The Life Changing Magic of FIRE

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FIRECracker

FIRECracker is a world-travelling early retiree. She used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada, but instead of drowning in debt, she rejected home ownership. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her and her husband to retire at 31 and travel the world. Their story has been featured on CBC, the Huffington Post, CNBC, BNN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance. To date, it is the most shared story in CBC history and their viral video on CBC's On the Money has garnered 4.5 Million views.
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

I have to admit, when I first heard about this best-selling book, my reaction was skepticism, followed by a lot of eyerolling. I mean, how could something as simple as just tidying up be classified as “life changing”? Apparently, according to Kondo, tidying caused major life changes in her clients’ lives, like ditching a job they hated to find their passion or gaining the courage to finally ditch the relationship that wasn’t working. Basically, the book espouses that tidying up your space has the transformative effect of tidying up your life.

If you’ve been reading this blog and our book Quit Like a Millionaire, you’ve probably gotten the sense that as an extreme pragmatist, I’m not a fan of “woo woo” books.

I’ve since read the book, and I can see why it’s so appealing. Marie is a great character—she’s adorable, relatable, and every time she says her signature phrase “does it spark joy?”, unicorns are galloping across the universe, spewing rainbows and butterflies. It’s a well-written book with low-hanging-fruit advice for those who want to feel like they have control of lives by tidying their closet and sock drawer into submission.

Would I say that it’s life-changing though?

Not really.

But then again, I’m a tough customer. I can count on one hand the books I’ve read in my life that I would consider truly life changing.

Few things in life truly deliver what they promise. That’s because most “life-changing” concepts are short-lived. You get the thrill of seeing a tidy closet, but then you acclimatize, and it’s no longer remarkable or surprising.

What I discovered is that Financial Independence is not one of these things. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that FIRE is the most significant and life-changing idea I’ve ever came across.

Because without FIRE, I would still be at my old job, crippled with anxiety, hopped up on anti-depressants, and never knowing what it’s like to truly live the life of my dreams without ever having to worry about money.

Recently, in an Amazon review, a reader described Quit Like a Millionaire as a “love letter to the FIRE movement” and it’s true.

I’m obsessed with the transformative power of FIRE and whenever I love something, all I want to do is shout about it from the roof tops.

This is a big idea and I believe it has the potential to change people’s lives—not just in the US and Canada, but all over the world.

Especially now that it’s an international phenomenon, as we’ve recently been feature on the front page of The Guardian, and readers from all over the world—including the UK, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, West Africa, New Zealand, and the Netherlands have written to us.

I would like to share one of these e-mails with you now, coming from a reader who, after discovering the FIRE movement, went from a net worth of $-130,000 to $500,000 and an investment account that jumped from $50K to $350K in in just 2.5 years!

Kristy and Bryce, 

Good afternoon. I have just opened the envelope containing my copy of Quit Like a Millionaire! I felt compelled to write to you and tell you how your site has changed our life. 

First – I am the guy that racked up $25,000 in credit card debt when I was 23. Then, went through a divorce in which I happily traded the credit card for the best dog in the world. I finished graduate school in 2009 with more than $130,000 in student loans. My parents have made well over $200,000/yr since the 90’s and live paycheck to paycheck with hardly any retirement money, and they’re 70. My example growing up was you bought anything you wanted on a whim and worried about how to pay for it later because more money was always going to come in. 

My wife, on the other hand, spent her formative years in a poor family in South Africa. They immigrated to the U.S. and spent months living on one meal a day and bananas for the rest. Her parents both worked hourly wage jobs. Even with all of that, they were able to save $40,000 literally under a mattress and live out the American Dream of purchasing their own home. My wife has never had any problem saving, budgeting, etc. even though she had never made much money. 

The extent of my retirement planning by the time I was 30 was to meet with a friend that is a financial advisor and tell him, “I don’t know what I’m doing – please help get me set straight.” He, of course, had me purchase a whole life plan that made him a fortune in commission. He also took over the little bit of money we had in our Traditional IRA’s that were rollovers from previous employers. I spent three years with one employer and they were giving me 6% into a 401K and I had never moved the money out of the settlement fund because I didn’t know any better… My wife had $30,000 in a work 401K and we eventually rolled that into a traditional IRA with him once she left that job. He invested us heavily into high fee index funds and even higher fee managed funds. 

