Stingy, The New Cool As FIRE Movement Spreads
Stingy, The New Cool As FIRE Movement Spreads
When I was growing up, my mother was stingy by necessity and bought the cheapest food and clothes she could find. I was embarrassed by this, as in those days it was not cool to be frugal.
Fast forward to the present and it has become fashionable and even cool to be stingy, frugal and penny pinching.
Even the middle classes shops at discount stores like Aldi and Lidl, even if they do make the excuse that they are trying to find a cheeky little Bordeaux for £10 a bottle!
Shops like Primark, money saving comparison sites and online stores like Amazon have all boomed in the last few years.
In my book, Yes, money can buy happiness, and my Money Tips podcasts, I obviously promote saving and investment and earning more than you spend. However, a movement in America called F.I.R.E. takes stinginess to a whole new level.
The seeds of the FIRE movement can be traced back to the 1992 best-selling book Your Money or Your Life written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, and the 2010 book Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker.
Followers of the F.I.R.E. or “financial independence” and “retire early”, movement, originating in the US, practice extreme forms of money saving to achieve their goal of early retirement and financial independence.
Devotees target savings of up to 70% of their annual income, which they invest for the long term. Their aim is to build a savings pot of 30 years’ worth of living expenses which they typically keep invested in low-cost tracker funds, withdrawing a maximum 4% every year in the hope they will never spend their capital.
After years subsisting on next to nothing, their thrifty habits become second nature by retirement that cheap lifestyle is easy to maintain. Some extreme F.I.R.E. disciples aspire to quit their jobs in their 30s or 40s, or at least attain the freedom of a greater work/life balance.
Whilst young people all over the internet rave about Fire, it is glorified and extreme retirement saving cleverly wrapped up as some sort of lifestyle movement.
Whilst I agree that young, and older, people need to start saving instead of spending on consumer goods, I feel that the flames of their fire may need a little more fuel to keep them warm for 30 or 40 years in retirement.
There are a number of obvious flaws in the F.I.R.E. plan.
To begin with, like me in my early working life, young people find it hard to save for retirement when they have to save to buy a property. This is made even harder when more than 50% of their disposable income goes towards rent. Those who do save, probably still live with their parents, who would naturally encourage them to put all their savings towards a deposit on a property, which they need now, rather than for a pension which they will need much later.
Secondly, when I got married and started a family life got tougher on one income with a mortgage and children, which is part of life for most people.
Finally, I think the “4 per cent rule” based on tracker fund returns is optimistic and outdated, not least because global growth is slowing and bond yields going south. Low-cost trackers are find when the market is rising and being tracked upwards, but the same tracking principle applies when the market is on one of its periodic downturns, which could come soon.
Having a goal to stash away 70% of your income to retire in your 40s, after 20 years of productive work, is not easy, but retiring in your 60s after 40 years of saving and investing is achievable.
Not everyone finds the lifelong frugal lifestyle attractive or practical. Some of the recommended money saving tactics they employ are impractical and time-consuming. Can you really walk everywhere, only shop for “yellow sticker” items on a limited range of foods just before closing time? Can you make your own clothes, which you would find hard to do at a cheaper price than the likes of Primark anyway, or live low-cost pulses for the rest of your life?
Retiring young and financially free is a great idea if you can live the life of your dreams, or at least a decent lifestyle with money to travel and enjoy. Without sufficient money, what sort of life will you have to look forward to for the next 40 years?
The financial services industry (where I once worked) and governments must make saving more attractive, less complicated and expensive if they are going to get millions of people over the retirement winning line by age 65, let along earlier, since the majority are not even saving 10% of income.
In reality, scrimping and saving alone will not make you rich, and will probably leave you feeling stressed and miserable. Think of yourself as a business, a money-making machine. Like any business, you need to generate income, capital and investment returns, as well as keeping an eye on the purse strings.
There are more examples and practical steps to getting rich and being happy in my book, Yes, money can buy happiness, I cover the 3 R’s of Money Management, the Money B.E.L.I.E.F System and much more. Check it out on Amazon http://bit.ly/2MoneyBook.