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Weekend Edition: Retire in your Mind even if you Love your Job

Happy Weekend to all! The Weekend Edition feature of Mr. Money Mustache is designed to be read while wearing pajamas and/or slippers, and sipping casual weekend drinks. It will feature a selection of lifestyle and philosophical articles, since the weekend is a place where we take a break from the intense hammering of our day jobs. As a bonus, Mrs. Money Mustache herself has a writing or two on the go which she plans to publish in a future Weekend Edition.

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From the stream of interesting comments and the reader statistics, it seems we already have a broad and varied family of people reading together here at MMM. Some are looking to solve a problem of pressing debts and stress. Others are planning a full escape from the rat race. But a third category is the Satisfied Working Advanced Mustachian Individual (Swami).

Swamis have seen through the tricks of our consumer society for years, and as a result they live relatively efficient lives, and thus have no shortage of money. But they also are good at their jobs, and they enjoy them. Because of their financial independence, they have no fear of losing their jobs, and this actually makes them more valuable workers.

As advanced as it may sound, this effect has been noted for many generations. There’s an old financial musing that circulates on the Internet called “A Man With Savings” (it was apparently written in the era before men realized that women could have savings too). Here’s an excerpt:

“A man with savings can afford to resign from his job if his principles so dictate. And for this reason he’ll never need to do so. A man who can afford to quit is much more useful to his company, and therefore more readily promoted. He can afford to give his company the benefit of his most candid judgments.”

And, in contemporary language, you might have noticed the comment at the bottom of  the “Yeah Mr. Money Mustache..” article right on this blog, where a wise reader writes:

“My experience is that work becomes a lot more fun when you don’t need the paycheck. Like you I’m an engineer and I love solving the puzzles that appear in our product development lab. But I hate sitting in long meetings, making powerpoints, and taking on boring busywork– so I don’t. I’m good enough at the parts I like (perhaps only just) that I get away with it, while my colleagues who took on the commitments of a high-maintenance lifestyle basically have to eat what management dishes out.”

Looking back to my own engineering career, I remember meeting other Swamis just like this fellow. They were an inspiration to me, when they would patiently hold their ground even in the face of senior management.  “I’m sorry, I’ve got a family, so I’m not available to take that 5-day business trip to San Jose to give powerpoint presentations to the other department. But I’d be happy to work with them from my desk right here during regular business hours”.

These guys knew how to have fun at work, and just as the ancient text predicts, it was usually the more nervous and whiny people who worried openly about layoffs, who disappeared when layoffs came.

The message is that even if you’re not looking to actually retire from your job, your working life will improve quite magically as you grow your money mustache and start needing the job less and less.

I think that shooting for achieving Swami status is an ideal thing for EVERYONE who is still working – whether your goal is complete early retirement or just continued elevation along the levels of the Swami scale (note that most CEOs and celebrity types are in fact Swamis themselves – they absolutely do not need the money from working but they continue out of a sense of purpose).

In fact, I am finding that most people who are currently stuck under a load of debt can not even imagine the possibility of early retirement. It is too much of a leap for them, perhaps because they have only experienced the tippy back end of the financial conveyor belt. They can’t quite see the exponential change that happens in your cashflow as you move from big debt, to neutral, to big savings.  For these people, it’s perfectly safe to start by envisioning a life of being slightly less beholden to their employers.

Do you think you can do it? What is standing in your way at this point? As both I and all of the other non-mustachioed financial gurus have been chanting for years, we’re not just making this shit up! Mr. Money Mustache may seem like a mystical and impossible role model, but his only superpower is his ability to not buy things. Way, way easier than becoming a sports hero or a registered nurse.

In the upcoming week I’m planning more posts with novel cost-cutting techniques including one called Insurance: a tax on people who are bad at math. I also hope to get some bidirectional heckling going on as the results of the $100 Challenge* come in.

