I’m feeling inspired by a growing movement you may have heard of called FIRE — Financial Independence / Retire Early. The FIRE community, which numbers in the tens of thousands, has come up with a method of making massive savings in order to leave the workforce decades before they turn 65. You could say it’s a rejection of materialism and may have its origins in the 2008 recession. Many think it all began with a blog.
In 2013, Pete Adeney, a Canadian software engineer living in Colorado, started Mr. Money Moustache about how he was able to retire at 33 after working for a decade and saving 66% of his income. His radical transparency — he touts his annual expenses in 2016 as $30,193 for his family of three — and tips inspired others to follow suit.
In an era where many are looking for alternatives to the mainstream — instead of McMansions, some live in tiny houses; instead of industrialized farming, some grow their own food; instead of driving, many bike — FIRE seems to fit right in. In fact, the basic precept of FIRE — save enough money so you can retire — is exactly what Gen Xers and Millennials are planning to do. Whereas Boomers are more likely to depend on Social Security and are less likely to have feel that they saved sufficiently, younger generations know that they’ll need to depend on themselves.
Yet many of those who “retire early” continue to work part-time. But because they don’t “need” to work they can be choosier about what projects they take on, and they work to live instead of live to work. As Deacon Hayes, author of You Can Retire Early! told LifeHacker, “It’s less about retiring early and more about having the freedom to pursue your dreams and ambitions.”
There’s an interesting correlation with The New Life Stage, which takes into account how an increase in longevity has led to a longer retirement for those who do retire at 65. And what do those retirees want to do? No longer satisfied with leisure time on the golf course or a cruise, they too want to pursue their dreams and ambitions.
If you’re retiring at 65, you likely have several decades to pursue these ambitions. But if you’re part of FIRE, you may have 30–60 years ahead of you. On the FIRE podcast ChooseFI, co-host Brad Barrett said, “FI is not about deprivation. It’s quite the opposite. It’s about buying the ultimate luxury, which is decades of your time.”
So that’s the crux of it all: time. Both groups — 35-year-old and 65-year-old retirees alike — want to enjoy the luxury of time to live their lives as they please. Regardless of age, FI allows you to make decisions with a whole different set of criteria i.e. have to versus need to.
The extremes Mr. Money Moustache has gone to won’t appeal to everyone, but not getting strapped down with all of the material delights society tells us we must enjoy is an interesting way of turning everything on its head. (And why Pac-Man? Because we dreamed up a world where he escapes the worker-bee maze by riding the river of FIRE.)