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Petey: I think it is important when setting out on the road to FIRE to aim at the right goal and to be motivated in the right way towards that end.

I understand what you're saying. But the fact is that all the assumptions in the world aren't going to give you a precise or accurate answer to the question of what your exact goal should be. You can run the spreadsheets and make various return assumptions, but you can't be sure that you'll end up with a million dollars at the end of 40 years just by investing the magic value of $3,561.49 each year (unadjusted for inflation, 8 percent return). What if you don't make 8 percent? Oops. And I promise you that whatever benchmark you pick, you will not make exactly that amount.

So what frustrates me about the whole exercise is that people are looking for artificial precision about something that (for wanna-bes) is way in the future. You can't get that precision. The sooner people realize that, the sooner they can make assumptions they're comfortable with.

It seems to me the best solution is to save all that you possibly can and see where you end up, rather than saving less and hoping that your projections work out favorably.

By all means, understand what the numbers tell you. But also understand that you can't realistically hope for the perfect world in which those exact numbers will be the right ones.

That was the reason why I posted originally suggesting what I felt was a better comparison than comparing net worth to gross pay, moving the measurement instead to something of real value to those interested in FIRE like a comparison of net worth to the multiple of your planned FIRE budget.

Ordinarily I'd agree. But your ratio is just the reciprocal of the withdrawal rate needed to pay expenses, and so discussions of your ratio will necessarily involve the same discussions about SWR that are going on elsewhere. People have fanatical responses to this discussion, and reason flies out the door. I agree with you completely that assuming that 25x/4% is the right answer is foolhardy. But others disagree, and they react the same way that anybody does if you call them foolhardy.

The helpful way to do this is to present data and analysis and let people make their own decisions. I cringe every time somebody makes a value judgment at the end of their analysis that purports to apply to every single person who will ever retire early. I hate when posts make references to particular individual posters and their theories - it makes it sound as if followers are preparing for jihad against each other. TMF is supposed to be about people helping other people, not people cramming help down other people's throats - even with the best of intentions.

Could we just try it once? Could we all agree to present data and factual conclusions while leaving out the usual snubs toward existing studies and individuals? If we can, we would distinguish this board favorably from those that have come before us.

dan
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