The cool thing about FIRE is that everyone's path looks a little bit different. Some of us pursuing fi are teachers from the east coast and others are factory workers from the midwest. This community has people from all walks off life that are striving for a common goal, financial independence. The beautiful thing is that the road there is going to be different for every single one of us and no one way is "right".
I recently noticed that the financial independence subreddit conducted a survey of people who are pursuing FIRE. The spreadsheet is publicly available and has a ton of interesting information on it. As I was checking out some of the various answers I became interested in one particular column, describe your most recent occupation. I know the FIRE movement gets a lot of flack for being made up of mostly high income medical or technology professionals, so I thought I would use this data to see if that stereotype was true.
Getting the data into the format I wanted wasn't particularly difficult. Huge spreadsheets like these have a lot of "fuzzy" data where data is missing or the same answer may be typed 5 different ways so your count will be off. I did my best to get things as accurate as possible.
The main thing I did was try to filter out non-answers and then group by the industry that the community had put in their answers. I did a bit of checking on my own to make sure that there weren't any jobs that were similar. If they were similar, I merged them together and counted them.
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After it was all said and done, there were a total of 1,853 responses. Below is the table of the top 10 most common jobs for financial independence.
|Most recent / current occupation||Count||% of Total|
|Architecture / Engineering||246||13.28%|
|Education, Training, Library||54||2.91%|
|Life, Physical, Social Science||48||2.59%|
After taking a look at the data, it looks like some of the stereotypes may be true. Nearly 1/3 of respondents said their occupation is in the computer field, which encompasses things like software developers, IT professionals, etc. I want to take this particular survey with a grain of salt as Reddit itself likely skews more towards the developer crowd, but I suspect that it would still be the largest category regardless of where you do this survey. It might just not be 1/3 of all respondents.
One interesting thing I found were that education and government positions both made it into the top 10. I would imagine this is because of the often great retirement benefits that these types of positions offer. Pension, large pre-tax match, and multiple pre-tax investment account options in the public sector lend itself to being incredibly advantageous for retiring early.
Maybe more surprising were some of the positions that rounded out the bottom. Accounting, banking, and academia were all towards the bottom with 1 answer a piece. I would have thought that more accountants would be more heavily interested in financial independence given their profession. To be fair, some accountants may have just submitted their occupation as finance (#3 overall) in the list, but it was still interesting that only one person specified accounting.
I think that this semi-scientific study is mainly an interesting snapshot of the community than hard numbers to go by. If anything, it confirms that many of us interested in FIRE tend to be "professionals" that work in higher paying jobs. This is reflected in both the data from the survey and in the amount of blogs coming from people in these types of positions. I would love to see more people from other professions begin to write more about their experiences and see if the community could begin to reach people in more professions.
I may do some more investigating and see if any other interesting insights can be gleaned from the Reddit survey. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear it so I can dive into the data!