355 comments

Are You Giving the Shaft to your Future Self?

mustache_sawUnfortunately for me, one of the concepts I find most annoying to read about happens to be one of those the mainstream financial media likes to write about the most: The hard times that have befallen Hardworking Americans*, and how it is entirely the fault of the system in which we are all stuck.

Depending on the day, this same underlying story comes dressed up in different clothes:

 

  • The middle class wages have stagnated (while the rich keep earning more) so life has become too tough for us.
  • The cost of living in ExpensiveVille* has grown so high that people can barely scrape by on $150,000 per year.
  • Education has become so costly that students must take out $200,000 loans, which then burden them until at least age 50.
  • Americans are headed for a retirement crisis. Most people are still broke by age 50, which means they will have to work until at least 80 (because of course it would be impossible to live on only Social Security benefits).
  • The 1991 recession and subsequent economic upheaval hit Martha hard. After 30 years of rising wages as an executive in a typewriter company,  she found herself without a job and competing with other CEOs for jobs at the local K-Mart.
  • Bill and Jenny worked diligently at their jobs as well as caring for their two kids. But when the 2008 credit crisis hit, they lost one income even while the value of their Las Vegas house was cut in half, leaving them with a mortgage that was $100,000 underwater. Foreclosure was inevitable.

 

The dangerous thing about all these stories is that they sound so plausible. Income inequality has indeed been growing, as have house prices in expensive cities.  We do indeed suck at saving, and executives do sometimes end up falling far down the pay scale in the event of job loss. But there is one thing the journalists never say, and that most of us don’t like to admit:

In almost every tale of financial woe, the real villain is the victim’s Past Self.

These people had been giving themselves the shaft for years or decades without realizing it, and it was this shafting that allowed The System to get them down later on. So what the newspaper describes as a medical bankruptcy could in fact be a Caribbean vacation bankruptcy** “victim” who happened to have the bad luck of getting sick when almost out of money. A foreclosure caused by the recession could very well be more attributable to commuting 25 miles to that job for the preceding 10 years in a GMC Tahoe. 

In fact, if you’ve ever blown a dollar on frivolous spending, and years later find yourself a dollar short due to the arrival of hard times, it’s not the hard times that broke you. It was that dollar blown long ago. Because a dollar is not an ephemeral phenomenon like today’s weather, it is a permanent accessory that sticks with you for life if you allow it to do so.

All this may sound harsh, it’s really just an expansion of one of my favorite concepts in personal finance: the idea of a present, past and future self.

You’re Borrowing from Yourself

Every financial transaction you make today is not so much a deal with a mortgage company, car dealer or department store. It’s a deal with your future self. After all, when the 20-year-old version of you borrowed $32,000 to buy that fully loaded Honda Accord, who ended up having to pay it back? The past self got the new car with no responsibility, and her successor in the present holds the result: a debt hangover and a car that’s now worth only a tiny fraction of the new price. Past You gave Present You the shaft.

But it goes further than just money. While your life as a baby has everything to do with the random luck of genetic composition and what sort of parents you were handed, you quickly get the opportunity to start influencing things yourself. By the time you get to my age, almost all of the features of your daily life, both the jewels and the turds, gifts and shaftings, are things deposited on the Conveyor Belt of Time by earlier versions of you. You have your Past Self to thank for all of this. But until you acknowledge that, you can never become the generous benefactor that your Future Self deserves.

The Tragic Comedy of Rich Country Recessions

Every ten years or so, our furiously strong economy takes a very short breather.  Instead of setting a new all-time record for economic output every quarter, sometimes it only matches its previous all-time record. This is called a “sluggish” economy and we usually fire the president over it. Sometimes it even goes down a percentage point or two. This is called a “Severe Recession”. Millions of us lose our homes and we fume about how irresponsible the bankers and politicians were for lending us so much money before taking away our jobs. What they are missing, of course, is how ridiculously vulnerable we all made ourselves back when the times were still good.

Now is the Time to Stop the Shafting

Suppose you’ve just graduated into this booming economy and scored yourself a great job. Sure, you have some student loans, but they are easily dwarfed by your new Big City Salary. Do you celebrate by buying a car, a house, adopting a couple of dogs, getting married and immediately having several kids like everybody else does?

Holy Shit No!!!

A new graduate with outstanding student loans is like a person riding a unicycle in November, just before the start of an icy winter. Balance is tricky, but it can be done. The pavement is dry now, but you know that ice is coming. So do you jack up the seat of the unicycle another 20 feet and balance a few fire-juggling elephants atop a broomstick which extends from your hat? Do you open a can of grease with your other hand and squeeze some onto the tire of the unicycle, and then start pedaling through town to go see if you can find a half pipe to bust out a few frontsides? Again, “Holy Shit No” would be wise advice to your future self.

You slow down the unicycle, set your feet on the ground, and adopt a stable stance. Then you gently set down and free the elephants, find yourself some winter boots, a coat, gloves, hat, food and shelter. With continued preparation and ingenuity, you can be out making snow angels and watching the winter moons, instead of having your frozen and crushed body blackening in the shadow of the elephant corpses, being nibbled away by raccoons until the eventual maggot infestation when the spring thaw comes.

The strange part to me is that while most people would consider this lesson in Unicycle Strategy to be self-evident, when it comes to money they are right there at the elephant shop adding the broomsticks and grease to their shopping cart. So let’s set this gruesome metaphor aside and consider a more reasonable financial strategy. Something that will prove to be a gift to your future self rather than a crushing lifelong hindrance.

Getting Started 

When you move out of Mom and Dad’s house, your first job is to set your eye on the prize. You want a fulfilling, happy life with plenty of challenge and reward, but hopefully a minimal amount of tiresome bullshit (TB). As it turns out, the amount of TB you must endure is inversely proportional to the amount of control you can gain over your own life. And control is something you build through a combination of skills, a wise yet optimistic attitude, time, and of course money.  Thus, everything you do should be done with an eye on building those four factors.

Buying a Car brings you no skills, wisdom, free time, or money. Nothing except a hole in your wallet. So you do it with an eye on efficiency and minimizing cost. Spend no more than four months of your net monthly savings, with an upper limit of $12,000 until you are at least a millionaire. Then make that machine last at least ten more years.

Choosing a Place to Live is not about kitchen countertop surfaces or closet arrangements. It’s about putting you in the center of where you want your life to be. You can always decorate and optimize, but you cannot teleport. So location is everything, even if it means downsizing or renting instead of buying. Living in the right place gives you back time, energy, and friends.

Your Job is a convenient source of income, but it is not your lifeline or your identity. Never be afraid to shop around for a new one, switch careers entirely, or dabble in your own businesses which may very well grow to be more lucrative than your main job.

Kids and/or Large Animals are not just things you pop out or pick up because hey, they are snuggly. These are enormous and fantastically expensive commitments, because they dictate where you will live, drive, and how much time and energy you’ll have left to work for money. It is a wonderful luxury that we can all afford these things if we prepare for them in advance. But make sure you’re on very firm ground before jumping in.

Good old-fashioned Hard Work  is almost always a gift to your future self, because it builds skills and earns you money. And the satisfaction you get from the subsequent lifetime of looking back on all that hard work is even better than the money and skills.

Maximizing your Luxury and Convenience right now may feel like a reward to your present self, but the belly full of expensive food will be converted to a turd on the conveyor belt by the time your future self retrieves the results. You leave your future self poorer, fatter, and with fewer skills. You may create a pleasant memory or two, but memories of hedonism are less satisfying than those of hard work.

This last rule applies to all categories of life, from purses to pickup trucks, iPhones to international travel. You can safely buy them if you have more money than you need, but you can also safely forego them without losing an atom of happiness or life satisfaction. Of course, we will all enjoy breaking this rule and indulging occasionally, but in general the rule is to put down the golf clubs and pick up the tool belt a little more often.

 The Reward at the End

You could live your entire life as described above and it would still be a fine, deeply satisfying existence. By building strength and character, you design away the worry and whining that dominates modern life. It’s simply the right way to live. But there is pleasant little side-effect: standing here in the future and unwrapping all these gifts as they come off the belt.

I’ve always been almost pathologically focused on creating a better future for myself and anyone who happens to be along for the ride. I endured four years of relatively horrible engineering classes because I knew they were the ticket to a good job. The happiness of the resulting jobs easily made up for all that hardship, but I was already looking ahead at the next step: how to invest all that money to make the future even better. Every beer foregone, barbell lifted, bike pedaled, and fence post hole dug through hard soil in hot weather was done with the benefit of the future self at least partially in mind.

But suddenly I have noticed that I am that future self, and the rewards keep piling up. This bonanza of gifts from the past has been ongoing since about age 21, and yet I still have 60 years to live.

It still blows my mind each Monday that I never have to go to work: I can thank the 25-year-old version of me for that. Here at age 40 I can still sprint through the park with my boy or enjoy a long day hoisting roof rafters and balancing on ladders: I owe this good health to the generosity of my past self as well. Even my pleasantly warm bare feet, which sit comfortably on an Oak floor heated to a toasty 80 degrees by a DIY radiant heat system*** as I look out the window at a snowstorm, are owed to the October version of me, who crawled around for hours in the dirt of the crawlspace to thread and connect all those hundreds of feet of PEX pipe. Thanks, dude.

The rewards are great, but the very act of giving (both to yourself and to others) is just as great. So with that in mind, I’m going to fold up this computer and get back to work, sending some more gifts into the future.

 

* You can insert your own city or country name here, as this phenomenon of crybaby journalism is a global phenomenon.

** Actual example from one of my less pleasant landlord experiences

*** It’s Alive! I am working on the long-awaited follow-up article for you, but this system is a joy to use, and it looks like the project’s plentiful naysayers will end up defeated.

  • Dallin November 11, 2014, 4:41 pm

    This is the most refreshing and common sense article on finances I’ve read in a long time. If I didn’t have a religion I like already, this would be my obvious next best choice.

    I’ll just start prefacing my religion with the the term “Mustached” ahead of it when referring to myself.

    Reply
    • Prof November 17, 2014, 6:14 am

      I agree with a lot of what is written here about personal responsibility. Much of it is common sense and requires a mindset that is willing to plan to address a problem before it occurs. It does make me sad that the next generations in the US – if we continue to saddle them with educational debt and raise their health care and retirement costs – will have less and less of a margin of error when planning and saving for their future so more and more may fall into these traps because they start too late in life saving and cutting expenses. Maybe, I am also bemoaning the fact that education, travel, entertainment and other fun and life altering experiences may be less plentiful for them (and my generation on retirement) as well?

      However, I have to draw the line about medical bankruptcy. Making an individual feel weak, irresponsible or a bad planner because they failed to negotiate a terribly messed up system is just wrong.

      Reply
      • PawPrint November 18, 2014, 6:26 pm

        While I believe that higher education is way too expensive these days, I’m not quite sure that “we” are saddling kids with education debt. I may have a skewed view of this, however, because my 31-year old daughter has $70K worth of student loans that she got after plenty of advice from me and my husband about not borrowing so much. We counseled her to continue working until she had more saved, take more of her classes at the community college, work hard so she wouldn’t have to retake classes, find a part-time job, quit partying like the 20-somethings, don’t borrow more than you can make your first year of work, etc., etc. She ignored all of that advice, which makes me wonder how many other kids ignore financial advice from their parents and get themselves into untenable situations. Now she’s doing what MMM writes about–whining about her debt while still doing things like going out to eat, getting a dog, subscribing to Netflix and HuluPlus, joining the YMCA, having an expensive cell phone plan, driving the mile or so to work instead of riding her bike, and more ad nauseum. I’m not doing anything, by the way, except listening to her as she whines (I’ve already suggested she cook for the week on her day off and that she could save money by riding her bike) and hoping that she realizes that she needs to change the way she handles her finances to make repaying this debt the most important thing in her life.

        Reply
        • Adam November 19, 2014, 2:43 am

          The best you can hope for in a situation like this is to lead by example. Someday (or some decade) she will figure it out and thank you for being good parents way back when. Good luck.

          Reply
  • Heath November 11, 2014, 4:44 pm

    Fuck. Yeah!!!

    You have an excellent way with words, and now I’m all fired up to increase the rate at which I send my future self awesome presents. Mentally reframing every ‘hardship’ and ‘sacrifice’ as both a challenge and a gift to my future self is a fucking great idea.

    And I’m off to ride my bike.

    Reply
  • jessica November 11, 2014, 4:45 pm

    So what the newspaper describes as a medical bankruptcy could in fact be a Caribbean vacation bankruptcy** “victim” who happened to have the bad luck of getting sick when almost out of money.

    Woah-ho-ho stranger. There are MANY, i would say MOSTLY, medical bankruptcies. What type of illness did your tenant come down with exactly?

    This is very personal to me as my brother, at the wee age of 22, fresh out of college, came down with severe mental illness and incurred 100k of medical debt, as well as judgements against him for student loans (which are not dischargeable). He went bankrupt. I just don’t think we should be saying the medical bankruptcy figure is wrong. It doesn’t take much to rack up enormous medical bills. My other brother had a stomach ache and was in the hospital for 2 days while they tested him for everything, he left with anti-acids and a 25k bill.

    Reply
    • rjack November 11, 2014, 5:06 pm

      I’m sorry to hear about your brothers. Why didn’t they have health insurance?

      Reply
      • Derek R November 11, 2014, 7:39 pm

        Health insurance might have helped them but it might not. According to “Physicians for a National Health Program” 62% of all bankruptcies are related to medical debt.

        Of those 60% happen to people who have private health insurance, 22% to uninsured people and the rest to those with Medicare or some other form of government health insurance.

        So maybe they did have health insurance, maybe they didn’t. We can’t tell unless Jessica shares the information with us.

        Reply
        • JB November 11, 2014, 7:53 pm

          This is why you don’t put medical bills on a credit card. Keep the debt with the hospital. If you truely can’t pay, after a few years, they will probably settle the debt. Once you put it onto a credit card, the hospital isn’t out any money.

          Reply
        • Glen O'Halleran November 12, 2014, 8:24 am

          That is scary because most private health insurance deductibles are <$6k. Out of pocket maximums might be higher but people only need to make payments on these bills in order to avoid bankruptcy. Therefore I think MMM's point still holds.

          Reply
          • Derek R November 12, 2014, 11:23 am

            Yes, MMM’s point does hold. I do not and did not have any issue with it. And yet insured people are still being bankrupted.

            Reply
            • Zaxon November 12, 2014, 2:36 pm

              If you have an insurance plan and the “out of pocket max” is above your ability to pay, you don’t understand the insurance plan.

              I hated paying the premiums on every insurance program i’ve ever used (family, school, private, COBRA, private) but at the end of the day i knew i could cover the expected costs because that was something important that i saved for. That was money i simply do NOT touch.

              I had an emergency appendix removal at age 32. Funny, that final bill i got was CRAZY BIG. I didn’t feel so bad about the premiums and out of pocket maxes since then. It drained my “oh crap OOP-max” savings account but well, wasn’t that why i saved for it the last 10 years?

              I have very little patience for those who make poor decisions today and 10 years later cry fowl. That doesn’t make me a bad person, i donate my time and energy where i see is needed. I do not give handouts.

              Reply
        • Postscript November 12, 2014, 1:14 pm

          My otherwise-healthy, frugal sister died this year from breast cancer at age 37. She had very good PPO health insurance. However, a year of treatment co-pays, co-insurance, and unavoidable related costs (e.g. gas and parking since she couldn’t bike to chemo) added up to about $50k on top of her premiums. Luckily she had savings, but it’s still been tough for her husband – who has had to turn down a lot of freelance work while caring for her and the children – and kids. I love Mustacheanism, but this was definitely an unforeseen event that would have eaten into an early retirement portfolio far more than the 4% recommended withdrawal rate.

          Reply
          • Maxim Ч. November 12, 2014, 6:01 pm

            It’s stories like these that make me thank God that I was born in the free Dominion of Canada, where no citizen is ever bankrupted by these things you guys call “medical bills”. I’ve never even seen a “medical bill” in my life!

