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Sacrificing FIRE for 'desire'

Dogen’s been investing for a long time. In fact, he first made headlines back in 2012 for championing the “financial independence, retire early” (FIRE) movement by retiring at the age of 34 with a $3 million net worth.

He’s since been living off his passive income from stocks, bonds, and real estate — but after paying cash for a recently remodeled home on a triple-wide lot, he says about five years’ worth of progress has been lost.

Dogen says in 2023 his passive income was tracking to generate about $380,000 a year. But after purchasing a new home in the pricey San Francisco Bay Area, he now expects it to decline to about $230,000 — which he claims is no longer enough to cover his family of four’s living expenses.

Starting in September, when his daughter starts attending preschool full-time, Dogen expects the family expenses to hit $288,396 a year. Using a 24% effective tax rate, he says he’s left with $174,800 in net passive income — $113,200 short of what he’ll need in the fall.

He and his wife plan that one of them, or both of them, will get day jobs or do some consulting to make up the difference, but he worries about re-entering the labor market after over a decade. He says to cover the family’s expected expenses (without cutting back on any areas), they would need to make about $420,000 a year before taxes.

That said, Dogen still plans to reach FIRE status again within three to five years.

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Is the Financial Samurai being too greedy?

For many people, raising a family of four on such a high income sounds like achieving the American dream. But is Dogen the victim of a high cost of living or lifestyle creep?

Dogen’s annual budget includes $80,400 for tuition at a private Mandarin immersion school for his two kids, $68,400 for housing costs, $24,000 for health care, $40,000 in potential 401(k) contributions and $26,400 in food (including weekly date nights). He also has $16,800 set aside for vacations.

He admits there are some areas he could cut back on, but maintains that it’s a reasonable and comfortable lifestyle for a family of four in a big city.

Readers on the Financial Samurai blog post seemed to have some mixed feelings.

“Your $264,000 of “basic living expenses” is NOT because you live in an expensive city. It’s due to lifestyle creep,” one commenter wrote.

Another, who says they’re a 60-year-old teacher nearing retirement, wrote about the importance of living conservatively and avoiding greed.

“I am heading off this morning for marketing at four different stores to get the best deal I can for monthly food shopping. I listed two items to sell on Poshmark and am making my own yogurt in an [Instant Pot]. That is what this multimillionaire is doing this morning.”

However, another reader defends Dogen’s spending in one of the costliest cities in America.

“The budget shown here is not out of line with what other Bay Area families have to aspire to if they want an upper-middle-class lifestyle.”

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About the Author

Serah Louis

Serah Louis

Reporter

Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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