It seems like the path to FIRE always starts with a spark – a blog article, podcast, or video that triggers a binge of information. How to save, how to earn, how to invest, how to optimize every aspect of your life in the pursuit of shaving off the years until retirement.
The information, however, is not a magic bullet, even though it may appear that way. That’s because unless you’re starting off with a lot of money, have a very high income, and can significantly reduce expenses, it takes roughly a decade to achieve FIRE.
While it’s still significantly shorter than the conventional path to retirement, the new found awareness makes it feel like an eternity. The fervent search for more information doesn’t help either. You start to obsess about every dollar and count the hours at work until you make yourself miserable.
So what’s the best thing to do once you learn about FIRE?
What I mean is that once you set up automatic saving and investing, cut back on any spending that doesn’t spark joy, go back to living life. Otherwise you might as well watch water boil.
If there’s anything to do at all it’s figuring out how to make more money, whether that means climbing the corporate ladder switching careers, or starting a side hustle. That’s really the only pedal you have to speed up the path to FIRE once you’ve gotten started.
But even then don’t stress out about that if it’s going to kill you. Sustainability is key and it’s worse to burn yourself out than to be slow and steady. FIRE is like a diet. Good, consistent, maintainable habits will always give better results than sporadic “cleanses”. Even when you reach your target number, it’s not like you can let all your habits that got you there fall by the wayside. There’s a certain amount of maintenance required, so if you don’t like the journey you’re not going to like the destination.
Of course I’m saying all this because I’ve experienced it personally. The obsession, the burnout, and the realization — you don’t need to add sparks to a FIRE that’s already burning.