*If you haven’t read that post or started doing the challenge yourself, get your lazy ass moving! It’s fun! I don’t care if you already have a money mustache so long that you constantly trip over it, or are still staring in the mirror hoping for the first bits of stubble to appear. Everyone can save an extra $100. We’re doing the challenge here at MMM headquarters, and surprisingly, even though I thought we were already operating at a low-fat level, we’ve already cut the week’s spending by more than $100 just by having this challenge hovering over our heads. A good practice exercise indeed.

  • Stuckincube May 8, 2011, 9:13 am

    Swami’s have a useful name for the extra cash that alleviates them of the fear of job loss. It’s called Fuck You money. :-)

    Reply
    • MMM May 8, 2011, 9:27 am

      I like it!

      Reply
    • jDeppen June 6, 2011, 12:31 am

      Nice!
      In “The Millionaire Next Door” it’s a “go-to-hell fund”. “In other words, we have accumulated enough wealth to live without working for ten or more years.”

      Reply
    • Jessica March 7, 2012, 9:02 am

      My husband and I are swamis. We make quite a bit of $ and have as much savings as you retired on. I am 28 and graduated with over $100k in college and car debt (at age 21) that no longer exists as of Dec 2008 so everything you say is quite possible for anyone, especially new college graduates. I do have to say that having Fuck You money with no debt is quite liberating. I figure we’ll do this until we get tired of it and then go live in Bend, OR where we already own a house walking distance to the downtown area (that is currently rented out). If you’ve never been, I’d highly recommend it. mountainbiking there is excellent (as with all other outdoor activities).

      Reply
      • Jeff August 15, 2013, 9:31 am

        I know this comment is coming over a year after your comment but I am new to MMM which I found after the Yahoo video. Love the blog.

        Your comment is “Awe-Some”. I’m in Awe and I want Some of that. Cheers and Kudos to you and your husband. I’m 15 years older than you, and 15 years behind you, but I’m gonna catch up quickly. Maybe someday we’ll bump into each other in Bend and can swap tales over a Mirror Pond Pale Ale.

        Reply
  • D May 29, 2011, 1:57 pm

    I am one of those weird people who actually like my job. In fact, I have no hobbies (other than golf which I love, but would not do it 5 days per week), I do not smoke or gamble, and 6 pack of beer lasts 1 year in my fridge.

    However, I did catch myself taking more and more work on until this year when I actually negotiated 8% pay cut in exchange for even more flexible schedule and more vacation. Half of the pay at that level would be gone to taxes, so for insignificant pay decrease I now get to work 2 months per year from exotic locales of my choice and jump from 4 to 6 weeks of vacation.

    I admire those who can retire and find things to do. I would die from boredom. I always say, even if I won a lottery on Friday (which would be a miracle as I do not buy lottery), I would still come to work on Monday.

    Just my $0.05.

    Reply
    • MMM May 30, 2011, 12:44 am

      Nice work, negotiating the new leisure schedule.. I highly approve of that!

      However, I think you need to drink more beer.

      Reply
  • Pachipres June 14, 2011, 8:15 pm

    My dh and my goal starting in September is go froma 5 day work week down to a 4 day work week. We still have small children at home and homeschool and this way their father can spend more time with them.

    Reply
    • MMM June 14, 2011, 10:12 pm

      Congratulations!! That is a very happy story to for me to hear.

      Reply
  • Madison June 22, 2011, 5:20 pm

    Warning: not all bosses will respect your ‘swami’ (or partial) ‘swami’ lifestyle.

    I had one boss who refused to let me use vacation days to actually take vacation

    Boss: “what if you get sick and have no time off left? What would you do then if you had to take unpaid sick days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    Me: ‘Well, then I will take unpaid time then’.
    BOSS: “BUT HOW WILL YOU PAY RENT THEN!”
    Me: “I could take over 1 year of unpaid sick days and still pay my rent”
    Boss was a bit baffled, and never approve any of my requests for vacation

    Suffice to say, I took the vacation days WITHOUT approval (called in), and QUIT soon after. Notice, I didn’t get fired! They even ASKED me to stay 2 months longer to stay and train my replacement.

