Great News – Early Retirement Doesn’t Mean You’ll Stop Working

“If everybody retired early like those Mustachians”, the lament goes, “there would be nobody left to do the work.”

Given Infinite Money, would my brother Wax Mannequin ever stop rocking? No, he would only rock MORE. (Image credit Tanya Plonka)

Given Infinite Money, would my brother Wax Mannequin ever stop rocking? No, he would only rock MORE.
(Image credit Tanya Plonka)

We need people to do the hard, dirty necessary chores that keep society running. And we need other people to keep the innovation going, since technologies and ideas don’t invent themselves.

And besides, even on an individual level it is a bad idea. What about those studies that show life expectancy drops very quickly for those who retire? What about those of us who love our jobs? What would we do all day if we didn’t have to work?

Luckily for all of us, there is a simple answer to all of this:

I propose that you keep right on working well after your retirement date, and in an ideal world you keep working right up until the last day of your life. Only then and with the satisfaction of countless decades of doing your best, is it really worthwhile to take that final rest.

If this sounds like a prescription for living hell, the problem is not with my proposal. It’s with your definition of what “work” really is. The problem is likely that you are doing work because you need the money, rather than for the joy of getting the most out of each of your days. And there really is a better way.

How “Retired” People Work

These days, I seem to know quite a few financially independent people. They come out of the woodwork once you start writing a blog about the idea, and we end up keeping in touch because we have so much in common. They are fun friends to have, plus it is handy to have someone with whom to share a mountain bike ride on a Monday, or beers on a Wednesday.

According to their own definition, they no longer need to work for money because their investments cover their (usually below average) spending. And yet, at the present moment almost all of them are still doing things that look like working.  A couple of them are still charging away at expanding their companies. Others are still productive at writing books or investing and helping others start companies of their own. Even I get accused of not being retired on the grounds of either carpentry or writing. But there’s a reason behind all of this work-like activity, and it’s not money.

The Rule of Free

For the first few years after retirement, I found myself continuing old money habits without questioning them. Like everyone, I’m way more habit-bound than I like to admit. And besides, if money is good, then more must be better, right?

The problem was that these habits were costing me some freedom. When opportunities came up to earn little chunks of income,  I would tend to go out of my way to accept them. When spending decisions came up, I would stress unnecessarily to optimize each one. I found myself agonizing over whether to add a $14.50 order of delicious Baingan Barta to the order of Indian take-out, when the bill was already approaching $40.

Habits like these are very healthy when you are still earning your independence: it is the double-sided optimization that gets you to financial freedom 30-40 years ahead of everyone else, so the reward on effort is very high. However, once you have enough money, getting even more doesn’t do you much good at all. So once the job was done, I wanted to put the theoretical freedom into practice. I forced myself to adopt two new rules:

I try to make all spending decisions as if the price were $0.00

And I make all work and income decisions as if the wage were $0.00

But doesn’t this lead to infinite consumption and zero work? For the Beginner Consumer, most definitely. But by the time you are truly ready for early retirement, these guidelines should lead to almost exactly the same life that you already have. The key is that both factors become magically self-regulating if you understand what truly makes you happy.

I’ve learned that more stuff does not bring more happiness – as you add belongings, your stuff just starts to own you. Even upgrading to higher quality versions of existing stuff doesn’t help. I could swap my 10-year-old Scion  xA for a new Tesla P85D with just the spare change in my wallet at this point, but this upgrade would probably make me slightly less happy, because I’d have to watch the beautiful machine fading in the hot sun and being shat upon by birds, while I felt guilt over not driving it enough to justify the price.

But buying tools that let you accomplish things can be much more satisfying than buying luxury toys. For me, this means physical power tools, but also tools like a functional office, a nice kitchen, and good shoes. So I don’t skimp on the things that help me get more done every day. An upgraded car doesn’t qualify because it would only help me accomplish more driving, which is not on my bucket list.

 On the work side of the equation, the philosophy is reversed. My best days are the ones where I accomplish something truly difficult, preferably in both mental and physical realms. And my worst days are those that I just spend sitting around. So I’ve learned that work is an incredibly powerful source of happiness. The key is that it must be creative, social and engaging work that brings you towards a purpose you believe in. 

So if a friend asks me to spend a day helping him haul steel beams and welding them into his foundation so he can resume progress on a dream house, I’ll be right over. Although I usually get paid for work like this, I’d also do it for free. But when an advertising company hints at a seven-figure offer to buy this blog, I have no interest at all. After all, would I give Mr. Money Mustache away for free?

When you take money out of the equation, it is much easier to make decisions that really bring you a better life.

So Here’s What Would Really Happen if More People Pursued MMM-Style Early Retirement

I find that when people earn their freedom from money constraints, they usually don’t stop working. Instead they start doing their best work. Looking at many of society’s highest achievers right now, the world leaders and founders of the most productive companies, I see mostly people who have already made it. And yet are still working because it means something to them.

Early retirement, according to this new definition, does not mean quitting work, even while it may well mean quitting your job. It means opting out of the bullshit portion of your work. The commuting, the politics, the production of inferior products just because your boss has found a profitable niche to exploit. When used correctly, a sizeable ‘stash can help you become a more ethical person.

Early-retired Doctors might set up smaller practices which operate without any pressure for profit optimization, and without patience for insurance company shenanigans. They might treat their medical staff better than the larger operations do.

Early-retired Attorneys might refuse all cases that are based on questionable ethics, and do only work that actually helps somebody.

Google engineers who retire early might still work or contract part-time, or feel compelled to create completely new inventions with their newly freed minds. If some of these inventions grow big and end up being acquired right back into Google, it’s just another dividend of early retirement and the cycle will begin anew.

How would you run your own life, with a continuing desire to create but no immediate need to make the next mortgage payment?

Early retirement also leaves much more room for family life, because you lose your fear of falling behind.  Sure, I’m currently far less “productive” in conventional business terms than I would be if wasn’t a full-time Dad. In fact, before beginning this project I granted myself 20 years of slack time, just to make sure work would not take over. But who cares about conventional business productivity?  There will be plenty of time in the second half of my life to embark on bigger things.

And there is no such thing as skills going obsolete: A true Early Retiree expands his or her network of skills and knowledge every day in unforeseen ways. As the years go by, the friendships and business opportunities only multiply, whether you have time to capitalize on them or not.

The net of all this is that you probably have less to fear about post-retirement life than you thought. It also means you’ll probably use less of that war chest you have been amassing, because your energy (and therefore income) will only multiply over time. You have decades to build, accumulate and contribute after you make the jump. So make your plan with a heavy dose of optimism.

There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from getting as many people on this train as possible, including yourself.



  • BCBiker April 15, 2015, 6:23 pm

    I try to explain the concept of FIRE to people at work but usually get weird looks because this is such an unfathomable concept. I will henceforth direct them to this post.

    • Finance Clever April 16, 2015, 5:46 am

      People’s reaction to the concept of FIRE have always been interesting to me. From “How the hell are you going to do that!?!?” to “So.. you just wanna sit on your ass and do nothing all day?”.
      I think is is hard for us humans to change our herd mentality. Anything that deviates from “get the highest paying job you can and work it until you die” is often seen as an impossible dream, or even as a scam.

      I will also be forwarding this post to quite a few people. Thanks MMM!

      • RetiredToWin Alex April 16, 2015, 9:52 pm

        As someone who earlier retired 14 years ago, I just can’t see how anyone can possibly just “sit on their ass and do nothing all day” after saying goodbye to the regular job world. I can’t see how anyone would want to. And I am completely baffled by anyone who thinks they’re actually going to have to.

        When you no longer are obligated to work FOR money, a world of opportunities opens up in front of you. Taking me as an example, I’ve embraced life enhancing opportunities — just to name a few — to become proficient at home renovation, skilled at stock trading, knowledgeable about wilderness lore and reasonably effective at blog writing. And it’s true that my motivation in each case has been not the making of money but much more so the doing well of the thing.

        Becoming capable at doing new things is a great feeling and a great life enhancer. And not having to work for money is what really frees you to tackle those new things.

      • Darrell April 17, 2015, 11:10 am

        I ask those people, “Well, what do you do on weekends? Do you sit on your ass and do nothing all day when you don’t have to work, or do you keep busy?”

        • Eldred April 17, 2015, 11:16 am

          I’d guess that MOST people use their weekends to TRY to catch up on all the stuff they didn’t have time for during the week(from shopping to exercise to home projects). With 40(or more) more hours of free time per week to work with, maybe they’d get caught up…? :-)

          • Kathy Abell April 20, 2015, 9:37 am

            I’ve been retired 18 months now and I still haven’t caught up on all the projects I had planned pre-retirement. So many things to see and do … so little time – even without spending 40 hours at work. We are trying to complete our international travel list before either of us become too decrepit and or grumpy to deal with adventures such as missing a connecting flight home. All those at home projects can wait; Holland in the spring can’t.

            • pachipres April 21, 2015, 7:01 pm

              Kathy, do you think that this is a mind set about being too old or grumpy to deal with travel issues? Have you heard this from other elderly people?

              • Kathy Abell April 22, 2015, 1:27 pm

                It’s probably more of a mind set. I wouldn’t consider me (almost 57) and hubby (soon to be 60) “elderly” yet … but I have noticed us slowing down and getting impatient easier. While not lame, neither one of us are in good enough shape to be running through large airports trying to catch our flight. Most recent case in point: hubby actually asked, “are you trying to kill me?” while I was walking as fast as I could through the Frankfort airport. So in our case, I can definitely see there are not too many more good travel years left (perhaps five?). I just don’t want people thinking, “we will travel when we are retired” when there are no guarantees you will be healthy enough (or of sound mind enough) for extensive travel. You never know when you may face a life threatening health issue or a loss in capability. Whatever you want to do, do it sooner rather than waiting until later.

            • Eldred April 22, 2015, 1:34 pm

              That’s one of the things that worries me – being PHYSICALLY being able to travel after retirement. My dad has enough money to travel around the world. However, at age 91, he no longer has the health or mental capacity to do so. :-(

              • Ed May 1, 2015, 11:13 am

                As I have read from other bloggers (not done myself….yet). Longer term stays, sounds like the solution….ie rent a place in Spain e.g., for a month, 2 mos, 6 mos. Sure sounds good to me.

