Your catalyst for ERE?

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FarmOne
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Post by FarmOne »

Having browsed this site for years, it occurs to me how many different walks of life strive for control over their own destiny before they are worn out from old age. There are a multitude of reasons to come to this conclusion, but I'm curious about the personal stories.
What was the single most significant event that changed your path in life? What was the catalyst that "lit your fire" and caused you to begin planning?
Mine was the frustration and thankfulness of operating in the typical corporate world. I always seemed to end up with superiors who were inferior! So that was my catalyst: working under imbeciles who undermined my personal contributions to excellence...


Dragline
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Post by Dragline »

Nothing terribly sudden or dramatic for us. (I'm afraid we are neither very early nor very extreme.) More like developing feelings and realizations over time.
I suppose for us there were two main decision points. The first was just looking at the mounds of debt my wife and I had when we came out of school -- we had just gotten married (this was about 20 years ago). We were very uncomfortable with it and knew we weren't going to be able to do much of anything other than work the most lucrative jobs we could get until it was beaten down, so it was a kind of "every last dollar" at the debt campaign for a number of years. That pretty much got us in a savings habit. We still laugh about having cheap patio furniture in our living/dining room, but we lived on every hand-me-down we could get our hands on. It was a like a quest and I think it made us much closer.
The second came a few years after we conquered debt mountain and was more of a values-happiness related decision. After paying off the debt, we did have a 2-3 years of "upscaling" our lifestyle buying a new house and some unnecessary things. At some point, we just decided it was inconsistent with what we wanted in life (and for our kids) to continue on that path and so we just stopped. We continued to make more money, but our expenses stayed the same. Basically, without really being conscious of it we followed the prescription in Richest Man in Babylon, which gets you to FI in 20ish years. And we realized that we get more good feelings out of spending money on other people and worthy causes than on ourselves.
Now I still work because my job is mostly quite good and there are uncertainties about the various people old and young that we support, and I've still got stuff I need to get rid of from past indulgences, but that's been a good/healthy process too, especially since I discovered free-cycling.


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

I'd say I put trust in a system that really didn't care for or about me, and when I realized that, I looked for a tool to help me walk away.
My job path didn't go the way I wanted it to go and I felt powerless at the arbitrariness of the industry. While I've never been much of a conspicuous consumer, I'd never been much of a saver either. I had never really done the math on just how easy it was to get even partial financial independence in a short period of time, and when I stumbled on Jacob's blog it was a tremendous eye opener.


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Sclass
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Post by Sclass »

I just read the should I get a PhD post and realized my ERE moment came back then.
I was sitting with a pal in his computer hardware lab getting ready for the beer party to start Friday afternoon. He said he couldn't go. I said come on man, give it a rest it's Friday. He had the toughest adviser in the school. He looked at me and mumbled, "Andre owns me dude, I cannot. He has progress meetings at 9am Saturday mornings. I took his money, now I have to do this. If I don't I lose my funding and my visa. You know when you accept money they own you right?"
That was it. My life flashed before me as my dad manipulated me with a floating rate allowance based on how much I auto maintenance I did for mom and dad, my thesis adviser writing his name on my papers even though he didn't even step in the lab...worse he gave my data away as wampum to other people who only acknowledged me as "special thanks to hardworking student."
I went out to have my beers and resolved that nobody was going to own me. That's bullshit. Took another twenty years to tunnel out after that.
Hey, maybe grad school is a good idea!


RealPerson
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Post by RealPerson »

My parents lived paycheck to paycheck. They never lacked anything but just were terrible money managers. Not hugely in debt, but never accumulated much either. They lived with no purpose or vision, and used money to fill the void. I decided as a teenager I would not live a mediocre life like that.
I had a summer job at a large corporation right after high school graduation. I saw the paycheck slaves grumble every day and count down the days until Friday, so the weekend would start. They were not happy at all. Not living that life was a strong motivator for me.
So I went to college and on to grad school, against the strong opposition of my parents. Had a lucrative career. Saving was in my blood. Married a woman who felt the same way, which was probably no coincidence. We were nothing like Jacob but kept our spending under control and our savings level really high. I have always been totally opposed to any debt, so we never had credit card debt or any other consumer debt. We just lived like that for years. Then I came across this website, put a spreadsheet together and realized we have been FI for years. I love my job so we changed nothing much, except I ramped up the saving: got rid of cable and landline, got rid of a car and use my bicycle for transportation instead of exercise only, and have become even more aware of excessive spending. Since discovering ERE we have cut our spending by about $1000 per month. Also sold a lot on CL and Amazon. Trying to clear the house so we can downsize if we want when the kids are gone.
I was always a saver, but Jacob put it in a different framework for me. It's the difference between doing something with clear purpose rather than just because intuitively it feels right. I am hugely grateful for that.


