The Joy of Self Employment

When I retired from real work back in 2005, I inadvertently crossed a very interesting divide in our society. It was the canyon that separates the People with Real Jobs from the Self-Employed.

As it turns out, I was entering a sparsely-populated area. Only about 1 in 9 workers in the US is self-employed, a figure that is lower than Canada and most European countries. Those numbers surprise me since we’re supposedly an entrepreneurial country with over 60 percent of all new jobs coming from small companies with under 500 employees.

But yet now that I AM self-employed, I seem to hang around with and meet almost 50% self-employed people. Maybe it’s my neighborhood, which is a bit of an earthy and less rat-race oriented clump of historical housing. Or maybe it’s just the tendency of entrepreneurial people to select a like-minded group of friends.

But by joining this minority, I’ve gained a very interesting new perspective on what it means to have a job and to earn money in exchange for “work”.

When I had a job, I always thought it was a pretty special thing.

“Ooo, I wouldn’t want to lose my Job. What if I could never get another one?”

“These job thingies sure are mysterious.. I show up for work each day and type on a computer, and they magically deliver great gobs of money to my checking account. How do they do it?”

“I wonder how jobs even get created? I don’t really know, since all I’ve ever done is take jobs rather than make them.”

As a member of the plain old Employee class, I was always curious about the mysterious world of the Self Employed Business Owners.

“Imagine, being your own boss!”, I would think. “Why, you could set your own working hours, or even your own working Seasons!” “Man, the first thing I would do is strike Mondays entirely from the work schedule.”

So I started checking out library books about starting one’s own business. They dealt with the tax laws, the trade-offs between Corporations and simpler partnerships like the LLC. It sounded fairly complicated at the time but I soaked it all up and when it came right down to it, starting a business really only required these two steps:

  • Go to the IRS website and apply for an employer identification number (EIN)
  • Go to your state’s website and register your business with the state. This may involve submitting a signed document or two and a small fee (it was $50 here in Colorado).

    Hints: To find your state website, just do a Google search for <your state> register a business. Also, for your first business you probably just want to use the LLC organization style .. it is flexible, simple, and you can change it in the unlikely event that you ever need to.

Boom, you have a business! You can use the new EIN to get a bank account in the name of your business, to file business tax returns at the end of each year, and things can grow as much as you like from that point.

So I followed the steps and started my own business, just before retiring from real work. Initially my new company seemed just an imaginary concept. But then a sense of reassuring power started to seep in.

People started asking me for help with things, and then asking “How much do I owe you?”

At that point, I would create a quick spreadsheet telling the person how much money I wanted them to give me, and they would give me exactly that amount!

It seemed amazing to me that I could hang around in someone’s house to set up a computer network, or play with advanced power tools in the garage to build eco-friendly coffins for a local company, or even answer questions about the power consumption of an electric vehicle, and receive real money for these services – valid money which I could then trade for groceries.

At this point, I realized I would never go hungry. If I really want the amazing firehose of cash that full-time professional employment provides, I can go get one of those jobs. If I just want occasional boosts of cash and/or self-esteem, I can crank up or down the self-employment schedule as needed. Since I don’t have much need for regular income, the self-employment gig is really just a reassuring companion. Self-employment is a big muscular friend who follows you around and smiles a lot, but cracks his knuckles and lets out a very loud 30Hz growl if Life ever attempts to get up in your face.

My amazement at getting paid for doing random fun projects around the town continues to this day. But yet I do not have any of the burdens of a real job. When I wake up every morning, my only obligation is to the coffee machine and the frying pan, to make the family a nice breakfast while they play in the living room or the garden. When it rains or snows, I laugh heartily and grab a good book or a vacuum cleaner and watch the storm through the comfort of double-pane windows. When the sun shines upon the Rocky Mountains the other 300 days of the year, I take great pleasure in mixing bicycle errands and completely random local work into my mostly full-time parenting schedule.

