Early Retirement Extreme: The ten-year update

Early Retirement Extreme: The ten-year update

Today, I'm pleased to present a guest article from one of my favorite money bloggers of all time: Jacob Lund Fisker. Fisker founded Early Retirement Extreme in 2007. It quickly became an influential voice for the nascent FIRE movement. In fact, I think it's fair to say that FIRE wouldn't be what it is today with his work.

Fisker retired from blogging in 2011. Since then, he and I have exchanged long emails on sometimes arcane subjects. Occasionally I ask him for advice. Recently, I asked him if he'd be willing to update people on where he's been and what he's been doing for the past decade. He agreed.

Here, then, is Fisker's story of life after Early Retirement Extreme (and extreme early retirement). Be warned: His story is not short.

Early Retirement ExtremeStarting in 2007 (and largely finishing by 2011), I formalized a philosophical alternative to consumerism in the form of a 1000+ post blog and 100,000+ word book [J.D.'s review], which I mistakenly called “Early Retirement Extreme” (or ERE in acronym form). These days, I stick to the acronym form. 😛

Central to my philosophy was the renaissance ideal of spending your life mastering a productive level of competence in a broad range of subjects. This arsenal of “renaissance skills” would then be combined into a mutually reinforcing web-of-goals, which made living more interesting and balanced — but also more cost- and resource-efficient and resilient in the face of the growing complexities and uncertainties of the 21st century.

Being a theoretical physicist by training (and remaining one in spirit) compelled me to present all of this as a theory of everything, rather than the more typical format of a light non-fiction autobiography or overview. As I didn’t really figure on a general audience — it was fairly non-existent back in 2008 — that also meant using graphs and equations when applicable.

The benefit of that format was that others could use the ERE design principles to construct their own particular plan according to their own individual circumstances and goals instead of retracing the footsteps of one particular individual.

Retiring from blogging

Eventually, I considered the problem of “How to escape the earn-buy cycle in order to live a more interesting life” solved and sufficiently “communicated”. In 2011, I stopped blogging. I continued to follow the ERE principles in the spirit of the renaissance ideal with the goal of solving other big problems. Being financially independent (FI), I no longer require any compensation even if I still appreciate it — if nothing else than just to keep score or divert the lucre towards more useful purposes (e.g. supporting people on Kiva or Patreon).

Career workers who don't know me typically ask me what I do for a living, expecting an answer in the form of a job title. (That tends to get awkward and I still don't have a clever response.)

Similarly, people in the FIRE community (and the media that now covers it since they discovered it a couple of years ago) expect a curriculum vitae in the form of instagram-friendly bucket-list of accomplishments. However, following the systems-based web-of-goals approach, it's really hard to answer that in a way that satisfies linear formats.

I follow many different leads and do many different things — often concurrently — and sometimes in ways where they combine and result in new, unexpected opportunities (the serendipity effect). It's therefore difficult to summarize the last ten years of my life in chronological order, so let me instead attempt it as a “skill” or activity-based resume in no particular order.

This format makes more sense since the ERE strategy is to learn something and add value to the process and its environment, a side-effect of which is that I usually don't have to pay to solve problems and that I sometimes get paid. As a consequence, my spending also remains ridiculously low. (I'll get to that near the end of this article.)

I apologize that this is long and boring, but ten years is a long time and one can get a lot done in ten years — not all of which might be as interesting to the reader as it is or was to me. So, for the sake of completeness and in no particular order, and perhaps with the hope that I don't have to write another autobiography for the next ten years, here's a first-hand answer to the question: “Whatever happened to Jacob Lund Fisker?”

My Sporting Years

The first years of any retirement are often filled with activities that one never had time to pursue when working. For most, this means travel. But I had travelled a lot as a part of my career already, so the missing ingredient for me was sports. So, initially I played a lot of sports.

I spent three or four days each week practicing Japanese swordfighting for three years. So, I know a little bit about swords now. Swordfighting is a complex skill that is hard to put into words. It also resists incremental learning because it doesn't make sense or flow until all of the ingredients are known and snap together. (Much like the ERE philosophy!)

Note: After moving to Chicago, I wanted to continue swordfighting, but the nearest dojo is too far away. The take-away here is that if one wants to move around, it's better to pick an activity that exists everywhere and is easily accessible.

Jacob as a team playerI also played a lot of inline hockey in the local city league. My talents were mostly in passing, winning faceoffs, and scoring garbage goals, so I played the role of center forward. Our team won four seasons in a row. Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer, so this was the first time I played a team sport and I thoroughly enjoyed competing with others instead of against myself.

These days, I've sacrificed hockey and risky sports in general because I want to avoid acquiring any long-term injuries. Now, I mainly do BeachBody-type workouts: Insanity, Max30, Asylum, Tapout. It's free, easy, and it keeps me active. I achieved six-pack abs for the first time in my life in my early forties! Another fun exercise is jump roping. I can do double unders, running crosses, heel taps, boxer step, and seamless forward backward reverses. (J.D. loves jump roping too, although he says he's too fat right now to do it without injury.)

Meanwhile, I taught myself bicycle repair. I eventually served as the unofficial mechanic for a women's shelter thanks to someone I met via Freecycle. I mostly used Park's Blue Book, Zinn's guides, and youtube videos to teach myself. Bicycle repair is fantastic for those of us who come from a white-collar background with zero practical skills, because bicycle repair is mostly solving closed-end problems.

