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One of the newest acronyms in the financial world (because there’s always an acronym) is FIRE, which stands for Financial Independence/Retire Early. Certainly, FIRE is an admirable goal. Who wouldn’t want to retire early? With a growing concern among young workers that they’ll never be able to retire, FIRE provides an attractive alternative.

Reading deeper about the leading FIRE lifestyle influencers, however, paints a far different picture. Consider this section from an article on MarketWatch.com about Tanja Hester who “retired” at 38.

“Today, Hester is a success story of what’s known as the FIRE movement. And as a retired person she’s busier than she expected: she’s out with a book, co-hosts the podcast “The Fairer Cents” about women and money, volunteers, travels extensively, writes guest columns for MarketWatch, and continues to write the Our Next Life blog, chronicling her journey to – and now in – retirement.”

Later, in response to the question “What’s the most surprising thing about retirement?” Hester began her answer by saying “The biggest surprise was how much I enjoy work now.”

Financially independent? Absolutely!

Retired? Not by any traditional definition.

Anecdotally, this is how the big names in the FIRE movement operate. They make additional money telling others how to follow their lead. Unfortunately, that path is available only to a select few who work hard to popularize their names and brands.  

While not as exciting as a fun acronym, the “secret” to financial independence is the same as it ever was. Work hard. Live below your means. When you do spend, do so wisely. Save and invest what you can. Do that and you may be able to have an actual retirement early, though probably not at 38.

Photo by Marko Horvat on Unsplash