Retiring early is not a new concept. But in the 2010s, a wave of financial bloggers popularized the notion of financial independence: being able to cover your living expenses with passive income, at a young age.
Thus the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) was born.
If escaping the rat race appeals to you, pick up any one of the books below to start down the road to true financial freedom.
Best Books About FIRE
I teach about achieving financial independence with real estate and know some of the authors below. What’s struck me time and again is that few people who reach FIRE actually stop working — they just do more meaningful and fulfilling work. And they do it on their own terms and schedule.
In fact, the very journey toward financial independence changes how you think about not just personal finances, but also your career and designing your ideal lifestyle. I got serious about my own journey to FIRE three years ago, and a curious thing happened along the way. In working toward my ideal lifestyle, I’ve largely created it, even as I continue working.
When you control your work and your hours and can work from anywhere, it stops being a burden. I hope to reach financial independence within the next three years, and while my work will certainly continue evolving to suit me, I don’t plan on retiring.
But when I started, I wanted nothing more than to never have to work another day in my life.
Ambitious journeys change you. They change how you see the world around you, your role in it, and what you want from it. And the journey to FIRE is the ultimate ambitious journey, at least from a financial and lifestyle perspective.
1. “The Simple Path to Wealth” by JL Collins
JL Collins’ easy and accessible book “The Simple Path to Wealth” was born from his blog. The blog in turn started as a series of letters to Collins’ daughter, who was too young at the time to understand the financial and investing advice he was setting down.
Throughout, Collins maintains a deep commitment to simplicity. His writing style is simple and direct. His investing advice is as simple as it gets. He recommends starting with a single exchange-traded fund (ETF): Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI).
He goes on to cover a broad range of fundamentals, such as how to get the most out of tax-advantaged accounts, how safe withdrawal rates work, and why most people underperform the average stock market return.
But he doesn’t stop there, continuing into more intermediate territory such as why he doesn’t like dollar-cost averaging, how to invest during different market phases, and how to preserve your wealth once you’ve built it.
I particularly love what filmmaker and author Malachi Rempen has to say about Collins: “In the dark, bewildering, trap-infested jungle of misinformation and opaque riddles that is the world of investment, JL Collins is the fatherly wizard on the side of the path, offering a simple map, warm words of encouragement, and the tools to forge your way through with confidence. You’ll never find a wiser advisor with a bigger heart.”
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, start here.
2. “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
In their classic “Your Money or Your Life,” Robin and Dominguez aim to completely change how you think about money. And they succeed.
There are a few books on this list that could claim the honor of “starting the FIRE movement.” This is one of those books. Although first published in 1992, the authors released an updated edition in 2018 to cover more recent trends such as the explosion of the gig economy, tracking finances online through tools like Mint, and passive index fund investing.
Even so, it’s the money mindset topics that hit with the most punch. The book helps you think differently about budgeting, about decluttering your life, about instilling good financial habits, and much more.
Reclaim control over your life, both financially and otherwise.
3. “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence” by Chris Mamula, Brad Barrett, and Jonathan Mendonsa
Having collaborated with Chris Mamula on his blog Can I Retire Yet?, I can tell you firsthand how lucidly he can cover complex topics. And while I’ve never had the pleasure of working with Brad and Jonathan, I feel like I know them well through their “Choose FI” podcast (which ranks among the best financial podcasts, in my humble opinion).
These three financial experts bring a (pardon the pun) wealth of knowledge on everything from frugality to investing to lifestyle design to free travel hacks. And like most books about FIRE, all the advice comes grounded with a different mindset around money.
Which doesn’t mean they scrimp on tactics and details. In each lesson, they get down into the granular details of exactly how to proceed.
If you want a straightforward but diverse book to get you to financial freedom as quickly as possible, look no further than “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.”
4. “Quit Like a Millionaire Next Door” by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung
You might know Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung from their scrappy Millennial Revolution blog. They retired at age 31 and now travel the world, blog, and write awesome books (including children’s books).
Their financial book “Quit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required” is definitely not a children’s book, but the language and storytelling is simple enough for all ages to understand. It manages a perfect blend of motivation, personal stories, and ground-level tactics. And, amazingly, it’s funny to boot.
Shen and Leung didn’t grow up rich. They worked hard, lived frugally, invested their money, and retired young. In other words, they embody the FIRE movement’s principles perfectly.
For a more personal and quirky take on FIRE, pick up a copy of “Quit Like a Millionaire.”
5. “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss
Another book that some say launched the FIRE movement, Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” remains a classic for good reason. And it’s not even explicitly about financial independence or retiring early.
Ferriss’ premise starts simple: in today’s world, it’s easier than ever to start a profitable online business, even if only a side hustle. And you can run it from anywhere, which allows you to retake control over your time, work, and money.
But the implications reach far beyond that simple foundation. Ferriss and his internationally bestselling book are credited with originating concepts like geoarbitrage, lifestyle design, mini-retirements, and more. Perhaps surprisingly, the mainstream media considers Ferriss a productivity expert, rather than a pioneer in lifestyle design.