Speaking of cycling, I did a lot of riding in the bay area and was planning a ride across the United States. That is indefinitely postponed, but I did ride a few centuries (100-milers) and trained enough to reach a [20 minute] functional threshold power of 3.7W/kg for those who know what that means.

Jacob's dog!My connection at the shelter owned a boat and one of my hockey mates also knew a guy with a boat. They connected me with the sailing community in the San Francisco bay.

I think almost everybody who first gets into sailing dreams about sailing around the world, but I found that I didn't enjoy cruising as much as I liked racing. So, I joined a couple of racing yachts out of the Berkeley marina serving as the mainsail trimmer on my primary boat. We won two regattas while I was on that boat.

I sailed about 50 times per year and have sailed around Alcatraz or under the Golden Gate Bridge more times than I can remember. Lots of stories here including force 6 winds facing 12ft+ rolling waves in the Pacific, losing the rudder (snapped right off), losing the engine, shrimping the spinnaker, shredding the mainsail, taking on water and bailing with a bucket, pulling other boats off of cliff shores. Exciting stuff!

The RV years

From 2008 (before I retired) until 2011 (when we left for Chicago), we lived in a 34-foot motorhome (class A a.k.a. “autocamper” — looks like a bus) that we permanently parked in a nice mobile-home park (we also looked at some not so nice parks before finding a good one) within biking distance from my work and eventually former colleagues.

This allowed us to live in the East Bay Area spending less than $14,000/year for the two of us (including health care, a car, a dog (he's 15 now!), and of course the RV).

Originally, I wanted to live in a boat or a tiny house, but my wife vetoed it in favor of an RV, which she was more familiar with. I must admit that I wasn't too keen on our home and worldly possessions possibly sinking either. Also, I didn't know the first thing about carpentry and building, but that doesn't seem to hold other people back. If we had to do it again, we'd get a 21-25′ travel trailer. (See the frequently asked questions section on my blog for the reasons.)

Moving to Chicago

In December 2011, we sold the RV and moved into a one-bed/one-bath apartment in Chicago. This was the easiest move ever. It only took 17 days to get the RV sold, drive 2000 miles across the US, find an apartment, and move in. Thanks #minimalism for making it easy to accept opportunities when presented!

For a while, it was strange living in a place where furniture, switches, and doorways were all much farther apart…and how the floor didn't sway during wind gusts. [J.D.'s note: This is how Kim and I felt after returning from our fifteen-month RV trip around the U.S. Such culture shock going from a tiny space to a huge one, especially one so removed from the outside environment.]

Why did we move? I had received an offer (actually via one of my blog readers) to work in a financial firm in Chicago as a quant on the buy-side. (This had been something I wanted to try for a long time. I first tried in 2008 after reading up on all the details, but then the credit crisis happened and hiring froze!)

I worked there full time until I quit in 2015. It was interesting to see how the markets' plumbing really works. And how the people working in high finance were some of the most widely-read and intellectually curious people I've ever met. I do think maybe academics might be inherently more curious, it's just that “publish or perish” doesn't leave enough time to exercise it anymore. I've seen so many stacks of unopened books and magazines on the desks of professors bogged down by administrative and grantseeking duties, it makes me sad.

Here's another big lesson I learned, one that might surprise you.

You know how the standard refrain amongst personal finance gurus is how nobody can predict or beat the market? Well, I met and now know a lot of nobodies who regularly beat the market.

These folks have no desire to start a blog, get a paper published, explain the details, or debate the possibility with the internet. Rather, the attitude is one of “live and let live”. I think some of that attitude rubbed off on me. Why bother explaining if the audience always sees it as a starting point for a win-lose debate rather than an opportunity to learn?

It's also possible that I've just grown tired of arguing. I’ve thought a lot about how we all take roles in that particular dynamic on social media thereby affecting what it's possible to learn from each other. I feel less inclined to share insights than I used to.

Home and Homesteading

In 2014, we bought a house. We paid cash, of course. (Fun fact: Before I learned about investing as a means of using money to make more money and the whole financial independence thing, I was just saving so I could entirely avoid the interest payments on a mortgage.)

Our house is a roughly 1000-square-foot brick fixer-upper that we live in and that we're still “fixing” up. Rationally, flipping fixer-uppers you live in is an ideal combination of investing and working that checks many FIRE boxes. However, I've found that it's not really something that I enjoy. To me, a house remains a big container that's mostly used to shelter myself and my stuff while I do other things. I wish I could enjoy the maintenance aspect of homeownership, but I don't. Maybe someday I will.

I taught myself woodworking using hand tools, which is mentally different from the machine-thinking I was used to. This process developed slowly and took years, but it came in handy being a homeowner. I can design and build properly-sized furniture and I can make replacement parts and fix free furniture.

Jacob can build his own furniture

For example, I furnished our bathroom with a new DIY vanity and built-in cabinet spending only $50 on materials total. Lately, I've been interested in toolmaking. I think being able to build one's own tools is the real measure of mastery of one's field. Most recently, I have built a lathe from scratch. It cost me less than $10 in materials. [J.D.'s note:: Holy cats! And I thought my father was handy…]

We plowed up (actually laboriously double-dug with a spade) much of our backyard lawn to install a vegetable garden. The ultimate goal is to develop some level of self-reliance beyond just having access to free organic vegetables every summer/fall. This has been a good reminder that we (or at least I) definitely don't want to be homesteaders. It's funny how buying a homestead is so popular in the FIRE community that it almost seems like a rite of passage. Maybe homesteading attracts exuberant personalities in search of projects? We almost bought one in rural Oregon in 2011. I'm glad we didn't because maintenance is just not for me.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Taking apart a watchFor a while, I messed around with mechanical watches. I can now take one completely apart and reassemble it back into a working unit.

