This is a guest post from Carol Schultz, the author of In The Trenches – Financial Survival During Times of Hardship (more reviews here). Carol is a former manager and procedural analyst in banking. Her career came to an abrupt end when she resigned to care for a terminally ill parent. As the family finances plummeted, the single-parent family ultimately moved to a small rural town where they raised animals, planted vegetables, chopped wood, home schooled, and embraced the self-sufficiency lifestyle. She wrote a book about her experiences and financial survival tactics to help others who might end up In The Trenches. Carol maintains a blog at ““. I suggest you check it out. If you are interested in the book, you can read a sample chapter here.

Imagine going from a good career where you lived in a nice suburban home and almost overnight you end up in a 100 year old uninhabitable, abandoned home with no heat, no water, and broken windows and doors. Can you?

The first reaction when it happened to me was shock and confusion. It is amazing how many times a person can turn on the water faucet before it really sinks in that nothing is going to come out. What is even more astounding is to realize that you have to fix it yourself or endure. When there is no money there is no one to call.

Then an amazing thing happened. I learned about friendship and community in the most basic of conditions. The first time a person is invited over to take a bath is quite a unique experience. I gratefully accepted. It seemed such a luxury to have an entire tub of water instead of a few gallons heated on the stove. Soon I had a number of people offering and had a rotating bath schedule with the added bonus of a cup of coffee. How strange and embarrassing is that?

I have been called eccentric, crazy, and strange. On the other hand I have also been called a pioneer, practical, strong, capable, and courageous. Most of all I was the single mother of three children and I am a survivor. That word also seems way too dramatic as I just finished a book about the holocaust and I am humbled beyond measure at my own frailty and realize I should never whine or complain again.

But, you know what? It all got better. That’s why I wrote the book. To show people that it can get better regardless of the struggle it may seem to be at the time. In The Trenches contains all the information a person needs to know to get started through their own financial hardship story and come out better.

If that were the end of story it would be enough. It’s not. Living the life of minimalism, frugality, and simplicity prepared me for when I started making money again. I could live comfortably on a fraction of my salary and was able to do anything I desired with the rest. It was FINANCIAL FREEDOM. I had never felt such a fresh breath. Admittedly I did some really silly things with some of the money. I went through a phase where I bought every children’s book and cassette tape in French on Ebay that I could find. Strange only because I don’t speak French.

That’s why I get so excited about Early Retirement Extreme. Jacob has figured it out. Contrary to common opinion a person does not have to be rich to be financially free. In fact the rich often have more headaches because of the responsibility that goes along with their wealth. Am I suggesting a life of poverty or that we aspire to be a vagabond? By no means. But what I am suggesting is that our freedom can often be measured by the amount of mail we get in our mailbox each month.

When we are free to purchase what we need, want, and desire with cash that we have earned then we are free. There was a time when almost everything I owned was acquired with credit. I didn’t really own my stuff at all. The creditors owned me. It is so much more rewarding when they ask “Cash or Credit” that we are able to answer, “Cash, of course”.

The current American economic situation can be referred to a crisis or an opportunity. How we answer that question is the beginning of choosing the direction we will go. It is my goal to be able to get the In The Trenches book into the hands of one million readers. Yes, it’s lofty, but with the millions who have lost their homes and jobs the need is definitely there and now it is a matter of getting the word out. If there is any of the readers of Early Retirement Extreme who would like to participate in this effort please contact me and I will work with them on discounts for multiple copies of In The Trenches. And, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to pass Early Retirement Extreme around. It’s just too good to keep to yourself.

Jacob comments: Also, I know you readers are mostly a bunch of wealthy bastards 😉 … but if you know anyone who is currently struggling, Carol is giving away three free books to someone who is currently in dire straits.

Also check out Q’s and akratic’s ERE journals and Tight Fisted Miser‘s posts about ERE on US News and Yahoo. Also for your consideration is this post discussing how postretirement needs and wants are hard to understand for those who are still in bill paying mode.