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Reviewing And Showing Behind The Scenes Of The Playing With Fire Documentary

I was invited to join some of the top financial independence bloggers in a discussion about money, life, and all the fits between. We talked about how to build wealth and how to live on a budget. We were all in town for FinCon, the annual conference of finance bloggers and media.

playing with fire cast
Some of the Playing with FIRE cast with Director (Left to Right: Grant Sabatier, J.D. Roth, Paula Pant, Brad Barrett, Taylor Rieckens, Travis Shakespeare, Chris Hutchins, Kiersten Saunders, Jonathan Mendonsa, Julien Saunders, Scott Rieckens)

But we were actually brought together by an Emmy award-winning crew who are filming a documentary called Playing with FIRE, about the financial independence retire early movement. The movie will be legit. I can’t wait to see it. I will keep you updated as it changes. I’m looking forward to seeing how this project turns out.

The documentary follows the story of Scott Rieckens (who stumbled on the FIRE movement this February after hearing Mr. Money Mustache can be seen on the Tim Ferris show as he discovers the movement and dives deep into the principles to evolve his relationship with money and life. He is inspired to take control of his finances, learn about financial independence, and find ways to maximize his happiness.

I am going to come up with 5 key themes for the conversation. I wanted to share it with you. I hope you try it soon.

playing with FIRE documentary
Mr. 1500, Our Next Life, Mad Fientist, me, Frugalwoods (hidden), J.D. Roth, and Scott Rieckens. Source: Our Next Life

It was one of the best conversations about money I have ever been a part of. I hope we can have more conversations like this in the future because I am glad I was able to be a part of it. After introducing you to the roundtable participants, I will summarize what we talked about below. The roundtable participants discussed topics ranging from their personal philosophies to current events.

None of the people I had met in person before were included with some of my favorites. All of us write about financial independence in different ways. It is fascinating to see how different people approach the same topics.

I tend to write about how to make more money than the other people at the table. I believe that having different perspectives on the same topics helps to create a more engaging experience. The amazing bloggers were included in the conversation. It was an honor to learn from such knowledgeable individuals.


The Roundtable FIRE Crew

J.D. Roth created and writes Get Rich Slowly which was the first personal finance blog I discovered back in college and read daily. He was the first person I ever read on a topic and he started writing about it.

J.D. After selling Get Rich Slowly and launching Money Boss, he bought it back and will be redesigning it. He wants to create a space for readers to learn how to build wealth in a sustainable way. I am excited to see what he does with it. I’m sure it will be something amazing because he has a lot of potential. I met J.D. for the first time. After hearing so much about him from my friends, I was really excited to meet him. We had 30 minutes to chat before the filming started about a lot of topics. I’m glad we had the chance to connect because it was great getting to know her better. It was a pleasure to chat with one of my favorites. I can’t wait to put the advice they gave me into action because I feel inspired and motivated after our conversation.

Brandon created and writes Mad Fientist and has taught me a lot about both the mindset and the numbers behind early retirement. I like to watch tv and I am a big fan. I show my support by following their work. He is the sweetest, most humble guy ever and he offers an insane amount of value. He is an inspiration to many aspiring entrepreneurs. This was the first time he met Brandon in person and he was previously on the podcast. It was great to get to know him better after putting a face to his name. We spent some time talking before we went to the basketball game. It was a great way to get to know each other.

Grant Sabatier

Brandon Mad Fientist

Grant Sabatier

Grant Sabatier

Brandon Mad Fientist

Brandon Mad Fientist
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    Liz who created and writes Frugalwoods is an incredible blogger and hands down the best frugality writer online. She moved from a big city life to a 66-acre farm in Vermont and I followed her story for a few years. I’m thankful that she shares her stories and photos so that others can experience her journey as well, because I can only imagine how fulfilling it must be to live off the land. I was stuck in the Houston airport and read about her move. I wondered if I could ever be that brave after she made such a bold move. If you want to live simply or save money, then you should definitely check her out. She has tricks to help you reach your goals. Her book is coming out next year and I am excited to read it. She’s created a world that I can’t wait to dive into.

    Carl who created and writes 1500 days writes so genuinely and transparently about his journey to retire early that his blog is addicting. I couldn’t stop reading the first time I read it. I read the story from cover to cover in one sitting, and MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE I like tracking the growth of his investments because we have similar net worths. It has been helpful to compare our investment strategies. I stumbled on 1500 days last year and was excited that Carl was able to retire in April. He challenges himself to learn new things in retirement. He said that he is in the best shape of his life. He mentioned that he was looking forward to the next challenge and achieving even greater success. I met his wife, who is the community manager for Bigger Pockets, an awesome real estate blog, and community. She was knowledgeable about the real estate market, and I found her insights to be very useful. They are both very cool.

