Why We are Not Really All Doomed

My nailgun and I enjoy the house we are building together.

My nailgun and me, enjoying the house we are building together.

Behold, the almighty Nail Gun. Symbol of human ingenuity and productivity, and also builder of my new house.

This particular one, my trusty Ridgid R350, has blasted just over 10,000 large nails into the framing members of this residence, and perhaps 100,000 additional ones into the other houses I have built or worked on since 2006 when I first bought it.

At the time it cost me $300, or about a single day’s wages for a self-employed carpenter. It seemed like an incredible bargain back then, since it can pay for itself in saved labor (compared to hand-driving those framing nails) in less than one day. And since 2006, the price of this machine has dropped by a further 25%, even as the prices of oil, steel, and even labor rates in China where these things are made have all risen.

As recently as my own childhood, nailguns were incredibly rare and expensive, and much bulkier – used only by large construction companies. Nails were driven with hammers, because nobody could afford the gun. Today,  I personally own five different sizes of nailguns, because the boost in productivity and work quality greatly outweighs the cost or the loss of manliness caused by the automatic driving of fasteners. In turn, I am using the time saved by these nailguns to write this article for you.

This example, although rather specific to my own favorite hobby, is the perfect illustration of why we are not all doomed. And the more thoroughly you understand and celebrate this phenomenon, the richer your life will be. Richer in monetary wealth, happy experiences and a lifetime of inner peace. And richer in an intellectual sense too, since everything makes more sense when you understand the true nature of how the world works. So let’s dig a little deeper.

The Doomer culture is alive and well in the peripheral areas of the mainstream media and the Internet. Crash predictors moan about the unsustainable levels of debt in this country or another one. The crazier ones turn to gold and silver, or ammunition and tinned food as their first and last line of defense. Even here in the intelligent confines of this blog’s Forum section, people wonder whether an upcoming financial crisis will wipe us out*.

If we’re not fearing financial market collapse, we are fearing cultural destruction. The middle-class is being milked by the capitalists and will eventually crash and revolt, or the most productive members of the world are being suppressed by an ever-more-burdensome state, depending on which side of the political aisle on which you sit. Either way, this is unsustainable and we are doing everything wrong, so we had best get worked up about it and post angry comments all over the Internet.

Doom, doom, doom. Sure, things may look pretty good right now if you look out your window. Sure, you’re reading this on a fancy-ass computer with a belly full of expensive food and nice clean clothes. But this is all fake. Tomorrow, the suffering begins.

I would like to present an alternative perspective, one with practical implications for good living for people of every wealth level.

 Mr. Money Mustache’s Three Point Formula for Economic and Life Success:

  1. Understand that everything is currently Fucking Great, and base all decisions on the general belief that things will continue to get more Fucking Great all the time.
  2. Use this information as a happy basis to work hard, learn as much as you can,  and deliver great value and help others as much as you can for your entire life.
  3. Waste as little of the proceeds from this activity as possible, reinvesting them into doing more of step 2, further building and compounding both your strength and your happiness.

Yep, that’s all there is to it. It is bold, cheesy, simplistic and contains some profanity just to let you know I really mean it.

Yet it is oddly similar to the wisdom Warren Buffett just repeated in this year’s annual letter to shareholders. In that classic, he compares market crashes and financial crises to a mouthy neighbor shouting his estimate of your farm’s value over the fence at you, while you are busy producing food from the land and the sunshine.

Humankind’s ability to live well and prosper depends at its core only on productive land, sunshine and our collective knowledge. While the first item on the list is currently under some attack, the second comes with a billion-year guarantee and the third is increasing so rapidly that it should easily be able to correct our current failures in the land department.

In fact, this whole website is one tiny contribution towards that correction – a chunk of human knowledge that grows over time and helps to solve an existing problem. Just like a nailgun.

So when you see people flailing their arms and saying things like “We’re doomed! The Fed’s rate of QE is unsustainable and the resulting debt Armageddon is going to plunge us into hyperinflation!” you could substitute the words, “We’re doomed! China’s production of nailguns is unsustainable and we will all soon be plunged into hand-driving nails again forever!”

The nailguns are not going anywhere. We have figured out how to make them, and that knowledge will never be lost. This human invention has forever raised our productivity and can never be taken away.

