Over the past decade, the Financial Independence / Retire Early (FIRE) movement has experienced unprecedented popularity. Adherents to this ideology often make aggressive savings plans while living a frugal lifestyle to reach financial independence sooner.
Workers do this by taking steps such as increasing employer matching of their retirement accounts and cutting expenses, or by taking advantage of geographic arbitrage to relocate to areas with lower prices and reduce living costs through geographic arbitrage.
1. The ability to choose your work
FIRE participants typically invest and save an incredible percentage of their incomes, enabling them to reach financial independence by their 40s or earlier.
Once they reach this point, they can decide whether or not they want to continue their career or try something else with their lives – some may pursue passion projects or start businesses, while others might volunteer or work at non-profits.
FIRE movement members often seek the freedom of choosing their work as one of its many attractions, yet many find this emotional straining. Participants who have achieved their goal often comment that while it feels great to stop working or work for themselves, they miss having structure and purposeful work to go back to. Therefore, it is crucial that any negative feelings are balanced against joyous memories from spending your time doing what matters to you most.
2. The ability to say no
Critics of FIRE argue that it sets unrealistic expectations. They note that it takes an income in the six-figure range in order to save enough for retirement in your 40s, even with enough investments saved up; unexpected events like market fluctuations or medical emergencies could quickly undermine their security.
FIRE followers often utilize spreadsheets and detailed financial plans to model their savings and investment strategies. Furthermore, FIRE followers prioritize living a frugal lifestyle, something which many find challenging over the long term.
Financial independence should be an attainable goal for everyone, regardless of your opinion on FIRE or early retirement. By prioritizing experiences over material possessions and prioritizing meaningful experiences over materialistic acquisitions, you can create your own version of financial freedom while creating lifelong memories along the way. And if it comes to it early retirement can free up even more time for doing what matters to you!
3. The ability to spend your time on what matters
FIRE participants make sacrifices to save aggressively and meet their retirement savings goals, but still work to create a budget which allows for fun and self-indulgence. Employer matching in their 401(k), tax-advantaged accounts like the Roth IRA to minimize taxes, and investing in low-cost index funds with long-term returns are just some of the strategies used by FIRE participants to reach retirement.
FIRE practitioners understand their plan isn’t foolproof – inflation, stock market fluctuations and unexpected healthcare expenses could throw their plans off track – yet they take a calculated risk with the expectation that if needed they’ll have enough income from other sources to supplement their investments or work if need be.
FIRE enthusiasts want to leave behind soul-crushing jobs and dedicate themselves to what really matters in life. If your current occupation leaves you feeling disenchanted or has no appeal whatsoever, FIRE may not be your solution – rather consider finding another career path than “FIRE.”
4. The ability to live a life on your terms
Financial independence can be immensely satisfying; yet it may also present difficulties. Some early retirees find it hard to fill their time with meaningful activities and may feel drawn back into the workforce later in life.
Financial independence requires both an increased savings rate and a frugal lifestyle. People striving toward financial independence often maximize employer matches for retirement plans while taking advantage of tax-advantaged accounts such as Roth IRAs to minimize taxes on investment income; typically saving between 50-70% of their after-tax income.
Financially responsible individuals aim to pay down debt with high-interest rates in order to allocate more of their resources towards reaching their goals. Furthermore, they may look for opportunities to generate extra income – for instance by writing or working for a non-profit that addresses social problems they care about.