"is georbitrage right for me"

I was into geoarbitrage before I even knew there a was a word for it. Geoarbitrage is a hard word anyway – like how do you even pronounce that? Anyway, I knew that living in LA was too expensive, so I decided to seek greener (and cheaper) pastures. And now, as I’m getting ready to move to an even cheaper location, I’ve decided to take a look at the costs and benefits of geoarbitrage, so you can decide if it’s a good option for you.

What is Geoarbitrage?

Geoarbitrage is the act of moving from a high cost of living area to a low cost of living area to save money.  Many people embrace geoarbitrage when they retire– heading to exotic locals such as Costa Rica, Thailand, or even the Czech Republic where their nest eggs will last a whole lot longer. Others, such as myself, embrace the concept before retirement – finding US cities with available jobs and a low cost of living. The “when” of geoarbitrage doesn’t really matter, the important thing is making the decision to move someplace cheaper.

Pros of Geoarbitrage

Cost Cost Cost

Really the biggest benefit of geoarbitrage is the financial aspect. That’s the number one reason why I left Los Angeles. It was just too expensive. There was absolutely no way that I was going to achieve financial independence living there. I realized that I could transfer my job to Savannah GA and save a thousand dollars a month on my mortgage alone. That’s a huge amount of money!!

Buying a Home

Unfortunately, houses are just not affordable in some of the hottest US markets. Home ownership is out of reach. In Los Angeles, the average home price is currently a whopping $570,000! That comes out to about $633 per square foot! You’d have to earn over $95000 to “afford” that! And I put afford in quotes, because that’s with paying most of your income to your mortgage every week. The so-called experts think that’s affordable, but I do not.  

In comparison, the average home price is Savannah is just $111 per square foot. You can buy a decent house for less than $200000. That’s way more affordable! And there are cheaper options available. There are even still places in the US where you can buy a house for under $100000. If you want to pursue financial independence but think it’s out of reach due to home prices, consider geoarbitrage.


A lot of people chose to geoarbitrage to states like Texas or Florida that don’t have state income taxes. Others just try to find areas with low property taxes. I always considered moving back to Chicago, but they have some of the highest property taxes in the country! The tax rates are over 7%! I was only paying 6% in Los Angeles (granted, 6% of 570000 is much more than 7% of 276000, the average home price in Chicago). In comparison, the average property tax rate in Savannah is only 1%. And I’m no math genius, but 1% of 200000 is way cheaper than either of those other options.


Lower cost of living areas tend to have less people. This has been a freaking huge advantage for me! I can go into almost any restaurant and be seated in less than 30 minutes. Bye-Bye two hour wait times! The roads are less crowded as well. Unless there’s an accident, I can get to wherever I need to go in less than a half hour. Bye-Bye spending my life in traffic!

I actually thought I’d have a hard time adjusting to life in a smaller city. I grew up in Chicago, and lived in Los Angeles for most of my adult life, so I always considered myself a city girl. But small towns can be just as lively as big cities. Savannah has been the best of both worlds, with a hopping down town scene but small crowds and little traffic. My mileage may vary up in Pennsylvania, but I’m sure there will be a few options if I want to go out.

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Cons of Geoarbitrage


If you aren’t financially independent yet, you need to know what jobs are available in your cheaper destination of choice. Unfortunately, high cost of living areas tend to have the highest paying jobs. The median incomes in the cities with the most affordable houses are staggeringly low – it’s easy to see why houses are so cheap, no one in the town would be able to afford them otherwise!

This doesn’t mean that geoarbitrage is unattainable though. There are a few things that you can do to make it work. First, you can find higher paying jobs in these areas if you have the right in-demand skills.  Second, you can always work remotely. And third, sometimes taking a pay cut is worthwhile for the savings. I took a ten thousand dollar a year pay cut to move to Savannah, and I’m still able to save more money. That’s pretty fantastic.


