Thursday, January 27, 2022

On FIRE, investing and suffering


This is a very good time to talk about suffering because most of our portfolios are down. 

Tech stocks in both China and US are probably experiencing the most pain and this is likely to sustain as interest rates begin to rise and we're starting to see threats of war in Ukraine. REIT investors have also been battered as of late as investors treat them like bonds although I must say that the effects on my portfolio are minimal given that my banking stocks allocation is currently holding up to minimise my damage.

Although I'm losing money every day and feeling some pain, I'm really enjoying this because the cockier Tech investing bros are absolutely getting thrashed, currently licking their wounds, and hiding at the moment. I also expect to relish the idea of commissioned FAs who brought focused tech-based portfolios to their hapless clients trying to explain their strategies to them. This is the moment we see commissioned salesmen begin to talk about long term investing, long term annualised returns, and dollar-cost averaging. 

This brings me to this book The Sweet Spot by Paul Bloom, which talks about the centrality of suffering in our search for meaning. If you enjoyed reading The 50 Shades of Grey and long for the non-fiction equivalent, you should look no further than reading this book that actually has dedicated sections on the pleasures of BDSM.

The key idea of this book is that seeking pleasure is not enough for human beings. Beyond pleasure, human beings want satisfaction and meaning in life. This is why people volunteer to perform acts that may seem uncomfortable at first but contain a long term payoff. Acts include mountain climbing and childbearing. As a dad to two kids, I can never understand why my wife would volunteer to create kid no. 2.
But as we think about pain, we should take note that satisfaction only comes from voluntary pain. If you pay a dominatrix to shave your balls, you may obtain pleasure and find it money well spent. But if your client kidnaps you to shave your balls because you asked him to put all his money into a US Tech-focused unit trust, it's probably not even half as fun.

I suspect this book really provides hints on how to succeed in FIRE.

FIRE can be painful but it is really a process that is totally voluntary. 

You have to work hard, forgo enjoying your income, and then study how financial markets work. We cannot expect everyone to really rave about doing this for about 8-12 years of your life. I think for FIRE to work, people need to let it give added meaning to their lives. 

Maybe the process of FIRE leads to a higher net worth compared to your peers so that makes you feel good. FIRE also secures your family's financial future. Maybe for me, FIRE is totally going against the commission financial advisory industry, to show that I can thrive doing the opposite of what financial advisors often say. It is also an active rebellion against corporate life because I am not working to put food on the table and can make moves most employees would not be able to. 

If you examine FIRE through the lens of a search for meaning amidst suffering, then you may conclude that many of us in this community are masochists at heart.



  1. I don't think FIRE will make me happy. But it can remove some unhappiness from my life.

    Hopefully I find out soon.

    Happy new year!

  2. Just make sure you continue to challenge yourself after FIRE and don't languish like the bulk of Gen X.

    1. Actually, why should there be a constant need to challenge oneself? Isn't the whole point of FIRE to be free to languish while flexing financial dominance over persons who are actively in work.