Why Critics are Wrong About the FIRE Movement

Dispelling the FIRE Movement Misconceptions
Cody Berman
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After hearing Suze Orman on the Afford Anything podcast, I realized something important. The FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement is wildly misunderstood.

Although many of my friends in the community have already chimed in on this issue, I feel that I can add value to the conversation.

In this post, I intend to shed light upon all of the misconceptions about the FIRE movement. If you enjoy this article, please share. Let’s work together to change this narrative!

What is the FIRE Movement?

In essence, the FIRE movement is a collective group of individuals striving for financial independence by earning more, spending less, and investing the rest. These individuals aren’t just saving 5% of their take-home pay… some FIRE community members are able to save 50, 60, 70, 80 or sometimes even 90%!

These astronomical savings rates are achieved through controlled spending and intentionality. It’s not atypical for a FIRE-seeker to live on $40,000 or less per year. Maintaining this massive savings rate allows these individuals to retire decades before their peers.

If you’re skeptical about this whole “FIRE thing”, read blogs like mine and the many others in this space. It may take some time to process, but the things you will discover are truly amazing.

The FIRE movement has shifted their value system to focus on the things that truly matter, instead of the mad pursuit of money recognized in traditional western society. These new values include happiness, relationships, personal development, self-fulfillment, growth, connection, contentment, and so much more!

The beauty of FIRE is that each person finds his or her own path. There is no “right” way to do anything, but it all starts with increasing the gap between your income and expenses.

Despite everything I just mentioned, there are still naysayers! However, I believe that their arguments generally stem from misunderstood notions. I’ll do my best to address the most prevalent counterarguments to the FIRE movement.

“Why Would You Want to Deprive Yourself?”

Financial independence is not about deprivation. It’s not about dumpster diving, starving ourselves, or living under a bridge. In fact, I would argue that most people in this community honestly feel that they are living better lives!

This whole financial independence journey starts with intentionality. Once you’ve seen the light and understand how you can control your money, your whole world changes. In my personal life, the ‘lightbulb moment’ was realizing that time and money don’t have to be linearly related. Instead of working 40 hours to receive a bi-weekly paycheck of $X, you can explore side hustles, buy real estate, or build up a nest egg of investments to generate passive income and support your lifestyle in perpetuity (theoretically).

Once you discover this superpower and realize how important your savings rate is, you slowly lift your consumeristic veil and see the world in a new light. You start to realize what actually matters to you and what doesn’t. Like I mentioned before, once you transfer your hard-earned dollars into units of time, “things” start to lose their shine.

Is shaving 5 years off of your retirement by driving a Toyota Camry instead of a BMW really “deprivation”? Does choosing to live in a modest house in order to end your career early and spend more time with your family mean you are “deprived”? Financial independence is not about deprivation! It’s about taking back control of your time.

“You’re Going to Run Out of Money”

Everyone in the FIRE community has heard it…

“You’re going to run out of money if you retire early. You never know when an unexpected expense may come up!”

This argument does have some validity, but there’s one key factor that’s missing: We can still work if we need to!

Let’s say John Smith is fortunate enough to reach financial independence at age 30. If everything works out, he will never have to work another day in his life! Well, guess what? The market crashes for five consecutive years after John “retires” and his investment portfolio is cut in half!!!

What in the world is John going to do?!

Oh yeah, go back to work! John is clearly a hustler if he reached financial independence at such a young age. It would only take a few weeks or months for him to re-hone his skills in his given field. Is it really so unreasonable for someone of his status to never find another job? I highly doubt it.

“You Will Be Bored”

Really…? REALLY? Once you’ve achieved financial independence, you can literally do whatever you want (within reason)! You can make your own schedule, pursue your passions, and travel the world. I don’t know about you, but nothing about those options sound like boredom to me.

If you truly crave structure and taking on new assignments you can join a non-profit, volunteer, or search for a job that you’d love. It’s almost overwhelming how much flexibility you have once you hit financial independence. If you don’t like something, don’t do it! If you’re ever bored, do something fun! When the need for money is taken out of the equation, your options are limitless.

Once you unlock unlimited time flexibility, you open the gate to discover your true purpose and passions. No more pointless meetings, no more impending deadlines… you have full control of your destiny!

“Retiring Early Means That You Are Lazy”

Some may disagree, but I’d argue that more than 90% of FIRE community members do not fully embrace the “Retire Early” part of the acronym. In fact, most early retirees find themselves earning unexpected income from doing the things that they love!

