The term ‘FIRE’ seems to be all over the news lately, what is the hype and what does it mean?
FIRE stands for ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’, and this is a movement that we’re seeing as of late, whereby people are leaving the workforce as early as they possibly can. They do this by focusing on scrimping and savings as much as they can now, in order to save the maximum amount for their retirement. This means cutting down on all unnecessary expenses; eating out less or almost never, not taking any holidays, even working a part-time job on top of full-time employment to earn extra income, and using all of the surplus cash to stringently invest and save. This can be quite extreme; leaving the workforce early is maybe one of the biggest financial decisions of your life, so you need to make sure you have planned correctly.
There are actually a few kinds of FIRE, which I will delve into in this article.
If you like the idea of retiring early, but don’t want to drastically alter your lifestyle to the point where you never go out or do anything fun, then Fat FIRE might be a method that interests you. Fat FIRE appeals to those who cannot keep their expenses low; if you have a family you need to pay for education, schooling, groceries, school uniforms etc., which are often difficult or impossible to trim (you can’t ask your kid’s school to lower their fees, for example). So how do you achieve FIRE with higher expenses? The answer, a higher income. Fat FIRE only works for higher income earners that choose not to fully embrace frugality. You can see this may not be for everyone- getting a higher income is easier said than done as may require certain experience, knowledge, education and so on, that might not be applicable to all.
This FIRE movement does just what it sounds like; working part time (in a café or otherwise) to supplement your retirement income. This might work for a lot of people; even I myself don’t want to do nothing during my retirement. Getting paid to do a passion-project as a free-lancer sounds like an awesome way to spend my time. This method of FIRE means that you don’t have to completely cut out all lifestyle expenses during your working years, as you know that there will be a part-time income rolling in throughout retirement. This is contrary to the next FIRE method…
Lean FIRE Method is really the extreme, hardcore or by-the-book method. Lean FIRE means you really live that minimal lifestyle right into retirement. This includes tactics like bringing your own water bottle and packed lunch with you when you’re out, taking public transport or walking from point A to point B and downgrading your rent by renting out a single room instead of a whole unit. Even someone on a lower income can practice Lean Fire, and put their monthly surplus into savings and investments. This method of FIRE really reminds me of the show ‘Extreme Cheapskates’.
In my opinion, Coast FIRE is the most realistic and less extreme method; it’s actually quite similar to the advice I give my clients; invest early and as much as you can, and enjoy the compound interest later in life. The earlier you start investing, the better; you have a longer runway and more time for that interest to accumulate. Holding your investments longer also means that you are able to tolerate volatility in the stock market.
FIRE can be studied in depth and is an interesting movement. Later on, I will explore further as to whether this method is sustainable. But, what do you think? Will you be practising FIRE any time soon?