We'll discuss which of these 5 FIRE styles could help you gain financial independence:
The Financial Independence, Retire Early (otherwise known as FIRE) movement has been known in personal finance circles since the early 2000s, and was covered in niche blogs like Financial Samurai1 and Early Retirement Extreme2 beginning in 2007.
In its simplest form, FIRE prioritizes saving and investing most of a person's income, with the goal of retiring early.
While a person's income, expenses, existing assets and desired retirement age dictate how much a person needs to save under the FIRE method to reach the goal of financial independence, the initial concept of FIRE required extreme frugality. For example, Jacob Lund Fisker, creator and author of the Early Retirement Extreme book and blog, wrote about living on $7,000 a year to achieve financial independence.3
Nearly 20 years later, the FIRE movement has gone mainstream. While the root concept (prioritizing saving and investing over spending with the goal of gaining financial independence and lifestyle flexibility) remains, the movement has evolved to honor that there are a number of different ways to work toward financial independence.
The emergence of different “FIRE styles" recognizes that while saving half (or more than half) of a person's income to retire early may not be feasible (or even appealing) for everyone, the pursuit of financial independence doesn't have to demand drastic lifestyle changes.4
Here's a closer look at five different FIRE styles, and what they entail. If you're interested in the idea of early retirement and choosing how (and for how long) you earn money and work, read on to learn which of these styles most appeals to you.
FIRE Style #1: Lean
The Lean FIRE style focuses on living frugally, with the goal of saving at least 25 times your annual expenses. It requires quite a bit of sacrifice, which for some includes major life decisions like not having kids, living in an inexpensive part of the country, and/or calling "home" a very inexpensive dwelling, like a van, trailer or cabin. For most people, this requires living on less than $40,000 a year.
Who is it good for? People who like the idea of embracing a minimalist lifestyle that prioritizes saving money to gain independence from traditional work over items or experiences that cost money.
FIRE Style #2: Fat
The Fat FIRE style has the ultimate goal of reaching financial independence and freedom of lifestyle – but recognizes that extreme frugality may not be appealing to all. The Fat FIRE approach honors that people can maintain a more costly lifestyle, which may even exceed $100,000 a year – but still embrace the FIRE mindset. Devotees of this FIRE style tend to have higher paying jobs with compensation packages that may also include impressive bonuses and stock options. They'll often invest in non-traditional opportunities, crypto, and/or start their own side hustles to grow that money even further.
Who is it good for? People who live in expensive areas and/or don't want to make drastic spending changes or lifestyle changes in the pursuit of early retirement.
FIRE Style #3: Barista
The Barista style falls somewhere in the middle of the “Fat" and “Lean" styles. For example, one spouse may continue to work part- or full-time in a traditional job to keep health insurance benefits, while the other freelances or starts a business. The Barista style still focuses on the goal of financial independence but not necessarily on the idea of retiring completely, as soon as possible. Some FIRE devotees consider Barista as being "halfway" into the FIRE movement. Because of this, it can be one of the easiest ways to enter into FIRE, until (or if) you decide you're ready to commit to a "Fat" or "Lean" approach.
Who is it good for? People who like the idea of financial independence and flexibility but aren't necessarily interested in not working at all.
FIRE Style #4: Coast
Once a FIRE follower has saved enough to retire that they no longer have to put money into retirement savings, they enter what's called the "Coast" style. They still need to make money to cover their living expenses, but they no longer have to fund retirement. This FIRE approach focuses on flexibility in how you manage your budget (since you've now got all the money you were funneling into retirement). It also allows you to choose a job or pursuit based on what you enjoy, instead of choosing one based on what it pays or offers in benefits.
Who is it good for? People who like the idea of financial independence but aren't in a hurry to retire at a significantly early age (like their 30s or 40s).
FIRE Style #5: Slow FI
Much of the FIRE movement focuses on the ability to reach a person's FIRE number (the amount of money a person has to reach in order to live off of their investments and choose how they want to spend their life). Calculated by multiplying your annual expenses by 25, this number can take many years (and in some cases, extreme lifestyle changes) to reach.5
But Slow FI, coined by Jess and Corey, a married couple, FIRE devotees and creators of The Fioneers blog, isn't about a specific number at all. Instead, it's about being intentional with money and using it in a way that allows a person to live their idea of their best life based on their specific values. If a Slow FI devotee is passionate about travel, for example, they might choose to spend their money on that – but would be intentional about spending elsewhere in order to make that a priority. Ultimately, it's about embracing the value of financial independence and the many choices and experiences that go into pursuing it.6
Who is it good for? People who are motivated by the idea of living and working on their terms and are as energized by the many experiences that come with the process of pursuing financial independence. If you were born in 1960 or after, the Social Security Administration considers 67 to be "full retirement age."7 But if the thought of waiting until then to pursue a life of financial independence on your terms feels daunting, you may just find that with the right FIRE style, you have the ability to pursue work, life, and retirement on your terms, too.
Regardless of the FIRE style that most appeals to you, the end goal is being able to enjoy your life on your terms. And that's something worth working toward! Partnering with a First Horizon advisor can help you reach your FIRE goals, no matter which style they're based on.
Have any questions?
1 Financial Samurai. "Who Started the FIRE Movement? The History of Financial Independence." Accessed June 2023.
2 Early Retirement Extreme. Accessed June 2023.
3 Amazon. "Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence." Accessed June 2023.
4 Kiplinger. "The FIRE Movement Is Alive and Well." Accessed June 2023.
5 MoneyUnder30. "FIRE Calculator: Find out when you’ll be able to retire." Accessed June 2023.
6 The Fioneers. "Slow FI: The Real YOLO." Accessed June 2023.
7 Social Security Administration. "Starting Your Retirement Benefits Early." Accessed June 2023.