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Thought we’d try something a little different in this post for those of you interested in the journey to FIRE (Financial Independence / Retire Early).
It’s time for a little analogy on how a hero’s journey is similar to the path to FIRE!
You might notice that in a good number of the hero stories and movies out there a pattern seems to take place. Well, that’s because there’s actually a twelve-step plan they like to follow.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the blueprint for these important storytelling moments. No, don’t leave this post yet – I’ll go through these twelve steps with you.
But more importantly, I’m going to take you through how that pattern and how it relates to the path to FIRE.
In this case, our comparison will be about one of my childhood (Ok, and adulthood!) superheroes…
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
So, web-heads, open up your minds and let me take you into the world of Spidey along with me, Jim from Route to Retire. Step by step, we’ll walk the twelve steps common to a world of heroes everywhere…
1) The Ordinary World
The hero is seen in his/her everyday life
Spider-Man: Peter Parker lived with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May as a “normal” kid in Queens, New York. He’s still in school, a smart kid, and enjoys science.
Journey to FIRE: Jim from Route to Retire was just a normal guy (depends who you ask!) growing up in Cleveland. He enjoyed computers and technology and got a job in the IT field where he’s worked for the past 19 years.
He bought a nice house, got married to the lovely Mrs. R2R, and had an awesome daughter. He went to work every day “making the donuts” even though things were starting to get old after a handful of years.
2) The Call to Adventure
The initiating incident of the story
Spider-Man: While at a science exhibit, Peter ends up getting bit by a radioactive spider (what the what?!!!). He soon realizes that he’s gained the agility and strength similar to that of a spider. And, even cooler, he finds out he can stick to walls and ceilings.
Remember how tech-savvy I mentioned Peter is? Well, he uses his smarts to develop web shooters on cuffs he wears on his wrists. Genius!
Peter then creates a “Spider-Man” costume with the intentions of using his newfound abilities to become a masked wrestler and TV star.
Journey to FIRE: Jim has been bitten by a spider before, but unfortunately never got anything cool from it, other than a rash. However, he did have his own call to adventure when he stumbled across the eye-opening book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”
Wait, what?! You don’t have to work in the rat race until you die? Incredible!
Jim got the itch (not from the rash), bought a rental property and lived in it while fixing it up. Then he got tenants that moved in for the next 9 years! That’s almost a super-power in itself!
3) Refusal of the Call
The hero experiences some hesitation to answer the call
Spider-Man: While coming back from a TV appearance, Peter sees a burglar running from a security guard. The guard yells for Peter to stop the bad guy, but Peter lets him run by. His thoughts are that it’s not his job to be catching the criminals.
Journey to FIRE: Jim stopped doing anything other than normal saving after that first rental property. Why? He was just too busy to learn more about it. So he just let time pass.
4) Meeting with the Mentor
The hero gains the supplies, knowledge, and confidence needed to commence the adventure
Spider-Man: Unfortunately, this turns out to be a huge mistake. He later learns that that same criminal who got away ends up killing his Uncle Ben.
With great power, comes great responsibility.
Those were the wise words that Uncle Ben set upon Peter Parker in the Spider-Man movie. As an important note, in the original comics, the words were never actually spoken by Uncle Ben. Instead, it was the omniscient narrator telling us those memorable words… sad but true.
Ironically, as much as Peter admired and loved his uncle, he didn’t realize just how important a teacher Ben was to him until after he was gone.
Journey to FIRE: Jim continued to do the “same old” every day in the rat race for the next few years until a major change occurred.
Baby R2R was born.
And what a miracle she was. He loved every second of being around her… until he had to go back to work. Yuck. He was miserable.
After a couple years, Jim realized there had to be a way out of this mess of working for the rest of his life.
And that’s when he stumbled on the Retire by 40 blog by Joe Udo. Here’s a guy who’s around the same age, in the IT field, with a kid around the same age as Jim’s daughter… and he’s getting out. Out of the working world.
Joe became a mentor without even knowing it. Once Jim latched on to Joe’s inspiration, he found his way to the FIRE community and the possibilities that can grow from that.
5) Crossing the First Threshold
The hero commits wholeheartedly to the adventure
Spider-Man: After Uncle Ben’s death and the realization that Peter could have stopped the man who killed him, things changed for him. Big time.
