Question and Answers with the Washington Post

kungfuOn May 13th of this year, I had the chance to log in to a special chitchat system hosted by the Washington Post, and field a bunch of live questions from their readers in response to the interview I had done with that paper’s business section a few days earlier.

I found this to be great fun – the questions flowed in at high speed to a box on the right, and I was able to click on any of them and type out my response before moving on to the next one. It was a little bit like being the main fighter in a Kung Fu movie, where a circle of opponents dives in from all directions and you have to dispatch each one as quickly as possible before spinning around to address the next.

The answers are fast and furious and I typed at top speed for a full hour. But the end result was pretty entertaining, and maybe even informative if you’re a newer reader and any of these questions were things you might have wanted to ask. Enjoy!


Howdy everyone, thanks for joining in!

Just wanted to say Hi to Mr. Money Mustache and thank you! Since the article ran in the Post I have devoured the MMM archives. Although we are not trying to retire any time soon, your simple message has me rethinking what’s really important to me and my family. I have long felt uncomfortable with our consumerism without being able to put my finger on why.

Thanks very much! That is a good point: although I love to write about early retirement, the blog is really about living a better life, which comes in part from letting go of materialism a bit. Even if you never want to retire, you can live better by shopping less and living more.

Hi there, Great work on your blog, BTW. Many of your posts on rethinking how you look at the world, habits, and giving your readers the confidence to be Outliners are fantastic. Do you believe you have many readers, who, like myself love what they are doing professionally and have no intention of “retiring” (even your definition of it) anytime soon? Maybe even readers living very different lives than your own, and spending differently, but frugally? For example, we leverage many of your great insights to not living the American Dream based on stuff ( but we do spend money (at upscale thrift stores) on necessary business attire, iPhones, Macbook, travel for business, and hair/make-up. Is it the the power of having the mindset that you also do, but living and spending based on our goals and values that contributes to your large readership?

I sure hope so! It is true that there are so many different lifestyles available that following one like a prescription would be meaningless to most people. For example, we have only one child while others have more, or zero. We’re 38, which is very different from 19 or 65.

But people in all situations (and most countries), can all benefit from the idea that when it comes to lifestyle inflation, less is often more.

While I appreciate your philosophy and have tried to implement some of your recommendations into my own life, I believe that it only works in moderation. My spending is somebody else’s savings. If my boss decides to do the work that I do for him in order to be more “mustachian”, it will be very difficult for me to implement the lifestyle that you recommend because my income will have fallen. Likewise, for someone who lays off a house cleaner in order to save money. Do you believe that, somewhat paradoxically, there are limits to your philosophy and that a modern economy requires a certain amount of non-mustachianism in order to allow for mustachian behavior?

This is a common criticism of thrift and savings in general. But from an economics perspective, you can balance the lack of demand with a lack of supply and still end up in a happy situation. If we all reduced our demand for consumption, but also reduced our desire to PRODUCE (i.e., shortened our workweeks or retired earlier), we could have better lives.

In fact, by saving and investing more, you provide more capital for new business creation (and displace the need for the government to do it), which can actually boost innovation. Economists tend to repeat the phrase ‘capital is always scarce’.

However, certain products might cease to exist (i.e., Cadillac Escalades), while we might choose to spend more of our income on other amenities (say, public parks or renewable energy). Both of these goods require human labor to provide, and generate jobs. More on that here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/09/what-if-everyone-became-frugal/

I enjoy your philosphy and could retire myself at 44, but for potential health care costs. How do you address that problem? And will Obamacare affect you one way or the other?

Our family’s health insurance costs $237 per month, which is fairly affordable. With pre-existing conditions, health care out-of-pocket costs can be much more, of course. But Obamacare tends to flatten the curve a bit, covering pre-existing conditions less expensively.

From my perspective, Obamacare will probably raise my base high-deductible insurance cost slightly, in exchange for greatly reducing the risk of getting dropped by the insurance company in the event of actually making a claim someday. It also eliminated the nasty “lifetime maximum” that was hidden in many policies. More on insurance here.

What are the characteristics of a location when planning early retirement? Is America the best place for pre-early retirement?

I am pretty inexperienced in this area, as I’ve only really lived in two countries so far. The US is definitely favorable, because it combines great variety in incomes and living locations, with low taxes. But many more adventurous people prefer to combine a US-style income, with living in Thailand or Mexico or other lower-wage countries, where the same money goes even further.

One of my points, however, is that raising your material standard of living (having a cook and maid, for example), doesn’t make you any happier, so living in the US with even a below-average level of spending is still a great life.

When I retire, I hope to have a large sum of money in the bank and other investments to provide a steady income. If I understand correctly, most of your income comes from a rental house. Isn’t that risky? I have a friend who lost a pretty penny with a rental property. They require regular maintenance and just a few months without a renter can quickly eat up the profits for the year. (Yes, he was still paying a mortgage on the property)

I agree – for some people who want an effortless retirement, stocks or other fully passive investments are best. For others who enjoy it, rental houses (in the right city) can provide a much higher return on investment, even after accounting for maintenance and paying someone to manage it for you. In my case, I like renting out and renovating houses even though I could sell it and live off of stock dividends instead. In fact, I’m even shopping for another one, just for the thrill of contributing to my old neighborhood by fixing up more of the houses.

After reading the article about you, I starting reading your blog. My family is living well below our means, and saving aggressively, but the one big thing you suggest that we aren’t doing is biking. Mainly because I run most errands with my three kids…all still on training wheels/tricycle, but too big to fit all three in a trailer. Do you have any suggestions for biking with multiple kids?

Excellent biking attitude! One trick some people in my neighborhood do is to put the oldest kid on one of those tag-along bike fittings (I have one called the Novara Afterburner), and tow a trailer behind that. It is fun, and gets lots of positive attention. I bet a 4-passenger bike trailer would be a great startup business idea. And, of course, soon enough your kids will be old enough to ride alongside you.

I paid off my car last year. That is $400/month that I am not currently spending. While, I could look at that as an excuse to cut back my work schedule to enjoy an extra day off each week, I know that my car won’t last forever. Some day, it will need to be replaced. Sure, I can buy used, but I will need more money that my car will be worth to pay for it, something that would not be possible if I decreased my income by the $400/month that I am “saving” by driving my car after it has been paid off. The only way that I will stay even or get ahead is if I save that $400/month and have $6000-8000 in cash to pay for my next car.

Agreed! There are two ways to get more free time: take time off from work whenever you can afford it, as you describe here. Or, work really hard and invest the surplus, so this money starts generating money for you. That is the route I recommend, because it means you eventually become free from the need for mandatory work.

But in your position, you can get ahead by not owning such an expensive car! Even now, I have a car worth only about $6k, because even that is more than I need to get around. Cars can be real wealth-destroyers, especially if you’re not yet financially established.

To me, someone who retires, quits their job and stops working. Managing a rental property, writing, and doing odd jobs, isn’t quite a retirement. While, that may be better than working a fulltime job that helps the person who owns the company get rich.

Uh-oh, have the Internet Retirement Police found me here too?  :-)

Seriously though, early retirement is often different than traditional retirement. When you are young and financially independent, the last thing you want to do is sit around and do nothing all day. So you take up hobbies. Some of these happen to produce money, while others don’t. I couldn’t imagine a better concept of retirement!

But luckily, the choice is up to you – with financial independence, you really can sit around and not work if you like. My ability to pay the bills doesn’t depend at all on the extra income from the hobbies, so those should be looked at as separate from the idea of how to save for retirement.

When you paid off your house, did you literally have 100+k to give to the bank? What was the process of getting your mortgage off your back?

Sometimes, I have paid off houses with lump sums (like, if I sold some stocks), but most of the time you just make extra payments, whatever you can handle each month, to the bank. Every payment drops the rate of interest accrual, so you get further and further ahead. Eventually, the balance becomes zero and you are free.

What importance do you place in having a skill, for example construction or carpentry, that translate into not only saving money at home but being an independent contractor?

It’s not essential to early retirement (that is just a numbers game – you amass 25 times your annual spending in some stock index funds, and you’re done).

But for me, carpentry is essential for a fun life, just because I love building things. And it definitely contributed to my own ability to save a little faster while working, and to live a little cheaper by maintaining my own house and rental house.

