Why you should Get your Shit Together Before you Make it Big

Think Deeply about the true recipe for a good life

Think Deeply about the true recipe for a good life

Tales of squandered success. Both Mr. Money Mustache’s mailbox, and the world at large are filled with them.

Every day another pile of $250,000 earners collapses from stress or goes insane, because they have managed to slip into an awful life of debt and time scarcity, despite the fact that they are living within a neverending nuclear explosion of cash. And every day another corporate bigwig directs his legions to take the evil path in search of more money, because he calculates that a lot of extra money is worth a small amount of evil.

In my view, there’s nothing wrong with kicking ass every day and reaching the top. In fact, for many of us, this is the most enjoyable use of our time.

I love my job. I never want to retire, therefore I can safely ignore the advice of Mr. Money Mustache”, goes the common refrain.

But the Path of Successful Ass-Kicking is a narrow one, which runs between two perilous chasms:

  • The Pit of Pointless Materialism and Monetary Dependence
  • The Moral Void of Placing Profits Above All Else

How Good People Fall into the Pit:

You start off young, bright, and hardworking. This means you run with a crowd of similar people. For you, jobs have never been hard to come by – the real challenge is just making sure you select the best job. Big incomes come naturally to everyone you know, and this leads to a pleasant ongoing party of a life.

Sally and Joe get a mountain house so everyone can go skiing. You get the summer cottage and a boat for fishing in the summers. Bill impresses everyone with his new Audi Q7, and the rest of you reciprocate with BMWs and Acuras. Fine scotch is poured. Everybody has kids, and the best strollers, car seats, Gap clothing, lessons and private schools are naturally part of the program. Everyone is contributing to their 401(k) and 529 plans, so nobody has anything to worry about. Right?

The only problem is that everyone has already partied themselves straight off the cliff and into the Pit without realizing it. By locking in an incredibly expensive lifestyle, people who fall into this trap have become dependent on their high incomes to just to stay afloat. The slightest nudge to the unstable house of cards – unemployment, divorce, illness, or even a stock or housing market crash, can leave them broke and desperate.

And the overly-scheduled days that come with this lifestyle often leave out the slack that humans require for creativity, growth, and renewal. This leads to “I don’t do anything besides being great at my job” syndrome, which is a recipe for long-term unemployment as soon as the next great economic upheaval leaves your particular industry obsolete.

How Others Fall into the Profit Seeking Void

Some manage to avoid the Pit, by earning so much that they manage to handle all of the bills and still have plenty left over. But they end up lodged into a company with others to answer to who are not so lucky. A public company with shareholders, or an occupation with a boss who runs the show. Void-dwellers may even be CEOs themselves, but unfortunate ones who have come to equate “Profit” with “The Only Point of Corporate Existence*.”

People in the Void usually end up worn, stressed, physically unfit and unfulfilled. Despite leading such “successful” lives, they wonder why life does not feel like a complete success. So they keep seeking more profit in hopes of filling the void.

Neither option sounds great. But either chasm presents ample opportunities for recovery. The key is to figure out if you’ve fallen into one of them, or if you are just starting out, to get your shit together before you make it big. 

Step 1: Figure out if you’ve made it big already.

I love talking to the rising stars of Silicon Valley. With the current economic boom, they are all riding high on a raging river of business exuberance, shooting each other with Optimism Guns. “I’ve jumped over to a new startup. Salary’s a little better and the vibe is great. But the real story is we have a good chance of being bought. Then I’ll be ready to start getting ahead!”

News Flash: If you’re under 40 and making over $75,000, you’ve already made it big. Use this opportunity to start using the cash surplus to build your independence now, rather than spending everything like your coworkers do and hoping for an even bigger payout later. 10 years of slightly-less-ridiculous-than-average living will buy you financial independence for life. Meanwhile, your friends will still be waiting for their first big buyout 10 years from now, waiting to make it big while you have secretly been making it big all along.

Step 2: Pit-Dwellers need to learn The Power of No

The problem with the modern high-income lifestyle is the dizzying surplus of options you have available to you. You can have a luxury sedan or an SUV, a big house with a commute or a bigger house with a longer commute, a beach house or a ski house, private schools or private lessons, fine scotch or happy hour microbrews, and on and on forever. Most people just gleefully start checking off the boxes when presented with this menu. Doubled your salary? Great! Now you can check twice as many boxes!

The only problem is that you had already maximized your happiness from a material standpoint long before you even got the menu.

If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life. Everything you buy, and every experience and commitment you add to the plate beyond this point is a tradeoff: a guaranteed reduction in cash and free time, in exchange for a possible increase in thrills delivered by fun or novelty.

As your life approaches full booking, the tradeoff tilts so that the costs become higher. A busy family might be down to one day per week of free time, and adding a pleasant weekly trip to the ski resort might cut this to zero. Suddenly the activities you forgot to schedule like walking in the park or sleeping in no longer happen, and life becomes an unstoppable treadmill. Add in monetary stress and you’re really screwed.

The Power of No means saying “No” to even fun-sounding activities, when you realize your life is already full enough of good things.

In recent years, I’ve had the incredible good fortune of being invited on free trips to China, Switzerland, New Zealand, and other neat places. And the chance to go speak at various schools and conferences and even show up in the odd TV show. It was my absolute pleasure to thank each of these generous people, and then say “No thanks!”, because there’s already no shortage of things to do in my existing busy life. Adding even more will just take away from the things I already enjoy, like spending sunny days with my boy and getting a good night’s sleep. Life is not a contest to see who can accomplish the most. It’s simply a series of days where your goal is to wake up, have a great time, and go to bed even happier than when you woke up. You can still make the most of your life, but running on permanent overdrive is generally counterproductive.

Step 3: Rising Above Profit makes you the Richest One of All

It is a cliche for me to bring up old Warren Buffett yet again, but I’m often struck by the incredible contrast between the way he views profits, and the way most smaller CEOs do things. To paraphrase (and exaggerate) his approach, “Why would I give a shit about what the quarterly results are over some trivial time period like the next 20 years? We’re trying to run a BUSINESS here!”

Nobody questions his approach, because he runs the damned show. And he continues to run the show, because he is never subject to the fearful whims and hesitations of those stuck in the mentality of seeking short-term profit.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to become the richest person in the world to learn from this example. You just need to get your financial affairs in order so that your livelihood no longer depends on the demands of irrational people.

Don’t like working for fickle shareholders? Run your own company and retain the voting rights for yourself. Prefer working in a large organization? Go for it, but with the knowledge that you can stick up for your principles with no regard for what it will do to your paycheck. You may find that you get fired, but more likely, you will become the boss, because you freed yourself from the position of being bossed around.

Financial independence of any degree means just as much for people of all occupations. The free musician can delight when people share her music around the world, while the money-dependent one has to stand by and wince while her record company sues teenagers for downloading MP3s. The free lawyer can help people in need or fight for social justice while the money-dependent one might end up cobbling together questionable cases against a blogger, because that’s what the paying client demands.

So if you’re just starting out, heed the comical troubles of your elders and do not repeat them. You can avoid both pitfalls and walk straight through to the public park on other side, where the rest of us are just setting things up on the Picnic Table of Badassity. See you here!

 

 

* Which is of course part of the charter of public companies: to maximize value to shareholders. This usually leads to short-term thinking and other counterproductive Void-style diseases. I’ve seen one cool proposal to avoid this, which involves changing the charter to say something more like “maximize the value of the company over the next 30 years.” Then shareholders lose their leverage to push for meaningless goals like a short-term bump in the share price.

 

 

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213 Responses to “Why you should Get your Shit Together Before you Make it Big”

  1. dude March 19, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    Another good reminder to avoid that treadmill. It never gets old, so thanks.

    • Free Money Minute March 19, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      I love the way you look at life. That treadmill that you run during the rat race of life sucks the very life out of you. The freedom of simply taking a walk without the stress of where the next payment or profits are going to come from is where the true riches are found.

      Do whatever you can to put just an extra dollar away toward FI! Is the cable subscription really worth it? Do you really want another car payment? Are hand me down clothes really that bad?

      • Mother Frugal March 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

        This reminds me of a quote I love:

        “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” ~ Lily Tomlin

        • lurker March 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

          Especially if you win Quick. Name 5 CEOs you really admire (Buffett not included)…..see what I mean?

          • oddohomes March 22, 2014 at 5:46 am #

            I quite sure there are many CEOs that are worthy of admiration and emulation. The catch is that those who fall into that category are unlikely to be household names. Additionally, I’d wager a bet that most CEOs wouldn’t call their journey to that position “Quick”.

        • MoneyAhoy March 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

          I love that quote, it’s great :-)

    • Nailuj March 19, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      MMM:

      Mr. Money Messiah:

      Preaching to the people. I read this and loved it all. Amen, Alleluia, Almighty.

      The Pit Dwellers and the Void Dwellers. I felt a little bit of Mad Max beyond the Money dome. This type of apocalyptic literature is right up my alley.

      Mustachians encounter the Pit Dwellers and the Void Dwellers. In the search for “the courage to be” who will be …???

      Stayed tuned.

      Nailuj

    • patricio March 24, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      “dizzying surplus of options you have available to you”

      AMEN, and pass the potatoes. We’re floating in a sea of shit we don’t need powered by people that didn’t need to make it.

      7 billion peeps, Peeps. What we need is less.

  2. Ric March 19, 2014 at 6:14 am #

    “It was my absolute pleasure to thank each of these generous people, and then say “No thanks!”, because there’s already no shortage of things to do in my existing busy life.”
    I agree, that is a great move – nothing is more valuable than your own time!
    Cheers, Ric

    • bren March 19, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

      I don’t know if I would agree. In general, the best hobby is one that pays well… Or a job you enjoy so much you’d do it for free, either way. While I say I’m one of the lucky ones that found my hobby, if I could instead travel the world on someone else’s dollar, you bet I’d go.

      Its not that I disagree with the premise, it’s that an important part of life is understanding what’s outside your neighborhood. Taking public transit across a country, visiting an otherwise American-demonized country, or listening to the points of view of those who live through real poverty can to wonders for understanding life and the world… No resorts or ships, please.

      • Adrian M March 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

        Bren, MMM has already done a hefty amount of traveling and I’m sure he understands the importance of leaving your own little “Sphere of Influence”. If he lived in Ontario all his life, then I would agree with your comment. I’m 24, so of course, I would take almost all the trips, but MMM is old :) and wise. He has seen much more and done much more than I. I hope to eventually do things “Harry-Potter-sees-only-himself-in-the-mirror style.

    • Chris March 20, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      I have a hard enough time saying “No thanks!” to the trips and social activities that cost me thousands. I’m preparing for a big trip and was even commenting to my travel companions last night how I am concerned this trip will be a real change in lifestyle for the two weeks abroad (eating bad food, drinking lots, lack of sleep, spending wildly, etc.) and that I’m a bit uncomfortable with that. There’s a lot to be said about a relaxed, simple routine that brings you joy. My 8 to 9 hours of nightly sleep is almost offensive to them, but I think it brings me tranquility and happiness. This blog has me questioning things…. again!

  3. The Guide March 19, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    This was an outstanding post. I was foolish and ran that treadmill for years. A couple years ago it finally hit me and I’m on the path to recovery.

    This time next year (if not sooner) I’ll be debt free.

