The Quitting Lawyer and the Despondent Millionaire


Little MM and I bought absolutely nothing (as usual) today, instead making an ambitious pebble dam in the creek all morning. Our perspective? Best way to spend a Saturday.

When it comes right down to it, this blog is really just here to change your perspective on things.

The exact same world can seem like an evil or beautiful place, based purely on how you choose to think about it. And paradoxically enough, changing the perspective (and thus the behavior) of enough people can even change the physical reality of the world for the better. That makes “just changing your perspective” into a pretty powerful tool.

My biggest secret to wealth is realizing just how little money it really takes to lead an extremely rich life. But the biggest battle I face in sharing it is the different perspective that is programmed into the modern rich-world consumer: the perspective that simplicity is deprivation, change is scary, and effort is something best paved over with convenience.

So this weekend, I thought we might review a pair of remarkable stories from readers about their own perspectives on their lives. In the first, a rich man wakes up to realize he has been sitting in a jail cell that was unlocked years ago. In the second, the awakening is yet to happen.

Dear MMM,

Love your inspiring blog, especially the January 29th piece on the insecure rich professor.  I have a similar cautionary tale and you may use any of it (without my name).

Without realizing it, I have been financially independent for well over a decade and have now stupidly accumulated too much wealth, with way too many investable assets, zero debt and frugal spending habits.

How in the hell did I allow this to happen, you might ask.  Simple:  I foolishly listened to the voices of financial professionals, the financial media, and other useful idiots of the consumer/industrial complex. They discourage you from thinking on your own, but luckily, I finally woke up.

In the coming months, I will happily walk away from an extremely profitable and successful career just because it no longer interests me and I am tired of working only to pad my portfolio.

I am looking forward to my new great life, and hope this little message gives someone else the courage to escape from their self imposed bondage.

Pretty bold and happy moves, right? I offer the Quitting Laywer my heartiest congratulations. His perspective changed, and suddenly he was able to set himself free. Hopefully we can get this next man to feel the same way:

Hey Mr. Money Mustache,

I am a 50 soon to be 51 year old guy from Georgia.

At this point I have about $650k in cash, IRA Roll Overs, Roth, and outside of IRA holdings in stocks.

There is another $122K in cash, and I also own two houses free and clear.
I live in one and the other was inherited from my parents. I am fixing it up now to rent. I have never earned more than $95k from all combined jobs and sources of income.

So my total net worth is around 1.1 or 1.2 Million at this point. My wife has about 150K of savings in 401k roll over accounts.

However, I have been in and out of jobs for about the last ten years. I had a good steady job before for 20 years. Now however I cant seem to find anything.

Needless to say this has caused a lot of friction in my wife’s family. My brother in law is a very successful builder who lives in a million dollar plus home and has a very plush lifestyle which I am not used to or frankly even remotely able to provide. Plus he’s not even 40 yet. He got the business from his dad. I was adopted and we never had much money at all. My house of course is only worth about 150K on a good day. I wear thrift shop clothes and in general am invisible when it comes to others. No one seems to have any respect or consideration for me because I don’t appear to have a lot of money.

Unfortunately I have become the black sheep of my family due to this unemployment scene and the object of a lot of criticism.

I was wondering if you thought I was on the right track? I feel like I have done the right things but frankly I am so worried every day that I will not ever be able to work again that I fear I may lose it all or my wife might leave. I lost my parents and have no other family so I am really worried about this.

Maybe you can offer me some tips on coping with folks who don’t understand that I am thrifty and not just a loser who wears used clothes and has no job or career anymore?

Thank you very much for your webpage and the articles and posts. Some days it keeps me sane.


Dear Despondent (Millionaire),

I should first start with Congratulations! From a financial sense, you have done extremely well for yourself, putting yourself at the very top of a very tall pyramid even by US standards. With any reasonable management of that wealth, you and your wife are financially set for life, and any days of work for the rest of your life should be considered purely for the fun of it.

As a quick review, your $772,000 in stock assets can be invested in index funds to generate a relatively safe 4% withdrawal rate for the rest of your life (dividends plus a small amount of capital gains selling each year or even a managed payout fund), providing your first $31,000 of annual income. On top of that, your rental house will yield perhaps $10,000 more per year. Within the next fifteen years, you’ll also start seeing social security and medicare benefits to further pad your income and lower health insurance costs. Unless your living expenses are higher than $41,000 per year (which I would be surprised to hear, given your second mortgage-free home and your ability to save this much so far), you are more than set – for life!

But it’s time to begin an even bigger job, of changing your perspective on yourself and your life. The phrases you used to describe your own situation are the hallmarks of low self-esteem. “I can’t seem to find any work”. “I am unable to provide this lifestyle for my wife”. “Nobody seems to have any respect for me because I don’t appear to have a lot of money”.

Your story really jolted me awake, because in reality, our situations are similar, and yet our perspectives are completely different. We have similar levels of savings. I also haven’t worked much in the last eight years. I too might eventually run out of money if I suddenly moved into a $1M+ house to “provide a certain lifestyle for my wife”. And I wear old clothes most of the time, often building things in an old plaid shirt and ripped jeans that have been repaired with duct tape.

But yet somehow I am extremely happy about this turn of events! So excited that I started this blog to trumpet out the joy of a slightly-less-materialistic life to the entire world, which has turned into an entire movement. Millions of people are reading about it now, and they are excited about the lifestyle – our lifestyle – yours and mine! 

It’s often difficult to get a job if you feel down on yourself or desperate for work. But if you don’t need a job, your options are wide open. You can create your own work, by doing what you love. For me, this has resulted in additional unnecessary money and even some job offers. But even if this had not happened, it wouldn’t matter, because money is not the issue for either of us. Meaningful work is a great thing, but you don’t need to go chasing after a traditional job to find it these days.

And people don’t deliver or withhold respect based on your clothing or other manufactured accessories. They unconsciously sense something much deeper – your self respect – and that is what determines your social ranking when you enter a new scene. The readers all around you here are saying “you’re doing just fine, so enjoy it!” I respect you, and you are very worthy of your own respect too, starting right now.

As for the critics: Due to this website, I am sure I get more public criticism than you do, and yet for me it is a big part of the fun. It means real mental comfort zones are being stretched. Meanwhile in my real life, nobody has ever told me to get nicer clothes or find myself a job. You too can learn to ignore and mock misguided critics, while learning from the more thoughtful ones. But more likely, you’ll find they change their tune once you start living your own life with the amount of poise you deserve.

That’s the thing about perspective: in reality, it’s everything. And given this new power over everything, are you willing to consider the possibility that you, too, might have more control than you previously assumed?


  • Mr. Risky Startup May 11, 2013, 10:59 pm


    You summed it up in a first line: “Dear Despondent (Millionaire)”…

    He just needs to remember that he is a fucking millionaire and his brother in law is probably living like one, but in debt up to his neck…

    He is free to enjoy life, while his brother is stuck managing his business. I can see the dinner conversation at the next Thanksgiving dinner:

    Brother in law: Man, I am so tired, worked 80 hours last week.

    Despondent Millionaire: Sorry to hear. I slept in, then went fishing, enjoyed a beer on the porch, and watched my Million bucks produce $1000 this week.

    Brother in law: Well, I have this awesome new Ferrari in my garage, but did not have a chance to take it for a spin yet…

    Despondent Millionaire: Wow. Ferrari you say? Nice! I drove my 8-year old Chevy to the beach and spent a day with my wife just basking in the sun…

    Etc, etc…

    • The Kechi One May 11, 2013, 11:02 pm

      Man what I would give to be sitting at that table. :)

    • Dan May 12, 2013, 12:57 am

      Haha. This reminds me of the great quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: “For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”

      • Emily Allred May 12, 2013, 8:29 am

        A great quote from a great book.

        • Brian May 12, 2013, 8:51 am

          Funny, I thought of the same thing, Dan.

      • C. Forrey May 14, 2013, 9:14 am

        Another similar, but great anecdote…

        The Investment Banker and the Mexican Fisherman.

        An investment banker stood at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

        The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”

        The banker then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

        The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

        The banker then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

        The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

        The investor scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.
        “The investor continued, “And instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would then sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution! You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

        The fisherman asked, “But how long will this all take?”

