Playing with FIRE + International Financial Independence Awareness Day

As a Kickstarter perk, I got to watch the debut of the Playing with FIRE documentary. I actually watched it twice to really get my thoughts sorted on how it made me feel. Indeed, this is a movement I love dearly and I am happy that a more mainstream way of presenting it will become available for me to refer to family and friends when they wonder what I mean by “financial independence” and quitting my job in my mid 30s.

Playing with FIRE review

International Financial Independence Awareness day

While we are on the subject of spreading the word on the FIRE movement, I’d like to give a shout out to mark the first ever International Financial Independence Awareness day, today, April 25 – as in 4/25, 4% Rule and the Rule of 25 :).  This is a fantastic initiative by Ty Roberts over at Get Rich Quick’ish.

In a short sentence, Financial Independence, to me, means achieving the maximum freedom by feeling empowered with my finances. This idea has changed my life for the better by allowing me to focus and become mindful on allocating my money and time to the things that matter most in my life. While it may not be achievable for everyone, I’d still love to spread the awareness of financial independence and help people become mindful of how they spend and earn their money. Please feel free to spread the word by either sharing this post or the website , or the page introducing the idea of an International Financial Independence Awareness day or simply talk about FI to people in your life!

A great way to spread the word is exactly this fantastic initiative that is the soon to be released Playing with FIRE documentary. I’ll keep you posted on when and where we might get to view it once it is finally released.

Overview of the Playing with FIRE documentary

The documentary follows the journey of Scott and Taylor in their year of transformation from when Scott learns about the FIRE movement from Tim Ferriss’ interview of Mr. Money Mustache to when they haul up their lives to move to a lower cost of living area and launch their path to FIRE. Scott also wrote a book on their story: Playing with FIRE .

Update November 2019:

Presale links before the scheduled release date of November 19:  

Money is a tool

One of the main ideas that you’ll get to see repeated multiple times during the movie is that “Money is a tool”. I must have personally said this a hundred times so completely relate to this. From my view, we get to observe at the beginning of the journey that Scott and Taylor entering adulthood, lost or never completely acquired this concept, despite that their own families may had always treated and viewed money as a tool, and went with the “money is to get things I deserve” idea that is often portrayed in commercials. The beauty of this documentary really is in seeing the couple find their way back to the concept of using money strategically along the values that are important to them, with the difficulties linked to changing their perspective and thoughts on money.

Focus on discipline and on the reasons fueling your FIRE

I quite liked that the documentary has a large focus on the importance of discipline to reach financial independence. It doesn’t sell the idea as a get rich quickly scheme and at one point you even see Scott and Taylor returning to their spendier ways when they hit more stressful times. There are reflexions on the difficulty of going against the grain, when everyone around you may just be adhering to the regular consumption mindset and on the fact that you can’t simply achieve financial independence only by being lucky.

You then get to listen and see how this discipline grows and is strengthened by clearly defining and knowing the why behind your motivation to achieve financial independence. Wanting something more than just things, is an excellent fuel to help you make the harder choices of not going for the easy yet more expensive option over and over again to incrementally save more and more of your money and reach this goal.

There is also a short yet interesting segment where J.D. Roth discusses how defining what you want to retire to may make you realize that perhaps you want a different option than going for the full retirement, maybe you’re looking more for a career change or various other options. These are discussions I love, since I believe it is so important to be happy along this journey and love reading or listening to stories on this. It’s also why I am super excited about TheFioneers new series on a more balanced approach to FI.  

The less relatable aspect of the documentary for me.

Although some aspect felt less relatable for me in the documentary, as you will read on, I definitely don’t find this to be a reason not to watch the documentary. If one thing, I like that it shows that there are so many different paths to this goal and that every journey to FIRE is unique as much as the people themselves.