    Reply
    • Madison June 22, 2011, 5:23 pm

      I should clarify that I work in Accounting, this was during the slow season and I was literally sitting at my desk reading my kindle for lack of anything to do. So I didn’t put anyone out by just not showing up for work.

      Reply
  • MMM June 22, 2011, 10:10 pm

    Another happy story, thanks for sharing. I like the part where you just didn’t show up – very Office Space ;-)

    Reply
    • Madison June 23, 2011, 2:21 pm

      If felt very office space… “Um, yeah… not coming in to work today because I’m in completely different STATE! Bye!” LOL

      Reply
      • AA July 22, 2013, 6:20 pm

        FYI – I decided to “rent” Office Space from the local library – and in the special features, they mentioned that Mike Judge was able to make the movie the way he wanted it to be because he had, quote, “fuck you money” LOL!

        Reply
  • Admiral Anderision October 19, 2011, 11:27 pm

    I like the title of SWAMI,

    I myself am a semi-Mustachian, I have no debt, I cycle to work everyday, but I still have no savings, and am still living paycheck to paycheck, I used to have savings from a windfall, but something always comes up to take my money away, unexpected expenses are everywhere…..

    I am really enjoying this blog, learning how to maximize my savings from each paycheck, I am already a very frugal shopper, and like to get the most value for my money’s worth……

    Reply
  • vwDavid December 19, 2011, 11:02 am

    I’d like to hear more stories of how far one can take this SWAMI status to get what you want at work. Being in a job that I am becoming more and more dissatisfied with I am having bigger and bigger urges to go SWAMI and try ti dictate what parts of the job I want to do and what parts I don’t want to do.

    Is this a reasonable thing? Am I burning my bridges?

    Reply
  • Jonathan January 10, 2012, 12:08 am

    Reply
  • CG January 24, 2012, 6:26 am

    I’ve noticed the Swami affect with my hubby over the last 6 years since we’ve paid off the car debt and created a great savings rate. On a recent trip to CO where we’ll be moving shortly, he had no qualms about telling his prospective bosses exactly how to set up the new section of operations and to tell them certain aspects of their plan were bad and why. This is totally out of character for my husband and I think it is because he is more confident that he doesn’t have a strong need to work completely at their terms.

    Reply
  • KittyWrestler June 14, 2012, 12:35 pm

    I have been reading almost every post of yours now so pardon me if comments are coming so late. But this is a very inspiring post. And I think this is train stop #1 before hitting the total FI final station – the SWAMI station!!

    Me and my husband are somewhat passing this station now. And I do notice that I feel a lot more confident when expressing my opinions on certain things at work such as “This deadline is not realistic! Take a step back and do it right”… I am also resisting a no ROI project to save company cost.. I refuse overtime work when it is not necessary. It does give me backbone to stand true to my principles and work ethics. I think because of this, I am valued more by my employer and they make damn sure that I am happy on my job. :D

    The day when I pay off my mortgages, I will not need a penny from this job. But I would love to continue doing it. So I will propose my own agenda to get a part time gig from my employer. In the past, they fire those who work part time, I am hoping to make an exception.

    Reply
  • anonymous June 22, 2012, 5:55 pm

    Reading your blog from start to finish, I found this post particularly useful. I fully intend to climb to the top of the industry I enjoy, and invent a few more levels to climb to when I hit what everyone else considers the top. Thus, I have no intention of retiring in a decade, even though I think I can easily manage that. (At the moment, I can easily save 90-95% of my net income, and I have no plans to change that.) Until now, I’ve always seen the concept of “early retirement” as somewhat strange: not the “early” part (that much made obvious sense), but the “retirement” part. I always figured, if something else exists that you’d rather do, why not do that instead? And if you enjoy your work, why retire? I already planned to work towards not needing a salary, which I generally felt would improve my career. However, I like how you’ve phrased it as “retire in your mind”.

