The Moment My (FIRE) Life Started

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Well it wasn't actually a single moment, it was a series of moments which led to another moment.

The Trudge

“Trudge”
verb – walk slowly and with heavy steps, typically because of exhaustion or harsh conditions.
Synonyms: plodtramp, drag oneself, walk heavily, walk slowly, ploughslogfootslogtoiltrekclumpclomplumber.

It started one day when I left the train at my station on the way to work. As with most train stations in the middle of a big city, all of the miserable zombies head towards daylight, reaching for the surface to start another miserable day of our miserable lives. Trudge up the stairs, trudge trudge trudge. Grey and black pants, grey and black coats, grey and black bags. Trudge trudge trudge.

A sea of grey and black, male and female, all trudging in the same direction on the stair-climber to an early grave after leading a miserable, boring, uninspiring life.

I started to smile, I smiled because I heard a song in my head, a song and an image so perfect it could have been Déjà vu. I had seen this scene before and it came to me now–The opening from Joe Versus the Volcano.

Another day older

For those that don't know it, and I'm sure those that do are already nodding in understanding of our situation. The movie scene has the depressed, tired, uninspired and disengaged Joe heading to another day at the factory. Trudging with the other wage slave zombies through the factory car park.

The chorus went over and over in my head…

You load sixteen tons, what do you get

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go

I owe my soul to the company store

It was so perfect.

I sung it in my head every day for six months or so. It was the ritual tune that I started to hum earlier and earlier on the train. Sometimes before I even got onto the train, waiting at my station. It made me think of what my life was, and if Joe's miserable life was enough to make him jump into a volcano in return for a good time on the way to the jump–What did that mean for me?

I thought I was doing OK, good job, good money, beautiful wife and children, saving a little towards my retirement. A few years of fun from the age of 65 in return for all the years of trudge. A life lost in return for a short period of enjoyment before jumping into the volcano.

Now the daily song hum started to remind me that I was also a wage slave zombie, I'm also trudging up the stairs to waste another day of my short life to earn enough money so I may or may not be able to retire at some undetermined point in the future. That proposition did not appeal to me.

Introduction to FIRE

The actual moment came later, the solution came because the hour long train of dread gave me chance to Google around. Subjects I remember Googling were:

  • What am I living for?
  • Why am I wasting my life doing this?
  • How can I jack it all in?
  • What are the chances my train will crash?
  • How can I retire early?

The last one gave me some actual useful advice, an introduction into the FIRE lifestyle and this sub culture. It provided advice I have studied, checked and double checked. Reviewed and slowly implemented to change the way my family and I think about life, the future, how we spend, how we save and how we invest.

The first cuts are the easiest

I made a few mistakes, I would like to say they were free lessons, but mistakes with finances are rarely free. Buying shares in companies with great dividends,just before they stopped paying a great dividend. Oil stocks always go up right? That small mining company is a great prospect, a guy at work told me. Not catastrophic errors, but I sleep easier now with index investing.

As you know FIRE is a combination of saving and investing, here were my first steps to give you some ideas:

  1. I sold my stupid 3rd (yes 3rd) car, I didn't use it because I spent so many hours at work, I didn't have time to take it for a blast. Just think about that for a second, I was spending time at the trudge to cover car payments for a car I didn't have time to drive.
  2. I maxed out my employer retirement account contribution, free money if I sacrifice some of my take home pay. I turned my ex-car payment into an immediate investment. Feel the compounding of benefits!
  3. I took the option for share-match with my job, I commit to a few years of monthly payments and double my share holding. I couldn't afford to do this before.
  4. We stopped eating out so much. I love to cook, so focused on developing a number of delicious, fast and healthy home cooked staples.
  5. We committed to selling our 2nd car, that was more difficult, but with a little planning and use of public transportation it has allowed us to save another car payment each month.
  6. We started taking coffee and homemade vegan muffins out for our weekend walks, healthier and tastier than the coffee shop version. With the added benefit of being able to share it with our pups, on a bench overlooking the ocean. What is that worth?
  7. I looked more critically at our budget. Can we reduce insurance costs? Groceries? Travel Hacking? I attacked one item per month. That's how to eat an elephant, one spoonful at a time.
  8. All of the savings went into stocks. A few errors, but now fully committed to index investing.
  9. The final and most important change came from inviting (I chose that word carefully) Mrs fit2fire along on the journey. Every relationship is different,but I am eternally grateful that she has joined me.

Implementing those first few steps took around six months, and I am almost ashamed to say that with the savings in running one car instead of three and the other small changes, we dropped our expenses by over $4000 per month.

The years of waste still hurt when I think about it but we must always move forward

Making those small changes to save money, cut back on unnecessary expenditure and investing it instead, has not just accelerated retirement but just a few years of effort has put us within reach of FIRE in my mid-forties.

Maybe that isn't super early FIRE to you, but compared to what I was heading for it will probably give me 20 extra years of trudge free life.

It will mean some sacrifices, and some hard work. But nothing good in life is easy.

I just wish I could tell Joe.

18 thoughts on “The Moment My (FIRE) Life Started

  1. Outstanding! It just feels so good to know that FI and FIRE are leading people to happier, more free lives. That alone makes me want to continue to spread this message to my local community. Keep trudging!!!

  2. Wow! I love the transformation described in this post. There is the mental transformation, there is the emotional transformation and then there is the financial transformation. The parallels between the three are what is so impactful.

    This is it. This is what happens when you find this community. It’s amazing to see! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Absolutely love your fantastic writing style! Does your ‘trudge’ job have anything to do with writing? And what kind of cars did you give up to save that much money?!!!
    Keep on going, fit2fire!

    • Hi Earlier FI,
      Thanks very much for the compliment, no I’m not a writer of any sort. This is my first published article but with that feedback there will be more.

      One car was a 2 seater European little number. Unused most of the time, and a money pit for servicing, payments and insurance. Cars have probably been my worst vice over the years.

      It wasn’t just the cars, lots of other savings, the same as most other people. Until you wake up, you just don’t realise. As I’m sure you know?

      Fit2fire

  4. Ah, the trudge…a feeling we are all too familiar with. Great job turning that negativity into something productive and positive for your entire family. Good luck on your journey!

  5. Awesome story of zombie redemption! So many of us have that crystallized moment when the wage salavery awareness and the epiphany happens and it thrills me to read about it every time. And as far as late FIRE – it’ll 53 for me. I probably wouldn’t have gotten here much earlier as it took a while to get to this income. So happy to have gained 15 years of freedom from the dreadmill!

    • Thanks,
      You are so right it is an epiphany, great way to explain it.
      Much better 53 for you than 63 right?

      I had the same epiphany with fitness and health, which is going to be my focus for writing more articles, turning that around has been harder that FIRE. But nothing good in life is easy and I think the benefits are even greater.

      Fit2fire

  6. I really liked this post 🙂 Good work and thank you for sharing your story; it’s very inspiring!

    I was curious what recipes you have used that are staples for your household?

    Thanks so much!
    Gavin

    • Hi Gavin, thanks for your kind words.

      My no oil vegan sausages are world famous (at home and work).
      Vegan nachos, curries, no oil burgers and onion rings, so many salads and bean mixes, plus hummus with everything. I’m always so full and have kept my lost weight off for years now. My next couple of articles will include my transformation numbers.

      I also food prep, so make enough for a few meals and portion/freeze to keep costs low.

      Some of my future articles will include recipes and general ideas to reduce oil and animal products.

      I have been experimenting since going to vegan/whole food plant based a few months ago, although vegetarian for years. Just about anything can be converted.

      Thanks for reading

      Fit2fire

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