Do We Need to Fire the Entire Financial Advice Industry?

advisersAhh, Financial Media. It is a key cog in today’s ever-churning news machine, because hey, who isn’t interested in money?

Everyone has a go at it, from the tanning-salon-smile hosts of the regional news shows reporting the daily close of the Dow index, up to the Ph.D. credentialed economists who debate economic indicators and fiscal policy on Wall Street Week.

The New York Times is fond of publishing mature-sounding, sympathetic stories about the hard times we as a culture have with money, with nary a face punch in sight. Other newspapers do their own take on things, usually with a slant towards the sensational rather than the practical. And a zoo full of financial advice peddlers, Mr. Money Mustache included, has filled up the bookshelves with all sorts of advice on how to get ahead.

There are some great writers, researchers, and reporters out there. With a mixture of pedigree, brilliance, sharp wit, burly work ethic and even good looks, the collective abilities of these people put a blog like Mr. Money Mustache to shame.

And yet almost all of this financial writing is lacking an absolutely critical underpinning. Without this foundation, the rest of their arguments are rendered floppy and useless, and thus the entire financial media industry is mostly wasting everyone’s time. This is a pretty monumental accusation for a lone writer to make from the vantage point of his living room couch, but here I am doing it, and with good reasons to back it up.

Are you ready to hear what they’re missing?

It’s the fact that most of our modern assumptions about money are bullshit.

To illustrate this in a particularly grating way, let’s review a little video from a big-time personal finance guru named Suze Orman:


In this clip, an earnest 48-year-old woman dutifully reports her financial stats to Suze. It turns out she has $1.4 million dollars in net worth, $7500 per month in income, lives in a reasonably-priced house, and would really like to know if she can retire in seven more years at age 55. You know, seven years – about the total career length of some Mustachians who maintain a 75% savings rate?

The professional’s advice? “You’re at a D Minus right now, as you’ll only have $1.6 million (plus a paid-off house) by age 55. I advise you to work just an extra fourteen years instead of seven, so you can have $2.5 million saved (plus, presumably a lot fewer of those pesky expensive “years of life remaining” that you need to fund).

I hope I am not the only one who finds the above advice fucking insane. 

Really, there are two factors at work here: Suze Orman uses ultra-conservative withdrawal assumptions for retirees, assuming they will forego the better returns of stocks and hold only government bonds, which pay almost nothing these days. This leads to roughly a 2% withdrawal rate assumption, versus the 4% I am fond of here. That’s fair enough – to each their own assumptions and I’ll happily stick to my stocks, rental houses and Lending Club, where I could easily maintain 6% or higher withdrawals while the principal keeps up with inflation.

But that still leaves the fact that the caller listed her current monthly expenses at $6100. This was probably including income taxes, but I found it interesting that the figure was left unchallenged, as if it is reasonable and essential for a household of two to exist on $73,000 per year (and she’s in friendly old low-cost Colorado, no less!) And of course there was no allowance for lower costs when her 17-year-old son strikes out on his own.

And it’s not just the boisterous gurus with books and DVDs to sell that follow this trend.

This New York Times piece states that “deciding to take your lunch to work or cutting cable won’t help as much as you think.” (to which I say, “It will probably help a lot more than you think – unless you consider $60,000 every ten years to be chump change.”)  Instead, we are encouraged to blame the rising cost of school tuition and medical care for our financial problems.  The same author pops up again here, repeating the message that it is our world that has become difficult, and we are not at fault for financial problems.

Look, if it really was so much easier for our parents’ generation to stay out of financial trouble, great, good for them. But given the fact that I was able to retire about 25 years younger than my own Dad, who is himself an intelligent and frugal man, I’d say the crushing forces of society on today’s middle class are still not overly powerful.

In a Marketwatch story called “Retire early? There’s one big catch”, they say “Uhh.. yeah, you could save your money and retire early, but you might wish you still had a job, or you might day-trade away all your investments and end up broke!” In another Marketwatch article, they say “Work until you’re 67 and hopefully have 8 times your salary saved up by that point”. (Hello? Does your annual spending factor into your retirement needs at all here?)

In a 2008 CNN story about a 27-year-old couple known as the Rodrigueses, they pull the lever on the Financial Pro Advice Machine, and it spits out this: “You’ll have only $2.9 million by age 40.  You can’t retire on that! Stuff might happen! Plan on working an additional 5 years!” – while totally missing the fact that this couple really has a base cost of living of of only $25,000 per year right now, even living in the Bay Area, with a WRX Sti rally racing habit. Realistically, they can retire earlier than planned, not later.

So what would I change, if I could start an imaginary school for financial advisers? I would start by ensuring that every curriculum in monetary matters begins with this overlooked concept:

Right now, we are already living at a level far beyond the basics that are required to maximize our happiness. You don’t have to feel guilty or run out and change that, but just acknowledge it, because that knowledge is freedom. You could live on much less, and with the right tricks, end up even happier than you are now. It’s true for virtually everyone. So what is more efficient and satisfying: keeping an unwanted job for 20 additional years to earn more money, or learning the right tricks?

The answer to that should depend on how much you like trading your time for money at your job, versus how much various material conveniences and luxuries are worth to you.

For example, it takes a lot of time to fetch and carry your own water from a stream every day, and only $25 per month or so to have clean drinking water piped right to your kitchen faucet. For most of us, this is a worthwhile trade and we’ll flip burgers or sit in the cubicle as required to get the need covered.

But it takes only a few hours to learn to drive a manual transmission car, and yet the skill will save you many thousands of dollars in car purchases and gas every decade. Is it efficient to trade hundreds of hours of work to avoid this single 4-hour lesson? At least 200 million Americans have missed this little bit of math.

There is no difference in the speed at which a 2004 Honda Civic and a 2013 Honda Accord will get you to work, but the difference in operating costs will add up to many hundreds of hours of your work over the cars’ lifetimes. Bikes improve your life even while reducing your need to pay for cars. Bringing your own lunch to work provides you with healthier food while allowing you to keep much more of the money earned while working. Spending a few hours learning about investing, debt, and frugality before borrowing $50,000 for a university education cuts years off of the debt a young person needs to incur.

This list could go on and on, until we simplified the typical person’s life down to something that would cost between $5,000 and $25,000 per person per year in the US, without compromising their ability to live a happy life. Most of the remaining things we have in our lives – even ones we happen to enjoy – aren’t fundamentals for human happiness. They are just cultural norms, programmed in differently for each country by the marketing of corporations who sell the non-fundamental products.

But the assumption by financial advisers these days is that consumption is just a personal choice, all of it is reasonable and none is ridiculous, and more is naturally better if you can afford it. Frugal people are written up as mildly entertaining oddities – “Wow, things sure work out well for them – too bad you can’t do that in real life”.

These aren’t really personal choices, they are fundamental financial rights and wrongs, which should be considered just as core to good financial advice as “don’t use lottery tickets and casinos as your investment vehicle”. If you converted this financial advice into medical advice, you’d have doctors advising patients to start missing sleep so they can spend 50 hours per week running on a treadmill – just because they happen to like eating 5 gallons of ice cream and a deep-dish pizza every day. Nobody would dare mention the pizza and ice cream, because that would be “preachy”, or promoting “scrimping and saving only to live a deprived lifestyle”.

A more useful type of financial advice? First get your shit together (develop a life where you can live happily on any amount), then from the vantage point of financial maturity, you can decide if you want to go on to become Mr. or Mrs. Fancypants by branching out into some extreme form of extreme consumer connoisseur specialty like 250-horsepower vehicles or 5-star hotel hopping.

To do it the other way around is just to create a lifetime of unnecessary monetary stress – which is bad advice.

  • BeatTheSeasons May 20, 2013, 9:55 am

    Couldn’t agree more. And don’t forget they also charge ridiculous fees for their advice as well – if you only pay 1% of your net worth and no ongoing charges then you’ve got off lightly.

    • Free Money Minute May 20, 2013, 12:38 pm

      The fees are what will really hurt you the most. Over time, the fees can cut your investment by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Best to just get a solid mutual fund and save, save, save!

    • Mr. Everyday Dollar May 20, 2013, 2:24 pm

      Investing is a complex topic, with no one-size-fits-all approach. If you want to go it alone and you have a willingness to learn about investing you may wisely choose to invest fairly effortlessly by using Vanguard funds (e.g., 60% VTSAX, 30% VBTLX, 10% VGSLX). The other approach is picking individual stocks, which is what I do.

      Whatever you choose, the best advice I can give is to make sure to invest as early as possible to take advantage of compounding and invest your money slowly and with caution. I think you’ll come to find out building wealth, and goals like early retirement, come easily and are attainable.

  • UK Money Motivator May 20, 2013, 9:57 am

    I have lost count of the number of times I have talked to friends and colleagues about leading a more efficient lifestyle.

    They stare blankly at me for a few minutes, before saying (almost exactly the same wording every time):

    “But you can’t put a price on quality of life. I want to be able to buy what I want whenever I want, I deserve it for the hours I put in at work! I don’t want to scrimp and save!”

    I have almost given up on most of them. Some do listen, but others are too much in the debt habit. So I am currently working on educating my 3 year old niece… she now knows how many hours of work £1 worth of sweets costs!

    • Elizabeth May 20, 2013, 10:41 am

      The “I deserve it” attitude is really hard to fight. Sometimes you just want to smack them upside the head and say “you deserve to live debt-free” and “you deserve to have financial security.”

      Why is that so hard to believe?

      • RetiredGal May 21, 2013, 2:16 pm

        AMEN! Sing it sister!! I just can’t comprehend their thinking.

      • Marcia May 24, 2013, 12:56 pm

        I remember a conversation with a coworker that went like this (8 years ago(:

        “Wow, I just have so much credit card debt.”
        “My wife, she just likes to buy so many things.”
        “Why does she spend so much money she doesn’t have?”
        “How can I say no? She works really hard at her job and with the kids, I can’t say no?”
        “How about this: you can’t AFFORD it.”

    • NEMarvin May 20, 2013, 1:42 pm

      I have worked in the industry, and I have talked to people about their spending. Blank stares….every one. People are incredibly resistant to giving up their spending. Needing 2 or 3 million dollars to retire is simply because the majority of people will never live like Mr. Money Mustache because they cannot conceive of it. So, to be protected from liability issues, you have to project their retirement based on current spending. Suzy Orman doesn’t want people to cut their spending; otherwise you would be wise enough to not buy her latest book.

    • Dave May 21, 2013, 8:27 am

      It’s so funny… because it just never, ever occurred to me to borrow (except for the mortgage). Thankfully.

      My mum didn’t borrow, my grandparents were farmers so who knows but I think their whole world was a bit different anyway (as in, they were a proper business so the rules were a bit different, plus farming was their life, not just ‘a job’ – grandpa retired at eighty-something).

