FIRE Shouldn’t Feel Like A Sacrifice

FIRE shouldn't feel like a sacrificeRecently, I received an interesting comment on this post – Save 50% Retire Early. I was saying it might take 20 years to retire early if you save and invest 50% of your income. This is longer than we’d like, but it’s just an estimate. Some people will get there quicker and some later. There are many factors. We should focus on what we can control – income, saving rate, and lifestyle inflation. However, that’s not easy for everyone. Here is the comment that I’d like to expand on.





I’m sacrificing way more than I was willing to save 50% of my income no matter what happens during the month and now you say that might not be enough? I might go back to spending path and just work until 65 ! FIRE is for Silicon Valley guys only it seems

To me, the key word here is “sacrifice.”


If you’re sacrificing way more than you’re willing to, then you’re doing it wrong. One of the keys to FIRE is to keep your expense level stable. Once you retire, you’ll need to spend about the same amount. If you’re not happy with the way you’re living now, you probably won’t be happy after retirement either.

We all need to find a balanced spending level. It should mean living a comfortable lifestyle and being able to save a good amount. A comfortable lifestyle is different for everyone. But it should not feel like a sacrifice.

Well, it might be rough initially if you change your lifestyle suddenly. For example, someone discovered FIRE and set off to reduce their expense drastically. This transition would be difficult, but life should feel normal after a year or so. If you still feel like you’re sacrificing too much after a year, then you probably need to make some adjustment. It might mean spending a bit more now and retiring a little later. You can’t wait until retirement to be happy.

What did you sacrifice to retire early?

Since I started blogging, I’ve done a few interviews and the subject of sacrifice came up surprisingly often. They’d ask – what did you sacrifice to retire early? I guess readers want to know what they might have to give up to retire early. Nothing is free, right? I always had a hard time with this question, though.

I usually say we live in a small home, drive a small minivan, and mostly eat at home. Many of my friends live in a much nicer home and drive more expensive cars than we do. That usually satisfy the interviewers and they’d move on. But these things don’t mean sacrifice, to me. I’m happy with our lifestyle. It does not feel like a sacrifice. It’s just normal life.

FIRE shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice

Our home is small, but it’s cozy and comfortable. 1,000 sq ft is plenty of space for 2 adults and a little kid. Maybe I feel that way because we had way less personal space when I was young. I had 2 brothers and we lived in many smaller homes. When we immigrated to the US, 5 of us shared one bedroom for a year. Now that’s cramp. Actually, we could use the family room and the backyard so it really wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have my own room until I was a senior in high school, though. I’m quite happy with our current home.

It’s the same with our car and eating at home. We share one car. It’s a 2010 Mazda5, a little minivan. It’s reliable and gets us from point A to point B. That’s all we want right now. Mrs. RB40 usually takes public transportation so we don’t need another vehicle. Anyway, we have to park on the street so I’d only worry more if we have a nicer car.

Eating at home is normal for me. I learned how to cook in my parent’s Thai restaurant when I was in high school. After 30 years of cooking, it’s easy to make a delicious meal at home. To me, eating out means spending more time and money. It’s way easier to cook and eat at home.

Here are my homemade Naan and chickpea curry. The Nan was phenomenal. It was soft, pillowy, and tasted great. This was my first attempt and it worked out very well. My homemade Naan was much better than any Naan I had in a restaurant. Eating at home is not a sacrifice once you learn how to cook good food.


The point is we are quite content with our modest lifestyle. It does not feel like a sacrifice to me. I think the key is that we kept lifestyle inflation relatively low over the years. Most people spend more on nicer stuff as their income increase. They’re used to having a custom kitchen and driving a BMW. To them, living our lifestyle would feel like a sacrifice. Some people might be able to adjust after a year or so, but many will always feel like they have downgraded their lifestyle.

No good answer

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to the comment above. Making more would really help. He would be able to spend a bit more and continue to save 50%. However, it’s probably better to just save a little less for now. Find a spending level where he’s comfortable and really work on keeping lifestyle inflation in check. Eventually, his income will increase (hopefully) and he’ll be able to save 50% again. Yes, it will take longer to retire early. Nobody ever said FIRE is easy.

What about you? What are you sacrificing to retire early or reach FI?

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Image credit: Tim Gouw

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