Peter held himself responsible for his death and decided that he would keep his identity hidden and fight crime. It may not bring his uncle back, but he had the power to stop the bad guys. He refused to let any other criminals harm another innocent person.
Da-da-da-dahhh! Spider-Man become a superhero!
Journey to FIRE: Finding the FIRE community opened up a completely new world for Jim. He started reading, learning, and taking action.
Then, without realizing it, he did one of the smartest things he could do – he started a personal finance blog. This turned out to be a great opportunity to learn even more!
Not only that, but he made friends with others in the community that knew more than he does… and they’re actually willing to help him understand the stuff he doesn’t get.
Knowledge is power and the more you learn, the faster and smarter you can grow. And the faster you grow, the faster you can reach financial independence.
Thanks, fellow PF bloggers! If you don’t have a personal finance blog, please consider creating one. You might not get rich directly from it, but it can indirectly help you grow your finances. Moreover, you might make a little money from it!
Not only did Jim’s blog help to hold him accountable for his actions and finances, but it also became a way to push himself to reach FIRE.
6) Tests, Allies and Enemies
The hero explores the special world, faces trial, and makes friends and enemies
Spider-Man: Yikes – the list of enemies can go on and on for poor Spidey. Here are just SOME of the bad guys always out to get him:
- Doctor Octopus
- Green Goblin
But hey, there were plenty of good guys on the side of our dear boy as well along the way. Here are a few of ’em:
- Gwen Stacy
- Aunt May
- Mary Jane
Journey to FIRE: Even worse than Spider-Man’s enemies, Jim’s faced some crazy enemies…
- The Joneses (hate those guys!)
- The “I Deserve It” Mentality
- The Haters (yeah, they’re out there!)
- Inflation (damn, you rising prices!!)
Don’t worry, though, Jim’s got some allies in his corner as well:
- Supportive family
- The Game Plan
- A job he’s no longer into (nothing pushes you more!)
- The FIRE community
- PF besties (Steve and Fritz… holla!!!)
7) Approach to the Innermost Cave
The hero nears the center of the story and the special world
Spider-Man: Peter’s worried about his friend Harry Osborn who’s been hopped up on drugs. Norman Osborn, who forgot he used to be the Green Goblin after suffering from amnesia, is standing by his son Harry’s bedside.
When Peter comes in to see Harry, Norman blames Peter for Harry’s problems and suddenly remembers his Green Goblin identity. He comes up with a plan to kidnap Gwen Stacy, the love of Peter’s life, and hold her hostage on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Journey to FIRE: This is the part of the story where Jim learns that it’s really not that complicated to get to FIRE. Earn more money where possible, save a large percentage of your income, and invest in smart investments (like low-cost index funds and real estate rental properties).
The comprehension of using the 4% Rule as a general guideline toward reaching financial independence becomes a jaw-dropper.
8) The Ordeal
The hero faces the greatest challenge yet and experiences death and rebirth
Spider-Man: Spider-Man goes after the Green Goblin as they fight on the bridge. Suddenly the Green Goblin throws her off the Brooklyn Bridge and Spider-Man isn’t able to save her.
At that moment, the one thing Peter cared about is now gone.
Journey to FIRE: Jim struggles as he keeps pushing his way through day after day of a job he’s ready to be done with.
He ends up realizing an important lesson… you can’t trade today’s happiness for tomorrow’s.
What if you don’t actually make it until tomorrow? All the hard work will be for naught. So, our hero works on setting a good balance of enjoying today while still planning heartily for tomorrow.
In the meantime, Jim tries to make the most of his job… but keeps a countdown widget on his phone to keep his spirit going.
The hero experiences the consequences of surviving death
Spider-Man: After the Green Goblin had killed Gwen, all Peter could think about was getting revenge.
Journey to FIRE: The reward is yet to come for our hero, but he’s closing in on it fast. Jim became a millionaire in 2017 and he’ll be quitting his job at the end of 2019. With the power of financial independence, he’ll be able to gain his time and freedom back.
10) The Road Back
The hero returns to the ordinary world or continues to an ultimate destination
Spider-Man: The joyful memories of Gwen and the sorrow he felt after her death drove our hero to carry on. Because of that, he kept after the Goblin with the sole intent of making him suffer.
Journey to FIRE: As Jim works his way toward his goals, he knows there will be some challenges. The company will likely ask him to stay and put some tempting offers on the table. In order for him to decline, he’ll have to use his mighty power of realizing that more money isn’t always the answer.