Meanwhile, almost everything in life has become tax-deductible. The main things I spend money on besides groceries are: tools, a good computer or camera occasionally, and cell phone and internet service. All of these are required by the business, so the business pays for them. With this newfound additional blog writing hat in the closet, I might even be able to write off some travel expenses in the future.

And all the while, there is nobody sitting in their corner office clucking their tongue and checking their watch and wondering when that Money Mustache lad is ever going to get to the office.

If you already have worked for yourself, you know what I’m talking about. But if you’ve only ever been an employee, you might have an unnecessarily fearful view of your financial future. An employee does not have complete control of their income stream, and for most of us, lack of control causes fear.

Mr. Money Mustache’s neverending prescription for curing fear is gaining more control over all aspects of your life.  Spending less money instantly increases your control. Building up investments that provide passive income gives you even more control. And starting your own business, even if it’s just for some learning and dabbling on the side while you keep your day job, brings you even more of that happy, coffee machine and frying pan, laughing on the back patio with a giant homebrew, Control.


  • Jim June 8, 2011, 9:36 am

    Health insurance benefits are not tied to employment in Canada, thus the risk of starting your own business is greater in the US. People work for companies they hate here in the US for that reason.

    • Roger June 8, 2011, 10:18 am

      Yeah..the US healthcare system sucks!

      However, you can get reasonable insurance by buy a high deductible insurance policy and fund a Health Savings Account (HSA).

      • Tammy June 9, 2011, 1:54 am

        those with pre-existing condition have problems getting insurance without getting the group coverage from a large employer.

        • Scott June 29, 2015, 6:06 am

          Fixed this.
          – Obama

          • RetiredA37 December 3, 2015, 8:52 pm

            For sure. Having been self-employed since 2001, there has been no Federal legislation that has affected my families situation as much as Obamacare. Our health insurance costs went down to less than 1/3 of what they were pre-Obamacare.

            This is especially noteworthy for those who have a Money Mustache AND can ‘control’ their income. One can keep their income at a high subsidy level and low payment level by putting everything they earn over a certain amount into an IRA, HSA, and or Simple IRA to create a low income for themselves.

            The other way to handle this, is to simply work less, which is what my wife and I have chosen to do. We can still keep putting away some for increasing the retirement nest egg.

            BTW, MMM – I think a whole series could be done on the lengthening one’s mustache through business ownership and the tax write-offs that go with it.

            • Jennifer September 29, 2016, 12:06 pm

              I am also self employed but I have not found an affordable way to get health insurance. How are you using Obamacare to your advantage. I found coverage to be very expensive for myself and son after the laws changed. I feel like I am just doing it wrong. Would love anyone’s input. :)

    • Christie Holroyd September 12, 2016, 1:14 pm

      If you retire too early, are you eligible for social security and Medicare? I was under the impression both of these programs are based on years of employment to qualify.

      • Brooke September 13, 2016, 5:12 pm

        Self-employment still counts toward Social Security and Medicare. You just get to pay your half (what usually comes out of your paycheck as FICA) and the employer’s half (although that half is tax deductible….just to make things complicated). https://faq.ssa.gov/ics/support/KBAnswer.asp?questionID=3815&hitOffset=119+94+93+92+70+52+49+39&docID=4700

        Every $1260 earned a year earns you a credit, up to 4 a year, you need to earn 40 to qualify. If you’ve worked for ‘the man’ for 10 years, you probably already qualify. https://faq.ssa.gov/link/portal/34011/34019/Article/3829/How-do-I-earn-Social-Security-credits-and-how-many-do-I-need-to-qualify-for-benefits

      • Craig May 11, 2018, 11:40 am

        Hi Christie,

        I realize your question was years ago but, I thought I’d respond in case it would help anyone else.

        There are two basic parts to your social security benefit calculation (for wage-earners): Age at which you receive benefits, and the amount based on your “full retirement age”. For folks who were born in 1955 and after, you can take social security as early as 62, with a 30% cut in your regular benefit, up to as late at age 70 with a 24% increase in your regular benefit. [People born in 1954 and earlier have a somewhat more generous range of -25% to +32%.] The goal with that range of adjustments is to approximate an equal value in the overall amount you receive from SS (based on life expectancy). If you draw for fewer years, you get more per year.