RealPerson
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Post by RealPerson »

My parents lived paycheck to paycheck. They never lacked anything but just were terrible money managers. Not hugely in debt, but never accumulated much either. They lived with no purpose or vision, and used money to fill the void. I decided as a teenager I would not live a mediocre life like that.
I had a summer job at a large corporation right after high school graduation. I saw the paycheck slaves grumble every day and count down the days until Friday, so the weekend would start. They were not happy at all. Not living that life was a strong motivator for me.
So I went to college and on to grad school, against the strong opposition of my parents. Had a lucrative career. Saving was in my blood. Married a woman who felt the same way, which was probably no coincidence. We were nothing like Jacob but kept our spending under control and our savings level really high. I have always been totally opposed to any debt, so we never had credit card debt or any other consumer debt. We just lived like that for years. Then I came across this website, put a spreadsheet together and realized we have been FI for years. I love my job so we changed nothing much, except I ramped up the saving: got rid of cable and landline, got rid of a car and use my bicycle for transportation instead of exercise only, and have become even more aware of excessive spending. Since discovering ERE we have cut our spending by about $1000 per month. Also sold a lot on CL and Amazon. Trying to clear the house so we can downsize if we want when the kids are gone.
I was always a saver, but Jacob put it in a different framework for me. It's the difference between doing something with clear purpose rather than just because intuitively it feels right. I am hugely grateful for that.


GandK
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Post by GandK »

Illness. Both of us have chronic health problems, three of my four grandparents had cancer, and now G's mom has it too. We were both very afraid of not having a chance to really enjoy life together.


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

Long day at work. Sprawled in front of the television. Mesmerized. Waiting for Seinfeld. The lottery drawing came on. Without thinking I asked my wife what she'd want to do if we won the lottery. We never play.
It didn't take long to realize that we didn't need to win the lottery to do what we wanted.


JohnnyH
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Post by JohnnyH »

Watched family squander all resources, ending up oppressed by possessions and poor. This cemented me as a consumerist contrarian and frugal minimalist... Guess I'm kinda lucky for this upbringing! ;)
Another, once I started my adult job I felt like I was making more money than I was worth... I guess it was a shock coming from previous low wage jobs.

I thought a Lumberg type character was going to come around the corner and do this to me (volume down):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEStsLJZhzo
So I saved for my inevitable outing as a fraud, defrocking and layoff... But by the time I saved a healthy emergency fund I knew everyone was a fraud, most much worse than I.


DutchGirl
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Post by DutchGirl »

Mostly... Finding a way out of having to have a job. Based on first a boring job in an office. I started to do a PhD to escape that, but then 3 years in I found out I didn't like the PhD much, either; and in the end it's another boring job where you feel underpaid and undervalued. And unfree.
I'm still not sure what I would do if I ever reach ERE (current estimate: 10-15 years from now). Will I continue working, or not? Will I keep working in the same job until then; or will I go look (again) for something more challenging? I don't know.
Currently finishing up the PhD keeps me busy enough, after that might be decision-time...


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

"So I saved for my inevitable outing as a fraud, defrocking and layoff... But by the time I saved a healthy emergency fund I knew everyone was a fraud, most much worse than I."
Sounds so, so, so much like me. JohnnyH, I also come from a poor family and have spent my working career with the confidently middle and upper middle classes. What you experienced is impostor syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome) and is incredibly common, especially amongst nouveau riche like us.


