How to Retire in Your 30s With $1 Million in the Bank
Carl Jensen experienced what he calls “the awakening” sometime around 2012.
He was a software engineer in a suburb of Denver, writing code for a medical device. The job was high-pressure: He had to document every step for the Food and Drug Administration, and a coding error could lead to harm or death for patients.
他当时是丹佛郊区的一个软件工程师，为一个医疗设备写代码。这份工作压力很大。按照美国食品与药品管理局(Food and Drug Administration)的要求，他必须记录下每一个步骤。代码上的一个错误，就会对病人造成损害或导致他们死亡。
Jensen was making about $110,000 a year and had benefits, but the stress hardly seemed worth it. He couldn’t unwind with his family after work; he spent days huddled over the toilet. He lost 10 pounds.
After one especially brutal workday, Jensen searched online: “How do I retire early?” and his eyes were opened. He talked to his wife and came up with a plan: They saved a sizable portion of their income over the next five years and drastically reduced expenses, until their net worth was around $1.2 million.
On Tuesday, March 10, 2017, Jensen called his boss and gave notice after 15 years at the company. He wasn’t quitting, exactly. He had retired. He was 43.
Although Jensen’s story may seem exceptional, a more modest version of the stockbroker who makes a killing on Wall Street and sails off to the Caribbean, he is part of a growing movement of young professionals who are intently focused on quitting their jobs forever.
Millennials have embraced this so-called FIRE movement — the acronym stands for financial independence, retire early — seeing it as a way out of soul-sucking, time-stealing work and an economy fueled by consumerism.
千禧一代已经拥抱了这个所谓的“FIRE”运动——financial independence, retire early（经济独立、早早退休）的首字母缩写。他们将这个运动视为逃离吸食灵魂、占据时间的工作和一个为消费主义所推动的经济的方式。
Followers of FIRE tend to be male and work in the tech industry, left-brained engineer-types who geek out on calculating compound interest over 40 years, or the return on investment on low-fee index funds versus real estate rentals.
Indeed, much of the conversation around FIRE, on Reddit message boards or blogs like Mr. Money Mustache, revolves around hacking one’s finances: strategies for increasing your savings rate to the hallowed 70 percent, tips for cheap travel through airline rewards cards, ways to save nickels and dimes at the grocery store.
确实，在Reddit留言板或例如“钱胡子先生”(Mr Money Mustache)博客上，关于“FIRE”的讨论围绕着财务管理：将你的储蓄比例增加到神圣的70%的策略；通过用航空公司的回馈卡廉价出行；在杂货店省下几分几毫的方法。
Some practice “lean FIRE” (extreme frugality), others “fat FIRE” (maintaining a more typical standard of living while saving and investing), and still others “barista FIRE” (working part-time at Starbucks after retiring, for the company’s health insurance). To be “firing” is to slash one’s expenses to maximize saving while amassing income-generating investments sufficient to support oneself. To have “fired” is to have achieved that goal.
“A lot of people think you’re a new-age hippie,” said Jensen, who sold his four-bedroom, four-bathroom house, downsized to a more modest home and maxed-out retirement accounts while firing. “They can’t even wrap their minds around it.”
In retirement, Jensen and his wife and two daughters plan to live on roughly $40,000 a year generated from investments. Because his wife works, they have yet to draw on those accounts. It’s a life rich on time but short on luxuries: Groceries are bought at Costco, car and home repairs are done by him.
“People always assume there’s an external circumstance: ‘Oh, you must have received an inheritance,'” Jensen said. “We’ve just chosen to live far below our means. That itself is a radical idea.”
Equally radical is opting out of the workforce in your 30s or early 40s, a time of life when men and women are normally leaning into their careers or, less happily, enduring the daily grind to pay the bills until Social Security kicks in.
Jason Long, a pharmacist in rural Tennessee who retired last year at the ripe old age of 38, said his father had a hard time understanding why Long couldn’t continue to work and collect his $150,000 salary.
But Long said he was deeply unhappy in his job, where over his career he witnessed drug costs skyrocketing, sick people battling health insurers and the over-prescription of opioids and the addiction crisis. His customers, angry, financially stretched, often lashed out at the person behind the counter.
“There were days when I had 12- or 14-hour shifts where I didn’t use the restroom, where I didn’t eat, because so much work was piled up on me,” Long said.
Like Jensen, he had been saving a sizable portion of his income over the past decade, and he and his wife had a paid-for house and an investment portfolio worth a little more than $1 million. Why stick around?
“The reality is the numbers are there for me,” Long said. “To go to a job that’s making you miserable every day, it doesn’t make sense to pad the bank account at that point.”
Quitting the rat race isn’t a new concept. From the Shakers of the 1700s to the back-to-the-land hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s, a strain of Americans has always embraced simple living. One of the bibles of the FIRE movement, “Your Money or Your Life,” which teaches readers to reduce their spending and value time (or “life energy”) over material gain, was published in 1992.
放弃对财富的激烈竞争并不是一个新概念。从18世纪的震教徒(Shaker)到60和70年代的嬉皮士，历史上有一连串的美国人信奉简朴的生活。《富足人生：要钱还是要命》(Your Money or Your Life)一书是“FIRE”运动的圣经之一，该书教导读者减少花销，珍惜时间（或“生命能量”），而不是物质财富。该书于1992年出版。
But Vicki Robin, who wrote that financial guide with Joe Dominguez, said the FIRE crowd is a different breed of dropout from those in the ‘90s. “Our aim was not just to have a whole bunch of people quit their jobs,” Robin said. “Our aim was to lower consumption to save the planet. We attracted longtime simple-living people, religious people, environmentalists.”