How are you able to eat a paleo-type eating plan on the budget you list for food?

By not eating too much meat (but plenty of eggs) and using heathy fats as a big source of calories (which, counterintuitively seems to make most people lose bodyfat if combined with a low-grain/low-sugar diet). Also, bulk buying at Costco (or Aldi if you have it).

A couple of links on groceries:


Hi Pete, Awesome article in the Post…totally inspiring. I don’t want to retire early (I love what I do), but I want to have greater financial independence. Beyond employer-managed retirement packages, I’ve never invested in any type of stock or mutual fund, but I would like to start making more of my money work for me. If I have say $400/month to invest with, what would you recommend? Should I just put it into my savings account? Thanks!

Ack! savings accounts! I have never even HAD one of those things, because they are like stuffing your money into the mattress – the little green employees are idle instead of working for you.

For ultimate simplicity, open an account at Vanguard.com, and invest in the Total Stock Market Index Fund. International Stock fund, and Small cap value index fund. Meahwhile, read some John Bogle books to understand more about why this is a good idea :-)

When I was in college, I didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t mind sharing a small space with a roommate. When I graduated, got a job, and my first apartment, I suddenly had more income to live on. It was easy to expand my spending to include more trips out to dinner or to the movies. I never spent more than I made, but as my income increased, so did my spending. I know that if I instead of moving into a larger place, going out more often, and spending money on the things I didn’t really need, I could have saved a lot more money. I think that once you get comfortable with the things you have, it is hard to imagine scaling back and living in a smaller home, driving an older car, and stopping going out to dinner or the movies. Once you have, it is hard to have not. How can someone who is used to having and spending $50,000/year supposed to cut back to just $25,000/year without feeling like they gave up too much?

I think the first step is to understand that the money-spending is probably not the source of your happiness. And to be inspired by the challenge of trying to find a better way to meet your needs.

Once you view it as a positive challenge rather than a negative deprivation, you lose your fear of trying new things. Remember, you’re not the first person to take this adventure, and most people who do it report great satisfaction.

high deductible insurance, while an excellent product that is great – is being phased out under obama care….just an FYI

It’s not being phased out, just softened at the edges a bit. I bought my policy recently, after some of the Affordable care act changes already went into place. In general, my own research indicates the ACA will benefit rather than harm early retirees.

Hey MMM! – I’m in a situation where I changed jobs and had to move (within biking distance to the job). I’m wondering what your opinion is on selling my house at about a 5k out of pocket expense vs. renting it out and having potential high cost items in play (25 year old furnace, inground swimming pool). The rent would just cover my P&I, Taxes and Insurance, so there wouldn’t be any income from it. I’m leaning toward selling. Matt

In general, experienced landlords would consider that house a poor choice for a rental. Good rentals should generate positive cashflow, even if you have no equity (i.e., a 100% loan balance). Look for monthly rent at least 1% of the value of the house (i.e., a $150k house renting for at least $1500).

My husband and I have much different approaches to work and to retirement. He loves his field and plans to keep working forever (or, at least until he is really, really old). Until we got married last year, he wasn’t saving for retirement at all. I don’t expect to retire earlier than normal but I definitely want to be able to retire, and to have enough money saved to have the freedom to decide what I want to do and when I want to retire. Our current plan is that I will contribute a healthy amount to my retirement accounts and a small amount to his, but this makes me somewhat uneasy. What to do?

I sometimes hear from couples in this situation, who have different philosophies and thus agree to separate their finances a bit. This can be healthy – you can save in a hardcore fashion for your own retirement, and encourage him to handle his own separately. Over time, you might drift closer together if you’re lucky, as my wife and I have.

After losing a bunch of money in the 2008 stockmarket crash, Im extremely wary about getting back in. Does the up/down and Wallstreet bad behavior worry you if you depend on this income? Also, are you an active day trader or just living on dividends?

Your question illustrates exactly how NOT to think about the stock market!

In 2008, I was as excited as a little kid, because all the stocks suddenly went on sale. I sold absolutely nothing, and bought as many as I could. Right now, I’m actually a bit unhappy about the stock market scene, because valuations are so much higher. Oh, for another stock market crash.

I look at stocks as something to hold for a lifetime, living off of only the dividends and a TINY amount of sale of the top-line appreciation each year, to generate a 4% withdrawal rate.

I would never recommend active day trading to anyone. It is fun, but statistically a losing game.

Good Morning!! How many hours of hobby/work do you do on average? One issue I feel is figuring out how to keep myself occupied once I retire. Do you volunteer much too?

I’ll admit it right now: I love to keep busy, and my wife sometimes thinks I’m a little crazy for it. I spent the winter building a vacation suite for an MMM reader in Hawaii – for free – , because that’s my idea of relaxation!

During the school year when my son is in class from 9-3, I use some of those hours to build things and write on the blog (as I’m doing right now!). Probably about 3-4 hours a day, so 15-20 per week. The rest of the time, I’m with the little boy – riding bikes, making stuff, reading books, or whatever. I do get a chance to volunteer at the school too, but that has only been one day per month this year.


I’ve just become acquainted with you and look forward to learning more, so forgive me if there are old questions: Have you done a financial plan so you’ll have the $$ you’ll probably need for health care when you’re older? It’s amazing to think that by 30 you put away enough so that it’ll compound to what’s needed by 60, 70, 80, 90. Thanks!

Instead of thinking about the future value of investments, I like to think about current annual cashflow. Right now, our investments produce somewhere around $40k per year, but we’re only spending $25-30k, including all healthcare costs. I don’t expect that to rise over time, and Medicare kicks in at age 65, which may even lower costs.

An important thing to note is that the US has the highest medical costs in the world right now, and yet we have one of the most efficient capitalist economies. I will even go out on a limb and make a crazy bet that over the coming decades, we will see price decreases rather than increases in the cost of staying healthy.

MMM, do you use Portfolio Margin as part of your trading strategy? As you probably know, you can withdrawal this increased margin availability and invest it elsewhere.

Definitely no margin in my investing strategy, other than the fact that I keep a line of credit open on my house (current balance zero) in case a great deal on another rental house ever comes up. These days, I prefer low risk and simplicity over higher returns.

We have too much cash sitting in the bank. A good problem to have, I know. But we’re not sure what to do with it! College funds for our 3 kids are in good shape.

In order of increasing risk/return, you might try Vanguard stock index funds, REITs, a rental house or two, or Lending Club (where I’ve been getting over 13% and definitely think 7%+ returns are easily sustainable): http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/the-lending-club-experiment/

Curious how you’ll teach your son about your lifestyle. Will you help him sketch out a ten year plan of working a full-time job (20-30 yrs old), then retire like you?

Great question! In our lifestyle, it’s hard not to soak up the message automatically because we talk so openly about money, investing, the philosophy of not wasting things or trashing the planet, etc.

He already knows about the Mr. Money Mustache blog, and what it’s about. After all, his parents don’t work, while everyone else’s parents do. By age seven, you can’t have such a different lifestyle without the kid asking some questions.

I’ll support him whatever he decides, but I have a feeling he’ll end up financially independent earlier than I did, even if I don’t give him any money myself :-)

Hi there, We are pulling up the front lawn (which creates maintenance expenses and requires chemicals) and putting in a garden. My husband read your article and said, See, Mr. Mustache wouldn’t be spending money on this. But isn’t there a place for beauty — something that will bring you peace and pleasure every time you walk through and see a new bloom or bud? Yes, it will cost money. What say you?

I agree – I think your husband is mis-quoting Mr. Money Mustache! I am actually pretty aesthetically oriented, which is why we live in a fancy house with many gardens, and why I still build extravagant things for family and friends. Your home is your castle.

But if you do it with a do-it-yourself ethic, shop carefully, and do your renovations with an eye for what will increase the value of the home when you eventually sell it, it can be a money-producing rather than money-losing hobby.

Hi MMM! Did you leave Canada only because of the high taxes? What do you think of living in a country with a lot of taxes? Do you think you could have achieved early retirement in Canada?

No! I definitely didn’t leave Canada because of taxes. In fact, in that country you get much of it back in the form of cheaper higher-education and free healthcare.