            Reply
            • Gaspony November 13, 2014, 12:13 pm

              I do want the health care system of the U.S. to be more economical and never having lived in Canada I don’t know the ins and outs of the Canadian medical system but some facts I do know are that the U.S. and other developed countries spend roughly the same amount per citizen until the last year of life. This is where the U.S. health care cost diverge greatly from other civilized countries. I also know that the U.S. is responsible for a much larger portion of medical innovations than other developed countries and that is most likely due to the profit that can be derived from the sales of those innovations. Other countries adopt those innovations later and at a lower cost. I’m not saying it is right. I’m just saying this is probably why costs are higher in the U.S. If U.S. Americans would choose to forgo these higher cost procedures or lessened the need for them by adopting healthier lifestyles maybe costs would come down but for now the market is requesting them for some reason and there are plenty of people willing to sell them for a tidy profit. Also I think Canada is greatly benefited by having the U.S. as a neighbor because those Canadian not willing to use the state funded services have the option to pay more and drive across the border so they don’t have to wait as long for an MRI or elective surgery. It isn’t right that someone is bankrupted by medical bills but then again how do we judge how much extra quality life is worth?

              Reply
              • JOe November 14, 2014, 7:40 am

                “I also know that the U.S. is responsible for a much larger portion of medical innovations than other developed countries and that is most likely due to the profit that can be derived from the sales of those innovations.”

                Care to back this one up? Or are you another American deluded into believing you are getting good healthcare simply because you are paying alot.

              • Maxim Ч. November 15, 2014, 1:15 pm

                Other countries make PLENTY of medical innovations. The rest of the world doesn’t just sit around waiting for Yankees to do it. Right now a Canadian-developed (in Winnipeg) ebola-vaccine is undergoing clinical trials in West Africa. We also discovered insulin, which is keeping all those horrendously-obese USA people from keeling over and dying.

                As for the MRIs…if you want one tomorrow, you can get it without crossing any borders. It will only cost you about six hundred dollars in my city (Vancouver).

              • Patrick November 17, 2014, 2:43 pm

                “some facts I do know are that the U.S. and other developed countries spend roughly the same amount per citizen until the last year of life.”

                Not according to Wikipedia see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_(PPP)_per_capita

                health expenditures per person are much higher in the U.S. almost double Canada with no added life expectancy.

              • Gaspony November 20, 2014, 8:05 am

                http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2012/12/30/2012-the-year-in-healthcare-charts/

                Here is an article that shows US expenditures pretty similar until age 60 or so. Then the US starts deviating from the world greatly after that. I should have said later in life and not the last year of life.

                http://www.forbes.com/sites/gracemarieturner/2012/05/23/though-the-u-s-is-healthcares-world-leader-its-innovative-culture-is-threatened/?optimizely=a

                This article says the US is responsible for over half the new drugs in the last decade.

                I’m not saying the US healthcare system is the best way of doing things ever. I was just giving reasons son that healthcare is so expensive in the US vs the rest of the world.

            • marietka November 19, 2014, 8:16 am

              In a situation as described above, it can cost someone in Canada thousands of dollars as well, especially if they live somewhere that doesn’t have the specialists to treat the patient and they have to move to the city for the duration of their illness. Prescriptions are not covered once you are out of the hospital, too. So don’t discount the cost of being sick in Canada!

              (Not that I am trying to say that it is anywhere as bad as in the US. But it can still cause serious financial hardship for people).

              Reply
              • Marie November 20, 2014, 10:32 am

                I feel sorry for anyone that thinks more drugs means better health. Same goes for people who think GMO’s will end starvation. The US is ranked as one of the least healthy populations. Hospitals have shareholders just like every other industry. We are the only country (aside from the UK) with a profit driven medical industry.

                There was a statistic I read that there are enough surgeons trained at this moment to handle every surgery needed for the next 50 years. University greed is training more every year. This industry sprawl leads to unsuspecting, trusting people to allow themselves to be scared into unnecessary and expensive surgery. The US medical system is not what it was in the 1950’s. Births were not this expensive. Cesarean was not this common.

                We should be ashamed of our medical system, our hospitals bankrupting citizens. The Mustachian ethos is DIY and this applies to maintaining your health. Urgent Care professionals can set minor bones breakages just as well as any hospital.

                Antibiotics can be taken via olive leaf extract capsules or Pau d arco tea.* No need for a synthetic drug prescription. Diabetes can be healed via a vegetarian diet and rehydration of the cells. All sorts of modern medical issues are industry made.

                *Timeless Secrets Health Rejuvenation

            • Pam March 25, 2015, 9:13 am

              How difficult would it be for an American to find a social work / counselor job in Canada? I’ve almost had enough of this country.

              Reply
          • Tim November 13, 2014, 7:27 am

            First off. I am sorry for you and your family’s loss.

            I am a bit confused though… Most insurance even the bad ones I have come across have an out of pocket max on an annual basis of around $6 – $8K so how did it add up to $50K even spread across 2 years it could be $16K.. Gas and parking I can see to add some additional cost but I’m lost on how that jumps it to $50K.. Also knowing that medical costs that high become deductible on your taxes and that can include transportation costs as well.

            I just want to make sure I’m not missing something in the event I have some major health problems at some point in the future.

            Thanks!

            Reply
            • Cyndy November 13, 2014, 5:20 pm

              I think you could be forgetting about prescription costs. Even when I go to the doctor for a simple matter, the prescription often ends up costing more out of pocket than the doctor’s visit did. 60 minutes recently did an episode on pharmaceutical company price gouging specifically in regard to a couple cancer drugs that was really shocking.

              Reply
          • Orlean November 13, 2014, 1:48 pm

            I want to second this writer’s point—I have what is called a platinum insurance plan. However, in February my kidney stopped working (I was born with only one). The scans discovered that I had tumors wrapped around my reproductive organs, so I had to have a complete hysterectomy. THis has been followed by five more surgeries. I, too, have spent nearly $50,000 on things not covered by insurance, like hospital parking, special foods, co-pays and so on. And then there is the lost income because I have spent the last six months recovering from one surgery or another…Life changes in an instant when you become catastrophically ill, and even with the best planning you can end up bankrupt or so close to it that you live with constant anxiety.

            Reply
            • Pat November 14, 2014, 10:13 am

              This is a good argument for disability insurance as well as life and health insurance. Health insurance may pay most medical costs, but it doesn’t cove lost income, modifications to your home or car, etc. A neighbour of mine had a stroke, and his disability insurance covered mods like that.
              Younger (i.e. 20-50) people are more likely to need disability insurance than life insurance.

              Reply
              • Melissa M. November 21, 2014, 5:35 pm

                My professor, a former insurance man, once told me that people readily buy life insurance to pay out on their death, when the numbers showed they should be purchasing long-term care insurance. I buy it through my employer, it is extremely cheap that way and I can “continue” it after I leave my place of employment if I want. MMM may say different, but I would just hate to lose all my savings like my parents did when my dad had cancer. Their entire life savings/retirement went to the hospitals and doctors my dad needed. He died at 55. There was nothing left for the funeral, nor my 50 year old mom. They were as frugal as it gets.

          • QuestioningMind November 13, 2014, 4:29 pm

            Postscript, can you explain further? A good PPO health insurance plan should have had an out of pocket maximum for her (and her family). But for her in particular, probably limited to 10K or less even with high deductible plans. so I’m interpreting this as her encountering 40K in non-medical costs? I’ve seen these stories from time to time and I’ve wondered how they happen. I’d definitely be curious if you know more.

            Reply
            • S November 17, 2014, 9:44 pm

              I can’t speak for the Postscript, but I can give you an example of someone I know. This person I know has a good PPO plan from her husband’s work, as she is disabled and cannot work. Things that money is spent on include:
              1. Copays for visits
              2. Copays for pharmacy
              3. Full payment for medications that are specifically compounded for her (hundreds of dollars per month)
              4. Parking
              5. Home equipment that insurance refuses to cover
              6. Help around the house because her husband can’t do everything
              7. Alternative healthcare that isn’t covered but gives her some pain relief and quality of life
              8. Special food
              9. Super healthy organic, pasture raised, grass fed food, etc
              10. Out of network providers – some insurance companies only count about 10% of what you paid into their “out of pocket max”
              11. Any household or personal care products that need to be changed to accommodate her needs, such as a new air purifier, installing curtains to block the light, changing the type of light bulbs used, etc
              12. Supplements
              13. Sometimes travel is necessary to see a super-specialist
              14. Any procedure or treatment that they insurance company deems as “experimental” (even though that’s not really true) or that isn’t yet approved by your insurance for your specific condition (even though science and medicine has proved that it works, insurance is WAAAAAY behind on this and will refuse it)
              15. Sometimes you have to hire an advocate whose job is to basically get your insurance company to cover things that they’re supposed to cover. Yes, these people exist. Because the insurance company, even with good insurance, will start denying coverage after they realize you will actually be using your insurance.

              And much more….

              All of that is essentially medical care as its centered about her health.

              Reply
              • redchair November 19, 2014, 5:29 am

                This is why public health care is the only feasible solution for a society to adopt. A private company will refuse to pay and take their chances in court as soon as you start to claim.

              • PFgal November 24, 2014, 2:23 pm

                This is a good list. I would like to add that for many people, there is also a lack of income, or at least a reduction. So on top of increased expenses, there is no money coming in. This can put a strain on a spouse/partner’s earnings, and lead to dire consequences when the person is living alone.

          • Eric August 28, 2015, 1:36 am

            To the people who talk about the hardship and ‘Stash killing done by spouse passing suddenly, that is why you have life insurance. 10-12 times each working persons salary (300k-400k for a stay at home parent). Draw on that money at 4% and the lights stay on.

            Reply
      • funkright November 11, 2014, 10:24 pm

        ‘Why didn’t he have health insurance?’ Probably because he lived in the USA. In most other 1st world civilized nations this never would have occurred (bankruptcy due to medical bills). I thank the good Lord that I was born, live and will continue to reside in Canada.

        Reply
      • Hugerat November 12, 2014, 7:48 pm

        I can think of lots of reasons a 22 year old would have no health insurance. This is, after all, historically the most underinsured demographic in the nation. Maybe he just left college and is looking for his first job. If this is pre-ACA he can no longer be on his parents’ plan so while he is looking for work and has no income he is unable to afford premiums.

        Or maybe he did have a job lined up but it didn’t start until a month after graduation, and during this time he gets sick.

        Or maybe he did have insurance after all, but, as has been documented many times, his insurance company found a way to drop him after he got sick.

        Reply
      • CJ November 13, 2014, 6:38 pm

        Well, now, in the US, Health insurance is a bit more reliable. But, prior to 2013, they could have had health insurance that denied the claim because the hospital was out of network, or that did not provide any mental health coverage, or that kicked them off after the treatment was incurred. Or, they could have been uninsurable at any reasonable rate because of pre-existing conditions.

        Also, at 22, it is hard to have as much saved as at 30. Even if you worked hard and saved a lot, a setback just when you are starting to work is worse than one after a few years of full time, grown up work.

        Reply
    • Oh Yonghao November 11, 2014, 5:11 pm

      I believe he did account for that in the part you quoted where he says “could in fact be”, not “is actually”, as if he is some sort of omniscient being dictating reality. As with everything else written here adjust it for your own situation. Yes some people have valid medical emergencies at a time when they couldn’t have possibly saved up money beforehand and never splurged on luxuries every day, but if he wrote out all the exceptions someone will come up with a new situation that he didn’t think of and the warning on the blog listing out exceptions will begin taking up 3 screens full of text in size 8 font before we actually got to anything useful.

      Hope your brothers have recovered, both physically, mentally, and financially.

      Reply
      • Ellen November 11, 2014, 7:31 pm

        I know people who were wealthy by most standards who had health insurance but still lost most of their savings because their insurance was capped at a certain amount. At some point the insurance company cut them off at the knees. I think that is one of the things that has changed with the ACA. Caps are not allowed. They were very diligent savers too but they had million dollars worth of medical bills.

        Reply
        • Thomas November 12, 2014, 1:59 am

          Wait, what? Is this really how many American health insurances work? In principle, insurance should protect you for the small chance that you’ll get sick and have to pay big amounts of money. If the insurance is capped and thus won’t cover that, what is the use of this insurance, why would you take it?

          Reply
          • MrFrugalChicago November 12, 2014, 11:15 am

            Caps are no more in America, thanks to our wise president Barack Obama

            Reply
            • JonnybCivics November 12, 2014, 3:32 pm

              Agreed! Completely un/under-reported aspect of the ACA aka Obamacare. It’s not just about cost and mandates…what insurance companies can get away with has fundamentally changed. They now MUST cover preventive care at no cost, CANNOT deny you for pre-existing conditions, and CANNOT cap payouts. Before, lots of shenanigans around all these things, screwing people over.

              Sadly this is one of those “don’t really know or care until I actually need it” things for the American public, so all the cranks are content to go on and on about how Obamacare means we’re all communists now.

              Reply
              • Ellen November 12, 2014, 4:45 pm

                Yes, exactly, the insurance companies must now pay for the medical care that the family or individual signed up for and has paid for. It seems that honoring a contract is part of the free market economy instead of changing the terms when it is not advantageous to your share holders.

              • Reader of the Rockies November 14, 2014, 9:15 am

                The fact that the medical insurance industry lobbied hard to get the ACA passed would suggest that there are a couple of unpleasant details for the public. For example, the guarantee that the taxpayer will pay the insurance industry for financial shortfalls as a result of ACA. The way I understand it, the tacxpayer is now essentially guaranteeing the profits of the industry. I would lobby too if it were me. We’re not all communists, we’re just on the hook for more corporate welfare. Having said that, there were many issues under the pre-ACA system. ACA solved some and then created new ones.

              • Kristine in Santa Barbara November 17, 2014, 12:30 am

                I want to to second how very important these points are. We may very well see some serious attempts at gutting the ACA in the near future. However, the end of pre-existing condition denials or rate hikes is huge. Keeping young adults on parent plans till 26 was a brilliant way to keep mostly healthily adults in the pool. No caps is also major. If Barack, Michelle and Valerie leave Washington with only this as this as their legacy, I think they’ll be celebrating.

        • b November 13, 2014, 3:21 am

          Something I don’t understand: why US medical costs are so high when many countries charge much less for equal or better care. I was amazed that US dentists wanted to charge me $350 (ten years ago) for simply sticking a bridge back in. All it needed was dental glue. I was told I must get cleaning, Xrays, etc. first and then they would glue it. They wanted to make a new bridge but the old one served me well for years afterwards. I was charged $650 ( ten years ago) by a Dr who simply looked at a sprain. Maybe we can begin by reducing costs at medical schools, maybe the whole country can learn to be really healthy ?

          Reply
          • Nancy November 13, 2014, 5:25 pm

            One of the reasons for high cost in the US is the administrative cost of insurance. It accounts for over 30% of expenditures. We also subsidize each other. The under-65 crowd pays more to make up for lower Medicare reimbursement rates. There are many more drivers of cost in our fragmented system, but these issues are largely responsible for what you’re seeing.

            Reply
            • Debbie M November 15, 2014, 9:12 pm

              Also the cost of insurance in case they get sued. Plus the cost of covering their butts in case they get sued.

              Reply
              • Adam November 19, 2014, 2:52 am

                I believe this cost could be greatly reduced if the AMA did more internal policing. There are a very few, very bad doctors who jump from state to state committing malpractice. My wife has personally seen pharmaceutical fraud and hospital embezzlement from two guys that never went public as it would have been too embarrassing. The doctors are now a state over.

    • Nancy November 11, 2014, 7:51 pm

      Medical bankruptcy IS different in most cases. The majority of people in this situation were insured. Illness of this magnitude is often compounded by job loss, a spouse acting as a caretaker, divorce (a sad percentage of men leave their spouses during a breast cancer battle), etc. So yes, the Caribbean Cruise bankruptcy happens, but not all medical bankruptcies are the result of poor planning.

      When sorrows come,
      they come not single spies,
      but in battalions.
      -Hamlet, Act I scene v.

