Early Retirement Extreme (referred to by its common abbreviation of ERE from this point forward) is a lifestyle movement given voice by Jacob Lund Fisker beginning in 2007. ERE built on ideas espoused by a variety of personal finance and anti-consumerism sources (notably from things like Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin) and provided a unified presentation of this material. Fisker initially began with a blog and has since expanded the website to include a forum and wiki. Additionally, much of the feedback Fisker received from the website helped him to refine his ideas into a book, also called Early Retirement Extreme. Published in 2010, ERE (the book) presents Fisker's approach to financial independence in an extremely methodical, textbook-like format.

ERE, according to Fisker, is built on two premises:

  1. "financial independence is much more easily obtained by finding ways to reduce monetary expenditure than by finding ways to increase monetary income"
  2. "one can easily live a happy life on much less than is commonly assumed"
However, Fisker strongly states that each of these are interconnected and required for the average person to become financially independent at an early age. Adopting just one of these outlooks will not ultimately lead to financial freedom.

Fisker's approach in presenting his information is reflective of his background. After working for several years as an academic in the hard sciences, his writing is to the point and methodical. However, this sometimes dry approach is offset by the active community of like-minded individuals that participate in the forum. Users post monthly journals that detail new skills learned, projects completed, savings rates, financial philosophy, and tips related to achieving financial independence. Fisker writes:

There is satisfaction in knowing that you never need to work if you don't want to and not being stressed about jobs, debt, and bills. There is satisfaction in beating the consumerist system by making things for yourself instead of buying some nationally advertised product. There is satisfaction in having the time to help other people instead of working for Who Cares Inc. Most importantly, there is satisfaction in knowing that with financial independence (more investment income due to savings than you spend) you can choose to work if you want to.

At heart, ERE requires altering the worldview that is propagated throughout much of the developed world. ERE stresses personal reliance, and Fisker spends a significant portion of the book discussing "the Renaissance Man". He argues that the sum total of our actions during the day can be organized in a way that is optimally efficient. For example, if person A spends his Saturday watching football and person B spends the same time working on his car, then person B has moved much closer to financial independence because he saved money by doing work that the football fan would have paid for while at the same time he increased his skill in something marketable. In the future, the second person might be able to leverage his knowledge of car repair for trade or cash, whereas the football fan would still be required to pay for that service and yet probably be unable to leverage the time spent watching the game into a productive activity. Ultimately, ERE attempts to maximize the time an individual has to pursue their own interests and minimize time required to do anything else.

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