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FIRE Is Better Than Sex!


FIRE is better than sex!Whoa whoa whoa! What’s this FIRE thing and why is it better than sex? Welcome new readers. Yes, this title is clickbaity, but don’t leave yet. This post is going to be good. First, we’ll quickly go over FIRE. Then, I’ll summarize my FIRE journey and see why it is so great. We’ll circle back to sex at the end of the post.

What is FIRE?

FIRE stands for Financial Independence and Retire Early. These are two closely related concepts squished into one.

  • Financial Independence: Having enough money to fund your expenses for the rest of your life. The baseline for financial independence is having 25 times your annual expenses.
  • Retire Early: This one is trickier. Some people think early retirement is to stop working completely. Other people have looser definitions. For me, it means leaving my well compensated engineering career to do whatever I want. You are free to define your own early retirement.
  • FIRE: The best of both worlds. It is okay to have one without the other, but you’re missing something.

FIRE is the holy grail of personal finance. Once you’ve achieved FIRE, you’re at the peak of your personal financial success. Money will be a secondary concern and you can focus on life. Fortunately, FIRE is attainable for almost anyone and it is an awesome goal to have. It gives you something to shoot for. FIRE vastly improved my life and I highly recommend chasing it.

My FIRE Journey

Personally, FIRE was a revelation. I learned about FIRE around 2009 through personal finance blogs. At the time, you rarely saw stories in the mainstream media about a young person retiring early. There were great books like Your Money or Your Life and Early Retirement Extreme, but you’d never find them unless you were actively trying to find out more about FIRE.

Luckily, I’ve always been frugal. My family struggled financially when I was young so that drove me to seek financial security. By the time I found out about FIRE, I was already most of the way there. I started Retire by 40 in 2010 and quit my job in 2012. Two years might seem exceedingly fast, but I’d been working toward FIRE since 1996. I just didn’t know it.

Financial Independence Achieved

We achieved baseline financial independence in 2011. Our net worth exceeded 25x our annual expense for the first time. This didn’t change my daily routine, but it gave me the confidence to seriously consider early retirement. It also gave Mrs. RB40 the courage to buy off on the idea. This one is extremely important. If you have a family, then you need full support from your partner. Single people can do whatever they want, but a family has to work as a team.

Retired Early

In 2012, I retired from my full time job to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger. FI was neat, but it didn’t change my life. On the other hand, early retirement was life-changing. By 2012, I hated my job and I was one miserable dude. My work performance was suffering badly. Family life was stressful because we had a baby. My physical and mental health was in a steep decline. It was a bad situation all around and I’m glad I made it out. Once I quit, I found my happy go lucky self and our lives improved immensely.


I’ve achieved the ideal FIRE and life has been great over the last 5 years. FI was a crucial step for me to get to early retirement. One without the other would not have worked for our family. I would not have retired early if we weren’t financially independent.

Making FIRE my goal was also an important step. If I didn’t know about FIRE, then I might have squandered the money to blow off some steam instead of investing. FIRE gave me direction and a focus. My last two years at work were damn miserable, though.

Don’t FIRE at the expense of happiness

Okay, we’ve come to the crux of this post. There was a rash of FIRE posts over the last few weeks. While they were good articles, they didn’t jive with my experience. Let’s go over a few. By the way, these blogs are great. You should follow them.

Mad FientistHierarchy of Financial Needs (and the Meaning of Life). FI can be unfulfilling and you should not be obsessed with it. You need to move pass FI. Sure, I agree with the Mad Fientist on most points, but FI is awesome. More people should make it their goal. It is okay be a little obsessed with it. Brandon can philosophize about it because he already achieved FI and has the time to do it. If you’re not there yet, then keep going and don’t worry about what happens post FI. You can figure it out once you get there.

Get Rich SlowlyOn the importance of putting first things first. Many people who discovered FIRE became laser-focused on their “number.” Why are they saving for FI? What’s the purpose? For me, it was simple. I wanted to quit my job. You don’t have to know the why as long as you are moving in the right direction. It helps, but it isn’t 100% necessary. I agree that focusing on FI at the expense of family life is a bad idea. JD is back at Get Rich Slowly so it is a great blog once again. Check it out if you haven’t visited in a long time.

Tawcan.comFIRE. RIP. 2014 – 2018. Bob wrote that FI shouldn’t be the finish line. If you’re not happy with your current life, you probably won’t be happy after FIRE. That wasn’t the case for me. FIRE improved my life immediately. I was miserable before and now I love every day. FIRE enabled me to remove a lot of stress from my life and to work on the things that matter.

