What The FIRE Movement Is All About – In One Word

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The FIRE Movement

I didn’t plan on writing today’s post about The FIRE Movement.  Rather, I was planning on writing “5 Reasons Why We Decided to fatFIRE”.

As I started writing the fatFIRE post, however, serendipity happened.  I’ve learned to follow that rabbit, and follow her I did.  She led me here…

What The FIRE Movement Is All About - In ONE Word. Click To Tweet

Taking my lead from the rabbit, today’s post focuses on The Fire Movement and the one word which explains what it’s all about.  I’m still working on that fatFIRE article, and expect I’ll publish it in the coming weeks, completing a two-part series on FIRE:

  1. What The FIRE Movement Is All About – In One Word
  2. 5 Reasons We Decided To fatFIRE

Even if you’re following a traditional path to retirement, there are a lot of lessons we can all learn from the FIRE community.  I’ll be sharing some of these lessons throughout these two dedicated posts on The Fire Movement.  Enjoy!


First, What Does FIRE Mean?

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the FIRE movement by now, so excuse me for starting with the basics.  For those of you who are starting from scratch, however, it’s always good to walk before we run.  Let’s start with the fundamentals:

FIRE = Financial Independence Retire Early

Or, to use this excellent definition from Investopedia:


Definition of ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE)’

Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a movement dedicated to a program of extreme savings and investment that allows proponents to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans would allow.


Remember that definition, it’ll come in handy when I get to my One Word Summary for FIRE.

Note:  There’s some debate in the community on the meaning of the “RE” part of FIRE, given that many FIRE advocates continue to “work” after they “Retire”.  Fair enough.  What’s important, however, is that achieving Financial Independence allows folks the freedom to do whatever they wish with their time.  If that means continuing to work on things they enjoy, instead of pursuing a traditional Job for money, then I say “More Power To Them!”.  Perhaps, as suggested by Dr. McFrugal in a comment on this post from FIideas, we should redefine RE as: 

Recreational Employment.

Whether You Call It Retire Early or Recreational Employment, FI Gives you the freedom to choose. Click To Tweet

Hey, it’s a free world.  Feel free to name the “RE” anything that works for you.  That’s one of the things I enjoy about the FIRE community, it’s one of the last bastions of society which tends to reserve judgment.  It’s a great attribute of the FIRE community, and an attitude we could all use a bit more of, in my humble opinion.  So, FIRE is whatever you want it to be, and you don’t have to worry about the “Retirement Police” judging you too harshly if they disagree with your opinion.

Refreshing, that.


Ok, So When Did The FIRE Movement Start?

The original FIRE started way back in 1992 when Vicki Robin launched the concept in her 1992 bestseller Your Money Or Your Life. The phenomenon didn’t really catch fire (bad pun) back then, however.

Vicki Robbin lit the ember of FIRE, but it was Mr. Money Mustache who fanned it into a Flame. Click To Tweet

Most folks would agree that the true “launch” of the FIRE Movement happened in 2011 when Mr. Money Mustache launched his iconic blog.  In 2012 he published The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement, which has become the single biggest post responsible for igniting the FIRE movement (and, a must read if you’ve not yet read it, a truly phenomenal piece of work!).  The FIRE has been growing ever since, and it’s turned into a true cultural movement over the past few years.


Just How Popular Is FIRE?

FIRE seems to be all the rage these days. 

The flames really took off when Suzy Orman weighed in on an Afford Anything podcast a few months back and moved what had been a microcosm of our society into the mainstream.

The Podcast That Fanned The Flames

That podcast, and her “I Hate It! I Hate It! I Hate It!” comment went viral and fanned a huge reaction in the community (it was fun, actually, with the blowback causing Suze to rethink her position.  Or perhaps, as some have surmised, it was all a publicity stunt orchestrated by the social media savvy Ms. Orman.  Who knows?  Who cares?).

Mass media suddenly woke up and realized something big was happening.  Want proof?

Try reading this Washington Post story, or this one from Money, or US News, or the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, or NY Times,  or Kiplinger’s, or or or…

You get my point.  FIRE’s getting some serious press.

The FIRE Movement is becoming a legitimate trend in our society, as indicated by the ~30,000 MEMBERS of the ChooseFI Facebook page!  Wow.  This movement is catching FIRE.  Or, to use one of the online cliches of the movement, “The FIRE is spreading”.  There are even FIRE events spreading around the country.

All the rage, indeed.


How Many People FIRE?

It’s difficult to put a hard number on this phenomenon.  No one would argue that it’s still a small minority of folks who truly FIRE.  While their numbers are small, they generate headlines that lead some to conclude that it’s more common that it really is.  The best data I could find is the following graph, which came from this recent story in Marketwatch:



Depending on what definition of age constitutes “early retirement” in your world, the data would say it’s somewhere between 5% (< Age 55 as the cutoff) to 18% (< Age 60) of the population at large.  While the data is a bit dated, and the %’s are possibly a bit higher now, the truth is that it’s very difficult to save enough money to retire at an age significantly below “traditional” retirement age.  Those within the FIRE movement who have pulled off an early retirement should be looked at as positive examples for us to learn from.

Lesson #1 From FIRE:  If you’ve undersaved for retirement, use the same tricks used in the FIRE Movement to get yourself on track.  It’s exactly what Betty & Gordon did, and they went from having $0 saved at Age 49 to full retirement in 16 years (see It’s Never Too Late To Start Saving For Retirement).


Why FIRE Is Controversial

Many folks have criticized the FIRE movement as being unrealistic “youngsters” yearning to escape work.  Like most things, there are many misconceptions about FIRE (see Misconceptions Of FI by FI180, or Mainstream Media Misses The Mark on the FIRE Movement, by PhysicianOnFire/RockstarFinance).  Rather than focus on perceptions of FIRE, or judging those who have decided to pursue Financial Independence as a goal, I prefer to look at the positives.  Here are some of the positives from the FIRE movement:

  • A younger generation focused on saving for retirement.
  • Individuals taking responsibility for their personal finances.
  • An entire online community talking about money, and financial decisions.
  • Folks deciding for themselves how much they want to sacrifice today, for the sake of tomorrow.
  • An entire community self-educating themselves on important personal finance issues

Lesson #2 From FIRE:  The FIRE community has clearly taken responsibility for their personal finances.  The FIRE Movement is a great example for baby boomers to follow, especially those who haven’t yet taken responsibility for their own retirements.  Rather than wasting our energy judging those who are pursuing FIRE, we should instead focus on learning what we can from the movement.


The ONE Word That Defines FIRE

Ok, here it is.  The big moment you’ve all been waiting for.  What is the ONE word that defines The FIRE Movement?

Allow…

Me…

To…

Build….

Some…

Anticipation…

With…

This…

Dramatic…

Pause…

The ONE Word is…..


“Independence”


The One Word which defines the FIRE movement is “Independence”.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve been a part of the FIRE community for close to 4 years, and I know hundreds of folks who have either already FIRE’d, or are well on their way to retiring before their 50th birthday.  I consider many of these folks as good friends, and I know them fairly well.  We’re kindred spirits, and we have a lot of the same goals.

While I’m on the “outer edge” of FIRE with a retirement at Age 55, I consider myself a part of the FIRE community.  More specifically, I view myself as a “Bridge” between the FIRE and Traditional Retirement communities and see my Purpose as sharing wisdom between the two groups for the benefit of all.

I FIRE’d this past summer, and I did it for Independence. For the many FIRE advocates I know, the desire is the same.

Independence.

More than any other word, Independence defines in the simplest of terms the mindset that pervades the FIRE Movement.  Let’s take another look at that Investopedia definition of FIRE:

a movement dedicated to a program of extreme savings and investment that allows proponents to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans would allow.

What word, more than any other, best defines this DRIVE to retire “far earlier” than “normal”?

The Quest For Independence.

Ironically, the FIRE movement started in the USA, a country founded on the very principle of Independence.  Just as our forefathers didn’t want those pesky Brits taxing our tea without representation, today’s FIRE advocates don’t want that that pesky beast named “The Man” to tell us how to live our lives.

We’d rather decide for ourselves how to live our lives, thank you very much.

Our Founders Chose Guns and drove the Brits back to their island.   Those seeking Independence made sacrifices, with some paying the ultimate price with their lives.

We Chose FIRE and drove The Man back to his ivory tower.  Those seeking Independence made sacrifices, with some achieving savings rates in excess of 50%.

Independence Isn’t Free.  The Founding Fathers understood this, and so do folks in the FIRE community.  The higher the value, the higher the price.  Independence has tremendous value.  The price is worth the benefit.  (Note, thanks to one of my Canadian readers for pointing out that Mr. Money Mustache was originally from Canada.  Thanks for fact-checking my work, I guess we’ll have to give credit to our Canadian friends for fanning those embers into flames!).

Lesson #3 From FIRE:  Retirement tomorrow doesn’t come without some sacrifices today.  If you don’t make some sacrifices now, you’ll likely be forced to make some sacrifices later (e.g., a retirement standard of living below your expectations). Be intentional with your decisions, and decide what level of sacrifice is appropriate for you in order to achieve Independence in your future.

FIRE allows us the Independence to live the life that we choose to live.  When the “FI” portion of FIRE is achieved, we achieve a Freedom that defines our lives.

