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Millennials FIREd Up Over Retirement Plans

A new way to get "FIREd" is becoming more popular: Financially Independent, Retiring Early is a generational objective.

Many of the folks trying to become FIRE members have made minimal spending for maximum benefit an art form. Photo credit: ournextlife.com.

Online financial blogger Ms. Our Next Life is hoping that she and her husband stay on track to get fired from their jobs by the end of the year.

She isn’t the only one, said this blogger, who is better known as Ms. ONL. Lots of millennials like her want to get fired, too.

Not terminated in the traditional sense, though. More accurately, “fired” comes in the form of an acronym. They want to be FIREd: Financially Independent, Retiring Early.

It’s a trend that is taking hold, mostly through blogs, and is waking up a lot of millennials to the idea that they could be done with work by the time they hit their late 30s or 40s. Many of the folks trying to become FIRE members save a minimum of 50 percent of their income each year, max out on retirement accounts, live in modest homes or apartments and overall have made minimal spending for maximum benefit an art form.

FIRE wannabes don’t seem to skimp on technology, though. They have taken to their tablets, laptops and smartphones to read the myriad blog posts that teach how to do it. Most bloggers shield their names but give out a lot of personal financial information, mostly on spending budgets and savings tips; it’s an easier and safer way to help people understand how to adapt to some unconventional strategies without having them show up on their doorstep or having their bosses discover what they’re planning.

With the multitude of bloggers posting their paths to the FIRE community, individuals can search for the one who matches their profile best, said Ms. Montana, a blogger, mother of five and 15-year FIRE veteran.

“Millennials are looking for much more than punching a clock,” said Ms. Montana, who also shows people how to save enough to at least take one year off of work every decade. “If I can do this, I want to give hope to other people.”

Ms. ONL’s blog posts overlay a big smiley emoji over her face to hide her identity. Even her work colleagues don’t know her plan.

“Yeah, people around us don’t know,” she said. “I see [early retirement] as a way to free up my job for someone who might be more excited than I am to do it.”

But retire early? Richard Reyes, a personal financial adviser who is known as the Financial Quarterback, said these folks aren’t really retired. They’re merely moving on to something a little less formal than a 9-to-5 job.

“They’re working. It’s just that they’re doing it on their own terms,” Reyes said. “It’s a little easier to do that today with the way technology has advanced.”

Ms. ONL agreed, saying that her definition of retirement means that work is voluntary.

“If I want to write a book and it doesn’t sell, well that would be OK,” she said. “I don’t know of anyone [wanting to join the FIRE community] planning to sit in a recliner to watch game shows. It just means that work is optional.”

While it’s hard to tell how many are involved in the movement, experts agreed that it is growing. Ms. Montana added that corporations must adapt to millennials’ need to take time off or be content with losing talent to things they find more significant.

“I think there are ways HR can tap into that desire to have a meaningful life,” Ms. Montana said. “If [companies] can give workers a chunk of time, they might create something brilliant. If [companies] don’t, then they don’t have the best of [their employees] anyway.”

Still, Reyes said working and living off the grid might not be something that can be maintained forever.

“This can be done, it’s just a matter of knowing what kind of lifestyle you are used to and what kind of lifestyle you want going forward,” Reyes said. “At some point, it’s not going to be fun to live on $25,000 a year.”

Patty Kujawa is a writer based in Milwaukee. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.