Pouring water on the FIRE movement: Experts say retiring at 35 is impossible for most — and even if you can, the cost is high

When Mississauga-based CPA Danish Ghazi first heard about FIRE, the movement to achieve financial independence and retire early, he was intrigued.Ghazi grew up in an immigrant family where money was always tight, so, as his friend explained the concept, he was inspired. He started researching FIRE, coming across blogs by people who had retired in their 30s and wanted to help others do the same.While some FIRE devotees take frugality and investment to an extreme — with the goal of retiring significantly earlier than others and living off their investments for decades to come — Ghazi said his plan isn’t necessarily to retire early, but to achieve financial independence. He wants his investments to provide a safety net and provide flexibility to do things like travel with his family. Ghazi enjoys his job as a CPA, and also has a personal finance YouTube channel, so he isn’t quitting work any time soon. “It’s all about giving myself that option if I ever need it,” he said.There are many stories of people who have scrimped, saved, invested and retired early, some as early as 35. These stories sound idyllic, and their tellers inspirational — do what I did, and you too can have this life. But it’s not that simple. Finance experts say the concept has both positives and pitfalls.Ian Calvert, vice-president and principal at HighView Financial Group, said there are different interpretations of the FIRE model, from moderate to extreme.There are success stories of those who have taken the more extreme route, said Calvert, but it’s important to remember there are certain prerequisites to this lifestyle.“You have to have … super aggressive savings right out of the gate,” he said. In other words, if you graduate from university with debt, or you don’t have financial help from your parents, you’re starting with a handicap that likely means you will not be able to retire at 35 no matter how aggressively you save.Jason Heath, managing director at Objective Financial Partners, agreed.“It’s not attainable for a huge part of the population,” said Heath. No matter how many times you turn down the latte or avocado toast, you can’t make up for large financial setbacks in just a matter of a few years.Another misconception about FIRE is the idea that once you reach retirement, the rest of your life will be a financial breeze. While that may be the case for a lucky few, for most, the discipline that got them there must continue as they are essentially relying on a fixed income for the foreseeable future.Those who do retire significantly early will miss out on paying into pension plans, noted Calvert, meaning they won’t have the pensions in later life that others do. They’ll also be missing out on their prime earning years, as many people see their salaries and bonuses go up toward the middle or end of their careers.Heath said the longer people are retired, the more opportunity there is for things to go wrong, whether it’s a stock market downturn or a medical emergency.Some millennials have been lucky so far in the market or in real estate, but they can’t assume that growth will continue unchecked, he said.Jessica Moorhouse, financial educator and host of the More Money podcast, said it can also be hard on people’s mental health to be extremely frugal, even for just a few years. Her advice? Plan for tomorrow, but live for today.Heath worries that when people choose “frugality at all costs” in order to reach certain milestones, they make lifestyle sacrifices they will regret later. He knows some people who succeeded in retiring early, got bored and went back to work. Financial independence doesn’t have to be about retirement; it can help people make a career change or go back to school.As FIRE becomes more popular, more of its followers are realizing just that.Graeme Falco, a CPA and author of the self-published book “Building Wealth And Being Happy: A Practical Guide To Financial Independence” — and the friend who introduced Ghazi to FIRE — said the community has changed and expanded for the better.A decade ago, some FIRE bloggers were like “cult leaders,” he said, and followers took the lifestyle to the extreme. The community could be mocking or judgmental of anyone who didn’t have the discipline to do FIRE a specific way. Now, people are more receptive to different interpretations, he said.Falco doesn’t stop himself from travelling or spending money on things that bring him joy in the short term. His mindset is about finding balance, and building a life he can sustain for a long time. Falco’s first piece of advice to people who want to implement FIRE realistically is to be consistent with their savings. Rather than saving without a plan, Falco said it’s better to save a small amount every month, as the savings add up over time. He also recommends prioritizing bills and savings or investments before setting aside “fun” money for discretionary spending, as opposed to spending on bills and fun before putting money into investments. He a

Pouring water on the FIRE movement: Experts say retiring at 35 is impossible for most — and even if you can, the cost is high

When Mississauga-based CPA Danish Ghazi first heard about FIRE, the movement to achieve financial independence and retire early, he was intrigued.