不过，与乔·多明戈兹(Joe Dominguez)合著这本财务指南的维姬·罗宾(Vicki Robin)说，“FIRE”的追随者与90年代的隐居者不同。“我们的目标不仅仅是让一群人辞掉工作，”罗宾说，“我们的目标是降低消耗，以拯救地球。我们吸引了长期生活简单的人，宗教人士，和环保人士。”
The FIRE adherents are, by contrast, “very numbers oriented, fascinated by the minutiae of taxes and accounting,” she said.
They are also benefiting from a lengthy bull run in the stock market and, in some cases, the privilege of class, race, gender and background. It’s difficult to retire at 40 if you work a minimum-wage job, say, or have crushing student-loan debt, or did not have the same opportunities as others because you grew up poor in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
But if, as Robin said, FIRE adherents “don’t have the aspirational part” of earlier generations, why are they so determined to quit the workforce? Many millennials haven’t been working longer than a decade, if that.
It’s about having agency, she said: “The worker in this economy has very little sense of control over their existence. People are expendable. You’re a young person and you look ahead and you say, ‘What’s there for me?'”
That accurately describes how Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung felt. The married couple from Toronto became minor celebrities (and the target of online haters) when they retired from their tech jobs in 2015 to travel the world full-time. They were in their early 30s at the time.
这准确地描述了克里斯蒂·沈(Kristy Shen)和布赖斯·梁(Bryce Leung)的感受。这对来自多伦多的夫妇于2015年从他们在科技行业的职位退休，开始把全部时间花在环游世界上，这种做法让他们成为了小小的名人（同时也成了网络仇恨者的目标）。那时他们刚30岁出头。
Shen’s wake-up moment came when she watched a fellow IT colleague collapse at his desk after clocking 14-hour days. For several years before that, she and Leung, following the path laid out by their parents, had tried to buy a house in Toronto’s ever-escalating real estate market.
But, Shen said: “It didn’t matter how much you saved, it was a goal post that kept moving. And I was seeing people stressed out paying their mortgages.”
Although they had good educations and well-paying jobs in the booming tech sector, Shen and Leung faced the looming threats of outsourcing and artificial intelligence, and had no hope of a retirement pension, or even that their employers would exist in five years.
At the same time, their jobs were all-consuming. Rather than chain themselves to a costly mortgage, and therefore to high-pressure jobs, the couple decided to pour their money into an investment portfolio and peace out.
By ditching a big city, Shen and Leung exemplify another reason for the popularity of FIRE: the high price of urban life, especially in places like New York and Southern California. There are the insane housing prices, the high cost of child care, the temptations of so-called lifestyle creep.
“We were spending nearly $3,000 a month on rent, and that was considered a good deal,” said Scott Rieckens, 35, who, along with his wife, Taylor, 33, and their daughter until recently lived in Coronado, California, across the bay from San Diego. “We made something like $160,000 between the two of us, but we didn’t have a whole lot left over.”
After hearing a podcast interview with Mr. Money Mustache, aka Pete Adeney, whom The New Yorker called “the Frugal Guru” (he retired at 30), Scott Rieckens became fired up. He told his wife they should ditch their leased BMW and quit eating out so often. But even with those lifestyle cuts, they couldn’t increase their savings rate substantially unless they relocated to a cheaper community, a deleveraging tactic the FIRE crowd calls “arbitrage.”
The idea, Adeney said, is “to reap the high salary” of a place like Silicon Valley, “then take that nest egg out to any of the thousands of nice, affordable cities and towns we have in this country and begin a second stage of life on your own terms.”
Taylor Rieckens, who works in recruiting, was initially reluctant to give up her BMW and beachy life and the prestige that went with it, until she saw a retirement calculator that showed they could retire in 10 years if they adopted FIRE and moved, or when they were 90 if they continued their upscale lifestyle in Coronado.
“I never paid attention to the finances. I thought it will all work out,” she said. “After I had a baby, I had stress around how I could spend more time with her. I was almost a slave to my job because of the way we were living.”
Last year, the couple left Southern California in search of a community that would give them more financial freedom, a journey Scott Rieckens, formerly a creative director for a creative agency, is chronicling in a documentary, “Playing With FIRE.”
去年，这对夫妇离开了南加州，去寻找一个能带给他们更多经济自由的社区。斯科特·里肯斯曾是一家创意公司的创意总监，他用纪录片《玩FIRE》(Playing With FIRE)记录了这个过程。
They ended up in Bend, Oregon, where there’s no state sales tax and they could afford to buy a house. Gas for their used Honda CRV with 186,000 miles (they got rid of the BMW and downsized to one vehicle) is a dollar-per-gallon cheaper than in San Diego, although Scott Rieckens often rides his bike around town.
“The whole retire-early thing is unimportant to me. It’s more about gaining control of your time,” he said. “If you dive into the definition of retirement, what you’re retiring from is mandatory labor. It’s not necessarily about piña coladas on the beach.”