The following was written as a response by “Wild” to a question in the forums about saving too much. I thought it was brilliantly put and capable of standing on its own as a blog post. I therefore asked if I could post it here and got the affirmative.

I found Jacob’s book to be helpful in this respect because of the way it articulates a coherent philosophy and addresses the question of “why ERE?” Admittedly, the first steps of ERE may be a bit frustrating as one tries new things, perhaps unsuccessfully at first, that they have outsourced their entire life: cooking from scratch, entertainment, etc. On the one hand it’s sad that we, ourselves, quite literally don’t know how to live; we only know how to make money outlays in exchange for our living. (Hence the need to “make a living.”) On the other hand, there is tremendous reward and fulfillment in stopping the outsourcing and taking your life back.

There are some, the vast majority probably, who will always see ERE as a huge sacrifice, or too big a compromise. Unfortunately, society/socialization holds a tremendous spell over people. It’s always fun to ask, as others have done on this forum, would you do something if you were the only one doing said something: Would you take a loan on a house/shelter for 30 years and pay over double its initial cost if you had never heard of anyone else doing such a thing? Would you live in a 4 bedroom house if everyone else lived in a yurt?

The typical response of course is that not everyone else lives in a yurt, and the response is correct. But the point here is that doing something different from the societal norm does not constitute a sacrifice. It may be a sacrifice in the mind of someone who strongly identifies with others (and “entertains” oneself by watching reruns of House Hunters), but different does not mean sacrificial. In fact, most elements of ERE are so mutually beneficial, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. (For example, the choice to ride a bike yield->no car capital outlay, depreciation, insurance, maintenance, parking fees->ability of capital to appreciate and earn income, ability to retire earlier; more exercise->better health->better temperament, less health care costs, earlier retirement->time, energy, and flexibility to engage in other mutually beneficial endeavors…)

There are two points here. First, there’s sacrifice of simply not fitting in which can be a barrier to many people. Normality is defined by the majority, but indeed there’s nothing reasonable about working during most on one’s waking hours for most of one’s life simply in order to shop. It is actually somewhat of a historic anomaly and things might easily have been different. One might even say that working that much is what’s extreme.

The second point is that very few pursuing extreme early retirement sees it as a sacrifice. It is not about giving things up. It is about taking things back. It’s not about running away from work. It is about living more deliberately. By running off to the store and buying things without thinking about the cost; by going to work without thinking about why and just doing it “to make a living”, something is lost. ERE is very much about taking that which is so lost back. Simply dying with the most money or the most toys would be a great tragedy.

Sometimes death is not as tragic as not knowing how to live. This man knew how to live–and how to make others glad they were living.

— Jack Benny at Nat King Cole’s funeral

Originally posted 2010-10-19 15:06:04.