The less relatable part, at least for me, was how much of an extreme change of lifestyle this was for the couple. It first got me a little worried that other people, mostly my family and friends, will view this as not relatable and thus miss out on a lot of the beauty of aiming for FIRE. However, reflecting on the movie, watching it a second time and reading Mr.1500’s great review of it, allowed me to process why I had this feeling.

I’ve personally always been interested in starting businesses and in general had a good sense of what saving your money is. While I was young my goals were to travel so all my savings would go towards that but I was good at saving. My siblings and I had the privilege of being introduced to the concept of compound interest very young after my mom made bad investment moves with a company and took charge of my dad and her finances to start investing. I was very lucky that she wanted to teach this to us early on so that we didn’t make the same mistake as her when we would earn a living.

So once I found out about FIRE, it was relatively easy for me to switch gears and my lifestyle change was really not much of a leap. Eat out less, be mindful about the things you buy, keep earning more and voila, we adjusted easily to the changes. We had never done much of a lifestyle inflation, only a minor one, and we already lived in a moderate cost of living area plus were already close to the top 10% of Canadian households in earnings. I struggled more with the impatience of the journey than anything else.

Furthermore, I live in Canada, in the province of Quebec, where the mentality about money and overconsumption is somewhat different than in the United-States and our schooling costs are a fraction of what it is in the States. While it’s still possible to see huge gaps of wealth and over-consumption swooping around, it remains different on many levels and the lifestyle of Scott and Taylor before finding out about FIRE just felt really far away from what I’ve always known.

Nonetheless, the fact that I didn’t relate with this, did not take away from appreciating their journey and how the FIRE concepts and movement is presented. I think the overall message of the movie will be quite eye opening for many people simply following the consumer lifestyle without a second thought.  

The strengths of the documentary: the ups and downs & showcasing different people on this journey.

The fact that we get to see the ups and downs of Taylor and Scott’s journey as well as various other different people that either have or are on the journey to achieving FIRE, greatly makes up for what felt less relatable for me. For example, you get to listen to Bradd Barrett from Choose FI explain how he has a normal suburban life and had a savings rate of 70% allowing him to retire at 38. Furthermore, there’s a segment at a Camp Money Mustache where you get to see various people discussing their own unique paths to FIRE.

You also get to see how this journey is not exactly easy, although the math is simple. There’s a real psychological change that goes into the discipline to follow and achieve this journey and the documentary does an excellent job at showing this transformation for Scott and Taylor. I feel that it showed an honest portrait of what it looks like for a family to discover FIRE, get excited about the idea and start implementing the changes in their life.

One of the strongest parts of the movie goes into highlighting the power of the community which helps reinforce the concept of living purposefully with your money and finding freedom in doing so. You get to see how Taylor gained strength from the story of others on this path and get to understand why it is important to surround yourself with others on this same journey. I personally find this highly motivating to continue writing about our journey with the struggles and wins we encounter along the way.

Timely release:

Finally, I think this documentary is coming out at an important point in time. Consumer debt is at an all time high, the Bank of Canada has been raising its benchmark interest rate these last few years and while it has kept it stable for now, the plan appears to be continuing to increase it in the longer term.

I believe this documentary will be a fabulous way for more people to learn about this movement, take charge of their money and gain confidence with their finances and I’m looking forward to encourage my friends and family to see it.

Have you made attempts to spread financial independence awareness? How did you first find out about FI and has it changed your life?

7 thoughts on “Playing with FIRE + International Financial Independence Awareness Day

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful review of the movie. You’re the first person I’ve seen who actually had some slight critique of it so thank you for that as well. It makes me more comfortable telling mine 🙂 .

    Obviously I’m very happy this documentary was made and think it’s a great addition to the FIRE community as a piece of content we were lacking. However…I completely agree with the relatability problem. I think the family in the film went a little too far and I did not feel that properly represented the path to FI (based on my experience) and might lead viewers to think this path is the extremely frugal one of deprivation portrayed in the media.