      I heard one woman, an employee at a client, saying over lunch how she was up to her eyeballs in debt and I just couldn’t understand it.

      I guess I really need to say thanks to my mum for ‘bringing me up right’.

  • Johnny Moneyseed May 20, 2013, 10:03 am

    There are a couple things that have to be noted about the big financial gurus. The first thing is that they are geared toward the “average American worker” usually they concentrate of those that are between the ages of 45-60. That’s the target demographic, because those are the people that are starting to plan for retirement. Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman are the kind of people that are going to encourage people to work longer and save more, because they are fail-proof systems. If you save $2 Million more than you really needed you could never save Dave or Suze screwed you. They also won’t tell you to cut your ridiculous spending.. $6100/month? Was she eating at a 5 star restaurant for every meal?!

    The other portion is the criticism of Super Early Retirees. They think it’s a crazy idea, because the concept really seems too new to have historical data to back it up in either direction. So, obviously they’re going to say it will never work. That’s the media’s job: to criticize the unknown. I really hate it, it just drives people to being overly-cautious, and uninformed.

    The real point is, if you’re getting your financial education through these gurus you’re probably going to live an average life as an employee for Corporation Corps. retiring when you’re too old to actually enjoy your life and dying shortly after.

    • inthebiz May 20, 2013, 11:48 am

      Spot on. As with anything in mass media, they need to sell ad space and appeal to the masses to do so. Where are the masses? Mostly in debt, financially illiterate and need to be spoon fed basic advice. Certainly no need for professional advisors there charging 1%. If Suze Orman preached Mustachianism, I doubt she would appeal to the masses.

      However, as an advisor for a firm that targets the more affluent, I can say these folks generally understand the Mustachian concept, albeit not nearly to the same degree. The advice they need is completely different than the “take your lunch to work” and “quit going to Starbucks” garbage that generally the middle class will always struggle with.

      • Carlos Rendon May 20, 2013, 1:38 pm

        “As with anything in mass media, they need to sell ad space and appeal to the masses to do so”
        Do they need to appeal to the masses or just the advertisers?
        If they preach frugality, what businesses would want to advertise there?

        • inthebiz June 14, 2013, 2:35 pm

          Good thought and I agree to a certain extent. But advertisers don’t come knocking until there’s an audience.

          I also think frugality can be defined in many ways. I’ll spend $1200 on a high quality, speedy road bike that may last a lifetime vs. a Huffy I’ll need to replace every year. I definitely agree with your point though.

    • Pretired Nick May 20, 2013, 4:18 pm

      This is all true, however as a former journalist I can tell you the larger problem is these guys are typically poorly educated in their fields which makes them easy to manipulate. And, unfortunately their goal typically is get the story done as quickly as possible so I can go home.
      People jump to “bias” way too often when the problem is usually laziness and time pressure. The typical path of a reporter is: get story assignment>get quote, get quote, get quote>cursory independent research (occasionally)>string piece together using quotes to separate main points>publish. Then on to the next one.
      They are not TRYING to reach some deeper truth about the state of whatever it is they’re covering. They’re simply doing the task they were assigned to do and trying to minimize getting yelled at after they’ve done it so they play it very safe. That turns into a lot of talking to insiders and “experts”. And, thus, you get very watered down, mainstream coverage designed to fill the space between the ads.

      • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 4:31 pm

        Very interesting perspective on journalism and it makes a lot of sense. It sounds like a tough job, at least until you make it to the top: being forced to crank out stories with deadlines, whether you are inspired or not, and on fields that aren’t necessarily in your area of expertise or passion.

        Although my “job” of blogger is rightfully mocked by hardcore journalists because it takes no training and there is no barrier to publishing, I sure would rather do this than be a paid writer. Ironically, you can theoretically even get a bigger audience and earn more money as a blogger than a journalist these days, which must piss the real journalists off even more :-)

        • Clint May 20, 2013, 7:33 pm

          I’m a real journalist (sort of … trade journalism), and I’m not the least bit pissed off by your deserved success! But I do think bloggers are more akin to newspaper opinion columnists vs reporters for news pages, where we’re supposed to keep our opinions out of it and sometimes seek balance of opposing ideas. The Internet and social media are blurring some of the lines, which is probably a good thing as long as readers understand what’s going on.

          At the same time I agree that we too often take the easy way out for any number of reasons (time constraints, pressure from above) which leads to stories not worth reading.

          I can’t say the same happens around here… except for some of those meet-up posts about all the fun happening where I am not :)

          • Dave May 21, 2013, 8:31 am

            What the world needs (IMHO):

            More balanced, taxpayer-funded reporting, eg the BBC (who are not perfect, I know that, but they are MUCH better than, for example.. anything to do with Rupert Murdoch).

            Less lobbying of all kinds.


        • BC Kowalski June 28, 2018, 6:19 am

          Hey, Mustachian reporter here! I had to chime in because that’s not my process. I’ve worked at daily and weekly papers and that’s not my process at all, nor does Mr. MMM’s success bother me in the slightest. I always start with research first, then call experts to explore the idea further, to ask questions and learn. It shouldn’t be about “getting quotes” it should be about digging down to the truth.

          That’s why I support Mustachian principles – after enough research they are solid and the math adds up. Using MMM’s principles I’ve managed to buy a house (lower mortgage than cheap rentals around here), and I save 30 percent of take home pay. I’m hoping to grow that as my photography side hustle takes off too (at $150/shooting hour the jobs I get add up fast!). I ride my bike to work most days now that I work at a weekly, versus needing to have a car back when I was an ambulance chaser at a daily, and for most of my errands.

          So, as a journalist, I will say I appreciate the depth of research on MMM and the principles espoused. Using MMM I hope to be a retired journalist soon, writing stories freelance and working the occasional photoshoot! Thanks MMM!

    • EarningAndLearning June 6, 2017, 7:28 pm

      Great comment, Suze Orman would lose her audience if she told the masses that their consumerist, spendy habits are keeping them broke.

      It was painful to watch that video on so many levels, especially after months of reading MMM and the comments of other Mustachians. Did you hear Suze’s condescending, “So sweetheart, you want to retire in…just 7 years from now, at 55?” She already sounded very doubtful and judgmental about that goal.

      I think Suze’s encouragement (that she makes in general when speaking and writing) to pay off your mortgage before retirement is good advice that more Americans could follow and benefit from. But her total lack of analysis on the monthly spending in this particular case (and also probably in general) was really unbelievable!

  • Neverland May 20, 2013, 10:04 am

    I remember I was once recommended a “financial adviser” by an acquaintance – it was quite difficult to avoid having to meet “Adam”

    It transpired Adam lived in a rented apartment, had just finished with wife no. 2, drove a big BMW and found our level of wealth very surprising considering he was more than10 years older than us

    Adam’s “advice” consisted of us buying a critical illness insurance plan which seemed to pay out under very vague circumstances but certainly paid Adam some very handsome commission

    Naturally, we declined

    Its not hard to turn down a piece of s**t peddled by a f***wit

    Generally I’ve always found “financial adviser” and “salesman” to be synonymous

    • tallgirl1204 May 20, 2013, 2:39 pm

      In about 2004, an acquaintance of mine who was a “financial advisor” tried to get me to take out a HELOC to invest in stock market (with him, of course). “Why should you let all that equity just sit there and not work for you?” I turned that offer down… today the house is paid off. So glad I didn’t listen.

      • Holly@ClubThrifty May 21, 2013, 6:01 am

        That’s crazy!

        I know a lot of financial advisors. Some are honest and selling legitimate products. Others are like the one you mentioned…trying to sell anything so that they can to earn commissions. I stay away from the ones that have only their own interests in mind.

    • Matt May 20, 2013, 4:05 pm

      I’ve suddenly realized I don’t use the term “fuckwit” nearly often enough.

      Thank you. :)

      • Mr Money Motivator May 21, 2013, 5:52 am

        I use it far too often!

        Along with ‘Fucktard’ and ‘Thunderc#%t’

        (Thunderc#%t gets me in a lot of trouble though, it offends far too many people! But it’s how I describe those idiots who transcend the average Idiot Qotient)

    • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:10 pm

      Commission-based financial adviser, probably. Commissions are always a terrible system.

  • scott May 20, 2013, 10:09 am

    I really like the 5 gallons of ice cream and pizza = 50 hours on the treadmill analogy. I will definitely be using it next time I explain mustachianism to someone. Thanks!

    • Mr. 1500 May 20, 2013, 10:49 am

      Yes agreed, that is a brilliant way of looking at it.

    • Posted On May 20, 2013, 2:25 pm

      The corollary to that is:
      “payments on a 2014 BMW = 40 hours at WORK” (or however many it takes one to make the payment (don’t forget to subtract income taxes)).

      Reducing one’s expenses now doesn’t necessarily mean a lower quality of life, but it DOES mean your retirement date will move in. MMM blogs about making reduced expenses into a life-long habit in order to retire early. I agree. I don’t always practice it, but I agree!!

  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 20, 2013, 10:21 am

    This is spot on. I loved this article. So well written and the tone is perfect. I don’t get why “gurus” tend to put down people for wanting to retire early and don’t use all of the facts when coming up with an assertion. There is a lot of issues with the lady spending $6100 a month. That needed to be addressed. I can also say that I save a lot of money taking my lunch to work. I enjoyed using all of my savings over the past 7 years to fund things that I have wanted to do.

    • Stephen at SE May 20, 2013, 1:01 pm

      I don’t think you see a lot of gurus talk about early retirees because they usually spend so efficiently they are not a good target for their advertisers or products. It is a lot easier to sell something to someone who is already spending $6100 then that same person spending $2000. It often takes someone like MMM who doesn’t have to sell anything to write honestly about personal finance.

  • Mike Sos May 20, 2013, 10:22 am

    This community now knows why the majority of people are uneducated about the simplest of things. Media. Media and advertising.
    These articles are bat-shit insane.
    But I must admit, it most certainly does feel good to be a part of this community and know what others are ignorant about.

  • tallgirl1204 May 20, 2013, 10:23 am

    First, I thought the teaser photo for the post was “the Donald’s” hair– didn’t realize it was Suze!

    This article, and your blog, are so encouraging– I am in that “target” audience for Dave R. and Suze O.– aged 54, with a personal target retirement date of 58. I have been told repeatedly that I should work until 62, or even 66 (when I will have thirty years in). I have been told repeatedly by my 30-40-year-old coworkers that they will be working well into their 60’s because “that’s when full retirement is.” So many people have bought into the notion that the pension is the thing, when it really is only part of the equation.

    Since starting to read you (another one of those who found you on the Washington Post) I am re-considering my retirement date. Heck, it’s only 1.5 years until 56, and continuance of my health insurance (which due to some health issues, is definitely an “optimizing decision).

