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This version of FIRE (financial independence retire early) was named after the move Starbucks made when they began offering health insurance to their part time employees. More on that below. Barista FIRE is an extremely interesting concept! Let’s dive in!

Barista fire calculator

The many different concepts under the umbrella of the Financial Independence movement all have interesting components, but this is one I can really get behind.

So many people feel stress and burnout from their full time jobs. Some of the really intense FIRE folks are dealing with that while also cutting expenses to the bone (couldn’t be me, I’m all about that quality of life balance lol).

Life is stressful enough as it is, piling on more stress in hopes to get away from the 9-5 earlier has numerous pros and cons.

On the other hand, there are also high paying (high stress) jobs are just too much to handle for multiple decades so that you can enjoy 10-15 years of life before your time comes.

Whether your approach to financial independence is through decreasing expenses or increasing income, Barista FIRE offers an interesting alternative for those who have essentially reached financial independence but need to keep a part time gig to cover a few expenses.

A very important distinction, though, is that in most cases the part time work needs to have health insurance (among other benefits).

In 1988, Starbucks made a radical move and began offering benefits to part time employees. There are minimum hours worked requirements (240 hours in a three month period) (20 hours / week), but this has opened the door for many people plagued with the, “one more year” syndrome who just can’t seem to pull the trigger on an early retirement.

Many part time gigs do not come with benefits, but I found a list of 7 (including Starbucks) companies here that offer part time benefits!

If early retirement is something you intend to do, I would almost consider Barista FIRE a requirement.

If you didn’t win the lottery or come into a large inheritance, taking a year or two (at least) of part time work to ensure that your early retirement math is working seems like a very smart move. This doesn’t even have to be a part time gig with a company that provides part time benefits. If you have enough invested to cover all of your expenses, this can be a passion project that you actually enjoy.

Plus, that extra income can ease your mind until you are 1,000% certain that all of your other boxes are checked. Something to consider!

financial independence retire early

How do you know if you are ready to consider Barista FIRE?

Mathematically speaking, if you can generate enough passive income to cover all of your expenses, but nothing more just yet, you are likely a good candidate to consider this route. The part time money might not make a large difference, but the portion of your benefits (health insurance in particular) that are covered by your employer is much larger than you might think.

Continuing to have an employer cover health insurance, even just for a few years, can save you a considerable sum.

If you believe you are in good shape to retire early but are scared to take the leap, Barista FIRE is a great way to dip your toes in the water and buy back at least a portion of your time. Dropping down to 20 hour work weeks (the amount needed to get benefits from the aforementioned Starbucks part time benefits program) should definitely slow the burnout and stress that came with your previous full time employment.

The whole underlying theme of the FIRE movement, at least in my opinion, is that there is more to life than working. This step buys back some of your time (a great test on how you handle this new free time) and allows you to check your math to see if you truly are in a place to afford an early retirement.

Financial independence retire early

How is this different from Coast FIRE?

An excellent question. These more or less go hand in hand, though there are important distinctions. If you are considering an early retirement, it is absolutely paramount that you have done a significant amount of math on all of this. Planning is never a bad thing.

To me, Coast FIRE is a milestone while Barista FIRE is more of a stepping stone.

Not familiar with Coast FIRE? I wrote an article about it here!

If you are at a point where your passive income (dividends, rental income, etc.) can pay all of your current living expenses, provided you do not anticipate any large changes to your living expenses, you should be in good shape for the rest of your life, right?

Getting old is not cheap. Without diving into the slew of costs that can and will come up, ensuring that you have enough set aside in your retirement accounts to grow to a significant level on their own is always smart. That is the core of what Coast FIRE is, and reaching it before diving in to an early retirement sounds like a good move to me.

This becomes even more important if your early retirement plan is not fully funded by passive income. If you intend to draw down on your invested principle gradually until reaching the age of 59.5 and switching to using retirement account funds, you would need to be extremely confident in your Coast FIRE math.
This would stress me out considerably, like I said earlier, Coast FIRE is a milestone, not an ending point (at least in my opinion).

In Summary

If you are in a spot where the golden handcuffs seem to be keeping you from an early retirement, Barista FIRE might be the best way for you to get your feet wet and eventually slip the bonds of the 9-5! The part time income won’t hurt, but getting those health insurance costs covered will be a huge difference maker in testing the waters of early retirement.

I truly appreciate you for taking the time to read this! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or suggestions!

My contact information can be found here.

– RCG

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