When Amy started her first job after graduating college, she was lucky enough to be free of student debt, but was earning a meager $30,000 a year as a temp. Because she didn’t have many models for “good money values” she turned to the internet for guidance and stumbled upon the FIRE movement.
One thing Amy noticed in her research on FIRE, which stands for “financial independence, retire early,” and encourages disciplined saving and spending with an ultimate goal of financial freedom, was that many of the followers wished they’d learned about FIRE when they were still in their 20s and could have started earlier applying the principles to their lives.
“I’m sitting there at 22 years old, fresh out of college, realizing, ‘I’m in that stage right now, I can take everything that FIRE stands for and really set myself up for an exponentially better life, right now’” Amy said in an interview.
On that $30,000 salary, plus $6,000 earned from weekend jobs, by the end of the year, she had saved $10,000. About four years and a few job changes later, Amy earns $90,000 a year and her net worth is $150,000.
Amy, now 26, who blogs under the name “Darcy,” isn’t typical. When most young adults are just starting in the workforce, retirement might be the last thing they’re thinking about — but maybe it should be one of the first.
The name of her blog, “We Want Guac,” is a nod to young millennials and Generation Z, who appreciate the “extras” in life, like avocado toast and the guacamole they’re charged for at nearly all fast-food burrito restaurants. A lot of FIRE bloggers are in their 30s, 40s or 50s, she said, but she wanted a space on the internet that was devoted to young Americans who could benefit from this path.
“I started the blog…to reach people my age and younger who haven’t learned about financial independence and need to see somebody their age who has had success with following the tenets,” said Amy. “I wanted to see more people my age, and people who have yet to graduate reach where I have.”
One of Amy’s advantages, she said, was that she began her working years making so little. She already had to learn how to budget accordingly so she could live within her means, and she used that skill even when she began earning more money. “There’s only so much you can cut down when it comes to expenses,” she said.
Personal finance is personal, but there are universal underlying strategies. “Everyone is in the same place once they’re graduating — either they have a job with the lowest pay of their career or they’re looking,” she said. “The biggest thing you want to get started with is just to make sure you are able to control your expenses.”
Amy, who is a marketing manager for a pharmaceutical company, writes about all sorts of ways in which young Americans can navigate their finances. She’s blogged about having a frugal, socially-distanced vacation in the time of COVID-19, how to make sense of different investment accounts, what lifestyle creep is and ways to make your grocery budget go farther, such as by buying frozen food.
Like most young adults, she’s not sure what her future holds or what she’ll want to do in 10, 15 or even five years, which is why she focuses on the saving skills she’s picked up while pursuing FIRE. Doing so will allow her to leave a job where she’s not happy, take care of herself financially if she suffers from an emergency or take on a lower-paying job she loves without worrying about if she can pay the bills.
“Because of that, I want to make sure that no matter where I’ll be, I’ll be in a place I want to be,” she said. “When it comes to FIRE, it’s given me a ton of options and choices in designing my life.”