FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early, and is a movement of people around the world that have rejected the idea of working until traditional retirement age. They get on top of their finances so that they can do what they want with their time.

Katie and I found the FIRE movement (before it was called the FIRE movement!) way back in 2015.

Alan Donegan and Katie Donegan - part of the UK FIRE movement

What is the FIRE movement? What does it stand for? How does it work?
Back in 2015 it was just called Financial Independence (FI) and Katie and I loved the idea of becoming financially independent so that we could spend our time doing whatever we wanted!  Read on for our definition of FI, more about the history of the FIRE movement, and how you can get involved!

What is financial independence?

Katie and I have a simple definition of financial independence. You are financially independent if your assets produce more income than you need to live.

What this means is that you own assets like stocks, shares, or properties that provide you an income, and this income is bigger than your outgoings, so you don’t have to work if you don’t want to.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Buy assets until you have enough to live without working.

After hearing about financial independence, Katie and I were all in.  We saved every penny we could and invested it into broad-based index funds like the Vanguard FTSE Developed World ex UK.  With compounding and our high savings rate this soon started to grow until we hit our number in 2019.  We never had to work again if we didn’t want to.

Since then we have been on a mission to help other people sort their finances out as well so they can build their dream life too.

YouTube Series

Katie and I have created a new YouTube series for you, all about financial independence and the key subjects we get asked about!  You can watch the FIRE movement explained episode here, and we would love you to hit subscribe and like.  It helps us to spread the FIRE movement message and help more people take control of their finances!

How did it all start?

How does any movement start?  Normally with a few people that start doing something differently, they talk about it, maybe share it, maybe write a book about it and it spreads from there.

There are two early parts to the FIRE movement and they start with a book and a blog.  The first book that started with some of the concepts of FI was Your Money or your life by Vicky Robin and Joe Dominguez.

The key concept of the book is about what you do with your life energy.  Every day you go to work and swap your life energy for money.  Then you take that money and swap it for other things.  They gave you a simple formula to work out how many hours of work it would cost to buy a car, a new jacket or something else.

The investment advice in the first book is out of date and things have changed dramatically but the concepts around finance and how to think about money are timeless.

Then along came Jacob Lung Fisker who wrote the blog and then the book Early Retirement Extreme.  He speaks about consumerism, living with less, freedom and opportunity.  He thinks so differently to your average individual and clearly lays out a plan to get to financial independence.

One of my favourite sentences from his blog is:

“I did not become financially independent by having a six figure income. Far from it. Rather it was through creative ways of increasing my savings by being increasingly more independent of the general economy. Quite an adventure.”

If you are interested read his first article “How I became financially independent in five years”

He has never earnt a fortune but has saved, invested and separated himself from the general economy.  I think his methods are too extreme for most people to follow but he is right.  Most people can get to FI if they are willing to really go for it and get extreme!

Phase 2 of the FIRE world started when some of the most well know blogs and podcasts were launched from 2012 onwards.  Mr Money Mustache, The Mad Fientist and Choose FI came onto the scene.

Who are the key players in the FIRE movement?

There are a huge amount of people that write, talk and produce content about financial independence.  Here are 4 of the largest:
Mr Money Mustache – The OG writer about Financial Independence.  He retired at 30 after saving most of his income from working as a software engineer.  His writing is super clear and he has just launched a curated version of his work by email.  Sign up here to get his articles sent to you 1 a week.  We have been lucky to have Mr Money Mustache join us on the last two Rebel Finance Schools!

Mr Money Mustache, Katie Donegan, Alan Donegan on the Rebel Finance School

Mr Money Mustache on the last night of Rebel Finance School 2022 with Katie Donegan& & Alan Donegan
The Mad Fientist – produced one of the first ever Financial independence podcasts and wrote extensively about US tax.  Katie and I didn’t really care about the US tax stuff but we used his Mad Fientist laboratory on his website and listened to all his podcast.  Brandon you are awesome!  Here is the Mad Fientist Podcast

Millennial Revolution – the crazy millennials from Canada.  Kristy and Bryce retired in their early 30s and travelled the world.  They found that living their dreams, becoming nomadic and travelling the world was cheaper than living in Toronto.  They wrote the book Quit Like a Millionaire and are a huge part of the FIRE community globally.

