Episode Description

Ever wonder what FIRE stands for? Or consider how travel hacking may (or may NOT) be contributing to your overall wealth and financial independence? Join Free-quent Flyer and Money Metagame for this special episode dedicated to taking a look at the intersection of early retirement and travel hacking. Recorded 10 May, 2017.

Episode Notes

Gideon from Free-quent Flyer and Noah from Money Metagame joined me a couple weeks ago to hash out some of their issues regarding FIRE – Financial Independence Retire Early (or something). While they agree on the broad strokes, they come at FIRE from different angles.

We start by discussing their upcoming trips (3:20) before hearing their personal definitions of FIRE. We start to see that they have some semantic differences, you can determine for yourself whether those matter a ton or not. They then outline some steps people take towards gaining Financial Independence (19:48) and we use a case study to take a look at the 4% rule in more detail (24:40).

We then answer the important question, are there “normal” FIRE people or are they all just bloggers who make a ton of money and thus ignore the “rules” (30:59).

On the second half of the podcast, we talk about how FIRE and travel hacking are related. Is there room for luxury spending in FIRE (33:49)? Is it better to go from FIRE to travel hacking or vice versa, and what lessons does each community have to teach each other (40:45)? Then we answer the important question: do travel hackers actually save money. The answer may or may not surprise you (46:11).

We close out with some advice about how to think about college expenses and advice to avoid in general.

While a slight departure, I found the episode very informative and with implications on my travel hacking. What will I do with the money I am saving and how can I use that to gain more financial independence? If you have similar questions you’ll enjoy this episode!


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Music: “She” by Still Pluto

0:00 – Housekeeping

3:20 – Upcoming trips

9:13 – Defining FIRE

19:48 – Steps towards gaining FI

24:40 – Case study – 4% rule for an 18 year old wanting to live on 25K: what’s the number they need to hit?

30:59 – Do FIRE bloggers really go use the 4% rule? Are there “normal” FIRE ppl?

33:49 – What room for luxury spending is there with FIRE?

40:45 – What’s the interplay between FIRE/travel hacking? Which is a better place to start?

46:11 – Do travel hackers actually save money? What can they learn from the FIRE community?

53:11 – FIRE + college expenses

58:30 – FIRE advice to be wary of


Joe: Hello welcome to the Savorocity Observation Deck where we never retire. This is episode fifty-six and we’re in a little bit of a strange situation. Last week Trevor, Joe, and I, Joe Cortez and I, got together to record but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure we were going to be able to record that week, so, I wanted to make sure we had an episode on the books. So, I called up a couple of friends and we got together to discuss “F.I.R.E” (financial, independence, retiring, early) and I picked up Noah from my betting game and Gideon “the frequent flyer”. They go at it sometimes about “F.I.R.E” related stuff on Twitter, so I thought it would be good to just have them talk a little bit more in-depth about “F.I.R.E” and what that means and how that relates to travel hacking. So, that’s what is coming up in this episode. Before we get to that, let’s get to a little bit of housekeeping. You can connect with us at AstheJoeflies, Trevor – you can find at team out, Joe you can find at Joe Cortez and basically you know thank you so much for listening and subscribing and reading and reviewing the podcast. A special shout out to Carrie Lee who just left us an iTunes review last week. We really appreciate that and just thank you for all of you who read and review us on iTunes and stitcher, Google play anywhere you find your podcast really just helps us to get out there and grow and hopefully bring better content to you guys. Quick reminder if you have any questions or comments or topics you want to go over you can e-mail me asJoeflies@gmail.com and also last episode I alluded to the fact that we started a new Savorocity Observation Deck Facebook page. You can find that at Facebook.com/savorocitypodcast. Like and follow us there and stay connected. If you have trouble keeping up with podcasts, you can keep track of when we release new podcast episodes there and hopefully we can generate some discussion and chat about some of the things that we talk about here on the podcast. Really quickly just following up from episode fifty-five, the laptop ban still is not in effect, so I’m still holding out faint hope that it won’t come into effect. There are varying reports some say that it’s dead for good some say that they’re just waiting till the end of May. Obviously, I hope that it’s dead for good but you know who knows if all else I really just hope whatever this laptop threat is that the powers that be can come up with a good way to prevent anything from happening. In the end, I know that I was pretty ranty about it last episode I still don’t love the idea of a laptop and I am very skeptical that that’s the best way to prevent this but you know obviously safety first and you know we just hope that all of you out there who are flying in traveling can be safe.

