Taylor & Scott Rieckens started a very public journey towards FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) a few years ago.
They developed a documentary entitled “Playing with FIRE” that received high praise from publications like the US News calling it one of the “Top 10 Best Finance Movies of the Decade”.
Nicole and I wanted to check in with these two filmmakers, parents, and financial independence enthusiasts and see how their FIRE journey has progressed over the past few years.
Playing with–Not Perfecting–FIRE
One thing that Scott and Taylor both want to point out is that the documentary really meant to chronicle their introduction to FIRE. Sometimes, viewers expect Scott Rieckens to be an expert on the FIRE movement. Not so, he says. The whole premise of the film was to follow his family’s first toe dip into the movement, learning from experts who successfully adopted the FIRE lifestyle.
But like most people who get involved in the FIRE movement, Scott was quick to learn about the “early retirement police”. While they’re not an actual organization, there are online critics who are quick to point out flaws in people’s FIRE lifestyle or plans. As someone who was just getting started with the FIRE movement, Scott was quick to highlight his newbie status.
Rather than debate the critics and get lost in the FIRE fine print, Scott emphasizes that financial independence is ultimately something that everyone has to define for themselves. Rather than trying to get everyone to follow the same definition or subscribe to an identical lifestyle, Scott stresses that the real beauty of the movement is that it gets people interested in money and boosts financial literacy.
The Podcast That Changed Everything for Scott Rieckens
So how did Scott find FIRE? Scott says that he found himself in a situation most adults are familiar with: the quest to earn more. As residents of a high cost of living area and new parents, it seemed like life was full of dollar signs. That led Scott on a quest of finding the perfect side hustle.
As someone who often found himself taking his then-infant on long walks, he had a lot of time to listen to podcasts. He started exploring Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and other popular side gigs. Still, he wasn’t quite sure what would fit into his lifestyle and what would really move the needle on income.
Then, he stumbled across an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where he interviewed Mr. Money Mustache. Scott says it seems to obvious to people who are already on the path to FIRE, but it was completely revolutionary to him. Rather than always having to chase more, he needed to learn to live on less. By ruthlessly trimming expenses and excess from his life, he would need less money to live on and would be able to do more living, as opposed to more working.
That shift in perspective is what finally set things in motion for Scott. He quickly tried to learn as much as he could about the FIRE movement, which is when his idea for the documentary was born. But as excited as Scott was, his wife was equally reluctant.
Getting Both Partners on Board
A common criticism of the Playing with FIRE documentary is how abruptly Taylor seems to come around to the FIRE lifestyle. After being so resistant for so long, she quickly embraces the movement. Taylor and Scott both acknowledge that was more a reflection of editing and timing than anything else.
Taylor’s honesty about her family’s journey didn’t stop with the documentary. Even today, Taylor points out that it was a really difficult shift to make, one that she questioned and doubted. This transparency is so relatable. Many couples find themselves on different financial pages at one point or another. Watching Scott and Taylor navigate their differences made them instantly relatable to so many couples. It was so easy to ourselves in their struggles and also in their triumphs.
And triumph they have! Though Taylor was incredibly skeptical about leaving their California life behind, she says that she and Scott have flourished in their new home.
Where Scott Rieckens Is Now
The couple settled in Bend, Oregon as a young family. While starting over with a young kid in tow felt like a giant leap of a faith, Taylor says it was the best thing they ever did. In meeting new people, they found an amazing support group of more like-minded individuals. In fact, the life in Bend was wonderful enough to even convince their parents to move closer as well.
After living in Bend for a while and stashing away as much money as they could for over a year, they were actually able to purchase a different home. Their current house has a short-term rental on it. Since they travel so much, renting out their home made a lot of sense.
While they both understand that short-term rentals can be risky, they’ve had lovely rentals with no real issues so far. Instead, they’ve really started looking at how they can maximize the extra cash flow.
So Scott Rieckens and his wife are still big savers who are now dabbling in real estate. Does that mean they’re full-fledged FIRE success stories? Not quite yet, they say.
Both Scott and Taylor are quick to point out that they are still very much playing with FIRE, but they aren’t interested in living such an extreme lifestyle anymore. At their most extreme, they were saving nearly 80% of their income. Now, they’ve let their foot off the gas somewhat. Yet they are still making progress toward their financial goals.
Battle The Big Three & Other FIRE Advice
That’s because they successfully tackled the big three: housing, transportation, and food. While everyone needs to evaluate their unique situation to see if renting or owning makes more sense, becoming homeowners in a lower cost of living area is what the Rieckens settled on.
Taylor also made the shift from leasing a luxury car to finding something a bit more practical. It took some work, but they also got their grocery and dining out spending under control. Since they were able to dial back these big expenses, they find themselves working in more small splurges. Whether it’s a coffee from Starbucks or a fancier bottle of wine, these treats now fit comfortably in their FIRE plans.
In addition to tackling the big three, Scott Rieckens has other advice for people contemplating adopting the FIRE lifestyle. He says you don't want to make yourself miserable, but it is important to really push yourself. One reason that scaling back on extreme saving works is that it's much easier to downshift than it is to ramp up after plateauing. So Scott quickly stresses that saving 60% isn't sustainable in the long term or maybe even feasible for many families, it's much easier to move from 60% savings to 40% than it is to get yourself to a 30% savings rate for a while and then try to move the needle again to 40.
FIRE is more than a math problem. There's psychology involved as well, which is why it's so important to know yourself and to welcome some trial and error into your plans.
Final Thoughts on Scott Rieckens and Playing with FIRE
Scott Rieckens isn't a FIRE expert. But he and his family are still very much playing with FIRE. And if their success is any indication, finding financial freedom isn't about doing something exactly right once. It's about staying committed to progress over time. Working on FIRE as a family and getting on the same page as your partner is a powerful combination that allows for winning money moves.
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Guest Bio – Scott Rieckens
Scott Rieckens is an Emmy-nominated film/video producer and author.
Scott has spent his career as a storyteller connecting people with ideas and most recently created Playing with FIRE, which explores the growing FIRE community choosing a path to financial independence and early retirement and his families attempt to follow their lead.
Guest Resources – Scott Rieckens
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Have you seen the documentary? What do you think of it and the FIRE Movement?
Please let us know in the comments below.