    I am counting my pennies, getting things in better order than they have been etc. I have been patting myself on the back for saving about 25% of my income over the last 5 years– but golly, I bet I could do better (instead of feeling like I’m a chump for not spending every penny “beyond the match” from my employer.)

    I’ve started to pay attention to how I spend my money– taking an actual list to the grocery store and getting only what is on it! I rode my bike to work 4 days last week, and am aiming at the same through October (sorry, I’m not an ice-and-snow-and-cold-dark rider– at least not yet).

    I think that what MMM does best is to challenge our assumptions– even those of us who like to think of ourselves as bogleheads or good Dave Ramsey types assume that we need to drive to work, to spend whatever we earn beyond a specific savings goal (instead of continually optimizing that spending), etc.

    Thanks for the bright shiny new ideas– I probably will never be a super-saver, but I’m aiming at living on 60% of my income this year, instead of 75%, and that is a great leap forward.

    • Original George May 20, 2013, 9:49 pm

      > First, I thought the teaser photo for the post was “the Donald’s”
      > hair– didn’t realize it was Suze!

      Oh, good, I wasn’t the only one! LOL

    • Jeremy Doolin May 21, 2013, 6:49 am

      Awesome! 60% of your income is still terrific! It sounds like you’ve really grasped the idea behind this lifestyle and well on your way. Thanks for sharing your story. :-)

  • Joe May 20, 2013, 10:25 am

    I was just talking to my friend about this topic too. It’s completely BS to base your retirement target on your annual income. She wants to retire at 60 and I’m sure by then the target would balloon to $5 million plus at the rate of her advancement.
    I guess it works for the average people, but you don’t need to be average.
    $6,100/month is very high. The financial sector doesn’t have any incentive to tell people to lower their expenses. The longer people stay in the rat race, the more customer they’ll have.

  • Heath May 20, 2013, 10:28 am

    Another classic article, MMM! I especially loved the restated lesson on driving a manual transmission. Just a few hours of learning to save tens of thousands of dollars in your lifetime.

    Oh, and I laughed (hard enough for my coworkers to peek over the walls into my cube) when I read the bit on “If you converted this financial advice into medical advice…”. I’m SO going to use that analogy with the complainypants consumers that sulk around my life :-)

  • MJK May 20, 2013, 10:30 am

    The one glaring thing in that video that bothered me what the how high her living expenses were, just like you said. And Suze didn’t even bat and eye! There was no question on where in the heck all of that money was going! the caller did say she thought she could save more, so at least she didn’t have her head too far up her you-know-where, but I do wish that Instead of telling this woman to just work 7 “measly” years longer (or approx 1/12 of her lifespan) she had questioned her spending and told her is she saved $3,000 more a month how much faster she could get to her goal retirement age…

    Sometimes you can glean a few nuggets of information from those financial gurus, but most of the time, it’s pure entertainment….

  • Robert May 20, 2013, 10:31 am

    It is so frustrating to see all this bullshit flying out of our televisions and financial sections of the newspaper and magazines. My third niece is about to graduate from High School and another just graduated from college and is going for her master’s degree. She just bought a used car (financed) and all she has is a part time job. I asked her if she was insane adding something like that to her already high student loans. She just rolled her eyes and looked at me like, “There goes crazy Uncle Bob talking about silly things that can’t possibly exist in our world.” I tried explaining my plan to my brother (her father) and he actually got pissed off at me, yelling that he wouldn’t sacrifice the quality of his life just so that he can retire early or gain financial independence. After about 30 minutes I gave up and went back to my mint account and looked at my investments happy in the knowledge that even with all the bad choices I made before finding this blog; that I will be retired, raising Koi and Coral as a part time job enjoying the great outdoors of Colorado from the seat of my bicycle and puttering around in my Xeriscaped yard at the age of 45. Meanwhile he will continue to work into his 70’s to provide for his family and their “High Quality” lifestyle comfortable in the knowledge that he lived a prosperous life of servitude and slavery. To each his own. Even though he is my brother I have little tolerance for people that can’t put their views aside just for an hour to listen to someone else’s point of view. Maybe when he sees me in 11 years he’ll finally catch on and can retire by the time he hits 60. And if I’m lucky I can convince some of my nieces to follow a more financially independent course through life.

  • Elizabeth May 20, 2013, 10:32 am

    Have you read “Pound Foolish”? I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but the arguments about the financial advice media are interesting!

    There is a lot of money to be made telling other people how to spend/save/invest their money — including the personal finance blogging sector. I like that this blog is ad-free.

    • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies May 20, 2013, 12:47 pm

      Pound Foolish is written by the author of the NYT OpEd that MMM mocks:

      This New York Times piece states that “deciding to take your lunch to work or cutting cable won’t help as much as you think.” (to which I say, “It will probably help a lot more than you think – unless you consider $60,000 every ten years to be chump change.”)

      Not sure if that reaction is an indicator of having read the book, or a desire not to…

      • Elizabeth May 21, 2013, 5:15 am

        Yes, I realize that. Mind you, I’ve only read part of the book so far (someone borrowed it from me), but what i’ve read isn’t the same argument as the op-ed so I wasn’t going to make any assumptions about whether Mr. MMM has read it or not. The part I’ve read has to do with the quality of advice in the media — or rather, who is actually qualified to be giving honest, unbiased advice, etc.

        I’m not saying I agree with her arguments — and I’m not that far into the book to comment there — but I enjoy reading a variety of viewpoints in general. And yes, I get that the “latte factor” and packing one’s lunch do make a big difference for people, but there are also people like me who have always lived frugally and are debt-free who aren’t getting ahead as quickly as we could be because of stagnating salaries, rising costs, poor market performance. So some of Olen’s arguments may make sense?

        I think it’s interesting to understand the economic factors, but at the end of the day it’s about the decisions we as individuals and families make. IMHO, personal finance is about personal responsibility.

  • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 20, 2013, 10:35 am

    I hate listening to mainstream financial reports. Especially marketwatch, MSN money, etc. A bunch of crybabies balling their eyes out because they lost their jobs and can’t afford their $700k McMansion. Plus, the ridiculous person won’t get a job at Safeway because that’s “beneath them”.

    And don’t get me started on retirement planning advice. UGH! My work’s little 401k calculator says I need like $9,000 a month to retire. THE CRAP AM I GOING TO DO WITH $9k a month?! When my house is paid off, our bills are about $2,500 a month, and that includes fancy pants vacations, gifts, and all the extras. I do NOT need $100k a year to live on, not even half that.

    Also, when you start your class, link me to the sign up sheet, I’ll be there, jaded and all :)

    • Konrad May 20, 2013, 11:44 am

      I totally agree with you about the financial media and their coverage of the “retirement crisis”. There is never any acknowledgement about how everyday expenses usually PLUMMET once one retires. Lower commuting costs, lower clothing costs, lower food costs due to less eating out, more time for healthy activities and healthier eating which will further reduce costs – none of this ever mentioned! Many retirees have paid off their houses so they have lower housing costs, no mortgage payments! Free from the constraints of a workplace, one can move to lower cost area or a smaller house, reducing expenses even more! Never mentioned by these “experts”.

      And check out the comments in that MarketWatch article that MMM linked. The usual “health care crisis” tropes: “what about health care? what if he gets sick? cancer? heart disease? he’ll go bankrupt if he retires early!” etc etc. Has no one heard of a new law called Obamacare? It was all over the news a couple of years ago. Does no one understand that the ACA will make early retirement easier than ever since it will make health insurance costs more predictable and affordable, especially for those who live frugally and keep their annual incomes within certain limits?

      The other think I find completely outrageous about the MarketWatch article is the author’s characterization of early retirement as “doing nothing”? Huh? I have been early retired for 1 1/2 years and I am as busy as I ever was while I was working! And guess what? All of my activities are things that I ENJOY DOING! Every day is packed with activities and hobbies that I love and put off for 20 years because I had to go to WORK every day!

      I firmly believe that the vast majority of people would not go to work at all if they didn’t need the money. Guess what? A lot of us manage our expenses so we don’t need much money to live happily and comfortably, so it is easy for us to make that decision. As for those people, including those in the financial media who can’t figure that out and do something about it, get a clue!

      • Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 20, 2013, 1:37 pm

        Agreed and agreed! As a tax pro, I hate all the misinformation about tax planning as well. “Get a Roth IRA” is great starter advice, but all your money in a Roth is probably getting taxed at a higher rate than when you withdraw it, because your income will be down! I go for a balanced approach, some in the Roth, max out the 401k, to play both sides. After speaking with a bunch of “financial advisors”, you’d think my income would be skyrocketing in retirement! FALSE!

        I seriously hope to live on $3,000 a month or less until I die once the house is paid off. And if I can pull an MMM and have the rental pay for all my expenses, DONE AND DONE! Early Retirement SHOULD be everyone’s goal to start, and then working would be MUCH more enjoyable. Retirement should not be an age, but a goal. Set up your lifestyle, reverse engineer the math, work hard, and retire when you can. That’s it!

        • The Roamer June 2, 2014, 3:27 pm

          Ugh the sad thing about trying to do maximum mustache and read all the articles in order is that when you get to an awesome discussion or comments like this it’s almost absolutely pointless to comment. Still I wanted to say your comment

          ” early retirement SHOULD be everyone’s goal….Retirement should not be an age, but a goal. Set up your lifestyle , reverse ENGINEER the MATH, work hard and retire when you can. That’s it ”

          That there sir was money.
          It’s strange that people who would rather pay themselves first are the oddities.

          • Greg November 2, 2016, 6:06 am

            The Roamer: exactly how I feel! I’m doing maximum mustache and trying hard to get caught up to the present day. I still make comments, but I’m confident that it gets lost in all the present day traffic. I mean, I’m still 3 years back! 😛

          • Ebenezer May 6, 2020, 8:37 pm

            Well, I enjoyed reading your comment six years later, so I don’t think commenting on a year-old article is so bad :-)

        • Steve in Santa Fe December 19, 2014, 10:08 am

          “Retirement should not be an age, but a goal. Set up your lifestyle, reverse engineer the math, work hard, and retire when you can. That’s it!”


    • Anne May 20, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Jacob, if there was a like button on comments, consider it pressed. “THE CRAP AM I GOING TO DO WITH $9k a month?!” My work calculator told me that’s what I’d get to withdrawal, but that assumes I keep contributing the same from now until 67 (which is obviously NOT going to happen) but when I first saw that result I went “WTF would I NEED THAT MUCH MONEY FOR??”.

  • Ian May 20, 2013, 10:40 am

    Great post. Its amazing how much you can actually save when you learn to spend less. I sit next to people everyday at work that eat fast food and Starbucks everyday. Each one is spending $45-$50 a week and are eating terribly.