The hardest thing about geoarbitrage is moving away from friends and family. I’m not going to lie and tell you that it will be easy, it’s not. Yes, technology has made it easier. We can face time, talk on the phone, and text; but none of those things is the same as being there. I’ve been away from my family in Chicago for over ten years, and I miss them every day. I’d love to be able to go to all of my niece and nephew’s birthday parties, see them for the holidays, and just do everyday things with them. But I can’t, because I live too far away. I miss being able to go to my bestie’s house for a video game night.  I miss listening to my sister’s mental gymnastics over our favorite lambic. These are the things that you have to give up when you move away, and it sucks.

Actually Moving

Moving sucks. I mean really, it’s awful. I’m in the middle of my second move in less than two years, and it’s freaking miserable. There’s the packing, and the cleaning, and the transferring of services. Then there’s the finding a new place to live and deciding what to do with your old place (if you own…but if you rent you may have to deal with breaking a lease). All that stuff is crazy stressful and time consuming.

But it’s also expensive! No matter how you look at it, moving long distance is going to cost you. Even if you pack your own stuff and use a U-Haul you’re looking at over $1000. Pods, storage, and moving companies cost even more. Then you have to pay all the fees of either buying or renting a new place. You have to pay security deposits, first/last month rents, and pet fees if you are renting; and closing costs and down payments if you are buying.  Whatever way you look at it, a big move is expensive.

So is Geoarbitrage right for me?

Only you can decide whether geoarbitrage is right for you or not. It’s right for me, because I want to decrease my costs as much as possible in order to achieve financial independence, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find good jobs in the cheaper areas. It’s also right for me because roots aren’t that important to me. Your situation and your values may differ. But hopefully, after learning about the pros and cons of geoarbitrage, you can make the right decision for you.

Some of you may have already taken the plunge and moved to a lower cost of living area. What has been your experience with geoarbitrage? Are there any pros or cons that I’m missing?

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"barista fire"

There are so many different ways to be financially independent. Lot’s of people are pursuing lean fire, retiring off of less than 40K per years. Others are looking at Fat fire, being financially independent with tons of money to do whatever they want. I wrote an article about all the different types of fire in the long ago, but  after careful consideration, I’ve decided that barista fire is the fire for me.

What is Barista Fire?

Barista Fire is a form of financial independence where you don’t actually quit working. You do get to quit your high stress job, so that’s a win, right? With Barista Fire, you still work, but at an easy, low stress job; or at a job that you’re passionate about but that wouldn’t pay the bills under other circumstances. Barista fire is a step between being financially independent and being tied to a job.


 There are tons of advantages to being Barista Fire.  One of the biggest ones is the benefits.  Granted, most companies don’t offer benefits to part time employees, but Starbucks does! There are tons of other companies that offer benefits to part time employees as well. You can find a short list of these companies here. This is a great place to start if you’re only hanging onto your high stress job for the benefits.

Another benefit is that you keep money coming in. Even with solid investments, it can be terrifying to quit a high paying job. Barista Fire can help you bridge that gap. It can give you a little piece of mind. Obviously, you won’t be making as much as you did before (that’s the whole point, right?) but having a little bit of income coming in would be a great way to ease your worries about the next financial downturn. You might even be able to find a part time job that pays most of your living expenses, so you wouldn’t have to withdraw anything from your investments in bad years! 

But the biggest advantage to being Barista fire is that it gives you the opportunity to explore your passions!  If you are interested in the Arts, you can work part time at an art museum. Love kids? Work at a day care or as a tutor. You can even work part time at a job you don’t necessarily like to have time to do other things in your newfound free time; such as work on your side hustles or volunteer. Being barista fire can give you a lot of freedom.

Why I want to Be Barista Fire

I want to be Barista Fire because not working was never one of my goals. I don’t really want to retire in the traditional sense. I want to work. But here’s the catch:  I want to work at things that I’m passionate about. I would love to be a zookeeper; but they only make about ten bucks an hour! That’s not going to cut it for me until I achieve Barista Fire. I also want to work on all of my side projects and my bucket list (I mentioned all of those things when I wrote a post on why I want to pursue fire – I have way too many life goals!).

Is Barista Fire the Fire for you?