    The best part is that I can now teach my kids the right way to go through life.

    • Ted Hu April 11, 2014 at 2:25 am #

      I think that is an incredibly powerful point – that we take the free time engendered to teach our kids the same. Below is a bit from The Millionaire Next Door that speaks to the vacuous cynical cycle of materialism that vamps up wealth and accelerates gluttony vs ROI.

      “VICTOR AND HIS CHILDREN

      Take the case of Victor, a successful entrepreneur who is first-generation American. Entrepreneurs like him have typically been characterized by their thrift, low status, discipline, low consumption, risk, and very hard work. But after these genetic wonders become financial successes, then what? What do they teach their children? Do they encourage them to follow Dad’s lead? Do their children also become roofing contractors, excavation contractors, scrap metal dealers, and so on? The chances are they don’t. Fewer than one in five do.

      No, Victor wants his children to have a better life. He encourages them to spend many years in college. Victor wants his children to become physicians, lawyers, accountants, executives, and so on. But in so encouraging them, Victor essentially discourages his children from becoming entrepreneurs. He unknowingly encourages them to postpone their entry into the labor market. And, of course, he encourages them to reject his lifestyle of thrift and a self-imposed environment of scarcity.

      Victor wants his children to have a better life. But what exactly does Victor mean when he says that? He means that his children should be well educated and have a much higher occupational status than he did. Also, “better” means better artifacts: fine homes, new luxury automobiles, quality clothing, club membership. But Victor has neglected to include in this definition of better many of the elements that were the foundation stones of his success. He does not realize that being well educated has certain economic drawbacks.

      Victor’s well-educated adult children have learned that a high level of consumption is expected of people who spend many years in college and professional schools. Today his children are under accumulators of wealth. They are the opposite of their father, the blue-collar, successful business owner. His children have become Americanized. They are part of the high-consuming, employment-postponing generation.

      How many generations does it take for an ancestry group that today contains thousands of Victors to become Americanized? Only a few. Most move into the “American normal” range within one or two generations. This is why America needs a constant flow of immigrants with the courage and tenacity of Victor. These immigrants and their immediate offspring are constantly needed to replace the Victors of America.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

  4. Gnaph March 19, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    “The slightest nudge to the unstable house of cards – unemployment, divorce, illness, or even a stock or housing market crash, can leave them broke and desperate.”

    Are these really examples of “slight nudges” in life? If so, I’m not looking forward to the big nudges.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

      Yeah, I try to encourage people to think of our wussy little first-world problems as the pittances thy are. And thus, you should be able to handle any of them very easily. If you’re not in a position to do so yet, it’s an emergency because you are balancing atop a tippy card house.

      In practice, the idea is to suggest to young people that you might delay your first car, kid, dog, etc., until you have at least a year’s living expenses in diversified investments and a comfortable 50%+ savings rate. Get strong before extending yourself out like this.

      As for REAL problems? I was thinking losing all your arms and legs, having your country subject to invasion and war, living through a famine, etc. In the rich world it makes sense that you can safely assume these are pretty unlikely, so it would be inefficient to spend much time preparing for them.

      • rosaz March 20, 2014 at 7:22 am #

        I took it as ‘slight nudge’ from a financial perspective. The emotional perspective is different – some studies have shown people emotionally bounce back quicker from becoming paralyzed than they do from divorce.

      • Bex March 20, 2014 at 11:29 am #

        It’s all about perspective and priority for sure! When I first read the statement I was thinking those seem stronger than nudges, but yes when put into perspective vs. all the terrible catastrophes that could happen in life – just a nudge!
        I am working on being prepared for emergencies and nudges like this! I have survived divorce and I’m going to make it though this damn housing crash someday. I like the straight-forward advice here – a year’s expenses saved up and a good savings rate before tackling new responsibilities.

      • Trish March 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

        all this makes so much sense – I certainly frittered away money in my 20s, and I was not even making a ton, but i was in graduate school, on my way to a PhD, and a high paying job. Problem was I hated it! I found Amy Dacyczyn’s “The Tightwad Gazette”, and had a real change of heart. I really sincerely enjoy being frugal. My husband is not quite as in love with it as me, but it allows us to be generous to people who are important to us, to give a young person a start in the world with a loan for a business (that is doing fabulous), and pay board on a horse that I am lending to a young girl who otherwise would not otherwise have a horse to ride. This feels better than driving any expensive car.

  5. Sarah Gleeson March 19, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    Good morning! I was just thinking the same thing as my husband and I were contemplating selling our small house (<1000 sqft) and buying a bigger one to have a guest room and a bigger garage. Thank god our shit is together and we decided against it. It's just the two of us, we love our neighborhood and neighbors, and our money situation is just fine the way it is. I'm a pilot (not the highly paid kind) and he's a plumber. I see all the time in my industry pilots chasing the dollar over the lifestyle. Commuting to horrible places like Newark and having to pay $200/mon for a crash pad with a dirty mattress just so they can fly a bigger airplane and a bigger paycheck. (While I drive 10min to the Colorado Springs airport for a modest paycheck, but no crash pad or adding a day on either end of my trips. Will I end up at one of the majors eventually? Probably, but you never know. I'm not going to sell my soul for it.

    • Jordan Read March 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Hey! Another person from the Springs…yay! I couldn’t imagine the overhead of a huge commute like that. I have to drive up to Denver 2x a month, and that drives me crazy. Way to capture the concept of “enough”!

  6. Bjornar March 19, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    For me financial independence is the ability to say hell no to the corporate world and do whatever I want with my life. For example photography and music production.

    I live in Norway and there is a lot of riches going around here, and its a pretty nice country to live in if you don’t care about the weather. I see that for some status is also important.

    I am not near FI yet (32y/male three kids) but I am working towards freeing myself and its a nice feeling. Keep up the good work on this site. We should have thousands more of these sites to open the eyes of people! Wouldn’t that be great?

    • TJ March 19, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

      The ironic thing about this is, the more people “like us” exist, the more difficult FI becomes. Market gains are driven by capitalism / consumerism. If everyone thought like us, the market would crash, and we’d all be left with lower returns. It’s the very lifestyle we disdain that enables us to reach FI as early as we do.

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

        I think you can separate capitalism from consumerism and still have a rich world once we all become Mustachians.

        And you don’t need market gains to make money, you just need capital to remain in a certain amount of demand (i.e., does anyone get a mortgage, rent a house or building, or borrow money to build a new business?)

        http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/09/what-if-everyone-became-frugal/

        http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/07/16/a-badass-utopia/

        • shank March 21, 2014 at 7:10 am #

          I think TJ has a point here MMM. Look at Lending club for example. More than half of the lenders have huge debt that they want to consolidate and both you and I are building our retirement’s saving at their expense. If they all become FI then we have something to lose.

          • Mr. Money Mustache March 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

            That’s a loss of income I will gladly celebrate!

            There’s another company called Mosaic that does peer-to-peer funding for solar installations. Lower, but still solid returns, and a very good result on society. This is an investment opportunity that will be around long after the whole world becomes Mustachians, since we have lots of work to do before we are totally off fossil fuel electricity.

  7. Kathleen March 19, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    When I first found frugality and got out of debt, my goal was to not spend money on things I didn’t care about so that I could spend money on things I do care about. Now my goal is minimal spending and to be FI so that I can choose whatever path I want in each season of life. I’m in a position where I may lose my job in the Fall, but there is no worry of what might happen to me because I have no debt outside of the 30k left on a duplex I own and live in (collecting rental income for the other unit that more than pays the mortgage and insurance), plenty of savings, and I don’t live paycheck to paycheck. It gives me options. And I’m an options girl!! To me that is what FI is all about….Options! Because you never know what opportunities or issues may pop up in life that require time……time you don’t have when locked in working 60-70 hours a week to pay for the boat, summer house, winter retreat, expensive car, etc., etc.

    • Jonathan March 19, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      Kathleen! Good for you!

    • Kraig March 19, 2014 at 8:21 am #

      Amen to options, Kathleen! That’s my #1 priority as well and why I put away 5x my annal expenses before I turned 30.

    • Miss Growing Green March 19, 2014 at 9:05 am #

      Exactly! I’ve already quit my 9-5 so I can run the house, manage our investments, and work from home part time, but Mr. GG continues to work at his job, and loves it. He doesn’t think he’ll ever want to retire, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying to reach total FI.

      We’ve already run into scenarios where he has been offered multiple positions, and sometimes the location or appeal of one is nice, but the salary is lacking. Becoming financially independent can actually help you love your job more, if you’re able to choose your work based on things other than the salary it pays.

  8. Matt March 19, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    Sorry, my comment doesn’t have much to do with the post (even though it’s of course an excellent one), but more geared toward you and the community you’ve created. I finally finished all the posts from beginning to end, and must say, you’re doing a great service to those who read/heed your advice. I love the fact you’re preaching and teaching that material possessions don’t need to held in order to have a peaceful and awesome life, and that trying new, simpler things can have a great impact on your happiness. Your posts have given me the wherewithal/courage to try many new things (biking, small carpentry/in home projects, etc.), and to that I say many thanks! I’m pumped to be on the Badassity journey with you and all the fine commenters who I feel like I know through their posts. Keep up the great work!

  9. Cam March 19, 2014 at 6:47 am #

    Lurking around this site for a few weeks now, love it. I’m a student at the moment, and torn between two ‘chasms’ of my own. I’ve always wanted the stereotypical success: big house(s), expensive car(s), etc. Now, I’m realizing I still want success, but more along the lines of “I’m proud of my own life” rather than “Hey look at me, aren’t you jealous of my life.”
    I’ve always been good with my money, but have a tough time with peer pressure when it comes to spending (especialy lending money to friends). So although I’m proud of most of my habits, I wouldn’t say I’m quite badass yet. Working on it though!
    Will definitely be stopping by here a couple times per week to check on new articles and keep wading through all the older posts.
    Thanks for all the advice MMM and fellow readers!

    • Spectra March 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      Great work so far and even better work on identifying the problems that you face in Peer pressure. I think now is the essential time, as a student, for you to hone these skills; well before the high paying job comes your way.

      School is the best time to do this since most around you are living poor. It took me a while to overcome the peer pressure as much as I have but the best thing I did was start choosing my friends more carefully. My wife and I didn’t choose friends exactly like us but we avoided those who didn’t respect our goals and I really avoid those who don’t except the words no thanks easily.

      We worked so hard to decouple income with outgo as students and then when I was in the last year of grad-school my mother asked me seriously, “If I gave all my kids a $1000 for Christmas, what would you do with it?”. I said I would immediately invest all of it. She was somewhat surprised but already knew how I ran things. That was the day I knew I decoupled the income and outgo. Now i’m in my first job out of college and being paid tons of money but because I found MMM I have actually decreased spending further since graduating.

      Work hard but layout the list of priorities so that you can always see how successful and how BadAss you become

      • Michael Crosby March 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

        That’s inspiring.

        Wish I could say who wrote this to give credit. It went something like this: living frugally is the ultimate life hack.

    • nm_dude March 20, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

      Cam, help from a 62-year old regarding lending: Don’t. Why? You expect to be repaid, and if they aren’t repaying, you now are carrying a negative emotion that communicates “they screwed me after I was nice to them.”

