For most of us, “fire” means danger. But for Woodbury resident Eric Galler, the word conjures up a different idea entirely. On Galler’s website, Mr. Fire Station, FIRE is an acronym for “financially independent and retired early.” Early retirement might seem like a dream only a few lucky folks can achieve; Galler disagrees. On his site, he offers tip sand tricks to anyone who hopes to retire one day, early or not.
One common-sense step you can take is cutting back spending. “We all have more stuff than we need by any global standard,” Galler says. He says to ask yourself what’s more important: “More stuff or more personal time?” Galler advises putting aside money toward retirement that you’d otherwise be spending on trendy items.
And he’s got some credibility. Before retirement, Galler was vice president, marketing and corporate strategy, for General Mills and chief marketing strategy officer for 3M. On April 1, 2016, at the age of 49, Galler decided it was time to move on. He quit his job. At the time, he wasn’t sure if it was the “smartest or stupidest thing [he] had ever done.”
More than two years later, Galler knows that the move was definitely the right choice. He and his wife, Tammy, who has also since retired, have gone on many adventures. Galler says his favorite might have been going on a family vacation to Tokyo and Kyoto in 2016 to celebrate his son’s high school graduation. But the Gallers have found adventure in their own backyard as well. “We’re fortunate to live in a wonderful city and metro area with so much going on,” Galler says. “It’s great to have the time to really enjoy it.”
When he isn’t trekking the globe, Galler also volunteers for the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, the University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Business, and at Hill-Murray School. “I’m basically a goof-off, but an awfully busy one,” he says with a laugh. He also stays busy running his successful website. Mr. Fire Station helps readers make the correlation between frugalness and financial independence by covering a variety of topics, “including the everyday challenges of budgeting, paying off debt, investing and health insurance,” he says.
“The average American retires at age 63,” says Galler, “but with a little more focus on spending, saving and investment strategies…many find they could reach financial independence five, 10 or 15 years earlier.”
One way to take a large step closer to your goal, according to Galler, is banking your raises when you’re young. Rather than treating yourself to something fancy and new whenever you get a little extra money, save it. Even if it’s only one or two paychecks, over time, Galler says, this will add up.
While you’re planning out what to do with your money, Galler says, “It is critical to plan out what you want to do with your time in early retirement…Health and relationship goals are much more important to your long-term happiness than your nest egg.”