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The Cheap Ticket Into the Elite Class

elitekidsIf you ask a modern member of today’s American Elite to review Mr. Money Mustache’s childhood and educational history, the report would probably come back dripping with sympathy and disdain.

I went to public school (the only school, really), in a lower-middle income small town. I didn’t join many extracurricular activities or attend any private lessons.  I traveled by airplane only twice between birth and age 20. My parents didn’t buy me a car or act as my personal chauffeur and I paid for most of my own University education by banking the proceeds of minimum wage jobs starting at age fifteen. And I would never expect anyone to pay for my wedding or leave me an inheritance.

But despite this painful shortage of luxury and privilege, I always felt very well off. And now I have somehow ended up with a life that sits at the very pinnacle of good fortune. Swimming in an incredible surplus of wealth, happiness, energy, ideas, and a support network of other fortunate people.

As much as I’d like to chalk this up to some superior combination of personal moral character, amazing intelligence and Badassity, the truth is that much of it comes from a gift that my parents gave me as a child: an absolutely Elite education.

How Important is a Fancy Education?

A recent round of complaints in the East Coast media has been making the rounds recently, sparked off by an article in the Atlantic called “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans“. In that lengthy tale, the notable and succesful author Neal Gabler reveals that he is actually broke, and has been for decades. He admits that his fate is self-imposed: he just spends money without thinking about the long-term implications.

But he also reveals a very common bias in US society: that spending an absolute shitload of money on your children is a necessary and advantageous thing to do. You could sum up our generous but financially suicidal belief system in this quote from his story:

“I never wanted to keep up with the Joneses. But, like many Americans, I wanted my children to keep up with the Joneses’ children, because I knew how easily my girls could be marginalized in a society where nearly all the rewards go to a small, well-educated elite. (All right, I wanted them to be winners.)”

A later article in the Atlantic called “The Circles of American Financial Hell” suffered from much the same bias: the story reviews the common sob story that the US Middle Class can’t get ahead. And its thesis is that the problem is not really our spending on personal luxuries, it’s our valiant attempt to sacrifice everything for our children:

“…parents will spend down their last dollar (and their last borrowed dollar) on their kids’ education: In a society with dramatic income inequality and dramatic educational inequality, the cost of missing out on the best society has to offer (or, really, at the individual scale, the best any person can afford) is unfathomable.”

 

Although I feel both of these authors are out to lunch financially, I have to agree with them that a top-shelf education is incredibly valuable. But not the type of education that comes with a $200,000 tuition bill. The best part of my education cost almost nothing to acquire, and yet it seems to have delivered a much greater benefit than any Ivy League curriculum. Are you ready to learn my secret weapon? Brace yourself.

Simply Knowing how to Use a Goddamned Computer.

To the average person, this would sound like a bizarre claim. Almost every rich-country resident uses computers in some form, and yet most of them are still broke. What they’re missing is that actual deep knowledge of computers and technology is still incredibly rare. And although it can take many years to develop, it costs almost nothing to do so.

This missing tool is so powerful and yet so overlooked that I consider it a loophole in society. A ticket to a more prosperous life that most people don’t understand, because they have never experienced the effects.  Let’s resume the story of my own cheap elite education to see some of them.

My Secret Advantage through Technology

Almost every one of the few million dollars I’ve earned in my life so far has been directly related to being unusually good with computers.

Sure, there were a few bucks around the side earned by operating gas pumps and cash registers as a teenager, and table saws and nailguns after retirement. But the rest of it comes from being able to take these machines and make them do valuable things.

If you have any rare skill, you can then easily create value that companies and individuals are willing to pay for. But if you have the rare skill of technology, you can also apply it to your own life, creating an automated money and happiness machine.

As a student, more comfort with computers allowed me to get better marks in less time and organize my life’s information. I could use the early versions of the Internet (which used to be difficult to use) to harvest ideas from Stanford students and professors while more traditional students were stuck with textbooks. Then the advantage helped me get better, more technical jobs and present information more clearly to the bosses, which led to even better jobs. From that vantage point I could research career opportunities in other countries and figure out how to do an international move. Using computers to get things done, and getting paid to write software for them, was an incredibly lucrative career path back then, and it’s even better today.

Even after retiring from the tech industry, computers help me automate my finances and purchasing, so I can keep more money at work with less wasted time and fewer expensive mistakes. They let me create better photographs and descriptions on Craigslist and real estate websites, which let me sell or rent things for more money, and buy them for less. Even this Mr. Money Mustache website, which makes money even as it persuades you to waste less money, is only possible at this scale with relatively complicated computer fiddling.

The Business World is Still Mostly Clueless

Earlier this month, I was booking a concrete truck so I could pour the foundation for my new garage. I did some online research to figure out which companies operate in my area, but I found that every one of their websites was just an online version of a Yellow Pages ad. There was no way to place an order and their contact page was a list of telephone numbers. Telephones!

So I called one of the bigger outfits. A guy named Joe answered.

Me: “Hi, I need to order 15 cubic yards of concrete for next Wednesday”

Joe: “Look, if ya need to order concrete for Wednesdee, ya call me on Tuesdee after 12 noon. Until 12, I’m workin’ deliveries for that same mornin'”

So I called back the following Tuesday. I thought I’d be an early bird and call at 11:45 just to make sure I got my order in.

Joe: “Naw, naw. If ya need concrete for tomorra’, ya call me back after twelve ‘a’ clock this afternoon!”

Concrete is not a niche cottage industry like homemade salsa – this is a $35 billion chunk of the economy that is critical to building almost everything. A single loaded truck carries $1500 of the stuff, and there are 50,000 of these trucks in circulation in the US. And yet not only have they not discovered computers, even the concept of a notebook with two separate pages (“today’s orders” and “tomorrow’s orders”) was foreign to this outfit.

This story is just an extreme example of a market opportunity that is still fresh and ripe in our society as a whole. We have computers, but a deeper understanding of how technology works is still rare. Almost every big company that I’ve observed is still clunking along, trying to adapt to technology rather than fully benefiting from it. Think about the concept of a car dealership network, for example. Millions or billions of dollars of land and inventory in every single city, devoted to.. letting people see cars they could easily buy online and have delivered?

On an individual level, if your phone starts acting funny after you return from a long vacation, do you call Apple support for help, or do you look at the at the device’s internal storage to see if you need to delete some stuff to free up space? Is it wiser to transfer music files over WiFi or Bluetooth? If your computer starts crashing right after you get a sprinkler system installed, do you start shopping for a new one, or go outside to verify that the ground cable from your power panel wasn’t accidentally disconnected? Mustachians probably know things like this, but what about the average person?

Everybody uses technology. But those of us who truly understand it down to the core have an immense advantage in all areas of life: making money, keeping that money, absorbing information, and even communicating ideas with other people. Whether you are an investor or a filmmaker, house builder, engineer, or attorney, mastery of this rare skill will multiply your efforts more than a technophobe can even understand.

When you apply this idea to a large group of people working together, you end up with companies that very easily vacuum up all of the business in their industry (Google, Amazon), while their less technically savvy competitors wither in a puddle of fax machines and expense accounts of traveling salespeople.

Computers aren’t just for nerdy introverts any more – they can be a ticket to wealth, success, even friendships and romance. In other words, the core of a truly elite education is becoming an absolute badass with computers.

Bringing this around to our middle class Expensive Wannabee Elite educational expenses, I believe that deep technical badassity is an even more useful part of an education than an expensive degree.

How To Become a Computer Badass

You don’t learn technology by taking courses or reading instruction manuals. You need to be immersed in the stuff. Using it constantly, and understanding not only how to use things, but how they were designed and what the person who designed it was probably thinking about as they came up with each aspect of the product. Only if you understand the designer, can you truly understand the technology they invent.

For example, if you’re a computer badass and you get a new gadget or program or an app, the first thing  you do is to try every single option on every single menu and submenu, and find out what it does. You don’t just dive in and start playing a new video game – first you have to check the graphics options and make sure you’ve set the resolution and texture levels to the very best that your video card will handle smoothly. Then you poke around on discussion boards and fan websites to see what the “modding” community is up to, and make some modifications yourself.

You don’t want an analog speedometer on your car, you want a spreadsheet showing every parameter that the engine computer is measuring, updated at least a few times per second, with complete graphable history since the car’s date of manufacture. To a technology badass, understanding how things actually work brings joy, power, and peace.

To provide an elite education for our kids, I suggest that we spend less time thinking about prestigious neighborhood and school districts, and more time giving kids access to complicated stuff early, and often. Then bringing these lessons, in the form of suggestions, presentations, donations and volunteer time, to your own school district.

My gift came in 1984, in the form of a Commodore 64 system my parents stretched the budget to bring home. My siblings and I worked that thing until its keyboard was blank and polished, and it kicked off a life of deep comfort with technology. I was given the freedom to spend hours connecting with these machines, and by extension the people who invented them.

Then in 1990 I found a Commodore Amiga for sale on a BBS newsgroup, a nerdy precursor to Craigslist that only technical people knew how to use. I traded $800 of my earnings from working at the gas station, for what would eventually be another six-figure quantity of computer experience.

Throughout high school, in addition to the normal curriculum of calculus and physics, pool parties and girlfriends, beer and marijuana, I also had countless late nights with my Amiga, which were getting me ahead in life far more than I could realize.

So in my house, I’m hoping to try the same trick.

The Mustachian Elite Education (for children and even adults)

  • No broadcast TV service, but very fast Internet access and a computer (and phone) you maintain yourself
  • Minimal access to cars, but always a very nice bike kept in perfect repair
  • Limited access to tourist attractions and gift shops, maximum access to Nature
  • Support but do not mandate sports teams or formal lessons. But keep sports and musical equipment handy around the house.
  • Less scheduling, more opportunity for self-guided activities. Boredom can be the trigger for creativity.
  • Whenever possible, say yes to  friends, sleepovers and late bedtimes.

Cost: Less than most families seeking elite status spend on their house cleaning service.

