Save. Spend. Splurge.

Looking at different levels of FIRE retirement: Lean, Regular, Fat/Luxury and Barista

FYI … FIRE = Financial Independence / Retire Early

It’s a movement that has taken root in the past 10 years, kicked off by this book: Your money or your life which I absolutely recommend as a starter money book.

To be honest with you, I have never really followed this FIRE movement. It all smells a bit cult-ish to me, and I never considered myself part of it, because it advocates living on as little as possible and saving as much as you can in your early years just to reach a goal and to ‘retire early’ and stop working.

It looks like this:

  • Lean: $0 – $40k yearly income  (Less than $1M invested)
  • Regular: $40k – $100k yearly income ($1M – $2.5M invested)
  • Fat/Luxury:  $100k+ yearly income ($2.5M+ invested)

This is what I knew:

  • I did not want to retire early and cheaply
  • I wanted to still spend my money shopping, on vacations, buying nice things, driving a nice car
  • I wanted a balance in my life, and not be so focused on MONEY
  • I wanted more time but in a balanced manner, not like: ZERO TIME NOW and then SO MUCH TIME NOW!
  • I did not want to stop working – I still enjoy my day job and make good money
  • I just knew I had to save money and live on less than what I made
  • I knew I did not want to rely on my day job

I did not fit into any of the standard categories of “FIRE” so I didn’t feel like I was a part of it. I still don’t.

It wasn’t until the last level “Barista” was added that I think it made more sense to me so now the levels are this:

  • Lean: $0 – $40k yearly income  (Less than $1M invested)
  • Regular: $40k – $100k yearly income ($1M – $2.5M invested)
  • Fat/Luxury:  $100k+ yearly income ($2.5M+ invested)
  • Barista: A mix of any of the above + side incomes or a part-time job (????)
  • Coast: You now have enough money for retirement if you stopped saving

These are all pre-tax numbers by the way.

LEAN FIRE – $0 – $40K

$0 to $40K in yearly income from your investments.

Whoa what? Zero in income?

If you’re wondering how you can retire with $0 in income, you can certainly do this if you lived a lifestyle where either someone else paid for you completely, or if you lived a lifestyle where you just bartered for everything. You live in a grass hut maybe, you grow, hunt or fish for your own food, and live super, SUPER simply, bartering your services for basic necessities. It isn’t common but it isn’t unheard of.

For this level, you need less than $1M invested, more or less.

It also depends on your expenses – if you spend more than $40K a year, obviously you can’t retire at this level, you will need to save a lot more.

Here are some Lean FIRE levels:

Yearly Monthly
$10,000 $833.33
$20,000 $1,666.67
$30,000 $2,500.00
$40,000 $3,333.33

I am partly in this category because I only have about $600K invested at the moment, but I don’t need much to live. My bare bones expenses every month are $1200 or so (up to $1500), so I am in the $20K or less range for income required.

Also, please note that I do not pay for my partner – he also is at Lean FIRE and has to bring his half. I only pay for half of the household which includes Little Bun’s half. I am only covering MY expenses.

Together, we would need around $36K – $40K of income to cover our basic expenses, as a family.

REGULAR FIRE – $40K to $100K

So the REGULAR fire levels which most people are at, are this:

Yearly Monthly
$40,000.00 $3,333.33
$50,000.00 $4,166.67
$60,000.00 $5,000.00
$70,000.00 $5,833.33
$80,000.00 $6,666.67
$90,000.00 $7,500.00
$100,000.00 $8,333.33

You need about $1M – $2.5M invested to obtain these levels, and it is actually a lot of money. A serious amount.

I would consider this to be my Luxury Level of FIRE, but everyone is different. Again, I am only covering my half of spending, so for me to spend $8333.33 a month, means that I am literally spending over $6000 just in pleasure alone (vacations, shopping, eating out)…

I CAN DO IT, mind you (hahahaha).. I just think it’s quite a lot for me personally.

