Money·4 min read

Fat, Lean, Barista, and Coast: 4 FIRE Ways for Reaching Early Retirement

Woman sitting on mountain looking out over landscape
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
March 28, 2022

Saving for retirement can be daunting. Especially when most of us are just trying to afford Friday night takeout. And it can feel like something you can save for later considering the Social Security Administration defines full retirement age as 67. (Hello, Social Security benefits.) But, if you can make it a money priority, you might be able to retire earlier than you think. And it’s important to start thinking about and planning your financial future ASAP, no matter when you want to go OOO forever.

Okay, I’m interested. How can I retire early?

A growing movement called FIRE is encouraging people to change their budgets and lifestyles to bring down the age of retirement — generally to your 30s or 40s. All so that they can stop working at an earlier age, travel more, or pursue a hobby or passion.

Retiring early sounds good. Tell me more about FIRE.

FIRE stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” And basically means you save and invest up to 75% of your annual income by cutting way back and living well below your means. Read: No more Uber Eats for you. Exactly how much you have to sacrifice depends on your FIRE number.

What's my FIRE number?

It's the amount of money you’ll need to retire, based on when you retire, how much you plan to spend in retirement, and (morbid alert) how long you expect to need that money. And it's different for everyone. One way to estimate your own FIRE number: multiply how much you spend per year by 25. Example: If you spend $40,000 a year, you’ll need $1 million saved ($40,000 x 25). You can also use an online calculator to crunch the numbers for yourself. 

How do I hit that FIRE number? 

With a budget and commitment. FIRE is really all about extreme savings and investments. So if you have a higher salary, maybe you can afford that occasional extra guac. If you have a lower salary, maybe not. It all depends on your goals, saving and investment rates, and how much you make. Regardless, the best place to start is with a budget

And since you'll be saving and investing so much, you're more likely to hit contribution limits for 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts. Meaning you need multiple types of investment accounts

What if FIRE doesn’t fit into my lifestyle?

The FIRE method isn’t one-size-fits-all. A few different ways to do it:


Aiming to go light on frugality and keep your current lifestyle, before and after you retire. Hint: You’ve gotta earn, save, and invest a lot now to do it.


Living on the bare minimum, and investing and saving as much as possible, even in retirement. Time to catch the minimalism wave. 

Barista FIRE

A part-time minimalist and side hustler. Basically, you retire from full-time work but pick up part-time gigs to retain more of your current lifestyle.

Coast FIRE

All about the mindset of coasting to retirement. Essentially you invest enough money to grow it to your FIRE number based on an expected rate of return. Then you can stop saving for retirement. You can always start saving and investing for retirement again if your returns don't go according to plan.

Are any of these FIRE strategies right for me?

Maybe. Generally, FIRE fans include people with high earnings, low debt, or both. Being able to save and invest up to 70% of your income may not fit into your budget, lifestyle, or future goals.

But even if you think FIRE might be too extreme for you, you can take elements of the philosophy and implement them into your own plan to reach financial independence. Oh, and if you need to catch up on retirement basics, start by learning the language


Even if you think FIRE isn’t for you, women still need to save more for retirement. So start planning, saving, and investing ASAP to retire when you want — whenever that may be.

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