If you’ve been following our journey, even for a short time, then you probably know that we retired just before 40! We called our journey to early retirement “our F.I.R.E. journey” (or “our Finance Independence and Retiring Early journey”).
We’ve had so many people send us questions about our F.I.R.E. journey and how they can apply what we did to their lives. Some people understand the F.I.R.E. movement right away; others get it wrong.
So I’d like to delve into the nitty-gritty details of F.I.R.E. More specifically, I want to share some of the misconceptions and some of the things that people get wrong about the F.I.R.E. movement. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of what the F.I.R.E. movement is and it might even clarify some things!
What People Get Wrong About F.I.R.E.
Over the years, I’ve seen so many people talking about the F.I.R.E. movement, but Amon and I have been living it for almost two years! So not everyone truly understands the F.I.R.E. movement . . . but that’s okay! We’re here to share!
So let’s debunk a few misconceptions about F.I.R.E.
1. How People Live Off Their Investments
Look - the average person usually doesn’t understand how this works. And why would they be expected to? The average person isn’t taught about investing in school - so it makes sense that the average person wouldn’t know how to live off of his investments.
Here’s a fun exercise. Ask ten people how much money they think they’ll need to retire early. Chances are, they’re almost always going to answer in the multi-millions . . . without being able to adequately explain how they came up with that number.
For the most part, they don’t think of investments, the four percent rule, or how income is taxed when living off investments. People who are already F.I.R.E. (or aspire to it) understand how to support themselves by living off of their investments.
2. F.I.R.E. Is A Fad
Another common misconception is the idea that early retirement is a recent invention. This is pretty odd to me - because people have been living off their investments for as long as investments have existed.
Part of the reason this isn’t obvious is because people often don’t make it clear that they are financially independent. It’s only recently that people have begun to talk about it in the way we do now.
Because of that, talking about financial independence and early retirement can be confusing for people who often think we’re just following a new fad. F.I.R.E. isn’t a fad. It certainly isn’t new. It’s just been rebranded!
3. The Journey To F.I.R.E. Is A Miserable One
Many people seem to think that those who have achieved F.I.R.E, or are on the path to it, live incredibly frugal (and, thus, miserable) lives as a way to save money. This just isn’t true.
Living ultra-frugally ultimately means you deprive yourself of much of the normal joys and comforts in life. You can do this for a short period, but doing this long enough to achieve financial independence simply isn’t really realistic.
Some people take decades to achieve F.I.R.E. Depriving yourself of the joys of life for decades isn’t a sustainable way to achieve F.I.R.E! Over the 8 years that Amon and I were pursuing financial independence, we did all kinds of things. We traveled the world, we went out to events, we had our kids involved in sports and other activities, we ate out . . . the list goes on!
We didn’t live frugal, miserable lives. Instead, we reprioritized the things. We moved away from materialistic living (which is the biggest drain on your bank account). We weren’t buying fancy cars or living in a house with more rooms than we needed. And we were intentionally putting our money where we got the most use out of it - into the stock market and real estate. We didn’t have to suffer to reach our goals!
4. You Need To Start Off By Being A Millionaire
This is a big one. Many people think you need to be uber-rich to reach F.I.R.E.- that you need to have millions in the bank and already have a six-figure salary. But this isn’t true!
The funds you need to be financially independent in the long term depend on your own unique needs. If you’re making $50,000 a year, then you’re probably spending a lot less than someone who makes $5,000,000 a year. So why would you need to compare yourself to a gazillionaire (FYI: I checked - “gazillionaire” is an actual word!)?
So F.I.R.E. is not actually about making huge amounts of money. At least, it’s not about making the same amount of money that your favorite movie star, professional athlete, or musician makes. It’s about saving as much as you can and making your money work better for you. If you can hike your savings rate up from the 5% American average to just 10 or 20%, it’s easy to put the numbers together and see how achievable early retirement can be.
5. F.I.R.E-Chasers Are Too Pushy!
It seems like many people think that those chasing F.I.R.E. are too passionate and too pushy - always trying to push the F.I.R.E. lifestyle on others.
As someone who has been talking about this concept publicly for years now, I can tell you that this isn’t true. You cannot push the F.I.R.E. concept on someone who isn’t already interested. People need to be ready to take a serious and discerning look at their personal and financial situation.
Without that, it’s like talking to a brick wall. You simply can’t push these ideas on people who aren’t ready for them. It’s a waste of energy and time to try.
6. The F.I.R.E. Movement Is Small And Specific
There’s a misconception that F.I.R.E. only works for a specific kind of person, and just isn’t that accessible for the majority of people. This couldn’t be further from the truth! We have been contacted by countless people from all walks of life - different professions, backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions.
Financial independence and retiring early is available for anyone who wants to pursue it. If there is one thing Amon and I have learned since we started talking about these concepts, it’s that there are far more people living like us than we originally thought. The movement is growing like crazy, and everyone can be a part of it . . . including YOU!
Some Final Thoughts
Sure, there are misconceptions about the F.I.R.E. movement. Maybe you’re guilty of holding some of those misconceptions. But, I encourage you to learn more about F.I.R.E. Take some time to explore how much money you’ll need to reach financial independence. Take some time to understand how you can lead a fulfilling life while also pursuing F.I.R.E. Take some time to get to know the diverse F.I.R.E. community. Because, in my personal experience: The more you know . . . the more you grow!
Financial Minimalism - A Strategy to Retire Early (FIRE Movement)