Where to FIRE First

from Jeremy

When firing a weapon at a moving target, the conventional wisdom is to aim slightly ahead of the target so that your projectile meets the target where it's going, rather than where it currently is.  This is why, in old war footage, you see gunners on planes aiming their weapons ahead of oncoming aircraft instead of right at them. The same principle is useful when thinking about Financial Independence Early Retirement (FIRE) as well.  Don't target where things are now, but aim ahead to where you expect them to be at the time you're ready to pull the trigger. Put in your calculations for what your family size will be, what health issues you expect, what schooling you'll need access to, and what kind of savings you'll have at the time you're able to make the leap. Doing this kind of analysis will allow you to then figure out where geographically it makes sense for you to FIRE yourself. 

Jan and I are going through this iterative process right now. Our timing for FIRE, as we shared in this post is about 2-4 years, depending on a lot of the factors mentioned above. At this point we'll have a certain level of savings (at least approx.$500K) that should provide about $20K a year in income to support us. With this level of income available, we've looked at many options around the world; some that may even surprise you. 

The options we considered first are staying in the DC area and continuing to work, moving to Pittsburgh to make things cheaper than they are here, heading back to Chicago because we loved it, moving to New York City (Manhattan) because it's something both of us have always wanted to do, and heading abroad (Spain first, then possibly Uruguay, followed by time in SE Asia and other locales as our experiences lead us). Quite a list, huh! From staying put to traveling the globe, everything is on the table. 

How are we ever going to figure out what makes the most sense? Easy, we're not. We're going to figure out what makes sense for the time and conditions we expect given the information we have, go with that, and see from there. Our process for doing this is something you may find very familiar, we made charts comparing the different aspects of each location against the others using a point system of 0-10 (0 = worst, 10 = best) based on life factors, which breakout such:  

  • 2 kids of elementary and preschool age respectively. Jeremy 41-43, Jan 43-45. Family in the Pittsburgh area, with extended family in DC, Deleware, Virginia, and California. Potential need for high level medical facilities within easy access. 

Then, we created our criteria (each coming up with criteria separately). My criteria are: 

  • Cost of Living 

  • Jewish community 

  • Happenstance Experience 

  • Cultural Opportunities 

  • Language Ease 

  • Walkability 

Jan's criteria are: 

  • Jewish community available 

  • How much work either/both of us would have to do outside of the home 

  • Where our diverse family (Jews and a child from China) would feel most comfortable 

  • Convenience (walkability, parks, groceries, etc.) 

  • Ease of seeing family (travel to/from the United States) 

  • Experiencing other cultures 

Measured against these criteria, we individually scored each location we're considering 

Finally, we compared our scores, surprising ourselves with the final outcome. 

Pittsburgh and DC came out at the bottom of the list. They are no longer in the running as options. 

New York City, Chicago, and Abroad were all in a cluster within range of each other on both of our lists.  Therefore, our focus will be on these three.   

By talking about where we want to be at certain points, and what would be important to us when, we decided to chronologize the order rather than rank it from here.  We know if we move to Chicago we'll be comfortable and won't bring ourselves to leave, which is great, but not what we want to do first since new experiences are important to us, and our kids.  Therefore, Chicago was put 3rd.  New York City is a stretch goal for us. We would not be able to FIRE there, as much as probably only meet our needs if both of us were working full-time at jobs at least 50% of us may not find that compelling. This would sacrifice other things we want to do: writing, spending more time with our kids, exploring the world. Therefore, it was decided that NYC is a bridge too far. It just isn't worth putting ourselves on the edge of failure like that, as awesome as NYC is. We can always come back to NYC after the kids are out of the house, and we're older and able to go to jazz clubs at night without worrying about bedtimes. 

Therefore, our current plan is to live abroad for up to 9 years, followed by our kids High School years in Chicago. Of course, this is an iterative plan which will change as we experience life, and all of the events that  we can't anticipate. After the kids are out of the house, who knows where we'll go and what we'll do, or even what we'll be physically capable of doing? Maybe NYC will make more sense at that point? Maybe Chaing Mai, Thailand will be calling to us? Maybe some other spot in the world we've not yet considered will turn out to appeal to us after we happen upon it during our travels with the young kids? 

We have a good idea where we expect ourselves to be in 2-4 years, and can target ourselves toward that goal. We may hit that target, or we may miss it. The key is, like the gunners on those planes, we adjust based on what's happening at the time, so that we can eventually hit the targets we've set for ourselves. 

How do you plan for huge changes in your life? 

Have you ever made such a move? 

Would you like to be FIRED today?