-THEN-

We found Millennial Revolution. We were on vacation and had just arrived in London from St. Tropez. St. Tropez is opulence on steroids. Our hosts in London are heavily invested in rental properties and talked incessantly about hating it and loving it all at the same time. We came to realize in St. Tropez we have no desire to be billionaires and we realized in London that we had no desire to get into rental properties. But, we had no idea what else to do. 

While not being able to sleep in London I stumbled across your website. I read EVERYTHING on your site at that point during that night. I’m not sure I slept at all. This was in August of 2016. All these things aligned to create OUR path. After reading your story it was clear to me that we had an excellent opportunity to do something very similar. 

  • We already owned an inexpensive house that we had earned a lot of equity in. 
    • Our mortgage is lower than a 1br apt in our area.
    • We purchased the house for less than $100,000 and remodeled it ourselves and now it is worth well over $250,000. 
  • My employer pays 20% of my salary into a 401K, approximately $22,000/yr currently. 
  • My wife has her own S-Corp (small business).
  • I was already paying more than triple the minimum payment on my student loans and they were going to be paid off within 3 years. 
    • Officially paid off in 2/19!!
  • And more…

The opportunity we had did not become a clear picture until I began to read your Millennial Revolution. After, we implemented a plan based on the info you shared plus Simple Path to Wealth and a few others. By January 1, 2017, we had our plan fully implemented. 

In 2017, we saved more than $75,000. In 2018 we saved more than $90,000. In 2019 we are on pace to save more than $100,000. Our investment accounts went from under $50,000 to more than $350,000 in the last 2 1/2 years. Our net worth is almost $500,000. We are tracking our finances to find our FI number. We are on a path now that we couldn’t have ever imagined, and it all started when this guy without any knowledge or background in Finance stumbled onto your website and consumed everything you had to offer. 

Thank you for everything you have done. Your work to make this a reality in more peoples lives has truly started the “movement”. 

Sincerely, 

MillennialRevolutionFan

Thanks, MRF! We are humbled by how much this blog and Quit Like a Millionaire has changed your life. You are proof that you can pay off debt, build up a portfolio and be on the path to FIRE no matter where your starting point is. Thank you for sharing your inspirational story!

What do you think? Do you think FIRE has the potential to change the world? Has it changed yours in anyway? Share your accomplishments below so we can all root for you!


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56 thoughts on “The Life Changing Magic of FIRE”

  1. I love this story! And yes, I believe FIRE can change your life for the better. I will be giving notice to my employer this November so that I can take some time for myself. I hit FI in May but am slowly working on the courage to quit my current position. If I hadn’t discovered MMM’s blog in 2012 and your amazing blog I would not be in my position today. Thank you, thank you!

    1. Congrats quit2travel! (love your alias btw 🙂 And I hear you on mustering up the courage to quit. Even though I didn’t like my job, it was still pretty scary to quit. I even had a moment of panic after I gave my notice. That’s all normal. Once we started packing everything up and getting ready to travel, it all subsided. You just need some time to decompress and get used to not going in to a 9 to 5.

      Congrats on becoming FI!

  2. It’s great to hear from readers. That’s why I continue to write.
    FIRE really is a life-changing concept. If you’re not satisfied with the regular work hard/play hard lifestyle, FIRE shows there is an alternative. You don’t have to work until you’re 65.
    We were already well on the way to FI when I discovered early retirement. It made a huge difference in my life. Now, I’m a lot healthier and less stressed out. Early retirement worked out really well for me. I still love it after 7 years.

    1. That’s why I love reading your blog, Joe! Always good to hear from your perspective, what life after FI is like 😉 For us 4 years later, it’s still amazing! Eager to see what the next 3 years of retirement brings! (though, now with the book, we’re busier than ever. Retirement police are knocking on our door :P)

    1. Get thyself onto Netflix 😉 Her new show “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” is one of the biggest hits right now.

