A Mini FIRE break could be just the thing you need on your journey to financial independence and early retirement.
When we talk about FIRE, it can be easy to focus almost exclusively on the portfolio size needed to reach your FIRE number. But when you have years left before you reach the barebones “Lean FIRE,” you may need some periodic motivation to keep saving for early retirement.
“Mini FIRE” is one way to find that breath of fresh air you need. This is a time to pause on your journey to enjoy life, like a sabbatical. Early retirement is still your end goal. But if you’re on the edge of burnout or dealing with major life events, FIRE may be the last thing on your mind.
Taking the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor (so far) can mean you stay the course.
Why Take a Mini FIRE Break?
Life deals each of us different opportunities. We all wish becoming financially independent is as easy as entering the workforce debt-free and landing a high paying job out of college so you can quit by your mid-30s. We all know this isn’t the case for most of us.
Reasons for doing Mini FIRE can include:
- Avoiding burnout at work
- Changing employers or career paths
- Starting a family
- Enjoying your children’s high school and college years
- Caring for an elderly parent
- You want to see if FIRE is worth it
We all have different reasons for temporarily leaving life’s daily grind.
While Mini FIRE may feel like a temporary setback, it can actually be one of the best times of your life. Even though you may not be able to retire early, you can quit your job for several months or years.
Mini FIRE helps you enjoy the best of life today and when you reach FIRE.
You’re Not Getting Any Younger
Each new day means you’re also a day closer to turning 30, 40, 50…
Being FIRE’d already gives you the opportunity to enjoy life in ways your peers following the traditional retirement model won’t. However, your hobbies and interests may change as you age.
You may have the stamina to backpack Europe or hike the Camino de Santiago in your early 30s. Relaxing at a beach resort may sound more enjoyable in your 40s or 50s.
Switching employers or careers can also be the perfect time to enjoy Mini FIRE. A career change or extended unemployment can be that pivotal moment when people finally realize what FIRE is.
Working full-time makes it easy for life to feel repetitive and unfulfilling. When this feeling sinks in, it can be tempting to give up because that extra flexibility in a few years is no longer worth the current sacrifice. Mini FIRE can reignite your passion. FIRE is a journey and not everyone who seeks it will reach it. This break can be the motivation you need to keep going.
Not having to work full-time not only gives you the opportunity to enjoy some well-deserved rest. It can also be your chance to find a job that offers more flexibility with your work schedule or work location.
Although this next thought might break a cardinal rule of saving for FIRE, here goes. You may also realize you can afford a lesser salary once you return to the workforce.
Sometimes it’s fun to take a break. There isn’t a hard-fast rule that says you must either take two weeks of vacation each year until you turn 65 or maximizing your savings rate until you reach FIRE.
Life is a balancing act. If you’re in a position to take an extended break from the daily grind, Mini FIRE lets you sample the FIRE lifestyle. If you learn through experience, this break can help you determine if your Rule of 25 and 4% Rule projections are livable.
It’s better to verify these projections now before you permanently exit the workplace. You still have time to make adjustments to either earn more or spend less to reach your target portfolio size.
Planning for Mini Fire
Just like you need to be intentional about becoming financially independent, you also need to plan for Mini FIRE. Treating this event as a test run for FIRE is the best approach.
Although people lose jobs unexpectedly and find a way to make ends meet, you have the luxury of choosing when you start Mini FIRE.
Discuss Mini FIRE With Your Spouse
Step #1 for planning Mini FIRE is making sure you and your spouse are both onboard. If you have already conversed about FIRE, this round should be easier. Sharing a common vision helps eliminate the inevitable what-ifs that will come up as the Mini FIRE date approaches.
Pay Off Any Debt
Mini FIRE may not be an option until you pay off your current debts. These extra monthly costs require you to withdraw more from your FIRE accounts. You can imagine how these larger withdrawals impact your potential compound interest and the necessary “catch-up contributions” you may need to make.
Calculate Your New Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You might not be able to predict your new out-of-pocket expenses to the exact cent, but you can get pretty close. Potentially the three largest budget categories that will change include:
- Health insurance
- Commuting costs
Take the time to calculate these expenses on two different days to compare your projected expenses with your current expenses.
Next, compare your projected expenses to withdrawing 4% of your portfolio each year. If you’re not comfortable with the numbers, you must either postpone Mini FIRE or find a way to reduce your expenses.
Consider a Side Hustle
Some people are forced to retire because they can no longer physically maintain a regular job. That’s probably not the case with Mini FIRE. Being young and spry gives you the chance to pursue a side hustle. This extra income means you don’t have to withdraw as much from your investments.
You might be able to start monetizing a hobby or talent now so you have a steady income stream when you start Mini Fire. Another option can be providing the same services you perform at your day job except you’re in a more relaxed setting.
Remind Yourself That Life Goes On
Going Mini FIRE can initially be as scary as going Full FIRE because your routine will change as you no longer work full-time. Don’t be afraid to remind yourself that the world isn’t going to end because you are taking a break. You have already proven you can afford not to work. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the rewards of your new lifestyle.
Pursuing FIRE gives you the flexibility to live life differently than your peers today and in the future. When the future can’t arrive soon enough to be fully retired, Mini FIRE might be the best option to enjoy your accomplishments so far and keep your long-term momentum going.