Playing with Fire: Personal Finance Documentary

I watched a great documentary recently called Playing with Fire. The movie follows a couple struggling with figuring out their long-term plans, while interviewing some thought leaders in the Financially Independent, Retire Early (FIRE) community.

While I think many people write off people in this community (check out this Mr. Money Mustache blog post for an intro to the concepts of FIRE), thinking they’re being unreasonably frugal, or it doesn’t relate to them because they live in area where houses are expensive, I think there’s a lot of value of thinking intentionally about your goals for life.

I found it striking how much of the Playing with Fire movie wasn’t focused on the mechanics of automating your finances (I love this quick 12 minute video Ramit Sethi that walks you through automating your personal finances) or investing (e.g. pick a simple mutual or index fund like a Vanguard Target Year Fund and automate contributions), and instead spent most of the time watching this couple work through the emotional process of thinking about what they value in life (time with family and friends, fewer required working years vs. living in a desirable beach town).

It also reminded me of the concept of Lifestyle Inflation, such as do you want a new, luxury car. I’m not here to say new, luxury cars aren’t nice, but it’s a good reminder that once you buy one, it’s hard to go back to a normal car (it’s interesting to see the couple struggle in the movie with selling their BMW to buy a used Honda CR-V). I think the real takeaway is to question where you spend your money and when you spend your money (e.g. Do you want to buy that BMW when you’re 22 years old? 30 years old? Or maybe never?). (See also Ramit’s great concept of Money Dials, where you focus on spending money on the stuff you love, and work to be frugal in the other areas of your life.)

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