FIRE: An Acronym for Financial Independence Retire Early.
FIRE is a financial movement that incorporates different strategies of saving and investing money. The end goal is to be able to retire much earlier than the traditional retirement age. Those who are successful are able to live solely off of small withdrawals from their portfolio.
The end result of “retiring early” can have a different meaning to different people. Most people who hear the word retire think it means that a person has stopped working completely. For others it may mean that you are able to quit the grueling 9-5 job and are free to pursue alternative methods of earning income.
In either case, reaching the milestone of “retiring early” ultimately means that you have reached the tipping point where your hard work and investments can now pay for all of your living expenses. It is at this point that the choice to work or not work is yours.
Most of us have grown up with the idea that we go to school, get a job, buy a house, work until we are 65 then retire. By following this model we are only left with a brief few years to enjoy our retirement. What if, instead of working for 40+ years, you worked really hard and smart for 10-15 years and then have the ability to “retire” and actually enjoy life.
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TRADING TIME FOR MONEY
It’s hard for some people to not want the big fancy house and the expensive new car. But when I think about making these purchases I see it as trading time for money. In order to obtain these material things we have to spend time working. A lot of time working.
Time is such a valuable resource that most of us take for granted. Each minute of the day is unique and once it is gone it cannot be replaced.
Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, recorded the revelations of her dying patients in a blog and later a book titled “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” She speaks of the clarity of vision that a person has at the end of their life and how we should learn from their wisdom. Over several years and from witnessing many patients, Bronnie has identified the 5 things that people regret most in their lives.
These 5 Regrets include:
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish I had let myself be happier
None of these regrets have anything to do with material things.
I think a big misconception about the FIRE movement is the thought that in order to pursue this goal you have to be cheap, forego going out, suffer from a boring lifestyle and lead a life of deprivation. I can tell you firsthand that this is simply not true.
Are we cheap? No, but we are somewhat frugal. Do we eat out at restaurants? Most of the time we cook at home, because we like to cook. Do we have boring lives? Nope. We spend a lot of our time outdoors, at the beach, biking, hiking, and doing all of the things that we enjoy. Which also happen to be things that are usually low cost or free. We also love to travel and still do so, just on a smaller scale than we used to.
I don’t feel like we are missing out on anything in our lives right now while on our pursuit of FIRE. When you have a goal of FIRE you just make smart decisions so that you don’t waste money. You start spending mindfully.
WHEN DO YOU KNOW IF YOU
HAVE REACHED FIRE?
There are several different paths that you can take to reach FIRE. The path that you choose is solely based on your individual situation. No matter how you get there, the end result is the same. You should not be discouraged from pursuing FIRE just because your financial situation isn’t as “good” as another persons. Or because it is going to take you longer to reach your goal.
So how do you know if you have reached FIRE? Most people in the FIRE community follow the 4% rule. This rule is also known as the Safe Withdrawal Rate. It sets the benchmark for how much money you will be able to safely withdraw from your investments each year without running out of money, in order to retire.
The 4% rule is a guideline. It is important to calculate how much money you need to save and have invested in order to execute the 4% rule. Technically you should have 25x your annual expenses in your investment portfolio. By having this number, you should be able to safely withdraw 4% each year to live on for at least 30 years.
For example: If your average monthly expenses total $3500 ($42,000/year) then you should plan on having a total of $1,050,000 that you can withdraw from in order to retire.
There are of course many other factors that play a role in the amount of money that you feel comfortable having in your nest egg. But the 4% rule is a general rule of thumb.
WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS
- Decide what you want your life to look like in 10, 15, 20 years.
- Set goals for yourself that you want to achieve and make a plan to achieve them.
- Track your expenses: This will give you an idea of how much money you spend. It will also force you to see what you are spending money on and look for ways to cut costs. The less expenses that you have, the earlier you can reach FIRE. This will also give you an idea of where you stand in regards to the 4% rule.
- Make a financial plan and stick with it!
OUR FINANCIAL STRATEGY:
- Max out our 401k: We go to the extreme and put 100% towards our 401k until it is maxed out. This gives our money more time to grow through the power of compound interest. The maximum contribution for a 401k in 2020 is $19,500 if you are under the age of 50.
- Max out our Traditional IRA: The 2020 maximum contribution is $6000 if you are under the age of 50.
- Max out our HSA: The 2020 maximum contribution for those under the age of 55 are $3550 for an individual and $7100 for a family.
- Contribute to a brokerage account
- Contribute to a 529
- Have Cash reserves/Emergency Fund
WHY DID WE DECIDE TO
For us, retiring early is not about stopping work but more about not having to work. To have that choice. Retiring, to us, will put an end to the commute, the pointless meetings, and answering to “the man.” We plan on continuing to work, but work will only consist of doing things that are meaningful and fulfilling to us.
We are reminded too many times in our lives of how short life can be. We don’t want to look back and regret the way that we have lived our lives. Reaching FIRE is about gaining freedom and taking advantage of the precious time that we have on this earth.