Is Suze Orman Right About FIRE?

Three mornings a week I drop my children off at school and head directly to the gym. My neck and back are forever tight and achy, but I find that a quick jaunt on the elliptical machine loosens my muscles and my mind. In the beginning I listened to music and pounded out the minutes with Linkin Park. Then I discovered a few podcasts that introduced me to so many amazing ideas. Those three days of the week, when my children aren’t underfoot, I can focus on the voices and ideas being fed directly into my ears.

I have a few favorites that I listen to without fail, but every once in awhile I search for something new. This week I ventured into the Afford Anything podcasts and listened intently to the “Why I Hate the Fire Movement” podcast.

Although I didn’t agree with everything Suze Orman had to say in that podcast I did agree with a lot of it. My grandmother lived to the ripe old age of ninety-four. She lived on her own, in an apartment with little more than an aide to cook her lunch and dinner two to three times a week. I can only hope that I am lucky enough to live that long in such great health with such an active and strong mind. My luck hasn’t been that great so far.

My grandmother loved to watch the news and she loved to debate. Sometimes we agreed, but often we did not. No matter how much we challenged each other’s thoughts we always walked away with love in our hearts. I loved to hear the conviction with which we shared her opposing thoughts. Until the very end her arguments were well constructed and sound.

In the last few years of her life my grandmother went back and forth between her house, the hospital and a rehabilitation center. Over and over again she rebounded from her bouts of illness and made her way back home and while she enjoyed living on her own she was often quite lonely.

My grandmother and I shared a deep connection. Many times when I thought about her the phone would ring and there she was on the other end. Telling me she “wasn’t dead yet” and that “she hadn’t talked to me in awhile.” Even if I had called her earlier in the week to chat. I would give anything to give her a call right now and tell her how much I miss hearing her voice or the cackle she made whenever my kids did anything to amuse her.

I learned so many lessons from my grandmother. She was my money mentor and although I’m not sure she ever listened to Suze Orman she certainly echoed her sentiments. She taught me to use my money wisely. She taught me to save. Above all else my grandmother didn’t understand why people used credit cards if they couldn’t afford to pay off their bill each month. She lived in a time before credit cards. In a time when layaway meant you had to earn and save enough to buy the item you coveted.

While my grandmother never wanted to admit she was aging I sometimes wonder if she would have lived longer in a place that assists the elderly. On her own she failed to feed herself as often as should and lacked social interactions, but the truth is she couldn’t afford to move into a nice retirement community.

When she turned ninety my dad met with a financial planner who said she could only live five years in the retirement home where she wanted to go. It was a nice place, but not extravagant by any means. My grandmother had spent her life living frugally and saving money, yet when the end was near she was told her half million would barely cover half a decade.

It was unclear what would happen if she outlived her money, but one thing is certain. She wouldn’t have been able to stay at the place after they sucked up her $500,000.

Luck was on my grandmother’s side. She lived a long and healthy life, but what if she had been sick sooner? What if she hadn’t been able to live alone in those last few years? Perhaps long term care insurance would have been the answer. But like all insurance you are hedging your bets and paying a hefty price while praying you don’t get sick enough to need care. When do you purchase insurance and what do you do if you have illnesses that prevent you from attaining coverage?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think Suze Orman made pertinent points in saying that in old age we often need much more money than we might expect when we are young and healthy. You might not think a ninety year old woman would need more than half a million dollars, but as you wind down your life do you really want to spend it in a subpar facility?

I particularly liked Suze Orman’s comments about searching for a job you enjoy. I love how she talked about Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Elon Musk continuing to work even though money was no longer a worry. I know many in the fire community thought this sounded elitist but I disagree. Some of these people are shining examples of those who could have walked away decades ago.

I do think that Suze Orman misunderstood some aspects of the FIRE movement, and her delivery was far from ideal, but in her defense the RE portion of FIRE stands for “retire early”. Perhaps we need a new term for FIRE. Something that indicates the desire to continue to work and contribute to society, not just step away from it all, which is what many people think about when they think about retiring.

While I know Suze Orman makes a ridiculous amount of money selling her books and television shows I still think her message in this podcast is relevant and important. None of us can project how healthy we will be or how long we may live. While it is certainly important to live for today we wouldn’t want to make the mistake of believing we may never need more money than we initially projected.

6 thoughts on “Is Suze Orman Right About FIRE?”

  1. Such a good example of why having more money than we think we need is never a bad idea. I hope to live a long and mobile life, but I don’t want to get to a point where life COULD still be good, but isn’t, because I don’t have the funds for it. Of course, I’m not sure we need to prepare for Suze‘s scenarios of $30k/month assisted living, but definitely we should plan for well more than zero.

    Ps – you were one of my very first PF bloggers that I followed way back in the day, and Revanche tipped me off that you’d written this post. So good to hear your thoughts again!

    • Hi Angela —

      Revanche told me about your conversation. The fact that anyone even remembered my blog was the whole reason I decided to write again! So thank you for mentioning it to her. I do hope to get back to writing again. I started this blog in 2005 during a very dark time in my life and when I quit writing it did feel like a piece of me was missing. Over the years I’ve considered starting it up again, but I’ve never made it a priority. We’ll see if I can make it stick this time.

      I took a look at your blog and enjoyed reading your weekly roundups written by female bloggers. I am always amazed by how many women know so little about their money. It saddens me. I don’t read many PF blogs these days (just a handful) but I’ve added yours to my rotation.

      Thanks for reaching out to me!

  2. I feel strongly that in our later years, we’ll need to form our own communities to help each other out because I don’t know how everyone can afford the kind of assisted living that doesn’t abuse their elders. I’m not quite sure how to make it happen but I am determined that we’ll find our way!

    • Isn’t that the truth. My grandmother had a good deal of money for her age, but at the end she didn’t have enough to stay in a nice facility. She was also fearful of running out of money at the very end; a fear that is certainly warranted. It’s still unclear if my other grandmother died (many years ago) from a ‘poorly run” facility. They said she had a fall, but based on the bruises my dad wasn’t certain that was the truth. I like your attitude, but I’m definitely not as hopeful as you are about finding a solution before we’ll need it!

  3. Long time follower, I keep it in my Bloglovin feed so I don’t lose it! I’m in the heart of FIRE country living in CO. Certainly her advice to think about the less ideal future and have a plan for it is wise whether you’re part of the FIRE movement or not!

    • Thanks for dropping in to leave a comment and for keeping me in your feed reader! I hope to write more after a very long absence.


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