Similar to bicycle repair, this skill allows one to fix things for oneself, neighbors, and friends, but it is hard to make real money on it due to the competition. And if you do, it will mostly come from buying and selling at the right price or simple fixes like changing batteries and fixing flat tires. There's little profit in doing difficult technical work!

Also how many people do you know who still wear watches? They're both great hobbies though. Recently, I've started building a mechanical clock out of plywood. For real!

My general prescription for a successful job-free life is to find activities that cover the combination of meaning+fun and theoretical+practical — albeit not necessarily at the same time. But it's important to touch all of those dimensions from time to time even it it involves a job.

For example, building a working clock out of plywood is practical and fun and perhaps a bit theoretical as well…but definitely not meaningful in the grand scheme of things. However, it checks some of the checkbox combinatorics. In the long run, meaning is more important than fun though!

Many (but not all) who work a job ultimately come to think working their job is meaningless beyond receiving their paycheck. Filling out TPS reports, designing or selling apps and widgets and thneeds that nobody wants because nobody needs. Or just increasing one's net worth highscore or falling victim to the syndrome of one more year.

The search for meaning (over comfort) was a big reason I quit my physics career. I wanted to focus on writing the ERE blog. With physics, I was researching arcane details about neutron stars that were only interesting to maybe five other people in the world. I wasn't exactly curing cancer, but see below…

When blogging, I was breaking new ground (many aspects of commonly accepted FIRE philosophy today were still pretty original ten years ago) and changing peoples' lives on a daily basis. (At least, that's what the comments and emails told me!) Quitting astrophysics to write about early retirement thus checked the box of meaningfulness that my academic research lacked.

The Search for Meaning

One of my buddies from high school — who is now a professor at my alma mater — asked for my help doing some numerical research on enzyme reactions that are actually relevant to cancer research. After bridging the interdisciplinary communications gap, it was fun to see what could be done.

The numerical tools used in computational astrophysics are maybe 40 years ahead of what is apparently state-of-the-art in molecular biology. It's always fun to blow someone's mind with a little bit of applied math. It doesn't just happen with the shockingly simple math of extreme early retirement! 😉

The very first thing I engaged in after retiring from physics was signing onto a non-profit startup with the aim to facilitate interdisciplinary solutions for a brave new green economy. As is tradition in Silicon Valley-area startups, we gave each other fancy titles. I was the “associate director” (basically “number one” in Star Trek terms) and served on the board of directors as a founding member.

However, I eventually found that I didn't agree with the speed and indirect impact of this format. I would much rather focus on solutions that could be immediately implemented at the field level, like ERE, than advise, debate, research, educate, or engage in activism. Ultimately, “big change” needs people filling all roles, but now I have a better idea of the role I optimally fill.

Most of my ERE readers/forumites don't know it, but before ERE back in the early 2000s, when I was still a grad student in physics, I ran a highly-ranked website on the limits of energy resources that drew more traffic than the rest of the entire physics department combined. A very astute person recently tweeted that ERE is a peak oil blog in disguise. This is correct.

Thinking back, I faded from the energy resource scene for similar reasons that I left the non-profit. Sticking to thinking up actionable solutions at the individual level just works better for me. I'm writing this down as a reminder to myself to stay focused on my current project. Tempting as it is to focus on different ways of solving problems — raising awareness, etc. — I am fundamentally interested in individually actionable solutions.

J.D.'s note: This reminds me of our recent discussion about politics and personal finance. Ultimately, I concluded we need people to fill all roles. Some folks — like Tanja from Our Next Life — are generals. They want to formulate political strategy. I don't. I want to train the troops in day-to-day financial combat skills.

The Downsides of the Renaissance Ideal

In a given year, I read more than 100 books. Most of these are technical/non-fiction in order to gain useful insights or learn more stuff.

After reading a few thousand, the ROI of reading or “book learning” is near the top end of the S-curve for me. This is also the case for striving towards being a master of many trades in general.

The downsides of the renaissance ideal as measured at the 10-year milestone in my experience? It becomes harder to enjoy being a spectator. It's also harder to appreciate bought experiences along with and in the company of others. This is not necessarily a virtue or a good thing by the way!

I find myself unable to enjoy watching sports, for example. J.D. can do it; I can't. Courtesy of my high-finance stint, I got to experience watching the Blackhawks play from the box suites at the United Center eating catered food. I bet that was all very expensive and I appreciate the gesture — I understand that it was meant as a reward — but watching professionals play is a far cry from the full experience of playing hockey yourself even as a competent amateur.

I think this holds true for all kinds of experiences.

Learning new skills. Making things yourself. Earning money in new and different ways like hourly, salaried, royalties, investing, trading. Interacting with other people whether it be by helping, getting helped, giving, getting, selling, buying. I could go on, but you know what I mean, right?