      Reply
    • Heath November 12, 2014, 11:56 am

      I’m very sorry to hear about your brother. Abrupt mental illness is a serious tragedy, and I’m sure it has had a lasting impact on everyone close to him.

      One thing to keep in mind when reading MMM is that he’s writing for MOST people’s situations. There will always be exceptions to these types of guidelines, as was the case with your brother. But the average American can benefit a ton from this kind of future thinking.

      For example there are many people who accumulate a huge pile of student loans, which put them all on top of their proverbial unicycles. Student loans aren’t necessarily something you should always avoid (remember, exceptions to everything), but they can be minimized and even entirely avoided with the proper amount of creativity and planning. This kind of planning is a serious gift to your future self!

      An MMM example – http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/07/interview-with-a-ceo-ridiculous-student-loans-vs-the-future-of-education/

      Reply
    • Frank November 12, 2014, 1:31 pm

      Ooohh!! Look at me! I can find one or two examples that MMM didn’t cover and get REALLY offended!

      Reply
      • Lisa November 13, 2014, 12:00 pm

        I back Mr. MMM here. Medical debt does happen, yes, but preparation by past self will solve 99% of the issue. My previous paycheck was doing background investigations. Those with financial difficulties were in the hundreds each year. Just once, in five years, was there a legitimate case of financial difficulty due to medical costs by an individual that was not carrying HUGE consumer debt from bad choices in the past.

        Reply
    • Vickie November 14, 2014, 9:55 am

      I am very sorry for the problems that your brother and your family has faced. However, this does not really have anything to do with what this article is addressing. If a 22 year old goes bankrupt, it doesn’t really matter. What did he lose? Did he have significant assets that were lost? Bankruptcy gave him a fresh-start as it was intended, except for school loans, which were a decision that may affect his future self as the article is describing. As others have more politely insinuated, if he had income or assets, then he should have purchased insurance. If he did not have income or assets, then it does not matter if he has to declare bankruptcy anyway. Let’s use relevant examples instead of trying to discredit the article with irrelevant ones, no matter how sad the situation.

      Reply
    • prof November 20, 2014, 8:06 am

      How do you plan for this doozy? https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/mother-owes-nearly-1-million-for-daughters-birth-103061950107.html

      “Childbirth is costly, but this is ridiculous: A mom from Saskatchewan, Canada, owes almost $1 million in hospital bills after she gave birth in the United States.”

      If the answer is don’t travel in the US, ever, if you have the slightest inkling that you will need medical care, I think the US tourism industry may have some issues with this answer. What a mess.

      Reply
    • geroge jeneslic November 22, 2014, 2:12 pm

      Sorry to hear about that- this is why the rest of the developed world cannot fathom why anyone would not want a universal health care plan like here in Canada or in most of Europe. If something like that happens here, it does not cost you a dime.

      Reply
  • Even Steven November 11, 2014, 4:46 pm

    I like the unicycle bit, now I wouldn’t dare to jump on one of those bad boys whether winter or summer, so I hope that is me walking the pavement trying to get rid of my student loans.

    Reply
    • Better World Biker November 11, 2014, 5:07 pm

      Unicycling is not as hard as you think it is! If you can ride a bike, with 20-30 hours of practice you can most likely learn to ride a unicycle. I learned when I was 16 and have since helped coach many others to learn. A somewhat funky skill, but fun to show off anytime someone has a unicycle around.

      Reply
      • Christina November 11, 2014, 7:46 pm

        My husband is a pretty hard core unicyclist. He doesn’t own or ever ride a bicycle. So the unicycle analogy probably didn’t have the same effect on me as for others :)

        Reply
    • Heath November 12, 2014, 11:58 am

      Here’s a fun kickstarter (already funded, so you can’t contribute) which designed an ‘easier’ to use unicycle. Seems legit!

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/687658339/lunicycle-the-unicycle-for-everyone

      Reply
    • Beth November 14, 2014, 7:11 am

      Another unicyclist here. I wouldn’t do it on ice, or even in the rain. :)

      Reply
  • Stephen November 11, 2014, 4:47 pm

    This is an epic post! I am becoming more aware of the gifts and challenges that my former self has bestowed upon my current self. I’m pretty fortunate to have had a little more insight at 22 than I actually realized and many of my habits and decisions that I made are paying dividends now. Of course, I’m also still paying for a few of the past choices as well. I think the cool part for me is that I’m starting to see some of the implemented changes that started in ~2011 from reading this blog (& Zen/4HWW). All the bike riding, low consumption, and high savings rates have allowed my (now growing) family to have a lot of choices when it comes to a stay at home spouse and career opportunites. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of my future self given the path this blog has helped get me on.

    Reply
    • anna November 16, 2014, 3:03 pm

      I agree Stephen – a lot of it simply comes down to good old delayed gratification. I’m glad I have had at least some ability to stick to this for most of my younger life, as well as being lucky enough to find a fantastic husband who was even more keen on this approach, because it means we are miles ahead of most of our friend s and relatives in this regard. We keep being informed by them that we are “lucky”, because it is much easier for them to tell themselves that it has nothing to do with the decisions (big and small) we all make along the way…

      Reply
      • Aaron November 17, 2014, 10:54 am

        What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a difference between being “lucky” and “just lucky”. Luck happens to everyone, it’s what you do with it that counts. If you find $20 on the ground and use to get a more expensive lunch than you normally would have, you were lucky, but you might as well have not found it. If you win a scratch off and get $20,000 but then use the money to upgrade to a nicer car than the one you were planning on purchasing, same as the expensive lunch. If on the other hand you use these lucky windfalls, a good paying job, good health (few medical expenses), etc. and save them up rather than use them up then you can reap the benefits for far longer.

        So yeah, we are all lucky at times. It’s what we do with the good times that determine how well we ride out the bad luck times. And yeah, for some the bad luck may outweigh the good, but for most people we have more good fortune than misfortune.

        Reply
        • Mike November 19, 2014, 2:26 pm

          “Lucky” goes so far beyond that. They’ve even done experiments that show that people that describe themselves as “lucky” are more likely to find unexpected rewards. Keeping your eye out for opportunity and being ready to jump on it is a huge benefit. Similarly, an ability to identify possible bad outcomes and reduce their probability or risk can make a big difference.

          Reply
    • Cyril November 21, 2014, 6:46 am

      I love reading testimonials like yours Stephen, but it kinda makes me sad because I didn’t have the relevant insight at 20 (or even 30), and at 35, I’m DEFINITELY a victim of my former self, I suspect because of a lack of the right environment (too many variables, who knows). I am on the unicycle right now, juggling, in the snowstorm. I only hope that I can turn things around in sufficient time to be a reasonable example to my own kids; but even now, understanding the value of financial discipline doesn’t make me good at it.
      -best wishes to you and yours

      Reply
  • David November 11, 2014, 4:51 pm

    Here’s the thing I’ve basically never understood about the whole ‘underwater mortgage’ thing everyone gets all up-in-arms over: Why does it matter if you owe more than your home is worth?* If you were able to afford payments when you bought the house, you ought to still be able to afford payments after a downturn. If you lost your job in a ‘downturn’, and don’t have a way to stay up on payments while you address the job situation, the problem is NOT being upside down on your mortgage. Sure, it’s going to make it suck to try to sell it, but in that kind of scenario, you should be smart enough to weather the storm and wait for properties to rebound before an ill-timed sale.

    * This is, of course, leaving aside the fact that you’ve more than likely made a poor decision in choosing a house to purchase, since if you’re buying within your responsible means, you ought to be accumulating equity pretty darned fast, and have started out with a solid down payment as well. But that’s not actually my point anyhow!

    Reply
    • Pamela November 12, 2014, 9:07 am

      Completely agree here. My husband and I bought our house in mid 2007 and watched the market goo down for several years after that. While yet, it would have been nice to have purchased it for less in 2008, we basically shrugged our shoulders and thought that since we purchased the house we planned to live in for at least 15 to 20 years (pending unforeseen circumstances, of course), we could weather this drop in home price.

      Kind of like buying stock just before the prices drop. Do you sell? Not if you purchased with long-term gains in view and if your reasons for buying that stock are still valid.

      Reply
    • Ellery November 13, 2014, 8:48 pm

      I am underwater on a building and as you say, it’s mostly fine if you have a job and stay in the house. The only problem is that we would like to refinance into a fixed rate loan, even though the ARM has worked out marvelously for us in these years of low interest rates, who knows how long that will last… and no one will touch us until we get to that magic 80/20 ratio (mortgage worth no more than 80% of value.) When we bought the house, they were cooing that the appraiser valued it at $20,000 more than we paid! (which immediately made me wonder if we’d paid too much….) Now no one will value it at enough so we can just shift the debt around a bit. It’s such a crock, really.
      The other moment is when you get a job across country, have to move, and selling the house now means losing tens of thousands. Sometimes life’s big changes don’t coincide with the housing market, unfortunately for those of us who bought in 2005….

      Basically, MMM is great- and so is national financial policy that avoids total housing bubbles, because some people will find them very inconvenient later.

      Reply
    • larmando November 14, 2014, 7:16 am

      Well, problems compound: if you lose your job and can’t make payments but are *not* underwater you can sell the house, downsize, move, and happily keep some money (if you’re lucky). If you’re underwater you’re stuck.

      Of course you should always buy within your means, etc, we completely agree. But there’s widely different definitions of what you can or can’t afford (unfortunately if you don’t know and you ask, you’re going to get the wrong advice by most people in the field), you may not have had *much* of a choice, and the conventional wisdom is that nobody expected house prices to fall more than 50%. So you could have ended up underwater also on a 20% downpayment after two years of repayments or so.

      Reply
      • Spoonman. November 18, 2014, 1:38 pm

        You can also just walk away from the house. Yeah, you’ll have to rent for a while, but that might not be the worst thing.

        Reply
    • Holly November 18, 2014, 1:40 pm

      I agree 1000%. We were underwater on one of our rental properties once. Now we’re not, and they will all be paid off in around 12 years when we are 46. That only happened because I ignored the situation and kept up with my part of the bargain by letting the tenants pay the mortgage. The only time it should matter if you’re underwater if is you want to sell, IMO.

      Reply
  • Jay November 11, 2014, 4:51 pm

    Thanks for spelling out exactly how much car (4x monthly savings, < $12k) you should buy when starting out. I was just on the correct side of that limit when I bought mine. This was before I found (Mustachian) religion, of course.

    Does it make sense to sell and downgrade my wheels? I have an '07 Accord that I drive about 5k miles/year.

    Reply
    • JB November 11, 2014, 7:54 pm

      If the car is paid for, how much will you really be saving?

      Reply
    • insourcelife November 12, 2014, 9:47 am

      Sounds like you spent less than 12K on a presumably reliable car bought in cash. If that’s the case – just keep it! That’s not too much money to have tied up in a depreciating asset, even if you only put 5K miles on it per year. If you are not DIY-inclined having something reliable at a reasonable cost becomes more important than saving a few grand but having to deal with a car that constantly needs a mechanic. Now, if you enjoy AND have time for DIY by all means get yourself a car for 2K and tinker away investing the difference! Personally, I like to work on cars but I lack the time now that we have a toddler, so my compromise is an 09 Mini Cooper with 40K miles that’s worth right around 12K. It requires minimal maintenance which I can easily do myself and it was bought in cash. My 2 cents anyway.

      Reply
    • Jay November 12, 2014, 4:39 pm

      Thanks for the responses.

      The car is paid for. I was thinking of switching to a manual Honda Fit or similar hatchback in the $6-7k range, which will free up about $3k that can be invested. It does seem like an awful lot of work selling a car and buying another to generate an extra $120 + gas savings/year in returns though.

      Reply
      • Joel November 14, 2014, 3:42 pm

        I did something like this with a 2004 Camry(it was paid off) a couple years ago. I sold it, and bought a 99 Honda hatchback with half of the proceeds. The hatchback a great reliable car for those who commute.

        Reply
  • Better World Biker November 11, 2014, 5:06 pm

    As always, fantastic post. I think you have created a new word to my vocabulary — Tireless Bullshit!

    We’re also excited to continue to hear about the radiant heat experiment as well.

    I am reminded daily of the sins of my past self in going into debt for my undergraduate degree, and vow never to do anything like that to damage my future self again. Thankfully these loans will be nonexistent in one year according to plan, but it still hurts to make a loan payment knowing it could go towards a down payment on a house or increasing investment and retirement.

    Reply
  • Adam November 11, 2014, 5:10 pm

    This also gets into the issue of direct action vs. indirect action. Even if you’ve made mistakes in the past, you can still take direct action today to give a gift to your present and future selves. The time one spends in front of the tv getting riled up by the politics of the day or doom and gloom economic forecasts could be better used earning money through a side gig, learning a new skill, or improving your interpersonal relationships.

    One more item I’d propose adding to MMM’s list is picking the right partner (if you choose to have one) and thinking about marriage extremely carefully. A bad marriage could inflict serious emotional and financial hardship on your future self, while a good one would pay dividends for many years.

    Reply
    • Phil November 12, 2014, 6:55 am

      Your marriage comment is dead on. “Choose wisely, treat kindly.” That is the advice I will be giving my son and daughter when they get older.

      Reply
    • Postscript November 12, 2014, 5:24 pm

      Good point! And how you both feel about and use money is really important to know before getting hitched.

      Reply
  • todd November 11, 2014, 5:13 pm

    Funny I realized a gift to myself the other day. Had to switch out a porch light for a new LED money saver and it only took 5 minutes. A sample of what hard work from years ago made look easy now. Another great post and my mustache is starting to curl. Keep em’ coming

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugalwoods November 11, 2014, 5:15 pm

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m usually a big fan. In fact, I checked the byline twice just to make sure this was the same MMM that I’ve been reading.

    This article is a bunch of very black and white accusations. I personally feel like reality has a lot more grey.

    People who are successful never seem to acknowledge how much luck and privilege played a part in their success. Even the most bootstrap-puller-upper (btw, always thought that saying made no sense!) had lucky breaks that could have gone the other way.

    On the other side of the coin, people who aren’t successful similarly don’t want to acknowledge the role personal choices played in their long term outcomes.

    Maybe that makes for a less clickable post. I dunno.

    And picking on medical bankruptcy? Seriously?

    How many skipped lattes does it take to pay back $1,00,000 of pediatric leukemia bills?

    I mean come on.

    P.S.: Much love, hope to see some more construction log posts soon.

    Reply
    • nicoleandmaggie November 11, 2014, 5:41 pm

      This exactly. I am blessed with the privilege of starting from middle class, with being white, with being smart, with learning about money and learning how to cook.

      There are plenty of people who, because of the economy and changes in the economy and because of the circumstances they started with do not have anywhere the equality of opportunity that you or I had. People who try to get ahead and get shot down and you’re doing the equivalent of blaming them for buying soda instead of just drinking water, as if forgoing that tiny luxury would actually make a difference in a world full of discrimination, poor schooling, crime, food insecurity, etc. Of course, media stories about the truly poor are too depressing to make headlines, so they’re illustrated with the middle class, so we moderately privileged folks can either connect or throw stones.

      But it is true that the working class is, because of the way the economy and government are structured, rapidly becoming the working poor rather than the middle class. There really are victims, even if you or I are not among their number. And it’s not because the working poor are bad people who make bad choices. They aren’t given our second chances or our opportunities. And there are more of them every year.

      Reply
      • Dee November 11, 2014, 6:40 pm

        Very well said!

        Reply
      • Pylortes November 11, 2014, 7:56 pm

        I agree that there are more and more people falling behind, many of them coming from challenging situations, but it is still very possible to improve yourself in America no matter your socio economic background if you want it bad enough, work hard enough and never stop learning!

        For example, pretty much everyone has access to free schooling and a local library. Even if their school is one of the poorer performers, the local library has thousands of volumes to let the motivated person better themselves. Want to learn a new language? They have books and CDs for that! Want to learn how to fix a car? Yep, they got books forth at too! Want to learn about astrophysics, how to start a business or how to improve your SAT scores to land that scholarship? Check, check and check!! Oh, and they also have Internet access which opens up pretty much all of human knowledge and history for the curious. You just have to be motivated to learn and use the tools available. The best part? All this is available at no charge to the user!!