        To which the banker replied, “Perhaps 15 to 20 years.”

        “But what then?” asked the fisherman.

        The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!”

        “Millions. Okay, then what?” wondered the fisherman.

        To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

        • Joe May 31, 2018, 2:20 am

          I think this is now one of my favourite anecdotes. My favourite is still one that was told in an MMM article about the monk and the king’s minister. In case others reading this have not heard it, I’ll recite it below (I took a screenshot of it!)

          Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king. Years later they meet. As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk. Seeking to help, he says:

          “You know, if you could learn to cater to the king, you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”

          To which the monk replies:

          “If you could learn to live off rice and beans, you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.”

      • TunaFishTuesdays May 3, 2020, 1:33 pm

        Seven years later and it’s still a great quote!

    • Free Money Minute May 12, 2013, 6:54 am

      Right on! Why people can’t take a step back and see where they really are in life and what really matters. I can’t wait to be driving my old car, living in my modest house, with enough money in the bank to cover all of these expenses and more! Thanks for changing our perspectives Mr MM!

    • Neo May 12, 2013, 7:24 am

      Well said, don’t worry about keeping up with the jones you just sailed straight past them !! Unplug from the matrix and embrace your new life…

    • Jacob@CashCowCouple May 12, 2013, 7:46 am

      I wonder what brother in law would say to these responses. I’m guessing scoff at the idea of frugality while continuing to spend, spend, spend.

      I can’t figure out why living on less has such a bad stigma to so many folks. That’s the most insane part.

      • cj May 12, 2013, 6:11 pm

        I am with you all the way, Jacob. But I am treated about the same way for being frugal. Could it be that misery loves company that much? Or is it simply the fear of someone thinking and doing things differently? Insane, yes, but prevalent. So there must be an underlying reason for it.

      • AussieJulie May 12, 2013, 11:48 pm

        because Jacob, those people value themselves by the stuff they have. More stuff – more value

    • Chris May 12, 2013, 8:31 am

      Agreed, I’d be willing to bet the “rich, BIL,” is in debt up to his eyeballs.

    • Forest City Doug May 12, 2013, 8:44 am

      Wow, that Despondent millionaire sounds a lot like me, even if I am “only” 80% of a millionaire at present. After sleeping in and checking my investments online (I just love seeing those dividends coming in!) I got to drive my 11 year old Honda, which recently replaced a 20 year old Chrysler, to where I want, when I want. Better yet, I can ride my 1985 vintage Raleigh bicycle to where I want, when I want for shorter trips around town.

  • The Kechi One May 11, 2013, 11:01 pm

    I’m always amazed how you find such great information/stories/advice to post MMM! Good luck to both of our friends here! They earned the freedom they have and deserve respect (especially from themselves!).

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 11, 2013, 11:45 pm

      Thanks Kechi, I am amazed at the emails I get these days too.

      It makes it pretty easy, when you have amazing and interesting readers like these who voluntarily send you their stories to share. I am always surprised by, and thankful for, the people who seem to hang around here.

      • David May 12, 2013, 11:05 am

        Dear MMM:

        I am the lawyer who wrote to you earlier.

        My wife and I were excited to read today’s post, and I thought I would update you and give you some fun material for a future post. Since my earlier email, we have (1) sold the large museum we were pleased to call our primary residence, (2) sold most of the contents of that museum which we used to call personal possessions, and (3) made plans to relocate to an awesome new community. Whew! We’re still a little dizzy from the anesthesia but it’s great fun.

        Your comments were very interesting concerning an unlocked jail cell. It may seem that way to outsiders, but to the inmate who regularly receives a powerful cocktail of Fame, Fortune and Approval, the world inside the jail is quite wonderful at times.

        Time to be thinking bigger of course, and I can only suggest a future post on the incredible Salad Table! This easy to make carpentry project will transform the lunch and dinner table with a carpet of delectable produce that is harvested within minutes of mealtime. Check it out on the University of Maryland website and if you like it, perhaps share it with your readers.

        Your faithful correspondent,
        The soon to be former lawyer.

        • M May 13, 2013, 6:57 am

          So do you think you’ve been suffering from Consumer Stockholm Syndrome?

          • david May 14, 2013, 9:17 pm

            I doubt the Stockholm analogy. In my career, I reflected and turned away from the conspicuous consumerism of some in my profession. I know now that was the discipline that resulted in our affluence. In the end, I was the investor and saver who kicked the 60 yard field goal from the 30 yard line. The reason to admire MMM is that he grasped the age old techniques of thrift and self reliance and he had the skills and confidence in his own abilities to strike out on his own at a young age.

        • Lee Lau May 13, 2013, 9:38 am

          Hello former lawyer. I too am a former lawyer and checked out 8 years ago. I did get a bit bored of skiing and biking full time so have chosen to take on work that I like and work with people I like on a very part time basis.

          FWIW there’s quite a few recovering lawyers Noram wide but they tend to congregate in resort-ish towns like Whistler/Vancouver/Park City etc

          Enjoy the beginning of your life

        • Vancouverois May 14, 2013, 12:59 pm

          Funny – just yesterday, I came across this very long, but very interesting article about the legal profession:


          I’m guessing you may find yourself agreeing with a lot of it, if not all.

        • Mike May 14, 2013, 5:34 pm

          You might find your fellow lawyer over at lackingambition.com very interesting.

      • Robyn May 13, 2013, 7:04 am

        Perfect response to both people, esp Despondent Millionaire. Thank you for that. Probably helped a lot of other folks too.

  • Jason McCain May 11, 2013, 11:02 pm

    I too would encourage the “Despondent Millionaire” to focus on keeping his eye simple as it states at Matthew 6:22, “If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright”. Chasing after his brother-in-laws approval will be a sure path to ruin.

    The bible instructs us to keep a simple eye (consumerism complicates), MMM provides great tactics to this end.

    In the end, our writer can give his wife much more than his brother-in-law can give his wife. He can give her inspiration, time, uninterrupted love, true joy, friendship, and much more because he is free from the entrappings of a lifestyle. These are the things she’ll appreciate…not another Gucci purse. I appreciate the encouragement given to him to change his perspective and to focus on his own self esteem. In his own family he may be a “black sheep”, but here he is one to be held up as a grand example.

  • Mr. Risky Startup May 11, 2013, 11:19 pm

    I wonder if Brother-in-Law’s last name is Jones?

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 11, 2013, 11:39 pm

    Well said! What kind of a society do we live in when the millionaires are feeling broke and unhappy, and can’t live up to other’s expectations?? Kinda makes me physically ill to think about. I shared this blog with my brother-in-law (who’s more frugal than I am!) and he just said “dude’s a genius”. The message you’ve got going on here is catching like wildfire, and it’s more robust than the likes of Dave Ramsey/Suze Orman, and it’s not dumbed down for the “simple” masses. Maybe you can set more people free to consumer slavery and start a counter-culture financial revolution to have people cut the crap and stop trying to 1-up each other. Enjoy life, not through “stuff”, but relationships and nature. i can digg that!

    • Ms. Must-stash May 13, 2013, 2:15 pm

      Love this post and love this comment! I still catch myself occasionally feeling bad and thinking, maybe I should change my strategy and try to get the big house, the nicer clothes, etc. etc.

      The latest example was that I was wishing we had a screened-in porch (we live in a townhouse and so can’t build one – if we really wanted one we would have to move). But then my husband and I talked through it – and realized that if we and the homeowners association focused more on controlling mosquitoes, we could use our perfectly lovely patio much more often, and therefore we wouldn’t need a screened-in porch.

      So, I gave myself a playful punch in the face and decided to run for the homeowners association Board so that I could influence mosquito controls in the neighborhood. Now isn’t that a more fun and creative approach than upgrading to a new house and taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional mortgage debt? :-D

      • Kristina June 12, 2013, 1:40 pm

        Our population of geckos we brought in has done far more than the spraying ever did, just an idea.

  • Kraig May 12, 2013, 12:06 am


    You’ll turn this guy around. Good diagnosis. It sounds like he’s done incredibly well, and for his family to say “get a job”, it makes me angry. As if getting a job will make him more successful. He’s done success. He’s built a million dollar net worth. That’s success. Now, he should live his life without caring about income.