I have the same problem with going out to eat. Those $150/person restaurant meals — again, I appreciate the gesture — become hard to enjoy once you're able to create a superior meal (as measured by your personal preferences) for far less.

What My Wife Did

I've now been married for more than thirteen years. Both my wife and I suffer from itchy feet on a three to five year basis. She gets it from growing up military. I get it from an early career as a metic academic ever since I left Denmark two decades ago when I was 24. Temperamentally, the idea of “doing time” in a job or being a “career lifer” is just unappealing to both of us.

When I received the job offer in Chicago back in 2011, I of course asked my wife if she was okay with leaving the east bay and wanted to go too? (Veto rights are always implied in our relationship.) She said yes.

In Chicago, she interviewed with a couple of companies in her old field of environmental remediation but she could no longer find any spark of joy. Essentially being on a sabbatical, I insisted on her doing our taxes (something that had previously been under my purview) to get a hands-on feeling for how they worked should I ever get hit by a bus. Strangely, she liked doing the numbers very much and thus decided to go back to school for an associates degree in accounting which she quickly finished (piece of cake when you come in with a STEM PhD).

This led to her being hired by a certain tax preparation company that everybody probably knows. (Free semi-retirement tip: There are a lot of overly-educated, semi-retired people working in tax-prep because it's seasonal, reasonably well paid, and the co-workers tend to be interesting!) She spent a few years working her way up the ladder until she was responsible for the day-to-day problems of ~100 offices. Then she decided it wasn't worth it anymore and quit. Now she works for a non-profit in the legal field.

Spending Money as a Failure of Imagination

My spending has remained around the $7000 per year mark for almost twenty years now. Since we got married thirteen years ago, my wife's spending has also hovered around the $7000 per year mark. In other words, our combined expenses total about $14,000 per year.

The continual addition of new skills and skill-synergies has allowed us to stretch each dollar further and further in terms of what we get from spending it. We still tend to specialize individually, but as a unit comparative advantage works for us.

I can do many things competently. Ditto my wife for many other things. Together, we're rather self-reliant (to put it mildly). Spending money mainly serves to resolve friction from inefficient lifestyle design. And for us, there's just not a whole lot of friction left anymore except real-estate, taxes, and insurance premiums, which account for nearly 60% of our budget. We consider spending money a failure to solve our problems by smarter means.

Jacob's graph of skill vs imagination

But our failure rate is getting quite low at this point.

J.D.'s Note
Whoa. This is my biggest take-away from the 5000 words that Jacob wrote here: “Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means.” This hits home hard.

Last week, my dog broke her retractable leash again. She lunged hard at a squirrel and destroyed the internal mechanism. I threw the leash away and bought a new one. This is a failure to solve the problem by smarter means. I'm willing to bet that I could have opened the leash and repaired the sprung spring. But I was too lazy. Or, more precisely, it didn't even occur to me.

Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means. Wow.

Our present situation could easily be confused for a mundane suburban middle-class existence…except most of what we own has not been acquired by spending. Some get disappointed by that optic expecting the (typically expensive) Instagram-worthy minimalist designs often portrayed in the media as they try to sell eyeballs to those who want to buy the newest fad.

114 Years of Savings (and Counting)

For historical reasons, my wife and I have kept our savings separate while splitting our income. There are lots of different ways to arrange financial matters, and attitudes vary a lot depending on whatever antediluvian norms anyone grew up under. This is just what we decided back then — mainly because it made tax accounting easy — and we're still happy with it.

For the record, my cumulative income contribution still remains the larger one by a skodge. So we could have chosen differently, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway at this point since we're both way beyond the standard FI numbers (and have been for several years).

Currently, I have saved 114 years worth of spending. That's way beyond the 25 years required for the so-called 4% rule for safe withdrawals in retirement. My wife has 62 years worth of savings. At this point, earning more money doesn't matter anymore.

Both of us have contributed much more to society producing things than we've taken out by consuming them. Neither of us need to work anymore. Nor do we feel any reason to spend more. It's not money but skills and imagination that comprise the limiting factor when operating at this level.

However, whereas it has ultimately become clear to me that I function best as a self-employed intellectual gunslinger for short-term hire to solve complex problems, as mentioned above, my wife still enjoys the structure of a traditional job as long as she's free to change it from time to time. As a couple, both of us being FI makes it a lot easier to solve the “two-body” problem that academics are annoyingly familiar with: In choosing where to go, we take turns with who gets to do a “location-specific project” next.

What Is FIRE For?

Starting in 2017ish, FIRE began to go mainstream.

Hundreds of new FIRE blogs have been started in the past few years. The handful of us who have been around since the beginning have spent more time than we probably like getting interviewed by journalists.

While social media reactions and the general understanding has improved (especially when talking to journalists who are also pursuing FIRE on their own), the media narrative of the FIRE model often remains a story with two separate parts:

  1. A working phase of money earning accumulation followed by…
  2. A spending phase of consumerist entertainment.

Basically, this is an old-fashioned retirement with younger people, where travelling, eating out, and going to concerts substitute for playing bingo. Given this, it's not uncommon that young FIRE people eventually get bored and go back to their old jobs.

With little or no widespread experience outside of consumerism, it seems there's a certain lack of imagination in terms of what to do with all of this unlocked financial freedom (time).

While FIRE solves the freedom-from problem, ERE’s renaissance concept also solves the freedom-to issue, because the limiting factor in enjoying post-work life is seldom money but skill, connections, and the amazing opportunities they generate.