It’s yet another book that will change the way you think about money, your career, and the value of your time.
6. “Retire Early with Real Estate” by Chad Carson
Chad Carson wrote the book I wish I’d written myself, all about how to reach financial independence with real estate investments, especially rental properties.
He’s a man after my own heart, who spent a year and a half living in Ecuador with his family because, well, they could. That’s the power of financial independence.
While Carson and his family can live on his rental income, his knowledge of real estate investing extends far beyond landlording. You can learn about vacation rentals, flipping houses, land investing, and more on his Coach Carson podcast, and of course in his book.
If you love real estate and want to pursue it as your main vehicle for FIRE, pick up a copy of Carson’s “Retire Early with Real Estate.”
7. “Financial Freedom” by Grant Sabatier
Grant Sabatier founded the popular Millennial Money blog and wrote one of the better books out there about financial independence. In fact, the foreword of “Financial Freedom: A Proven Path To All The Money You Will Ever Need” was written by none other than Vicki Robin — a familiar name in the industry.
Sabatier covers basics like investing in stocks and real estate of course, but he also tackles more mindset-oriented topics like how to change your relationship with money and how to maximize your happiness per dollar. He doesn’t overcomplicate matters and delivers a simple and straightforward book without financial jargon.
8. “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” by Ramit Sethi
Ramit Sethi recently released an updated version of his modern classic “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” which fully earns all the praise it’s garnered.
Like every book on this list, Sethi aims for simplicity and accessibility for everyday people. Unlike many of the others, he spends more focus on boosting your income, especially through entrepreneurship.
Some FIRE industry critics complain that the movement focuses too heavily on frugality and cutting spending, rather than earning more money. It’s true, to an extent: the FIRE movement centers more around shifting your mindset to spend less and invest more, as there are plenty of other resources in the world to help you earn more money.
But if you want to learn how to build a successful business without falling into the common trap of overspending and lifestyle inflation, Sethi’s book makes the perfect read.
9. “Playing with FIRE” by Scott Rieckens
Scott Rieckens had what the average American considers the perfect life: a successful business, a happy family, a luxury car, even a membership to a boat club. But he wasn’t happy or fulfilled, and labored under constant stress to maintain his expensive lifestyle.
Then he discovered the FIRE movement, and within five months he quit his career, moved his family, and cut their spending in half.
Rieckens’ book “Playing with FIRE: How Far Would You Go for Financial Freedom?” serves as a companion to his documentary film by the same name. It follows his journey from discovering the concepts behind financial independence to changing his own life, with a series of interviews with FIRE mainstays along the way.
More story-driven and less about tactics, it offers a different take on the journey to financial freedom.
10. “Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Lund Fisker
An early FIRE movement book published in 2007, Jacob Lund Fisker’s “Early Retirement Extreme” introduced many young adults to the concept before the likes of blogger Mr. Money Mustache and JL Collins entered the limelight.
Fisker later regretted the title, both because of the focus on retirement and branding the book’s core concepts as extreme. But in 2007, the idea of FIRE was extreme and hadn’t percolated through the public’s consciousness yet.
Like other FIRE books, “Early Retirement Extreme” focuses on cutting expenses and building passive income through investments. It also contests American consumerism as a huge obstacle to building wealth.
If you’re interested, read our more detailed analysis of “Early Retirement Extreme” as a road map to faster wealth and simple living.
Bonus Read: “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki
Like Dave Ramsey, Robert Kiyosaki has attained such celebrity status that he inevitably stirs up controversy in the media, and has plenty of detractors.
But his classic “Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not” remains a bestseller to this day, and with good cause. As with so many of the books above, it focuses less on the gritty details of budgeting and more on how to think differently about money. In particular, he argues that your money should work for you, not the other way around.
Kiyosaki is a huge proponent of real estate investing, but he’s also quick to tell you that your house is not an asset, it’s an expense (unless you house hack, of course!). That’s not advice that the middle classes like to hear — which makes it that much more important.
While “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is not a FIRE book per se, it introduces a range of concepts that come in handy with reaching financial independence. He relates these concepts through fun parables about how his “rich dad” and his biological “poor dad” taught him such different lessons about money.
And really, what is FIRE if not putting your money to work for you, rather than you working for it?
As a “FIRE blogger” myself, I’m the first to admit that the “retire early” portion is in some ways a marketing gimmick to lure in the uninitiated. Everyone knows what “retire early” means — it conjures images of lying in a hammock under palm trees while sipping margaritas.
But most people don’t really understand what “financial independence” means. Even when they do, it seems a lot drier than that mental image of the margarita in the hammock.
In my experience, however, no one actually “retires” and spends the next 50 years of their life bumming around the beach after reaching financial independence. That’s not the point.
The point is to take full control over your time and money, to do work that lights a fire in your belly. When you reach financial independence, you can do whatever work brings you the most joy and meaning, rather than endlessly running on the hedonic treadmill, trying to keep earning ever more money to keep up with the proverbial Joneses.
Come for the images of early retirement, stay for the financial freedom to reinvent your life.