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Ramsey weighs in

Matt admitted he was initially inspired by the FIRE Movement and pushed himself to put in as many work hours as possible in the hopes of generating more income.

It certainly worked — at the age of 40, he has already amassed a $2 million dollar net worth, which includes three rental properties and $350,000 in an IRA.

Despite all this, Matt is worried that, if he scales back by quitting two of his three jobs (as Ramsey recommended), that he’ll be living “paycheck to paycheck.”

“That’s a bogus, emotional response,” Ramsey said, incredulously. “What you’re doing is not sustainable. You didn’t build a life — you built a financial portfolio.”

What Matt doesn’t seem to realize is that he’s well above the household average when it comes to net worth. As of 2022, the median American household had a net worth of $192,900, according to the Federal Reserve — and that's after a 37% surge compared to 2019 data. Ramsey thinks the FIRE Movement is a dangerous route for people to take for generating retirement savings.

He pointed out that Matt has a net worth of $2 million dollars and he’s only 40 years old. “Ding, ding. You rang the bell. You’re done,” Ramsey said. “Go build a life.”

Ramsey added that Matt will be worth $20 million by the time he’s 65 thanks to his substantial investments — he just has to step back and let them grow. “There’s no need to panic here.”

In the end, he advised Matt to use logic and try to get past his emotions and fears in deciding whether or not to quit two of his jobs to free up more time for himself and his family.

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Why the FIRE Movement may not work for everyone

While the premise of the FIRE movement has good intentions — work hard now so you can retire early — it can result in severe burnout and neglected family members and friends.

Those faithful to FIRE say it's simple: make more money, invest properly, and don't spend money on anything outside of absolute necessities.

It’s underlying principles include:

  • Live below your means
  • Invest as much money as possible
  • Seek out other sources of income
  • Plan for retirement early

While that certainly appears to be sound financial advice, the movement’s detractors point out that it results in a lifestyle that’s all work and no play.

Instead, you may find it less stressful to aim for a better work/life balance. You can certainly prioritize saving and investing a percentage of your income, while still enjoying some of your hard-earned money in the moment.

Retiring comfortably at the traditional age of 62, or even 65, isn't a failure, Ramsey said. As he told Matt, "people working and enjoying their work… and having meaning [in their careers] as long as they're able [to] is not bad."

Early retirement also isn’t a reality for the majority of Americans: 57% of survey respondents said their retirement will most likely include working — at least part-time — in order to keep up with the cost of living, according to Fidelity’s 2024 State of Retirement Planning.

If you’re worried about financial security in retirement, or are early enough in your career that you want to consider early retirement, it’s a good idea to sit down with a financial adviser to review your finances and map out a customized plan.

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Maurie Backman Freelance Writer

Maurie Backman is a freelance contributor to Moneywise, who has more than a decade of experience writing about financial topics, including retirement, investing, Social Security, and real estate.

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