Similarly, the financial system, another machine that greatly raises productivity, is just another human invention. Even in 2008 when things got hokey and a big house of cards collapsed, some humans just stacked up a few new cards in a haphazard way and we all agreed to continue using it, and thus we all remained happy and productive.

All of this will continue as long as most of us choose to remain happy, productive, and cooperative. This is inevitable, aside from those few doomers over there yelling stuff over the fence.

Wow. Inspirational stuff, Mr. Money Mustache. But how does this apply to me specifically in the area of getting rich?

In less fluffy and metaphorical terms, this means:

  • Invest your money in index funds and real estate rather than “protecting” it while trying to predict the next collapse. You’ll still own your piece of land or your slice of thousands of businesses regardless of what the guy on the fence is yelling about what he would pay for it at the moment.
  • Invest your time in furthering your own education, health, and meaningful relationships, rather than drowning in worry, consuming passive entertainment, or protecting yourself from failure.
  • Produce value for the world much more than you consume things from the world. Producing is a happier activity, and the inevitable money surplus caused by this habit will allow you to capitalize on, rather than being crushed by, fluctuations in the general upward trend of those first two tips.

Are you going to be the one continually foretelling collapse, or will you spend the day out here growing some food for yourself instead?

*Thankfully, the general consensus was that we’ll be fine, which is a good indicator for the future prosperity of those in the discussion.

  • EL March 3, 2014, 11:31 am

    This is nothing new as negativity is the driving force of all media outlets, including personal finance media. I am a believer of making your own destiny in life and there is nothing that crazy media journalists can say to change how I feel. I don’t watch the news and haven’t for a long time. I read financial websites and I only click on the positive articles that will give me value in some way.

    • Johnny Moneyseed March 3, 2014, 12:41 pm

      This is why I avoid Yahoo! Finance at all costs.

      But even if you read positive articles all the time you’re going to skew your perspective. There has to be a balance where you’re still in touch with reality and able to cut through the bullshit (because bullshit exists in both spectrums, positive and negative). Otherwise you’re going to think that either “everybody is suffering” or “nobody ever makes mistakes”.

      • Holly March 4, 2014, 8:26 am

        That’s the balance I’m currently trying to find. I *want* to know what’s going on in the world, even if it’s truly depressing and awful. On the other hand, I wish the news was more positive in general.

        • Done by Forty March 4, 2014, 2:08 pm

          I hear you, Holly. I’m not on board with the idea of avoiding the media altogether, but wish it didn’t have such a negative impact on my mood.

          My new trick is to get my news from “Wait, Wait. Don’t Tell Me.”

          • Ryan March 5, 2014, 1:46 pm

            Totally spot on. If one if going to argue that markets are irrational, humans control the markets, therefore humans are irrational. If we’re irrational beings in regards to money, that naturally we won’t be incredibly rational or perceptive when it comes to other events, i.e. politics, labor, war, etc. There aren’t too many places where objectivity reigns supreme due to the inherent bias humans have. Like JM said above, you have to cut through the BS.

      • Nathan March 5, 2014, 11:50 am

        That is great perspective to keep in mind the balance between positive and negative. Sometimes it’s the positive news that can wreak the most havoc by stirring up jealously and discontent with your own life.

        For example, MMM’s possession of a nail gun is pretty stinkin’ good news. However, when I read about MMM’s mad carpentry skills, it makes me a little jealous. I wish I had more carpentry skills, which leaves me with 2 options:

        1) Either sulk about how I don’t have skills.
        2) Work on developing those skills by practicing on small projects or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

        So in a way, it’s less about what’s going on in the news (good or bad) and more about what’s going on with our perspective and attitude with respect to how we plan to respond to that news.

  • Kenoryn March 3, 2014, 11:32 am

    Hm. It never occurred to me to worry about financial or cultural collapse, as those seem relatively manageable in the event they do happen. Instead I worry about the end of resources such as oil, or helium, or similar things, which is inevitable. And the depletion of/end of easy access to natural capital such as drinkable water and breathable air and farmable soil. And the permanent flooding of the most populated parts of the world due to climate change.

    The doomers (or ‘preppers’) on that end of the spectrum generally go in for things like learning skills and growing their own food, which is all good stuff anyway. In fact the 3-point formula, and the less-fluffy-and-metaphorical points, fit right in with that.