Seneca
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Post by Seneca »

"They never become their own guardians" -Seneca (the real one)
A great grandfather sent an inscribed copy of Richest Man in Babylon to my parents to give me when I was old enough to read. Thus my plan became to save 10% of everything I made, spend 90% and it'd be all good. I'd retire fairly young, wealthy and happy.
I dutifully did this in my 401(k) and happily consumed the rest of my money.
I always admired the Renaissance man lifestyle, and thought America's original millionaire, Ben Franklin, was the one to most closely emulate.
Then I added a second player to my life. :-)
My biggest single moment was a sleepless night in 2009 when I was pondering the fact that after recently marrying big student loans and buying a house, we were just short of $1mil in debt. This led to a very serious literature search and lifestyle restructure.
Being worried about the fact that a job loss by either myself or my wife would be disastrous, we chose to work on raising savings rate to dig out of this hole. We double teamed it, increased earning as we could figure out how, and cut expenses and sold stuff that we realized wasn't making us happy anymore anyway.
I found the ERE book and blog after I'd already long strove for a renaissance man lifestyle, and after we'd gotten our savings rate over 50% to clean up our mess.
@SW and Johnny- The "imposter complex" is part of our journey as well. My wife suffers from this terribly, and it creates insecurity around jobs/money. It blows me away in her case because she's an attorney- she knows exactly how much money she bills to clients, how much she is paid, and thus the profit her company gets on her. She's a VERY profitable attorney, yet even though she knows the math, she still is haunted by this. Fortunately in her case it didn't lead to compulsion for spending money until she was poor. Unfortunately, it leads to her being somewhat abused by her management because she will never say no.


Felix
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Post by Felix »

I think the idea that we all need to work till we are old and grey because of some bogus economic demand for eternal growth based on a puritan work ethic is insane. What did we have the industrial revolution for if we end up working more than ever? I don't like being someone's slave and consider getting my ERE FU money to be "buying my way out of slavery". It's motivating enough. Friends and family and being a good person beat the shit out of having a career and lots of toys happiness-wise.
I've read a lot of "manage your finances and get rich early" books in my teens and always considered early retirement. Reading YMOYL was life-changing for me because it showed me how to dramatically speed this up. I also gave up wanting to be rich then. I found jacob's forum shortly thereafter when searching for like-minded people. I consider myself lucky to have found this. It's easy enough to do, but you have to understand that it's possible. I guess I was primed for this given my reading background. Still, I can't thank the writers of YMOYL enough.


JoeNCA
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Post by JoeNCA »

I am still waiting for that moment of epiphany as far as ERE is concerned.
I did crunch the numbers and I'm hoping to get there, albeit very slowly.
Since there isn't a place to get a decent rate of return, the current strategy is simple - spend less and save.
However, I did get a shocker recently when SSA said that I've earned about $1,000,000 in my life thus far. Where did it all go?
At this phase in life, health and time is primary and everything else is secondary, including money. But it sure would be nice to have some and be able to keep it.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

None of the above.
I think it started with a combination of anticonsumerism (verdant.net) and energy depletion (dieoff.org). Also add the idea of the environmental footprint. At the end of 2000.
This led to the decision to try to live with as few resources as possible. In the first year, I tried going without heat over winter (not a big deal in a temperate climate) and spending less than $100 or so on anything that wasn't food during 2001 (that sucked, but I was quite dumb at the time still thinking like a consumer in terms of "sacrifices". OTOH it was a learning experience: I learned just how far I could push myself, which is nice to know.). There was also a lot of soulsearching replacing the "infinite linear progress towards a star trek universe with something more cyclical".
Shortly thereafter I discovered how mortgages work and decided not to be a victim. This was my state for several years. Prepping for peak oil and saving money to buy a homestead in cash.
And eventually I had $100k mostly made under a grad student salary, not that being a postdoc was much of a step up.
At that point, mid 2004, I figured I better put the money in a better place than a savings account. This led to the second epiphany: money can be used to make a lot more money if placed somewhere better than a savings account. The idea of financial independence was soon born.
And shortly thereafter reached, 2005.
And two years later after discovering the existence of real blogs on the internet, I decided to start my own on personal finance.
A large part of the ideas/framework you see in the ERE book were developed during two years of intense thinking/writing from mid 2008-early 2010 trying to put everything in perspective and write something "bigger" than "my personal story".