I think a lot of the criticism surrounding the FIRE community comes from the misconceptions about the definition of “hard work”. But what does working hard actually mean? Some would argue that it’s putting in 12-hour days at the office. Others would say that it’s working weekends to finish your job assignments.

Corporate America has brainwashed us into believing that working hard means sacrificing dozens of precious hours to complete hardly meaningful tasks. Well, guess what… it’s not true!

You know what’s actually hard work? — Building meaningful relationships with friends and family; finding fulfillment and purpose in life; understanding what you value and what truly makes you happy. These are the things that truly matter!

Unfortunately, it’s often too late when people figure out these truths. It’s the man on his deathbed who wished he’d spent more time with his family. It’s the woman ready to take her life from the stress of her corporate job — thinking back and wondering how her life had come to this point.

The FIRE community is not lazy. We have just figured out what we value most in life.

“Early Retirees Don’t Contribute to Society”

Just because you “retire” early from your corporate job, that does not mean you are immune from taxes, civil service, and societal participation! Sure, an early retiree might have a lower tax bill due to a reduced income, but that same individual also consumes less.

Early retirees aren’t “living off the system”. Like I mentioned before, these FIRE achievers have created their own systems to support themselves financially.

Additionally, these same individuals can contribute one of the greatest gifts of all: time. An early retiree has the time to volunteer at the local elementary school. He or she has the time to work in the food pantry, help to plant the community garden or focus on local sustainability projects.

“Yeah right; All you FIRE people care about is money.”

In my experience, the FIRE community is one of the most genuine, helpful, authentic, selfless, intentional, and amazing groups of people. Once the wild pursuit of “enough money” has ended, early retirees must embark on a new mission. This mission typically involves finding purpose and meaning, often times through volunteering, mentoring and coaching.

These people actually want to help you succeed! It’s like they’ve found the Fountain of Truth and their mission is to share its contents with as many people as possible.

Come On In, The Water’s Fine!

Why did I write this post? Because I believe that everyone should join the FIRE movement. It’s not some crazy cult filled with money-hungry lunatics — it’s a welcoming community filled with people who understand that time is our valuable asset.

Financial independence is the ultimate life optimization strategy. It allows you to break the chains of consumerism and lifestyle inflation and focus on the things that truly matter. These concepts have truly changed my life and I’d honestly feel selfish to not share this FIRE movement with you all.

Fellow FIRE friends: Did I miss anything? Please share in the comments below!

Newcomers: Welcome to the FIRE community! I guarantee that you’ll enjoy your stay.

If this content helped you, please share! Website traffic helps to keep the lights on and allows me to keep producing helpful content.

Note: I am not a financial advisor or fiduciary. All the information presented in this article reflects my opinion. I am not liable for any financial losses incurred related to this content. My content is always written with the readers’ best interests in mind. I believe that my content is helpful and well-researched, but it is not professional financial advice. For more information, read our Privacy Policy.

10 thoughts on “Why Critics are Wrong About the FIRE Movement

  1. You nailed it! “You know what’s actually hard work? — Building meaningful relationships with friends and family; finding fulfillment and purpose in life; understanding what you value and what truly makes you happy. These are the things that truly matter!” Very well stated!!

    1. Thanks a lot Peter! I truly think that recognizing these facts is one of the true superpowers of financial independence. Glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. Wow! I’m so inspired by this article. Exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life. I’m not sure if I have full FI but I’m fortunate enough to decide how I want to spend my time based on what I value. I can’t wait to read more and see what others in the FIRE community are doing to keep themselves content and live a meaningful life.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for the amazing comment, Jackelin. You made my week! It’s great to hear that you may be at (or very close to) FI. I wish you nothing but success in your journey moving forward. Have an awesome day!

  3. There are a lot of misconceptions of FIRE. I think you took those misconceptions and ran with them. I think there has to be an intentionallity of WHY one is acheiving financial independence. That one word, why, can exapand so much.

    1. Thanks for reading, Tim! I completely agree with you – The WHY of FI is the most important part. That’s the part that the outsiders don’t see. We are choosing to live an intentional life because it buys us back our time and freedom.

  4. I love how you phrased this:

    “Financial independence is the ultimate life optimization strategy. It allows you to break the chains of consumerism and lifestyle inflation and focus on the things that truly matter.”

    It really gets at the heart of the motivation behind intentional, goal-oriented financial decisions!

    – Dana
    Pittsburgh, PA

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