Imagine that one day you wake up and find out that all your savings have been completely wiped out (e.g. by a cybercriminal). That’s how the new thought experiment by SavingNinja starts. Here you can see my thoughts about this unfortunate situation.
Before we get to my response, let me introduce you the concept, so that you understand all the background.
“Thought experiments” is a project by SavingNinja. The idea is that some hypothetical situation is posted every 2 month and participants must write down their thoughts without any preparation or major editing. This should uncover their inner views and feelings.
“If You Lost Everything” thought experiment
The experiment’s page is here (it also contains links to other bloggers’ posts) and the “problem” statement is:
You wake up one rainy morning and after checking on your accounts you find out that you’ve been ‘wiped-out’ by a cybercriminal. You’ve lost all of the money and assets that you’ve ever owned and you can’t get them back. What will you do?
Oh… That’s unfortunate. So I definitely would feel like shit for some time. Probably, at first I would assume that it is a bug in the online banking or something. Probably, even call them to confirm. Once I understand that it is not a bug and the situation is real, I will probably try to calm myself down by saying that bank will try to do something about this. I think they would try to do something, but for your experiment let’s assume that it is was my fault (e.g. I used a compromised computer) and there is no way to return the money. So I would be disappointed for some time. It is not clear from the experiment statement whether I lost my job as well, but I assume - not. So that would definitely be a very good thing. Since I rent, it is hard to imagine losing my accommodation so fast, but perhaps someone could write something to the landlord pretending to be me and screw this as well. Since the option with accommodation and work is pretty easy and boring, let’s consider it first.
I still have accommodation and job.
I would continue going to work, I have couple months worth of expenses in cash at home - thank you for giving me one example how this could be useful. So I could definitely weather this until my next salary. Would I go for FIRE again? Oh, that’s a very tricky question. On one hand this wouldn’t change my lifestyle, frugality and tendency to efficiency, but on other hand going for the second time through something you already did (like writing a report which got lost due to some computer error) feels very bad. The loss would for sure demotivate me badly. However, it won’t help me to spend more by any means, so I technically won’t have any other option, and, thus, I will continue spending moderately and perhaps try to get to FIRE again as a result. (BUT this feels so frustrating, I can feel this frustration in me right now).
No job and no accommodation
So let’s say that a very malicious (and determined) cybercriminal pretended to be me and screwed up my job (this one hard to imagine, even if they say that I did something wrong there would be some kind of investigation first (I hope)) and my accommodation as well.
So I am standing in the street with my wallet and some clothing and that’s it. I have 100-200 euro in my wallet, so this would be enough for one night. Also I have my phone, so I could call my friends and ask them to host me for one night (or more….). I would definitely call police immediately, just in case there is any chance they could still do something.
After that I would try to find a job. I would probably couch-surf at my friends’ places for some time. Meanwhile applying into various companies and asking them to speed up the process. I would definitely help my friends in their houses (perhaps cooking, cleaning) as a way to partially repay for my prolonged presence. I could extend this to other people as well (finding various small hustles). The goal here is to get to net 0 with my living expenses (mostly food and accommodation). I hope that I would be able to find some job pretty fast and start looking for a new apartment (very likely some WG (shared apartment) for the first time to save some money). After that the problem is reduced to “accommodation and job”, which was described above.
FIRE after starting from 0?
I am curious to look more into my feelings about FIRE after losing everything. I definitely thought about something similar before, but in a different context. Occasionally I have some doubts inside me about the stock market and I get this thought “What if I missed something and all my investments get completely busted to 0?”. How would I feel about this? What would I do? By the way, this case feels much harder to me emotionally, because here this is my mistake and I am the one solely responsible for the loss. In your example, it felt more like an external impact, which was outside of my control.
I want to believe that I would accept losing my investments. In some sense I know that it is some kind of a gamble. I could save cash without investing, but then it would take me forever to reach anything FI like (basically, without passive income I would collect money constantly for some time and when I have enough money to cover my expenses before I die, I would be FI, but this time would be pretty short I assume). Wow, I should try to calculate this and write a post about this. So this case (no investments) is extremely sad and this basically means just working full time my entire life and having almost conventional retirement, which makes me sad (but I understand that I am privileged and many people didn’t/don’t have even that). And that’s why I started looking into stock market and kind of accept the risk. So my feeling would be: “Yeah, I screwed up very badly, but the possible positive outcome was still much better than completely no investments”. So I would consider this as a very expensive lesson. However, this would be sad as well, since if the stock market does not work, then there would probably be no achievable way for an average person to become FI.
So trying to become FI again would probably be very hard. I could still try to come up with some business of mine. But this is very tricky and highly volatile effort, so reaching FIRE this way seems very uncertain to me.
Oh, Saving Ninja, thank you for this pleasant thoughts right before I go to bed. I hope I won’t have any dreams like that. So now I will turn all my positivity to compensate. Yeah, they can take my money away, but they can’t take my skills and my brain (unless they kill me, but then I probably don’t get to think about what to do next), so I will be sad for some time just due to the sudden change, but then I will gather all my will, start working even harder and bounce back. Probably even stronger and better than before (but a couple years older as well). And I will definitely pay much more attention to cyber security. Or don’t use computers at all?..