    • Dr. Doom March 3, 2014, 12:10 pm

      This is the only area of concern for me as well. Resource exhaustion and climate catastrophe due to overpopulation and industrialization.
      I’m not a troll and not a doomer — I’m a data-driven engineer, drawn to scientific articles. When I read over and over again that we’re already well over safe PPM on carbon in the atmosphere, etc and instead of decreasing yearly emissions, the world is still trending upward with no end in sight (example: after a few years of respite, Europe is going back to building coal-fired power plants), I’m concerned and I can’t just bury this concern under optimism which isn’t supported by data. I also don’t believe in magic: someone isn’t going to build a fancy carbon-and-methane B-GON system which fixes everything.

      The other points, though, are spot on, and everything is generally Fucking Great.

      • Spectra March 3, 2014, 4:38 pm

        Thanks MMM for describing the gained knowledge of nailguns. I’ve always thought that a complete financial collapse is something to fear far less than widespread famine and environmental destruction because if we “reset to zero” you know what will happen? many on this site will excel immediately back to the top because the knowledge, skills, and discipline we have obtained will not be taken from us. I certainly don’t wish for a collapse but I don’t fear it either.

      • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 4:45 pm

        I’m with you on the numbers behind resource depletion, of course. And I definitely think we will be in for a happier future if we run our economies more efficiently right away.

        But I just don’t think there will be any incredible catastrophe either way. Because everything involved is so large, it is like adding more water to a giant swimming pool. A gradual overflow or a gradual shortage.

        Of course, those directly affected by climate change (dead relatives or sustinence farms destroyed by flooding) would have stronger words on the issue. But either way, I think the world economy will do well, because there is so much adaptability and ingenuity built in.

        If you believe this, then our job is to tweak the system to make it as efficient and ethical as we can.. without worrying that it will collapse completely.

        • Spectra March 4, 2014, 9:40 am

          I agree with the pool analogy. I find it interesting how much fear is placed into the idea of financial collapse without thinking about the consequences. Someone said to me the other day, “what happens if the markets collapse? You’re money will all be gone.” Guess what? his money is already all gone because he lives under a mountain of debt while soaring in the clouds of consumerism. If the stock market loses half its value today I’ll be fine because half of what I have in the stock market is a whole hell of a lot more money than the average person has now.

        • Kevin March 4, 2014, 10:05 am

          MMM, check out the I=PAT model.

          It describes the multiplicative contribution of population (P), affluence (A) and technology (T) to environmental impact (I). Environmental impact (I) may be expressed in terms of resource depletion or waste accumulation; population (P) refers to the size of the human population; affluence (A) refers to the level of consumption by that population; and technology (T) refers to the processes used to obtain resources and transform them into useful goods and wastes. Improvements in efficiency can reduce resource intensiveness, reducing the T multiplier.



          Essentially, what it comes down to is that (T)echological advancements will need to make up for the (I)mpact we are having on our environment due to increases in (P)opulation and (A)ffluence.

          • greg March 6, 2014, 7:09 pm

            Matt Ridley sure had a lot of the same high-level message in The Rational Optimist but came to the conclusion that it is (in his view) logical to be bullish that delta_T >> delta_I

        • Eric March 6, 2014, 1:01 am

          Hi MMM,

          I’d have to disagree with the pool analogy.

          First off, many of our economy’s systems have been refined to an incredible level of efficiency in order to compete with other elements of the same system. Highly leveraged financial institutions is an example of this, but it exists in lots of areas (just in time shipping and supply chains, to reduce inventory held, for example). This is very dependent on a stable underlying system.

          With things this finely tuned, any very large shock to one area of the system could have catastrophic consequences elsewhere. Think a german engine with very fine tolerances vs. another with looser tolerances, and the resultant performance vs. reliability tradeoff. In the past, the economy had looser tolerances (the govt. spread out key industries in the 50s and 60s to make them more resistant to nuclear war, for example).

          The second part is that many of the things that the doom and gloomers are talking about (climate change) are not linear systems, so we can’t really think of them in terms of adding a small bit having a small, gradual effect – there is the possibility to reach various tipping points which can have runaway effects. Things like this are what cause the planet to reach new equillibria which don’t resemble ours, like an ice age.

