The best job that I ever had was at a small, public golf course by my house. It was a pretty crappy golf course – poorly maintained, no facilities beyond a small putting green and an old pro shop, and a stupidly difficult back nine where I lost hundreds of golf balls.
I worked at that golf course every summer during college, as well as in the year between when I graduated college and before I started law school. The job paid minimum wage, but the money wasn’t really important to me back then. I lived at home during those summers, and other than buying food or drinks when I went out with friends, I pretty much had no expenses.
If I could, I would have worked at that golf course forever – for whatever reason, I just found that job super chill and very fun. Unfortunately, 8 bucks an hour or whatever I was getting paid at the time wasn’t enough for me to survive on. Eventually, I had to move on and do something that could actually sustain an independent lifestyle, which is ultimately what led me to law school (and the $87,000 worth of student loans that I took out to do it). Even though I’ve worked plenty of good and prestigious jobs since graduating from law school, I still look back at that golf course job with fond memories.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had jobs like this – these simple jobs that we just enjoy for some reason. Unfortunately, work like this typically doesn’t pay enough for most people to make it a long-term thing. And so, we end up moving on to bigger, better, and in all likelihood, more stressful jobs – the real jobs that we can talk about at professional gatherings or family events.
But a lot of you reading this are probably similar to me, thinking back to a simple job from years ago that you enjoyed. For those of us on the path to financial independence, getting a job like that is something that we can do – and probably sooner than we think.
It’s a concept that can be coined Barista FIRE – not quite FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), but perhaps just a step below it. At Barista FIRE, your lifestyle is almost funded, and all you need to do is make a few extra thousand dollars every year to survive. You can do that pretty much by doing anything, even just working as a barista a few days a week (hence the name, Barista FIRE). For people like me, Barista FIRE might be just as good as regular FIRE.
What Is Barista FIRE?
When people ask me about my FIRE goals, I typically say that I’m “soft” FIRE. That is, I don’t really have an end date in mind like a lot of the more hardcore FIRE folks in the community. I’m just saving as much as I can without sacrificing too much of my lifestyle. I’d be perfectly happy to be in a position where I’ve covered almost all of my living expenses from my savings and only need to earn $5,000 or $10,000 in a year to cover the remainder.
That’s where Barista FIRE comes into play. The idea of Barista FIRE is something that I’ve thought about ever since I started doing all of these gig economy side hustles and saw how much money someone could make in their spare time. It solidified as a concept in my mind during a podcast interview I did over on Fire Drill Podcast.
The idea behind Barista FIRE is simple – save enough so that you only need to make a little bit of income each year from work to fund your lifestyle. If you think about it, if you have enough savings on hand to cover the majority of your life, you only need to earn a little bit more to live.
Making a legitimate, full-time income is hard to do and might require you to do work you don’t really want to do. You’re also probably going to have to work 40 hours per week for most of the year. But imagine the flexibility you gain in your life when you only need to make $5,000 or $10,000 in a year to live. If you’re in a position like that, you can essentially do anything you want.
Achieving Barista FIRE Is Easier Than You Realize
To understand the power behind Barista FIRE, you just have to think about how valuable making $5,000 or $10,000 in a year is for your FIRE plans. Using the standard 4% withdrawal rate rule, $10,000 per year of income is the equivalent of having $250,000 invested in your portfolio ($250,000 times 4% equals $10,000).
What this means is that someone who can or is willing to earn $10,000 per year will need $250,000 less in their portfolio to live. For many people, saving an extra $250,000 could take years of hard, grueling work.
But earning $10,000 from any job in a year – that’s not a hard thing for most people to do. It’s only $833 per month of income – something I already do in my spare hours between work and this blog. Don’t forget, every $1,000 of income you can earn each year from doing ANYTHING is $25,000 less you need to save.
Just take a look:
|Side Hustle Income Per Year
|Value To Your Nest Egg
Over the past two years, I’ve had so much fun figuring out ways to earn a little extra money on the side with all of the different sharing economy/gig economy apps out there (things like renting out a room in my house on Airbnb, dog sitting via Rover, charging electric scooters via companies like Bird and Lime, or delivering food using apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub).
I’m always surprised at just how much these gigs bring in. One year, I made over $14,000 doing these side gigs. In most years, I can make more than that. And this stuff doesn’t take me that much time (if I did, I wouldn’t be able to do it).
Beyond money, I also find these gigs fun too. Getting paid to bike around the city delivering food (especially on a nice summer day) doesn’t really feel like work to me and it’s something I’d do forever if I could. Reaching Barista FIRE is something that would let me do just that.
What Do You Want To Do?
For me, working at a golf course or doing bike deliveries are things I’d enjoy doing to fund my lifestyle. For you, it might be something else. A blogger friend of mine once told me how she’d love to just be a waitress at some point. Like me with my bike deliveries, waitressing is something she just enjoys doing.
You can have lofty dreams – and you definitely should have lofty dreams. But there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to put yourself in a position where you can take that fun job that you do mainly because you enjoy it, even if it seems beneath you.
I have a lot of friends who laugh at how much time I spend doing food delivery on my bike. I can’t deny that from a monetary standpoint, I could earn a lot more doing something else with my time. But I find it fun, I need the exercise, and I like being able to get out there and explore the city on my bike. One day, I hope I’m fortunate enough where I can do bike deliveries all day, every day. Or who knows, maybe one day I’ll get another part-time, low-paying job at a golf course.
So think about that fun job that you had long ago that you might want again one day. Or any fun job that you might want to try out. Sure, it’s not the corner office that most people say you’re supposed to have. I suppose it’s the opposite, in a way – aspiring for less. But I think it’s still a fair dream to have. If you’re like me, Barista FIRE is something that you can aspire to attain.
If you’re interested in other types of FIRE, you can check out some of the other FIRE posts I’ve written below: