The early retirement devotees setting Australia on FIRE
If you want some help with saving money, find inspiration among the growing champions of savings: the FIREs.
The followers of the popular personal finance movement, FIRE, which stands for financially independent, retire early are prodigious social media posters about their journey to become financially secure at an early age.
Rather than soldiering on in the workforce well into their 60s, FIREs aim to retire much earlier while they still have good health. How do they do it? They are leading a simple life and saving hard to get there.
Saving isn't easy, particularly if you are surrounded by high-consuming spenders. Why not link up with FIREs via their blogs, Instagram, websites and podcasts to join a community of savers? It could be life-changing for you and your finances.
One of the refreshing features about the FIREs' blogs is that there isn't a hidden agenda to sell products as there is with many people discussing personal finance. FIREs go public about their journey, often because it holds them accountable and keeps them on the path to retire early. They want to share their findings because it is changing their lives for the better.
FIREs lay out their finances transparently explaining how much they spend throughout the year and on what as well as how they invest their savings. FIRE calculators work out how much you need in retirement and how long until you can afford to retire.
You can probably find FIREs that fit your own circumstances too because there are a broad range of FIREs from young people starting out, those halfway to early retirement, singles, couples and families.
Then there are the retired such as Dave who runs the strongmoneyaustralia.com blog who retired at 28. "I do love seeing more people in the FIRE space because it will help more people," says Dave.
There are families like Mrs Money Flamingo who don't want to spend the next 30 years working in a cubicle. She has cut her consumption, has no debt and saved to pursue financial independence.
"Most of us in the FIRE community realise how precious each year in our lives really is," explains Mrs Money Flamingo, who is in her thirties, a mother of two and one of the many enlightening bloggers who write about their path to financial independence.
"FI allows us to buy back years we may otherwise have spent in a cubicle," says the Sydney mother of two who has just reached financial independence.
I have interviewed hard-working people drowning in debt who have turned their lives around by linking up with some inspiring frugal bloggers. The uncertainty of COVID shone a light on the need to have the security of a healthy level of savings, a robust emergency fund, and the madness of drowning in debt - three essential beliefs of FIRE.
One of the first to blog about early retirement was Peter Adeney, aka Mr Money Mustache. The former software engineer started blogging about his early retirement at 30 and 'badass' life of leisure in 2011 at mrmoneymoustache.com. He writes about how if you can save 50% of your take-home pay from the age of 20, you can retire at 37. If you can save 75% you can retire in seven years. His 'mustachionism' lifestyle is about 50% cheaper than most of his peers and the surplus is invested in plain, vanilla Vanguard ETFs and a rental house or two. He has inspired not only the seven case studies in the April edition of Money magazine but has resonated with thousands of followers - there are 2.4 million posts on his Mr Money Mustache forum.
Adeney believes insane levels of consumerism are ruining peoples' lives. People are working longer and longer because they are spending more money on expensive stuff. "Everyone is very inefficiently going about their lives. It affects their health. They are not getting fun out of their lives," Adeney told Tim Ferris, the self-improvement guru.
Jason runs The FI Explorer and doesn't give his real name as he is apprehensive about talking to his work colleagues about his plans to retire early.
Here are some others:
Being on track to financial independence does have a profound psychological effect.
"As the journey has progressed, I have noticed a slowly accumulating feeling of ease and power over my circumstances. Progress in the journey exerts a subtle force across daily life barely noticeable at first - but it gradually transforms your perspective," explains Jason who saves around 60% of his salary and runs the popular FI Explorer blog.
What are some of the key FIRE savings strategies?
- Get out of debt. Make paying down any credit card debt a number one priority.
- Live close to where you work. Walk, cycle or take public transport. For example, if you live a long way from your work, it can really add up to take a car from home to work. If you are driving 20 kilometres, you could be easily spending $120,000 over a decade and if you drive a family sedan, $150,000.
- Become a great cook. A $100 per week restaurant habit is $52,000 every 10 years. A $12 lunch, twice a week adds up to $12,480.
- Stop buying stuff. Don't spend your weekend browsing the shops or looking online.
- Make extra mortgage payments if you have a mortgage.
- Cut your grocery spending. Buy whole ingredients instead of packaged meals. Stock up at Costco and Aldi.
Three years after we first profiled seven Aussies who are working towards early retirement, we caught up with them again to find out how their plans and investments have fared during COVID-19. Pick up the FIRE special issue of Money magazine, out now.