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The Most Important FIRE Ratio: FIRE Savings Rate

Last Updated on July 28, 2020 by Daniel Woerle

The FIRE Savings Rate (SR), is probably one, if not the most important concept you must understand when you try to reach Financial Independence and Retire Early. It’s also the perfect place to start if you are wondering how to get into FIRE. So, let us see what this FIRE savings rate or simply “FIRE ratio” actually is.

Maybe you have already asked yourself: What is a good savings ratio? Or even what savings rate would it need to reach FIRE?

If you have read some American blogs in the past you might have noticed that there is a clear difference in taxation between the USA and Belgium or even Europe in general.
As a result, some of the things explained in these blogs might not align with how we see or do things in Europe. That’s why I provide this Belgian view on it.

Coins next to and in a piggy bank
Saving money takes time and patience. The best way to save money is by start saving.

How to calculate your monthly FIRE Savings Rate

In essence, the calculation of my (monthly) savings rate boils down to the following:

Savings Rate = ((Total Income - All Expenses) / Total Income) * 100

There really are only two variables to this equation: Total Income and All Expenses. This gives me two questions to answer:

  • What is my total income?
  • What are my monthly expenses?

I will do just that in the following paragraphs.

Taxation has a big impact on total income

To answer the first question, when it comes to American income, I like the breakdown of EarlyRetirementNow. Although not applicable to me, he does have a good post and gives a nice six category overview of his annual compensation.

If you take a quick look at the image on the side, you can understand why I can’t just take his explanation at face-value.
Here in Belgium we just don’t have things like 401K, HSA, Roth, IRA etc.

We do have an extensive social security system (Dutch: RSZ, Rijksdienst voor Sociale Zekerheid; English: NSSONational Social Security Office) that funds things like:

  • Health Care
  • Pension
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Child support

This gets deducted from my gross salary immediately so I never receive this gross amount. As a result, I don’t have to think about different categories.
In short, my take-home income, which also contains certain monetary fringe benefits, is my total income and thus the denominator in our savings rate equation.

Here I do want to add that you can of course still have additional income, but the above still applies (at least for Belgium), the money I receive from other jobs (such as a Flexi-job) is after-tax.

Of course, exceptions are possible but that’s beyond this article. If you know from past experiences you have to pay the government during tax season, you should maybe take this into consideration in your expenses.

A six category break down of an American annual compensation by EarlyRetirementNow

My monthly expenses

With the total income part of the equation solved, the only other one left is the monthly expenses. It’s rather obvious that this is different for everyone and can vary month to month. Read how I achieve a +80% FIRE Savings Rate.
Some live with their parents, others have a significant other and maybe even a child. These different lifestyles bring different expenses with them.

There is one thing that connects them when it comes to FIRE savings rates and I believe the FAQ of the FI subreddit says it best:

If you can realize contentment with significantly lower expenses, your ability to reach financial independence is greatly improved.”

It doesn't stay the same

That is a crucial part of FIRE. Being content. Having the possibility to do what you want without a financial worry, within reason.
When thinking about expenses you have to keep that in mind. The goal is not only to become Financial Independent but also Retire Early so that you are not bound by a strict or long work day.

Thus, when it comes to expenses, you have to look under which conditions you want to achieve FIRE.

My expenses today are definitely not the ones of my future self. There is really one main reason for this: I still live with my parents.
Thanks to my current arrangement I’m able to keep my expenses to a minimum and be content with how I live my life.

Let’s take September 2018 as an example:

It’s evident the above expense total of September is not achievable when I rent/buy a place of my own.
I realize that, so I take that into account when I think about my FIRE age.
This doesn’t impact my current SR but it does determine when I’m willing to consider myself FIRE’d.

Putting all together: my most recent FIRE savings rate (September 2018)

With the two most important elements of the SR equation cleared. It’s time to put it together. I’ll take myself as an example using my most recent month.

I’m a single 28 y/o with a gross salary in September of 4,284.62 EUR. This can be considered above average, and even above the mean.
Thanks to the wonderful, excruciating tax pressure that exists in Belgium, a whopping 40.5% for a single, my 28-self is left with 2598.34 EUR in disposable income. Note, the actual net can vary slightly month to month.
At the moment I don’t have anything that resembles a tax-free side-hustle. I do help others from time to time and get something small in return. In September, this resulted in an additional income of 14.06 EUR.
With my earlier disclosed expenses of 373.70 EUR my SR for September 2018 is:

SR = ((2612.40 - 373.70) / 2612.40) * 100 = 85.69%

That’s it. 85.69% SR for September 2018.

For completeness, I’ll share the savings rates of the other two months of last quarter (so July and August):

Want to know more about my monthly Savings Rates?

Go to my Savings Rates page to see my past and current rates.

What is your Personal Savings Rate?

Now that you know how it’s calculated you can find out your own. Please fill in the poll and share your exact result in the comment section below.
Is the number you come up with confrontational? How do you feel about this number?

What is your Savings Rate?

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I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

1. My remarkable budgeting ways to reach the illusive Financial Independence
2. The Most Important FIRE Ratio: FIRE Savings Rate
3. How I achieve a +80% Savings Rate and is it the Key to Financial Independence?
4. Cafeteria plan: improving wants & needs for your convencience
5. Frugal with a twist
6. My cafeteria plan: like a kid in a candy store
7. My monthly Savings Rate report: October 2019
8. My monthly Savings Rate report: November 2019
9. My monthly Savings Rate report: December 2019
10. My monthly Savings Rate report: January 2020
11. My monthly Savings Rate report: February 2020
12. My monthly Savings Rate report: March 2020
13. My monthly Savings Rate report: April 2020
14. YNAB Vs nYNAB Vs Excel: A Helpful Budgeting Tool reviewed
15. My monthly Savings Rate report: May 2020
16. My monthly Savings Rate report: June 2020
17. My monthly Savings Rate report: July 2020
18. My monthly Savings Rate report: August 2020
19. My monthly Savings Rate report: September 2020
20. My monthly Savings Rate report: October 2020
21. My monthly Savings Rate report: November 2020
22. My monthly Savings Rate report: December 2020
23. My monthly Savings Rate report: January 2021
24. My monthly Savings Rate report: February 2021
25. My monthly Savings Rate report: March 2021
26. My monthly Savings Rate report: April 2021
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