How awesome would it be to achieve financial independence—meaning, adequate savings to support you for the rest of your life—at a very young age? It doesn’t require winning the lottery, or hitting oil, or selling your startup for millions. For the past decade, the growing Early Retirement Extreme movement (also known as the FIRE movement—Financial Independence, Retire Early) has shone a light on how this goal can be reached.
- Frugality. Well, obviously, but thought leaders like the popular blogger “Mr. Money Mustache” and Jacob Lund Fisker, author of Early Retirement Extreme, have made an art of keeping expenses lean. They advocate cutting every possible expense until you’re spending the bare minimum on your car, home, and even food. Learning to cook, instead of ordering food or eating out, can move the needle. It’s worth noting that extreme early retirees often end up spending their leisure time doing the exact same things that many people look forward to doing in retirement, such as gardening, walking, or biking. Most report that spending less only adds to their enjoyment of life, and doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. They seem to take pleasure in finding creative ways to save money.
- Save aggressively. Again, this seems self-evident, but too often people just save what’s “left over.” Early extreme retirees aim to save as much as 75% of income. That goal isn’t feasible for everyone, but with some sacrifices and resourcefulness, it may be doable for you. As Mr. Money Mustache describes, if you can live on one dollar out of every four you make, you’ll save enough to cover three years’ worth of future expenses in just one year.
- Accumulate savings until your passive income provides enough money for your living expenses in perpetuity. Having this money in the bank doesn’t mean you can immediately buy a BMW and a McMansion and expect to never work another day in your life. But if you keep working and living simply, which means saving more, there may be room in your future budget to comfortably afford some well-chosen luxuries. The FIRE movement suggests waiting until you can truly afford these luxuries—as well as the ongoing costs associated with them—until you’ve got plenty of savings to pay for them.
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