  • No longer MUST we work the 9-to-5.
  • No longer MUST we live paycheck to paycheck.
  • No longer MUST we limit our personal pursuits to weekends.
  • No longer MUST we relocate to move up the next rung on the ladder.
  • No longer MUST we miss that birthday for a business trip.

Instead, we now live a life focused on the Purpose WE design for our own lives.  We spend our time doing the things WE define as important.  We live the life that WE choose to live.  We are Free to Live Like No One Else.

FIRE gives us Independence.

FIRE makes us Free.


Your Turn:

If you’re a member of The FIRE Movement, do you agree with “Independence” as the One defining word for the movement?  Is there a different word you prefer, and why?  If you’re on the “Traditional” path to retirement, what do you think of the FIRE movement?  Do you agree with the 3 lessons included in today’s post, or am I missing something?  Let’s chat in the comments….

73 comments

  1. I think it is a shame FIRE makes such a great acronym. Pretty much anyone who is smart, hardworking (and lets face it lucky) enough to get to FI at ,say, 35 is not going to sit there twiddling their thumbs for the next 60 years. So actually I would prefer to simply call the movement FI.

    I like the term “Recreational Employment” a lot better than “Retire Early” – it certainly fits my description well as my RE is unpaid – but some peoples employments post FI seem far from recreational so I doubt it fits everybody. However, most of me thinks “who cares.” If you have achieved FI then the RE part is up to you and who cares what anyone else has to say about it (unless that person is trying to tax you out of your FI.) So, in my view, independence is a great word.

    One lesson I would add is luck. If you were lucky enough to be born in the right country, be intelligent and were given a good education and the right role models, then getting to FI is a choice you can make. Most others are far less fortunate making FI much less achievable and maybe totally impossible.

    1. PJ, great point to add “luck” to the equation. Any of us lucky enough to FIRE (regardless of what we call the “RE”, or how we choose to live it) did, indeed, have the winds of fair fortune filling our sails during the journey. Thanks for the addition to the discussion.

  2. At age 61 it’s obviously too late in the game for me to “retire early.” However, courtesy of the information and support from the FIRE community my level of financial security has improved. It changed my thinking. Thank you everyone.

    1. A 61 year old stud muffin? Great nic! Thanks for confirming my belief that the FIRE community has a lot to teach those in the “traditional” lane to retirement. I’d always believed it, but it’s comforting to have a reader’s confirmation of the opinion!

  3. Our church has used the term RE-deployment, rather than retirement. Redeployed to whatever we choose. The first word that came to my mind was: ‘Choice’ when thinking about FIRE.

    1. I like “RE-Deployment”. I’ve also heard “RE-Tired”, as in a new set of tires. Certainly a lot of ways to skin the cat. I agree that “Choice” is another good word, as the freedom of choice is definitely something you achieve with FI!

  4. I remember seeing some of Vicky Robbins and Joe Dominguez earlier work in 1987.
    They were talking up the your money or your life info at that time.

    1. Wendell, good point. They were definitely on the path prior to 1992, I chose that date for the post simply because it was the first publication date for their epic book on the topic. Thanks for paying attention to the details.

  5. Hi Fritz,
    Retiring early depends on both your definition of retirement AND early. I guess we are early retirees as we were under 60 when we retired…but we don’t think of it that way.
    Retirement, in my mind, is Choice. Somehow one has worked out a way to live a satisfying lifestyle without the constraints of a daily trek to the office or job. Work gets redefined from something one has to do to something one chooses to do and feeds a passion such that it does not feel like “work”.
    I’ve read about FIRE and I wish I had been following it earlier. I agree, it is not an escape from work, but financial savvy and responsibility. If you can successfully manage your finances to the point that you no longer need the daily grind to provide an income, you have the choice and luxury of deciding how each day unfolds. I actually shared some of my thoughts along these lines in my recent post.
    Nancy

    1. Nancy, my new blogging friend (!), thanks for stopping by my blog again. That’s two votes for Choice, looks like I may have to rethink “Independence”! I’ll have to head over and read that post. Nice to have “met” you in the past few weeks, it seems we think a lot alike.

  6. Ironic that you wrote that the FIRE movement society was “one of the last bastions of society that tends to reserve judgement” and then you mentioned Suze Orman. Did you not read the pure hatred the FIRE community put forth towards her? Also Chris Mamula just wrote a post on Can I Retire Yet, about the 5 things he had learned about ER and took a pretty good beating for it from the so called “non-judgmental FIRE community, Damned be to anyone that questions the FIRE movement.

    Thank for the post.

    1. Great point, Rick. I should say that the FIRE community has “traditionally” been very non-judgmental. I have seen some deterioration in that regard in the past few months, I hope we can get things back on track. In my view, the entire concept of FIRE is that the individual has a choice, and far be it for others to judge. I hope others recognize that important aspect, and refrain from the toxic bile that’s become too common in our society today.