    Reply
  • Self-employed swami-master October 11, 2012, 3:22 am

    I’m going to brag a bit. I’ve just discovered your blog, and I LOVE IT! MMM and Mrs. MM, are much better at articulating what I strive for. I will be sharing this with my husband, and hopefully you can help me persuade him to be more mustachian in his ideals.

    I’m a married later 20-something that nearly owns a house (only 6 more years at my current payment schedule, which I’m planning to ramp up with some of the ideas I’ve found here) and I think I’m a SWAMI-master! I have a professional degree, and I love my current gig as a self-employed contractor in the oilfield.

    2 years ago, I quit my job. It was a job I hated, but needed to pay my bills, and save and whatnot, as my husband was unemployed, and planning to return to school. I was depressed, and stressed, and had developed an anxiety disorder due to multiple workplace influences (including my inability to actually accomplish anything at my job). I had been there for more than 2 years, and I’d been actively trying to find anything, inside or out, of my profession, that would pay the bills, to no avail (darn economic downturn!).

    I didn’t have a job to go to, but instead felt the need to not be at that workplace again, after a belittling run-in with one of the company’s owners. People wondered how I could just quit my job, with my husband returning to school, and no income to depend on (and I felt crazily near the edge of personal financial ruin at the time as well) but I managed to find a niche market consulting, just in time to enjoy my month off paid (courtesy of being escorted out of the office the week I quit, in an attempt to make it seem as if I’d been fired) and start in the new year.

    And I have never been happier, let me tell you! I have paid down a decent portion of my mortgage in the last 2 years. And I own a completely inefficient, yet 100% deductible 2006 Toyota Tundra that I get PAID to own and drive, to the tune of $1.15/km, at a minimum of $115/day.

    I work anywhere from 0 to 25 days a month, depending on the season, and I routinely get months of time off, to travel, or sit at home, practicing the art of internet mastery.

    My husband just finished school, and is working towards finding some sort of job he enjoys, and in the meantime, I make 4x as much money as I did at my soul-sucking day job, being self-employed. And we get to spend time together, enjoying each others company (or arguing about who is going to change the laundry over next), but it’s what we want to do. In the last 2 years, we’ve gone on a large trip to Europe (24 days), and spent 10 days in Hawaii.

    When I do work, it is away from home, in *exotic* locations like Saskatchewan (near my aging grandparents, and yes, I’m another Canadian), and I work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. I’m both a more efficient earner than most people I know, on a daily rate, and I get weeks off at a time, just like a partially retired person. I work more hours in a week than most people do in two weeks, but earning more a day, than most do in a week!

    I also like to brag about my awesomeness. I’m working towards mortgage-freedom by the time I’m 30, and then my husband can support us comfortably on whatever salary he can earn, for something that he won’t hate doing, while I get onto having the babies. Previously, I planned on trying to return to the ‘real’ working world, before having said babies, but recently I’ve figured out that if we are careful, and plan well, that isn’t going to be required. I’ll likely still work 10 days a month or so, but I’ll be able to pick and choose. I love having the best of both worlds (loads of time off, without having to sacrifice my increasing net-worth).

    Cheers and thanks for the ideas and encouragement!

    Reply
  • Freeyourchains March 7, 2013, 1:07 pm

    This completely reminds me of the Movie, ” Limitless” (on netflix and/or probably at your local library by now). But instead of taking mentally focused drugs to enhance focus and performance to obtain more income, skills, and free time to exponentially increase both; mustachians use the power of frugality and savings to help change their lifestyles around and become more free to enjoy life how it was made to be!

    (spoiler alert) Like when Eddy finishes his book after all the hard work researching, and is granted $30k + royalties, he revamps his lifestyle with his new found freedom from work, by working out (free form), cleans place and himself, focuses on hobbies like piano, poker, investment learning and research about the stock markets, socializing and networking, then visits friends in exotic locations, etc.

    All things any FI mustachian can do when retired/ free from work. There are countless things in this world (that don’t cost money or barely any when creativity is applied) to do or learn or produce and engage in with your Limitless potential so free up your limited time!

