If the idea of retiring in your early 50s, 40s, 30s, or even late 20s appeals to you, you may be interested in joining the FIRE retirement movement. Designed for those with the discipline and cash flow to save diligently, FIRE can be an effective path toward a work-optional lifestyle. In this article, we will discuss what FIRE is and whether or not it may be right for you.
What is FIRE?
FIRE stands for "Financial Independence, Retire Early." This program, inspired by Vicki Robin's book "Your Money or Your Life," is built on saving more money month-to-month than traditional retirement approaches and utilizing low-fee investment choices to afford retirement earlier than the traditional age.1
The "financial independence" portion of FIRE is considered to be about 25 times your yearly expenses. For example, if you decided you'd need $50,000 a year to live off of in retirement, you would need to save 50,000 x 25, or $1.25 million, to be considered financially independent. Once that number has been met, you'd be able to retire and enjoy a life of financial freedom, withdrawing about three or four percent from your nest egg each year.
Top Considerations Before Joining the FIRE Movement
Retiring in your 30s may sound too good to be true. In fact, the whole FIRE movement and premise of retiring early can sound like more of a daydream than reality. And for some, it may be just that. But for others who are able or willing to embrace the lifestyle, financial independence early in life can be possible. Before deciding if the FIRE program may be right for you, here are a few important considerations.
Consideration #1: You'll Need to Spend Wisely
The big factors of the FIRE program are income, expenses, and time. The idea is the bigger the gap between income and expenses, the less time it will take you to reach financial independence. And while it may sound extreme, depending on your timeline and desired income level in retirement, you could be looking to save more than half of your income to put toward early retirement. This is something that would need to be calculated individually, as it is based on your income level and current expenses. However, living a frugal lifestyle now is almost always a universal requirement of the FIRE program and other early retirement seekers.
Consideration #2: FIRE Followers Don't Embrace Traditional Retirement
For those looking to retire early using the FIRE method, "retirement" doesn't mean sitting around and doing nothing. FIRE followers are typically more focused on the first part of the acronym, "financial independence," than they are on retiring early. That means that they're likely to still work in retirement or pursue a passion project they were previously unable to due to the confines of a full-time job.
Consideration #3: You'll Want a "Why"
Like many financial goals, finding the motivation to skip dinners out or splurge on a new outfit can be hard. When you have a nondescript idea of retiring early, there's little motivation to skip out on some enjoyment today for the possibility of an early retirement a decade down the line. Instead, those who have embraced the FIRE method often put a “why” to their savings programs, and it’s important to get as specific as possible. Define your “why” and let it guide you in making positive progress toward your financial independence.
The FIRE program is an appealing method of reaching retirement early on in life and allows its followers to find flexibility in doing what they love. However, it takes self-discipline and the ability to spend less today to save for tomorrow. If you’re considering the FIRE method, it may be wise to work with a financial professional who can help you understand your current spending habits and what you’ll need in order to find financial independence for early retirement.
1. Vickirobin.com, 2023