      Instead, if your friends have a true need–starving, no clothes, whatever survival need you can meet, then feel free to give to them WITHOUT expecting repayment. Keep yourself emotionally free and provide not a penny for non-essential panhandling by your “friends”.

      They need to learn a lesson you already gained. Why should you deprive them of that lesson? I speak only a little facetiously, because that’s exactly what it boils down to, when you cut away the “friend” dynamic. And, you can be polite about it without explaining your course of action. I’ll bet your folks have told you the same thing. If they have, it’s because they’re right.

      Continued success and growth in your life!

  10. Rebecca March 19, 2014 at 6:54 am #

    Amen!

    While we live a frugal lifestyle to dig out of debt, I’m amazed by how much money people spend on keeping up their lifestyle, when they can accomplish the same goal for half the price, or better achieve the goal by compromising on the lifestyle image of the product.

    Somewhere along the line, the goal was muddled up: You can still have an awesome vacation with your friends when you rent a ski house; you don’t need to own it. Or the one I hear a lot: Buying an SUV for the extra space, when a *gasp* minivan will give you twice as much space for the same price. LOL. So silly.

  11. Heather March 19, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I find that life is better when I slow down and enjoy my family. A lot of parents have their kids in so many after school programs…..sports, clubs, and etc. We choose to spend our evenings together instead. It saves us a lot of money, but it also reminds me that I will only have my children with me for a short time before they are on their own. That time is priceless.

    • Spectra March 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

      Additionally I have found that my work and creative problem solving increases dramatically the more peaceful time I spend at home building things and teaching my kids things

  12. Mike March 19, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Love the pic up top

  13. Dr. Doom March 19, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    I’m continually surprised at how families making 80K vs. 300K end up having close to the same chance to achieve financial independence.. Earning 4x the money should give you (at least!) a 4x better chance of hitting this goal, right? Wrong. As you mentioned, lifestyle inflation eats everything up. I see it with most of my coworkers (peers). This makes you dependent on the paycheck, which in turn makes you subject to the whims of others; you’re not free. The only thing you’re free to do at this point is choose what to spend your money on. But consumer freedom is not true freedom.

    BTW, I think your point that if you make 75K already, you’ve already made it big is especially powerful because it means that FI is achievable for a heck of a lot of households — meaning that this is no pipe dream. Awesome!

    • Chris March 19, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      I ran into former friend last summer and he was going on an on about a motor home he just bought. That same summer we had just “invested” some cash into a brand new tent and some cots. As he was rambling on (apparently his wife makes over a 6 figure income) I could not help adding up the expense of owning one of these things. Of course his justification was “Once I got the motor home I could never imagine camping without one!” So when I got back home, I asked my son if he would rather camp in a motor home or RV and he looked at me strangely and said “What is the point of camping then mom?” He is 9, he gets it! It just seems to me that when you start making more money you start buying ridiculous items. Maybe I am wrong? Another friend of mine was talking about a co-worker who was purchasing an 80k vehicle and we both laughed at how bizzarre a purchase like that is. For that money I could pay off my mortgage!

      • Holly March 19, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

        Sadly, that is pretty much the norm in my neck of the woods. I live in a fairly high-income area, and it seems like everyone around me has expensive material possessions, new cars, and designer clothes. But then you get to know them, and they’re living paycheck to paycheck. A high earner I know was just waiting for her tax return to pay her mortgage!

      • Marcia March 20, 2014 at 9:16 am #

        Awesome point! We go camping with our neighbors once a year. They have a camping van (probably was around $100k).

        One year we were hit by so much wind our tent blew down. So my husband and son slept in their van. Our friends (2 parents, 3 kids 4 and under) all slept “up top” and my husband and son slept on the bottom bed. I slept in the back of the Matrix (it’s good to be short!) snuggled up against the cooler.

        At that point, I got obsessed with teardrop campers. I even found a place locally that makes them for about $6k, sleeps 3. Then we had a second kid. I just couldn’t justify the expense after that. For anything large enough to sleep 4, it has to be bigger. If it’s bigger, our largest car (the aforementioned Matrix) won’t tow it. So as much as I drool over these adorable things – what did I just put on my mother’s day wish list? A couple of $25 camping cots. (Because those darned air mattresses keep springing leaks! I think the cots will last longer). Last year we also upgraded from the 7×7 tent to a 9×10.

        It’s fascinating to me that even someone who is well practiced at trying to avoid consumerism can be sucked in. It’s a muscle. It’s constant work to keep it strong!

        • Klina March 21, 2014 at 7:32 am #

          My husband and I had the exact same obsession over teardrop campers about 7 years ago…and we bought one. I thought I would tell you that, even with just our small family of 3 (and we are small people) it was quite uncomfortable! It was impossible to do anything at night (like read), we were all mashed together (keep in mind that we slept together normally, all 3 of us), and our 1-year-old daughter figured out right away how to mess with the door and open it in the middle of the night.

          We regretted it quite soon after we bought it. Luckily, it retained its value, and we were able to both buy it and sell it for around $6,000. The only money we lost was the hitch we installed on our car.

          I like what you said about the frugality muscles needing constant work, it’s so true!

    • Stacey March 22, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      It’s not just lifestyle creep. Uncle Sam has a HUGE impact on disposable income as you creep or climb the INCOME ladder. Look up PEASE phaseouts on google and you’ll see what I mean.

  14. David C. March 19, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    “So if you’re just starting out, heed the comical troubles of your elders and do not repeat them.”

    I preach this to my son constantly. I tell him to learn from some of the boneheaded things that I did in my financial youth. He has a higher level of materialism, than I have ever had. His mother is the same way, which is why we parted ways some time ago. I had told them for years that I am a simple man who likes simple pleasures. She never got it, but my son is starting to.And for that I am grateful.

    We have a few “wealthier” relatives who have fallen into both traps mentioned above. At first, their lives seem glamorous and full of happiness. I have helped my son to look deeper at their situations and to realize that their lives are not that great, once you subract the material goods. Multiple divorces, estrangement from children, living for today and not saving for the future are visible once you peel away the veneer of affluence. I have much less, but it appears that I live a happier existence.

    Another excellent MMM post. I wish your blog had been around twenty years ago. And I had been smart enough to read it. LOL

    • Spectra March 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

      A simple man with simple pleasures.

      Preach on. This I think is what separates a large contingent of those that are happy and those who aren’t. I have a coworker that was shocked my wife and I built a new bed. I told her anyone could do it, you just have to jump in and start building things. She wasn’t worried she couldn’t do it she just wondered why I cared to built things. She said you can just buy a bed you know.

      I spent probably 50 hours building it and $400 in materials. SO by MMM $35/hr I have a new bed for the cost of $2100. But that is foolish thinking. I have a new bed, additional skills, close time with my wife, time teaching my four year-old to use tools, and a smile every that is worth far more than $2K.

      • 9 O'Clock Shadow March 19, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

        Spectra you soundin’ like a serious Badass! I’m going to fix the saggy couch this weekend and save $1500 on new furniture. I expect to spend about $50 in materials, but the skill set and pride when I park my butt on it and don’t sink to 2 inches off the floor will be worth far more. And since we budgeted the $1500 as an expense, I’ll take the remaning cash and stuff it in the gaping (relative to our finances – it is the only debt we have) mortgage hole.

        • Spectra March 24, 2014 at 9:48 am #

          Thanks 9 O’Clock Shadow,

          This lifted my morning because I feel very badass this morning. On Saturday my wife and I went to get some discount granite and ended up with a free finished piece of granite perfect for a bathroom. I was totally intimidated before hand about granite but the owner of the business gave me a pep talk and I went at it. $30 angle grinder and $10 diamond bit, add in some silcone and 4 hours later I had a new counter in the bathroom. I’m telling you right now I would have paid good money for that learning experience but it cost me under $50.

          May we all strive to be Mustachians!!

  15. sammysalsausa March 19, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Last night I read “The Lorax” to my son, and now your post, which both have very similar points. I was actually kinda shocked at the similarities! I think it’s a sign for me to refocus….

  16. Mr. Frugal Toque March 19, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    Glad to see you’re done playing with your food and back to lecturing me on how to live my life. Boo-yah!
    You and I both went through period of sports-car-having and sport-motorcycle-riding, so I can’t judge the 20 year olds too harshly for going through a similar phase. The best we can do is to counsel them to at least be intelligent about it: you can buy a used, good condition sports car when you have the cash; you may *not* get an 8 year lease on a $75k car. Feel free to go out to bars and attempt your wooing, but for fuck’s sake, get drunk *first*, then go to the bar.

    • Noble Anarchist March 19, 2014 at 7:58 am #

      Totally agree, Mr. Frugal Toque. It seems the natural, without-proper-guidance tendency is to go through the sports-car-buying stage at some point early on. I sure wish this community existed 15 years ago – I would be much further ahead than I am now!

      • insourcelife March 19, 2014 at 10:33 am #

        Or the mistake of taking out a 5-6 year loan on that brand new car with your first real job’s paycheck. I did it, my wife did it, most of my friends did it too. I’m not sure I could’ve resisted the temptation in my early 20s even after having access to a site like this, but it would not hurt. Luckily, we were able to catch ourselves after making a couple of similar mistakes giving us a chance to reassess and get off the escalator. Most people just stay on it.

        • Aubrey March 20, 2014 at 9:18 am #

          I got bullied into this one at the tender age of 19 by my now-in-laws, who I might add have definitely parked their shiny new RV in the Pit of Materialism and Monetary Dependence.

          Fortunately, the excellent training provided to me by my parents kicked in, and I got rid of that debt very quickly.

          Moral of the story is – even if it doesn’t seem like they’re listening, keep trying to drill these messages home to your kids! Some of it will get through, and they will thank you for it eventually, even if they have to learn some of the lessons for themselves first.

      • Spectra March 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

        The funny thing is I made few mistakes money wise through my 20 and now I am set up perfectly to retire early and yet I still wish I had this blog 15 years ago and I already have the feeling that if I can get my sons to learn these lessons here but at 15 so he can be FI at 25

    • Rick March 19, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      I did a bit of this in my 20s but it was never brand new and never long terms loans. Still, I spent more on cars than I would even spend now. My desire for a used Porsche was quickly defeated after I read lots of MMM. I was already pretty frugal from paying off debt but there was always a nagging desire for a sports car or something. Now I’d rather stash the cash and watch it grow.

      To those in your 20s: Take the advice in this article, you’re going to be killing it later if you watch those dollars and don’t go nuts. You can still have fun, but like Frugal Toque says, buy used with cash.

    • Heather March 19, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      I just died laughing at this one.

      “Feel free to go out to bars and attempt your wooing, but for fuck’s sake, get drunk *first*, then go to the bar”

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

      I often wonder that too – would I have bought the GT and the VFR if I knew more about money back then?

      Probably yes.. but maybe the car would have been something sporty AND practical like a 5-spd Accord wagon with some upgraded tires, and the motorbike would have been a nearly-new used one for half the price.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque March 20, 2014 at 5:38 am #

        Yes, and if we’d been as wise back then, we’d have bought townhouses next to work and rented out the other rooms to students.
        Then, when you went to Colorado, I’d have bought yours out, made the realization that I barely had to work at all and retired 8 years ago.
        Hopefully, we’re teaching the 21 year olds with hi tech salaries to be smarter than we were.

