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on December 21, 2010
I just finished the book and I can honestly say it has changed my outlook in life and my frame of reference and has already changed my habits and behaviors. Even as a PhD in economics, I learned some really important insights about economics and human behavior. Specifically, I enjoyed the author's take on the role of consumption and production in our lives. In a modern economy, we use specialization and comparative advantage as a method to organize production but also, unfortunately, as a way of organizing our own lives. However, the author's key point is that an individual's level of happiness/satisfaction is a function of more than just consumption--it is also very much based on producing things--and not just one type of output related to work (e.g., writing memos). So, how does this relate to retiring early? It turns out a lot. Rather than focusing solely on increasing one's income via greater specialization (which typically just leads to a proportional increase in one's consumption levels or even greater debt), the author suggests focusing on reducing consumption--radically. However, this is not a book about denying consumption per se, it is about redefining the role that consumption has in our lives.

This is simply one of the best books I have ever read. It is a life changer. The book has more than paid for itself. As a society, we tend to spend hundreds or thousands to make ourselves feel better (e.g., shopping sprees, "experience" vacations, expensive hobbies with lots of gadgets and gear) all the while returning back to a steady state of "getting by" after a few weeks. Instead, why not find a better steady state.
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on October 13, 2010
This book is for anyone who aspires to create a different reality for themselves. If you are comfortable slaving away at your "career" for the next 40 years, saving 5 to 10 percent of your income with the hopes of one day retiring, then this book is NOT for you. If you work so you can buy things, then work to service the debt required to buy even more things, then this book is NOT for you.

However, if you think that the American Dream is alive and well, yet albeit not in the traditional sense, then you need to read this book. If you can be focused, patient and disciplined to attain a goal that is within reach of anyone who wants it, then you need to read this book. If you dare to be different, if you enjoy finding an alternative to the mundane same ol', same ol', then you need to read this book.

More specifically, this book is for anyone who is looking for the philosophy of living a different lifestyle, one that frees them from the chains of the typical corporate life.

First, let me explain what you will not learn in this book. You will not learn the next great investment strategy. You will not learn how to flip real estate, how to make millions on the Internet or how to turn a small investment in a penny stock into millions. This book is about so much more than getting rich. In fact, it is not even about getting rich, rather it is about becoming wealthy.

What you will learn is a philosophy for living detached from the economy. You will learn how to provide for yourself by being efficient and sustainable. You will learn how to change your perspective so that you can see how it is possible to live on less while living more.

Really, one of the strongest points of this book can be found in the old adage "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for life". And that is what the author has done here. You will not find a step by step guide to saving money to retire extremely early. What you will find are the principles required to change your life in order to make the changes required for early retirement extreme (ERE).

If anyone is looking for "21 simple ways to save money" then just do a search in Google and be on your way. This book is not for you...yet. But when attacking a problem such as ERE, which is unconventional to the majority, then unconventional means are necessary. Therefore, the author presents the principles that one can apply themselves in order to live on less and save more.

For me, some of the most positives came with the diverse contents of the book. For instance, the author talks about systems and models and learning common systems so that one can solve their own problems. This reminds me of what Charlie Munger says for investing...that is building mental models of businesses to see how they fit into the larger picture. This didn't make much sense to me until I read this book and it made much more sense.

Another major positive is just how thorough the book is. Just the sheer amount of information covered is impressive. For example, this book covered everything from eating, exercise, housing, transportation, clothing and a myriad of other things. The author had a knack for anticipating what I might question and provided an answer before I could finish my question. For example, when talking about walking in the rain, I had questions about getting wet, which of course was addressed in the subsequent discussion.

The only section that left me wanting more was the section on investing. The author alluded to the fact that he was a stock investor...of which I am one as well. Ironically, had the author said he was a real estate investor I would probably not have the same complaint, since I have no interest in real estate!

Anyways, since the assumption is that one will live in part or in full off their investment income, I was hoping for a bit more discussion on the mechanics of this, particularly from the authors point of view. However, this would have been seen as an "endorsement" so to speak for stock investing, which the author pointed out and we are all aware, there are multiple ways to invest (real estate, commodities, etc.). That said, I am not sure exactly how the author could have satisfied my need for more information on the investing aspect so perhaps this is something that would be better addressed in another book (a sort of sequel...after ERE is attained, perhaps?)

Overall, this book is certainly the most different and most complete book I have read that I can categorize as a personal finance book. The only weak point was a lack, or rather a perceived lack of detail around investing. Of course, this is EASILY overshadowed by the thorough content elsewhere in the book. As the author states, it is simple to learn about investing, one must only be willing to put in the time.

This book will provide the reader with the framework that is necessary to do something extraordinary with their life. This book doesn't give you the answers...it teaches you how to find the answers and in my opinion is much better than just a random collection of tips. I recommend that the novice read something a little simpler before tackling this work, perhaps Your Money or Your Life. Once a small base is built, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with the wherewithal to make a major change in their life.