    And as for the first guy, wow, how crazy is it that someone can be financially independent for a decade and not realize it. That’s how insane our culture is, saying we need millions to retire because “the world is a scary and expensive place”. Did you see Dividend Mantra’s early retirement strategy get slammed on The Today Show a couple months ago? Some “financial expert” shot it down, saying it isn’t do-able. The costs are just too high…

    • greg May 12, 2013, 7:41 am

      “and for his family to say “get a job”, it makes me angry” — just made me think again of that scene in The Big Lebowski: “Get a job, sir!”

      There is so much in that movie that relates to what you and others have brought up in the discussion.

      I’d rather hang with The Dude =)

  • Jorge May 12, 2013, 1:01 am

    I wonder if it is not too risky to invest all your money in an indexed fund. What if the stock market crash and your million bucks become 100k and produces practically nothing a month?
    I’m over 1 million worth now (I’m 40), but I would be very scared to invest it all in that way. I recognise that I live quite wastefully spending around 7k a month and I would like to change that, but I don’t see how I can safely get the fixed income to stop working.
    Could you explain it a bit more or point me to another post were you explain it?
    Many thanks for your great blog.

    • 1e7ksi May 12, 2013, 8:40 am

      Check out the MMM forum, specifically Investor Alley. There is lots of information there!


      • Rob aka Captian and Mrs Slow May 12, 2013, 1:03 pm

        Also read millionaire teacher by Andrew Hallman will make you a much better investor and it’s a great read to boot. BTW index funds are not going to crash 90%. Indivualial stocks yes, a universe of stocks no.

        • Jeff May 13, 2013, 3:10 pm

          Or rather, if an index fund crashes 90%, you probably have worse problems than not having a secure retirement.

          Whatever caused all of the most valuable companies to suddenly become worth 1/10 of what they were probably has affected you in a much more important, personal way.

    • 30yrMillionaire May 13, 2013, 10:23 am

      I love when people say stuff like this. Let’s be honest, if a broad market index fund crashes 90% then we have more serious problems. Like people starving in the streets, loss of domestic order, no electricity, etc. If that happened nobody’s nest egg would mean anything, the world would be screwed anyway.

      • Pessimist May 14, 2013, 7:59 am

        Just four short years ago the Dow was 6000. So from 15 to 6, that would be a 60% drop. Your $1 million dollar index fund all of a sudden becomes $400k and your 4% withdrawal is too small to live on. That is the blocking fear for me to retire. Plus $5k in prop taxes plus at least $5k in medical expenses per year, both just keep going up up up.

        Infinite growth on a finite planet can’t go on forever.

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 14, 2013, 5:06 pm

          Aha, but your phrase “Just four short years ago” illustrates exactly why the 4% withdrawal rate works!

          First of all, dividend payouts held fairly steady during the 2008 crash, so a good chunk of your income was unaffected. Then, you would have sold a small amount of shares to fund the rest of your lifestyle, which would have depleted a tiny bit of your principal. But you probably would have made some minor lifestyle adjustments during the crash to help preserve capital, reducing this effect. Maybe a domestic instead of international vacation that year, for example, or less expensive wine.

          But this low-stock-prices condition only persisted for a year or so. The recovery was fast and furious. Now the stock market is at an all-time record, so you are living off of LESS than a 4% withdrawal rate these days, building further margin which insulates you even more from the next crash.

          Market crashes would only be catastrophic to the stock-only early retiree if stocks dropped and then stayed low for longer than any period in the 60 years considered for the Trinity Study. Even then, academics would just re-run the analysis and call it the 3% rule, so the most cautious of us would plan to spend a bit less in retirement as a result.

        • BadAss CPA May 14, 2013, 5:52 pm

          You also have to consider diversification. If you were retired I doubt you would be 100% invested in stocks. Let’s say you were 60-40 stocks-bonds.

          If you happened to be the unluckiest SOB in the world and invested a cool million in March 08 (exactly a year before the bottom) then you would have been down only 29% in March 09 and a year later been back up to 925k in March 2010, less than 8% off your starting amount.

          • Pessimist May 17, 2013, 7:14 am

            Perhaps the 2009 plunge was a bad example. Starting from today, with stocks and bonds at their very high level, if we get into a situation where we have a bear market for many years (2000 to 2007 for example), withdrawing 4% with deplete your principal enough that it will be hard to recover. And if your expenses are already cut to the bone, dropping from $40k a year to $16k a year (the 15000 to 6000 price difference), there is no way to survive. Then you are in a situation where you have to either take out more principal or get back into a lost career.

            I think its dangerous to think that at this precise moment, with the DOW at an all time high and bonds at an (all-time?) high, the 4% rule will work without a good deal of risk.

            • Freedom Invested December 15, 2016, 1:13 pm

              Slight typo above. :) What I meant is work a few years past what you’d need to have your annual spending covered by 4% of your investment returns. This is 25 times your annual spending. So if you had 30 times your annual spending invested, you’d be in an even safer position.

            • Freedom Invested December 15, 2016, 1:22 pm

              “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward

              Like MMM said, you do a 3%/yr withdrawal if you’re more cautious. If you have enough principal invested, control your spending to only spend 3%-4%, and be able to live through lean years (by for example, having a paid off mortgage affectively a bond or actual bonds – and reducing spending where you can like travel, buying gifts, eating out, DIYing, keeping a car longer than your normally would, etc.) then you’ll be successful in 100% of retirement scenarios according to the historical study spanning many recessions.

              You also may not be eating as much of your principal as you think if you consider dividend returns.

              Additionally, if it makes you feel safer you can do part time work or work a few more years past what you’d need to have 25 times your annual spending. For example, 30 times your annual spending.

              If you’re still not convinced, play around with this: http://firecalc.com/

  • Spencer May 12, 2013, 1:05 am

    I feel bad for that millionaire. So confused on what’s important in life! He has himself completely set up for life and can live free and yet he doesn’t realize it. Good on you, Mr. MM, for showing him the light.

    You took a pretty gentle approach with him. I would have wanted to shake him and yell “wake up!” Start living! Stop worrying about what other people think. They don’t care that much about you or what you do.

    And good job for that lawyer finally realizing that if he’s not enjoying his work, he can punch out. Glad he woke up. Hope the Despondent Millionaire does too.

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies May 12, 2013, 3:10 am

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
    – Eleanor Roosevelt

    When Despondent Millionaire wakes up (as it sounds like he’s in the process of doing) and realizes that his choices are active ones, and not passive results of indecision, it’ll be a moment where he truly takes control over the direction of his life.

    • CashRebel May 12, 2013, 7:24 am

      That quote fits so well! Before a few years ago, I felt a lot like this dude, trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations and desires. This blog is a big part of the reason I don’t give a shit what others say about my employment or where I live. There are always going to be haters, the trick is finding what makes you happy and making that your life’s work. Congrats to the Despondent Millionaire!

    • greg May 12, 2013, 7:44 am

      very true, but also very hard to do. While I can tell you almost certainly didn’t mean to beat anybody over the head with that quote, I personally would have switched “When Despondent Millionaire wakes up” to something a bit more encouraging =P

      As someone who is relatively young and only now discovering my own freedom outside of what society tells me I should do/be, I feel it is important to keep a sense of that and help encourage others wherever possible.

      • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies May 12, 2013, 10:15 am

        greg, you’re right. poor choice of words on my part, which I’m going to blame on the fact that I was just waking up and reading that myself around 5am when I wrote it. Many apologies if it sounded harsher than intended.

        What I meant was that I think Despondent Millionaire had to have been making a lot of “right” actions to get where he is, so he should be proud of that and take ownership of them gladly. Feeling good about those actions will help direct the rest of his happy life.

  • Sara May 12, 2013, 4:35 am

    For me, one of the best things about your blog is its positivity. I am not naturally optimistic – glass half empty is more my default. But reading this blog reminds me regularly that it is about attitude – don’t be a whiner or a victim (no more complainypants! – love that word). And that I am actually doing really well even though I will never earn close to what your young Londoner of a few blogs ago is already getting at 25 – and I have 20 years on him. I don’t have FI yet but I can see it – it’s possible and I will achieve it.

    • Greg November 1, 2016, 5:57 am

      I feel the same way! The attitude, the enthusiasm, the gusto, the optimism is the treasure in this blog.

