FIRE and Privilege
Financial independence can be tough to talk about at times because we all started from different places, and FIRE and privilege are not often discussed together. Some people are born into families that make them financially independent from the day they’re born. Other folks enter with little to start with, or even a situation they have to overcome to get to where they want to be. We’re all working towards our financial goals and the lifestyle we want to live, but some of us have an easier road.
That’s why we called this post Riding on Roller Skates to FIRE. Both of us started this blog with the goal of broadening the conversation surrounding personal finance and FIRE among our friends and peers. We think the best way to do that is to be honest and upfront of where we’re coming from, so that we can better celebrate our successes, learn from our mistakes, and have a meaningful conversation together.
Both of us think financial intimacy is extremely important – this is one way we’re honoring that as well, by being honest and open with you.
We don’t want FIRE to seem like some unattainable fantasy— quite the opposite— but we understand that it’s harder to understand what the path to FIRE looks like from where you’re coming from, if you don’t understand where we’re coming from.
So here it goes. Here are our roller skates – the privilege we’ve been blessed with that’s enabled us to jump start our journey to FIRE.
What is Privilege anyways?
My freshman year of college I went on a spring break service trip to Washington D.C. I remember at the end of the week our evening session as a group was all about what privilege means to us. So often in today’s culture, privilege is associated with being wealthy, but privilege to me means being able to provide, having a home to come home to at the end of the day, my ability to pay for my bills, and my health.
Frankly, I kind of forgot about that session and how leaving that trip, I felt so extremely privileged, a feeling that I hadn’t fully appreciated. Beyond the basics, I am privileged for a few reasons.
I Count Student Loans as One of My Many Blessings
My parents weren’t able to pay for my full 4 years of college, but I am so fortunate that they were willing to cosign my loans for me. I received a scholarship, but if it hadn’t been for the loans and my parents willingness to co-sign, I wouldn’t have been able to go to the school of my choice.
Post-college, I was able to live at home. My parents were so supportive of me living at home by helping me to create my own space within the house and this gave me the chance to afford to pay for my student loans.
Joined a Rocketship
Additionally, I was so fortunate to have the chance to join a high-growth company that allowed me to develop professionally as well as from a compensation perspective. The ability to make these decisions and have these opportunities enabled me to pay down my student loans from $64K to $24K which sets me up for future financial success.
My family’s summer cottage is another privilege as I have a home away from home that allows me to go to the beach every single weekend and being by the ocean has become my happy place.
My Tribe Gave Me My Vibe
I’m so privileged to be a part of a family that is my greatest support system. I have them to thank for my willingness to take on new challenges/adventures, since I know they are rooting for me in the background and I consider this support tribe to be my greatest gift.
On the Shoulders of Giants
I’m incredibly fortunate to be born into a wealthy family. I think my parents have always referred to us as ‘upper middle class’, but I don’t think that’s honest. Top 1% of income earners isn’t upper middle class. I actually don’t know how much money my dad makes (another story on that later), but I’ve never had to worry about my family’s financial situation, except for the time my dad told me he made $9 a week.
My parents are also overwhelmingly devoted to their children and their success. So much so that they basically devoted almost all of their time to our well being and development. My mom stayed at home to raise us, my Dad was involved in some way in nearly every extracurricular I was a part of, from being a cub scout leader to football coach. They also held me to a very high standard – they expected me to get straight A’s, not drink in high school, etc.
The Big Red H
Which brings me to Harvard. Yes, I got the grades, wrestled, played football, was an Eagle scout, but my family had the financial resources and drive to support me. My mom knew who the best teachers at my high school were and would talk to my counselors to give me the best schedule possible.
My parents also hired a college coach to guide me through the application process and give me feedback on my essays. I can’t imagine a world in which I would’ve gotten into Harvard without my family.
Getting into Harvard meant that I could study what I wanted to study without worrying too much about what career I was working toward. I studied religion and economics because I was interested in both of them, not because I wanted to be a priest nor work in finance. I have a much easier time getting my foot in the door when I’m applying to jobs because of Harvard’s network, and its brand value. All possible because of the situation I was born into.
Even More Support
I also never had to worry about tuition. In fact, my grandma had set aside a year’s worth of tuition for grad school that I never started, and am now putting toward a downpayment on a house (more on that later). My parents also promised each of their kids a car if they got above a 4.0 GPA – I never got the car, so I’m also putting that money toward the down payment.
Even recently, I’m immensely lucky to have a second family in Hannah’s family. Her mom, dad, aunt, and uncle welcomed me into their routine and have given me access to their weekend getaway cottage in Manomet (not to mention the occasional home cooked meal). Not to mention I’m currently living with her parents as we wait for our house to close.
Privilege is Skin Deep
I’m also privileged to be white, male, and straight. I’ve never felt out of place because I didn’t look like other people in the room, never felt unsafe walking home – the list goes on.
One criticism of FIRE is that at times it’s tone deaf. Privilege and FIRE are rarely discussed together. Financial independence just isn’t attainable for some people. However, if you’re reading this (particularly if you’ve gotten this far), if you live in the US, aren’t overwhelmed with debt, and are capable of maintaining a full time job, FIRE is possible.
We think the path to FIRE is an amazing journey to be on, but it’s a privilege to know that it’s a realistic goal. We’re in our mid 20’s, with little debt, two great degrees, great jobs, and strong support networks. That’s where we’re coming from, and now you know. That’s our roller skates.
If you made it to the end of the post, you’ll probably note that our “roller skates” look a little bit different from each other, but our goal of being financially independent is the same. Despite our different backgrounds, we both came to the conclusion that financial independence is our goal, and we’re both lucky enough to have the opportunity to aim for it.