Fathers on Financial Independence

The Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement is having a moment. Nobody knows for sure if this is THE moment but what we do know is people are taking greater control of their financial lives and encouraging others to do the same. The FIRE is spreading and it’s moving fast.

Almost every story or podcast we hear of begins with someone stumbling upon a blog, a frugal friend sharing investing tips or an awe-inspiring article about a young couple living a frugal dream life. But behind all of these feel-good stories are regular people; some of who are parents.

So while amassing six figure nest eggs, traveling the world, inspiring others and getting media coverage is newsworthy; I sense a deeper, more personal FIRE story at play just below the flashy headlines. From my view, there seems to be another major shift happening that has just as much potential to change society as a widespread financial awakening. Specifically, I’m referring to the role of fathers.

One of the primary reasons I decided to quit my job in June 2018 was because the stress of work was impacting my role as a husband and new father. I’d heard that having a kid and surviving the early years were the hardest part of marriage. But in my case, it wasn’t hard because of my son’s behavior or a condition.

It was hard because I had to confront not being the father I said I would be Click To Tweet

To be clear, while parenting is difficult, we do not have a difficult child. Compared to the stories we’ve heard, our son is a dream. He’s sleep trained, so he’s down faithfully from 7 PM – 7 AMish. He eats a wide range of foods that I prepare for him and aside from the occasional puff from his inhaler, he is rarely sick for more than a few days. My challenge was not in just caring for him but in being present for the deeper, more personal needs that he and my wife had at the time.

I was at a crossroad and had to choose whether to give myself a fighting chance to be the man I knew I could be, or walk the same path many a father had walked before me. The one filled with long unfulfilling days, broken promises, suppressed anger, functioning substance abuse, broken families and resentment. The latter simply wasn’t an option for me, so I chose to walk away from one of the primary contributors to my frustration.

When I meet other men that are FI [financial independence], pursuing FI or even just remotely interested in the concept, there is a similar underlying theme woven into many of their stories. Yes, they are intrigued by the obvious financial benefits of the lifestyle, but they are also interested in being better fathers.

This is different from the fathers I know from older generations and many outside the FIRE community. Those men subscribe to traditional male roles and believe simply “providing for their family” is their only priority. But many “FI minded fathers” I know aren’t just interested in providing; we want to do and be much more.

I met Bradley at CampFi where he was asked to speak about his decision to pursue part time work over the traditional full time job. While there, we had a brief and heartfelt exchange about what role being a better father played in his decision. Here’s what he said…

Bradley, Tampa, FL

Brad and his daughter

I think a FI minded father is more likely to think outside the box, make the unique decision to be a father in a family and still love their children fully. [To] be more than a weekend authority and money provider. With that in mind [my wife and I] knew that we weren’t going to let societal norms of working until 5 and getting home at 6 PM every evening rip this away from us.

I also met Carl from 1500days.com while at Camp FI. He and his wife Mindy are financially independent and live in Longmont, CO. Like us and Bradley, they were speakers at Camp FI and I was looking forward to hearing from them. I distinctly remembered Carl mentioning his daughters during his talk and I got excited just thinking about all the cool things I’ll be able to do with my son once I have more ownership of my time. So I reached out to him too to see what he had to say. Here’s what he said…

Carl , Longmont, CO

Carl and his daughter

Children will tell you they want Disney, video games, and toys. However, deep down, they really want their parents to spend quality time with them. While my journey to financial independence started because I had money insecurity issues, the part of FIRE that I value most is the time I spend with my children.

Every day I walk with them to school, I volunteer for every opportunity, I attend every school function [and] I have lunch with them weekly. I couldn’t do much of this with a job.

Maybe it was because these guy had daughters? Maybe glamping in Florida and drinking beer around a campfire made them tap into their sensitive side a bit more than usual? Or maybe, the men who were interested in redefining “retirement”, were also interested in redefining fatherhood.

So I reached out to Richard, who I met at our first rich & REGULAR meetup and asked for his perspective on the intersection between financial independence and fatherhood.

Richard, Atlanta, GA

Richard and his two sons

…it’s not expected that a father, [especially a black father], take his children out for lunch or play dates at the park or come to parent teacher conferences. I do all of that in my sleep!