  • Debtblag May 12, 2013, 5:01 am

    First off, you are amazing and this response is amazing. Thank you. Second, you are so right (obviously LOL); the letter writer is despondent about having never made more than $95,000 — an income 90% of the country will never sniff — having millions in assets, and having easy access to passive income that would dwarf most people’s backbreaking salary. So much about personal finance is about changing your perceptions and you really hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much

  • Dragline May 12, 2013, 5:43 am

    Sometimes its best to go on a social diet from one’s family. Hope the despondent dude can find some peace.

    • Rick Roberts May 12, 2013, 6:41 am

      Here, here. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support you. It is possible to choose a new family, y’know. Friends are the family you choose.

    • Kingston May 13, 2013, 1:35 pm

      Yes, the family relationships sound toxic. Rooting for this guy to sort them out.

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 12, 2013, 5:55 am

    Several years ago, I was like the lawyer – I thought I was a long way off from FI according to all the experts in Money Magazine and elsewhere.

    My son discovered Mr. ERE and I discovered MMM from his guest post on the ERE blog. When I finally started waking up to the reality of how much I really needed, I realized I was really close to FI. I retired almost a year ago and it has been wonderful.

    I owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr ERE and MMM.


    • Mike @ UB May 12, 2013, 9:23 am

      Yeah, it’s been these 2 blogs pretty much for me. First ERE. Jacob saying it’s not how much money you need, but how little. And now MMM’s wonderful blog for the past few years.

      I’ve never budgeted but a few days ago I was looking at my statement showing where I spend my money. My God, I’ve really tightened up my spending. And I really owe it to these 2 bloggers and the commenters. The freedom and self assuredness is something I could have never realized in the past.

      And like MMM says, it’s only a matter of changing one’s perspective. Right on MMM, you are da man.

  • nicoleandmaggie May 12, 2013, 6:00 am

    I’m concerned that Despondent needs to talk with his wife! She’s his family much more so than his brother in law. And the idea of providing for her is ridiculous. She’s not a child. She’s half of Team Despondent.

    • Debtblag May 12, 2013, 6:34 am

      I totally agree, but I would caution against taking too heavy handed an approach. The idea of marriage isn’t one where one person explains his superior position, and she goes along. Instead, the couple should set aside an hour for talk. With plans for many more.

      He should really ask her what her financial goals are. And actually listen. He will hopefully get the chance to share his as well but listening is the first step. Once both of them have explained what your goals are, see how to mesh them. Then, and only then, will he be ready to discuss the means to get there. And get there jointly.

      Women are just so important. After all, we men wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for them ;)

      • Melissa May 12, 2013, 5:07 pm

        I thought the same thing…how difficult it may be to change his wife’s mind. If there is “family competition,” that is a tough situation to overcome. It won’t happen in quickly. It’ll take some time and patience. I hope his wife will come around, because that guy totally rocks!! He should pat himself on the back!!

    • Emily Allred May 12, 2013, 8:41 am

      Seconded. Sounds like they need to have some family discussions.

  • matt_g May 12, 2013, 6:15 am

    Sounds like Mr millionaire and his family need to read the millionaire next door

    • Lisa May 12, 2013, 9:31 am


  • Bill C May 12, 2013, 7:09 am

    There have been a few blog posts and forum threads about working with one’s spouse who is still stuck in a consumerist mindset. Mr. Despondents first duty is to realize for himself how successful he is and how great life can be. Step two is talking to his wife.

    I can attest that this is difficult, but by no means is it impossible. To my wife, the idea of staying home to with our kid and to not have to worry about money was enough to get her moving in my direction. No doubt Mr. D’s wife probably isn’t all that happy right now and maybe she’s ready for a fresh perspective.

    • Christine May 12, 2013, 7:46 am

      Yeah it looks like his wife may be unhappy but misguided at this point. Thinking more money will make her happier? That is what I sensed anyways. If they could brainstorm together what the perfect life would look like together perhaps My Despondent could show her how its all possible now… well within reason! They may need to find cheaper versions if she dreams of cruise ships and such. I wish them all the best and congratulations to Mr Despondent for getting to this point in his life!

      • nicoleandmaggie May 13, 2013, 6:31 am

        It doesn’t say *anything* about what his wife feels or what her thoughts are. Just his wife’s family. In-laws are not the same as one’s spouse. The wife is also her own person with her own earning potential, her own hobbies, her own goals etc.

        I imagine that if she leaves him it won’t be because he can’t provide for her, whatever that means, but because they haven’t been communicating and he’s been getting more depressed and reclusive. There was even a chapter about that in the book the church made us read before we got married. This believe about gender roles and men as providers causes marital strife when the man feels like he’s not doing his traditional duty. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The family is a team with joint goals.

        • Christine Wilson May 13, 2013, 7:47 am

          Well that is another thing to consider: how his own self-confidence is influencing his relationship. Just as MM said that it helps to be confident when looking for a job to get the best possible, same goes for our relationships! So certainly if he could work on his confidence, that may be all that is needed. Good point.

          • gr8bkset January 3, 2014, 3:38 am

            Perhaps Mr. despondent could find positive activities such as volunteering to give his soon- to-be retirement a sense of purpose and to feel more confident about himself.

            Reading MMM blogs, meaningful hobbies and volunteering has definitely validated my decision to walk away from hamster wheel 20 years early.

        • Kenoryn May 14, 2013, 2:39 pm

          +1! His wife might already be on board for all we know!

  • Amanda May 12, 2013, 7:11 am

    Despondant’s family sounds a bit like some in mine. My mom once told me I was dressed like a hobo because I was in a t-shirt and ratty jeans (we were sitting at a HS girls basketball game in a farming community, I actually fit in better than she did). I used to get offended, but one day I decided that if anyone made comments about my attire I would remind them that I was dressed perfectly appropriate for whatever event and I was a grown damn woman who could dress herself. Funny thing is – I never had to make that comment. When I decided in my head that it was ok, everyone else knew too.

  • Tim May 12, 2013, 7:18 am


    1. Make friends that are in a similar situation! This community is great, but you need friends that can come over to your house for a beer and talk about how great life is. Maybe you can start a local MMM community?
    2. Calculate how many years of living expenses you have stashed. Then your wife can tell her family that you’re both retiring soon.
    3. Find or create a *fun* part-time job or volunteer work that combines your passions and strengths!


  • Jacob@CashCowCouple May 12, 2013, 7:42 am

    I’m not exactly sure how or why the millionaire feels inadequate in so many ways. He seems to have his identity so wrapped up in the thoughts of others. Stop trying to be such a people pleaser and learn to appreciate what you have in life! You’ve got a huge amount of wealth and a lot going for you, but all you can think about is what others have…

    It’s your life and you only get one go around, so live life on your own terms!

  • Just Askin May 12, 2013, 8:01 am

    Where did you build that stone dam? I have concerns with the issue of private property….i.e. the best pieces of land are privately owned where I live; I find it depressing to have to travel to find such a beautiful natural setting, and probably have to trespass to enjoy it….which negates the tranquility of such an outing….keep up the good work, but you have to really find a good place to live to enjoy a ‘free’ lifestyle….

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 12, 2013, 8:12 am

      Our creek is called the St. Vrain, and the entire thing is a long public park with paths that winds through the city from West to East. I find that in cities, the best land is usually the public land. In rural areas, the land is more chopped up into large bits of private property (until you hit a national forest or something).. so you may actually have to own the land to enjoy it. One of the reasons I have always liked city living.

      • TheHeadHunter May 13, 2013, 8:16 am

        I like that dam picture… It looks like you 2 had a lot of dam fun… What a dam good way to spend a day…

    • Tim Cinel May 12, 2013, 6:26 pm

      You don’t specify where you’re based, but if you’re in Europe then there’s a good chance that you have the freedom/right to roam[1] for recreational purposes =)

      Unfortunately, if you’re in the US (or Australia, where I am) then you have no such guaranteed freedom.

      [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam

      • 205guy May 14, 2013, 2:46 am

        In the US, supposed land of the “free,” private property trumps almost anything. But even on public property, streets and highways, US citizens are not free. This guy wasn’t arrested, but a cop didn’t want him walking in his jurisdiction: http://www.kenilgunas.com/2012/12/day-80-arrested-in-nebraska.html

        Yes, it’s an exceptional case, and certainly not legal, but it happens.

