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Retiring by 55? The case of the FIRE movement

Satisfied elderly man holding a coffee mug

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, with its changes to the workplace, from virtual to hybrid to in-person, the ways we think about work-life balance and the workplace have changed. 

Headshot of Mohamed ChelliEnter Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE), a movement of workers striving to quit their traditional job as early as possible through financial choices.  

Using the FIRE movement as a case study, Professor Mohamed Chelli and co-applicant Professor Darlene Himick have received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study how ethical logic influences one’s financial decision-making. The project is titled The Ethical Implications of Financial Literacy.  

Extreme Savings and Investments

The FIRE movement originated in the ’90s, many of its ideas coming from the book Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. Followers are devoted to extreme savings and investments when they are young so that they can retire early (ideally by 55, or even earlier) from their day jobs, thus experiencing freedom from the traditional workplace.

After early retirement, FIRE movement followers live off their investments and savings, withdrawing a small percentage each year. However, not all do so to completely retire at a young age; some just want to enjoy more flexibility in when and how often they work. 

Research Impact

The influence of one’s own ethics and financial literacy is an underrepresented topic within the research community. By studying the FIRE movement, Chelli and Himick hope to discover the ethical logic that leads individuals to decide to retire early through savings and investments and help researchers better understand the reasoning behind financial decision-making by the public. Seeing mass changes in financial decision-making by the public is one thing. Understanding the reasoning behind these changes and the practical implication for the future is another. 

Chelli and Himick plan to use data gathering techniques from virtual forums, as well as interviews with FIRE followers. 

Their research could help employers better understand their employees’ financial decisions, so they can improve the workplace to better meet employee needs. It may also help policymakers predict coming waves in financial decision-making and adapt their own financial literacy strategies. 

About the Author

Phoenix a rejoint l'équipe de Direction de la recherche de Telfer en 2021 grâce au régime travail-études. Elle est diplômée du baccalauréat spécialisé en enseignement des langues secondes et est présentement inscrite au programme de formation à l’enseignement (B.Éd.). Ses responsabilités comprennent la gestion et l'analyse de données, la rédaction d'articles, en plus d'autres tâches administratives.<br/><br/>Phoenix joined the Telfer Research Office in 2021 through the work-study program. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Second Language Teaching and is working toward a Bachelor of Education. Her responsibilities include data management and analytics, story writing, and other administrative tasks.

Profile Photo of Phoenix Hudson