Value of ERE in a COVID World

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Matt3121
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Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Matt3121 »

This is really just my musing and thinking about the fairly severe effects of the virus on the economy and the benefits a person who has low expenses has. Obviously we don't really know how bad things are going to get, but I've been reading a lot of posts on LInkedIn and Twitter and there are A LOT of layoffs already. I think have to think this will only accelerate. Not only that but the stress that it's causing people is tremendous.

It really makes me think about how thankful I am to know about ERE. Not even for the retiring early part but I think the greater benefit to me at least is having lower expenses. For so many of these people who haven't planned for a rainy day (and this is as rainy as it gets) it's I think mostly scary because they have such a high monthly burn rate.

I personally got my expenses down from $5500 a month to 1k and can reduce to about $400 if I need to. It was really the best financial choice of my life because even if you have very little money, if your expenses are low you have to worry a whole lot less. Obviously I'm just a single person and everyone has a unique situation, but think the general principle applies. If you have a high monthly burn rate then you are always going to be under stress in bad economic times (and maybe good ones).

More than that by being frugal you are better adapted to bad times. I guess in summary I just see the value a whole lot more. I know so many people who earn over six figures but have nearly no saving and a super high burn rate to boot.

Anyway, that's it. I hope people going through a hard time can apply the principles found on the ERE site. You don't need a car, get cheap accommodations, keep your food budget low.

ertyu
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by ertyu »

I was thinking about this, especially wrt some ways people have to lower housing costs. Some of the ways to do this - e.g. van life (where I am, it's more commonly "attic room") rely on local services for gym, laundry, and wc. A van dweller can probably pick up and drive to the middle of a field and sort some of this out - who cares you stink if there's no one around you. But there are quite some weaknesses to the "attic room" as a solution.

I was considering one before this hit. Basically, this is a room right under the roof of an apartment building. They were originally designed as storage spaces, so while they have electricity, they don't have water or a wc. In normal times one can find workarounds that use facilities at local businesses, but quarantines, closures, and movement restrictions severely limit one's ability to do so. Let's say you decide to forgo washing and laundry for a couple of months - still, all solutions for disposing of human waste developed for van life etc. assume you'll only need to deal with the occasional need, not with a regular disposal of waste.

I am really not the rural home/subsistence farming type, but once again a village house where you can keep a couple of hens and grow your own veg reveals itself as the most antifragile solution. I would really not enjoy living that way, but it seems best both in times of severe economic crisis where you can reduce spending drastically by growing your own food and also during times of quarantine.

Another traditional cost-cutting measure - living with roommates or with your family - also exposes you to a lot of risk. With something this contagious, basically if you share a bathroom with someone, you will get it. Kitchen, maybe less so but pretty certainly. Your survival depends on the behavior and common sense of others.

Other thoughts I had: hardcore Fumio Sasaki style minimalism, where you minimize your own possessions but depend on local businesses for, e.g. having a sitting workspace with wifi where you can get coffee, might also not be as resilient in this type of crisis even if we assume it works cost-wise.

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TheWanderingScholar
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by TheWanderingScholar »

@etryu:

I came to same sort of conclusion as well. My main idea would essentially getting a suburban lot and work my neighbors. Even having 1/4 acre (~0.10 hectares) to your name alongside a house, will help you set up enough food to feed a family of four with vegetables*. Chickens help supply you with animals protein if you can't get the required protein in pill form** via meat and eggs.

Being stuck in the attic is terrible in worldwide economic correction/recession scenario, however in a personal financial crisis it would make sense.


*Calculator I found to determine how much minimum land to grow your own vegetables for how many people.
**If things got that bad.

Seppia
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Seppia »

I really don't think you need to plan for such terrible scenarios.
Before we get to the "food shortage" stage, governments are going to decide that the death toll from the pandemic is a lower cost than the crumbling of society as we know it.
The worst case scenario is really bad, but not Mad Max / Fist of the North Star bad.

I am also happy I found ERE
While I've always been frugal, ramping it up has put me in a situation where basically I have very low financial fear of this pandemic.
Last year, we saved about 75%, and my dividends alone almost covered all of our ex-rent expenses.

The reason we're renting is because I have a job in a location that's not our hometown, where we own a very small apartment.
It's definitely small to live in conveniently, but more than enough for a worst case scenario.
So basically even if I lose my job (which is unlikely but definitely possible, our Prime Minister just announced he's shutting down all non-essential factories) we can pivot by going back to our apartment and try live off the dividends.
They will likely be cut, but usually they're fairly resilient, plus we could tighten the belt.