    Tanja who created and writes Our Next Life just recently unmasked her and her husband after retiring at the ages of 38 and 41. Tanja used to write as Ms. We talked about her writing career and the projects she was working on. I’ve only recently checked out her website, but I’m looking forward to reading more. I am excited to explore what else she has to offer after I discovered her work. She and her husband are very focused on keeping their expenses low. They are trying to identify areas where they can save more by tracking their spending. They have their own spreadsheets to keep track of their progress, which is awesome. They can learn from each other’s successes and failures by sharing their spreadsheets.

    Scott Rieckens is the creator of the concept for playing with fire and is the main character in the film. We answered Scott’s questions as well as brought up our own. We all agreed at the end of the discussion that we had a productive conversation. We didn’t agree on everything but we had a great conversation. We were able to come to an understanding on some topics despite our differing opinions.

    We covered a ton of ground in 2 hours, so I’m definitely going to miss things, and since I am only relying on my memory (I really hope the entire footage of the roundtable will be released!), I want to make sure I don’t misinterpret anyone’s viewpoints. I will share the five key themes that I took away from what was shared. I want to provide some insight into the discussion that took place by sharing these key themes. Continue after the awesome group pic! It was great having everyone together and catching up on what’s been happening in our lives.

    playing with FIRE filming
    Carl from Mr. 1500, Brandon from Mad Fientist, me, Liz from Frugalwoods, Scott from Playing with FIRE, J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly, Tanja from Our Next Life


    5 Themes of the FIRE Roundtable

    1. “Savings Rate” is the most important concept in financial independence

    J.D. The conversation began with Tanja sharing how she and her husband kept separate spreadsheets to track their financial independence progress, followed by how the most important concept in achieving FI is your savings rate. I loved this! We talked about how each of us discovered and committed to work towards financial independence after ruminating on the concept of savings rate. It was inspiring to hear everyone’s stories and realize that we can achieve financial freedom regardless of our current situation. Two of my favorites were from Carl and Liz.

    After discovering it online, reading about it for a few hours, and committing to it immediately, Carl had an ultimate “ah ha” moment. He knew he had to be part of this new journey because he was so inspired by what he read. His wife was also on the plane. Liz’s FI story started in a Boston coffee shop with an expensive latte and a simple question from her husband – “Are you happy?” My story begins with MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE MzE I worked hard to change my circumstances because I was determined to make something of myself.

    The simple thread running through all of our stories was that we all wanted more and that there was more. We all dreamed of making our lives richer and more exciting. We worked hard to cut our expenses, make more money, and save as much money as possible. We were able to achieve our long-term financial goals by following a strict budget.

    I was hoping we would get into the nitty-gritty and share our savings rates (I saved between 60-80% of my income during my journey from broke to millionaire and FI in 5 years), but we didn’t get that granular. We did, however, all agree that the higher your savings rate, the faster you will reach financial independence and that most of the math behind early retirement strategies is pretty simple. At a time when the average American is only saving 3.1% of their income, the message is simple: save as much as much money as you can.


    personal savings rate in United States
    Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis


    2. But financial independence is about a lot more than numbers

    You need to maximize your finances if you want to reach FI. You should maximize income and minimize expenses to get there quicker. Tools like fancy spreadsheets and early retirement calculators are helpful, but at its core, FI is about a lot more than the numbers. It is an intensely personal process to chase and create financial independence. It is important to remember that you are not alone, no matter where you are on your journey to financial independence. We all agreed that financial independence is a journey and that early retirement is a destination. Financial independence can be achieved through a variety of different methods, and it is something we should all strive for. It is not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to find a path to success that works for you.

    Financial independence is finding freedom from worrying about money. Being financially secure and free to make life choices without worrying about money is a state of being. But as J.D. Not worrying about money is one form of not worrying about money. J.D. wrote one of my all-time favorite articles on the six stages of financial freedom, an essential read that he referenced in the conversation. Financial independence is a process of self- exploration and discovery. The rewards of financial independence can be life-changing, despite the fact that it is not a destination or an end goal. It is possible to be an addiction to money in another form, without stopping to smell the roses. This can lead to an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, but it is important to remember to take time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor and not become too focused on the financial pursuit itself. Remember, that money is not the goal, time is.

    3. Financial independence is a privilege

    It’s an important topic that isn’t discussed nearly enough and Liz brought it up early in the conversation. To reach financial independence is a privilege. It is a privilege that allows one to be free from the constraints of day-to-day life and leave a lasting legacy for future generations. Many people around the world don’t make enough money to be able to save enough to reach financial independence and retire early. Many people are struggling to make ends meet. Many people are working multiple jobs to make ends meet. It is difficult to retire early if you make less than $20,000 a year. Many people making more than $20,000 a year don’t have enough money to retire early.