These posts have a lot of good points. FIRE isn’t a cure all. Life might not be that much better once you’ve achieved it. Yes, it’s probably better to improve your life now instead of obsessing about FIRE. However, I still think FIRE is a great goal to shoot for.

From my experience, FIRE is better than no FIRE any day of the week. You have more choices. If you don’t enjoy FIRE, you can get a job and go back to a regular life. JD and Mad Fientist have the luxury to analyze life after FIRE because they already made it. I think it is more important to keep making progress toward FI than worrying about what comes after. You can figure it out once you’re there. You’ll have plenty of time to do it.

Being obsessive about FIRE

Being obsessive about FIRE is another story. I was laser focused on FIRE for about 2 years. I cut back on our expenses and invested as much as I could. My health and family life suffered from the stress of working in a job I didn’t like. Would it have been better to slow down? Maybe find a different job that paid less and was more enjoyable? I don’t know, but I’m glad I pushed through it. Being laser focused enabled me to become a stay at home dad while our kid was still young. That’s priceless. It all worked out fantastically.

I think it is fine to be obsessive for a year or two at the end. Sometime you just have to push through the pain to get across the finish line. However, it is not good to operate this way for years on end. The guy in JD’s post was obsessed with FI for 7 years and it drove his wife away. That’s not a good ending. (I also think the problem really isn’t his obsession with FI. He just didn’t listen to his wife.)

If you’re at the beginning or middle of your FIRE journey, then you need to balance FIRE with family and happiness. You can’t be miserable for years and years. Two years was my limit and I’m glad it didn’t last much longer.

Fire is better than sex

Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience with FIRE. It worked out great for me. FIRE gave me direction and it was everything I imagined. Life is much better after FIRE. It might not work out as well for you, but you won’t know for sure until you get there. The only thing I can guarantee is that FIRE is better than no FIRE. FIRE gives you more choices and you’ll have time to work on what’s important to you. It really is the holy grail of personal finance.

Okay, now we’ll get back to sex.

  • Financial independence is like being married. In theory, you can have sex (retire) anytime. In reality, you’re too busy to do it (retire).
  • Retire early is like sex. You can have sex without being married, but it takes a lot of work. Retiring early without financial independence means you probably will have to work part time or go back to full time at some point.
  • FIRE is the best of both worlds. It’s like having sex with your lovely spouse. More time + less stress = better sex. Hmm… This sounded better in my head.

I suppose it’s too late to change the title now. 😉 Anyway, FIRE is way better than sex because it’s a long term state of happiness. I’ve been euphoric for more than 5 years now and it will only get better. Sex is great too, but it doesn’t last that long…

All right, that’s it for today. Good luck with both FIRE and sex. 😉

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako January 25, 2018, 12:52 am

    Haha, this was a funny one Joe!

    I agree with your feelings on being fired — now that I’ve FIREd, I wouldn’t go back to work in a million years. Not even if I had a job that paid *twice* what I made before.

    My life is sooo much better now, and I’m not afraid to say it.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 5:42 am

      I wouldn’t go back for twice the money. I might consider it if it is something I enjoy and care about. Not engineering because we don’t need the money. Having the choice is great.

  • Michael @ Financially Alert January 25, 2018, 1:39 am

    I have a feeling this is going to be HOT topic, Joe! Haha… funny comparison and a good reminder that FIRE at the expense of happiness isn’t worth it.

    I find that the more balanced we are, they the happier we become. And, part of staying balanced is always pushing ourselves to another level… FIRE, sex, or otherwise. 😉

  • James January 25, 2018, 1:42 am

    I hate to stay this because I like your blog, but this is by far the worst post you’ve ever wrote. A few more of these and I guarantee you will loose readership. Sorry about the harsh honesty… cheers!

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 5:43 am

      Can you give me constructive criticism? What don’t you like about it? Give me the specific. Thanks.

    • David Michael January 25, 2018, 9:33 am

      I agree. It seems lke it is written by another person or company.

      Stick to personal experiences.

      • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:06 pm

        Thanks for the feedback. I guess the tone changed too much.

  • Lily | The Frugal Gene January 25, 2018, 3:08 am

    LOL Joe!!! Good luck to all with FIRE and sex!

    We haven’t FIRE’d yet but hubbys most of the time too tired post work to even bat his eyelashes at me. I can’t wait until early retirement!!!