          I’m not really a doom and gloomer, and I’m very long many aggressive assets, but I do see the potential for things going very wrong very quickly, as they have in various parts of the world in the past 100 years, and I’ve taken some small steps to mitigate that potential. I don’t really think it’s crazy, just prudent.

          • Jeb March 10, 2014, 9:33 am

            You’re right in thinking that these things are not linear but they are in the reverse way. It would take a 5-fold to 10-fold increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to make the greenhouse effect double what it is now.

            The efficiency of alternative energy is increasing at an exponential rate. In global history terms it will soon make economical as well as environmental sense to no longer dig in the ground for fossil fuels. Perhaps not in the next decade but certainly before all the world’s lights go out forever. Just think 20 years ago that solar panels could barely power a calculator in direct sunlight and now they can charge your garden lights to run all night.

      • Christof March 3, 2014, 11:10 pm

        Get other data to balance your view, if you feel doomed with the data you have on hand. There’s data out there from the UN and other research that tells you how hunger, diseases, dying children, poverty have decreased by huge margins over the last 40 years. If you feel resources are exhausting get a few numbers on how much clean water (several thousand gallons per person per day), oil and gas (a few hundred years, at least), and other resources there are.

        Those might not be equally distributed (we have an excess of clean water here), might involve technologies you don’t like (genetically modified food is part of the reason that less kids die of hunger and lack of nutrition), or consider to be risky (shale gas, nuclear power). But that’s different from exhausting resources.

        All these approaches (that many consider to be bad) show that there is a way to avoid resource exhaustion. Now it’s your job to find a better way that you can agree with.

        • Kenoryn March 4, 2014, 9:03 am

          I think it is a bit naive to think that resource exhaustion can be avoided forever and ever just by innovative new technologies. I think all we are doing is putting off making the real changes that need to be made, which are to our lifestyles, not to our technology. If we say, “Hooray, fracking exists, now we can keep using as much petroleum as we want and never worry about it!” we’re missing quite a few key points (and, obviously, throwing the people who live in fracking areas to the wolves.)

          For one, we are failing to consider the side effects (e.g., people who die of cancer as a result of the technology someone doesn’t like; frailty of our agricultural system due to monocultures).

          Two, we are assuming that past gains are a) sustainable, and b) representative of future gains. Yet we know perfectly well that even if we find new oil resources, develop new technologies for accessing oil, etc., we’ll eventually run out and we’ll have to find a way to live without it. We know that increases in agricultural production are linear, while population increase is exponential, so it will outstrip our gains at some point. We know that our reliance on GMOs is dependent on ever-increasing and ever more deadly pesticide and herbicide use, with devastating effects on the ecosystem (e.g. honeybees.) We know that the incredible improvements in medicine over the last 70 years are made possible by antibiotics, and that our foolish misuse of antibiotics means we’re now facing a new era of antibiotic-resistant diseases we have no way of treating, the return of old killers we thought we had eradicated, and a new element of danger to procedures that depend on antibiotics like chemotherapy or surgery.

          So it’s not up to Dr. Doom, or anyone else, to find a ‘better way’ to avoid resource exhaustion through innovation. It is up to each of us to avoid it by adopting sustainable practices in our lives. We all have a responsibility not to prop up the abuse of pesticides, antibiotics, or energy, even if we won’t personally be affected. It’s not up to the scientists to save us. It’s up to us to save us. (Including those of us who are scientists. ;)) Of course, scientific advancement won’t hurt that cause, but it can’t solve all of our problems.

          Of course, here at MMM we’re all already on that path, so that’s good news. :)

          • Scooter Phil March 4, 2014, 12:22 pm

            I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. I waded through a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ education in the last year and it definitely hampered my outlook, so I am trying to balance this with a lot more positivity and focus on abundance this year.

            That said, ignoring the realities is dangerous as well. It’s disgusting to see the human cost (and its worsening trajectory) that moral-less profit-seeking is reaping on humanity.

            I think “the Serenity Prayer” is very applicable as a negative mindset does nothing, I just wish there was more Good in power than the Evil that seems to dominate the political and corporate machines. I believe something drastic does need to change, or we are all f*cked, but I also have some faith that it can, and hopefully will.