Whether or not Barista Fire is right for you depends on a whole lot of things. The first thing you have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to work in retirement. Some people don’t want to work at all, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Some people like working, and that’s fine too! Another thing you should consider is how badly you need to quit your job. If your job offers a high income in return for a terrible work/life balance or is detrimental to your mental or physical well being, you may want to quit sooner rather than later. Money isn’t everything, and if your job is hurting you, Barista fire might be a better option.

On the other hand, if you hate your job because you hate the entire idea of working, barista fire probably isn’t right for you. Why trade one job you hate for a lower paying job that you also hate? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. In that case, it might be better to stay at the high paying job long enough to achieve financial independence in the traditional sense.

If you aren’t sure about being financially independent, Barista fire might be an excellent option for you. You get to dip your toes in, but you don’t have to dive in if you don’t want to. Like I said before, it’s an excellent way to bridge the gap between working full time and taking the plunge into financial independence.

Are you going to pursue barista fire? Tell me why or why not in the comments!


"barista fire"
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fire goals

I realized over the course of the past few weeks (mostly when writing about how having kids will affect my Fire goals) that I never actually wrote a post about my Fire goals.

Sure, I’ve written about financial independence. We’ve had posts on what FIRE is and my path to Fire. But I never wrote about the why. I never explained what my Fire goals are, or why obtaining financial independence is so important to me. Maybe I should explain it!

My Fire Goals

The main reason why I am pursuing financial independence is because I want to live my life on my own terms. I don’t want to be tied to a job in order to survive. I don’t want to waste forty hours every week at a job that I hate. It’s not that I even hate my job though, I just don’t want to have to be there. I don’t want to be required to go. Since I am required to go, it’s like they own me. And I don’t want to be owned by anyone. Does that make sense? I’m trying to buy my own time back.

What will I do?

I’m really is focused on the Retired Early part of FIRE.  Working at my job for twenty more years sounds miserable! So, what will I do if I don’t have to work forty hours a week? I’ll live!! There are so many things that I want to do and see, but unfortunately working full time prevents me from doing most of them.


First and foremost, I want to see the world. I’ve already traveled quite extensively, but as I’m tied to my job all my traveling has been in short one to two-week vacations. That’s not really enough time to get to know a place. I want to slow travel through Asia, Europe, and South America and experience the different cultures. I also want to travel through the United States, and see all of the national parks that this country has to offer.

"fire goals"


Who says I can’t work while having these adventures! I would love to teach English in Cambodia or Vietnam while slow traveling the continent. Work Camping sounds like an awesome way to visit the national parks! I could work remotely, monetize the blog, or do consulting work. The possibilities for hustling while I’m living on my own terms are endless.

Back to School

Another major thing I’d love to do when I reach financial independence is go back to school to study Anthropology. I’m fascinated by other cultures (hence my desire to travel and experience them!) and I’m extremely captivated by ancient cultures. I want to learn everything I can about early cultures, and maybe even study the similarities between them. The entire concept mesmerizes me. There is a program in Estonia (taught in English!) where students study legends and folklore from various cultures, learning about the similarities between them and relating those similarities to the human condition. What a fascinating subject! I think it would be amazing to get a master’s degree in folklore-ology! 

Side Projects!

It’s no secret that I have numerous side projects, and not nearly enough time to pursue them all. Did you know that I’m trying to write a book? Or that I’m an artist, have a travel blog, and want try streaming video games with Twitch? This is just a small sampling of the many side projects that I want to work on, but unfortunately, I don’t have time for most of them. The majority of my time is dedicated to my full-time job, my boyfriend, and this blog. After that I really don’t have a lot of time for anything else. I would love to have time to play my video games and get affiliated with Twitch! Streaming is my boyfriend’s number one side project, so I do get to play with him on occasion and it’s loads of fun. I’d love to have my own account, but it takes so much time, which is something that I don’t have at the moment.

Extended Adventures

Some adventures take longer than the two weeks of vacation time I get each year. I want to spend three months studying Tai Chi in China, three months studying yoga in India, and a summer reading tarot cards with a Renaissance Faire (I know, I have weird dreams). These things are just not possible to do with a full-time job.