  7. I must have been living under a rock, while running my own company for 36 years. Because I only heard about FIRE a few years ago at around age 65. My Lovely Wife of 40 years and I are FIRE, but I am bored to tears. My volunteer with SCORE but that is only about 4 hours a month, I need more I want more, BUT DO I WANT A JOB (NO NO NO NO NO).

    The challenge I see if making your nest egg last for 30 years or even 40 years. My lovely Wife is going to live until she is 100 and that is well over 30 years from now. Life is certainly a challenge but it’s all about choices. We were living on less than 50% of what we made, but we paid for 3 private college educations and medical school for one of our children ($500,000) so that our kids would not have student loan payments to make well into their 50’s. Was it worth it YOU BET, and we would do it again.

    I will continue to thank God for allowing me to be born in the greatest country in the world, my Dad was a Mail Man and in his best earnings years he made 18,000 a year, now we need that a month to cover our expenses. Lucky, for sure, happy mos of the time, fulfilled with my career yes, but still yearning for more.

    JJ

    1. We have a similar situation: My husband is a doctor, retiring in about 18 months after 32 years in medicine. I stayed home with the 3 children, so you could say I have been FIRED my entire life, doing what I enjoyed and having the joint income to do it! But although we saved, we pa8d for 3 private college educations and now medical school for one of our children (he is just in year 1), so technically, if we continue to pay for him until he graduates, we will be doing it while retired. We may have him take loan out for the last year. We have more than enough for retirement anyway but I do notice that many in the retirement community don’t plan on paying for private tuition for even 1 child, let alone multiple children. But speaking to your comment, I am used to being home and have a routine and network of friends. Not sure how my husband is going to handle it. He may be bored. But as of now, he is looking forward to not getting up in the dark , working overnight in the hospital, etc.

      1. Ellie, having just come through a 33 year career, and making the adjustment to full time retirement with my wife (who was also a stay-at-home Mom), I would encourage your husband to read The Ultimate Retirement Planning Guide, where I link to many articles highlighting the #1 thing folks in his situation can do to maximize the chances of a successful transition. Bottom Line: Plan for it now, and spend as much time as possible thinking about what you want your retirement lifestyle to be while you’re still working. It certainly worked for me, I hope it works for him.

        Also, kudos for paying for your children’s education. We did the same for our daughter, and I’ve never had a regret about that decision.

    2. Hi JJ:
      If you have not had a chance to read Don’t Retire.REWIRE!, it has some really great info about identifying your “drivers” and creating new ways to orchestrate your calendar to honor those drivers. This can hep reduce or eliminate boredom. (This resource is an old book, with a timeless process…2nd edition).

      Cheers!
      Mark
      nextthinggroup.com

    3. Thanks for your transparency, JJ. No doubt about it, many folks struggle with the transition to retirement, and some never seem to find their footing. You may be interested in a post I wrote about it titled “Will Retirement Be Depressing“.

      Kudos to you for paying for your children’s education. We did the same (tho we only had 1 daughter), and I always felt it was our gift to our child to be able to “pay it forward”, just as my parents did for me many years ago.

      Good luck with finding your “More”, I hope my words help on your journey.

    4. Fritz

      Thanks the article seems like It has many meanings for many different people. Fortunately or unfortunately I loved my work. I was able to employ 40 people for 36 years without every a layoff. Twice in the 36 years we lost a major account (20% of profit) and no one lost their job, or had to start delivering pizza to make ends meet. But that all comes with a cost the business was my second wife and certainly not as attractive or lovely as my real wife.

      I am one of the 60% who didn’t choose when to return and that is my friend the real issue. Thanks for the advice let’s see how I can figure it out

  8. My one word description of the FIRE movement is freedom. It gives you the freedom to do what you want. I supposed one could say independence and freedom mean the same thing.

    I like the term “recreational employment”. It’s nice to know that you don’t have to work. It’s very freeing.

    1. Ditto. When I FIREd earlier this year and the first thoughts that came into my mind was “I’m free!”. Also agree that freedom and independence are very similar.

  9. I retired on November 30, 2018. I was 51. We started planning 7-8 years ago to retire when I was between 55-59. But we decided earlier this year we were financially able to and made the decision together (my wife and I) ti retire from daily work. Even though it has only been 11 days, the Independence to plan our days how we want is incredible. I read your email every week. I would highly recommend everyone prepare themselves for the FIRE! You won’t regret it.