        This was an awesome post. I have found that consistent small efforts over time have led to great success both personally and professionally. If present self puts the hard work in, the dividends to future self will be endless. Many hours spent in the library learning, or on the job working and soaking up knowledge can sure pay dividends to pretty much any American!

        Reply
        • Debbie M November 13, 2014, 9:48 am

          Low-income parts of town can have bad libraries as well as bad schools. For example, the language-learning CDs in my neighborhood are often stolen or destroyed (do people use them as hockey pucks?) within months. And it might not even occur to you that you could study for the SAT (I thought that was cheating) or go to college.

          I still love the message that you can put both gifts and coal in your future self’s stockings, regardless of the kinds of gifts coal which you know about and have access to.

          Reply
        • Paul November 21, 2014, 8:24 pm

          Hi Mr. Mustache

          I agree with most of what your saying. But for clarification, does this apply to a person living in a third world country?Or in a third world community within the United States (sadly, it does exist)? Or a someone who is the unfortunate recipient of bigotry (according to race, gender, sexual preference or economic background). Please explain?

          Reply
      • Hugerat November 12, 2014, 10:25 am

        Well said by all. Anyone doubting that good fortune doesn’t play a role in their success needs to engage in a little more self-reflection. They should also go read the Washington Post article about a man whose life was quite literally saved by the Affordable Care Act. Before Obamacare, insurers would often just find a weaselly way to drop customers who became too expensive. Even those who did make good choices in life could be punished severely.

        The only other thing I’d add is this: I wish the traditional MMM message about making good choices and saving diligently would be separated from the discussion about income inequality and stagnating wages. The latter are very real and serious problems that we as a society should address, but they don’t have much to do with whether or not someone buys too many lattes or leases a luxury car. One can easily believe that the middle class is giving itself the shaft, while also believing that our current income distribution is incredibly unfair.

        Reply
        • Professor Ecks November 12, 2014, 10:44 am

          I don’t think we can (or should) separate the message about making good choices and saving diligently from the discussion about income inequality and stagnating wages. You are right that “The latter are very real and serious problems that we as a society should address, but they don’t have much to do with whether or not someone buys too many lattes or leases a luxury car.” However while they may not be CAUSED by too many lattes or leases on a luxury car, one’s ability to RESPOND to or WEATHER these possible eventualities are GREATLY affected by making good choices and saving diligently.

          Reply
        • Mark November 12, 2014, 3:05 pm

          Mr. Ecks nailed it…and I will take it one step further. Part of (notice I said “part”, not “all”) the reason why we have so much income inequality and stagnant wages is BECAUSE our savings rate is low. When people don’t have anything to fall back on, financially speaking, they have to put up with more Tiresome Bullshit from their employers.

          Reply
          • Hugerat November 12, 2014, 7:43 pm

            Uh, no. Actually if you read my comment more carefully you’ll notice that Ecks and I don’t disagree that some people’s decisions directly cause them to be vulnerable to certain shocks like medical expenses. But medical bankruptcies even of people who don’t spend recklessly are still a very real and prevalent thing, mercifully less prevalent now thanks to ACA. MMM is taking some deserved criticism for lumping these in with people who took ill advised Caribbean vacations.

            There sure is a dearth of empathy on this thread. Is it really so hard to imagine how your life might have been different with just a little bit of bad luck? I’ve had a 40% savings rate for 10 years, and I’m doing quite well for myself now because of it. It would be very easy for me to concoct some heroic biography for myself, extolling my cleverness, but I recognize that I owe my current situation in no small part to plenty of good fortune earlier in life. I also recognize that people are fallible, and in America a small mistake, even by otherwise responsible and diligent people, coupled with a little bad luck can actually wipe you out, and does.

            As for this: “the reason why we have so much income inequality and stagnant wages is BECAUSE our savings rate is low.” I must have missed this in my economics education. Do explain how a higher personal savings rate increases one’s wages.

            In any case, there’s no reason to be so thin-skinned about criticism. I don’t think anyone here believes that MMM really is sneering at people who are bankrupted by medical bills, and I’m sure the critics are also all big fans of the blog. We all know that his target is really fat, doughy middle income people whose lives are a parade of bad financial choices. This post just had a bit too much “if you’re poor it’s your own damn fault” for my liking.

            Reply
            • TheQwan November 13, 2014, 6:38 am

              “As for this: “the reason why we have so much income inequality and stagnant wages is BECAUSE our savings rate is low.” I must have missed this in my economics education. Do explain how a higher personal savings rate increases one’s wages.”

              I will happily provide examples from my own life demonstrating that is the case. I believe the economic term is Fuck You Money. At a couple of my jobs, whenever it came time for my review and raise, I got the standard, “we think you’re great, but we only give people 3% raises here.” All my fellow co-workers accepted that as the status quo. Shoot, during the past 5 years, I don’t know that any of my co-workers received any wage increases at all, and felt “lucky” to have a job. But I had accumulated my Fuck You Money, and I was willing to go out and find another job where they would be willing to pay me more. So I let them know that their 3% raise was not acceptable and they would have to do better if they wanted to keep me. Guess what? On my first job, that worked like a charm. Year after year, I would get excellent wages increases and promotions, while my co-workers watched from their cubicles, pondering how unfair life is.

              In my last position where I did this, they did a bit of benefit re-arranging to make it seem like I got a raise when I actually didn’t, so I could see that they were not interested in truly providing me with an opportunity to increase my salary and position. So, with the blessing of my spouse, I turned in my resignation. They were BEYOND shocked. I don’t believe that had ever had that happen before. Within a year, they were begging me to come back, so I came back as an independent contractor at 4X my former salary and making my own hours. And that, my friends, is what Fuck You Money does. It is the POSITION OF POWER that MMM has mentioned on multiple occasions. Wages are based upon demand. If the average worker is heavily in debt and will take any job at any salary just to keep the bill collectors at bay due to a history of bad financial decisions, then the wages will remain low. If the average work has no debt and a healthy savings account, they can afford to wait for that perfect job with the perfect salary to come along.

              Reply
            • Mark February 22, 2015, 12:56 am

              When more people save more, they don’t have to put up with as many shitty jobs and working conditions because they have savings to fall back on. That means they get better wages and working conditions. How is this not self evident??????

              Reply
      • Mark November 12, 2014, 2:53 pm

        Sorry, I disagree with the bit about the working class not making bad choices. The worst one they make, in general, is having kids out of wedlock. The out of wedlock birth rate is now around 41%. How can you do well financially when you have that type of unstable setup. (And most of those setups ARE unstable…even liberal researchers are admitting as much. See link below).

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/20-years-later-it-turns-out-dan-quayle-was-right-about-murphy-brown-and-unmarried-moms/2012/05/25/gJQAsNCJqU_story.html

        Reply
        • AC November 14, 2014, 6:59 am

          I’m torn on this subject. Growing up in the suburban America in the 1980’s I saw how single mothers and the children of single mothers were harshly judged. Today, that negative stigma has been reduced. I think we need to balance our criticism and support for people who make this “lifestyle” choice. In almost every circumstance, children are better off in a 2 parent family. That said, we must not treat them as outcasts by labeling them harshly.

          Ultimately, I agree with your assertion. A strong 2 parent family is probably the best financial decision any one can make. I recently had my first child(20 mos) and I find the job of a parent to be quite difficult. Our son has a mother, a father, 4 grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby to help! I can’t imagine trying to raise him on my own.

          Reply
    • Professor Ecks November 11, 2014, 5:49 pm

      Funny how different people can read the same words and see different things. While you view the article as “a bunch of very black and white accusations,” I don’t see any accusations at all. I see a bunch of remarks like “could be” describing situations concluding that seemingly disastrous outcomes are the result of aspects beyond one’s control as opposed to the result of poor decisions by the “victim.” No accusations, just POSSIBLE examples.

      I mean, you yourself acknowledged “people who aren’t successful similarly don’t want to acknowledge the role personal choices played in their long term outcomes.”

      Surely you don’t need a disclaimer along the lines of “understand that just because I suggest THIS medical bankruptcy MAY have been attributable to some poor decision making doesn’t mean that ALL medical bankruptcies are attributable to poor decision making” from MMM, do you?

      I see this article as simply a “your actions now have consequences later” reminder for people who may need reminding.

      Reply
    • Penguins4everyone November 11, 2014, 6:03 pm

      No amount of skipped lattes could get you to a cool million of pediatric leukemia bills, and I think MMM would fully acknowledge that. Also completely get you on the privilege, there are many people with the cards so stacked against them that it’s a miracle if they ever hold a full time job, let alone retire with money in the bank!

      That said, I spent 5 years as a debt counselor, and people would always start by telling me about their job loss/cancer/insert valid hardship here, and then we’d get to their expenses and debts and I’d learn about their Chevy Tahoe, 5k owed to Macy’s, and their F-ing “toy hauler” and feel like a total chump for expressing as much sympathy as I did. If someone has had a legitimate financial hardship, then they could use that to let themselves off the hook for their 100 poor financial decisions made in the past decade. Kind of like in the movie “It’s Complicated”, how Meryl Streep’s character tells Alec Baldwin’s character that she never had to acknowledge her role in the failure of their marriage, he cheated on her so she didn’t have to. People do the same thing with their finances. I got laid off, so none of this financial shit-storm could possibly be my fault.

      Reply
      • Fuzz November 11, 2014, 9:48 pm

        Nicely put.

        Reply
        • Max November 12, 2014, 8:42 am

          Seconded. The harder I work, the luckier I get. After many very hard years and the last year of my 20s, the snowball has grown nicely and I’m ready for the next recession and whatever it or life throws at me.

          Reply
          • Vickie November 21, 2014, 4:39 pm

            Thirded! As an intake caseworker for public assistance, my husband saw one couple who needed help and had made no bad decisions. Ironically, the system did not want to help them and my husband had to work very hard to qualify them for any help. The other 300 people he interviewed all had a lifetime of bad decisions and lack of planning that led to their present situation. He quickly transferred to child welfare because he said that he enjoyed helping people who were truly victims more than those who merely believed they were victims!

            Reply
      • Ellie November 13, 2014, 12:13 pm

        I have a friend whose husband was murdered a couple of decades ago. She suddenly went from living a great life to having to scrape by on her own without education or skills. Refinanced her house in 2006 and blew all the money on having a good time. Now she is 65, recently diagnosed with cancer and about to lose her deeply underwater house. I feel a stronge urge to help her out financially so she can at least live in a decent apartment. She could have been set for life if she had sold the house at the top of the market and banked the profit. Yet the horror in her past, which has so profoundly affected her entire outlook on life, makes me view her current, largely self-imposed predicament with compassion. Am I being a chump for wanting to help?

        Reply
        • Karen November 13, 2014, 7:13 pm

          A chump? Absolutely not! Her spouse was murdered which may have affected her decision-making for quite a while. I think you are being a good friend. It may be hard to offer help without some awkwardness but I hope you do.

          Reply
      • Garrett September 17, 2016, 3:50 pm

        Actually, the skipped lattes IS the way to get to the cool million. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/01/a-millionaire-is-made-ten-bucks-at-a-time/

        Now that said, pediatric leukemia bills must suck. I feel for those people. Not for those that blow all of their money. And I’m turning the lens on myself to make sure I’m not guilty of doing just that (I still have work to do on myself to make sure I avoid financial shitstorms).

        Reply
    • KG November 11, 2014, 7:37 pm

      The $1,000,000 hospital bill is a straw man argument. My daughter had cancer at age 4 and we had reasonably good insurance. Nonetheless we hit max out of pocket 3 years in a row (and still meet our deductible each year) and it was $20,000 per year. $60,000 bucks ain’t a million. Does it suck? Yep. Is it back breaking? Nope.

      If you don’t have insurance and have a catastrophic illness that literally costs $1,000,000 then you are bankrupt in the purest since I’d the word and there are laws that protect you. If it is not enough to bankrupt you, the hospitals are pretty easy to negotiate with. They will take payments until the end of time and often will give huge discounts from the original amount billed.

      Reply
      • Matt L. November 12, 2014, 9:35 am

        Just because you *can* afford $60,000 because you saved, it doesn’t make it just that you should have to.

        The fact that it’s not backbreaking for you doesn’t actually change whether that $60,000 is something that would be charged by a just and caring society.

        Reply
        • JB November 13, 2014, 2:53 pm

          Doctors need to be rewarded for going through 12 years of school. For them to be paid $75K a year would drive almost all of them out of business. A doctor can choose to work in a small town and be paid very little, but that is a bit too utopian to assume all medical costs should be cheap.

          Reply
        • Andrew November 17, 2014, 3:14 pm

          It may not be fair, but the point is proved. Since KG had savings (a gift from his past self) the $60,000 was not an end-of-days scenario!

          Reply
    • JB November 11, 2014, 7:56 pm

      There is no such thing as luck, It is the awareness to recognize opportunities. My wife is from dirt poor Texarkana and now makes over $350K. It wasn’t luck or privilege that got her where she is today. Knowing people can only take you so far.

      Reply
      • Phil November 12, 2014, 7:01 am

        Wow! What does she do?

        Reply
        • JB November 12, 2014, 10:59 am

          She is a Tax Director for a Big 4 accounting firm. She just got a promotion this year and a huge raise this year and next year. She is very specialized and thus, her talents are rewarded. We are going to retire in our mid 50’s. We aren’t going to be as frugal as MMM in our living. We plan to do some extensive traveling our our 50’s while we have a guaranteed health of being able to walk around.

          Reply
          • Dan November 12, 2014, 9:08 pm

            Your wife is a rock star.

            Reply
            • JB November 13, 2014, 2:51 pm

              Yes, she is.

              Reply
          • Valerie November 13, 2014, 5:16 am

            That’s awesome, JB. Much happiness and adventure to you and your wife!

            Reply
          • Phil November 14, 2014, 7:10 am

            Wow. Nicely done.

            Reply
      • Charlotte November 12, 2014, 11:22 am

        I agree. My husband had all the cards stacked against him. His mom committed suicide and his dad was too irresponsible to raise him. He was raised by his grandparents in a trailer and his grandpa became a security guard because he saw that he could sit around all day in a booth instead doing “work”. God love them, but they were ignorant. My husband had no chance. But he decided to work hard, get good grades, get a scholarship to college, and now he has a very good income, though not six figures like your wife’s. We are frugal and I am able to stay home with our kids.

        Reply
        • Marcia November 13, 2014, 5:32 pm

          The plural of anecdote isn’t data.

          Reply
          • Vickie November 21, 2014, 4:50 pm

            Marcia,
            The data has already been collected by the authors of The Millionaire Next Door. Most millionaires pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and managed to get a decent income without any special privileges and then live frugally so they can keep a good portion of it. I daresay that there are many anecdotes of people with positive attitudes who have done the same. Maybe even enough to qualify as data. Definitely enough to make a majority of millionaires.

            Reply
      • Will November 13, 2014, 11:28 am

        Sure, poor people born in unlucky situations can pull themselves up by the bootstraps to incredible heights. This often takes some or all of the following: great motivation, intelligence, work ethic, and good parents that instill positive values and importance of hard work.

        But whether or not someone even has THOSE attributes is still often a matter of chance.

        Reply
        • B November 16, 2014, 12:14 pm

          Motivation and working hard aren’t a matter of chance, they’re a matter of getting off you a** and doing it.

          Reply
    • HenryDavid November 11, 2014, 8:03 pm

      Sometimes life IS unfair. But I take the point of this post to be along the lines of the ant and grasshopper parable. IF you’re enjoying some good fortune, you don’t go hog wild and then blame fate when your good fortune ends. You remain mindful of the future. That way you double your good fortune, in a way, because you prudently send some of it up the line to your future self. If you never had any good fortune at all to begin with . . . Different story.
      Being born into a middle class home in North America definitely counts as good fortune. But not all folks fully appreciate that.

      Reply
    • Vanja November 11, 2014, 10:25 pm

      Just wanted to say that I agree with this comment.

