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How much does Jack Reacher’s Financial Independence cost?


It’s 4th of July! Independence Day is my favorite holiday of the year, not Christmas like many people’s. The weather is finally nice in Portland and the Blues Festival is playing outside our windows. Throw in a little BBQ and that’s what life is all about. 🙂 Today, we’ll see a different side of financial independence.

4th of July finance blog

Fireworks tonight!

Let’s take a look at Financial Independence from Jack Reacher’s point of view since I have been obsessed with the Jack Reacher novels recently. I haven’t seen the movie yet. These books are gripping yarns and can easily lead to a night of sleep deprivation. Now that I’m not working full time anymore, I feel entitled to stay up late and finish a good book if I want to. Of course I’m all worn out and sleepy the next day.

Anyway, back to Jack Reacher. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, here is the rundown on the guy.

Reacher worked as a military policeman for 13 years and was discharged in 1997. He was an Major when he left the army. Since then, he has been wandering around the USA to see the country. He carries only a folding toothbrush and sleeps in cheap hotels. He buys new clothes every few days from cheap chains and throws out the old ones. He likes to eat basic steak and potatoes at local diners. He does not have a steady income and lives on his saving which are supplemented from part time gigs and money appropriated from bad guys.

Net Worth?

Reacher must have quite a bank roll because he probably saved most of his money when he was working. The military provided all his basic needs – shelter, food, transportation, clothing, and healthcare. From the book, he is a frugal man who doesn’t really spend much money on luxuries. He probably got a severance package (?) from the Army because he was discharged. I did a little research and I don’t think he has a pension because you need to be in the service for at least 20 years to be eligible.

A Drifter’s Expenses

Now that he’s a drifter, he’ll have to spend his own money. At first glance, it seems like his low maintenance lifestyle will be pretty cheap, but let’s take a closer look.

$1,200 Lodging – Reacher usually sleeps in cheap hotels, but he also crashes in cars, a friends’ couch, and other available places. On a monthly basis, he probably spends $40/night. We’ll call it $1,200/month.

$750 Food – Reacher is a big guy at 6’5 and 250lbs. He needs to eat quite a bit to keep up his strength so he can fight bad guys. Eating out for every meal isn’t cheap these days and I think he’ll probably need at least $25/day to keep up his unstoppable physique.

$100 Transportation – He usually walks locally and takes a bus/hitchhikes when traveling long distance. Recently there have been more discount bus companies like Bolt Bus so he probably won’t have to spend too much for transportation. Going from Vancouver, BC to Portland only costs $35. That’s pretty cheap. Let’s say he moves on a couple of times a month. That should come out to around $100 or so.

$250 Clothes – Hmm… I have no idea how much cheap new clothes cost now because I haven’t purchased any clothing in a while. Maybe $25 at Walmart will do the trick? He has to shop in the big and tall section and I think there are usually a lot of sales there.

$0 Healthcare – I don’t think Reacher has health insurance. This is a terrible idea for a crime fighting hero because he’s always getting banged up. He hasn’t checked into the ER yet, but you know it’s only a matter of time. He’s depending on luck to get him through and that won’t work out in the long run. He probably is going to ignore the whole Obamacare thing next year.

$0 Tax – He probably doesn’t pay tax because he hasn’t mention stock or anything like that. He picks up a few part time jobs here and there, but those all probably pay cash. Taking money from bad guys is also a cash based business. I hope he wises up and puts some of his savings into some safe investments like I-Bonds soon.

Whoa, a drifter lifestyle costs $2,300/month? Let’s round it up to $2,500 because I’m sure he has unexpected expenses too –shoes, the occasional cab fares, and what not. That’s $30,000/year. It’s lower than most middle class family’s monthly expense, but it’s not cheap either.

How much does Jack Reacher’s Financial Independence cost?

Reacher was born in 1960 so he’s 53 years old now. That gives him about 27 years left in the life expectancy chart. At this point in life, he should be worried about his finances and starts reading some personal finance blogs. He should invest in the stock market and some bonds so he can generate some passive income instead of just spending down his net worth.

I assume 7% ROI and 4% inflation. He’ll need about $550,000 in his investment account to keep living his drifter lifestyle. Is that realistic for a former MP Major? I don’t know…

Most people probably wouldn’t want to live a drifter’s lifestyle either. If you paid off your mortgage and cook at home, you can pull off FI much easier than our fictitious hero. Of course, you also need healthcare in real life so that will increase your expense.

How close are you to Financial Independence?

