The FIRE Movement: The Many Flavours of FI

The FIRE Movement has come a long way. What used to be a little subculture dominated by male, childless engineers in their 20s and 30s has turned into a diverse and inclusive community of people who strive for a financially independent life.

Financial Independence is a fantastic concept and a very worthwhile goal. However, the truth is that the plain vanilla version (aka standard FIRE) isn’t an ideal fit for everyone.

Some get started later in life – not everyone discovers FIRE in their early 20s. Some don’t want to spend the next 10-15 years working full-time while saving and investing as much as possible. Some (probably most) don’t even want to fully retire, while others want to achieve more than “just” standard Financial Independence.

Everyone is different and has different goals. This has led to the birth of many new “types” of Financial Independence that reflect the different values and priorities, life circumstances and financial objectives within the broader FIRE movement. There is a flavour of FI for (almost) everyone.

And I think that’s fantastic!

I have written in some detail about why we need different types of financial independence. But in short, alternatives to the standard, plain-vanilla approach to FI

  • help people get started (who wouldn’t otherwise get started)
  • help people stay the course
  • create flexibility and balance
  • can offer a shortcut to more freedom
  • make it easier to connect with like-minded people
  • help avoid regret and oversaving

I like to think of Money Flamingo as a mecca of alternative FI strategies, and I thought it would be fun to create a comprehensive list of all the different flavours of FI out there.

In this article, you’ll find a glossary of all the different types of FI I’m aware of. If you are interested in alternative FI strategies, I hope you’ll find some inspiration here. Feel free to comment or message me if there is a FI flavour that should be added to the list.

Let’s go! πŸ™‚

Traditional FI / Standard FI

Traditional FIRE is the default version of Financial Independence. Work (usually full-time) until you have reached your FIRE number – typically using the 4% rule. Once you have saved 25x your annual expenses, you are financially independent and official work optional. You can now retire early (it’s called “Financial Independence, Retire Early” for a reason!). Theoretically, your expenses will be covered by your investment income indefinitely. The godfather of the Traditional FIRE Movement is undoubtedly Mr Money Mustache.

Coast FI

Coast FI is the point at which you have saved enough to get to FI by the time you reach the traditional retirement age without having to make any further contributions to your portfolio. Once you reach this point, you can stop saving altogether and semi-retire. As long as you don’t withdraw any funds from your nest egg, it will generate enough income in retirement – thanks to the magic of compound interest. Coast FI is a great shortcut out of the rat race for those who know that they don’t want to stop working until they reach the traditional retirement age. If you want to learn more about this concept (and the related Coast-to-Target strategy), start with this article: Coast FI Explained. You can also use our free Semi-FI Calculator to calculate your Coast FI number and age.

Barista FI

With Barista FI, you accumulate a nest egg that allows you to draw an income to cover part of your expenses. You can then semi-retire indefinitely and work part-time to cover the gap. A common misconception is that Barista FIRE and Coast FIRE are the same things. They are not. While Coast FI will allow you to retire (and live completely off your investments) eventually, Barista FIRE will not lead to full retirement in most cases. You can find out more about Barista FI in this extensive article: Barista FIRE Explained. It also contains our free Barista FI calculator.

Baby FIRE

Baby FIRE is basically the same as Barista FI but with a focus on getting there before having children. With Baby FIRE, your goal is to be able to spend as much time as possible with your future children (especially while they’re young). The term was coined by the Instagrammer babyfirewithemily who defines Baby FIRE as being “financially free-ish before having babies”. Check out her interview on the blog here.

Flamingo FI

Our signature approach – Flamingo FI – combines the best parts of three different retirement lifestyles – semi-retirement, early retirement and traditional retirement. Flamingo FI is essentially a version of Coast FI geared towards those who want to semi-retire but who ALSO want to reach FI (with the option to retire early) in 10-15 years. For our family, Flamingo FI has proven to strike the perfect balance between lifestyle and wealth creation on the path to FI. Start with this article to find out more about Flamingo FI: Flamingo FIRE – The Best Path To Financial Independence? You can also check out this Flamingo FI love letter and this Fat FI twist on Flamingo FI for some more ideas for your own journey.

Lean FI

This is FIRE on a lean budget. With Lean FI, your investment income covers your basic living expenses – basic shelter, clothing, transport and food. Extras like holidays, splurge money and eating out aren’t included in most Lean FI budgets. Lean FI goes hand in hand with minimalism and frugality. Lean FI is popular with those who want to become work optional as soon as possible. Jakob Lund Fisker, the creator of the excellent blog Early Retirement Extreme, is probably the most well-known proponent of the Lean FI philosophy.

Fat FI

Fat FI is FIRE on a lavish budget. An annual spending amount of US$ 100,000 is often quoted as the lower limit of what classifies as Fat FI. With Fat FI, your investment income covers your normal living expenses and a generous amount of discretionary spending. When you reach Fat FI, you never have to work again and can live a pretty luxurious lifestyle, including plenty of travel. Fun fact: In Australia, Fat FI is sometimes referred to as HIFIRE because of a popular blog by the same name.