  3. I’m a new reader so please forgive me if this has been addressed but I’d love to see the list of books you regard as life changing. Thanks.

    1. 1) Simple Path to Wealth
      2) “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”
      3) “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work”

      Honourable mention: “The Millionaire Next Door”.

      1. “Simple Path to Wealth” and “The Millionaire Next Door” were legendary!

        I will put a hold on “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics” at my local library, thanks for mentioning it!

  4. Great job MRF! My life has been changed too! I am a GenX person, and had read Your Money or Your Life, and Tightwad Gazette, and was doing small things, but felt quite isolated and alone in this. Finding your blog has been very inspirational, not just the money aspect, but also the honest talk about work culture (I spent years taking courses and getting professional coaching to shift a toxic work environment, not successfully). I have become very direct and push back hard against abuse at work, and have asked for an exit package-public service work, so a bit safe to do this when you are ready to go. I am stronger and more focused, and feel very connected. Thank you FC and W!

    1. Way to go, Tigermom! That’s the best part of FU money (you don’t even need to be completely FI)–being able to push back and not be their bitch at work. Glad the blog has been helpful!

  5. That’s an amazing email – wow. FIRE is definitely life changing. My partner bothered me for 2 years to look into it and I ignored him basically. When I decided to listen to him FIRE gave me a purpose for my money and a door to freedom. Previously I felt stuck, unhappy and I had no idea what I could do about it. Actually it was worse than that: I thought that was just how life was and there wasn’t anything to do about it. I was completely wrong.

    Changing my life to align better with what makes me happy (moving from NYC to Seattle, switching jobs to work from home) had the awesome side effect of allowing me to start saving a lot more money and work for the life I truly want while still improving my life now. I’m currently happier than I’ve ever been and about a year from retiring at 30. If only I’d listened to my partner the first time 😉 …

    1. “moving from NYC to Seattle, switching jobs to work from home”

      I love this! Sometimes, all it takes to increasing the gap between your earnings and spending is being creative about location.

      Nice work and congrats on almost retiring! Hope we get to meet somewhere in the world when you’re done 😉

    1. 1) Simple Path to Wealth
      2) “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”
      3) “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work”

      Honourable mention: “The Millionaire Next Door”.

  6. Congrats MRF!

    I definitely believe in the power of FIRE to change lives and the world. 🙂

    When I discovered FIRE via Mr. Money Mustache, Mrs. Wallet and I were miserable, working and going to school full time with little room for much else in our lives. We weren’t sure what the point was. Aren’t you supposed to enjoy your 20s?

    FIRE put a light at the end of the tunnel and gave us something else to work towards together. One of the most valuable lessons of the FIRE movement for us beyond that you don’t have to be miserable and work until you’re too old to enjoy it was to think about what really brought us happiness and what we truly wanted out of and valued in life.

    We’re much happier now and looking forward to hitting FIRE ourselves and living in a world more influenced by the movement!

    1. Well said! I’m so happy it’s now a movement and a flourishing community instead of just a handful of weirdo bloggers 🙂 Love this growing community.

      Best wishes and all the happiness to you!

  7. More testimonials please! I love those stories because they keep reinforcing the fact that FIRE is within reach for most people. They need to embrace the principles and form a plan, and then get going. It won’t be fast and it won’t be easy. But it’s doable. So do it!

    1. I will post successful stories for motivation as we get them 🙂 It’s exactly as you said, it’s not easy but doable (and so worth it in the end!).

  8. Just finished reading the book. It has the best account/bucket layout of any book in this field. Like a no-kidding blueprint that anyone with a couple hours and a laptop can recreate. Thoroughly enjoyed the narrative and I’m listening to the audio version during my commute.

    This story is great. When a person can shed their jealousy, success stories help move humanity forward.

    1. Aww, thanks Leeric! We’ve been flooded with wonderful feedback on the book and amazing success stories, which we’ll continue to share to motivate everyone towards FI!

      If you enjoyed the book, we’d be thrilled if you could leave us an Amazon review! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment 😀

  9. Yup. Life changing is the best way to describe FIRE. You guys are awesome and have already impacted so many lives, including mine. We’re 2 weeks out from our last day of work!!!

