Supplied
The Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement embodies the relationship between time and money. 

Andre Wentzel, Solutions Manager at Sanlam Personal Finance, says “the FIRE movement which is sweeping the States isn’t without criticism, but it’s a fascinating example of how aggressive saving can seriously pay off”. 

Made popular by the Mr Money Mustache blog, the idea is that the higher the percentage of your salary you save, the sooner you can retire. The proviso, says Wentzel, is frugal living.

Wikipedia explains that the aim of FIRE is to ‘accumulate assets until the resulting passive income provides enough money for living expenses in perpetuity’. The goal is to have a minimum of 25 times your estimated annual living expenses. 

You achieve this by aggressively saving much more than the typical 10-15%. “The movement may be inaccessible to some people, but the savings principles it extolls can apply to all of us,” says Wentzel.

The example cited in Wikipedia is that ‘at a savings rate of 10%, it takes nine years of work to save for one year of retirement - assuming constant income and expenses and ignoring investment returns. 

At a 25% savings rate, you’ll be able to save for one retirement year in three years of work, at 50% it will take one year, and at 75% it will take you 4 months to save for one year of retirement’.

Wentzel says that every individual’s circumstances are unique so it’s difficult to apply a set formula to everyone, but the idea of equating money with time is a useful one for most people. “It’s part of a goal-based savings mindset, where the goal is to ‘buy time’ in our time-starved society.

It’s a smart way to visualise a trade-off. Start thinking about how you can save money and buy yourself time to be present in your life. For example, you can put money away to buy yourself an earlier retirement or extra unpaid leave to spend quality time with loved ones.  It’s also about the quality of the time you have. Saving now can reduce future financial stress, allowing for more meaningful moments.”

Here Wentzel gives practical examples of how saving effectively can literally buy you time.

BUY A YEAR OFF YOUR BOND BY SAVING AN EXTRA R150 PER MONTH

On an R800k loan at prime +1%, instalments are just over R8k per month (R8028 for 20 years). Paying in an extra R150 per month knocks a year off the loan.

You can accomplish the same thing if you save R150 per month for five years before you get the bond and pay these proceeds in with your first instalment.

If you save R300 per month for 10 years before you get the bond and pay the proceeds in with the first instalment, you can knock five years off the bond. 

YOU BUY YOURSELF FIVE BOND-FREE YEARS!

BUY YOURSELF AN EARLY RETIREMENT 

This depends on your age and individual circumstances, but a rough rule of thumb assuming you’re already on track to retire at 65 is:

At age 30, save 1.2% more of your income per annum to retire one year earlier. Save 6% more of your income to retire five years earlier.

At age 35, these become 1.5% and 8%.

At age 40, these become 2% and 10%.

At age 50, these become 3% and 15%.

BUY YOURSELF A HOLIDAY EVERY TWO YEARS INSTEAD OF EVERY THREE

Paying off a debt of R30k over three years, at an interest rate of 18%, would require R1050 per month. If you saved this amount for two years before the big spending event and opted for an investment that earned 8%, it would take just over two years to accumulate the R30k. 

That means enjoying a trip every two years instead of every three years. 

Supplied by Sanlam Personal Finance