Separating Financial Independence from Early Retirement
The Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement is based on an incredibly simple concept. Once you have generated a certain level of wealth you can begin using your wealth to fund your lifestyle. In that way, your finances are independent of your paycheck and you can choose to “retire”.
The simple and powerful message behind the FIRE movement has caught on like wildfire (pardon the pun). There are hundreds of bloggers writing about FIRE and there has even been a documentary made exploring the FIRE movement. When something like the FIRE movement grows enough in popularity, it is sure to attract the attention of mainstream media and inevitably it will begin to face a backlash.
Has the FIRE movement lost its way?
I read a very thought-provoking article that declared the FIRE movement to be dead. The author argues that the original message of the movement which emphasized living a fulfilling and happy life has been co-opted by mainstream media outlets that focus on clickbait articles that focus on the “32-year-old who is retired and living on a beach.”
These articles fail to mention the fact that many of these early retirees are not fully “Retired”. Many of them run their own blogs or other side hustles and invest in real estate which can feel like a full-time job. Almost everyone who has reached financial independence is doing something. People who have what it takes to retire early, aren’t built to sit around on the beach for 40 or 50 years.
While it is true that the original message of FIRE is has been watered down as it’s gone mainstream, I don’t agree that the movement is dead. Those who are truly captivated by the FIRE movement will look past the clickbait headlines and gravitate towards writers who are truly a part of the FIRE movement and want to share their experiences with like-minded people.
FI & RE the two separate and very different components of FIRE
Financial Independence (FI)
Financial independence is something everyone should strive for. You have reached financial independence when you are able to support yourself from your investments and other income.
Financial independence is the ultimate form of security and freedom. If you have achieved financial independence you can rest easy at night knowing that even if you were to lose your job tomorrow you’ll never have to worry about how you’re going to pay the bills ever again.
That sounds amazing, right?
I’m not exaggerating when I say discovering the concept of financial independence changed the way I look at money and my career. The best part is that financial independence is something everyone can achieve. despite what you might have heard or what you might assume, financial independence is possible for just about anyone.
Retire Early (RE)
The second part of FIRE is “Retire Early”. Once you have achieved financial independence, and your passive income can cover your expenses moving forward, you put yourself in position to “Retire Early”.
Focus on Financial Independence, not early retirement.
Where I agree with the author who proclaimed FIRE dead is that it’s more important to focus on Financial Independence, not Early Retirement. Unless you have a medical condition or some other limitation preventing you from working, why would you want to retire in your 30’s or 40’s?
Most people who have what it takes to reach Financial Independence don’t want to stop working completely. What they likely want is to drop out of the rat race and say goodbye to their 9–5 job.
If you never had to worry about money again what work would you choose to do? The answer to that question is your motivation for reaching Financial Independence.
If you feel strongly about what your post FIRE life would look like the better the chance you will do what it takes to get there. If you don’t really know what you would do with yourself, post FIRE this is where you need to start.
Achieving Financial Independence will require sacrifice. If you don’t have a strong “why” (as in why you are doing this) chances are you will give up.
This is the true beauty of the FIRE movement. If you are to be successful, you will need a clear vision for what you want out of life. If your only motivation is to quit a job that you hate, you may find yourself not feeling fulfilled in your post FIRE life. It’s not enough to want to escape, you need to know what you are escaping to.
The Financial independence movement is not dead
- Financial Independence is about living an intentional life on our own terms.
- Early Retirement is a pipedream sold to people who simply hate their jobs.
So no, the FIRE movement is not dead.
However, it is important that we reevaluate our priorities from time to time. Remembering that FIRE is not about dollars and cents on a spreadsheet but about living an intentional life on your own terms.
That’s why I focus on Financial Independence and don’t worry too much on Early Retirement. I want the freedom to do work that gives me energy and does not drain my energy. I want to have the freedom to do that work when I want and where I want according to what else is happening in my life. Most importantly, I know what work I would do if I never had to worry about money again.
Luckily for me, I am already doing this work part-time. Writing about personal finance and helping people work through challenging money issues is what I am most passionate about.
Once I achieve Financial Independence it is the work I plan on dedicating myself to for the rest of my working years.
When you find the work, you are meant to do the sacrifices required to reach Financial Independence are well worth it.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree that Financial Independence is more important than Early Retirement? Do you have a clear vision of what your post FIRE life would look like? Let me know in the comments below.