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Amon and Christina Browning had no idea FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) was a movement. They just wanted to do whatever it took to quit their jobs.
“It was really hard to find information on FIRE when we started,” says Amon. “When we started our journey in 2011, we weren’t thinking of it as ‘financial independence, retire early.’ What has become the FIRE movement, I think, is a title put on something people have been doing forever—basically, amassing enough assets to support their expenses so that they don’t need to work anymore.”
Amon and Christina Browning
The Brownings officially achieved FIRE in 2019, at 39 (Amon) and 41 (Christina), with $2.5 million in investment assets. Without FIRE information readily available, the Brownings house hacked, did retail arbitrage, drove for Uber, sold items on Etsy and Facebook Marketplace, made money listing on Airbnbs, and flipped houses. It took eight years, but they hit their FIRE number.
Once retired, The Brownings moved their family of four from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portugal, where they now live well on a $2,000 a month budget. They’ve built an online education company, an Instagram page of over 100,000 followers, and a YouTube channel with 606,000 subscribers to share what they’ve learned with others.
Here’s the advice the Brownings have for anyone curious about achieving FIRE – and what to do if you feel off track to course-correct and turn your financial goals into reality.
To Launch Your Freedom Plan, Calculate Your FIRE Number
Your FIRE journey begins the day you crunch the numbers and face your goals head-on.
The first thing the Brownings did was calculate their FIRE number: the amount of money you need to have in active investments to live off of the returns after you quit working. A simple formula touted by many FIRE enthusiasts is to take your annual expenses and multiply them by 25:
Annual Expenses x 25 = FIRE Number
This formula became popular after the release of the Trinity Study, a research paper that popularized the idea of the 4% rule. Build enough wealth to where annual gains offset a 4% annual withdrawal and you’ll have what you need to retire at any age.
The Brownings started their FIRE journey as federal government employees with modest salaries. Christina was an attorney …….