        Btw, that author lived in a van in graduate school to avoid student loans, aka lifetime debt–very mustachian.

  • Jana Miller May 12, 2013, 8:11 am

    I found the second story so sad. That woman needs to wake up and see what a great guy she’s married to and he needs to start enjoying his life. Forget the bother in law and find some real family in friends with like minded goals in life.

    Loved this part in the first story-He was sitting in an unlocked jail cell- crazy!!!!

    • TOM May 13, 2013, 6:16 am

      It was probably a typo, but “bother in law” made me laugh. It fits so well!

  • AC May 12, 2013, 8:13 am

    Great post. I can identify with the feeling that your self worth comes from your job/income level. I worked extremely hard to get where I am in my career. I worry that too much of my self esteem is riding on my professional success. What will people think of me if I “retire” and spend less money, but more time with my family? Without a career, will I too become despondent and spend the day watching TV? MMM lives an awesome lifestyle, will I be able to keep as busy?

    • chc4444 May 13, 2013, 12:20 am

      We have been retired for about two years and are never bored. But in our whole lives we always saw way more things to do then there was time for. There’s always something to learn or something to make or something to read or something to grow or someone to help. We were never bored because there were always new things that interested us. I can give you a huge list of ways to meaningfully spend your time and life but actually only you can create the list that will work for you. THINK CREATIVELY. We loved our jobs but we love the freedom of retirement more. My husband says he has not once missed working and I agree.

      • AC May 13, 2013, 6:35 pm


        Thanks for the encouraging words. It’s nice to hear that you are enjoying ER. You are right that I will need to do some more self examination. ER is appealing in many ways; but I am still not sure it is right for me. In the meantime, I enjoy living frugally and building my ‘stash…

        • gr8bkset January 3, 2014, 3:55 am

          I sat around aimless and doing not much for 3 months after ER. Then I came to the realization that I own my happiness and self worth. Luckily I had developed a love of the outdoors, travel and volunteering earlier in life and rekindled those activities. Now I have more interests on my plates than time.

          My suggestion is to develop your interests and have fun doing them while you’re still working until they cry so much for your attention that you have no problem walking away from your job.

      • Kenoryn May 14, 2013, 2:43 pm

        Good for you! Us too – there just aren’t enough hours in the day. We’ve decided the day job is the thing that has to go!

  • Cathy Severson May 12, 2013, 8:40 am

    Great stories. Just like you, I try to spread the word about perspective. Unfortunately, I get frustrated with the financial industry with it’s constant refrain of doom and gloom for retirement. While accurate, most or many people have hid their heads in the sand, as a result. We need to change our perspective about retirement, money and what it takes to be happy in this culture. Thank you for your contribution to this conversation.

  • CL May 12, 2013, 8:44 am

    The quitting lawyer is inspirational, but the best of this post is the despondent millionaire. It is all about perspective. My own family, though comprised of frugal immigrants, has been derisive of my desire for early retirement. My mom and dad seem to think that even the thought of retirement (this includes THEIR retirement) is childish nonsense, according to what they have said to me and other family members. My parents are 56 and 61 with way more money than they need, but when I tried to talk to my mother about her retiring just 2 weeks ago, she told me she “didn’t have time for this nonsense.” And then she went to sleep.

  • CALL 911 May 12, 2013, 9:13 am

    Perspective is everything.
    About 14 months ago, I was driving home from a job interview with my family for a much higher paying job, and had a tire blow out on the edge of a moderate sized town. I put the spare on and went to the first tire store I saw. 2 hours before they’d even look at it. It was late afternoon, and I still had a 4 hour drive. I went to the next store, which happened to be Walmart. (As an aside, I despise Walmart for more reasons than anyone wants to hear. I go there out of necessity once every 3-4 years.) They’d have me on the road again in 90 minutes.
    I was fuming. We wanted to get home! I hate Walmart! We’re all tired! What stupid rotten luck! Why today! Etc. To pass the time, we started walking the aisles (and saw Pirate’s Booty for $0.75 a bag! Score!).
    While walking, I realized that my shiny, ten year old, air conditioned, power everything, paid off car was positively luxurious compared to what everyone around me had purchased on credit with 40% of their take home pay. This $100 tire, 4 hours from home, was a relatively minor inconvenience to me, but would have been a major disaster (one they may not be able to handle) for most of those around me. My life was pretty damn great! I made a conscious decision to keep that new perspective with me, and I have become so much happier in all aspects of my life. A few months later, I found this community of like minded, positive outlooked, frugal badasses. Good luck to Mr. Despondant Millionaire!
    “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

    • Lisa May 12, 2013, 9:37 am

      Great perspective! (And I despise Walmart too.)

    • Marvin May 13, 2013, 8:43 am

      Great comment. I think it is a good discipline for Mustaschians and others to practice “gratitude.” A simple exercise is to daily make a list (even if it is only 5 or 10 items) that you are grateful for. I remember reading something in a particularly low period in my life that asked me to do that. At the time, I said “I don’t have one thing to be grateful for, let alone 10 things” and I no more had those words out of my mouth when I realized how foolish of a statement it was. I was living in a beautiful comfortable house, I had a wonderful wife, plenty of food to eat (too much for that matter!), wonderful parents, good health care, and a great job among many many other things. That recognition brought me out of my funk and changed my perspective. I still practice it on a regular basis if not daily. It is incredibly important.

      • Alexandra May 14, 2013, 7:55 am

        I totally agree with your comments regarding gratitude. Focusing on what you have instead of what you lack usually results in a sheepish realization of how wealthy all of us (Americans anyway) are.
        My husband takes it one step further and goes for a walk and picks up trash on his walk. That is his go-to method of bringing him back to gratitude, a positive attitude and he has done something for our neighborhood/beach. I think he has the right idea.

    • Anne May 14, 2013, 8:27 am

      Great story! I blew out a tire a few years back, and after using a few choice words remembered that I was so fortunate to be able to pull over in a well lit area, have the money not to choose between a new tire and food that week, etc. I don’t go as far as writing out a gratitude list, but when I’m having a bad day it always helps to mentally go through some of the things I’ve been blessed with in this life and regain that perspective.

  • BNL May 12, 2013, 9:28 am

    The story of Despondent’s brother-in-law reminds me of my uncle.

    My uncle, in his heyday at a consulting firm was working 80-100 hours per week, even at 50 years old. He was making a boat-load of money (my mom estimates >$500K/year), and stressed as hell. He owns a 50 foot boat with a DirecTV satellite dish that sat on some sort of gyroscopic doodad that allowed it to always point south towards the satellite. He has so many cars that he actually had a second level installed into his 3 car garage. I believe there’s a Porsche up there.

    A few years ago, my uncle suffered from a serious heart defect that was brought upon by stress. I felt terrible. He almost died. Now fully recovered, he’s right back to his old ways over over-working and over-spending.

    A few months ago, he came to visit me in my new house. He saw that I had downsized from my 3200 sqft house, down to 1800 soft – and he assumed I must have gotten into some financial trouble. I gave him a good hearty laugh and explained that no, in fact I would be quitting my job soon.

    Anyways, MMM is absolutely right. There was a time when I would have worried “what will people think?” when they saw the house I lived in and the car I drove. But when I changed my perspective on what matters (how I live my life, and not how other’s perceive me to be living), I was able to enjoy my wealth worry free.

  • lentilman May 12, 2013, 9:55 am

    While I agree that Despondent deserves our congratulations, let’s not forget 2 things:

    1) His actual worries are not about money. For example, his comment about hoping his wife doesn’t leave him and his experiences with his in-laws are relationship based. They are framed around money in his letter, but there are some poor people with great family lives, and some lonely rich people.

    2) His net worth is great, but most of that is pretty tied up at the moment in retirement accounts or non-income producing (at the moment) real estate. So that may make things feel too tight for him on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully getting that other house fixed up will improve his mood- more money coming in and he can list “landlord” as an occupation. :)

    • Executioner May 12, 2013, 10:35 am

      I’m surprised more people didn’t touch on this point. It sounds like he needs to find a way to bridge the gap for the next 9 years until he is 59.5 years old and can start to draw down those accounts without penalty. But of course he will have to pay taxes on the withdrawals at that point too.

