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Hang Fire

  • By Jason Stockwell

Richard Harvey has heard that there is a new trend among young people to set fire to themselves. But there’s no need to call the Fire Brigade quite yet


Let me explain. ‘Fire’ is an acronym for ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’, whose leading exponent is a Canadian called Peter Adeney. It sounds great in principle I’m sure you’ll agree. His theory is that you can retire very early indeed, so long as you spend the absolute minimum amount of your take-home pay, and invest the rest into low-cost tracker funds or buy-to-let property. Ok – I’m guessing I’m not the only one to find some potential pitfalls with this way of thinking?

Mr Adeney says he retired at 30 in order to raise a family with his wife by following a creed crystallised by a colleague who admitted that Fire followers need to have “the mentality of a marathon runner or tri-athlete and be able to delay gratification.

“The big savings are in avoiding expensive cars, holiday homes and private education, never borrowing on credit cards, never going shopping as a leisure activity, eat at home, not having cable TV, taking modest UK or European holidays, not buying the biggest house you can, and paying off your mortgage”.

And presumably not having any friends, drinking tap water (definitely not mineral water) instead of booze, and no, kids, you can’t go to watch the Spiderman movie with your mates.

Where on earth is the joy in that kind of lifestyle? It makes the Amish look like Elton John on a Knightsbridge shopping binge.

Fire devotees reckon that if you can save half your take-home pay starting today, you will be able to retire in 19 years’ time. Save 75 percent, and in just seven or eight years it’s goodbye forever to the morning commute.

Fire devotees reckon that if you can save half your take-home pay starting today, you will be able to retire in 19 years’ time. Save 75 percent, and in just seven or eight years it’s goodbye forever to the morning commute.

Fighting fire with fire

No doubt there will be certain assumptions made around these calculations but on a practical note can you imagine the privations in the meantime?

Forget about following your favourite footie team. No more seats at Chelsea or Man Utd. Watching a Sunday fixture in the Mid-Sussex Pensioners’ Walking Football League hardly compensates.

Christmas would be a barrel of laughs, wouldn’t it? Gathering round the Pound Shop Christmas tree for handmade gifts (“Just what I wanted – a sweater made out of grandad’s recycled long johns!”) before sitting down to a celebration meal of home-grown kale and pumpkin stew.

Horrific. And quite apart from the ribbing your kids would endure because they’re still using your old bricksized Nokia instead of their friends’ iPhone Faberoonies, your partner really doesn’t want you in the house all day. Marriage and partnership are all well and good. Enforced 24-hour co-habitation isn’t.

Unintended consequences

The whole Fire philosophy seems to be based on the premise of ‘work bad, leisure good’. While we all want some of the latter, those who abandon employment altogether will rapidly run the risk of their cerebral cortex turning to Play Doh.

There are sufficient genuinely impoverished folk about not to have their ranks swollen by middle class proponents of self-seeking penury.

But then it occurs to me that Fire followers are creating an entirely new social trend – One Downmanship.

Enabling them to brag to the neighbours that their new motor is a 12-year-old Skoda with four not-so-careful owners and an engine complete with blown head gasket.

Sensible financial planning will always involve appropriate management of your spending to make sure you live within your means but it seems that some people are taking this to extremes.

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