Anything Else

Life is so full of possibilities. There are so many things to see and do on this planet and only a limited amount of time in which to do them. Tomorrow I might think of another crazy random adventure to add to my bucket list. Who knows? But that’s the entire point of pursuing financial freedom. I want to have the ability.

It all boils down to time. I want to have the time to have adventures, go back to school, travel, and do whatever else interests me. I think most of the people pursuing financial independence would agree; time is the most valuable asset that we have. We can’t earn more. I don’t want to waste the precious time that I do have being miserable, or even being complacent. I want to spend my time living.

What about you?  Why are you pursuing financial independence? What are your fire goals? Tell me about them in the comments!

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"kids and fire"


When I first started thinking about having kids, there was one thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around. How do kids and fire go together?  I thought about how having kids would affect my own fire goals, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know how everyone else was planning on achieving financial independence with kids!

Bloggers speak out: Kids and Fire

First, I reached out to the blogging world. I knew my blogging friends would have awesome advice, and they didn’t disappoint!


Tread Lightly, Retire Early

For some people, having kids is the catalyst for pursing financial independence.  Tread Lightly, Retire Early discusses how having her first child and trying to “do it all” (as women are told we should) was exhausting, so something had to give. She was able to cut down to part time work and “live like she was financially independent”. Find out how she did it!


Retiring To the Road

Katie from Retiring to the Road wrote an amazing guest post about how she is able to reach fire with kids at Millennial Money Man. Her and her husband have “learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, instead of just the material BS that screams at us all day long” which I think is just fantastic. They are also raising their kids to value quality time over material items. I’m loving her plan and her advice. Read the full story here.


Median Millionaire

Sam from Median Millionaire also has some wise words when it comes to having children. According to Sam, “Children add to our riches, though it may take us a bit longer to retire”.  He also outlines ways to save money while raising children, which is super helpful for someone wondering how it can be done. Find out his full thoughts on kids and fire here.


Financial Samurai

I also found an amazing podcast on the subject. The Fire Drill Podcast interviewed Sam from Financial Samurai about the timing of kids and Fire, and he brought up some very interesting points. He admitted that kids can mess up your financial plans, but he also said that you can always readjust your finances, but you can’t always have kids. That kind of makes me worry that maybe I waited too long to figure out that want kids!  Listen to the full interview here.


Kids and Fire: Non-Bloggers

But I wanted to hear from non-bloggers too!  So of course, like any good journalist, I went to Reddit. I went to the FireyFemmes sub-Reddit, which is dedicated to women in pursuit of financial independence. This is the best place to get advice on all topics surrounding financial freedom from real women who are pursuing it. I got some amazing honest responses to my question there (and if anyone from there is reading this, thank you!)

Redditors Speak out

First, pretty much everyone agreed that kids can be expensive (especially childcare!). One Redditor said she was paying nearly three thousand dollars a month in childcare expenses alone!  That can really slow down a FIRE plan. Most parents had already included the cost of children into their plans though, and many chose the stay at home route to reduce costs. It was a relief to see that there were so many different ideas and options available for childcare and to mitigate the other expenses associated with raising children. 

Some parents did admit that I might not be able to achieve some of my other goals if I decide to have kids. Some children just don’t travel well. Redditor ParcelBobo explained that her child screams during car rides, and nothing she does will calm her down. I do have to accept that fact that my children’s personalities will play a role in how my future unfolds, and I’m extremely grateful to ParcelBobo for the honesty.

Many parents timed their early retirements with having kids. A lot of the answers in the thread discussed leaving work or dropping to part time when the kids reached a certain age. This gave parents the opportunity to spend more quality time with their kids. It also meant saving and paying off debt prior to having kids.

My Biggest Inspiration 

The thing that stuck out with me the most was the way most people thought about having kids. Nobody in the thread said they avoided having kids to achieve financial independence. In fact, for most people, the entire reason for pursing financial independence was their children!  But what struck me most of all is the fact that most people’s life plans included children!  I know, this is probably normal for most people, but it was strange to me!