I’ve even had people tell me, “You’re a great father” when I told them I changed diapers, fed and bathed my kids when they were infants. The expectation is so low! So I strive to make it known that I’m a critical part of my kids lives and that the basics of being a father won’t fly for me.

In my own experience, being a present, active and black father can be a lonely oddball experience. I definitely recall days being stared at while playing at the park, taking our son for walks around our old neighborhood or quick visits to the doctor’s office. I knew that every time I stepped outside with my son and was visibly affectionate, I was breaking down the myth of the absent black father and promoting a positive image of Black fathers. But I also knew, this wasn’t just about my race.

So I asked Brad, co-host of the Choose FI podcast about his experience with others seeing him as different. Here’s what he had to say…

Brad, Richmond, VA

[At swim practice] I’m one of the only Dads there at 3 PM on a weekday, just like I’m one of the only Dads who spends 3+ hours with his family each day during the summer at our local neighborhood pool.

I think all this time I spend with them allows me to pass on the many lessons that I want to impart in more subtle ways. I simply don’t have to cram all my “dad time” into a few short hours each night, so I can be there for them to just hang and talk, read books, play games and sports, and I think that constant male role model will be extremely beneficial for them long-term as they navigate life.

Like Brad, Carl had his own experience navigating the world and society’s perception of him.

I get the girls up for school, make their lunches and cook dinner. I now know how to work an Instant Pot like a pro and I can cook up some mean tofu dishes in my favorite gadget, the air fryer.

Occasionally, someone [always another father] will ask me if it’s weird having this role in my family. Perhaps it’s different than the typical family, but when I’m working up a Thai peanut dish in the kitchen while listening to a podcast, life is pretty good. And besides, I couldn’t care less what society thinks of me.

Hearing these guys talk about their experience was refreshing and made me even more excited to hit our financial goals so I could have my own stories to tell. In full transparency, a few of the men I spoke with also shared their not-so-great experiences with their father’s growing up. They shared stories of addiction, poverty and memories of their father’s hating their jobs. This too contributed to their desire to pursue financial independence and their commitment to not repeat the same mistakes.

I didn’t conduct a poll or survey, but I suspect there are several other fathers with similar motivations and desires in the FIRE community. I’m encouraged by this, because I believe families flourish more when both adults [regardless of sex] share the workload at home, view income as shared and play equal roles as parents.  For this to happen, men need to step up and break the traditional mold society has cast on them. It helps that in many households around the country, mine included, more women are the breadwinners than ever before.

I regularly take my son to and from daycare and I see fathers of all colors, ages and backgrounds right alongside me. This is always encouraging to see because it highlights that in at least one way, more men today are willing to play active roles in caring for their children and aren’t restricting themselves to just being financial providers.

In those moments, I can’t help but imagine how much wider that span of involvement could be if work weren’t in the way. Perhaps, over time, as the FIRE movement spreads, we’ll hear less about the financial feats of the community and more about how financial independence has enabled people, especially men, to be better parents and partners.

Mr. r&R

join us as we celebrate fathers on Instagram and Pinterest using the hashtag #fathersonfi


  1. When my husband and I took our honeymoon in Europe, I was really surprised to regularly see guys out pushing strollers and in evenings, adult men hanging out in groups and one or more would have babies or kids with them. Then I thought, why is this weird to me? It’s more weird that in America, guys rarely interact with their kids (especially babies) in everyday, public settings. I’m happy to see that trend might be changing!

    • This article means alot. Being a dad and being active in my daughter life is the most important thing to me. I’m slowly getting into the FIre movement. It is definately weirs going to the pool during the week and being the only dad.

    • I’m in Cordoba, Spain right now and there is an amazing public playground. You are spot on, there are as many dads with the kids as there are moms and they don’t have that look on their face like they’re the disciplinary or like someone dragged them out there. They are involved, alert and aware. Ready to truly be there. It’s outstanding!!! You’re so right, why is it weird, why does it stand out, that’s more than a little sad, however I feel I would make more friends here very quickly 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you wrote this post and are sharing the importance of what a true father should look like in a home. You nailed it when you stated that the older generations think of being a father as being the breadwinner and providing for his family. But what are we truly providing? Just the necessities? Or the time, love and affection that our family deeply needs from us. Brilliantly written. I’m excited to read more.