Ghazi grew up in an immigrant family where money was always tight, so, as his friend explained the concept, he was inspired. He started researching FIRE, coming across blogs by people who had retired in their 30s and wanted to help others do the same.

While some FIRE devotees take frugality and investment to an extreme — with the goal of retiring significantly earlier than others and living off their investments for decades to come — Ghazi said his plan isn’t necessarily to retire early, but to achieve financial independence. He wants his investments to provide a safety net and provide flexibility to do things like travel with his family.

Ghazi enjoys his job as a CPA, and also has a personal finance YouTube channel, so he isn’t quitting work any time soon.

“It’s all about giving myself that option if I ever need it,” he said.

There are many stories of people who have scrimped, saved, invested and retired early, some as early as 35. These stories sound idyllic, and their tellers inspirational — do what I did, and you too can have this life. But it’s not that simple. Finance experts say the concept has both positives and pitfalls.

Ian Calvert, vice-president and principal at HighView Financial Group, said there are different interpretations of the FIRE model, from moderate to extreme.

There are success stories of those who have taken the more extreme route, said Calvert, but it’s important to remember there are certain prerequisites to this lifestyle.

“You have to have … super aggressive savings right out of the gate,” he said. In other words, if you graduate from university with debt, or you don’t have financial help from your parents, you’re starting with a handicap that likely means you will not be able to retire at 35 no matter how aggressively you save.

Jason Heath, managing director at Objective Financial Partners, agreed.

“It’s not attainable for a huge part of the population,” said Heath. No matter how many times you turn down the latte or avocado toast, you can’t make up for large financial setbacks in just a matter of a few years.

Another misconception about FIRE is the idea that once you reach retirement, the rest of your life will be a financial breeze.

While that may be the case for a lucky few, for most, the discipline that got them there must continue as they are essentially relying on a fixed income for the foreseeable future.

Those who do retire significantly early will miss out on paying into pension plans, noted Calvert, meaning they won’t have the pensions in later life that others do. They’ll also be missing out on their prime earning years, as many people see their salaries and bonuses go up toward the middle or end of their careers.

Heath said the longer people are retired, the more opportunity there is for things to go wrong, whether it’s a stock market downturn or a medical emergency.

Some millennials have been lucky so far in the market or in real estate, but they can’t assume that growth will continue unchecked, he said.

Jessica Moorhouse, financial educator and host of the More Money podcast, said it can also be hard on people’s mental health to be extremely frugal, even for just a few years. Her advice? Plan for tomorrow, but live for today.

Heath worries that when people choose “frugality at all costs” in order to reach certain milestones, they make lifestyle sacrifices they will regret later. He knows some people who succeeded in retiring early, got bored and went back to work. Financial independence doesn’t have to be about retirement; it can help people make a career change or go back to school.

As FIRE becomes more popular, more of its followers are realizing just that.

Graeme Falco, a CPA and author of the self-published book “Building Wealth And Being Happy: A Practical Guide To Financial Independence” — and the friend who introduced Ghazi to FIRE — said the community has changed and expanded for the better.

A decade ago, some FIRE bloggers were like “cult leaders,” he said, and followers took the lifestyle to the extreme. The community could be mocking or judgmental of anyone who didn’t have the discipline to do FIRE a specific way. Now, people are more receptive to different interpretations, he said.

Falco doesn’t stop himself from travelling or spending money on things that bring him joy in the short term. His mindset is about finding balance, and building a life he can sustain for a long time.

Falco’s first piece of advice to people who want to implement FIRE realistically is to be consistent with their savings. Rather than saving without a plan, Falco said it’s better to save a small amount every month, as the savings add up over time. He also recommends prioritizing bills and savings or investments before setting aside “fun” money for discretionary spending, as opposed to spending on bills and fun before putting money into investments.

He also lets himself be flexible, and recommends people don’t get “emotionally tied” to saving a specific percentage every month.

“Just by thinking about these things, you’ll be way ahead of where you would be otherwise,” said Falco.

Falco recommends thinking long term about investments, including ETFs, index funds and other diversified investments. He’s not in favour of relying on stock picking, or focusing only on dividend stocks.

Moorhouse said early retirement is hard to achieve, and does not guarantee a “happily ever after” ending.

