Beyond the literal definition of Financial Independence, there’s a deep and personal meaning this term holds. Every time I ask someone “What does FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) mean to you?” I hear a unique and individual answer.
It’s interesting hearing everyone else’s response. Most people describe freedom, flexibility and custom lifestyles, but no two definitions are the same. (Even my wife and I describe Financial Independence differently). I also believe that FIRE can mean different things to you at different stages of your life. My personal description is a constant work in progress.
I asked a few friends and followers to write what FIRE means to them in a couple sentences. I wanted to publish the answers because sometimes reading other people’s words helps you modify and refine your own. See below!
What does FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) mean to you?
“Financial Independence is when money flows in and out of my life without the need of personal work or effort… FI provides me freedom to spend my time however I want, without worrying about any financial consequences. To me, Retire Early just means stopping the activities that don’t bring long term joy or value to my life.”
My Wife says:
“Personally, I believe Financial independence is a time in your life when you can start making life choices without being bogged down by fiscal responsibilities. Of course I’m not talking about buying yachts and private jets; but about taking jobs/volunteer opportunities because you enjoy it, not because you have to.”
K.S. from Burbank, CA:
“FIRE = Being free to say YES and ignore the BUT.
- Get SCUBA certified? BUT it costs $800; YES.
- Take 49 days off work to be on SURVIVOR? BUT I could lose my job; YES.
- Take a year off and move to Italy BUT I could lose “everything”; YES.”
Liam O. from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom:
“[FIRE is] being able to live, independent from having to work (do a job, run a company) to get paid, either by earning passive/recurring income through investments or by living off savings. Retire in my mind means not having to work to live. Which you could do at any age. ‘Early’ is completely relative. In my mind FIRE is my goal for 40. I have 7 years!”
Francis from Los Angeles, CA:
“Financial independence means having enough money and income so that one does not have to worry about earning money and having enough money coming in to live “comfortably”. In theory, then one could pursue activities that are both interesting to oneself as well as doing things to improve things for others less fortunate.
Life throws a lot of curves, so retirement is just not in the picture for me. I remember as a young engineer working in aerospace defense many of the older guys talked about their property and apartment houses. I didn’t have anyone to mentor me, so I was clueless. Naturally, we are trying to teach our daughter all the things we messed up in our lives.”
J.M. from Wine Country, Australia:
“FIRE means I have the freedom to make the lifestyle choices I want. I have greater flexibility to live according to my values without the cognitive cobwebs that a restricted lifestyle brings.”
Pablo from San Diego, CA:
“FIRE means the ability to have options in regards to what you spend your time on. FIRE is a mindset – similar to going to the gym – where repetition, consistent self improvement, and hard work brings reward.”
Gladys from Orange County, CA:
“Financial Independence means not having to rely on a job in order to support my way of life. It means being beholden to no one but myself. It means being able to “own” my time while being able to pursue the work and relationships with the people in my life most meaningful to me.”
Jordan from South Australia:
“FIRE means being able to make my own choices in life. Not to be controlled by a boss and to be able to pursue personal interests I’ve wanted to do for years.”
Mandy from Utah:
“Being FIRE means that I can work because I want to, not because I’m living paycheck to paycheck. It means choosing where I want to work (Trader Joe’s, a non-profit, San Diego Padres, etc.) because I want to, not because I need to make a certain salary to survive. Being FIRE means having the freedom to do what makes me happy and enjoying the now instead of worrying about tomorrow.”
OK reader, it’s your turn… Got something different to add? What does FIRE mean to YOU?
12 thoughts on “What does Financial Independence mean to you?”
FIRE for me is freedom from needing to work for money, and retiring from the stressful job that got me there.
I hear ya. Getting rid of stressful jobs is a big part of FIRE for many.
I’m not there yet, but if I were FIRE would mean getting to bike my kids to and from school every day.
Oooh that’s a good one. I’ve been biking with my wife to her work each day the past few weeks. It’s the best part of my day.
FIRE means driving on the freeway when others aren’t.
Yep. Playing golf with nobody on the course.
I like the concept of this post – get us talking about what FI actually means to us! To me FI is the ability to make decisions independent of Financial Impact. The Freedom to start considering the living and not the cost of the living.
Love that! It should be about living, not cost of. Boom!
FIRE to me is having the ability to do the things of my interest as per my own schedule and wish.
Nice! I believe you can do this without having massive amounts of money. Start living your best life today, doing what interests you 🙂
Money is the aid for one to exchange for time. Initially, one exchanges time for money in exchange of done work. After one or two decade, it’s time for the compounding of interest in respect of the investment portfolio which enable one to quit the full-time employment to pursue own interest. It will be an added bonus if such interests generate money for one.
I both agree and disagree (respectfully!). I agree that hard work is needed and initially you need to trade your time for dollars. I also agree that with enough dollars, you are able to buy some time.
But, I don’t think you need to wait decades before pursuing your own interests. I think pursuing interests can be done simultaneously *while* building wealth. That is what the FIRE lifestyle is about. Living your best life as early as possible, regardless of how much money you’ve accumulated.
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