All right so that about does it for housekeeping. Let’s get to this episode with money metagain and frequent flyer himself. Oh, frequent flyer and brand-new blogger at Savorocity independently financed the same person if you didn’t know that stay tuned to check out their thoughts on “F.I.R.E” and how it can relate to travel hacking hope you enjoy the show.

All right so I had to make a call to the bullpen and so I brought in two of our former guests. First, I guess we’ll do age before beauty. So, actually I don’t know which one of you is older but we’ll go with the guy who’s been here more times number one Gideon from frequent flyer is joining us again. Gideon how you doing today?

FQF:  Just another day in paradise. How you doing Joe?

Joe: It’s always another day in paradise for you. All right sir I’m pretty sure that’s like that’s your tagline now as a guest that’s what you always say. And secondly from money met a game coming back because today we’re going to be talking a little bit about “F.I.R.E” and financial independence is Noah. How you doing Noah?

Noah: Doing good Joe. Happy to be back.

Joe: Yeah, it’s great to have you guys. So, you know I mean basically this podcast came about because you know I saw you guys kind of bantering on Twitter and I was like you know what I have a lot of questions and I will ask these two at the same time, but before we get to that, both you guys have upcoming trips. So, I sure want to hear really quickly where are you going and did you hack your way to where you’re traveling. So, Noah, why don’t you go first. Where you headed this weekend?

Noah: Sure. So, this weekend we’re going to Florida. We are actually going to meet up with my brother and parents down there to run a couple Spartan races. It’s pretty close to the Daytona area so two days of races and two days of the beach. So, I’m looking forward to this one for sure. Seattle still a little gloomy not warm enough yet.

Joe: Yes, so what is a Spartan Race? Oh, go ahead Gideon.

FQF: You know, I was just asking exactly the same question. When you’re running a Spartan race is that you are you driving at Daytona or…?

Noah: Sparta is an obstacle course race. So, the one I’m doing on Saturday is eight to ten miles with like twenty to twenty-five obstacles. So, things like walls or monkey bars or carrying heavy things. Stuff like that and then the one on Sunday is a sprint so it’s like three to five miles but the same sort of obstacles.

Joe: Wait so like carrying heavy things like you’re going to have to like pick up a boulder?

Noah: Uh yeah, pretty much like pick a boulder. They have one where you carry like a giant log. There’s one where you have to like fill up a bucket with rocks and then haul that around up and down some hills. Every course is a little different but they repeat those obstacles almost everywhere.

Joe: Wow you must be pretty fit.

Noah: I like to think so but what we’ll will find out. This is the first obstacle course I’ve run in like two and a half years so not really sure what to expect.

Joe: I’m going to go ahead and say that you’re at least the second most fit person on this podcast tonight.

FQF: Yeah, I don’t remember the last time I held a sack full of boulders up a hill.

Joe: Well I guess I guess we got a…, I guess we got something that we have to do for the next frequent flyers subscriber meet up.

FQF: Exactly.

Joe: Get some boulders for you. So, where you off to Gideon?

FQF: So, I actually am going to Las Vegas on Saturday to see Britney. She has an engagement there and also, I’m throwing a little impromptu subscribers only meet up at the Las Vegas and jury and lounge which I think makes it a work trip which means the entire thing is deductible, right?

Joe: Sounds about right.

Noah: That’s my time zone.

Joe: Did I get an email about this? Like have you sent this out?

FQF: Yeah, I sent out the invitation a couple months ago.

Joe: Couple months ago. Ok so it’s not an… impromptu made me think that you just decided to at the last second. Fun fact there are like Britney posters all over Hong Kong because I guess she’s going there too so she must be taking a break in Vegas to go to Hong Kong.

FQF: Yeah, I wonder who they’re going to have fill in for her. I wonder if Christina Aguilera’s available.

Joe: Hey that’d be good. Oh yeah so, I forgot so yeah Gideon you go first but then we can go Noah. So, are you guys using poison miles to get to your destinations or you know? How you travelling there?

FQF: Yeah on the way out I’ve got a Southwest flight nonstop from Baltimore. I still refused to fall in love with Southwest but they really do have nonstop flights from Baltimore to Las Vegas. So even while resisting the temptation to fall in love with them I will book very cheap flights. And then on the way back I’m just redeeming some, I don’t even remember, some Delta miles or some flex points.

Joe: Sounds like an unhappy marriage with Southwest for you. What about you Noah? How are you getting out there?

Noah: Oh yeah definitely travel hacking and I’m actually really glad I did because this Spartan Race was supposed to be in June sometime and then about a month after I book they changed it to May. Completely unexpected didn’t even know that was possible for them to change it but luckily it was I think that American miles going both ways and they let you change the dates as long as it’s the same origin doesn’t it so it all worked out pretty well.