Happy Independence Day!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our little diversion on Independence Day. It’s a holiday, what are you doing in front of the computer anyway? Go out there and enjoy the BBQ and sunshine. Financial Independence can wait another day right? 🙂 Have a great 4th of July!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Rafael Mangual June 26, 2020, 9:06 pm

    In the beginning of the movie when DA Rodin is checking out Reacher’s file, you see Reacher’s pensión total of 460,000.00. You just have to have a strong pause game on your remote. LOL

  • Green Trees May 2, 2018, 2:56 pm

    Haha this is the first time I’ve seen your site, and it’s because I love the Jack Reacher books. I was so curious how he could afford his lifestyle without working, that I googled and saw this. I also forgot that he gets some type of pension (if he does). Great site!

  • Benjamin Roussey November 6, 2016, 1:09 pm

    Jack Reacher can go to the VA. He does not need health insurance. Though in Make Me he went to the hospital as a coder.

  • WILLIAM FITZHENRY September 15, 2016, 3:38 am

    He has his retirement from the army that he picks up at western union via account numbers … Thats how he supports himself plus the paycheck from helping a random person …

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2016, 9:55 am

      Oh, yeah. I forgot about the military pension. It was pretty small as I recall.

      • Benjamin Roussey November 6, 2016, 1:10 pm

        You will not retire with 13 years. You do not have to do 20 but mainly you do. Reacher does not get any retirement.

  • SkyPilot49 July 4, 2015, 12:27 pm

    One thing that has bother me after reading all of the Jack Reacher novels is that Reacher has stated he is “retired” military at least 6-7 times.


    1) Military academy time does not count toward military retirement.
    2) Nothing was ever mentioned about Reacher receiving a medical retirement.
    3) By all counts Reacher served in the military for about 14 years.
    4) One must serve at least 20 years active duty to receive a military pension.

    Is there something we are all missing or is Lee Child holding something back for future novels?

  • davidmichael July 10, 2013, 11:42 am

    Fun read for the 4th July. I don’t envy Jack Reacher and his lifestle one bit. Most of the people I have known who worked in intelligence/special forces/mercenary world have done very well financially. Of course the government employees have a nice fat pension which kept my father well provided for in his retirement from the D.C. lifetsyle and roaming around the world.

    I can give a summary of the lifestyle of a full time RVer: about $3000 a month to live the good life. That’s a very credible road to freedom that many seek these days. I have never had to fight aliens, foreign mercenaries, or drug runners (yet). And I get to explore some of ther most beautiful country in the world at my leisure.

    • retirebyforty July 10, 2013, 3:36 pm

      The RV lifestyle sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m not sure if I could really do it full time. I’m a city boy and life on the road probably will be too quite for me. Who knows… Maybe we’ll try it for a couple of months and see how it goes.

  • Sam @ frugaling.org July 7, 2013, 1:19 pm

    Haha! Love that you covered this. I’ve been addicted to the fun, crime/action novels for a while. The movie didn’t do much for me; not sure Tom Cruise was the right cast.

    This seems like a fortune, but the books always stressed how little he ever purchased. On top of that, the movie suggested that he had one outfit that he purchased at Goodwill. Would imagine that’d be a pretty cheap way to live. Although, hotels definitely add up – maybe he ought to try Airbnb? 😉

  • Prasun Choudhury July 6, 2013, 1:38 am

    Can’t Reacher cut down on the $750 per month food bill. I have never spend so much every month on groceries/food per person. If he eats food that require less cooking but still healthy and doesn’t always go to the restaurant, having a monthly bill within $400 might seem plausible. He can intersperse his home (semi-cooked or boiled or microwave-able) food with occasional excursions to restaurants (which might also increase the bill, if those visits are too frequent).

  • Daisy @ Young Finances July 5, 2013, 11:03 am

    Jack’s expenses are at par with mine, and I’m definitely not a drifter! I gotta say though, $550,000 is not that much money – hopefully if he were a real person he’d have it all saved up already!

  • The Passive Income Earner July 5, 2013, 7:08 am

    I think I’ll pass on the drifte life style too. Nice calculator too. I have been working on assessing how much is needed in retirement from just basic needs and it adds up fast …

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance July 5, 2013, 5:31 am

    Being a drifter is expensive. Not sure why he would need to by that much clothing but hey a drifters gotta look good. At this rate Jack needs a full time job to be a drifter. I think the wifey saw the movie but I haven’t nor have I read any of the books. Really enjoyed using the calculator.

  • Hanne van Essen July 4, 2013, 10:37 pm

    With a 250$ a month budget for clothes, he does not need the laundromat! He can buy an entire new wardrobe every month. If he claims to be a frugal guy, this needs to be looked at. I spend about that much a year, and believe me, clothes are much more expensive in the Netherlands.