      • Daddiosmadio April 21, 2015, 2:28 pm

        I think also there is a bit of hidden resentment as well. A former teacher of mine used to say “no one gets more defensive than someone who knows they’re wrong”. The idea of FIRE I think is secretly appealing, but they have no concept of how to do it, resent the fact that you seem to know, and slap it away as “wrong” “stupid”, or the old stand by “anti American”. This is what they say, but not really how they feel, somewhere down deep.

    • Rob the Lawyer April 16, 2015, 9:13 am

      I’m continually shocked by the lack of understanding from all but a small minority of family, friends, and coworkers when I bring up the concept of FIRE. It’s also sort of an opportunity, though, because I feel like my understanding of where I’m going, what I want, and how I’m getting there becomes a little more clear every time I explain it to a person who assumes FIRE is impossible or that I’m just going to “deprive myself” and then “sit around and do nothing all day”.

      Wonderful post, MMM, and I will be sharing this as a shortcut for ending my typical friendly arguments!

      • The Money Mechanic April 16, 2015, 10:13 am

        I feel you with the frustration in explaining this concept to family and friends. The one and only downside to converting to a kickass lifestlye of efficiency and leisure is watching those you love continue to be stuck in the consumer trap.
        I am tired of watching creative and intelligent people fit themselves into the vicious cycle of working to support fake thrills and symbols of status.

    • Free Money Minute April 16, 2015, 11:42 am

      FIRE is my target….it is amazing to me how much people waste when if they made simple adjustments in life, they could be FIREing away sooner than they think. I don’t even understand why people are projecting working until 65 or 67 and basing their savings rates on that age. Why not shoot for 50-55 as a worse case scenario.

      • Mr. Enchumbao April 17, 2015, 12:09 pm

        Yeah, planning something like retirement for 30-40 years can be a daunting task. Love the fact that with FIRE it can be done in less than 15.

  • EL April 15, 2015, 6:30 pm

    I agree because as soon as I get free time to stop and think away from work, I tend to think of new ideas for the blog. It will only get better as time passes. I am in the early stages of achieving FI, but I will be there before many of my coworkers. Keep on motivating others with the right way a real early retiree should handle the enjoyable work after the forced labor aka modern slavery.

  • Quinn April 15, 2015, 6:30 pm

    Completely agree! Removing the financial stress of “working” doesn’t mean stop being productive.

  • Jaime Bonilla April 15, 2015, 6:30 pm

    Dear Mr MM,

    A nice exercise is try to define “work” with your own words. 90% of people I have asked are not able to find a convincing definition, without realizing that it means they do not know what are they doing every day, for endless years!

    It would be nice to read some trials (without the help of the dictionary!)


    • Mick April 20, 2015, 9:26 am

      Work – is spending time, doing something you don’t want to do for the money.

      I also like ‘Get a job you enjoy and you’ll never have to work again’ which is the same concept wrapped differently!

  • The Roamer April 15, 2015, 6:31 pm

    :) took the word right out of my mouth.

    I was thinking the same thing after reading that Ryan Cooper’s rebuttal. I was thinking ” this guy fails to acknowledge that most early retires still behave very much like a “regular” person. Most of the people I read (MMM included) still do some sort of work, so they pay taxes… Most of them still also buy. Whether its plane tickets it groceries they buy. They don’t suddenly fall off the grid, so they still contribute to the economy that way. Also that means they also pay sales tax.”

    So yeah I just rolled my eyes and laughed . clearly very myopic view. I’m really glad to read all these articles that keep up my courage. Because it is scary to change… Like you said we are use to our habits. But I am slowly getting more and more optimistic. And more and more adventurous. I do hope I get to meet you all next time I’m in Denver.


  • Aphalite April 15, 2015, 6:33 pm

    Amazing article – I feel some of your followers still follow too closely to the frugality aspect of the blog, and not what it’s truly about – happiness

    Spend your time (and money) on what you want to spend it on, cut out all the rest

    • tlars699 April 16, 2015, 10:05 am

      I think it seems that way, only because they marvel and are proud with how little they can make-do with.

      They never seem to gripe about how they have to live without, they just say- “Look at what I’m doing! I feel marvelous/proud doing it!” I doubt they would be bragging only about pride, if it didn’t also make them happy, even if its only with a twisted sense of mastery.

      It’s when the should’s come in to deprive others of what makes them happy that they need to be looked at in askance.

  • Mark Ferguson April 15, 2015, 6:41 pm

    great read. I agree with all of it and practice most of it. I am still working on becoming completely free from income and being able to live on my investments. I do have some expensive tastes, but I love my work so it is no drag at all to keep producing income. I try to focus on the work that produces long term income and not quick pay days. Just figured my rentals made me $69,000 last year.

    I like what you say about making choices based on the price being zero. I read a book or listened to a CD from someone saying they knew they had crossed a hump when they stopped ordering chicken every time at a restaraunt because it was the cheapest thing on the menu. He had become successful enough he stopped looking at prices and ordered what he wanted. Like you said you need to arrive first before you stop paying attention to prices.

    • Eldred April 16, 2015, 8:56 am

      How many rentals do you have, if I may ask? I still need to save up for my FIRST. That’s probably going to take me at least 3 years, so I’ll be 55 before I can buy my FIRST…

  • Mr. FC April 15, 2015, 6:55 pm

    I find it very important for one to to be precise with one’s words. The word “retirement” is used in our culture so poorly that it makes it difficult to see any other way of life than to slave away until you’re 65, which is when, apparently, something magical will happen and the shackles will fall off your feet, and suddenly you’ll be free to frolic on the golf course or the shopping mall all day. I call bullshit on that vision of “retirement” because it doesn’t make you any happier or any better of a person, or make the world a better place at all. It just means “I scrimped doing a job I hated so that I could blow my wad on a 20-year orgy of consumer crap before I start pushing up the daisies.” How sad.

    In fact, I hope I never “retire”. The reason I get out of bed in the morning today will be the same reason I get out bed in the morning when I hit FI. What I do with my day will most certainly change, for the better, but the reasons why won’t, ever.

    I come back to my original premise – one must be careful with their words. “To retire” is dangerous. To be free is precious.

    • Kristine - CA April 17, 2015, 5:42 pm

      I couldn’t agree more that the word “retirement” is the problem. It is now used by everyone in every station for everything. I have friends who stopped working one job for another with no financial independence in sight. Yet they state that they have retired from the first job. There’s also the “career” issue. You “retire” from 30 years of teaching even if you take on on full employment elsewhere. It’s a way of letting everyone know you took an honorable leave of the job (and maybe a pension).

      I think MMM’s retirement reflected his desire to wrap up his engineering career. He knows that financial independence is where it’s at, not retirement. But early retirement is the phrase to capture the imagination and the the search engine hits.

    • Kathy Abeall April 22, 2015, 1:36 pm

      re: “To be free is precious”

      That is the heart of it right there. FI gives you the freedom to do what you want to do. The freedom to say “Life is too short to put up with this” whatever “this” is (e.g., stupid stuff your boss asks you to do at work that makes no sense). If getting to that precious freedom means living under your means and not succumbing to the endless cycle of consumerism, so be it. Would you rather be free, or shackled to your things? I choose precious freedom.

  • Mrs. D. April 15, 2015, 7:01 pm

    “Early retired doctors might set up smaller practices”. Well, that’s a nice concept, but the overhead of a small doctor’s office is ridiculously high. We have a very small office and operate on a fee for service basis only – no insurance billing. Our medical malpractice is over $10,000 a year (we’ve never been sued, knock on wood), the rent on our office (at only 1000 sf) is $28,800 a year – and we’re in a sort of ghetto area, next to a hospital. Factor in supplies, phones, high speed internet, matching fica and medicare for 4 people, worker’s comp, health insurance etc. and for a doctor and 3 employees that’s about $78,000 a year – before the doctor or the employees get one red cent of income. We have to work for quite a few months, everyday on a regular basis, just to pay the overhead that does not include salaries. And remember, this does not include electronic medical records – we don’t need them because we don’t bill insurance. Unfortunately, the days of Andy and Aunt Bea are gone. You’re either big business, or you’re out of business.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 15, 2015, 8:39 pm

      Good thing not everyone feels this way – I’ve heard from many doctors who make it work and didn’t seem to have a single complaint about their experience.. or at least didn’t care to share the complaints with me ;-)

      • EcoCatLady April 16, 2015, 1:50 am

        I think there are ways to make it work, but it may require some out of the box thinking. My stepmother is a retired allergist, but she still maintains a small practice in one of Colorado’s mountain towns. My parents have a second residence there, but she only goes up once every few months to see patients. I think she works out of a general practitioner’s office when she’s there, and they are grateful to have a specialist available to them.

      • Mrs. D. April 16, 2015, 10:22 am

        We HAVE made it work, but we’re in the minority. We don’t depend on insurance, we have a niche practice (not concierge) and we make a decent income for the number of hours we put in. Unfortunately, if you’re depending on pittance pay from insurance companies you can’t make it unless you’re with a large group that can contract with a hospital or is so large they can make demands on insurance companies.

    • ThatGuy701 April 16, 2015, 7:18 am

      Mrs. D.

      The whole point of this article is to explain that FI people will most likely continue to work but only if it makes them happy and fulfilled and it is what they WANT to do, not what they have to do. From your post it seems like you are working because you have to and not because you want to.

    • jessica April 16, 2015, 8:05 am

      You’re saying this doctors office makes less than 100k for a few months (lets say 3). So the yearly income would be around 400k. 100k to all listed expenses and 300k to salary for 3 staff (office manager, nurse, +1) + doctor doesn’t seem unreasonable for a doctor who is already retired.

      What about a shared office? Or a doctor contributing to another small practice as a specialist? There are ways to get those big ticket expenses down. Honestly, 10k for medical malpractice seems cheap. I know doctors making 6k per operation (all in, not considering operational costs).

      Anyway, when there is a will there is a way.

      • Mrs. D April 16, 2015, 10:31 am

        10k for medical malpractice is cheap. But a doc making 6k per operation is paying about $100k a year for malpractice so he has to make a lot per operation. We are not a surgical practice. And a shared office is not for everyone. We’ve been solo for 30 years and my DH plans to keep it that way. By the way, he loves his job and although we were FI at the turn of the century (when interest rates were 7% – 8%) he has no intention of retiring.

    • 3okirb April 16, 2015, 8:26 am

      I have several friends that are “semi retired” doctors. They are on a list for fill ins. They decide on a per case basis if they want the job or not. These jobs vary from a few days to a few months depending on the needs of the practice. The only negative is that you’re not building relationships, but the way the profession is going, you’re not doing that in 5 minute appointments anyway.

      • wbw April 16, 2015, 10:12 am

        I am one of those “semi-retired” physicians. Previously said “retired” but I got too much flak from my wife. Since leaving full-time practice at 54 yo I have had more time for overseas orthopaedic missions work (usually go for 1 month at a time) and I can keep my toe in the water here in the states doing the “Locum Tenens” work mentioned in the previous post.

        After 25+ years of being the CEO (managing the business) as well as the chief ditch-digger (no cutting, no cash) I can now work because I love it, not because I need to make an income. I only wish “blogs” and MMM had been on my radar 20 yrs ago! While I did and still do adhere to “spend less than you make”, having a coach and other believers on the journey would have been great. Oh wait, I did, thank God for my wife!!

      • dave April 16, 2015, 8:01 pm

        I am a veterinarian and my early retirement goal is to do just what 30kirb suggests. Its called “relief” work, filling in for DVM’s who need a break, having a baby (most vets these days are women) etc. Apply Mustachian principles to this concept and you’d only have to work at most 10 weeks a year for a more than “livable” wage. All the hassles of running a practice the OP mentioned are irrelevant if you’re a locum doctor.

        • Elliott April 16, 2015, 11:05 pm

          Great to see another vet here among the Mustachians!

          • Beth April 20, 2015, 12:47 pm

            Vet student here! I think the profession seems to lend itself well to the mmm way of life. My low spending lifestyle has been pretty satisfactory thus far, so I don’t think I’ll mind it in the future.

    • Cats Eye April 17, 2015, 8:42 pm

      Not a doctor, but wanted to say that a comment like this detracts from the main idea, which is that even if you are in high-paying profession, you can retire and continue in that profession in a way that’s meaningful to you. While that may not work for a few doctors that shouldn’t be the basis to question the validity of the argument which encompasses people who are doctors and others. Lawyers/legal professionals (count me in) and Google Engineers can do great work that is meaningful. Several logical fallacies in the comment (see this for a handy chart: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/assets/FallaciesPosterHigherRes.jpg)

      • RandomDoctor April 24, 2015, 3:14 pm

        I am by no means early-retired, but I have recently paid off my house. I have spent a few years working hard to pay off debts associated with starting my wife’s business – which could be seen as either a high-risk financial investment or a low-risk investment in my wife’s happiness and in better outcomes for maths students everywhere. Even while paying off those debts, I never saw myself as beholden to my employer – when they started pulling unethical crap and wouldn’t change course when I pointed it out, I left.

        Now I am back in general practice, working for a lower percentage (because the practice provides a nice work environment, employs more and better nurses and gives a damn about its patients). I work at my own speed, taking extra time to explain things (one of the paradoxes in family medicine is that a doctor should educate their patients to know when they don’t need to go to the doctor and also how to stay healthy enough not to need one – this takes extra time, which lowers the doctor’s income further). We charge patients out of pocket, but I regularly use my option to reduce my billing where it is needed or fair to do so.

        I made $45 000 from medicine last year (after tax and expenses) – that’s plenty to live on, but not enough to buy a new Mercedes. I see a lot of doctors swanning around in fancy cars or boasting about their amazing overseas adventures who are either miserable in their jobs or know that they are raping their patients wallets because “Hey, I’m running a business here!” I like my balance better, especially when it gives me space to spend more time with my kids and support my wife’s efforts to improve education – owning that business also means we can be ethical and generous in how we run it.

        What would I do if we suddenly found ourselves with enough money to retire? Probably much the same as we do now, with a bit of extra travel thrown in and the opportunity to extend our efforts to students overseas.

  • Joe O (arebelspy) April 15, 2015, 7:10 pm

    This seems to come up on the forums all the time, someone saying that MMM dictates that when you are FI you MUST STOP work. Latest example: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/'exploit'-vs-work-the-fatal-flaw-in-mustachianism/

    It is great to have this post to point them to, along with earlier classics like the SWAMI part of this post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/30/weekend-edition-retire-in-your-mind-even-if-you-love-your-job/

  • Lee Lau April 15, 2015, 7:11 pm

    When I “retired” at the age of 35 I tried to hide the fact that I retired. My mum and dad and my friends would have been scandalized that a corporate IT IP lawyer and finance guy basically checked out at the prime of his career. But over time my friends couldn’t help but notice that I bike and ski something like 250 days a year and travel a bunch (we’re all friends here so hope that doesn’t sound too much like banging the drum).

    Now that was about a decade ago and I’m still not bored and still “retired” but thankfully because there are more people coming around to the idea of Mustachianness I no longer have so much discomfort explaining that I do a tremendous amount of lollygagging.

    One thing I do say to friends to explain the FI concept is that at a young age I basically saved and earned a bag of FU money. This bag of FU Money gave me the opportunity to pick what I wanted to do and say FU to things that I found objectionable or tiresome.

    Anyway MMM has heard this before. We all come at things differently but hopefully with the same broadly liberating self-empowering goal

    • BillM April 16, 2015, 1:06 pm

      You nailed the key, at least for me. Once you have collected a pile of FU money, the entire way you look at work changes. Suddenly, you realize that bs isn’t worth putting up with just for the sake of the job. You quickly determine that either the fun parts of work are worth the occasional druge of every job, or you pull the trigger and depart, without the worry that you and your family will be out on the street. I think this makes you much more difficult to be managed in the corporate sense, and provides both the right and really the responsibility to no longer just tow the line “because you need the job”. You don’t necessarily have to have reached FI in order to do this, because assuming you didn’t suck at your job, chances are you’ll find something else somewhere else and perhaps enjoy it a lot more. In my case, that meant working for myself, consulting with people I like who value me, and spending less time but more effort making my customers happy too!

      • Lee Lau April 18, 2015, 8:23 pm

        Absolutely bang on about being difficult to be managed in the corporate sense. I was such a contrarian thinker that it was hard for me to work with other professionals who were geared to be more conventional. Seeing that side of my personality I found niches where being a contrarian actually added value.

        Because they were small limited niches there was initially much less work (but see the FU money cushion I had) but I found the work intellectually challenging. For example, on the finance side I was a shortseller buyside analyst in boom markets and a vulture capitalist looking for bottom feeding deals in meltdown markets (but am not retired from that side of the career)

        While this won’t work for everyone I would submit that most people who are Mustachians are probably pre-disposed to be contrarians and hopefully this strikes a chord in others. Ie maybe its the case that all the rest of them are crazy and you’re the only one that’s sane

    • Evan April 17, 2015, 8:00 pm

      Whoa, internet worlds colliding! I’m a huge fan of the trip reports and gear reviews you’ve done at Wildsnow, Lee. I now understand how you’re able to get after it all the time :)

      • Lee Lau April 18, 2015, 2:32 pm

        I had to find something to do. More travel writing now to summer places just to mix it up. – pinkbike, tetongravity, inflight magazines, Tripadvisor etc etc

  • Adam April 15, 2015, 7:37 pm

    Great write-up. I find that the type of people who can’t imagine doing productive work and having interesting lives in early retirement, are the type of people who won’t ever get there. I have so many things I’d like to do, I can imagine getting bored or completing my list.

  • Meechity April 15, 2015, 7:45 pm

    I’m already 36, but as a graphic designer and completely new to the idea of early retirement, I doubt I will be able to retire early. However, I’m still trying… saving everything I can, dropping my spending to the bare minimum, and I have begun to invest in my own. :) I admit I feel jealous and sad when I think that I don’t have a skill that’s worth much money. Anyone here in the same mediocre boat? Love the principles of MMM. :)

    • Mara April 15, 2015, 11:28 pm

      Meechity, the pay for graphic design services can indeed be very good if you have high level skills. Do you have a scpecialization? That could help. I have a friend who is doing very well promoting her Flash web banners. Another hot area is HTML emails. A good resource for building/improving graphic design skills is Lynda.com.

      • Eldred April 16, 2015, 9:05 am

        Have you found Lynda.com to be worth the expense? I see they have an “Audio and Music” category that has piqued my interest, as a musician…

        • Mara April 16, 2015, 12:23 pm

          For me, Lynda.com has been totally worth it. For about $25o per year, I have easy access to information about any skills I might need to know for graphic design assignments. And I can watch the videos as many times as I want, any hour of the day. I’ve never heard of a better educational opportunity. I know there is assorted information for free on the web, but when I need access to information in a hurry, I don’t want to worry about finding what I need.

          I have had a long career as a designer and illustrator (and am planning to retire to part time work next month). I do not know about the Lynda.com offerings for Audio and Music.

      • Em-dash April 16, 2015, 10:01 am

        I’m in a somewhat similar boat (with nonprofit/arts work), but the important thing to me is that I’m *already* doing what I love. So I save as much as I can in case something changes or I want more freedom at some point, but I’m happy in the meantime. If I weren’t, I’d work on more lucrative skills or find a more enjoyable employer. Can you do one of those?

        • EcoCatLady April 17, 2015, 1:35 am

          Hey… I retired at age 39 after spending my career in the oh-so-lucrative (she says with heavy sarcasm) field of folk music. It can be done, my friends!

    • Freeman April 16, 2015, 5:45 am

      Meechity, My wife and I had very low salaries and basic education. We retired early; and so can you! :). Keep saving, make cuts to spending; especially cars. Own a home you can afford, and buy the sales. You’ll also get windfalls during your life, so invest them. You’ll be financially free sooner than you think.

    • Tara April 16, 2015, 11:07 am

      I’m a secretary and I am retiring early this year at 49. If you save at least 50% of your income and keep at it, you will get there! You don’t need to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I have no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life and am so stressed at work lately I can’t even think straight right now, but once I am free, I know ideas and opportunities will come to me. You can do it!

    • PhotonJohn April 16, 2015, 12:08 pm

      Get into making book covers for self published authors. There is good money to be had and not a lot of real good create ones doing it. All the resources you need to make book covers for all the outlets are there and free for the taking. You just need to be a pro on software digital software like Photoshop.