        So, your question was more about: How is the “regular full benefit” calculated? If you were born in 1955 or later, full retirement age is 67. So, the percentage alluded to above is 100% at 67. The formula takes your “35 highest earning years”, and increases the earlier years for inflation (based on CPI-W) – For an apples-to-apples comparison. After each calendar year’s worth of earnings taxed for social security purposes (which excludes any exempted amounts for things like health insurance, and is capped each year – For 2018, the cap is $128,200. In 2000, it was $76,200. The cap is also increased by CPI-W). So, if I earned $76,200 or more in 2000, social security taxes would have been capped based on $76,200. To scale that up to the equivalent in 2018, it would be $128,200. So, if I earned at the max all those years, my benefit formula would adjust all of those years for inflation … basically 19 years at $128,200 (in 2018 dollars).

        But, let’s take a more realistic view – Let’s say that someone who turns 62 today earned $70,000 in 2017, and back in 2000 they earned $41,600. And let’s say that they had salary increases from 2001 – 2017 that exactly equaled CPI-W. They would be credited with 18 years of earnings at $70,000 “in 2018 dollars”. Let’s say that they had earned the equivalent of that for the 12 years prior as well. So, they’ve had a career spanning 30 years, at $70k in 2018 dollars.

        At that point, you need to add in enough “zeros” to get to 35 years. The benefit formula is based on your 35 “highest earning years”. If you only worked 30, you add in zeros. Over their working career, they earned a total of $2,100,000 in social security-taxable wages, in 2018 dollars. If you’re still with me, hang in there a little longer.

        So, to divide that out based on 35 years, it’s just $2,100,000/35 = $60,000. Basically, they paid into social security the same amount someone earning $60k over 35 years (in 2018 dollars). It’s just that they did it in 30 years instead (at a higher salary). Because they paid in the same amount as someone earning $60k (over 35 years), THAT will be the basis of their benefit calculation. [You get out based on what you paid in.]

        What the social security folks do is turn that into a monthly amount – So, divide by 12: $60,000/12 = $5,000/mo.

        In order to help lower-earners, the social security formula is much more generous at the lower end (so people don’t starve, basically). There are three “bend points”: 90%, 32%, and 15%. At this point, it’s kind of like the tax code – Everyone who pays taxes starts at 10% (even Warren Buffet). So, people at the low end start getting benefits based on 90%. Then, up to about the median income level, the next “bracket” of benefit is based on 32%. For higher earners, it caps out at 15%.

        For 2018, someone with that $5,000/mo “benefit base” would calculate their “full retirement benefit” based on:

        $0 – $895 at 90%
        $896 – $5,000 at 32% (the middle bracket keeps going to $5,397 – After that, it’s 15%).

        So, the benefit would be: $895 times 90%, plus $4,105 times 32% = $2,119.10/mo.

        If they decided to take benefits at 62, they’d have to take a 30% cut: $2,119.10 minus $635.73 = $1,483.37.

        If they took it at 67, they’d get 100%: So, $2,119.10/mo.

        If they waited until 70, they’d get a 24% bump: $2,119.10 plus $508.58 = $2,627.68.

        For “early retirement” folks, you could assume someone with 20 years of full-time income totaling say $1,170,000 ($58,500/yr). Then, let’s say they earned social security-taxable income of $20k/yr for 20 years. That’s a total of 40 years, so you have to exclude 5 of the lower earning years to get to a max of 35 years. So, add in $20k for 15 years to the $1,170,000 = $1,470,000 total. Dividing that by 35 = $42,000/yr. Divide that by 12 = $3,500.

        Apply the formula: $895 times 90% plus $2,605 times 32% = $1,639.10 at 67 ($1,147.37 at 62, or $2,032.48 at 70).