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2014 at 8:25 am #

          Oh yeah! I remember seeing a huge brand-new 4-bedroom house (with a giant unfinished basement) next to work in that “Morgan’s Grant” subdivision in Kanata.

          It was 1995, and the house was $205,000. I did the math and determined that it would pay for itself by renting out rooms, so I could live for free. I was a student, though, and I had no idea how I’d get $205k together.

          It sat on the market all summer. That same place is probably well over $500k now, and would sell before the agent got the sign hammered all the way into the ground due to the ridiculous property boom in that area.

      • Dave March 20, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

        Well if you had to make bad financial choices at least you had good taste!

  17. BNL March 19, 2014 at 7:53 am #

    I’ve been at the top of the cliff, I’ve been down in the pit, and I’ve climbed back out.

    I can say from experience that the pit sucks. Despite never facing financial hardships in the pit, it’s still no fun to be there knowing you’re not actually getting anywhere. Despite generally being free to make my own hours and do most things my own way, it’s still no fun to occasionally be reminded that you’re still tied by chains. In my case, the chain leash just happened to be long enough to feel free most of the time, but it was always there while I remained in the pit.

  18. Rick March 19, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    This sums it up “News Flash: If you’re under 40 and making over $75,000, you’ve already made it big.”

    Those words are so true and pointed. If you look at the stats for what percent you are in when it comes to income, as an individual, over 75k is pretty damn nice. Look at the stats of something like 95k a year and you get closet to something like the top 10% of single income earners. That’s an old stat from memory here in Canada (and probably wrong now) but the message of “you’re probably already doing awesome” is what I’m agreeing.

  19. Jonathan March 19, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    MMM

    Your message is inspiring and, as others have said, it never gets old.

    I have always tried to avoid the trap of consumerism. Not that I don’t live a nice life– but I see that the world seems to be trying to take my money from me at every turn. Do I really need 350 channels? A nanny? Takeout every night? The country club? Beach house? A smartphone bill that resembles a car payment? And a car that cost 5 times what is necessary to get me from point A to point B?

    Those things are not what are important to me. Time spent with family and friends is free. Watching your child take his first steps is free. Conversing with your Dad or Grandfather about his life lessons is free. Walking the beach and watching the sunset is free.

    At some point it dawned on me that GIVING ALL MY MONEY AWAY to the “lenders and vendors” HELPED THEM…..not me.

    At some point I realized that people were looking to VALIDATE their own silly expenditures by encouraging me to “keep up”—

    At some point I realized that those who looked wealthy on the surface were usually DEEP IN DEBT AND UNHAPPY as they lived paycheck to paycheck and tried desperately to keep up appearances

    So I got religion. I started saving. Got off the treadmill.

    As I paid off my debt– I saved more.
    As I paid off my debt–My cashflow improved and I saved more
    As I paid off my debt- my net worth increased
    As I paid off my debt– my confidence soared

    And I started to feel empowered.
    And I started to feel like I was back in control.
    And the fear and stress associated with the monthly bills dissipated

    When I was debt free- I felt liberated
    When I was finally debt free– My net worth climbed
    When I was debt free- I had options
    When I was debt free- the chains came off

    And now,

    I stand before you as a man that continues to work because I want to. Unafraid that my boss will turn the tables.

    I stand before you as a man that feels liberated and justified in the decisions that led me to this point,

    I stand before you as a champion who broke free of the negativity by others trying desperately to keep you chained and imprisoned with them

    And MMM is my inspiration. Still.

    • Spectra March 19, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      Rock on, Man of BadAssity.

      My favorite thought while reading your post,

      Net worth does not equal self-worth

      Confuse the two and down the pit you go

    • Doc March 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      This comment is as good as the article. So true.

    • Mike March 19, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

      Jonathan,

      I really appreciate your comment. It pretty much sums me up. I started asking myself this question many years ago, “Who am I competing with anyway!?” These people are mortgaged to the hilt.

      I turn 50 next month. I’ve been debt free for three years. I go to work because I WANT to. I drive a 20 year old Honda Civic because I WANT to. I build my own furniture because I WANT to.

      I am working on my character and my relationships. Those are the things that last. Once I felt it, the freedom, the giddy feeling of driving up to MY modest home, I knew I’d never go back. I’ll never be a slave to the system again. I’d rather live in a Tuff Shed that have another mortgage.

      I too have broken free.

      • Jeff March 20, 2014 at 7:48 am #

        Hey Mike,
        We are pretty similar. I’m 46, paid off my not quite 5 year old house (that I built with my two hands) on Thanksgiving day 2013 so my family and I are completely debt free. I too drive a 1994 Honda Civic and laugh at the folks conning themselves into thinking they “need” that gas guzzling SUV to make the same trip to work that I do…and yes, we got a record amount of snow here in West Michigan this year. The snow tires on the Civic took me to and from work everyday no problem. No thanks, I’ll keep stashing while the buffoons keep making their minimum payments :-)

        • Trish March 23, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

          ugh wish I could convince my husband to think this way!! we have a 2007 Subaru that just needed extensive repairs – every time this happens- any repair- my husband says ‘let’s just get a new one’. I have so far managed to prevent this. He felt that we were spending as much to fix the old one as a new one would cost. I told him that we will first have to add up all the repair costs and compare this with the cost of a new one. Fingers crossed that I can at least get this car to 200,000 miles. other than that we are debt free – we have an old farmhouse, and we definitely are not handy, but have been able to afford to pay a great contractor to do lots of repairs for us. I know that is not very mustachian, but as I said, we have no debt, and have enough saved for retirement.

          • Ted Hu April 11, 2014 at 2:40 am #

            Having owned a Nissan and Mazda that all required serious repairs year 6 and 7, we decided to go the Korean route. Negotiated a low ball price for two SUVs that cost less than the price of one luxury one and got extended 10 year 100,000 mile warranties cheap for both in anticipation of year 7 event. We plan to drive those 200,000 miles without hopefully shelling out big repair bills having those out of the way the first 100k.

  20. Lucas March 19, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Now THIS is a throwback to the Old MMM!
    Everyone always says it, but I really mean it: Damn Good Article. Just what I needed to read.

  21. Mr. Cash March 19, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    I don’t feel like I’m falling in the the profit seeking void, but sometimes I do feel over-scheduled and overworked in my push for financial independence. I guess I’m still caught up in the initial exuberance of a new Mustachian. I’m still working on finding the balance between this excitement and being satisfied with where I am currently.

  22. Bilgefisher March 19, 2014 at 8:15 am #

    Important article with a focus on whats important. My wife and I fall into the high income category and have seen the bloat when we are not careful. Keeping our eye on the ball on why we want to be financial independent is really pertinent to our goals. Thank you for the reminder.

    Jason

  23. Kraig March 19, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    And MMM has put together another masterpiece.

    I wasn’t familiar with that quote by Warren, but gosh, it’s a wise one. It inspires me when people can go about their careers and their businesses without regard to putting up with someone’s crap. That’s financial independence to me.

    And that kind of independence, the kind where you can simply do what matters to you, can be had quite easily in life. But like you said MMM, we need to wake up when we’re 27 and making 75k/year.. and frickin’ save a pile of it. Duh…

  24. William Lipovsky March 19, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    Audi Q7.. Obviously MMM you do not want one of these. But I know back in the day you were a Probe GT driving gearhead. When you reference new models of cars, it makes me wonder if you still “window shop” online to see what’s out there.

    I love cars and I frequently “window shop” by reading reviews, etc. but I have enough self-control to never desire anything newer than my ’99 manual tranny’d hatchback.

    I think once you “get your shit together before you make it big” the desire for newer models completely goes away. It seems okay to look for no reason other than to look and occasionally laugh/sigh at the painfully slow evolution of cars from gas to electric.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

      Yup, I’m still a gearhead and all specs for all the new car models seem to stick in my brain even though I don’t want them there.

      The only thing that saves me from the serious justification spiral of temptation to buy a Tesla (or at least a Leaf) is the fact that driving itself is unnecessary in a well-designed life.

      But if you’re a financially independent traveling salesman/engineer who loves his work and drives 200 miles per day by unavoidable necessity, you have my permission to go for a Model S.

      • Eric April 6, 2014 at 1:39 am #

        Just wait until the Model S goes self-driving and you can read in the back seat or do something else productive :-)

    • Marvin March 26, 2014 at 6:51 am #

      I agree that the transition to electric cars is slow. But I enjoy riding in my 07 Camry hybrid getting 35 mpg and seeing if I can get it to over 200K soon. So far very little maintainence. Hybrids mainstream may be as good as it gets this decade.

  25. Mr. 1500 March 19, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    “If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life.”

    Yep, pretty much. Amazing thing is that the good people around us and the time we spend with them is one of the best parts of life. Nothing beats camping with a bunch of friends or putting together a puzzle with your child. Memories forever.

    The key is to figure this out sooner than later.

  26. Dave March 19, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    I’m 35 and I was the guy you described. Less than 60 days ago- The morning after I filed my taxes (earned $180K last year), my commuter vehicle for my 60 mile round trip – a crew cab Dodge ram with Hemi engine got a flat tire. It was a Wednesday and I didn’t have the cash to have my tire repaired until my next payday.

    I’m looking at my flat tire outside of my 4,500 square foot house and the reality of how absolutely insane and unnecessary all of it is hits me like a ton of bricks.

    I found MMM- and I have made drastic changes- Truck gone! Lexus gone! and many other things. Everything is in question and everything has the potential to go out the door- including the house the door is attached to!

    Thank you Mr. Money Mustache for this incredible resource!

    • AP March 19, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      Thumbs up Dave! So happy for you from reading this!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

      Wow! I also love to hear stories like that, so thanks Dave.

      I wonder what the people who buy your truck and your house will do when THEY discover this blog?

      Eventually, there will be an incredible surplus of trucks and McMansions. I guess we can grind up the trucks for scrap metal and renovate the houses into luxurious multi-units, while the road workers are out there repainting the roads stripes to be mostly bike lanes.

      Badass Utopia, here we come!

      • Brooke March 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

        In contrast to that, however, I truly do not think that everyone will suddenly wake up and stop consuming so much, or even get to the point that the majority of people have wisened to their consumeristic ways and live with less. I think everything in life, including especially money markets, the economy, etc are cyclical. So that would mean there’s an ever slightly changing ratio of sensible vs irrational consumers in the world, and the balance never shifts significantly. For every 1 Mustachian, there are probably 10 senseless consumers and this will most likely be continued in perpetuity.

        • Stacey March 23, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

          Brooke, I’m thinking the ratio is much worse. I’d wager 1 in 100,000+.

          I prepare tax returns and am privy to lots of folks tales of woe. Folks who have had opportunity and should know better, but have squandered their good fortune to poor choices or have been caught in the downturn of ’08. So how can the dumb shits of the country have a chance? Thus my 1 in 100,000+ estimate.