      I can understand his frustration. I find myself in a similar situation — I have some significant assets in retirement accounts, meaning that I can’t benefit from their income without penalty for another 20 years. It would be nice if there was an exception in the US tax code that allowed for a complete conversion of retirement accounts to taxable accounts for those who do not intend to work until age 59.5.

      If I could go back to the start of my working/earning career, I would focus on saving more in taxable accounts instead of putting so much into retirement accounts. I’d be a lot closer to FI now if this was the case.

      • Jared May 12, 2013, 12:52 pm

        • Executioner May 12, 2013, 8:26 pm

          Already did it. The SEPP doesn’t help much if you are looking at more than a handful of years before turning 59.5 years old. After running the calculations for myself, I found I would get less than 14K per year pre-tax (over 20+ years), which would be whittled away even more after paying tax on the income. And that number is static — it doesn’t adjust for inflation over time — so in 2 decades the 14K annual withdrawal is going to purchase much less. The inflexibility of the SEPP is enough to make it less than useful as a sole source of income for a substantially early retirement. It’s really necessary to supplement with investments outside of retirement accounts.

          For the focus of this MMM post, however, it may make sense, since he has only 8-9 years left until hitting 59.5.

          Ideally it would be great if one could withdraw significantly more each year, if one could prove that the account(s) could sustainably provide a higher annual income over time.

          • Marvin May 13, 2013, 8:48 am

            Your point is exactly why individuals need to save money in accounts that is not tied to a 59.5 requirement. Everyone needs money that is not a “Retierement” account–even if it is a standard “taxable” account, or to a Roth that only limits you from the gains until age 59.5. The Roth does have to be in place for 5 years to avoid the 10% penalty however.

          • Kyle May 13, 2013, 6:49 pm

            You can withdraw as much as you want with an IRA to Roth Conversion, then use it in 5 years. You just have to choose how much you feel like paying in taxes.

            • Executioner May 14, 2013, 8:16 am

              Interesting…so Roth conversion amounts are treated the same as contributions for withdrawal purposes? If so, that’s an interesting loophole. Will have to research that further. Thanks for the tip.

            • Gmaxwell May 15, 2013, 12:30 am

              Not quite the same— contributions can be withdrawn right away without penalty, conversions need to season for 5 years. But this means that so long as you have enough non-tax-advantaged funds to cover 5 years you can setup a pipeline where every year the rollover from 5 years ago becomes withdrawable without penalty.

          • dude October 2, 2013, 10:56 am

            There is an exception to the 59.5 rule for 401k’s (though not IRAs) — if you retire in the year of your 55th birthday, you can begin penalty-free withdrawals immediately.

            See here:


      • Anne May 14, 2013, 8:40 am

        Without knowing what in his Roth’s is principle, or what income the rental house will create it’s hard to say if he’ll be able to retire now without tax penalty.
        With that said though, in some cases the penalty still works out better than saving post-tax. I still contribute to my 401(k) as a primary retirement vehicle because I work in California, where every dollar I defer to my 401(k) would otherwise be subject to a 9.3% state tax as well as a 25% federal. Once retired I will have no state tax (not retiring in CA) and my federal tax will be lower, so that 10% penalty still works out to less than the current tax penalty to save out of it. I do still save beyond that amount and hope to minimize the penalized withdraws of course, but in my circumstances the penalty is less than a percent more than just the state tax. And of course the penalty doesn’t overcome any matching, everyone should always contribute enough to get their employer match if they have one.

      • BadAss CPA May 14, 2013, 11:11 am

        What kind of retirement accounts, I’m assuming 401k and/or IRA’s? You can convert to Roth and pay tax on it now, which you would have to do eventually anyway. Then you can let the funds sit for the 5-year grace period, after which they can be taken out without penalty.

  • frompa May 12, 2013, 9:59 am

    I can’t help but see something more substantive behind Despondent Millionaire’s predicament. Rather than dismissing the B-I-L as an indebted ass (which he may well be), I think a real issue he’s describing is plain old jealousy. Maybe the B-I-L owns everything free and clear, and simply has more and always will. So to me, unhappy Millionaire’s challenge is his sense of competition. Get off the merry go round, Millionaire — there will be always be some who have more than you. But only YOU can decide whether and when you have enough. If you decide you don’t, figure out a way to get there. And if you decide you do (a reasonable position, from most perspectives), then come to terms with your crazy, eternally demanding family. And what if the worst happens, and your wife wants a divorce? This is probably one of the most difficult things to go through, (been there, done that) but you will survive, and probably with a large enough chunk of assets to still live a contented life without ever having to work for money again, if that’s your choice. So, dude, face your life and stop blaming your BIL, your wife, your unemployment.

    • Dillon May 13, 2013, 9:51 am

      Thank you! My sentiments as well. The BIL was getting a bad rap and all sorts of assumptions were being made (could be true, could be false, doesn’t really matter). There is no need to whittle someone else down or throw rocks to feel better when you can be comfortable with who you are. It sounds like the guy just needs to be honest with himself and with his wife and all the other dominoes fall into order (and divorce with the wife could potentially count as a domino falling into place in the long-run).

    • SK May 13, 2013, 10:19 am


      I agree with your analysis. I am personally going through almost similar kind of mental struggles as despondent and after spending few hours quietly analyzing my state of mind, I came up to the same conclusions for myself as what you mentioned above.

  • Dee18 May 12, 2013, 10:32 am

    MMM pointed out a key issue here: despondent is lacking self respect. He says no one notices him. He may be telling himself it’s because he doesn’t have money, but I agree with those who say this is not about money. Why has he been in and out of jobs for 10 years? Why does he fear his wife may leave him, when she hasn’t during those ten years? I wonder if despondent is seriously depressed. Does he have activities he enjoys? Does he have things to talk about when he is with friends and family? Does he convey an enthusiasm for life that others find attractive? Perhaps all the good advice here will be enough for despondent to change his outlook. If not, I hope he will consult with a counselor or physician to consider why he is so miserable.

  • L May 12, 2013, 11:30 am

    “Persons of high self-esteem are not driven to make themselves superior to others; they do not seek to prove their value by measuring themselves against a competitive standard. Their joy is being who they are, not in being better than someone else”

    This blog, the writers and readers, personifies this principle perfectly.

  • jon_snow May 12, 2013, 11:32 am

    Another despondent millionaire here.
    41 years old. 939k in investable assets. Handful of paid for properties, several of which could be farmed – the land just sits there beckoning…. No debts, ability to live on 2k per month if need be. Wife makes 6 figure income and loves going to work everyday with no intention of quitting anytime soon.

    Yet I feel trapped in my job. I think I can stop my meat-grinder career tomorrow… but there is no small amount of trepidation. There will be flat out derision of this move on all sorts of fronts.

    I’ve let my intentions to stop working slip here and there, and people don’t think its a very responsible move – granted, I am sure no one has a clue that we possess the assets we do – but the incredulous reactions I have received have given me pause.

    Discovering MMM has helped turn the tide somewhat, but still… I think I’ve let the chorus of “IT CAN’T BE DONE” really get to me. if I manage to grow a pair, I will quit my job next year.

    • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 12, 2013, 12:05 pm

      If you don’t want to tell people outright that you are retiring, then try any of the following nifty, new-agey phrases to explain why you are quitting your job:

      1) I need to take a “little time off.”
      2) I need to “regroup.”
      3) I need to find my “true passion.”
      4) I need time to “explore my career options.”
      5) I need to “focus on my inner child.”
      6) I need to “de-stress.”
      7) I need to “explore the world.”
      8) I need time to “smell the roses.”
      9) I’m having a “mid-life crisis.”
      10) I need to “detox.”

      I had some trepidation also, but I got over it. It helped that my wife was supportive. I figured everyone else can kiss my ass.

      It may have been easier for me because I was 52 at the time.

      • Melissa May 12, 2013, 5:33 pm

        rjack, totally agree. Love your ideas! And, “I figured everyone else can kiss my ass.” Perfect. I have those thoughts now, and I’m not even retired yet. ha!