 

After a childhood education like that, college is more of an afterthought. Living a Mustachian lifestyle while raising kids will ensure that you would have plenty of money to pay for any education they want. But then again, so will your kids, so why not give them the advantage of paying for it themselves?

But they’ll also already have access to an unlimited supply of people, money, ideas and knowledge. Visiting a campus to take some classes in person is just one of the many options available at that point, rather than the desperate lottery ticket to the good life, as portrayed in the Atlantic.

Further Reading – a great Susan Cain book called Quiet recently made the rounds in our family. It’s about why introverts are great, and how to support their joyful and creative lives (especially if you are raising one, or are one yourself).

 

  • Nicoleandmaggie May 16, 2016, 7:44 am

    My husband’s story is similar. But my family never bought new technology because my dad is like Jacob from ERE. Which is part of why I had no college debt. You can’t really predict what the new thing will be.

    Reply
    • Dividend Growth Investor May 16, 2016, 9:11 am

      I think that the biggest advantage of leveraging technology is really the ability to automate and scale up your product/service, while using the same level of effort to maintain your system/business. Learning about ways to automate and streamline operations using technology can really help you decrease the amount of “boring” and “repetitive” tasks, and focus more of your time to value added activities.

      There is a lot of opportunity that technology will help to get done ultimately. Which is why people like Mark Zuckerberg believe that most people in the 21st century need to know how to code for example.

      Reply
      • Bill May 16, 2016, 11:29 am

        My wife and her brother have just launched a travel business. We investigated carefully and discovered that no, not everyone can or prefers to use a computer to book their own travel. Travel websites are actually complicated, but those of us with technical chops take it for granted that they are easy to use. As it turns out, it’s even a little difficult to find qualified computer-savvy agents to help the people who want to use a travel agent. I far underestimated what MMM is talking about here, because I spend so much of my time around computer-savvy people.

        Reply
      • tcmJOE May 16, 2016, 10:23 pm

        At this point, I’ll plug one of my favorite learn-to-program books (available for free online!)–“Automate the Boring Stuff with Python”. See the link in my username to access it.

        Reply
    • Jeremiah June 13, 2016, 2:35 pm

      You don’t need to always buy “the” new technology.. just “a” new technology that’s obviously not going away anytime soon

      Reply
  • The Green Swan May 16, 2016, 7:51 am

    That is a good set of curriculum for the kiddos! To your point on learning how to use the computer and other electronics, it is a shame that learning to code isn’t part of the core curriculum in many states yet. In today’s society and culture, learning to code should be as necessary as learning to read and write. I hope to get my little one involved in technology and learning how to make it work very young and there are a lot of great programs and “games” that can help kids as young as 5 to start the basics. Even if it isn’t a career path he ultimately chooses, it is a life long skill that he will have and be able to utilize in other ways.

    Reply
    • Jim Wang May 16, 2016, 8:12 am

      I’m hoping to get our kids into the LEGO Mindstorms stuff once they’re old enough (both are under 5 now) to give them a taste of programming. I don’t know if it’ll actually be LEGO Mindstorms but I like the idea of modular design and thinking in those terms.

      As for coding, I agree 100%, it should be mandatory stuff. But so should recess, going outside, hiking, and the like — those aren’t as emphasized either nowadays.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 8:16 am

        Mindstorms is great stuff for getting kids hooked on learning technology, but even better is the VEX IQ robotics kits (http://www.vexrobotics.com/vexiq/)

        We have both sets, but the VEX is more flexible and fun for building and costs the same amount.

        Reply
        • Jim Wang May 16, 2016, 1:48 pm

          Thanks for the reco, I’ll check it out. As I think about this, I might just get started now… oldest is almost 5, might as well give it a whirl!

          Reply
          • Patrick May 16, 2016, 5:07 pm

            When my son turned 12 we upgraded him to an Arduino starter kit…I was an embedded software engineer in a prior life, so it seems to make sense that he be given the opportunity to have a 7 year jump on me compared to where I first started bashing out code for PIC microcontrollers and Hitachi/Renesas controllers.

            Reply
        • Anonymous May 16, 2016, 7:47 pm

          VEX is a more awesome kit for robotics and programming, but it has the disadvantage of not interoperating with Lego bricks. So if you already have an attachment to building with Lego, and you want to turn that into a robot, Mindstorms works well for that.

          Reply
        • Scott May 17, 2016, 8:01 am

          Awesome! I’ve been looking for DIY summer camp ideas for my two boys (6 and 7 years old), and this looks perfect.

          Reply
      • Tawcan May 16, 2016, 11:24 am

        It’s pretty amazing how much problem solving skills you can learn by playing LEGO. I had tons of LEGO bricks when I was growing up. Mindstorms is good but there are other similar toys around too. Coding is just another level when it comes to problem solving skills.

        Kids should spend more time outside and given permission to “play” with stuff. Give them an old computer, allow them to take it apart and put it back together. They’ll learn so much through that.

        Reply
        • Mathieu May 16, 2016, 12:10 pm

          Just learning how to read plans and being able to see things in 3D are awesome skills learned by playing with LEGOs.

          Reply
        • Dividend Family Guy May 16, 2016, 8:00 pm

          I have a few computers for my kids to trash (I mean play with). A buddy of mine actually drives around and picks up old TVs (tube kind) for his kids to disassemble. All of it free. I do buy my kids Legos though so that does cost money (but I look at it as an investment).

          Reply
      • Walter May 17, 2016, 12:20 am

        Lego and VEX are way too expensive. I’ve used both before.
        I designed a kit for $150 Arduino based for ages 10 and up. Have sold many all over the world and people are very satisfied. Teaches you programming, electronics and some mechanics. Is a mechatronics course basically with lots of experiments. See http://roboticscity.com is a lot of fun!

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2016, 9:03 am

          Congrats Walter, looks like a great invention. I don’t find VEX to be expensive at all for what you get (great flexibility and it is suitable for younger kids too), but your system is more complex which seems great for the 10+ kids.

          Reply
    • Bill May 16, 2016, 11:31 am

      I recently got some stats on this for my work. I was floored to discover that the typical high school has no coding in its curriculum, and those 25% that do have one elective. It’s absurd. This is exactly the way it was when I was in High School in 1980. An entire revolution occurred and secondary education missed it.

      Reply
      • MrFrugalChicago May 16, 2016, 12:37 pm

        I am a coder, but not sure I totally agree.

        Does high school mandate teaching bricklaying? Or HVAC installing?

        Programming itself is only that useful for a small subset of graduates. Just like bricklaying. Or HVAC repair.

        You should totally have programming classes. I only got to take 2 in high school, would have loved more. But why mandate it? Many people have no brain for programming. Just having everyone take a few classes on it does little…

        Reply
        • Bill May 16, 2016, 1:36 pm

          I’m not sure it should be mandated, although I think a lot of people who are good at it are being missed, and for them it is also a huge missed opportunity. Some of the better coders I know were self-taught, but as a CS professor I believe we could have taught them a thing or two on the way with a formal education. I disagree that it is fundamentally like bricklaying or HVAC repair. I feel it’s more like mathematics. As MMM implies it can be a force multiplier for all of those fields. Knowing a little programming makes you a better user of excel, makes you better able to spec websites, or just use websites, etc. It could easily be offered as an alternative to foreign languages. It is at least as useful as those.

          Reply
          • Tawcan May 16, 2016, 3:49 pm

            I don’t think it should be mandatory, rather it should be more available for typical high school students. Perhaps incorporate the introduction of coding into one of the courses (math or science?).

            Just out of curiosity, I just took a quick look at University of BC’s 1st year engineering program, looks like they’ve taken CPSC out as a mandatory course. When I attended UBC, CPSC was a mandatory course as first year engineering student. It’s a bit concerning that they’ve taken it out of the curriculum.

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            • David May 20, 2016, 8:53 am

              I know a middle school math teacher who is incorporating Python coding into her classes. I thought it was so cool and I wish more teachers would do it.

              Reply
            • David Robarts May 23, 2016, 1:48 pm

              The Architectural Engineering Program at Cal Poly reduced coding coursework near the end of my time there; but the exposure in the required courses were pretty basic and there was a lot of hand holding. My basic impression was that as engineers we should learn that the accuracy of numerical approximations of solutions to complex problems is finite. I certainly didn’t see any of my peers seeing computer programing as a way to solve problems.

              Reply
          • MrFrugalChicago May 17, 2016, 9:30 am

            I think logic is fundamental. I think all highschoolers should be taught boolean algebra. Thinking rationally is super important, and we should teach more people to do that.

            People knowing the difference between and int and a float type? Dealing with a null reference? Debugging CSS errors? Those are all much closer to bricklaying than fundamental knowledge. You don’t need to know how to debug CSS or deal with null references to do 95% of life.

            Reply
          • Keith May 21, 2016, 7:48 am

            While I agree that it shouldn’t be mandated, I had a really great class at my magnet school in 2002 called “digital media”. In short, it was a class on “How to not suck at Internet” while the internet was new. I’d argue that the basic skills taught are critical. Please see the below description for a sample:
            – Photoshop (class project was to edit your face into a movie poster and change the movie title to a pun. Lots of things like “The Matt-rix” were done)
            – Make a web page (usually on someones favorite TV show or hobby), post it to the internet
            – Typeset a yearbook page
            – Make a techno music song
            – Make a music video (bonus points if you photoshop scenes or make your own music, obviously)
            – Make a technical presentation, with embedded video and pictures, explaining something

            We had formal classes in programming (C++), but all of the above falls into the category of “does not require programming, are the basics of running a modern business”. I continue to be surprised at how many people can’t remove the background from an art asset, overlay text on top of videos, or have a webpage that has a submission form for “submit your business here” instead of a telephone number.

            Reply
        • Kendall May 17, 2016, 12:35 pm

          I think coding should be mandated is grade school, because although it will not be taken to by everyone if even 1% more kids decide coding is a great career it will al have been worthwhile for all of society.

          But more than that, as the article alludes to even just basic coding stuff can be a great help in your personal life for managing things. I think of a coding class at this point as being as basic as a Home Ec class, just basic skills that anyone can make use of no matter what they go on to do.

