Living a Mindful Life with a FIRE Purpose

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Living a Mindful Life with a FIRE Purpose

November 11, 2022

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” - Viktor Frankl

2008 - I came to the America from Saigon, Vietnam just before turning 18. I started my new life in Austin, Texas with two luggages - which seemed rather excessive for a small shared dorm at Jester East, a 10-story co-ed dorm at the University of Texas, a home away from home for the wide-eyed freshman.

2016 - 8 years later, I had graduated with a Master’s in Accounting and dual Psychology/Accounting degrees, and got certified as a CPA working at the Big Four. Having climbed through the corporate ladder - "hustle" as our Millennials like to call it, I landed a job in San Francisco as the senior auditor for one of the largest biotechnology clients. I thought I was living the dream! Who would have thought a kid from Saigon, Vietnam would one day live and work in the exciting city of San Francisco? 

As a Asian immigrant, I was doing everything right by the book - from choosing a great school, enrolling in the most competitive Accounting program, maximizing my chances of staying in the U.S., to securing an internship at the Big Four and locking in a job offer two years before graduation. My parents worked really hard to get me there, and I must be grateful to follow the path - whether the path was the right fit for me was something I honestly never considered. Working at the Big Four is a dream come true for every international student, right? That's what everyone seemed to believe. I, however, had an intuitive feeling that the auditor’s job was not the right fit - at least not for me, there was a lack of innovation and the hours were unnecessarily long.

In our Vietnamese culture, Lunar New Year is considered to more important than New Year's Day, and my parents often took the time to travel from Vietnam to the States to be with me and my brother. With my career choice as an auditor, I came to realize that I would not be able to take Lunar New Year's off during busy season. In an extreme situation, I was told by my team lead that it would be "disappointing" to ask for a day off during busy season even for Lunar New Year...even when my parents had traveled across the world to be there. 

From outside perception, I was living the dream - being a CPA working at the Big Four in a major city. In my mind, I already started questioning what success and "living the dream" really meant. In Psychology, the term for this is cognitive dissonance, where our actions and thoughts are not aligned. With this "cognitive dissonance" over long depressing days, I knew that I needed to work harder to get out of there, so I began planning for my own financial independence.

Discovering FIRE: Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE)

Living in San Francisco was a life-changing experience. There were interesting people doing interesting things, and intellectual discussions could happen anytime, anywhere. A big movement at the time was FIRE, which equates to Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE).

FIRE is a movement of extreme savings and investment with a goal to retire far earlier than traditional budgets and retirement plans would permit. The FIRE movement is mainly about helping individuals achieve financial freedom sooner in their lives, rather than depend on a 9-to-5 income and traditional retirement timeline. FIRE is based on 3 guiding principles: saving, frugality, and generating passive income.     

Here is one version of the FIRE playbook:  

1- Live frugally and save between 50% and 75% of your income. 

2- After building an emergency fund, invest your savings in a low-cost index fund, usually one that tracks the S&P 500. 

3- Work to build passive income by starting a business, or buying property and renting it out. Regular cash flow can be built over time to support a retirement lifestyle. Plus, additional income earned is invested to reach your FIRE number later.

After reaching your target number for FIRE, you can quit your job and pursue your passions, such as a less lucrative but more meaningful career, you can choose to travel the world, or stay home to raise your family, or do charity work, or move to a tiny house in a surburban area and live off your nest egg. The choice is yours!

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor Frankl

So what did I end up choosing? I maxed out my 401k contributions in 2019 and the day I did, put in my notice and became self-employed. The two reasons why it happened in that order:
1- Cushion: Taking calculated risks, I needed something to fall back on for financial security
2- Discipline: The self-discipline to become successful at anything (including taking the kind of entrepreneur’s risks)
I lived on my savings, and had no income for over 6 months, and founded our startup - Yogi CPA in March 2020. It was the most refreshing and humble period of my life! 

Recognize that we all have a choice, and we all seek inspiration.

The Types of FIRE

There are 4 common types of FIRE: The Traditional FIRE, Fat FIRE, Barista FIRE, and Lean FIRE.

Adam - the Traditional FIRE: 

Meet Adam. Adam’s goal is traditional retirement but he wants it sooner than later. Specifically, Adam is looking to achieve a FIRE portfolio value of 25x his expenses in order to withdraw at his current expenses. Adam maximizes his retirement contributions each year, "hustles" at work for the highest salary bump and occasionally adjusts his spending to invest more. Doing this will probably help Adam speed up 5 years of his normal retirement schedule. In theory, at retirement, Adam should be sufficient for the rest of his life.

Bentley - the Fat FIRE:

Meet Bentley. Bentley’s goal is to retire early in style, either on his own merits, general life choices, or with a bit of help from the family. Bentley aims to save substantially more than the average and doesn’t want to reduce his standard of living in retirement. For him, life is about experience and he loves traveling around the world! In order to have this lifestyle at retirement, his FIRE portfolio must be “fatter”. In Bentley’s retirement, his expenses will increase compared to working life.

Diane - the Barista FIRE:

Meet Diane. Diane has saved enough to quit her stressful corporate job, but would like to continue working in a less stressful environment and have the freedom to choose her own schedule. Diane would love being a barista, or a yoga instructor - whatever her heart desires. Diane is cutting back on her spending for this flexibility. Her FIRE portfolio, in combination with her part-time barista job, will be sufficient for her. She enjoys working, and would like to work on her own terms!

* Comparison: For example, a person with a cost of living of $40,000 would need to earn $1,000,000 to reach the traditional FIRE (25x expenses). By aiming for the Barista FIRE genre, that same person might decide to cut their goal in half, which is $500,000. Each year of retirement, they can then withdraw $20,000 from their $500,000 portfolio and work part-time to cover the gap.

Justin - the Lean FIRE:

Meet Justin. Justin is an extreme saver and is devoted to his own principles of minimalist living. He’s willing to save whatever it takes to accomplish FIRE as fast as possible. Compared to the other folks, Justin lives a far more restricted and frugal lifestyle, i.e., sometimes surviving on instant noodles, but works towards his true goal of achieving Lean FIRE and having enough assets to cover basic expenses. In fact, Justin would like to maintain these habits in retirement. By being an extreme minimalist, there is no need for Justin to set aside a large amount. In addition, it is already easier to invest the money saved since he has a lower cost of living!

What is your Type of FIRE?

Our next blog, in the series of Living a mindful life with a FIRE purpose, will be on benefits and considerations of each type of FIRE, with some tactical plans. Reach out to us at and let us know which FIRE topics you are interested in!

Zunie Nguyen, Founder & CEO

*Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, accounting, or tax advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.


Beyond your financial balance


At Yogi CPA, we have developed a three-part journey to your ZEN financial state: tax strategy, entrepreneurship, building wealth. As you master your tax strategy and entrepreneur pursuits, you are now ready to move beyond your financial balance.

Yogi CPA believe in a holistic approach to work and life, and take a deeper look into your financial and life goals. Financial decisions revolve around the things you care the most about, as career aspiration and life inspiration often meet. As a purpose-driven firm, we help clients move beyond the financial balance and design a financial independence lifestyle tailored to your own method of building wealth.

Financial independence is a goal that elevates each of us to become better versions of ourselves, and in turn we create better value for others. Let Yogi CPA be your guide through this journey!