In 1999 when I came here, engineering salaries were almost double what they were in Canada, so that was a major factor. Since then, Canadian salaries have caught up. Some of my peers who stayed in Canada when I left are now almost ready for early retirement themselves, so while it took them a few years longer, it is still feasible.

But the biggest reason is the weather: Because I ride bikes every day and like working outside, I love sunshine and semi-desert climates. My part of Colorado has been great for this, and eventually I might even move to San Diego for a later stage of retirement.

At what point does a couple know when it is right to buy a house instead of rent? Right now, my wife and I have around $80k in student debt, but are making around $150k salary combined. We can quickly accumulate cash for a down payment or we could kill our debt quicker. Which would be most Mustachian?

If you live in an area of the US where houses are still on sale due to the housing crash, it might be wise to get the house first. If your city is expensive, take a year to wipe out that $80k debt, then get a huge downpayment together, and you will have much greater leverage and flexibility as a buyer.

Isn’t retirement in your 30s isolating? Most of your friends must still be at work from 9 to 5. I’m sure you keep busy, but how do you find companionship outside of your family during the day?

It’s not isolating at all! I have mostly friends who are entrepreneurs or creative types with random work schedules. So we can work on projects during the day, or just take off for random bike rides. Plus, there’s getting groceries, finding time to do some writing or read a book or get some exercise. Plus, my wife is at home too. Overall, the weekdays seem too short rather than too long!

Most of my life these days is spent with my son, who is only in school from 9-3 on Monday to Friday.

Do you travel at all, and if so, what are your tips for frugal traveling?

We travel at least 3 months out of the year. My top tip is to stay with friends and family and/or find other ways to live like a local when traveling. As opposed to taking the traditional tourist route of hotels, guided tours, shopping, etc., which is not really traveling anyway.

I know he’s not quite there yet, but private colleges in the US cost over 50k per year. Would you put your money into this kind of massive expense? Send him off to Canada, where college is c-h-e-a-p? Choose a public US university?

Yeah! A public, in-state university is a perfectly good choice at about $7k per year. Sure, we could afford the fancier ones, but why? (plus, full scholarships are widely available to the higher-end ones anyway if a student is sufficiently talented/motivated)

I feel that educational pedigree is becoming increasingly irrelevant these days, and I encourage people to think more entrepreneurially: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/07/interview-with-a-ceo-ridiculous-student-loans-vs-the-future-of-education/

I’ve found that as I get older, I’m more willing to skimp in some areas, but not others. I’ll eat rice and beans and spaghetti seven days a week and drive a fifteen year old car, but I’ve also discovered consignment shops and estate sales as great places for deals on the finer things.

Sounds like a pretty good strategy! In rich countries like the US, frugality does not mean material deprivation. For example, I have a ridiculously awesome set of power tools and an extremely impractical fancy audio system and too many musical instruments, because I love building things and music. But these things cost less than most people spend on commuting or restaurants in a single year.

It seems with your lifestyle, I would have assumed you would homeschool your child (to be more free, I suppose), is that a consideration? Do you travel a bunch? I would love to be able to travel more – but well, we don’t, it’s expensive (and I don’t want to be backpacking and staying in hostels – too old!). That is what I would want to do when I ‘retire’ however I would be able to do it…

Home schooling is a neat idea, but to be honest, my wife and I are wimps: we love the free time between 9-3 every day to pursue our hobbies and get the groceries, and we like the idea of having our son mingle with ordinary kids from the neighborhood and deal with various rules and teaching styles, which he would not get as much with homeschooling.

Sounds like you live in a rural community. Was it important for you to move to a rural location in the US? Is this the only way to afford your home and live cheaply as you do? (I like the country, but wondered if others could do this in an urban area)

No, we live at the center of a city of about 100,000 people, which itself is just 40 miles from downtown Denver, with a population of several million. We also have a relatively expensive house, at over $400k.

However, people pursuing a more extreme early retirement strategy could locate to cheaper areas, like suburbs of Phoenix, Reno, Las Vegas, Dallas, etc., where some houses are under $100k. Rural living could work too, as long as you can do it without a huge amount of car driving.

I just opened Roth IRAs for my 16-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son. We matched what they earned last year.

Great incentive!

I am working on paying off student loan debt and would like to start saving and investing after that. But, would it be best to work on paying off my mortgage first before investing? Do you consider mortgage “emergency debt”? What do you advise in this situation?

I don’t lump mortgages into the emergency category, especially if the interest rate is under 4% and you have no PMI premiums due to a sufficient downpayment. So, if you enjoy stock investing, go for it!

Hello MMM, just want to endorse your website – it is readable, hilarious, and sensible (rare combination)! I think even those of us who live in your hated eastern megalopolis can enjoy and benefit from your outlook.

Aww, thanks a lot. And for the record, I don’t hate your Eastern Megalopolis.. I just like to encourage people to at least learn about the world beyond the borders of their own city – promotes a feeling of freedom and choices, and also may serve to streamline the economy a bit as people and work opportunities will be able to connect more efficiently.

You note that you now live 1500 miles from your childhood home….do you have close family nearby? That is why our family could never achieve what you have…..we choose to live near grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles-in one of the most expensive areas in the country! But I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

Our tradeoff is spending two months living with them every summer, and having them visit us (and take advantage of the better weather here) every fall or winter. It has been wonderful, and we are closer than ever! But I agree – family bonds are wonderful and not to be neglected.

If you are a Canadian citizen, don’t you have that comprehensive, nationalized health care system as a back up? Your insurance seems unusually cheap. I live in the DC area, and my family’s premiums cost nearly 1,000 per month — and that’s the best deal we could find for 5 healthy people.

Is that for a similar $10k deductible like my plan has? I find that the deductible has a huge effect on the premiums.

However, I also find that insurance prices (currently) vary greatly from state to state. Over time, the affordable care act has a chance to improve this. Illinois is one of the cheapest, for example. Just another thing to consider when deciding where to live.

My wife and I have been living a similar lifestyle to yours for the past four year (we’re also in our 30’s). Our financial calculations are different but ultimately we dont work full-time jobs, have a rental property, and spend our time SCAVENGING. I think this is a very important part of this lifestyle. With all the wealth in the US generated since the 1950’s, there’s a tremendous amount of stuff being thrown out. As you’ve said on your blog, now that we have the time…Craigslist is our best friend. We live high in the horse buying awesome stuff people are basically giving away.

Neat hobby – and I agree, Craigslist is a great ally in living well for less. My suite of high-end stainless steel kitchen appliances, for example, was $1500 TOTAL from a big spender who was upgrading to the newest style even though these ones were nearly new!

I’m struck by how much time you spend with your son. There was a time when just about everyone worked from home, so families spent a lot more time together. In this sense, the amount of time you spend with your son is a throwback to an earlier era, and I’m sure it will give him a good grounding, not just in your lifestyle, but also in the relationship he has with you and your wife. I’m a little puzzled, though, why you don’t spend more time volunteering. There are so many people in need, and it sounds like you have a lot of skills to share with others.

Thanks! I love having a close family relationship, and this comes first for me.

As for sharing with other people.. maybe the way I could do this best would be to start a BLOG, so I could work with thousands or millions of people, rather than just one or two in person? ;-)

Hello M cubed! I have a DC rental (my condo that I lived in before marrying) that, instead of providing an income, generates a loss each year. I charge a rent that is as high as the market will bear. However, with mortgage payments, condo fees, repairs, etc., I can’t seem to make any money. Do you have any thoughts for how I can make my rental into an income generating investment? Thanks.

YES – by selling it!

I read your recent article about low interest rate car loans when dealing with buying new. It appears your primary concern is spending more money on a new car because of a lack of self control. Assuming you were to spend a nearly equivalent amount, would you recommend 0% loans and a new car, especially when considering warranties, longer usable life, etc..?

No.. because I have never seen an example of a new car being a cost-effective way to get your transportation. A good used car is always a better idea, from all the calculations I’ve done so far. I admit it does take a bit more research, but for non-millionaires it is time well spent.

that the ‘old’ idea of retirement – is craziness. Especially when people – even if they ‘retire’ at 65 – have so much more to give to the world. The idea of sitting around and playing mah jongg….well, who wants to do that? if you’re generating income – good for you (my aunt was complaining about not getting enough in interest in the CD that just matured). You’re doing what you want to do…go for it. (remember, when the ‘retirement age’ was set – 65 was life expectancy. no was really supposed to ‘retire’)

Great points and I agree fully.