My favorite answer was from Redditor Sugoi2, who said that one of her life goals was to have a kid. The entire point of pursuing financial independence is to live the life you want, and having kids is part of living the life I want. Sugoi2 made it so easy to understand:  I don’t need to see it as a negative, like if I have kids my goals will be pushed back. Having kids is the goal!  Thank you Sugoi2 if you are reading this, your answer was truly an inspiration to me.

Financial Independence and Kids can go together!

As you can see, there are tons of paths to financial independence that include having children. Most of them revolve around having children!  I’m really glad that I asked this question and did this research. Hearing other people’s stories, struggles, and triumphs really re-affirmed my decision to have kids. Knowing that kids and Fire really can co-exist makes it so much easier!!  And if you have a story about how having kids fit into your goals of financial independence, I’d love to read about it in the comments!

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having children will affect my fire goals

One of the things that I needed to consider when deciding whether or not I really wanted to have children is how having them would affect my path to financial independence. Kids are crazy expensive, and take a lot of time. How could I reconcile that with what I wanted to do in life? Obviously, having children will affect my fire goals, but to what extent?

FIRE Timeline

My original plan was to quit my job in 2021. I was going to retire at 38! And by retire, I mean quit my high stress high paying job and go barista fire. In three more years, I will be fully vested in my pension and I will have earned enough to collect $1000 a month at full retirement age via pension payments. Three more working years will also ensure that I have a healthy very well-funded 401k. In fact, I’m already at coast fire for a lean fire in my 401K! Meaning that if I stop contributing now, by the time I’m 65 I’ll have enough money to withdraw about 40K per year throughout retirement. Not too shabby!



Three more years would also give me time to shore up my non-retirement savings. This would help me fill any gaps between my living expenses and my new, variable income for the next 30 years. I knew my barista fire lifestyle would come with financial concerns, and that I’d have to work to fill the gaps. But I was ok with that. I’d love to do work camping, or work part time at a nature center, stuff like that. Sounds like fun!

New Timeline

I know I will have to work at my current job longer if I choose to have kids. There’s absolutely no way around it. I have amazing health insurance, which they will need, and a solid income which will definitely cover some of the outrageous costs. However, I will not stop working towards independence. My new plan is to work until they are about school aged. This will ensure that they have amazing health insurance during the most terrifying stages when they are basically helpless, and it will also ensure that we can afford all the expensive baby stuff. I’ll also start college savings plans when they are born, and continue to fully invest in those until I retire.

My new early retirement age is about 45. I can live with that if it means I get to experience the joy of parenthood. It will also benefit me financially in numerous ways. Eight more years of pension contributions and eight more years of 401K contributions are going to add up in a big way. I won’t have to be lean FI in my old age!

Things I wanted to Do

There are some things that I wanted to do with my life after achieving financial independence that probably aren’t going to be feasible with children. The biggest one that comes to mind is my goal of traveling from Chicago to Santa Monica on historic route 66 via bicycle. That was a rather ambitious goal, and let’s be honest it probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. It’s definitely not going to happen when I’m in my 60s and the kids are finally in college!

There are tons of other things I want to do. I have a lots of reasons for pursing financial independence, and I always thought that having children would hinder these goals. I want to slow travel through Southeast Asia, spend a summer reading tarot cards at a Renaissance Faire, spend months work camping at national parks, live in a cabin while writing the Next Great American Novel. My boyfriend and I have so many hobbies, side interests, and life goals. Working a day job really interferes with a lot of them. I thought that having children would interfere with those things as well, but now I’m not so sure.

Who says we can’t bring our children with us to Asia?  Is there a rule that kids can’t live in an RV for a few months?  Can’t I home-school the kids for a few years while we, as a family, engage in these adventures?  And what an amazing childhood that could be! We would be providing our kids with a lifetime of experiences at a young age, teaching them about the world, and teaching them that life is for living. I’m sure they will teach us valuable life lessons as well.



Partner’s Goals

Being married and having children also means that I have to take my partners goals into consideration. He’s totally on board with most of mine (though the bike thing and the Renaissance Faire thing both kind of freak him out) and is more than happy to do them with me. But he has goals too, and we will need to work together to balance our life goals with the main goal of raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.