      • Pretired Nick May 12, 2013, 11:29 pm

        Or try “pretired”. (;

    • Mike May 12, 2013, 12:57 pm

      You’re not quitting, you’re switching careers to investor/property manager/landlord whatever you want to call it. You have property that isn’t being used productively.. time to roll up your sleeves and make those assets start producing some income! I don’t know if you have children or not but this is all part of your legacy. Leave a big chunk of change to charity if you don’t have heirs to pass this on to but don’t squander what you’ve got. Once you get that revenue stream coming in focus on getting your cash assets structured in whatever way helps you sleep at night. Once that’s done you can officially “retire” and enjoy the bounty of your life’s work. Isn’t that the point of working in the first place?

    • Retire By 40 May 12, 2013, 2:41 pm

      Yeap, just grow a pair and do it. Well, you need to work it out with your wife first. Once she is on the same page, then you’re all set.
      You can always find something else to do. Life is too short to spend 8-10 hours per day stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.

    • chc4444 May 13, 2013, 12:38 am

      You could stop working and simply manage your assets, I know there’s a name for that I just can’t think of it right now, but that would be your “job”.

      • TOM May 13, 2013, 6:33 am

        Asset Manager?

    • anonymouse May 13, 2013, 1:32 am

      Do it! Start renting out your properties, and quit your job. You think there will be derision, but if you have all you need, do those people really matter? If they see that you’re happy and decide to rain on your parade, do you really need them in your life in the first place? If you can get that passive income from investments and rentals going, might it be possible to scale back your career to part time or contractor work? or become a consultant? That may be a way to ease into the whole retirement thing a bit more gently.

    • M May 13, 2013, 7:27 am

      My DH and I were in a similar position several years ago (although I’m a piddling teacher with a smallish salary). My husband was very physically and emotionally stressed from a corporate job that no longer inspired him. He worried endlessly about the “What-ifs” and how his choice of early retirement at 46 yo would appear. I really shook him and told him, “Stop this! Life is to be lived! Who cares?!” It nearly broke our marriage. He finally retired two years ago to pursue an earlier dream and is slowly finding peace. And almost everyone applauded him, much to his surprise. Now, was I scared? Hell, yes! But we’re doing fine and in much better financial shape now that I finally have time to monitor our assets. I’d like to think that I was a silent force pushing him in the right direction, but he’d likely disagree:) However, spousal support is vital in early-retirement.

    • Posted On May 14, 2013, 10:08 am

      It seems to me that folks who poo-poo the idea of me (or others) retiring is that they don’t see how it could be done in their own lives. As you say, “no one has a clue that we possess the assets we do”, so it is natural for them to assume you have no more than they do. Besides the ‘work until you are dead’ mantra of mainstream USA, I think folks are not aware of the possibilities, so they are down on anyone retiring early. MMM does his best to open they eyes of those who want to listen, but I find that still others are quite shocked to hear about folks retiring at 40 or 45 or even 50. God Forbid! I find that folks who are older than me (and retired) say something like “That’s great if you can make it work at your age”, while folks my age or younger (49) don’t seem to want to admit that they are not as far along so they call me crazy (in not so many words).

    • Woodreaux March 8, 2014, 11:09 pm

      “You know nothing Jon Snow.” ;)

  • working independently May 12, 2013, 11:44 am

    Perspective is everything. When someone suggested to me that my 12 year old car should be replaced with a new one I told them that it was just getting broken in. Anyway, it still has shiny paint. The same for clothes. They aren’t super comfortable until they have been worn a few years and the classic styles will always look good. I stay away from the seasonal trends. Someone else told me I should remodel both bathrooms, which I will do after I acquire the skills to do the work myself. They look o.k. and function perfectly, as is, so no hurry. My parents kept cars and appliances for a long time so I don’t understand why people need new ones after 10 years just for the new designs or for keeping up with the neighbors. As Dave Ramsey said, “Don’t try to keep up with the Jones, they are broke”.

    • Posted On May 14, 2013, 10:14 am

      “When someone suggested to me that my 12 year old car should be replaced with a new one I told them that it was just getting broken in.”

      Yep! Last year, a friend saw my 20 yr old vehicle and asked,

      “When are you going to get a new one?”

      My response? “I am not done using this one yet!”

      Perspective is EVERYTHING!

  • NYCBrit May 12, 2013, 5:39 pm

    “That’s the thing about perspective: in reality, it’s everything.”

    A truly fantastic quote by MMM, and one I will keep in mind for a long time. Awesome post, this is why I keep reading.

  • My Own Advisor May 12, 2013, 5:58 pm

    Great post and good diagnosis.

    To the millionaire, I feel for him since he can’t realize how good he really has it. I hope your post gives him some much needed perspective.

    As for the lawyer, what a liberating feeling that must be…..congrats!


  • Rebecca May 12, 2013, 7:52 pm

    jon snow: I have also heard a lot of negativity when I bring up my plan to “retire” soon, even from close family members who are typically supportive. They doubt I will be happy because I have always worked. What will I do with my time, they wonder. Others wonder why I would want to give up my technical management job at a major company because they find it such a respectable position. I am the mother of two children ages 6 & 8 so you would think I would not get so much surprise/negativity since clearly I have plenty to do. Anyway, my point is I have started telling people I am planning to take a sabbatical from my job instead and suddenly everyone thinks it’s a great idea. Go figure.

    Good luck!

    • squeakywheel May 13, 2013, 9:24 am

      I love the “sabbatical” idea. Even if I think I am never going back (and probably couldn’t if I wanted to), it might help people understand and support the transition.

  • Schmidty May 12, 2013, 8:23 pm

    Right on, MMM! Perspective is a powerful force. Reminds me of that line in Paradise Lost: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”

    We should all be packing an optimism gun on one side and a spendy-lifestyle-shrinking gun on the other.

  • OrangeCountyMark May 12, 2013, 10:33 pm

    Lot of good stuff here. My guess would be that the brother in law has all kinds of stresses Despondent doesn’t realize that are happening in the background. I also agree that he and his wife need to define for themselves what success is and not outsiders.
    But way to go despondent you are kicking butt you just didn’t realize it!

  • Pretired Nick May 12, 2013, 11:28 pm

    I just had to comment on the dams in the stream. That is ALL we did growing up. We spent endless hours down at our creek growing up, building some EPIC dams. Man, that was awesome fun! Glad your son is enjoying the same pleasure.

  • AussieJulie May 12, 2013, 11:52 pm

    my comment to the brother in law would be

    smile, smurk and oh you poor thing – you have to work……

  • Heather May 13, 2013, 2:59 am

    The despondent millionaire’s brother-in-law could just be rich and own everything outright; it sounds to me like he needs to talk to his wife and see what she wants and expects – maybe she doesn’t actually want a $1 million house…
    I’d agree that having something to get enthused and passionate about could be good for him in terms of a feeling of self worth and so if someone asks him what hes doing he has something interesting to say (I’ve got two gigs next week; well I turned the naturestrip for the whole street into a garden and the kids from the local school are coming out twice a week to help, and we had enough corn so everyone could roast a cob; I’m learning how to build computers at the moment)… lots of fun stuff to do

  • Chris May 13, 2013, 5:23 am

    Dear Despondent Millionaire,

    Focus on the relationship with your wife.
    Make sure she is on the same page with you.
    Remember, when you proposed you were the same person as today, only poorer – and she said “yes, I will”.

    If she does not support you but joins the bashing of her family she should better try find herself a better job and increase her own savings.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque May 13, 2013, 6:59 am

      It’s possible that she’s already on board, or rather that she’s taking her cues from him.
      I’ve seen it before in regards to a couple that were putting a lot of money into their local church, though the husband admitted that he was only doing it because the church seemed so important to his wife. The two of them had a short discussion in which she revealed that she was only going along with it because it seemed to make him so happy. Turned out that neither of them believed in it anymore. Saved them a lot of cash.
      So maybe Mr. Despondent is in a similar position. His wife is looking at him the same way he looks at himself – as a failure because he can’t keep up with the brother-in-law and “provide” for his wife. If he starts looking at himself as a cleverly successful early retiree, her opinion might change too. Maybe she finds the wealthy lifestyle absurd as well. He won’t know until he talks to her.

