Need advice on choosing an index fund? What clothes to wear to an interview for your first office job? Recommendations for a divorce lawyer?
For over 64,000 people, the best answers are found not through extensive Googling but in a Facebook group known as Women on FIRE.
FIRE, for the uninitiated, stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early; it’s a movement in which people primarily focus on saving money, paying off debts and generating passive income so they can stop working full-time decades before the typical retirement age. Angela Rozmyn, a Seattle money blogger, started the Facebook group in 2018 as a space for women to discuss and support one another in their FIRE goals. But Women on FIRE has grown to be about so much more than just retiring early.
In fact, many members are not actively working toward FIRE status at all. Despite its name, “we’ve ended up with quite a few people who weren't necessarily looking for a money-focused group to begin with,” Rozmyn says.
You can find members of the highly active group discussing everything from tipping etiquette to sustainable shopping habits to home DIY projects — as well as movie recommendations, inspirational quotes and even funny memes. And as the topics of conversation have expanded beyond money, the group has expanded beyond Facebook: It's now an entire organization known as Women’s Personal Finance.
In 2019, Rozmyn invited Regina Moore, a pharmacist who was running her own money blog, to join the group as an administrator. While they initially bonded over their shared goals of working toward financial independence — which Moore has since achieved — both began to envision ways to build a more intentional community.
“We decided that we needed to make more of it,” Moore says.
Part of the desire to grow was due to changes in how Facebook moderates content. (According to Rozmyn and Moore, posts leading to petty arguments appeared to be getting elevated to members’ homepages over legit, fruitful conversations.)
So in 2021, they launched an independent website dedicated to creating a community for people who don’t generally identify as men and are serious about all things finance. The site offers a public blog and resource lists for folks looking for tools to help them achieve their goals, but the deeper connections are found among paying members, or “Insiders.” For a minimum of $30/month (the suggested fee is based on your income), Insiders gain access to events like special talks with financial experts, discounts and a small Discord server designed for detailed discussions.
“I think it's safe to say that generally speaking, in more mainstream coverage around finance topics, that women are underrepresented,” Moore says. “There's a sense of safety that goes into speaking in communities that [have] a shared understanding and lived experiences.”
Statistically, women face a number of hurdles when it comes to their finances. For instance, there are the gender and racial pay gaps that exists in the U.S., with women earning an average of 82 cents for every dollar men earn (and even bigger disparities between women of color and white men). But women also deal with some darker financial realities: More than 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse, which also can include financial control and abuse. This issue resonates for many members of the Women’s Personal Finance community, who often share stories of escaping and rebuilding after experiencing domestic violence.
Rozmyn and Moore agree that one of the most impactful parts of their experience has been witnessing members support each other through major life changes, whether they’re strictly finance-related or not. Whatever you’re going through — be it health concerns, custody battles or caring for an elderly family member — there’s a good chance someone else in the group has, too.
“It starts with an interest in bettering your financial life and needing a safe place to do it,” Moore says. “But there's a lot more that goes on in [people’s] lives that they need to talk about.”
For Moore, these connections are especially meaningful: In 2018, shortly before becoming an admin for the Facebook group, her 2-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Being able to talk with people who could empathize helped her see her FIRE journey in a new light, balancing “setting up for the future” with “enjoying life now.”
On top of swapping advice, members of the Facebook group, as well as the more intimate Insiders’ Discord channel, have been known to give direct financial support. It’s not uncommon for people to make posts asking for guidance only for commenters to begin offering to send money or provide professional services for free.
“The things that people have done for each other, like paying off bills or doing resume audits… the level of the level of care and connection is amazing,” Rozmyn says.
For Rozmyn and Moore, this is the key to the group’s massive success so far: creating connections and building community based on shared values and shared goals.
“With internet life, you can have forums and you can have other large groups, but there's a secret sauce here,” Moore says. “[Finance] is a core element — but that’s not the only reason we exist.”