I would say that $50K is my average basic level of retirement income I’d enjoy, because with a budget of $3000/month for me, I’d be happy as that means almost $4166 in fun spending instead every month (remember there are taxes too so $4166 is more $3000 net more or less).

FAT/LUXURY FIRE – $100K or more

And finally, the very last “luxury” level:

Yearly Monthly
$100,000.00 $8,333.33
$110,000.00 $9,166.67
$120,000.00 $10,000.00
$130,000.00 $10,833.33
$140,000.00 $11,666.67
$150,000.00 $12,500.00

I personally don’t have enough expenses to warrant needing to reach this level, but the way that I am saving my money and investing, I will likely reach this if I continue on the path that I am on.

An 80% savings rate, and high income, means I can easily reach $2.5M invested if I keep at it. I am only at $600K+ mind you, but give me another 10 – 20 years and I could be here.

But do I want to be?

That’s really another story altogether.

It means living on very little, saving as much as I can, JUST to reach these levels. As I don’t need all that money, it seems like overkill to be honest.

BARISTA – Any level + side job

This speaks to me a lot more than any of these other levels.

I am here.

I am definitely a BARISTA FIRE person, as it gives me a nice work-life balance in the sense that as a contractor I no longer rely on my day job (my work is optional for me, so I can refuse crappy projects that suck because I don’t need the money), and my side incomes help buffer it all out.

On top of my side income if I wanted, I could pick up a barista job (hence the level name), and work for just enough money to cover my living. That’s if all my side incomes failed of course.

As it stands, I made almost $35K in 2019 from my 11 side incomes, and in 2020 I made about $80K in side incomes alones.

This year, I am aiming for $50K from my side incomes, and my dividend income covers my bare bones expenses already.

I am still reinvesting that money back into the market on a DRIP (Dividend reinvestment plan), so I am really living off my blog/side incomes instead, which bring in about $2000+ a month, or more than enough to cover spending + adding to the investment portfolio as well.

All in all, I would never consider not working at all at any level of retirement. I’d need a part-time job of some sort if I had no side incomes, and I need to stay busy. I can’t imagine turning into a Helicopter Parent to soak up all that free time as well.


“Barista” is half a joke for this kind of FIRE level.  It simply denotes that someone in that level COULD pick up a minimum wage job to supplement and just be fine, even if they don’t actually become a barista.

It’s just a placeholder name for a job that they either need to supplement their income, or don’t need at all but do it to stay busy.

COAST – You don’t need to save any more $

You could ‘coast’ into retirement. You have enough money saved to compound on itself until the age 65 whereby you have the money to live.

You don’t need to save another dollar into investing, and you will have enough at 65. At this point, you could just cover your basic expenses and not worry about anything.

A lot of people who reach “COAST” FIRE, have a mental load taken off them in the sense that they just need to focus on paying their bills now, which is really nice.

How do I figure out my FIRE level?

If you want to read more about how to reach these levels and calculate it based on your numbers, check out my piece on Personal Finance Score which can help you calculate your FI/RE level:

What level are you at / aiming for?


  • Kerri

    I really enjoyed this post. I’ve definitely noticed the cultish atmosphere of the FIRE movement, I life a healthy balance myself. I’m starting out but I’m looking forward to some kind of Barista FIRE when I get to where I’m going.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Barista is what I think most early retirees end up doing. You may hate your Job but once you quit and you do something else, you may find that living on no fun money is horrible (at least I would). And you would definitely pick up a part time job, something less stressful, more fun, with a tiny income .. maybe like working in a library. For me, I’m very Type A, so I will never stop working. I cannot be idle.

  • Financially Fit Dude

    In the past year, we were discussing with my partner these types of retirement levels quite a lot. I didn’t like them, because I can’t live on rice and beans, as you mentioned. I mean, if I have to I would, but I wouldn’t like it haha. Then, when I decided to persuade my journey financial independence I said to myself that I’m will be careful with going extreme in anything.