    Early retirement is only one of many stages of financial freedom. It is important to remember that early retirement isn’t the only way to achieve financial freedom and that there are many other ways to gain control over their finances. Saving as much as you can so you can escape living paycheck to paycheck is one stage and with it comes a certain level of freedom from worrying about money. But as Tanja brought up, the median household income in the United States is $57,617, so many households, in fact, do have the opportunity to save more money. Financial independence and early retirement are not possible for everyone. It is important to remember that hard work is required to reach these goals.

    2017 median household income United States
    Source: United States Census Bureau

    4. While happiness is important, it’s not enough

    A common theme of the fire movement is that happiness is the goal and that we should all do our best to maximize our units of happiness per dollar. Living frugally, investing wisely, and looking for opportunities to increase our savings rate can be achieved. We talked a lot about this idea and all seemed to agree that happiness is self-serving and not enough. The pursuit of true contentment is a more meaningful goal.

    We pushed beyond happiness as the goal. We appreciated the present moment and all of life’s possibilities. Carl recommended focusing on “freedom;” Liz recommended fulfillment, which I think is a better goal than happiness and a term I really loved. “Meaning” and “fulfillment” can help us lead a more satisfying life. Is the goal fulfillment? Fulfillment is a journey, not a destination, so it’s important to find joy in every step along the way.

    J.D. I think purpose is also a deeper goal than happiness. The pursuit of happiness was the focus of the discussion. J.D. It can be hard for people to find their life’s purpose, even though it’s essential for them to do so. He said that it’s important to be open minded and explore new possibilities, but also to remain true to yourself and your core values. Money is simply a reflection of who you are and there are a lot of people who focus on making as much money as possible or chasing money or success, which are all external and validation by the outside world. Money and success should be a reflection of your values and goals, not the other way around, for those who have this mindset.

    It’s inevitably easier to chase success or money than to stop, look inside, and ask the tougher questions like – What do I like? I don’t know what I really love, but that’s part of the fun. What makes me happy? What is my passion? I have always been driven to pursue my dreams and find out what makes me unique, and discovering my passion has been a major part of this journey. What is my reason? Knowing my “why” will help me to stay focused on the goals that are most important to me and live a life of intention and meaning. Those are the most important questions on the path to a fulfilling life. To find a life that is meaningful to us, we must first reflect on what values and goals we want to pursue. How much money is enough is determined by those questions. The amount of money needed to feel secure and content varies from person to person.

    One topic that we touched on but didn’t have enough time to explore was how reaching FI gives you more time to give back and create a better world. This is an important conversation that should continue, as it can lead to interesting ideas. This is an important topic that I have been exploring a lot in my conversations and work with Vicki Robin, author of Your Money or Your Life. You have more time to teach once you reach financial independence. You can use your knowledge, experience and resources to help others. The mission of giving back and sharing how to reach FI was shared by all of the Bloggers at the Roundtable.

    5. FIRE has the power to change society

    Fire has the power to change society and allow people to live richer, freer, and fuller lives. The FIRE movement has already had an impact on people’s lives and will continue to do so in the future. We all agreed that the FI movement is a response to an increasingly-fragmented, technology-addicted, consumerist society. Many people are looking to find a way to be more intentional with their money and the FI community provides resources and support for doing so.

    I brought up the stat that the average American watches over 5 hours of TV per day and as a society, we are checking out – spending more time recovering from our jobs and long commutes. As more people are looking for a way out and a path to escape the worries of money, searches for financial independence and early retirement continue to rise. The trend shows that more and more people are aware of the importance of financial freedom and are taking the necessary steps to achieve it.

    early retirement financial independence google search data
    Google Searches 2013-2017 for “early retirement” and “financial independence”


    The data is encouraging. We will see the results of the search. There are a lot of people talking about fire. We have voices with unique stories, strategies and a desire to share. Our goal is to inspire, empower and bring together a community of changemakers. Financial independence allows for more freedom, meaning, passion, fulfillment, purpose, or time. Financial independence can allow you to take control of your life, allowing you to pursue whatever you want.

    I was included in the documentary about financial independence. I hope to inspire others to take control of their financial futures by sharing my story. The film is going to reach a lot of people who don’t know anything about this path. I’m curious to see what impact the film will have on viewers. I will be sharing it with as many people as possible. I can’t wait to let everyone know about this new opportunity. It can change your life. I’m proof that anyone can do it with hard work and dedication. Fire is the next level. It’s time to take it to the next level.

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