ERE was designed as a continually-evolving system that aims at efficiency and resilience for the 21st century. Within this system, FI just happens as a side-effect of being compensated for adding value to the system while reducing the need and desire to spend. Basically, a two-fer.

Focusing on adding value creates plenty of experiences and things to try and do, which I hope to have illustrated above. Effectively, it looks very different from traditional forms of retirement — whether they be early or late. Indeed, it's been our experience, both personally but also from the other early adopters from 10+ years ago, that the ERE concept works as intended.

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abw
abw
7 months ago

This is really helpful statement of what’s possible post-FI. Much of what Jacob says is consistent with the idea that FI is “freedom from boredom”. Many thanks for publishing this.

Michelle
Michelle
7 months ago

Great article! Jacobs blog was what made me live different and save our butts off. Glad to hear the update .

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago

Wow, this is awesome. So much to unpack here. Will Jacob be answering questions? I have a few xD

Joe
Joe
7 months ago

Jacob! My hero is alive. It’s great to hear from you. Your ERE lifestyle is pretty amazing. You’ve done what you wanted and grew along the way. It’s the ideal renaissance life. You took it a lot further than everyone else. It’s pretty amazing you kept your spending at that low level. I wasn’t sure if you could do it. Nice job. I retired from my engineering career in 2012 and life didn’t really change that much. Our son is an anchor for us (in a good way.) Everybody has to find their own path. Happiness doesn’t look the same… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

I’m fluent in 2.5 languages and I have lived and worked in three different countries. Also been to 14 others. The routine got close to the point where I just threw a toothbrush in the bag before I headed to the airport, train station, or ferry terminal. Once I even forgot to bring my shoes—suddenly standing in another country wearing sandals! Much of this was prior to blogging, so maybe I just took my travel/immersion skills for granted when I made the graph.
If this guest post goes well, maybe I’ll do another update ten years from now 😉

Anne
Anne
7 months ago

I really liked this post and it gave me much to think about.

However, I’m dying to know which language qualifies as only half of one. Just teasing, of course.

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Anne

German

tea
tea
7 months ago

Thanks for the great update. I was wondering what you’d been doing, as you were missed when you stopped blogging. I still receive your posts in my email to maintain my focus on ER. Thanks for being an inspiration and a font of knowledge, Jacob. Please do not wait so long between updates. I think one of the reasons people misunderstand you is because they do not take the time or effort to grasp the principles behind ERE. It’s deep stuff! And for some, the bridge may be too great and scary to cross.

Adam @ Minafi
Adam @ Minafi
7 months ago

Man, Jacobs a good writer! Lot of good wisdom in this, from “spending money is a failure to solve problems” to “projects as entertainment” and a bunch more. The projects side hits close to home for me too. I’ve found the most enjoyment out of setting a target/goal/thing to get good at and spending the time needed to do it. If anything from reading this it’s a reminder that I need to think bigger with these goals. Goals differ when you have (nearly) unlimited time vs when you’re working. Good reminder to dream a little more. ?

Stephenrop
Stephenrop
7 months ago

I am impressed. I do not think I know anyone who understands just as much about the topic. You need to make a career of it, seriously, awesome site

Adam
Adam
7 months ago

What a fantastic read! Everyone’s wired differently, and this absolutely would not work for me, but I have friends who would thrive on this sort of lifestyle and worldview; I may point them this way.

Incidentally, some of the links aren’t formatted quite right. I was interested to see more about the 15-year-old dog but https://www.getrichslowly.org/early-retirement-extreme/%E2%80%9Dhttp://earlyretirementextreme.com/id-rather-be.html%E2%80%9D did not go where I expected it to.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Adam

just delete the grs address part and it goes there

let’s see…

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/id-rather-be.html

hoping it’s not auto-inserted when the comment posts…

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Adam

Jacob—I’d like to hear about the market’s plumbing, and beating it regularly! (And no, I will not debate, but would appreciate an opportunity to learn instead, because I am curious above all else.)

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

dammit this posted in the wrong box

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I like to compare the market’s plumbing to a city’s water and sewerage system essentially ensuring that water and waste goes where needed. It’s very intricate and detailed with many different valves and pipes making sure that money goes where it’s needed. Mostly retail investors just think of “the market” as they think of their kitchen faucet, expecting the water to be there when the tap is turning and vanish when they pull the stopper. There no consideration of what happens “upstream” or “downstream”, but this is important. In terms of beating the market. Ha! It takes two different qualities,… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago

Indeed, working “just for the money” is a grueling way to live. The attraction for me is that I like complex games, and have found a little bit of trading to be much more fun and challenging than computer games which after a the early thrill get tedious and pointless, and produce no results in “real” life (sorry, Civilizations). The other aspect is that “for the money”, any pursuit is going to take a significant investment of time and resources to yield a consistent profit, and I’d rather invest said time and resources in something interesting than in something tedious.… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I also think that the focus on “beating the market” is overrated or somewhat of a red herring talking point. Being FI, the focus shouldn’t be on outperforming the average money but about surviving. The reason for getting sufficiently educated and becoming an informed investor is not about “beating the market” but to avoid getting beat by the market.

Ron Cameron
Ron Cameron
7 months ago

“Why bother explaining if the audience always sees it as a starting point for a win-lose debate rather than an opportunity to learn?”

