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Blogs praising the virtues of early retirement are increasingly popular these days, inspiring readers to save more and retire earlier. Some people are achieving some form of retirement in their fifties, forties or even thirties—way before the traditional age of 65. But how can you retire early and comfortably? With April being National Financial Literacy Month, here are some strategies to help set you on the path to financial freedom.

What is FIRE?

The name of the increasingly popular FIRE community is short for Financial Independence, Retire Early. “Retirement” here is a loose term, which is why many prefer “financial independence”—or having enough savings to pay your living expenses for the rest of your life without having to work full time.

How does it work?

The math behind financial independence is what the FIRE community often calls “shockingly simple”:

  • You need to invest money, so that it earns more money.
  • FIRE bloggers tend to invest mainly in low-cost index funds and real estate.
  • As soon as your savings (a.k.a. nest egg) reach the point where you have enough money to live on each year, you can retire.
  • In order to hit your nest egg’s magic number, you have to spend less than you earn and save the difference.
  • The less money you need to spend, the less money you need to save in order to fund the succeeding years.

So when, exactly, can you retire?

To know this, you need to know your savings rate, which is the ratio of your expenses to your income. Once you know your savings rate, here are some projections:

  • If you spend 100% of your income, you will never be able to retire.
  • If your savings rate is 10%, you will be able to safely retire after 51.4 years. Keep in mind that saving 10% of your income is what many experts say is a “good rate.”

These projections assume a very conservative annual return rate of 5% and a 4% safe withdrawal rate, meaning that you spend 4% of your net worth each year.

Did You Know?

24% of workers report having less than $1,000 saved for retirement, according to a 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey of the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

So how can you achieve financial independence in a world of consumer pressures, normalized debt and keeping up with the Joneses?

Track your expenses

Pore over your bank and credit card statements and see where you can make cuts. Here are some suggestions that can hit big:

  • Credit cards: Pay these down as soon as possible. Then experiment with rewards hacking to help fund essentials or travel.
  • Housing: Find a cheaper place to live, get a roommate, or experiment with home sharing.
  • Transportation: Drive a used car or ride a bicycle.
  • Entertainment: Cut the cable and hit up your public library for books and DVDs.

Make smart investments

Max out tax-deferred vehicles like your 401(k), IRA and HSA. Most FIRE graduates also recommend low-cost index funds.

Commit and engage

Staying on track with FIRE can be hard and sometimes may even feel ostracizing—especially when your friends or family aren’t in on the game. Persuading them to join you in frugality might be difficult, so keep in touch with the community digitally: Subscribe to podcasts, sign up for newsletters, contribute to forums. Or even go to in-person meetups. You’ll find living a little more simply doesn’t have to feel sacrificial; it’s just another lifestyle.