I just finished reading the ERE book and I’m very grateful to have discovered that book and the website.
Here is my story:
I’m currently 29 years old. I’m originally from Germany and started my PhD in Canada in 2007. Having to maintain, what would probably by others considered, a low overhead lifestyle during my graduate and undergraduate days, sometimes forces one to perform certain works yourself rather than hiring a professional. I started out with doing my own cooking, doing my own car repairs, filing my own taxes, renting shared accommodations, rigorous account keeping, and getting familiar with financial engineering. Now into about 11 years of study (undergraduate + graduate) along with some part time employment, I accumulated approx. 68000 C$ of liquid investments. The monthly distributions currently pay my rent and car insurance. Up until I read the ERE book, I considered myself relatively frugal. The idea of accumulating savings, I think, was mainly cultural influence. If you grew up in East Germany and witnessed two currency reforms (German Unification & Euro Introduction) and have grand- and great-grand parents who witnessed WWII and the hyperinflation of the 20s, one kind of has the habit of piling up some safety cushion and sees being indebt as a really bad spot to be in. Up until 2008/2009 I had most of my money in a savings account; and, with diminishing interest rates, became rather interested in investing. To say it in the ERE book’s terms, probably to become more excellent at the shadow game rather than questioning the wall (btw. The allegory to Plato’s cave in the ERE book is just awesome). I read several books about dividend investing, the CFA L1 prep material, etc. At that point it did not occur to me that the financial system itself or the greater consumer culture might be fundamentally flawed. Only recently, I started picking up some more off-mainstream investment books that actually go a little deeper into historical perspective and fundamental philosophical aspects and one of them had a reference to the ERE book. It did so far not occur to me that one can build such an elaborate philosophy around investing and extreme early retirement and make it in fact a lifestyle.
I think after reading the book, I still consider myself a beginner. I think the fact that I still own a car makes that case. However, owning a 1989 Mercedes 190D that only consumes 5l/100km canola oil/diesel that I can entirely maintain myself kind of puts me a bit further away from the mainstream consumer camp. Probably half of my possessions are tools and stockpiled spare-parts to keep that up :). In Germany I used to member of the Mercedes 190D foundation and still publish the occasional repair guide on their website. My other more elaborate hobbies include marital arts (mostly Goju Ryu Karate, some Kendo and Kobudo… this equipment and some camping gear makes up the other half of my possessions :)), cooking and home beer brewing (I’m surprised that still so many in Canada submit to the LCBO monopoly).
I hope I can contribute some helpful ideas and learn more from this community too.