  • Tina May 20, 2013, 10:41 am

    I have problems with financial advice that dictate you must have x times your salary saved by the time you’re 30 or that you need x times your salary in order to retire. This is faulty because:

    1. This advice completely ignores spending patterns. It doesn’t matter that I’ve saved 10 times my income of $50,000 if my annual expenses total $100,000;
    2. People go into careers where income can vary greatly; and
    3. We see more people not starting their careers until they are in their 30s.

    All of that is to say, I think one should focus on reducing their spending so they don’t need to chase after an astronomical retirement number. How much you make is important, but it’s not the end all be all of retirement.

  • Stephanie May 20, 2013, 10:41 am

    I had to roll my eyes at the NYT article as I am sitting at my desk eating tuna salad on homemade bread. IT ALL ADDS UP!!!!! How about a little personal responsibility over your own financial situation rather than blaming a situation in which you have no control to change or influence.
    I was talking about my plans to quit working early-ish with a friend over the weekend and she looked at me blankly and said ‘I think I’d die if I had to quit working that early.’ I said, well, the thought of working until I’m 65 makes me die inside a little actually. To each his own, I guess. I just want people to be aware that IS a choice to be chained to a job you don’t want to be working long after you’d rather be doing something else because you spend all of your money. I think the mainstream financial advice does a good job of marketing their advice to the people who have ignored that they have a choice and have never been prepared for retirement until it’s ‘suddenly’ upon them.

  • Lucas May 20, 2013, 10:45 am

    I can sense your level of exasperation with the financial advice “Industry” grow throughout your article. It is the same thing I feel every time I contemplate where we are at as a country. I completely agree on what they are missing, but I think the reason why it is missing is even more telling. The key issue here is that we are dealing with an “Industry” that’s goal is to make money (not to help you in any way). Media make money through advertizing products so they can’t advocate anti-consumerism without losing revenue. Financial “Gurus” who are in the business of making money through selling books and advice and so if they advocated anti-consumerism they wouldn’t have any financial problems to get paid to fix. Investment companies want you to fear the future and amass as much as you can while paying them a percentage each year of your assets. . . and on and on.

    The secret is that there isn’t a secret to financial freedom, it just requires work and choices (which happen to be anti-cultural because of all the brainwashing marketing has done on us). The only voices that can be trusted are the ones who aren’t out to make money off of you, but have the betterment of society and our world as a goal. Your commitment to this ideal (and in particular not relying or pursuing making money on your blog) makes you one of the only voices that is trustworthy in the overwhelming market place of ideas.

    There is hope though, the cracks are showing in the old way of life, the revolution is underway. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but empowered by our own financial freedom we can change the world.

  • Swillard May 20, 2013, 10:48 am

    I am new to MMM. I wouldn’t consider myself on the high end of the Mustachian scale, but certainly better than most of the world. Regarding the sales aspect of the financial industry: one of my favorite cartoons is a one panel drawing of a man sitting on the client side of a financial advisor’s desk saying “I would be far more inclined to take your advice if I knew why you still worked for a living.”

    I am sure many of you have read the article by Michael Lewis about Blaine Lourd titled “The Evolution of an Investor”. But if not, look it up and read it.

    Saving and investing is not rocket surgery. The buy and hold philosophy works remarkably well and, more often than not, will equal or best a “frothy” buy and sell technique in the long run. The biggest difference is that investment advisors make significantly more money on the froth. It’s the velcity of money with which they are concerned and where they make their fees.

    • Heath May 20, 2013, 12:26 pm

      “Saving and investing is not rocket surgery.” -> I love it! I’m going to have to steal ‘rocket surgery’ for future hyperbolic rants (pun intended).

      • Aaron May 20, 2013, 2:02 pm

        A bit ago I was in a meeting and someone interjected their own explanation with “Well, it’s not rocket science.” He then paused for a moment reflecting on what he had just said (we work in aerospace) and corrected himself: “Well, it is rocket science, but it’s not that complicated….”

        I laugh every time I think back to that.

        • madge May 20, 2013, 2:44 pm

          mitchell and webb have got this topic covered as well:

          [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNnzi4NcKKY?rel=0&w=420&h=315%5D

          • swillard May 20, 2013, 5:57 pm

            Love the Mitchell & Webb routine. Have never heard of them. Will have to be on the lookout for more of their stuff.
            Regarding the “rocket surgery” phrase: not sure where it came from, but a bunch of us around the office have been using it for years. Good way to bring either brain surgeons or rocket scientists down a notch.

            • Dave May 21, 2013, 8:39 am

              Have a look for ‘Peep Show’ – that’s their sitcom.

  • Done by Forty May 20, 2013, 10:50 am

    Oddly, I do think Dave Ramsey advocates a proper amount of frugality, but not as a sustainable and ongoing approach. Living on “beans and rice” and “making Christmas a craft” are trumpeted as temporary sacrifices while working the baby steps, presumably so that you can go out and live like no one else (i.e. – spend and give extravagantly) later. It’s an unfortunate deviation because I do think most of his listeners do the hard bit, which is actually changing one’s habits.

    • Ron May 20, 2013, 11:55 am

      I dislike the way Ramsey spins bible passages, especially Proverbs, to justify extreme wealth. I’m waiting for him to reference the Sermon on the Mount.

      • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:15 pm

        I find the Prosperity Gospel to be a little creepy, myself.

  • max May 20, 2013, 10:51 am

    regarding the photo – if you ever find yourself in MKE, check out the brewery tour – I **heard** it’s one not to miss….

  • Brandon May 20, 2013, 10:54 am

    Suze Orman’s show apparently includes a section where viewers call in and ask her “can I afford it?” MMM – I wonder what she’d tell you if you went on air with your current financial situation and asked if you could afford to retire? (Worst case, you’d end up with your very own ‘I Was Denied By Suze Orman’ t-shirt: http://goo.gl/YRWyA)

    Orman definitely deserves the scorn, but she’s not the only one. Dave Ramsey is apparently incapable of doing basic algebra and recommends ‘The Debt Snowball Method’, advising someone in debt to PAY DOWN THE SMALLEST BALANCES FIRST. Not the highest interest rate balances, the SMALLEST balances. This is because paying down the smallest balances first is going to make you feel good about having fewer bills to pay each month. Because SURELY the point in this debt-paydown exercise is to make yourself FEEL GOOD. Someone needs to send this man back to Algebra II: http://blog.brandoncurtis.net/2013/04/credit-card-debt.html

    Many ‘financial advisors’ are slimy, especially the broker-dealers paid on commission.

    I was recently helping out a family friend whose broker-dealer had gotten her into ‘American Funds’ mutual funds, which have front loads of 5.75%. 5.75%! They shake you down for what is probably a full year’s worth of post-inflation earnings, just getting in the door! This is for a bunch of mutual funds that, over the long term, haven’t even beat the S&P500 _before_ considering the loads. And you can bet a big chunk of that 5.75% ends up right in the broker-dealer’s pocket, just for shoveling this garbage on unsuspecting clients.

    I have seen some pretty egregious stuff, including advisors pushing complex variable annuity products into peoples’ IRAs(?!?!?!) – variable annuities are ALREADY tax-deferred! Of course the product manual for this particular annuity was a head-exploding 740 pages, so it’s not like the client had any chance in hell of knowing what they were actually buying. And where do all of those crazy-high annuity fees go? Why, into the broker-dealer’s pocket, of course!

    And don’t even get me started on these actively-managed mutual funds that track the S&P500 ON A GOOD DAY, yet charge 1.0-2.5% annually just for the privilege of holding them…

    The majority of the ‘products’ and ‘services’ peddled by the financial industry are vampiric, subsisting strictly by draining the investors’ share of the overall market returns while they sleep. Buy a total US stock market fund (Vanguard’s VTSMX/VTSAX) and a total international stock market fund (Vanguard’s VGTSX/VTIAX), trade Orman and Ramsey for Money Mustache, and stop feeding the vampires!

    (I enjoy clicking through 400 blog posts just as much as the next guy, but you ARE writing a book, aren’t you?)

    • Christian Stewart May 20, 2013, 11:59 am

      Dave is well aware of the math, but he is also aware of human behavior. When people can quickly see progress, they are more likely to continue on their path. Another interesting fact, frequently this emotional win causes people to sacrifice more to get the ball moving more quickly, even to the point of cancelling out the difference in interest payments due to the payoff order.
      Besides, if people were doing math, they wouldn’t be in debt in the first place.

      • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:16 pm

        Exactly this. It’s not about FEEL GOOD stuff, it’s about recognizing that for a certain percentage of the population, they’re not *able* to make good decisions for the right reasons, or they would have been making them already!

        You work with the material (the people) you have, not the ones you wish you have — and Mustachian facepunches won’t fix most of them. You’ll just end up out of breath, and they’ll end up convinced you’re an asshole, and continue on their self-destructive path.

    • TOM May 21, 2013, 5:24 am

      “Suze Orman’s show apparently includes a section where viewers call in and ask her “can I afford it?” MMM – I wonder what she’d tell you if you went on air with your current financial situation and asked if you could afford to retire?”

      That would be incredible.

  • a conspiracist May 20, 2013, 10:56 am

    Your prescriptions are too subversive to be mainstream. How long would Lexus Presents The Suze Orman Show last when her advice would be to, unsurprisingly, stop buying Lexuses?

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:18 pm

      I’m not sure about that diagnosis – how much bigger does this blog have to get to be considered mainstream? If the front page of the Washington Post isn’t good enough, maybe you could define another goal and I’ll let you know when we Mustachians reach it ;-)

      • Mr. Bonner May 21, 2013, 12:12 am

        Well played response and article. Keep ’em coming!

      • a conspiracist May 21, 2013, 6:15 am

        I have a friend who claimed that his goal was to become one of those scene setting shots for news stories about obesity in America — you know, stock footage of rather rotund midsections compressed precariously into a golf shirt or sweatpants followed by “scientists warn…” (He is failing to achieve his dream because of his P90X and Insanity habits, perhaps an intervention is in order? But I digress.)

        Similarly, there is scene setting verbiage for news stories about retirement in America — something along the lines of “experts recommend saving x% of your income to prepare for retirement.” Unless and until x >= 50%, the Money Mustache Face Punch factory will have to continue working extra shifts to reach full market penetration.

      • Marcus May 21, 2013, 9:00 am

        I suppose it depends on your definition of “mainstream”: is it defined by exposure to the message or widespread adherence to the message? I would argue the latter. The media loves a man-bites-dog story — coverage by them doesn’t mean you’re part of the mainstream, no matter how great that would be in this particular case.

        • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2013, 11:29 am

          I certainly agree that Mustachians are a minority in the US to date. But the regular readership of this blog shows that it’s not a message that is difficult to spread. As I’m fond of saying these days, the current traffic levels of 3.5 million pageviews in the last month make this place already among the biggest (maybe even #1?) of the non-corporate financial blogs. But the exponential nature of the Internet gives us a good chance of multiplying by 10 a couple more times. Especially if I can do a better job at teaming up with other people to create more interesting and useful content like videos, online tools with graphs, apps, and the book. Using the power within all the wise readers, rather than just writing posts myself.

          We’re just getting started, and I admit that my performance has been lazy so far. Time to start doing better work to better deserve all this readership! :-)

  • SomeYoungGuy May 20, 2013, 10:59 am

    It is super-awesome to see a big personality like MMM take this on… But let’s not forget, retirement in any country is a pyramid scheme – by being good young workers and consumers, the stock market goes up and retirees have passive income. I have to wonder if this is such a bad fate overall? 401k’s, income taxes, even social security is dependent on a positive GDP. If we all step away from the trough, all of the infrastructure is underfunded and we might as well stop investing in anything. Just a thought…

    • lucas May 20, 2013, 11:07 am

      If you have a paid off house and have abilities to be productive there is pretty much nothing you have to worry about. If the economy crashes, so what? Prices will come down and I will still be better off then 99% of everyone out there even if my networth takes a big hit. If you want to be smart – invest in something that won’t go out of style even in a crash. How about paid off houses you can rent??? everyone needs a place to stay – so either they rent from you, or they all decide to buy houses in which case you sell the ones you own. If you are leveraged with them, then yes you are more vulnerable.

      • SomeYoungGuy May 20, 2013, 11:29 am

        The ability to be productive is the silver bullet. A paid off house is still exposed to minimal utilities (keeping the grass green, insurance, not to mention property taxes…). If I’m retired and the younger generation is cutting back slowly but indefinitely, I’m screwed. People complain now that there is very little ‘risk adjusted return’ and I can understand that. If I want a sure income stream, I have to settle for 2% or less unless I take on some more risk… or continue to be productive

        • Heath May 20, 2013, 12:10 pm

          MMM and this community tend to advocate both taking on some more risk, (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/) and continuing to be productive into retirement (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/17/its-all-about-the-safety-margin/).

          Basically, if you want to live a perfectly safe financial life, it’s going to cost you the rest of your life working full time.

          Also, be willing to get back into regular work and it will give you a lot more flexibility (and safety!) in the many years that you’ll be retired :-)

          That second article is key. Just keep adding to those Safety Margins, and you can retire confidently, even with the Doomsday/Optimistic view of everyone swearing off the Cult of Consumerism.

    • Heath May 20, 2013, 11:13 am

      Everyone becoming a Mustachian? Ha! As much as I’d love to see it, my cynical side tells me we won’t see the day within our (heavily extended) lifetimes. MMM goes over this wonderful bit of Total Fantasy that people love to worry about here:

      • SomeYoungGuy May 20, 2013, 11:33 am

        I’m not worried about the Y-gen workforce all growing long shaggy Foo-Man-Chu’s overnight, but I do have a 7 year old and 9 year old, so I wonder what kind of America they should be studying for…

    • Giddings Plaza FI May 20, 2013, 11:14 am

      The thing is, most people WON’T step away from the trough, so we’re safe. Thoreau was evangelizing simple living 150 years ago, and before him, some Greeks tried to pave the way. Because high-consumption living is unsustainable, and because it makes people we love so unhappy, it’s sad to watch. But frankly, it’s the overconsumption of others that, as you point out, makes our early retirement possible. http://giddingsplaza.com/2013/04/18/hating-and-loving-increased-auto-sales-in-2013/

      • SomeYoungGuy May 20, 2013, 11:43 am

        Sadly, someone needs to be buying something for retirement to make sense. Do a thought experiment, where all you have is what is in your bank account as cash. You have no control over the inflation rate. That is the world that we live in. It is, ultimately and foremost, all at risk. Bet on emerging markets. Bet on gold. You might even bet on bicycles and bullets and tinned beef. We have a good deal today, I am happy to look back, from my death-bed, that my children also had it as good. I worry that mankind is headed toward either the Matrix (higher technology to lower their footprint) or Thoreau (eschew of modern convenience by necessity, e.g. carbon footprint)

  • Juli Kaufmann May 20, 2013, 11:00 am

    A classic rant made more fun by the close-up of my neighborhood craft brewery beer featured – Milwaukee Brewing Company – literally across the ally from my house. But, MMM – are you implying something financial by juxtaposing fine craft beer next to Suzemeister? Must I drink cheap beer swill to live the MMM lifestyle – or was it just a play on the name? I hope the latter. I respect your advice about not paying others to make me a $5 coffee, and such. But giving up support of my local beer crafter, I draw the line. But thanks for the Milwaukee props. Cheers!

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:16 pm

      No, no! I was using that beer to represent the Mr. Money Mustache way – affordable luxuries, like craft beer enjoyed on your own front porch. That particular 6-pack was brought over by a Colorado MMM reader who happened to stop by my house yesterday (thanks Carl!). I drink all luxury beer myself – either locally made fancy stuff or brewed in my own basement.

      • Lauren May 20, 2013, 2:37 pm

        Yay! Another Milwaukee reader here! But not for long as I will be moving further north to an even cheaper Wisco city, getting a bigger salary. So excited to save more but will always have love for all the MKE craft brewers.

  • jlcollinsnh May 20, 2013, 11:04 am

    OK, I gotta challenge your calorie burning v. calorie consumption math here:

    “…spend 50 hours per week running on a treadmill – just because they happen to like eating 5 gallons of ice cream and a deep-dish pizza every day.”



    Last week while visiting friends in Cleveland a pal asked me what “the number” is to retire. Seems a pal of his had been told by his financial advisor that 3.5 to 5 million is the least you have, “…you know to maintain your lifestyle and buy a new Escalade every couple of years or so.” (no, this was not said tongue in cheek.)

    Well sure, I said, maintaining that level of lifestyle could easily take 3.5 to 5 million. But more importantly I’d suggest that anybody who’d stay a moment extra in a job they hate to get there is bat-shit fucking crazy. But hey. That’s just my opinion, you know?

  • Anne Dwyer May 20, 2013, 11:10 am

    If you watch the video, you will see that she really doesn’t have $6000 in expenses. That includes $1250 that she is saving every month. I don’t know why the show reports things this way because it is very misleading.

    That said, I totally agree with you on the withdrawal rate. My calculations show that Suze used about a 1.9% withdrawal rate. This is not made clear at all.

    I do like to watch Suze on Saturday nights. I know her financial advise is not always correct and she doesn’t explicitly talk about expenses. But I love the ‘Can I Afford It’ segment. It is always interesting to me what people want to buy and that they are willing to call in and give all their financial details on a tv show.

  • Giddings Plaza FI May 20, 2013, 11:11 am

    Another great and thoughtful post, MMM. This is why I absolutely don’t read mainstream financial media–talk about people needing a punch in the face! I do my own research on lifestyle (thus I have given up car ownership and do car sharing), on saving money (thus, I’m resolutely NOT paying off my mortgage early), and investment. This is why I read your blog and some others, and also of course my own :)

  • CALL 911 May 20, 2013, 11:19 am

    A few words stand out to me:
    1. “Financial Advice Industry” – the purpose of any industry is generate profit for the companies that make up the industry (Orman, Ramsey, CNBC, etc.), while meeting a need people are willing to pay for. Few people will pay for face punches.
    2. “unchallenged” – this implies that there is something to challenge. In our current politically correct society it is uncouth to imply someone is incorrect in any way – we wouldn’t want to hurt someone (figuratively or literally; thus no face punches). So no choices can be challenged (spend what you want! It’s OK!).
    3. “personal choices” – all choices are equally good. You are insensitive to others needs when you imply someone could stop clown car driving in an Escalade or sell the 6,000 sq ft mansion in Eldorado Canyon and live (more) modestly in Longmont.
    4. “medical advice” – once upon a time, doctors were compelled to call BS on the lifestyles enjoyed by their patients (quit smoking, exercise, eat better). Now, they’re supposed be supportive and gently encourage people, and are NEVER allowed to criticize lifestyle decisions (see not hurting people).
    In summary, we are a nation of entitled, coddled complainypants who are unwilling to spend money on an industry that makes us uncomfortable, but we will spend money on Orman and Ramsey (since no painful face punches occur). We are a nation of weak, foolish sheep in regard to personal finance and delayed gratification.

    • tallgirl1204 May 20, 2013, 2:54 pm

      I dunno; I listen to Ramsey for the entertainment, and he gives a face punch or three from time to time. Especially about getting out of debt. But I also don’t mind the bible verses and schmaltz– he does a lot of good for a certain demographic, and that’s part of it. Sometimes I get a little teary eyed when someone calls in to say they’re debt free and lists this amazing amount of debt– not a single one says “woo hoo, now I can go back to my cool huge lifestyle”– for the most part they say “we’re never going back to spending like that again.”

    • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:22 pm

      ” Now, they’re supposed be supportive and gently encourage people, and are NEVER allowed to criticize lifestyle decisions ”

      uhhhh, have you ever BEEN to a doctor while having one of those “lifestyle decisions” ? Strawman. True arguments will make your case stronger in the future – use them instead of fake ones.

  • Mr. 1500 May 20, 2013, 11:22 am

    Reading the mainstream media always incites a little bit of rage in me. Its always just fear tactics and stories about why you can’t do certain things. Instead, I think we should start asking ourselves how we can accomplish our goals: How can I ride my bike to work? How can I double my savings? How can I retire 10 years before my original plan? Turn that frown upside down and let’s make things happen people!

    It does seem like the tide is turning. The fact that USA Today and the Washington Post are talking about MMM is incredible. The army is growing. Fight Club (the ultimate anti-consumer movie) is running through my head right now.

  • The Shoestring Investor May 20, 2013, 11:30 am

    Absolutely right! Unfortunately the way our media is, it’s a lot easier to get famous by telling people how to increase what they earn then how to control what they spend. The majority just don’t seem to be able to grasp the fact the latter can have just as big – if not bigger impact on our financial freedom.

    • Aaron May 20, 2013, 2:29 pm

      And don’t forget that the latter is immediately attainable by everyone.

  • Mike @ UB May 20, 2013, 11:33 am

    Boy, it’s going to be fun to read the comments on this article. Excellent as always MMM.

    My wife and I went to a free financial consultation. With over $1 million in savings, $100K annual retirement (if stay till 55), paid off home, no debt, the advisor wasn’t confident that we would be able to fund retirement.

    My friend went to a fee based financial advisor, laid out all his assests, and got a good laugh when the advisor looked at everything and said “Game Over”. So it’s nice that there are a few honest Financial Advisors out there.

