The cost of living has been rising steadily for decades, but unfortunately, wages have largely remained stagnant. Combined with a difficult labor market, these factors have led many individuals to seek a way out.
Enter the financial independence retire early (FIRE) movement, which encourages people to increase their savings, decrease their spending, and invest the difference until they reach financial freedom.
But what if you can’t wait years to FIRE? If you have a toxic work environment and need to leave now or simply desire to reshape your life earlier than the typical retirement age, you have a choice.
With Barista FIRE, you don’t need to wait until you’ve reached financial independence to leave your job.
Check out our FIRE guide!
Table of Contents
What Is Barista Fire?
Barista FIRE, or BaristaFI, offers an early escape from your 9-5 without the need to be fully financially independent. It is an alternative route to FIRE that allows you to leave full-time employment and have less stress and more freedom.
With Barista FIRE, individuals save and invest enough money to cover part of their expenses using the 4% rule. Then, a part-time job or passive income covers the remainder of their living expenses. Additionally, many people who pursue Barista FIRE procure part-time employment that still offers health insurance.
The term Barista FIRE came from career expats seeking a part-time job at coffee shops like Starbucks, which offer health insurance to part-time employees. Since health insurance is one of the most significant expenses of those that retire early, many saw this as a path to retiring early without needing 25x their yearly expenses saved.
BaristaFI is appealing to many because you don’t have to save as much money as you do with traditional FIRE, allowing you to leave your full-time job much earlier. In addition, this version of the FIRE movement is an excellent option for people in toxic or unhealthy work situations who want to travel, spend more time at home with family, or simply want more flexibility and control over their lives.
Barista FIRE: A Real-Life Example
Barista F.I.R.E. is far more achievable than traditional FIRE and other variations for most people. You don’t need to reach full financial independence to retire; you just need to reach the point where your investment income can cover many of your expenses, and extra income from a part-time job covers the rest.
How much you’ll need to Barista FIRE will depend on a few things. Namely, your FIRE number, anticipated annual expenses, and part-time income. The lower your annual costs and the higher your investments, the less you’ll need from your Barista FIRE job.
For example, someone wanting to spend around $50,000 a year would need $1,250,000 (25 x $50k) in retirement savings to reach regular FIRE. However, if they took a part-time job that brings in $20,000 a year, the amount they’ll need to cover through an investment portfolio is only $30,000 a year.
Now, their portfolio value would only need to be $750,000 to Barista FIRE. Moreover, if their part-time job also offers healthcare benefits, they can likely cut their remaining expenses even further and potentially implement their FIRE plans with much less money invested.
Using the Barista FIRE approach, the same person could retire early from their current job and begin enjoying their life simply by choosing to work a few hours a week in a low-stress environment.
Barista Fire vs. Fat Fire vs. Lean Fire
Those who have Barista FIREd can leave the rat race and retire early with less money saved, but this isn’t the only path to early retirement. Depending on your situation, other variations on Traditional FIRE might better fit your situation.
Those pursuing Fat FIRE are the high rollers of the movement. They seek a luxurious lifestyle in retirement and look to cover expenses of $100,000 or more a year. Using the 4% rule, these annual costs translate to $2,500,000 in investments. These individuals typically have a high annual income and net worth.
Lean FIRE is the opposite of Fat FIRE and is for the frugalists of the movement. These individuals are comfortable living with less whose yearly expenses total no more than $40,000. Thus, you would only need to save $1,000,000 at the most.
How Does Barista FIRE Compare?
The main difference between Barista FIRE and the other two is that you’re still bringing in active income. In other words, you’re still working by necessity rather than by choice and have not reached full financial independence.
Aside from that, Barista FIRE is a happy medium between the two extremes of the FIRE movement. An individual could fall anywhere between the two annual cost ranges just as long as their supplemental income can cover what their investment income can’t.
Barista FIRE is also a nice option for someone seeking early retirement that wants to spend more. Thus, someone who may be able to Lean FIRE could choose to work part-time and cover more yearly expenses with the extra cash and employer-sponsored health insurance.
Pros of Barista FIRE
- The ability to switch jobs or work fewer hours per week
- You don’t need to save as much
- You can reach early retirement sooner
- You gain more freedom and flexibility
Cons of Barista FIRE
- You still must work to make enough money to cover all expenses
- You technically still haven’t reached financial independence
- You may need to work in some capacity longer
- You may have to pay for private insurance
How to Calculate Your Barista FIRE Number
To calculate your Barista FIRE number, you’ll first want to know your Traditional FIRE number and a few other variables.
To calculate your FIRE number, you take your annual expenses and multiply that number by 25. This calculation gives you the amount of money you’ll need to have invested in utilizing a safe withdrawal rate of 4% for at least 30 years of retirement. You’ll want to know this number for comparison purposes.
Once you know your estimated or desired annual costs, you’ll need to estimate how much money you’ll bring in from your part-time employment. Next, subtract your supplemental income from your yearly expenses.