    • EcoCatLady April 17, 2015, 1:33 am

      For what it’s worth, I’m able to cover my living expenses by giving away graphic design stuff for free. I just post it on a web page and make money from the ads. Of course, I live very frugally, but it helps me not have to dig into my retirement stash.

      • casserole55 April 23, 2015, 7:05 am

        Hey Eco Cat Lady. That’s cool! Where do you post your graphic designs?

    • Vickie April 17, 2015, 5:38 am

      I am a teacher – another low-paying profession. ( I made $18,000 per year my first year teaching.) You need a side hustle for your FI money. In my case, this has been real estate investing. Save enough money to use as a downpayment on a rental property. Manage it yourself, learn some skills to fix it up so it will appraise for a higher amount, then use the equity as a downpayment on the next rental house. If not real estate, find something you can do to make some extra money. You can only save so much by cutting back on expenses, but the sky is the limit when you increase your income.

    • Lian April 17, 2015, 11:39 am

      Meechity – I didn’t start a career until my mid 30’s, and didn’t start thinking about FI until a few years ago. My income is also very modest, but I still save more than half of it because I like a minimalist, frugal lifestyle and FI is more important to me than stuff. My job takes too much time from the things I really want to do! So it’s doable even for late starters of modest means. And better late than never. It’s easy to get a little intimidated by high earning, high achieving folks on this site – but it’s not a race, and I doubt you’re mediocre.

  • Michelle April 15, 2015, 7:50 pm

    This is something I always have to tell people. While I want to be financially independent and retire early one day, it doesn’t mean that I’m just going to be laying in bed 23 hours a day (eating the other hour – I’ve heard from others that I would gain a lot of weight as well) and doing nothing.

  • Kraig April 15, 2015, 7:52 pm


    Good stuff. Remind me again why people need to amass 25-30 years of living expenses to opt out of the bullsh**?

    In my experience, getting to the point where you never have to earn another dollar again just doesn’t seem necessary in order to make this lifestyle and work change.

    You said it yourself, income is almost unavoidable at that stage, therefore the need to be “100%” there isn’t needed.

    Just my two cents,

    • EDSMedS April 16, 2015, 5:17 am


      Good point. You are right to point out that living on little generates new perspectives on income requirements and “nest eggs.” MMM has never been dogmatic about waiting until “the moment” if you have interest in continued income generation or even hobbies that might generate income.


      • rpesek6904 April 16, 2015, 7:01 am

        Exactly. For me, once I was out of debt, had reduced my living expenses and had significant “FU Money” I considered myself free. I am not FI, but I’m well on my way. It is amazing how this “free” attitude puts you in contact with other people who share the mindset and you immediately become a magnet for all sorts of interesting opportunities.

        Anyway, I agree you don’t have to wait to be FI to be “free.”

        • Kraig April 16, 2015, 10:55 am

          Sounds like we’re on the same page. I would guess MMM would be too.


      • Danny April 16, 2015, 2:57 pm

        Right. When I came across Mustacianism, I decided to hunker down and save… but quickly started to realize that 8-10 years of my life is a long time to wait. Now, three years into my journey, I’m going to find a programming job that will let me work from home or abroad instead of the corporate grind. I realized the principles of Mustacianism – being frugal, saving up a ton of money, finding creative ways to do your own thing – can set you free right now if you just take the philosophy one step further. I’m still going to keep saving a lot, but on my own terms.

        I mean, I don’t have FU money as in I can stop working forever, but if I take a 20% (or even 40%) pay cut, who cares? If I get unemployed for a year, who cares? I mean, neither situation is optimal but not worth worrying about either. Even if I’m totally unemployed I can cover my handsome 20k/yr spending rate with Odesk projects indefinitely. So I don’t have FU money, but I have that great FU feeling.

        What I don’t understand is people who hate their jobs right now but do them so they can be FI later. I think they’re making a big mistake by throwing away the present in hopes for some imaginary future. You have to live every day of your life.

        • The Roamer April 16, 2015, 7:47 pm

          With regard to your last paragraph.

          OUCH,!, Wow. And ditto.

          I am one of those people right now. Things went from bad to worse but I am clinging tight to the awful job.

          Still, reading more and discovering the success stories of people who take action and walk into the unknown is lifting me up and giving me courage. Not blind courage , but one where I’ve ran numbers and at worst its this and at best it’s this and so let’s see what happens.

          I say if you are also struggling with this concept reading afford anything and listening to Tim Ferris are another good resource

          • Craig April 17, 2015, 8:15 am

            I’m in-between both of you. I don’t hate my job, but it hardly excites me.

            BUT, I make over $125K/year (and I’m NOT in a high cost of living area), get to work from home, have great benefits, very few pressures, lots of flexibility, and it really is a great company and job. So I have NO reason to complain….

            …I’m just ready to stop doing it, but I’m a year or two out from being financially to the point where I feel I *can* quit.

            I could do what Danny’s alluding to, and quit this job and get another, probably lower-paying job that I’d *like* more, but the reduced pay would put off true FI for a year or more. Not sure it’s worth it.

            I’ve pretty much decided to just hang in where I am for another year or two, keep saving madly, and look forward to FIRE status. Can’t come soon enough!! :-)


            • EDSMedS April 17, 2015, 3:56 pm

              I WAS in a similar boat
              – job that pays great at which I excel
              – on the road to FIRE
              – not feeling “satisfied” at work

              so I decided to respond to a craigslist ad for a 5-hr/wk job doing something for which I thought I may have a post-FIRE interest. Responding to that ad generated:
              – the knowledge that I WILL enjoy this new industry post-FIRE (it pays horribly, lol, but is mobile, scale-able, and rewarding)
              – a NEW highER paying job that generates satisfaction and at which I excel!

              The world is weird and wonderful, and only your imagination limits possibility. Don’t just sit around and wait for FIRE with the assumption that only then will you know satisfaction, SEEK it out now in small ways!!

              • Eldred April 17, 2015, 10:55 pm

                Ok, how did a craigslist ad(in a different industry) result in a better job(in your *previous* industry)?

              • EDSMedS April 18, 2015, 5:18 am

                The new job (saturdays) is a personal care assistance position for a person with a disability. This particular person happens to be an executive. She needed someone in her organization with my (old job) skills. She saw that I was willing to work hard for $11/hr. The NEW new job pays >$50/hr.

                Some people may say “what a fluke,” but that thought makes it less likely that such a fluke will occur for them. I didn’t ask for the new job. I took a chance, worked hard, took pride in my work, spoke smartly about my skills and passion, and things worked out.

        • Gugu April 16, 2015, 7:58 pm

          Hey Danny,

          I like your comment, totally agree!. I’m kinda in the same situation, not fully FI yet but have a decent stash that I could probably live off for 5 years. Also in software engineering. I’m planning to quit my corporate job after bonus time rolls around and travel for a year in other parts of the world.

        • Eldred April 17, 2015, 6:19 am

          “What I don’t understand is people who hate their jobs right now but do them so they can be FI later. I think they’re making a big mistake by throwing away the present in hopes for some imaginary future. You have to live every day of your life.”

          Well, if you don’t have enough money saved to survive, you can’t exactly quit your hated job. You still need to work. I guess I’m not understanding your statement.

        • Concojones April 19, 2015, 9:57 am

          I did the same thing. Realizing that FI was gonna take a decade of my life, I decided to change to a career I’d enjoy. Best decision of my life. I feel like I’m FI already.

        • Kathy Abell April 22, 2015, 4:29 pm

          re: “You have to live every day of your life.”

          That is so true. So many people have the mind set, “I’ll be happy when …” rather than figuring out how to be happy now. If you are stuck in a job you hate, try to find things about that job you can like – even love – now that will make it bearable until you can leave. While I really liked my job, it still was somewhat of a grind, and it would have been nice to leave sooner rather than later. I told myself, “I can put up with anything for 6 months”. Six months later, I had to tell myself that same thing again. ;) But I did find a handful of things that made my job worthwhile: good pay, good benefits, short commute, some flexibility in daily hours worked, interesting/meaningful work, well-educated/competent colleagues. Not only did this make the countdown to retirement go quickly, it made each day worthwhile for me.

    • Bets360 April 16, 2015, 8:10 am

      I completely agree with you. I opted out of my corporate BS job when I was 28 right after I paid off my debts. I wasn’t financially independent but able to make a living doing joyful work when I chose to work. I remember going to my parent’s house on a Wednesday to help my dad paint his boat. While we painted he asked me, “Are you retired?” At the time it made me laugh, but it also made me think, “Yah, I am retired.” I committed to myself then that I would never again be in a position where I would have to follow someone else’s orders and do work I dislike.

      I’ve since had two children whose schedule dictates to me a bit, but I have had the freedom to be at home to raise them all the while making a living on my terms from home. I haven’t earned the income that I could have in a corporate environment, but who cares. I’ve been living my life on my own terms for twenty years, even though technically I still don’t have the investment income to call myself truly retired.

      • Kathy Abell April 22, 2015, 4:39 pm

        re: “living my life on my own terms” and “never again be in a position where I would have to follow someone else’s orders and do work I dislike”

        These two statements speak to the heart of FIRE. Living life on your terms. Doing work that you like. Not having to put up with someone else’s “pointy-haired boss” “stuff” just because you need the money. Being there for your children when they need you most in their lives.

        I just read an article about Garth Brooks walking away from his career back in 2000 to raise his daughters. Now he is starting up his musical career again. To me the article seemed to imply why would someone walk away from a lucrative career to take care of their family. My perspective would be why not?

        True freedom is being able to do what you want when you want … like helping your Dad paint his boat on a Wednesday. :)

    • FrugalJim April 17, 2015, 5:52 am

      Kraig, You have just hit the nail on the head for me. I made the decision to not renew my contract at the end of March because I had had enough of the commute and working the 9-5 and. I just wasn’t enjoying it any more. I just wanted to do something more fulfilling and rewarding with my time. I’m not at the 25 x annual spending in investments yet, but were doing well and my wife and I are on the same mustachian page, and I have saved enough in the business to cover me for quite a time while I build up other bits of income.
      Did I just semi/early retire but not realize it?