Chubby FIRE

Chubby FIRE enthusiasts refer to this type of FI as “the upper middle class of retirement”. So Chubby FIRE sits somewhere between Traditional FIRE and Fat FI. I have to admit I had never heard of Chubby FIRE before (and the name made me cringe a little), but there is actually quite a large Chubby FIRE community on Reddit.

Slow FI

This is an interesting one because it’s both philosophy and strategy. The blogger behind “The Fioneers”, who coined the term, describes it as the FI equivalent of Slow Food and “a philosophy that focuses on using the financial freedom that you gain along the path to FI to design a life you truly love”. In practice, the term Slow FI is often used in the context of “slow and steady wins the race” – a low-ish savings rate that allows for extra spending and experiences along the way to FI. This article explains the math behind Slow FI and answers the “low slow can you go” question. In many ways, it reminds me of what Glen James calls “LOOT” (Life On Own Terms) in his book. I am a big proponent of enjoying the journey to financial independence (and not sacrificing happiness over wealth accumulation), so the Slow FI mindset is something I can definitely get behind.

Geo FIRE

Geo FIRE utilises the principles of geo arbitrage. Geo arbitrage is basically a fancy name for the act of relocating to a place with a lower cost of living in order to make your money stretch further and enjoy a higher quality of life. In the context of financial independence, this also means that you will likely get away with a smaller nest egg if you currently live and earn in a high-cost-of-living country and plan to move to a more affordable country in retirement. Southeast Asia, Central and South America and parts of Europe (especially Portugal for some reason) are popular destinations for the Geo FIRE community. Check out this Geo FIRE Facebook Group for tips and ideas.

Semi-FI

Semi-FI is an umbrella term for all FI approaches that involve semi-retirement – a step between your full-time career and full retirement. Semi-FI approaches typically have three phases (accumulation, semi-retirement and full retirement/FIRE), which makes them different from “standard” FI strategies. Coast FI, Barista FI and Flamingo FI are all Semi-FI strategies. You can read all about semi-retirement in our Ultimate Guide to Semi-Retirement. If you haven’t yet, also make sure to download our Semi-FI Calculator and feel free to join our Semi-FI Facebook Community.

WiFI / Wife-FI

WiFI stands for Wife Financial Independence and is more of a tongue-in-cheek label for those whose working partner enables their “retired” lifestyle. I’m not sure what the husband version of Wife Financial Independence is called – HubbyFI, maybe? πŸ˜‰

Mindful FIRE

Mindful FIRE focuses on the intersection of mindfulness and FIRE. The term was coined by the creator of the Mindful FIRE Podcast, which “explores living mindfully on the path to financial independence and beyond”. Mindful FIRE focuses on building a great life now and living with intention. The FI community as a whole is very good at planning for the future but tends to forget to enjoy the present, so I think the Mindful FIRE idea can benefit many of us.

… and that’s all the flavours of FI I have for you for now! πŸ™‚

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the newer flavours of FI and maybe even got some inspiration for your own plan and journey.

The real secret to making the most of these different approaches is to mix and match them as you see fit for your own situation and to stay flexible.

The focus of the FIRE Movement as a whole has shifted away from endlessly delayed gratification and maximised saving rates. This became even clearer to me while I compiled this list. For most of us, FI is all about using our money to create a happy life on our terms. This also means balancing wealth accumulation with enjoying life and meaningful experiences.

It’s been just over a decade since Mr Money Mustache’s article on The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement (which I think is a bit like the Magna Carta of the FIRE Movement). The movement has grown and evolved so much since then. I’m looking forward to watching what happens over the next decade and to adding new terms and ideas to this FI glossary over time.

What is your favourite flavour of FI? Are there any FIRE “types” missing from the list?

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10 thoughts on “The FIRE Movement: The Many Flavours of FI”

  1. Male and childless engineer age 32 here! 🀣

    Loved that little stab. I am a big fan of Flamingo FI and these lighter concepts rhat focus on living more. Even though I am in a situation where normal FI along the lines of Strong Money is easy to achieve I still prefer and live your semi FI approach. Love your work and congrats on the nominations!

    Reply
    • Thank you! πŸ™‚

      Glad to hear the Semi-FI strategy works for you. I don’t think there is a competition between all the different approaches. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal – building wealth and living a good life. Each approach speaks to different people, so it’s good there is choice now vs. just the one “save hard and retire” path. But the overall goal is something the whole FI community shares.

      Reply
  2. We are currently enjoying HubbyFI so it’s definitely a thing! I guess we’re at Coast FI at the moment. I’m contracting while my husband is enjoying a ‘practice retirement’ with a long term break before maybe looking for a new contract (I’m trying to convince him to make it a permanent retirement but at 47 he’s stuck with one more year syndrome working towards a Fatter FIRE).

    Reply
  3. Love Slow-Fi philosophy. To paraphrase something I heard Jess of the Fioneers say in an interview: β€œthe goal is slow-fi should be that when you hit FI, nothing changes”

    Also love the mindful fire concept, while I don’t relate to working at google there is some great stuff. The recent Podcast with Rich Jones on Mental Wealth was great.

    Reply
    • I just overheard a conversation of two husbands at my local coffeeshop earlier this week. They were both “house husbands” after their wives went back to work after a few years at home with the kids. One said he felt a bit guilty for living it up while his wife was at the office. So definitely very common! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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