​These two inspired us to travel the world and explore.   The Millennial Revolution blog


Choose FI – is one of my favourite FI podcasts!  Brad and Jonathan created the podcast and speak passionately about Financial Independence.  You may find some episodes with Katie and I on there too if you look hard enough!  Brad you are an inspiration! Listen to ChooseFI the podcast here
The Donegans – is it wrong to include yourself in your own list of people in the FIRE movement?  After finding out about FIRE and achieving it Katie and I have made it our mission to help other people get on top of their finances through our blog and the Rebel Finance School.   You need a purpose in retirement and this is ours!

Why the hell should you care?

These characters I have introduced you to above invented, created, developed a different way to live. They decided they weren’t happy with the standard life plan of getting good grades, getting a good job, working till 68, retire and dying .

They wanted to live differently, they wanted more and they worked out how to get it.  Not only did they work out how to retire in their 30s, 40s and 50s they also blogged about it and shared it with other people.  They told the world “There is another way!”.

At times they were ridiculed for it.  Mr Money Mustache suffered several scathing attacks by the media which he didn’t deserve.  The internet can be a harsh place at times.  Katie and I have taken a lot of abuse in the comments section of the Sun and iNews articles about us.

But these people stood up and helped us all to see what was possible.  That there were other options available to us.  That we could live a different life if we wanted to.

These are the pioneers that trod a different path and then came back to show us the way. I will be forever grateful for Pete, Mr Money Mustache, Brandon the Mad Fientist, Kristy &Bryce from Millennial Revolution and Brad & Jonathan from ChooseFI.

You showed us all a different way to live and inspired us to create our own versions of an extraordinary life.  Thank you for trying things and teaching us what worked for you and what didn’t.

I care about these people and the FIRE movement because it showed me a different path that I didn’t know was available to me and I will forever be grateful to my core.   I wouldn’t be writing this blog or running Rebel Finance School and helping tens of thousands of people get on top of their finances if they hadn’t helped me discover FI.

The future of the FIRE movement

The FIRE movement is whatever we make it.  It is just a group of people doing things differently and supporting each other to lead different lives.  Diania Meriman just created the EconoMe conference and build it, she is brining together the community and creating something extraordinary.

Katie and I just created the Rebel Finance School and built it and then organise meetups.  The future of the FIRE movement is whatever we want to make it.

One interesting thing happening at the moment in the UK is that the British government has come out and actively said it doesn’t want people to retire early. Governments are trying to incentivise us to stay in work longer and tax us for becoming “wealthy”.

I don’t really know where this is going in the future as governments come and go quickly as do changes to tax codes around the world.

There is one thing that I do know.  The drive to build a cool life, to have the money to do cool things, to experience life to the fullest isn’t going away anytime soon.

The more people try and force us to live conventional lives the more we will Rebel against it.  I don’t want to follow the standard plan and work till I die.  I want to enjoy life and live it to it’s fullest.  As long as that desire exists there will be those of us that lead the rebellion and work to change things.

​Long live the rebellion.

