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Is Early Retirement For You?

There's a movement underfoot called "Financial Independence, Retire Early" or FIRE. It sounds like a good idea, but it may not be for everyone.


Proponents of the radical saving movement say that the secret is to avoid buying anything you don't really need and to look for low cost ways to commute to work, furnish your home, or create a wardrobe. 


The basic premise is that you should be a radical saver in your early years and put away 50% or more of your paycheck, which will then allow you to retire at the ripe old age of 35 or 40. While that sounds like a great idea, perhaps it's not all it's cracked up to be.


From, some criticisms of the FIRE movement include:


  1. What is the point of saving? Most people save now because they want to consume later. But the FIRE folks don’t want people to consume. For the FIRE folks, the point of saving is simply not to have to work. To give you the freedom to do whatever you desire over the last 50 years of your life. Trouble is, the freedom to do anything you want isn’t much fun when you’re hemmed in by a microscopic budget.
  2. What is wrong with consumption? Not consuming is an end in itself. Personally, I like to consume. I like nice clothes, nice jewelry and going out to nice dinners. I, too, am a radical saver, but the point of my saving isn’t so I don’t have to work, it’s so I can consume more later. Savings is just a big pile of opportunities, and someday I might come across a house or a car or something I really want and the money will be there.
  3. What is wrong with working? Why do the FIRE people dislike working so much that they want to quit at age 35? Working gives people purpose. This is my primary difficulty with universal basic income schemes: most people do not function well with a bunch of unstructured free time. I have had unpleasant jobs, and even working an unpleasant job is preferable to not working at all. I am one of these people who thinks there is dignity in working, that every job is important no matter how small.

For discussion:

What is your opinion of the FIRE movement? If you are currently a student getting ready to begin your career, do you plan to be a radical saver? Why or why not?