        If they didn’t work and earn that additional $20k, it would be based on the $1,170,000 = $2,786/mo: $895 times 90% plus $1,891 times 32% = $1,410.62 at 67. So, an increase of $228.48/mo for working part-time (and paying taxes for another 15+ years).

        At 7.65%, that extra $300k in earnings would result in additional payroll taxes totaling = $22,950. $22,950/$228.48 = About 100 months to get the money back (which would be around age 75 – after that, it’s gravy).

        I know that math gets a little “weedy” but, that’s how the social security benefit calculation works. [Sorry for the long post – Hope is was helpful.]

  • Jenny June 8, 2011, 9:38 am

    We have an EIN from being an employer for our nanny/CNA. Is that the same EIN we could use for a business of any kind or would it require a new one in the name of the business? Right now it’s just in our names. My dad was/is self-employed my whole life, and it was a really fun childhood, actually. At times it was riskier or lean, but he loved what he did/does, and sometimes there was more, but now I certainly see the advantages!

  • Robert Muir June 8, 2011, 10:59 am

    Excellent article as usual MMM. I just wanted to add the following,

    1. An EIN is NOT required. It’s only necessary if you think you’re going to be hiring employees. Otherwise, you can just operate as a sole prop. under your SSN.

    2. While you can write off lots of stuff, make sure you turn a profit on the business or the IRS will call it a hobby and disallow the expenses.

    • Bakari Kafele June 8, 2011, 11:49 am

      As long as you aren’t hiring employees (contractors are ok) the only paperwork you need to file is a “doing business as” fictitious business name, and a local business license.

    • Kevin M June 8, 2011, 12:32 pm

      Agree with both of these. I was going to mention #1, but you beat me to it!

      Also, in most states, if you’re the sole owner of the LLC it is treated as a “disregarded entity” for tax purposes and you simply file either a Schedule C, E or F with your individual tax return.

      I’m a lifetime employee (13 years anyway) who has recently realized many of these things you talk about. I’ve started hanging around some entrepreneurs and it is pretty fun. Just being in the room and hearing them talk about their businesses is infectious. If I didn’t have kids and a mortgage I’d probably have started my own business a couple years ago. For now it happens during my free time. It does take awhile to re-train your brain.

      • Roger June 8, 2011, 2:20 pm

        If you treat the LLC as “disregarded entity”, do you still get the personal liability protection that normal LLC provides?

        • Kevin M June 8, 2011, 2:46 pm

          Yes, it doesn’t change the entity itself, just how it is taxed.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache June 8, 2011, 12:50 pm

      Good to know – thanks for the info everyone! I had to look into this to learn more.

      MMM and I are a partnership LLC, which requires us to have an EIN.

      However, it seems that a single member LLC or a sole proprietorship does not require one unless: (1) you pay wages to one or more employees, or (2) you file pension or excise tax returns. If neither of these conditions apply, you can use your SSN as your EIN.

    • MMM June 8, 2011, 10:11 pm

      Thanks Robert! Mr. Money Mustache ALWAYS turns a profit ;-)

    • RetiredAt37 December 3, 2015, 8:55 pm

      Most banks now require an EIN to open an account…bank in 2011, not as much…but now – it seems to be needed. It is quick. I have got it while in the waiting for the bank manager to finish the paperwork on the account (applying and receiving the EIN on my phone). And…its free.

  • No Debt MBA June 8, 2011, 11:00 am

    I think as a self-employed person you’re only supposed to deduct things like the camera, laptop, etc to the extent that you use them for business purposes. So if you use your camera for business 80% of the time and 20% for personal you deduct 80%. Do deductions work differently for a business?

    • Mrs. Money Mustache June 8, 2011, 1:06 pm

      It seems that the main distinction is whether the business is truly a business or simply a hobby, as Robert pointed out. See: http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=186056,00.html.

      Once you’ve established you’re a business, it’s still not that clear. I guess technically you’re supposed to deduct by the percent of use, as you point out, per this IRS document: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-prior/p535–2010.pdf.

      We certainly do this for big expenses like our car and home. However, other web sites seem to indicate that if you’re a photographer, for example, you can deduct the full amount of a new camera, provided your business is not a hobby.

