Early Retirement Extreme By Jacob Lund Fisker
To date, Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence is the only personal finance book I have read, indeed it may be the only one I will ever read since - in my opinion - it seems so complete. Based on the synopsis's and reviews of other personal finance books, this is one of so few that give it to you raw and real; venturing outside of pre-existing behavioural patterns designed to fit the prevailing norm in the western world; that is, consumerism. I would so go so far as to say that it is one of the most important books I have read thus far. It has answered and shed light on many of the questions I have asked about how the world works. In response, it has relieved some of the friction and confusion associated with being a bit of a natural skeptic, rebel, non-conformist & anti-consumerist in society and unsure of what to do about it. It has helped me form some of my own ideas about the role I'd like to play in my community as well as advice on how to become a universal man and I consider this important reading for those in search of the renaissance ideal & indeed, financial independence.
Let me clearly state how Fisker defines financial independence: Lifetime expenses are covered by asset income(e.g. investments) or interest(from high savings). That is, no longer having to work for money; since your money works for you.
In the book, Consumerism is likened to a Keynesian system:
"Where the economy is stimulated by having some people dig a hole, then having others fill it back in the next day. We're even following Keynes suggestion quite literally when we dig resources out of the ground, fashion them into consumer objects, temporarily store them in our homes, rarely use them, and eventually replace them with a new and bigger model, while sending the old and likely still functional object to a landfill - back in the ground."
Fisker describes the book as resting on 3 pillars:
- Reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
- Having reduced expenses, invest the difference in businesses.
- Find something meaningful to do instead of (classical)work.
This book is highly practical, applicable AND philosophical. Here is a brief look at how Fisker sees the world:
Education - School quickly becomes less about learning and more about memorising, testing and disciplining people to do as they're told, not to ask questions, use conventional ways to solve predetermined one-dimensional problems and sit for prolonged periods of time: An introduction to the current world of work. A University degree ultimately being a certificate which reads: "I have been moulded into an obedient worker capable of doing as told and specialising in my choosen career path to a point bordering autism." Admittedly an extreme description on MY BEHALF. Not to mention the debt accrued for such a privilege. Also suggested is the purpose of colleges and Universities functioning as production units for not only graduates, but equally for drop-outs; people willing to accept lesser work. That's funny because it might be true.
Occupation & Finances - These two are related because once you've earned your degree(plus attached debt) and landed a job, you're locked-in. You're obliged to work for money to pay off debt & bills. An hours work for an hours pay. This is where consumerism rears it's ugliest head, soon debt repayments, bills & wants/needs(influenced by consumerist culture) become equal to income. To stop working means to accrue more debt and causes a downward spiral; an unfortunate place in which many people are trapped, thus getting involved with loans and the resulting woes.
Social - The social aspect is clear: The prevailing(that is, DOMINATING) way of life for westerners is the one of materialistic-consumerism. An ugly one at that, to repeat the sentiments of Joseph Eyer, "prosperity has become a cause of death". Materialism the magnus. The social pressure to work to spend is immense, it may even feel that there is no other way to live. People are so busy making a living that they have no time for living, they have little time and thus have to pay others to do things for them that they could otherwise do themselves for a fraction of the price.
"An ecosystem has four components, which form a cycle: Abiotic (resources), producers, consumers, decomposers. Modern economics only consider two of these relevant: producers and consumers. It ignores the finite abiotic resources and presumes that their only limit is the producers ability to turn them into commodities. Similarly, consumers and producers ignore decomposition. Once our waste detritus is dumped into landfills, lakes, rivers, and the atmosphere, and is out of sight, it is, for all intents and purposes, out of mind. Meanwhile, the finite planet is running out of it's finite resources and pollution keeps increasing and is starting to bite back. "
Chapter 6 is by far the longest, and most practical. It is full of alternative perspectives - frugal tips - regarding things such as ownership, renting, shelter, sleeping arrangements, power(electricity & gas), food, travel, laundry, services & leaves much more to be researched at the readers discretion.
In summary, this book offers at least an alternate look at the world, and at most a morally superior way of living.