Are FI people just parasites?

I have been “binge listening” to Choose FI podcasts, trying to get caught up (currently on episode 50 out of 62). I highly recommend them.

Recently finished what turned out to be one of their most controversial, episode 47 with Millennial Revolution, a young couple from Canada who achieved FI in their 20s. They lived in Toronto, and were seeking to purchase a home there. After saving up $500K Canadian to purchase, they realized the home prices were insane, and chose to hold off and rent.  They never purchased a home.

Once they achieved FI, they realized they could travel the world and spend $40K a year (or less) which they had the funds to support. For the last 2+ years, they have been traveling the world, visiting sites, and having a great time – certainly a goal of many FIRE folks.

One of the things they really push is that buying a home is a stupid/foolish move, the numbers just don’t add up. As I listened, I had numerous questions on things they didn’t seem to be taking into account. While I can agree that your own home should never be purchased for an “investment,” I still believe they didn’t account for a lot of rental costs, and didn’t give sufficient credit for a fully paid off home. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, because the episode ended up being one of the most commented on for the show, and the two hosts of Choose FI, in episode 50, apologized to the audience that they hadn’t asked the Millennial Revolution couple the hard questions on their math.

What struck me, during the discussion (and on many conversations about travel and other FIRE folks before and after) is how much FI folks depend on non-FI folks in order to live and enjoy their lives. For those traveling and enjoying low-cost living, they all depend on pilots, service personnel, restaurant owners, etc. to get homes, live in place, and do the 9-5 for most of their lives. Without a large percentage of the population dedicated to regular lives (home, kids, work, etc.)  the FI folks wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff we do, once we achieve FI.

Don’t get me wrong – the tenets of financial independence (frugality, intentional living, etc.) can easily be adopted by most folks and can lead to a more enjoyable, less stressful life. Just don’t get on your “high horse” about how much more superior you are to other folks. If we all really believe in intentional living, these folks have made their choice, and many times, we benefit off that.

I don’t think FI folks are “parasites” – we have just chosen to prioritize other things. We can happily co-exist with folks who have made different choices.


Mr. 39 Months

4 thoughts on “Are FI people just parasites?”

  1. Over the past few months, I have started to listen to Choose FI. I agree that people in the FI community should never act superior to anyone. Just because you have a few bucks in the bank and learned to pull off a few hacks does not make anyone special. A little bit of humility can carry a person a long way.

    1. I think that is what I like most about our community – we are all trying to learn new stuff, and approach everything with a “what can they teach me” attitude.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. This article took a different approach than what I expected. You essentially point out that “non-working people” count upon working people to go about their everyday lives. I wouldn’t count this as specific to “financially independent” and I certainly wouldn’t classify it as parasitic. The non-working people are doing their part to pay for services, etc, that working people provide. It’s more like a mutually beneficial relationship.

    Where I do think most people in the FI community could be counted as somewhat parasitic (at least those who take the frugal approach) is that we prey on the stupidity of consumers. If everyone started saving and quits buying (often with debt) all the crap that that keeps the economy humming along, then FI folks wouldn’t have a stock market available that averages 8% returns. The 4% rule (guideline/starting point) wouldn’t work anymore. FI wouldn’t be as easy. So, frugal non-consumers count on consumers to make the world go round.

    1. I agree. I think you can’t get away with more than 2% – 4% of your consumers going FI; you need the remainder to keep the world running/stock market humming, as you say.

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