The promise of early retirement is so seductive, any YouTuber claiming they achieved it is going to draw me in. If you’re at all interested in the prospect of early retirement, we highly recommend you first read up on the basics of FIRE (financial independence, retire early). In short: The FIRE movement boils down to taking advantage of the value of compound interest from investing early in your 20s. Naturally, the movement has some critics, largely claiming that FIRE promotes unrealistic projections of wealth for anyone who doesn’t already have some substantial wealth in the first place.
To be frank, after watching all these early retirement videos, I would label myself a critic of FIRE. The ability to put significant distance between your income and your spending is too big a privilege to be truly relatable. I’d wager that more Americans are too worried about retiring ever to even imagine retiring early.
Still, I went down this personal finance YouTube rabbit hole, and I want to take you with me. Maybe where I found skepticism, you’ll find inspiration. Here’s a round-up of some of the most helpful video explainers on the topic, so you can give yourself a crash course in all things early retirement.
How to Retire Early (Ali Abdaal)
How To Retire Early - A Guide to Financial Freedom
If you want an accessible, engaging explainer to kick things off, this 15-minute video is the one for you. While most the videos on this round-up turn to specific case studies or personal success stories, in this one, former doctor and pro-YouTuber Ali Abdaal provides a broader overview of how early retirement works in theory. Most importantly, I learned that German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck invented the idea of retirement back in the 1880s.
How to Quit Your Job and Retire in Your 30s (BBC Reel)
How to quit your job and retire in your 30s: The new millennial trend - BBC REEL
While compiling this round-up, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the majority of videos on early retirement come from white, male YouTubers who try to sell themselves as “gurus.” (And as we’ve previously covered, just about anyone can call themself a guru.)
This 8-minute spot from the BBC highlights a more inclusive, relatable experience with FIRE—like one couple sharing how they followed FIRE even with the costs of childcare, and another story of someone who grew up living on 44 cents a day. This explainer is for anyone looking for proof that early retirement could be attainable even if you’re aren’t extremely privileged to start out.
How to Retire at Age 30 (Ryan Scribner)
HOW TO RETIRE AT AGE 30 (& Live Off Your Investments)
Remember how I mentioned that the majority of FIRE proponents are guru-adjacent white men? We are now entering that portion of the slideshow. This 15-minute video is worth it for those interested in seeing the math of exactly how much money you need to have invested in order to live off those investments. For instance, followers of the FIRE movement are often aiming to save 30 times their annual expenses—but what does that really look like? And if you’re already leaning toward optimism when it comes to FIRE, seeing those numbers could be extremely helpful toward building your perspective.
Early Retirement in One Lesson (Mr. Money Mustache)
Early Retirement in One Lesson (or How I Retired at 30)
This one is for all my TED Talk lovers out there. This 30-minute talk from Pete Adeney (aka Mr. Money Mustache) has racked up over one million views since he delivered it at the 2016 World Domination Summit in Portland, Ore. I’ll spoil what the “one lesson” seems to be here: Spend less than you earn. Not too big a reveal there, and I think it’s telling that many of the commenters on this talk are teenagers who say they’ve been inspired to retire in their 20s. Best of luck to them.
How I Retired Early At 41 With $850K In Tennessee (CNBC Make It)
How I Retired Early At 41 With $850K In Tennessee
This eight-minute short from CNBC follows the story of Lakisha Simmons, a 41-year-old mother of two who was able to retire in May 2021. By that point, she claims that following FIRE allowed her to accumulate $850,000 in investments. It’s no doubt an inspiring case study for anyone drawn to the promise of the FIRE movement.
The Big Problem With the FIRE Movement (The Money Guy)
The Big Problem With the FIRE Movement
And now, let’s round out this slideshow with an argument against the FIRE movement. If you’re tempted to follow FIRE, The Money Guy here points out some major concerns to consider. The major fear point for me is this: If you pull the plug too early on your retirement, you might find yourself less secure than you thought and forced to rejoin the workforce in a worse position than you were years ago.
Then again, young or old, you may not have to retire all at once. Here’s what to know about the concept of gradual retirement instead.
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