Influence #1: Early Retirement Extreme

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This is my first influence post. I will have a series of these, and discuss in brief some of the other authors and resources that have led me to trying to live a simpler life.

Early Retirement Extreme

I don’t actually recall how I stumbled upon this website, but I think it was the first that started me on the road towards simplification. I know that at the time I was working a job I was unsatisfied with, but I don’t actually remember googling for early retirement strategies or similar, so it must have been something more tangential. In any event, I read through the archives of the site slowly over several months, and eventually bought and read the book.

Early Retirement Extreme (ERE) is a book about how to become independent of the need to work a salaried job in order for one to secure sufficient resources to keep living. This is fairly straightforward, right? Many people have written self-help books about how to get rich. But ERE is not about getting rich. Rather, it’s about reducing your reliance on an external marketplace to provide for your needs – and hence, if you don’t need to fulfil those needs by buying solutions, you need less money to do the buying. Less money needed = less time spent working a job and saving money for retirement. The idea is to question what it is you actually need to live a satisfying life, and also build up skills so that you can replace most needs for external solutions by providing your own (internal) solutions.

Just to cure any curiosity out there in the blogosphere – I’m not actually on the path to early retirement extreme, for better or worse. I’m just not extreme enough. With that said, I really like this book’s coherent philosophy and emphasis on strategy. ERE is not a list of ‘tips and tricks’ to save money and retire early. It does not give any more than very rudimentary advice on finance. Rather, it relentlessly draws attention to the necessity of ensuring all aspects of your life harmonise in order attain a specific goal, in this case, retirement (or financial independence). Too often (and you will see this easily if you look at any personal finance websites), people focus on saving harder and getting better investment returns only to attenuate those gains because other areas of their life do not harmonise with their goals. Example: a three-person family unit wants to increase their savings, but simply cannot contemplate living in a smaller than four bedroom, double garage house with multiple air conditioners.

Although I am not on the path to saving 70% of my income and retiring in 7 years or so, Mr. Fisker’s comprehensive lifestyle philosophy has certainly made me question and realign a number of my habits and goals. It has helped me to conceptualise and make progress towards a lifestyle that is more robust to negative shocks from the external economy, because I have internalized some of the production for which most people pay others. It has helped me to ask questions about what is possible within (and beyond) the bounds of a consumption-driven economy, and whether the fact that so few do something (attain financial independence) really means that it is particularly difficult. I recommend the book thoroughly to anyone who is open-minded about detaching themselves from the consumer economy (to a greater or lesser degree).

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