At a time of stagnant wages, high student debt and dead-end jobs, it’s no surprise that millennials in their 30s are now dreaming of dropping out of the rat race and retiring early. But presenting this as a goal achievable to anyone prepared to live frugally and invest carefully looks like a sham. We do not quit our jobs as equals.

Last week’s New York Times story, “How to Retire in Your 30s With $1 Million in the Bank,” was the latest in a line of profiles touting financial freedom in the name of FIRE — “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” Parsimony, or cost minimization, is prioritized over greed, or revenue maximization.

The principles of nickel-counting and index investing are laudable, but the case studies look extreme. One 43-year-old retiree and his wife attained a $1.2 million fortune after…

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