I could and continuously invested the maximum amount into my 401k. Those habits didn’t change when I met Ryan – the game master as many of you know! – and we turned saving into a game to see how quickly we could reach financial freedom. Different from financial worry, financial freedom or FIRE meant that we could pursue our passions rather than be forced into demanding and structured corporate jobs. While you may think this means we live on a tight budget, that isn’t the case at all. FIRE is about taking the time to research and invest the right amount to ensure that we could live comfortably in our later years, not scrimping on our current lifestyle. In 2018, I left my corporate job and was fortunate to spend time with family and friends as well as discover new interests. Today I do meaningful work at a non-profit, Cancer Support Community, and still have time to do the things I really enjoy.
That’s our story and we are sticking to it. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss FIRE in more depth. I’m hoping to create a FIRE community at ZRC Wealth Management where we can all share our stories and learn from each other.
1. Investopedia: FIRE Explained and How it Works