          PS Even my own husband is about as non-MMM as you can get. Loves his Mercedes…we bought it used, but it was still a chunk of dough (paid off now). But it is a marvelous machine, esp in our brutal weather in Chicagoland/NJ. So Itry to live a MMM life plugging along in my ’06 minivan, cutting coupons, making my $ be our soldiers, etc., and I indulge him with his one weakness…every 6 years. In the meantime I enjoy his vehicle when it is back home. I guess I’m a MMM adulteress at times :)

        • Ted Hu April 11, 2014 at 2:31 am #

          I think with the great recession behind us, there is a perma-change to people’s behaviors. if you look at the economic statistics, people have sane levels of debt. Yes people are buying cars to replace 10+ year old clunkers but fact is people are holding on to cars for record number of years. There is record use of public transport so much so car sales have flattened the last several years. The worldwide popularity of austerity however misguided it is a macroeconomic policy demonstrate how deep the meme has permeated globally. I expect this will last at least a generation of two as it did post great depression

    • dude March 20, 2014 at 7:12 am #

      Wow, Dave, that was a real epiphany! You go MMM with that income, and you got the world by the balls in no time!

    • Vanessa March 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      Good for you, Dave, for seeing the light! Hope you keep up the good work. It won’t be easy at times but the end result will be worth it.

  27. Everything In Moderation March 19, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Thanks for pointing this out again. It is easy for me to forget that I have it good, and I have the control to reach FI at my current salary point.

    “News Flash: If you’re under 40 and making over $75,000, you’ve already made it big.”

    • Mr. Frugal Toque March 19, 2014 at 9:25 am #

      No joke. I knew a guy, not even living in some crazy place like Manhattan, who insisted that “$250k/a isn’t even rich anymore”.
      Yes. Yes, it is.
      What kind of lifestyle inflation are you living where you pull in more that $150k after taxes and think, “This just isn’t enough for me.”

      • Justin March 19, 2014 at 9:35 am #

        I always laugh when I see those “$250,000 isn’t rich anymore” comments. They are usually followed by “and if you ever want to have kids? Forget it!”. Ivy league preschools run $25k+ per year, and how can your toddler ever face the rigors of private school kindergarten if they haven’t already attended the ivy’s in preschool?

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

          I remember that exact conversation to which Mr. Toque refers – it happened with a guy on Facebook.

          I stepped in and started backing up FT’s points, and eventually had to drop the, “I never even earned close to that amount and I retired SEVEN YEARS AGO, you damn fool!” bomb.

          That kind of shut him up, but then he got on about how it couldn’t be done in Canada. So Toque is now finishing up his mission to refute that last whimper as well.

        • MB March 24, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

          I will preface this with the fact my husband and I make around 320k a year and save over 65 percent of our take home pay.

          Now if you haven’t lived in manhattan, you don’t understand.

          If you make 250, you’re bringing home only half of that after federal, state and city taxes. So you’re starting with around 125.

          A decent two bedroom will run you around 5k a month in rent. I don’t mean even a swanky place. Just a place where you would feel right having your children live. Probably around 1000 square feet. This is also not in a super stylish neighborhood either. So there’s 60k out the window for rent. You’ll have a dishwasher for that price but most likely shared laundry in the basement. Probably only one bathroom. Most likely won’t have central heating/air. For a new modern apartment, you’d need to spend well over 5k a month. A lot of the newer buildings are in the 7s. I know this because I had the joy of searching for a two bedroom apartment with my husband.

          Did I mention to rent an apartment (besides a high rise with in house realty and steep rent), you pay 15% of first year’s rent as a brokers fee?!?! So yes, you’re paying 9k for the broker to help you rent the apt you don’t even own! You also are expected to put down first month, last month and a security deposit equal to one month. So 24k to move into a rental. I presume in most parts of the county, that’s your down payment or at least part of it. Not in manhattan.

          You can save money by not having a car. Now if you do want one, parking in a decent area is minimum 500 a month. You can find parking for 200, but you’ll have to take a cab to get there which takes time and money. It will be up in Harlem or in an isolated area near the FDR. Meaning, you won’t want your wife going there alone. Oh don’t get me started on insurance.

          So without a car you’re left with 60k for savings and everything else. What about education? There are some decent public schools but what if your child can’t get in? Public schools in the city face extreme crowding and simply don’t typically offer even a decent education. I went to public school growing up and would most likely choose to privately educate in manhattan. So – with 60k left, tuition is going to run you around 35k a year. Meaning you can only send one child to private school and still eat.

          So are you really wealthy??? Your kid is at a school with a rodent probelm, overcrowding and barely any air conditioning (mostly window units). Are you really rich if you can’t afford to privately educate one child and still save/eat? If your kids are forced to share a bedroom and your entire family shares a bathroom? Are you better off than most of the people in this world – yes! But you’re definitely far from living a glamorous life in manhattan. You’re just getting by!

          Now if it takes two earners to make 250k, you’re definitely screwed with the childcare cost. By the way, daycare is actually more expensive than having a nanny in manhattan. You’re paying for that space. Factor in around 2k a month for a nanny.

          Want to buy? You’re talking minimum down of 20 percent a month and maintenance/taxes that will likely be around 2k a month. Keep in mind the average one bedroom apt runs over a million! You going to share a room with your kids?! A lot of co-ops require 40-50 percent down. If you want a decent two bedroom you’ll need to spend at least 1.5 and it won’t be a fancy place. At all. Really you’d need to spend over 2k to get anything you’d even want to spend that kind of money on. But how will you save for a down payment when you’re spending 5k a month in rent??

          You ask what about the outer boroughs? Sure there are nice neighborhoods but they really aren’t THAT much cheaper and then you can face lengthy commutes. It can also be hard to make that move when all of your friends and coworkers are in the city or suburbs. Not queens. Call me a snob, but unless you’d move to a rundown section of your own city, you’re not going to want to do that in NY.

          When I worked in manhattan at one point, I had to be at work at 6 something in the AM and I’m female. Walking to the subway in an outer borough at 5:45 am just wasn’t an option for me. I needed the population density of manhattan.

          My point is, if you live in manhattan on 250k, you’re a slave to the city. You aren’t rich. Most of your money is going to rent and taxes!!!! Spending over half of your income on rent and taxes does not allow you to build wealth. You have to move to another city and fast.

          The other issue is you’re paying all of this money in rent and now what? Are you going to sit inside your tiny apartment and not enjoy what the city has to offer? If that’s the case, you might as well live in a 5k a month McMansion in Kansas. No, you get invited to dinners and go out for drinks and spend more money.

          If you’re making less than 500k and living in the city with kids, you’re nuts. Now if you scored a rent controlled apartment or live with your parents then you have it made!!! The other option would be if you did live in an outer borough in your 20s and/or saved up like crazy before you met your spouse. And by saved up like crazy, I mean you have 400k in the bank. Possible, just hard to do in NY.

          NY is awesome when you’re 25, bar hopping and don’t mind living in a crappy studio. Not when you only make 250 with a family.

          • Impska March 25, 2014 at 9:07 am #

            I just wanted to say that I live in Kansas. We pay $2000 a month on a 4000 sq ft house with a 10-year mortgage.

            And people in Kansas do leave their houses… mostly just to mow their enormous quarter-acre lots, but still.

            At $5000 a month in KS, you’d have to leave your mansion to go to the country club.

          • Erich March 25, 2014 at 9:08 am #

            If your kids can’t get into public school because it’s full, and you live in a run-down shack, then move. What’s the point of a high salary while squandering it on poor living conditions. You make Manhattan sound terrible, so why do you continue choosing to live there?? Take a 50% paycut if you have to and move somewhere drastically cheaper. Making $250k and RENTING is a guaranteed long-term treadmill. I don’t understand why people make posts like this and complain they can’t do it. then MOVE!

            • Mr. Money Mustache March 25, 2014 at 9:22 am #

              I think MB was making the point that they are doing just fine in Manhattan, but even a $250k income does not guarantee success.

              On the other hand I personally know a guy who lives well in Manhattan on about $30k a year (partly because he owns his condo there).

              I think the key to reasonable decision-making is to avoid extreme claims about any particular area, and just weigh the pros and cons. A Mustachian can outsmart any area and prosper. But he or she will also consider moving for even greater advantage. We’re all free to move and optimize, and the world would be a better place if we did so more often.

      • Self-Employed-Swami March 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

        I know plenty of people who are making $200,000+/year, and can’t make ends meet, partially because they have 2 ex wives, and a handful of kids, and all the child support and alimony to go with that. But most of their hardship is from buying toys and new trucks every other year.

      • DrJohn March 19, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

        Hahaha! That is an illumination of how damned easy it is to get sucked into the Lifestyle Inflation Trap. Ridiculous, but it’s the cultural norm, so you have to FOCUS to even be aware of its ridiculousness!

      • MB March 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

        I would be able to save more money making 60k in Orlando vs 150k in manhattan. Besides the fact I would also be able to live in a decent apartment with newer appliances, have at least one car for my family and park it near my home.

        Now I would never live in a “car city” like Orlando but I digress.

        If you don’t believe the rents in NY, look up manhattan buildings on equity apartments.com or troll citi habitats. You’ll find some steal on citihabitats like a 2.5k a month two bedroom. Trust me, you’d never want to live there. My one bedroom that was 2.8 blew. We lost hot water a few times in how winter, had a mice infestation problem and my appliances were so sold they were made in America. Stove was 1970s at the latest.

  28. Pretired Nick March 19, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    I used to crave publishing a novel when I was younger. I used to say, if I can get this book published, I’ll have enough money to stop working. Now I say, it’s better to get enough money so I can write books instead of working. Total perspective shift.

    • Klina March 20, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

      That’s such an amazing perspective, and so true. I have a friend who is a published writer (by Disney Hyperion, 5 books now) and she still doesn’t really make a living from her writing. And, she has big deadlines and pressure from her agent and publisher in addition to the job she works to support her family. I always thought publishing a successful novel would be a dream come true, but her experience has shown me how much stress it is, and how little money. You have the right idea, make the money first, then sit back, relax, and write the novel(s)!

  29. Jordan Read March 19, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    Holy crap!!! I’ve made it big, and didn’t even realize it. I shall have to update my email signature accordingly :-).
    That being said, my goal is to live a huge and long life of way-less-ridiculous-than-average living and way-higher-than-average awesomeness. I know it’s not a contest, but if it was, I’m pretty sure I would have already won.

    What is it that you said? Kick the ass of 95% of the people out there? Doing it!!

    Thanks again for another great post.

  30. Mark H March 19, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I am totally on board with every idea of this post, but your point was dulled in the second-to-last paragraph comparing musicians and lawyers. As a professional musician myself, I can tell you that the chronic devaluing of music by the push to give away free downloads, union-busting, play at the bar for the door, or play for free at various events just for publicity, is absolutely nothing like the lawyer doing pro-bono work on the side. Look up the average incomes of lawyers and musicians and you’ll see this is not even apples to oranges comparison. Lawyers have tons of opportunity to earn a “never-ending nuclear explosion of cash,” and while a few superstar musicians make it big (and should give back), most musicians will be lucky to earn a few sticks of dynamite in their entire career.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      Sorry Mark! Didn’t mean to insult working musicians in any way, my little brother is one of the hardest working among them and he does not get an easy ride!

      What I meant is that if you WERE financially independent, you would be even more excited about people sharing your stuff around, and you could be freed to create more and rock out however you see fit, without the need to fight for the next paycheck.

      For some of us (me, anyway), taking the money out of creativity greatly increases the creativity potential.

  31. Florence March 19, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    We are in the odd position that our investments bring in more money than we spend. We live well and enjoy every single day and are not deprived of any good thing that we need. Whenever I’m asked how I am, I always answer All my days are wonderful. And it is true.