The simple math that some FIRE evangelists push is not always the best path, said Moorhouse. People need flexibility and a buffer for emergencies, not a strict rule, when it comes to saving and investing.

“You’ll be more likely to succeed with whatever your goal is if you can be flexible and make changes and pivot when you need to.”

Heath said what the average person can learn from FIRE is the principle of setting financial goals, and aiming to spend less than they make to achieve them.

“A lot of the motivation behind FIRE is really good and can help anybody to achieve their financial goals.”

Rosa Saba is a Toronto-based business reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rosajsaba

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Peter Frumusa was no double murderer. Why would police trust a drug dealer nicknamed ‘The Snake’?

When Peter Frumusa heard he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Niagara Falls couple as they slept, he collapsed face-first in the prisoner’s dock, wailing, “I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing.”It took five minutes for his lawyer Leo Adler to pull him to his feet.It took another nine years to prove that Frumusa was telling the truth and set him free.At the time of Frumusa’s trial in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1989, he was a 29-year-old cocaine addict with some shady associates.The murdered couple was retired autoworker Richard (Hop) Wilson and his wife Annie.The Wilsons had been married for less than five months in August 1988, when someone broke into their home on Niagara Parkway clubbed them to death in their beds. Theirs was a marriage of convenience. The Wilsons met in a Niagara Falls nursing home, where Richard, 70, was a patient and Annie, 48, one of his nurses.Marriage meant Richard, a widower with no children, could live out his years in his family home on the Niagara Parkway with round-the-clock medical care. He had been using a wheelchair after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery and suffering several strokes. Annie’s marriage to him mean she was guaranteed more than $50,000, plus a home for herself and her daughter, Brenda Smith, who was in a relationship with Frumusa. All Annie had to do was bathe, dress and take care of Richard until he died.Not long after their marriage, one of the groom’s friends dropped by for a visit and Richard sadly asked, “How could I have been so stupid?”On the morning of Aug. 23, 1988, Smith couldn’t reach her mother on the phone and so she dispatched Frumusa to check out the house.No one answered the door, and Frumusa called police. He was waiting in his car outside when officers arrived.Within hours, Frumusa was told he was under arrest. “Don’t say that,” he told arresting officers. “Don’t tell me that. You can’t tell me that.”No physical evidence was presented at Frumusa’s trial that linked him to the slayings; not one trace of blood was found on Frumusa or his clothing, experts told the court.That’s despite the fact that Annie Wilson’s blood was splattered on the eight-foot ceiling of her bedroom, on the walls and on a mirror three metres from her body, Const. Terry Ward of Niagara region police testified during the trial. Blood was also sprayed on the ceilings and walls of Richard’s bedroom, as well as on a television screen about two metres from his body. Nothing at the murder scene — including fibres, fabrics or fingerprints — linked Frumusa to the crime site, Ward testified. Adler, Frumusa’s lawyer, said this was inconsistent with the personality of his cocaine-addicted client. “Would a slob not leave forensic clues?” he asked the court. Testifying against Frumusa was a 29-year-old Niagara Region cocaine and heroin dealer nicknamed “The Snake.”The Snake was in a detention centre facing break-and-enter charges when Frumusa was charged.The Snake claimed that Frumusa confessed to him over the phone that he killed the couple, even though he and Frumusa didn’t know each other particularly well.The Snake’s story started to unravel after Frumusa was sent to prison.Four years after the murder, a cook in a Niagara Falls restaurant run by a mobster, told the Star the murder was carried out over Annie Wilson’s debts.The cook said he heard the murders being plotted, and that he attempted, without success, to alert police.Frumusa “got railroaded all along,” the cook told the Star, shortly before going into hiding from his old associates. The Niagara Falls mobster who ran the restaurant where the cook decided to make an example of Annie Wilson over her debts, the cook said. “She’s going to pay the ultimate price,” the cook recalled one mobster connected to the restaurant saying.Richard Wilson was killed because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — namely in his own home, the cook said. Robbery charges against the Snake were dropped after he testified against Frumusa.A former girlfriend of the Snake later told court in the murder trial of prostitute Monique Cloutier of Hamilton that she had doubts about the Snake’s story about Frumusa.“I asked him why he testified against Peter Frumusa,” she testified. “Why would Pete confide in him when they weren’t even friends? He said, ‘Pete didn’t.’”“He was lying to try and work a plea with the cops so he didn’t have to go to jail,” she explained. “I asked him why he would do something like that. He said, he ‘couldn’t go to jail because he’d be NG, no good, a stool pigeon.’” The Snake admitted in testimony in the same Hamilton trial in April 1990, that he had been medicated and on psychiatric care since early childhood because of his violent behaviour. Frumusa later told the Star that he was almost stabbed to death on his first day in general population at Millhaven penitentiary near Kingston.“I came out of my cell, made a left and — bang — I felt this sensation, a sort o

Peter Frumusa was no double murderer. Why would police trust a drug dealer nicknamed ‘The Snake’?

When Peter Frumusa heard he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a Niagara Falls couple as they slept, he collapsed face-first in the prisoner’s dock, wailing, “I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing, I didn’t do nothing.”

It took five minutes for his lawyer Leo Adler to pull him to his feet.

It took another nine years to prove that Frumusa was telling the truth and set him free.

At the time of Frumusa’s trial in Niagara Falls in the fall of 1989, he was a 29-year-old cocaine addict with some shady associates.

The murdered couple was retired autoworker Richard (Hop) Wilson and his wife Annie.

The Wilsons had been married for less than five months in August 1988, when someone broke into their home on Niagara Parkway clubbed them to death in their beds.

Theirs was a marriage of convenience. The Wilsons met in a Niagara Falls nursing home, where Richard, 70, was a patient and Annie, 48, one of his nurses.

Marriage meant Richard, a widower with no children, could live out his years in his family home on the Niagara Parkway with round-the-clock medical care. He had been using a wheelchair after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery and suffering several strokes.

Annie’s marriage to him mean she was guaranteed more than $50,000, plus a home for herself and her daughter, Brenda Smith, who was in a relationship with Frumusa.

All Annie had to do was bathe, dress and take care of Richard until he died.

Not long after their marriage, one of the groom’s friends dropped by for a visit and Richard sadly asked, “How could I have been so stupid?”

On the morning of Aug. 23, 1988, Smith couldn’t reach her mother on the phone and so she dispatched Frumusa to check out the house.

No one answered the door, and Frumusa called police. He was waiting in his car outside when officers arrived.

Within hours, Frumusa was told he was under arrest. “Don’t say that,” he told arresting officers. “Don’t tell me that. You can’t tell me that.”

No physical evidence was presented at Frumusa’s trial that linked him to the slayings; not one trace of blood was found on Frumusa or his clothing, experts told the court.

That’s despite the fact that Annie Wilson’s blood was splattered on the eight-foot ceiling of her bedroom, on the walls and on a mirror three metres from her body, Const. Terry Ward of Niagara region police testified during the trial.

Blood was also sprayed on the ceilings and walls of Richard’s bedroom, as well as on a television screen about two metres from his body.

Nothing at the murder scene — including fibres, fabrics or fingerprints — linked Frumusa to the crime site, Ward testified.

Adler, Frumusa’s lawyer, said this was inconsistent with the personality of his cocaine-addicted client. “Would a slob not leave forensic clues?” he asked the court.

Testifying against Frumusa was a 29-year-old Niagara Region cocaine and heroin dealer nicknamed “The Snake.”

The Snake was in a detention centre facing break-and-enter charges when Frumusa was charged.

The Snake claimed that Frumusa confessed to him over the phone that he killed the couple, even though he and Frumusa didn’t know each other particularly well.

The Snake’s story started to unravel after Frumusa was sent to prison.

Four years after the murder, a cook in a Niagara Falls restaurant run by a mobster, told the Star the murder was carried out over Annie Wilson’s debts.

The cook said he heard the murders being plotted, and that he attempted, without success, to alert police.

Frumusa “got railroaded all along,” the cook told the Star, shortly before going into hiding from his old associates.

The Niagara Falls mobster who ran the restaurant where the cook decided to make an example of Annie Wilson over her debts, the cook said.

“She’s going to pay the ultimate price,” the cook recalled one mobster connected to the restaurant saying.

