Barista Fire

What is Barista Fire? Your dream job for early retirement

barista fire
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Financial Freedom with Part-Time Work

The personal finance world is on F.I.R.E. You may have heard of the movement, Financial Independence Retire Early. There are now variations of the save 25x your expenses rule of thumb. What fun! Let’s dive in.

Meet FIRE’s new friends: Lean FIRE, Fat FIRE, Coast FIRE, and Barista FIRE. 

Same concept, similar math, different strategies, and different definitions.   

The principal puzzle pieces are the same. Reduce your spending, invest your money, and repeat until you have enough money. Then stop working. Congratulations, you won the rat race!

Tracking your monthly spending is a key habit on the path to financial freedom. It’s also important to track the changes in your net worth as you save and invest your money. After years of tracking and mindful spending, patterns and trends will take shape. 

One day your investment portfolio will be large enough to support your expenses. That’s a beautiful day. Relish in the glory of being free from the dependency of a paycheck. 

What if you want to quit your corporate job sooner?

What if you want a margin of safety for your early retirement plan?

What if you want to reduce the amount you withdraw from your investment portfolio?

What if you still want to work and have something to do each day? 

That’s where Barista FIRE can help.

What is Barista FIRE?

The term Barista FIRE derives from the idea of being a coffee barista and working “in retirement.” The work is flexible and available part-time and in most places across the country. Companies like Starbucks offer healthcare benefits to their part-time employees. That tremendous benefit can save people hundreds of dollars per month. Paying out of pocket for private insurance is expensive. 

Planning to earn income in your early retirement life can reduce your target net worth. By a lot. 

That appears to be how this strategy is being discussed in the online FIRE community. I don’t disagree with that idea, and the math does make sense. But, I think working in early retirement should be more intentional. 

Part-time work that is meaningful or enjoyable is a great way to spend your day, regardless of your age. Working for a few hours a day when you know you’re financially independent can make that work even more fun. 

You can work with integrity and passion. You can advocate for changes or improvements to the business and the workplace. 

You can be bold with your perspectives since you have little fear of getting fired for speaking out of turn. 

Barista FIRE is a lifestyle that’s optimized after you reach financial independence. 

I define Barista FIRE like this:

“Barista FIRE is an early retirement lifestyle that focuses on part-time joyful work.” 

Your part-time earned income reduces the spending burden of your portfolio. This reduces your sequence of returns risks and allows you to live with more peace of mind. Your optimized finances give you the confidence to be active and present in your work. 

First, let’s explore the math should you still think of this as a potential get out of jail early card. 

How much sooner can you retire with Barista FIRE?

Let’s start with a simple example. 

Say you earn an extra $1250 per month working part-time. 

  • Wage: $15 / hr
  • Hours worked per week: 25 hours per week,
  • Weeks worked per month: 4 weeks per month. 

Your after-tax take-home pay in most states, assuming this is your only income, will be about $1250. 

You now have $1250 per month or $15,000 per year in income to cover a part of your expenses. At a 4% withdrawal rate, that means you’ll need $375,000 less in your portfolio to cover your annual expenses. $375,000 is a massive amount of money to save and this could speed up your FIRE time by many years. 

Let’s say you have a salary of $100,000, which is about $72,000 per year after-tax. Let’s also say you save 50% of your take-home pay. At this rate, you’ll save around $36,000 per year. 

If you invest that money and get a 5% per year return, it will take you about 8 years to save up $375,000! Eight years is a long time. At this point you need to ask yourself, would I enjoy my life more if I worked part-time during early retirement? Going cold turkey from your salaried job requires you to save a lot of money.

how much sooner can you retire

How Much Do You Need to Barista FIRE?

Ok, you now have a basic understanding of the impact earned income has on your early retirement. You can save a lot less, and reduce your working career by a long time with a modest income during your Barista FIRE. 

Let’s continue the example and calculate how much you need to Barista FIRE. The new variable in this example is your annual cost of living. 

Let’s say that you spend $4000 per month and you plan to use the 4% rule.

$4000 per month or $48000 per year would require a portfolio value of $1.2 million to FIRE. 

In the previous example, we stated your take-home pay is $72,000. If you save and invest 50% or $36,000 per year, it would take about 21 years to hit $1.2 million with a 5% annual real return. 