    • marciaB March 19, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      My answer to that is “…in a constant state of bliss, thanks. And you?”

    • chc4444 March 20, 2014 at 1:43 am #

      Florence: Congratulations !

    • chc4444 March 20, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Florence: You have said this so beautifully that this morning, after contemplating your post overnight, I have copied it to hang inside a kitchen cabinet door along with other well worded quotes that I like to occationally read. Thank you.

  32. Dom March 19, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    The government over here in the UK have just announced their plans for the upcoming years budget.

    One of the headlines was that they were “helping” parents get back to work by giving tax incentives on childcare.

    This relates directly to me as me and my wife are both working – me full time her 2 days a week.

    Our combined income covers our costs with a little spare – but I saw this headline and immediately thought – wow we can work more! Brilliant! more cash to spend!!

    Then I read through this article and was like – “your goal is to wake up, have a great time, and go to bed even happier than when you woke up” – that’s what I want!

    For me this means spending as much time with my wife and my son as possible.

    So now I’m searching through my budget to minimise all costs so that hopefully my wife can give up work, your site has helped me immensely but now its time to really knuckle down.

    Let’s kick some ass!

    Dom

  33. Lauren March 19, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    I have been reading posts here for about a year and I really enjoy it, but I’m more than certain that I’m not as savvy as other posters. I do have a few questions to ask and am hopeful someone can help me. I recently received about $30,000 as a gift. I don’t have very much debt (car note, phone bill, insurance and rent). My rent is paid to my fiancé who is using it as an extra payment on the mortgage. I really hate my job, but it pays the bills until we pay off the mortgage. I want to be able to make this gift work for us and grow. He already has a rental property that he paid cash for and we are looking into buying more. Can anyone offer suggestions. I really would like to stop working soon.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      The car loan could be a good target, depending on the interest rate.

      Actually, if you have a car loan, it might be a sign that you have an extremely new car. You could pay off the loan, sell the car, and buy a used one at half the price. Now you’ve got $40,000 instead of $30,000, and you’re ready for either the next rental house, or some index funds, or REITs, lending club, whatever!

      You have the right idea though – windfalls are for saving rather than “buy yourself something nice” :-)

  34. insourcelife March 19, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    So Zen Mustache is a rock/jam band from Colorado? Are there a lot of other things with a word Mustache out there? Must be a West Coast thing. And is “Ride the ‘Stache” trademarked? Would be a good line for your site. Anyway, nice to see you back in the swing of things even with the lawyers on your back.

  35. Big Guy Money March 19, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    We took up residence in the Pit for years, both financially and in our personal lives. Heck, we worked our way up the hierarchy of the Pit. It sucks and is a place I never want to go back to.

    That being said, the minute that we ‘made it big’, I had a sense of urgency that we had to get our crap figured out, debts paid, and life in order. Best decision ever.

  36. Sarah March 19, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    I am loving my FI/retired life and I give MMM props whenever I am asked about it. Now I only have stress dreams when my friends come over and I hear all their sob stories about not having enough. They don’t want to hear how I did it, they prefer to believe that I am “lucky”.

  37. HealthyWealthyExpat March 19, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Love it how you weaved that little bit about the cash-dependent lawyer in there near the end. Ahhh, don’t you love the creative writing process, MMM?!

    Good to see you’re still having fun with the blog posts, as this is what this article is really about isn’t it: focus on the simple things in life and you will live happily. I know that I have become happier since I discovered this blog, as I now spend less and save more than ever before. And funny enough, with every step closer to financial independence the sun seems brighter, the mornings fresher, the flowers more fragrant.

  38. Abi Scrooge March 19, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    I love, love, love this article. After 7 straight months of over 80 hour weeks, something finally gave in me and I realized it was time to go live life. It’s been over a year since I started this journey and I’m getting closer to where I want to be in my life.

  39. dagny_t13 March 19, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    What a fantastic post to start my day!
    As an engineer in the Silicon Valley who just quit a good (but steady income) job to jump into the start-up land, I tend to surprise people when I tell them that I don’t expect a big payout from it, just some kick-ass experience.

    But then again, we get ridiculed for living like a couple of frugal graduate students when other double-income-no-kids couples in my peer group eagerly check-off items from the list you mentioned. I find it difficult to explain the sense of freedom that comes from owning less, having less liabilities but you do a great job MMM.

    ‘Avoid the treadmill’ – really resonates :)

    • Leslie March 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

      Yes, we are in start-up land too. My husband was able to take lower paid jobs at startups he was interested in and quit his 9-5 corporate job. We can live on my income alone so he has the freedom to do that. The secret is frugal living a la Mr. and Mrs. MM.

    • Marcia March 20, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Such good stuff here. My husband and I continued to live like grad students after he was no longer a grad student. It really paid off. Even then, I have friends who were more frugal!

      One lived in a cheap apartment with no furniture. She slept on the floor.

      Another, even with his PhD, didn’t drive (well, he didn’t know how). Biked everywhere and carried his (vegetarian) lunch.

  40. Frugal Paragon March 19, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    One way to avoid the Pit is simply to be cash-poor! We don’t make $75K… not even combined. We couldn’t buy all that crap if we wanted to.

    But I think the trap at the lower end of the middle-class income ranges is the temptation to get what you CAN afford–the nicest car your budget will spring for, smart phones, etc. Because how do you know you’re middle-class at all if you don’t have the things middle class people have? It’s the way into the Pit.

    Fortunately, we’re steering clear of that trap. Our phones are so primitive the time has to be set manually, and our single car is a ’99 Honda. As a general rule, the more poor you look to others, the less poor you will actually be!

    • SonomaMM March 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

      “As a general rule, the more poor you look to others, the less poor you will actually be!”

      I felt like I needed to reply to this(my first post on MMM), as I also think that this is true with feelings. Sometimes I feel poor(sad checking account), but I know that it’s because I usually direct a large sum of my paychecks towards investments. So in a way, I make myself feel poor, but it’s for a good cause.
      This keeps me from looking at/buying expensive and unnecessary items(including that 60′s Porsche that I really want).
      Hopefully one day(I’m in my early 30′s) I can look back in life and be glad that I sacrificed a little during my younger years.
      BTW- I also drive a 99 Honda Civic Hatchback, and I love it. It has lots of cargo space, great gas mileage, reliable, etc. I even have a hitch on it, which allows me to connect a bike rack or trailer to it.

      • Mike March 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

        Don’t feel poor. Us Civic owners are Rich!

        I drive a ’94 EX. I am debt-free and have a seven figure net worth. I’ve been saving half my income for years. I am an executive and laugh every time I pull into the parking lot full of very shiny-black-highly-mortgaged BMWs and Lexi.

        You’re not alone! Stay the course. I’m twenty years ahead of you and can tell you it’s so worth it.

        Drive that old Honda with pride. Mine is a badge of honor.

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

          That is awesome, Mike – I love reading about someone who may exceed even my own net worth-to-car-value ratio.

          I remember when the 1992-1995 civics were brand new and the sleekest thing on the road. Hard to believe that is 20 years ago, but it reinforces my belief that a car under 20 is “new”. Under 10 is “brand new”.

          • Eric March 20, 2014 at 8:49 pm #

            A few years ago I recorded an interview with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. He was wearing a tattered shirt, paint-covered overalls and was driving a mid-80′s Civic “Shuttle”. After the interview, he headed into the mountains to go camping. CelebrityNetWorth.com says he’s worth $200M, so he might have you beat in the Net Worth-to-Car-Value ratio. Amazing guy.

            • climbbikeski March 21, 2014 at 9:56 am #

              That dude is teh shit. He used to eat cat food on his climbing trips. Cat food from the dented can store. That is a level of badassity to which I do not aspire, but I admire the hell outta that guy.

        • Jeff March 20, 2014 at 7:57 am #

          This is too funny. Debt free and drive a ’94 civic but I drive the poor DX model. That’s me and somebody else above. Must be something about us “poor” 94 civic drivers.

          • Mike March 21, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

            Frugal Paragon, SonomaMM and Jeff,

            It appears that us Civic drivers have our own cult of badassity.

            Hey MMM, I would be very interested in a poll of what your blog followers drive. Pictures would really be fun.

            (I had a clown car friend of our family look at me sideways when I showed her my ‘new’ 17 year old car several years back. Her comment to me, “Uh, Mike, are you uhh, you know, ok with this?” Translated “I wouldn’t be caught dead driving such an unfashionable car.” Made me feel even better about driving it.)

  41. Done by Forty March 19, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    I’ve found your point to be true in our life, MMM. We cut our teeth on frugality when we were making far less, were renting a room out of a house, and paying off the debts we had. Now we’re making more, and we’ve already learned the lesson: we can be just as happy with less stuff, less house, and one car (though, you know, two scooters). :)

  42. J P Frogbottom March 19, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Ah yes, the ever-present “I don’t have enough” story. Trouble is most of us earn more than enough, we just have a tendency to spend like crazy shits!
    Retired now for 2 years, no income except my pension, and the wife’s social insecurity. Everything we “need” is already paid for, and we only once exceeded a combined 6 figure income year.
    It’s not hard to live well on that, plus the investment income from our 700K investments we made along the way.
    Too bad there wasn’t MMM’s blog thirty years ago, hell there was barely a MMM back then. Common sense was around, and some of us lived on less than we made, ignoring the Jone’s next door.
    We all determine our own paths, hope you young ones choose well! Have fun, but don’t let “things” get in the way of life.

  43. Chris March 19, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    I think a lot of how we spend has a lot of who we hang out with too. Over the last few years I have had to swap out friends with those who have a like minded approach to what life is about. My friends value experiences over things. I remember having a conversation with a former friend about downsizing into our rental property (800 sq ft) and her response was “Why would you want to live in a hovel?” I still remember the comment because I think she totally missed the point of what life is about. She kept moving up and buying bigger an bigger homes, larger salary and new cars. I don’t get it. When do you get to the point of enough and have gratitude for what you have instead of what you don’t? I can see the “one upmanship” when you are in your 20′s and do not know any better (been there, done that) but once you get into your 30′s and 40′s wouldn’t you not start looking at things differently? My goals and priorties have changed significantly. Happiness is derived from a good home cooked meal and a new pair of running sneakers. Could care less about my house, my car and what clothes I am wearing.

    • Marcia March 20, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      Some of my best friends value “experience over things”, but even those things can be expensive. Lots of vacations, trips to Australia, Belize…sometimes it can go overboard.

      I’m making better friends with people who value “experience” like camping trips, going to the beach, and hanging out at the park/playground.

  44. JenSan March 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    A person can certainly become free from financial concerns. However, in the example of a CEO not wanting to work for fickle shareholders, or the lawyer picking which cases to take, it is not that simple.

    Many founders bring in shareholders because they have no choice. If I’m selling lemonade from a patented secret recipe and a much bigger company decides to copy me, where do I get the money to pay my legal bills to protect my intellectual property?

    Or let’s say I’ve developed a new product, but it will take five years to retain enough earnings to buy equipment that can bring it to market. In the meantime, I hear that my competitor might do something similar. Along with competitive pressures, there is the need to attract or retain talent, and other long lists of reasons, to sell a company.