Don't know if we're going to be super fine, but we are positioned infinitely better than most

Thanks jacob

IlliniDave
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by IlliniDave »

Any sort of self-reliance is invaluable in these situations. I have little to add to what's been mentioned when looking at it from an individual perspective.

I've been thinking about it on a larger scale. Some of the self-reliance principles that contribute to individual robustness might also be applied at a national level. It's fine to count on buying essential things from the worldwide big box store until you can't get them, and then it's not. Nations could go the prepper route and store immense amounts of, for example, critical medical supplies. Or, they could find ways to nurture/preserve the ability to make them domestically.

Back to the individual-level, this pandemic and the response to it have made me realize I've not given due consideration to enduring a disruption in society. This one is likely to be relatively short. The next one might not be. I've been shortsighted in the sense my focus has been on the short-term goal of getting to retirement. I've given some thought to some aspects of longer-term robustness, but not enough. Made a note to self to give some more thought to that facet of the universe of discourse.

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Bankai
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Bankai »

Seppia wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:39 am
Before we get to the "food shortage" stage, governments are going to decide that the death toll from the pandemic is a lower cost than the crumbling of society as we know it.
Exactly. The main goal of a government is to keep power and food shortages are not compatible with this goal since they have a nasty habit of turning into revolutions. No government wants that. Selling to society that 'we suffered enough and time to start living again' will be much easier after a few months of lockdown and first signs of actual shortages. For now, though, everyone is scarred and expects governments to do 'something' so the best strategy is to do what all other governments are doing.

Also, why are Americans buying weapons? I understand run on weed stores in The Netherlands or even the toilet paper, but (even more) guns and ammo? Is the plan to shot the virus?

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Egg
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Egg »

Safety is a spectrum and any notion of complete safety is an unattainable ideal.

However, fair enough that we can try to shift the personal needle of safety - and that any action to do so will be more or less effective depending on the scenario we're talking about.

For instance, totally agree that increased self sufficiency is a good thing, but come "guns and ammo time" I don't suppose others will have many scruples about stealing your vegetables/chickens/whatever.

I was thinking the other day that the most anti-fragile way of life with respect to societal breakdown is probably to exist within a shadow societal structure which can handle the dissipation of the state monopoly on violence e.g. organised crime gang and that is likely to thrive during the bad times.

Note: I am categorically *not* recommending this. I am probably short on criminal contacts, even for a middle class white boy. Being a member of a church community might offer some similar benefits, I guess...

ertyu
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by ertyu »

I just finished listening to a podcast on the psychological aspects of the Covid situation, and a point made in the podcast was that what's most disturbing about this to the majority of people (podcast has a North American bias) is that seeing empty shelves in the stores reveals to them the precarious nature of the social systems and structures in which we've placed our sense of being secure in our existence. [edit: might explain why so many americans made the jump to ammo: empty shelves --> society is about to collapse].

The thing is, someone steeped in ERE was always aware of the precariousness of these systems. To one degree or another, they recognize the need for self-sufficiency and have started working on that self-sufficiency. Even without the actual material preparation (acquiring skills, acquiring supplies, etc.), an ERE person is intrinsically psychologically more resilient and better prepared.

Jin+Guice
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Jin+Guice »

ERE also made me super prepared for this. I never imagined something like this would happen, yet because of this community, I was already pretty prepared accidently and was able to catch it early enough to get supplies before they ran out.

Seppia wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:39 am
I really don't think you need to plan for such terrible scenarios.
I agree. I don't want to dog the small homestead self-production pathway. It's certainly the best solution for a virus that gets increasingly bad and disrupts the food supply and public services (water/ electricity). I don't think that's this disease. It still works great for the current scenario.

In most societal collapse scenarios homesteading is not necessarily the best method. It's a bit short of other people and ignores that large piles of extracted resources that will still be available from the world we currently live in. Social skills, scavenging and repair skills will be paramount. Homesteading will be an important skill too. I just don't think it's the only or an all encompassing way to gain resilience if it's really unappealing to you.

Also this:
Egg wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:16 am
I was thinking the other day that the most anti-fragile way of life with respect to societal breakdown is probably to exist within a shadow societal structure which can handle the dissipation of the state monopoly on violence e.g. organised crime gang and that is likely to thrive during the bad times.