11) The Resurrection
The hero experiences a final moment of death and rebirth so they are pure when they re-enter the ordinary world
Spider-Man: When Spider-Man finally gets a hold of the Green Goblin, he crushes him one punch after another. All the while, he’s screaming at him about losing the girl he loved.
Journey to FIRE: Jim realizes that money isn’t everything (it’s not, right?). Therefore, he plots a new plan and a new adventure.
In 2020, the R2R family will be uprooting and moving to Panama. It may sound crazy, but between the perfect weather, beaches, and laid-back lifestyle, it sounds crazy NOT to give it a try.
12) The Return
The hero returns with something to improve the ordinary world
Spider-Man: Spidey is a true hero and stops himself from killing the Goblin. However, when the Goblin then tries to hit Spider-Man in the back with his glider, Spider-Man dodges it. The glider speeds by and right into the chest of the Green Goblin himself, killing him.
Journey to FIRE: FIRE is important, but Jim realizes there’s something more. Being able to change someone else’s life who might be stuck in the rat race as well is a huge driving force. Because of that, Route to Retire will continue on to open up the minds of others around the world.
So what does this teach us? Be a superhero and make FIRE a possibility? Eh, maybe… maybe not But it’s still pretty cool regardless!
Truth be told, Joe from Retire by 40 reached out to me early to propose a chain post based on a hero’s journey. I thought it sounded like fun, so here we are.
Here are the posts out there so far on the hero’s journey to FIRE:
- Retire by 40: Why FIRE Is Such a Compelling Story
- Dividends Diversify: FIRE Hero’s Journey
- Route to Retire: Why Spider-Man’s Path is Like the Journey to FIRE
- Mr. Tako Escapes: Darth Vader And The Path To FIRE
- Lazy Man and Money: Serenity and My FIRE Hero’s Journey
- Winning Personal Finance: Want Your Life to Be Movie Worthy? Achieve Financial Freedom!
- Freedom is Groovy: A Groovy Hero’s Journey
If you’re interested in joining us in this fun chain post game, here’s all you need to do…
1) Write a post on your FIRE journey. Does it fit the hero’s journey pattern?
2) Backlink to the articles previously written in this chain-based series (e.g., Joe’s article plus any other bloggers who have published after that. All of the links in the chain coming together, see how that works?). You can check back Joe’s post for the latest links.
3) Post your article on Twitter with “#FIREherosjourney” and tag any other blogger who’s already in the chain. (Send multiple Tweets, if we get that big).
I hope you enjoyed this change of pace and I’m looking forward to watching this chain post grow! Any other Spidey fans out there?
Thanks for reading!!
8 thoughts on “Why Spider-Man’s Path is Like the Journey to FIRE”
Go man go. Great story. End of 2019 and your new 2020 adventure will be here in a blink of an eye.
I love donuts, but no need to keep making them for me!
A new FIRE friend, Tom
Haha, I was planning on making a dozen donuts for you. But since you’re taking a pass on ’em, you might have just shaved another day off my path to FIRE! Thanks for the help, Tom! 🙂
That’s a lot of details. I like this part best – Jim realizes that money isn’t everything. Money is good, but there are many things better. Your story fits the hero’s journey story line pretty well too. You’re almost there! I’m sure you’ll love ER. Panama will be a new beginning. It should be very interesting. Thanks for participating!
Yeah, I think got a while I went too far down the FIRE path and was stressing too much about money and not enjoying the present day. I’m back on track though! 🙂
Thanks for the invite on this, Joe!
Panama sounds nice..there are several countries popular in that area for semi or completely retired folks … also Asia where I am based…also Portugal,… and southern Spain or France are popular with Brits…I am from the snow belt too…but north of you …after grad school I just jumped on a plane to the far side of the planet literally with a few bucks in my pocket …did international schools…met my wife…and accidentally became a multi millionaire through real estate … life is good … on the far side – 🙂 Michael CPO (Christian Professionals Overseas)
Congrats to you, Michael! Sounds like you made the right choice for sure by taking that chance!
Great post, and I love the analogy. Are you going to watch the new Avengers when it comes out?
Thanks, Troy – I don’t keep up with that stuff as much as I used to, but I did see the first Avengers movie and loved it. So hopefully I’ll get to see the new one as well… though I’ll probably wait until it finds it way to the streaming platforms or Redbox! 😉