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Can this money ethos help you retire in your 30s?
The FIRE movement believes frugality is key to retiring in your 30s; others think the movement is about privilege more than prudence.
- An online culture of millennials is looking to min-max their finances to achieve financial independence and retire early.
- Called the FIRE movement, members aim to live lean and control their spending, an ethos catalyzed by Vicki Robin's work in the early '90s.
- Some are doubtful of the movement, arguing their strategies aren't exacting enough to be future proof or are a means for wealthy individuals to capitalize further on their privilege.
Jason Long hated his job. A pharmacist in rural Tennessee, Long dealt daily with angry and confused customers battling drug costs, the opioid epidemic, and health insurers cutting costs at the expense of the ill. He had to work 12- to 14-hour shifts just to keep up. He couldn't eat, and his health suffered from the stress.
Enough was enough. Long walked away from a $150,000 salary, choose to live off his investment portfolio, and retired at 38 years old.
As reported by The New York Times, Mr. Long is a forerunner to a movement of millennials aiming to retire well before their golden years. Called the FIRE movement — for "financial independence, retire early" — proponents believe frugality is the key to reaching early retirement in their 40s, 30s, or even their 20s.
The FIRE movement is a loose conglomerate of blogs, forum groups, and Reddit discussions. Gathering online, members share tips and stories on how to manage finances to maximize savings and minimize spending to propel one to early retirement.
If the camp has a catalyzing figurehead, it would be Vicki Robin and her 1992 book, Your Money or Your Life. Robin's message was to show readers how to increase their savings through strict budgeting and mindful spending.
"What we teach is an awareness about the flow of money and stuff in your life in light of your true happiness and your sense of purpose and values," Robin told Big Think. "And that your 'enough point,' having enough, is having everything you want and need to have a life you love and full self-expression with nothing in excess."
Recently, millennials have rediscovered Robin's book and followed its principles in their search for early retirement. Mister Money Mustache, a popular FIRE blogger who retired in his 30s (real name Peter Adeney), even provided the forward for the 2018 revised rerelease of Your Money or Your Life.
However, it should be noted that Robin isn't the founder of the FIRE movement, more its inspiration. Environmentalism is a core feature of Robin's message, and for her lean living is as much a way to find happiness as it is to save the planet. "We have measured the amount of planet we have and humans are consuming more than the amount of planet we have every year (that can be regenerated) ever since 1986," Robin notes.
The FIRE movement, on the other hand, does not maintain a green message at its core. Instead, members seek out their own reasons for financial independence and early retirement (of course, there's no reason ecological stewardship can't be one of those driving forces). The question for them isn't why you want financial independence, but how you go about it.
Holding one's finances to the FIRE
Have you ever spent time listening to fans of a popular online roleplaying game discussing how to min-max their wizards for the upcoming raid? If so, then you'll get a sense of déjà vu reading posts at FIRE blogs or Reddit pages. These sources are replete with users discussing the mathematical details of their FI setups, graphing their 401K contributions vs. gains, and devising grocery lists based on calorie to dollar ratio.
Their patois is also highly reminiscent of online-based groups like gaming culture. As noted in the Times article, members are said to be "firing" when they maximize savings while minimizing excessive spending (i.e., min-maxing). When they have achieved their financial goal, they are said to have "fired." Different levels of FIRE engagement also exist — "lean FIRE" is for extreme frugality, "fat FIRE" for more typical savings, and "barista FIRE" for working part-time after retirement (i.e., hardcore vs. casual gamer). And what would an online culture be without a bevy of initialisms, such as SWR (safe withdrawal rate).
It shouldn't be surprising that FIRE's most publicized figures tended to come from highly technical fields such as engineering and healthcare before becoming "fired." Mister Money Mustache was a software engineer; EarlyRetirementDude had a career in banking; Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods were a software engineer and communications manager, respectively; and Jason Long, as we saw, was a pharmacist.
But how does one start "firing"? As noted by Kristin Wong at Lifehacker, it's deceptively simple. All you have to do is "spend less than you earn" and save the remainder, meaning it all comes down to the "math and mechanics."
FIRE advocates look at their income, budget mandatory expenses, and then ruthlessly cut discretionary spending in order to maximize their savings. They've devised many life hacks to accomplish this, such as minimizing housing costs, seeking cheaper services, not purchasing expensive depreciable goods, lowering tax liability, and being mindful of spending money on unnecessary goods (looking your way, bar tab).
Ultimately, the goal is to reach a point where their expenses line up with how much they can sustainably withdraw from their portfolios, ensuring they still have enough money down the road. This is colloquially called the "four percent rule" — so called because 4 percent is the amount a retiree can typically withdraw from investments.
While simple in principle, this is the kind of thing that's made "it's easier said than done" such a cliché. It's difficult to manage such frugality or know the best ways to invest your money. But those who have fired seem to enjoy the challenge as much as the results.
Revolution or dumpster FIRE?
A young backpacker enjoys early retirement, yet many argue that FIRE strategies don't properly plan for the unexpected realities of the sunset years.
(Photo by Abhiram Prakash/Pexels)
A cynical critic may point out that the FIRE movement's more successful champions haven't retired in the traditional sense. Mister Money Mustache hosts advertisements on his blog. Early Retirement Dude and MadFientist both utilize affiliated links to earn fees. Ms. Frugalwoods is the author of a book published by HarperBusiness and the Frugalwoods' blog also publishes affiliated endorsements.