FQF: Is that from a status or is that just American feature?

Speaker 3: I think it’s just an American feature because I don’t have any sort of airline status.

FQF: Good to know.

Joe: Yeah you can change you can change dates and routings for free basically up to three days from when you bought the ticket. So yeah, it’s pretty good if you can find saver award space which is becoming a bit of a unicorn these days at least out here on the East Coast. I don’t know if it’s better for you in the West Noah.

Noah: I’m not sure. I don’t check it that often but I think we booked about five months out and there was plenty so.

FQF: Finding American award space is one hell of a catch! It’s of their routed rules.

Joe:  Yeah, I mean it’s good when you can find it, but it’s just… well anyway I’ve complained about that enough on Twitter. So, the reason why I got you guys in here today is like I said. You guys were debating some stuff about “F.I.R.E” which Noah you talked about a little bit last time you were on. But you know I thought I’d have you guys on and let’s talk a little bit about it’s kind of interesting because like a lot of “F.I.R.E” people hack their travel and vice versa. So, you know I’m just curious as to your guys’ thoughts one of you being a long time, you know F.I type blogger and one of you an upstart independently financed on the new Savorocity blog. If you don’t know is written by frequent flyer himself so I want to start with this. Let’s start with Gideon this time: For someone who didn’t know elevator pitch define “F.I.R.E” in three sentences. What is it? And I will be counting.

FQF: This is my take on “F.I.R.E” which I’m sure no actual “F.I.R.E” enthusiast would agree with but my three sentences are: That retiring early is so easy almost anybody can do it. Financial independence is so hard that almost nobody can do it. So “F.I.R.E” is about picking the right balance between retiring early and financial independence.


Joe: That felt so Confucian. Noah, I want you give us your, I mean why don’t you give us your three sentences and then if you want to respond Gideon’s groundbreaking definition go ahead do that.

Noah: So, I think I think the elevator pitch for “F.I.R.E” is just being able to maintain your lifestyle without having to work. And the actual retirement part is really tricky which kind of overlaps with what Gideon said like you can call yourself retired if you’re still doing some sort of worker not doing work and everybody defines it differently so that’s the confusing part of it I mean just financial dependence is being able to maintain your lifestyle without without having to work even though most people end up working anyway.

Joe: So how do you like Gideon’s characterization of it. You feel like you agree?

Noah: I guess I need to ask Gideon what he means by just about anybody can retire early.

FQF: So, I have been doing this deep dive into different parts of the “F.I.R.E” community and the different “F.I.R.E” blogs and the different “F.I.R.E” podcasts. So, to retire all you have to do is stop working and unlike most of the people in the active “F.I.R.E” blogging and podcasting community those are all people who decided to stop working after a decade of, but sometimes slightly less and sometimes less slightly more, but after a decade of labor. Real labor. You’ll often hear them talk about I think it’s they’re slightly overrepresented in the “F.I.R.E” community of computer scientists programmers designers like people who get paid a lot of money during their working years and then decide to stop doing the thing that made them all that money. So, my experience is totally different because I retired first. I retired at twenty-eight which I think is earlier than any of the computer programmers are and you know engineers that earned all this money in the first ten years of their career. I earned no money in the first ten years of my career and then I stopped working. When I left graduate school was the last job I ever had and I decided to retire first and I was able to do that because I had developed other sources of income and things like that. But I didn’t I wasn’t able to do it because I had saved a million dollars or two million dollars or three million dollars.

So that’s the that’s the distinction that I’m trying to draw between retiring and financial independence. Because retiring is trivially easy but financial independence is it’s it’s completely made up. It doesn’t it doesn’t actually exist and Mr. Money Mustache is financially dependent on his blog readers who sign up for credit cards using his affiliate links. You know people who host retreats in the woods and sell tickets to those retreats aren’t financially independent. They’re financially dependent on people buying tickets to those retreats. So that’s the distinction I’m trying to draw.

Joe: Before you respond Noah just a little background for anyone who might be a new listener are not familiar with Gideon frequent flyers work, by the way can find his work at frequentflyerbook.com or savorocity.com/independentlyfinanced. Anyway, like Gideon said I mean he basically, you know his big thing is that he works for us I mean he’s basically a for better or for worse a professional blogger He blogs for a living and US mostly supported through subscription so just in case you know how to know the background on where he’s coming from that’s what he’s talking about and that’s why he you know I would put him in quotes.

[END OF 15 MIN.]