270 comments

There’s Something You Need to Know About The Rules

macgyverMy son is seven and three quarters years old. Having reached second grade, he is having a nice time defining himself in the little society of the public school system. He likes being the creative one who invents the games that his classmates play at recess. Defines himself as a good reader, a respectful class clown, and the guy who always gets his homework done.

Last week, when finishing up a writing assignment on the kitchen table, he asked for my help and I could tell he was frustrated.

“Dad, I just finished this big story and I thought I was done. But it says I have to write the whole thing out in my notebook now.”

I looked at the sheet where he had meticulously written out his story about a journey to the center of the Earth. At the top were the instructions: “Write a story in your notebook about travel.” Then the whole page below was filled with blank lines, implying that you were supposed to write the story right here on that worksheet, which is what he had done. The instructions were conflicting.

“Ahh”, I told him. “It looks like the instructions were not clear. But since you already wrote your story on this worksheet, you can just hand the page in instead of the notebook. Or if you want to get really fancy, we can cut out the story and glue it into your book!”

This suggestion seemed to bring him great unease. The instructions were telling him to write his story in the notebook, and he had clearly written his on the paper instead. He was in violation of The Rules, and this was scaring him.

I suddenly realized I had some teaching to do. It was time to share a deeper explanation of what The Rules really are, and I thought you might want to join in for the session as well. Because if you look around carefully, you will see that most of the problems of our society are based upon an incorrect understanding of these rules.

Let’s dig into the Money Mustache Mailbox for a recent example. When I first announced that I had bought a new 1950s house and was planning to renovate it, a complainypants comment came in with the juicy content:

This renovation you describe is no small feat and getting a structural engineer to “sign off” on the installation of new roofing system upon a foundation and walls (with 7 foot 8 inch ceilings no less) set over 50 years ago could be challenging as well. I can’t count the number of times I have seen plans similiar to these go haywire because of the unforeseen. And I question the reward by selling the old place and moving…in this neck of the woods “docs and transfers” are significant and sometimes exceed 6% of the selling price and those are historically paid/split buying and selling. And lastly ….am I missing something…this house seems small… very simple…a basic dwelling…80 by 80 lot….not a fan. I spend a lot of time working from and around my home…give me some space…

Wow“, I thought, “Is this person completely unfamiliar with the principles of this blog?” I went through the usual cycle of one raised eyebrow, two raised eyebrows, a clenched fist, a finger poised over the “delete” button, and then at last I calmed down and saved the text to share with you instead. For while the complainy can’t-do-attitude of this comment is inappropriate for my comments section, the underlying assumptions about rules are worth studying:

“You can’t get a structural engineer to sign off on renovating an older-than-50 house” – Here our friend has assumed that there is a rule that old houses can never be restored. The idea is silly, of course, because people renovate much older houses in the same neighborhood every day. In fact, a friend and I just finished a major addition on a 103-year-old one earlier this year. But if I had started the project with an imaginary fear of such a rule, I would be dead in the water. And at this point I can report that the structural design is just about done and will be “signed off” this week.

“Transaction Fees make house moving too expensive to be worthwhile” – the imagined rule here is that house transactions are always very expensive, so we should shy away from them to avoid this cost. But I have done eleven of these transactions since moving to this country, and some of them were done for only the $50 county recording fee. To tilt the scale further, my wife deliberately earned a real estate license seven years ago to cut the cost of most other transactions in half. Again, the imagined rule proves false and we are all free to move to a new house whenever we like.

“A small and simple house is not desirable” – Hmm, I wonder which society dreamed up this rule? First of all, a 1532 square foot soon-to-be-luxury home on an 80 x 80 foot lot adjoining a 1.3 acre public park overlooking the Rocky Mountains in the walkable central district of one of the most desirable cities in the world’s richest country is probably good enough for plain old Mr. Money Mustache. But if there is anyone who thinks that even a quarter of this standard of living is a key to happiness, you might want to check to see if your brain tissue is sparkly and white, because you have received a near-fatal dose of brainwashing, derived from a book of rules that helps nobody.

But I can’t win this battle with just a list of single-issue defenses. To cure the disease of Rules Excusitis, you need to elevate yourself to the next level and understand exactly what The Rules are. And a nice way to illustrate this is to turn to one of my favorite concepts from Dungeons and Dragons:

In D&D, your imaginary characters come with personalities defined along two different scales:

  • How Good or Evil they are, and
  • How much respect they have for The Rules

So you end up with descriptions like Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, and Lawful Good. If we put these into a colorful table with some insightful examples, it would look like this:

good+evil3

At this point, you may see the connection between The Rules, and becoming wealthy. I propose that the biggest advantage you can give to yourself and your society is to be as high on the Good Scale as you can be, but pay less regard to your score on the Lawful Scale.

Now, before the police officers among you pack up some handcuffs and begin a stakeout of Longmont, let’s explain that with a few examples.

  • US society has literally adopted the phrase “standard of living” to be synonymous with “amount of money you spend on yourself”. If you follow this rule, you permanently lock yourself into needing more money to feel happy, which dooms most of us to 20-40 more years of office work than we really needed to achieve it.
  • Far too recently, laws existed that made it illegal for African Americans and women to vote. But not long before that, it was legal to own human slaves. Somewhere in there, beer and wine became illegal for 13 years. We had philosophy, steam power, advanced astronomy and physics at the time, and yet these were the rules a lawful person would have to follow. Knowing this, is it logical to assume that our current laws on Marijuana plants, the rights of people who are not heterosexual, or what level of the natural environment we share it is acceptable to destroy are automatically correct? Of course not. In some cases, Goodness requires you to fuck the idea of Lawfulness and do what is right, working to change the laws in the process.
  • Religions impose their own laws, which were often designed with the most noble of intentions but now cause bizarre and impractical side effects. A historical famine or disease made it sensible to ration certain crops or meats at the time, yet the rules were set in stone and are followed blindly to this day. Political alliances or wars generated hate between people, and now their descendants continue to bomb each other’s vegetable markets even centuries after the original sins were buried. Some leaders were opposed to gay people a thousand years ago, and now their descendants still work to write the discrimination into their country’s constitution. Although these may be The Rules today, a quick questioning of their origins should reveal that there is great advantage to all if you are bold enough to break them.

And to collect all of this badass rule-breaking philosophy and apply it to making yourself richer today, just look around you and try stirring up some of your own shit. A few examples to get you started:

  • The Christmas Holidays are coming, and the crap has already arrived in the stores. You’ve been questioning whether you have to participate in the giant blizzard of plastic packaging and trinkets imported from China. You do not. You can go an entire holiday season without buying anything, and apply the spirit to sharing your skills and wealth with others who need it instead.
  • You’re getting married, and your family thinks you need the giant ceremony with the flower designer, the experience consultant, and the limousines. The amazing news is that you do not! You can get married for ten bucks at the county office and then bring 100 friends, some slacklines, fiddles, banjos, boxed wine and a stand-up bass down to the local park and make everyone shed tears of joy when they realize how much fun they are having.
  • You feel oppressed by the rules of your own city, family, or country. The cost of living is too high or the laws are restrictive, and you cannot achieve what you see the Mustachians here around you are doing because you are bound by different rules. You are not. You can move to a different city or country. You can earn a leadership position in your own family, or your own country.  You can work within your own system, or move to any other system, to get whatever advantages you like. With sufficient disregard for The Rules, you will find new avenues of freedom opening in your life wherever you live.
  • Everyone has told you that your kid will only prosper in the expensive school district where nobody speaks Spanish and the horseback lessons 20 miles out in the country are essential to round out the character to qualify for the eventual Ivy League school. Such well-meaning but tragic bullshit! Little MM’s officially-measured reading level is just about to hit the high-school level, and he can beat me at chess. And he shares a classroom with kids who don’t get enough for breakfast. He gets his advantage from parents who keep books instead of televisions in the house, and who sacrificed Mercedes SUVs and private schools in favor of having time to bike to school with him and help both him and his not-quite-as-lucky friends in the classroom when they get there.
  • Junior Money Mustache will have the grades and the financial resources to get into the university of his choice, but also knowledge that there is no requirement to get a college education at all, for either a happy life or for financial success. For this old rule of society is another one to disregard.

I describe these happy examples not as an attempt to boast or to criticize others, but hopefully as an inspiring example of what happens when you question and break the goddamned rules.

So I hope that as my son grows up, he will cultivate his own healthy skepticism for The Rules, and call bullshit whenever something smells foul. Because as it turns out, the people who have the balls to question the rules, find that they are suddenly in the position of making them instead.

* This is just me poking a little fun at Mrs. MM. In reality she is a truly badass woman who proudly defies most social conventions, and I love her for it. She can also bench press almost her bodyweight and squat 150% of it. But occasionally we debate on the issue of taking long and educational family vacations because The Rules say that you shouldn’t miss too much school. When interviewed in person, the teacher and principal admitted they thought travel was a great idea for our son and they would gladly bend the rules for us. Yet another example of how to approach things: if you don’t like the rules, talk to, or become, the boss.

  • Miss Growing Green October 22, 2013, 12:16 pm

    Hahaha! I absolutely love the reference to D&D, and definitely place myself in the “Chaotic Good” alignment. There is more nerd force in you than I thought MMM- I like that!

    Reply
    • Free Money Minute October 22, 2013, 1:34 pm

      At least you are not in the chaotic evil category. Not a place you would want to be.

      Reply
      • Joe October 23, 2013, 7:37 am

        I always like Neutral. It’s probably the hardest alignment to go with.

        Reply
        • Dezrah October 23, 2013, 1:14 pm

          What makes a man neutral, Kiff?

          Reply
        • Morgan November 3, 2013, 6:01 pm

          Yeah, as a Druid I feel underrepresented :(

          Reply
    • Brad October 22, 2013, 3:13 pm

      I tried to get into Chaotic Evil but the Slytherin house won’t let me transfer.

      Reply
    • Anonymous October 22, 2013, 3:14 pm

      I loved the D&D reference, and I often use the alignment system to explain concepts like this. I’m just disappointed you left out “neutral”. I’m personally “Neutral Good”, not “Chaotic Good”. I don’t reject the rules out of any fundamental objection to structure; I’ll follow them if that gets me to my goal, and I’ll break them if that gets me to my goal. I find “Neutral Good” much less constraining; it’s effectively just saying that my goal is “Good”, and the rules are only a means, never an end.

      Reply
    • Kenoryn October 22, 2013, 5:27 pm

      Ha! I was waiting for a D&D reference to show up in this blog, being a super-Mustachian form of entertainment. Neutral good, myself.

      Reply
      • Rob G. October 23, 2013, 8:03 am

        Well, Mustachian if you don’t buy the book of the month, every month, as I did before I started consciously tending to my own ‘stache.

        I’ve been making a tidy profit selling on the used book market, though :)

        Reply
        • Kenoryn October 25, 2013, 12:02 pm

          Ha ha, true. I never moved past 3rd ed. 3 books – get them from someone who’s using something newer now – and you’re good to go. The beauty of D&D is that if there are rules you disagree with, you can just change them. If you want new classes or races, you can invent them. You don’t need the MM really either, making stuff up is better anyway if you’re playing with experienced players who know the stats of every damn thing in the book. ;)

          Reply
  • Miss Growing Green October 22, 2013, 12:21 pm

    I agree that trying to maximize your “goodness” over your “lawfulness” is the way to go. Laws and customs are defined by the times, I mean, think about some of the things we have endured in this country that were once legal- slavery, oppression of women, domestic abuse, animal abuse and neglect, decimating our natural resources (okay, we’re still doing that) etc etc.

    Sometimes though, the line between the two can become blurred. Our sense of “goodness” is defined by our sense of right vs. wrong, and culture/society can have a huge impact on that. I’m sure there were some people that considered themselves very “good” back in the day that might have engaged in some of the things I listed above, because it was not considered “wrong” or “bad” to do so.