All right, I’m out of time everyone.. thanks for all the questions and hopefully I’ll see you on the blog or in real life someday!

Original Text of this session: http://live.washingtonpost.com/mr-money-mustache-advice-050313.html

  • jwc082 June 28, 2013, 11:37 pm

    I’m glad to see that most of the questions that visitors had were actually positive and constructive, and not just the same old frequently complained ones. Nicely done!

    FAQ-style posts like this are really helpful for newcomers, too, I imagine.

    • CALL 911 June 29, 2013, 6:50 pm

      I agree, but there is a selection bias here. He only posted the questions he responded to. I’m willing to bet (a lot) that he didn’t waste his or his new readers time by arguing with the IRP, flaming, or replying to the naysayers. But I’m still glad he’s out there showing WaPo readers a better way to live.

    • Jeff July 10, 2013, 12:18 pm

      It sounds like he got to choose which questions to answer.

      • Free Money Minute July 12, 2013, 6:35 am

        I enjoyed the selection that he choose to answer. It would have been interesting to see a question from one of the naysayers.

  • Giddings Plaza FI June 29, 2013, 1:52 am

    Good questions, and good answers from you, as always! I want to tell the person with the car payment question that there are options other than saving for / buying a new car. Your great solution, MMM, is biking. Mine is walking / public transit / car sharing. There are creative ways of living well without the (huge) expense of owning a car. http://giddingsplaza.com/2013/05/22/update-on-carsharing-i-love-it-most-of-the-time/

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) June 29, 2013, 5:22 am

    I was surprised and pleased you didn’t get more “hate” questions.

    I’m also really interested to see how ObamaCare impacts my HDHP. I guess we will all find out in October.

    Typo alert: You are missing the link for “More on insurance here.”

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 29, 2013, 6:25 pm

      Thanks Rjack, I fixed that health insurance link now.

      As for the positive nature of the questions: they had sort of a double filter to keep them healthy: The Washington Post moderator guy read the raw questions as they streamed in, and probably only clicked the reasonable ones through to my little screen.

      Then I got to choose the ones I actually wanted to answer, which was good because it let me try to avoid repeating things and highlight interesting and less obvious points.

    • UK Money Motivator July 1, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Obamacare sounds like an interesting step towards a US version of the UK’s NHS.

      Having got halfway through Naked Economics, I am very interested in Charles Wheelan’s analysis of how intelligence is changing the way insurance works in your country. As doctors get more information on human diseases, they help insurance companies increase premiums for those likely to need help, and those patients who know their risk levels are low may not bother at all. Pricing those who need it out of the insurance market.

      The National Health Service doesn’t look too bad to us brits nowadays…

  • Jennifer June 29, 2013, 5:30 am

    When I started reading your blog I was looking for ways to save money, which it does, but I think more importantly it has helped me learn ways to increase happiness which is even better.

    • Chipamogli July 1, 2013, 12:41 pm

      Same here! I used to feel so stuck and stressed out in my life. Now I feel like there is freedom out there if I change my habits (and work for a few more years). :)

    • tallgirl1204 July 1, 2013, 1:27 pm

      I agree too– while the money-saving hints are helpful, the articles about optimism (the optimism gun) and ones that ask me questions about “what is the most optimal thing to do right now?” are the most helpful and are what make MMM a unique experience. The idea that anyone could be sick and say “I’m sure I’ll be fine tomorrow” was completely new (and wildly foreign) to me– and yet it makes such perfect sense.

      I know how (more or less) to save money– but I have a lot of room for growth in learning how to choose a positive attitude. thanks, MMM!

    • Mr. 1500 July 1, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Agreed! I think one of the fundamental lessons of MMM is that the best, happiest way to live coincides with a frugal lifestyle. It’s cliche, but true; the best things in life don’t cost money.

      The problem is that forces of capitalism try to pull us in the other direction: “Look at these happy people in their new Lexus!” I love capitalism; we just have to train our brains to ignore those parts of it.

  • Curtis@PayOffMyRentals June 29, 2013, 7:22 am

    I appreciate your realism regarding the fact that–depending on your location–income from rental real estate can easily beat the income from equities, i.e. capital gains, dividends, total return, etc. You sure get a lot of grief from naysayers who think it can’t be done, or who think that it’s still work and thus disqualifies you from being “retired”.

    In our case, our rental real estate is our early retirement fund. We are looking for a return of approximately $30k/yr ($2,500/mo). Consequently, that goal would require a portfolio totalling $590,750 invested in dividend-paying stocks averaging 5% to throw off an income of $2,461.00 per month or just under $30,000 p/yr. If you choose to compare it to a portfolio with a 4% withdrawal rate, you would need the equivalent of $738,428 invested in equities.

    The above results are achieved with a rental real estate portfolio worth $390k that only cost $251,500. It actually cost much less since there’s some sweat equity involved in the rehabs. Passive? Yes. The income listed above is the free cash flow after all PITI, maintenance, vacancy allowance and rental management fees. It’s amazing how hard it can be to convince people that it can be done.

    Now we are getting our second income stream of Dividend growth stocks accumulating while enjoying semi-retirement. It’s all fun.

  • cj June 29, 2013, 7:52 am

    If readers have their own blogs, which I suspect many do, they ought to be taking note of how you handle replies. That is the lesson I took form this. Your ability to consistently address the comments in their entirety with an affable and friendly, yet firm (when needed) demeanor is astounding. Magnificent replies, every time. That’s what it takes and it uses a lot of energy and time, but it is appreciated and well worth the trouble.

  • Debt Blag June 29, 2013, 7:55 am

    This was a great interview, not just because we got a little deeper into some of the methods you used, but we also got a glimpse into how you got started. Great post!

  • Kristen June 29, 2013, 8:16 am

    Can I add a couple of questions? 1. I see a lot about maximizing a 401k/403b but I am confused on how one would retire early with this approach. Wouldn’t there be a major tax penalty for taking a distribution from these early. 2. Also, I read on other blogs that people should have an emergency (ranges from 3-8 months) in a low risk account. From what I have read on here, I get the impression that this is not an MMM philosophy. Can someone clarify why or maybe direct me to an article? Trying to start from the beginning and catch up but these questions are two issues that I haven’t come across specifically on here. Thank you, Conservative Newbie here :)

    • Geek June 29, 2013, 8:54 am

      Hi Kristen I’ll take a shot.*
      1. Maxxing your 401k is a good step, but only a first step. Every penny less that you live on is a penny less you need when you retire. So if you earn 50k/year after taxes and save 15k/year in your 401k, that’s only 35k/year remaining that you need to earn in retirement to support your lifestyle (assuming you save nothing else). Using MMM’s ‘simple’ math….


      You’re saving 30% of your after tax money in this case, so you can retire in 28 years. Of course, as you point out Kristen, in 28 years you’ll be 50 (with a USA BS degree which could arrive at the age of 22) and you can’t really withdraw from your 401k early without penalty.
      BUT, the MMM philosophy includes constant optimizations and bettering yourself, so you will earn more than 50k in a few years, and your cost of living will likely go down or stay the same. So you will run out of 401k space to maximize and you will have to save in some other way!

      2. If you adhere to Mustachian principles, you will have a short, proably low-risk period where you have no cash buffer because you are dealing with the EMERGENCY of paying down you debt.
      Refusing to pay down debt because of the small risk of everything going pear-shaped, thus forcing you to take on more debt, is a really fucking expensive insurance policy. I don’t think anyone is saying “don’t have a cash cushion”. People who are struggling with mountains of debt really do need to avoid increasing their debt for their peace of mind and so having say 1-3k in the bank for a flat tire or a broken tooth is not a bad idea.
      And for those not in debt, diversifying a little bit into cash is probably ok…. :)

      • Kristen June 29, 2013, 11:09 am

        Hi Geek, Thank you for taking the time to explain. Kristen

        • Geek June 29, 2013, 2:54 pm

          Hope it helps :) I’ve been financially geeky about half the time I’ve been computer geeky :)

      • Kris July 4, 2013, 9:23 pm

        Is maxing out a 401k/403b always the best route? I have a 403b through work and get matching from my employer for a combined amount of 16% of my gross pay. I’m wondering if I should limit the 403b to what is needed to get the match and put the rest into Vanguard?

