F.I.R.E. Movement: What to know about the extreme-savings trend

Would you be willing to save 75 percent of your income in order to retire by the age of 30?

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That’s the premise of the F.I.R.E. movement, which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early.

Participants in the movement save up huge percentages of their paychecks for several years in order to retire much earlier than the typical retirement age.

The trend has become particularly popular among millennials, who are fed up with demanding, high-stress jobs and want to devote their time to more fulfilling pursuits.

However, it’s not an easy trend to follow. According to Forbes, there are essentially three steps to pursuing F.I.R.E., which include significantly cutting down on expenses and saving 75% (ideally) of your income in investments.

The F.I.R.E. movement -- which stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early -- has become popular with millennials in recent years. (iStock)

The third step is to retire once you’ve saved 25 to 40 times your annual expenses -- depending on how old you are.

To find out more about the trend, here are five things to know about the F.I.R.E. movement:

1. The movement was partially inspired by a book published in 1992

Even though the F.I.R.E. movement has picked up steam in the last few years, one of the greatest inspirations for the F.I.R.E. Movement is the book “Your Money or Your Life,” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, according to Money. The book was published in 1992 and Robin, who is now in her 70s, hasn’t worked since she was in her 20s, the magazine reported.

The 1992 book "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez has greatly influenced the F.I.R.E. movement in recent years, according to Money. (Photo: Penguin Random House)

However, Robin didn’t necessarily intend for her book to have the impact that it has.

“Our aim was not just to have a whole bunch of people quit their jobs,” Robin told The New York Times last year. “Our aim was to lower consumption to save the planet. We attracted longtime simple-living people, religious people, environmentalists.”

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The 2010 book “Early Retirement Extreme,” by Jacob Lund Fisker also greatly inspired the movement, according to Forbes. Fisker also started a blog with the same name, on which he promises to “give you the tools to become financially independent in 5 years.”

2. There are different levels of saving within the F.I.R.E. movement

The F.I.R.E. blog "Physician on FIRE" explains that there are two kinds of FIRE: leanF.I.R.E. and fatF.I.R.E.

If someone is following a leanF.I.R.E. lifestyle, they’re living extremely frugally. According to the blog, that’s the approach that Fisker took to retire in just 5 years.

Meanwhile, someone who’s following fatF.I.R.E. spends a bit more than a typical early retiree, the blog says.

3. There can be some negative social impacts

Along with the difficulty in saving so much money, the F.I.R.E. movement can have a negative impact on participants’ social lives, according to The New York Post.

Friends and relatives can misunderstand the motivations of F.I.R.E., and significant others can struggle to conform.

4. Some say F.I.R.E. is only for the wealthy

One of the bigger issues with the F.I.R.E. movement is that it isn’t available to people with small incomes, according to money management expert Dave Ramsey.

In order to gain financial independence and retire early, participants have to live radically frugally for many years before they can retire. However, they have to continue to live the frugal lifestyle they adopted in order to save.  (iStock)

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“Many proponents of F.I.R.E. agree that no matter how much you cut down your lifestyle, it’s going to take a large income — probably somewhere in the six-figure range — to have the ability to save enough to retire before your 40th birthday. Keep in mind, you’re trying to out-save a lot of inflation and non-working years the earlier you retire,” Ramsey says on his blog.

5. Even when you retire, you still have to live frugally

After years of saving at extreme levels, young retirees still have to live frugally once they’ve retired. According to The Times, many people who adhere to F.I.R.E. take out just 4% from their portfolio accounts. So if someone has saved $1 million for retirement, they should only take out about $40,000 a year, increasing it only by inflation.