Where’s Our FIRE Village? Calling Othered Folks in the Movement

Wisdomkeeper, where are we?

We know from our daily lives that presence matters. We attract one another like flies to light at midnight. It’s almost magnetic, and for good reason. While the FIRE movement has taken on new steam (Where FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early), it seems like there’s very little light in the room.

Where are we? Where are the folks that understand the struggle of intersectionality, particularly in the journey to wealth? Where are the folks who have lived the reality of grit– who get the impacts of segregation, institutionalization, and systemized -isms to the very essence of their beings (literally)? What about our voices in transitioning into intergenerational progress and freedom?

While the concepts of FIRE are not new, the community around it is, and that community generally doesn’t reflect the lessons learned in our experiences. The new name to the FIRE Movement initiated through the blog of a white, cis male engineer who wanted to document change in his life. Mr. Money Mustache was born to record the journey. We’re all grateful. His blog proved a great reminder of principle we may or may not have learned from the old lady who shared her hard candy on Sundays, from an elder’s storytelling, or from dinnertime conversations with a parent. But while this revived movement is fresh in the minds of many folks, it isn’t quite new.

The principles of FIRE have been in play since well before we were thought of, many of which were reflected in old storehouse ideals in Native American populations and passed on through generations of people who saved during debt slavery, sharecropping and slavery towards goals of property ownership or freedom. And while we may have inherited some of these lessons, participation in the lifestyle is rooted in a decision.

I have made the decision to re-engage in these traditions and am part of the movement, albeit, from a more traditional perspective. In my journey to FIRE– in my participation in the movement– I nod to the struggle of my upbringing and the contribution of my ancestors. I removed my debt– my chains tying me to a lender– and seek financial independence that will give me the option to remove myself from the system. I have not only done this with full cognizance of the weight of my progress, but with a steady hand and the goal to provide safe space for people to share in the process. I talk about race and socioeconomic status– the well-documented struggles othered people endure to live and experience society equally, to make equal money, achieve educational equity and have equitable health outcomes in American society. I acknowledge the grit and speak on altered tactics which account for adjustments along the way in light of those hurdles as we join together in pursuit of greater net worth, and ultimately, the goal of freedom.  

Still, despite the lessons passed through generations– ignored or otherwise, born of struggle and necessity– there aren’t many of us speaking from a space of leadership in this journey. Have we lost the storytelling that kept generations alive or our coded speak?  Have we simply opted out of the principles for so long that we’ve forgotten the wisdom of our elders or failed to grow our wisdomkeepers? Are we altogether forgetting the stealth wealth game that keeps so many families afloat and under the radar? Have we forgotten that hustle-from-necessity can translate into wealth building? Have we failed to dream?

I’m trying to find you.

I’m hip to the invisible game– for years, we’ve had to highlight our own successes, and though the othered economies have gained broader success in more recent years, we still have othered economies. We still drive the American beauty, music and health markets, have inequities in health and socioeconomic status, and pull together to decide our own languages, cultural traditions, and economies. But trying to bridge the gap between those economies and the general public has a cost– either to the preservation of culture or monetary cost of assimilating our bodies, traditions, and wellbeing to our circumstance.

But still, acknowledgment of these sacrifices, and of presence overall is multidimensional. Folks in the movement who identify as othered will need to recognize thor own belonging and acknowledge these identities and the role those identities have on their unique perspectives in order for others participating in the movement to recognize them. This is particularly important for those who deliver their message without a personal image or details of their personal lives attached to their content. And next, the community will need to acknowledge (and through that acknowledgment, promote) the presence of othered people– people of color, LGBTQIA, (dis)Abled individuals– in this movement and acknowledge their contributions and experiences.

In spite of sociocultural inclinations to avoid discourse on money and assets, folks need to tap into the courage to speak up and find an embrace of their content when they do. Even this blog was initiated with the option of anonymity for contributors, not because of a fear of authenticity by any of our accounts, but because of the fear of failed reception. Inherent with any dissenting voice comes controversy, and this controversy tends to find othered folks with a pointed frequency.  Though this fear of rejection was not centered around fiscal content, it is closely related to what we’ve found to be a frequent denial of othered experiences and targeted needs in work, culture, home, and wellness.

While there is ever competition in the rise of influencers in the personal finance space, there is also a need for a representative voice across each and all of the othered communities. In order for that voice (or those voices) to rise, though, these specific needs and perspectives must not only be addressed, but acknowledged, and later, embraced.  Will the voice that rises be young or more established, early or late in their journey, intersectional or othered along one dimension?

While no one quite knows, my guess is that the voice that will most clearly reach the masses will be one that is inclusive of more commonalities between the various journeys, histories, and perspectives. This person (or people) will either brand on their inclusion, or exclude their identity completely from their message, doing the work through implication within their content. The former is likely to be most palatable to othered folks who are tired of the grit inherent in the day-to-day hustle, and the latter is more likely to reach the majority by leaping over the majority discomfort of identity politics and social hierarchy. Either way, the message requires spread deep into the communities sharing othered identities with the voice, and wide, bridging folks who may have never recognized the common places.

Like and Subscribe to the blogs, podcasts, youtube channels and to the influencers that speak most to your experience, and who share your struggles. Support their books, tools, and events, and continue to spread the word, serving as a mentor to those who may have never heard of the Movement. Spread it like (wild)FIRE. Not only do their successes depend on it, but the success of your community does as well.

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