  • The Shoestring Investor May 13, 2013, 5:35 am

    Whilst I agree with much of what is said in this article, I do worry about the over promotion of living off purely interest income. This is something that needs a bit of caution attached.

    The reason I say this is that whilst it’s all very well doing so if you have an interest level of $30,000-$40,000. However, if you spend that each year, you will never, ever earn more than that a year. As living expenses continue to rise, in 20 years time this might mean a fairly meagre living standard.

    However, if you do not touch this interest income and allow it to build and the power of compound interest to take over, soon your wealth will begin exponentially growing and money will never have to be an issue again. Whilst it is a nice thought to retire at 30 and live off interest, for many it has the potential to cause serious issues 20-30 years down the line.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 13, 2013, 7:58 am

      This is a common misconception that comes in occasionally so I thought it would be OK to address it again here.

      When I describe the passive income streams required to retire, I’m not talking about simple interest, like you’d get in a savings account. That’s just a special case of the broader category of investment returns (which include stock dividends, stock capital gains, rental income, etc.). Since current interest rates are virtually zero (or negative after accounting for inflation), it is almost impossible to live off of interest alone right now without using up your nest egg.

      Living off investments, you spend the annual cashflow while leaving enough to reinvest to cover inflation, so your income rises over time. I plan for about 3% inflation over the long term. So if you have investments that average 7% before inflation, you plan for 4% returns after inflation.

      A rental house is a nice tangible example of this: you can safely spend most of the net rental profit you earn (after paying for taxes and keeping the house well-maintained), because the actual house itself does not depreciate. Instead, it will tend to rise along with general inflation. If you happen to live in a desirable area experiencing net migration of high-income workers, it might even rise faster than inflation in some years. Stocks and their dividends also rise over time and tend to outpace inflation.

    • Posted On May 14, 2013, 10:20 am

      In addition, good companies tend to increase their stock dividends annually. This can help ease the burden of inflation. While not all companies increase enough to beat inflation, it is possible to find those that do, and more. The result can be a balanced portfolio where the average increase in the dividend is enough to meet or beat inflation.

      • anotherlawyer May 15, 2013, 4:38 pm

        I was going to say the same thing about dividends. There are many companies, mostly blue chips, with a solid, multi-decade history of increasing dividends at a healthy rate. The increasing dividends can outpace inflation.

        That said, I still think Shoestring Investor makes a valid point. If you are spending your dividends and other investment income to live on, you are not re-investing it for even greater future returns and income. The power of compounding returns/ interest does not get a chance to really kick in and grow exponentially.

        But maybe you already have enough income and don’t want more in the future. After all, enough is enough. You don’t want to continue working for more and more. This can be a reasonable and wise decision- just realize you may be giving up an incredible amount of future wealth.

  • Eric May 13, 2013, 5:39 am

    MMM, after 2 days I know I’ve come to the right place!!! Thanks for the kick in the butt. Currently $42k in debt, working in the automotive industry…I’ll see you in 8 months when I will be a new me and a new journey will begin. Thank You!!!

  • Adrienne May 13, 2013, 8:17 am

    Dear Despondent Millionaire,

    You have so much already! You have a wife who is still with you – since you say you’ve had trouble finding jobs in the last 10 years, I assume that she’s stuck with you even through that, and that is a blessing. You are on the verge of financial independence – you don’t need a job!

    Whose life are you living? Yours, or your brother-in-law’s? If you’re trying to live your bil’s life, yes you are failing. But you’re not him. You’re you and the only life you have to live is your own. Right now though, you’re failing at living your life because you’re trying to emulate someone else.

    What do you really want? I have a few guesses just reading between the lines: self-respect and confidence top the list. Appreciation for the folks who adopted you and raised you, regardless of their financial status. And better communication with your wife. Does she expect you to provide for her, or is that an expectation you have of yourself? What type of lifestyle does she really want? What role does she play in providing for your family?

    I’d like to offer some perspective. I’m the sole income provider for my family of three and my annual take-home that we have to live on and take our savings out of and make investments with is somewhere around the annual income you could have from your investments with a wave of your hand (according to MMM). We live in a mobile home that would bring us somewhere around $10k if we sold it, and we are pleased to have it because it saves us so much money on rent and other housing expenses, especially in our area. We live similarly to MMM’s family (and yes, we buy thrift store clothes) out of necessity. But if/when our income fortunes shift, we won’t change our lifestyle. We’ll just invest the additional income toward the day we can be financially independent.

    We’re younger than you and are just getting started in terms of productive income. From where I stand, it looks like you have it all, in financial terms. So who are you going to compare yourself to? Your (apparently) filthy rich bil or the majority of Americans out there who are truly scraping by and would love to be in your shoes?

    Honestly, it’s better not to make comparisons at all. We can all learn from the lifestyle choices that others make, but in the end the thing that will help us all sleep well at night is being ok with who we are and the choices we make every day. Money won’t do that. I recently talked to someone from a more affluent area (I was there to attend my best friend’s engagement party), and this young man has boatloads of debt from law school and is supporting his widowed mother. His living expenses are charged to his credit card out of necessity. Now, I felt awkward at that event because I felt like it was obvious that I was an outsider, and a poor one at that. I felt like poor little me stood out like a sore thumb at that ritzy venue. Then I realized that my family actually has more money than that lawyer – because we have no debt and actually do have some savings. It made me realize right then and there that it really doesn’t matter where you are or what kind of lifestyle you live. Everyone’s financial story is different.

    You might be surprised – if you decide, together with your wife, that it’s time to go the financial independence route and you stop worrying about what everyone else thinks about it – you’ll start exuding confidence and relaxation. You can spend time doing what you really WANT to do with your life (you may have to figure out what that is first). Pretty soon your bil might be begging to learn your secrets! And if not, that’s ok too.

    Good luck! I hope you’ll send an update to MMM in a while and let us all know how you’re doing.

  • mpbaker22 May 13, 2013, 8:24 am

    “And I wear old clothes most of the time, often building things in an old plaid shirt and ripped jeans that have been repaired with duct tape.”

    I’m disappointed. What happened to a needle and thread?

  • TIPIT May 13, 2013, 9:43 am

    Dear Despondent,
    My comment is simple… you’re not “unemployed”, you are “HAPPILY RETIRED”!
    Just ask yourself why you want to have a job now. Is it because you really want to work or because you feel it’s what you “should” do?
    Is it because you would have fun doing it or because the society or your relatives want you to work?

    I’m sorry, but if your wife leaves because you “only” are a millionaire (??!!)… she doesn’t really deserve you, is she?

    I think somewhere deep inside yourself, you do know what you want to do… and this thing you really want isn’t finding a job. Just read your letter to yourself… read it as if it wasn’t a letter you wrote. You will understand, as it’s written in bold letters! ;)

    Enjoy your situation, as there are millions of people who envy you right now… and I am one of them ;)

  • Giddings Plaza FI May 13, 2013, 11:10 am

    Yay to Quitting Lawyer! Getting out of work jail is fantastic.

  • Jamesqf May 13, 2013, 11:10 am

    I think Despondent’s problem really isn’t the money, it’s the choice to associate with what seem to be, from the brief description, rather poisonous people, simply because they are related.

  • raisin mountaineer May 13, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Also (for despondent millionaire), you may find that being the “retired” guy makes you Mr. Popular with your wife’s family. Depending on your skills, they will be calling you for help with this or that or the other, while Mr. Fancy BIL is too busy at work to take a day to help move a couch or fix a fence or read (and interpret) a letter from the investment company.

    My husband has been a “retired” SAHD for about 8 years now. He is available to friends to help them out with all kinds of projects, and in turn they help him out with his projects.

    And when people want to hire him for money, he can say yes, which he does only if he approves of the project (he doesn’t approve of wasting money– his or other people’s), there is no time deadline, and he can bring our kid along.

    I too am working on the mental hurdle of walking away from work– I am only two years away from a partial pension, and I think that will be the drop-dead day– at most, it will be four years, when a particular project that I want to “go out on” (something that truly is in my heart) will be done.

    Good luck to “despondent”– and get your wife on board with how much fun you will be able to have once you embrace this opportunity!

  • DirtBoy May 13, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Despondent needs to watch this:


    And realize he’s not a fool, he’s just enjoying himself and saving money.


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