Greaney offers a bit of context and history, writing:

In May 1999 the “Retire Early Home Page” discussion board appeared on The Motley Fool website, and a vibrant conversation on early retirement topics ensued. Before The Motley Fool shut the board down in May 2022 (and converted it to “read-only” status) it had accumulated almost 900,000 posts. […]

One early topic of discussion was the definition of “early retirement” — and the consensus was that some form of financial independence was a prerequisite. Quitting your job with an insufficient nestegg, and risking an early return to paid employment, was more of a “job change” than early retirement.

One non-monetary decision that has helped me line up FI/RE is attaining a graduate degree (in ComputerScience) while working. Along with the better pay came a higher confidence re: employment that allowed me to become a ‘Moderately Aggressive Investor’ (70% stks/Mfunds) from a Conservative Investor (50% stks/Mfunds).

“This is the essence of FI/RE,” writes wanderer0692. “Freedom from financial want. It is a tribute, in our case, to luck and a bull market, and to our adherence to what we refer to as the six fundamental principles of FI/RE.”

Those six fundamentals of FI/RE are:

The fundamentals of the FIRE movement haven’t changed much since 2001, have they? These are still the basics that most of people preach and practice today.

Anyhow, as a sort of addendum to his excellent post, wanderer0692 makes an observation:

Has anyone else noticed how “FI/RE” looks like the word “fire”? I remember attending church (a long, long time ago) and, during the benediction, the preacher saying, “Take our minds and think through them. Take our eyes and see through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire.” I always liked that turn of phrase.

I’m not much for religion, but I do believe in the sanctity of the human spirit. FI/RE is a fire that burns in me. Maybe it consumes me, but I like to think I am that phoenix, rising from the ashes, to fulfill his special mission of realizing his true potential.

So, from now on, I’m gonna drop the slash. A “FIRE” it is. May it be ever thus.

And so it has been ever thus.

So, there you have it. Until somebody provides evidence otherwise, I’m willing to accept Greaney’s version of early FIRE history. The dude has been writing about this stuff online since 1996, after all. He knows his stuff.

There’s another interesting insight from this FIRE origin story. Today, most people (including me) believe that the FIRE acronym stands for “Financial Independence/Retire Early”. That’s pretty damn clumsy, and we all know it. In actuality, the FIRE acronym originally stood for “Financially Independent, Retired Early”. That makes a lot more sense!

Want to read more about the history of personal finance and financial independence? Well then, you’re a nerd. That’s okay. I’m a nerd too. Here are a few pages that might interest you, weird-o:

And please, if you know of any other interesting books or articles about the history of financial independence (and/or personal finance), please let me know. I want to read them.