    Reply
  • Margaret Fuller April 16, 2013, 12:14 pm

    My husband has been acting like a SWAMI since age 25 or so when he told his engineering company that he didn’t want to work full-time–he wanted to be a consultant instead of an employee–and he wrote a contract that said he’d only work on certain things and not on other things that he hated. This company has been his major client for almost 20 years, and he’s worked 2 days a week and lived frugally during that time. He works more now because business has been really good in the last year and he doesn’t complain about working 3 days a week anymore because now we have a child. He is also a music producer and inventor. I work at a government job 4 days/week and use either paid or unpaid leave for the 5th day and go to school the 5th day. My dream is to be a SWAMI in my next career, scheduled to start in about 6 years.

    Reply
  • Anti-ComplainyPants October 11, 2013, 9:29 am

    I can see it now… I’m just not sure how I’m going to get there.

    I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor in Mississippi, and my dream is to acquire enough financial independence to work a very part-time private practice; for the purpose of I-enjoy-being-a-therapist and side income, hypothetically having already acquired a fancy enough ‘stache to live on.

    Unfortunately it’s a depressingly low-income field; I’m still making the $32.5k I signed up for 2 years ago and the company has been unable to provide annual raises (I’m 26, by the way). I could head east and boost my income to $40-$55k, but next year I should qualify for $60k of student loan forgiveness in exchange for continuing to work in this “underprivileged population” for an additional 2 years. Financially it must be my best bet, it’s just frustrating to feel “on hold” until I can relocate and boost my income.

    In the meantime it’s tough to know where to invest, considering there’s no feasible way for me to max out my 403(b) contribution and have anything left over (or survive). BUT, after being inspired by your ‘stachyness, I did boost my contribution from 5% to 15% (plus a 5% employer match) made possible by implementing many of your suggestions. Now I’m wondering if I should bring my contribution back down a bit in order to set that money aside elsewhere in preparation for a house down-payment approximately 3 years in the future…

    I would treat any guidance you may offer as law :D Thanks for the posts!

    Reply
  • TKC October 14, 2013, 6:01 am

    I am long way from FI of any kind but due to our local office culture we are usually very blunt in our opinions. I work for a chip design firm where honesty is valued a lot. Maybe that is because all of us in this office are engineers.

    Reply
  • SKR January 7, 2014, 2:04 pm

    I know, I am really late to comment on this blog, but just going through since the beginning of time.

    It’s funny bcoz, SWAMI in the Indian language of Sanskrit is a saint, guru, Master, etc..It does make sense in this context…:-)

    Reply
  • Chris February 12, 2014, 5:49 pm

    “(note that most CEOs and celebrity types are in fact Swamis themselves – they absolutely do not need the money from working but they continue out of a sense of purpose)”

    I think this is the wrong conclusion for most. As evidence, I’ll offer that celebrity and CEO types aren’t working for free… The fact that their pay has gone so far through the roof lately suggests that it’s the “never enough” drive that keeps them going. I think this is something that all FI types have to tackle and is probably reflected in the “One more year” syndrome.

    Reply
  • garry February 16, 2014, 6:53 pm

    I’m older, 58 say it fast, but I have 4 pensions ready to be harvested, but with this timing, I’m looking at supplementing the pension income substantially by the very aggressive saving and non-consumerism that you advocate. More importantly, I’m trying to teach this to my kids.

    I find it quite fun, and I’ve rapidly turned things around quite a bit. Just when my emergency fund was getting in shape, I had to use it and replace a car that was totalled in a car accident. I was able to find a 2003 Honda Accord for a very reasonable price and it seems to gleam it is in such good shape. A month after that emergency, things are back as usual to the saving agenda.

    For me, the most important idea was to ditch consumerism, and become a save-a-holic superstar saver. Now I get a rush out of saving money and I’ve managed to train my wife with the same idea. I would like to put together a quick nest egg before retirement to supplement our pensions and allow for a lot of winters out of the land of the ice and snow. I can see now how possible this is. I just wish that I had this idea 30 years ago, but it’s better late than never.

    Reply

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