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 5:45 am

      Real life is a bit disappointing. I’m still busy in early retirement. That’s why I like vacation. 😀

  • Ten Factorial Rocks January 25, 2018, 3:14 am

    Hilarious post Joe! I wouldn’t compare the two because there is no real substitute for sex but an enjoyable job can and does substitute FIRE for those who also have FIRE as an option. I guess FIRE is better than bad sex but….good sex? There is simply no substitute my friend!

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 8:21 am

      That’s a valid point when you’re young. I think FIRE probably become more important than sex as you get older, though.

  • Chris Urbaniak @ deliberatechange.ca January 25, 2018, 3:30 am

    Hi Joe – Several great points! The references and your different perspectives on them add real value.

    I particularly liked your discussion around the “why”:

    “You don’t have to know the why as long as you are moving in the right direction. It helps, but it isn’t 100% necessary.” and “I think it is more important to keep making progress toward FI than worrying about what comes after.”

    I’ve also read and thought a lot about the “why”. I agree that when you’re on your FIRE journey, it’s not AS important, although it will have an impact on how you balance FIRE with “life now”. This is more important for people who are in a career that they enjoy or kind-of-enjoy, unlike the not-so-fun situation you found yourself in where you just had to get out fast.

    However, I think as you get closer to FIRE, it becomes more important to define your why a little more clearly. Not crystal clear necessarily, but more than just a fog. I think doing so will help drive the decision of whether to actually RE “now-ish” or later, how much to focus on FI, whether to deliberately consider semi-RE, etc.

    I also really like how you clearly stated right up from that “You are free to define your own early retirement.” Honestly, these are just words that people bandy about (Internet Retirement Police, anyone?). Who cares about semantics? In reality, we’re talking about living the life you choose (which implies that you have to actually make a choice!) and what you call it is up to you. Entrepreneur. Earlier retiree. Semi-retired. Lifetime volunteer. SAHD. Etc. 🙂

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 8:23 am

      I think you’re right. As you get closer to the finish line, you can pay more attention to the why. It’s just not useful to worry about the why at the beginning. Thanks for your input.

  • Accidental FIRE January 25, 2018, 3:42 am

    “Sex is great too, but it doesn’t last that long…”

    You’re killin’ me dude. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson “I’m going to bed to have sex with my wife and I’ll be back in 5 minutes!!”

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify January 25, 2018, 4:38 am

    Joe, Interesting analogy. I can’t really add much to that. I would like to, but I can’t. Tom

  • DocG January 25, 2018, 5:18 am

    Fire is better than no fire. No question about it. That being said, reaching the top of the mountain can be jarring and take some getting used to!

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:07 pm

      I think that’s how some people feel. They’ve been on a mission for so long that the accomplishment could feel anticlimactic.

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance January 25, 2018, 5:20 am

    Oh hahaha the ending made me laugh. That’s super original and funny!

    I’d also add that FIRE needs some regular workout since it can give an energy boost to the FIRE’d person 😀

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:08 pm

      Thanks. At least, some people find this post funny. 🙂

  • Caroline January 25, 2018, 5:36 am

    Not sold on the analogy on that one but some really good points on FIRE (maybe it’s time to drop the RE – is anybody really retired?)

  • Mrs. Groovy January 25, 2018, 5:43 am

    Thanks for providing the counterpoint to those other posts. There’s no one reason or route that works for everyone. And I agree that if you’re trying to get out of a job you hate, racing to the finish line without stopping to smell the roses each step of the way is not a bad thing.

    About that sex thing….nahhh, I’m not going there.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:09 pm

      Right. Racing to the finish line is okay if you’re near the end. Good decision about the sex thing. I hope I didn’t offend too many readers. I forgot people read these posts at work.

  • No comment January 25, 2018, 6:25 am

    Joe, sex will get you through times of no FIRE better then FIRE will get you through times of no sex. (I also think you should have picked a different analogy.) Thanks!

  • Nick January 25, 2018, 7:46 am

    Where are my hand clapping emojis?!?! Bravo, Joe, this was a funny one.

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in FIRE. I’ve got a friend who got as wrapped up in travel hacking as you did in FIRE.

    Better to be enthusiastic about something and overdo it than never get excited at all.

  • Mike H. January 25, 2018, 8:02 am

    Haha does your wife know that you wrote this post?