    • Kyle June 29, 2013, 9:00 am

      If you max out a 401k every year, you save a ton of money on taxes during your working years. What you should do is save 5 years of expenses in taxable accounts before you quit your job. When you quit, you roll your 401k into a traditional IRA. At that point, you live on that money while converting one year’s expenses to a Roth IRA each year. After 5 years, you can spend that converted money with no penalties.

      When you convert it to a Roth IRA, you will pay taxes on that amount as if it was income. However, since you no longer have a job, the taxes on it will be quite low.

      • lurker June 29, 2013, 11:08 am

        This sounds really interesting…can you expand on this? when you write: “at this point, you live on that money…” what money are you talking about: the ira or the taxable money. and what are you converting to a roth each year? the money in the regular ira? sorry if I am dense….but sounds like a good plan to me…

        • Kyle June 29, 2013, 3:02 pm

          You live on the money in your taxable brokerage account while you convert money from your traditional IRA to a Roth. You could also withdraw Roth contributions that you had made previously, since those can always be withdrawn without penalty.

          • Chris July 1, 2013, 10:22 am

            Kyle, I’m also highly intrigued by this plan but having a hard time processing it through my thick skull. A few questions:

            1. What is the purpose of rolling the 401k into a traditional IRA and then gradually converting to a Roth? Why not just go straight from the 401k to the Roth?

            2. You indicate that one can begin withdrawing from a Roth IRA five years after the first contribution was made. However, H and R block indicates that one of the four conditions must also be met:

            Made after reaching age 59 1 / 2
            Made to a beneficiary or to your estate after your death
            Made after you became disabled
            Meets the penalty exception for first-time homebuyer

            Doesn’t this pose a problem to your plan?

            • Mike July 1, 2013, 12:24 pm

              Those restrictions apply to your Roth earnings, not to the contributions. The only restriction concerning Roth contributions is that they need to be in the account for a minimum of 5 years before being withdrawn.

              The answer to question number one is related to taxes. If you convert the entire IRA to a Roth, all that money is reported as income – which will generate a high marginal tax rate. Doing it gradually over many years will lower the tax rate to nearly zero – depending on the specific amounts involved.

              • Ed July 3, 2013, 5:08 pm

                Does a conversion from IRA to Roth count as a contribution? For example, if I decide to convert $30k from my IRA to a Roth IRA I am taxed on the $30k, then in 5 years is the $30k considered the contribution, even though it was technically a conversion?

            • Mark July 1, 2013, 1:17 pm

              Check out the Mad Fientist for a very lucid discussion of this point.


              He explains the (current) tax status of the different accounts, and how to leverage that to your benefit. As always, you have to work a little harder (remembering to do your conversion ladder each year, dealing with the extra tax forms, etc.) to get the tax advantage.

              Plus there’s the awesome fox battle picture on that article…

              • Chris Reece July 2, 2013, 6:56 pm

                Thanks, Mike and Mark!

                My retirement accounts are so much more exhilarating when I imagine them as warring foxes.

                The article you’ve linked is great and may seriously alter my savings strategy. However, I have a partner and soon-to-be spouse who is not planning to retire early, so if we’re going to be filing joint tax returns, this plan may not make sense, since it seems uniquely fit for those who plan to report a low income to the IRS throughout their early retirement. I need to crunch some numbers and mull it over some more.

    • CALL 911 June 29, 2013, 6:55 pm

      MMM does have a large emergency fund, it just isn’t thought of that way by most people. He has an untapped HELOC on a paid off $400k house. Should the stocks he owns all go broke, on the same day he’s diagnosed with cancer, when his car spontaneously combusts, he just writes a check off the HELOC and moves on with problem solving. Judicious use of debt is actually a lifestyle optimization technique he explained a while back, and at that moment, I was struck by his brilliance. Using (available) debt, to avoid debt and keep those green employees working! Brilliant!

      • Kristen June 30, 2013, 9:17 am

        I get why your name is “call 911″.

        What does it mean to use available debt? Is that what you would call “writing a check of the HELOC”?

        • CALL 911 June 30, 2013, 10:38 am

          CALL 911 – because debt is an emergency! (That, and I work in healthcare)
          A HELOC (Home Equity Line Of Credit) is a secured, floating credit line. It is like a credit card in that there is a limit you can go up to, and if you don’t use it, it doesn’t cost you anything (well, there is usually a small initial set up fee). To use it, the bank hands you a checkbook that is tied to the line of credit. Write a check, and the credit becomes active, and interest starts to accrue. If you don’t pay them back, they can foreclose on you house (the “secured” part). He has no need to keep $13k (six months living expenses) in a zero interest savings account. By having the ability to write a check off of the HELOC, he can keep those 13,000 employees hard at work, or paying off existing debt, generating real returns. Using available credit (HELOC) to avoid debt – brilliant!

          • Derek July 1, 2013, 5:06 am

            Wow, I think you just blew my mind. This could change everything for many folks.

            I had always considered the 6-months cash savings as a golden rule of savings.

            I can see now that this isn’t necessarily the case. I will definitely have to look into this more as the money I have set aside is losing ~3%+ each year with inflation.


  • TOM June 29, 2013, 8:46 am

    What is that one questioner talking about with the high deductible plan going away? If anything, they’re becoming more ubiquitous…

    • Naomi June 29, 2013, 10:21 am

      Catastrophic plans in the individual market are going away unless

      (a) you are under age 30 or
      (b) you are exempt (from minimum required coverage levels) because of income or hardship.

      So those of us with very cheap individual catastrophic plans will likely see an increase in premiums (along with a richer plan).

      • TOM June 29, 2013, 11:25 am

        Thanks for the response. My brief google search shows that Catastrophic coverage is slightly different from HDHPs. Their deductibles are even higher than MMM’s $10k plan.
        I think we’ll find that many of the bronze level plans will have similar deductibles to current day HDHPs, or maybe you can find high deductibles all four levels, depending on how the actuarial values work.
        HDHPs and HSAs are one of the best things to happen to healthy folks who can save in a while.

  • GamingYourFinances June 29, 2013, 9:04 am

    It was great to see this alternative message in the mainstream media. Too often the articles are pushing the same message/theme.

    At least people are given an option that’s not tailored to the typical consumerist lifestyle. If they choose to embrace it is another question, but at least the info is there.

    I was never content as a consumer, but now with a different perspective (a big part of this is due to the MMM blog) I feel much more content. It’s just that a consumerist lifestyle didn’t work for me, however I was never given any alternatives.

    Good for you MMM for getting this info out there! (and dealing with some of the negative blow back)

    • Frugal in DC June 29, 2013, 12:38 pm

      I agree. I’ve been ridiculed and pitied over the years for not falling for lifestyle inflation or the consumerist BS. Learning about other frugal folks via this site has been like a breath of fresh air. It was wonderful to see MMM featured in the Post with the article and Q&As. I was going to say that MMM should write a regular financial advice column, but that would be too much like having a real job and I’m sure there would be no cursing allowed. :)

      • Mr. Money Mustache June 29, 2013, 6:35 pm

        Thanks FDC.. not only was the Post’s Kelly Johnson wonderful for this interview, but she invited me back for other things and encouraged me to write a column any time I want for their business section. It is a great opportunity and I hope to make the most of it.

        You’re right – a recurring column with a deadline wouldn’t be my idea of a retirement activity, since my boy still comes first on my schedule for a few more yers. But I love any work that is no-commitment, do-it-whenever-you-like type stuff, and just like this blog, it could be ideal.

        Next question: what should I write the first column about??

        • CALL 911 June 29, 2013, 6:59 pm

          Opportunity cost of driving vs. cycling. It’s right up your alley, and business like. The readers will hate it, because you’ll show them they are wasting a fortune! People like to be encouraged in the habits/beliefs they already hold, not forced to acknowledge the less than ideal aspects of themselves.

          • rjack June 30, 2013, 9:17 am

            I agree and throw in a twist of the economics of living near work so that you don’t have to own a car.