            This will be an interested couple of decades to live through…

          • Christof March 5, 2014, 2:34 am

            Seriously, I do not even know where to start… Your reply is a perfect example of limiting exposure to data that supports your view, and thereby getting the impression of being doomed if you do not change anything. You feel that you are rightly concerned, but so is anybody who thinks the world is going to end tomorrow.

            Let’s reiterate: I’m not saying that we don’t need to change. I’m saying that we aren’t doomed, because change will happen gradually and we will adapt. It’s not worth spending the time to think about all the bad outcomes or the big changes human mankind needs to make, when you rather could make a small change and be happy about your contribution.

            I was also saying that you need to seek data that is contradicting your view to get a better picture. That’s not in the human nature (we prefer affirmation), but it’s the scientific approach and the only way to get a broad enough picture. With that in mind, here are a few data points that you might disagree with:

            Agricultural productivity is not growing linear. If you look at the percentage of the population that lives of farming a thousand years ago, a hundred years ago and today, this becomes obvious.

            Population growth is slowing down currently and will peak in the future. The UN does not discuss, whether that is the case, but only whether the peak will happen around 2050 at 9bn or around 2100 at 10bn.

            Future oil needs are not predictable. Any vision of the future in the past 200 years has been wrong aside from a bit of statistical noise. Cities did not collapse of horse waste. Coal didn’t run out because steam engine would need enormous amounts.

            Some sorts of genetically modified food that are resistent lead to less usage of pesticides. Hardly any species that is used in organic farming these days existed 100 years ago.

            Honey bee decline is considered to be due to changes in agricultural landscape, not GMO. Filling huge areas with wheat and corn for production of biodiesel and fructose syrup may very well be another reason. We just don’t know.

            Antibiotics have saved millions to billions of lives. Growing resistance is a natural process. It does happen with other substances, too.

            Ok, now that you disagree with all of those… inhale…exhale…. ;)

            The point is not whether you agree with one way or the other. The point is that there’s no evidence that the world is going to be doomed and collapse into some end time scenario. Those make good films, but not good reality. Reality is slow and steady changes. Not suited for media nor Hollywood.

            • Eric March 6, 2014, 1:13 am

              Reality is really not slow and steady changes. Have you been paying attention to the various revolts?

              There’s a hell of a lot of noise and FUD that’s spewed by the media, but if you’re paying attention, there are a lot of real issues that are looming and that we don’t yet have very good answers to.

              WRT antibiotics, we literally don’t have replacements in the pipeline for the last lines of defense against certain bacterial infections, and people are starting to die from things that were simple to cure a decade ago. We’ve always had some very harsh antibiotics that could be resorted to if we needed them, but even those are not always working anymore. The CDC is issuing very worrying declarations. If we eliminate them from normal livestock feed, bacteria may lose some of their resistances, but currently, it’s not looking great there.

            • Christof March 7, 2014, 3:18 am

              We were talking about climate change, wasting resources and about the standard of living in the US and its future prospects. Revolts have nothing to do with this, haven’t been referred to by me and are not a direction I want to move this discussion to.

              There were always real issues that were difficult and people hadn’t a good answer to like the horse waste and air pollution from oil-based street lights in big cities 150 years ago. And then came the car and electricity.

              There’s no denying that a lot of antibiotics work worse than they did in the past. There’s unfortunately also very little understanding about this in the general population. Compliance with antibiotics is still low. Many patients stop taking antibiotics when they feel healthy, but not all bacteria have been killed. It would also help if antibiotics would only be prescribed if needed.

              Will this lead to the end of the world end and kill most of humanity? You might consider that to be a fact and complain about how we are all doomed. Or you might invest your money in companies that research alternatives for hospitals (a major source of MRBs) like decentralized operation rooms and remote operation technologies and enjoy the day while your money is working for your better future.

            • Kenoryn March 7, 2014, 2:56 pm

              Thanks for your perspective Christof. It’s true I mostly only have these in-depth conversations with people who agree with me, because everyone else I know generally isn’t aware of these issues and can’t have an in-depth conversation about them. ;) I am a scientist by training as well and appreciate the value of contrary opinions. However, your assumption that my opinions must not be well-researched because they don’t conform to yours suggests to me that you may be guilty of the same kind of limited-exposure thinking you accuse me of. ;) I hope I can expose you to a different viewpoint through this discussion as well and we can enlighten each other.