    I’m a single guy in a big city. If people worked as hard to retire early as they work to get laid…there would be a lot more people in the FIRE community, but the dating scene wouldn’t be as fun*

    *Dating sucks and is both expensive and exhausting

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:13 pm

      Yes, she rolled her eyes and said I was gasping at straws on this one. I think dating has gotten a bit crazy too. The internet dating sites makes it easier and harder at the same time. I’m glad I’m married.

  • [email protected] January 25, 2018, 8:50 am

    Haha thanks for the laugh Joe. You make some great points. You set a great example of how fantastic a FIRE life can be. I’m also glad you pointed out the flaws in obsessing over it. Well said.

  • Tawcan January 25, 2018, 9:34 am

    Haha, good one Joe, and thanks for the mention. 🙂

    We can be FI if we wanted to at this point but we haven’t really pulled that trigger (we’d have to move somewhere else). We are definitely taking the longer route on the FIRE approach, but I am OK with that. But yea, I can definitely see why FIRE is so attractive. Like your analogy lol.

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:14 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful post. I just had to respond because FIRE is great. 🙂

  • nicoleandmaggie January 25, 2018, 11:55 am

    As soon as I saw the title, I kept thinking about this hamster… https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/i-will-not-marry-my-best-friend/
    (Incidentally, in the comments of that post, there is a very lengthy discussion of what is or isn’t better than sex.)

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:23 pm

      Ha! Oldie, but goodie. My comment from back then – right now 8 hours of sleep sounds way way way better than sex.
      -new daddy. Hilarious.

      • Nicoleandmaggie January 25, 2018, 5:49 pm

        Yes! And then a year later I was in that sleep deprived (and otherwise deprived) state again with our second baby. As promised, it got better!

  • Passivecanadianincome January 25, 2018, 12:10 pm

    Interesting post. Click bait worked.
    It depends on the mood. Haha sometimes its just “do me” and its boring and maybe fire is better =) but other times she busts out something nice and its a really good time…. I rather work some hours if she will “bring it” more frequently

    • retirebyforty January 25, 2018, 1:24 pm

      Woohoo! Thanks for clicking. 🙂 Yeah, getting the right frequency is tough especially when you’ve been married for a long time.

  • Dave @ Married with Money January 26, 2018, 6:54 am

    Hahah this is a great read, I was wondering how you were going to tie it back together! 🙂

  • Lady Dividend January 26, 2018, 7:20 am

    Haha! Only thing is sex is free and FIRE is not! However it’s a pretty awesome goal and I’ll be obsessed about it for the next 8 years, until I reach my retirement date.

  • Jason January 26, 2018, 7:12 pm

    Interesting metaphor but you might be right. If you do FIRE it is an amazing experience (or at least I hope) just as sex is with the right partner.

  • MLR January 28, 2018, 3:52 pm

    I am really inspired by your FIRE journey and the likes of MMM and Financial Samurai. Therefore I have also embarked on my own QUEST for FIRE last week. It is a long road ahead but I intend on reaching the destination. I will capture my journey on my blog midliferecovery.com. The only difference is that I intend on achieving financial independence while also getting in the best shape of my life. Let us see how it pans out.

    • retirebyforty January 29, 2018, 7:58 am

      Good luck on your FIRE journey! It is such a great goal. Focusing on fitness is also a great goal. You have to be healthy to enjoy your retirement.

  • MissSaraBee January 31, 2018, 6:29 pm

    Haha! Nice click bait!

    I often wonder what my career would look like if I had not found the FIRE movement by accident, essentially a month into my first full time job. It is difficult for me to tell if I truly don’t enjoy my job, if it is the company I am with that I dislike, or if I just lack motivation because the FIRE option exists.

    It is definitely difficult to control the obsessive nature of pursuing this financial path.

    • retirebyforty February 1, 2018, 8:58 am

      You’re really lucky you discovered FIRE so early. Keep at it!

  • PiggyBanki February 8, 2018, 5:55 am

    Thanks for saying that, I definitely agree it is OK to be obsessed about FIRE for a while. FIRE requires consistency for a significant amount of time so it can easily be confused with obsession. I think we are just goal oriented driven by escaping another unhealthy obsession: work!

  • Wally February 8, 2018, 4:46 pm

    Haha, FIRE is better than anything in my opinion. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m on my way. Good read!

  • FIRE in Thailand May 27, 2018, 7:23 am

    I loved this article!

    You inspired me to write about why FIRE is better than bar girls in Thailand!

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