  • EcoCatLady April 15, 2015, 7:53 pm

    Fantastic post! I retired from employment 9 years ago, but I still often feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to accomplish. I just never understand people who say things like how bored they would be if they didn’t have a job. All I can think when I hear that is that they must be really boring people!

    I totally LOVE your idea about considering all purchases as if they cost nothing, and all “work” as if it earned nothing. I still find myself agonizing over the silliest purchases – Do I really NEED decent bike shorts, or could my butt make do with cheaper ones? Ultimately, these questions are a waste of time, because given my financial situation, I’ll never notice the trivial difference in my bottom line, but the difference in my enjoyment could be significant (a happy butt means a happy girl!)

    And on the work side… I now have a business that consists of taking photographs and creating graphic designs which I release into the public domain for anyone to use. I actually earn enough money from the endeavor to cover most of my living expenses, but mostly I just enjoy doing it, and it always makes me strangely gleeful when I run into one of my creations being used out on the interwebs. And don’t EVEN get me started on the work of rescuing cats! :-)

    I can’t figure out how I ever had time for a job!

    • Jason April 16, 2015, 7:37 am

      Care to share/rate which public domain photo services you are using? This sounds like a *great* way for a creative FIRE person to cover the bills.

    • Tachibana April 16, 2015, 7:56 am

      Dear Ms. Ecocatlady,

      I am formally requesting permission to quote your ‘a happy butt means a happy girl!’ in casual conversations.

      Kindest regards,


      P.D: Not even joking.

    • Ellie April 16, 2015, 11:39 am

      Sounds like you have figured out the recipe for a successful retirement!

    • Matt April 16, 2015, 3:52 pm

      I went part time in 2013 and this year really cut back to 6 days a month. I know what you mean in that I’m busier and have to ask off on some work days because of things that come up. Volunteering at the hospital and doing things I like fill the days. I’m on the verge of quitting completely but still like a little pocket money not from investments. That’s because once a saver always a saver. I try not to look at prices as much but that is a habit that becomes a lifestyle. I always keep telling myself that if I don’t spend it someone else will more than be happy to. FI is a blessing and once realized you are glad you made the sacrifice early in your life.

  • Neil April 15, 2015, 8:00 pm

    “Opting out of the bullshit portion of work.” Well said! I’ve been referring to “early retirement” as financial flexibility because to me it’s about having options and being able to work and volunteer on my terms. Those who are driven and disciplined enough to “retire early” aren’t the types to suddenly start lounging around all day watching TV during “retirement.”

    • Kraig April 15, 2015, 9:59 pm

      Agree, Neil.

    • Michelle H. April 20, 2015, 6:43 am

      That part of the post really spoke to me. Retired last year to be home with my kids – pension plus daycare savings almost equals my previous salary. I loved the core work of my job but hated all the other bullshit jobs that went with it. It’s a 24/7 industry with high employee turnover due to stress and burnout, so they are always shorthanded. Now I work very limited part time for fun, and I pick and choose which hours and days. Doing the job on my own terms has made me fall in love with the work itself again, and I get to catch up with my work friends a few times a month.

    • Michelle H. April 20, 2015, 6:51 am

      P.s. I didn’t mean to sound like I volunteer at my old job- I am well paid, but I do it because it’s fun. I’m also keeping up my skills in case I want to go back into the industry down the road.

  • ChrisEE April 15, 2015, 8:11 pm

    Great post!

    I already make all spending decisions as if the price was $0 and have for years. It’s why we always say we never feel we are sacrificing. I am excited to apply that thought process to working.

    I also agree wholeheartedly that it will actually be hard to not be productive and not make money in retirement. Very few people who achieve FI at 30-40 y/o would be able to just stop being productive and bringing value to society. When you bring value, people will want to pay you money.

    My second biggest financial concern for ER after paying for health care is ruining our tax plans by making TOO MUCH money in retirement (which would be a pretty great problem as problems go).

  • CL April 15, 2015, 8:14 pm

    For me, it’s about time affluence. Having enough money to cover my needs means that I can spend my time how I want to.

  • Max April 15, 2015, 8:15 pm

    A lot of people don’t believe they are capable of disconnecting themselves from common social environment based pressures. I had a conversation with a fairly close friend the other day that ended with him stating he did not want to try and live a more “financially intelligent” way of life because “what is the point?” And when you get to the root cause it is usually that the person does not believe they have the willpower to overcome the social pressures. And that is exactly why blogs like this and many other great personal finance blogs exist. To inspire and demonstrate that willpower is nothing more than overriding your minds basic desires with practical logic. Learn to be happy with what you and your loved ones enjoy doing together, don’t worry about how others perceive you, and makes decisions that are best for your well being, not your image. It’s not easy for most, but its certainly worth the continued effort.

  • Frugal Bazooka April 15, 2015, 8:50 pm

    I never concern myself with the potential problem of “too many” people becoming financially independent. The reason is very simple, it will never happen. There are just too many people out there that either don’t believe the concept can actually work, or don’t have the discipline and desire to make it happen. In the same way that most people don’t have the willpower to stick to a weight loss plan, sticking to a money saving plan for a large majority of the population will never materialize. Yes, they will proclaim their intentions to save 50% of their income on Jan 1 and by Feb 14th they’ve given up. They are not bad or lessor humans, they are just normal people who WANT to improve their lives, but find that the daily grind of life gets in the way of achieving their dreams.

    There’s a reason why TV, movies, internet and other mass media are so popular. This is what consumes most peoples time – these activities for the most part do nothing to increase our happiness or wealth – while at the same time they do create massive wealth for the media conglomerates that now own 90% of the mass media. The idea of sitting down and making up a budget or a spending plan or a savings plan or any other kind of financial plan is not in the cards for a vast majority – so why worry? BTW, this is neither a problem nor a solution for society, it’s just another reality that is too small in scale to have much impact on the larger society.

    A much more fascinating discussion for me is the very small group of individuals who DO have the willpower and determination to hyper-achieve, beat the system, and create a personal alternative universe existing side by side with the rest of society. In this universe they have the freedom to do almost anything they want (within the law), move freely with few time constraints and without the yoke of socio-economic expectations that generally comes with a regular job. While I suspect the number of people in the USA and even in the world who are actually able to achieve this lifestyle are very small, the numbers seem to be growing rapidly. Since the basic idea of saving money and retiring is nothing new, the question is: why has this idea become popular now and why is it more possible in 2015 to achieve than it was 20, 30 or 50 years ago? I suspect the invention of the home computer has something to do with it.

    • Kevin April 16, 2015, 11:49 am

      Very well put Frugal Bazooka. I think a majority of the recent rise can be attributed to the advent of the internet and in particular blogging / social media. This type of information was never readily available or so easy to accidentally stumble across.

      Take reddit for example (http://www.redditblog.com/2014/05/whats-that-lassie-old-defaults-fell.html), in May 2014 they made r/personalfinance a default subreddit. That one small action probably exposed 10’s if not 100’s of thousands of Millennials to the concept of FIRE.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 18, 2015, 12:29 am

        Agree completely. It’s actually quite exciting for someone like me (post boomer – early GenX ) to see so many millennials living partially or completely off the grid and following their dreams to the hilt. Many are willing to ignore conventional (i.e. mainstream media) wisdom and chart a path that doesn’t fit the strait jacket that society offers them. It’s, of course, seriously ironic that some of the worst idiots on the internet are knee jerk millennials who promote total conformity to one of the 2 primary socio-political economic philosophies, but thank goodness the smarter millennial reject the nonsense and chart their own path. I must say, it makes me very happy!

        • Craigster April 19, 2015, 5:35 am

          I am going to post on the main forum about this soon. I believe in fact that all of us our living out a scenario predicted by a quite “out there” philosopher and renegade Catholic priest, Ivan Illic, who predicted that industrial society centered on mass production has its limits – and that those limits, depending on the country and the industry, were mainly breached during the 20th century. He predicted a return to a more rural, decentralised and only selectively automated society in the future – one in which people would care more for their health and rely less on drugs; one in which people would ride bikes; and one in which mental health would be sustained by improved communities rather than therapy. Some of what he wrote is highly provocative and would offend many on here; but he is worth a look, I think; and his central thesis – that the logical end-point of ever-increasing industrial efficiency, profit margins and professional specialisation is disaster – looks more or less undeniable from where we stand today.

          • Mr. Money Mustache April 20, 2015, 8:01 am

            I totally agree Craigster – I refer to that scenario as the “Star Trek Utopia”.

            I feel that we’ll keep our advanced technology and it will only continue to move forwards, but the abundance of material goods (and the fact that a somewhat simpler life with nature) will force us to realize there is a balance in consumption versus simplicity.

            It takes a while though – this transition is easier for the rich people who have already seen and done it all, and it would be a tough sell on an ambitious young lad in, say China, who is on top of the world building his first manufacturing company. He’d be all, “You want me to sell my Mercedes and go relax back at the rice paddy now that I have these millions? Forget it!”

            • Craigster April 20, 2015, 11:19 pm

              Thanks mmm watch out for more on the forum… c

    • Kim April 16, 2015, 11:59 am

      ^I believe you just described me and my work-at-home-mom comrades. God bless the home computer.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 18, 2015, 12:32 am

        I’m not a religious person, but I do find myself praising my super fat MAC a little too much. Not quite a false idol, but I have to avoid dropping to my knees to plug it in…just to be safe.

    • Jay April 16, 2015, 6:11 pm

      I beg to differ. TV shows and movies have improved my life immeasurably. I’d be considerably less happy if I had never watched Louie, The Office, Friends, Star Wars, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 18, 2015, 12:42 am

        I validate your begging and your differing, however we will never agree that mass media is a good thing. Yes, it takes your mind off your daily grind and maybe some of it actually increases your intelligence or understanding of the world as long as you take it in small doses.
        Aldous Huxley used the term “soma” to describe our media, an opiate like experience that numbs and inoculates the addict from having to deal with the world. Every show you mentioned is a rip off of a Greek comedy or tragedy that was written a thousand years ago. Far be it for me to tell anyone how to spend their free time, after all the more people who gaze haplessly at their new 99 inch TV screen means less people on the freeways.

        • Jay April 21, 2015, 1:00 pm

          And those Greek comedies and tragedies were what people consumed in those times to take their mind off their own daily grind. Which is why we still have them today to enjoy, adapt and remake. The reason we think so highly of them is because they were good enough to survive through the ages. The crap entertainment from every era is always forgotten.