    Reply
  • Brandon Curtis October 22, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Raptitude-level insight. Bravo!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 1:27 pm

      Thanks Brandon – an honor to be compared to the Raptitude guy David Cain.

      Especially since he’s showing up at my house in about a week to spend some time in Colorado – celebrating his own newfound freedom created by breaking the rules and quitting his job permanently last month(!)

      Reply
      • Brandon Curtis October 22, 2013, 5:02 pm

        …seriously? Last week, I jokingly wrote:

        “Mr. Money Mustache and Raptitude’s David Cain discover eachother in this tweet in January 2013, an event David reflects on 10 months later; both write extremely complementary reviews of eachother’s sites, and the ultimate financial independence/lifestyle engineering bromance is born.”

        What are you going to name your superhero team? Base of operations: volcano lair, mountain spire, floating sky fortress… or unassuming suburban home?

        Reality ≫ Fiction.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 23, 2013, 9:58 pm

          Yup, strange bromances happen in the blogosphere. You’re welcome to join us too if you can make it to Colorado in time. We could all probably make a great article or three out of it.

          Reply
      • David Cain October 23, 2013, 12:54 pm

        I’m grateful that my lawful neutral (evil?) former career left me with some feats and proficiencies I can use for my chaotic good purposes. I had to turn in my sledgehammer +1 along with my cursed Blackberry, but my steed-maintenance costs are way lower and my new realm has no lord but me.

        Reply
        • Ryland King October 23, 2013, 8:54 pm

          You all are just killing it at life. Rapstache/Mustitude has become a vibrant part of my week!

          Reply
        • Kenoryn October 28, 2013, 11:50 am

          BOTH my favourite bloggers making D&D references in the last week? Right on. :)

          Reply
  • Mr. PoP October 22, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Chaotic Good checking in. The rules only apply if you don’t want to think through the situation.

    Reply
    • Scondor October 23, 2013, 11:01 pm

      Mr. PoP, I am framing this and putting it up in my daughter’s room. It might be more work for me since she’s only 14 months, but should be worth it.

      Reply
  • Liquid October 22, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Some of the greatest leaders in history have broken social norms and created their own rules. Your son is very lucky to be learning how to think for himself at such a young age. The place I live in is about half the size of a 1532 sq.ft. house lol, but it’s enough for me which is what’s important. I think I fall into the chaotic good quadrant as well. Some guidelines are meant to be broken because we have to live on our own terms :)

    “If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.”
    ~Katharine Hepburn

    Reply
  • EL October 22, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Like the old saying goes, Rules were meant to be broken. I question rules all the time, and I feel it is not such a big deal to do things in an unconventional way. I also cannot stand when certain coworkers or friends cannot bend the rules a bit, due to their inability to see things against the rules or aka my way. Good post and I foresee you will place pictures up when the addition to your house is complete and up to code.

    Reply
  • Matt Becker October 22, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I’d like to make my life a little more chaotic. I find it fascinating to learn things like the multiple choice test being developed to weed out the lowest common denominator for factory work, and over time becoming the standard for pretty much every single test of competence we have. The “rules” in our society are often more like family heirlooms that continue to be passed down no matter their current level of usefulness. If we don’t take the time to question the way things are and ask if there’s something better, we will never make progress as individuals and we will lead our society into oblivion.

    Reply
    • Ross October 23, 2013, 6:09 am

      I heard a similar TED talk a while back about how multiple choice testing and rules in general were super necessary to make the global British commonwealth function like a human based computer. But now that we don’t face the same issues, you see a lot of arguing about why the rules are in place.

      Reply
  • Christine October 22, 2013, 12:31 pm

    So true! The law is always imperfect and changing. A law is sometimes good, sometimes hateful and sometimes because we don’t have the resources to do the right thing yet (or perceived resources).

    Reply
  • Stephen October 22, 2013, 12:34 pm

    The breakdown of types of rule followers is new to me. We always had a term for the chaotic good rule breakers- we called them the “Zach Morris” rule breakers (SBTB – Sort of, get in trouble at school but teachers still like you). I have found it to be true in most business application as well. Doing quality work, optimism and generally being well liked all help when adjusting the rules in school, or business or life. I’m learning more and more than most things are flexible but you need to pay attention to understand when it is appropriate to bend or break the rules. I’ll enjoy being a cross between the chaotic and lawful good.

    Reply
  • Rebecca October 22, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Here and I thought I was on the “Lawful Good” side of this graph because I get nervous going more than 10 miles over the speed limit! But I did work in civil rights, where we pushed the envelope to fight the newest forms of discrimination and my husband and I bucked all sorts of family expectations with our scaled-down wedding. They’re two totally different ways to do good by breaking “rules,” but now I see how linked they are.

    Reply
  • CB October 22, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Love this article! I’m a natural scaredy-pants who loves to follow rules and collect gold stars for being such a good girl. Of course, I try to go against my nature and be a badass rule breaker instead. This article is good motivation!

    Reply
  • Becky October 22, 2013, 12:46 pm

    How do you answer the questions: What is good? What is evil?

    Reply
    • Robert October 22, 2013, 3:48 pm

      Well, if we assume that murdering someone is bad and helping someone stand up when they fall down is good, then everything else falls somewhere in between.
      if you are serious about asking, I point you to “Starship Troopers” (not the movie!!) and “Leviathon” (with reference specifically to ‘natural laws’). Further, anything in relation to the creation of The Constitution and why is probably a good next stop.

      Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque October 23, 2013, 4:35 am

      Generally, in our society, we refer to selfish acts as evil and altruistic ones as good. This leaves it pretty easy to define good and evil as we just use other people’s definitions.
      I took action A and it affected only me and person X.
      Have I harmed person X for my own gain? Evil.
      Have I sacrificed for person X’s benefit? Good.
      So it’s easy to see that voting to lower my taxes by impoverishing a local public school is evil and helping the elderly cross the road is good.
      Not all situations are that simple, as you know, but that’s generally how the two words are used. If, for example, you go about deciding for other people what’s good for them, you’re usually considered to be quite evil.

      Reply
      • Debbie M October 23, 2013, 9:02 am

        I disagree. It’s not about altruism and selfishness. Many things that are selfish (like lobbying for better bike lanes) also help others. And some people (and businesses) do altruistic things to make them look good and distract people from the other things they’re doing.

        It’s about whether the world is a better place as a result. Or, technically, if the world would have been a better place if things had worked out as expected (sometimes you’re too ignorant or dumb to do the right thing, but you’re more likely to do the right thing if you’re trying).

        Reply
        • Aarchman10001 October 23, 2013, 11:43 am

          I seriously question whether one can ever, truly, engage in a purely “altruistic” act. If we accept that “altruism” is defined as an act purely in the interest of others–i.e. one that carries no reward for the Actor.

          If one is motivated by the desire to do good, then one is receiving a reward–the satisfaction of having done “good”, and–possibly–the recognition by Others of one’s good acts.

          If one is motivated by the desire to improve the world, surely one intends to benefit from that improved world.

          Is it possible to act without some self-interested motivation? I’m not suggesting that people don’t–often–have good intentions. Only that there is an element of self-interest or “selfishness” in most “altruistic” behavior.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

          Reply
          • Clint October 23, 2013, 8:07 pm

            “Wrong is wrong, even if it helps ya.”–Popeye the Sailor Man

            Reply
          • Becky October 24, 2013, 8:36 pm

            Willing one’s self to forgive one’s enemy, when one does not want to, seems to me to be pretty purely altruistic act

            Reply
          • Kenoryn October 28, 2013, 11:44 am

            There are certainly times when people do “the right thing” even when it is very painful or has negative consequences for them. I think one’s desire to be a good person and the emotional reward for doing good doesn’t always outweigh the costs.

            Reply
      • Becky October 25, 2013, 9:00 am

        The reason I asked is because mmm sets the premise that if a law is evil or doesn’t serve the good it ought to be broken. As you state, in our society good and evil are considered subjective. If good and evil are subjective, then the only common way to objectively determine if something is right or wrong is by the law. This is circular sticky thinking. There must be some objective standards by which all can know what is good and what is evil.

        Reply
        • Sleeping Realities October 25, 2013, 9:41 am

          The argument you are objecting to is circular, yes, but that is not the argument that other people were making. Nobody says the laws are objective. They, too, are subjective, which is why we have to have judges interpret them.
          As far as defining “good and evil,” it seems like the blog author was being light-hearted about those terms, and relying on a casual, popular approach to understanding those terms in his readership. If you want to search for a serious answer to that question, an ethics class is a great place to start. I like the “social contract” idea, myself. If you want to rely on a deity to help you out with that question, that’s your right too. Here’s a good debate between a theist and an agnostic on this topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm2wShHJ2iA

          Reply
  • Leslie October 22, 2013, 12:49 pm

    We broke the rules on holiday gift giving. For several years we have ceased all holiday shopping. We go cross country skiing on Dec. 25 in a beautiful winter wonderland. Who says in December everyone has to go shopping for stuff for people who already have everything? In the spirit of Christmas we donate money to the local food bank.

    Reply
  • Dillon October 22, 2013, 12:53 pm

    I am a rule follower and my parents are not. My parents break the rules all the time and ever since I was a little kid, encouraged me to do the same. Whether it was saying I was 10 when I was really 12 or to color outside the lines. I have often gotten in trouble for not breaking the rules both by my parents and by society. Whether it was by following the rules and so not getting ahead, or by getting yelled at for announcing that we were not going to use the trampoline for business purposes so we shouldn’t be allowed to not pay sales tax. I get yelled at by my friends for not going along with breaking the rules and just last week, I was pulled aside before a meeting started and was told to not ask certain questions because they didn’t want other people to know the answers. They pulled me aside because they knew I had a tendency to ask permission instead of beg for forgiveness.

    You might be wondering why I am writing this. I am hoping I can open your eyes to something: my parents rule breaking is what molded me into being a rule follower and their non-acceptance of my rule following has hurt me lots of time. If you say you are going to pick me up at 7:00, then be there at 7:00 not 7:10. Don’t leave me standing on the street corner. If you do not tell me that we are going to break the rules, I do not know and so do not yell at me for not keeping my mouth shut. All I can say, is love your son and love his rule following. I eventually have figured out which rules I am comfortable with breaking and I did it when my parents weren’t pushing me.

    BTW, I rode my bike to work for the first time this week. 10.86 miles one way! Didn’t make it all the way home, but it’s a start!

    Reply
    • Kenoryn October 22, 2013, 5:49 pm

      The examples you have described are not just examples of rule breaking – the aspect of them that bothers you is on the good vs. evil axis, not the obedient vs. independent axis. If your parents broke rules in order to fight injustice or promote innovation rather than to cheat others for their own gain or to be irresponsible, you might have ended up with a different perspective. I’m guessing little MM won’t have that problem.

      Reply
    • Tanner October 23, 2013, 10:05 am

      Kudos on the bike Ride!

      Reply
    • Lewis October 23, 2013, 4:04 pm

      I’m glad you made this comment, Dillon. Your strict adherence to the rules is itself a leaning towards the chaotic side, as described in the post above, because you are in essence rebelling against a norm that you do not feel should apply to you. In fact, there are certain societal rules about which rules should always be broken – everyone goes at least 5 mph over, nobody pays sales taxes for out of state purchases, everyone jay-walks, etc. If you do not follow these societal rules telling you to break these rules, you are considered a weirdo just as much as the guy who refuses to drive a car everywhere. People are very funny indeed.

      Reply
    • GregK October 25, 2013, 11:10 am

      I’m glad you are figuring out which rules to break! It does sound a lot like the people in your life (parents and others) were doing some evil rule-breaking, as Kenoryn mentioned. Even lying about your age is quite different from gluing a sheet of paper into a notebook.

      My own healthy skepticism of the rules has been handed down for generations.