Fortunately for us, neither of shy away from having adult conversations about our plans for the future and where things are heading. We talk at least once a week about our future goals, and we are both super supportive of the other. That’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable having kids with him in the first place!

Having Children will affect my Fire Goals

There’s no doubt about it. Having kids will change the plan. Even considering having kids changes the plan. But I’m ok with that. Being financially independent is about living my life on my terms. My terms have changed, and that’s ok.

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Why Fire?

Jonathan and I are on a path to fire because we want to live life on our own terms. We don’t want to be tied to any job or employer. We don’t want the stress of needing a job. Being stressed out at work sucks!  We don’t want to deal with that anymore.

Our Path to Fire

If you recall from our article on the Fire Fundamentals (and you can read it here if you don’t!) I mentioned that there are four steps to getting on a path to fire. Step 1 is learning about Fire – I think I have that covered. Step 2 is deciding what you will be comfortable with. The third step is to make a plan for getting there, and the final step is to execute that plan.

What type of Fire will I be comfortable with?

I know we want to travel, so lean fire probably isn’t for us. But we also want to have a comfortable, secure traditional retirement (We absolutely don’t want to be in poverty when we are seniors!), so we need to at least get to Coast fire. We want to be financially independent as soon as possible, and we decided that we will probably need about 60K per year to be comfortable. We are also ok with working odds and ends types jobs, so I’d be totally comfortable with a barista fire type of lifestyle (financially independent, but taking an easy part time job to fill any holes that come up or for extra spending money).

How are we going to get there?

Sixty thousand dollars per year without working a full-time job seems pretty daunting. We need big gains and passive income! I got super lucky with real estate – and by getting lucky I mean I bought at a great time in a market that would only increase. My big gains could come from selling the house! But we also knew that meant we couldn’t stay in the crazy expensive metropolis of Los Angeles. We needed to find a new city in order to really capitalize on those real estate gains. 

Passive income is the real key though, so we needed to figure out a way to generate income without working. Blogging and Investment funds for the win!

Executing the plan

The first step to executing the plan was selling the house in a high COL area and moving to a low COL area. Done!  We packed up and moved from Los Angeles, CA to Savannah GA. Next, I used  my new found capital to set up diversified investments and open an account with Vanguard. Third, we dedicated ourselves to working like crazy for these next three years to shore up our investments and ensure that we are 100% ready to take that plunge into early retirement.

Related: Which Vanguard Total Market Fund should you chose?

We also set up additional income streams. We launched this blog, and have dedicated ourselves to updating content and marketing it whenever we can. I went back to my travel blog and updated the content, adding affiliate links and increasing the social media presence. Every little bit helps!  Every cent we can make via blogging gets us one step closer to freedom (full disclosure, we haven’t really made anything blogging yet. But Partners in Fire is super new, so we are hoping to generate some income off it in the coming months!)

I also have my 401K account for additional income when I reach retirement age, a pension, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), and a few individual stock holdings. These different types of holdings should ensure that we are well diversified and should provide dividend income when we are ready to stop working.

Not Your Plan

We get that not everyone owns a home in a high COA area, and not all those who do will make huge gains by selling. That’s why my path may not be your path. Don’t worry, there are tons of other ways! Check out this small list of personal finance bloggers to see their paths to fire. You can take what you like from each and start your own journey!

Other Paths

 Downsize your 2080’s  Path to Independence involves downsizing the amount of time spent working. Some paths are simply about finding that work/life balance! Check out how they do it here!

Fifty Week Vacation is investing in both the stock market and real estate to create short, medium and long-term cash to achieve FIRE. Read about their investment journey here!

Saving Sherpa is perusing FIRE by putting experience over luxury, not having kids, and saving 70% of his income w/o side hustles. Read more about his $26k/yr Boston lifestyle here!

Military Dollar is going to achieve Fire by taking advantage of the programs offered to members of the armed services and creating multiple streams of retirement income. Follow her journey and learn some additional awesome finance tips for service members here!

Tread Lightly Retire Early is going to reach Fire by living an eco-friendly life and cutting spending to maximize their savings rate while minimizing their carbon footprint. Find out how they help the planet while gaining independence here!

What’s your Path to Fire?

