Who Can FIRE?
You may have heard that FIRE is only for the wealthy. Unfortunately that narrative seems to be gaining a bit of steam and that’s too bad, because it’s a load of crap.
Sure the wealthy will be able to achieve financial Independence faster than everyone else, but the speed at which someone else achieves their financial goals has zero impact on what you’re trying to accomplish.
FIRE might be easier to reach for the well-to-do, but it offers something for everyone, regardless of their income, and anyone that says otherwise doesn’t fully understand The FIRE Movement.
What is FIRE Finance?
FIRE is just a simple financial plan that’s based on two rules of thumb:
- The Rule of 25
- The 4% Rule
Together these two rules create FIRE Finance. It looks like this:
That’s it. These two rules of thumb apply to every single person walking the planet. FIRE takes a critical, yet mundane and overly complicated subject like personal finance and retirement planning, and boils it down to something that anyone can understand and strive for.
For all of us, even low income earners and those down on their luck, FIRE offers hope. Understanding exactly what the goal is provides clarity and something to shoot for. Hitting that mark might be difficult, but at least we know what we’re aiming for.
The Phases of FIRE
Regardless of where you’re at in life achieving FIRE will require you to go through a series of steps and progressions to reach your goals. It might look something like this:
- Discover FIRE
- Assess your financial situation
- Set financial goals
- Minimize your expenses
- Maximize your income
- Build an emergency fund
- Grow your emergency fund into F-You money
- Achieve Lean FIRE
- Achieve FIRE
- Achieve Fat FIRE
The process is different for everyone because everyone has a unique set of circumstances that they’re dealing with. Your journey might take 25 years. Mine could take 30. Maybe someone else can do it in 10 years or less.
As you can also see from the chart above, there are different levels of FIRE. If you want to lead a lavish Fat FIRE lifestyle you’re going to need a bigger portfolio. Getting to that level will obviously take more time and money.
However, if you want to achieve FIRE faster and can get by on less money each year then the amount of money you need to save and invest for Lean FIRE is significantly less.
Do What You Can
Today you might be in a position where you can’t save a single penny and just getting food on the table is priority number one. If you’re in that situation, then financial independence might seem like a long shot, or even unrealistic. I’ve been at that stage a few different times.
- Once I was newly married with no work experience and two kids. We were trying to scrape by on my entry level income. It was a great month if we could pay our bills on time. Saving wasn’t even on the radar.
- Another time I was going through 14 months of extended unemployment. During that time I was just trying to not lose my house.
Even when you can’t do much financially, FIRE helps you create a plan. During times when you can’t save money, read books about saving money instead. If you don’t have anything extra to invest, listen to podcasts about investing.
Do what you can, with what you have. No matter where you are at personally, professionally or financially, there is something that you can be doing to better your situation, even if that means educating yourself.
FIRE is a Progression
I happened to be in the middle of extended unemployment when I discovered FIRE. Financially I couldn’t do much, so I educated myself instead. And when my financial situation finally did improve, I had a plan and knew exactly what to do with my money.
So if you find yourself struggling financially and all you can do is keep your head above water, then just keep your head above water! If that’s all you can do, then I’d be proud as hell to call you a fellow member of the FIRE Movement, because FIRE is for fighters that scratch and claw their way to a better tomorrow.
If you’ve fallen on hard times and need help from family, friends, or social programs to keep food on the table, you’ll still be welcome at Camp FIRE Finance, even if all you have is a goal to eventually reach financial independence, because where you’re headed is just as important as where you’re at.
This is why I believe that FIRE is for everyone. Wherever you find yourself there is something you can do to reach your financial goals, and not everything has to be about increasing your savings rate or cutting back on your expenses.
Sometimes all you can do is learn and plan, and FIRE provides the syllabus.
Take What You Can. Give What You Can.
Big savings rates, extreme frugality, or unique living conditions get most of the FIRE publicity but it’s regular people like you and me that make up the lion’s share of The FIRE Movement.
It’s easy to read these these extreme examples and get discouraged or feel like you’re not doing enough. When you do come across these examples just remember that extreme measures aren’t required to FIRE.
When you hear about or read the story of a person that’s living a life you can’t relate to take whatever you can from that example and apply it to your own life. If something doesn’t resonate with you, or won’t work in your situation, then ignore it and move along.
One of the great things about the FIRE community is that there are a lot of stories being shared. Many of the stories have a lot in common, but all are unique. There isn’t a magic solution that works for everyone, so all you can do is take what you can from the stories and advice that others are sharing.
And don’t be afraid to share your own story and offer your own advice. What you have to say won’t work for everyone, but what you have to say will help someone!
Helping and encouraging others is a big part of what the FIRE Movement is all about. It’s what made this community so special and it would be a tragedy if that gets lost because we begin to discard advice that happens to come from someone that we might not agree with or relate to.
So Who Can FIRE? Everyone!
Membership in the FIRE club isn’t restricted to those that are able to retire in 10 years or less. Nor do you have to retire in your 30’s to become a card carrying member of the FIRE movement.
Anyone that’s pursuing financial independence and an early retirement is considered to be part of The FIRE Movement, regardless of their net worth or income. Learn what you can from the advice others offer. Share your own advice.
Regardless of where you’re at just keep progressing. Given enough time many will eventually become financially independent and can retire early if they’d like to. The worst case scenario is that you’re striving, saving, and investing for an early retirement and it doesn’t happen.
That would be disheartening, no doubt, but if you’d been working for FIRE, you’d still be in a better position that had you not done anything at all.
It doesn’t matter if you end up retiring in your 30’s or 70’s, because FIRE is for everyone.
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