      My Jewish grandparents escaped Nazi-occupied Paris by ignoring the laws requiring Jews to wear the Star of David and to register with the government. They broke the rules, but didn’t do anything wrong, by any reasonable person’s account.

      My father moved to the US in his 20s, and was told by an admissions officer at UCLA that he couldn’t apply his credits to a degree there. He went over that person’s head to meet with the Dean, and talked his way into it.

      There is a broad spectrum of rules you can break without doing anything immoral that will improve your life… and maybe even save it!

      Reply
  • Insourcelife October 22, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Breaking the rules is fun and it becomes even easier once one is financially independent!

    Reply
  • Matt October 22, 2013, 12:58 pm

    As a Canadian I did not know who Karl Rove was. I just had to google him.

    That prompted a ROFL!!!

    Your sense of humour is awesome…

    Reply
  • Aunt Becky October 22, 2013, 12:59 pm

    This is actually very enlightening for me and timely. Just over lunch, my husband and I were talking about how most people we work around respond to Executive level people, and how he responds. Expected behavior is to do what it takes to make them happy. Period. He tends to respond in a way that is very thorough, logical, and aimed to make the most good for the most people in the long run. It is fun at times, but he has his own “Rules” that can really hold him in place as well.

    Reply
  • Self-Employed-Swami October 22, 2013, 1:02 pm

    I think anyone who toys with self-employment has experience with breaking the rules (I’m doing my accounting from a recliner chair, wearing my PJs still) while still doing what is right (in my eyes, it is being compliant with tax laws).

    It took a lot of work on my part, to get the hang of which rules to break, but being my own boss is truly awesome.

    Reply
  • John Dough October 22, 2013, 1:03 pm

    MMM delivers another knockout punch in the face to society’s self destructive peer pressure conformity. Excellent!

    Reply
  • Rachel October 22, 2013, 1:06 pm

    Oh my goodness this has to be one of my favorite MMM posts of all time. And it hits close to home… I am plagued by a lifelong “Respect for The Rules,” but I’m trying to branch out! (with the help of my boyfriend, who seems to have a much more innate grasp of the concept than I do…) Great examples and I love the D&D framework!

    Reply
  • Merissa October 22, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Omg dude, it’s VOldemort! (you use D&D analogies, I freak out when he-who-shall-not-be-named is misnamed).

    Reply
    • Merissa October 22, 2013, 1:59 pm

      And now that I’ve finished reading, this is one of my favourite posts yet! For most of my (rather short) life, I’ve felt like most people are blind to the possibilities of the world. People just don’t see! And they don’t want to either. They want to fit in, be average – nothing amazing about that. Society stifles people. School, college, 40 years of work, retire. To some, that’s comforting. To me, that’s boring. And don’t bother asking people questions about their conventional, average life. The average person doesn’t like questions, only rules.

      You, Mr. MMM, are not average. This was apparent to me the first time I even heard about you. But this makes it official. You are officially NOT average!

      Reply
    • Rebecca October 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

      Thank you. That drove me crazy. I’m such a HP nerd, I had to stop reading to make sure this was addressed in comments. Awesome article so far, though!

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 4:30 pm

      Oops, thanks Merissa. I edited the graphic to correct “Valdemort to “Voldemort”

      Reply
  • No Name Guy October 22, 2013, 1:19 pm

    “But occasionally we debate on the issue of taking long and educational family vacations because The Rules say that you shouldn’t miss too much school. ”

    I’ve met many a parent / child combo thru hiking the PCT. What can be more educational than spending a summer (mid / late April through mid / late September) immersed in geology, meteorology, math / logistics planning, ecology, study of flora and fauna, etc.

    Reply
    • CincyCat October 24, 2013, 3:30 pm

      We get around this by taking epic road trips over the summer.

      On our road trip two years ago, we took our girls (Elementary age) to see the actual Ingalls’ homestead in De Smet, SD (the Big Slough is still there!), while on the way to Rapid City, SD. The Ingalls exhibit is entirely reproduction, so you are allowed to touch and climb on everything. They even have the dugout in the hillside, where the six of them lived for over a year in an 8×8 foot space. Talk about efficiency!

      In Rapid City, we toured a gold mine & panned for gold, saw Mt. Rushmore up close & personal, drove through the wildlife sanctuary (complete with a warning sign not to attempt to pet the Buffalo), drove on Needles Highway (amazing views!), and even visited the overblown Crazy Horse Memorial.

      This past year, we visited Philadelphia, and gave ourselves a walking tour of the city, including Betsy Ross house, Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell. (Tip – You MUST also visit the Quaker Meeting House – well worth the detour!)

      Now, when they read about these things in school, they will have a real life experience to tie to it! :)

      Reply
      • CincyCat October 24, 2013, 4:12 pm

        Oh – and we stopped & toured the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center on the banks of the Missouri river in Sioux City, Iowa on the way. Guess who my youngest girl is studying this year in school? :)

        Reply
  • Lauren October 22, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Another chaotic good Moustacher here! I think you and your readers would enjoy my friend’s documentary, Xmas Without China, about a group of typical American families who give up buying products from China as they celebrate the holidays. http://itvs.org/films/xmas-without-china

    NB: I am not officially affiliated with the project, just a friend of the filmmakers.

    Reply
  • Annamal October 22, 2013, 1:26 pm

    I agree that most rules are more like guidelines.

    I would say the most important question to ask about any rule is why it exists. As you note, often the answer is just “because” which is no kind of answer at all.

    Sometime though the answer is more complicated, or are different at a societal level than an individual, vaccinations come to mind as an obvious example. At an individual level vaccinations may not be a good idea (for a child with a compromised immune system) but at a societal level the herd immunity is a wonderous thing and it meant until recently that you seldom heard of kids dying of measles or whooping cough.

    So yeah the questions always need to be asked but sometimes the answer has to involve society as a whole.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 1:34 pm

      Definitely! Society as a whole should be where most of your values and respect (or disrespect) for rules come into play. Respecting shared resources. Not voting for policies that tilt the financial playing field to your advantage, but the disadvantage of everyone else.

      Being willing to enjoy a bit of personal inconvenience or discomfort, knowing that you are helping many more people than yourself in the process, is one of the best feelings of life.

      Reply
      • PawPrint October 24, 2013, 3:52 pm

        Thanks for saying “respecting shared resources” because for some reason all I could think of after reading this was, oh, no, more people are going to ignore the “stay on the trail” signs. I’m afraid breaking that rule in national parks drives me to yell at people who have no problem stepping on fragile wildflowers to get that perfect photo.

        My nonprofit was denied a grant once because I didn’t use the provided pink paper, instead using paper that actually worked in my printer.

        Reply
      • Green Money Stream October 25, 2013, 1:35 pm

        Unfortunately, the Rules have been adjusted so that political parties can carve out their own “domain” and therefore practically ensure re-election. Also, along with the widening gap between asset/income levels in the US comes a widening gap between the amount of leverage or political voice that individuals have. Not trying to be all complainy pants, but there is a feeling that the battle will be long and up hill to change some of these rules.

        Reply
  • Free Money Minute October 22, 2013, 1:33 pm

    The rules in place also need to be interpreted, which is rarely a straight forward process as you can see from all of the lawsuits in this and other countries.

    Reply
  • LennStar October 22, 2013, 1:42 pm

    The D&D good/evil and chaotic/lawful scale (+neutral) always struck me as the most simple and at the same time most accurate and comprehensive chart you can do on human behavior.
    It also leads to questions why people do the thing the are doing with such intense even if it is /in my eyes) blatently foolish and also simply wrong. (The gay rights is a good example)

    I always have this saying:
    Laws and Rules are there for you to seriously think before breaking them.

    As long as everything is fine, don’t break them. If something is not fine, consider if breaking the rules is overall better then not doing it.

    Example: Red traffic light. If there is no car near, go or wait? Answer: Go. Don’t push the button so that after you have waited and the traffic lights change, the cars are there and you have stopped them when you could have gone.
    Or smash the window to the doctor to get medicine if there is no time for the ambulance (asthma?).
    Rules and Law cannot respect every condition there may be (and nobody could remember all that anyway)

    Reply
    • JN2 October 22, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Your comment about traffic lights reminds me of Mexico: “no hay reglas fijas” – there are no fixed rules :)

      Reply
  • FI Pilgrim October 22, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Not trying to be a complainypants here, but I think there is a healthy balance between what you describe in this post and the pursuit of truth. Obviously most of our laws, rules, guidelines, etc (usually) exist to set a “good” standard for our personal conduct in society, and obviously things should be challenged to make sure they are best. But even “goodness” isn’t an absolutely defined term.

    Other than that, love the post!

    Reply
  • JY October 22, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Breaking the rules (on the chaotic good side) requires a person to think, a skill that unfortunately is lacking among most people today.

    Reply
  • Leslie October 22, 2013, 2:09 pm

    How I Learned to Follow the Rules: In 8th grade biology class, I took a multiple-choice exam and circled all my answers. Woe is me! I should have followed the instructions and underlined the answers. The teacher failed me on the test (as opposed to 100% correct). What did I learn? I learned to hate the teacher (for the last 45 years) and to follow the damn rules.

    Reply
    • David B October 28, 2013, 1:12 pm

      Well you did follow the rule, you also just happened to put more lines on the top and sides of the answer too :)

      Reply
      • Stephen November 6, 2013, 9:20 am

        I like this. “But teacher, a circle IS an underline, it just has an optional enclosure!”

        I have probably made dumber, equally technically accurate but annoying arguments in the pursuit of the almighty “points” while in school.

        Reply
  • Yin Yang October 22, 2013, 2:26 pm

    Dear MMM,
    Love the blog. Actually, I read it obsessively, and have even begun preaching the precepts to all (including friends and family – I’m trying to convert the kids into Mustachians before it’s too late). In fact, I was on about “breaking the rules” and the “who the hell even says there are rules?” idea before reading today’s blog, so I realize I’m on the right track with my preaching. Those that agree, think that I’m some type of genius. Others just think I’m a left wing contrarian nut job. Nevertheless, whenever confronted with any opposition, I just say: “Check out http://www.mrmoneymustache.com“.
    Anyway, here is my problem: I am a BIG FAT GUTLESS PHONY! That’s right. As far as I’m concerned I can afford to retire now at 54 years of age. Our net worth (the wife and I) incuding the house, is $4.25 million. However, any time I suggest to the wife that I am packing it in (I hate the meaninglessness, imposterism, drudgery, uncertainty, depression inducing self-esteem sucking, soul wrenching boredom, of my useless pseudo-middle-management-faking-it-all-day-$100K a year plus automobile-desk-job), she FREAKS on me, starts crying, and screams about leaving the children with nothing and compromising our “lifestyle”, and running out of money. My life’s like a version of being in hell (you know, the one about “all the liquor bottles have holes, and all the women don’t”). I tell her it doesn’t have to be that way, and point out the huge wealth of information that you have so concisely articulated in hundreds of articles. But, alas, it does me no good. She doesn’t want to hear about it. A non-believer.I know, I know….I need to just GROW A PAIR!! I’m just a regular dude who happens to have some very basic Level 3 Mustachian instincts (assuming the levels go from Level 1 at the lowest to Level 15 at the highest) who got lucky with my timing in life. I bought a house 30 years ago before prices were insane, moved once, 25 years ago, paid off the mortgage aggressively a long time ago, and enjoyed the quadrupling of its value. Similarly, I was as frugal as I could be, earning a basic salary through employment over the last 30 years, with a semi-spendthrift wife and 3 kids with quasi-rich friends, while investing in basic stuff (too many mutual funds, mind you, but that’s what I got sucked into 25 years ago) so I amassed a decent nest egg (although I kick myself, knowing it probably could have been at least 20% higher if I knew what I was doing and wasn’t such a scaredy-cat, fraidy-cat PUSSY!). So now that I’m TIRED, FED UP, DEPRESSED, and I JUST WANNA QUIT and read books, and fix up my house, and ride my Harley, and exercise, and go skiing, and ride a bike (a real bicycle), and do my photography, and cook, and volunteer, and indulge in a mid-day Bota Box if I get the urge, and stay in California, or Arizona, and shop at Trader Joe’s in the U.S., and beach bum in Florida for a couple of months a year (I live in your old country Canada, eh?), she is laying a serious GUILT TRIP on my ass. Yah – I know it’s my fault. I SUCK. So, other than just manning up and breaking free, do you have any advice on an alternate way to present the facts to convince her we’ll still be OK, even with keeping the house for now, and investing the $3M for income?
    Please. I’m ready for a change. Time to break the rules.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 2:46 pm

      WOW, what a story.