          I agree with you that most mass media is toxic. TV news is actively harmful. Most TV shows and movies are terrible.

          I’ve only ever known “soma” as the drug in Brave World. I never knew Huxley used it to describe mass media. So I learned something new today. Thanks! What the heck did he have to complain about? There was no Jersey Shore or CNN or Fox News back then :-)

          PS. I only have a 56-incher :P. That I bought used and repaired myself. No cable, of course.

          • Frugal Bazooka April 23, 2015, 11:52 pm

            lol! 56 inches of digital love…
            As long as we agree that nearly all media that calls itself “news” these days is almost the exact opposite (infotainment I think they call it), then I believe there is hope for the future.

            and for the record, I worked in the media for several years and have a serious love/hate relationship with it. part of the reason i hate it so much now is because i loved it so much back then…i mean paddy chayefsky used to write for television and now we have 90 hours of Law and Order re-runs per day. there was a time when the media could bring down a president because the public trusted them. Now i consider Nixon a saint compared to ANY one in the media.

    • Venturing April 17, 2015, 4:36 pm

      I would hazard that the increase in women’s educational levels is also a key component, for two key reasons. Firstly couples now have the ability to have very high incomes at relatively young ages braise they can both earn sinificant amounts. Secondly, higher educational attainment generally results in higher maternal age meaning that no only do couples have high incomes but they have them before the expense of children, meaning they can amass a significant nest egg. This early amassing of money has many flow on effects, including far less mortgage interest being paid over a lifetime which in itself is a financial game changer.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 18, 2015, 12:58 am

        You raise some good points. Obviously 2 income families is a big part of the equation, but it’s one thing to increase the family income, and another thing to save enough money to retire at 35. The radical approach to saving, investing, and frugalizing (for lack of a better word) lifestyles is a new concept – and I think for the most part millennials will be given credit for this trend. I’m not talking about run of the mill wealth building we’re talking about saving 70%+ of your annual income…unheard of just a few years ago. This idea of retiring out of a society that is not really set up for 30 year old retirees is a whole new can of worms.
        I see it as a variation of the tune in/drop out mantra of the late 1960s. The obvious difference being that unlike the hippies of lore, millennials are willing to work their asses off, save like hell and behave extremely frugally to achieve the “drop out” part of the equation. Even then “dropping out” just means dropping out of a crappy job and into a life that is the last rung of Maslow’s hierarchy – self actualization. Several generations have talked about reaching self actualization but none has really figured out how to do it until now.
        The strangest thing for me to come to terms with having enough money to do whatever I want to do with my time – to self actualize – was trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to do, now that I don’t HAVE to do anything. Strange indeed.

        • lhamo April 19, 2015, 5:48 am

          Sorry but please go to the library and get a copy of the collected edition of “The Tightwad Gazette.” Amy Dacyzyn should be considered MMM’s fairy godmother. She became famous pre-internet days when she went on Phil Donohue and appeared in a Parade magazine profile back in the ’80s and advocated much of what MMM stands for — reducing consumption (and the spending that goes with it), saving a huge percentage of your income, and reaching FI as soon as possible.

          Not that MMM isn’t awesome, but he and those he is inspiring are part of something bigger. And of course, Amy D wasn’t the first to espouse this stuff/help others on this path, either.

          The internet makes everything SOOOO much easier. But I’m still gonna hang on to my well worn copy of the TG.

          • Frugal Bazooka April 20, 2015, 12:09 am

            I’ve been around long enough to know that while MMM and other current FI bloggers stand on other shoulders, it’s this generation that has created a big enough ripple in the atmosphere for the corporatocracy to take notice. Granted it’s no threat to the status quo, but 30 years ago how many people were actually following thru on retiring at 30? Also, advocating something is great, but spelling it out with personal examples and math is a whole other level. So in conclusion, I don’t go to libraries unless it’s raining while I’m riding my bike near a library.

            • Kristine-CA April 21, 2015, 3:16 pm

              I agree this is a different time. No amount of reading and recommending Tightwad Gazette, Your Money or Your Life, homeschooling books by John Holt, or books by Ivan Illich can even being to compare to what this generation is doing when it comes to creating and choosing lifestyles. The internet info and the writing on these topics today creates a buzz in a totally different way than 30 years ago. I find it very exciting.

              Back in the day if you lived in Dayton or Bakersfield it was ok to rag on Dayton or Bakersfield and everything was about getting the hell out of there. Now there is way more talk and action about how to contribute and create community where you live. Good things are happening.

              • Frugal Bazooka April 23, 2015, 11:54 pm

                based on your comment you sound like you’re about my age which means we will agree on almost everything ; )

    • Juan April 20, 2015, 8:41 am

      “There’s a reason why TV, movies, internet and other mass media are so popular. This is what consumes most peoples time – these activities for the most part do nothing to increase our happiness or wealth ”

      Sorry, but I don’t agree with this. Not everyone who watches TV, or spends time on the computer is watching “The Voice” or cat videos. I have learned a lot from home improvement shows that has saved me quite a bit on DIY projects, and when I’m on my computer, it’s to design and machine parts in my basement that I sell online for profit. Without a computer, I would not make any of the extra money I do in my spare time.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 20, 2015, 9:48 am

        Obviously if you zero in on self help stuff, then TV and the internet can be helpful…do you really believe that reflects the large percentage of media users? That’s the point – most people use the media as heroin…you know the friends who spend 7 hours a day playing World of Warcraft. Then there’s the faction of TV addicts that watch 9 hours of netflix so they can experience CALIFORNICATION or SHERLOCK in one sitting.
        I’m glad you limit your media intake to improving your life, but let’s not pretend that’s what most people use the media for.

  • Brian April 15, 2015, 8:59 pm

    I look at retirement as the answer to that question “what would you do if you didn’t have to worry about money”?

    If I didn’t have to worry about money, I would be writing more for the blog, making things out of wood, and tooling around making/ranking websites. I think that we find passion and identity through work that we genuinely enjoy doing and unfortunately, we don’t have the opportunity to pursue them because we are stuck in the rat race.

    I would love to make beautiful guitars, garden, work on the house, and do whatever I was feeling like doing. Though this is the seemingly unattainable ideal for me – these are all jobs for others. If I were to rage quit my corporate gig right now, I would end up doing this “work” and loving every minute of it.

    Is getting paid to do what you love at your own pace s your own boss really work? I would say no, that is life. And it is badass.

    • Cat April 16, 2015, 9:28 am

      “Rage quit” – perfect. So perfect. Best succinct explanation of that feeling I struggle with daily. Thank you.

    • Kim April 16, 2015, 12:03 pm

      If I didn’t have to “work” for money, I would:

      -Get certified to teach Jazzercise
      -Apply and reapply until I got a job teaching at the local community college (teaching is a passion), or at least the local engineering magnet high school
      -Volunteer a ton, including interviewing candidates for my colleges as an alumni, soup kitchen stuff through church, babysitting for friends, helping at my daughter’s school
      -Create some type of side gig like yard sales + ebay to give me a reason to bike to the post office and bank on a regular basis
      -Hang out at the library all day, reading books and taking their free classes
      -Take an acting class and audition for a play of some sort
      -Help my husband launch a side gig using his love of tinkering and all things mechanical

      This list is getting long! Note that “travel the world” isn’t on there, but that would probably happen eventually if I got bored in my area code.

  • Danny MoreBucks April 15, 2015, 9:04 pm

    My greatest ideas have come after conversations with like minded friends that accidentally evolved into late night marathon brainstorming sessions. Its addictive to pursue a passion and that drives me to FI.

  • Freedom35 April 15, 2015, 9:54 pm

    Nice post, MMM. Love how upbeat you are about this as always.

    As for the lament “If everybody retired early like those Mustachians there would be nobody left to do the work”, I never understood why people thought this concern was a valid criticism or moral failing of living a meaningful life. The same could be said of dairy farmers, for example, if everyone spent their time tending cows there would be nobody left to do any other work. Of course no one states this as a reason not to pursue cow husbandry, if that’s where your passion is.

    The real question isn’t “what would happen to society if everybody did this”, but rather “what would happen if everybody was *allowed* to do this?”. I think the answer is that life and the world would be awesome.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy April 15, 2015, 10:00 pm

    Right on brother… After retiring from my telecom engineer career I was open to starting a new career doing something different that I was always interested in getting into. That said I still considered myself early retired because I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, not have to do. When I decided I was done with it I just called it good. The thing I love about all of this freedom is I can take opportunities without limiting consideration to just the pay. There are many kinds of rewards for following your interest and passions.

  • Lucas April 15, 2015, 10:24 pm

    Why do I want Financial Independence? Why do I want Financial Independence? — this question has been knocking on my mind’s door for awhile now. Then you post this, MMM. Just what the doctor ordered.

    We strike gold at the MMM mine:
    “When you take money out of the equation, it is much easier to make decisions that really bring you a better life.”

    and again:
    “when people earn their freedom from money constraints, they usually don’t stop working. Instead they start doing their best work.”

    That’s exactly the answer that came to my own question earlier this week.

    Thanks for reinforcing it, MMM. Too cool!

  • Reepekg April 15, 2015, 10:55 pm

    This is pretty much why I want to FIRE. Right now I’m making great money as an engineer making very small marginal improvements to a profitable product. Take away the need for money, and I’d quit that immediately. I dream of building and working in my own science lab on whatever happens to be interesting to me.

    This is the way science advanced in the old days, when gentlemen of the aristocracy fiddled around all day trying to advance humanity’s knowledge for fun.

  • Meghan April 15, 2015, 11:05 pm

    This is exactly what I needed to read today as my poor husband struggled to drag himself off to work. I tried to tell him it was good for him to work – but I didn’t really believe that myself. I am fortunate enough to work part-time and I need to make better use of the time that I’m not at “work” to do things that make a difference to others. I’ve started with my blog, but I still have a lot more ideas that I need to put into action.

    • Phil April 16, 2015, 1:24 am

      Go kiwi_girl. Why does your other half drag hinself off to work – is he a towie? Surely if you are a moustachian you have been working on getting him to see that its the quality of what he does that is important, not the income?

