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Suze Orman: You need at least $5 million to retire early

Financial expert and author Suze Orman is a pro at doling out advice and sharing her opinions, especially when it comes to the Financially Independent Retire Early movement, also known as FIRE.

“I hate it,” she says. “Too many people have come to me with $250,000 to their name and want to retire by age 30—that’s not feasible.”

With FIRE, the goal is to leave unfulfilling work behind by saving and investing enough to retire by your 30s or 40s, well before retirement age kicks in. People in the FIRE movement save aggressively, often 70% of their incomes; live frugally; and pick up less rigorous, part-time work or take up passion projects.

But Orman argues people are not saving enough to cover the myriad things that can unexpectedly derail your finances. When it comes to retirement, you need to financially plan for every possible problem or disaster that could happen throughout your life, she says.

“I’m asking the FIRE movement to have fire protection gear,” she says. “I want you to hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

Orman says people underestimate how much they actually need in retirement, saying even $5 million saved might not protect you if the worst were to happen. By following the 4% rule, which outlines how much you’ll need to live on per year in retirement, $5 million means you’d have $200,000 a year before taxes if you retired at age 30. While this may seem like a lot of money now, unexpected things come up, which can eat away at your savings fast.

“I know that seems like a whole lot to live on right now,” she says. “But if the the worst were to happen and now your money is gone, the equity on your home is gone, or you’re sick, before you know it the $5 million starts to get eaten up.”

Orman encourages people to take control of their own financial futures.

“I’ve set my own life on financial fire, where I am the flame and I am in control of what is going to happen and I am not dependent on anyone else other than myself,” she says. “Don’t be unrealistic: you can shoot for anything you want as long as you have covered all of your bases.”

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This story was originally published on October 23, 2018.