      I recommend be-friending an accountant if you plan to become self-employed. :)

      • Kevin M June 8, 2011, 1:22 pm

        Or just ask me. (I’m a CPA.)

        In general, stuff like homes, cars and computers are tricky because they can be easily transferred between business and personal use. The best thing you can do is KEEP GOOD RECORDS to document your use if you think you can deduct something. If you try to use an auto for business and deduct mileage but don’t have a mileage log to back it up, you won’t be able to claim anything.

        • Mrs. Money Mustache June 8, 2011, 1:29 pm

          Excellent!! Thanks Kevin. Want to be my new best friend? ;)

          • Kevin M June 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

            Sure, if MMM takes me on as his apprentice (he’ll know what I’m talking about).

  • amanda June 8, 2011, 11:42 am

    I’ll be self employed in 1.5 weeks and will definitely follow the steps for EIN etc. Thank you for posting! Great read :)

    • No Debt MBA June 8, 2011, 12:55 pm

      You can also use your EIN to set up a solo 401k which allows you to save more than either an employer 401k or a SEP IRA.

      • amanda June 8, 2011, 2:19 pm

        awesome! will do! thanks

  • Rainbow Rivers June 8, 2011, 11:43 am

    I think you may really enjoy a book called “Unjobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook” by Michael Fogler if you have not already read it, a must read for fresh perspectives for anyone wanting to leave the 9-5 world .

  • Jim June 8, 2011, 2:14 pm

    here is a cash tip to make thousands in a weekend … drive a pedicab at a big event such as the superbowl or a big music festival … i speak from experience :)

    • Laurie March 22, 2013, 11:23 am

      Or you can get a bike with a cooler on it and sell popsicles and drinks. I know someone who does that at festivals.

    • Mindy April 15, 2017, 4:47 pm

      Jim, how much do you charge per ride? Do you need any kind of license/permit to do this?

  • GL June 9, 2011, 8:20 am

    MMM, I might have missed this in one of your earlier posts, but what exactly is the nature of your business? Your description makes it sound like some sort of a handyman enterprise.

    • MMM June 9, 2011, 11:40 am

      Hi G.L. Thanks for asking!

      The article you just read sums it up as best as I can. I do assorted fun things around town and occasionally get paid for them. The most common activity is renovations – building kitchens and bathrooms for people. But I also have been known to make coffins here or there for a local green burial company, and occasionally get to dust off the computer/electrical engineering skills for some contract work. I’m also writing this blog, which thanks to occasional clicks on the Google Adsense ads, is now providing a few dollars a week and perhaps more in the future ;-)

      • Ana November 7, 2016, 9:44 pm

        Hi MMM! I know this is an old thread but I am a little confused about the business structure you talk about, and i hope you can clarify it for me. Isn’t a registered business supposed to stick to one niche/activity? How do you manage to make this wide array of activities under one same business? I would love to understand this, it could be a game changer for me! And thank you for sharing all your advice, i enjoy your blog a lot!

  • JNUrbanski June 11, 2011, 1:37 pm

    I’ve only ever had one full-time job. I’ve had my business for about twelve years, but you make it sound so easy. I am my own boss and I’m just as strict as my old one from years ago! One correction to your article: you’re required to register a business entity and file articles of organization with your state first before you get an EIN number for a corporation or LLC.

  • Alfredo July 25, 2013, 8:35 am

    Keep this style, MMM! I was really laughing loud when you described yourself laughing at the snow and when describing Self Employment as a big muscled friend! Best regards from northern Mexico, in the middle of the desert

  • Locus415 September 10, 2013, 5:21 pm

    I have had a side business since I was in college as a sole proprietor. Later as I got more contract jobs I wanted to have a more flexibility and a separate business checking account. This was all done while still having a standard full time career. The EIN has come in handy for sure. As for the tax deductions, you don’t have to turn a profit every year, just 3 of 5 for it to not be considered a business. that isn’t difficult to do as long as you are not trying to write off every meal out you have or every semi related article you buy as a business “expense.”