      I believe the post suffers from survivor bias (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias). MMM’s approach worked for him and many other “survivors”, but those that it did not work for are ignored. I think the advice is great, people can improve their chances at success. But taken as an analysis on what the general problem of our economy is, it’s hardly convincing.

      Reply
      • Jim November 12, 2014, 4:01 am

        Good observation, Vanja.

        This is a great post, but it could be improved by distinguishing better between the mass-media-boo-hoo-hoo stuff about how we’re all screwed and the poor folks who buy into that nonsense.

        The bankrupt guy whose former self shafted the present self with a Chevy Tahoe and a Caribbean vacation may be mistaken in blaming “the economy.” But he would be closer to the mark if he blamed the consumer ethic propagated by the mass media which helped make him a foolish self.

        The people who most need MMM’s message would be more receptive if he limited his contempt to the media and didn’t pile it on to the “consumer selves” whom the media help create.

        Reply
        • Jason G November 12, 2014, 10:37 am

          My major take away from this article is that people should take personal responsibility for their own actions and the kind of person they are today.

          Blaming the media is less productive than blaming the government. If people are stupid enough to allow themselves to be influenced by flashy colors and the smiles of celebrities they deserve the financial consequences. Likewise, the people who work in the media deserve their paychecks, because they found out how to influence the impressionable and are selling that skill.

          The problem is the majority of people are not intelligent and there are many factors contributing to it. Blaming the government, media, educational system, parenting, etc is a waste of energy because to change these things we would need a majority of our population to be intelligent.

          This article is special because it reminds us that we can stack the odds in our favor. If we can save our money and learn new skills then we will be better prepared when crap hits the fan. A persons willpower needs to be stronger than Tony the Tigers influence.

          Reply
        • Ashley November 12, 2014, 11:02 am

          I think you’re right that the media is truly at fault, but I also think it is good to give some of the blame and responsibility to those who actually acted on the consumerist mentality. The message is not “you made bad decisions and you should feel bad about it regardless of where the idea came from”. The message is “You should realize you made bad decisions and correct them in the future” . Yeah, it sucks that the media tells us we can’t be happy without a SUV or other luxury car, but taking responsibility for your own actions is the first step to fixing your future.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that if we just blamed the media that implies that the media is what needs to change, and doesn’t imply that the consumer has the power to change his life himself (ie. the consumer can’t have the excuse that buying that SUV was the media’s fault). You need to put the power in the consumer’s hands which starts with giving the consumer the responsibility or blame for the media driven consumer choices he made yesterday. I also think it would be impossible to change the media to not do what has worked so well.. Instead we need to change the consumer which will force the media to adjust itself as well.

          Reply
          • Jim November 14, 2014, 7:22 am

            Yes, we’re all a mix of two things — the hand we’re dealt and how we play it. That’s the message that needs to get out there. Emphasizing that the hand we’re dealt is not as good as others’ hands in order to avoid responsibility for our fate is foolish. And to emphasize how well we’ve played our straight flush in order to label the less lucky “dumb” is equally foolish. We should not heap contempt on others even when they need the message that they could do better with bad cards. And we should not be so quick to assume that our success is all our doing and that we’re therefore entitled to call others “dumb,” especially if we’ve been dealt a great hand. Mr. Money Mustache has a great message about what makes for success in life, but the message is sometimes weakened by undue harshness.

            Reply
    • EDSMedS November 12, 2014, 6:13 am

      The reader of this article is assumed to have options. Choose (chose?) to buy a car or not; choose where to live; chooses delayed parenthood. The power of MMM’s messages are always salient for those with options, and he continually tries to broaden our sense of what creates and prevents options.

      Often MMM does not pay homage to luck. Good health is cheap. Early education and support are pivotal. Choice doesn’t always exist as clear cut as this article intimates. However, there are some clear cut options: go unconscious and spend to support happiness, go into debt, and stay in the cycle; or, thanks to Past Self, secure a good Future Self with enough energy to work towards broader solutions.

      Reply
    • Chris November 12, 2014, 9:15 am

      Very good comment Frugalwoods.

      However, I think the post is mainly in response to all of the Bull Shit articles that are all over the internet, not about every possible situation. I would not expect it to apply to the poor and dis-enfranchised.

      As far as medical bills – That’s what bankruptcy is for. I’m sure that comment could generate hundreds of responses, but it’s a tool for that situation.

      We are ridiculously fortunate to live in a country where we can receive medical treatment that will allow us to survive severe trauma, and chronic disease. If that’s not worth going broke for, then I don’t know what is. Better to live poor than to die rich.

      Reply
    • peter November 13, 2014, 7:09 pm

      I remember reading a study that compared the effects of eating an apple and taking Statins on cholesterol. Statins performed better.
      But it said that those that ate an apple a day were more likely to have healthier habits and less likely to have cholesterol blah blah blah.

      With that in mind, I’d say that those that are into lattes have other expenses that could add upto 100k over a period of time.

      Reply
    • B November 14, 2014, 8:54 am

      Didn’t take long for someone to play the privilege card.

      Reply
  • Jb November 11, 2014, 5:16 pm

    Being upside down isn’t the issue unless you need to sell to take a job in another state. Putting zero down is a big issue. If you didn’t have the 20% you probably shouldn’t have bought. Everyone assumed values would go up.

    Reply
    • Mikes Reiche November 12, 2014, 7:59 am

      Story of my life, right there… But young and uneducated, I was raised to think that you should by when you can, houses can go nowhere but UP UP UP… 8 years later I still have an underwater mortgage in a different state. This article rings true to me since my current self is about to yield the results of my past self (by selling for a loss… just a few years later then I should have). Big mistakes from past corrected by current self today will yield more fruit for future self tomorrow. As long as the self shafting doesn’t continue, I should be set for later.

      Reply
      • Doug November 16, 2014, 9:39 am

        A lot of Canadians buying houses recently at the peak, especially in outrageously overpriced Toronto and Vancouver should read your comment. A lot of people here are making the same mistake and will regret it. As you said, real estate doesn’t always go up, up, up.

        Reply
      • Doug November 16, 2014, 9:40 am

        A lot of Canadians buying houses recently at the peak, especially in outrageously overpriced Toronto and Vancouver should read your comment. A lot of people here are making the same mistake and will regret it. As you said, real estate doesn’t always go up, up, up.

        Reply
  • In November 11, 2014, 5:21 pm

    We are over saving so we can do a ton of traveling when we retire in about six years. My wife hate shopping and things but loves to travel. So we want to be safe and plan on having enough money to rent apartments in Europe. We will do it out side of a major center but I am going to plan on 3,000 a month to be safe. I am hoping we can do some house sitting or just rent out a garage apartment cheaper

    Reply
    • Mrs. Bluegrass November 13, 2014, 11:16 am

      Check into this when the time comes: https://www.airbnb.com/

      Reply
      • JB November 13, 2014, 2:50 pm

        Yeah, we still have a good 6 years before we do it. I will have plenty of time to research staying somewhere cheap. $40 a day would be great.

        Reply
  • HenryDavid November 11, 2014, 5:41 pm

    Ok, in my early days as a university prof, I’d be biking to the laundromat from my small one-bedroom apartment. My prof friends would say things like “you are crazy. A professor deserves a good car. A professor should be putting a down payment on a nice house. A professor should . . . ..”
    Whatever. I was just doing the math. Always, always do the math.
    Now my present day self says “muchas gracias, allegedly crazy past self, for I have no debt, have almost completed paying off reasonable-sized mortgages on 2 fun houses in a short time, and can easily retire after 25 years of really quite enjoyable work, if and when I please, including as of tomorrow.”
    Could have done so even earlier if the work had grown intolerable. But it’s a low-TB gig.
    Even better, 25 years of biking to work means no middle-age health issues whatsoever. Future 75 year-old me will probably say “merci” for that.
    And no, none of that was a sacrifice.
    So yeah, being kind to future you is good, and present day you need not suffer to do it.

    Reply
    • Pat November 12, 2014, 5:22 am

      Our present selves can be kind to our future selves in so many small ways. Make sure the kitchen is clean tonight, even when present self is tired, so that tomorrow morning future self is not facing dirty dishes. Weed the garden now while weeds are tiny so that future self is not facing huge well-rooted weeds. Make sure regular maintenance is done (house, car, whatever) so that future self is not facing huge repair bills. Get the winter tires on in good time so that future self is not worrying about ending up in a ditch. As we practice the small gifts to Future Self, we will also be more likely to think of what our larger actions are going to mean to Future Self.

      Reply
      • Michelle November 12, 2014, 2:49 pm

        Love your comments, Pat.

        Reply
      • CarrieP December 5, 2014, 8:01 pm

        I love the way you expressed this, Pat!

        Reply
    • ornagesnapdragon November 14, 2014, 5:50 pm

      ‘I was just doing the math. Always, always do the math.’

      Excellent comment. I get this constantly with friends/family. I go to the math, they don’t want to hear it. While they stress about debt and bills I curl up in my PJ’s to a ‘movie night’ that cost me $2 instead of $50 after driving/tickets/popcorn.

      Reply
  • Matt November 11, 2014, 5:55 pm

    Two things:
    1 – I needed some encouragement to keep on trying to make good choices and not make my future self regret present self’s actions. So thank you. Good reminders!

    2 – Some of this post comes off as pretty judge-y. Yeah a lot of people don’t make good choices and get themselves into messes – but a good number have so many obstacles to overcome that it’s tough just not getting knocked down completely. So… have some mercy on those folks.

    Reply
  • Nate November 11, 2014, 6:23 pm

    What a fantastic post! I am always really confused about people who are driving brand new cars and complaining about not having enough money. Maybe the reason one doesn’t have enough money is the fancy new car?

    Reply
  • RJ November 11, 2014, 6:34 pm

    Nice, this morning self was just bitching about not having a new mustache article to read.

    When I was younger I never planned longer than a couple weeks ahead, I didn’t think I would make it that long. I didn’t want to leave anything on the table when I finally ate it. But now I see how much better life is by planning ahead. A little work by present self for future me. Just me a year ago has already drastically improved me now. Me next year will thank me now for not buying iPhone 6. But me now still doesn’t like it.

    Reply
    • Jenny November 12, 2014, 11:00 am

      That’s how I was too. Planning for 30-40 years in the future seemed abstract and uninspiring because I don’t even know if I will live that long. Now that MMM has clued me in on the fact that I can retire in a much less abstract 8-10 years , I’m totally inspired. And even if it turns out I don’t get to retire quite that soon, my future self will be pretty happy for my current saving enthusiasm.

      Reply
  • CleopatraFinnegan November 11, 2014, 6:54 pm

    I’m a professor at an expensive private university where students go into unimaginable debt, often without understanding what they’ve gotten themselves into. I teach about consumerism and find it is the rare student who has made the connection between how she consumes now (or in the past) and her future life chances. This is great advice that I WILL be passing along to them.

    Reply
    • JB November 12, 2014, 11:01 am

      So why is tuition going up every year?

      Reply
      • Will November 13, 2014, 11:31 am

        Because the government makes it so easy for students to obtain massive student loans, there is a high “demand” of university education, and a limited “supply”. So of course colleges will raise tuition: because they can.

        Reply
  • Mozar November 11, 2014, 7:01 pm

    Whoa, this post was a bit too libertarian/ pull yourself up by your own bootstraps for me. I won’t argue point for point, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame people for their own setbacks. There are so many cultural, institutional, and historical issues at play. But we can choose to make our lives better going forward, whenever we are ready.

    Reply
    • Katie November 11, 2014, 8:18 pm

      I completely agree. I’m onboard with applying Mustachian principles to my life, but if you saw how kids in my neighborhood (the Near West Side of Chicago) got a “start” in life, you’d quickly realize how so many people aren’t starting from ANYWHERE near the same starting place.

      The person above who said that public schools and the library are free probably doesn’t realize how desperate the situation is of some of our schools (I say this as a public school teacher who’s nearly qualified to be a librarian), and how hard reading and accessing library resources can be for some people who are teetering on the edge of illiterate- which affects far more adults than you might realize.

      You can fire people up (even with a sarcastic, potty-mouthed bent!) without tearing others down.

      Reply
      • Pylortes November 12, 2014, 12:32 am

        Of course there are plenty of examples of people who have obstacles that prevent them from advancing. There are also a lot of success stories as well of other people that have overcome some of those obstacles. Show me a (non-disabled) person who has tried everything in their power to learn and improve themselves but failed due to an external reason and I am absolutely empathetic to that. But for others their background is often used as an excuse as to why they couldn’t suceed. There’s a saying “If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you are also right.”

        The first step is to have the right positive attitude and believe you can do it. if you have that drive to improve so many other things will eventually fall into place. You can even overcome reading deficiencies with lots of practice and a teacher or adult who will guide you.

        Schools and the library are just one example of resources available to the vast majority of Americans. There are a lot of places in the world where these are not a given. People born and raised in the U.S (even in the less well to do areas) already start out so far ahead of many other places in the world when you look at our resources here. There will always be a percentage of folks who truly are disadvantaged, but Mr. Money Mustaches post is not targeted to that audience.

        Reply
        • Mike November 12, 2014, 6:11 am

          Great post, and it does fit squarely with the principles of conservative republicanism.

          The whole idea of personal freedom and personal responsibility is the core of what conservatism means. The democratic party is the party of victimhood, we’ll take care of you forever mentality.

          I know MMM is not about polictics and my sense is he leans more democrat than republican, but his core beliefs put him on the right.

          While I’m an atheist, pro gay marriage and a vegan, I align myself more with conservative values than the victimhood/nanny democratic party.

          Reply
          • EMML November 12, 2014, 7:20 am

            Well, I could say conservatism/Republican party is all about selfishness and I got mine so screw you mentality, while the democratic party is focused upon the greater good and helping the less fortunate.

            Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2014, 9:13 am

            I dunno, Mike. I associate nanny/victimhood politics with France’s Parti Socialiste, not with anything on the menu here in the ultra-libertarian US. But even with all that terrible socialism most European countries manage to outperform us in many areas of human life where it counts.

            But I still like the US system. While the government is unusually corrupt for a rich country, it also stays out of the way so we can do libertarian-style thought experiments like this blog. I just like the idea of having a real safety net at the bottom because leaving people to die and starve at the bottom doesn’t help any of us, rich or poor.

            And to be clear, this article isn’t meant to be some amazing solution for the people who are actually genuinely poor and struggling due to real life disadvantages. That takes more wisdom and sensitivity than I have learned so far.

            Instead, it’s for the gigantic middle and upper classes that have every advantage and STILL blow every cent they make and end up living their entire lives in debt. Even among people who make loads of money, I find that over 90% are still virtually broke. That’s a big target market and worthy of a few punches to the face.

            Reply
            • insourcelife November 12, 2014, 10:11 am

              MMM, I wonder if you need to start every post that’s trying to convey a similar message by quoting the last 2 paragraphs of your reply above. There are so many comments in each and every such post bitching and complaining about all kinds of disadvantages totally missing the target audience for such posts – the middle/upper class with good incomes whose idiotic consumer behavior is the root of most of their financial problems!

              Reply
              • Jason G November 12, 2014, 11:22 am

                I think his earliest posts state the target audience fairly well. In my opinion MMM is politically an independent and in the US the majority of us reject anything that is not left or right enough. If we are a republican we think anything that is relatively liberal is bad, and vice versa. MMM appears to believe in global warming while having ideas that his right readership associates with libertarianism. For this reason I believe this blog will always have some debate disclaimers aside.

                Either way I disagree with MMM and the people that say this post is not relevant to the ultra poor.
                For example, I knew many “urban” youth who sold drugs and bought $4,000 rims for their used BMWs. Imagine if that $4000 was put in a roth IRA 20 years ago. Or what if instead of cigarettes and soda pop they spent their excess money on community college or vocational school. I can see the sociology argument, but it doesn’t mean that the unfortunate should have a total pass on taking personal responsibility for their lives. A person is who they are regardless of why they are who they are.