          Reply
        • Kyle May 19, 2016, 9:10 pm

          I’ve had a great career as a software engineer, and with a similar computer background as MMM describes – it’s been fantastic more or less. I agree with MMM it’s a bit of a core skill of the future. However it’s not a panacea, we still need great career diversity. Regular ol’ supply and demand, and perhaps I’m paranoid of an international software developer glut that hasn’t quite materialized. In general > math = > $. Hopefully the demand grows – the future will clearly be far more automated and robotized, and full of AI.

          Reply
        • Richard May 20, 2016, 9:08 am

          I took programming classes in high school and university (and one university class in high school). I think once or twice they introduced me to a concept I didn’t already know and only one of those was something I really went on to use as a professional programmer.

          Teaching something in a school is great when it requires expensive equipment (like using a million-dollar machine) or it’s dangerous to experiment with (like working with high voltage electricity) or takes an extremely long time to work out the current state of knowledge from basic principles and a few good books (like quantum physics). Programming is none of these things.

          A class with good equipment might help people who can’t afford a computer or really don’t have time outside of school. If you’re reading this that’s not you either.

          Reply
          • Bill May 24, 2016, 9:34 am

            Good points, however what I’m referring to is early exposure. I was exposed to the concepts of programming very early (like 70’s) due to having a father who does it. That exposure enabled me to self-teach and then to explore more advanced concepts in university. One of our best programmers was a poet by education (though he still lacks some of the basics of computer science, I can fill those in for him). If he had been exposed to computers earlier in life, he wouldn’t have spent all that time on an HR career. Granted it makes him a better employee overall than most programmers.

            Reply
  • FinanceSuperhero May 16, 2016, 8:07 am

    My upbringing was very similar to yours, MMM. I think the critical factor for me, and possibly you, is that I learned to be independent and self-sufficient early on. I didn’t look to my parents for opportunities.

    I live in an area in which spoiling children is the norm. When Mrs. Superhero and I have kids of our own, I am concerned that our kids will think that average, bloated, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses spending is the norm. Granted, they’ll learn the truth quickly, but I am sure it will not be a pleasant experience.

    I kept thinking of Good Will Hunting while I read this post. This quote sums up the crux of the movie, IMO:

    See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you’re gonna start doin’ some thinkin’ on your own and you’re going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don’t do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a f**kin’ education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

    Lastly, I am familiar with the Susan Cain book and recommend it. My father-in-law met her at a conference and got her to sign a copy of the book for me. One of the best gifts this introvert/learned-extrovert ever received!

    Reply
    • Adrian Li May 17, 2016, 1:22 pm

      I completely echo your comments here. As much as I love technology (am a self-taught coder) and agree with the assertions of this article, I was actually hoping this post would be talking more about teaching kids to be self-starters and the all-important saying that: “All learning is self-learning”.

      Personally, my parents were divorced and I had a ridiculous amount of alone time. This along with the fact that I didn’t have too many close friends in high school meant that I spent a lot of time on the internet and just experimenting with things.

      Reply
  • Jim Wang May 16, 2016, 8:09 am

    I find that having a childhood where you had to “figure things out” rather than “buy a solution” gives you a more creative look at the world. I remember my first computer, it was a 286 at a time when Pentiums were the new hotness… I had 80mb of HD and I had to figure out how to fit the things I wanted. Installing and uninstalling programs just so it could fit. It was my version of Apollo 13! When you have the money to buy a solution, you don’t need to work your creativity muscles as much. I hope to pass that creativity onto our kids and nurture their love of nature…

    Reply
    • Mr. Tako May 16, 2016, 9:34 am

      This is really true Jim. Having to use your mind creatively to solve problems rather than just relying on money is one of the keys to success in life — Success in school requires that creativity, and success financially. Depending upon your work, that ability to solve problems and find alternatives without money could also be useful.

      For myself, we had no money growing up – But I didn’t notice. If I wanted to use a computer, I would just go over to the neighbor kid’s house to get some computing time. I probably didn’t get as much computer time as that kid, but it seems like we spent many hours on that computer. :)

      For my own two boys, learning to use technology to solve problems almost goes without saying! At three years old, my oldest can already operate a smartphone better than his grandparents.

      Reply
      • Pranav May 16, 2016, 3:32 pm

        This!

        What all of these boil down to is the ability for independent problem solving. You can only foster this ability under an environment that is deficient and where you need to improvise, and the best time to make sure you’re not dejected doing it is when you’re a kid with infinite curiosity.

        Once you have a brain for problem solving independently, no matter which new technology you’re given, you will have an innate urge to explore and understand it, be it computers, programming, a car, or an Arduino

        Reply
    • Rob February 26, 2017, 4:00 pm

      Jim – You and I had a similar childhood it sounds like. I had a 386 20 mghz with a 40mb HD double spaced to ~75mb when I was in middle school that spent hours and hours and hours tinkering with the DOS system, deleting/installing software, etc. I remember when I had saved up enough to buy a 1GB HD for like $300 in early HS and then bought a CD Burner a couple years later I thought I was hot stuff!

      Reply
  • FinanceClever May 16, 2016, 8:11 am

    Great post! My own parents invested very little money (although a good amount of their time) in my education (which involves much more than just academics). As a result I went to college and grad school with close to full scholarships. Just another case that proves that throwing large amount of money at things (education in this case) is not usually the best answer.

    Reply
  • EL May 16, 2016, 8:17 am

    Yes I heard the same advice that boredom begets creativity recently as well in a podcast. Kids now a days spend far too much time on youtube, granted they will absorb some communication and presentation skills watching others, but some bored time is necessary for sure. Bikes, learning computing, and artwork is the standard in my house.

    Reply
  • Joe Brewer May 16, 2016, 8:18 am

    We offer extended time past the typical bedtime when my kids do a good deed or take up a chore around the house on their own (dishes, cleaning their room, etc.). It has been a really good positive reinforcement and they love being able to stay up a bit later with Mom and Dad. We also have a “community” iMac in our kitchen which our kids can access at any times. They are 5 and 7 but they are both very familiar with using a computer and a tablet. Sometimes I’ll give my older son a subject I want him to google and come back to me with his findings just to familiarize him with searching for information.

    Reply
    • Lady B May 16, 2016, 4:43 pm

      “Sometimes I’ll give my older son a subject I want him to google and come back to me with his findings just to familiarize him with searching for information.”

      That’s a great idea. I’m a high school teacher, and it amazes me how many kids have no idea at all how to do basic research, or do a useful google search. Too many teachers just assume that by the time students get to high school, they just automatically know how to do it. It may come naturally to some kids, but in my experience, a lot of them need to be explicitly taught (repeatedly), and often it’s just not happening.

      We’re repeatedly told that this is the digital generation, and teachers make the mistake of assuming that these kids just miraculously know how to “computer” though osmosis or something… when in reality, my 80 year old grandfather had a much better grasp on the technology than half of my 15 year old students.

      Reply
  • PoF May 16, 2016, 8:22 am

    I mowed a lot of lawns to get my first computer, an Apple 2C clone with a green screen monitor. I learned how to create graphics with code line by line. Hplot something something from one point on the x-y axis to the next. It was a breakthrough moment when I got to hook the computer up to the TV and could see my creations in living color!

    The ability to reach thousands or millions of people with these machines makes them infinitely more powerful and useful than the primitive devices we had thirty years ago, particularly as it relates to the topic at hand, wealth creation.

    Best,
    -PoF

    Reply
  • Slow Hand Slow Plan May 16, 2016, 8:27 am

    Agreed!! There is so much that can be gleaned from learning how EVERYTHING works… not just computers even (although that is the biggest and most useful device as of now) in-sourcing and teaching are what help get kids excited and confident. The more kids learn the better the future they can make!

    Reply
  • Mrs. PIE May 16, 2016, 8:29 am

    Thanks for your insights. My husband and I have been talking about this a lot recently in relation to our planned early retirement. How do we know the kids will be alright? It’s always a parents worry. Our answer is that our kids will have even more opportunity than they do now to get out of the ‘arms race’ of education, tutoring, sports and organized activities. And that can only be a good thing.
    As for the minimization of tourist attractions and gift shops in favor of nature – hurrah! Thank you! Yes! (even the thought of Disneyland, World or whatever gives me the heebie jeebies!)

    Reply
  • STBJ May 16, 2016, 8:39 am

    This post and the linked article article, “The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans“, is disturbing. Distrurbing in the sense that I am suffering from it (58 years old, sent kids to private HS and college, used 401K and HELOC to pay, have to recover money spent before retiring, yuck). I am glad that I am beginning to use mustachian principles. They work but you have to apply them every day. Six years ago I listed my debt on a spread sheet. Five years ago I used a small inheritiance to reduce debt. Three years ago I started tracking all my finances on Mint.com. One year ago for a few months I saved 25% of my income in my 401K and was amazed that I did not notice the difference. Six months ago I started reading all the MMM articles and am up to July 2013. I think if I had discovered MMM in 2011 I might be another 100K ahead in net worth. Thanks for your insights. I just paid for $1200 worth of car maintenance and am glad I could. I would have had to charge it two years ago. Well I am recovering even if I screwed up for a 30 year stretch.

    Reply
    • Dollar Flipper May 16, 2016, 8:45 am

      That’s awesome! When people talk about how Dave Ramsey helped them (he’s very good at making debt reduction simple), I let them know that there are even better options on the spectrum of finance. Then I send them a link to MMM.

      Have you talked to your children about this site? My dad and I talk about it a lot and my family (30 years old with 2 kids) is way further ahead than a lot of others.

      Reply
      • STBJ May 17, 2016, 10:42 pm

        I discuss the concepts but not the site by name so much. The kids know I am on a journey of self education. Mostly we talk about not blowing your nest egg that you are building in your twenties and thinking about only purchasing what you need. I should mention the site to them.

        Reply
    • Scott May 16, 2016, 10:09 am

      It would be really mustachian to do the $1200 of car maintenance for what I find to be usually about 1/4 the price in parts =)

      Reply
      • STBJ May 17, 2016, 10:44 pm

        I agree. I probably need to stop using the excuse of no garage to work in.