  10. I was patiently waiting for the word that would define FIRE in a nutshell, and I must say, it was worth the wait. INDEPENDENCE–f%cking A! And I love how you worked in the notion of sacrifice. There’s no escaping pain for us mere mortals. Pain is an integral part of the human condition. But we can decided what pain we want. And the FIRE community decided to embrace the pain of doing without so they could one day escape the pain of “the man” owning forty or more hours of their lives every week. Bravo, my friend. A long time ago our spiritual brothers struck a blow for liberty by tossing tea into a harbor. Today when honor those rebels by driving shitty cars and saving fifty percent of our household income. The Spirit of ’76 hasn’t been extinguished yet. It lives in the FIRE community. Great freakin’ post.

    1. Mr. G!! I was thinking specifically of you when I came up with that analogy of our Founding Fathers fighting for Independence. I’m glad it hit your sweet spot (“Great freakin’ post”!? I could think of no higher compliment). We think alike, my friend. Enjoy that new Groovy Ranch, if you ever get out of your snowed in driveway!

  11. I thought the word would be Independence or Freedom. My only comments about the entire FIRE movement are that is seems to really only apply in its strictest interpretation to folks who are not in love with their work. I have a son who absolutely loves, loves, his career. His job is his life, and vice versa. I think he would work for free if he had too! He is in the entertainment business, and is always going somewhere, hanging with cool people, and doing very interesting things. He is one of the lucky ones. Even so, I try to explain to him he must save for his life after retirement. His savings rate is not great, but he has a chronic illness and I think he is mentally “living for today”-who knows.
    My husband’s situation is different, he has been working for about 30 years, in a career he still kind of enjoys, but the hours are brutal. We have enough to retire now (could have retired 5 years ago), but he has golden handcuffs in the form of a high pension, so he is sticking it out another 18 months. As long as he is healthy, he would be foolish to throw in the towel at this point.

    1. Ellie, I appreciate you joining The Retirement Manifesto teams. Real words of wisdom, much appreciated. Your son is, indeed, a lucky man. My concern is for those who may love their careers in the “early years”, and use it as an excuse to not save aggressively for retirement. It’s much rarer to find someone in years 30+ who still loves their work with the same passion.

      I can relate to your husband’s golden handcuffs. I had the same (also via a “back end loaded” pension), but decided to retire before my pension was maximized. It’s important to know when Enough Is Enough, and the value of Independence is often worth more than waiting that few more years to maximize the pension.

      I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and appreciate your involvement with this blog.

  12. I think Independence is a fine choice. When I read the title to the posting before having read it, two words came to my mind. “Freedom” is one which admittedly I think is largely the same thought as independence. The other word that came to mind for me is “Options”. FIRE provides you a wealth of options including oddly enough the option to pick the option that is best for you and your family.

    Great post!

  13. Nice post! Being in my mid-40’s, I sort of see myself on the outer fringes of the FIRE movement too. I don’t have too many regrets about not taking my finances more seriously in my 20’s bc my job/career gave me invaluable experiences, despite the daily grind. I can honestly say that I’ve lived a full career life so-to-speak.

    One quibble – between Vicki Robin and MMM was Jacob Lund Fisher/Early Retirement Extreme blog. I distinctly remember reading an MMM post where the “early retirement torch” was passed!

    1. GREAT addition of Jacob Lund Fisher. I read his book many years ago, and it was definitely one of the foundational works for the movement. Kinda blows up my “USA fighting for Independence” analogy, though. Ah well, the facts are what they are, and he was certainly a “founding father” of the movement. Thanks for the addition to the discussion.

  14. Thank you for the shout out, Fritz! I have to credit DrMcFrugal for the comment “Recreational Employment”, which I love. My word is “Freeployed” and I got another one in a comment yesterday — Freedoment.

    The point of having different words is the essence of your word INDEPENDENCE. Once we achieve such a financial state, we are free to live as we wish and define life (and words!) as we choose. I love the comparison to our founding fathers. The higher the value, the more sacrifice. So true. I appreciate the bubble graph and I’m proud to have gained my INDEPENDENCE at age 51. I’m in the 5%!

    1. A great blogger always justifies a shout-out in my book, Susan! If “Recreational Employment” ever gains traction, your post / Dr. McFrugal’s comment will certainly be the first mention of the term.

      Congrats on being in the 5%. Crushing it, for sure!!

  15. Solid post. I’m 55 and have reached FI, but I’m going to work for another few years so Old Lady Frogdancer can go overseas every year while she’s nimble enough to do it. I’ll be pulling the pin at age 59 or 60, which I still consider as early retirement, seeing as in Australia you can’t get the Age Pension till your very late 60’s.

    I’m one of the ‘lucky’ ones in that I still like my job, but I’m tired of having so much of my day dictated to me. Being a teacher, every minute of my work days are scheduled. Independence is the perfect word for what I’m working towards… it’ll be sweet!

    1. It will be sweet, indeed. Patience in the final leg of the journey is one of the hardest phases, I trust Old Lady Frogdancer recognizes your sacrifice. And yes, you are indeed one of the lucky ones. Hang in there, the Starting Line is fast approaching!

