Protocol - The big-spending early retirees

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By the Workplace team
September 20, 2022


Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today, we’re doing away with “quiet quitting” and learning about the fatFIRE movement to retire early without frugality. Plus, we spoke with the author of “The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet,” who argues that Big Tech workers could have an outsize role in pushing their employers to act on climate change.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

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Forget quiet quitting. Meet fatFIRE.


Just as the seasons change, so do trendy alliterations. The term “quiet quitting” took hold this summer to refer to working fewer hours or caring less about one’s job in order to prevent burnout. Lean in? Reach for the stars? No thanks.

A subset of high-earning workers is taking another approach entirely. Workplace senior editor Meg Morrone reports on the fatFIRE movement, a more luxurious version of the “financial independence/retire early” acronym from the 1990s.

  • The difference: FatFIRE devotees don’t want to scrimp and save in order to afford early retirement, and instead focus on maximizing their income while they’re still working, according to the r/FatFIRE subreddit.
  • Not surprisingly, working at large tech companies is one popular path to pursuing fatFIRE. A few recent topics of discussion on the subreddit, which formed in 2016: getting too comfortable in a Big Tech VP role, comparing startup job offers to FAANG compensation and wondering when to leave a FAANG job in order to sell one’s stock.
  • There’s even a calculator to help prospective fatFIRE adherents to find their fatFIRE number.

What are HR leaders saying about fatFIRE? Workers’ relationships to their jobs continue evolving, as we’ve all seen in the last 2.5 years. And it’s unclear what a hyper-focus on stashing cash in order to retire young — even at the expense of enjoying one’s job — could mean for careers and job performance.

  • Jo Deal, CHRO at GoTo (which owns LastPass, GoToConnect and Rescue), worries that fatFIRE could be a path to burnout. “While it may encourage hard work and strong engagement with the job, it also sets very high and possibly unattainable goals,” Deal said.
  • Hating one’s job likely isn’t a sustainable long-term path to financial freedom, however. “While someone might find their paycheck rewarding enough to put up with a job they hate, the reality is that they likely won’t be producing great results,” said Traci Chernoff, director of employee engagement at the workplace management platform Legion.
  • Still, a goal-oriented mindset like fatFIRE can be a great motivator. “An employee focused on making the most money in the shortest period of time is actually something that could work well for both parties — as long as everyone is clear-eyed on what that will look like,” said Cara Brennan Allamano, chief people officer at the HR platform Lattice.

Getting rich and retiring early doesn’t seem so bad. And the ever-increasing compensation packages available in tech mean this isn’t a far-off dream for many well-paid tech workers. But there are trade-offs to mindsets that focus so much on maximizing income, according to leadership coach and author Jennie Blumenthal.

  • FatFIRE can be “another way we get caught up in the hustle culture,” Blumenthal said. “Putting your job first and rushing to amass wealth at the cost of everything else can cost you time spent building deeper relationships, helping others or feeling a sense of purpose in your life.”
  • Those considering fatFIRE should “go deeper and ask themselves what financial security really means to them,” Blumenthal said. “If you’re amassing wealth and intentionally making a trade-off on certain parts of your life and are aligned with significant others on this strategy, it could work out. But if you’re making these decisions based on old stories running in the background, telling you that money will solve all of your problems, it’s time to decide whether that old story is still serving you.”
— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)
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Tech and the climate crisis


Big Tech workers can have an outsize impact on climate action through employee activism, according to the new book “The Big Fix,” which comes out today. Protocol reporter Lisa Martine Jenkins spoke with co-author Justin Gillis, a former New York Times journalist, about how tech worker activism could influence Big Tech’s action on climate.

Tech has done more good than harm when it comes to climate, Gillis said, but workers can push for more by forming coalitions — like the 7,600 Amazon employees whose petition helped to get Jeff Bezos to create the Climate Pledge, which other companies have since signed.

Read the full story.


USD Coin (USDC) is the institutional grade stablecoin. Monthly attestations show exactly what reserves back USDC, and businesses all over the world are using USDC to build the next generation of financial services and global payment applications.

Learn why institutions trust USDC at Circle’s Transparency & Stability Hub

​By the numbers


Workers are more interested in job-hopping and less interested in jobs that don’t align with their values than they were last year, according to a new survey from the AI talent marketplace Gloat.

  • 86% of workers — up from 62% in 2021 — said they thought it was “very important” or “important” for their work to match their values or aspirations.
  • 54% of workers told Gloat that their employers don’t show enough consideration for their future interests or goals.
  • Two-thirds of workers said last year that there are better job opportunities outside their current company. This year, that share shot up to 72%.

Some personnel news


Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬆️ Instacart reportedly plans to have most of its IPO listing come from employees’ shares in an apparent bid to attract and retain talent in a tough IPO market. (WSJ)

⬇️ Singapore-based Amazon competitor Shopee is reportedly cutting jobs in HR, engineering, regional operations and marketing and product.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.


USD Coin (USDC) is the institutional grade stablecoin. Monthly attestations show exactly what reserves back USDC, and businesses all over the world are using USDC to build the next generation of financial services and global payment applications.

Learn why institutions trust USDC at Circle’s Transparency & Stability Hub

Around the internet


A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Microsoft’s chief marketing officer uses these tactics to have tough conversations. (CNBC)

Twilio pledged to use an “anti-racist/anti-oppression lens” when laying off 11% of its workforce. (Marketplace)

Google sent a Yuga Labs engineer almost $250,000, reportedly by mistake. (CNN)

Two ecommerce bloggers are suing the former CEO of eBay over a cyberstalking campaign they say he ordered against them. (New York Times)


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