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I started investing when I was 24 and still in law school, after reading "The Wealthy Barber." I started index investing when I was 27, after finding "The Armchair Millionaire" website. I was paying off my student loans aggressively because I hated debt. But I didn't really think about FIRE seriously until I was 29.

A bit of background: I absolutely hated studying engineering. I liked law a little better, but because my legal speciality was so heavy on the engineering, it just wasn't much fun. While I was in school, I was constantly told that it would get better when I started working. Well, it didn't. I'm 33 now and I *still* don't like the subject matter much more than when I started! I realized that people telling me, "Work hard in school and you'll have it made" were lying. Deferred gratification led to more deferred gratification -- I did stuff because it would look good on my resume, because it would be good at the "next step" in my career, every reason except "because I want to." (I'm sure that if I kept it up, I would end up buried in the best cemetary because it would look good on my resume).

Anyway, in a moment of desperation during my lunch hour at work in 1999 I typed in "retire early" in Yahoo! and it took me to intercst's site, which led me to TMF. And it was like a light bulb went off. Now I had a goal and a reason to save and invest. And yes, it was OK to not want to work until I dropped. I needed that permission (and still am working on workaholic tendencies).

I've been lucky enough to have a nice paying job, and despite a few slip-ups (e.g., the house that I shouldn't have bought), I think I'm doing OK. No debt except for the mortgage, saving around 35-40% of gross, employer match to the 401k, maxing out the IRA, e-fund, etc. I hope to downshift when I reach the $1 million mark (by the time I'm 40, at least that's what I'm shooting for), work part time (because it's still a great way to make lots of money fast) and follow my passions (e.g., writing LOTS, running, reading, cooking/entertaining, knitting, exploring, public radio, music, arts, etc. Maybe even do some personal coaching and teaching, for fun AND for pay) the rest of the time. I do some freelance writing now and oh my goodness, I'm having a blast with that.

I consider myself very lucky that I'm able to do what I do for a living. But I also know that as far as my personal identity goes, I'm an artist and not a lawyer nor an engineer. I'm still dealing with the fact that I will always be considered a little different (e.g., childfree, wanting to live alone no matter what), but I've already tried doing what everyone else thinks I "should" do for most of my life and that has only resulted in me feeling like I'm suffocating and choking. It's not worth it. That's what FIRE is about, isn't it -- being what YOU want to be.

Anyway, for me it's not just about the numbers for FIRE. It's the whole mindset. Without it, I think it would be all too easy to fall back into the work-till-65+ trap. They don't call those fancy doo-dads "trappings" for nothing.

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