It just happened again! Over the past few months, maybe a year or so, I’ve encountered so many people that explain FIRE (to others) as “people living a very-low cost life so they can afford to retire in their 20s or 30s.” Sometimes they add “so they can live off of 20 or 30 thousand dollars per year.”
When I hear that description I have to wonder if this definition is based on the sensationalized news stories of the rare few—often the content creators who possibly have huge incomes streams from sharing their FIRE life, or recent young “retirees” with no track record/multiple retirement years of experience—rather than the large group of us who are actually just living below our means to be financially, stressfully, and proactively wise? More specifically, those of us who can choose to leave our work career or lifelong profession any time before the age of 65ish? (“9 to 5 to 65”)
FI: We all know what FI is. We know FI will different for every person. Today’s FI number may differ from that same person’s future FI number. So in a sense, FI is an ongoing challenge/process for many of us.
RE: The Retire Early definition can vary over a far greater range of possibilities. These may be: sit on a beach, become an activity machine, using your time to help others in many ways, finding a different level of part-time work, or even a fully-funded career change. RE may simply (or massively) be the ability to change from the normal working grind.
As you get older—remember it seems like one year you’re 25 then the next year you’re 45—you may be surprised to find that there are “young retirees” in their late 50s. Yes, if you really think about it, retiring “very early” at 57 compared to “normal” social security age of 67 is VERY early. To be clear, it’s an entire decade of retirement enjoyment compared to your age peers.
I would argue (well, I wouldn’t put in the effort of arguing) that you are a true FIRE person at 57.
I’m sure it seems quite strange for people who are FIREd in the 45-57 age range to think that the perception of financially-wise success of the FIRE ideal is targeted to those 15+ years younger based on media reports.
In other words, why shouldn’t the stories of FIRE successful people in their 50s or 40s be shared with the masses? Well first, it’s not as attention-grabbing as “29-year-old retires with $800,000 saved.” And secondly, maybe it’s good to promote people in their 20s saving large chunks of their income (while still enjoying their lives) to put them in better, or amazing, financial situations that will allow serious control of future money decisions they get to make.
For those in their 20s and 30s, you are a super amazing part of the FI world. Your story absolutely should be shared with the masses. What you’re doing—living intentionally with your money and life—should be shared on a grand scale and be far more commonplace.
I say “stop thinking FIRE is only for 20s & 30s both age and spending in thousands.” That is only concentrating on the smallest tail of the distribution of FIRE-ers. They’re missing the tail of distribution on the overall country that are money smart in their 20s, 30s, 40, 50s.
If you think I’m wrong, that’s cool. However, I bet over the next decade or so we will all see a lot more low wage workers in their 70s…and probably not because they “want to stay active and meet people at their workplace.” It may become a necessity based off NOT being intentional with their money—a core trail of FI. As you know, RE is just an option of FI. (RE-FI?)
*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice. I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be. You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice.