FIRE is not About Retirement, It’s About Empowerment
A New Approach To Money & Life
For many, the appeal of the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement is less about wanting to “retire” and sit on the beach for 50 years and more about dropping out of the “9–5” lifestyle. “Retiring” from the 9–5 does not necessarily mean “retiring from work”. Many of us would love to drop our 9–5 job and go work for ourselves doing what we are most passionate about.
What is holding people back from pursuing a life of self-employment? In a word, fear. More specifically fear that they will give up their cushy 9–5 job and make no money working for themselves and have to go crawling back to their old job.
FIRE was Born from the Ashes of the Financial Crisis
If fear of not having enough money is holding many people back from pursuing their passions, you can understand why the FIRE movement has become so popular particularly with millennials. Many “older millennials” (If you didn’t have Facebook until University you are an old millennial) like myself graduated University during the height of the financial crisis. We had no money, no jobs, no assets and tons of debt.
We were sold the idea that school was an investment. Sure, you might come out with a chunk of student loan debt, but if you go to University, take a “practical” degree like business and get good grades, you would have a good job waiting for you when you graduated.
Don’t get me wrong, the data is undeniable that over the course of your life you still make significantly more money if you have a University degree. The rational part of our brain knows this to be true. The problem is the human brain isn’t conditioned for that kind of long-term thinking. Our brain is wired to think in the short term.
When you are entering the workforce in 2009 and every headline you read is about massive layoffs, businesses going under and the unemployment rate going through the roof your brain is not telling you “don’t worry in 10 years you’ll be fine”. Your brain is telling you “you have a $600 student loan payment to make this month and you have no source of income!”
When jobs are nowhere to be found and the student loan bills are piling up, you gotta do what you gotta do which includes moving back home. Even if it means enduring endless opinion pieces from older generations mocking you for being “entitled” and unable to pull yourself up by your bootstraps as previous generations did.
The fact is, the financial crisis changed the rules of the game for an entire generation. Gone are the days when a 4-year University degree is a modest investment that will help you land a job at a company with a great pension, great benefits where you’ll have job security for the next 30 years.
Millennials are the new drivers of entrepreneurship. Partially, because we are the first generation that is fully equipped with the skills required to innovate in the digital economy. But more importantly we are the generation that entered into the workforce during the financial crisis and that experience has left mental scars that never fully healed.
We know that no matter how well the economy is chugging along right now, the next financial crisis could be just around the corner. If we are dependent on our 9–5 jobs to survive, we will be screwed when our company is forced to lay off half its workforce.
To me, FIRE has two very distinct pieces, both of which are extremely appealing to millennials.
Financial Independence (FI)
In a previous post I defined FI as follows:
You have achieved financial independence when your passive income is able to cover all of your expenses in life. It is the point where you no longer need to work to get by.
FI is all about taking the power back. If you have achieved FI you can legitimately rest easy at night knowing that even if you were to lose your job tomorrow you’ll never have to move back into mom & dads again. You can understand why that would be so appealing to Millenials.
Achieving Financial Independence is about taking back the power we lost during the financial crisis.
Retire Early (RE)
The second part to FIRE is “Retire Early”. Once you have achieved FI, and your passive income can cover your expenses moving forward, you put yourself in position to “Retire Early”.
However, as I have been researching more case studies of people who have reached FIRE what I have discovered is that “Retire Early” does not mean sitting at home and watching Netflix all day. For many, “Retire Early” simply means dropping the 9–5 life.
Becoming an Entrepreneur is a massive financial gamble. You can work 60+ hours a week without a guarantee you ever make a cent. This financial fear is what keeps most people with great ideas from ever becoming an entrepreneur.
If however, you know that your passive income will cover your living expenses, that fear is removed. When the short term fear of not being able to pay the rent this month is removed, we can allow ourselves to take risks and live the dream of turning our greatest passion into our life’s work.
“Early Retirement” is not lazy Millennials not wanting to work, it’s about creating the safety net required to work for ourselves.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the FIRE movement. Are you pursuing FIRE? If so are you more interested in the “Financial Independence” piece or the “Retire Early Piece”? Let me know in the comments.
How to achieve Financial Independence
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Not all information will be accurate. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.