by Admin
Updated: June 26, 2018

FIRE and WATER - the SMART way to pay off your student loan even if you do not have one

F.I.R.E. has the advantage of being straightforward and highly focused. However, narrow approaches to complex problems produce incomplete answers. W.A.T.E.R. represents an alternative approach where life experiences ultimately have financial benefits.

Making progress in the face of any financial hardship can be daunting. Whether it’s student loan debt, some other kind of debt or simply a lack of financial freedom, a realistic financial strategy is essential.

Cutting costs and saving hard is a very low-risk approach that is accessible to anyone who has a sufficient & reliable income.

However, the severe restrictions on spending and use of time this usually requires comes at the cost of other freedoms which ultimately have higher value.


Move toward financial independence by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals:

  • Specific - be precise
  • Motivating - be driven
  • Aligned - don’t set conflicting goals
  • Realistic - don’t set impossible goals
  • Time-bound - open-ended goals are often never achieved

There are multiple versions of this acronym, but you get the idea.


FIRE is an acronym for Financial Independence Retire Early. It is a financial strategy based on some sound principles chief of which is aggressive saving.

The primary disadvantages of FIRE are severely curtailed scope for acquiring life experiences and, for most people, the goal cannot be achieved early enough (it’s usually around middle-age).

Also, the basic idea of retire early - the idea that it’s possible to suddenly start enjoying freedom after a lifetime of focus, hard work and self-deprivation - is a fallacy.

Most of the people I know who retired are either dead, bored or, worst of all, boring.

As far as I can tell, FIRE is founded on youthful determination without enough input from people with relevant experience.


WATER is an acronym of my own design. It builds in reverse:

R - is for Recreation. This means having fun. Do this first. It is incredibly important for you and for society. It can save your life and the lives of others. Money can come & go but experiences can never be taken away from you. At the end of your life, “I had some fun” is so much better than “I have no debt.”

E - is for Education. Learn about people. Learn about money. Learn as much as you can about everything. Knowledge can sometimes make you unhappy but ignorance can cost you everything and destroy the planet in the process.

T - is for Travel. Travel to other countries. Learn a few phrases and mix with the locals. Be prepared and have adventures. Try to do this before you have too much money. Travel will open your mind and open doorways you never knew existed.

A - is for Achievement. Achieve positive things. Having no debt is a double negative that isn’t good enough. Being rich might qualify. My fondest achievements have not been my financial successes but times of love & gratitude.

W - is for Wealth. The previous stages make a person wealthy by standards apart from money. At face value they might not seem aligned with financial success, but the opposite is true. Even so, they are not enough on their own (following passion doesn’t necessarily lead to financial independence) and developing financial skills is still critical.

As a strategy, whether or not you are currently in debt, this means taking a longer term view and including some life into your life.

Your earning ability is related to your personal value and my WATER argument says someone who has some debt but who has life experience is more valuable than someone with no debt who has never been anywhere or done anything.

A successful wealth strategy focused on increasing income will always outperform one based on reducing costs.

More info

“How the Concept of FIRE Changed My Perspective About Money” at describes some of the good principles behind FIRE and a good approach to any financial strategy: Study, learn and apply critical thinking.

There is plenty to read about financial independence on

Downsides of FIRE are discussed at

“5 Ways That Trying New Experiences Can Make You Successful” at identifies some key benefits of life experience.

Internal links

A basic financial plan Debt management No regrets All articles
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