    Becoming financially independent removes you from the race for money. It doesn’t remove all tough decisions blocking the road to following your passions.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

      I guess I have a different perspective on the CEO game – a slower one, perhaps.

      I’d build up my lemonade stand and save my profits, becoming financially independent very early. At that point, I wouldn’t care if someone stole my recipe (as some other bloggers do for the style of this blog, for example). I’d think, “Excellent! I am glad you like the ideas! Plenty to go around!”

      This type of abundance mentality tends to allow you to do more interesting things, which scores you even more customer loyalty. Think of the Craigslist model of business – the only goal is to help the community, but you still end up with top market share and plenty of income.

      As for bringing capital-intensive things to market: I’m in no rush, I can always wait to start that fusion-powered helicopter company until I have the cash to build it all without financing. With the lemonade stand now making $100M/year, it won’t take long.

      This is definitely not the only way to conduct business, but it is the one that brings the most happiness for me.

      • JenSan March 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

        The point I was trying to make is that having plenty of money, does not mean you have nobody to answer to. In fact this is another myth about the rich.

        • Ted Hu April 11, 2014 at 2:54 am #

          There are few absolutes in life, short of taxes and death.

          Wealth accrued affords more choices and who you answer to

  45. Spoonman. March 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Realizing that we’re already living large has been hugely helpful. I’m 25, I make around $64,000 a year at a great job where I can work from home (no commute!) and my wife and I just had our first child. My wife has left her job, doing occasional jobs hourly from home, and I get to see them during the day when I get a cup of tea or have lunch. We’ll be moving to a less expensive house soon after we realized the 3,200 sqft house we got a great deal on and had fun renovating doesn’t make us happier than 1800 sqft would.

    I have to thank MMM for the house thing – I grew up in megahouses and had never considered downsizing, but I don’t even use most of the rooms in my house.

  46. misterfancypantz March 19, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    I find myself teeting on the edge and running into the risk of falling into the pit of neverending profit. I am highly successful, my only debt of note is a mortgage/HELOC with remarkable rates. By most people who read this blog and the forums I should be FI based on my net worth, if I were to sell my house and relocate my family could live in perpetutiy on our assets without problem, however we live in an expensive locale with family ties and we love where we live so for the moment I keep at it to build our base.

    I say teeting as I am constantly asking myself if I am just doing this for more, and I always say no, I will freely admit I like “things”, I am far more consumer driven the MMM, I am by no means as Mustachian as many of you, and if you think MMM leads a decadent life you would balk at mine, although I can readliy afford it. I have no plans however to stay on the treadmill past the point of being able to sustain our lifestyle as we see fit, even if that is longer then perhaps MMM or some of you might be on for.

    I at least realize where I am which maybe for me helps keep myself in check so I keep asking is this important in the scheme of things…

  47. Sascha Bosio March 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you for this really inspiring article. I couldn’t agree more with your points. Putting profits above everything else is in my opinion the biggest reason for this dilemma. So why not putting value on all things in life: spending more time with the family, having a healthy and powerful body, …

  48. Thomas March 19, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    “…but running on permanent overdrive is generally counterproductive”.

    I don’t know if this happens to everyone but I certainly have a few friends who seem to believe being super busy is one of lifes virtues. They always say “work is super busy”, “I’m super busy”, “don’t have time, really busy”.

    It can’t be just me who has these friends.

    • Rebecca March 19, 2014 at 8:05 pm #

      Thomas – yes most of the people I know are like this too. It can make it somewhat difficult to cultivate a healthy social life since even though we may have slowed done to smell the roses no one else has time to.

    • Lawnorder March 20, 2014 at 5:46 am #

      From a former “super busy person”, getting off the treadmill allowed me to have time to think. Still am very active, but a huge stress reliever was being able to think about things one by one instead of figuring out how to cram more and more stuff into one short day. Frequently I enjoy the peace of a mundane task done in silence. I don’t miss the busy-ness at all. Having plenty of time, and having space for your thoughts is huge wealth.

      • CTY March 21, 2014 at 11:03 am #

        Super busy–been there, done that. I must say that being super busy is easier than life off the treadmill. We retired early too–no as early as MMM, but within 10 years of him. Anyway, living the rat race life was easy, I never had to think of what to do next; everything was all scheduled out for me and I would just look at the list & complete the next part. These days I find (even after being retired for years) that I don’t always know what to do because nothing is written down. I have to actually think about what I want.
        This however, is not a complaint. I just wanted to share my experience and say that I missed a big part of MMM’s planning. Meaning, as you pay your debts, live frugally & save as needed, don’t forget to dream and plan of the things you want to do once FI. I was obsessed with getting FI, that was my life. And now I am not sure what to do now that I am FI. Terrible problem, I know. The good news is at least I recognized I was FI & didn’t just keep after gaining more & more money. The great news is that I have plenty of time to figure it out.
        Cheers.

  49. Tom March 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    I learned this the wrong way around.

    I was extremely successful as a VFX artist on the biggest movies of the last 10 years. At the end of Avatar i decided that i was going to start a business.

    Year 1: Learn to live off 1/3 the salary – felt like we were in poverty yet we were making a better than average living ($60k/year)

    Year 2: Holy crap paying off “rich guy” debt is tough when you’re a normal guy

    Year 3: WTF?!?! We’re happier now on far less money and we have no desire to EVER live extravagantly again.

    I wish i would have lived the moustache lifestyle in my 20s. Learn to live frugally before you have the money to blow and everything works much better!!!

  50. biscuitwhomper March 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    First, let me state that this is my favorite post of all time.

    Over the last six months, I went from being mildly annoyed at some of the posts here to enthusiastic agreement. As someone who comes from a family who were humble and understated, I hated terms such as ‘face-punch’ and ‘badassity’.

    In the end, I stayed for the message and will be retiring in May at age 43. Certainly not as fast as MMM, but hey, its not a competition, right? :-)

  51. Pops March 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Well, if not being up to one’s eyes in debt driving around in bank-financed Chevy Tahoes and complaining about how hard it is to get ahead these days is all it takes to have one’s shit together, I think I’m doing alright. :-)

    We are Mustachians – we ride bikes and we don’t buy shit! Huzzah!

  52. Brandon T March 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    MMM,

    I was already a fan, but after reading this last post, I have become a super-fan. You really lay it all out there and very well written. Thanks so much for sharing.

    ~Brandon

  53. FrugalCanadianGirl March 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    I just found this blog and I’m thrilled – this is such a great post! Thank you MMM. I look forward to reading more. That a fancy-pants life equals happiness is “the big lie.” I’m grateful to read these perspectives (makes me feel less alone in the wilderness :)

  54. James March 19, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    “If you have food, friends, and a comfortable place to live, you are all set to live an incredible life.” — Any additional thoughts on adding novel experiences to this list? Do you regret your early world travels and/or would you trade them for a shorter path to FI? This is a big tripping point for us (my wife and I) because we have this innate belief that novel experiences, hiking the Inca trail for example, would in fact add net happiness to our life.

    If I read the above correctly you’re basically saying that your cup is full-enough as it is, and the trade-offs involved in those kinds of experiences aren’t worth it (net happiness loss?)? I know you loved Ecuador for the experience aspect. Just curious to get more insight regarding your travel and novel experiences thought process. Thanks!

    • R2D2 March 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

      Good point James, I would like to hear MMM’s views on that. In fact, the book Happy Money that has been mentioned in this blog before, touches the subject of new experiences and how it is usually more effective than material possessions in bringing “happiness” (provided you already have decent living conditions). Cheers.

    • abc March 20, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

      Travel is always worth it. Especially while you’re young and can climb all those volcanoes in Nica!

      Remember just because MMM leveraged into property early and got FI out of it, you don’t have to slavishly follow his path. That full time job and mortgage in the early years precluded a lot of awesome multi-month trips in dirt cheap developing countries, and now that kids are in the picture that sort of travel is almost entirely curtailed.

      Check out the Salkantay trek instead of the Inca Trail– it’s actually a far better hike through multiple ecosystems, and you can book it in Cuzco the day before for approximately 1/8th the cost of the Inca Trail.

      • James March 22, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

        Great info, thanks! I will definitely check it out. My wife and I are on the verge of having kids and trying to decide if a multi-month trip makes sense before we start a family. What are the opportunity costs, etc., especially because we are relatively young and might lose out on some compounding interest… Anyway, it is a tough decision, thanks for the input :)

        Cheers-

        • Al March 24, 2014 at 8:36 am #

          Travel.

          I have never regretted going to Asia and Australia for nearly a year and a half before starting any of the steps of adulthood. My wife to be (traveling with her cemented the deal) and I worked crappy jobs for a year after university, saved our money and had a fantastic trip. When we got back, we had no career, no money, no down payment on a condo etc. It felt like it may have been a mistake when we got back and compared ourselves to our friends. However, a decade later all of those details sorted themselves out and I’m very thankful we did it and spend most of my time wondering what I need to do to arrange my life so it’s possible to do it again.

  55. Beric Maass March 19, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Almost a year ago, after a spectacularly epic interview failure (for me; the interviewer managed to get two hours of free consulting) I concluded that my career in buggy-whip repair had ground to a halt. Understanding that I lived in Canada’s most expensive city, I knew I needed to gather up my toys quickly and “do something”.

    I stepped back from the pit, took my equity and retired (early, at 52). Away from the Coast, I could reduce my costs by 70% and live a life more enjoyable while focusing on my income producing investments and writing about it.

    That said, I am still prepared to consult on buggy-whip repair strategies, from the comfort of my home of course :-)

  56. john March 19, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Great post MMM, this really shows how your principles can and should be applied to high-earners. I have recently found your blog and have slowly been getting through the old posts, but I am not usually one for making a lot of comments. I have to say that you have completely changed my outlook on a lot of things. I have always though of myself as being pretty frugal. But as I have started to make more money than I knew what to do with, I have struggled with how to make my values, finances and “lifestyle” jive.

    I work in medicine, where we all make embarrassing amounts of money. Amazingly, I know many colleagues who can’t seem to get enough. Many will use vacation time to moonlight at other hospitals so that they can spend more on private schools, expensive cars, and clothing that is used for a season and then donated. Most will say that they want to keep working anyway, so why deny yourself the opportunity to drive a new luxury SUV to a beautiful McMansion? The more money people make, the more they spend, and nothing really gets better. There must be a better way.

    Since reading through your blog, I have become excited about simplifying, and I think that my family could easily achieve FI within a few years. I don’t expect to “retire” at that point, but at least it will be my choice. That prerogative will be liberating in itself and will certainly confer a new level of confidence, not to mention sustainability.

    • abc March 20, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      Hi John, be sure to check out the White Coat Investor’s blog for similar-minded folks from your field. (I’m not affiliated, just a satisfied reader)

  57. Elizabeth Johnson March 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    “The free musician can delight when people share her music around the world…”

    If the free musician is good enough to sell her music, she became that good by having private lessons as a child. I don’t think MMM should routinely poo-poo “private lessons”! Child-driven desire for musical skill is a good thing, Ivy League Preschool Syndrome is a bad thing.

  58. MiniskirtMurder March 19, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    “News Flash: If you’re under 40 and making over $75,000, you’ve already made it big. ”

    Statements like that are why I keep coming back, MMM, and why I’m following your example for my own FI. I work in a place with much younger people than 40 already living paycheck to paycheck- even though we make well into the six figures in a locale with a very low cost of living… absurd.

