When you see the light of FIRE, all you want to do is share the message with everyone. After about 2-3 conversations though, you realize that you’re explaining it wrong, or that people aren’t understanding what you’re saying. Because literally no one cares. We were hopeful that the new Playing With FIRE documentary can help us bridge the gap. There was a sold-out premier in Atlanta that we were lucky enough to snag some tickets to. Barring the ridiculous traffic on the drive, and a mishap at the hotel, we had a great time! Without further ado, here’s our review of the Playing With FIRE documentary.
Playing With FIRE Documentary Review
The movie opens up with Scott and Taylor Rieckens, who the movie is about. Scott and Taylor live in Coronado, California and they are living the American dream. Luxury cars, boat club memberships, exotic vacations, the works. If you scrolled through their Facebook profiles, you’d think they had made it. But, as with most people living like this, their financial life was very different. Both, Scott and Taylor, were working a tremendous amount of hours to afford this lavish lifestyle. And their savings were minimal with no signs of improving. Because of this, they barely got to spend time with their daughter, Jovie.
Where their lives turn around is when Scott discovers the FIRE movement through Mr. Money Mustache’s interview on the Tim Ferris Podcast. He, much like myself, dove in head first. Scott knew it was something the two of them needed to focus on so that they can spend more time with their young daughter. Scott had Taylor write down the 10 things that make her the happiest. Surprisingly, none of it included the car, the beach, their house, or any of the things they were wasting money on. And, that was how he got her on board, which was much more graceful than my method of dragging Emily along for a few months until she got it.
They had Brandon from the MadFientist help them run the numbers on their current lifestyle. With their current savings rate, they were going to be working 30+ more years to save for retirement. By cutting one car alone, they shaved 5 years off. Brandon tries to explain that a $5,000 car would suffice, but Taylor isn’t quite ready for that big of a jump. She would die if she could see the ’97 Camry and ’07 Versa in our driveway worth less than $3k combined! They were also spending $3k a month in rent, but once Taylor realized they could cut decades off their working lives, she agreed to move.
Now that Scott and Taylor had decided to move from their home in California, they needed a new place to stay. This is where the in-laws came in. They boosted their savings rate tremendously by moving in with their in-laws for a few months. Staying at one set first, and then moving on to the other set for a couple of months. This is such a powerful part of the movie to me. To most adults, moving back in with your parents is seen as a sign of failure. They didn’t give a shit what people thought, though. The two of them knew that this was the best choice they could make to set themselves up for a future of possibilities. This also gave them more time with their daughter, and free childcare from the grandparents.
However, even though the choice was the right one, it was a difficult transition. From autonomy and the habits of freely spending money for happiness, to sharing a home with your in-laws and trying to focus on saving as much as possible. For a limited time, it would work, as they were trying to save for a down payment on a home. Also, during their stay with the in-laws, they were scouting out potential places to move their family permanently. After consideration, they decided on Bend, Oregon.
Throughout Playing with FIRE, Scott and Taylor go around the country and interview experts in the FIRE community. These include Vicki Robin, Mr. Money Mustache, the MadFIentist, JL Collins, Rich & Regular, Brad and Jonathan from ChooseFI, and many more. Scott and Taylor also went to FinCon, Camp Mustache, and other meet-ups around the country. They used this opportunity to glean information from experts, and people already living this lifestyle.
Armed with this information Scott and Taylor set out to create a life that was happy and fulfilling without having to spend tons of money. This gets them on the path of investing, cutting their spending, and biking to save money. Back in Bend, Oregon, they found a perfect house that was way over budget. The two of them knew that they couldn’t make it work, which was tough because in their previous lifestyle, they would’ve got it anyway. They ended up finding a great townhouse at a bargain because it was closest to the road, which meant you heard the cars. But, it was $100k less than the ones across the street. Personally, I would gladly take an extra $100k to listen to cars. Importantly, this was also in a walkable area of Bend, a good school district, and close to everything they need.
The movie ends with the two of them living a great life, in a great location, with much more time with their daughter, and it cost a fraction of their lifestyle before finding the FIRE movement.
That was our Playing with FIRE documentary review, but here are our takeaways. Scott and Taylor were both genuine, and they had a story like many Americans. They weren’t focusing on their savings, and were spending practically every dollar that came in because they didn’t know there was another path. The movie had plenty of laughs, some tense moments, and some tears, but that’s life! Emily and I both felt that the movie did a good job of introducing FIRE movement, without getting too detailed to lose people. Best of all, with the increase in savings, Taylor was able to cut back at work and now only works from 9-3 while Jovie is in daycare.
The movie does a great job showcasing normal people doing extraordinary things. These people are leading regular lives, the only difference is they are intentional with their money. Because of this, they are ‘retiring’ decades before the typical American. We are looking forward to sharing this message with our friends and family. Maybe coming from other people, they can grasp what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Hopefully, our review of the Playing with FIRE documentary will point more people in it’s direction and continue spreading the FIRE!