Members of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) community have one overarching goal – to achieve Financial Independence (FI). While most members are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, there is growing interest in FIRE from people in their 50’s and 60’s. They see potential in applying practices that enable younger people to achieve FI in as few as 10 years!
A Big Problem
According to Fidelity, in order to retire, people should have saved six times their salary by 50 and eight times by 60. Unfortunately, most Americans are behind – far behind.
The following chart shows how much someone making $75,000 per year needs to save for retirement compared with how much is actually being saved in 401k’s.
Avg & Median 401k Balances vs. Amount Needed for Retirement
This shortfall is critical for people over 50 because they have less time to catch up.
The stakes are high – the security and quality of one’s future retirement. Everyone knows what they should do – spend less and save more – but they don’t. When asked why, they cite circumstances such as high housing and healthcare costs, having to support family and not enough income. These reasons are but excuses to not change which causes people to fall further behind.
However, the good news is that more people over 50 are discovering how FIRE can break the cycle of inaction and get retirement savings on track.
The FIRE Community
When taking a new path, it helps to engage with people who have already blazed a trail. FIRE community members inspire and motivate others to embark upon the path to FIRE by sharing their struggles and successes. They set them on the right path through their blogs, podcasts, videos and events. And they keep them on their path by providing support, feedback and accountability.
“FIRE inspired us to look at where our money was going, our values and ask how we could start saving more. We cut everything that wasn’t important to us and invested it.”
Amy from LifeZemplified
Before I explain how to join the FIRE community, let’s clear up the most common misconceptions about FIRE.
Misconception #1 – FIRE is only for Millennials.
On the contrary, I engage with many like-minded people over 50 and 60 on social media and I met many people over 50 and 60 at FinCon 2019.
Misconception #2 – FIRE requires sacrifice.
Members of the FIRE community believe it’s about adopting a healthy financial lifestyle. They embrace minimalism and frugality which are different sides of the same coin. Minimalism emphasizes value over consumption and materialism. Frugality means getting what you need in the most cost-effective way. It’s OK to spend on what you love. Enjoying life is always of paramount importance. Sacrifice is not expected.
Misconception #3 – FIRE requires a 6-figure income.
There are many examples of people of modest means who have achieved FI. On the other hand, there are many people with high incomes who have tons of debt and little saved.
Misconception #4 – You have to retire.
FIRE members are redefining retirement. They believe that early retirement and work is optional once you achieve FI. It’s about having a choice of how to spend time.
How to Join the FIRE Community
There are no membership cards or dues. Joining simply requires active participation: find influencers and role models, read their blog posts, watch their videos and listen to their podcasts. Eventually increase participation through social media, attend events and share your experience. Identifying as a member of the FIRE community reinforces purpose and provides confidence.
It also means acceptance of taking a path that is outside the norm. Friends, family and colleagues may have a hard time relating. It takes conviction, courage and a growth mindset. Belonging to a community of like-minded people helps to cope with negativity.
“Joining the FIRE community has helped me shift my mindset and have confidence. I enjoy being in a community that values planning for your financial future and provides knowledge, skills, encouragement and accountability.”
Shaun from Project Palm Tree
Each of us is in a race against time. The later you start, the harder it is to change and to catch up. That’s why it’s especially important for people over 50 to look into the FIRE movement now. It’s far easier to continue with the same old, same old. But the question is which path is going to get you closer to your retirement goals?