    As with most things legal and tax wise, your experience/tax bracket/sticking to da man ability may vary.

  • DaBears September 30, 2013, 9:40 pm

    “Meanwhile, almost everything in life has become tax-deductible. The main things I spend money on besides groceries are: tools, a good computer or camera occasionally, and cell phone and internet service. All of these are required by the business, so the business pays for them. With this newfound additional blog writing hat in the closet, I might even be able to write off some travel expenses in the future.”

    A word of advice from a newly minted accountant. In order to deduct the full cost of those items they must be used 100% for your business (no personal use). Make sure to keep any information you can documenting that otherwise things might get hairy.

  • Bunnykick2000 January 24, 2014, 11:15 pm

    Just wanted to share another perspective on self employment and one of the benefits for it (though some people won’t see it as that). Folks like to say they are their own boss when they are self employed. But in reality that isn’t the case. Being in the service industry/contractor business, now I have hundreds of micro-bosses. Great in the sense that if one fires you, then no big deal. And it is really exciting when you can FIRE one of your bosses. i usually try to fire one or two of my bosses per year that are taking up all my time and energy. Fun fun fun.

  • eurteb March 27, 2014, 12:39 pm

    Only 3 years late to the conversation found this via ‘random article’ and had a thought…
    This is a tricky one. Being self-employed IS great, I have been all my life. I have constantly been thankful for the ability to structure my weeks to be there for friends and family as well as to explore whatever experiences whenever. That being said, never forget it is A LOT of work. When it’s your primary source of income there are projects you may choose to take on because you cannot yet financially choose not to take them.
    Like you said the self-employed tend to gravitate towards each other, and thus when a post like this comes along we are there in force to support the awesomeness of the lifestyle we’ve chosen. As entrepreneurs we tend to have similar levels to which we are comfortable pushing ourselves. If a job takes an all-nighter or 5 –no problem, lots of checks this month & and none the next -no sweat. It’s fun and exciting, both reveling in the successes and learning from the mistakes.
    But it’s not for everyone.
    Nothing hurts quite like supporting/encouraging a friend in their decision to follow their talents only to find that the level of stress and instability are making them far less happy than the annoying office politics did.
    PS. I loved the March 19, 2014 ‘Get your shit together before’ article and I’d say a lot of it also applies here. It is easy to find yourself in the same pitfalls, even when you write the rules, though it takes the form of that new piece of equipment your company can’t live without and that good paying energy sucking client you’ve been hesitating to fire.

  • WillDahThrill December 25, 2014, 8:48 pm

    I found this article intriguing, but a bit confusing and lacking something (for me) important. You seem to suggest that starting a business is a good thing and show a few steps for doing it. I’m a bit confused about the hobby vs. business and profit vs. loss talk in the comments.

    Is there some immediate financial/tax benefit to me as a current employee to starting a business? If so, what exactly are these benefits? More importantly, how do you figure out what business to start?

    I’ve just started “reading from the beginning” and am loving the blog so far but this post left me wanting a bit more explanation. I realize these are big questions, maybe there is another post that narrows some of it down?

    • Popeye February 13, 2020, 8:55 am

      If what you seek is “immediate financial benefit”, being self-employed may not be for you. Immediate money is what traditional jobs are for! Building a business generally requires some patience and sacrifices.

  • Fish Taco January 16, 2015, 8:37 am

    Great article. I have just found this site and am enjoying reading through it. I have found so many things that I can relate to being self employed and working from home as well. I must admit, it has taken me a couple of years to settle into this new way of life without feeling a bit guilty and insecure about it. You hit the nail on the head about waking up with a smile and knowing that you don’t have to rush off to an office job. I enjoy extra time cleaning the house, doing projects around the house and getting rid of extra shit that I don’t need. I would be near perfect if I lived in a better area for biking!


  • Gavin July 7, 2016, 2:36 am

    Just went self-employed full time again, I loved the lifestyle before, and after six years working for others, am loving it again. Just having the ability to set your own schedule and not have a supervisor breathing down your neck makes it totally worthwhile.

