YOLO vs. FIRE: Finding Balance Between Seizing the Day and Securing the Future

Recently, the term “YOLO” has permeated South Korea. This acronym represents “You Only Live Once,” encapsulating the notion of seizing the present moment, for it is fleeting, and the future inexorably draws near. While laying groundwork for the future and retirement, one must also savor the present—an admonition easier uttered than enacted.

Parents aspire to foster their children’s independence, guiding them towards self-discovery and stability. Yet, can such an ideal existence materialize? Alas, a multitude of elders lean upon their progeny, and many parents, burdened by myriad motives, weigh heavily upon their offspring.

Another phrase that resonates prominently nowadays is “FIRE,” denoting “financial freedom, early retirement.” The ethos pursued by adherents of FIRE revolves around emancipation, autonomy, and mastery. By approximately forty years of age, should they ascertain sufficient financial reserves to sustain a lifetime of security, they will forsake their vocations without hesitation—what an idealist’s reverie.

But is it feasible to relinquish employment and embark on a self-fashioned existence upon amassing a quarter-century’s worth of living expenses at forty? Is this truly an ethos worth championing? In this modern epoch, confining one’s fiscal preparedness solely to the sustenance of a quarter-century feels disquieting still.

For genuine liberation, one must attain financial, physical, and mental autonomy. Hence, what quantum of sustenance suffices for a modest yet dignified existence?

My father, erstwhile a bank functionary, instilled economic precepts in us during our formative years. “A life that earns 1,000 yuan and spends 1,200 yuan shall forever be at a loss. Yet a life that earns 1,000 yuan and expends 800 yuan shall forever be profitable.” “Once accustomed to a certain standard of living, curtailing expenses becomes arduous. Only through frequent thrift and frugality can one avert destitution in old age.” “Rather than acquiescing to exploitation for pecuniary gain, it is preferable to earn openly, augment revenue, curtail expenditure, and lead an accountable existence.” Now do I discern that my father’s teachings illuminate the path to genuine liberation.

For adherents of YOLO, prudent retirement planning holds paramount importance; for proponents of FIRE, judicious consumption management is key. Should they navigate sustenance, habitation, attire, and conveyance autonomously, sans detriment to society, and function as wholesome contributors, who dares impugn their choices? It is these young minds, with their idiosyncratic ideals and distinctive personas, that render society more variegated and vibrant.

I endorse every individual’s chosen path. After all, life’s essence lies in the mundane—nourishing oneself when hungry, wrapping warmly in chill, dressing coolly in heat, and indulging in restful slumber when weariness descends.

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