            • EarlWallace November 12, 2014, 10:22 am

              I love this article. I have always accepted that most of my problems have stemmed from my own choices and decisions based on “self-selfishness” in the past. Thanks to Larry Burkett, David Ramsey, yourself and the many home finance blogs I was able to prepare for the 2001 and later “recessions”. Nothing happens without action so today I started my Betterment account. Thank you and the MMM community. Starting my retirement planning at 58 and now I am 62 was better late than ever. I own my home and vehicles and have a good job. With the MMM community’s wisdom I am making better decisions like taking that recent bonus and investing in Betterment rather than that “smart phone vampire 2 year plan”. God Bless you and the MMM community!

              Reply
              • CarrieP December 5, 2014, 8:07 pm

                Good for you, EarlWallace! It’s great to see a commenter that started retirement planning later than MMM and has such a positive outlook. All the best to you.

            • Emmy November 13, 2014, 4:34 pm

              Nice reply. When someone accuses you of being a conservative Republican at heart, you can’t just let that stand.

              Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque November 13, 2014, 9:56 am

            So then Canada must be the country of “victimhood”, then?
            We have no problem simultaneously holding these two opinions:
            1. I should do everything I can to take care of myself, my family and help others to learn to take care of themselves, too.
            2. I should recognize that not everyone starts with the same advantages. I should work to make the opportunities of education and health care available to everyone, so we can all be better people.
            Contrary to what you think, it’s not a nanny-state here. It’s just a place where we all believe that the human thing to do is to take care of each other in times of trouble.
            None of the taxation required to provide this opportunity and safety net gets in the way of the Toque family’s retirement plan, but we do feel a lot better knowing that the people around us will never face starvation or medical bankruptcy.

            Reply
            • Cincy Cat November 13, 2014, 12:13 pm

              Independent of either party, the idea of victimhood and nanny state is interesting to me… and your post has me realizing my knowledge is very limited to the US. I need to take more time to understand the structure of the European (I’ll lump Canada in there) social safety nets. It seems to me that the biggest issue in the US is that we simply can’t afford the promises we’ve made… and in some cases the benefits are structured to restrain long-term dignity… if I make X more income, I lose X+ in benefits… so I’ll just sit right where I am. I read recently that the average (mean?) welfare recipient in the US gets $35k in benefits (health, food, shelter, etc) whereas the per capita income is $33k for all Americans. Is there a resource that compares % GDP spent on social services for different countries?

              Reply
              • Mr. Frugal Toque November 13, 2014, 1:06 pm

                Ah, excellent!
                While it’s difficult to change the course of an entire nation, questions like “should I work harder/differently to get more money?” are principally math questions we can answer and they do affect our lives directly.
                I would advise you to look up those numbers you’ve quoted – the numbers that make you think life on welfare is better – and see if they’re accurate. I’ll bet there’s some fine print there that makes them somewhat misleading.
                For example, the $35k figures contains a whole bunch of benefits and the $33k figure is only “per capita income” as opposed to “per capita income + benefits”.

                Edited to Add: Also, will I be gaining skills by taking this position? Will that allow me to make *more* income later?

            • Carolina November 13, 2014, 1:18 pm

              Hear hear Mr. Frugal Toque! Same here in the Netherlands. Good and affordable health care: I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins disease stage 4 several years ago. Have had lots of treatment, never seen a bill. So grateful for our terrible socialism:).

              Reply
            • zenyata November 14, 2014, 9:46 am

              One of my favorite quotes is by FDR who had to put up with that same B.S. of being accused of trying to set up a “nanny state” – in the wake of the freakin’ Great Depression. Even when people were truly just about down and out for the final count there was a vocal contingent that opposed whatever he tried to do to give people some hope. He basically said he’d rather have a government that screwed up while trying to improve people’s lives than one that ignores them. (With the big money in gov’t now in the U.S. – I’m pretty sure we are on a trajectory toward the latter scenario now.)

              “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” – FDR

              Reply
            • Barb November 14, 2014, 12:32 pm

              As a woman who has lived in Europe for a total of ten years and seen how well this kind of things work, I give this a twenty thumbs up. There are some basic truths involved, ones that many American’s simply ignore, because of their fear of the “N” phrase above or the “S” word. Heaven forbid something might be a little socialistic. I never met a pot hole the entire time I was in germany, every person has long term care and health insurance, and their economy has a greater GDP than we did most years, lol.

              To the reader elsewhere that implied we had the best health care and it was worth going broke for..My husband had liver cancer. In Germany., and as a private pay patient. His quality of health care was such that the Mayo clinic stated they could not do better. He had chemo, radiation, an experimental procedure. He had surgery, hospice care, more morphine than I can say-I can go on. He was treated by the head of a university oncology department and had a private room and nursing care.

              The total billed cost of his care to my insurance company?? Not what I paid, the whole, undiscounted cost?? $23000. S0 no, bankruptcy is not required, or even desired. On the other hand, my copay for two days in the hospital for a minor proceedure was 1800 (which I could not afford), and the total billed cost was $18000. That kind of says it all, ya know?

              Reply
          • Marcia November 14, 2014, 1:30 pm

            I have to disagree about the victimhood comment.

            I grew up poor in a small, conservative town.

            I now live in a town with quite the rich-poor divide. Oprah has an estate here, and there are a ton of kids on food stamps.

            Why did I succeed? I’m white. My parents were smart (if not educated). My parents worked hard and taught their kids to work hard. They had land to garden. They had a large enough family to utilize hand me downs. Teaching was a GOOD job and a well paid job, so the schools were decent. There was bus service to school.

            Contrast that to the “failing” kids at my son’s school. Some of them miss 20-40 days of school a year! They are constantly late. There is no bus service. Their parents either don’t have a car, borrow a car, or they come late because they are working until 2 or 3 am (so who wants to get your kid to school at 8:30?) We discussed tardiness and absenteeism at the school this week – the principal has actually driven to kids’ houses to get them to school. They have no books at home, none – cannot afford them.

            How do we make that better? (I don’t know.) One of the other parents is a physician and said simply “I see these kids’ parents, or some like them, I’m surprised they EVER make it to school.”

            You could make this a discussion about how these people should never have kids, etc. etc. and I won’t disagree. But how do we make it better for the kids? What is the solution?

            It’s not a level playing field to start (it never will be), and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that, and trying to figure out how to provide opportunities for others to succeed.

            Reply
      • Marie November 12, 2014, 11:04 am

        I was raised a poor black child in the South in segregated schools up until middle school, and for my little brain back then my elementary school’s media center (library) served me well and so did the municipal library. Though money was tight I was rich because I had a mom and other adults who encouraged my reading. This was to counter all the other people complaining I had my head in a book all the time and that I was “acting white”. Low expectations is another form of racism and classism, so I don’t except that whole thing that poor people can’t help themselves and will be forever downtrodden bs.
        And as a person with an ALA accredited MLS, I’ll say children deserve a specially trained librarian, like the ones I had. Child Librarians have a better sense of what books are out there that are suitable for young minds and how to get an interlibrary loan if their library doesn’t happen to have that book.

        Reply
        • Jason G November 12, 2014, 11:29 am

          “Low expectations is another form of racism and classism, so I don’t except that whole thing that poor people can’t help themselves and will be forever downtrodden bs.”

          This is a thought evoking statement…

          Reply
          • L November 12, 2014, 1:27 pm

            I agree. It’s frustrating to me that the debate around poverty seems to become increasingly polarized…you’re poor because it’s a) completely your fault (camp #1) or b) because it’s completely not (camp #2). Poverty is multifactorial and the polarity of this debate really shifts away from a nuanced understanding of what causes it and what contributes to it.

            Perhaps this post could use another asterisk as I know many “Hardworking Americans” who have not purchased boats and oversized houses (that s*** drives me crazy too) stand little chance of getting out of the cycle of poverty or that there really is a portion of the middle class that is being gutted. My husband works at a library; when he shows up to orientations, he finds that almost every single one of his colleagues (librarians with at least one masters degree and many times with experience) have temporary, part-time positions. Per Mustachianism, if one is faced with this crappy employment option after many years of school, one would be wise to avoid most of the liberal arts altogether in the first place.

            I work with many colleagues in health care who are not paid a living wage (why a living wage and a minimum wage aren’t the same thing boggles my mind); I work with physicians or executives who may be paid 50x or more hourly than the folks at registration, the clerks, etc. There has to be another solution to this problem than “change jobs” if we want to build a viable, healthy society. These are real problems that many of the articles about the silly underwater mortgage/crazy commute/boat-buying set do not address.

            Reply
        • Mark November 12, 2014, 10:34 pm

          “Low expectations is another form of racism and classism.” Beautifully stated, Marie. When white folks express these sentiments, they often get every name in the book thrown at them and/or they’re dismissed out of hand.

          Reply
        • Chris November 13, 2014, 6:11 am

          I too was raised in poverty, and used to have that “I did it, so you should too” mentality. I realize now that I was fortunate. Most people who make it out of poverty, myself included, were not subjected or exposed to drug/alcohol abuse, or domestic/physical/sexual abuse. Those literally change your brain in a drastic way, and compromise your sense of right and wrong.

          That’s where the politics of “accountability” gets messy. Republicans believe everyone who doesn’t have enough accountability to care for themselves can suck it. Democrats recognize that some societal problems are nearly insurmountable, and if we stop them everyone wins.

          Reply
  • Dan November 11, 2014, 7:10 pm

    I believe my past self was giving my future self the naughty middle finger, but now my present self is giving my future self a mustachian high five!!

    Reply
  • Country Al November 11, 2014, 7:23 pm

    Thanks for the perspective MMM. Long time reader here just retired at 42 last month. Thank you past self for working tons of 60 hour weeks in a service industry job (all the while riding/racing bikes, traveling, partying like a rock star a bit too much and living the dream). My future self will appreciate the time spent right now on my five year Roth pipeline, Betterment taxable account and Gocurrycrackers overall guidebook for living a tax free life from here on out. BOOM! This shit is real people! I can’t believe the past few Monday’s…gotta pinch myself. I was at the top of my game in business and did not know I wanted this until I stumbled on the triple M. I am freaking out. Deepest of THANKS to you Mr. Money Mustache and your blogroll (and I guess my past self).

    Reply
  • Jason November 11, 2014, 7:32 pm

    This article is fantastic. I am presenting on a conference panel next week for aspiring academics and early career individuals. I am definitely going to bring this up, aside from some of the other advice I will give. Now my more liberal friends will say that MMM doesn’t account for the structural impediments for people that have been created over decades ,particularly my Marxists friends. However, that doesn’t change the fact that individually can’t acknowledge their own stupid financial decisions.

    Excellent article and I plan on using it in my argumentation class next semester.

    Reply
  • bulldog249924 November 11, 2014, 7:37 pm

    Thanks MMM! This was the mental kick in the ass that I needed. A good dose of reminders of the MMM philosophy, mixed in with the reminder that I am in charge of me, and that the things I am doing now will pay off in the end. Not that I was in bad shape or a complainypants, but I was in a mental funk the past couple of days. Thanks again for snapping me out of it!

    Reply
  • LeisureFreak Tommy November 11, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Love the post but with preface as some have mentioned. I am 100% with you when talking about the financially irresponsible. People who make better than poverty money with options to better their future-self but live for the day, make stupid follow the consumerist herd decisions, and then cry about the negative outcome. There are of course a large group of people who do suffer under the system. There will always be people who do. That said I am glad that my past-self made the decisions and took the appropriate FI actions. As an early retiree I am the early-future me and those actions that brought my financial independence now continue with a momentum of its own. I still have to treat my future older self to some smart decisions. Awesome post and as always I love the comments from fellow MMM followers.

    Reply
  • Taco November 11, 2014, 8:01 pm

    People who have beef with any of MMMs wisdom in this BA article should promptly read this one:

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/07/how-to-tell-if-youre-a-complainypants/

    As always, thank you for the inspiration MMM.

    Reply
    • rjack November 12, 2014, 5:44 am

      Great point! Many of the comments are complaining about various life problems not being your responsibility. That is true – things happen that are beyond your control. Therefore, you have to work with what you CAN control. For instance, you may have no medical insurance or crappy medical insurance, but no money to pay for medical bills if something happens. If that is the case, then I would feel it is a FINANCIAL EMERGENCY to do whatever I could to get properly covered. I would look to find a better job that had better coverage or even consider moving to another country that has better health insurance. If I had crappy health insurance, I would build up a medical emergency fund as fast as I could.

      I think MMM main point is that you should ask yourself the question “Am I doing the absolute best that I can for my future self?” and find ways to improve. Almost anyone can find ways to improve if they are honest with themselves.

      Reply
    • EMML November 12, 2014, 7:26 am

      Although I am very concerned with the growing inequality in this country, I did not have a problem with this post. The point was subtle, but I didn’t see where MMM was saying this wasn’t a real problem, I think his focus was more on the locus of control he mentioned previously. Don’t fret so much about things you can’t do anything about, but set yourself the best you can while you can.

      Reply
  • earlyFI November 11, 2014, 8:05 pm

    I had a recent conversation with my sister about this very topic. She is frustrated that she is still paying the price for past financial choices even though she has started making much better choices. Her frustration is that the consequences are still coming in from past mistakes, rather than switching to positive results quickly. She is committed to giving herself future gifts instead of future problems. I think this is the hardest part of changing, the point where you are making better choices but only seeing negative results. It takes time but eventually the gifts start overflowing in the positive. It is always worth the hard work, sweat and tears.

    Reply
    • Linda November 15, 2014, 12:30 pm

      The ability to delay gratification has been shown to be a key factor in this. Some of this ability is innate and some of it is learned. Their are also cultural factors such as if you can observe a reward for the delay or if you see around you only rewards for grabbing what you can immediately.

      Reply
  • bdonney November 11, 2014, 8:12 pm

    I would always tell people I looked at every dollar I spend as another dollar I’ll have to work for in the future (until you can retire).

    The job part struck a chord with me because I’ve been in several very small companies since I graduated that feel very personal and are hard to quit from. I know I could leave my current company for more money but It feels much more personal like a tough breakup than I think it does from a large company.
    I loved the content in this article but it felt rushed a bit, it could use a proofread for future readers.

    Reply
    • Grant November 11, 2014, 9:08 pm

      For every dollar you spend, you’ll need to earn a LOT more than a dollar to make up for it. Once you account for Social Security deductions, medicare, federal and state income taxes, etc., you will probably only take home about $0.60 out of every dollar you earn. Then when you spend some of that 60 cents on “stuff”, you’re out even more money due to sales taxes, sin taxes, shipping costs, gas to drive to the store, etc. And let’s not forget that spending a dollar takes time and effort. Not spending it is literally effortless. :-)

      Reply
  • Anjali November 11, 2014, 9:14 pm

    All of your advice sounds like the exact same sort of thing my parents practiced when my father was in graduate school and then as an assistant professor all the way until now. NOW they own a home and multiple cars and are able to travel the way they dreamed of earlier, but that was after years of working and saving.

    That being said, I’ve done my best. I went to both undergraduate and medical school on full scholarships and am now getting my PhD. Thankfully, I don’t have student loan debt, but I have a lot of expenses which seem to just ‘crop up’. I need to live within a certain radius of the hospital, which means I live downtown and pay more. I need to have a car because public transport is unreliable and if I have to get to work, I need to able to do it as soon as I’m called. I am on a very small stipend at the moment and doing everything possible to avoid spending (make lunches, invested in a french press for work, so I won’t be spending $5 on a coffee), but I don’t really know how else to save and scrimp more to help my future self. Do you have any suggestions for someone in my position? Minimal debt, trying very hard, going to have a lucrative career (assuming nothing horrible happens) upon graduation, but wondering how to maximize savings and planning.

    Reply
    • HenryDavid November 12, 2014, 9:17 am

      Be patient and believe that time is on your side. As an assistant prof I was told by my bank that I had “shockingly few assets” for a person in my 30s. But I had zero debt. Some careers are long term investments, and if they work as planned, your earnings ramp up increasingly as time goes on. If it’s the kind of work you want to be doing just don’t sabotage yourself and it will all come together. By then you’ll know how to enjoy life without the revenue which eventually catches up with you, and you’ll be set for a happy life. Finance-wise at least.

