There has grown a movement online called FIRE: Financial Independence Early Retirement. On a practical level, it promotes a strategy of high savings and sound investing in order to retire early.
At the core of it's philosophy is this: Comfort comes from freedom and independence, not from possessions.
That true luxury is your resilience to adversity, not in expensive things. From the ERE manifesto, an early and big blog on the subject,
Some things make life easier, but more things do not make life more easy. More things mean more things that can break down and more time spent fixing or replacing them. Comfort is freedom and independence. Comfort is having the sweat glands and metabolic tolerance to deal with heat and cold. It is not central heating or air conditioning which may fail or be unavailable. It is not plushy seats but a healthy back...
Growing in popularity after the financial crisis in 2008, it's message is valid. Most Americans live in debt, save little, and are unable to retire on their savings alone. In other words: your spending is keeping you a slave.
But misunderstanding the core of the message and blindly increasing your savings rates could do more harm than not. The idea of the philosophy, as stated by MMM, is to:
Complete freedom to be the best, most powerful, energetic, happiest and most generous version of You that you can possibly be.
What is missing? Any mention of retiring early. This is where I believe some proponents (or critics) of the lifestyle get it wrong. When taken to it's logical conclusion, extreme savings rates can also be a cover for a mindset of scarcity and non-confidence. In fact, MMM thinks money and confidence are interchangeable.
The real goal is how to live a rich life.
The mental leap is when you build the confidence to quit your job today and never go back. It's not stacking dollars for an early and cushy retirement. And if that means spending today on your own personal growth with books, courses, or coaching to build that confidence, then do it.
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, summarizes this well.
Ramit could retire tomorrow. But he'd rather live in New York and live his version of the Rich Life instead of maximizing his savings.
Here's a few questions to ask yourself as you go through your journey.
If your financial life is a code red - no savings, credit card debt - then adopt the FIRE mindset completely. It will change your life. You need it.
But once you've made progress, keep in mind what your vision of a Rich Life is and whether extreme savings rates is that best path forward for you. There are other ways to get there.