  • samjunto April 16, 2015, 12:14 am

    “I’d be so bored if I retired” – People

    “If retirement meant sitting around doing nothing all day, then so would we.” – Mustachians

  • C.R.E.A.M. April 16, 2015, 12:53 am

    Why would you order take-out when you could make delicious Indian food at home? Would you, by any chance, like a catheter & a bedpan to go with that order? Although I’m sure it was convenient & you really enjoyed it. ;-)

    • Frugal Bazooka April 16, 2015, 10:25 am

      This is fricking hilarious. Can you imagine if all fast food had to be served in a bed pan and sodas in a catheter bag w obligatory “straw”?

      Me thinks it would not put a dent in sales…thanks Millennials for not fully appreciating irony.

  • David April 16, 2015, 1:33 am

    I get the don’t work unless you would for free, but I don’t get the treating purchases as free. To me part of smart thinking is designing your life so you can reduce your costs. If could buy a 50k car for the same price as the 3k car (ie free) why wouldn’t I get the safer, nicer car? I’d be mad not to. But as it isn’t really free I can use my brain to buy the cheap one. Similarly I would buy premium Italian tomatoes rather than the Aldi ones.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 18, 2015, 6:59 pm

      Again for me this depends on the environmental cost. If my choice is between a $50k Tesla and a hypothetical brand new Chevy Tahoe that only cost $3k due to some strange subsidy, I’ll buy the Tesla. On the other hand, in many realms the cheaper option is the less polluting one.

      • james2code April 19, 2015, 5:48 am

        I actually struggle with the treating purchases as free by default concept as well. I am technically FI now by a small margin but I am there because I’ve kept my expenses low. Like David, I purchase many things that are the cheaper versions when I might choose the more expensive versions if they were free. But I want to maintain my FI level so my primary concern is how does the purchase affect my expenses and therefore freedom. I think once maybe you reach a certain level of net worth above baseline FI, then treating purchases as free makes more sense for me. But not at this point.

        MMM, I want to thank you for your blog. I started reading it last summer and it has greatly impacted me. I was already a significant saver and naturally somewhat frugal. However, you changed my perspective in lots of areas. Now I cut my own lawn and do most of my own home\car maintenance when before I would pay someone else to do it since I made to much to justify my own time on it. I cut my expenses in every area possible and I went part-time last fall, and then put in a 3 month notice to quit last month. I’ll do occasional short term contracts from time to time to avoid dipping into investments and because I enjoy the work, but otherwise I’m free from obligatory work so in essence retired. You gave me the courage to leave a comfortable job to seek out a higher quality life. Looking forward to seeing you on Nightline.

  • Alex April 16, 2015, 2:08 am

    Great post, and thanks for the tremendous inspiration of all your writings.
    Also, it should be said that for each early retiree, new possibilities open up for the unemployed with new vacancies.

    If you have reached FI, stepping aside and allowing someone else to work is a nice thing. Where I live, we have very protective laws for people who have had long careers making it hard for employers to hire new and younger people if the older workers work past retirement age.

    Greetings from Sweden!


  • Ingolf April 16, 2015, 2:09 am


    I’m a long way from retirement but I like the essence of my job so much that I’ve started a part time hustle doing complementary work unconstrained by the silly regulations of my employer. The hustle IS approved by the employer who recognizes the value of the service, so no conflict there. My point is that I’ll probably keep up the hustle even after retirement because the work involved is genuinely enjoyable when taken out from the context of a job. I can’t say I’m passionate about it, but I truly enjoy it and the social interaction involved.

  • Marcus April 16, 2015, 4:15 am

    Dear MMM,

    Great article and excellent news for those who are already financially independent. BUT, what about the ones still on the road to FI?

    May I bother you with a first world problem? I am currently offered two jobs (lucky bastard, I know):

    1) as a CEO of an enterprise in a terrible situation, where currently nobody knows whether it can be saved. My job, of course would be to safe it. Excellent pay package, with a bonus if it will survive, and a profit sharing package thereafter.

    2) as a senior manager of a rock solid enterprise, which may even survive WW3 (not that I anticipate this happening in my or my kids’ lifetime) .

    While job #2 pays handsomely, job #1 is extremely lucrative and pays min the double of job #2 in the short run, and, assuming the enterprise can be saved, even more medium to long term.

    If it wasn’t for the money I would take job #2, since less stress and less dealings with stakeholders that feel p***** off due to the former conduct of the enterprise, but the CEO post allows me to retire financially earlier, maybe even in 4-5 years time, assuming I can save the enterprise.
    On the downside Job #1 does not allow me much time for living in the here and now, while job #2 is very family friendly.

    I have almost decided for job #2, due to my love for my family and my personal values and ethics, but I am curious what a retired Mustachian recommends based on my short synopsis?


    • Joel April 16, 2015, 9:12 am

      This isn’t a money question. You’re comparing job security as a Senior Manager at rock solid company for Executive freedom (being the boss of everyone, who are counting on you to come through). Being CEO is tough, there’s a fear of failure hidden in there, and in the end you might be blamed for the company’s eventual destruction. But don’t take the CEO job if you’re doing it for the money – that will end badly IMHO.

      • Marcus April 16, 2015, 5:01 pm

        You are right there is a fear of failure hidden there:
        The problem is that the company for the CEO post is financially sound, but has serious compliance issues, since the former management has done some really nasty stuff. They have now lost the trust of the regulators who want them closed, they have lost key staff (who blew the whistle), the one who are still there are too stupid or too unqualified to find another job, but everyone is looking, since the government agency is monitoring too closely now.
        The nasty stuff that happened is totally against my personal ethics, but I would be the one tasked with changing almost everything to survive.
        You are right, not a money question, but an ethical one.


    • Lee Lau April 16, 2015, 11:25 am

      Well I’m a believer in short term pain for long term gain. If making that assload of $ gets you quicker to FI then I’d pick option 1. A lot of what is the right answer depends on your personal pain threshold, personal goals and how close to achieving them you are etc etc

    • Master Nerd April 16, 2015, 12:20 pm

      Depending on the deal, if you can’t save the company, you could be unemployed rather than making a butt-load of cash. And who knows when you’ll get another solid offer. I would say #2 would allow you to bank decent money while still allowing you to enjoy life more in the present time (less stress, more time with family, etc.).

    • Anonymous April 19, 2015, 12:13 pm

      Forget the money; even if #1 might help you retire earlier, don’t pick it just for that reason. Does the concept of going into a wildly difficult situation and trying to turn it around appeal to you? Or would you prefer a secure position doing less stressful but perhaps less exciting work? Choose the job that would make you happy to go to work in the morning.

      Personally, job #1 sounds incredibly fun to me; that’s the kind of challenge I find appealing. The details would matter, though; if it’s a company I don’t *want* to save…

  • Zoe April 16, 2015, 4:53 am

    Not to gloss over your excellent post, but thanks for posting that photo of Wax Mannequin. He used to regularly play gigs with The Burning Hell, a band my husband was in at the time. Wax is just a lovely person and I have no doubt that if he retired early he’d be doing exactly what he’s doing now. That photo and your post made me smile this morning.

  • Trifele April 16, 2015, 4:54 am

    Love it — one of my top three favorite posts ever. Thanks, MMM! You have said very eloquently what I struggle to explain when people ask me why I want to FIRE. 19 out of 20 people just don’t get it. In terms of personal motivation the timing is great, as I am in my last two to three years of obligatory work. I am having all the swirling thoughts that many of you already FIREd people had, and this post is very comforting. Cheers!

  • EDSMedS April 16, 2015, 5:01 am

    The book “The Nerdist Way” by Chris Hardwick recommends a career like a shopping mall: your main job is your department store, big and lucrative but requiring a lot of work (70% of your effort); you should have a shoe store that is much less income but less work (20% of your effort); and you need a boutique flower store that you adore but isn’t required to generate much profit (10% of your effort).

    I currently have a department store, a shoe store, and MANY boutiques! When DW and I FIRE – 19ish months at the age of 32!!! – we will first take some headspace time-off to ensure our priorities are straight, then start running on our boutiques! FIRE is not our opportunity to lounge – though we do love to cuddle and read. It will be our opportunity to recklessly pursue our passions: continued learning; natural landscape restoration and management; mobility training; trigger point therapy; ecology education; assistance for disadvantaged communities; resource sharing!

    Keep the message strong, bro! I look forward to collaborating with like-minded “retirees.”

  • David April 16, 2015, 5:21 am

    Thanks for another great insight Mr. MMM. The ethical aspect of not having to work for money is a huge upside. Look at this poor 61-year-old IT executive (link below) going to jail for accepting bribes. What could possibly push a successful guy like this into risking it all for a kick-back. My only hypothesis would be a lifestyle and life choices that didn’t give him the confidence to walk away.


  • Mike April 16, 2015, 6:11 am

    Is wax mannequin really your brother? Saw him 6 or 7 years ago at Cameron house!

  • camry April 16, 2015, 6:24 am

    So did you order the baingan bharta or not? :) I am much like that myself

    Wow, I have a decent stash but would never be able to say chump change buys an expensive new car…who knows when the stash would get wiped out. Good for u for having that courage!

    • Max April 16, 2015, 6:42 am

      Nor should you have to, just stay humble.

    • nic April 24, 2015, 9:13 pm

      Love it! My co-worker and I were led to this blog by a mention in Moneysense magazine and we love that it validates so much of what we aspire to! We came up with a new term for responsible purchases – “finvisible” or “financially invisible”. Example – buying a baby’s used Columbia snow suit on Craigslist/Kijiji for $35, using it for the season and then selling it for $35 next year. This transaction gets you something you need, and ends up being financially invisible! And the item gets re-used.

  • Ralph April 16, 2015, 6:49 am

    “My best days are the ones where I accomplish something truly difficult, preferably in both mental and physical realms. And my worst days are those that I just spend sitting around.”

    Soooo true! I use to hate doing yard work. Now I find it to be some of my most enjoyable days. I get to be outside enjoying the day, often times breaking a sweat as a plus. On top of that I get to see the value of my home increase and more importantly my own enjoyment said home. Although, some tasks can still be hard to start like mowing and raking because they sound boring, I still find these tasks to be rather therapeutic. The great ones, like building a new raised garden or laying a new pathway are inspiring.