This sentiment is the reason I appreciate the ERE forums, where people are actually discussing and not ignorantly screaming and arguing. There’s lots to learn out there once you decide most people know -something- that you don’t!

Raghu Bilhana
Raghu Bilhana
7 months ago

Hi Jacob You had really inspired me a lot since 2011 and I really want to talk to you and be friends with you. Based on your inspiration, I became FI at age of 36 on a single income, with a wife and 2 kids. My wife never worked. I am pretty proud of becoming FI with above mentioned situation. Nowadays my focus is on investment research and I manage my own investments. How can I contact you sir? I am proud to say have read every blog post of yours on ERE website. You are a true inspiration to… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Raghu Bilhana

I suggest joining the ERE forums. I’m active there.

wendy
wendy
7 months ago

Glad to hear that things are continuing well. Yours was the first FI blog I stumbled across and it definitely inspired a change in my direction.
Cheers

Jackie
Jackie
7 months ago

Thanks for doing this update! I always wondered what you’d been up to since you stopped blogging 🙂

Corey @ The Fioneers
Corey @ The Fioneers
7 months ago

Jacob, I remember binge reading ERE way back in the day, thinking it wasn’t for me. Now almost 10 years later I’m one of the biggest advocates against a two-stage FI journey. I’d much rather achieve incremental freedom along the way than suffer through ~10 years with a high savings rate. Reflecting now after reading this update, I wonder how much of your philosophy was ingrained in me from the ERE days. I truly didn’t connect the two until I saw your emphasis on the two part retirement.

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago

With ERE, FI is just a side-effect of a smarter way to live. It ultimately frees one from the need for a steady paycheck, but that’s just a bonus. In the early years, there was a lot of confusion over the “retirement”-word. The problem with developing a new philosophy is that one still has to use the old words and those old words come with baggage. This makes it easy to get the wrong impression and reach the wrong conclusions. Ultimately, ERE-living is a learning process. It takes a lot of effort to ingrain a new way of looking at… Read more »

Mama
Mama
6 months ago

This graphic is life-changing!!! I will print this and stare at it…

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago

With ERE, FI is just a side-effect of a smarter way to live. It ultimately frees one from the need for a steady paycheck, but that’s just a bonus. In the early years, there was a lot of confusion over the “retirement”-word. The problem with developing a new philosophy is that one still has to use the old words and those old words come with baggage. This makes it easy to get the wrong impression and reach the wrong conclusions. I think the sudden popularity of the FIRE-movement has resulted in the same effect with people jumping into w/o thinking… Read more »

Francis
Francis
7 months ago

“it’s not uncommon that young FIRE people eventually get bored and go back to their old jobs.” I lasted eight months in the RE portion and had trouble filling 4 hours each day and found blogging unfulfilling. While it was summer in Chicago, I say the winter dread coming. My wife tired of the travel schedule as well. Yep, I went back to work but downscaled my responsibilities at a mid-size growing company with cool technology. Because we achieved FI by saving, we struggled with spending our 3% nest egg. This chapter of working will help teach us to spend… Read more »

Madeline Theresa Kasian
Madeline Theresa Kasian
7 months ago

I retired, not “extremely” early, at age 59, my husband at age 60. We followed a lot of the principles of ERE early on in life, before it was a “thing- -we paid off our mortgage early, stayed debt free.. ran a successful business,saved as much as possible..we traveled when we wanted to.. we’re not big travelers, we prefer scuba destinations where we can chill and enjoy the sea.. have only recently started venturing into cities and other kinds of getaways.. like the Pacific Northwest,Thailand,etc… There is a lot of the U.S. we have not seen and would like to..… Read more »

The Crusher
The Crusher
7 months ago

This is just a brilliant blog post. Thank you so much for sharing. It is highly encouraging to hear that you are doing so well in living a very meaningful life.

I am assuming based on all that I have read that you made a conscious decision to not have children. I am sure someone who can figure out the life complexities as you have would be a hoot raising kids! 🙂

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  The Crusher

I grew up as the oldest sibling as well as the oldest cousin in the family, my mother worked in daycare, and I also had a LT relationship for a while that included children. I thus have a reasonably good foundation for being a competent parent or at least I know what it takes. However, TBH I also have little interest in it and there’s a risk I’d make just the minimum required effort—and the outcome of that particular “parenting-style” is not great. So based on that we made an informed decision not to have children. I just never really… Read more »

The Crusher
The Crusher
7 months ago

Another mindful of not brilliant decision. Almost nothing that a person does not throw themselves into 110%, ends well. You are again, completely correct.

We raised (are raising) 3 young men. It is the most wonderful, exhausting and thankless job in the world. 🙂

James
James
7 months ago

Fascinating stuff! With over 100 years of savings. Do you feel you might have a hoarding and frugality problem?

Do you have kids?

What is your purpose of saving so much?

Thx

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  James

No purpose. I’d rather ask why everybody keeps giving me money when I clearly have no need for it? 😎

Much of it has come from investment returns and some from subsequent fun work or interesting projects. When one has learned to spend so efficiently that not much is required to live well, it’s very easy to overshoot and that’s basically what happened.

It’s basically the same reason Buffet, Gates, or Bezos are drowning in money. Their fortune just grows faster than they can reasonably spend it.