As Morpheus said "You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." Take the red pill....come down the rabbit-hole.
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on October 9, 2010
This gem of a book will be helpful for anyone trying to rid themselves of the consumer mentality. I will keep it on hand to refer to whenever I feel the "need" to buy something. The author gives many alternative solutions to everyday needs that can be had for little or no money. Although, it is most definately not the typical thrift manual that tells you what to buy and what to eat and what to do. It is more of a philosophy of living where the author shares what has worked for him and also offers a complete realm of other ideas as well a how to think about and analyze the many choices for each situation.

Similar topics are covered as in the blog [...] but they are covered much more thoroughly. The book is NOT a simple copy of the blog.

Topics discussed are philosophy of lifestyles and consumer mentality, different philosophies of working, and then onto more practical matters such as transportation, housing, food, exercise, investments. The author also touches on dealing with a spouse that isn't "on board" with the lifestyle and dealing children while trying to live thoughtfully which I found to be very accurate.

This would be an excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in decreasing consumption, retiring early, saving money, and developing wortwhile activities.
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on December 6, 2010
Why would a 69 year old retired engineer review an "Early Retirement Extreme" book, well there are several reasons. This is a unusual book, a little hard to do a standard review, like in High School or College. It is a live book, which to me means that sections will be reread several times or scanned for highlighted text. It will go into my books to grow old with library.

I believe that most useful ideals in life boil down to what is often called "bumper stickers." These are usually simple saying that reflect cultural beliefs. Two of my bumper stickers are; "There is no predicting how long it takes for the obvious to become apparent." Also "Gold is where you find it."

ERE is an attempt to make the obvious apparent for those who read it. I think ERE is Gold.

What if an artist, magician, or Harry Houdini wrote a book on how they did what was thought to be impossible for an ordinary person to achieve. ERE is a guide book on how to put together your own life navigation plan, regardless of your age or retirement status. A bit of a Rosetta Stone that translates ones' education, work, training, etc. into a real world plan for living life more efficiently. It is not a list to copy, but a "how to manual" for "how to manuals."

I have been reading the ERE blog for over 2 years. The posts flow in a reasoned, logical manner, with complex theories explained, with examples from everyday life. Math avoiding readers would be comfortable reading this blog and this style of writing was extended to the ERE book. I believe ERE will become a classic over the next several years. In light of the current economic down turn, many people will discover the magic of changing their way of living as they become independent thinkers, following their personal path to a more secure life.

There are a number of detailed reviews of ERE on the web. I want to list several quotes that caused me to reflect on my own thoughts on these subjects;

"One must learn the general systemic rules that allow one to improvise and really live life the way it was intended - in your own way, rather than following checklists devised by some random guy, like me."

"We are all different and it is up to each of us to develop, grow, and walk our unique path. This is what it means to be human."

"To get somewhere you must have a deliberate purpose in mind and a vision of the destination that drive your actions."

"We have come to a point where spending is one of the few recognizable signs of success."

"On the other hand, people in our "advanced" civilization know practically nothing about our world."

"The connection between lifestyle and health has been lost."

"In other words, top-tier institutions do not add value to create talent as much as they select or discover it. Thus, if you were smart and ambitious enough to actually get into an expensive top-tier university, you do not actually need to go to a top-tier university to succeed in life."

"Thanks to advertising, nobody know when enough is enough is enough, even though running out of space in the garage should serve as an indicator."

I have between 100 to 200 lines of text highlighted for future study and reflection. Some of these lines will be translated into "New Year Resolutions". For those readers looking for a unique, well written book, that is an artist's reflection on the modern consumer society and its traps that snare so many, this is it.
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on February 21, 2011
Since this book had so many positive reviews, I looked forward to reading it. I felt that the first third of the book did a great job of describing the current "consumerism" state of our society and how we buy into it, thus becoming "wage slaves". After completely enjoying this portion of the book, I looked forward to the author's recipe for financial independence and early retirement...

Basically, reducing one's overall living expenses to a level where a smaller savings will support a work stoppage. Seems well and good, but the author's idea of living cheap is one-step above being homeless. Not the "retirement" most have in mind, I'm sure. I will grant that there were some useful bits in there (buy used, not new), but many suggestions were over the edge for most people (washing clothes by hand in a bucket). If you enjoy a life-style similar to camping you will probably find all of the suggestions worthwhile.

In addition, I was completely disappointed in the "investing" section. If you've already read "Rich Dad, Poor Dad", you won't find anything new here.

Overall, the initial portion of the book is worth reading, but get it from the local library (one of the author's ideas for saving money).
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on December 23, 2010
I first learned of Fisker's work from browsing through the recommendations on Google Reader. They had put up one of his posts on education. I found his views intriguing. Having read this book (and a good number of his blog posts), I can say that most of Fisker's views are intriguing. The intrigue isn't "wow, that's a great idea, I need to try that," but it is the "wow, I never thought of it that way before" variety.

This book is too often described as a personal finance book. It's not. This is a book about how we view and live our lives. Money, how we get it, and what we do with it once it's in our account is certainly central to the discussion, but the time we spent going to school to get a well-paying job, the time we spend keeping that job, and the activities that we neglect while pursuing our paycheck are also used to explore the assumptions that underlie the standard contemporary view of a conventionally successful life.