      You can start by NOT GOING TO WORK TOMORROW. See where life leads you from there. Good luck and keep us up to date!

      Reply
    • bobwerner October 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

      So investing in some basic investments will yield conservatively $180,000 K a year. You probably have a nice pension coming soon as well, and then there is the social security. So you could easily get away with spending 200K a year. Now if your house is paid off as well, I would say it is party time.

      So plan a trip for you and the wifey. One that she would really love. Say a month in southern Europe or an Amazon Cruise. Whatever rocks her boat. Then just do it! For God Sake do it!

      Reply
    • Done by Forty October 22, 2013, 4:11 pm

      That’s kind of surreal, but you tell the story well. I’d suggest going to see a fee only financial planner, with your wife, and have an independent third party explain how you could easily retire without any negative consequences.

      Reply
      • elkbark October 22, 2013, 4:51 pm

        That’s some great advice. I don’t know why people tend to trust the words of a stranger more than their spouse, but it happens all of the time… Maybe something to do with the fact that they never had to witness the stranger do something bone-headed.

        Reply
        • Andy October 23, 2013, 11:04 am

          +1000 for this comment elkbark.

          I can “gently advise” my other half on certain things a hundred times and she’ll just routinely ignore me. She reads some similar advice in a junk mag or on some TV show and she’ll believe it instantly. (That weight watchers microwave meals are actually bad for you springs to mind). I think for a lot of people, they like discovering things themselves, rather than having people they know lecturing. Which is kind of fair enough I think.

          I’ll just leave a relevant MMM article open on the laptop next time I want to give her some advice :)

          Reply
      • Ms. Must-Stash October 23, 2013, 12:41 pm

        And/or – what if you take a leave of absence for a month or two or three – whatever your company will let you do. Show her the numbers before and after. Get her used to you not being at work, and demonstrate through doing it that no disaster is about to befall you. Good luck and please keep us posted!

        Reply
      • tallgirl1204 October 23, 2013, 5:08 pm

        I think I agree with this. Some things you don’t explain, in addition are these:
        — what is your current standard of living? Does your wife fear losing that? Can you all experiment with reducing your spending to something sustainable while you continue to work, so she can see that it would be o.k.?
        — your net worth includes your residence. How much of your net worth is your residence? Would you be willing to downsize if your residence overwhelms your ability to retire at a spending level (see above) that you are willing to adhere to?

        There’s just something missing here. You’ve been married for a long time– it is worth sitting down with your wife for long enough to walk through the whole thing– it can’t be just a “I quit, suck it up” vs. “No you can’t, I’ll punish you for it forever” conversation. Right now that’s kind of how I”m reading it.

        As the researchers say, more information is needed.

        Reply
      • LEe October 28, 2013, 12:23 pm

        Maybe MMM could dress up in a suit and tie and fill in to be the financial planner. That way you don’t get someone that sees things the same way that “everyone” else does.

        Reply
    • rjack October 22, 2013, 6:12 pm

      Dude…I retired at 52 with way less than you have and I’ve never regretted it. However, I had the support of my wife and my two sons are both adults now.

      If you really, really want to retire and your wife says no way, then you need to suggest marriage counseling. If that doesn’t work, then you need to break the rules and get a divorce. Life is short….

      Reply
      • Melissa October 22, 2013, 7:38 pm

        I can see this has been simmering a long time. Once you act, please consider a future in journalism because you paint a good picture and you’re freaking hilarious! Take the others’ advice, especially with the wife/financial planner route. Before MMM, I thought I had to have $3M to retire happily as a single person. She likely doesn’t understand your position. Let us know when you bust out!

        Reply
    • cm October 22, 2013, 9:41 pm

      Wow is right.
      1. Watch or rewatch the movie American Beauty.
      2. Do consider couples therapy. You ought not suffer needlessly. Also, your wife is probably now frightened.
      3. And yes, take some time off.
      I am 53. No day is promised to us, especially as we age. Do not wait. You are not a slave or indentured servant. You deserve more.

      Reply
      • Yin Yang October 25, 2013, 11:48 am

        I have seen that movie. Shortly after watching it, I was involved with being assigned a new role and job title by the new owners of a business for which I was an existing employee. They wined and dined me, and told me all about this big increase in salary and duties they were about to bestow on me. At that point, I paraphrased the famous Kevin Spacey line for them: “Gentlemen, you misunderstand me. I’m looking for a position that has the LEAST POSSIBLE AMOUNT OF RESPONSIBILITY.” I don’t think they got it. Years later, I started copping serious attitude at work, and as the market for our product tanked (post nine-eleven), they attempted to cut my salary by 50%. I eventually sued them for constructive dismissal, quit, won the lawsuit, and got the equivalent of 6 months off with pay. That’s when I realized I love not working. That was 10 years ago. Gotta love that American Beauty.

        Reply
    • Sean October 22, 2013, 10:32 pm

      Yin Yang. Take a deep breath. Relax. There is no hurry. One thing at a time. I have been in the same situation as you in the past and have one piece of advice. See a good marriage counselor; NOW!
      Learn how to discuss things with your wife. Right now you two are playing Yin versus Yang when you need to meet in the middle. When your both ready you can discuss retirement. Maybe for now just take a little more vacation or an extra day off a week to regain some clarity.
      Your wife will need to change her point of view eventually, but she won’t be able to if she is fearful.
      Your Welcome. ;)

      Reply
    • not too late October 23, 2013, 4:07 am

      Yin Yang – I feel for you. I have a spouse that I have learned is a major rules follower. Instead of talking about, OMG, we could retire in 5-6 years because he freaks out due to the rules (he would be 40 at that time)….I have tried another approach of “what do you want to do instead?” “isn’t there something else that you would love more to fill your days with?” “I hear you somedays complain of how you are fed up dealing with idiotic people, why do you want to continue that?”

      It helps him see that maybe there is another path. It’s taken awhile (luckily are already savings 72% of our income without trying too hard) but he finally said to me last weekend he maybe wants to do consulting on his Latin American work and psychology. He lit up like a Christmas tree. I am encouraging him, not telling him “Arhghghghg, I’ve been telling you this for months”. I’m keeping my mouth shut so he thinks it is HIS idea. He is continuing to think about it. Not sure if that would help with your wife….but sometimes the “why” we are doing this, showing the numbers on paper on why this would work, etc. will help. Surely there are things she wants to do with you as a couple that you can also relay that will have time for.

      Reply
      • Yin Yang October 25, 2013, 6:11 pm

        Perhaps you would like to consider marrying ME?

        Reply
    • Ann Stanley October 23, 2013, 6:03 am

      Just do it.
      ‘Rules were made for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men’.

      Reply
    • dude October 23, 2013, 6:31 am

      damn, YinYang — that’s tragic! Obviously, you recognize the problem, so now how to act on it? hmm, maybe you could engineer your own layoff/firing? ;-)

      I brought up early retirement to my wife fairly recently — though admittedly, the timing of it was poor (that’s another story entirely) — and she balked as well. But little by little I’ve been chipping away since then, and she’s shown signs of understanding. She knows, for example, that I HATE my commute, and she’s sympathetic to that (esp. since she has an easy 15-minute train ride to work, whereas I have an hour car ride each way — hold the Mustache fire, please!). So I’ve been working that angle subtly. She loves to travel, so I’ve also been highlighting (again subtly) the advantages of being able to just travel whenever we want. Also, unfortunately, we’ve recently experienced a spate of deaths/serious medical issues among acquaintances, which I’ve held up (again subtly) as Exhibit A to support the idea of not waiting “one more year” to fulfill our retirement dreams. Slowly but surely the idea is gaining traction. I’m targeting 5-7 years from now for FIRE, so I’m optimistic (wielding that big-ass Optimism Gun!) that I will prevail.

      Good luck in your fight for freedom!

      Reply
    • phred October 23, 2013, 8:47 am

      I’ve seen this problem before. Husband is a mega-success, and wife is afraid of the world because she has no solid skills other than maybe a liberal arts degree.
      Does she handle her own investments? Perhaps an online high school level course in basic econ may help, followed by personal finance at the community college. Does she cook from scratch? A gourmet cooking course will do wonders. Home gardening? Sewing? Knitting for the poor? She definitely needs to ramp up the skill sets, then she won’t be so afraid

      Reply
      • phred October 23, 2013, 11:29 am

        On your next trip to Florida, consider talking your wife into taking a course in SCUBA diving. You can stay on shore as this is about building your wife’s confidence levels. On the way there, or the way back, stop at Annapolis and both of you take the sailing course at Annapolis Sailing School. It will do wonders

        Reply
    • Debbie M October 23, 2013, 9:11 am

      Do you keep track of your net worth? If your increase in net worth over the past year (or any time frame) is far greater than your salary, that should be comforting.

      Also talk about your stress.

      Also talk about ways that quitting will help her. Will you be able to take on some chores she hates? Have time for giving her back rubs when she comes home from work. Have the energy to do cool fun things with the kids?

      Reply
    • TGod October 23, 2013, 10:57 am

      Yowzers!!! Retire already. I take it your wife doesn’t work, or maybe doesn’t work full-time at a demanding job that she no longer enjoys and is slowly sucking the life out of her? If we could afford it I would quit my husband’s job for him, unfortunately we don’t have the savings yet. I want him to be happy, I want him to enjoy his life, but this working 5 days a week is a necessary evil for both of us for the next 10 years. But not for you. You’ve made it. You can afford to retire. You deserve to retire. Break the rules. All of them … well maybe not ALL of them, but definitely the ones that say there is some magical age at which you are allowed to pass the baton to the next in line. Do it as a favor to yourself and some 20-something fresh out of Uni with a big student loan, working at a coffee house somewhere because none of the baby boombers can afford to retire and are keeping all the good jobs.
      If you were rebellious enough, perhaps you should quit and just leave the house every day like you’re going to work but are actually out doing something awesome and fulfilling with your time. Maybe take some “work from home days”, where you sit in your home office or on the deck and research cool trips for the 2 of you, while she maybe thinks you’re negotiating some hot international deal. Meanwhile money keeps coming in, the huge lifestyle downward shift doesn’t happen, the kids don’t starve, blahblahblah.
      I understand marriage and I respect it, but to me marriage does not mean that you become a slave to another person’s ambitions. It sounds like you’ve worked hard, invested wisely, been thrifty. For what? To retire at 65 or maybe later, just to make sure there’s enough? You have enough. If I had a piece of your enough I would not be at my desk, my husband would not be at work, and my kids would be getting some great life experience sitting on the beach somewhere while they learn the local language.
      You’re 54 – hopefully your health holds out till your 80s, and maybe it will if you cut the misery and stress of your job out of your life now. You don’t know how long you’ve got. You could have a bum heart, you could have a prostate that’s about to turn your life upside down, enjoy your life now while you’re healthy enough to do it. Take the detour, you have a long list of things you would MUCH rather be doing so I highly doubt you’ll be bored.
      Wow…my first MMM rant.

