Nowadays, we have about an equal chance of tripping over a grammatically challenged troll on Twitter as we do stumbling upon an article debating the merits of FIRE elsewhere on the web.
In case you didn’t know, FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early.
The idea behind it is simple yet alluring: with an above-average household income, a dash of self-discipline, and a big dollop of tenacity, anyone could retire early by subsisting on a tiny percentage of their income, and building an investment portfolio that’s 25 times their yearly expenses.
While FIRE is not an antidote to all of life’s problems, it is an interesting concept, and definitely a lofty goal to work towards regardless of your interest in early retirement.
For that reason, the movement has gathered a cult following, myself included, that became deeply obsessed with saving rates, side hustling, and geoarbitrage.
As FIRE gained popularity, variations of FIRE started popping out as people found novel ways to define their particular version of financial independence – from commonplace ones to the truly bizarro.
Confused about the gazillion different types of FIRE and what they all mean?
I am here to unravel the mystery.
To be honest, after working on that gargantuan blog post comparing the advantages of renting and owning, I was hoping to follow it up with an easier writing task – but no such luck.
After searching high and low in remote corners of the Internet, I can honestly say that I’ve uncovered every conceivable FIRE one can think of.
Hold on to your hat and get ready to have your mind blown!
The default option for the average pursuer of FIRE.
The goal is to accumulate one million dollars that will, in turn, generate $50,000 a year of investment gains (5% rate of return) in perpetuity, and spend less than that per year.
A milestone on the path to FIRE that is reached when someone has amassed a large enough money stash that, even if another cent was never put aside for retirement, financial independence would be achieved by the time they reach 65, thanks to compound interest.
Aptly named to reflect their followers’ adherence to minimalist living and willingness to spend less than $25,000 per year, LeanFIRE is a watered-down version of FIRE, in the sense that you don’t need to accumulate the standard one million dollars to label yourself financially independent.
On the opposite side of the FIRE spectrum, you get folks who prefer to gather up $2 to $5 million before they’re comfortable considering early retirement.
They’re not necessarily chasing the bigger allowance that comes with a bigger nest egg. Shielding against potential lifestyle inflation, market uncertainties, and disruptions is an equally, if not more, critical consideration.
Okay, now we’re stepping into some serious upper crust territory.
To become obeseFIRE, you need to scrape up 5 to 10 million dollars.
Short for “Morbidly Obese Fire.”
Pretty much like ObeseFIRE, but with an extra dose of fat-shaming and proliferation of said social stigma thrown in, even though I’m aware that this is not anyone’s intention.
Having saved enough to retire early but choose to work part-time at Starbucks for the healthcare benefits.
[Only applicable to citizens of countries without universal healthcare]
[Insert obligatory Starbucks joke here]
Warning: mildly offensive, controversial, but wildly amusing content ahead. Read on at your own pleasure.
Achievable when, in a not-so-distant future, a Democratic candidate gets elected president of the United States and passes ‘Medicare for All,’ thus nullifying the need for BaristaFIRE.
Also known as just FIRE in (hopefully) 2021.
When someone lies to impressionable children about their FIRE status and becomes the symbol of a pagan holiday while at it.
Pursuing FIRE with the explicit goal of devoting 5% of the time trying out new brunch spots, and the remaining 95% posting color-coordinated, overly saturated, excessively Photoshopped, bird’s-eye view brunch photos on Instagram, and sneakily adding 1,234 hashtags for likes.
Attention-seeking shenanigans aside, you gotta applaud the high resolve to maintaining a façade.
Everyone’s got a side hustle these days, but nobody takes it as seriously as chasers of SideHustleFIRE.
Their route to FIRE is paved with trials and tribulations by testing every side hustle under the sun.
Their schedule looks something like this:
Monday: deliver packages for PostMates
Tuesday: stream Fortnite on Twitch
Wednesday: sell pet costumes on Etsy
Thursday: teach Japanese via Skype
Friday: host wine tasting tours through Airbnb
Saturday: design business cards on Fiverr
Sunday: meet up with friends to discuss new side hustle ideas
Anyone could instantly attain NatureFIRE by living in a forest, eating protein-rich bugs, drinking morning dews, wearing cloaks made out of leaves, and sleeping in huts built with corn stalks – effectively reducing expenses to zero.
Tell pesky relatives who only call to borrow money and give unsolicited money advice that you’ve moved to a galaxy far, far away, when in reality, you simply migrated to Halifax, where the cost of living is low, but the Force is strong.
Then proceed to make heaps of money using Jedi mind tricks.
Bury head in the sand and pretend to have FIREd.
Reach FIRE by partnering up with someone who has already FIREd and warding off divorce papers.
Plot twist: the person they married was doing OstrichFIRE.
Step 1: Invent a time machine to travel back to 2010 when “TiK ToK” by Ke$ha was the hottest song of the year, and bitcoins were only $0.125 apiece.
Step 2: Load up on bitcoins.
Step 3: Give Ke$ha 100 bitcoins and tell her to hold on to them. She’ll thank you in 2014.
Step 4: Wait.
Step 5: Sell all bitcoins on 17 December 2017.
Step 6: Profit!
Achieving FIRE by blogging about FIRE.
Yup. This is precisely my brand of FIRE.
I was initially going to conclude this article after BaristaFIRE, which would make this a perfectly fine and normal article about FIRE – the kind that gets plenty of repins on Pinterest, a few comments on Twitter, and no action whatsoever on Facebook. Because Facebook.
I do none of the above.
So I made the ingenious decision to jazz up this article by sprinkling in a few variants of FIREs that are not exactly – what’s the word – canon.
Was the not-very-subtle jab at the number of FIRE sub-movements intentional? You bet. As were the many other jabs.
Some might call this WUI (writing under the influence). I call it a satirical exercise. So let’s just roll with it.
By the way, you are a real trooper for reading until this point, so here’s a virtual prop for being awesome.
I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it, and don’t hesitate to share any fabulously weird FIRE ideas you come up with.