Five years ago I discovered the FIRE movement, and along with it, my financial tribe. FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early, and I liked the sound of that. As someone who likes to do things “differently”, I could never imagine myself working a traditional job until my late 60s anyway. Up until this moment, I didn’t have a lot of savings or a plan for how to accomplish early retirement, but I felt it in my bones that this was something I was meant to do. When financial independence came into my life, it changed everything. Within a few weeks I was immersed in several FIRE blogs, money podcasts and investment books, armed with the knowledge I would need to start down my own path towards financial freedom.
There was just one little problem. The lifestyles of most early retirement influencers aren’t exactly what I would call alluring. Aesthetics and luxury are rarely in their vocabulary. And a bland brand of frugal stoicism tends to be their modus operandi. But I, on the other hand, have expensive taste! Where were all the people like me?
The FIRE Strategy for Financial Freedom
Rather than preach a very precise roadmap to wealth, the Financial Independence Retire Early movement offers basic strategies for saving money and building an investment portfolio. It recommends a portfolio with a high percentage of income-generating assets, like stocks or real estate. Assets that generate enough income each year to cover your cost of living when you retire. The sooner you accumulate enough of these assets, the sooner you can retire. And by retire, it means no longer being required to work if you don’t want to.
You are considered ready for retirement when 4% of your total investment portfolio equals your estimated annual living expenses. For example, 4% of a $1,000,000 portfolio would give you $40,000 per year to live off of. If you stick to this plan, you should have enough money to last you for the rest of your life. It’s a super interesting strategy, and one that I will explain in more detail in another post.
So you now know that you need to acquire a large portfolio of assets. Great. But how do you do that?
This is done by saving as much money as possible and investing those savings in safe, reliable assets that offer a relatively stable, long-term return. You can invest in growth stocks, like Google, and real estate, whose values go up over time. Or you can invest in high dividend stocks or rental properties that generate regular income with minimal effort. Any income earned is reinvested into more assets. But again, more on this another time.
Most followers of FIRE accumulate money for their investments by cutting their expenses significantly. Some save as much as 80% of their annual incomes. Others also start side hustles and grow their existing salaries as they advance in their careers. Then they use their savings to invest aggressively for retirement.
Financial Freedom is Realistic
Working towards early retirement is a privilege that not everyone has. However, one of the best things about the FIRE method is that it makes financial freedom accessible to a lot of people who believe it is out of their reach. There are thousands of enthusiasts sharing their FIRE journeys online, ranging from singles earning minimum wage to families with a modest income. If people work smart, put money aside and invest wisely, it is possible for them to retire with enough savings to support themselves through old age. And depending on when they start this journey, and how much they put aside, there is a good chance that they can retire much earlier than society dictates. Many frugalistas are retiring as early as their 30s and 40s.
Another thing I love about the FIRE movement is that it generally encourages a more sustainable, minimal and mindful lifestyle. When you’re savvy with your spending, you often buy less, buy second-hand and buy long-lasting. As I like to say, what is good for you is good for the planet and good for your bank account.
Financial Freedom Can Look Granola
Now back to my dilemma from earlier. I’m spendy.
While I’m on my responsible journey to financial freedom, I also want to live a life filled with excitement, passion and beauty. Right now. I don’t want to postpone my dreams to some distant date that I might not live to see.
Most of the people I follow in the FIRE community lead lives that don’t really appeal to me. They have no problem cutting costs by forgoing purchases, experiences, comforts and sometimes even essentials. A married couple might live with roommates to hack their housing costs. Or choose never to buy a home, in favour of renting. Many FIRE advocates don’t own a car, and rarely eat out or take thrilling holidays abroad. They don’t shop at Whole Foods or have a weakness for beautiful products. And spending on “luxuries” is usually a no-no. They pinch pennies and wear their sacrifices like battle scars. I even read about an uber-frugal teacher who ate barnacles to get his protein. That crosses the line. I refuse. It’s just not worth it.
The FIRE Stereotype
Mr. Money Mustache, the unofficial Godfather of the FIRE Movement, and the person who has had the most significant impact on my personal finance journey, promotes the stereotypical FIRE lifestyle. He owns a home in a relatively affordable housing market, happily drives an old van, bikes everywhere rain or shine, hardly ever goes to restaurants, loves DIY home renovations, and would gladly choose a nearby hike over a foreign adventure. He cuts his own hair, doesn’t care about clothes, is sporty and extremely handy. For him, the good things in life come pretty cheap. And that’s awesome, because he genuinely loves to live this way. And so do most of his followers. But I don’t.
Although I love and consider myself part of the FIRE movement, I don’t feel like I have much in common with my fellow FIRE followers. Very few of them have a lifestyle that I can identify with, or a lifestyle that I even want. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Financial Freedom For People With Expensive Taste
Like so many of you, I would say that I have expensive taste. I love aesthetics, quality, luxury and comfort. I dream of owning a house, even though it’s super expensive where I live. I want beautiful, well-made furniture that doesn’t need to be replaced for years.
Sometimes I shop. I want to treat myself to the occasional outfit from a sustainable brand, even if it costs more. As someone who is passionate about health and wellness, I prioritize eating well, buying organic foods and using natural beauty products. Every year I try to take an adventurous trip someplace that lights me up. These things are all part of living a life that stays true to who I am. And that involves work-life balance, passion AND achieving financial independence.
I’m here to show you that it is possible to work towards financial freedom while simultaneously living a fulfilling life today. A small spinoff group of us spendy yet savvy FIRE followers are already doing this right now. We intend to retire early while enjoying the things we love along the way. That’s true financial freedom.
This philosophy is a large part of what this blog is all about. Merging the proven strategies of the frugal FIRE movement with our more expensive (yet mindful) spending habits. To share with you the tips and hacks that I’ve uncovered along my money-saving journey, so that you can get more while spending less. Ways that we can all indulge (from time to time) in our more opulent passions without having to give up the dream of financial independence or retiring early. I’ll go deep into what I buy, how much I’m saving, and my own finances so that you can see first-hand how you can do this too.
A New Financial Tribe
We can save on the things we don’t care about, buy the things we do care about for less, and splurge on the one or two purchases that truly bring us the most joy. Without having to make any dramatic sacrifices. Barnacles included. Paula Pant, another one of my favourite money gurus, has a great motto: You can afford anything… but not everything. It’s all about choices, not sacrifices. What could be more motivating than watching your wealth grow while living well? And spending extravagantly on the things you love, guilt-free. You can transform the way you manage your money to live a bigger, more rewarding life today and tomorrow.
So if you don’t identify with those stereotypical FIRE folks who build wealth by giving up all of their earthly belongings, don’t be turned off. I don’t fit in with those guys either. Welcome to a unique space for people pursuing financial freedom who also happen to have expensive taste.
Disclaimer – The information on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It should not be taken as professional financial advice. Please consult your own financial advisor, money coach or accountant, and do your own research before making any financial decisions. We try to provide accurate information on personal finance and investing, but it may not apply directly to your individual situation.