¡FIESTA! (Financially Independent, Economically Sound, and Traveling Abroad)

Rose and I recently formulated a new acronym that we feel better reflects our situation and desires than does the traditional moniker of “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early). The “RE” portion of the FIRE movement acronym doesn’t feel quite right to us in that the term “retire” seems to carry some extra baggage in its connotation. I picture gray-haired gents out on the golf course every day when I ponder what retirement entails. Of course that’s unfair, and hell, I myself have had gray hair since my late 20s, and I do enjoy spending time on the golf course (the disc golf course, that is). But anyway, financial freedom and choice don’t preclude continuing to work, whether for money or not. Rose and I will continue to pursue our passions as they evolve over time, and this very well may sometimes involve paid gigs.

So without the “retire early” portion, we discussed other more relevant terms that resonate better with us. We like the “financial independence” portion, or any other comparable description, such as “financial freedom.” So a term with “FI” as the beginning of a newly-crafted acronym makes sense and makes a new term clearer to those already discussing and using “FI” as a name to capture this desirable state of being.

Among other 3- to 6-letter words that begin with “FI” that we considered was “fiesta,” which Rose suggested one day in mid-September 2020. On a lark I quickly suggested a “backronym” of “Financially Independent, Economically Sound, and Traveling Abroad.” As soon as it came out of mouth, I realized it wasn’t bad, and Rose immediately laughed and gave her seal of approval. We liked how this description was in adjective form across all three aspects, versus the traditional FIRE acronym which according to its standard definition uses a noun and a verb combination.

FIESTA captures the financial independence aspect, and further emphasizes the importance of also being economically sound. I recently enjoyed a Hot Ones video of the famous basketball pro Shaquille O’Neal eating hot wings and trying not to make a face — in this video Shaq describes how when he made his first $1 million, he immediately spent it all. Technically he could have been financially independent for life right then if he managed to keep his annual expenses in check, such as using the 4% rule to pull out $40,000/year for expenses (disregarding the taxes he needed to pay on the original $1 million). But instead, he spent all the money within a few days through buying expensive cars for himself and family members along with a fancy watch. So one could argue that Shaq’s actions weren’t economically sound at that time. He admits as much and not long thereafter recruited a money manager for himself. Of course all worked out well for Shaq because that $1 million was the first of many more millions! In any case, becoming financially independent is different than remaining financially independent, because it takes disciple to stay economically sound.

The final descriptor in FIESTA is reflective of Rose’s and my choices, along with those of many others who are financially independent — specifically, “traveling abroad.” We have loved travel ever since we first met, and for years after living in Stockholm in the late 1990s we’ve pondered returning for long-term stays in Europe or elsewhere outside the USA (now that I’ve visited all 50 US states). Slow travel is a big attraction for us that is made possible through financial freedom and choice, and of course we can save a lot of money through slow travel and can even save money relative to “normal” life in the USA through geographic arbitrage (“geoarbitrage”), where the cost of daily life in many countries is much less than that in the USA.

And importantly, the term “fiesta” is a Spanish word meaning “a festive celebration,” which gives the FIESTA name an appropriately celebratory and festive feel. There have been few times in my life when I’ve felt as joyous and celebratory as when I discovered that I didn’t have to wait until I reached 60 years of age before I stopped needing to earn a regular income. ¡FIESTA!

Clearly there are alternative backronyms one could use for FIESTA, such as changing the “ES” portion to mean “economically secure” or “economically stable” instead, or to take the meaning on a different route, such as “FI Expats, Students, and Travelers Abroad” to highlight much of what we’re covering here in TheEuroFiles blog. Our favorite, though, remains “Financially Independent, Economically Sound, and Traveling Abroad,” and we look forward to FIESTA becoming a commonly-used term for this sub-movement that include geoarbitrage and other travel outside of one’s home country.

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