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C40
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Post by C40 »

Bicycle touring. I'd been riding a lot for 5 years or so. In 2005 I read a few books about bicycle touring and got interested. This was within my first year of post-college work. I wanted to mini-ERE - to save up enough to go touring for at least a year. I had been frugal in college and knew that I could live off of much less than my income. I ended up going only on short tours during work vacations, and got into racing after that. I knew at the time that I did not want to work all the time like everyone else seemed to. I can't recall know if I considered saving enough to be FI or if I was only thinking about 1-2 years. I don't recall what happened exactly.. I think when I went touring locally and in Colorado it wasn't quite as great as I thought it might be (It was a lot of fun though). Also, I enjoyed my job and the though of trying to get my own job back (might've been unlikely) or a different job in a couple years was a little scary to me. I stopped saving much as the idea faded.
Mom had given me an Automatic Millionaire book and I'd been saving 10% or so in my 401k. I was making fairly good money but not saving any more than that and wasn't satisfied with it. I got into personal finance in 2010. Dave Ramsey, mainstream blogs, stuff like that. I liked Dave's "Gazelle intensity" stuff, and I didn't get why he told people to save all they can only while in debt, and then stop saving much after they are debt-free. Why not keep going? The mainstream blogs were very repetitive and boring. After 5-10 posts, it's generally all the same shit. You (well, I) can only read a bullshit post about credit card rewards once or twice before realizing the author is full of it. Started looking for blogs more of my taste and found ERE. Read it and thought "wow... duh!" and "I though about this kind of stuff back in 2005.. what the hell was I doing the last 5 years?"


steelerfan
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Post by steelerfan »

My Catalyst?
We are not ERE. However, there is so much work to do. We are debt slaves with adequate paying but otherwise inadequate jobs, a house in the burbs, 2 kids and a dog. We never saved anything to speak of until our mid thirties. At that point, we both started 401Ks.We went into Debt for things that I can no longer recall and the Debt never went away. Minimal cash on hand. While we do not spend conspicuously we are consumers to the bone - particularly content. My Comcast bill last month was $280 for example - and I rarely watch TV, but my kids do. Worse of all, we are raising our kids to be consumers and not respect what money represents and the cost in terms of your time and freedom. They deserve better. We have made every mistake in the book. Despite this, we will likely have liquid assets of over $1MM and a paid off house before retirement, a monthly pension and annuities - so what...?
In this decade, I am focusing on improving my health, reducing debt, and most importantly teaching my children to understand the implicit trade off between time and money. Neglecting my health over the years has taken a toll and seeing my parent's health issues and their life in retirement make me realize the importance to plan now how we will be living today and tomorrow. I fear for my kids and young people in general because I feel we are living in an empire in decline. There is a storm coming. Self reliance, independence from debt slavery, and living simply with purpose whatever that is are crucial now and will be more so every day. I need to get our house in order and fast. Finding this site has been illuminating and is pointing me in directions that were under the surface the last few years of prepping and teaching myself electronics (studying for Amateur Extra ticket) and trying to avoid the passive squandering of time.


BeyondtheWrap
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Post by BeyondtheWrap »

I didn't have a big epiphany or anything. I simply started reading the blog and thought it sounded cool.


dalralmi
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Post by dalralmi »

I grew up with three brothers (I have five now) the two eldest ones were TERRIBLE with money. When I was about 10 the oldest moved out and proceeded to live paycheck to paycheck went bankrupt and had property repossessed. My second oldest went to Japan for 3 years came back after majoring in History and couldn't find a decent job and just didn't care to save. I watched my parents take in and help out them for most of my childhood. I decided I never wanted to be the child that had to beg my parents (or siblings) for money EVER. I also have always thought of life as a Competition that i must win. I had to be financially responsible.
I spent the majority of High School and College frugal and refusing to spend money, but my goal was to have no debt or credit. IN reality the ONLY thing that drove me to ERE is because I hate working and my job. But the lifestyle was always there and driven by the fact that my mom started working in her 40's after she divorced my dad. She has no 401k and is going to be completely dependent on social security/work til she dies. I never want to be that way.
Long story short. I never wanted someone to talk bad behind my back so ERE is the ultimate ONE up. Plus so far I've never had to ask my parents for anything.


Carlos
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Post by Carlos »

My catalyst was the financial crisis of 2008. I work in finance (corporate rather than Wall Street however) and the near melt-down of our economy (at least it seemed to me at the time) caused me to reevaluate what role money played in my life.
Prior to 2008 I never thought about retirement because it was so far off. Save 10 to 20% and check back in when I'm in my 50's. I didn't think it was possible.
I found Jacob's blog along with some others and started to do the math. My main influences were Jacob, YMOYL, The Millionaire Next Door and Cashing in On the American Dream by Paul Tehorst.
For me personally the motivating factor is self-control and determination. I want to be the owner of my time, beholden to no corporation.
In 2008 I calculated that in 5 to 7 years I could be FI. In 2014 (still on-track) I'll have reached my number and then who knows what I'll do next!


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