Retiring before 40: how Quebecers do it
The F.I.R.E. movement

At a time when everything seems to be getting more expensive and salaries don’t always follow this tendency, it’s easy to get the feeling that we need a lifetime to save enough money to retire. Many people believe that if they get lucky, they will be able to start working part time around the age of 65. Yet a new trend is emerging with today’s youth: they’re saving aggressively to retire as soon as possible. The F.I.R.E. movement, which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early” is taking off not only in the United States and English Canada, but also in Quebec. Here is an overview of this concept of retiring before 40.

What is financial independence?

While we often associate the word “retirement” with old age, the expression “financial independence” is a sexier way to refer to the moment when we’re finally free to do what we want with our time. Why wait to be going grey (provided you still have hair left) to enjoy life? But to reach financial independence by the age of 40, you need a great deal of money discipline and, above all, to change your traditional view of retirement, since time is considered more precious than money.

How to do it

Followers of the F.I.R.E. movement rely on savings and expense reduction to be able to spend the rest of their lives without having to work. This is obvious in theory, but not always so simple in practice. When we talk about focusing on saving, ideally we should start maximizing revenue by finding the best-paying job possible to invest most of the money now and generate investment income later. And when we talk about spending less (in French only), we are referring to strict minimalism (AKA voluntary simplicity) with the goal of investing rather than spending money. Interestingly, even though they significantly reduce their expenses, most young retirees still travel since it’s one of their financial independence objectives.

Why do it

We could ask ourselves what could motivate a person to deprive themselves in an extreme way today while working a potentially boring job with the only goal of reaching their financial freedom faster. According to Travis Shakespeare, producer of a documentary entitled Playing with F.I.R.E, young people worry about the future and have the impression that the social safety net meant to help them is crumbling. More and more millennials feel that they must take control of their financial future; however, a lot of people are lacking financial literacy. The F.I.R.E. movement is therefore meant as a way to regain control of finances, time, and life in general.

What else?

Let’s take the example of Jeremy and Winnie from While working towards their goal over the last ten years, this couple worked and had a combined yearly income of $135,000. They saved 70% of their salary. Since their retirement, they moved to Taiwan where the cost of living is lower (although some Canadians can still make it while living in expensive cities like Vancouver). They had kids during the process, and their family travels around the world, namely by maximizing their rewards miles. They spend about $4,000 per month, or $48,000 per year.

For a more practical calculation, think about accumulating 25 times your annual expenses. A couple with an annual budget of $35,000 should accumulate $875,000 before retiring. In Quebec, when it comes to investing, Montrealer Jean-Sébastien Pilotte, who retired in his thirties and founded the blog, focuses 100% of his investment portfolio in Exchange Traded Funds (in French only), which allows him to buy a range of securities in one move. The author of the blog, another Quebecer, explains how to save and how to use tools like life insurance. Furthermore, several retired bloggers share their tips on how they reached their goals.

Whether or not you want to begin your retirement journey early, keep in mind that retirement tools can serve many purposes. Because regardless of whether or not you’re looking into retiring in your 40s, we must all one day reach financial independence.

Julien Brault is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.
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