      Reply
    • Dr. JB November 12, 2014, 8:28 pm

      Read White Coat Investor and keep healthy habits: given your training I hope you know what this means, but nothing bothers me more than fat physicians.

      Reply
    • Krishanu January 8, 2015, 4:22 pm

      I think “minimal debt” and a “lucrative career” are two of the best gifts you can give your future self. And to face the expenses that “crop up” just try to build up an emergency fund, starting – or continuing – how small as you can afford. $10 a week? Sure. There are a lot of ways that people can save, and I’m sure you are doing some of them, but MMM himself has written about ways to save, not to mention the Gigabytes that other frugal PF bloggers have written about ways to save. Cut cable, cook meals, shop around for insurance, use library and other free services – the list goes on and on. On the other hand, you might not need to save a lot right now. As soon as you get on the lucrative career, jump start your savings and investment!

      Reply
  • Fuzz November 11, 2014, 9:53 pm

    When I was in grad school, I’d buy a pitcher of microbrew beer for the table and toast “to my future self.” We all had a good laugh and downed our beers. Now I drink PBR and pay back loans.

    Reply
  • Jan November 11, 2014, 10:29 pm

    Trying to figure out if our “old people” story fits Mustachian way of thinking.

    We rented for 16 years while husband worked a job that would pay a good pension. Paying future self was a driving force for him. I stayed home with children and took side jobs here and there. His job traveled a lot, so we enjoyed country hopping early in our marriage.
    When he retired, at 46, we had enough to build a home in my hometown for cash. We lived off his pension and my teaching salary. Our children grew and left home.
    The town changed in character. We could not find positions that we were comfortable in. We chose to move, selling out house at 4X what we bought it for. Total jewel.

    Our new place was/is a small farm. We did a cash purchase from the excess sale money of the first house. My husband became a woodworker and I taught. We saved half of my salary.
    Ten years passed. College is over. Weddings done. Our children have children. I retired three years ago at 55. We started to look at what we would need for the next forty years.

    Small farms are very underpriced right now. Yes, real turds.
    Prices are going no where in the next twenty years. We are putting our farm on the market at current market rate. If we had a mortgage we would certainly be drowning. Our ideal is to make back what we spent on our first house+ real estate fees.
    That price will get us an even trade to our new house. Cash.

    My salary and our original house money has “lived in” the market most of the last ten years. Those dollars have grown into almost the same amount we sold our first house for.
    We have been living off his pension alone for the last three years. Savings will stay where it is at until we are probably really old. We are self insurers.

    Is it Bad Ass to know when to fold them and move forward?
    We are giving up the luxury land for the sleek small model close to family and medical facilities. Even if we have to sale for a “loss”, we will save in the long run in stress and life.
    Are we straddling the Mustachian way or are we epic fails?

    Reply
    • Barb November 12, 2014, 12:52 pm

      I’d say Bad Ass. No way can you guys be characterized as “fails”! You are smart enough to change your plans as your needs and desires changed. You’ve lived on your farm and saved half your salary while doing so…that sounds like a win in my book. Would it be nice if your farm had skyrocketed in value while you lived there? Sure, but you had a place to live that was pleasing to you and you saved money while doing so. Win,win.

      Now you will move on to a different chapter of your lives and it sounds you are well situated to do that in comfort. Congratulations!

      Reply
    • Postscript November 12, 2014, 5:43 pm

      I hope you are teaching your grandchildren these great ethics and lessons! I learned so much about living modestly from my grandparents, who grew up in Depression. They were incredibly kind in putting our whole generation of grandkids through college, but did not give us trust funds so we would always have to work. Perfect combo, we are really, really lucky.

      Reply
  • Greg November 11, 2014, 10:30 pm

    Now THAT was a quintessential MMM post. I hate to be a fawning cheerleader lapping up some cult of personality, but dammit that was so good I just have to write this obsequious, sycophantic response. I’m going to make my kids read this tomorrow.

    Reply
  • CTY November 12, 2014, 12:40 am

    I’d like to add that working for your future self is never a bad idea. We worked for our future retirement (figuring it would be 20- 30 years down the line). But as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. In reality those 20-30 years turned out to be 2 years. We were forced to leave the work field due an injury that occurred while in the military. It made work for both of us impossible, DH (at the age of 26) as the injured & my self as a round the clock caregiver. We survived 7 years (that’s how long it took for disability benefits to be approved) by stretching 2 years of retirement savings, food stamps and incurring credit card debt. The benefits, once received, were about 40% more than our monthly bills; we felt so rich we splurged and bought frozen French bread pizza. It did not take us long to pay off the credit cards. These days we manage to bank 40% of the monthly disability check for a rainy day. Thankfully, we have VA medical benefits. I know our future selves will thank our present selves for saving as much as our present selves have thanked our past selves for saving.

    Reply
    • slugline November 12, 2014, 8:39 am

      Thanks to your husband for his service.I think it’s awful that there was a seven-year wait for the disability benefits due to your family.

      Reply
  • Resilient Man November 12, 2014, 4:39 am

    Investing today, in order to provide your future self the gift of time and living debt free. The assumption being made is that the future self si 100% guaranteed. I would argue in favour of a balanced approach. Such as : Having kids late, also means having responsibilities in your 50s and 60s. Getting loans from your future self to save time and money makes sense. Money is worth nothing by itself unless it is converted to experiences worth remembering and treasuring.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2014, 9:21 am

      I find that money IS extremely valuable all by itself. In fact, I have only spent perhaps 30% of what I’ve earned in my life, and plan to never spend that other 70% (it will be given away instead).

      By merely being there, it can free us to take more risks, be more generous, and worry less.

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/04/14/how-to-make-money-buy-happiness/

      Reply
      • Resilient Man November 13, 2014, 2:59 am

        Dear Mr MM,
        Thanks for your reply and link. I read it with great interest.
        I have written about this, from a slightly different angle, what are the different forms of happiness? You will be happy to hear that most of them come from real interactions with real people or goals rather than with commercial products.
        http://resilientman.com/reason-alive-true-purpose/
        Thanks and have a good one.
        ResMan

        Reply
  • indio November 12, 2014, 6:31 am

    The concept of investing in your future is difficult to convey to people or a society who have grown accustomed to instant gratification. I turn on my intelligent device and want access to data anywhere, everywhere and at anytime. Latency is so last millennium. I have information at my fingertips so access should not be limited in any way. When it comes to living life connectedness is impacting how we view everything.
    Today, when I tell my kids the things they do and the choices they make now will impact them later in life their eyes start to roll. I spend a lot of time explaining that eating healthy and adopting a healthy lifestyle because is impacting brain development. They are putting in place a foundation that will yield them benefits as adults. Eating excessive amounts of sugar, food dyes, non-organic food is going to manifest itself as health problems years later. When they want the North Face jacket or Under armour shirts that they will outgrow by next year, I show them how their investment accounts have been growing because I’ve been stashing away their bday gifts since they were born. This they easily understand. They still want the jacket but choose to invest the money instead. Yes, investing in future self should be a priority but it can be hard to wait that long to see the ROI.

    Reply
  • Mikes Reiche November 12, 2014, 6:39 am

    I almost stopped reading, thinking this would be a politically driven post after the upset in D.C… But continued reading because either way I am not going to let anything MMM puts up offend me since I have turned my life around over the past 3 months since reading this blog. I am pretty happy I didn’t stop because this hit the spot! I had been Jones’n for some MMM lately, this post just happened to top me off my financial high for the day! What people are starting to forget is that MMM isn’t trying to solve the epidemic of poverty in the U.S., but rather scolding those that SHOULD and are ABLE to help themselves but continue to force their hands into shoddy situations account of bad decisions that they COULD HAVE AVOIDED in the past. Thanks for the reminder to look ahead just a little bit, take comfort in the forgone latte* today for the work free day tomorrow…
    *Like I would really pay for a latte… !!!

    Reply
  • Lyle November 12, 2014, 6:53 am

    I agree for the most part with your essay. The only problem with your theory is that no one’s future is guaranteed. You state in your article that you have another 60 years to live. Well, maybe–or maybe not. I sincerely hope that you live to be 100 but you also might get hit by a bus by tomorrow.

    My point is that you can’t spend your whole life living in the future because that future you’re waiting for may never come. I feel that it’s important to live in the now–that is the only moment of time we have any real control over. The past is dead and the future we hope for may not come to pass.

    Does that mean blow through all your money and never make any plans? Absolutely not! It just means don’t wait for tomorrow to really live and experience the joys of of life because tomorrow may never come.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 12, 2014, 8:58 am

      For sure, Lyle. Luckily the act of hard work and giving gifts to the future is actually a better life than blowing everything on the now anyway. Plus, the conveyor belt of time yields immediate returns: skip going down to the pawn shop for a loan to buy some cigarettes TODAY, and you are already healthier and wealthier by tomorrow. It doesn’t take 20 years to start enjoying results.

      Reply
      • Jen November 14, 2014, 4:49 am

        Yes! I think some people don’t understand that living a frugal life doesn’t have to mean misery today! I’m a single mom who saves a lot for someone in my situation, but we have a nice life. In fact, I am taking my kids to Florida in a few months with free credit card points plane tickets. One can save without totally depriving your present self, it’s just about balance and priorities.

        Reply
  • Phil November 12, 2014, 7:13 am

    Wow, what a great article. Nailed in on the head.

    My quick story: I am a school teacher who, early on, had two things happen. First, I learned about compound interest in college and second, I had a friend who I looked up to tell me to start my retirement account.

    So I work 180 days per year, leave work every day at 3 pm, and will have $3,000,000 in my retirement accounts when I am 65, most of it tax free. I sacrificed to get there. Honestly, one of the greatest areas that a person could save money so that they are contributing to a retirement account is in their car choice. Cars are made to last much longer than at any time in history, and there are a glut of used but fully working, inexpensive cars in the market place. I bought one once for $1200, drove it for 50,000 miles, and sold it for $800. There was one $1400 repair bill in there. But the cost per mile was ridiculously inexpensive. That savings allowed for me to maximize my ROTH IRA every month.

    Remember, $100 per month invested over 40 years makes you a millionaire. There is no reason not to become a millionaire someday.

    Reply
  • Mike November 12, 2014, 7:17 am

    “jewels and the turds, gifts and shaftings… deposited on the Conveyor Belt of Time by earlier versions of you. You have your Past Self to thank for all of this. But until you acknowledge that, you can never become the generous benefactor that your Future Self deserves.”

    What a gifting of gold! If I knew this as a child, how different life would be. But life’s beauty is that I can still learn. And move on. Thanks MMM.

    Reply
  • Jillian November 12, 2014, 7:59 am

    In this life there are no do-overs. However there are opportunities for course corrections with every breath we take. Thank you, MMM, for challenging us to challenge the way we live our lives.

    Reply
  • CL November 12, 2014, 8:04 am

    I love this article. I understand why so many people are crying foul over the medical emergency issue. You can’t control your kid getting cancer. However, I’d like to remind everyone that MMM did face a medical surprise when MMM Jr. was born. They had their winter coats, though, so they could afford it.

    From his $237/month health insurance article: “In 2006, the birth of the boy and related issues racked up a bill of about $20,000 (a routine surgical intervention was needed, quadrupling the cost), $4,500 of which we had to pay ourselves.”

    Also, remember that MMM does not claim to be infallible. Just read his Big F-ing Mistake article. He’s made financial mistakes, too.

    Reply
  • icky November 12, 2014, 8:06 am

    Totally agree with what a few other commentators have said – this article reeks of privilege. I think MMM may be getting a little too smug about his life of leisure. This blog contains useful advice and I have been a big fan in the past, but saying there is no such thing as a “system” and not acknowledging how much the “system” (education, tax advantages, being smart and white) is designed to benefit those like him, is just disheartening. I’m glad MMM was smart enough to endure engineering classes and to delay marriage and use birth control until he was stable enough to have one child. Only 46% of us even have passports, so I doubt its out propensity for Caribbean vacations causing our ills.
    It’s very judgmental to say having a child when I am young and fertile (and let’s face it, horny) should be looked at by others as giving my future self the shaft. Healthy and well-educated children, clean and abundant food, and safe, pollution-free housing should not be difficult to obtain in America, no matter your age, class or race, especially since we live in an era of unparalleled prosperity and technology. It is worth discussing WHY obtaining those things is so difficult for so many and not casting them aside as complainy-pants or simply poor planners.

    Reply
    • Sofie November 12, 2014, 11:45 pm

      Should and is are completely different things. I don’t think anyone would disagree that all those things should be easily available. But it isn’t. And that’s the situation you’re in. Are you going to improve your situation, or make things even worse for yourself?

      As for why your “should” isn’t, population follows food supply, so abundant food can never be available for long. And higher population makes all the other things harder to meet.

      Reply
    • Mr. Frugal Toque November 13, 2014, 11:31 am

      Of course he’s privileged. So am I.
      That doesn’t take away from the fact that other people, just as privileged, or even more so by dint of wealthier parents, are directly screwing up their own lives by placing themselves in massive, unnecessary debt while earning more money than he or I do.
      That’s what what this article is about.
      It’s not telling the poor, the disabled, or the disenfranchised minorities that they are entirely at fault for their situations. It’s telling the people who *should* be on solid financial ground that their SUVs, cigarettes and circus juggling act of cellphones are destroying them.

      “It is worth discussing WHY obtaining those things is so difficult for so many and not casting them aside as complainy-pants or simply poor planners.”
      Indeed, it’s worth discussing.
      And one of the first steps in that discussion is removing the complainy-pants and poor planners so they don’t interfere with our discussions by complaining about the cost of car gasoline for their 2-hour SUV commutes.

      Reply
    • Prof November 17, 2014, 7:16 am

      I wonder if the US – looking at systems – has a financial system that the average 18 year old can solve by following the MMM plan by using proper planning, immediate savings and iron discipline or one that requires a certain level of privilege (smart parents, education without high debt, access to technology, inheritance) to make it work?

      When does all of this planning, saving and discipline move from a common sense way of making a tough system work if you (especially if you start late) with no assets to “man, this is just one messed up system compared to the rest of the 1st World?” I’m all for self-sacrifice and personal austerity but you have to wonder when the US keeps pushing the date earlier and earlier in life of when you have to begin with the MMM program, isn’t the system broken and MMM starts to seem like an apologist for those driving further wealth disparity in the US?

      At what point, does the “look, I did it so you should you should be ashamed of your failure” approach become a systemic problem? Yes, people should be face punched for engaging in inefficient and stupid financial moves but there should be some recognition that the US government policies promotes individuals making poor and dumb financial decisions. For example, the US should be attacking out of control consumerism and promoting savings through public service announcements. I think it’s safe bet that this will never happen.

      Here is a perfect example of businesses working to give the shaft to an individual’s future. In Illinois, Sen. Dan Biss is trying to create portable savings accounts — similar to traditional IRAs — for all employees of businesses with 25 or more workers that have been in existence for at least two years and don’t already offer retirement plans. Businesses are lobbying hard against this Bill because they are fearful that their workforce would start to become better educated regarding retirement savings needed to retire securely and ultimately demand higher wages and benefits. Instead of addressing the problem, they are working to keep people in the dark and have them continue to borrow against their future.

      http://evanstonnow.com/story/government/bill-smith/2014-04-09/62727/senate-oks-secure-choice-retirement-plan

      Reply
      • B November 17, 2014, 10:19 pm

        Public Service Announcements are your solution? Hilarious.

        The US already promotes retirement savings in the form of 401k’s, Roth IRA’s, lower long term capital gains taxes, etc. We can even write off our losses!

        I don’t see anywhere in your link that says businesses are lobbying hard against this, and I don’t buy your argument. It is at absolutely no cost to businesses. To me as a conservative, this is a no brainer.

        Reply
        • Prof November 18, 2014, 7:17 am

          PSA’s – hell yes, kick ass attention grabbing ones based on MMM face punches like “you’re a fool to eat at restaurants if you don’t have $XXX in retirement savings” or “yo, dumbass why are you driving a Ford F-150 when all you need is a Fiesta, you are blowing your stash.”