    Two other neat financial benefits of being self employed, besides more free time and a higher hourly rate: Mark-ups and equipment billings. Mark ups are awesome, you get a trade discount at a supplier, then charge the customer full retail price for the materials. Free money, it almost feels like stealing, but you get over it, it’s what all stores do anyways!

    Being a contractor allows you to bill out equipment as well, it becomes a form of passive income. You charge an hourly rate (15 Euros an hour for a chainsaw, 25 for a chipper, based on local rental rates) on top of your hourly rate. It’s meant to cover depreciation, fuel and maintenance of the machine, but there is a big chunk of it that becomes profit – I worked it out to give between a 10% to 40% return on investment per year depending on the machine.

    Been reading the blog for a while now, really great articles.

  • Eldred September 12, 2016, 9:29 pm

    I’ve tried earning extra money selling items on Ebay and Amazon – total failure. I’ve also tried working on computers(building, upgrading, repairing, virus remediation) – people don’t want to pay what the service is worth. I need something else. I’ve considered real estate rehab, but you need money to make money(read: properties are too high priced to make a profit unless you can do ALL the rehab yourself)… Either that, or the only reason the property is cheap is that you have to worry about all your rehab work being stripped out at night because of the neighborhood. I don’t have any advanced degrees, nor do I have any trade school education. Interests are amateur rocketry and music(I can play guitar, bass, keys, and drums). I’m also a wannabe photographer. If I could earn a living in music or photography, that would be amazing!. But I haven’t been able to get that going. Any advice on creating a dream career at age 53?? I’m really getting tired of banging my head against the wall of the ‘daily grind’… Thanks!

    • Linda March 12, 2017, 5:51 am

      For some education in real estate go to BiggerPockets.com. It’s a quality free education and it does have books you can buy but everything is quality and inexpensive. It has members all over the US.

      • Renee April 19, 2020, 12:02 pm

        You have a very very very desirable and marketable skill: playing the guitar!!!! (and keys, and bass…)

        People pay a ton of money to learn these skills! I’d look into seeing how you can provide lessons, in-person or online.

  • Dean in Denver September 13, 2016, 7:37 am

    I realize this post was from a long time ago now, but just wanted to mention the incredible tax deferred/tax free retirement savings benefits available to the self employed…especially single member LLCs through the use of a Solo 401k. Huge percentages of your income can be moved into these vehicles (up to $53k per year) b/c you are contributing as both employer and employee. If folks are interested I can recommend a great book on the subject. It took a long time in the Google abyss to find a sophisticated (yet straight forward) and comprehensive book on the subject. Perhaps I will repost this on the FB page.

    My apologies if this topic was discussed somewhere else on the blog.

    • Sam Gribley September 19, 2016, 4:49 am

      Dean in Denver,
      Can you post the book title? I checked to see if you’d posted it on FB but didn’t find it.

  • Vicki from Nz September 20, 2016, 4:52 pm

    My father was self employed so when I started out working as a lawyer my goal was to become self employed as quickly as possible. After 4 years I went out on my own.I have since started 2 other businesses over the years when I couldn’t work as a lawyer due to raising kids. I could never work in employment again I hate being told what to do 😊

  • Ruha September 30, 2016, 7:09 am

    Chemical engineer here. I am doubtful that I could ever use my degree as a self employed individual because of low experience (5 years). Combine that with being a stay at home mom now and the need for fully remote type commissions, I know I can make an impact through lean manufacturing optimizing but I think it would be tough to kick it off the ground and keep the revenue coming. Still, it’s probably worth trying!

    On a separate topic – I’ve been wondering if we created a business entity, would we be able to write off my husband’s woodworking purchases if he started selling some of his stuff?

