Improving our relationship with money.
A “Harajuku Moment” is a term coined by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a moment in time where you have a revelation that change must happen now – that something nice to have becomes something you can’t live without.
Mine came on a random Tuesday morning on February 13, 2017 while driving to work. My favorite podcast was The Tim Ferriss Show and the odd title “Mr. Money Mustache – Living Beautifully on $25-27k Per Year” was on deck. I had never heard of it. I pressed play:
Tim described “Mr. Money Mustache,” a Canadian born engineer of average means who had retired at 30, lived near Boulder, Colorado with his family, and hadn’t held a real job since 2005. Tim continued, “How did they do that? They accomplished this early retirement by doing a number of things, but, in effect, optimizing all aspects of their lifestyle for maximal fun, at minimal expense, and by using index fund investing. Their annual expenses total a mere $25-27k, and they do not feel in want of anything.” Tim went on to mention a Mr. Money Mustache community, philosophy, and a blog with 300 million page views since its inception in 2011. Tim termed all this “a worldwide cult phenomenon” and started the conversation by stating, “you are, I would say, in the top five most requested guests for this podcast…”
I was absolutely hooked and an hour and a half late to work that morning. I had found this thing called the FIRE movement (an acronym for Financial Independence Retire Early), and I was pretty sure I was joining it. It was a Harajuku Moment – I was giddy and there were butterflies. Over the next month, I obsessively studied FIRE. I was stunned at its depth and breadth – the number of bloggers, podcasts, and forums. There were 286,000 “FI’ers” on the Financial Independence subreddit! Within two months my family was on board, and we were preparing for our new 7-year retirement plan! And by August 2017, we were doing it! We’d moved from San Diego, CA, our living expenses had dropped by 70%, and we had embarked on the most exciting adventure of our lives with unbridled hopes and dreams.
Today we are elated. We feel like we have a new lease on life, and we feel like the FIRE community has freely handed us winning lottery tickets. We are anxious and nervous too, but it’s all good. And it’s nice to know we are not alone and in good company.
Somewhere early on in this process, I lamented to a FIRE friend, “if I had only found FIRE sooner…” An interesting conversation ensued. He pointed out how lucky I was to have even found it at all, and posed an unusual theoretical to illustrate that value: What if you hadn’t found FIRE until you were 54 (I’m 34)? How much would you pay to send a FIRE playbook back in time to your 34-year-old self? $100,000? The answer was an obvious “yes” considering the value of watching your kid grow up, of true freedom of choice, of pursuing your passions. From this conversation, the idea of a documentary was born. I saw the value of FIRE to my family – a gift that was so freely made available to us – and I wanted to share it. That is the simple mission of “Playing with FIRE” - to bring awareness of this magical possibility to more people, so that they too can have a chance for their Harajuku Moment.