    1. Yes. The basic concepts are obviously the same, but they go into more detail about their own lives as well as personal finance details.

  10. I lived in Toronto too. I found FIRE 2 years ago and I followed the investment plan . At the same time , I also invest rental property( Sorry, but I do feel I need both RE and INDEX fund) . I love the FIRE ideas . I am close to the goal. It make my heart smile!

  11. FIRE certainly changed our lives – having a light at the end of the tunnel motivated us through some tough times in our careers. Just finished reading your book and I actually like it BETTER than the blog if that makes sense 🙂 Something about reading more of your personal story and background was a nice change of pace.

    1. Aww. Thanks Kim! Really appreciate your saying that 😉 We did put WAY more effort into writing the book (it took us 2 years to birth that book baby, and a ton of fact checking and re-writing chapters) so I’m glad the effort paid off.

      If you enjoyed the book, we’d be thrilled if you’d leave us an Amazon review. Thank you so much for reading!

  12. When I found Millennial Revolution I just binge read the whole website, your story is compelling and spoke to me. I pre-ordered the book, read it and reviewed it on my site. I even ordered an extra copy which I gave away in our local ChooseFI Netherlands FB group. Thanks for everything, you’re an inspiration!

    1. Thanks, Mr.FM! I’ve added your review to my book announcement post. Really appreciate you ordering a copy for your ChooseFI group! We should meet up the next time I’m in the Netherlands (it’s one of my fav European countries so I suspect I’ll be back soon :))

  13. You say this story comes from a London reader yet everything is quoted in $, with references to 401K plans, which looks very strange to this UK resident. Being in the UK makes it relatively difficult to find FIRE related stuff, however it’s everywhere in North America. Having followed these movements for a while now the terminology is becoming somewhat synonymous however if you have converted the original to a US friendly version it would be nice if you could also publish the UK version for your international viewers!

    Cheers

    1. Hi Dan,

      Yeah, that was my bad. The reader is actually from US, they were just visiting London and I misread that part. I’ve since updated the post.

      On the plus side, you do have vanguard.uk which enables you to buy the vanguard funds we talk about in our investment workshop.

      We are also working on a UK version of Quit Like a Millionaire so stay tuned!

  14. I learned about FIRE through your blog, and it changed my life too. I’m an odd case because I love my job and have no interest in retiring early. However, the principles of FIRE have made me a lot happier:

    1. My family of four lives on my salary, and there’s just no way we can afford a house. Well, we could afford a house, but we would go from financial stability right back to precariousness. After reading your blog, I realized all the ways that we are and will continue to be better off by renting. I also began to pay attention to how many of my colleagues are always whining about money. I could never understand it. Many of these people are senior to me and make more than I do; others have two incomes instead of one. No one drives a really fancy car or anything…why are all these people constantly complaining about being broke. The reason? They all have houses they can’t afford. Their savings get wiped out by flooded basements, broken dishwashers, etc., etc., etc. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt liberated!

    2. I don’t make a ton of money, but reading about the FIRE lifestyle made me realize that I AM RICH. I am rich in freedom from debt (well, almost), rich in stability (tenured professor), rich in time (because I live a ten minute walk from work–I have plenty of time with my kids).

    3. You don’t need luxury to be happy. I used to focus on how much I wanted to travel (and I still want to travel), and all the things that I don’t have. Now I focus on all the things I do have, most importantly a place to live near work, a stable job that I love, and plenty of time to think, read, and write AND get paid and professionally rewarded for doing so.

    4. Using the 4% principle, I realized that my retirement savings are plenty. We are saving more since learning about FIRE, but just my 403(b) contribution and my employer’s match would be plenty for us. This has brought me added peace of mind and happiness.

    So even for people who aren’t planning to retire early, the simplicity and mindset of FIRE is life-changing. Thank you!

    1. TMR–I’m in a similar position as you except I don’t have kids. I rent. I walk to work. I have ample amounts in my 457 plan. I have a job that’s ok (don’t love it, kinda bored with it, but don’t hate it). I have enough saved that I probably don’t have to wait 6 more years until age 55 to collect my pension if I don’t want to (provided I leave my very expensive metro area). I’m tempted to leave…but even if I don’t, it’s good to know I’ve got options.