        Reply
  • LancasterJones May 16, 2016, 8:42 am

    I work as a Solutions Consultant (software sales demonstrations, etc.) and so I’m often the liason between sales (not so techy) and product managers (highly technical/don’t like to talk to salespeople). When I started feeling like I didn’t know enough about what was under the hood of our product, I took action and found w3schools.com and codeacademy.com and start teaching myself to code. When my new job required some light-weight Photoshop skills, I went to Youtube and 10 minutes later I was off to the races. The abundance of FREE content is astounding. The lack of resourcefulness of many in this country, even more so.

    There are SO many opportunities for smart, driven people to separate from the fray in this economy. One thing I’ve found being in a business where I frequently travel to visit some of the top businesses in the USA, is they often aren’t all that different from your ‘concrete guy’ example. You’d think Fortune 500 companies have it all together, but they don’t.

    Keep learning, investing time and energy in your interests and hobbies and your kids will model that pursuit of knowledge and experiences vs. expecting the universe to just provide for them. I have always feared that too cushy an existence for my kids would lead to ATM machine expectation that life just owed them things for minimal effort.

    Been reading for a couple years, but never replied. Love the blog, love the forums. I’ve found my people. They were hiding in plain sight all along!

    Reply
    • Bill May 16, 2016, 1:47 pm

      I find sailors to have most of those qualities in abundance. Not that sailing itself is in any way frugal – unless you use Other People’s Boats. Most boat owners who sail and especially race regularly are always looking for dedicated crew. Kids in sailing programs tend to be very self-sufficient. It’s hard to helicopter a kid when he’s 300 yards from shore. They have to figure it out on their own.

      Reply
    • The MAD Consultant May 16, 2016, 9:16 pm

      Lancaster I find it true that plenty of Fortune 500 companies were not all that tech savvy either. I’ve come across plenty of them throughout my life so far that it always made me wonder how it was possible in this day and age. Maybe I’m a bit to young still and expect differently. Sometimes getting what seemed to be simple sales reports with data you’d expect to be included is a complete pipe dream. I just got a small business onto the cloud and upgraded their email security. I’ll admit not exactly easy for me since I’m more financial but I got in touch with the right people and learned a lot myself first to make it happen. that move is probably putting them ahead of the other 85% of firms in their category which is unreal.

      It’s also true that there are people young and old that just don’t prefer computers or technology much. Although more prevalent among older people it’s not entirely absent in the younger generation. I know plenty of 20 somethings that can’t even fix the simplest of PC problems, and some really don’t care since they feel its of no use to try figuring it out. There is so much to learn, and so much more that has been created since I was in college even. Of course that’s no excuse in my book either. The creativity and velocity of advancement is astounding. We truly live in awesome times.

      Reply
  • Dollar Flipper May 16, 2016, 8:43 am

    The best comment I saw on an article about the middle class losing their jobs was a guy complaining that he didn’t want to be a computer programmer. He was basically saying “I have outdated skills and don’t want to improve myself. Please, let’s all keep the status quo!” Sucks when people push the blame to others when you know that it’s your own fault. Sure, being very flexible and ready to pivot towards a new career isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it. I guess I don’t know how to help people who are comfortable in a position with diminishing returns but act surprised when their work isn’t valued anymore.

    Reply
  • TheHappyPhilosopher May 16, 2016, 8:43 am

    Ah, the Amiga 500. I had one coupled with a 9600 baud modem and was drunk with power ;)

    Reply
    • Peter May 21, 2016, 3:17 pm

      Whoa, remember how fast the new 14.4kbps modems were? LOL

      Reply
    • steve poling July 13, 2016, 1:40 pm

      Piker. I had a 1200 baud modem and liked it! (he said shaking his cane.)

      Reply
  • Treller May 16, 2016, 8:53 am

    I had a Sinclair ZX81 and then ZX Spectrum. Changed my life, when I started as an intern at an office I was the only person who could use the IBM AT, they thought I was a genius! ;)

    Reply
  • Jim Grey May 16, 2016, 8:57 am

    The early-mid 1980s were just the right time in history to be a teenager with above average intelligence, because personal computers became reasonably affordable then. I got a C64 as well — my dad worked in a factory, but was frugal and had the cash and made that computer happen for me. I taught myself how to program, and then went to school to get a related degree, and have been in the software development field for 27 years now.

    You’re quite right when you say that the way to learn technology is to explore it. Just try stuff and see what happens, and try every option and command you can find.

    Reply
  • Tissue King May 16, 2016, 9:05 am

    Another great post MMM!!! Growing up in a poor community and family, it was essential to be creative. It is sad that today’s kids are so engulfed in needing everyone else to assist. My kids are getting close to college time and they listen to the other kids in their high school. Lucky for me they are planning on a cheaper school.

    I know that I am the decider as far as what school and price I pay for their education but I think all that teaching and preaching to them is starting to pay off.

    I wish they were a bit more outdoorsy like me but they don’t quite follow my enthusiasm. They tend to be the introverts (2 of them at least) so this book QUIET might be a necessary read for us.

    Reply
  • LuckyOz May 16, 2016, 9:08 am

    The ability to use google effectively, and absorb the information you find is more valuable than most PHD’s. We have access to all the information in the entire world available in our pockets. Ready to use at any time. Most of society is more interested reading buzzfeed on what no name celebrity recommends in 10 steps, rather than using this information to their advantage.

    Need to replace an outlet? Google will take you to YouTube and 1000’s of how to videos are available to show you how. Any information you need is available on the internet. It is a how to guide to the world. I constantly have people complaining they wish they had my experience while watching me do something I learnt 25 minutes ago on the internet.

    Teach your kids to be inquisitive, teach themselves, and not be afraid of failure. That is all they need to rule the world.

    Reply
    • Brandon Curtis May 16, 2016, 10:22 am

      Completely agreed! Regularly deciding to figure out how to do something that you don’t know how to do and having the determination to work your way through whatever documentation is available until you achieve your goal is INFINITELY valuable. I think this is a critical skill for being successful in higher education, but I didn’t learn it in school—I learned it through DIY projects.

      Speaking of PhDs, I’m finishing one now and by far the best lesson has been getting comfortable spending long periods of time not really knowing what the heck I’m doing. You push forward anyway, and if the stars align you end up somewhere valuable!

      Reply
      • The Roamer May 16, 2016, 11:01 am

        That’s an interesting insight. That’s probably my problem. I get unsure if I don’t know where I’m going. So I might be pivoting or changing direction too soon. Too soon to see what comes out of all the confusion and simply pushing through.

        Reply
    • Keith November 7, 2016, 12:17 pm

      My normal response. “I’m not all that smart: it’s the brown belt in Google Fu that makes me look that way.” They say “what is Google Fu?” “It’s internet karate, and I am kind of a badass!”

      Reply
  • Ben May 16, 2016, 9:19 am

    One thing I’d add on is that if you feel that traditional classroom instruction is the route you want to go, community college provides a good alternative to the traditional 4-year school. I work for a community college in the SUNY system in New York and our annual tuition is just $4400 per year. I will tell you that we have had students from all walks of life come through our doors. Some are looking to get vocational training in automotive technology, nursing, law enforcement, etc. and some are looking to do their general education requirements and then transfer to a 4-year school. In the last week, I heard of two students who got into Stanford and Johns Hopkins and will transfer there as juniors. In doing so, they will save well over $100,000 on the cost of degrees at those institutions by doing their first two years at a community college as compared to if they had enrolled as freshman.

    Even if you are not going to an elite university, you can do two years at your local community college and then transfer to a state school and save even more.

    Just a piece of advice on how you can still do the “traditional” college route and still be rather Mustachian.

    Reply
  • Mac May 16, 2016, 9:31 am

    Good read but I think MMM is taking for granted that he grew up in Canada and received a high quality public school education. That doesn’t happen in the US, not where I grew up at least.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 10:51 am

      While Canada’s schools might be better on average (especially for lower income people), my elementary school was nothing to covet either. Most middle class parents would problably pay for private school before sending their kids to one like I attended.

      It wasn’t violent or anything, but I learned almost nothing there because the curriculum was so slow and uninspired. The best learning came from my older sisters, parents, friends, and recess.

      Reply
      • Freedom35 May 16, 2016, 2:33 pm

        Reading your post and thinking about my background. I wondered about the Canadian/US aspect too. Growing up in Canada, I remember the public schools being fine, but probably nothing fancy by modern US standards. However, the cultural assumption was just that every body went to your local public school. Perhaps I’m looking back with rose colored glasses, but I don’t recall talk of comparing school districts or private schools at all.

        At least your post made me feel young, since I got to learn on a fancy at the time 386 that my parents stretched the budget to buy :)

        Reply
        • David May 20, 2016, 9:45 am

          Based solely on watching “Love it or List it” it looks like upper middle class Canadians definitely care a lot about which school district they live in. They will spend huge sums of money to get a house in the same school district as they currently live in even though they will complain endlessly about how small the house is.

          Reply
      • dave May 17, 2016, 12:28 pm

        your right about Ontario public school elementary education. Very average due mostly to the powerful teachers union that makes it impossible to fire a bad teacher. They mostly work on increasing their pay benefits and pensions before they improve the actual curriculum.

        Reply
    • Naners May 16, 2016, 2:37 pm

      Don’t mistake Canadian public schools for Scandinavian ones. Mine was mediocre at best (classes of 30+ kids, no fancy enrichment or trips, plodding curriculum, old buildings).

      Reply
      • dave May 17, 2016, 12:48 pm

        So you are saying the Scandinavian schools were mediocre or the Canadian ones

        Reply
    • Kendall May 17, 2016, 12:44 pm

      The quality of your local school is irrelevant if your parents are helping you learn things like deep technology schools… I grew up in a rural area that didn’t have that great a school system, but because I spent a lot of time as a kid learning technology (and enjoying reading) it did not matter. A lot of that was greatly supported by my parents.

