FIRE, which stands for “financial independence, retire early,” advocates challenging the conventional wisdom surrounding personal finance. The idea is that if you save and invest a significant amount of your income now, you can retire in your 40s, 30s, or even 20s.
There are many divergent approaches to getting there. Some people increase their savings by being very thrifty. Some people build a web of profitable income sources to bolster their portfolios.
Jim Crider, a licensed financial adviser who focuses on younger clients seeking financial independence, advises anyone pursuing FIRE to ask themselves one question. “Why do I want to be financially independent?”
Although the response might appear simple (“Why wouldn’t I?”), Crider notes that people’s justifications can differ greatly.
“Some people want to spend more time with their family, or focus on health and wellness. Some want to pursue passion projects. Some want to be able to turn down promotions or start a business,” he says. “It’s not always about not working.”
According to Crider, knowing your “why” is crucial since it can direct your financial decisions. Here is the framework for making decisions that Crider advocates using to get the most of your financial life.
The four-part FIRE decision-making structure
Saving enough money to retire early will take sacrifice, barring a Powerball win. It can entail cutting back on dining out in order to save money or working extra hours in order to increase your income.
“Everything comes with opportunity costs and tradeoffs,” says Crider. “If you can be articulate about what’s important to you, your vision is clear. You can spend money in the most efficient manner. You can make the things that are most important to you happen in a bigger, grander way.”
Crider developed a four-part framework for financial decision-making to increase his clients’ financial efficiency.
This is your “why,” and Crider probes his clients on it by posing questions like, “If your doctor told you you had five years to live, what would you change?” and “If you found out you had 24 hours to live, what would you regret not having done or not having become?”
Possible responses include wanting to make the most of your money to spend time with your family. Or perhaps you’ve always wished you could work for yourself. According to Crider, your financial decisions should all stem from these guiding principles.
According to Crider, your aims are likely to change over time but your values are more likely to remain constant.
If you value spending time with family and being outside, one of your ambitions can be to go on family hiking excursions or own a mountain property. “Goals don’t have to be financial,” Crider says.
You must start making trade-offs at this point. You may make informed decisions about how to spend your money by maximizing it on the things you care about and minimizing it on the things you don’t by considering your values and ambitions.
Crider advises performing a “pre-mortem,” in which you picture your death. What actions did you take correctly to live your ideal life? And on the other hand, what went wrong if future you is still working successfully after the age of 65 without having achieved your goals?
“The most common culprits are, ‘We kept spending on things that weren’t important,’ and ‘I was too afraid to take a risk and leave my comfort zone.’” Crider says.
The first three stages are there to help you behave quickly when faced with difficult choices. Theoretically, it should be simpler to avoid the drive-through the next time those cravings strike if your future mountain home depends on you forgoing eating out for the time being.
“When those things come up — and they will — I’m not the one telling you to not eat Chick-fil-A,” Crider says. “You are.”