      1. We cleared this up on twitter, but just popped back to say that ‘Old Lady Frogdancer’ isn’t my wife – she’s Future ME!!!
        Imagine if you were married and your partner found out that you were referring to them as “Old Man…” or “Old Lady…”
        My guess is you’d be staring at divorce papers in a heartbeat!!
        (But I agree with you, that wrinkled old crone had better appreciate my sacrifice. I’m getting ready for work now, instead of still being tucked up in bed…)

  16. Yup…independence. I am enjoying 2 months of independence in between jobs because of the moves we have made the last 4-5 years. Without my plan, I would still be a cardiologist living paycheck to paycheck. Sad isn’t it.

  17. Hi Fritz,
    I have planned on retiring early since I was 30. What the Fire Community did for me, is make me more confident that my Plan was a “Good Plan”. Your Blog is excellent, as is MMM, Big Ern’s SWR, Podcasts like Choose FI and Paula Pant are very interesting and entertaining. Talking about money, investing, debt is something that is still a big secret in much of society today. The “FIRE” community helps to get this subject out from behind the curtain. That is what I like the most about it.

    1. Wow, you’re putting me up there with the best in the biz. Much appreciated, Ernie! Happy to help bring FIRE out from behind the curtain, so others can benefit from it’s lessons in the same way you have during your journey!

  18. Good stuff! I wish we could find a way to get the “early” concept out as I think it excludes the people in their late 40s and early 50s who need this advice the most! Many (most?) have little or no retirement savings. I know! I turned 50 with 20K in my 401k and discovered the FIRE community. By seriously following the normal FIRE plan I was able to retire comfortably at 61. Hardly very early, but I’d never have gotten there at ANY age without the FIRE roadmap of high savings and low spending. FIRE may actually work better for the those in their later, high-income working years.

    1. Richard, your story sounds very familiar to Betty & Gordon‘s, and is a real testimony to how the FIRE tactics can work extremely well for those who have waited “too long” to start saving for retirement.

      I’m really trying to act as a “bridge” between the FIRE community and the “traditional retirees”, and this is one of the primary reasons. Good for you for discovering FIRE, before it was too late! If you’re willing, I may be interested in writing a “Betty & Gordon”-type story on you? Send me an email if you’re up for it, certainly a message we need to hammer home.

  19. For me the word is Choice. When you reach Financial Independence, you have a choice to Retire Early, you can choose to continue to work as you yourself did – One More Year, or stop, do something else. It is a blank sheet, and how you choose to fill it is your Choice!

    Great article

  20. I liked the suspense leading up to independence. Haha. Independence is definitely a good word to sum it up regardless of if it’s independence from financial obligations (debt) or independence from work. We definitely want FI at an early age although we’re not necessarily trying to retire early, more so work less. We like that aiming for FI will give us that option though.

  21. Interesting perspectives from a man who retired on the “outer edge” of early. My husband was 52, I was 43. That you are a generational bridge can indeed be helpful to others.

    I would also add “lucky” to the FIRE choice. We are early retired budget travelers, with American passports. We were born white, both paid for our education (not parents), had the great fortune to get solid jobs in companies that offered retirement benefits. So while some of that was choice, some of it was luck.

    1. Lucky is a great addition. Though we all worked hard to get to FIRE, there’s little doubt that we all had good fortune on our side, as well. Just being born in the USA, a fact entirely out of our control, gave us a huge “leg up” on folks in the majority of the world. Who can’t say that’s “luck” (or, perhaps, providence)?

  22. Been thinking about this since I commented. Maybe the better way to put it is – because of independence you have choice!

  23. Enjoyed this post, Fritz! I like the word “independence” a little more than choice, but both are great. As a late-saving Baby Boomer, finding the FIRE movement has saved me! I’m well on my way to catching up retirement savings by following the principles of FIRE.

  24. I watched my dad be ‘offered’ a retirement package before ‘traditional’ retirement age. I want the independence to accept a similar situation with the grace that he did, because he invested well, and did not have to hunt for a job to work into his 70s.
    My grandparents retired and since then the retirement age keeps inching upwards. What used to be a ~30 year career is now a ~ 40 year career. We don’t know how many years / how much time we have. I’d like to spend it as they did, with friends and family and enjoying their hobbies, instead of in a cube under fluorescent lights.
    There is the reality that our bodies and brains may not allow us to work to 70 and beyond.
    I’m planning to use FI to create a career with flexibility that allows me (if needed) to care for aging parents (and if they don’t need care, maybe take some epic trips and build memories together), and have that random lunch with a friend on a weekday. Technically if the work gets done, what is the difference if I’ve negotiated remote work so my view in the winter is a body of water in a warmer climate. I’d much rather be interrupted by sand hill cranes wandering past than that person on the other side of the cube who -has- to talk football to the one guy, even though the guy who sits there keep trying to wrap up the conversation.
    You say Independence, I call it freedom to live our best lives.
    Thank you for an amazing post Fritz!!