      Reply
    • Troy October 23, 2013, 4:39 pm

      Just quit and reorganise your investments so they produce the required level of income. Then just leave the house every day in your suit and change somewhere else and do what you want all.

      After a while you can do a big reveal and nature will take its course. Hopefully you get to keep half after the dust settles….

      Reply
      • Yin Yang October 25, 2013, 11:29 am

        Funny……I’ve actually run that scenario through my mind in detail.

        Reply
    • chc4444 October 24, 2013, 12:58 am

      YinYang, I think you and your wife need to have a serious talk about your life goals and the big picture. I would suggest that she would benefit by being involved with all of the money decisions in the household, then she maybe needs to learn about investing and how money can make money (probably with an account of her own to invest). And I’d say if she still thinks she doesn’t have “enough” maybe it’s time for her to switch roles with you and be in charge of earning the money while you get off the treadmill. Honestly your life sounds miserable (and I bet it’s not great for her either). We are retired happily with half the money that you have and I think we will be able to leave our kids a healthy inheritance. I wish I could have a sit down with your wife because I simply think she is misguided. Yours is the mess so many people find themselves in – we are led to this by all the marketing that is done to keep us feeling that we must live up to a certain standard of living (consuming). I hate to hear you say that you suck (you don’t), you simply need to get off the treadmill.

      Reply
    • Jaketucson October 24, 2013, 10:10 am

      I laughed at the Hell analogy. Pretty clever, never heard that before. The one thing I’m thinking that I didn’t see in the comments yet (forgive me if someone already said this) is maybe talk to your wife about a “trial” year off of work. You certainly have what jcollinsnh calls “F-you money.” If you can show her that after one year your finances are fine and that your quality of life is even better, then stay retired. If for some ridiculous reason you need to work again, you can always get another job. If she can’t compromise a little then there are bigger issues that need to be addressed.

      Reply
      • Yin Yang October 25, 2013, 11:32 am

        Done the year off thing. That’s the heroin that has addicted me. Now I want another, and another, and another and another……..

        Reply
    • Elisabeth October 25, 2013, 4:11 am

      I hear marriage is about compromise. To alleviate your wife’s concerns, it sounds like it would be best for her to work to ensure you (plural) have the things she insists on (lifestyle, leave something for the kids), while you quit your job and enjoy the fruits of your 30 years of labor.

      Reply
    • Basenji October 25, 2013, 6:48 am

      @ Yin Yang: How about easing your wife into it through show and tell? My husband tends to be a “full adopter with enthusiasm” type while I am very cautious by nature. But we find that making small changes one at a time heading in the full Mustachian path keeps us working together. We started with low-hanging fruit which gave us a sense of accomplishment: fewer dinners out, cooking more at home, reducing dog daycare (and getting my boss onboard with a new work at home schedule), waiting to buy non-essential things, trying out fixing things around the house instead of calling someone, etc. By saying it’s your wife’s fault you are setting up a no-win, team against team situation. On the other hand, she may never come on board and you may need to figure out a way to make it work for both of you. Sounds like a case study to follow.

      Reply
    • Mike October 25, 2013, 7:44 pm

      Believe it or not, I’m in a similar situation. Net worth is a bit less but not radically far off from yours. For us though, it’s happened a bit more suddenly due to an IPO. In the past I’ve had issues when talking through taking a job better for work-life balance for lower pay–now it’s more radical, and there are lots of how will we pay for this and that, why should we sacrifice lifestyle, and what ifs.

      I think behind that there is a healthy dose of fear of change–we’ve been in this mode of living for quite a while, and to have things suddenly change is a shock to the system. For example, we live in a high COL area that drives a lot of anti-mustachian spending (both direct and indirect), and we might have to change that to make early retirement work–not a bad thing I think, but still a huge change after living in the same area for 15+ years (really all our lives in the same metropolitan area).

      I wish I had advice to give you, and maybe I will after we sort through it ourselves, as I expect to do over the next 3 months or so. For now I’d say I can completely empathize with your situation.

      Reply
  • Taryl Andersen October 22, 2013, 2:38 pm

    MMM – I love your outlook, your thought process, your inventiveness, your FU attitude, your ability to look at both sides, your positive energy, your values and most of all your happy, go lucky “can do” attitude. I’m a recent convert and probably over ambitious in sharing this lifestyle with friends and family. Taryl

    Reply
  • doisfj October 22, 2013, 2:39 pm

    Is the school districts you guys are at just ‘not the best’ but still relatively safe and sane or a place where the high schools have large gang and drug problems and you can get mugged at night?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 2:44 pm

      Things are pretty great here and I acknowledge that there are many places that DO have serious problems worth moving away from (or fixing).

      I just like to throw jabs at the local private school crowd who used “test scores” as a reason to ship their kids across town daily instead of giving our neighborhood school a try.

      Reply
      • Jay Bee October 22, 2013, 4:06 pm

        I agree with you on this point because most people are not concerned about pedagogy, and for the most part, there’s no difference in pedagogy between public and private schools.

        If there is a difference in pedagogy, then you have to go private for an alternative education or home school.

        People might question: but this pedagogy works, why do you care so much?

        Largely because, just as you don’t care whether the kid gets a college education, I don’t care if my kid gets a standardized testing education with grades and stuff.

        If an alternative school didn’t exist, I would home school my kid. On a cost-benefit analysis, they are basically the same price.

        I pay $10k/yr for the kid’s schooling. If I home schooled him, I’d easily take a $10k/yr cut to my income in my business due to time spent doing the necessary things for the kid’s education as opposed to the necessary things to have that $10k at the business. And, I’d still have to get all of the educational materials, etc etc etc, plus also have to deal with the mountain of paperwork for the state.

        Not to mention, of course, that the whole stay at home mom gig does NOT work for me at all. I *LOVE* my work. I can’t imagine not working (even once retired) because i LOVE it that much.

        So, in cost-benefit analysis, private school is the way to go.

        Also, we’re looking at a live-income property within walking distance to the school — it’s inexpensive because it’s a “bad” neighborhood. It’s regentrifying. So, that’s good.

        Reply
    • Hibryd October 22, 2013, 5:31 pm

      Just based on our personal experiences, we were happy to pay extra for a home in a good school district.

      My husband grew up in a high-end district where most kids were college-bound and the parents gave a shit, and he had a great time. My high school was middle of the road on scores, but the bad kids, the ones who don’t want to be there, would make life a living hell for anyone who did. You were safe in the advanced classes, but in the general ed, you didn’t answer when the teacher asked a question, or else you’d have something thrown at you. Smart kids were lauded at his school and bullied at mine. And again, I didn’t even go to an inner-city school.

      Reply
  • writing2reality October 22, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Rules shmules and guidelines are for suckers!

    My fiancé and I just went through all of this while “planning” a wedding. Why waste time and money on a big affair when a) you don’t care about most of those who end up invited, and b) would rather be relaxing in a low-stress environment. Our compromise? The top 20 people in our life all going out to lunch together with a pick-up softball game to follow.

    Reply
    • Gerard October 22, 2013, 3:02 pm

      Okay, but one of you’s gotta play softball in a wedding dress. :-)

      Reply
      • Mrs PoP October 22, 2013, 3:13 pm

        My best friend played kickball in her full length wedding dress. =)
        Though the ultimate stress free wedding for us was eloping. I highly recommend having a boat captain take you out into the sea of cortez where you can get married then jump in the water and snorkel with some sting rays before finishing it up with a cruise back into port at sunset.

        Reply
        • Andres October 25, 2013, 2:07 pm

          My wife and I had planned to elope. Her brother had a traditional, stressful, Russian-style wedding. I wanted none of that. The eloping didn’t work out (turns out that it’s expensive to get hitched in Italy!), so instead we got married in a local park. $350 for the park license, a coworker took pictures, the wedding dress was from a consignment shop, a family member played violin, a $30 cake from a local gelato place (which got us tons of “this is the best wedding cake I’ve ever had” compliments during and even years after the wedding), and we had dinner at a local crepe shop. We probably could’ve gotten away with having it in the park without the license, but I have a soft spot for our local Parks system (I make yearly donations; they keep our awesome bike trail network well-maintained). We spent less than $1k on the whole thing, and probably could’ve done it cheaper if we were hurting for money (we’re not). We had a rule that we were only inviting immediate family, and friends who were local. It was held during labor day weekend, and with 3 weeks advanced notice, so lots of people were out of town. We ended up with 20 guests, which was the perfect size.

          Reply
          • Mrs PoP October 25, 2013, 7:12 pm

            I think it can be expensive to get legally married in Mexico, too. Supposedly to get it done legally you need medical exams (does someone know why?) before filing for the license…

            We skipped all those steps – so our elopement wasn’t a “legal” marriage (we did eventually take care of that at the clerk of courts back home for a nominal fee a few months later), but the boat is still what we think of as our wedding day.

            Reply
    • Lewis October 23, 2013, 6:47 pm

      My wife and I got married in May. Neither of us are super traditional types, so it was easy to have a different wedding. We made it into a three-day camping event at her parents’ farm. We planned a hike, a visit to a brewery, a day at her cousin’s lake house and of course, bonfires. We told everyone to show up whenever they felt like it with whomever they wanted and leave whenever they wanted, but that we’d have a barefoot outdoor wedding behind the house on Sunday and had rented out the roller rink for a skating and laser tag “reception” with our own music set list. The family that didn’t travel was in charge of the Sunday cooking, although we pitched in, and we made it clear that gifts were out of the question, especially for those who traveled.
      The total cost to us came in at about $1,500, although some other people broke the rules and gave us cash, so cost turned out to be pretty much negligible. We got about four hours of sleep for five nights in a row, but we had the most fun we’ve ever had, with almost zero stress, and so many people told us it was the best wedding they’ve ever been to. Even her strict Baptist parents who would have certainly preferred a church wedding seemed to enjoy themselves. We only had one “incident” where a friend practicing fire breathing started his face on fire, but the lake was right there, so he extinguished it quickly and didn’t have to miss the reception.
      We were lucky to have a farm to use, but we could have just as easily done it in a park for minimal cost, or hell, found someone else with a farm to rent for the weekend for way less than a typical wedding venue. There is really no reason to start your life together with $10-20K in credit card debt.
      Oh yeah, we took our “honeymoon” beforehand and biked about 420 miles to get there, stopping at every brewery in Delaware. That cost is included in the $1,500 above. Incidentally, she did most of the distance in her dress with a veil specially designed for the helmet because she was unwilling to have a dress she’d only wear one day in her life.
      Damn, now I have to calculate everything and write a detailed post for our blaggity blag about how to have a mustachian wedding.

      Reply
  • Anthony C October 22, 2013, 2:50 pm

    I should have known MMM was a D&D nerd. One of the best hobbies ever in terms of cost:fun ratio. $40 in books can last a lifetime and some of the rules are even free after being open-sourced. http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/

    Reply
  • Lesley October 22, 2013, 2:50 pm

    MMM: This post correlates directly with your low-carb way of eating (turning the US food pyramid on its head, so to speak; being smart enough to question the “rules”). I hope by now that your research has led you to Charles Washington’s website on the subject. I won’t put the website here, just this: did you know that there is no minimum RDA for carbohydrate in the human body? I hope you will keep researching this fascinating world of nutrition because so often the websites that are directed at frugality and wise spending often tout high-carb diets as a means to save cash but in the end, I think people pay with their health.

    Fantastic blog, one of the few I check each day.

    Reply
  • David October 22, 2013, 2:53 pm

    Mr. MM, your writing was particularly delightful in this article. I was smiling and chuckling through the entire thing. Well done.

    Reply
  • LOP October 22, 2013, 2:54 pm

    I finished reading through the blog start to finish this summer before I started grad school. One of my favorite parts is reading the comments, with the stories and back and forth between folks. You haven’t given out the most Mustachian comment award recently, but seeing those sprinkled here and there in reading through the blog gave me the idea for an opposite award to people who just don’t get it. Instead of always giving out a face punch, give out the Plexiglass Navel award. I grew up hearing my father give them out. He designated the award for people who had their head so far up their ass they needed a plexiglass navel installed to be able to see.