    I already had control of my spending, I was building an emergency fund, I did my first investments and was saving money. As I am debt-free, most of these things aren’t that hard, except that I’m going a bit slow. The good thing here is I have lots of patience and delayed gratification is my passion.

    Looking at your post, now I understand in which category I fall. Knowing myself, I’ll get bored if I just stop working at all, so some side jobs or project-based ones would fit very nicely. Career-wise I’m in the right place now – lots of opportunities to grow and learn. My emergency fund is done. Investing is on the go and I can happily say that the “Barista” is where I am!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think most of us are in the Barista category to be honest. It’s the only one that resonates with me because I’d get bored. If we retire young, WTF would we do? A side income or a job that we enjoy. A lot of people pick up things like being a part-time yoga teacher, or working in a library part-time just to get out and do something, but not necessarily for the money. It’s a way to keep busy that is rather stress-free because you don’t NEED that money.

      • Financially Fit Dude

        Precisely! Reading about it, it sounds a less restrictive way to grow wealth, while also allowing me to have some freedom and living a good life.

        Thank you for sharing this!

        • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          I don’t love restrictive rules on anything, from being a minimalist (you have to live with one teacup and a mat!)… to how you want to retire.

          The real freedom is work freedom – that you have the choice to work or not, and that’s the real goal of FIRE, whether or not people work, don’t work, how much they spend, save, whatever.

  • steveark

    We are in the fat/luxury category. But I still work part time for fun, it makes six figures of income that’s basically useless to us, but it still feels good to earn it. The thing about barrista FIRE is that most barristas make lower wages, and someone dripping with talent, like you, Sherry, is never going to make lower wages. Me neither, so it feels a little disingenuous using barrista FIRE when you are a high earner. Or is that just me?

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I should have mentioned that “barista” is half a joke for this kind of FIRE level 🙂 It simply denotes that someone in that level COULD pick up a minimum wage job to supplement and just be fine, even if they don’t actually become a barista but have a lot saved like you, or have lots of side incomes that make far more, like me.

      I definitely wouldn’t need to be a barista, but I have been thinking it may be kind of fun to work in a coffee shop (not one like Starbucks), and just chitchat with customers all day, feed them pastries… that sort of thing.

  • Tim

    Mmm, I would have started LEAN at less than 30K/year myself. There area lot of regular people that retire (not early) on incomes of $40k/year. But I imagine a lot of LEAN FIRE folks are finding out they are a LOT closer to the edge than they thought with this market drop and they didn’t have enough cash savings. I only bring this up since we spend around $36k/year and I really don’t consider myself lean (and we also go over that amount on our big trip years).

    Anyway, I agree with the mix and match thing. I hate the idea you can’t be retired with any sort of job. Why is work a 0 or 1 issue when there are lots of decimal points between them? I have worked part time shelving library books for the last year and I love it. Not a lot of pay but when you make $12k/year and only spend $36k that gives you a LOT of money for extras. So is that semi-retired? I personally don’t care which term people use. Find a mix of doing things you enjoy and income streams and it really won’t matter what you call it…you can be happy which I think is the real point of retirement: more time to do what you enjoy. Honestly you don’t need to spend a lot of money depending on what you like to do…I’m easy since I like to brew my own beer and wine, read books, and play games with friends. But if you love shopping and travel then obviously plan for more.

    Anyway, good luck on where ever life takes you. You are on the right path.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Barista FIRE is what I call it.

      I think it was on your blog that I read “are you swimming naked?”… in regards to people who retired and now are scrambling to make it with the market drop.

      It’s ironic because it was this market drop that made me realize that (1) I was already a millionaire and (2) I can still and truly retire on what I have today, without needing to work at my day job (even if I love it).

      What has buoyed me, has been my side incomes, which I learned very quickly from 2009-2010 were crucial to easing my anxiety about money.

  • Financial Orchid

    Blog side hustling sounds more ideal. All the baristas look younger than me.

    I have yet to see an elderly barista who is not the owner.

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