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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Herbst

FIRE is our superpower for doing good

Updated: Jan 14

As a member of the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) community, I see a growing number of people who are not only seeking financial freedom, but are looking for a deeper, more meaningful way of living.

We see this in communities like the Socially Conscious FIRE Facebook group which continues to grow -- it's now at ~9,000 members, up from ~1,000 when I joined in May 2020. We also see true leaders within the FI community promoting financial altruism including: the most famous FIRE blogger Mr. Money Mustache who advocates for Effective Giving, the original FIRE pioneer Vicki Robin with her podcast What Could Possibly Go Right, and the engaging Tanja Hester of Our Next Life who wrote the book Wallet Activism. I so am inspired by these incredibly bright and original thinkers who want to use their platforms to advocate for doing something more than just building a personal nest egg.

I am finding more and more charitable chat from the early retirement community. I think this because as we approach our financial goals, it becomes clearer how effortless it is to contribute and give back. I'm 3 and a half years into this early retirement thing, and I feel confident enough in my financial plan that I rarely check my net worth. In fact, last time I checked, my investment portfolio was actually higher than when I retired. Because I planned carefully and took all the right financial steps to get to this phase of my life, I can cruise on autopilot a bit more. And all this gives me the confidence to donate with little friction. In fact, I plan to give most of my money away over time.

Many might assume that the FIRE community does not want to give back -- that they are in it for themselves and scrounging every dollar away towards their financial freedom. But I think the community is shifting. People are thinking more and more about their legacy and purpose. So here's why I think the FIRE movement and philanthropy have more in common than meets the eye:

  • FIRE folks spend time to understand what makes them happy: FIRE followers, if diligent, have spent a significant amount of time evaluating the marginal benefit of spending more money on themselves once their basic needs are met. That's because each additional dollar they spend means more money they need to earn to reach FI. And that usually means more time working before reaching retirement. So if they have enough money to satisfy their basic needs and more, there is a clear opportunity to share any additional funds with others. 

  • FIRE folks who are close to retiring early or have already retired are looking for meaning: While it’s true that many people are focused on the journey to getting to early retirement, at some point the question will come up, “What is the point of all this?”. And many find that it’s less about quitting their full time work and more about finding meaning in life. Quitting your job or at least taking a step back gives you a lot more space to think through these questions. Vicki Robin uses the Hero’s Journey to explain this concept exceptionally well in this video.

  • Many seek FI without the need to RE: Many people do not necessarily want to retire early. What they want is Financial Independence as a means to unlock a level of freedom to do as they please. Being FI allows you to make life changes more easily as you are not obliged to stick with a certain job that provides a specific income level. Many who reach partial FI, or Coast FI, start to make big life changes, having achieved a baseline of financial security. They might spend more time doing high-impact volunteering. Or take a lower paying job at a nonprofit. Or they might start a charity!

  • FIRE folks are optimizers: They ensure that each dollar is working for them, and that little money is wasted. Any money spent will go to something with meaning. Those pursuing FIRE understand the importance of giving to charity as long as that money actually has a positive impact. That's one of the reasons I focus on effective giving. Not all charities are equal. Most do really good work, but some are more effective than others. And then there are charities that are exceptional... even 100x more impactful. I believe this community of optimizers will naturally find it easier to donate to high-impact charities, ones that save the most lives and do the most good possible.

Do you agree or disagree? Reach out and let me know your thoughts.

If you're on the path to FI and want to make a difference, make sure to check out our Fi-lantrhopy Calculator to see the most good you can do with your dollars. Or check out our 1:1 coaching program for those who want financial guidance with their plans for giving!



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