Girt
Girt
7 months ago

Thanks so much for writing this down Jacob, and even more for your work before. I have had your book for about eight years and still dip into it to recalibrate my focus in the face of competing demands.

Young Limey
Young Limey
7 months ago

Jacob, I was thrilled to hear about what you have been up to!

Thanks for taking the time and effort to write this post and sharing your update.

Also thanks for the amazing content on your blog and book from all those years ago-it continues to resonate and inspire many of us.

(I’m currently reading your book for the first time, and for me who has been on the path to FI for a long time, find your views fascinating and enlightening. Sincerely, thank you for sharing your perspective with the world.

The Frugal Humanist
The Frugal Humanist
7 months ago

Thank you for this update! I discovered your blog back in 2010 but didn’t really get that whole renaissance web of goals concept, back then. Since I REd a bit over three years ago, I have been looking for ways to create non-material wealth (knowledge, problem solving skills, social connections, opportunities to be more self sufficient etc), so I can better use that time and freedom I bought myself and help others in the process. Not to save money necessarily, but to learn, develop, grow and feel a sense of accomplishment that comes with this. I have been successful in… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago

There are different problems and solutions depending on whether you’re in mobile “nomad”-mode or a stationary “homesteader”-mode.

So different circumstances = different aims or interests.

I like to mix them around. Once I’ve been stationary too long, I like to move around and vice versa. I wonder about those who can stick to doing the same pattern forever. They are interesting to me because it seems strange.

The Frugal Humanist
The Frugal Humanist
7 months ago

We are usually stationary over the winter for 2-3 months and then in nomad mode the rest of the year. It does not feel like the same pattern, because things change all the time.
But yes, being nomad mostly makes these things more complex.
I am always looking into opportunities when we are stationary, but I don’t want any job to limit us too much, while we are in travel mode.
Maybe I’ll get wary of it at some point, just like you get itchy feet after a while.

Joe
Joe
7 months ago

> Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means. I couldn’t disagree more. I can make about $100/hour doing what I do (software engineering). Therefore I outsource anything that I would rather write software than do. Most of those (e.g. house cleaning, lawn mowing) I pay far less than $100/hour to have done. I do recognize that this runs somewhat counter to some of the tenets of FI, but I can’t see what is so smart about not working in order to do things you like even less and that have a negative opportunity cost as well.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

My understanding is that Jacob got bored with theoretical physics and saw a more interesting problem in cracking the code of sustainable anti-consumerism, and saw his comparative advantage there. I think his whole point is to avoid things he doesn’t enjoy. E.g. he figured out he didn’t want to be a homesteader for example, (and homesteading is big in FI circles). In your case I would say the issue is not one of denying the existence of comparative advantage, but rather— could you get rid of house cleaning and lawn mowing with some creative problem-solving? The ERE paradigm, at least… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

Actually, I should add, not so much freedom from the need to perform labor, but just freedom from need, period.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

ok, last: conveniently this article was on the blog’s main page just now

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/row-row-row-your-boat-on-the-law-of-comparative-advantage.html

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe

This objection comes up semi-often. There is of course a point where it makes more sense to outsource things, but very few people make $100/hr or $200k/year. And even then … Also, as I illustrated above, there’s a point of diminishing return when it comes to transacting money for experiences and living…life-experiences. I’ve worked with/for people with 7-8-9 figures of networth and there are just limits to the insight, experience, knowledge, etc. that’s possible to acquire with money. See the hockey and restaurent examples above. Brewing a superior cup of coffee is another example. One might be earning lots of… Read more »

Steven
Steven
7 months ago

JD ease up on the fixing the dog leash. I also thought I can fix this item. Opened the leash with a screw driver and turns out that there is a sharp metal coil inside. Think the material of a tape measure except wound up very tightly.

Upon opening the leash the coil unraveled thus slicing my thumb wide open. It was like a scene out of one of the SAW movies. Lesson learned I’m buying a new dog leash every time mine breaks. My suggestion to you is the same;)

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Steven

Think of it as tuition money? Best start with something easy or easier. Then build up. The general rule should be to google “youtube diy my problem” or “youtube fix my problem” rather than the habitual “car drive down to walmart and spend to solve my problem”. It might not work the first time around but it will eventually. It does take years to relearn what our grandparents knew all along but after a while, one can easily exceed $100/hr in life energy income using the YMOYL calculus.

JKC
JKC
7 months ago

Thanks for sharing Jacob. I’ve been wondering about you for years.

You know who else I’ve been wondering about?

http://www.bravenewlife.com/

A really great writer. Totally disappeared. Vanished. ???

Is anybody else curious?

Or only me?

JD, any news? Care to investigate and report?

J.D. Roth
Admin
7 months ago
Reply to  JKC

Whoa. I never knew this blog. I’ve never seen it once. Did it come about during my years of semi-retirement? I wasn’t paying much attention to money blogs between 2012 and 2017. I didn’t even read this one! I have it opened in a tab to check out in the weeks ahead. Looks interesting.

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

IIRC, BNL was active around 2010-11. After Mr BNL, FIREd they bought a homestead. Not sure what happened after that.

JKC
JKC
7 months ago

… they lived happily ever after?

BNL was a great wordsmith. Not to overstate, but reminded me of Thoreau. I miss his writing. I’d love to read a “5 year update ” from the Mad Farmer.