    2. Wow! Amazing story, TMR! Thanks so much for sharing. All those points are spot on, and exactly how anyone (regardless of salary) can create a happy life.

  15. Like Alice and Noémie, I’m curious to know what books you consider life-changing? Would love to add them to my reading list 🙂

    1. LOL. I had no idea this question would get asked so often. Was it because I mentioned I’m a tough customer?

      Here they are:

      1) Simple Path to Wealth
      2) “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”
      3) “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics: How to Achieve Your Goals and Increase Your Influence at Work”

      Honourable mention: “The Millionaire Next Door”.

      1. Thanks a lot! I’ve already “married him”, but the second book might be just what my daughter needs! 😀

  16. It’s awesome that some people are already in a position to fast track their journey without even knowing it and just need that one switch to get it going. Here’s to hoping more people go down the same road.

    1. We’ve been so inspired by all the people who’ve made changes since discovering FIRE and our workshop! I guess all it took was for them to have a pragmatic goal to work towards and step-by-step instructions on how to get there. Hopefully more people will come along, once they realize investing isn’t that complicated.

  17. As someone else pointed out above it would be helpful to see the numbers and information as described in the UK. Also I agree there is a dearth of information here in the UK especially about investing, could the writers share where and how they invest?

  18. I love blog posts like these. You talk about the philosophy of FI and not just crunching the numbers. I crunch the numbers to on my FI journey too much and it is good to sit back and relax. I use to stress myself out because I wasn’t maxing out my 401k and why that would take me longer to FI. Nope it is the journey not the destination!
    You guys kind of inspired me a bit. I have a inkling to do financial coaching when I “retire”. I want kids to grow up in a household where the parents aren’t stressed about money all the time. Let them focus on developing to become good people instead of worry if they parents can afford XYZ.

    1. Good plan, Anh. It’s not just about hitting the FI number. You need to enjoy the journey to get there, otherwise it’s not sustainable (which is why we never felt guilty blowing $5000+ on vacation each year). And yes, if financial education is your passion than it’ll be very rewarding to pursue it after FI.

  19. that’s a helluva letter. congrats on the book release and the good publicity. i know y’all worked hard for it and making all this content takes a lot of effort.

    i think i was already on the path when i was working my nuts off on a swing shift and making a bunch of extra money when i decided to save it all so i would only need to work that way for a finite period. that led to FU money and more investing and the momentum just built from there once the results and mind shift were positive. we had a similar situation as your reader in that our house was under 100k and way less than rent. it’s funny what 90 miles means with real estate. our place is in buffalo and is a big stone manor that would probably cost 2 million bucks in toronto. some day we should do an interview called “housing done right” to illustrate that everyone who owns a home isn’t a “home boner.”

    1. Thanks, Freddy! I’m currently reviewing a book by my friend on house hacking, so there could very well be a “housing done right” post in the future.

  20. I’m going to get the book soon and check out all the guides and workshops you have, what you’re both doing sounds super logical.

    A question in the meantime, if my employer contributes to my pension scheme; I put in 5% they add 12.5% which is then invested, should I keep doing that.

    Their 12.5% top-up alone seems like a good ROI, even though I can only start getting that money in stages after reaching 55 years of age.

    1. Oh yeah, if you have an employer match, definitely take advantage of that. If it’s in a locked in account, you can access it using the “cash asset swap” method we talk about in Quit Like a Millionaire.

  21. Financial Independence is the detachment from other people money – their money can no longer enslave you.

    Financial Freedom is the freedom from money itself – money plays no role in the true meaning of your life.

    Financial Independence is the first mile maker! Most of us are conditioned into chasing the number for so long that less than 1% of the population ever gets to the next mile marker – Financial Freedom.

    Financial Freedom is the mile marker after FIRE. It is where life will blossom to the fullest!

  22. Quit Like a Millionaire is very inspiring and pragmatic. I’m sure it’s saved me from Never Quitting Like a NILionairre! (Also, Kirsty, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you look absolutely stunning in that red dress in your promo video (not to mention the pink bikini!))…

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