        • Bruiser June 30, 2013, 7:43 am

          I would like your first WashPo column to hit on the ridiculous amounts of money people spend on cable TV and expensive cell phones. Lots of folks think these are “necessities”, right up there with water and electricity. And they wonder why they struggle to “make ends meet.”

          • Frugal in DC June 30, 2013, 11:37 am

            Also, owning multiple and unnecessarily expensive cars (don’t get me started on gas guzzlers) and people “treating” themselves by going out to eat.

            Case in point. Yesterday my son and I walked to a shopping center near us to get some socks. We saw a family of four pull up to a frozen yogurt store in a brand new Ford F-150 pick-up truck. FroYo goes for $4-5 a cup if you load on the toppings. So just in a few minutes they blew about $20 plus let’s say a minimum of $5 for driving there and back. Assuming they do that or something similar to it once a week all summer long, that’s about $500 a year, times 20 years = $10,000. Invested over 20 years that’s about $20,000 assuming a conservative 5% rate of return. So my son and I talked about how that little FroYo habit cost them the equivalent of two years of tuition and books at an in-state college. For $4 they could have bought a nice big container of FroYo and enjoyed their treats while spending time together at home or close to home.

          • DC Jr Mustachian July 2, 2013, 1:27 am

            I think this is amateur stuff. Lots of folks write about the cable bills and the lattes. I think MMM should come stay with a mustachian in DC, come see our free museums, free rock concerts, outdoor film festivals, huge swaths of million dollar rowhouses, note all of the Teslas, mini cars, $15 food truck sandwiches, and trendy restaurants, then write about how he would apply the MMM lifestyle to living and working in the metropolis.

            • Emmers July 4, 2013, 3:36 pm

              I agree with this, especially the “amateur stuff” part. It would be awesome to see MMM’s take on the (stereotypical?) DC lifestyle.

            • LoneStarStateWorkerBee March 15, 2014, 6:13 pm

              This is actually a great idea for a series of articles or a TV show. MMM temporarily moves to a new city, starting off with an “average” normal-person budget, and over a few months (or less?) shows the audience how he cuts it down. He prob wouldn’t do it while raising his kid though. Maybe after JMM goes off to college?

        • Frugal in DC June 30, 2013, 7:47 am

          An occasional Post column would be awesome! Best of both worlds. Good for you for putting family first.

          In terms of topics, how about Badassity in an area with a high cost of living? Or Mustachianism at major life stages? For example, don’t take out crazy amounts of student loans to live away at a private college, don’t take out the biggest mortgage for which you’d qualify, etc. Anything to shift perspectives so folks can live more financially and environmentally sustainable lifestyles. Since you’re going to get complainypants comments, a column about positive thinking, setting ambitious goals, and not whining would also be cool. Looking forward to your columns!

          • Emmers July 4, 2013, 3:38 pm

            “don’t take out the biggest mortgage for which you’d qualify”

            For example: If you have two incomes, base the mortgage on only the lower one.

  • Spoonman June 29, 2013, 9:19 am

    It’s nice to see a positive vibe coming from a general crowd.

    I got a good giggle when the second question mentioned “upscale thrift stores”, don’t think I’ve ever been in one.

    • pdxcyn June 29, 2013, 7:56 pm

      Right, my guess is that they are referring to consignment shops.

      • Rockstache July 1, 2013, 8:00 am

        What is the difference? Most people I know use those two terms interchangeably. Maybe it depends on your area of the country/world?

        • RMD71 July 1, 2013, 8:44 am

          Thrift shops are donation only. You drop off your unwanted stuff in a collection bin and go home. Consignment shops don’t take everything and they pay you a percentage of the sale. So, you take your stuff to the person behind the counter, they look at what you have and pick what they believe will sell (and you take the rest to the thrift shop). Some consignment shops will pay you for your stuff upfront and then price to make the money back but most will put your items out and then pay you once the item sells. You need to ask how the consignment shop works because each can operate differently…i.e, some will give you cash some will give you store credit.

          • OhYongHao March 11, 2015, 11:10 am

            Another popular style that my wife frequents are ones that sell booths to vendors. Generally this is used for antiques and crafted items, sort of like a Saturday Market, but the vendors aren’t there, just their stuff. The shop takes care of processing the sales. Similar to the consignment shops you mentioned, but for more serious arbitragers.

    • Leslie July 1, 2013, 11:03 am

      I often browse the Goodwill shop near fancy boutiques, and jewelry stores in an affluent downtown area. The concept is that in this neighborhood the people buy the latest styles frequently and then give away perfectly good clothes–even with price tags attached sometimes. I got a pair of almost new jeans that fit great, for 5 bucks and still wear them 4 years later, as well as some aerosol boots, DKNY t-shirt, brand new hard cover books, etc. I read the books and resell on Amazon for more than I paid for them. When this Goodwill has a sale the place is always packed. They have a good auction site too that isn’t as well designed as e-bay–but still has great stuff.

  • Gigi June 29, 2013, 9:56 am

    Loved this Q&A.

    To the people who talked about travel being too expensive: may I bust that myth?

    I travel the world full-time for the same budget (or less) than I lived on in Denver, Colorado. Much of that travel is in more expensive locations like Europe.

    Travel doesn’t have to be expensive – and budget travel doesn’t have to mean living like a vagabond! :)

  • Joet June 29, 2013, 10:19 am

    Great job MMM, I feel that reading this Q&A section was a great way to quickly get the ‘point’ of the MMM-lifestyle/credo that can take a looooo g time to get through with all the great content here in the articles.

    One nitpick: I hope you’re right re:declining health care costs but that would require tremendous changes AND a drop in services as well as cost transparency and all kinds of other things that I simply don’t see happening. Fingers crossed though! Everyone literally is a caviar consumer of healthcare ESPECIALLY where life is at risk. No expense spared, the latest innovation, etc all

  • Ree Klein June 29, 2013, 11:32 am

    This was great! I’m so glad you shared the exchanges with us because it’s a great opportunity to learn more about you and your way of thinking!

  • Johnny Moneyseed June 29, 2013, 1:50 pm

    That’s a lot of writing/reading for one hour. How bad did your fingers/brain hurt after that ordeal?

  • Ender4021 June 29, 2013, 2:27 pm

    Hey MMM I am 21 and I found your blog a few weeks back. I started from the beginning and I have now caught up. Thanks for all the advice. I am going to graduate from college next year and I plan on being capable of retiring (financial freedom) like you within a decade. I had no idea it was reasonable to retire early without some sort of get rich quick scheme or pure luck until I found your blog. Now by keeping my spending 50-75% below my earnings I have a chance. Also being a Software Engineer I was wondering what to do with my likely ridiculous earnings and thanks to some of your prior articles I now understand what some of the options are beyond just a 401k.

  • Rachele June 29, 2013, 3:49 pm

    If anyone else is trying to figure out how to run errands on bike with multiple small kids in tow and you think you will do so often enough to warrant a $1500 – $2000 investment, I highly recommend a Madsen bucket bike or bakfiet plus a cargo trailer.

  • Jeff June 29, 2013, 4:12 pm

    Running a car worth $6000 is almost extravagant.

    Mine is worth about $600, looks fine and just keeps on running.

    I last put fuel in it in March and hope to get near 800 miles on this tankful.

  • Tim McAleenan June 29, 2013, 4:13 pm

    I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of these questions. I was expecting it to be full of neener-neener “you can’t do this” type of commentary. It seems that most of those folks were genuinely curious about implementing elements of the MMM lifestyle into their own lives, and I was happy to see that.

    It still seems that most people (outside of the friendly confines of this blog) are still anchored by comparing themselves to what everyone around them does. Hopefully, we’re starting to get away from that.

    Nothing is worse than mindless spending out of a sense of obligation that you’re “just supposed to do that.” If nothing else, I hope that others pick up on the Mustachian message that your spending should be deliberate in a way that you can maximize your ability to pursue your dreams and squeeze as much as you can out of life.

    • Curtis@PayOffMyRentals June 29, 2013, 5:23 pm


      Cool of you to drop by!