    What’s fascinating is how these pundits look at yearly salary to determine how much will be needed in retirement.

    • Daniel May 20, 2013, 12:04 pm

      Oh man, I’m going to have to get a “Game Over” T-shirt when I finally reach my goal :-) Awesome!

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:13 pm

      Did the adviser say “Game Over” because your friend already had more than enough to retire? Or because he was hopelessly screwed?

      • chc4444 May 21, 2013, 12:44 am

        Years ago we went to a fee only financial advisor (he had nothing to sell) and he looked at me and said “How did you know to do this” because we had so much net worth compared to our income. He was honest in his surprise, I’m sure that we were very different from his usual clients. I told him about “Your Money or Your Life ” and “The Tightwad Gazette”. And if you and the internet had been around then, I would have told him about you.

    • Tara May 20, 2013, 1:44 pm

      LOL – my father had a similar experience. Paid off house and cars, no debts, big pile of investments, full pension – the financial advisor he contacted took a look at his documents, then said to him, Why did you call me? You clearly have everything covered.

      • Mike @ UB May 20, 2013, 6:43 pm

        “Game Over” in that he has more than enough assests to live comfortably the rest of his life.

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 20, 2013, 11:37 am

    I was one of those people that fell for mainstream media including a lot of the nonsense in Money Magazine. It was depressing because it looked like I needed to keep working until I was about 60 to hit the “magic” numbers. I have an MBA so I should have known better.

    I finally found ERE and MMM and started running numbers in FireCalc and realized with a few minor lifestyle adjustments I could retire now. That was a year ago and I’m loving the FI/retirement lifestyle.

    I think this blog is great, but I think MMM needs to publish a book which might hit an even broader audience. The book should be insanely inflamatory followed by clear, practical advice. All the suffering people need MMM’s information NOW. There is no time to waste.

    In addition, I feel like we’re all on a mission to debunk these mainstream, BS, myths. Spread the word!!!!

    • Khanjar May 21, 2013, 1:17 am

      I don’t think MMM needs to waste his time writing a book, not that he wouldn’t write a good one, but their’s already plenty of books on the subject of FI/RE, and avoiding consumerism.

      Let’s see, just the books I have….
      The Quiet Millionaire
      Early Retirement Extreme
      The Millionaire Next Door
      The Millionaire Mind
      Rich Dad, Poor Dad

      • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2013, 3:20 pm

        Yeah, but there were also already plenty of blogs before I started this one.

        What I’ve been learning is that the decision of “should I do something in life” should have nothing to do with “has somebody else done something similar before?” … with that type of logic, you’d become paralyzed and never do anything.

    • James May 21, 2013, 1:53 am

      What makes you think that another book on this subject needs to be published? I’m not saying that MMM couldn’t write a good book, but there’s absolutely no need of it. There’s plenty of books on the subjects of frugality, minimalism, and anti-consumerism, and plenty of books about putting your head in the right frame of mind.

      Books like The Millionaire Next Door(to show what the Jones’ really do), Early Retirement Extreme, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

      • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) May 21, 2013, 6:19 am

        I understand that there are other books and I’ve read all the ones you mentioned. However, I think MMM’s writing style

        1) Has a chance of creating enough buzz to hit the bestseller list and, as a result, get the attention of a much broader audience.

        2) Forces people to question their basic beliefs about life, FI, retirement, sustainability, etc.

        I guess I feel a sense of urgency to help as many people to change as are ready to change. IMHO, MMM is in the best position to start a national dialog. I could be delusional. :)

  • Daniel May 20, 2013, 11:41 am

    Man, I could not stomach watching the advice given on the news show. Made me sick to my stomach, to be honest.

  • Joe May 20, 2013, 11:42 am

    Cut my cable this past Friday. The first of many actions to be taken. I’m on my way. Starting a little late, but I’m going for it anyway.

  • Mark L May 20, 2013, 11:42 am

    I work as a financial advisor and am also a regular reader of your website. I agree with a large majority of your post and certainly run up against people clinging to Suze Orman’s advice more often than I’d like. Ultimately a large portion of the population is completely unwilling to imagine living a lifestyle remotely close to the one you describe. When I do retirement planning for clients, the bottom line always ends up being here’s you assets, here’s your income sources, here’s what you want to spend each month, here’s the age you want to retire. Even using withdrawal rates closer to what you suggest most people are short of achieving their goal. My response is always you can retire later, spend less, or take more investment risk. Obviously those are simplifications but the vast majority of the people I encounter would rather work longer than even remotely consider altering their lifestyle and spending less.

    I have more than a few stories of clients retiring, saying they can live on a certain amount per month, setting up withdrawal and investment strategies accordingly, and then having them greatly exceed those amounts almost immediately. When we have the conversation about the fact that they’re going to run out of money in the near future they always then place the blame on our investment returns, not their spending.

    • NEMarvin May 20, 2013, 3:00 pm

      This is exactly my experience as well.

  • Felix May 20, 2013, 11:46 am

    The financial advice industry is a complete joke. But the fault really lies with American consumer culture.

    The obsessive need to have nicer things, more of them, and to appear as well off as possible. The addiction to eating out. The love affair with gadgets and gear for hobbies that people don’t actually engage in often enough to justify those purchases. The totally insane belief that you should drive the nicest car you can afford, because the prestige and comfort of that car defines you. And, least but definitely not last, the almost religious belief that one must live in housing that is as well-located, as fancy, and as big as one can afford.

    My take is that life is best spent improving your fitness and health, traveling on a budget, independent learning, and enjoying the outdoors. With a little forethought, these are quite affordable pursuits. But, as everyone has stated on this site thousands of times, convincing people that lower cost living is more enjoyable than maxing out your spending ability is like convincing people to switch religious beliefs. Nearly impossible.

    Case in point, weddings. Average American wedding costs almost $30,000 today. That is a stupefying amount of money for a single party. That’s potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of future net worth, squandered in a 5-hour period. And this is something that middle class people do without thinking twice.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:09 pm

      That is a very nice rant.. except that I wouldn’t say that changing those consumer beliefs is nearly impossible. So far it is proving to be fairly easy, as it is happening by the hundreds of thousands and we’re only just getting started around here.

      • Felix May 20, 2013, 1:16 pm

        I’d like to believe it, I just haven’t seen it outside of this forum. Maybe people are more open-minded out West! Back east, it’s all about the rat race.

    • Posted On May 20, 2013, 2:39 pm

      “The obsessive need to have nicer things, more of them, and to appear as well off as possible. The addiction to eating out. The love affair with gadgets and gear for hobbies that people don’t actually engage in often enough to justify those purchases. The totally insane belief that you should drive the nicest car you can afford, because the prestige and comfort of that car defines you. And, least but definitely not last, the almost religious belief that one must live in housing that is as well-located, as fancy, and as big as one can afford. ”

      I believe this marks the reason people today think that previous generations ‘had it so much better.’ When in fact, WE have it so much better, albeit at the cost of retiring at 65 or older. If we all lived in similar sized houses as people who lived in the 1950’s, drove a lot less (like they did), traveled a lot less (like they did), and bought the fraction of goodies we do today (like they did), early retirement would be common-place. But, it seems to me, as a consumerists society we’ve driven ourselves to continue to work ourselves to death (thinking it is normal, because our parents and grandparents did it), when in fact none of that is necessary!!

    • Matt May 21, 2013, 11:31 am

      Lol on the wedding complaint. I got engaged about 1 month ago and we were planing the typical NA wedding for this summer. Then I wised up and said to myself “This is dumb and it isn’t like the MMM blog that I have been faithfully reading for a year. What’s the point of all this?”.

      I just got married yesterday in my own house with 10 close family members. We had a couple snacks then went over to my parents for a home cooked dinner later in the afternoon.

      Much simpler….

      • EarningAndLearning June 6, 2017, 8:11 pm

        Married in your own house, love it, with 10 family members only, that sounds like my dream wedding! I’ve never understood spending tens of thousands of dollars on a “look at me, look at us” party, which has a 50% chance of being all for naught (divorce). I’m WAY too shy to engineer an overpriced party with myself at the centre, and would be mortified if I ended up getting divorced (although I guess newlyweds never consider the possibility of divorce!). And I’m way too frugal (Mustachian? Junior Mustachian!) to waste $30,000 on a wedding.

        Married in my home. That sounds so nice. #inspired

    • Pat May 21, 2013, 5:54 pm

      My neighbour went to her niece’s wedding this weekend. At L’Esterel, very nice Quebec resort. Much money spent by the bride and groom, my friend showed me the guest favours. Much money spent by the guests – most were there 3 nights. It was also a family reunion of sorts, since a lot of guests came from far away. But – wow.

    • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:23 pm

      Ugh, the Bridal Industrial Complex is the worst!

  • Marcia May 20, 2013, 11:57 am

    So are all manual transmissions the same? Because I spent way more than a few hours trying to learn to drive a manual Ford Festiva in the 80’s, and ended up giving up and walking to school. I couldn’t get going without stalling.

    Been an automatic driver ever since.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:04 pm

      Exactly! Perfect example of a lifetime money-losing decision, made to avoid a very short inconvenience. You would have succeeded within just a few more hours… unless you insist you are less competent than every one of the thousands of other people who have learned to drive Festivas.

      (I admit, there are differences in manuals. I learned on my Dad’s 1989 Honda CRX, which had a sharp-edged and fussy clutch. I later taught a few people to drive in my 1994 Ford Probe GT, which had a higher-torque engine and was almost stallproof).

      • thegreenworkbench May 20, 2013, 12:15 pm

        I tried learning to drive stick on a Ford Ranger and it just ended up making my dad throw his hands in the air in frustration at the wasted hours, but when I picked up a manual Isuzu Imark for next to nothing in college, I taught myself in about 30 minutes. I think it was a combination between a different, more forgiving clutch, and the absolute need to learn or I couldn’t drive my own car! I have only had manuals from then on out!

        • padded hat May 20, 2013, 8:25 pm

          Nobody should ever have to suffer through learning to drive stick in a Ranger. I learned on a VW bug, and if you didn’t like the clutch feel, you got a wrench and adjusted the cable. The Ranger has a hydraulic clutch lever that has all the “feel” of a damn light switch. My poor teenage son learned on my Ranger. He must have stalled it a thousand times. The kid turned out to be a top notch mechanic and engineer, so it isn’t like he was a clueless doofus, it’s just a spectacularly piss poor tool to use while learning that skill, LOL

          BTW, the old driving instructor at my High School told me a trick for teaching the art of the stick. Now, it had been quite a few decades since he had a manual trans. driver’s ed. car, but it’s still a great tip. Find a dead flat totally abandoned patch of parking lot. Have the student keep their right foot firmly planted on the floor as far from the gas as possible, and the gas pedal is off limits. Now the trick is to get the car moving from a dead stop, in first, without stalling, or bucking. When you have mastered that trick, everything else quickly falls into place.