      Reply
    • MrSLM May 18, 2016, 7:30 am

      I think if Canada gives you anything, it’s an affordable world-class university education :)

      As MMM mentions, he’s able to pay his way through on a minimum wage job. I painted fences over summers to cover costs, brothers’ both tree-planted, wife worked retail. Doesn’t require some great feat of finance to get a degree in Canada. And if you study in Quebec…

      Reply
  • diymark May 16, 2016, 9:49 am

    You path has been uncannily similar to my own..although I would guess by your computer discoveries I’m probably about 15 years older. For me it began in college with renting a tele-video terminal so I could do assignments remotely for an elective Fortan class to avoid the lines at the punch card lab on campus. Which turned into an Atari 800 in exchange for some cash and a tune-up of the local computer store owner’s Honda motorcycle (put myself through college wrenching on them). From there a career in aerospace and writing software for the very secret (at the time) B-2 bomber .
    The one additional observation I would add to your very perceptive insights is usability. That is bridging the gap between those that have the “nerdy” technical know how and those that have chosen only to be operators (most of the world). I’ve seen many excellent ideas and better mousetraps fall flat because they failed to think about all the rest of the masses out there that have never opened the manual. Projecting yourself into the shoes of those that lack technical skills will accelerate your own success. Not only by making a product or service that has greater appeal but because the exercise of making yourself think like the masses will help you better interact with them out in the world. Perfecting this skill allows you to quickly explain the how, what, where, why of a particular situation ….to those who’s eyes quickly glaze over with the mention of anything technical. Those that acquire and refine this skill, a balance of brevity and thoughtfulness, will see doors swing wide open with countless opportunities and chances for profit.

    Reply
  • Wayne May 16, 2016, 9:51 am

    Much like you I got a systems design undergrad degree, but at the University of Waterloo. The finest computer science education available at the time. I too made a great deal of money with that education. But I think you’re missing another really good thing to have, and that’s the ability to write the English language well, clearly and concisely.

    The computer sciences are for young people. They involve constant upgrading, long hours and grueling work. It’s hard to create something of value through the distillation of pure thought. I moved from those long nights coding stuff into writing about it, things like raising interest in a product and raising money for its development.

    The authoring skills actually turned out to be way more valuable because many engineers and computer scientists are dismal at it. My advice is sure, get great technical skills, but keep up with training and practice in the English language.

    Reply
    • Helen May 16, 2016, 2:50 pm

      I kept thinking about this too, and was glad to see someone else write it here. Directly or indirectly, most of the money I’ve earned at home and abroad is because of my reasonably clear and properly-punctuated English. It’s lucrative.

      Reply
  • Brandon Curtis May 16, 2016, 9:59 am

    Get your kid a Raspberry Pi for $50 and give them the gift of Linux. When you know computers FOR SERIOUS, you will ALWAYS be able to create value for the people around you.

    Reply
    • Mike May 20, 2016, 10:18 am

      Right on, Brandon! The Raspberry Pi is an absolutely wonderful creation; it’s the modern-day version of the Amiga/Commodore/Apple II, and it’s outrageously cheap! It’s too easy these days to be skilled at using a smartphone, for example, but still have very little idea about how computers really work. With the RasPi, kids and adults can learn about computer fundamentals and programming in a very friendly way with a great support community.

      I’ve even written on my blog about setting it up as a super-cheap laptop. I think every 12-year-old should give it a try!

      Mike

      Reply
    • steve poling July 13, 2016, 1:39 pm

      As the owner of the 2nd Amiga 1000 in Grand Rapids, MI and a founding member of the West Michigan Amiga Users Association, I heartily endorse the Raspberry Pi as an educational investment. Your lad definitely needs to learn Linux. And there’s an Amiga emulator that runs on the Raspberry Pi if you ever need a nostalgia fix.

      Reply
  • Carl May 16, 2016, 9:59 am

    One note of caution: early masters of computer tech got a big windfall. Now that nearly all kids have computer access, the windfall is gone.

    Computer programming is still a useful and lucrative skill, mind you. It’s just that there’s way more competition. You were born in the generation for which the middle class first was able to afford a home computer. Since not everyone took full advantage, you got to be part of the head start. Bill Gates, on the other hand, was of a generation when only the elite students got any computer time. As Robert X. Cringley documents, those few who had access and got the bug made millions even when they weren’t business oriented.

    (I’m in between. I just barely missed having to use paper tape and punch cards. Got my first computer access sophomore year in college.)

    Reply
    • Brandon Curtis May 16, 2016, 10:12 am

      Computer access ≠ computer competency. Everyone in my workplace has access to plenty of computers, but I’m the only one who can troubleshoot and fix computer problems and use computers to create new tools and automate menial tasks.

      In my experience, people over 35 tend to believe that young people are “digital natives” and automatically technology-literate when most struggle with anything more complicated than pressing a big, candy-colored app button.

      Reply
      • The Roamer May 16, 2016, 11:11 am

        Completely agree. 28 year old here and unfortunately I don’t think I’m as computer literate as I should be.

        I use to joke I was the most computer illiterate young person. But from this article I’m starting to see this might be a serious issue.

        Do I know my way around a computer better then my mom sure. But not enough.

        Thankfully starting my own blog has forced me to interact much more with technology.

        Reply
        • David May 20, 2016, 9:55 am

          I am in the same boat. I am 30 years old and pretty good with computers. I can learn to use new software by poking around and looking at all the features like Mr Money Mustache describes. But when it comes to coding I just think it is the most boring thing ever. I am going into accounting and although coding isn’t necessarily required for that career if you can code it definitely opens a lot more path to you in your career. Most accountants don’t know anything so I am going to try and suck it up and at least learn a little bit.

          Reply
      • Marcia May 16, 2016, 11:33 am

        Funny. I’m an engineer, but didn’t have a lot of computer access as a kid (I’m almost 46). We did get a computer when I was maybe 13 (Tandy), and I had some fun with it.

        However, my husband is a computer guy, and at work, the people I interact with MOST are very savvy. So I assume that everyone is this savvy. I forget it’s not true, when I asked a guy for the location of his data. He gave me the name of the path that someone mapped on his computer. I asked him for the full path and he said “that is the full path”. Um…

        So I need to go over there and open it up and write down the full path.

        Still working on automating menial tasks.

        Reply
    • Dave-kun May 16, 2016, 10:21 am

      I feel like what MMM is getting at here is more than just the mindset of setting a kid up for an easy-money career. While you are right that there is more competition now, that computer skills are much more common among kids and young adults than it used to be, apathy towards acquiring that knowledge is also on the upkick. It’s not hard to use a computer anymore, so people on average don’t really dig in as much as they used to. Given the choice of figuring out HTML and CSS and FTP to put a website together with family pictures or whatever, most folks would rather just post them on Facebook. The process was easier but the potential knowledge gained along the way was lost.

      Down that vein, the ‘figure it out, do it yourself’ undertone of getting comfortable with complicated things extends to many parts of life, and the internet makes learning these things incredibly easy. Despite the fact that changing a light fixture or toilet flush valve are incredibly easy with a little direction, and the internet has thousands of videos and webpages explaining how to do it, people would rather pay someone else a few hundred bucks to do those things, rather than spending 15 minutes at the computer to figure it out for themselves. Even if you’re not working in a tech field making a ton of money, there’s a lot of money to be saved just by figuring things out oneself.

      Reply
    • A Definite Beta Guy May 16, 2016, 10:23 am

      I think this is true, but most people still have so much to learn!
      Computers are prevalent but under-utilized. I used to think job applications asking for someone able to use a pivot table were silly: surely that’s a skill as redundant as basic literacy.
      Nope, most people can’t use a basic pivot-table. A lot of people can’t copy-paste correctly. A lot of people can’t even figure out how to create a playlist on their iPod.

      Jeez, the concrete guy can’t even use a scheduling notebook. Can he figure out how to use project management software?

      Then there’s big gains in just basic learning. People asked me who taught me how to cook, especially when I could barely make pancakes at the age of 23 (I was a spoiled brat). Youtube!

      I think tinkering is an under-appreciated activity. Most of the people I work and live with want clean cut answers, immediately. Just play around with a program until you can figure it out yourself.

      Reply
      • gwen May 18, 2016, 9:51 pm

        Haha pivot tables. I was doing my masters of science and doing data analysis using pivot tables. I shared a cloffice (closet office) with a guy doing his phd…he was about halfway though so maybe 2 or 3 years in…i start talking about pivot tables. He said he did not know what they were and had been reentering data by hand and messing with column and row transforming. Holy Christmas what a waste of time.. all well he learned but not until doing his phd. Guy had a msc from university of michigan. We were at university of alberta. Edmonton canada. I thought it was a good school.

        Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 10:41 am

      Carl, I have a completely opposite perspective on this:

      The early masters of computer tech (for example, my sisters who are 9-10 years older than me) got a medium-sized windfall. Starting salaries for engineers back in those days were $35,000. By the time I graduated in 1997, I started at $41,000 and was into the six figures within five years.

      Today, a top-end software new graduate with some proven experience throughout the school years starts at $100-150k and the shortage of people who can do work of that type is more intense than ever.

      A big part of the “income inequality” pattern these days is that there are loads of people who can work in a factory, but very few who can design the Teslas and iPhones for this factory to crank out. As a result, the software people get paid 5-10 times what the assembly workers do. If you are fortunate enough to have that talent, it’s a big win.

      There is no end to this escalation currently in sight, despite the fears caused by tech outsourcing to India and China. It has raised wages there without siphoning off enough work to drop them here.

      Reply
      • Carl May 16, 2016, 5:32 pm

        $35,000 in 1987 is the same as $50,000 in 1997 according to the CPI. (from 111 to 159). Today that $35,000 would be $74,000.

        Yes, graduates from Stanford do far better. But that’s a small minority of programmers. And at $150,000 housing is still a challenge in Silicon Valley.