    1. No doubt about it, Jacq, achieving FI gives us the freedom to leave the drudgery of that fluorescent lit cube, but doesn’t mean we have to. It’s always better to have options, than not. It sounds like you have a good plan, I wish you well on your journey! And, did you really say “amazing post”! I’m blushing. Thanks for that.

  25. ‘Independence’ is a good word. My first thought was ‘freedom’, so we’re thinking the same things.

    I’m 55 and plan on retiring at 59/60, so not really FIRE. However, I enjoy reading FIRE blogs, the r/financialindependence subreddit, and listening to several podcasts. The optimism of the adherents is refreshing, even if I find some of it overly exuberant (Get off my lawn!)

  26. Ok, so here I am at 57. Thinking maybe 6 months more. Good company, but I’m not loving it. And today I get a nice (formal) offer to change jobs from a former boss and a good friend in a different, smaller company. Modest pay cut (well, 10%). Work is right in my wheelhouse – it would be rejuvenating in many ways. But I give up a chunk of unvested 401k (about $50k – though it only gets bigger until full vesting at 62). New company has instant vesting – but I can’t joint 401k for a year. Means I get to pay full taxes on savings for a year – bad – but not the end of the world. Changing jobs will probably take me to 60 or 61 before I RE – (have I blown the retire early merit badge?).

    Choices, choices. Of course, the FI part makes those choices possible. Independence is good.

    1. Tough decision, Kev. The good news is, in either case, you’ll be out by ~61 latest, which is far better than most folks on the planet today. Trading off 6 months til retirement at a job you don’t hate, vs. 3-4 years if you make the switch, sounds like a pretty big trade. Think through it carefully, and best of luck on your decision!

  27. I’m a long time FIRE blog reader. The first one I stumbled across was Darrow Kirkpatrick’s blog, CanIRetireYet in 2014. His and many others have had a big and, largely, positive impact for me and my family. I am late 40s, a high earner with a family. I am pretty close to being able to FIRE based on the standard definition of the term, but probably not completely safe until 2020.

    That being said, after being on my own FIRE journey for 4+ years, I have developed some serious reservations about what I am reading these days. I’m hoping you’ll post this comment and use it as an opportunity to have a discussion or maybe you can write a response post. I could probably post this on any number of blogs, but your general defense of FIRE seems like a good place for this. To be clear, I find nothing wrong with trying to improve people’s financial literacy and promote a culture of frugality. These are all near and dear to me. The FIRE blog community has helped me improve my game in this area. However, FIRE bloggers are ignoring some serious issues with their collective community and their message.

    1) FIRE bloggers are “lifestyle influencers,” and merit the same level of skepticism as anyone in this game. Most FIRE-bloggers monetize their blogs and so are sellers of a product, a product that should be evaluated objectively. I’m sorry, but the general defense that FIRE can be anything you want it is not accurate. Every single FIRE-blogger is selling the idea that financial independence and a lifestyle of much less work or no work will improve your happiness significantly. The reality is that this may not be true for everyone. I applaud Chris Mamula, Sam Dogen, Joe Udo and others who have written about the downsides of this lifestyle – depression and loss of purpose. JD Roth has been willing to write about the down-side of the FIRE-blog community and people should read his posts.

    Unfortunately, many other bloggers refuse to acknowledge this. The fact is that most research into the psychology of happiness in the past several decades has shown that people are actually more happy when producing than when consuming. The simple fact is that remaining productive is difficult for many people outside the context of a standard career. FIRE bloggers should talk more openly about this.

    2) FIRE bloggers are too much like multi-tiered marketing sales people.

    Blogger: “You should save a lot of money to retire early.”
    Reader: “Why?”
    Blogger: “It will give you freedom to pursue more creative pursuits.”
    Reader: “Like what?”
    Blogger: “Blogging. Take my course!”

    Not everyone wants to be a lifestyle influencer. Not everyone has a creative bent that they will be able to finally express when free from a job. FIRE bloggers need to discuss the reality of finding productive outlets for people who are not FIRE bloggers.

    3) Many young people who latch on to FIRE really just need to get some coping skills. It is painful to read the blogs of the youngest bloggers and Redditors who have some dream of living off of a half-million dollars for the rest of their lives by “embracing frugality.” Work is hard. Building a career is hard. Raising a family and taking on the financial commitment it requires is hard. You know what else is hard? EVERYTHING WORTH DOING.