Bankai wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:13 am
Also, why are Americans buying weapons?
Haha, we're always buying guns! Because we're patriots, duh. I did seriously think about buying a gun though (just bought more lentils instead though). Having a gun if you stayed for Hurricane Katrina was a very good idea (leaving was a better idea). Economic times are going to be hard and this is a violent city. Hopefully people take care of each other and the Orange Man doles out some government funds.

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Ego
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Ego »

Egg wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:16 am

I was thinking the other day that the most anti-fragile way of life with respect to societal breakdown is probably to exist within a shadow societal structure which can handle the dissipation of the state monopoly on violence e.g. organised crime gang and that is likely to thrive during the bad times.
When we returned this time I realized that the previous focus of my online stores was somewhat fragile so I pivoted to health & beauty and plumbing supplies because that's what I could get cheap for resale. Not areas where I had much experience but I quickly learned and purchased a lot of inventory.

The shift to online shopping has accelerated during this crisis and each day I've got a tub full of packages going out. If the bailout involves debit cards to all, I expect the trend to continue.

My point is, you don't have to harm others to be antifragile in times of turmoil.

Matt3121
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Matt3121 »

Seppia wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:39 am
I really don't think you need to plan for such terrible scenarios.
Before we get to the "food shortage" stage, governments are going to decide that the death toll from the pandemic is a lower cost than the crumbling of society as we know it.
The worst case scenario is really bad, but not Mad Max / Fist of the North Star bad.
I'm not personally thinking of it being as bad as Mad Max but I could definitely see it being depression era bad. For a ton of companies the damage is done already (at least in the US). There is no way for a lot of these companies to make pay roll. I'm talking about smaller companies in general but even larger nation wide brands like AMC (movie company) are laying off tech staff. We've only been shut down in the US for a week or two but already there are significant cuts. If we got 2-3 months I think we are looking at mass unemployment.

In reality I think we've never seen a scenario like this in the world before. Pandemics sure, shutting down everything around the globe? I can't think of a time like that before.

Either way I'm just thinking about it in general, it could just be that you get sick. Having followed ERE to a larger extent could be helpful.

George the original one
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by George the original one »

Bankai wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:13 am
Also, why are Americans buying weapons? I understand run on weed stores in The Netherlands or even the toilet paper, but (even more) guns and ammo? Is the plan to shot the virus?
Because we can. Like back when Obama was elected, there's a ridiculous fear that you won't be able to buy guns if Biden is elected. Plus roaming bands of savages trying to steal food and toilet paper.

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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by jacob »

Seppia wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:39 am
I really don't think you need to plan for such terrible scenarios.
Heh ... the mysterious project that has sometimes been called ERE2.0 that has been work in [not-so-much] progress over the past few years actually explicitly including planning for major epidemic as part of the web-of-goals. It's been on the backburner for a good while though.

While it would have been great to have the book out now, part of the reason it didn't happen was exactly the expectation that very few people would take up the advice to plan or change their lifestyles for "things that would never happen anyway". In other words, it was hard to imagine why anyone would pursue such a strategy w/o some immediate benefit to themselves.

(This is also why ERE was "sold" as a financial strategy even though it's really a peak oil or peak resource site in disguise. However, it was not as easy finding a similar "match" between setting oneself up to deal with e.g. a public health disaster and some attention-worthy personal benefit. When I talked about food storage a couple of years ago on the forum, some thought it was going too far or even counterproductive to their happiness/optimism.)

The other reason was that ERE itself already had the proper building blocks for resilient adaption because of the way it was initially construed as long term preparation for a civilizational collapse. See http://earlyretirementextreme.com/myths ... uture.html ... it did so by offering financial independence as a side-effect of a lifestyle that was thoroughly resilient. However, the observation that many stopped at Wheaton level 5 or adopted a cafeteria style approach ("I make so much money that I don't need to learn to cook myself") was rather discouraging for someone who doesn't like to write into a vacuum. Well, at least a lot of people saved a lot of money ...

I also hate writing "me-too" type stuff. If someone else have already written about something, I don't feel the need to write my own version repeating other people's ideas. Thus going full ERE and understanding the philosophy to level 7 and then using this kind of thinking to optimize side-effects other than savings rates would also suffice. In particular, it became increasingly clear that the ERE book + a few other relevant books would do a similar job to the proposed ERE2.0 book.