  3. Great, great read! So my Dad wasn’t very present in my young life. Typically I interacted with him only when I was being harshly disciplined and I hated him for it. There was no relationship. It had devastating effects on my life as later I fell into addiction. There is redemption in my story as I am now sober and have a meaningful relationship with my dad today. 🙂

    Let my message speak loudly to men everywhere, be present in your kids lives!! They need you.

    I think part of my attraction to the FiRE community is that most place a high value on family time.

    Well done.

  4. My dad was a very inconsistent part of my life. That’s why I make it my #1 priority to be the best father for my 8-year-old daughter. She is the greatest blessing I could’ve ever imagined. I’m blessed to co-parent with a wonderful ex-wife and mother to my daughter. I’ve turned down several jobs that would’ve doubled or tripled my salary but relocation was madatory. Not happening. I want to continue to attend all of my daughter’s gymnastics competitions, birthday parties, parent/teacher conferences, etc. And most important is I want to continue to spend the most quality time with her that I can. Being a great father is more important to me than being a great provider. Being FI (even though I still work) gives me the option to turn down more enticing gigs to live near my daughter. If the contract ends, I’m still good. FI is freedom and freedom is priceless.

    • Man, thank you so much for sharing your comments with us. You sound like a great father and I’m sure your daughter appreciates you very much, even though she can’t express it. I’m also willing to bet you’re an inspiration to other fathers out there even though they can’t express it. Keep it up!

  5. Great article! You nailed it on the head. My 4 amazing children are what is driving my pursuit of FIRE and it is that desire that has begone to affect my desire to grow my business and investments which is a good change! I understand how crucial these years are training them up and there is no sacrifice worth not giving my job to parent and train them my all. I love the quote that when it comes to parenting, “the days are long but the years are short”. May we as fathers and parents not take our responsibility lightly!!!

  6. I love this post! My husband is an amazing father to our child, and I always notice people’s reactions when he says he’s going to do her bath (rather than me) so that I can keep conversing with friends, and a million other similar scenarios. So many of our couple friend that come over have just the mom chasing the babies as the dad is completely oblivious and hanging out with the other guys. I’m so thankful that my husband is the one that will step away from the group to tend to our kid’s needs, too!

    We are a pretty solid 50-50 split with regards to kid obligations and time (I also work full time). I’m so fortunate that a man whose father did so little (but definitely loved his kids!) turned out to do so very much for his own. Doing MORE than he was taught is such a fantastic example of how much he cares for her, and the type of person he is all around.

    • This was an awesome read!! Coming from a home where my dad worked 100 hours a week and only available on weekends, it motivated me to be more present in my kids lives. Dont get me wrong, my father’s love was known at times(with 4 boys, discipline was constantly lurking) but his presence would have been far more valuable. I now have three kids of my own and not being able to spend quality time with them is just not an option.. Taking them to school, chaperoning field trips, cooking dinner, practices and games are only the tip of the iceberg for me.. I’m new to this FIRE movement and am looking forward to learning as much as I can.. My goal is to have financial freedom so that my wife and I can create as many memories, experiences and opportunities for our family… Thank you again for this read!

      SN: Earlier you mentioned your child taking a couple pumps… Might I recommend local Bee Pollen.. For a while we thought our daughter had allergies or asthma.. The doctors prescribed inhalers and such, but my mind wouldn’t allow it.. I knew there had to be an alternative yet natural solution.. After much research I stumbled across Bee Pollen.. This stuff is amazing!! My daughter was 5 at the time all of this began and needless to say, she’s now 13 and never needed anything else since the age of 6.. Now as a dietary supplement we incorporate Bee Pollen, raw organic coconut oil and flaxseed in just about everything we eat.. Much success FIRE family….

      • Wow. Thank you so much for this. As an epicurean, I’ll be looking for some creative ways to include bee pollen into his diet. I hate knowing that we have to keep a pump on us at all times, especially since our son is so active. Hopefully it works!
        Best of luck to you as well.

  7. I appreciate you working to bring this community of fathers together. I take pride in caring for my daughters and supporting them while helping shape their future. It is great to see different stories and experiences to be able to relate to. Keep up the great work and I look forward to watching this community grow!
    Mike Dittenber

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