    Reply
  • Geneviève October 22, 2013, 2:56 pm

    I love this post! As the daughter of an army officer (in France), I had to think very young about this problem of rule (and I first studied law)! I But It was difficult to get the courage of following my own rules… I think I get it, now! You define it very well…
    ;-)

    Reply
  • cptacek October 22, 2013, 2:57 pm

    “You’re getting married, and your family thinks you need the giant ceremony with the flower designer, the experience consultant, and the limousines. The amazing news is that you do not! You can get married for ten bucks at the county office and then bring 100 friends, some slacklines, fiddles, banjos, boxed wine and a stand-up bass down to the local park and make everyone shed tears of joy when they realize how much fun they are having.”
    We got married at my church and didn’t have to pay for anything for the ceremony. The church was so beautiful that we didn’t decorate it at all. We tipped the priest $50. Going inexpensive doesn’t mean you have to eschew getting married in a church.

    Reply
    • Jimbo October 22, 2013, 3:05 pm

      I don’t know, churches are pretty much a whole bunch of useless rules… Blasphemy, I know. But the elephant in the room after this article.

      Reply
      • Elisabeth October 25, 2013, 4:23 am

        Another great option is to have a close friend become a minister for 50 or 100 bucks (can’t remember what it is now). Then, said friend can marry you in a way most meaningful to you.

        Tons of ways to do it without spending a fortune, or being bound to tradition.

        Reply
        • Lewis October 27, 2013, 10:12 am

          Actually, you can become a minister for free and should be able to perform a wedding in any state. We actually got married in VA, which turns out to be the absolute worst state for freedom of religion and therefore is the only one where it’s nearly impossible to get married with a ULC minister. We still only spent about $50 to go to some guy’s house who is a justice of the peace, get legally married and then have our friend do the ceremony later.

          Reply
      • Yin Yang October 25, 2013, 6:15 pm

        Bill Maher rules. The Church blows.

        Reply
  • Danny October 22, 2013, 3:05 pm

    I appreciate the point you’re trying to make, MMM. And it’s a good one. But I just wanted to point out the fact that your son is probably hesitant to break the perceived “rules” not out of an innate fear of authority, but because the public school system is designed to beat and shame any sense of autonomy you have out of you. Kids who don’t follow the rules–as inane and irrational as they may be–are punished by teachers who don’t have the time or patience to deal with more than one standard of behavior.

    I know this because I was the kind of kid who thought for himself and came up with creative ways to solve problems–only to have teachers constantly trying to convince me I was wrong or bad for not mindlessly conforming. I wasn’t a hellraiser, either–just a well meaning kid that thought differently than most people. (This is something I could rant about quite a bit.) Now, I grew up in the suburbs of Texas so perhaps it’s better in a more progressive environment, but just know that sort of thing goes on.

    The whole structure of our school system encourages conformity, so your son may just understand that the teacher will be unhappy if he slightly deviates from the rules. Now, you know much more about parenting than I do, I’m sure, and don’t see this as me offering parental advice. But personally, I think all kids should walk away knowing that the teacher isn’t always right–but still realize it’s often prudent to follow the rules and pick your battles with authority.

    Reply
    • Anonymous October 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

      I can’t second this strongly enough. Learn that adults are not always right, learn that rules are not always right, but learn judiciousness and what the consequences will be for breaking them. And school is a highly asymmetric situation designed expressly to teach rule-following above almost everything else; it’s a kingdom of pointless fiefdoms, and most of the people in it feel entitled to lord their little corner of it over anyone they can wield power against.

      Wonderful lesson, and you’re a wonderful person for teaching it that early, but public schools are one of the biggest concentrations of pointless rules to be found anywhere, with out-of-proportion consequences for breaking them. Best of luck continuing to deal with it for as long as you feel comfortable doing so.

      Reply
      • dude October 23, 2013, 6:58 am

        hahaha! This reminded me of a time in 6th grade, when I was forced to stay after school and write (in a notebook, not on the chalk board), “I will not do X again” or some such inanity 500 times. I faithfully followed the instructions for about 3 notebook pages before I devised a way to circumvent said instructions — I wrote the sentence at the top of each page, and then inked columns of ditto marks from top to bottom down each page. When I handed the book in, I watched as the teacher’s face turned beet red when he got to page 4 . . . though he begrudgingly acknowledged my elegant solution! hahahaha!

        Reply
    • Andy October 23, 2013, 10:54 am

      Very thought provoking article (yet again) and an interesting comment Danny…. I know exactly where you are coming from. I was always (near) the top of the class in most subjects but generally disliked by teachers as I’d often ask the awkward questions that they didn’t really know the answer to (because it wasn’t in the text book maybe?) and that no one else either thought of or really cared about as they weren’t really listening. I guess I probably came across as a bit of a smart-ass as well which can’t have helped :)

      The thing is you can work out this stuff pretty easily, i.e. when to follow rules, when to not, but I always thought if something was worth saying or doing to mix things up then I’d do it, knowing full well that I was making things harder for myself in the long run. I guess that was my mini way of rebelling against the system, which I thought was bogus, without really being “a naughty kid”. The thing is if you keep on down that line, you are never going to get anywhere in a job (which is also something I think completely sucks) at any kind of decent sized corporate firm. It’s really sad but you have to learn to suck it up and kiss some butt from time to time (choose your timing wisely though – kissing constant butt will also almost certainly get you nowhere, and leave a bad taste in your mouth as well).

      And even just playing by the sometimes ridiculous, time wasting, bureaucratic rules is bad enough at times.

      Another one of the many reasons to Retire Early or go off and work for yourself if you are this way inclined, there are plenty of Lawful/Good people out there to fill in your position.

      Reply
    • CALL 911 October 24, 2013, 10:38 am

      This comment is written gold. I actually had to come back to it to comment. It probably deserves a full post, but the schools are definitely designed for conformation. And it’s on purpose. Schools aren’t viewed by either the administrators, or general public as places to learn, but as places to go to learn enough to get a “good” job. “Good’ implies working for a faceless corporation (think IBM, Exxon, State Farm Insurance, Bank of America, the local hospital) or the military. None of the above mentioned employers are interested in questioners (aka trouble makers) or people with difficulty conforming to inane rules. Your boss isn’t always right but your career will be short if you’re always second guessing or pointing out how wrong they are – doesn’t matter if it’s the assistant manager at Burger King, or the President. Nobody wants to be surrounded by doubters and trouble makers, so the school teaches that rules are sacrosanct, no matter how ridiculous.

      As an aside – if you doubt the role of the military in influencing the education system, you may be surprised to know that the school lunch program was instituted at the insistence of the military.

      Reply
      • CincyCat October 24, 2013, 4:03 pm

        Exactly. The founders of Google both credit their early childhood Montessori education with their innovative spirit as adults. Definitely not “fill in this worksheet” type of education.

        Reply
  • Pretired Nick October 22, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Does this mean you’re going to take on changing the grid-tie rules for solar in your community? (:
    As someone who spent much of his youth in the principal’s office, I totally agree, MMM! I think it’s why I was never content with an ordinary life of school-work-death. One must adopt a certain rebellious nature to successfully escape the dominant thinking in society. Thinking about “why” some rule exists is probably the most important thing for figuring out how to get what you want. If the rule is stupid it should be ignored, mocked or changed.

    Reply
  • Patrick October 22, 2013, 3:14 pm

    Well….what did Jr MMM do? And if he turned in the project pasted to the paper – what did the teacher say?

    Reply
    • Melissa October 22, 2013, 7:28 pm

      That’s what I wanted to know too. Did he “get into trouble”? Did he have to negotiate with the teacher? Was the teacher responsive to the idea that the instructions were unclear? Isn’t it sad that teachers shame children the way they do? I always thought if I was a teacher, I’d be terribly lax, and let them learn in other ways.

      Reply
  • Meghan October 22, 2013, 3:16 pm

    I’m definitely in that box with you. In fact, once my coworkers and I had to take a personality test and the other rebel was there with me, completely outside the norm. Everyone was horrified at our answers (we work in government, so you know almost all my bureaucratic colleagues are in that Lawful Good box). I’m not, and I like to shake things up a bit around here. It’s fun. :) It won’t be fun forever, and I definitely spend many hours wanting to bang my head on the desk, but until I have a good bit of investment income, I’ll deal with it.

    During the shutdown, as I was exiting a park with my dog, some woman said playfully (?), “you lawbreaker”! Uh yeaaah. Of course a little white barrier isn’t going to keep me from taking a nice stroll through a perfectly good park, just like a speed limit sign is usually taken on advisement.

    I love what you are doing with your new home. There’s nothing better than backing to open space with a view, or sunlight streaming through warm windows on a cold winter Colorado day.

    Reply
  • Despondent Millionaire October 22, 2013, 3:32 pm

    Another great post by MMM. Thanks!

    Reply
  • Emily October 22, 2013, 3:32 pm

    Love this post… but what happened with your son? Did he copy the story into the notebook, or hand it in on the worksheet? I can’t handle the suspense!! :).

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 4:24 pm

      Good question. I just asked him and he said he ended up copying it out anyway. He decided it was worth the effort to get the extra teacher approval and avoid potential hassle – but at least he made the choice after knowing he had options!

      Reply
      • elkbark October 22, 2013, 5:00 pm

        Sounds like my kid. She sees all of the angles and gets a little giddy talking about all the fun ways she ‘could’ break the rules, but seemingly she never does. It is never worth the potential hassle to her.

        Reply
        • Debbie M October 23, 2013, 8:58 am

          Did everyone else do it in their book? This sounds like exactly the sort of thing that would be an obvious rule and yet no one would get in trouble for breaking it, which is very annoying for rule-followers.

          Reply
      • jkenny October 23, 2013, 12:36 pm

        Aah, don’t take it so hard. Many times there’s nothing wrong with following a rule or two — even a silly rule — as a sign of respect and/or not creating hassles for someone or some system you respect. Many of the comments here suggest picking your battles is prudent. I’m with them.

        BTW, when I first read this post I thought it was a mediocre one in the world of the many awsome MMM posts — but oh, the comments!! The comments on this particular post are boss. This blog has some really intelligent, thoughtful readers.

        Reply
      • Bettina October 23, 2013, 4:46 pm

        Being the teacher that I am, I was wondering what happened to Junior Mustache’s homework, too. But I have to say, I personally would have been totally OK with the solution of pasting it in the notebook (even a little proud of my student’s problem-solving), since in that case my instructions were shitty. Then again, I don’t give shitty instructions like that. ;)

        Reply
      • CincyCat October 24, 2013, 4:14 pm

        So, in other words, he followed the rules. A reasonable choice, given the circumstances. :)

        Reply
  • tallgirl1204 October 22, 2013, 3:44 pm

    Kudos on the D&D and the 7-year old! My 2nd grader is not such a jedi chess player as yours, but his reading/math skills are excellent. Our rule-breaking at school falls in the category of insisting that he study the math he is capable of (i.e. 4th grade-plus) rather than waiting for the class. Toward that end, we are willing to send a parent to school who teaches him as well well as some of his also-bright classmates, freeing up the teacher to work with the kids who aren’t as lucky. I think that is an important element of “good”– not to just obey a set of laws, but to be willing to invest yourself in the pursuit of what you believe in. (I can say that as the worker bee; it is my partner who is the good-pursuer in the family for the most part!)

    I think that there is a level of moral development in play here, which your son is exhibiting at an age-appropriate level: “what is the rule? The rule is what is good.” As we mature, looking beyond the rule to the meaning of the rule leads us to the “good” that is beyond rules.

