For years, retirement planners have typically advised people to save 15% of their incomes. Adherents of the FIRE movement would scoff at such a paltry goal. FIRE, as the Wall Street Journal explains, stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. And while the concept of living frugally isn't exactly a new one, a growing number of millennials and younger Gen X-ers are embracing the concept aggressively. As in, they try to save as much as three-quarters of their after-tax income and go to extremes to spend as little as possible. One single woman interviewed, a 38-year-old lawyer in Seattle, details how she spends $75 a month on groceries, uses her friends' Netflix passwords, and walks to work to save on gas. It's all part of her goal to retire at 40 with $2 million—instead of working for another quarter-century.
As her example suggests, many of the adherents of FIRE work salaried jobs and make decent money, and they are supported by a cottage industry of podcasts, blogs, and conferences. A blog called Mr. Money Mustache, for example, racked up 2.5 million views in the last month. The story also points out the risks involved with the FIRE strategy. For example, index funds are big among adherents, and market downturns could wreak havoc on well-laid plans; then there's the inherent difficulty of trying to forecast living costs decades down the road. But FIRE advocates aren't cowed. "We live in uncertain times and financial empowerment provides a path out," says Grant Sabatier, 33, who writes the Millennial Money blog. (Click to read the full story, which takes note of an irony: Some of the biggest names of FIRE have become rich by preaching the merits of frugality.)