You may have read about those people pursuing decades-early retirement and financial independence. They’re depicted, generally, as men in their 30s who work in tech.
Yet the financial independence movement, often called FIRE (financial independence, retire early), is far more diverse.
To begin with, it’s not all men.
There’s growing interest in the possibility of freedom from regular work. A financial independence subgroup on Reddit has 449,000 subscribers, a measure of how many people are interested in this slice of personal finance.
Liz Gendreau, 38, an IT program manager, hates the stereotypical male image. “I’ve seen many people in this movement that don’t fit the stereotype,” she said, “people from all different family situations, walks of life and income levels.”
But that’s not commonly reported. “Most of the articles either feature men, or they’ll feature a woman who is part of a couple,” Gendreau said, who blogs about her investing strategies and philosophy at Chief Mom Officer.
Starting around 2012, Gendreau says, many of the early proponents hit the scene and were in fact that clichéd persona. “They got a lot of media coverage,” Gendreau said.
In part, they were tech-oriented men with websites. “It’s hard to find people who don’t write about themselves on the internet,” Gendreau said.
But media did not accurately reflect the diversity of people who choose to live below their means and pursue independence. Instead, articles continued feeding the stereotype by covering those early adopters.
Women who are actively pursuing financial independence are nonplussed by the coverage, Gendreau says. “They wish other perspectives were portrayed,” Gendreau said. “Even some men came up to me [at a conference] and said, ‘I don’t fit that stereotype. It doesn’t apply to me.’ They are tired of seeing the same kind of stories.”