      For those of you who don’t know Tim, he’s an excellent apologist for those interested in Dividend Growth Investing. He’s published hundreds of articles on Seeking Alpha and shows a keen wisdom and insight beyond his years. If you follow MMM for frugal living advice, then you’ll want to follow Tim’s blog for Income Investing principles and advice.

      MMM and Tim are like cake and icing.

    • Terr June 29, 2013, 6:52 pm

      “Neener Neener” comments, lol.

      But I have to say, those type of comments were in there, they were just carefully worded.

      I really have to give MMM a shout out for how well he responded to all of the questions, but particularly the questions that were (Honestly) condescending. Here’s the collective message that I picked up from those patronizing, condescending queries:

      “I really, REALLY like what you’re talking about. Your lifestyle theory makes a lot of sense. But unlike you, I’m not willing to live amongst the cows and the tumbleweed. I’m also not willing to drive a jallopy.

      But okay, hey, I’m down with eating a steady diet of rice, beans and spaghetti the rest of my life. I mean, that’s what you do MMM, right? But, I can’t give up my relationship with my family. Surely you fail to maintain your family relationships, right MMM?

      And by the way, you must be so lonely since everyone knows that the only way to have friends is to make friends with people on the j.o.b! Since you don’t have a j.o.b, you must be a social recluse. Hey MMM, how is being a social recluse working for you?

      Oh and OBVIOUSLY, you must homeschool. I mean, why else would you want to send your child to school? And despite the fact that your blog educates at least thousands of people around the world FOR FREE, why aren’t you doing more volunteer work?

      Finally, you must be one of those people who camp under the stars or stay at one of those filthy, noisy hostels in order to enjoy a vacation. And, and and…you must be secretly benefitting from a dual citizenship scenario in order to afford your healthcare!

      Yeah, that’s how you’re making all of this work. Tell tha’ truth!!!”

      UUUGGGHHHH!!!! You know, don’t you hate people who rain and pee all over your parade? Just because they aren’t willing to make A FEW changes or sacrifices doesn’t mean that the MMM lifestyle is weird or unattainable! And who are these people who presume to know what’s going on in MM’s life, particularly regarding his family or personal relationships?

      You sir (MMM) were the epitome of grace, regarding some of the questions/comments/cloaked critiques you received.

      • Mr. Money Mustache July 1, 2013, 11:44 am

        Haha.. Terr, I think you are attributing too much sophistication to the average person, and imagining a more hostile world. I feel that most of these questions were genuine, from people who want to get ahead but don’t know how mustachians handle these common issues.

        There are plenty of complainers out there.. But you generally know them immediately when you read their uniquely crafted sentences.

      • Sofia July 1, 2013, 11:20 pm

        Terr June,

        You are so right. They were totally trying to pee on the parade! The people insinuating that they value family more than money, unlike Mustachians, were the most out of line…

        It’s a financial blog. Just because MMM shares some of his personal life, and I appreciate when bloggers do, does not mean the reader knows everything about his family!

        I think the MMM way is a perfect formula for early retirement. If/when I want it badly enough, I will just have to follow this advice to a T. In the meanwhile, I just file it away and use it to make myself feel guilty about my consumerist ways.

  • Happy Wanderer June 30, 2013, 6:04 am

    Thanks MMM and to ALL for the inspiration! Have FINALLY paid off all credit card debt, maxed on 401K, making lifestyle changes, albeit little steps and feel utter JOY when I get a deal, make decisions not to spend, or can save $$$. FI will be a reality after helping to fund WEDDINGS this year #@!$$$!!! Love the blog and am amused by reactions from the spendy folks when I share the MMM lifestyle, It’s a journey and we’re getting there! :)

  • Mark June 30, 2013, 8:20 am

    “You’re doing what you want to do…go for it. (remember, when the ‘retirement age’ was set – 65 was life expectancy. no was really supposed to ‘retire’)”

    This is a common miconception. The life expectancy from birth was 65. But the life expectancy from 20 was higher, and from 40 it was even higher!

  • Jimmie Jo June 30, 2013, 8:28 am

    About the guy that just finished his $400/moth car payments. If he just paid off a new car, it will last another 10 years or more. Saving $400/month for 10 years will result in at least $48000—more than enough for a very nice replacement and some left over.

  • kiwano June 30, 2013, 10:12 am

    re: Savings accounts:

    Since I live on a sailboat, I have an assortment of “housing” expenses that come in on a highly irregular basis. This can wreak havoc on my cash flow, so every month, I pay my “rent” into a reserve fund, which I draw upon whenever the boat demands some cash (e.g. for insurance, or mooring fees, or parts-that-I-can’t-make or raw-materials-to-make-a-new-part when something breaks). Right now this is a savings account because the interest that I can get out of the savings account is better than the spread between the interest I can get from less stable/liquid investments and the interest on a line of credit secured by said investments.

    As a long-term savings vehicle, I agree that savings accounts suck, but for short-term savings (e.g. getting on to the right side of the money wave for a vacation), and for holding reserve funds, they’re actually a pretty useful tool.

    re: Standard of living:

    One of the first ways I’ve framed the challenge of living more frugally is the challenge of identifying the stuff that I won’t actually use (or whose use won’t actually improve my life) before I waste my money buying it. I even burn up some of my scarce storage-space keeping around the last substantial non-frugal purchase I made (an electric trolling motor, and the battery to run it, which I *still* haven’t used after 1.5 years) as a reminder of what I’m actually “depriving” myself of.

    • Derek July 1, 2013, 5:13 am

      I’ve always wondered about living on a boat. Do you have to pay property taxes? If how, which state forces you to pay them as you can always relocate to some other one…

      • kiwano July 6, 2013, 9:49 am

        Living on a boat to dodge property taxes is a damned foolish idea, and pretty much everyone who tries it ends up ruining their boat and then moving back ashore.

        Unless you’re at anchor, you almost certainly have to pay mooring fees, dockage, club dues, or something of the sort to the owners of the land you tie up to (i.e. pay their property tax) or own the land yourself (and therefore pay property tax). If you’re moored at a club or marina, then they’ll expect you to have liability insurance too.

        Assuming that you are at anchor, you are no longer connected to the water mains, the power grid, or the road system, and will quickly discover that you receive good benefits for your property taxes as you set up and maintain your watermaker and/or catchment system, your generator, and the tender you use to go to shore to buy food and fuel (and occasionally water, candles, etc. for when your self-run utilities fail), and to collect your mail.

        Now aside from that, the thing that the “I don’t have to pay property tax” crowd completely fails to grasp about boats is that everything is breaking all the time, and replacement parts and materials are expensive. I maintain a boat budget which is only very slightly less than what I paid for rent on the last apartment I lived in ashore. I’d estimate that around 30% of that budget goes to buying parts and materials for maintenance and repairs (about 60% goes to mooring fees and insurance, and 10% to fuel, lubricants and other consumables–and were I to ditch the mooring fees, my fuel and maintenance costs would go up accordingly, I’d still need a mooring for my tender, and I’d be pretty isolated–not in the good way e.g. I’d only be able to ask friends with boats to help me out by bringing me some groceries and medicine when I get sick).

        Roughly speaking, there’s only one acceptable reason to own a boat, and that reason is that you love boats (even after acknowledging that you probably end up spending something like 5 times as long fixing them up as you ever spend out on the water with them).

        If you clear that hurdle, then the only other hurdle to living on a boat is that you find the drastically reduced living space, and increased urgency of boat repairs an acceptable trade-off for no longer having to maintain both a boat and a residence ashore.

        • kiwano July 11, 2013, 10:48 am

          When rattling off the loss of utilities by anchoring offshore instead of mooring/docking to land, I neglected to mention that living on a boat also means having no connection to sanitary sewers, even if you’re on a dock or in a mooring. Also, if you’re close enough to shore to be able to go there for groceries, then it’s probably illegal to discharge your sewage into the water you’re floating in, and you’ll have to have it pumped out (and in most civilized lands, you can’t get other people to handle your sewage for free–hell, you often can’t even use their equipment to handle your sewage yourself for free).

          It recently occurred to me to toss this on here, as I was recently having a conversation about my typical response to people telling me that living on a boat is romantic (said response being to point out that I distrust romance, and invite them to help me work on my sanitary system).

  • Max June 30, 2013, 10:14 am

    Bad ass kung fu image!