The first two-thirds of the book is careful analysis of those assumptions on consumption and the mechanisms that have evolved to support them. Regardless of whether or not financial independence is a high priority for you, these pages are worth reading just to get a different perspective on what many of us readily accept as normal. You may think he's crazy, but you can't deny that he makes some excellent points about the value we put on things and the process of getting them.

Amid the making of these points, the book provides excellent food for thought. I found myself really starting to question my relationship with my job. Am I doing what I really want? What am I not doing that I would really like to be working on? Is the stuff that I've acquired with the money I've earned from my job worth it? What's the point of coming to work each day? Where am I trying to go? Do I need this job to get there? My job (and career) give me opportunities to pursue activities that would be impossible to pursue if I was not employed by a certain type of company. Seeing how somebody else came to very different conclusions has refined and sharpened my focus. It will be very difficult for me to take a job just for the paycheck. On a more practical level, it's also changed the way I think about spending my money (I don't know if I'll ever buy a new book again).

There were a few aspects of the book that bothered me. I would like to have seen some documentation backing up his assertions on the emotional malaise of the standard cubicle dweller. There were also far too many internal citations. References to similar topics are useful in a blog, but I found the constant references to other sections of the book distracting. I also failed to see the relevance of several of them. The theme of different lifestyles seemed to have been a major organizing principle of the book in earlier drafts that was slowly edited away. It would have been better to mention it once as a way to differentiate between the lifestyle discussed in the book and other ways to spend our money (and time).

These are just minor quibbles. Early Retirement Extreme is well worth your valuable time and money. You'll have a much different view of each after reading this book.
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on November 3, 2010
I have been following Jacob's blog for some time now, and greatly anticipated reading his book. He did not disappoint! The book was excellent and covered the content of his blog in depth, plus much more. His philosphical approach to money and the American economy confirms thoughts that have been going through my mind over the last several years as I've grown more and more frustrated and disillusioned with the culture of consumption that is so prevalent in our society. I highly recommend this book to people who have already started down the path to conquering their finances and find themselves disenchanted with the work/spend treadmill. However, I would not have been ready for this book four years ago. Since then, I've paid off debt, gotten rid of hundreds of possessions, taken time off from teaching school (and now get to stay home to raise my little girl!) and become a saver. That's why I would recommend this book to people who have somewhat progressed down the path to financial control in their lives. Jacob goes much deeper than most of the current personal finance blogs and books out there. Financial independence is not just about paying off debt, building an emergency fund, and having a 401K so one can retire after thirty-plus years of work. Instead, it's about redefining the way one looks at money, and about finding ways to break free from the current trend of overzealous working, spending and consuming in American society today. Early Retirement Extreme offers a great outline for how to go about achieving this freedom in our own lives.
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on October 20, 2010
Every now and then you come across a book that is a fundamental game changer. A book that is as fresh as it is revolutionary. Early Retirement Extreme is just such a book.

Jacob starts out the book nice and easy. His first chapter asks the question, "Is this for me?" While I will be the first to admit that this book probably isn't for everyone, I want to say that it should be for everyone.

This book isn't about retiring early and lounging on a beach. This book isn't about escaping the working world. This book isn't even really about retirement.

If I were to sum this book up I would say that it is simply about...

Are we using ALL our resources (physical, mental, social, etc.) efficiently and wisely?

The answer is no and we can do better.

If anything, you should buy this book, and try to adopt some of the philosophies provided within. I think that this book will help you save or earn $100s and possibly $1,000s of dollars simply by changing some of your thoughts about money.
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on November 15, 2012
This book isn't so much about retiring as about quitting the consumer society and living reasonably well on less income.

If you like philosophy and theory, you'll love this book. If you want stories of people who have made this lifestyle work for them, you get almost none of that.

I wished there were fewer graphs and formulas and more examples in the book. Now I need to go looking for something else like this that gives my imagination more to hold onto and build on.
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on October 23, 2010
Like others have already said, this is not a 'get rich quick' or a '21 ways to save/invest/spend' book. However, if you are serious about retiring early and/or securely, this book is worth reading because it offers a different perspective than most retirement books, and I have read dozens and dozens of them. And I believe this approach will become more and more common in the decades ahead. Most people refuse to see it, but the 'golden years retirement' of our parents is going the way of the dinosaur for most - and ironically we'll be better for it.

What sets it apart to me is it speaks to how life choices and personal finance must be considered together. Most retirement books focus on 'the number' - ignoring the fact that excessive consumption can keep financial security just out of reach much longer than necessary. And there is so much more to a fulfilling life or retirement than 'the number.'

If you liked Your Money or Your Life, this book provides more depth on the why's of that seminal book on our relationships with money. The intent is indeed to 'teach you to fish.' If you're unsure about buying it, read the authors blog and archives. After I read through current and past blog posts, I ordered the book...and read it within days. Excellent book!
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