FIRE – Financially Independent, Retired Early

Also known as F*** It, Retire Early

Financially Independent MoneySomething that often goes along with Minimalism is FIRE (Financially Independent, Retired Early). They don’t have to go hand in hand, but from what I have seen, many FIRE people tend to divest themselves of unnecessary and less important things (a.k.a. they are minimalists). They tend to purge the expensive items that bring less value (or even negative value) from their lives.

There are extremes in everything. For instance, some people will take the aim of financial independence and turn it into a competition to see just how little they can spend each year.  Others take a more measured approach, but they still divest many of the trappings of modern life.

For those that are successful, they manage to cut their ties to day jobs and live off saving, residual income, or small odd jobs that help them get by when they need a little more spending money. With their modest lifestyles, they are often achieving a goal of not having to worry about grinding away their lives for someone else.

Some FIRE people are more successful than others. They have many of the items they want as well as a substantial pool of resources to draw upon, for what is hopefully, the rest of their lives. Others achieve their retirement goal, but perhaps do not have the lifestyles they truly desire.

You can retire at any time, as long as you adjust your standard of living

A friend told me once that he could retire today if he wanted, only that he’d have to make some serious adjustments to his quality of life. I jokingly agreed I could do the same, assuming I adopted cardboard and bridges as a primary building material.

In some of the blog posts I am reading around FIRE, I find a couple of key themes: save everything you can and spend as little as possible. Both of these are fundamentally valid and good philosophies to follow on the road to a state of financially independent living. However, the devil is in the details. Just how many cuts can you make? How little can you live on? How much can you truly save?

For me, a technology person, I cannot opt for the $200 computer that allows me to surf the internet from a free hotspot at a local cafe. I can’t use a disposable phone with little or no data. I do not live in a place where I could bicycle everywhere I need to go. I don’t even live in a place with any real public transportation. I have pets that are part of my family. (I have seen recommendations to relocate, learn to make do with less, and get rid of the pets).  Those are all things easier said than done and would not align with a lifestyle I would get pleasure from.

I mention those things because I have seen recommendations to relocate, simply learn to make do with less, and to get rid of the pets.  Those are all things easier said than done and would not align with a lifestyle I would get pleasure from.

So…Give up and work forever?

To steal from Eddie Izzard, are my choices just “Tea and cake or Death?” Is there no middle ground? Does that mean I can’t retire early? Is the only other option to work forever?

The honest answer is I don’t know yet. I am a little different in my situation. I have my day job and my nights and weekend job. I make an IT living during the day and write books at night. The writing would not stop, even if I won the lottery and could swim in money like Scrooge McDuck (I loved watching those cartoons). So, I guess it does mean I will work forever (I’ll never stop writing). But, can I stop the IT job?

The rub is I am used to my IT income and lifestyle. However, … (and this is where a big however comes in) I am minimalizing my things and as a result my lifestyle. Can I leverage enough of a reduction of noise and objects that don’t really bring me pleasure, and as a result, retire early from IT and still have the things I want? I would like to think so.

With all the blogs and discussion groups out there around the hardcore FIRE community, covering the hardcore movement (which I don’t see myself as belong exactly) I thought I would muse here a little on the subject and see if I can make sense of it (or might eventually have it make sense).

I will caveat this to include: if something I am writing lands a movie deal or becomes a huge best seller, then all the rules change and I dedicate a lot more time to writing.

What if FIRE is right for you?

If you are really interested in being financially independent and retiring early, there are a number of good resources out there. Here are some of the ones I found and the programs, philosophies, and approaches they took might speak to you. Some can be extreme, but perhaps that fits into your life. For me, I need to let it percolate a bit more and adapt it to what I really want…which is another line of thought.

Rockstar Finance is a very popular jumping off point and includes a number of links to people like Mr. Money Mustache, The Mad Fientist, and Our Next Life.