    The particular scenes that jumped out at me was Taylor complaining that she wasn’t driving a BMW (to which I responded “that’s not a BMW?” and a few FIRE friends in the room laughed…I really don’t know the difference. Maybe she should put the BMW logo over her logo – kidding obviously.

    There was that part and the moment they bought a condo with loud traffic noise that seemed to bother them. If something ACTUALLY makes you happy (BMW) buy it and if it makes you unhappy (loud noises) do not buy it. That’s been my philosophy and how I’ve traveled down my journey. Not doing those things (based on the family’s reactions) are actually sacrifices and (to me) not sustainable. I’ll end with the often quoted principle of FIRE “Build the life you want and then save for it.”

    1. Thank you for your comment Purple!:)

      I agree, a lot of it felt like sacrifice. I love that quote and it’s precisely what Mr. Mod and I have been trying to do all along the way.

      Perhaps this was the cause of having a limited amount of time to cram all great footage in the documentary, but I feel like too little time was allocated to seeing the benefit of going for FIRE from Scott and especially Taylor’s point of view. I was as surprised as Scott when she says “it’s worth it” with a genuine and happy face and I just wish we got to see more of that after part…

      In one of the parenting related books I’ve read (either Nurture Shock or Brain Rules for Baby) there’s a chapter on how kid’s books & tv shows often have the largest part allocated to conflict and only a tiny portion to resolving the conflict (or sometimes not at all). This doesn’t help kids learn to solve conflicts/problems, so it’s best to look for books which the largest portion is on that problem solving process. It kind of feels like a sequel on more of this philosophy of creating a life you want to retire early to, could be beneficial just to see more of those plus sides. Perhaps Scott and Taylor have in mind to follow up along their journey cause I would definitely love to see that!

      1. That’s a great point. I should read the accompanying book and see if it helps assuage the relatability and benefit parts of the journey. Expanding on what they’re getting out of it in the moment and not just in a distant future of spending more time with children would be helpful. You read the most interesting parenting books lol! I love the titles. That’s so interesting and so true! It would be awesome if they follow up on their journey…if they continue it of course. If not a sequel would just make me sad 🙂 .

  2. I enjoyed reading your review, too. It’s funny, I loved that they made such a drastic change so quickly and then the FI date was shown as (I think?) 6 years. I agree with you that it would be a little off putting to a lot of people, but I also think that so many people think of being frugal as a huge sacrifice, maybe it’s easier to think of sacrificing for 6 years than 10, 15, 20, etc.?

    I agree that along the way I love having the chance to talk to other people about finances. I had nothing in the way of financial literacy when I was younger, so I try to give the college kids I spend time with some tips, but I’m really curious to know if others have worked specifically with this age group. I find a lot of “kids” that age really believe that they will be the one exception. They will be the one person who graduates with an art degree and makes a million dollars within one year, or the one person who becomes a famous photographer by the time they’re 25. I find it’s a fine balance between wanting to give them some rational advice for a realistic prediction of their future and squashing their dreams. Plus, it’s so hard to talk about money with people who haven’t had to pay rent yet. 😉

    1. Yeah I did like the FI date counter, I sometimes scrolled back to see the impact of their changes. It was a nice touch.

      The college age group is indeed a time that is difficult to navigate between having realistic expectations and dreaming big. I myself found it to be a difficult period so good on you for making time to give some tips and exploring others who have worked with this age group! Perhaps “Money after Graduation” could be a site to explore? Maybe others have suggestions :). If I find something I’ll be sure to let you know.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I definitely agree that a huge lifestyle change can sometimes be off-putting to people, but sometimes that is really what is needed to get finances in shape. I hope to see this movie sometime, and maybe bring along a few family members who I think will benefit from it!

    1. That’s very true :). I heard Gwen on a latest episode of the FIRE Drill podcast talking about her thoughts on the movie and she shared that it was nice to see this perspective from someone who needed to do a big change and didn’t just learn about FIRE early on, before some more expensive habits were well set.
      Thanks for stopping by 🙂 and I hope you get to see it soon!

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