  • Christy June 30, 2013, 1:07 pm

    Been a reader since 2010, first time commenter! Thanks for all the sharing you do, MMM. I found your comment that you’re considering San Diego for later retirement to be interesting… I’ve been living here for 3 years, and I absolutely adore it, but real estate is so expensive! My fiance and I have no idea when we’ll be able to actually afford a house, and even rent prices have gone up so much that we don’t dare leave the apartment we’re in. Do you have an area of San Diego in mind that would suit your Mustachian ways? Or, if you need to get acquainted with the city, we’d love to show you around some time!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 1, 2013, 8:24 am

      Yeah, that San Diego plan is just idle speculation at this point, as it would be many years in the future. I was thinking that if we have another housing price crash in the next 20 years, I might buy a place then (I missed the 2008 buying opportunity there because I was still in the middle of my own housing snafu at the time and couldn’t responsibly spare the cash to buy another).

      The other option is just to earn a huge quantity of money between now and then, so that even the price of coastal housing is negligible. We’d be buying a pretty small place too, since by that time the little son will be an adult – or even better, buying a destroyed old shack in a great neighborhood and rebuilding it from scratch into a fine little 1000 SF modernist eco-home.

      • Eric July 1, 2013, 10:58 am

        MMM, I actually just moved to San Diego. Have spent a lot of time out here on business before finally being “moved” here to provide better service. I can certainly vouch for the biking way of life. I can bike to everything from work(4 miles) to church (3 miles) theres a great bar and a Trader Joe’s(blech) behind our place within 3 minutes walking. Apparently a little issue out here is wildfires (mitigated closer to the beach I suppose). Apparently if ou have a place that is destroyed by wildfire as part of the California way of life, whatever you build on the site is still taxed at the rate of the original dwelling (several associates have taken advantage of this fact). Not sure if that transfers to new owners but if it does you might be able to buy a more equivalent place to your own while still paying the taxes of a much smaller dwelling.

        • Phil Simon July 1, 2013, 3:39 pm

          Hi Eric, I’ve lived here in San Diego for 22 years, so I can answer your question. Property in San Diego county (and the rest of CA) is taxed at the purchase price when there is an ownership transfer, the only exceptions being family transfers, quitclaims into trust, and other non-sale transfers. We do wildfires here on a grand scale – the 2003 and 2007 firestorms burned around 400,000 acres and 2000 homes each. Getting owners to rebuild quickly without fear of huge property tax increases was a priority, so the county supes passed a law allowing people to rebuild bigger without reassessing the tax base. So I’m afraid there’s no loophole for a new resident to take advantage of.

          That said, it would be great to have MMM as a neighbor! And Christy, keep looking around – real estate here isn’t Phoenix cheap, but it really isn’t that bad, as long as you stay out of Del Mar and Coronado. There are plenty of very liveable neighborhoods with houses under $350k and townhomes under $250k. I’m househunting myself right now… things have definitely gone up the last couple years, but it’s still way cheaper than it was in 2006.

  • Laura June 30, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Paleo? May I suggest a little side research into a starch based diet, a la, Dr. John McDougall?

  • Heather June 30, 2013, 8:16 pm

    MMM, do you recommend the Vanguard investments you mentioned to Canadians too? I’ve been thinking about Vanguard for a while, but find it difficult to separate the American and Canadian info about it.

  • Done by Forty July 1, 2013, 12:34 am

    I loved this Q&A column, and think it’s a decent primer for the Mustachian lifestyle.

    I wonder if these Q&A sessions might be a possibility on this site? Might make for interesting posts.

  • Chris July 1, 2013, 8:54 am

    The Wall Street Journal had a fairly detailed article on health care plans under Obamacare yesterday. One example was that in Richmond, VA today’s cheapest plan for a 40 y.o. non-smoker from Anthem comes with a $5,000 deductible and runs $63/month – under the new health care exchange the least expensive plan available is also from Anthem but runs $193/month. It sounds like the coverage will be better (and deductible lower?) but healthy people not in need of much healthcare are going to be subsidizing those that are less healthy and consume more healthcare. Also, those at the poverty level in terms of income are eligible for up to $234 in Federal subsidy toward their premium.


  • Lanny July 1, 2013, 10:59 am

    I’ve been reading for awhile but this is my first time commenting. MMM I’m curious have you written or can you write a post regarding how you and your wife manage your finances ( joint accounts, separate, who pays for what, etc.) being newly married myself I’m interested to see what you found works best for your family, including what you did before you hit FI? Great blog, thanks for all the wonderful advice.

  • Chasity July 1, 2013, 3:20 pm

    I cannot get enough of your blog. Seriously. My husband and I stumbled upon it several months ago, read dozens of your posts, and now have our own plan in place. We have $60,000 ish in student loan debt that we should have paid off in about 2.5 years and hope to be able to retire in the next 10 years. I’d like it to happen sooner but my husband is a little less optimistic. The more posts of yours I read the more motivated I am so please keep them coming frequently! We’re considering the new cell phone plan you just got so please post an update about that as soon as you have one! Also, I love Mrs. MM guest posts :)

  • LMaS July 1, 2013, 4:50 pm

    That was a great Q&A, covers lots of bases. I’ve also noticed a quick MMM reference in Money magazine, I loved seeing your contrarian advice on simplicity in a magazine that seems to spend most pages suggesting ways to “save” when buying your next luxury SUV. You’re going to have to find some more space in your “As Seen In” logo to fit all the awesome Mustachian press you’re getting.

  • Emmers July 4, 2013, 3:22 pm

    “He loves his field and plans to keep working forever (or, at least until he is really, really old). Until we got married last year, he wasn’t saving for retirement at all.”

    This guy is just asking for Murphy’s Law to come up and punch him in the face. Even if he doesn’t want to save for *retirement,* he should still be *saving* (well, investing). Getting old involves getting decrepit for pretty much everyone — good on the exceptions, but there’s a reason we call them “exceptions” instead of “everyone.” Could the letter-writer strike a bargain where she puts a good bit into her retirement account, he does the minimum to get full matching into his retirement account, and he puts the balance (up to “a good bit,” whether that’s percentage-wise or amount-wise) into some kind of normal investment account?

    Saving for the future is a really important thing to do, no matter how you do it.

  • Alexandra Pickle July 6, 2013, 7:43 am

    At first I enjoyed reading about the ideas of living simply, frugally and without excessive consumption.

    However, I was deeply disappointed to read that MMM bought a new 400K house. This is a typical middle class consumer move – buying a suburbian McMansion. The McMansion usually happens to be in an area with top schools, so it’s not really “Avoiding Ivy League Preschool Syndrome”.

    There is nothing wrong with having those things, it just contradicts the very ideology MMM writes about.

    Also, I didn’t like Mrs. Mustache comment that for entertainment they go to friends house and get tipsy.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 6, 2013, 8:30 am

      Haha.. probably worth addressing for those who haven’t read older posts.

      The house was $350k, the other 50k (or 100k, given the recent property market here) came from me fixing it up with my own hands. It is still excessive and we deserve a downsizing, but most of the cost comes from the fact that it is NOT suburban – it’s in the center of the city, within walking distance of everything, and now consumes less energy than an average apartment.

      As for drinking wine with friends – to each her own. I have always advocated recreational use of drugs including alcohol, as long as you treat them just like birthday cake – something you know is bad for you and you use in very careful moderation rather than as a daily staple.

  • Joe July 15, 2013, 11:28 pm

    Re: the question about dealing with biking and multiple small children, you should see how they do it in Amsterdam! I saw multiple mothers with 2-3 kids on the same bike, no trailer. There would be a kid sitting on the handlebars, a kid standing on the frame in between the saddle and handlebars, and another sitting side-saddle on the rack over the back wheel.

  • greg July 23, 2013, 10:03 pm

    The idea of saving 70% of your salary is great, and easy if you make 150 or 200K a year. But if you’re making 50K, how do you save 70% and still subsist? Further, that wouldn’t get you anywhere near 800K in savings in 10 years.

    Does anyone know how much MMM was making when he was working?

    • Jim February 6, 2015, 6:38 pm

      of course someone knows, everybody does who has read his blog. you ought to try it.

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