Stoicism and FIRE

Stoicism and FIRE – a Perfect Match

For some time now I have been a follower of the Stoic philosophy of life. I generally do not label myself and do not go to extremes in anything, so I do not call myself a Stoic out loud ever or even mentally. However so much of my personal mindset was already in line with the way of living that slowly I have practiced and read and I feel like it has had an extremely positive impact on my life.

 

I want to be clear that I understand this is likely an egregious oversimplification of Stoicism, mainly in that money is not a driving force of the philosophy. Also as I am an amateur, my understanding of the source material may be wrong. I have adopted what I have learned for my personal situation and use so I most likely do not care. However there is so much crossover, and I personally have found so much utility in both, that I thought it at least worth mentioning some of the parallels. I encourage you to study and read more of both subjects to make your own judgement.

 

Main Tactics of Practicing Modern Day Stoicism

 

Negative Visualization

This is the easiest place the similarities begin. Mainly the first step any person is told in the financial independence community is to build up an Emergency fund. There are caveats like reaching 401k matches and pay yourself first and so on but really every person needs to be able to cover basic living expenses for at least a few months of no income. You need to plan ahead and think about the possible negatives that can occur. One of the important pillars of Stoicism is that of reflection on the fact that things could be worse. By constantly thinking and reminding ourselves of the inverse of anything good in our lives, we appreciate them incalculably more. Negative visualization is planning ahead for the one real constant in life, change.

 

Lens of Control

Stoicism teaches us to relax our minds by paying attention to the three circles of control. We should focus most of our attention on things that we can actively effect, less so on those we have less control over, and little to no focus on that which we can’t control. FIRE adherents are HUGE on this. We all know that it takes someone with a large ego to think they can stock pick and market time their way to independence. It for sure has happened but that is not an effective long term plan. Instead, we set up our auto investment plans and then focus on enjoying life or whatever we so wish to focus on.

 

Fatalism

Death and taxes. That is all that is certain. The FIRE enthusiasts I know are ones that know that life is dwindling away in our hands. The seriousness of life seems more pronounced here as these are people that have the feeling that they are not finding fulfillment with the standard work situation that the rest of people seem to be  okay with. Being cognizant of how much time you have left and how much value you place on your time makes life choices much clearer.

 

Self Denial

Financial Independence as a mindset is built on self denial. One of the pillars of the lifestyle is delayed gratification. By denying our search and access of pleasures or putting them off for lengths of time, we give our future selves both mental and financial power. Financially we avoid frivolous purchasing and allow our hard earned money to grow and compound for future growth. Mentally we become stronger as we control the urges of the consumer mindset. We see what really is important to us, what is a need versus a want.

 

Meditation

Conscious reflection and conscious spending go hand in hand. Both Financial Independence and Stoicism are about making purposeful choices, purposeful action. Frivolity and waste are simply not in line with the ideological principles of either thought framework. In FIRE you determine what you really need to survive and what actually brings you happiness relative to its monetary value. With Stoic meditation, we reflect back on the choices we have made recently to see how they have affected our mind and emotions. Being aware of how your actions impact both your mind and wallet allows you to parse what will be worthy of your focus.

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