    A wise teacher once said “love God (which I take to mostly be nature) and love your neighbor as yourself. On this hangs ALL the law and the prophets.” This one teaching is a koan worthy of a lifetime.

    Reply
  • Jay Bee October 22, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Ah, the very truth indeed!

    I break all kinds of rules left, right, and center. Not laws that need to be properly managed, but literally thousands of social rules every day.

    Recently, I had to push back at DS’s school. He goes to a private school (scholarship plus volunteering), and they have a certain. . . flavor. They are particularly particular about media exposure. They believe a kid shouldn’t watch TV/movies until age 9, and no one should listen to recorded music.

    Of course, we completely disregard this. We are “media lite” compared to other families (max, we watch about 3 hrs of tv/movies per week with the kid, and he does play 30 minutes of lego-based video games with his dad once a week). But, this school is more strict about it.

    Finally, I said: You know, the school is here to serve the needs of the parents, not the family to fit the desires of the school.

    Our family isn’t media free. We have him watch media that we feel is edifying to him and our family, which doesn’t inhibit his creative play or his education in any way.

    You seem far more interested in whether or not we are following the Rule than whether or not our son is having a positive life experience that includes a modest amount of media. We are assured that he is, and we utilize this educational pedagogy to facilitate that.

    From this point forward, we will only discuss media in these conferences if A. media is negatively impacting his education in ways that you can evidence or B. we seek your advice or help on how to decrease media if we want to do that.

    They were rather shocked, and my husband was as well. Most people see others as the authority. You do what the doctor says without question or a second opinion. You do what the teacher tells you. etc etc etc.

    No. You are the author and creator of your life. You do what you want to do (within legal reason); you do what you value. Everything else is in service of that. You utilize a doctor to facilitate your healing. You utilize a teacher to instruct you in areas where you want instruction, not in areas that you don’t (even if you don’t see the connection).

    I love breaking the rules.

    Reply
    • Rockstache October 25, 2013, 7:22 am

      That sounds fine, but if he goes to a private school, then it is a private business, and almost by definition, NOT there to fit the needs of the family. I believe that if you chose not to conform to the rules, they could choose not to accept your family as a customer.

      Reply
      • Rachel October 25, 2013, 7:31 am

        Weird, I thought most business’ goal was actually to serve the needs of their customers.

        I guess I could see feeling differently because they are not actually paying tuition, but I strongly disagree with the statement that “almost by definition, [a private business is] NOT there to fit the needs” of its customers. Sure, they can choose to decline your business (“no shirt, no shoes, no service!”); but you can also choose to take your business away.

        Reply
        • Gerard December 3, 2013, 8:20 am

          I have trouble thinking of many private businesses who think their job is to serve my needs. At best, their job is to convince me that they have served my needs (or the needs they have convinced me that I have), at the highest price they can get away with, at the lowest possible expense for them. They can even afford to have me catch on and move my business elsewhere, as long as the loss they thus incur is smaller than the overall gain from maintaining their current practices. I would argue that private schools are almost the perfect example of this: hire teachers who can’t get board certification, pay them less than in the public system, and then stroke the parents’ egos by offering Latin.

          Reply
  • Tristan Hume October 22, 2013, 3:51 pm

    A wise economics professor once advised me about the “Rule of 3″:

    A written rule is only a real rule if you have asked 3 different staff members in 3 different ways if you can break it and they all said “no”.

    One other thing this relates to is the Myers-Briggs personality types and S vs N. S people are very much the “Lawful” type that is into rules and following them strictly to the letter. I suspect that the proportion of N to S types on this blog is very high.

    I find that the biggest factor in if I like my teachers or not is if they are S or an N like me. I constantly get into quibbles with S teachers over why something must be done a certain way and unfortunately the answer is often “because it is.” My favourite teachers are very strong Ns and are open to discussion about the reasons behind methodology and principles.

    Reply
  • bobwerner October 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

    Just curious. If Karl Rove is the Evil one, (you know, all that promotion of self responsibility, allowing people to make personal choices regarding insurance, retirement planning and not being dependent on the Government) then who is the Good politician? Or is that an oxymoron?

    Reply
    • cptacek October 22, 2013, 4:14 pm

      You are going to get scorched for this one ;)

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 22, 2013, 4:37 pm

      It’s not about which side of the political spectrum that Rove is on, but the unprecedented level of subversion and deception he employs to get the job done – raising the bar of dirty tricks to the detriment of everyone on either side of the aisle.

      But you won’t get the details on what he’s been up to by watching the news – it shows up in longer articles and books about him. I’d encourage anyone interested to look into the details if you want to understand why I threw him into the “lawful evil” category.

      (Then take the resulting discussion somewhere other than this blog’s comment section ;-))

      Reply
      • Annamal October 22, 2013, 6:01 pm

        You’ve just reminded me

        Stephen Colbert needs to be on the Chaotic Good list (the gleefully gleefully chaotic good list).

        I know it technically does not fit with a light news diet but his utterly gleeful subversion of both political funding and Karl Rove went a long way to making people aware of a potentially detrimental issue.

        as well as this:
        http://www.salon.com/2013/03/22/colberts_ham_rove_conference_room_in_d_c_is_now_official/

        Reply
      • dlflemingos October 24, 2013, 12:04 pm

        Great article, I believe in following the rules or chaos ensues but I also believe in evaluating the rules and breaking the ones (most) that don’t make sense.
        Love your blog however, I could do without the left leaning political views. There are two sides to those views and you seem to be directing challenges and opposing views somewhere else. The politics aren’t essential to this article so probably best to just leave them out.

        Reply
  • kiwi pom October 22, 2013, 4:06 pm

    As we tell our children, know and understand the rules and then you can work around them and use them for your advantage.
    We also have encouraged them to question all that they are taught as there is so much biased information presented.

    Reply
  • Rachel October 22, 2013, 4:16 pm

    When my son was in 5th grade, he decided to run for student council. He worked very hard to outline a speech detailing his “platform,” which included proposed community service and volunteer projects. He purposely wrote this speech in a bulleted, outline form, because, in his words “Great speakers never read word-for-word.” The next day he was told by his old, crotchety teacher that he would not be allowed to give his speech and was disqualified from the race because he had not written it out, word-for-word, as the “instructions” told him to. He was devastated. I used this as an opportunity to educate him that to affect change in the world, often times you need to be the one that did not follow the rules. I also sent a very strongly-worded email to his teacher and encouraged her to look up the difference between democracy and tryanny.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth October 22, 2013, 4:52 pm

    This falls right in with one of my favourite quotes.

    -Never confuse legality with morality.

    Reply
  • Micro October 22, 2013, 4:56 pm

    Reminds me of the saying it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Which fits right in line with chaotic good. It lets you aim to practice the spirit of the law rather than what it is actually stating.

    Reply
  • Ragnar October 22, 2013, 5:01 pm

    I hope to one day earn the “Chaotic good” moniker. As of now I am not even sure I can claim good at all. If a category was added that said non-contributing, either good nor bad.. that would be me at the moment.. although things are starting to look up! ^^

    I think that my DNA and upbringing is on my side though, finally, in that I am much more inclined to own a small place and be happy with that, because it entails less work to keep it clean and functional than a bigger more expensive place. Although at 6’5 sometimes old beds and doorways can be a slight annoyance.

    I’ve always been somewhat of a skeptic when it comes to society’s norms and unspoken rules, and it pleases me to see that I’m not the only one. I guess being a self-elected social outcast back in middle and high school actually did amount to something positive after all, haha.

    Hopefully your advice combined with my effort will enable me to travel most of the world on a shoestring budget starting sometime next year…

    Peace!

    Reply
  • Chris T October 22, 2013, 5:34 pm

    Awesome post and D&D reference! Me thinks you rolled an 18 in both Constitution and Wisdom, in life, sir! And perfect saving throws vs. whine.

    Reply
  • Tosaguy October 22, 2013, 5:51 pm

    First comment but a reader of MMM since the start. You HAVE to pull your kids out of school for experiences. My Dad is now retired but a school Principal for over 35 years. His mantra was nothing replaces family time, pull your kids and go, work with them and help them when you get back if needed.

    I lost my child Sarah to leukemia when she was 16. She was my world but I find peace daily knowing we always lived life to the fullest. We are a family built on faith and we do not believe in being judgmental. We belong to mainline churches but that does not over-rule our individual beliefs. Living the MMM life is what we strive to do. We are getting our life in priority by simplifying and focusing on what is truly important. Thank you for the post.

    Reply
    • tallgirl1204 October 23, 2013, 5:13 pm

      Thanks, Tosaguy. You remind me of a friend here whose son died at 21– at the funeral, he asked me how my kid was doing, then said “Treasure every day.” I remember that a lot. MMM is a good trainer for that, eh?

      Reply
  • Justin October 22, 2013, 6:09 pm

    We just received a phone call from our 3rd grader’s school instructing them to “dress for success” tomorrow. They are having standardized tests and for some incomprehensible reason, they think wearing fancy clothes will somehow mask crappy teaching or failure to learn.

    My kids, of course, will wear whatever they want since the little bubbles on the Scantron will care very little about how coordinated their outfits are.

    Glad to see I’m not the only parent dealing with crazy B.S. rules at school. I usually say, “Do what you think is right, and if the teacher gives you grief, we got your back”. Short of the kids getting suspended or expelled, I don’t really care if they get nasty grams sent home. Although they are very well behaved, so it would be isolated incidents of idiocy (on the part of the school) that would get them in trouble.

    Reply
    • Rick October 23, 2013, 7:31 am

      Does dressing for success mean they should wear clothes with test answers printed on them?

      (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

      Reply
    • TGod October 23, 2013, 12:12 pm

      I hear you on the useless rules. At my sons’ school they have agendas that get sent home every night, and the parents have to sign off to show that they’ve reviewed any messages. My husband spends an hour after school EVERY day helping them with their homework and doing extra math and reading stuff, we’re involved parents! But sometimes in between the homework, the playtime, the making of a healthy dinner, the agenda signing is forgotten. Last year we blew it on the teacher because we found out that our son didn’t get to play outside (as in get exercise in between sitting on his butt all day) because he had to write out lines in his agenda basically lecturing us about not signing his agenda. WTF!!! As it was explained to him, it is his responsibility to get us to sign his agenda. So zero outdoor fresh air time. I blew up on the teacher and principal. A) my son is not responsible for my actions and teaching him that is obnoxious. The kids in that school were stressed out because of that attitude, and the parents were feeling like we had homework and would be chastised through our kids if we didn’t behave. This was in grade 2. And b), my kid is 7, he’s a boy, he has enough energy contained in his little body to send a rocket to the moon, and that I NEVER want to hear that he is held in to write lines about something as stupid as a missed initial in his agenda. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the parent/teacher meeting around that one, but my husband said it was a joke. The teacher showed him a chart tracking how many times kids had missed having their agenda signed and if they went over 2/month they got held in. Crazeeee!!! She just didn’t get it that she was teaching my kid that he was accountable for my actions which was ridiculous. We feel like we have to unteach our kids when it comes to useless rules, but they’re freaked out about the consequences at school, more than they are ever freaked about the consequences at home.

      Reply
    • Mike October 25, 2013, 11:36 am

      When my son was in 5th grade, his principal called us because a 1st grader accused my son of putting his lunch waste on this 1st grader’s tray on “zero waste day”, which was part of their “green” program, where they would reward the kids for having zero waste at lunch.

      First, my son did no such thing. He was nothing but confused and upset when he was called down to the principal’s office over this. Second, what the hell??? You really felt the need, and had nothing more important to do, than to pull a kid out of class, and CALL THE PARENTS when something like that happened? Seriously???

      Reply
  • Cujo October 22, 2013, 6:46 pm

    I love how your writer conflates “is not desired by me” with “is not desirable.” Classic.