        There are more positions out there today, but a LOT more people who had a chance to learn pre college. And there is always the outsource to India option…

        Reply
        • Kendall May 17, 2016, 12:51 pm

          It’s not just Stanford graduates that can make $100k+ exiting college. There is also VASTLY more demand for programming experience now than there was twenty years ago or so, so even though there’s somewhat more programmers coming out of educational institutions now there is actually LESS competition now for jobs than there was when I got out of college back in 1982 or so…

          To get a really good job in programming would not require any college whatsoever. You can easily get a good CS background online if you wish, and even that level of understanding is not required to be highly employable.

          Reply
        • Travis May 17, 2016, 2:30 pm

          $150k salary is only a problem in Silicon Valley if you’re trying to live in SF or buy a house. The rent vs. buy index is *massively* tilted toward the “rent” side of the equation. We (family of two) spend $3k/mo. for a nice apartment in San Jose, whereas nearby houses cost upwards of $1.5M (so $6k/mo).

          If you live frugally and save with the intent of relocating after a few years (like MMM), you too can live the good life. Just don’t buy in to the “I must buy a house or rent a $7k flat in SF” mentality.

          PS — I know a lot of fresh grads. Starting salaries were ~$120k + 100k in stock vested over 4 years.

          Reply
      • mac May 23, 2016, 3:05 pm

        I’m a software engineer too. I would guess that a 6-figure starting salary for a new graduate is normal in maybe 12 cities in the USA. In other parts of the country the norm is significantly less.

        Mr. MM will say something along the lines of “Great news! You get to pick your favorite of 12 cities to live in!” And that’s a reasonable thing to say. But I many people, without thinking about it too much, may assume that they will be able to continue living where they’ve been living for years and that their children will remain close by after graduation.

        So I think it is worth noting that the path to riches described here probably comes with some geographic stipulations.

        Some good news is that remote work, while still not the norm for people in the software industry, is gradually and steadily growing more common.

        Reply
        • Chris August 10, 2016, 2:36 pm

          I was thinking exactly the same thing. Six figure salaries are pretty common for tech startups in San Francisco and Boulder (just down the road from MMM), but hardly typical. Not to mention the real reason there’s such a shortage of talent is genetic, not lack of opportunity or education. Not everyone will be pitching in the major leagues either and it’s not from lack of baseball education.

          As part of the developer/tech crowd, I’ve always found my peers to be on the most-people-are-never-going-to-understand-this-stuff side. If you don’t agree, just spend a bit more time with anyone besides the usual group of work buddies and friends. Younger or older, domestic or import – makes no difference. It’s a highly specialized skill set.

          Reply
        • Rob February 26, 2017, 5:00 pm

          Plus, $150k in SF is like $75k in Charlotte, NC. *ALWAYS* factor cost of living into the salary/savings equation.

          Reply
    • KC May 16, 2016, 1:40 pm

      There’s still a windfall, just not necessarily in programming. Cyber security and malware analysis fields are HUGE right now, and there’s not enough people to fill those positions. Entry level pay for these positions is typically at least $60k-70k.

      But like a below person said, computer access does not mean computer competency. Your average person who uses a computer to browse the internet or type up papers is nowhere near qualified enough to fill those positions.

      Reply
      • dave May 17, 2016, 2:53 pm

        most coding projects that can’t be done here are easily outsourced to india or china.

        Reply
  • Chris May 16, 2016, 10:28 am

    I’m with you 100% on this; my dad had the foresight to buy a Tandy 1000 for the house when my brothers and I were young and it was almost entirely a purchase for US not for him. My brother learned BASIC programming and made a program for me when I was 4 that basically got me hooked on the “easy-entry maker” side of programming. Just about anyone can learn to code a bit and once you do, you learn how much leverage you can have in your work and personal life.

    On our next PC, my brother and I (at about 10 and 8 years old respectively) got to help install an audio card and a graphics card and a new stick of RAM. Understanding what each piece did and just getting a brief appreciation for the ability to do this ourselves instead of paying some “tech guy” a ton of money to do it for us was huge.

    Our kids are young, but we’re doing pretty well on the MMM elite education checklist :)
    – We have no TV service – cut the antenna about a year ago
    – We’ve got bikes for each kid and we only have one car – try to walk as much as we can in-town for now and teaching the kids to ride
    – We roadtrip each year with a general focus on national parks (Yellowstone and Glacier this summer)
    – Our kids are in a maximum of one “formal” sport at a time of their choosing but lots of time running around inside and out including trips to the park.
    – Related, this makes sure our calendar isn’t completely filled

    We’re sold on the approach and living it as best we can daily – thanks for laying it out so clearly!

    Reply
  • str8cash32 May 16, 2016, 10:50 am

    Great job MMM, my dad always said small reasonable state schools use the same text books as Harvard. Very succinct insight from an old COBOL dude. One thing your list left out is a never ending supply of chores and home improvement/carpentry projects. By teaching a young person they aren’t above getting their hands dirty you can help provide them a lifetime of riches. Thanks for another great post!

    Reply
  • G-Dub May 16, 2016, 10:52 am

    MMM, elite education and homeschooling – what are your thoughts on this limiting junior mustache’s ability to get into or succeed at college? Higher education seems really intent on grades/standardized test scores as admission reqt’s and schools for the most part are focused on tests and grades for a degree (with a notable exception being St John’s College).

    Reply
  • The Roamer May 16, 2016, 10:52 am

    It’s always interesting to hear your take on subjects.

    In our household we follow the advice of no screens before age 2. But we did a lot of reading and my 8 year old is a voracious reader. Which I think will benefit him greatly as appose to private school.

    He’s currently in a school with a rating of 2/10 but I have no qualms about it because I think parents are a huge partner in a child’s education and its not just up to the teachers. Plus he’s in a special dual language program. Great thing being offered at some public schools no extra cost.

    But I have been very restrictive with technology. Sometimes I think I’m going to set him up with a disadvantage. So this article was really interesting. I like how you point out that sitting down and play video games is not what your talking about. But really poking around the computers programs.

    I am also restrictive to bed times. I think rest is very important and its a welcome respite for us parents. But yes sometimes I think I need to make exception for when there are special occasion.

    Thanks for the post lots of things to consider.

    I’m one of those people who like step by step instructions maybe you could give me some more specific examples for good technology use for kids.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 11:37 am

      Thanks for considering these ideas, Roamer. This article was actually written partly with a few families in mind that have a similar attitude towards technology as you, and this is sort of my counterpoint.

      The friends are heavily into sports and organized activities and disciplined schedules. They are great people and their kids are angels. But they are also extremely non-technical people and this has a big impact on them financially.

      My argument is that computer time (on a real computer, not a Playstation or Wii) is VERY, extremely, different from watching TV commercials and cartoons. It’s among the very highest forms of learning.

      Reply
    • Bill May 16, 2016, 2:03 pm

      Check out Code.org. They have some kids programming activities there that introduce the basic ideas and they are pretty good. The kids will learn to mess about with computers and their internal workings, which is what MMM is talking about.

      Reply
    • Mathias May 20, 2016, 5:23 am

      Yeah. I have a similar attitude. My daughter is almost 2, and we don’t really use technology with her. Honestly, compared to her cousins who are constantly hooked to their iPads watching one show or another and never go outside, I think we’re on the right track. I know an equal amount of people who use technology to make a good living, and those who are so hooked to their games and devices they can’t make a living. My best friend in high school flunked 12th grade because he was addicted to sim civilization (seriously). But I think you are right that it is a highly important skill, and if it’s approached correctly it is highly beneficial…

      Reply
  • Kristin H. May 16, 2016, 11:14 am

    I agree with everything 100%… except the late bed time. Mama needs some peace and quiet after a day with 5 kids (2 are fosters). Do you mean time for them to use their computers and play with their friends?

    Also, my husband had a similar experience with technology growing up and, while he chose to go into another field, he always has that knowledge to fall back on.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 11:25 am

      Yeah, I would love a break too – even with one kid.

      But I kind of consciously wrote off a 20-year-stretch of “me” time when I decided to commit to my half of a child raising partnership. If I was expecting to have luxuries like free time or convenience, I might have become bitter about all this sacrifice. Instead, it has been 10 years of awesome, exhilarating, hard work, and only about 8 more to go. After that, it’s all about me :-)

      Reply
    • Marcia May 16, 2016, 11:39 am

      Ha, I can relate a bit. I have several friends who tout the importance of early bedtimes, and the research that goes with it. Their kids sleep 7:30 to 7:30. I think that’s great. I feel mom-guilt. My kids don’t go to bed until 9 or 9:30 pm (sometimes later).

      As a side note, I am asleep before my toddler 5 nights out of 7. He still naps at daycare, for 1.5 hours. So, I fall asleep at 9 or 9:30 pm and he’s asleep at 9:45 pm. I literally get no “peace” at night. I guess I’m okay with that. I can’t complain that he naps at daycare. Why *wouldn’t* he want to be awake longer with his 3 favorite people? Playing games and talking and tickling and snuggling. He gets picked up at 5, and we get home at 5:30. Dinner is at 6:30. 7:30 bedtime would be way too early.

      I do get some peace and quiet for 45 minutes in the YMCA swimming pool, 2x a week. I’ve just given up on daily “me” time.

      Reply
    • Amy May 25, 2016, 12:09 pm

      Kristin, I think you can have both a break and quality learning time for your kids at night. I have five kids and they all have to be in bed by 8 p.m. but they can read quietly until 9 p.m. on school nights or later on weekends. We keep a decent size home library of quality books I picked up at yard sales and Goodwill and we also have library books too. There is a difference in the amount of work that goes into parenting one child versus five so I think it is important for parents to get a break so they don’t burn out.

      Reply
  • Porsególico May 16, 2016, 11:14 am

    Thanks for the article. I have been in a fight with myself for the past months, after discovering your blog. I want to make more money doing computer-related work, but I was not sure how to do it after I finish university and become a environmental engineer, so it was making me crazy.

    Now I realize that even a non-software engineer in a third-world country (Brazil) can benefit from this knowledge. But I’m considering to further develop my computer and Internet skills and work in this area after graduating – or even drop out of university if a good options appears. I’m not afraid of codes, though I just know the basics, and I would appreciate some suggestions (nice free courses on webdesign/programming, anyone??)