  • thepotatohead July 4, 2013, 10:24 pm

    I shop at thrift stores a lot and even I can’t imagine putting on clothes from Salvo without giving them a wash. Reacher definitely needs to budget in some laundromat money each month lol.

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 9:04 am

      He just get cheap new clothes from big chain store like Walmart. The clothes from the thrift store always smell funny.

  • Pauline July 4, 2013, 7:54 pm

    Thank you for participating Joe! I have traveled for 3 months around the US last year on a motorcycle and we spent about $1,000 per month each. As a couple it is cheaper because the main expense being motels, it gets split in half. Your estimates sound accurate but I’d imagine the clothing part being more expensive (we hit the laundromat but I guess Reacher is above that). 13 years of service if you save 90% of your paycheck and get severance could just about make him the $550K he needs, if he has no family he may have inherited a bit and in his line of work he may not grow to be very old so is probably going through his nest egg like there is no tomorrow!

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 12:44 am

      Yeap, being an action hero probably doesn’t figure well for longevity. Might as well spend money now. 🙂

  • Martin July 4, 2013, 5:04 pm

    I like the calculator. I entered my current data and interest my investments are making me today and the results were quite satisfactory and pleasing. The other day I was thinking if my savings would ever be enough to live off of it and looks like I should be able to make it.

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 12:43 am

      Congratulation! Not many people can say that. Do you have many years of saving left to do?

  • JayCeezy July 4, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I have picked up some PF tips from Reacher, too.
    1) he doesn’t have a cellphone
    2) no driver’s license, so no DMV registration or license fees and no car insurance bill
    3) no cable bill

    Ian Fleming once wrote James Bond’s personal intention as “to die with as little as possible in (Bond’s) bank account.” Maybe Lee Child has the same intention for Reacher. btw, when you do see the movie, when Jack Reacher is released from jail and collects his belongings while describing the 3 things he knows about police (they don’t vote Democrat, don’t drive Cadillacs, and don’t use personal vehicles), the officer behind the cage who hands him his stuff is author Lee Child, who is now the proud owner of a SAG card.

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 12:42 am

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep a watch out for the author.

      • JayCeezy January 16, 2020, 8:39 am

        Joe, I’m hitting this thread again seven years later, because I came upon some info I thought you might like. The third Reacher movie with Tom Cruise is not coming off, as you may know. But the writing/producing/directing team is taking the property to Amazon for a tv series. It looks great! The showrunner, Nick Santora, has very established beginning with his spec script sent to David Chase for ‘The Sopranos’ which got him hired for his very first job.

        Thanks for introducing me to ‘How To Engineer Your Layoff’ years ago, and for introducing me to the Lee Child books about Reacher. Hope you and yours are well!

        OK, hope you find this of interest. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/jack-reacher-series-a-go-at-amazon-1269524

        • retirebyforty January 16, 2020, 12:20 pm

          That’s really cool. It sounds like a fit. Hopefully, they don’t mess it up too badly.

  • [email protected] July 4, 2013, 10:13 am

    It is a good point of view. It’s better to have a reliable passive income before becoming a drifter.

    Happy 4th of July.

  • Pretired Nick July 4, 2013, 7:27 am

    I hadn’t even heard of this guy before. I guess I’ll have to check it out! Maybe on my next vacation.

  • krantcents July 4, 2013, 7:14 am

    Why does his lifestyle seem appealing? It seems lonely and unfulfilling! I think I will stick with my plan.

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 12:39 am

      I forgot to mention that being an action hero, he gets a lot of girls. 🙂

  • GamingYourFinances July 4, 2013, 6:35 am

    Hey Retire by 40! With expenses of $30K/yr, an ROI of 7% and inflation of 4%, wouldn’t he need $1M? ($30k/3% net return) Or perhaps I missed something.

    I agree though! Seem like FI would be easier to achieve with a house and home cooked meals! I’ll delay becoming a drifter for the time being 😉

    • GamingYourFinances July 4, 2013, 7:11 am

      Thanks for adding the calculator! Clear now.

      Still going to wait on becoming a drifter though.

    • retirebyforty July 5, 2013, 12:38 am

      He is spending down his capital. 🙂

  • Chris July 4, 2013, 5:56 am

    You might want to re-run your plan for Jack; a person born in 1960 would be 53 today.

    • retirebyforty July 4, 2013, 6:28 am

      Doh, I’m 10 years behind… Thanks for catching this. I’ll fix the math now.

  • Jenny @ Frugal Guru Guide July 4, 2013, 2:45 am

    That is AWESOME! 🙂 Thanks for the laugh.

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