Richard Wilson was killed because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — namely in his own home, the cook said.

Robbery charges against the Snake were dropped after he testified against Frumusa.

A former girlfriend of the Snake later told court in the murder trial of prostitute Monique Cloutier of Hamilton that she had doubts about the Snake’s story about Frumusa.

“I asked him why he testified against Peter Frumusa,” she testified. “Why would Pete confide in him when they weren’t even friends? He said, ‘Pete didn’t.’”

“He was lying to try and work a plea with the cops so he didn’t have to go to jail,” she explained. “I asked him why he would do something like that. He said, he ‘couldn’t go to jail because he’d be NG, no good, a stool pigeon.’”

The Snake admitted in testimony in the same Hamilton trial in April 1990, that he had been medicated and on psychiatric care since early childhood because of his violent behaviour.

Frumusa later told the Star that he was almost stabbed to death on his first day in general population at Millhaven penitentiary near Kingston.

“I came out of my cell, made a left and — bang — I felt this sensation, a sort of numbness, not realizing at first there was blood,” Frumusa told reporter Tracey Tyler.

While behind bars, Frumusa enlisted Toronto defence lawyer James Lockyer, who worked on the case with co-counsel Michelle Levy.

A new trial was ordered on the basis of the fresh evidence from the Snake’s old girlfriend and the cook.

Lockyer argued in court that the Snake might have been involved in the double-murder of the Wilsons.

He “received extreme favours from police in exchange for his testimony,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer noted that the Snake also testified for the Crown at Hamilton murder trials in 1992 and 1993, each time having charges against himself dropped. That included charges for robbery, assault and uttering threats.

Prisoners like the Snake are known in jailhouse circles as “priests” — they seem to constantly be hearing confessions.

Lockyer called the Snake a prime suspect in one of those murders before he testified for the Crown.

“The odds against the same person having crucial information from the mouth of the killer in three murder trials must be extremely high,” Lockyer said.

Lockyer described the Snake as a violent drug addict who had amassed 37 convictions by 1993 and “had killed at age 15 during the course of a robbery.”

The Cook said the Snake also bragged about cutting off a man’s leg with a chain saw.

The Snake “was almost in a position where it seemed he had a licence to commit crimes,” Lockyer told the court. “He has, in essence, played with the justice system like a child with a toy.”

Ultimately, the lawyer said, the Snake “was put into the witness protection program at the expense of the Ontario taxpayer.”

In June 1998, at the age of 39, Frumusa finally got a judge’s apology and his freedom. “To you, Mr. Frumusa, on behalf of the court and our justice system, I apologize for what you have gone through,” Justice Paul Forestell told him in a Welland courtroom.

“You’re free now. Go on and enjoy life. Accept our apologies,” the judge said.

Forestell told Frumusa that he was lucky to have the help of lawyers Lockyer and Levy. The judge also praised Crown attorney Michael Quinn’s “courage” in withdrawing the charges and accepting blame.

Quinn then apologized himself.

He also told the court that Frumusa wouldn’t have been prosecuted for the double murders if the recommendations made by retired Quebec judge Fred Kaufman at the inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of Christine Jessop had been in place at the time.

After the Kaufman inquiry, there were also new guidelines for Crown attorneys regarding the use of jailhouse informants.

Those guidelines call for a registry of when jailhouse informants are used, and supervisory approval before an informant is used as a witness by a crown attorney.

Kaufman also warned that jailhouse informants, like the Snake, must be handled with care.

“The systemic evidence emanating from Canada, Great Britain, Australia and the United States demonstrated that the dangers associated with jailhouse informants were not unique to the Morin case,” Kaufman warned. “Indeed, a number of miscarriages of justice throughout the world are likely explained, at least in part, by the false, self-serving evidence given by such informants.”

So who beat the Wilsons to death, if it wasn’t Frumusa?

The cook said there were four men involved, including the Snake, and they stripped off their bloody clothes in the Niagara Falls restaurant when the job was done.

One of them compared the violence to getting rid of unwanted puppies, the cook said.

“It’s finished,” another of them said.

The whereabouts of the cook and the Snake are unknown.

The murders remain unsolved.

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime for the Star. Reach him via email: pedwards@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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