          Business opposition to the Secure Choice Plan can be found here: http://my.ilga.gov/Hearing/LegislationInfo?hearingId=11659&tab=1&CClerkVoteId=6318&LegislationDocumentId=100377&PreviousHearings-page=18&chamber=S&_=1416319690812

          Here’s the list:
          National Federation of Independent Business
          Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
          JPL Consulting
          Community Bankers Association of Illinois
          Illinois Manufacturers’ Association
          Shattuck & Associates Consulting, Inc.
          Illinois Retail Merchants Association
          SIEA
          Illinois Credit Union League
          Illinois Life Insurance Council
          Illinois Bankers Association
          Office of the State Treasurer
          Illinois Policy Action

          Reply
        • Prof November 18, 2014, 10:16 am

          Keep in mind that if you find using standard Public Service Announcement campaigns as an impossible (or hilarious) way of solving the retirement savings problem in the United States, you are making my argument that the US retirement system is a mess, does not work for regular Americans and maybe so problematic that it simply cannot be solved so it should be completely altered.

          Reply
    • TheGoyWonder November 21, 2014, 11:23 am

      The thing about Privilege is that you can look at any group/culture and see something that enriches their lives, which you would like for yourself but can’t buy with money. The grass is ALWAYS greener. Not to reinvent the wheel, but the Humility to take a well-paying, non-egocentric job or start an unsexy but profitable business (service, construction materials…) is a privilege, as is a tight-knit community or a even a family culture which celebrates the birth of a child.

      Also, much of what it takes to get ahead by typical US standards ((internet, library) is nearly free and has been discussed elsewhere. Around here we welcome a challenge, and our self-imposed budgetry and work ethic should not be confused with actual poverty and struggle although we sometimes borrow that imagery.

      Reply
  • Barbolarb November 12, 2014, 8:34 am

    I too can hardly read any of the financial articles in (most) of the media because they are so complainypants.
    However, one that has stuck with me for a long time is the definition of the richest 1% in the world. I found it a little startling to realize that our family living on one income(kids, working mom, stay-at-home dad), making modest choices for our family in terms of housing and cars (certainly far more modest than our friends and co-workers) is in fact in the richest 1% of the global community. It really made me rethink how we framed “frugal” in our house.

    This is a couple of years old, but outlines some recent demographics… or you can google “richest 1% in the world”
    http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/04/news/economy/world_richest/

    If you don’t want to read the article, the takeaway is that if you make more than $34,000 per year, per person, you are one of the world’s richest 1%. Roughly half of the those people live in the US.

    Reply
  • must_stash November 12, 2014, 8:53 am

    Hey MMM thanks for supplying such a powerful mind-stance to use when young. It’s positive, useful, and deadly to sudden urges to try and buy happiness. I’m in my senior year, I’ve got 3k in loans planning to wipe it out before I graduate, there’s still a way to get an affordable education.

    Reply
  • Chris November 12, 2014, 8:59 am

    I think we have just been spoiled by prosperity.

    Last night I was watching a PBS show that included an explanation of the great migration of Indian/Pakistani Hindus and Muslims after the borders were drawn in the 50s. Over a million people died in the process. Made me realize that if a recession is the worst thing to happen to this country in nearly 80 years then we all need to back the fuck up and appreciate our luxurious lives.

    We have gotten used to assuming that things will always improve, so we live above our means feeling confident that our means will increase to fit.

    Reply
  • Miquel Mcdude November 12, 2014, 9:01 am

    If we each start with a mindset of hyper-accountability, then we have a much better chance of meeting our goals and creating happiness.

    People, there are already plenty of articles out there that talk about how things are crummy, but it’s not our fault, we’re victims, etc. Did you really want to read another one of those? This article is the exact opposite and I love it.

    Great work, MMM!

    Reply
  • skunkfunk November 12, 2014, 9:23 am

    You could easily apply this concept to society as a whole. Past and present society are awfully bad about being nice to future society. I think it’s wired to not give a shit about what’s coming, since it is largely rewarding to do so at that scale.

    Reply
    • Sofie November 12, 2014, 11:56 pm

      That’s what civilization is :)

      Reply
  • Valerie November 12, 2014, 9:32 am

    I’m normally on board with your posts, but hold on just a minute . . .

    Keep in mind that the median household income in the U.S. was just below $52,000 in 2013. $150,000 incomes certainly do mean that the earners could invest and give themselves the gift of financial independence, but only about 10% of the households in the U.S. exceed that. People do have a choice of career paths, but issues of access, race, family situation, schooling, etc. affect those choices.

    My household is a bit above median in terms of family income. We do a lot financially: doing household projects ourselves, eating out rarely, driving our cars until they fall apart, paying off our mortgage early, doing extra work, investing and saving what we can, and waiting years to have children.

    Here, houses that aren’t a wreck range from $80,000 on up. Good jobs with health insurance start at about $26,000 a year. A first-year teacher earns $34,000. I appreciate your blog because we want to work towards financial independence as soon as possible, but perhaps living in Longmont has given you an unrealistic concept of the financial lives of many Americans.

    Reply
    • Phil November 12, 2014, 9:52 am

      “but issues of access, race, family situation, schooling, etc. affect those choices.”

      This is America. People travel from other parts of the world to have a better life here. If you are already here and you speak English, then you are waaay ahead of the game. No more excuses.

      Reply
      • Valerie November 12, 2014, 10:19 am

        I’m not responding because I think I can affect your view, because you make it clear that empathy is not one of your strong points. I’ll give it one more try, however, for the sake of the people reading your comment:

        I am very happy and I’m not complaining. My typical expenses, not counting daycare (which I chose, to be fair), are barely more than MMM’s. We’re very successful at keeping our budget low and focusing on what makes us truly happy in life: time with family and friends.

        I am pointing out that it is possible for “English-speaking people in the U.S.” (as you specified) to make the best decisions that they have available at the time and still be only a few good disasters away from bankruptcy and nowhere near financial independence until close to retirement age.

        It is also possible for disasters to happen that are not your fault. Tornadoes ripped through our area twice in the last 3 years and caused millions in damage, and floods in our city last Christmas caused thousands more. We spent our savings and time on repairs and helping friends and called ourselves blessed. That type of event, however, does not lend itself to the project of financial independence.

        MMM’s conceptualization of America (a fully loaded Honda for $32,000, $300,000 for a house, a $150,000 salary) is not typical, although probably not unusual of MMM’s readers.

        Reply
        • Phil November 12, 2014, 10:48 am

          You’re right…you did not affect my point of view much. I believe in self-reliance, which is going away in this country. Let’s face it, we have so many more people milking the system than ever before. As a libertarian, I believe in Freedom. But even the most hard-core libertarian believes in safety nets. If you TRULY have seen horrible hardships, such as becoming blind, then there should be programs to assist you (and there are).

          But if you are “depressed”, and not working then go mow a lawn. Heck, start with yours.

          I am a school teacher, and I have plenty of empathy. I have empathy for my students whose parents do what MMM suggests…buy cars they can’t afford while sending their kids to school on a Free-Reduced lunch.

          Also, your tornado comment…that is what insurance is for. Yes, it is a disaster, but if you have insurance it is not a life-changing disaster. You can rebuild your home.

          Reply
          • Mr. Frugal Toque November 13, 2014, 11:42 am

            It saddens me that proud self-reliance so often comes with such blinkered selfishness. It is possible to take care of yourself and also worry about the plight of the less fortunate.
            Does it serve you well, in your libertarian paradise, to have poor, uneducated children running around vandalizing your car? Is it good to have starving people around, constantly trying to steal your food?
            Also, on the subject of Free Lunches: I thought those were only available at public schools. You aren’t teaching at a public school, are you, my dear Libertarian Freedom-Lover(TM)?
            Sounds like someone’s milking the system.

            Reply
            • Phil November 14, 2014, 7:18 am

              Of course I work at a public school. Most teachers do.

              How did you get homeless kids running around vandalizing cars? I, like most libertarians, believe in safety nets for those who need it.

              This is what I am talking about…people milking the system. Panhandling for food while driving off in a Mercedes!!! Really!

              http://www.ajc.com/news/news/national/pregnant-woman-begging-young-boy-photographed-ridi/nh5jX/

              Reply
              • Mr. Frugal Toque November 14, 2014, 6:30 pm

                Oh. My. God.
                People cheat the welfare system. I had no idea. That must mean your entire society is a failure. There were never grifters and carnies in the 1800s! I bet every single person on EI or welfare is just doing it for kicks! Starve the beggars!
                Really.
                You have an anecdote. That doesn’t constitute data. What’s the average dwell time for welfare in your country? Do you even know?
                When Mitt Romney infamously talked about the 47% of the population that are “takers”, did you know if he was including you, Mr. Public School Teacher? That great disturbance in the Force you’re feeling is you wondering if it isn’t true.

            • Reader of the Rockies November 14, 2014, 7:42 am

              Many many times poverty is a result of really poor choices. The parents (assuming the dad is known) drink, smoke, do drugs, waste money on all kinds of stuff and send their kids to school without food or lunch money. Then they complain that their kids have nothing to eat.

              When people make bad choices, no amount of public assistance will fix that. They end up with more money to make bad choices. I just don’t see how public policy can change how those people think and act. Individual choices are just that, individual.

              Doing drugs, having children as a teenager and not getting educated are all choices that almost guarantee poverty. These are all manifestations of choosing immediate fun over long term responsibility. This is a frame of mind, not the result of decisions made in Washington or anywhere else for that matter. Would policy changes or handing out more tax money fix these problems, or make them worse? The last 6 years are exhibit A. This isn’t about politiics: just read the stats.

              There are tons of opportunities in America. Some choose to take them while others do not. It is that simple for the vast majority of people in poverty. I do have empathy for the minority who are in trouble due to no fault of their own. They deserve (and get) our support.

              Reply
              • Mr. Frugal Toque November 14, 2014, 6:38 pm

                “When people make bad choices, no amount of public assistance will fix that.”
                Except, of course, in Utah, where they spent about $11k/a rehabilitating homeless people by giving them a secure place to live and a social worker to help them out.
                So there’s that.
                “I do have empathy for the minority who are in trouble due to no fault of their own. They deserve (and get) our support.”
                Yeah, no kidding. I’m sure we just disagree on who “deserves” support.

    • Heath November 12, 2014, 3:01 pm

      It sounds like you are working very hard as a Mustachian, and for that I congratulate you! You’ve got many of the most important bases covered. I’m still behind on many of the core tenants, but I’m working on it :-) Also, high-five to teachers!!

      If you haven’t yet, check out this article: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/28/get-rich-with-moving-to-a-better-place/

      The problems you listed (like expensive housing and low paying jobs) can be solved by simply moving to another place. If you haven’t seriously considered this option, then you’re taking away one of your best mustache grooming tools. Many people say that they “can’t move” because of X, Y, or Z; usually categorized under ‘quality of life’, as if being in that category alone made it sacred. Some people decide that X, Y and Z are more important than a solid income, reasonable housing costs, and thus more freedom for their current and future selves. So be it. But most people don’t seriously seem to weigh the pros against the cons in a rigorously mathematical fashion.

      Reply
      • Valerie November 12, 2014, 8:00 pm

        I appreciate your constructive and kind comments, particularly in contrast with the other commenter. For reasons I don’t care to explain on the internet, I cannot move. Like really, actually, most reasonable human beings would agree, cannot move at the moment. That is aside from the point. I live close to my work and reap the benefits, I just also live in an area that is economically not-so-nice.

        That is aside from my general point. The median household income before taxes in the U.S. is $52,000 . . . let’s guess somewhere around $40,000 after taxes and health insurance premiums. Say, for example, that a couple lives on MMM’s yearly budget of $24,000 (it would have to be just a couple, because daycare costs a ton). $16,000 a year extra, unless something goes wrong. That is 20 years to amass the $600,000 MMM suggests for retirement . . . if there are not medical emergencies, or natural disasters, or friends getting married who have moved to other states, and definitely no children because if you start at 22 and wait 20 years having children at 42 is tough (oh, and don’t accidentally get pregnant!). Plus, remember that this means that half of U.S. households have an annual income of LESS than 50%. I’m just throwing out some numbers, but you get the idea.

        Now, there are plenty of complainypants out there, and there’s no reason that anyone with an income over a certain point can’t become financial independent if he or she wants. I also fully intend to work towards financial independence (or enough of a cushion that I don’t blink over a medical emergency). Most of us could definitely be doing a lot better at managing our finances, which is why I appreciate this blog. I do think MMM should keep in mind how specific and narrow the audience for his rant truly is.

        Reply
        • Mark November 12, 2014, 11:23 pm

          I think the crux of the problem here is people like MMM and I (and others) seem to think the majority (say, around 80%) of the financial problems we have in the U.S. are self imposed. But then people like yourself are always seeing the other 20%. And from MMM’s perspective (and mine), you’re blowing it out of proportion.

          I’ll just give an example from my own life. I live in the high cost San Francisco Bay Area on a grosss salary of 49K per year (including a few hundred bucks in gifts from parents). This year I’ll save just over $15,000 (about 35% of my after tax pay). So I just can’t understand why people in less expensive parts of the country making my salary can’t make ends meet. I mean, do people really not know kids and day care are expensive? That houses are expensive? Etc….

          What I see all around me, is the complainypants attitude and people who are absolutely unwilling to make the choices I did. My own sister is two years older and has made a lot more money than me, but has a fraction of the net worth. Of course, she took a year off work to live in South America and I didn’t (among other things).
          I practically have to BEG, WHEEDLE, and CAJOLE her to save $2K per year in an IRA….and she is not the only person I nag to death about stuff like this.

          So I wholeheartedly disagree with you, MMMs target audience is at least 50% of the United States, and that’s a conservative estimate.

          Reply
        • Ashley November 13, 2014, 11:04 am

          I think you are missing the point of this particular article a little bit. This article is simply saying that making good choices now will positively affect your future. I think even in your scenario with a couple or family making the median income they can choose to save what little they can and eventually be FI, or try to find another source of income, or try to get a higher paying job, or…. or spend it all every month, or go into debt and complain about how the world is unfair. The article is just saying you have to own up to your own choices, its telling people in general (the 150k/year earners or the 52k/year earners) to make good choices with their money in order to reap the benefits later. Sure people have unfortunate situations that are not fault of their own, but that still means their next choice should be one that loads up the conveyor belt with a present to their future selves. You can’t tell me that a person will never have the opportunity to make one of those choices, that just is not true.

          Since you listed some good financial choices in your first post, I’m not sure what problem you have with the article. Seems like you have considered your situation and are making good choices that will eventually get you to FI (or whatever present you want to load up on your conveyor belt). He’s not saying no one can complain about their situations ever, instead he’s saying that there are a lot of people complaining about situations caused by their own past choices.

          Reply
        • Kevin November 15, 2014, 6:08 pm

          Wow, Valerie, you gave a great example using the median household income, and concluded that following Mustachian principles that median family could reach FI by their early 40s, and you seem pessimistic about that! Your example should be a wake up call to about 100 million Americans! The vast majority of people enter the workforce at 19 or 22 or whatever and assume they will need to work at least until retirement age, at least 45 years later. Those people need the MMM rant.

          Reply
  • Shannon November 12, 2014, 9:42 am

    How I wish you’d been writing when I was 16! I could have saved myself a good 10 years if I had this mentality going back then. Ah, well… to the future!

    Reply
  • Green Girl November 12, 2014, 10:23 am

    Unfortunately much of the world equates ‘good times’ with a growing economy, but that growth can come with social and environmental costs. Consider that buying cigarettes, divorce costs and medical costs associated with car accidents all contribute to a “growing economy”. Bhutan has a concept called “Gross National Happiness” in lieu of “Gross National Product”. I’m not sure how feasible it is in a global sense, but it seems many of us are in a position to practice this in our personal lives.

    Reply
  • Mathieu November 12, 2014, 10:44 am

    True story: When biking to work yesterday (November 11th) I saw a guy unicycling… And it’s cold here in Montreal! So that analogy isn’t too far fetched! ;)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets