A Million is NOT Much
Many of us have heard phrases like “If only I could be a millionaire
then I’d retire” without realizing that a million dollars actually might
not be enough to retire. A survey from Charles Schwab revealed the average
American needs to have about $1.7 million saved to retire. While everyone’s needs
are different and some might need less than $1 million to retire, it is
actually not overly ambitious for the average person to strive to be a
millionaire anymore. Many consider retirement a bad word due as it implies that
one’s life is over at that point and you have resigned yourself to wasting
away. This is the furthest from the truth. The popularity of the phrase
“Financial Independence” arose to counter the stereotype about
retiring because it suggests an ability to “retire” while maintaining
an enjoyable work life. There are some that crave this freedom so strongly that
the phrase Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) came into light.
Life in a Different Lens
FIRE transforms the paradigm of working at a job 40+ years then retiring too
old to enjoy the prime years of life (average retirement age for dentists is 69.5 years old! I doubt all of these are because they’re just having too much fun working to quit). Advocates of the FIRE philosophy recognize the most valuable asset is time, and that money serves no higher purpose than giving the freedom to spend the little time we have left on this planet with the people and causes that matter most. Some pursue “lean FIRE,” or a plan to retire very early on a very small amount of money (and some do this fantastically by selling their cars, biking everywhere, vacationing to cheap areas, geographic arbitrage, etc). You don’t have to boot strap to the minimum like some do, just be reasonable with your indulgences.
Dentists tend to have higher expenses and require more to replace their
income and maintain lifestyle. For this reason, many advocate for a “fat
FIRE” philosophy. This is wise just because it is risky and a little too
optimistic to aim for an ultra lean FIRE. What if there is a sudden medical expense?
Litigation? Damage do your home or other catastrophe? Insurance can only cover
so much. If your monthly income is $1,600 and your copay is a couple hundred,
your budget is shot (yes there are some who recommend monthly income this low).
If nothing else, it is exciting to see it can be done, and so could you if you
really needed to. Mr. Money Mustache is well known in the FIRE community for
his lean approach if you are interested https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/
. Tools like Firecalc can help give you an idea of how likely your portfolio is going to succeed in a variety of market outcomes, so be sure to use it to stress test your portfolio (if mostly stock based).
Whatever your flavor of FIRE, the core message is freedom to use the most precious resource in life (time) in the way you want before it’s gone. I wish you the best and feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your FIRE progress!