By the way, thanks. Thanks to GRS and ERE, I got there. It’s been a long journey, but you guys were both there at the beginning.

Cheers!

Max @ Max Out of Pocket
Max @ Max Out of Pocket
7 months ago
Reply to  JKC

Same question for Lacking Ambition?

Wesley
Wesley
7 months ago
Reply to  JKC

Same, I really enjoyed BNL back in the day. I tried tracking the guy down, but like you, came up with no new writing from him.

Darg
Darg
7 months ago
Reply to  JKC

YES! Brave New Life was an amazing blog, and the author just up and went MIA with no warning. My guess was just that he moved to his farm in Kentucky and never looked back. A true FI philosopher.

RichardP
RichardP
7 months ago

“Career workers who don’t know me typically ask me what I do for a living, expecting an answer in the form of a job title. (That tends to get awkward and I still don’t have a clever response.)” I attend a lot of professional events as a guest (my girlfriend is an attorney) and I have my answer ready. Their question is usually phrased as “What do you do?” My answer is, “Whatever I want. I retired X years ago.” After congratulating me or expressing surprise, the conversation usually proceeds either to “How did you manage that?” or “What do… Read more »

VerySoonFI
VerySoonFI
7 months ago

Thanks Jacob for the post. Very interesting stuff and it’s nice to read what you have been up to. The ERE-blog and book kick-started my ERE (and thus FI) journey about 6 years ago and by the end of next year I’ve almost certainly reached FI at the ripe old age of 30. So many thanks to you, Jacob.

If I’ve understood correctly, you are working on a new book?

Mo
Mo
7 months ago

Jacob, it’s nice to hear what you’ve been up to for the past decade. I used to comment frequently on your ERE site in the early days. I learned a lot there, both from the posts and the comments.

Glad to hear you are doing well.

If you remember me, I’m still doing the same kinds of things- optimizing my financial life and writing internet comments that don’t always make me a lot of friends.

Cheers!

Taylor Anderson
Taylor Anderson
7 months ago

Could you give a little more detail, or point me (us) in the right direction in terms of “beating the market?” We are FI, semi retired at 54 years old and my struggle is that I have an internal battle going on between complex “Ivy League” portfolio construction vs. putting all my money in Vanguard Wellington (or 2-3 index funds and reblancing every year). I’m always looking for things to improve and simplify. (PS, we do have a 7 figure portfolio plus 7 figures in rental real estate equity, so it might be worthwhile for me to work on improving… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago

If you’re really interested there’s a link to a startup curriculum in the top left sidebar on my blog. Once those books have been digested, I suggest reading a bunch of books from various money managers until you find one that makes sense to you (that you’re mentally and temperamentally compatible with in terms of strategy); then dive in there.
Keep in mind though that as a FI, the goal should not be beat the market on relative performance but to avoid getting beaten by the market in absolute terms.

Alice
Alice
7 months ago

Great post. I liked seeing the non-consumerism aspects of FI get attention since that often gets lost in newer blogs. To me, that’s a vital component.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

If you believe in peak oil why don’t you think it’s imperative that you figure out how to grow your own food? A lot of modern agriculture is dependent on oil.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

I hope I’m not misreading but… the question feels like a bit of concern trolling? Because it reads to me like you’re saying one particular guy has to fix every one of humanity’s problems (and who wouldn’t come up short in the face of that challenge?) Or… maybe you meant the impersonal “you” in the last dependent clause of your first sentence, and are trying to point out the problem as a general thing we should all work on? Or…? Anyway I don’t know what Jacob is eating, but far as I can see there are a lot of people… Read more »

Early Retirement Extreme
Early Retirement Extreme
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Ultimately we’re made out of food and when the food stops, there’ll be less of us. Presently humans account for ~35% of the biomass of all mammals on the planet while domesticated livestock (cows, pigs, …) account for another ~60%. The remaining 5% is what’s left of wild life (elephants, tigers bears, badgers, etc.) This means that humans technically have a large buffer against food supplies because we can kill off our livestock if they become too expensive to feed. This is mostly a pricing problem—whether one can afford to outbid livestock at the margin. In terms of storage and… Read more »

Hulu
Hulu
7 months ago

Thanks Jacob and JD. Thanks to you I felt the experience of becoming FI was more enjoyable. It’s so nice to find people with similar values. Any tips on philanthropy? Right now my strategy is to build more wealth and find places that can put it to good use. And to live my values and find more people that are interesting and gentle. Thanks for the tax prep idea…that’s right up my alley.

Katie Camel
Katie Camel
7 months ago

“With little or no widespread experience outside of consumerism, it seems there’s a certain lack of imagination in terms of what to do with all of this unlocked financial freedom (time)….Focusing on adding value creates plenty of experiences and things to try and do.”

Wow. There’s no better explanation for how to handle retirement, or free time in general, for our consumer-driven society. Thank you for such a thorough explanation of your life and experiences post-FIRE. I hope continue to pop up here and there to remind us all about how to live a rewarding life.

MagniFIMoney
MagniFIMoney
7 months ago

Wow! That was well worth the read! I agree with JD in that the piece about lacking imagination and “Spending money is a failure to solve problems by smarter means.”

Super true. Super valid.

It’s articles like this that give us “far-from-FIRE” folks like me some extra encouragement that it’s not just about the number. It’s about the lifestyle you create along the way.

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