Apocalypse FIRE?

Someone in the Socially Conscious FIRE group posted that they stopped pursuing “Financial Independence” because it doesn’t make sense given that the world might not exist as we know it in 30 years.

“Does anyone else feel this way?” they asked.

Me: Yes!

Until my mid-30s (25ish years ago), I was being at least sort of middle-class, attempting to “save for retirement.”

Then a couple of things happened. I realized it was very likely I would not be able to save anywhere near “enough,” and, I started to feel strongly that the world would collapse long before I hit retirement age. Now 6 or 11 years from “typical retirement age,” I still feel that way.

Climate change has accelerated. So has socioeconomic catastrophe, for the vast majority of people on the planet.

Around 2005 I started to study and practice permaculture design. And to study/practice some other skills for resilience (mostly inner resilience).

In my heart, meanwhile, I felt there was something “off,” for me, about accumulating a stockpile of money and hoarding it for decades. It felt morally wrong to me.

I started to think instead about how to minimize what I needed to live on. Not just to save for retirement — but as a forever lifestyle.

If Social Security is still solvent by the time I hit the age when I feel ready to start collecting it (not something Im counting on), I will pretty easily be able to live on it.

If it’s not solvent, then millions of other people will be in the same boat as me. And I will use whatever resilience skills I have learned to help people; ease suffering; build community.

Also: For most of my life I have had a strong feeling that I would live to see times when money would stop being useful for much of anything. Now I keep some cash but most of my assets are “stored” in the form of my house, trees & plants, rainbarrels, education, and community.

It’s impossible to predict the future But, whether thinking 30 years or even 10 years from now, I trust durable assets, social ties, practical skills, and community to keep their value more than I trust money, stocks, etc. to keep their value.

I think one of the big dilemmas that a lot of people are facing (at least people who have the luxury of not living pure hand-to-mouth) is that on the one hand, some kind of collapse seems imminent. (Not only that; it is actually happening.) While on the other hand, we don’t know for sure that financial assets will ever lose their value. So inevitably people who have the luxury of doing so are hedging their bets.

The problem is that some of the “bet-hedging” is most probably fueling the climate disaster and social collapse that we are so wanting to avert.

No easy answers here. But I would say build community; build your inner resilience. Practice kindness; learn to grow things or make things or repair things or all of the above.

Also: Read about the 8 forms of capital (thanks Appleseedpermaculture). Much food for thought. It is liberating to realize there are so many forms of capital beyond just financial capital.

And read Laura Oldanie’s post on “Sustainable Stores of Value.”

Or listen: “You Are More Than Your Financial Capital” (ChooseFI Episode 248; August 30, 2020).