The problems with the FIRE movement

As with any movement, it isn’t perfect. There are scams and fakes and rumours going around the place.  You have to be careful as with any area of life.  Here are a few of the major problems there are with the FIRE movement and some of our thoughts on them:

  1. Fakes – there are plenty of bloggers in the space that claim to be financially independent and aren’t at all. You can usually tell by how hard they hustle to make money or by how they act.  Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.  Katie and I have met quite a few of these characters around the world that say they are financially independent to build a blog as they have seen how much money can be made out of podcasting and blogging.
  2. FIRE isn’t the answer.  There is normally some kind of story going around about someone who gives up on FIRE and goes back to work because it didn’t work.  The truth of the matter is that it wasn’t FIRE or the principles that didn’t work but more the person’s mindset.  If you are only running away from a job and not running towards something (a purpose) in retirement then you are going to get lost.  Please read our article: The biggest mistake people make when they find out about FIRE here
  3. Money isn’t the answer!  This is a genuine issue, money isn’t the answer but it buys you time to take care of the shit that matters.  This is the confusion with FIRE that a lot of people have.  They think FIRE and money is going to fix everything!  Hitting a certain net-worth isn’t going to fix your problems but it will buy you time, opportunity and freedom. Money doesn’t fix everything but it can allow you to get to the rest of your problems in style.
  4. Unrealistic frugality – There is a floor to how low you can get your expenses.  A lot of the bloggers and people out there focus on frugality.  Sometimes to a level that turns most people off.  I know I have felt the judgement of spending money on coffee from the FIRE community.  There is no ceiling to how high you can raise your income.  Don’t be turned off FI with how little people spend, if you want to spend more that is COOL!  Just earn a bit more and understand the cost of your spending!
  5. ​Media judgement – the storm an article whips up about someone retiring in their 30s is unbelievable.  The abuse Katie got in comments in the Sun article and the media looking down on people who have saved, invested and figured out finances is ridiculous.  Don’t believe everything you read in the media.  The most factually correct article about our finances was the one in the sun newspaper, which was also the one where we got most abuse.  The paper that just made shit up about us was the Times Newspaper. 

How to connect with the FIRE Movement

Some people are part of the FIRE movement but never reach out to connect with others.  You can read the articles, blogs and listen to the podcasts and you are part of the movement if you put it into action. That is being part of the movement!

The whole purpose for us is to help you take control of your finances.  If you never go to a meetup or do anything else but your finances and life improve that is being part of the movement!

If you want to connect more with the FIRE movement and the people in it then go to a meetup, join one of the Facebook groups, go to a free course like Rebel Finance School.  Go to one of the amazing paid meetups in America like Camp FI or the EconoMe conference next year.

Rebel Finance School

The FIRE movement is just a group of people working together to help themselves sort out their finances and live a different type of life.

Katie and I run the Rebel Finance School once a year to help people to sort out their finances.  We are bring together a community of people that are all part of the FIRE movement working on their finances.

If you want to join us in working on your finances then sign up to Rebel Finance School using the form below or join the Rebel Finance Facebook group.  We run the course once a year and hold meetups all around the world so if you want to be involved just join the mailing list, join a group and start engaging with people.

Thanks for reading and joining our community

Katie and I really appreciate you reading the blog, joining our community and being part of the gang.  If you like what we do then please hit like on our YouTube video, subscribe to the mailing list ortell us here!


Join the Donegan mailing list

Leave A Comment

Related Articles

  • Blog, Mindset, overcome fear, take action

    By Published On: June 21, 2024

    What are you arguing for? Every year Katie and I run the Rebel Finance School, which is our way of giving back. We give away a 10-week course all about financial freedom and thousands of people attend from all walks of life, 40 different countries and all backgrounds. I spend the first few weeks [...]

  • Blog, change to page, overcome fear, take action

    By Published On: July 27, 2023

    "Cash is king!" People proclaim this all the time!  If you have cash you can do anything, but what is the true cost of cash? This week, we met someone that came on the course in 2022 and has left her money in cash since. I thought cash was king? Should I change my mind? [...]

  • Blog, change to page, financial independence

    By Published On: April 23, 2023

    When you start to learn about finance, it is a bit like learning a new language.  People talk to you about asset allocation, index funds, stocks and shares, equities and more. Even after looking up these terms multiple times it still didn't stick in my head.  It wasn't until I found books and teachers that [...]