If you follow any personal finance blogs at all, you’ve probably heard about the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) movement. This category of online community-building, which is mostly made up of couples in their 20s, 30s and 40s, espouses the virtues of extreme frugality with a singular goal — reaching financial independence so they can drop their 9-to-5 jobs.
I’m supportive of this subsection of the personal finance world in general, mostly because I think traditional jobs are overrated. I, too, started a blog and freelance career so I could drop a 9-to-5 office job in 2013. My husband also followed suit, leaving his steady, well-paying job to blog full time in 2015. There’s something amazing about giving notice at your job and walking out the door, knowing full well that you have the financial means to take care of yourself.
But, FIRE enthusiasts tend to lose me when they talk about lifestyle. Many of them are making major sacrifices to stretch their nest eggs for the rest of their lives — sacrifices like never spending money or living in tiny homes or vans to avoid a mortgage. Maybe it’s because I have kids, but the thought of altering my lifestyle dramatically to “retire early” doesn’t strike me as being very fun.
Not only that, but most of FIRE’s “early retirees” do work — just not in traditional 9-5 jobs. Some freelance or blog or offer online courses, while others pick up part-time gigs or run businesses on their own terms. They seem to know that the amounts they’ve saved up to “retire” may not last for decades or more. At the very least, they strive to cover their monthly expenses so their investments can continue compounding. With the rising costs of healthcare and myriad of “what ifs” to plan for, continuing to earn money seems extremely smart.
Our Plan in Place of Early Retirement
That’s why my husband and I only focus on the financial independence side of the equation. While we might have enough saved in our late 30s to retire right now, I am not leaving my life to chance. My kids are only 7 and 9 years old, and we have our entire lives ahead of us. To me, it would feel selfish and reckless to stop pursuing income and start living off what we’ve saved. What if my husband or I were to get sick? What if one of our kids were to fall ill? What about paying for college? Weddings? Vacations? Expenses we couldn’t possibly plan for it we tried?
I don’t want to know what it might feel like to run out of money in our 50s or 60s, perhaps when we can’t work any longer or our skills become outdated. I never want to stress over how we’ll get by on shrinking retirement distributions or Social Security payments.
But, mostly, I never want to know what it feels like to have to ask my kids for help because I retired earlier than I should have.
More on Retiring and Living on Less: States Where Your Retirement Will Cost Less Than $45,000 a Year
The Bottom Line
While my husband and I love being self-employed and working from home, we’re not going to jump on the early retirement bandwagon just yet. We have too much life ahead of us; there are too many unknowns. And there’s too much risk involved in halting our income to spend all our time how we want.
So, for now, we plan to keep on working and saving … and working and saving. The more we can invest now while we’re young, the more confident we’ll feel when we decide to stop working later on.
Early retirement may be all the rage these days, but I know it’s not for us. Life is full of risk, but this is one chance I don’t have to take.
More From Our Smart Money Squad
- Why I Think the FIRE Movement Is Overrated
- Why I Keep More Than 6 Months’ Salary in My Emergency Fund
- What a Finance Expert Would Do if He Won the Lottery
- Watch: How One Couple Retired in Their 30s to Travel in an Airstream RV
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