April 2021: Cherry Blossom in Vancouver, WA
January 2018: Lake Tahoe, CA/NV


I hope I don’t disappoint anyone by revealing that my real name isn’t Ern. Or Big Ern. But I am a big guy, at 6’6″ (just under 2 meters), which explains why the name “Big Ern” stuck! My real name is Karsten. I am originally from Germany but came to the U.S. in 1995. Initially as an exchange student at Purdue University and then for my Master’s and Ph.D. in economics at the University of Minnesota. After graduating, I got my first “real” job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and I also did a number of side gigs/hustles: teaching both undergraduate and Ph.D.-level economics at Emory University in Atlanta. In 2008, I moved to San Francisco to join Bank of New York Mellon Asset Management, and since 2010 I also hold the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

I retired from my finance job in June 2018 after a nice, productive 10-year run. Right after leaving my job, we went on a 20+ country trip around the world and we’re now settling down in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, just outside of Vancouver, Washington.

I am married to my beautiful wife Kristal who is also an immigrant. She’s from the Philippines originally, and just like me, she’s become a U.S. citizen after spending many years in this country now. Our daughter Kati is the sunshine of our lives and definitely one big motivator for us to retire early and spend more time with each other. So, my wife has also quit her job as a nurse (RN) in 2018 (even before I retired) and she has joined me on this journey.

My Blog

In the large spectrum of existing Early Retirement blogs, where is my niche? I hope that people will enjoy my views on everything financial. Sometimes I read other blogs and we have something intelligent and new to say, but by posting in the comments section, not many people will get to see it. I like to create a permanent record, share our views with a hopefully larger audience, and get feedback and suggestions for our journey to Early Retirement. Some of the topics I write about:

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