    I couldn’t agree more with you – it’s the most valuable skill one can possess, and it’s virtually free. Every hour of playing with screws, struggling to make programs work in my old Pentium II and figuring out solutions to its poor performance when running Windows XP has paid me several bucks over time. Now I can fix most hardware-related issues and handle almost any program I put my hands on.

    I have also tried to make some dollars with internet-based translation services (got $15 for about 250 words before the demand was gone – no one needs to translate much text to Portuguese these days), a YouTube channel (it took me 3 years to make $100, isn’t worth the effort but it’s still there), some online surveys (never managed to put my hands on a cent)… Not very efficient, but it proved me it’s possible to make money online, and now I want to take this to the next level with some Mustachian advice.

    Reply
    • truth-hurtz May 16, 2016, 4:31 pm

      Since you wanted some advice: There was a time a little over a year ago when I thought I might be losing my job and was looking for a way to supplement my income. I stumbled across the whole “Internet of Things”, which lead me to “The Electric Imp”. While my job solidified and I never did anything with it, I figured I could make an easy $40K a year part time by running seminars on HOW to program for The Electric Imp. And the Internet of Things certainly has wide application in the environmental world.

      Reply
    • Betsey May 17, 2016, 4:30 am

      Check out freecodecamp.org as a really great community to learn coding with for free. You end up in partnership with nonprofits for portfolio projects. Win-win!

      Reply
      • Porsególico May 19, 2016, 5:23 pm

        I just created an account, that’s exactly what I was looking for! Thank you very much!!

        Reply
  • Lena May 16, 2016, 11:21 am

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m debating taking Tiny Eivy out of school so that she will have more time to explore the world and fiddle with technology. I don’t think that our public schools focus on the right skills for success. Memorizing facts and doing pages of equations which you might retain for a few months has nothing on figuring out how to build the tallest structure out of rolled up newspaper.

    Reply
  • Marcia May 16, 2016, 11:21 am

    I think this is pretty fascinating. Because of course, “the experts” tell us that kids these days have too much time with electronics.

    And I wonder. I make an effort to limit my kids’ electronics. But…my 10 year old likes computers, and video games, and likes to program (he also likes baseball and chess and math). Am I ruining him by giving him access to electronics? Even my 3 year old knows how to work the computer (except he cannot type in his password).

    As far as how far behind companies are – I work for a tech company, and our databases are terrible. I think we have five home-built separate ones and they don’t talk to each other. On the other hand, I’m getting better at accessing the data and trying to match it all up.

    I also feel better now about my kids’ late nights and sleepovers.

    And on “figuring it out for himself”. I have to say – my son’s in the math club at school. When he does the homework, he drives me crazy with first, whining “it’s too hard, I don’t understand”. Second, the meanness “see, even you don’t know how to do it”. (Dude, I know math, just let me read the problem!!.) And third, gently (or not) guiding him though it. Same goes when my husband helps him, though husband is the volunteer math club teacher.

    But…when he’s in the school setting and my husband is teaching, and he just tells the kids to do it – as a group or individually, he rocks it! He works well under pressure. But with us around? Sheesh. Still trying to work our way through that one.

    As a kid, I took classes in science and math far above my parents, so they never helped with homework. I had to figure it out on my own. Also, JUST read an article on techinsider about how parents set their kids up for success. Some similarities.

    Reply
  • grenzbegriff May 16, 2016, 11:21 am

    My story follows the same theme.

    I was homeschooled which gave me lots more time messing around on the computer. I was into computer games, learned to mod, and eventually simple modding of game data files turned into scripting and coding and eventually making games myself. This programming experience led to one of those lucrative software engineering jobs and I’ll be FI by 27 or 28.

    I don’t play games anymore but that was my onramp.

    I was fortunate to not have TV or videogame consoles, only PC games. Admittedly I spent a *massive* amount of time during school and college on the computer by myself when other kids were being social with each other. It seems to have worked out for me, I learned about the outside world through the internet, and have learned social skills and become comfortable with myself as a person since moving out to the real world. Actually, maybe all that time on the internet I was learning a variant of social skills — by being with other people on voice or text chat and forums all the time, I learned to communicate well which has been invaluable.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2016, 11:32 am

      Neet story, Grenz.

      As a Dad and kind of the extrovert of the family, I try to balance my son’s love of computers and video games by facilitating outdoor time and lots of people hanging around the house. We have limits on video game time, much softer limits on programming or reading or science videos, and no limits on friend time. Then we host a lot of parties where kids run wild all over the house, yard, and park nearby.

      I’m hoping this works – I remember my own parents’ parties when I was a kid very fondly, and my high school gatherings were even better.

      Reply
      • grenzbegriff May 16, 2016, 11:46 am

        Yeah I think I’d have loved that more as a kid and probably been better for it.

        I was fortunate to find my way to good parts of the internet, too, I can imagine worse outcomes for a kid spending all their time on the computer.

        If you’re really enjoying your son that’s probably the biggest thing you can give him — cause he’ll know. I know my favorite times as a kid were definitely when my dad obviously was enjoying me whether we were doing something together or me just sharing what I was up to. And knowing he actually liked me the way I was, I never felt the need to rebel in any way. Which probably spared me from some years of anguish. :)

        Reply
  • Norm May 16, 2016, 11:27 am

    You hit a couple of my sweet spots here. Great point about car dealerships. My wife worked with car dealers for a while. They are a very protective bunch. They will do anything to keep the status quo, because it’s worked out so well for them so far. Contractors are the same way. There’s no incentive to change.

    Of course, whenever we hire a contractor, we end up going with the company that has a good scheduling system and actually shows up when they say they will, even if they cost more. My wife and I are both 34, and I’m thinking many our age and younger are the same way, so things will probably have to change.

    I was going to reply to that Atlantic article too. I think on the large picture, he’s right. The financial system is becoming more and more tilted out of the middle class’ favor, without making sure people get the education needed to succeed in the new environment. Which comes back to your point about computers. I have a financial degree, but all of the practical, personal finance stuff I’ve learned on my own. Maybe we need an MMM clone in every school locality.

    I also just finished Quiet. I’m a huge introvert myself, and the book was crazy enlightening. And not just about what it means to be introverted, but how to make communication the most productive. The bit about office environments was particularly great.

    Reply
    • Andrew May 16, 2016, 1:02 pm

      Just wanted to mention, I work for a startup that is trying to solve this exact problem (i.e. why are we still buying cars from dealerships?). :)

      shift.com

      Reply
  • Marcia Yudkin May 16, 2016, 11:29 am

    Unfortunately, the weakness of your argument is thinking that only technology can give that kind of advantage in life.

    No matter how much access to technology I might have been given at a young age, it would not have done anything for me, because to me, technology is BORING. I put up with it.

    However, if we generalize your argument to say that kids can find *some* passion early in life that gives them a lifelong advantage, then I agree.

    For me, the medium was words. At every step in my career, I have had an advantage because I had a passion for words, going way beyond even the average bookworm. I won’t go into the details, but trust me that I could write my autobiography around this theme.

    For someone else, the passion might be for spatial relations (from Lego to architecture).

    Tech is only one vehicle of a life advantage. Parents should encourage kids to find their own passion, whatever it happens to be.

    Reply
    • Kendall May 17, 2016, 1:33 pm

      Passion alone is not enough, especially now. The great thing about understanding technology well is that it magnifies ANY passion someone might have, to be 1000x more effective than it might have been…. even words, alone being able to write well is great but if you can also blog, or understand how to build websites to broadcast your words to millions… that is amazingly useful. And that’s just on the creating side of the equation, there is a whole world of educational enhancement opportunity the more you understand and can work with technology…

      There are so many deferent ways to use technology and so many people working to make technology more accessible, these days it does not have to be boring at all. Especially so if technology is researched as a way to expand on a passion you have.

      Reply
    • MrFrugalChicago May 17, 2016, 3:31 pm

      Sorry, we can go down the street from me and find a ton of kids with a PASSION for theatre. They work at Starbucks during the day, and do one show for minimum wage on the weekends at the local improv theatre.

      You need passion, but you also need marketability. Tech has very high marketability. If you can find a passion somewhere in it, you will win.

      Reply
      • Marcia Yudkin May 17, 2016, 11:46 pm

        I’m confused by a lot of the comments in this thread. I thought part of the point of the Mustache philosophy is that money isn’t everything. Money is just a means to a happier life. So why are people measuring careers by how much money people in them make?

        Reply
        • Melissa May 18, 2016, 3:57 pm

          I agree with both Marcia and the others. Your passion may not be technology, but if you’re good enough and work hard enough, you’ll still succeed.

          On the other hand, if you have tech aptitude, it’s a surer path to money. Money’s not the only measure of success, but it’s reassuring.

          Reply
  • OmahaSteph May 16, 2016, 11:36 am

    See, this is where parents are faced with deciding among a number of challenges that I don’t think our parents (definitely not our grandparents) had to contend with. We’re told to not give kids screentime because it will short-circuit their brains, shrink their attention spans, etc. Set them free outside or hand them a book, Legos, etc. But then if they don’t get screentime, they don’t get the opportunity to become tech-saavy. Obviously it’s up to us as parents to decide what’s too much and what’s not enough of [fill-in-the-blank], but with all the opposing schools of thought, it’s confusing and worrying to say the least.

    Reply
  • Mary May 16, 2016, 11:42 am

    I heard Neal Gabler on NPR. I had to turn it off because I was yelling at the radio and it was affecting my driving.

    Reply
    • Alison May 18, 2016, 11:59 am

      This comment made me laugh. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve done this exact thing, I’d have an $100 for retirement.

      Reply
      • Alison May 18, 2016, 12:01 pm

        **An EXTRA $100 for retirement.

        Reply
  • Jeff May 16, 2016, 11:53 am

    I’d say an unusually deep knowledge of just about anything can be your ticket to the good life. Either you get good enough at something that you can do it better (and therefore charge more) or you can do it faster/cheaper (so you can make more per hour or job). But programming is an excellent example of where there’s so much opportunity for scale that your efforts can be multiplied by a value approaching infinity.