These early retirees haven't so much retired as switch jobs to self-employed promoters of the early retirement ideal. But as Tanja Hester, early retiree and blogger at our next life, told Lifehacker, FIRE isn't really for people who hate their job and want to quit working.
"A good reason to retire early is that you have an alternative vision for your life that you are eager to pursue, but which you can't pursue while employed full time," Hester said. "Achieving financial independence allowed us to leave that career chapter of our lives from a place of gratitude and appreciation, and move onto our next chapter that we're in control of."
Fair enough, and "FIRE" without early retirement doesn't sound so catchy. Then it's just "FI." However, there are two other criticisms of the movement that potentially carry more weight.
The first, as stated by financial advisor Suze Orman, is that early retirement is a myopic pursuit that greatly underestimates the costs and pitfalls of future living. Orman notes that rising healthcare costs will make the golden years more expense for future retirees and that planning for senior health needs in one's 30s is difficult. She also believes that early retirees underestimate loses in compound returns.
"I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it," Orman told Time. "I personally think it is the biggest mistake, financially speaking, you will ever, ever make in your lifetime."
The general rule is that you need 10 times your current income to retire. Calculating for average returns of 6 percent and inflation at 2.5 percent, the AARP estimates a retiree would need $1.18 million to draw $40,000 per year for 30 years. Depending on where you live, that figure may fall within the lower income bracket. (Check out the Pew Research Center's income calculator to find out where your income falls for your area.)
And even may not be enough. Speaking with AARP, wealth advisor Dan Yu points out that spending rarely decreases after retirement. Vacations are taken more often, cost of living continues to climb, and inflation and interest rates can fluctuate. Adding to this financial uncertainty is the fact that people are living longer. On average, men reaching 65 today will live to be 84 years old, women 86, meaning investments much stretch further than in previous generations.
The second criticism is that the FIRE movement is less about prudence and more about privilege. Opponents argue that FIRE successes aren't the result lean living. Plenty of people live frugally out of necessity already. Rather, it is glorified virtual signaling offered by those who already enjoy the benefits of above-average incomes and access to capital.
"What [FIRE evangelists] have embraced is a model of advice-giving that mostly involves telling self-congratulatory stories about how they achieved financial independence by being frugal," Miles Howard wrote at The Outline. "And that's a shitty idea to perpetuate. Because whatever happens in the years ahead, penny-pinching will likely remain a lifestyle enhancement for bourgeois Millennials who posses enough money to enjoy the dividends of being thrifty. For most of us, there are no dividends: just thrift."
By now you're probably either excited to learn more about FIRE strategies or have written the movement off as another online fad. Either response is acceptable; you do you. But when making financial decisions, be sure to seek out professional financial advice, preferably from a fiduciary. FIRE or no, the last person you should seek financial advice from is some online rando.
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Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Scientists do not know what is causing the overabundance of the gas.
- A new study looked to understand the source of methane on Saturn's moon Enceladus.
- The scientists used computer models with data from the Cassini spacecraft.
- The explanation could lie in alien organisms or non-biological processes.
Something is producing an overabundance of methane in the ocean hidden under the ice of Saturn's moon Enceladus. A new study analyzed if the source could be an alien life form or some other explanation.
The study, published in Nature Astronomy, was carried out by scientists at the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University, who looked at composition data from the water plumes erupting on Enceladus.
The particular chemistry, discovered by the Cassini spacecraft which flew through the plumes, suggested a high concentration of molecules that have been linked to hydrothermal vents on the bottom of Earth's oceans. Such vents are potential cradles of life on Earth, according to previous studies. The data from Cassini, which has been studying Saturn after entering its orbit in 2004, revealed the presence of molecular hydrogen (dihydrogen), methane, and carbon dioxide, with the amount of methane presenting a particular interest to the scientists."We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that 'eat' the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?" shared one of the study's lead authors Régis Ferrière, an associate professor in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.
Earth's hydrothermal vents feature microorganisms that use dihydrogen for energy, creating methane from carbon dioxide via the process of methanogenesis.
Searching for such microorganisms known as methanogens on the seafloor of Enceladus is not yet feasible. Likely, it would require very sophisticated deep diving operations that will be the objective of future missions.
So, Ferrière's team took a more available approach to pinpointing the origins of the methane, creating mathematical models that attempted to explain the Cassini data. They wanted to calculate the likelihood that particular processes were responsible for producing the amount of methane observed. For example, is the methane more likely the result of biological or non-biological processes?
They found that the data from Cassini was consistent with either microbial activity at hydrothermal vents or processes that have nothing to do with life but could be quite different from what happens on Earth. Intriguingly, models that didn't involve biological entities didn't seem to produce enough of the gas.
"Obviously, we are not concluding that life exists in Enceladus' ocean," Ferrière stated. "Rather, we wanted to understand how likely it would be that Enceladus' hydrothermal vents could be habitable to Earthlike microorganisms. Very likely, the Cassini data tell us, according to our models."
Still, the scientists think future missions are necessary to either prove or discard the "life hypothesis." One explanation for the methane that does not involve biological organisms is that the gas is the result of a chemical breakdown of primordial organic matter within Enceladus' core. This matter could have become a part of Saturn's moon from comets rich in organic materials.
It marks a breakthrough in using gene editing to treat diseases.
This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.
For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.
The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.
The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.
One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.
Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.
Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).
Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.
A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.
We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.
"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.
What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.
The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.
A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.
This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.
If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.
Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.
"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."