I’m sure you’ve seen reports stating that many American’s don’t have enough saved for retirement. Just for the heck of it I Goggled: “how much do Americans aged 40-55 have saved for retirement”. My favorite hit was: “Retirement Savings by Age Show Why Americans are Screwed.” I also found this from creditdonkey.com (I’m not making that up) who say: “According to a survey done by Transamerica, among those with retirement accounts, here is what the average American has saved so far:
- At age 25: $16,000
- At age 30: $45,000
- At age 40: $63,000
- At age 50: $117,000
- At age 60: $172,000
Most Americans don’t feel ready to comfortably retire. Across all ages, the average person said they feel like they need $1 million in order to feel financially secure when they retire. More than 50% plan on working after they retire.”
And that’s for people with retirement accounts. Safe to say many people are behind in saving for retirement. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is screwed.
FIRE to the Rescue
While it’s true that millennials breathed life into FIRE, that doesn’t mean that FIRE is only for them. What I’m suggesting is that the principles of FIRE can help other generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) get on the path of retirement savings. I refer to this approach as Late2FIRE.
Principles of FIRE
Let’s begin by taking look at five principles of FIRE.
- Anyone can achieve FIRE
- Have a growth mindset
- Save prodigiously
- Invest efficiently
- Retirement is flexible
It might surprise you that the ability to achieve financial independence (FI) is not dependent upon income. You don’t have to be a high wage earner or come from a place of high privilege. In episode two of my new podcast FIREwalkers titled “Can Anyone Achieve FI” (principle 1), my guests, Doc G and Paul Thompson from the What’s Up Next Podcast provide examples of low earners achieving FI. And Doc G turns the question around by pointing out that many high income individuals find themselves just getting by with little to no savings. According to Doc G and Paul Thompson, having a growth mindset (principle 2) is more important than income. People with a growth mindset believe they can change. They’re open to learning new things based on hard work, good strategies and help from others. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset believe that they are simply living out their destiny and can’t change. You have to want FI and believe that you can get it. Principle 3 is to save prodigiously. Most FIRE practitioners recommend that you save a minimum of 25%. This requires that you maximize “the gap”, i.e. the difference between income and spending. Live below your means and avoid lifestyle inflation. Principle 4 is invest efficiently. Members of the FIRE community favor ETFs, index funds and target date funds because they are easy to manage and have low fees. They also practice tax efficiency which includes managing losses, distributions, tax-exempt securities and which accounts should hold which investments. Principle 5 is that retirement is flexible. The RE (Retire Early) part of FIRE is more like RO (Retirement Optional). Achieving FI gives you the freedom to decide what you want to do with your time. I also think there’s another principle which is to live your life. Pursuing FIRE isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about spending intentionally, on what brings you joy. It’s about being secure in your decisions, being comfortable being different because not everyone is going to “get” what you’re doing. The good news is that there’s a supportive community out there to help guide and motivate you.
Not too Late to FIRE
Taking the path to FIRE is not complicated. It’s really a matter of desire, willingness to change, determination and commitment. When you visit my website you’ll find a high level summary of the path to FIRE: Awareness; Mindset; Close the Gap; Plan; Just Do It; and Retire (or not). If you’ve missed the first window of opportunity (age 20- 35) to start down the path to FIRE, I believe that it’s not too late. Taking the path to FIRE will help you get to a better place. You just have to make up your mind!
Call to Action
I’d love to get your thoughts about Late2FIRE. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the Contact Us form. And if you like my idea, please share this article and subscribe to FIREwalkers. Thank you!