What's LeanFIRE? How YOU Can Reach Financial Independence

Financial independence has taken on many forms thanks to online message boards like Reddit. A community has formed around financial independence and out of it, many unique versions were defined. So, what is leanFIRE and how can you achieve it?

LeanFIRE is when you reach the point where your minimum monthly expenses can be covered by your retirement income independent of earned income. LeanFIRE is an extreme version of the Financial Independence Retire Early movement and often depicted by millennials living out of their van, a tiny house, or as a traveling nomad.

Continue reading to learn more about LeanFIRE and how you can achieve financial independence.

A picture of a financially independent man working from a laptop at the side of a pool.

A picture of a financially independent man working from a laptop at the side of a pool.

How do you achieve LeanFIRE?

Achieving LeanFIRE is no easy feat. It requires you to save and invest a large portion of your income. LeanFIRE is achieved when the total of your invested assets allows you to cover the cost of your minimum mandatory expenses independent of an earned income.

For example, you may need $20,000 per year to consider yourself financially independent. Using the Bengen Rule, you will need about $500,000 to meet your monthly expenses.

Calculating your LeanFIRE number

Understanding what it means to achieve LeanFIRE is important if you’re going to calculate your LeanFIRE number. Your LeanFIRE number is the target amount of invested assets you will need in order to pay yourself a retirement income to cover your minimum monthly expenses. The Bengen Rule calculation is done by multiplying your expected minimum monthly expenses by a factor of 25 ($50,000 x 25 = $1.25 million).

How much money do I need to LeanFIRE?

Your LeanFIRE number is going to be different than my LeanFIRE number and that’s because our minimum monthly expenses are not the same. To achieve LeanFIRE, you will need at least 25 times your required monthly expenses (for example, $30,000 x 25 = $750,000).

Another consideration to make is what your expenses will be when you want to live the LeanFIRE lifestyle and rely on your investment income. For us, we’re aiming to be financially independent in our 40’s with at least $1.5 million. At this time, our kids will be adults, our mortgage may be paid off, and our monthly expenses will be very different than they are today.

Use this FIRE Calculator to calculate your FIRE number and see where you stand today.

Why do people want to achieve LeanFIRE?

LeanFIRE is often misrepresented as a generation of lazy people who don’t want to work. LeanFIRE has gained in popularity because young, hard-working people have discovered that by getting started investing at a young age, compound interest will allow them to retire earlier than the government-mandated retirement age.

This fatfire vs leanfire infographic is property of firethefamily.com

This fatfire vs leanfire infographic is property of firethefamily.com

What are the benefits of LeanFIRE?

The benefits of LeanFIRE are many and they may be different depending on your own wants needs and desires.

If you’re looking to join a dedicated LeanFIRE community, consider joining the LeanFIRE Subreddit.

Here are 7 benefits of achieving LeanFIRE:

  1. Less financial stress

  2. Ability to choose how you spend your time and energy

  3. No boss unless you choose to have a boss

  4. More time to spend how you choose

  5. Generational wealth that can be passed down

  6. Reduced occurrence of work-related injury

  7. Less reliance on the government

What are the drawbacks of LeanFIRE?

There aren’t many drawbacks to achieving financial independence, but I was able to list a few.

Here are 4 drawbacks of achieving LearnFIRE:

  1. You may have to sacrifice time and energy now

  2. Withdrawal from retirement fund reduces potential growth

  3. No employer healthcare benefits

  4. Too much free time

  5. The feeling of a lack of purpose without a job/career

LeanFIRE vs FatFIRE - Which is better?

LeanFIRE and FatFIRE are two takes of the same goal. To achieve financial independence. Whether you decide to live a LeanFIRE or FatFIRE lifestyle is up to you. The difference between LeanFIRE and FatFIRE is in the amount of money you plan to live off of in retirement. If you choose to live a minimalistic LeanFIRE lifestyle then you will need less money than if you choose to live a more luxurious FatFIRE lifestyle.

Many LeanFIRE achievers will choose to work for themselves as a blogger, freelancer, etc. to cover their minimum living expenses and allow their nest egg to continue to grow. Oftentimes, they find themselves retiring at the FatFIRE lifestyle or beyond.


LeanFIRE is one of the most common variations of the FIRE movement and is in contrast to the FatFIRE movement. LeanFIRE is a minimalist approach to personal finance and one that is achievable for the vast majority of people today.

LeanFIRE is achieved when your total assets can pay you enough in retirement to cover your bare minimum expenses. It’s at this point, where you no longer require an earned income to have your minimum expenses covered.

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