Or as J+G noted, many figured [COVID] out by reading the forums and "accidentally" being prepared via ERE. Ha! That was no accident though ;-)

ERE done the right way, diversifying into all the various capitals, especially (for COVID) technical, financial, and social capital would be well prepared for epidemics indeed. However, financial capital and frugality is also fine; just not as fine as the full renaissance man system. However, the full ERE2.0 system would go into Wheaton8 or 9 ... and thus require Wheaton7.. and so have a very small audience. It ran the high probability of looking like crackpottery as does any extreme preparation until the day it actually happens. Imagine half a year ago if you had been telling people that you had set up your life in preparation for the pandemic that experts had been warning about for a long time. Most would have thought it crazy.

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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

And though there was no easy passing the roads any whither after the first of August, yet there were many ways of retreat, and particularly, as I hinted, some got tents and set them up in the fields, carrying beds or straw to lie on, and provisions to eat, and so lived in them like hermits in a cell, for nobody would venture to come near them...- “A Journal of the Plague Year” - Defoe
I have been wondering how the Level 8 Folk like Mark Boyle are doing? I agree that psychological preparation is even more important than practical preparation. BAU is going to kill some people dead. I mean, even members of this group were encouraging me to keep working last week .

Matt3121
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Matt3121 »

jacob wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:41 am
ERE done the right way, diversifying into all the various capitals, especially (for COVID) technical, financial, and social capital would be well prepared for epidemics indeed. However, financial capital and frugality is also fine; just not as fine as the full renaissance man system.
Being able to rely on yourself is very important. The more you can do that the better off you are. If we are looking at full economic collapse I'm not sure it will matter much one way or the other :lol:

Seppia
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Seppia »

To add context to the part you quoted jacob: I meant it strictly in this situation.
COVID does seem sufficiently "weak" (for lack of a better term) that governments could pivot to "screw that, we're going to let this roll and what happens happens".
For example, I think that after a certain amount of time*, the destruction coming from full lockdowns will be worse than just letting the virus spread uncontrollably.

In case of a hypothetical COVID 19 2.0 with, say, 90% mortality, it would surely be useful!

To add on the tangent, I would 20000% read your next book and I think in the analysis above you're underestimating a critical aspect: you have built a significant amount of equity with a relatively large audience**, which you didn't have when you wrote the first book (or you had less of it. much less)
So while a book titled "Prepping with Lentils: a philosophical and practical guide to surviving the apocalypse" by random author X would be immediately labeled at nuts by most of "us", the same coming from you would get a reaction closer to "well that may seem nuts, but it's coming from Jacob so I'm reading this carefully".

So don't be discouraged!

*which I cannot quantify obviously but I would ballpark it at 6 months to a year just by pulling a number off my... head

**not just the ERE people, but also (and most importantly in terms of reach) all the mainstream FIRE OGs

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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by jacob »

Ego wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:05 am
The shift to online shopping has accelerated during this crisis and each day I've got a tub full of packages going out. If the bailout involves debit cards to all, I expect the trend to continue.
How do you ship? I'm been holding back from ordering anything [frivolous] online because I didn't want to unnecessarily send people to the post office. Yet on the other hand, maybe the sellers would prefer to keep the business going and I should let the fact that the listings are still up be an indicator for that. Personally, I've taken all my online listings down.

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Ego
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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by Ego »

jacob wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 12:28 pm
How do you ship?
I print shipping labels online and my postal carrier takes the packages as they drop off the mail. He leaves me a bin everyday to fill for the next day. Mondays I usually have to fill a second box as the bin overflows. He scans them immediately and they show up in the system as received.

If you have irregular outgoing mail and your carrier is not in the habit of checking if you have anything for them, you can schedule a pickup and they will know to knock on your door and ask for the outgoing mail.

https://tools.usps.com/schedule-pickup-steps.htm

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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by theanimal »

+1 to Seppia. I'd buy at least one copy immediately as I'm sure would be the case for many on this board.
jacob wrote:
Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:41 am
In particular, it became increasingly clear that the ERE book + a few other relevant books would do a similar job to the proposed ERE2.0 book.
Care to share? What are the other relevant books?

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Re: Value of ERE in a COVID World

Post by jacob »

I've been sharing on an ongoing basis with my various reading recommendations for this and that.

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