The 3 Problems with the Current FIRE Movement

By Todd Kunsman

Financial Independence

Published on

Updated on

This has been on my mind for the last few months, especially since I launched Invested Wallet in late June.

Technically, I guess you can categorize this site has part of the FIRE movement.

If you are not familiar with this acronym, it simply stands for, “Financial Independence/Retire Early.”

Yet, following along with this movement, the publications, and the main players, I see three problems with the current FIRE community.

Before I dive in, I want to preference this with a few things.

  • I really love that more millennials and other generations have taken an interest in personal finance, saving money, being frugal, etc.
  • I enjoy many bloggers content and publications that write about this community as well.
  • I also find the majority of perspectives and ideas interesting, regardless if I agree or disagree. New views are a great way to make you think!

I say these things because I think the FIRE community has a lot to offer. But I also think there is some room for improvement.

Here are 3 problems with the current FIRE movement.

Retire early has the wrong message

The idea of retiring early gets a lot of hype and the thought makes everyone excited about it…at first.

But in reality, I don’t think the goal should be to actually try to retire at 30, 35, or whatever.

Instead, the goal should be that you are financially free enough that if you wanted, you COULD retire early. Key difference.

I think the problem with the FIRE movement is too much information on the idea of being done with work at a young age. To me, it’s just that the messaging is off on the “RE” part.

Maybe I’m the outlier here but by my 40s I want to be able to say: “If I wanted to, I could retire today.” But I don’t actually want to fully retire.


I’ve found my passion in marketing, finances, and start-ups that someday I want to be an advisor for multiple startups as well as work on side businesses in the future. I don’t think I’d ever fully retire, or I might go crazy chipping at the paint on the walls.

Of course, traveling, relaxing, spending time with loved ones is great, but you’re still going to have a lot of free time.

Without a passion or interest in doing something you love, retiring early and doing nothing seems like a huge bore. I’ve seen many stories of people retiring, then going back to work or trying to find something to do.

I think we need more to champion what early retirement should mean and that finding a passion is a huge aspect to it.

Too much flash, not enough realism (media)

There are some great stories in online publications and I’ve been fortunate enough to be included and mentioned in a few like Time, HuffPost, and Business Insider.

I also am well-aware that flashy headlines with big savings or salary numbers help generate clicks. The problem I see is that there is too much of it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing stories that do have some flashy headlines. In fact, some stories (like Grant from Millennial Money) were a source of inspiration for my own journey.

However, I notice an over-abundance of these kinds of headlines:

“How this single 25-year-old paid off $100,000 in debt and saved $1,000,000 on a $50,000 salary”

Extreme example, but you get where I’m going with it.

What I’ve also noticed with those type of stories is in the blog comments or social comments with a lot of eye rolling and negativity.

Chalk that up to haters if you want, but I think it’s because these stories are not the norm and it doesn’t feel real. It’s also a lot of the same regurgitated headlines, it gets stale.

The FIRE movement needs more real stories, those in the trenches with results that are more attainable and relatable to the masses.

For example, when I was doing my own research on finances in the beginning, I had a hard time finding any relatable material in the media. It was actually really frustrating.

“Oh look another 28-year-old millionaire that retired already ?” – Me while researching.

Luckily there are a lot of bloggers out there who are not big earners, have not retired early, etc. that had some great info.

I just wish to see more of them getting attention on bigger media platforms.

Again, not a knock on some of the big-time bloggers out there who get these media headlines. We don’t see all the hard work in the past to get where they are now.

But, I think the media needs to shift from these heavy-clickbait sounding headlines and bring the realism back.

Sometimes the community comes off smug and too self-congratulatory

Yes, yes. We’ve all been a bit self-congratulatory, and why shouldn’t we after hard work to hit certain financial goals? But I think there is a limit.

The majority of bloggers or experts I follow online are generally super welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable. Exactly how it should be.

But there seems to be a stigma from those outside the movement that many leaders in this space or personal finance bloggers are smug and plastering their financial agenda about their great life and income.

I think there are two parts to that:

  • Many are only trying to be informative, inspiring, and are really about passionate about it.
  • Others, well, are smug AF. Don’t be the FIRE douche.

This exists everywhere, not just in the FIRE community, so I don’t really think much can exactly be done.

I think the community needs to find more ways to help others trying to change their financial future, without throwing a lot of your own accomplishments in.

I’m guilty of it already, but maybe once in a while is okay? I don’t know. Does that make me a hypocrite? A contradiction? I think I’m just rambling now.

What I’m getting at is more content with the reader in mind and ask what can we do to inform others better?

Side note: For some reason, I immediately thought of that South Park episode when everyone gets electric cars and start getting really smug. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll let you do the research on it (;

Final Thoughts:

I personally love the comradery of the FIRE Community and how more and more now see the importance of personal finance.

But I do think looking as an outsider, how the movement can rub people the wrong way.

There are definitely other critics who have various reasons for disagreeing or even hating the movement altogether.

I find FIRE intriguing and fascinating, but I do see the need for some changes.

Maybe these really aren’t problems? After all, most communities have people hatin’ anyway. Or maybe I wasted time writing almost 1,200 words about something not really that big a deal?

What do you think of the above? Do you see other problems with FIRE that should be addressed? How can the movement improve for the better?