The previous example also shows how active income reduces the target portfolio value. 

Earning $1250 per month with your Barista FIRE job reduces the target portfolio size by $375,000. So your new portfolio goal is: 

$1,200,000 – $375,000 = $825,000.

FIRE vs Barista FIRE portfolio goals

You’ll notice with this example your working years get reduced by 5 years vs 8 years in the previous example. 

That’s due to the size of the portfolio in the second example. In the first example, the math shows us how long it takes to save a target amount of money with a starting value of zero. In the second example, our portfolio has a large starting value at year 16. 

The power of compounded interest is that 5% growth builds on a larger principal value each year. 5% of 100,000 is $5,000 dollars. 5% of $500,000 is $25,000. 

Modern technology and very low costs, make it easy to invest in the market. You can invest $1 dollar, $1000 dollars or $10 million dollars with a few button clicks. 

Why everyone should work part-time to start Early retirement. 

Okay what do we know now from our previous examples? 

  • Monthly spending $4K 
  • Take home pay while working: $72K
  • Savings Rate: 50%
  • “Barista” active income: $1250

Your working career will be about 16 years and your target FIRE number is $825,000.

You could choose this path and be very happy but I think there’s a better way. 

And that’s to continue working! Working part-time in your second act is a very different type of work. In can be the good type of days you experienced in your “first career.”

People enjoy working in some capacity. There is pride and satisfaction in an honest day’s work. It’s part of the daily human ritual. Humans are designed to perform labor in some capacity each day. 

In planning my own early retirement, I thought about all the jobs I ever had. I then thought about jobs that I enjoyed, regardless of the pay I earned. Then, I made a list of all the jobs I ever considered trying or pursuing. Many seemed too hard, others didn’t pay enough, some may not have been real jobs! A lot of the jobs I considered in my youth offered little advancement. It seemed risky to get a job that offered no career path. 

I look back on this list now with a new perspective. Money no longer matters and a career path no longer matters. How does my opinion and approach to these jobs change? Is one of the jobs my dream job now that I’ve decoupled financial gain from the equation?

The result of this exercise was a list of jobs for me to try out in my own Barista FIRE journey. 

The best job I ever had was working at a winery doing free tastings for customers. Most people you meet on vacation are in a good mood. When you give them free wine and tell them stories, even strangers can be good company. 

This is the inverse relation to most of the people I interact with in my corporate job. 99% of them are full of shit and grumpy about something or someone. 

Working part-time, at a winery doing tastings is my dream Barista FIRE job. I’m looking forward to the experience and would do it for free if it came down to it. But, having that extra income will reduce the amount I need to pull out of my portfolio each year. 

Let’s say I spend $5000 per month ($60,000 per year) and target a 4% SWR. That means I’ll need a portfolio worth about $1.5 million. If I’m able to earn $15,000 per year from my Wine Barista FIRE job, I’ll only need to withdraw $45K from my portfolio. 

$45,000 / $1,500,000 = 3%

That’s a much more conservative withdrawal rate, and it’s very likely that I won’t run out of money anytime soon. In fact, my portfolio is likely to grow through my retirement life. 

I don’t plan on using Barista FIRE to retire sooner. I plan to find a job that is enjoyable and pays me a small amount of money. This earned income increases my margin of safety and buy more peace of mind.

Other Barista FIRE Jobs

During normal life, I enjoy going to the food store or local farmers market. I like to wander around and see what’s fresh and what’s in season. The colors and smells of the market are soothing and remind me of all the great meals I’ve enjoyed. 

If you’re a wannabe chef, a food lover, or interested in helping those who are not. Check out these food delivery jobs.

Here’s a shortlist of companies to consider if you’re looking for extra income



Part-time work can be an important piece of your financial independence journey. 

  • It can speed up your timeline if you want to leave your job earlier
  • It can reduce the total amount of money you need in your portfolio
  • It can lower your safe withdrawal rate.
  • It can provide you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  • It can help you learn how to live your post-corporate America life
  • You can contribute to your community and help local small business owners

There’s no single path forward for any of us. To find a successful balance of work, life, and money, it’s important to explore all the options.

Be thoughtful, be patient, and look for new or clever ways to optimize your financial path. I hope that you can take a piece of this article and use it to improve your journey.