As you can see, there are lots of different ways to get to financial freedom. There isn’t a one size fits all approach. And these blogs I listed are just a small sample of the paths different folks are taking, there are thousands more out there. Hopefully you will get some ideas from these and other blogs about what will work for you.

What does your path to Fire include? Do any of these bloggers resonate with you?  Is there a totally different path that I’m missing?  Let me know in the comments!

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Fire FundamentalsBy now, all of you lovely readers should know that we here at Partners in Fire are on a dedicated quest for Fire. Many of my PF friends who tag along with us on our journey are very well aware of the concept of Fire, but this is for my friends in other niches who may not understand it as well. Have you ever asked yourself what the Fire Fundamentals are?  If so, this post is for you!  We’re going to talk about the basic concept of Fire and some of different terms you may see thrown around the PF community. Hope this helps!

Fire Fundamentals

Ok, so let’s start with the basics. What is Fire? You will usually see it written as an acronym – FI/RE. I shorten it to Fire because hashtags don’t understand that a backslash is part of the word; and because it’s easier to type. FI/RE stands for Financially Independent/Retired Early. Basically, it means that you can afford your life without having to work a job. It means living your life on your own terms, not on some employer’s terms. It’s a lofty goal indeed, but I think it’s achievable.

Types of Fire

There are a few different terms that are thrown around the FI/RE world, and they can be confusing. For example, I recently learned that I have enough money in my 401K to be Coast Fire for a Lean Fire. What does that mean?

Coast Fire

Coast Fire means that you have enough money in savings to have a comfortable withdrawal rate when you reach 65 years old. It means that you no longer have to contribute to your retirement account. However, you don’t have enough money to live off before you reach retirement, so you still have to work. Coast Fire is a great goal post, especially because nobody wants to be destitute when they are at retirement age.

Related: Vanguard’s three Total Market Funds explained

Coast Fire is generally calculated based on expected returns. For example, I’m at Coast Fire in my 401K right now, but that’s only because I have thirty years for it to grow. If I magically became 65 tomorrow, I wouldn’t be able to retire. Coast Fire takes expected returns into consideration.

Barista Fire

Many people consider Barista Fire to be basically the same as coast fire. They call it Barista Fire because you just have to go work at a coffee shop to pay your basic living expenses. In my personal opinion, there is a slight difference between Coast FI and Barista FI. With Coast FI, you probably have to stay at your crappy job that you are trying to escape in order to afford your living expenses. In my view, Barista FI means you can take a stress-free part time job to pay for your living expenses. I may be the only person in the world who differentiates between the two, but I’ve decided that barista fire is the right fire for me.

Lean Fire

Lean Fire means being financially independent on forty thousand dollars per year or less. The people who do this are your frugal warriors, your minimalists, and your extreme couponers. These people are freaking amazing savers! They prove that you don’t have to be rich to be financially independent. Lean Fire is a viable option for tons of people! 

So, when I say that I’m at Coast Fire for a Lean Fire, it means that if I stop contributing to my 401K right now, when I’m 65 years old I’ll be able to withdraw forty thousand dollars per year and be ok. This is assuming that my investments yield decent returns for the next 30 years.


This is the new acronym that you might see floating around the inter-webs. FI/OR means Financially Independent/Optional Retirement. This is for those folks who love their jobs, but also want the security of knowing they don’t need their jobs. They can quit anytime they want. They work because they want to work (novel concept, right?). I actually want to achieve FI/OR. But I don’t want to keep the job I have now. I want to have the financial security to pursue my passions (anthropology, travel, and writing). 

Paths to Fire

There are thousands of paths to Fire. Some people know they want Fire before they even head to college. They scrimp and they save and they work through college, get amazingly high paying jobs upon graduating, and work their tails off for 10 years to call it quits in their 30s. Others are happy being Lean Fire. They work and save and live off the land as much as possible, so they don’t have to rely so much on money. Still others set up side hustles to get there. Everyone’s idea of why they want Fire is different, so everyone’s path to Fire is different. The only thing that really matters is whether or not your path works for you.

