If you want a Tl;dr (Too long; didn’t read) for this blog post, then FIRE is an acronym that stands for ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’. It represents the challenge that a growing group of individuals and couples that have decided to pursue, where they set a goal of reducing expenses, and saving as much of their salary to achieve ‘Financial Independence’.
Is Eary Retirement Even Possible?
It is easy to be sceptical when we live in a consumer society, where we are advertised to at every turn, our salaries are taxed heavily, and living expenses are sharply increasing.
When many of us struggle to even afford our basic needs in a month, let alone set anything aside for savings, this can seem almost impossible.
Despite this, in order to get into the FIRE mind-set, it is important to not just think about needing to earn more money, but also to reduce your expenditure each month.
An illustrative example is that you are earning £2,000 a month, but your expenses are £1,500, which means you are able to save £500 a month.
In this situation, you are saving 1 month of expenses, every three months (£500 saved x 3 = £1,500 for expenses).
If you are 25, and expect to live until you are 80 (so 660 months total), then you will have to work three quarters of this time (expenses/income), to retire for the final quarter:
- Savings: 660 * 3/4 = 495 months * £500 saving = £247,500
- Expenses: 660 * 3/4 = 165 months * £1,500 expenses = £247,500
This is the breakeven point, and your retirement goal is in 495 months (41.25 years) = 66.25 years old.
Obviously, given the retirement age in the UK is 68, then this goal is almost two years earlier than everyone else, but it’s not really early retirement is it?
Let us now calculate the impact of you increasing your earnings by £500 a month (through promotions at work, or side hustles), while keeping your expenses the same. The work multiplier is now 0.6 (£1,500/£2,500):
- Savings: 660 * 3/5 = 396 months * £1,000 saving = £396,000
- Expenses: 660 * 2/5 = 264 months * £1,500 expenses = £396,000
At this new breakeven point, your retirement goal is now is in 396 months (33 years) = 58 years old.
This is even better, as you will be retiring TEN years earlier than those who wait for the 68 standard retirement age.
Let us take this one-step further now, and see the impact of reducing your expenditure.
Many of the advocates of FIRE mention that this is the most important step. Let us see the impact of a £500 reduction in expenses each month, while retaining the additional earnings from work.
As our expenses are now £1,000, but our income is £2,500, we are able to save £1,500 a month. Our new work multiplier is 0.4 (£1,000/£2,500)
- Savings: 660 * 2/5 = 264 months * £1,500 saving = £396,000
- Expenses: 660 * 3/5 = 396 months * £1,000 expenses = £396,000
With this breakeven point, if you have FIRE as an aim from the age of 25, you could retire in 264 months (22 years) = 47 years old.
A full 21 years before the state retirement age!
How Can I FIRE?
The examples I showed were purely illustrative, but you will need to come up with your own methods to achieve this goal.
This quick list that I put together should be able to help you work out how to start on the path to this ambitious goal:
Can I reduce my monthly expenses?
- Could I sell my car in favour of using a bike to commute to work?
- Can I reduce the amount of food that I waste each week, and plan my meals more effectively?
- Am I ‘House Rich, Cash Poor’? Is my home too big, and expensive for my needs?
- Could I switch from a Pay Monthly phone contract, to a SIM only deal?
- Could I cut out costly streaming subscriptions, in favour of terrestrial TV, and a library card?
Can I bring in more money each month?
- Could I get an increase in my salary at work? Can I work overtime?
- Could I set up a side hustle, to earn additional income?
- Are there any items that I do not use, that could be sold to boost my savings?
- Could I make my savings work by investing in passive income streams (such as dividend paying index funds)?
The sooner you start, and the more aggressive you are, then the earlier you can set the date to become financially independent.
What are the Benefits of FIRE?
Excluding the fact that you will be out of the ‘rat race’, where you are clamouring for a seat on the train in your morning commute, or where you are stuck in traffic with horns blaring all around you, the most important benefit is that you will be able to set your own routine.
No more 5am alarms, no more working every sunlit hour of the day where you leave and return home in the dark, and no more stressing about whether your job will last forever.
FIRE will allow you to work on the projects and goals that mean the most to you.
If you want to start a blog, or a side business to supplement your income, you can.
If you want to volunteer, or travel more, then these are the decisions that you are able to make without worrying about your work schedule.
FIRE is freedom.
You can find many case studies online where people have succeeded becoming FIRE, and the lives that they live once they have reached the goal will make you as ambitious as ever.
If your aim is to achieve this, then good luck to you! There is a world out there for you to enjoy.