It has been a while since we did a reader case study here on Mr. Money Mustache, although that is not for lack of submissions. The email inbox is more vibrant than ever, there are problems to be solved and 108 draft articles waiting to be finished and published. But I’ve got a really fun outdoor project on the go right now which is keeping the blog work a bit sporadic for at least another week or two.
Luckily, people are out there solving their own problems while I’m away, and I thought YOU might get some inspiration from it as well. Check out this recent story sent in by a reader we’ll call JJ:
Title: Big Fan, Free Book
I’ve always considered myself pretty financially savvy (I’m a CPA and CFO of a company), as well as relatively frugal. While all of my buddies were out buying huge homes and new Range Rovers, I was the guy who maxed out his 401K and saved ~30%-50% of his income. Not that it was all that hard – like you I was blessed with a good salary – but still, I thought I was way ahead of the game.
Then I started reading your blog
Fuck, was it motivating! In the last 9 months I have:
- dropped my annual spending from $100K to $35K (a story in itself)
- bought two rental houses, rehabbed them myself, paid cash for everything (working on finding #3 now)
- bumped up my Vanguard investments
- negotiated an arrangement to work part time from home (I hated going to work everyday). So now I make half the money for about 15 hours of work, with no 30 mile commute each way. Dropping my expenses down to $35K was key to this.
- And I’m getting tons of offers from my connections to do other work. Like you say, even in (semi) retirement, opportunities to earn income just find you
- bought personal medical insurance through Blue Cross for $140/mth (thanks for the article about that)
- bought a used hybrid bike (Trek 7.2 FX) on Craigslist, started biking regularly to the store, local parks, the lake..
- sold a ton of crap on Craigslist
- sold car #2 (actually a used Dodge pickup). Why the hell did I have two vehicles? Sheez
- sold a vacation property that I never visited (used proceeds to purchase rent house #2). While the vacation property actually appreciated, a huge opportunity cost here
- tweaked my credit cards – cancelled any with fees, got a couple with reward points
I will likely quit the job in the next 6-9 months and retire. It took reading your blog to realize, SHIT! If I just stop spending so damn much (even though I can ‘afford’ it), I don’t have to work much longer!! I feel like an idiot.
So thanks for the push to cut back my spending and get off my ass on the rent houses. I’ve been looking at residential investing for seven F’in years, but just never ‘found the time’. They’re now a key part of my early retirement plan. Dallas is a great area to invest. I spent $60K-$65K on the last two houses (3 bed 2 bath), put $20K-$25K in rehab in each one (plus a lot of sweat equity of course), renting them out for $1400-$1500. A no brainer. Let me know if you’d like to see some before and after pics. I’m kinda proud of it:)
Other details: in a relationship, one young child in a household of three in a high-rent area with great schools.
Anyway, I digress. The reason I’m emailing is about a book. I notice you have an MMM Recommendations section, but I don’t see this book on there. Beyond Wealth by Alexander Green, “The Road Map to a Rich Life”**
Dude. This book is awesome.
A few quotes:
“I feel strongly that everyone should strive for some measure of financial freedom… You can’t reach your potential or live life to the fullest if you spend your days swimming in concerns about money” (intro)
On trust – “trust is something to be built up, protected, valued, cherished, and carefully preserved. It is the one thing that changes everything.” (p30)
On greed – “our nation has a happiness fetish…much of economic misery we see today is due to the unbridled pursuit of bigger houses, fancier cars, and more exorbitant trips. The lure of consumer culture and an obsession with more is precisely what keeps so many from contentment” (p31)
On personal freedom – “freedom, after all, is not the absence of responsibility. It is the absence of restraints imposed by others. To be truly free, however, we must generally impose restraints on ourselves. That often means delayed gratification…or settling for less… or simply doing without” (p35)
On keeping up with the Jones “stop regarding life as an ongoing competition for social status. Opt out of the game – even if everyone else seems to be playing it” (p36)
He also covers topics such as negative visualization, de-cluttering your life, the importance of reading, going without TV or listening to the news, having a wealth of interests, music, etc. A very mustachian book in my opinion.
Needless to say, this email made me very happy.
I am highly impressed with JJ, and with the many other people who have made similar changes.
Let’s just revel in those numbers for a minute: he went from spending $100,000 per year, to $35,000, in less than a year. All while increasing his general life satisfaction. And meanwhile, he increased his passive income from rental houses by over $30,000 per year. Even after slicing his employment income in half, he is far wealthier now, since at this end of the spectrum where you already have more than enough, spending is far more important than income. No matter what the “earn MORE so you can spend more!” gurus will try to tell you.
Although I feel the message of this blog is applicable to all income categories, people like JJ are really at the core of my target audience: those who earn a solid amount, but are spending far more than they need to, thus dooming themselves to decades of unnecessary alarm clocks and traffic jams – just because they never took the time to step back and ask “is there another way”?
Thanks for writing in JJ, and may your former coworkers be jealous enough to learn from your example!