You probably already heard about this, but let me clue you in if you aren’t aware of the latest drama in the ol’ PF-o-sphere.
Suze Orman (you might remember her from that time I was on her CNBC show) came out of retirement with a bang by appearing on the Afford Anything Podcast. Suze’s appearance was supposed to be used promote her latest book, but America’s favorite lesbian financial guru went off the rails and bashed the living crap out of the financial independence/retire early movement (FIRE).
Some choice quotes are as follows:
“If you only have a few hundred thousand, or a million, or two million dollars, I’m here to tell you … if a catastrophe happens, if something happens, what are you going to do? You are going to burn up alive.”
“Two million dollars is nothing. It’s nothing. It’s pennies in today’s world, to tell you the truth.”
“You can do it if you want to. I personally think it is the biggest mistake, financially speaking, you will ever, ever make in your lifetime.”
Basically, Orman’s argument boils down to this. Having a mil or two in the bank doesn’t provide nearly enough of a safety net. Early retirees have the 4% rule and whatnot behind them, but they forget about very real risks like having to care for a disabled family member, having an expensive major illness, or needing long-term care themselves. In any of those scenarios, the early retiree quickly runs out of money.
Naturally, the FIRE community defended themselves with all the might of a certain Supreme Court Justice (TOPICAL!).
They pointed out that if anyone is prepared for such outcomes, it’s the folks who found a way to save up seven figures in a short amount of time. Sure, running out of money is always a possibility, but if that ever became a risk they’d simply go back to work. And so on. To be honest, the rebuttals were pretty boring. Suze brought up the same points everyone else has and they were easily rebuked.
Where the FIRE community failed
Long-time readers know I’m not really on the ol’ FIRE bandwagon. I lurve the idea of financial independence, even though I’m living proof it’ll mess you up. Your patience for crap will go down once you hit whatever your magic number is. Trust me.
I just hate the retire early part. Many early retirees keep busy by blogging, which is just swapping one career for another. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, I was a professional blogger for years. But let’s not piss in each other’s ears and say it’s raining. Even part-time bloggers aren’t retired. They’re simply free to pursue whatever they want. That’s great, but it’s not retired.
But here’s the deal, at least from my perspective. Suze brought a bunch of great points to the attention of a much larger community. And instead of acknowledging her legitimate points, they attacked her personally.
Go ahead, read the comments on that post I linked to earlier. They’re amazing. Many of them accuse Suze of not understanding the FIRE movement or the math behind it. Those especially made me laugh. The guy who pointed out the math behind all this titled his article “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement.” And Suze Orman, one of America’s best financial minds doesn’t understand it? Really? It’s not that hard of a concept, guys.
We also have a bunch of FIRE bloggers who have seen their index funds do nothing but go up and to the right for the better part of a decade. These people had barely graduated university the last time the market hit the shitter. Many of these guys are going to capitulate during the next 25%+ downturn. Some are even going to go back to work. Mark my words.
Speaking of going back to work, do these people realize how hard it is getting a good job at 45 with a decade-long gap on their resume? Talk to some stay-at-home moms sometime, guys. It’s not as easy as showing up the day the nuclear plant opens.
Let’s wrap this up
Ultimately, Suze’s point about early retirement was “shit will happen. Get a helmet.”
Early retirees say they’ve already planned for this. Some have, but many haven’t. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to these folks as they try to “retire” for four or five decades. I believe most will end up just fine, but mostly because they operate small businesses that generate additional income (i.e. blogs).
But at the end of the day, here’s the lesson you should take away from this. Everybody is talking about Suze Orman right now. She took something that she’s never covered before and made it all about her. I didn’t care about Suze’s early retirement opinions two weeks ago. Nobody did. And now I’m writing a post about it. Amazing.
She successfully trolled the whole FIRE community. Suze Orman is a g.d. genius. I couldn’t be happier.