    The headwinds for technology are

    1) the older baby boomer generation (your concrete delivery guy) simply isn’t going to adopt the technology. We have to wait for that generation to give up control of the steering wheel.
    2) a lot of ready-made software solutions are coming out that can solve problems for most businesses without the need for an expensive custom solution.

    Reply
  • Gray05 May 16, 2016, 11:55 am

    I wasn’t fortunate enough to grow up in the earliest days of personal computing but I did benefit from the technology available. Our families first computer was an XPS with a 400 MHz CPU and 15k rpm SCSI hard drives. After a while I had my own desktop and later a fancier desktop my uncle built me for learning to program.

    While I quickly became frustrated trying to figure out Perl, I was constantly taking my computer apart and trying to figure out how it worked. Later, in college I became obsessed with building my own desktop. Minium wage got me there eventually. This all led to me becoming an electrical engineer. I even decided to give programming a try in college and had more patience that time around.

    While I decided against going into VLSI or chip design, my degree has provided easily available high income since I graduated. That education and my experience working on computers are what provide the problem solving skills I use today for making a table, fixing the HVAC at home, or managing my finances. The world is a less daunting place for engineers. Problem solving is a transferable skill.

    Reply
  • Gregory May 16, 2016, 12:08 pm

    I think it is important, and can be a very good boost to kids’ future happiness, to facilitate children making things — physical, tangible things — with their hands (and eyes and minds and hearts).

    It can be almost anything, from wooden objects to home-made musical instruments to artistic items (paintings, silk screening, sculpture, ceramics, stacking stone walls, …)

    Get your hands on physical objects and manipulate them, gradually with more skill, and your mind will form neural pathways that can make you smarter.

    Bonus: when learning a new skill or craft, try to do it with your off hand. If you are right-handed, and you are learning to chisel letters into stone, try using your left hand to hold the chisel, for example. Again, this can, I believe, re-wire your neural pathways a bit in a way that makes you smarter.

    Reply
    • Gregory May 16, 2016, 12:10 pm

      Correction: … try using your left hand to hold the *mallet*, I mean.

      Reply
  • Alex May 16, 2016, 12:17 pm

    Totally agree on the unlimited access to computers and Internet as the best approach for education. However, I think the value of networking in the elite schools is underestimated. Beeing able to hang out with Stanford students sometimes pays for that in the future.

    Reply
  • Frugal Bazooka May 16, 2016, 12:19 pm

    i agree with the hands off approach to raising kids. Thankfully my parents gave me a lot of freedom to roam the neighborhood and beyond, to experiment, to experience things without being protected from the consequences. I took plenty of lumps, but I also learned much about how to navigate beyond the classroom.
    I think the most important lessons I learned from all that freedom was to be open to new ideas and new people.
    I fear government bureaucracy is stepping in to take over that role of protecting us from ourselves.

    Reply
  • Tony May 16, 2016, 12:23 pm

    Agreed with everything (as usual) except the music lessons. I know you feel you did well being self-taught, but it’s simply not the case with most people. An immersion in the arts accompanied with technological training helps the brain make connections that are beyond explanation in this comment box. I know how committed to logic and science you are, MMM, so i urge you to look into this.

    Reply
  • AW May 16, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Mr. MM, good stuff. You bring back some wonderful memories. My sister and I were blessed with the lesser Commodore Vic 20… We saved up to purchase the cassette tape drive so we could record our programs and games, as typing the basic code after every boot-up got old… We were only allowed computer time in the evenings. We also went to the only school in our small rural mid-west town. I learned about electric motors and light bulbs from my father at 5 years old, pulled lots of weeds, road our bikes until dusk, swam in a brown muddy pond, and had a glorious childhood! I feel like I had an ideal life education.

    Our metropolitan lives for our children are dramatically different but there are great education opportunities everywhere.

    Reply
  • RobS May 16, 2016, 12:26 pm

    You may get a kick out of what some kids in Ethiopia did when given laptops by OLPC (One Laptop Per Child):

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/506466/given-tablets-but-no-teachers-ethiopian-children-teach-themselves/

    Most media coverage of that organization seemed to put down the program since the effects on literacy and scholastic achievement have been rather small, but the ability of the kids to learn and interact with technology may pay big dividends down the line.

    Reply
    • Dee May 18, 2016, 8:14 pm

      I purchased three of those when they came out, so got to donate and additional 3. BEST LITTLE LAPPY EVER. Loved having Scratch on it! Great programming language to let youngsters loose upon.

      Reply
  • Doug May 16, 2016, 12:29 pm

    As a web developer, I agree with you on computer literacy, but I see something missing that is far more valuable than learning to code. Learning to read, and learning to read quickly, and accurately is a far more valuable basic skill.

    With the reading skill that I was trained to have in home school, I was able to take college courses at the age of 15 and was far ahead of others in the same class. With the ability read I was able to devour large numbers of programming texts and learn highly sought after skills. Yes, access to computers at an early age was a big advantage for me, but just being taught to read well, and having that emphasized early in life was far more valuable than just learning computers.

    My computer time was limited growing up, but I also grew up in a home where we didn’t even have a TV until I was 10 and when we did it was strictly limited. One of my fondest memories growing up was when the local library went from a 10 book limit to a 99 book limit. That love of reading fostered my skill in programming and also allows me to comb through a computer interface looking for clues and reading menus at a speed few people I’ve met can keep up with. Today, my love of computers has me in demand for six-figure jobs and I’m able to travel the world and work remotely, thanks I believe in large part to my parents placing a strong value on reading and limiting my TV consumption. (another strike against TV is the high monthly costs that most people pay for access to most TV programming)

    Reply
    • Jay X May 17, 2016, 12:34 am

      Amen brother! Reading skills and being able to find what you need, fast can take you a long way. A complementary skill is the ability to scan something quickly and determine that it’s not what you need.

      If you can read fast you can appear knowledgeable about more things than the average person, which in turn makes you seem smarter. Then you just have to work on being judicious so you don’t become the “well actually” guy to everyone. :-)

      Reply
  • Angelle Conant May 16, 2016, 12:31 pm

    In regards to this line, “Millions or billions of dollars of land and inventory in every single city, devoted to.. letting people see cars they could easily buy online and have delivered?”
    Have you heard about Carvana.com? We just bought our new-to-us Nissan Leaf there. It took us all of 20 minutes and we never left the couch. They even have a 7 day no-questions-asked money back guarantee after the car is delivered.
    We tried finding a local Leaf on Craigslist first but didn’t have any luck so we thought we’d give Carvana a try. Super easy experience. Which can be dangerous for a non-Mustachian – they make it super easy to lock into a long term car loan, but for a Mustachian, it was a breeze.
    By the way, I’m not a Carvana rep just a long time reader.

    Reply
  • Angelle Conant May 16, 2016, 12:35 pm

    In regards to your line about the stupidity of car dealerships: Have you heard about Carvana.com? We just bought our new-to-us Nissan Leaf there. It took us all of 20 minutes and we never left the couch. They even have a 7 day no-questions-asked money back guarantee after the car is delivered.
    We tried finding a local Leaf on Craigslist first but didn’t have any luck so we thought we’d give Carvana a try. Super easy experience. Which can be dangerous for a non-Mustachian – they make it super easy to lock into a long term car loan, but for a Mustachian, it was a breeze.
    By the way, I’m not a Carvana rep just a long time reader.

    Reply
  • Rob May 16, 2016, 12:39 pm

    I think another huge advantage is not only knowing how to read, but liking to read. Couple that with being comfortable on a computer and you have ridiculous amounts of knowledge that will outpace most people over a lifetime. Think of all the things you read: Reddit, blogs, books (digital and paper), recommendations for new books, etc. The desire to seek out new knowledge and the ability to act on it is a massive, massive advantage.

    As a small counterpoint to your point, in tech-saturated areas, it is often advantageous to have comfort with old-school communications methods. Tutoring online is fiercely competitive, but tutoring in real life will pay $50 an hour and all you have to do is walk around a beautiful college campus and staple up some papers. I got an apartment by searching online for apartment complexes in my area and calling them on the phone to ask if any leases were expiring soon. Everyone that took online applications had 0 apartments available, but if you go old school you will be at an advantage over tech-savvy millenials who are uncomfortable on the phone, or never think to use it.

    Reply
    • prefixcactus May 16, 2016, 6:45 pm

      Good point (even though I’m one of those “tech-savvy millenials who are uncomfortable on the phone, or never think to use it”). But it’s probably not about the communication methods, but the ability to work with people. If you can only interact with machines and you’re in a situation where they are in charge and with unfavorable rules, well, oops. But if you find the person behind the machine, those rules and everything else will suddenly become negotiable.
      (see also: The magic of Thinking Big)

      Reply
    • win May 17, 2016, 7:40 pm

      How do you find students to tutor? Does the college recommend you?

      Reply
  • Giovina May 16, 2016, 12:40 pm

    I was lucky too, growing up I went to a publicly funded French Catholic school which allowed me to become bilingual and it was a safe environment. I can’t say it was super stimulating academically because I always felt it catered more to the average student and left smart kids bored, but that’s just the way it was, and in high school there were academic and applied streams that separated the kids who were going to university from the rest. I did have a lot of advantages as a kid, my parents always enrolled me in swimming lessons, dance, gymnastics, but they were all offered at the community centre at a low price and I wasn’t in an overwhelming amount of activities. I did get piano lessons for several years, and I complained about it back then but I’m glad I learned those skills. Most importantly, my parents saved for my education which helped me minimize the loans I had to take out and I was able to pay them off quickly. We were a middle class family and we didn’t live beyond our means but I think my parents were strategic about where they chose to spend money on me and my sister. My dad said he wished he had the money to send me to a private school but I am glad I didn’t go to one, I don’t think I would have met as much variety of people from different walks of life, and I think it’s a luxury that isn’t needed in a country that has great public schools. My parents read to me from a young age, encouraged curiosity, took me on road trips and we didn’t have a TV. All this shaped who I am today and I’m in a pretty good place.

    Reply

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

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

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