    • MKE January 12, 2017, 8:50 am

      Mechanical Engineer here. Never have used my MS in engineering as a self-employed person. Some people might have a hard time letting go of the titles and degrees and esteem of society and strangers. You might make more money as a self-employed office cleaner than you do as a chemical engineer. Might not. But you likely have to eat some humble pie. Self-employment requires guts, not degrees.
      And speaking of humble pie, whether MMM is a bit of a caricature or he truly has this charmed life, you can’t necessarily count on things inexplicably going your way eternally. My route to self-employment was shockingly unpleasant, and for years unprofitable. But it was preferable to profitable corporate misery. Going backwards set my millionaire plans back by a decade. Worth it. Tears dry up. Selling out is forever.
      Yes, your husband can write off his purchases. Do this immediately.

  • Bh January 9, 2017, 10:01 am

    Did you need to apply for a license or pass an exam with the state to be a remodeler/carpenter that contracts with home owners?

  • M August 11, 2017, 9:01 pm

    Dear Mr MM, I just want to say thank you. Your blog has always been a great inspiration for me for the past 5 years or so. For the past 8 years I only have one financial goal which was to pay off a mortgage debt of 280K. On 11 August 2017, the savings I have exceeds my mortgage so I am ‘debt free’!
    Now it’s time to move on to my next financial goal which is to be financially free and be self employed like you :)

  • Troy April 19, 2018, 12:24 am

    Hey MMM, as someone who is fully employed and makes higher than a 6 figure salary, I have always had a fear/mystery surrounding self employment just as you described. It’s funny because as you said, if you have skills, and if you are resourceful, you probably never would end up hungry regardless of your current job situation.

    Also, I love how I agree with pretty much 100% of what you say even if I don’t initially like it (for example riding a bike in Washington means getting rained on constantly so I am hesitant to do it, I loved riding my bike in Hawaii however, but here no thanks).

    Just wanted to say I plan on reading every article that you have written, and I am glad that you have put all your thoughts down for all to enjoy and learn from.

  • Kathrin November 15, 2018, 10:21 am

    I realise this is a really old post but I recently discovered your blog and am starting from the beginning. Had to comment on this since I did it ‚the wrong way round‘: I have never been a full time employee and jumped straight into being self employed a bit over a year ago. It‘s been great and my earnings have increased beyond my dreams – that‘s why I‘m here, learning about what to do with my savings.

    That said, there are many types of self employment, including both very poorly paid contractors and highly skilled professionals. I am a Pilates and language instructor, so somewhere in the middle. For me, I’m definitely still living off my income and have only just started putting my savings to work. So, there is more pressure to find enough work so that it adds up to a full time wage. Also, being an instructor, I have set hours when my clients want to have their lessons. Self employment is definitely possible and profitable, but depending on what type, the working schedule is also at least partly dictated by clients.

  • Josh Bastian August 5, 2019, 1:20 pm

    Hey MMM! I’ve become a huge fan of your blog and I swear every time a truck drives passed me on the rode I can hear your voice in my head just laughing at the driver. But then again I also feel a little guilty when I’m reminded that I too am driving a big chunk of metal down the road (even if it’s one of those top 10 cars for smart people).

    Anyways, I’m interested to know what books you may have been referring to in this article that helped you get started with your business(s). Or maybe you already have a nice list of all reccomended reads. I’d love to begin to develop some side gig that could supplement my income now and in retirement.

    Well keep doing what you’re doing and thanks for sharing so much of it with the world. It’s quite an inspiration!

  • Colin November 6, 2023, 6:44 pm

    It’s so wild to hear this. It’s almost inversely proportional. It seems like the moment you’re free of the reigns of the corporate world and doing the things other people tell you to do, and you start doing the things YOU want to do, you start creating value just out of your own joy.

    The weird part is that this is precisely when you start to bring MORE value to people. You start acting ENTIRELY out of enjoyment and not for the external validation and/or money.

    The tricky part seems to be how do you perform the things you enjoy while you NEED the money. How do you do the things you enjoy without the pressures of needing money even when you do need the money.
    Idk if I’m making sense but I’d love to hear yalls thoughts


Leave a Reply

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

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


welcome new readers

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

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

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets