Election time we all go quietly insane. We expect so much from our government––and so we should––and as such, every post, every poll, every interview starring our talking heads hit us where it hurts; because for a moment we have some control over our future.
Imagine a world where you didn’t have to care as much about things such as changes to tax breaks, state-funded pensions, retirement incentives and health care rebates because you have your own ––independent––financial plan for the future. According to reports, that’s the state of mind of a group of self-starting Millennials who plan to be retired and financially independent by the age of 50––some even as young as 35!
It’s called the FIRE movement. A philosophy based around working your asses off and saving every penny so you can live a modest life beyond retirement totally self-sufficiently. Oh, and you can retire by 50 years of age. That sounds like a hot plan to me.
The FIRE movement––Financially Independent and Retire Early––was hatched in the US out of a desperate need for Millennials to take back control of their future after watching the powers that be squander their financial hopes.
The movement is basically about learning to live well below your means. Quite a contrast to the reputations our Millennials have. The FIREys are taking back agency of their lives and their financials by removing themselves from the break-your-back work hours and consumer-driven chains that have threatened to hold them back. And instead opting for stricter budgets, more realistic work/life balances, and investment plans that work.
The idea that you can take control of your life, by scaling back isn’t a new one. In fact, the ‘accidental’ FIRE movement bible is a publication from 1992 called, “Your Money or Your Life”. Though co-author Vicki Robin says the book wasn’t aimed at retiring early, but at lowering consumption to save the planet, she agrees it is more relevant than ever to the current financial climate.
Robin told the New York Times, “The worker in this economy has very little sense of control over their existence. People are expendable. You’re a young person and you look ahead, and you say, ‘What’s there for me?’”
And this makes perfect sense to me. If they aren’t listening, remove yourself from the conversation. Millennials have every reason to take this route.
So, what are some of the things FIREys are doing to take control and fuel their own future?
Five FIREy ways to forge ahead:
1. A car is a vehicle, not a trophy.
The thing about FIREys, they like nice lives and they like financial independence more than they like that new car smell. Their philosophy is basically, if it ain’t broke, keep driving it. A car, if purchased smartly and looked after right, can drive you around for decades. Remember how your grandpa’s Ford Escort was always spit-polished and full of petrol, even well into the naughties? Well that car is probably worth a down-payment on a house by now––so there’s actually more than one benefit to keeping your old car. Same goes for fashion and appliances. Do you really need the bigger, better one, or is there still some drive left in what you got?
2. Lower fixed costs.
We get a pay rise, so we get better things––that’s what we’ve been made to believe during the consumer age––we upgrade our car, our gym membership, our home, we take better, bigger holidays and we basically live in the tiny gap between incomings and outgoings. Nope. FIREys keep their fixed costs down, despite their income rises. It just means the retirement comes quicker.
3. Nest the eggs, don’t scramble them.
Millennials have a reputation of being Entrepreneurial geniuses and risk-taking investors, but at the end of the day, like our grandparents’ attitudes, post-depression, Millennials are a bit scared of financial crisis. As a result, they have found ways of nesting their eggs that carry little risk. The idea is to do your research and put your money somewhere, one place and watch it grow, it’s a long game.
4. Live where you can afford.
According to ING’s 2018 report on Millennial homebuyers, Australian first-home-buying Millennials are actually opting to take the larger, cheaper house a little out of the city, rather than the pokey inner-city apartment. Not only is the mortgage lower, but generally the farther out, the lower the living expenses.
5. Save, fools.
The FIRE movement promotes saving as the main game, not the side hustle. FIRE Millennials save first, wherever they can. Drinks with friends––let’s do it at home. Dinner and a show––it’s not the extravagance our minds go to. FIREys will scour the rag for local free shit as a past time. A Saturday date night might look like a plate of dumplings ($12 for 18) and a free symphony in the park. And they will make it seem cool to do it cheaper.
Any ideology is a state of mind after all.
Basically, to live the dream of checking out of the main drag and becoming financially independent by retirement age––which could be 35, if you really want––it’s not about taking the red pill and strutting about in a different realm, it’s a simple 3-part recipe of;
Work hard. Live frugally. And save aggressively.