  • SKRL April 16, 2015, 7:02 am

    Great article as usual MMM. This is the perfect answer to all the guys who say ‘What do I do after I retire,sit at home and get bored?’.

    PS: Love the reference to Baingan Ka Barta, just made it at home the other day. Cant believe a portion of it is $14.50 :-).

  • Mr. 1500 April 16, 2015, 7:08 am

    “I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley — in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered — or simply to sit here and do nothing?’
    That is a hard question,’ said Candide.”

    • JN2 April 17, 2015, 4:43 am

      Excellent! Thanks :)

      I return:
      “He wanted to know how they prayed to God in El Dorado. “We do not pray to him at all,” said the reverend sage. “We have nothing to ask of him. He has given us all we want, and we give him thanks continually.”
      ― Voltaire, Candide

    • Frugal Bazooka April 18, 2015, 1:05 am

      The latter, the latter!

  • Jason April 16, 2015, 7:26 am

    My last day at the office and my first day of attempting FIRE is tomorrow. Your “…opting out of the bullshit portion of work” line just might come in handy. In my case, there wasn’t much left after opting out of that part ;)

    • Happyback April 23, 2015, 10:18 am

      Hope this works out well! GREAT JUMP!
      Life is so full of fun surprises, eh? Did you think you’d be retired so young back when you were in school?


  • Anomaly April 16, 2015, 7:48 am

    Damn, that Tesla sure is sweet though! Wait until the Model 3 comes out..2017? Then you can get one for 26 Grand net (35k minus the 9k+ Tax incentive, assuming they keep that for the first year or more that it comes out..) And no gas! Charge it with your rooftop solar panels, or a free charging station if you live near one. If you buy one of those and keep it for 10+ years, then I think it’s money well spent. So few moving parts, OTA updates, no pollution? Sounds GREAT. Sure you can get a used Volvo Wagon for probably less, but I’d really like to see the electric car infrastructure put these polluters off the road once and for all.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 18, 2015, 6:52 pm

      That’s a nice arm twist you are giving me, Anomaly. I definitely can’t justify an electric car for MYSELF, since we drive only a very few miles a week on average (only for trips outside of the city, which happen less than once a week). The manufacturing of my Tesla 3 would be a big increase in my carbon footprint and my life costs.

      But if you think of it in fuzzy math – the fact that I’d be boosting the industry and encouraging others to get the EVs who really SHOULD be driving electrics (basically anyone who truly needs to drive more than 10k miles a year), plus it could be a business expense and I could pretend the price is zero – then maybe it could come to pass. I’d need a garage to store it first, though.

      • Frugal Bazooka April 20, 2015, 12:14 am

        Maybe Elon will give you a test model so you can experience it and give it a review??

      • Lucas April 21, 2015, 1:57 am

        Surely, you’ll be ready to sell your Scion sometime in the next 10 years (maybe to little MM so he can take his first autonomous roadtrips?). Then you can get a Model 3 and keep it for another 10-15 years.

  • HenryDavid April 16, 2015, 8:06 am

    This is why, years ago, I “quit it my mind” while staying at work in order to enjoy the good parts of the job and ignore the bullshit. Since then, work has gone much better! I’ll still stop in 2 years, though.
    The benefits of independence–first mental/emotional, then financial–are real.

    Here’s some data, crunched:
    “when employees have little interest in external rewards, their intrinsic motivation has a substantial positive effect on their engagement levels. However, when employees are focused on external rewards, the effects of intrinsic motives on engagement are significantly diminished. This means that employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money). Quite simply, you’re more likely to like your job if you focus on the work itself, and less likely to enjoy it if you’re focused on money.”

    • Freedom123 April 17, 2015, 9:30 pm

      I love that you quit work in your mind! Any tips from how you changed your mental state to quit while still on the job? Even with serious FU money I can’t seem to do it.

      I’m in a very high stress and fast-paced job leading a large team, and I try to disconnect but I get sucked back in easily. My corporate culture encourages “feedback” (another word for criticism) and “healthy conflict” (huh?), and I’m a perfectionist type that is very hard on myself even without that external pressure. Only 2 more years until FIRE and I wanted this to be my last job, but I’m not so sure I’m going to make it at this company without a serious mental overhaul!

      • Claire April 18, 2015, 6:09 pm

        Strange how I have the same problem of not really being able to disconnect and the ole perfectionism creeps back in. Being a coder I could write blah code and ignore the QE reviews but it is like a compulsion to do it well. I also have 2 years left, end of 2016 to be precise, but the temptation to stay longer is there – especially since I can get 15 extra days paid vacation if I stay till june (2017) so that is an extra 6k, plus the extra saved from the extra 6 months. I think when you have had 30 or 40 years being trained to perform/excel it is way hard to change. But how often have you busted a gut to have a project cancelled ot delayed – too many times for me in IT area.

        • Rebecca April 22, 2015, 8:50 am

          I left my engineering program manager job at a large technology company a year and a half ago due to major dissatisfaction both with the cancelled projects (due to questionable leadership decisions to invest in them in the first place) and frustration with years of low productivity due to geographically dispersed teams and team members juggling multiple projects in time-slices. It was the best decision I ever made. I now volunteer on the board of directors for a nonprofit in my community, make a little money designing landscapes (previously a hobby), exercise more, and take adventurous vacations with my family. Once in a while I consult on technology projects as well. On top of that, just by quitting my job, our tax bill has dropped by $1000 a month (my husband still works 4 days a week) so I look at that as my salary :) Our ‘stash is still growing nicely – index funds at Vanguard, of course. By the way, the programmer “perfectionism” has translated very well into my position on the board of directors – it is very much like running a company and attention to detail is a valuable asset anywhere :)

        • crazyworld April 23, 2015, 9:00 am

          I don;t think “quitting in your mind” means you slack off. I have “quit in my mind” too, and I work hard and remain a perfectionist. It just means you are focused on what matters to you (which to me means doing a job well, learning new things, findings efficiencies etc) – but no worries about office politics and “getting ahead”. At least that is what it means to me.

  • Dadles April 16, 2015, 8:26 am

    So far my favorite MMM article. My Mom was one who introduced me to this Blog back in 2010. She retired last year and I remember asking her “What are you going to do all day… Dad is still going to be at work”. She’s been busier than ever, painting almost everyday (something she used to never have time for) and now makes a decent chuck of change doing custom art for people in the neighborhood. It has been an inspiration to watch her not only rediscover her passion in retirement but turn it into a way to make money on the side.

  • Ash April 16, 2015, 8:38 am

    Interesting article. I’ve wondered if I will be as busy as I hope to be when I FIRE. I have all these ideas of what I want to do if I had more time, but right now with a full time job I tend to spend a bunch of my personal time just relaxing (read, netflix). I mean I do have a lot of activities I want to do but I know the current list won’t last me for 60 years. The hope is that once I’m retired I’ll pick up other things on the way too, but sometimes I wonder if I’d fall into a pattern of just lazing around all day. I want to believe that since work is demanding I feel like I need a lot of recharge time when I’m off, so in theory once all my time is my own I would put it to good use. I do worry that I’m just fooling myself though, and I’d just do nothing with my life haha.

    • FrugalTexan April 19, 2015, 11:49 am

      Ash – I’m a lot like you. I have lots of ideas of what I’d like to do once I don’t have 40+ hours of my life devoted to one job. However, most of my downtime is spent non-productively now. I do get my exercise time in, but other than that there’s way too much time spent on the Internet or lounging and reading books.

  • Virginia April 16, 2015, 8:45 am

    MR MONEY MUSTACHE !! I love this blog and am pouring over everything available. But I’m so lost. I make $29,000 as a social worker (a job I love) and to move above this salary I will need a Masters (while I plan to pursue within a year). I am trying to be as financially responsible as possible but it’s so confusing. I contribute to a roth IRA but the rate is .o3. Where are these 8% rates I keep reading about with the magic of compounding?!?! Is it through stocks? Would you be doing to do a post on the most basic stuff you right about – for 100% beginners, and not using an average salary of $65,000. I am saving as much as possible and live as frugally as I possibly can. But only spending 25% of my salary is less than $500 to work with each month. I’m just so confused but so ready to learn!!!! ANYONE AVAILABLE, PLEASE HELP!

    • lhamo April 19, 2015, 6:00 am

      Try reading through this set of blog posts by MMM friend jlcollins:


      A Roth IRA is like a bucket — a place to keep your retirement savings. You can put the money in that bucket into different types of investments. It sounds like you have your Roth IRA in a money market account or other similar low-return investment. Many MMM readers, including jlcollins, are fans of index funds, which are a type of mutual fund that track one or more of the common stock indexes.

      jlcollins summarizes this and many other aspects of investing strategy very clearly — have a look and if you still need help start a thread over on the MMM forums. Lots of people there willing/able to help.

    • FrugalTexan April 19, 2015, 11:41 am

      Virginia – I make roughly 26k/year and most months am able to save around 40-45% of my net income.
      Where do you have your ROTH invested? Years ago I kept hearing about the importance of putting money in an IRA, so I went to a bank …. and had $2k put into a Traditional IRA CD … It took me nearly 12 years before I finally got that money out and into a real IRA account – It made all of 300 in 12 years. (At the time I put the money in though, I was a spendalooza, so that money would’ve been long gone if I hadn’t put it away.)

      In a way I guess I could say I’m semi-retired. I *could* get a teaching job making nearly double what I am now. (Have a Master’s in library science and a BS in Elemn. Ed) but that would mean 60 +hour work weeks. Whereas now I have a 40 hour work week and never have to take work home with me. I don’t love my job (barely even like it really) but I do like having a solid separation of work/home time.

      My living on little allowed me the freedom to move across country without any idea of what kind of job I might find in order to pursue one of my dreams. (It took me about 3 months to find my current job – not great pay, but fantastic benefits – 9% employer contribution to retirement account! vested 100% in 5 years.) I’m 39 and hope to retire by 55.

  • GardenFun April 16, 2015, 8:47 am

    “We are in this together” motivation has been demoted to “You need to get this done or else you’re fired” threats – bordering on hostile work environment. Yep, that’s going to make me want to push the boundaries and try new ideas. If the idea is a success, my “team” boss gets a promotion; if it fails, I get fired.

    But with FI (or close to it), you can push those boundaries without fear. And if you get little credit for the work, you can move on to a better opportunity.


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