              To clarify, I’m not saying we’re doomed; I’m saying that we’re facing some serious issues, and I don’t think we should ignore them and assume that someone else will fix everything for us with the magic of technology, so we can just keep doing what we’ve always done. I think everyone should make appropriate changes in their own life to reduce their own destructive impact, and that governments should also make changes to help this process along. I think we’re in agreement about this point (the first part, anyway).

              Regarding the nature of slow and steady changes: this is true for many areas. However, the very problem we’re facing with regard to certain issues (climate change, for example) is not the change itself, necessarily, but the speed of the change – that it’s too fast for us (and the planet) to adapt to. For climate change in particular, our input may be a slow and steady increase, but certain things could happen at key tipping points that could bring about some very sudden changes (for example, the postulated shutdown of thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic, or the change in albedo due to loss of arctic sea ice). We’ve already passed some key thresholds because our slow-and-steady change is too slow, so it would be worth our while to speed things up a bit in that department. ;)

              While agricultural productivity over the history of human civilization may not be increasing linearly, productivity over the past 60 years or so certainly is. It’s true that if we see a really revolutionary change in technology (like going from horse-power to mechanical power) we’ll see correspondingly more significant increases in production. Do we want to count on these kinds of revolutions periodically? I don’t think so. Better to change our farming system to a sustainable one now, while we’re still keeping up.

              Honeybee decline is not ‘considered’ by scientific consensus to be due to anything; there is still no definitive cause identified. Recent research points to neonicotinoid pesticide use, and as a result the EU has banned the use of three of these pesticides for flowering crops. I’d also like to note regarding your comment about filling huge areas with wheat and corn for biodiesel and fructose syrup production, that corn is not grown primarily for HFCS or biodiesel; it is grown primarily to feed livestock. According to the EPA, the breakdown is about 80% for livestock, 12% for human food, and 8% for everything else. http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/cropmajor.html

              While neonicotinoid use is not specifically tied to GMOs, GMO crops generally use neonicotinoid-treated seed. GMOs that are billed as reducing pesticide use are Bt crops, which essentially incorporate the insecticide into the plant rather than spraying it on after. Ecologically speaking I don’t think this is a huge improvement.

              I actually grow quite a few varieties that have been around 100 years or more. There are whole organizations out there (as well as governments) dedicated to preserving genetic diversity in food. Check out Seeds of Diversity and the Seed Savers Exchange.

              We may not be able to predict future oil needs, but we can predict our oil reserves and observe current trends. I think it is safe to say that working toward lowering our oil needs would be a good thing – no?

              I understand world population is expected to peak eventually, but if we’re having trouble now, it sure won’t be any easier at 9 billion people! Food production, and other resource uses, will have to keep up with the population growth and then maintain that level without succumbing to resource scarcity problems or environmental degradation. Surely it is better to start adopting farming practices now that don’t deplete the soil and rely on continuous inputs of fertilizer and ever-increasing use of herbicide.

              Anyway, I think we’re mostly on the same page here, just disagreeing about some of the details. ;) I’m generally trying to advocate being aware of the issues and adjusting your lifestyle so as not to exacerbate them, and viewing these issues as each individual’s responsibility, rather than “someone else”‘s responsibility.

            • Christof March 9, 2014, 1:00 am

              Thank you very much for your balanced response. We do agree mostly, but differ in details and how we prioritize outcomes and dangers. It has become clear, I think, that we are not doomed, but there are definitely areas that we need to change, that we will change, and that we will survive.

              The one part I disagree with is the the assumption that the speed of change is too fast. You rightly switch to using “would” and “could” in your examples. Proposing that the speed of change is too fast implies that changes need to happen even faster. Immediately required changes can justify almost any action, because the scientific foundation isn’t solid enough to proof that these actions might be harmful. Neither could they proof that these actions will bring the desired results, but that wouldn’t matter, because urgency itself justifies the course.

              To me this is the first step in saying: “We are doomed if we do not react immediately.” Instead we should thrive to understand the systems.

