“FIRE” stands for Financial Independence and Retire Early. In case you want to learn more about these financial philosophies in general, there is a “wealth” of information on our blog here at Biglaw Investor and also throughout the internet. To summarize briefly, financial independence is about not needing to work, while retiring early—building off of that financial independence—is the decision to no longer work.
FIRE comes in many shapes and sizes, and the term “Morbidly Obese FIRE” (“MOFIRE”) was adopted by FIRE communities to distinguish a certain kind of FIRE for ridiculously wealthy individuals. By scaling the FIRE principles to levels of multi-millionaire—and infinitely richer people, in theory—unique advice and experiences may be necessary. MOFIRE takes fatFIRE principles (which have already been explained on the site) to a whole new level.
MOFIRE vs. FatFIRE
FatFIRE already deals with those that have high income or net worth and provides the foundation for managing finances when one is rich. The threshold for fatFIRE is debated. Some think that a six-figure annual spending budget is fatFIRE ($2.5 million with a 4% withdrawal rate), while some would go as high as $10 million net worth just to be considered fatFIRE. The idea is the same regardless of how you define fatFIRE: you’ve escaped conventional notions of frugality.
Whatever you think fatFIRE is, MOFIRE is bigger… way bigger. If fatFIRE lets you fly business, MOFIRE is the private jet. If fatFIRE manages multiple real estate properties, MOFIRE is the mansion plus vacation homes. If fatFIRE can afford a personal chef, MOFIRE is dining with CEOs and senators. These aren’t hard and fast rules for MOFIRE, but the underlying principle is that money scales and it scales in ways unimaginable to many, even those in fatFIRE.
Experiencing the MOFIRE scale
I’m still a law student and currently have a negative net worth, so perhaps I’m exactly the opposite of MOFIRE. Within the next two years, I hope to become HENRY (high earner, not rich yet), but it is safe to say that I am simply sharing my best research on MOFIRE without having experienced or even truly witnessed it myself. Keep in mind, very few individuals on planet Earth will experience the kinds of benefits and problems that MOFIRE brings. It is these considerations however, that distinguish a different kind of personal finance strategy or lifestyle from simple fatFIRE.
A net worth of tens of millions of dollars is not unreachable for a decent portion of people who fatFIRE. Often, a net worth of $10, 20, or 30 million is attainable for the average fatFIREr with a few extra years of work or good investing fortune. Sure you have a nice house, very nice car, and you can travel luxuriously, but the pressure of building or maintaining a personal finance empire likely will not go away. While your life certainly will not collapse overnight even in extraordinary economic downturns, you still manage personal finances similarly to most fatFIRE people, and banks do not consider you as a high net worth individual worthy of special attention.
From $50 million to $100 million (roughly), flying private, and 5-star hotels become regular. The city’s most expensive restaurants will serve you (think Dorsia from American Psychopath). You may have a significant, or even controlling interest in big companies, and the kinds of people that are willing to converse with you include congressmen and other community leaders. Rarely will you be contacted directly by people other than close family and friends (you now have assistants for that), and your wealth is stand-out enough that it garners respect in most places on Earth. However, in some cities where the rich tend to accumulate, you may feel like a regular fatFIREr in the background. Crucially, if it hasn’t already occurred, your personal relationships are often difficult to manage, and your social circle begins to look a lot like others that share your net worth. Will people appreciate you for who you are or see you as a resource? Will the line between the two begin to blur?
Nine figures to becoming a billionaire is a whole new game in and of itself. Things will scale all over again in this range. A significant interest in a company will be compared to a significant interest in a Fortune 500. Just about any famous person can begin to enter your circle, but even fame has its own scale, and your wealth may create connections that are relative on that scale. Some of your friends may know world leaders. You probably go from having a few assistants to an entire staff team to handle your day-to-day life. At the lower end, you may have a vacation home on three separate foreign beaches, but others are renting and owning private islands! Owning a few luxury cars becomes contrasted against unique auction cars. The general consensus seems to be that genuine interpersonal connections are extremely rare, if not impossible by the time money can arguably start to solve every problem, be it yours or someone else’s.
Finally, the good old billion. Anyone in the world will talk to you. Your peers make decisions that affect the globe. Influence can be bought, and you are a player with a voice when it comes to public policy and legislation. Everyone who provides service (pilots, chefs, drivers, etc.) will drop everything to make you happy. You can get a seat at the most exclusive sporting events and shows. You can own original pieces of art by painters whose names appear in high school art history books. You can feed and shelter entire villages and not break the bank.
In 2021, the U.S. had a little over 700 billionaires, and the entire world had over 2,500 billionaires. When it comes to being in a financial minority, this is as far as it realistically gets. Anything over $10 billion places you right at the cusp of the top 200 wealthiest in the world, and the question becomes more of “how is it to be you?” How is it to be Elon Musk? Only Elon knows. How is it to be Jack Ma? Only Jack knows. But Jack Ma’s net worth is sitting around $25 billion while Elon Musk is 10x of that—well over $250 billion. The scale of wealth really is incredible.
Can lawyers MOFIRE?
The legal profession often carries with it a connotation of wealth and high earning potential. Starting biglaw associate compensation automatically shoots a fresh graduate into the top five percent of income in the U.S, and Bigshot rainmakers in private practice do reach some eye-popping salaries. Average profit-per-equity-partner exceeds $3 million/year at almost 30 law firms! Biglaw Investor has compiled a list of the richest lawyers in the world, which includes two billionaires and five millionaires in the hundreds. There are more than a handful of anecdotes of successful personal injury attorneys raking in millions of dollars of fees collected each year. Obviously, lawyers can and do make tons of money, and a decent number of them can capably pursue MOFIRE.
However, pursuing law with MOFIRE in mind may be an unrealistic dream for most. Nobody can guarantee that someone is partnership-material at a biglaw firm, nor can there be any guarantee that a smaller practice will pop off and make a lawyer very wealthy. However, many lawyers can find themselves comfortably in the range of fatFIRE, which means that statistically, some will attain the level of career success that opens the doors to MOFIRE.
Joseph Kim is a 3L at Notre Dame Law School. Joseph grew up in California where he developed an interest in working with music, powerlifting, and bowling. He’s been a member of the FIRE community since before law school and plans to pursue FatFIRE following graduation.