    Simply put, for too many, FIRE is running from the harsh world to the pleasant, but fantastical dream of complete freedom. There is no such thing. To paraphase my favorite line in my favorite movie: “Life is pain, snowflakes. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

    4) Very few FIRE bloggers actually live off of their passive income. Here is my biggest pet-peeve. FIRE bloggers are really people with second-careers, who have chosen lifestyle-influencing as that career. Sam Dogen appears to make six figures from his blog. Joe Udo is making $60k per year now. Montana Money Adventures just fessed up that she makes about $70k per year “consulting” and her husband has a military pension that puts her household income over six figures. Even Justin at Root of Good covers a good chunk of his meager expenses with income from his blog and consulting. You know what these people are: part-time social influencers. They are not retired. They are entrepreneurs in the competitive and demanding field of social media content. Don’t get me started with MMM, who makes almost a half-million dollars a year from his blog.

    Just tell the truth. No sane person seems to retire in their 30s or 40s without some income. Yes, income. Not assets, but INCOME. A pension, a side hustle, a blog, some rental properties, whatever. Human nature seems to strongly favor income over capital appreciation. I know of one FIRE blogging couple who is actually not hard into a second career as a for-profit lifestyle influencer – “Where We Be.” They seem to actually walk the walk, but they appear to be a very rare exception to the rule.

    And here’s the thing – income takes work, with only one known exception – passive income from a diversified portfolio of investments. Right now, the most one could hope for would be in the range of 2% between the current S&P dividend yield and interest rates. That is half of the revered 4% rule. So, if you really want the ideal FIRE lifestyle of worry free passive income, and given the behavior of FIRE bloggers who indicate with their actions that “worry free” means not drawing down on a the principal of a portfolio, then be prepared to save 50x your current annual spending needs.

    The FIRE community needs to address these issues. Bloggers need to be more transparent with their readers / customers. Bloggers are selling a product and they should accountable for the accuracy of their claims. Many of them have good intentions, but good intentions do not guarantee good results. People with problems and challenges come across your blogs, read your ideas and make life decisions based on what they find. Hopefully, FIRE bloggers will work harder to present the positives and negatives

    1. Phil, thank you for your well thought out and appropriate comment. I agree that everyone should be skeptical of everything, and think for themselves as you are doing. That said, I also believe there is a lot that we can all learn from the FIRE community. Like most things, it’s always good to be selective. I’ve got too many thoughts to reply in a comprehensive comment, and like your idea of potentially using your comment as the basis of a future post. Stay tuned (be warned, I have over a year’s worth of content in my “draft” folder, just random thoughts mostly, but this will join the queue and I just work on ideas as I feel led to work on them.).

      1. Thank you for the response. As I said, the FIRE concept has had a big positive impact on me generally and I enjoy your blog in particular. I should have given you more credit for your posts which have addressed the importance of having a purpose and adjusting to the mentality of “drawing down” vs. accumulating. I guess the theme for my comment was that the mental game is just as important as the financial game and probably harder to master.
        In any event, Happy Holidays and continued success in your retirement journey.

        1. Phil, I enjoyed reading this comment.
          It’s good to read something that comes at the FIRE movement from a slightly different perspective and you wrote particularly well.
          Though the “50 X your income” was a bit demoralising… both because you forced me to do Maths first thing in the morning (yuck) and because the figure I reached was impossible. I’m in my mid 50’s so my compounding time is a bit limited.
          In Australia the Age Pension kicks in for those who pass the assets test in their late 60’s. On my current figures I project I’ll be gliding into that in my mid 80’s, all going well. I don’t plan on having any side hustle income – my days of doing that are over. I’ll just park myself on my couch/on international flights and enjoy myself!

          1. Frogdancer – My comment packed too many topics in without enough detail. The 50x spending comment was on studies like this one
            It’s not impossible that a person retiring in their 50s could get emotionally comfortable spending down a portfolio rather than relying only on income. I’m certainly going to try. Doesn’t seem at all realistic for someone in their 30s though, which was really my point.

    2. Phil, Bravo to your comment. Most of the “FIRE blogs” are really just a mutual affirmation society for FIRE bloggers. Any injection of reality into the comment streams is shouted down as an assault on “hopes and dreams” and the general happy-talk attitude that is so prevalent.

      1. Well, Fritz has been kind enough to post our comments, so kudos to him for being open to the discussion. I really should have drawn a distinction between his blog, which I think is pretty open and realistic on these issues, and the blogs aimed at the younger audiences that are off in fantasy land.

        1. You mentioned Darrow Kirkpatrick’s site. That’s perhaps the most realistic of all the blog sites, although the quality has lessened a bit since he hired a co-author. Most of the comments on his site are just regular folks, while many or most of the comments on this site are from other bloggers. That’s what I was trying to point out.

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