      • Marcia May 20, 2013, 12:37 pm

        Sharp-edged and fussy is a good word for it. I could get the thing going backwards, but not forwards.

        I was also a senior in high school, 17 years old, and had only been driving for a year. So my general inexperience with driving may have been part of the issue.

        My husband learned to drive a manual in the Navy when we were going on vacation to Europe and renting a car. He had a friend with a much “looser” manual.

        I’m willing to give it another go at some point. Of course, my oldest car is a 2006, so that probably won’t be for another 7+ years. Had I discovered MMM earlier, I totally would have bought a manual Civic. I didn’t realize how bad the gas mileage is on an auto vs. manual for that car.

        • ivyhedge May 20, 2013, 1:39 pm

          @ Marcia: it’s all about the final drive ratio. The old belief that automatics suck power more than do manuals is rarely (though sometimes) realistic with modern cars sporting more gears than 1980s/1990s offerings. With very tall gearing for the overdrive cog, a vehicle like the Honda Fit spins at several hundred rpms less per mile than the manual equivalent. Such is the gain with (economical) 5-, and 6-, speed slushboxes. :)

          • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 5:07 pm

            True Ivyhedge – newer automatics (especially CVTs) are sometimes beating the manuals these days. But if the auto costs $1500 more than the manual and increases vehicle weight by 50-100lbs, it might still be a losing “upgrade”.

            Plus, many of us are still buying cars in the 1995-2010 range, where the manual beats the automatic in EPA figures.

        • Posted On May 20, 2013, 2:45 pm

          “Sharp-edged and fussy is a good word for it. I could get the thing going backwards, but not forwards. ”

          This might indicate that you needed to let out the clutch slower, or give it more gas when doing so. Reverse can be geared lower than any of the forward gears, so it can accommodate (recover from) a faster clutch. True some trannys are different but, unless you’re learning on a race car or other high powered vehicle, they are all pretty much the same. Learn one, you can adjust to others quite easily. My $0.02

        • Christy May 20, 2013, 6:13 pm

          My father taught me to drive a stick shift in a 1968 Javelin – think big muscle car! He actually had me begin in reverse gear. I spent a lot of time at the high school parking lot going backwards before I ever attempted first gear and driving forward.

          After 30 years I am still driving a stick shift. Thanks Dad!

          • Walt May 20, 2013, 10:23 pm

            I drove a variety of manual transmission vehicles in my youth – MG Midget, Renault LeCar, Maserati BiTurbo. The Renault was the first, so i guess I “learned” on it.

            It was almost impossible to stall out the Maserati, but my dad never knew I drove it. I only did a few times.

            The other two I usually didn’t stall out but I could never find reverse, especially in the MG. Sometimes I just pushed them out of the parking space after I gave up.

            It’s been over a decade now since I drove a manual transmission, and I guess I’d consider one but I don’t plan to buy a different car any time soon.

      • ivyhedge May 20, 2013, 1:35 pm

        A 1989 CRX with a fussy clutch? That might suggest a maintenance issue. I’ve been driving 5-/6-spd Hondas since the late 1980s and, if they’ve been well maintained, that have *all* provided the wondrous snick-snick for which the Big H’s gearboxes are known. (This superlative from someone who rarely uses … superlatives!)

      • David C May 20, 2013, 2:42 pm

        I grew up on stick shift vehicles. My father thought that an automatic would be too expensive to replace,should I tear one up. It was many years before I had a vehicle with an automatic trans and almost as many years before I owned a vehicle that was newer than me!

        I must admit that I have gotten lazy as of late with the 16 year old Toyota having an auto. Admitting you have a problem is the first step the cure.

      • PawPrint May 20, 2013, 3:18 pm

        In 1972 we bought a little MG for a few hundred bucks. I’d never driven a manual transmission, but my then husband gave me a lesson or two over the weekend because I needed to drive from Queen Anne (in Seattle) to White Center for my new job. Seattle is exceedingly hilly. Because of sheer need, I managed to make it to work and back home and, yeah, I stalled plenty of times. Seattle wasn’t as big then–I imagine now that people would be honking at me furiously. Back in Seattle again and now I take the bus or walk. We quit driving manual transmissions a while ago–frankly, when you reach a certain age, it can be more wearing on the knees than it’s worth.

      • Mr Money Motivator May 21, 2013, 6:04 am

        It is almost unheard of for UK drivers to have only an Automatic Transmission license.

        In fact, I am going to go away and do some research on the numbers and furnish you with a cross-atlantic comparison!

        • OhYongHao February 19, 2015, 6:57 pm

          An Automatic Transmission only license is unheard of in the US. You have a license to drive a car independent of the type of transmission.

          In Taiwan it was a foreign concept to me, but they have an Automatic Transmission license and a Manual Transmission license which includes Automatic. Having driven a manual most of my life I just got that one, but there were plenty who were going for Automatic only and the people who got Manual Transmission licenses were ones who would be driving small trucks.

      • Sarah September 12, 2014, 8:30 pm

        I tried and failed to learn twice in a 94 Geo Prism. What finally did it was my dad’s tacoma, in compound low. You could get out of the driver’s seat, run around the truck, and get back in, and it would still be puttering along in compound low (yes, he demonstrated this.) I learned in maybe three hours, and drove the Geo Prism across the state the next day. 8 years later, I still drive it, and still get 38 mpg.

    • Erik Y May 20, 2013, 3:05 pm

      I learned to ride a motorcycle first, so already knew how to use a clutch. It took only a couple minutes to get going when I first drove a manual transmisison car. One of my teen aged sons bought his first car last year and I convinced him that a manual was a better choice. He ended up with a 1993 Civic Del Sol with a 5 speed. I taught him to drive it in no more than two hours. My point is not to brag, but to agree that this is one of those worthwhile pursuits that shouldn’t take too long.

  • Sarah May 20, 2013, 12:10 pm

    I can personally attest to the fact that bringing your lunch to work saves an amazing amount of money. When I started reading this blog last summer I decided to bite the bullet and stop eating out, I was already pretty frugal, but this was my one vice. Since that moment, I have paid off over half the debt I had and have opened several different Vanguard accounts for differing purposes and moved all my 401k money over to them. I still have one more debt I am tackling but treating my debt as an EMERGENCY and not eating out made a huge difference in my bottom line and in my happiness. I have been debt free before, but this time it’s for good.

    • Walt May 20, 2013, 10:31 pm

      I’ve been bringing my lunch for a while now. I finally realized that $5 a day adds up.

      Right now I’m working on cutting the cable TV cord – have the antenna and other bits and pieces, but I need to pull some wire through the house and get things hooked up. Payback period is going to be around 8 – 10 months but on top of that we’ll have more channels since we have the $25 a month “Comcast is my antenna, no real cable channels” package. And I’ll have a couple cool cable guy tools like a really neat crimper and a whole bag of compression fittings.

      Meanwhile, my mother-in-law, who lives strictly on her social security and our generosity, has the Comcast top-of-the-line package (but at least without the movie channels.)

      I’m also excited that I haven’t had a bike since I was 22 but I’m going to have one again in a month or so thanks to my work’s 10 year anniversary gift program. Hoping to not hit 20 years.

  • Sarah May 20, 2013, 12:11 pm

    • Cornelia May 21, 2013, 4:27 am

      I’m essentially doing that next year. Spending a year in Antarctica for a pittance of a salary doing research, but not spending a cent of food/rent etc. Can’t wait.

  • Sarah May 20, 2013, 12:12 pm

    • earthmother65 May 20, 2013, 1:37 pm

      Both great stories, thanks for sharing them, Sarah :-) I find the comments on this blog (and on the stories) almost as insightful as the blog posts themselves.

    • PawPrint May 20, 2013, 3:27 pm

      Those were fun to read. I lived in a van with my cat for a summer while working on campus. No bed, tunes, TV or anything like that, though. Just a sleeping bag, stove, flashlight and books. Took showers for a quarter at the YMCA. However, I was living out in the woods, which was about 20 miles from where I was working, so I had to drive my “home” into town every day. Not very mustachian.

  • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 12:21 pm

    I hear you Lucas, but I’m a bit less cynical about the motivations of the financial pundits. I believe they really DO want to help people, and that they don’t really even care about the money they earn for spreading their word. Dave and Suze are probably really good people.

    The thing I’m suggesting here is just that we take the chance to step back and look at how to optimize our entire lifestyle, instead of just optimizing how to get the most money possible to fund our current lifestyle.

    • NEMarvin May 20, 2013, 2:20 pm

      “The thing I’m suggesting here is just that we take the chance to step back and look at how to optimize our entire lifestyle, instead of just optimizing how to get the most money possible to fund our current lifestyle.”

      Great comment!

    • lurker May 21, 2013, 7:36 am

      they may be good people (not sure on that) but look at their lifestyles! they sure as hell ain’t mustachian with giant homes and other excesses galore…

      • Jason May 21, 2013, 8:34 am

        Suze spoke at a company outing, and she was adament that she doesn’t own a house that is more than 1800 square feet. She did not however say how many houses she owned or where. (NYC, West Palm, etc.)

        • BadAss CPA May 21, 2013, 6:13 pm

          I’m a bit embarassed by my recent home purchase. We went from a 992 sq ft home to one that is triple the size at 2,959 sq ft. This goes against everything I’ve learned from this site, but it was just too good a deal to pass up. The homes are only 2 miles apart and the larger one cost just 35k more than my former. We got it as a short sale and according to Zillow it’s already worth over $185k more than we paid for it.

          The plan is to renovate it as best we can, sit out the 2 year holding period and then sell tax free. Depending on interest rates, we may take out a larger mortgage once allowed in a few months to shift to higher yielding assets and for diversity’s sake.

          So what do you think, smart move or do I deserve a punch in the face?

          • Mr. Money Mustache May 21, 2013, 11:25 pm

            Super smart. Houses are actually great money machines when used correctly, and it sounds like you definitely understand that.

          • GregK May 22, 2013, 4:31 am

            This is an investment, not a consumer purchase. No punches in the face unless it’s a really bone-headed investment choice like beanie babies haha. Hope it works out well for you!

          • Lifehacker May 25, 2013, 6:40 am

            Well done! While ignoring the obvious (Zillow is a horrible estimate of value) – the fact is, you’re highly likely to print a ton of money when you sell. And, even if you hold it, you’ve substantially increased your net worth. A win no matter what you do.

            I believe almost everyone should take a similar approach. It’s useful to save money in small areas, but there are diminshing returns. Useful to balance and focus on income/net worth as well, and try to spend as much time saving money on their $100-200k house as they do in all their small <$50 expenses.