    Reply
  • BCR October 22, 2013, 6:58 pm

    I don’t think there are simply rule breakers and followers as depicted. That seems a false dichotomy. I do not see these examples as cases of simply breaking rules or following them. It seems more accurate to say you are complying with a hierarchy of rules which you have established over the course of your life. In other words, no one can comply with all rules in all situations since they inevitably contradict one another and some rules are much more important to you than others. So you create a hierarchy of rules and never break your “golden rule”, the one at the top. You follow any rules that cascade from the golden rule without contradictions.

    Reply
  • Joshua Spodek October 22, 2013, 7:00 pm

    I’ll see your D&D reference to rules and raise you 5 Calvin and Hobbes rules references — http://joshuaspodek.com/more-on-rules.

    If there’s one example of how making up rules leads to fun, it’s Calvinball.

    Reply
  • Jen October 22, 2013, 7:23 pm

    Food for thought for me. While breaking some rules (which are not even rules to me – would never have a flashy wedding), I am definetely on “lawful good” side. I guess it is a personality trait – any career orientation tests I took had suggested I am most suited for accounting, audit, law etc similar jobs – surely for my inclination to stick to the rules. Now I am running a start-up and learning to break the rules daily – my fellow entrepreneurs are a chaotic crowd :) Getting there!

    Reply
  • Accidental Miser October 22, 2013, 7:30 pm

    Bravo, MMM. Your much-discussed D&D reference is a great example of why this is the only blog (not the only personal finance blog, the only blog period) that I consistently read.

    I’m actually a Lawful Good trending toward the Chaotic… Wish me luck!

    Reply
  • Kristin October 22, 2013, 7:53 pm

    ” Because as it turns out, the people who have the balls to question the rules, find that they are suddenly in the position of making them instead.”

    Thank you for this quote. I have been struggling with a rule at work that has been driving me crazy and I just got the ball rolling to fix it.

    Reply
  • dan23 October 22, 2013, 7:58 pm

    I don’t remember MacGyver as being lawful good so much as chaotic good, but I my memory may be off as I saw the show over a decade ago.

    Reply
    • joel October 22, 2013, 9:26 pm

      I still watch some re-runs of MacGyver. His words don’t agree with his actions/career. I don’t know many greenpeace, anti-gun humanitarians contracted as military demo-experts and CIA spies. He talks like Mr. Rogers and acts like Hannibal from the A-Team.

      Reply
  • Chris October 22, 2013, 8:11 pm

    My wife and I go round and round over this topic. She likes to say, “you have no respect for the rules of life.” Correct, I don’t (wink)! The important thing to remember is “the world’s rules were made up by people no smarter than you or I (RIP Steve Jobs).”

    When we think about why things are the way they are, or rather, how they might be improved upon, based on the situation, we are departing rule following and living consciously!!

    Reply
    • Chris October 25, 2013, 8:41 pm

      “Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.”

      Aldo Leopold (via my bro, sh)

      Reply
    • Erwin Cuellar January 20, 2014, 4:17 pm

      People get scared that if the “rules of life” can’t contain us, then what will? A good conscience will. I wish we’d spend more time developing better consciences than better rules.

      Reply
  • Noelle October 22, 2013, 9:59 pm

    I like to think I’m in the Chaotic Good quadrant. Although not too long ago I would have said Lawful Good. I’m learning to question the Rules and consider what other ways there are of accomplishing things. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  • Jacob October 22, 2013, 11:24 pm

    You had to write this, didn’t you? I am the FOLLOW-THE-RULES-NO-MATTER-WHAT guy, and I even make my own when I don’t feel there is sufficient order in place during a given activity. My wife always has to slap me back into reality and help me realize that, not only am I making myself miserable by adding extra rules that don’t exist, but I’m stifling any fun we could be having, killing joy.

    It has taken some years, but i have learned that there are rules that benefit, and rules that are more of a CYA, and are really more guidelines. And some of the most fun I’ve had was breaking said “rules”, knowing that I was not harming anything or anyone. Sure, it still takes me time to get there, but I have finally been able to put down the list of all things not allowed during [blank], and just enjoy the ride.

    Reply
  • Annonny Mouse October 23, 2013, 2:50 am

    I have always subscribed to the idea

    Rules are there for the guidance of the wise
    And the following by the stupid

    Meaning understand why you’re following them, but also think about why, if you decided not to follow them

    Reply
  • Manuel October 23, 2013, 3:18 am

    This is one of the best articles I´ve ever read on this blog; MMM, I love you for it. Fuck those rules that are simply stupid! Ever waited for a redlight to turn green on an empty street as a pedestrian?

    Reply
  • Manuel October 23, 2013, 3:20 am

    Actually I think Hitler might also fit into the “lawfully evil” scheme. He made every evil thing he did lawful befor he did it ;-) So much for becoming the boss

    Reply
  • Frugal in DC October 23, 2013, 3:48 am

    Neil Gaiman gave a great talk recently about the importance of reading and libraries – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming .

    We had a similar experience when we finally got rid of the TV back when my son was in middle school. By the age of 16 his reading level was up to grad school level. He got into the college he wanted to go to and is doing great with a demanding double major. He never participated in crazy-ass expensive or far-off “enrichment” activities.

    You will love your new house. Several years ago we downsized to a small home (that is plenty big for us) near a big park. We are so lucky to have our local government maintain miles of wooded trails, sports fields, a clean creek, a huge flower garden, and a well-stocked library just off the park.

    Reply
    • Frugal in DC October 23, 2013, 4:35 am

      Forgot to mention that, in our school district, schools where students need help learning English and buying their meals have smaller classes, offer more help with reading, and provide lots of free after-school activities (with transportation home) to keep kids engaged after school. My kids thrived in such schools and made friends with great kids from other cultures.

      Reply
  • MoneyAhoy October 23, 2013, 5:08 am

    Lol at Karl Rowe under lawful evil!!!

    So, what happened with his assignment? Did he copy it over or paste it in? I’m dieing to find out which way you convinced him to go.

    Reply
    • Leslie October 25, 2013, 11:29 am

      There is always photocopying too. Put a piece of binder paper in the copier machine and press the button. We have the technology.

      Reply
  • Anonymous October 23, 2013, 6:04 am

    What about family members who think they can’t break the social norms? If my mother in law found out that I was thinking about selling our 3000+ sq house she’s totally flip on my wife, who would flip out on me. I know we could live in 1/2 that space, and reduce our mortgage to less than half.

    I’ve tried to sell the family truck several times, but once my MIL finds out, she freaks and says “You need the 4WD for the snow storms!” But atlas, I get 15mpgs to drive 3 miles to work everyday just to throw it into 4WD 4 times a year. Crazy. Let’s not mention all the shit in the basement. Really, what are we to do with a sentimental set of encyclopedias other than injure my back?

    I want to be free to travel, to dabble in activities that interest me, to spend more time with my kids, and to help people/causes that I care about.

    Sorry ’bout the rant. But what do you do when the people you love won’t break the rules with you?

    Reply
    • Kaye October 23, 2013, 8:21 am

      It doesn’t seem very mustachian to let your MILs fears dictate your financial future. I assume getting your chosen life partner onboard is going to make you life a lot simpler but there is no reason that once you two have agreed on something, your MIL should even know about it much less get to make that choice for you.

      Reply
    • Sister X October 23, 2013, 12:39 pm

      About the vehicle, I have one response: Subaru. Way more fuel efficient and they’re all either 4WD or AWD. (I won’t bother asking why you drive 3 miles rather than bike or walk, and just assume you have a good reason.)
      About the encyclopedias: those are what libraries are for. If they’re old and/or valuable, there might be a library that would be willing to take them off your hands. I’m not sure what you mean by “sentimental” encyclopedias. If you can’t find a library willing to take them, try Better World Books.
      Finally, kinda sounds like you need to sit down with your spouse and talk about how much interference you’re willing to put up with from your MIL. I get it, I totally do. I’m saying this as someone who’s having similar issues with an in-law being a bit too presumptuous and pushy recently. It’s a hard situation, and you don’t want to alienate or insult your spouse. But it’s your life, and your shared life with your spouse. The only people you really need to please with your decisions are you and your spouse. If you’re keeping a vehicle or a house or ANYTHING just to please someone who (I assume) doesn’t even live with you, that’s a damn shame.
      Good luck.

      Reply
      • Anonymous October 24, 2013, 8:18 am

        She comes from a culture where MILs are in everyone’s business, and if you don’t take her matriarchal advice you might as well cast a voodoo curse and leave her out for the wolves.

        But you’re right. I need to grow a pair. I can’t control what my MIL thinks, but I can control what stuff I hold onto, and what “rules” I personally abide by.

        I just need to grow a pair and break some rules.

        Reply
    • L'Ingenieure October 25, 2013, 11:44 am

      So don’t tell the MIL. And live your lives.

      Reply
  • Businessgypsy October 23, 2013, 6:23 am

    Sometimes the most important rules to break…are your own! Especially true when you’re in a position of sought or imposed authority. You can become trapped by your own mythos.

    Example: I pretty much parroted your stance on vehicles, for reasons you’ve repeated often. Then I started thinking about my dreams and interests. History, geography, geology, microcultures, regional cooking and agriculture do it for me. After pouring over old maps, road novels, travelogues and documentaries, I realized my time on the planet was now, and demographic shifts meant that small town America was in a state of unprecedented flux. If I was going to see for myself, it’s showtime.

    Indulging in the fun of considering hitching, van camping, trailers and even motor homes, I found a community of people online sharing tribal knowledge of the Mercedes Sprinter van. Yep, a big, expensive, luxury diesel. Except it gets better mileage than my 2000 Dodge Caravan, can be maintained (for the most part) by dedicated home mechanics, and will park in standard spaces while containing all the elements of a nice hotel room. I bought an 18 month old 2010 for 1/2 of the price the previous owner paid and custom built a stealth camper inside (that was big fun!). On the street in Manhattan, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Key West or Portland, you’d never suspect the plain silver van held a portable, endless vacation suite.

    The upshot? I’ve reconnected with friends across the continent without straining their hospitality, experienced communities, harvests and celebrations most only read about and immersed myself in the joy of backroad travel for months on end. I’ve followed the seasons across the breadth and width, and developed a love and appreciation for my country from first-hand knowledge. I’ve come to understand and maintain this ingenious machine in a way that brings great satisfaction and confidence in self-reliance. As a bonus, the online community of kindred spirits has become a resource and inspiration as well as a pipeline to give back in time, education and experience. Could I live a life of greater restraint and lower impact? Maybe, but to what degree? The ultimate act of reducing your footprint involves the cessation of breath. Could I live a life of greater joy and richer experience? Maybe, but damned if I can see how.

    Of course, all of this was made possible by 4.5 decades of careful saving and creative earning. You’ve done a fine job of pointing out that all this money stuff is a means to the end of living a joyful and responsible life, but don’t forget that interpretations of that goal are legion. As the ad says, your results may vary. Thanks for a good conversation and worthy example. You won’t be punching me in the face, but I’d be honored to shake your hand and join in a project when passing through.

    Reply
    • Joyce October 23, 2013, 4:38 pm

      Oh Businessgypsy, I want to see pictures of that awesome vehicle! My husband and I were talking about the same sort of thing.

      Reply
      • Businessgypsy October 24, 2013, 6:22 am

        Sure, send me a PM on the forum. Disclaimer: This path works for me, because I worked for it. I’m NOT encouraging spending on the part of others, just relating the joy of realizing my dreams – even if they do run counter to someone else’s code of conduct.

        Reply
  • dude October 23, 2013, 6:42 am

    Killer article, MMM! Your placement of Karl Rove in the Lawful Evil box had me laughing out loud!

    I have always been one to push the envelope when it comes to many social conventions, and I’ve done just fine for myself. re: stupid rules, I hate the sadistic motherf@#$er who thought requiring guys to wear neckties at work was a good idea!

    Reply

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