This blog outlines our path to Fire. But our goals aren’t your goals, and our path to Fire may not be your path to Fire. That’s ok!  It’s all about sharing in the journey and supporting each other on our different paths. Maybe part of our journey will inspire you, maybe not.



How do I start?

Well, you are reading a blog post about the different types of Fire, I think that’s a great start!  Step 2 is to figure out what kind of Fire you’d be comfortable with. Step 3 is figuring out how to get there (make a plan!). And step 4 is executing that plan (do it!).

Looking for more information on Fire?  Check on the Reddit page for financial independence, that’s where I first learned about Fire! (feel free to share my blog on Reddit while you are there!)

Did you find this quick break down of Fire fundamentals helpful?  Is there something that I missed? Let me know in the comments!


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Hey folks! Transparency Disclosure- Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything! extra!

Was it Luck?

When I tell Jonathan we got lucky with real estate, he tells me it wasn’t about luck. I know, it wasn’t entirely luck, it was a lot of research, a lot of watching what the market was doing, and a lot of buying and selling at the right times. But did luck play a role?

I bought my condo in Los Angeles in 2011, when the housing market was still struggling and properties were relatively cheap (for Los Angeles, they were still crazy expensive!). I couldn’t afford a single-family home, even then the best single-family homes I could afford either needed a whole lot of work or were in the middle of extremely questionable neighborhoods. If I was going to buy, it would be either a condo or a town-home.


I decided to buy a nice two-bedroom town-home in a safe, gated community. The town-home was brand new when I bought it, which was a big plus! It also had solar panels, an electronic water heater, and a bunch of other energy efficient upgrades. It was in a nice community with a pool, a basketball court, and park. It was a great first home!

Related: Are you a Real Estate Agent trying to sell a home? Have you tried Clicky Homes*?


lucky with real estate

I loved my town-home, and I loved my life in Los Angeles. I had amazing friends, a great job, and a beautiful town-home. But sometime in 2016, I realized that I was working to basically pay for my house. The mortgage payment and HOA fees ate up more than half of my monthly income! I also realized that the housing market had made a pretty amazing recovery. The homes in my area were selling like hotcakes, at prices 40% higher than what I had paid. Jonathan and I talked, and we decided it was time to move.


Hard work can lead to getting lucky with real estate

Getting the house ready for sale was a huge project. Jonathan is amazing at things like this, he helped me so much! I don’t think I could’ve done it without him (Another reason why having in partner in fire is beneficial, wink wink). He said we’d sell the house faster if it was a blank slate, and he worked diligently for a month to get it ready for the market.

We got rid of all our extra stuff (yay for downsizing!), replaced the carpet, re-painted, and power cleaned everything! I paid for the carpeting and the painting, because we wanted the house to look absolutely amazing, and it did. The house was immaculate, it looked like a model home! Our real estate agent (REMCO) was super impressed with all of our work (I say our, but I use that term very loosely. This was mostly Jonathan!). We put the house on the market for 50% more than we paid for it, and within in 5 days had a full value offer. Score!

Hard work and Luck!

I do think luck played a part. It was very fortunate that I was able to buy a home when I did. I credit that “luck” to being a veteran in the Army. But Jonathan is right about that too.  It wasn’t lucky that I joined the Army and served for six years, it was hard work and dedication. But the Army did offer a VA loan, and without that, I would never have been able to afford a home in Southern California, even at the bottom of the market. Check out my post on Military Service and financial freedom to learn more about how the VA loan helped, and to discover whether joining the military can help you in your quest for financial freedom.

But it was lucky that I was in a position to be able to buy when the market was low.  It was also lucky that the market made a great recovery in my area. However,  Jonathan is right too, a lot of hard work went into this real estate success. Sometimes big wins take a lot of effort and a little bit of luck.

Why FIRE 101?

So why is this post in the FIRE 101 section instead of finance or lifestyle? Easy!  One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is to move from a high Cost of Living area to a Low Cost of Living are (HCOL —> LCOL). It was our first major step towards FIRE, and big sacrifice.  We did it though, and maybe you can too!


*Links with this next to it are the affiliate links that we talked about above. We appreciate your readership!

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