Finally, multiply that number by 25 to get your Barista FIRE number.
Barista FIRE Number Formula
- Yearly Expenses – Part-Time Salary = Supplemental Income Needed
- Supplemental Income Needed x 25 = Barista FIRE Number
For example, if your current or desired yearly expenses are $60,000, you need an investment portfolio of $1,500,000 to achieve financial independence. However, if you want early retirement without waiting for total financial independence, you can Barista FIRE with much less.
If you bring in part-time income (with or without health insurance) of $20,000 with annual expenses of $60,000, your Barista FIRE number would be:
- $60,000 – $20,000 = $40,000 in extra income needed
- $40,000 x 25 = $1,000,000
There’s a $500,000 difference between full FIRE and Barista FIRE, which could shave years off your career with this scenario. If you bring in more money, you could retire with even less saved.
Let’s say your part-time job brings in $30,000. Now your Barista FIRE number is:
- $60,000 – $30,000 = $30,000 in extra income needed
- $30,000 x 25 = $750,000
By making $10,000 more money in your part-time work, you can shave off an additional $250,000 that you’d need to save.
Considerations When Pursuing Barista FIRE
As with anything in life, it’s wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Because you still must work in some capacity, those who Barista FIRE do not reach financial independence before leaving their day job. As a result, there are several other risk factors to consider when retirement planning.
These risk factors include:
- Potential for changes in plans
- Life expectancy
- Lack of a financial cushion
- Unexpected expenses
- Lifestyle inflation and increased spending
While reaching Barista FIRE and leaving a stressful day job as soon as possible is likely on the minds of many pursuing this lifestyle, you must ensure you’ll have enough to cover yourself throughout retirement safely. You don’t want to run out of money when you’re older and have fewer employment options.
We suggest overestimating your yearly expenses and making conservative calculations so you’ll have a financial cushion. You could also consider changing jobs or careers to improve your health and reduce stress or finding a side hustle to help you achieve financial independence so you can fully FIRE.
Common Part-Time Barista FIRE Jobs
While Barista FIRE owes its name to early retirees working as baristas, there are many other options if working at a coffee shop isn’t your thing.
Some of the most common Barista FIRE jobs include:
- Freelance work – writing, editing, graphic design, coding, etc.
- Virtual assistant
- Gig economy jobs –
DoorDash, Uber/Lyft, etc.
- Online business – Etsy, Amazon seller, etc.
These jobs offer flexibility, and many of them allow you to work from anywhere. But, most of these jobs won’t work if you’re looking to secure health insurance through your part-time work.
Here are some great options for part-time employees that need health coverage:
- Whole Foods
Barista FIRE FAQ
How Much Money Do I Need for Barista FIRE?
The amount of money you’ll need to save will depend on how much you anticipate spending a year and how much money you’ll make with part-time employment. The higher your expenses and the lower your part-time income, the more you’ll need to have invested.
When Can I Barista FIRE?
You can Barista FIRE as soon as you’ve reached your Barista FIRE number, or once you have enough in investments to cover part of your expenses and a job that can cover the rest of your yearly costs.
How Can Inflation Affect Barista Fire?
Inflation typically averages a 2-3% increase in living costs every year. As expenses increase, your dollar won’t go as far as it once did. If you don’t have a financial buffer, inflation could affect your ability to cover all your expenses without working more.
Barista Fire vs. Coast Fire: Which Is Better?
Coast FIRE is when you have enough investments that you no longer need to make contributions to have enough to support retirement by the time you reach traditional retirement age.
While Coast FIRE allows you to stop contributing to investments and use that money to enjoy your life more fully, you must also continue working and will not be able to fully retire until you’re much older. As a result, you’ll also likely need to sacrifice to save up a significant portfolio.
On the other hand, those pursuing Barista FIRE can semi-retire early and don’t need to save nearly as much.
Both versions of FIRE allow you to live more fully at an earlier age, but which is best for you will depend on your current savings, income, job satisfaction, and whether you’d prefer to work full or part-time.
Final Thoughts on Barista FIRE
Barista FIRE is a variation of the financial independence retire early movement that allows you to leave a full-time job before you’re fully financially independent. It is a fantastic option for those looking for more flexibility or to escape a toxic work environment.
If you want to retire early but don’t quite have the means for a work-optional life, consider Barista FIRE as a good alternative.
Samantha Hawrylack is a personal finance expert and full-time entrepreneur with a passion for writing and SEO. She holds a Bachelor’s in Finance and Master’s in Business Administration and previously worked for Vanguard, where she held Series 7 and 63 licenses. Her work has been featured in publications like Grow, MSN, CNBC, Ladders, Rocket Mortgage, Quicken Loans, Clever Girl Finance, Credit Donkey, Crediful, Investing Answers, Well Kept Wallet, AllCards, Mama and Money, and Concreit, among others. She writes in personal finance, real estate, credit, entrepreneurship, credit card, student loan, mortgage, personal loan, insurance, debt management, business, productivity, and career niches.