    • Vanessa May 21, 2013, 8:01 am

      Love it!

    • Patrick May 21, 2013, 11:43 am

      Dave thinks we’re all morons (which is mostly true), and is quite happy to lift a few dollars off struggling military families (saw the advert in the head) who have no clue what they’re doing.

      Suze tells us what we want to hear probably because she knows most of us are going to do it anyway — why not cater to a wide audience?

      I thumbed through on of her books recently (aimed at “Fabulous” young types), and was a bit horrified. Of course there’s standard stuff about saving nest eggs and retirement blah, blah, blah…., but she’ll tell you how to get the best CAR LOAN.

      Ugh. There are fundamental differences from an “optimized” (which isn’t necessarily frugal) lifestyle than from conventional financial pundits.

      This comes down to — show me. If I believe it and it makes sense, I’ll follow. MMM works because there’s a strong “what’s in it for me…” — read long enough, and examine your own lifestyle, and you WILL save thousands of dollars. This isn’t because you’re necessarily wasteful, but because there is ALWAYS a way to improve. These concepts apply to pretty much anything you wish to achieve — not just Financial Independence. It’s just popular b/c it’s very easy to see that baseline crappiness has to do with spending your best days unfulfilled.

      I don’t see Dave or Suze living this beyond scraping piles of cash from people who are struggling under the weight of their own poor decisions. Of course it’s going to take $2.5M to live a ridiculous lifestyle.

      I just don’t believe it. I see first mover media types who just happened to be at the right place at the right time. That’s it. Nothing special. I’ll take fellow bloggers over manufactured media any day, because it’s real and interactive.

  • s. May 20, 2013, 12:24 pm

    There is an opportunity here for MMM to counter Suze’s analysis, to intervene in/makeover this fellow Coloradan’s life with a dose of encouragement.

    “Why wait 7 years, Megan from Colorado? Early Retirement is within your reach!”

    • ivyhedge May 20, 2013, 1:41 pm

      MMM – why don’t you ping the subject for a Point-Counterpoint followup? That might get Suze to consider the MMM site, as well…Of course, that’s not necessarily a good thing… ;)

  • Sam May 20, 2013, 12:29 pm

    There is a ton of “advice” out there. The problem is people tend to gravitate to the advice that they want to hear. I think where everyone should start is “Mind of a Millionaire” and “Millionaire Next Door”. The difference in these books are that they aren’t really “advice” books, but a list of facts and characteristics about people that have a lot of money. If advice doesn’t pass the test of aligning with what actual millionaires did, then it’s probably not worth listening.

  • Ron May 20, 2013, 12:35 pm

    I appreciate your example, your specificity, your insights, and your passion to help others, but in the interest of deepening the dialogue, I want to offer an alternative perspective on your thesis. In general, I applaud your focus on reducing expenses and I agree with the last two-thirds of your bolded sentence, but consumption will always be a personal choice. Meaning many people will make poor decisions. Why let that reality ruffle your feathers so much? I guess that frustration fuels your writing which is helping many people. Even as your readership grows, many people will spend too much, eat too much, sit too much, drink too much, do all sorts of irrational, counterproductive things. People’s consumer choices are greatly influenced by corporate marketing, but even more so by the people around them. You’re more likely to brown bag it at lunch if most of your co-workers do. And you’re more likely to want a nice new car, if you neighbors drive them. So if we start with the assumption that we’re influenced by those around us, we should think very carefully about where to live. That’s at least half the battle. The five gallon ice-cream example masks the subtlety and nuances of most consumer choices. You’re a BikeNashbar guy, someone else may prefer Performance Bikes (middle tiered), and someone else Colorado Cyclist (more expensive). In this post you seem to be saying financial peeps need to be much more direct and in essence tell people to stop shopping at Performance or Colorado Cyclist. But not everyone values their time quite the same and not everyone is in a huge hurry to quit work. Personal example. I want more of a financial cushion than you because I’m older, have a medical condition that will most likely prove costly, and I assume health care inflation will continue to rise much faster than the CPI. I especially liked your “reflect daily on your top ten expenses” suggestion in your previous “Optimization” post. Your lazer-like focus on expenses is excellent. And I suspect you’re so prescriptive because you’re compensating for the lack of attention to it. As replies to this will probably show, I’m sure my belief that you’re too prescriptive makes me a distinct minority among your readers.

    • Posted On May 20, 2013, 2:54 pm

      I think MMM’s point in this article is that any financial advice that completely ignores expenses is useless (to use a softer term). To assume someone has to spend 6100$/month on expenses because they’ve done the due diligence to justify the time/money equation for each and every expense seems a bit ignorant.
      To your point, I agree that some people have expenses that they feel makes the time/money equation work best for them. In my mind MMM asks people to review their expenses to be sure that last statement is true. He isn’t prescriptively telling people to shutdown all of their purchases at higher end stores. That’s my view anyway.

    • Sam May 20, 2013, 3:08 pm

      I’d probably stop reading if MMM followed this advice. The niche this blog fills, as I see it, is that you are must strive to become a finely tuned money-putting-away-machine. It’s a mentality you have to continually train in until it’s second nature. I come here to exercise my frugality muscles that are already pretty fit. I need a drill Sargent to get me to the next level, not someone that’s going to let me eat ice cream half way through my workout.

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 20, 2013, 4:53 pm

      Damn, I was thinking I need to be MORE prescriptive, not less.

      I mean, shit, in this article, I said you were allowed to spend between $5,000 and $25,000 per person per year. How much more spendypants do you want me to allow you to be!?!? I should just cap it at a flat fifty bucks and then we could all REALLY start getting badass :-)

      As for the bike preferences: huh, I didn’t even know there were more “premium” bike stores than Nashbar. Bonus for me, I suppose, since I’ve always assumed I was living top-of the line.

      Indeed, in many cases not even KNOWING that there is stuff even fancier than the stuff you currently own is a nice way to avoid having extra material desires creep in.

      But even if you’ve been bitten, it is entirely possible to slide back down the hedonic treadmill with a bit of practice.

      • Posted On May 21, 2013, 7:21 am

        “…I didn’t even know there were more “premium” bike stores than Nashbar.”

        Which I believe backs up the point. At the time MMM didn’t realize higher-end bike stores existed, he made the decision (I assume based on the efficiency of the time/money equation for his case) that Nashbar was right for him (even though he perceived it to be high-end).

        I agree, and I believe that becoming “…a finely tuned money-putting-away-machine” doesn’t necessarily mean NEVER shopping in (what one considers to be) a high-end store. Otherwise, MMM would have been in violation for shopping at Nashbar (based on his perception).

        After learning about shops that are higher end than Nasbar, MMM now feels more like he’s shopping at the right place, (still shooping at Nashbar, and now feels like it is a bonus), even though he did not in fact reduce his expenditures (ie increase the efficiency of his spending by choosing a lower-end store). All that happened was someone told him he ‘could have been spending more,’ which gave him a good feeling.

        We could always spend more, and the prescriptive nature of this blog tells people that they can always spend less. Which is true. But at some point on the spend-less side of things, each of us makes a decision as to when the time/money equation fits our situation best.

        Tongue in cheek, I know, but if the limit were $50/person per year, we would all need to spend a whole lot of our time creating things from scratch, and bartering until we could survive. That, I am sure, is NOT the point of this blog.

        • Sam May 21, 2013, 3:05 pm

          I think you’re missing the point. I’m sure he actually knew there’s more expensive places than Nashbar. He’s saying Nashbar has better stuff than you actually require.

          The lesson is not “an expensive bike can be ok in some circumstances, everyone is different, let’s all dance with fairies and get along”, it’s “hey, stupid, you don’t need a crazy expensive bike unless the manufacturer is sponsoring you 50000% of the cost”.

    • Emmers May 26, 2013, 12:29 pm

      “have a medical condition that will most likely prove costly”

      Countdown until one of the commenters tells you you wouldn’t HAVE that medical condition if you just biked to work…any takers? :-P

      I find MMM’s blog super valuable, but I’m also able to figure out which parts of his advice are actually applicable to my life and which aren’t. That kind of filtering is valuable if you read *any* advice, really, because people’s lives are just too different to have any sort of “one size fits all” approach.

      Like software, it’s okay to be liberal on your inputs and conservative on your outputs.

  • Savvy Financial Latina May 20, 2013, 12:40 pm

    I’m 23 and completely think such advice is b.s. Stop spending $6100 a month! I strongly dislike complainers that have so much but are unwilling to sacrifice their lifestyle to do what they want. They just complain about it.
    Maybe it’s because I grew up poor, and see everybody have so many awesome things, and not appreciate them. Shakes head.

  • Rich Uncle EL May 20, 2013, 12:41 pm

    I believe I saw that clip live, and I was thinking the exact same thing. 2 million dollars and you cannot retire on that, come on stop the madness. Once that lady retires she will intelligently slow down expenses because the income is not coming in. People adjust when monetary situations change. Well at least the frugal people do and not the most recent lottery winners.

  • Richard Van Manen May 20, 2013, 12:59 pm

    “the typical person’s life down to something that would cost between $5,000 and $25,000 per person per year in the US, without compromising their ability to live a happy life. Most of the remaining things we have in our lives – even ones we happen to enjoy – aren’t fundamentals for human happiness. They are just cultural norms, programmed in differently for each country by the marketing of corporations who sell the non-fundamental products.”

    Love this paragraph! Pure Gold! I wish people would realize how well within reach their financial independence goals are if they would commit to figuring out what expenses are actually necessary.

  • A Shepherd In Wolf's Clothing May 20, 2013, 1:00 pm

    MMM, I want to say one huge “Thank You!” to you and my fellow Mustachians. Your blog and the commenters that help keep it so lively and thought provoking have had an absolute life altering effect on me and my family. The changes we have made over the past 2 years have been radical (at least for us….but nowhere near what many of the “Badasses” on here have done). Really, there is way too much to type into a comment so I won’t even try. But I do want you and my fellow Mustachians to know that I recommend MMM to all of my family, friends and clients. In fact, I have told many of them that if there is only 1 piece of advice they should ever take from me, it is to read every MMM post and then treat this like their financial bible. Period.

    Keep up the Great Work!

    ps. I am a licensed financial advisor (the really bad kind that Brandon above refers to ;-). Not all wolves are wolves. Sometimes they are shepherds but the best way for them to start making a positive impact on people’s lives and spreading the MMM gospel is to put on the wolf’s clothing.

  • Taryl May 20, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Finally someone is telling us like it is and providing useful information. A big thank you.

    Can we help a consumer society find happiness and self esteem with less? Maybe some group counseling is necessary for those who don’t get it.


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