Joshua decided to take stock of his life about a year ago. He had just turned 33, and after nearly a decade of working six days a week at a startup that achieved a nine-figure valuation, he had set aside $ 2 million in working capital, $ 10 million in illiquid stock options, and a couple of real estate investments.
Most of his savings came from a recent stock sale in his startup, but Joshua has lived what he calls a “fairly modest life.” He didn’t buy new clothes, he invested money in long-term investments whenever he could, and because he worked all the time, he took very few vacations and didn’t have many hobbies.
To raise the level of capital needed to retire, Joshua had sacrificed a lot.
“I think I’m 33 and not married,” he said jokingly Fortune. “But the biggest sacrifice is free time. There is no balance between work and private life. There is no more.
When he realized he had earned enough not to have to work anymore, Joshua decided it was time to retire. He had always dreamed of building a house in the country and living off his passive investments while traveling the world. Who doesn’t?
While retiring at 33 is rare anywhere in the world, stopping young people has always been Joshua’s ultimate goal. “Life is short and allowing me to live life to the fullest, to go with the flow and give it space, to be free from the system, that was my goal,” said Joshua. Fortune.
Joshua, who declined to use his last name, believes in FatFIRE, which stands for Fat Financial Independence and Retirement Early.
While “silent quitting” has dominated the headlines and young workers are pouring into social media to vent their frustrations on the negative aspects of employment and capitalism, people like Joshua have turned to FatFIRING instead.
If quitting smoking is simply doing the minimum a job requires in striving for a fairer work-life balance, FatFIRING argues otherwise. It tells people to engage in work rather than reach out and work hard to achieve the same thing most workers want: freedom.
How does FatFIRE work?
The online forum subreddit r / fatFIRE is full of people discussing investments, sharing tips and telling stories about how to get FatFIRED, the day they retire in their 30s to 40s after accumulating millions of dollars in liquid and illiquid investments. .
Described with the slogan “retire with a large supply”, FatFIRErs seek to retire on a budget that allows them to spend around $ 100,000 a year.
They often work in large tech companies, corporate law firms or their own startups, earning millions over the course of their careers. So they invest their money in small businesses and properties that produce good and reliable margins, in order to get to the point where working for money is never something to think about again.
The concept of FIRE is not new and first emerged in the United States in a 1990s newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette. Since then, the movement has grown online and expanded its definition to include LeanFIRING – where you try to live frugally to escape 9-5 through early retirement – and FatFIRE.
FatFIRE split from the FIRE movement in 2016, motivated by people interested in FIRE but who wanted a much higher standard of living. It was launched by a Reddit user who said he got tired of all the “noise of ‘cut your spending to the bone and buy cutting edge index funds’ over and over again” and wanted to create a smaller community of FIREr richer.
The r / fatFIRE subreddit ended up surpassing both the FIRE and leanFIRE versions and now has over 325,000 members who are ambitious, career-oriented, and value time and freedom above all else.
As different as they may seem, both the taciturn and the FIRERS want the same thing, according to Alex Bryson, professor of quantitative social sciences at University College London.
To understand what it is, he points to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the five-level model often represented in the shape of a pyramid.
At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs such as food and shelter; a higher one is security, which often comes in the form of financial security; above is love and belonging; then estimate; and finally self-realization, or the highest level of physiological development.
Bryson argues that the new generation of workers are “questioning the link between paid work and reaching the top of that pyramid,” which brings out trends like quitting smoking and FatFIRING.
Age often determines which group people join. While young people early in their careers may look to quit and quiet disengagement as a means to a more fulfilling life, millennials and older generations who have worked for years may be more inclined to sign up for FatFIRING.
Job satisfaction across generations is the lowest in 20 years, according to a report by insurance and pension company MetLife. A recent Gallup poll also found that roughly 50% of the 15,000 US workers over the age of 18 were not “busy” at work, meaning they felt detached from work and were doing the bare minimum.
As the disengagement from work reaches its highest level and employers cling to their employees with a thread, it could pave the way for a generation of new FIRERs.
Be careful what you want
FatFIRING isn’t open to everyone, of course, and it may be unrealistic (and unhealthy) for many.
According to Bryson, those who can FatFIRE are a subset of people who “are lucky enough to be in the position, who have valuable skills or opportunities that allow them to maximize income early on.
“Most people are never in that position.”
Dana J. Menard, founder and financial planner of Twin Cities Wealth Strategies, puts a number into it: she says that only about 10% of the population has what it takes to achieve FatFIRE status. And for those who do, there are dangers.
Menard argues that the greatest risk of following a FatFIRE lifestyle is what happens after reaching FIRE: “One of the biggest drawbacks I see … is that once they reach the ultimate goal of ‘retirement’, they are unhappy. The idea of retirement is much better than the reality of retirement. ”
Taking away the social construct that traditional work offers people can negatively impact mental health, he says, and causes some people to find themselves “just bored.”
Bryson of the University of Oxford agrees, arguing that “reaching the top and then stopping is fraught with problems.” There is an inherent risk of burnout in trying to work as much as possible to retire early, she says, and even if successful, FatFIRERS “have no real idea how you will feel if you go from one to zero. ”
In fact, in the r / fatFIRE community council there are many warnings from people who have suddenly decided to quit all work and travel, only to find themselves plagued by mental health problems caused by loneliness.
But for many others, FatFIRING’s goal is still a dream worth pursuing. For these, one of the highest posts ever made on the r / fatFIRE subreddit, by user Snoo68013, could serve as the movement’s rallying cry: “Good food. Enjoy relationships. Train and enjoy sex. Sleep well. Call your parents. This is all there is to life. Greed has no end.
“Repeat after me. Time is the currency of life. Money is not.”