  59. Lee Lau March 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    “had the incredible good fortune of being invited on free trips to China, Switzerland, New Zealand, and other neat places. ”

    haha – same here. First world problem of living in an already nice place is that we turn down offers to go to other nice places because my wife and I already live in a nice place.

    But I do go on one travel junket a year because seeing other places is educational and cool. Do go to Switzerland – its very nice if a bit pricey.

    • lurker March 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

      didn’t like the swiss…but it was pretty I will agree with that….the folks I met were snooty and rude….but that may have been plain bad luck….cheers

  60. happyfeet March 19, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Great post. So thankful I found this blog. Better late than never(I’m 55 and looks like retirement is at 60). Sharing this post with DH and DS. Just great to read the words and see the believers of stepping off the treadmill, not keeping up with the Joneses and saying “NO’ to consumerism. This is not who I used to be but I am a convert now. THANK YOU!

  61. Elizabeth March 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    I read my husband the news flash in step 1 and he said “but how?! 10 years isn’t long enough. the taxes alone will kill you.” So I’m posing the same to you- but how??

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Schmidty’s link is the right one!

      To retire in 10 years, you’d need to be able to live sustainably on about 35% of your take-home pay, and invest the other 65%.

      Where I live, a $75k gross might result in $55k take-home, or even more if you include the fact that the first $17,500 goes to your 401(k) tax free.

      That means living on 35% of $55k, or $19,250 per year. If you do things right, that would be a pretty spendy life for a single person.

      If you add dependents, the costs go up slightly, but the taxes go down (married filing jointly, etc).

      And remember, this is all for pretty extreme example: retiring in 10 years on a $75k salary where you never get a raise. If you allow yourself an extra year or two, or ever score a pay increase, real estate profits, or anything else, it gets even better.

      And for households with TWO income earners each making this much? It is comedy – early retirement is so easy once you learn about the obscure tricks such as the existence of bicycles, and ovens which allow food to be cooked in one’s own house or apartment.

  62. KimJM March 19, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    “where the rest of us are just setting things up on the Picnic Table of Badassity. See you here!”

    I love that image. I have been reading the blog for awhile but have never commented before. Thanks for all the great inspiration.

  63. Razorrock March 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

    I found your blog after I became FI this past year at 48. None of my friends or family expected I would or could retire NOW! After the first nine months of retirement, I recommend it to everyone.

    How did I do it? Living the MMM way:
    Living below my means
    saving all raises and bonuses
    Buying assets, not liabilities
    Cars are appliances not status symbols, drive them into the ground
    Get rich slowly

    Thanks to MMM

  64. Karen March 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    We became FI years ago. My husband retired but I have continued to work. I match my job against what I would do if I wasn’t working and the job wins each time. It is a learning experience each day with excitement and rewards and amazing friends to share it with. We watched our expenses while we were earning and saving and never bought things just because they were newer, bigger and better. We are still that way. We did sell our house of 30 years and buy a more expensive one that we plan to die in. I will never get tired of watching sunrises over the mountain and sailboats on windy days. We were able to pay cash for the new one and feel that it adds to our life quality. I still shop garage sales for items that we need to replace but that allows us the ability to travel and save. I have a feeling that in the next 20 years of my retirement healthcare costs will have the most impact on living expenses. I am in great shape but after working in healthcare for 35 years I have seen people’s lives change forever when a doctor walks in a room and gives them a devastating diagnosis. Our insurance plans that seem so good often are not and expenses skyrocket. I personally believe that people need to save more rather than less and it doesn’t hurt to work more when you are young because you don’t know what your future will hold for things that you can’t control.

  65. Jason March 19, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    MMM,

    Another fantastic post!

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying here. This post hearkens back to everything you’ve been saying about the hedonic treadmill, marginal utility, finding happiness, money as a tool, etc. Great way to wrap it all up in one great article.

    Best wishes.

  66. R.c. March 19, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Great post. I myself love cars but through harnessing the power of NO, I drive a quite lame Nissan Murano in the embarrassingly feminine gold color. I can afford a new BMW or whatever but part of me likes driving a car that I don’t love. Why? Maybe it reminds me I am able to say NO. Or maybe it’s a message to my buddies who cannot say no. One in particular has: 2014 BMW M5, 2013 Porsche Cayenne GTS, 2013 Lamborghini Gallardo, and 2014 Range Rover. Admittedly his cars are awesome. But man that’s a lot of excise and sales tax but more importantly a lot of weekend hours spent washing…..

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 20, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      Nice! But you might remind yourself that a Nissan Murano is still a huge ultra-luxury racing SUV that is so inefficient it might as well be shooting unburned fuel out its tailpipe as its means of propulsion :-)

      What would your friends say if you Craigslisted that bad girl and came back with a 2007 Civic.. or a $350 commuter bike from Nashbar?

      • Insourcelife March 20, 2014 at 9:54 am #

        And for inspiration, check out http://www.nomoreharvarddebt.com where Joe sold his gas guzzling Murano as part of his journey to eliminate college loans.

      • chattanooga cheapster March 20, 2014 at 10:17 am #

        $350??? Big Spender!!

        Get a comfort hybrid on craigslist for no more than $150.

        BTW – Based on your posts about bikes, it looks like you don’t have a comfort bike. I got one a couple years ago – friggin’ awesome. We’re close to the same age. Trust me, your back will thank you for it.

  67. Ryan March 19, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Another cool way for public companies to get around the pressure for short-term shareholder maximization: just tell shareholders you’re not going to do it!

    When AES went public (current market cap around $10bn, hundreds of thousands of employees, operating in hundred of countries etc.), it just flat out said it wouldn’t prioritize shareholder value above it’s other values. In fact, the SEC made them put their commitment to their values as a “risk factor” in its IPO prospectus. The company flatly said:

    “AES believe earning a fair profit is an important result of providing a quality service to customers. However, if the Company perceives a conflict between these values and profits, the Company will try to adhere to its values – even though doing so might result in diminished profits or foregone opportunities. Moreover, the Company seeks to adhere to these values not as a means to achieve economic success, but because adherence is a worthwhile goal in itself”.

    That. Is. Badass.

    • Greg March 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      FYI, many states now allow companies to incorporate as a “B Corporation,” that will allow “for-profit entities that want to consider society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision making process.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_Corporation

  68. Mark March 19, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Great essay! Muttering to myself while reading it… “yes!”….”exactly!!”

    Was this inspired by a current ongoing thread in the forum? It is amazing how people have the ability to expand their consumption to match (or exceed) their income even as their income grows to ridiculous extremes.

    You mention the charter of public corporations. Make no mistake, regardless of what they claim in their charters, the purpose of a corporation is the enrichment of senior management. Any benefits accruing to employees, customers or other shareholders (so-called stakeholders) is simply a happy side effect of achieving the primary goal.

    I LOVED this: (Life is) “simply a series of days where your goal is to wake up, have a great time, and go to bed even happier than when you woke up.”

    I would simply add, in my case, “and make the world a better place.”

    • Moonwaves March 20, 2014 at 2:53 am #

      112 comments and I’m only the third (I think) to comment on this meaning of life quote “simply a series of days where your goal is to wake up, have a great time, and go to bed even happier than when you woke up.” I’d like to have this on a t-shirt :)
      I spent many hours as a teenager contemplating the point of life (as you do) and came to the conclusion that having kids and, as an extension of that, making the world a better place (‘cos there’s no point in giving birth to the next generation while simultaneously destroying the world they live in) was the only thing that made sense. Not having ever met anyone to have kids with, I’ve been struggling a bit recently again with meaning of life thoughts – I think MMM has gotten it pretty right though, and your addition helps to tie it in nicely to my own thinking, too.

      • Kelsey April 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

        Personally, your parentheses sentence of destroying the world we live in, is one of my reasons for NOT having kids. We can’t possibly keep living the way we’re living and NOT destroy our environment (and values, morals, goodwill…) Allergies, cancer, auto-immune diseases run rampant, people become famous for being ignorant, houses and cars keep getting bigger, food keeps getting worse, government is owned by money-hungry bribing corporations, education is getting worse, and I just don’t want to add another human being to the already too-large population or put them through that kind of life. I am married, and my husband would make a great father, but we’re sufficiently happy with our dogs at this point with no plans for children.

        • Darren April 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

          Amen! I didn’t have kids either, because I do not think life on this earth, in this world, is a very good/nice gift and so I’d feel guilty bringing a human here that has to live through all the fighting. And as selfish as it sounds, since I don’t have kids, I am not concerned about what condition Ms. Earth will be in after I leave it. Personally, I feel she is doomed in the long run. I live with no fear about future conditions. That might be too much for some to take — I worry a little about expressing what I really feeling on here so I will leave it at that.

  69. Victoria March 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    I was reading this article:
    http://nypost.com/2014/03/18/string-of-suicides-rocking-financial-world-baffles-experts/

    and wondering what happened to all this people who had seemingly successful lives. All the things that others would want and would not take for granted, but then I stopped by this site to look for a new article and found this eye opener.

    Thank you!

  70. Jon March 19, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    What a fantastic post! Frivilous, baseless lawsuits raise your badassity even higher. As a current corporate lackey, I’m struck by contridiction that my very financial freedom somewhat counts on large corporations i.e. S & P 500 doing well by squeezing baby bitches like myself in the workplace. :/

  71. Pat March 20, 2014 at 5:39 am #

    Just personally witnessed another example last week of someone getting caught putting money ahead of virtue. Cost them their job. I’ve been working for 30 years and have lost count of the times people have imploded on themselves. Just lost sight or never really saw what life is all about.

    Stay frugal my friend.

  72. Stan March 20, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    I actually feel blessed. My full time job that I love provides me with more than enough income to live, my son is doing well, I am providing for my aging mother, my part time job as an electrician keeps me busy and people appreciate what I can do for them. My house is paid for, a choice of vehicles to fit my need, no credit card debt and 5 weeks of vacation a year plus a week of work-paid education/vacation around the country. When retire a fully funded pension awaits me, a very large 401(k) and I can live on what social security ‘promises’ to me.
    Quit my job? Not as long as my health is good. Retire? And sit around? Not for me! I can rest when I’m dead.

  73. homeinboca March 20, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    What a great post, thanks for sharing, this is exactly how I feel. I just left the company I was with for 15 years. (Rather, they let all the old timers go!) Made very good money, but was on the treadmill, traveling 100,000 miles a year, loved my work, but hated the new CEO.

    I was smart enough to live below my means, and at age 57, have 2 homes paid for, a nice dividend stock portfolio and a large 401k that I will start drawing down on. I am only doing some part time consulting work and wife and I are going to travel the world while we are young. I decided I don’t want to be the richest guy in the cemetery.

  74. MonicaOnMoney March 20, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    I agree that the power of saying “No” is so important!

    When I was in college, I said yes to every dinner, or party or vacation just because everyone else was doing it. Even though I didn’t have the money for it, I did it all anyway and I had no idea that they were all doing it on credit.

    I now realize that it’s ridiculous for me to live like that and I’m MUCH happier debt free.

  75. Mark Ferguson March 20, 2014 at 8:11 am #

    Did my comment get deleted? I came back to see if there were any replies and it is gone.

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