June 13, 2018

[Ep. 163] How to Achieve FIRE in Your 20s with Gwen Merz

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I’m Jessica and I’m a money expert, speaker, Accredited Financial Counsellor Canada®, host of the More Money Podcast, and am currently writing my first book with HarperCollins Canada (2025).
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For this episode of the podcast, I chat with a new friend I made recently at an event called Statement. It was a woman-in-business retreat for women in the financial blogging space, and I can’t even tell you how life-changing it’s been. But that’s not what I want to share anyway. I want to share that at this event, I got to meet the amazing Gwen Merz who was able to achieve something not many 20-year-olds can! I’m talking about achieving financial independence.

We chat in-depth about what that actually means, and no, it doesn’t mean she’s retired. For her, it means she saved up enough money to afford to leave her corporate job, move cities and then focus on her blog (Fiery Millennials) and podcast (FIRE Drill Podcast) full-time. It also means she saved up enough money that by retirement age, it will have grown to an amount she could easily retire on.

So I know I’ve had a lot of guests on the show in the FIRE community that has been able to achieve financial independence and retire early, but Gwen’s story might actually be a bit related. She didn’t save up a million dollars and is now living an easy life. She was able to save up $200,000, bought an income property for about $80,000, but still intends to work to earn a living.

She’s set things up so in the future she will earn passive income from your property and her $200,000 will have compounded into a way bigger amount she can live off of in retirement. But, she still needs to earn money for her present needs. This is why now she’s exploring some different entrepreneurial avenues such as making stained glass art and selling it, selling courses on how to start an Etsy store and monetizing her popular blog and podcast.

You see, FIRE isn’t a straight road. You can actually apply the principles in any way you want. There’s no right or wrong way to FIRE!

Here are a couple of other things we talked about when talking about FIRE.

Lean FIRE vs. Fat FIRE

These are terms I recently learned about when I was actually at a FIRE meetup in New York City last month. Lean FIRE is when you’ve saved up enough to live on for the foreseeable future, but you’d be living a fairly frugal life. You’re living in a low-cost of living area, your expenses are minimal, and you don’t need that much to live off of. It sounds fine if you’re more of a minimalist, but obviously, it’s a bit restricting

Fat FIRE is when you’ve saved up enough to live the life you really want with little to no restrictions. For instance, I met a woman at the meetup who was on her way to achieving Fat FIRE and she told me her goal was to save up $7 million. Albeit, she wanted to continue living in New York and travel a lot, it’s a big difference when compared to Lean FIRE.

Why the FIRE Community is Exploding

My only comparison to the FIRE community is the debt-payoff community. Two communities are massive and members are diehards. With FIRE, to me at least, it’s a bit more exciting. The end goal is to have enough money to live whatever life you want. And that’s exactly why Gwen also thinks the FIRE community is exploding right now. It gives people purpose with their money. Instead of just being responsible with your money so you can eventually afford to buy that car, that house, or some trips in the future, it’s way more exciting to save up for early retirement or the freedom to quit your job to start your own business!

That’s sort of why I consider myself a bit financially independent. I don’t have enough to retire or anything like that, but I did have the financial security to be able to leave my job to focus all my energy on my own business.

FIRE Resources You May Want to Check Out

Learn More About Gwen

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