              Living in Germany the thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic is important to me. This region would look a lot more like Alaska without it. We do not know, though, how this global circulation responds to different inputs. Currently a lot of research on both sides goes into studies on the impact of the sun, an impact that both sides ten years ago stated was negligible.

              Change isn’t necessarily bad, often it is just different. 10,000 years ago the place I’m sitting right now was covered with tons of ice and the UK was part of the continent. I certainly don’t want to live in a climate like that, but I’m sure I would adapt should the ice come back, or move to another region, as so many have done before.

              Thank you again for you constructive and detailed response.

            • Mark Schreiner July 7, 2023, 11:06 am

              You are right–there is no evidence of future doom, nor of anything that will happen in the future. There are theories and speculations (with greater or lesser basis in what we know from the past), and risks and uncertainties. That is why discussion is reasonable.

          • greg March 6, 2014, 7:11 pm

            “we are assuming that past gains are a) sustainable, and b) representative of future gains.”

            1. farming without our even non-gmo super-hybrids is the only thing that keeps feeding our population sustainable (organic practices are quite otherwise)

            2. for whom are we saving the future?

            3. who are we to mandate a cut in living standards vis-a-vis carbon emissions onto others?

            • Kenoryn March 7, 2014, 9:58 am

              I find it interesting that you think of living more sustainably as a “cut in living standards”. Your comment really illustrates how mainstream thinking in North America hampers our future prospects. This blog is the antithesis to this notion, demonstrating that your standard of living really has very little to do with your level of consumption. Regarding ‘mandating’ that cut onto others, if you are talking about implementing carbon reduction targets for developing countries, I think that it’s simply a necessity, and “who are we” is simply an excuse. We all need to reduce our carbon emissions, both developed and developing countries. In developing countries there is a really exciting opportunity now to skip the stages of development that Europe/north america went through (e.g. coal power and car-dependent societies) and go straight to the sustainable end society, since the technology is now available (and wasn’t available to first world countries when they were going through their early development stages) and we are aware of issues now we had no idea about then. You could thus improve social systems and technological systems at the same time as decreasing emissions.

              Regarding 2., we are ‘saving the future’ for future generations of humanity, yes? There is a movement for the voluntary extinction of the human race, but I don’t think it’ll get much traction. ;)

              Regarding 1, I’m not sure what you mean by “farming without our super-hybrids is the only thing that keeps farming sustainable”. If you meant to say with, instead of without, then I disagree. The current iteration of farming in North America is a system that grows primarily corn (and soy) in order to feed primarily livestock, not people. We don’t need to produce nearly as much food as we do to feed our population. We could produce food of a different kind (food in the form of plants instead of animals) with much less resource input. To sustain our current system we’re dependent on the enormous scale of farming now. But it would be quite possible to create an entirely different farming system, based on more, smaller scale operations, growing food more sustainably, for humans instead of animals, with most people growing some portion of their own food. (E.g., during WWII, backyard ‘victory gardens’ were responsible for about 40% of all produce grown in the USA.) Farming at a large scale with ‘super-hybrids’ and GMOs creates a high level of output, but farming at a smaller scale with lots of diversity in methods and plant types creates a high level of resilience. We don’t necessarily need the high output, but we do need resilience.

          • Elizabeth Bernstein March 7, 2014, 2:49 pm

            That thing about agricultural production increasing linearly while population increases exponentially — that’s exactly why Thomas Malthus said we were doomed in his 1798 essay.

            • James December 27, 2023, 6:35 am

              Agricultural production has thus far increased exponentially with a much higher exponent than population.

      • lurker March 4, 2014, 9:22 am

        all we have to do is start planting trees and just don’t stop….but should probably do it the Regenerative Agriculture way…..keep planting productive trees until the carbon problem is history…..and try not to mess up the clean water supply.

      • irononmaiden March 4, 2014, 9:49 am

        “someone isn’t going to build a fancy carbon-and-methane B-GON system which fixes everything.”

        They did once. It was called ATMOS. :)

      • greg March 14, 2014, 2:32 pm

        Hey, Dr. Doom. Is there a way to counter-act our carbon emissions, aside from burning less fossil fuels? I don’t see China and India foregoing poverty to keep the PPM of carbon at a safe level. In other words, can we emit something else that might destroy the excess carbon in the atmosphere?

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 15, 2014, 9:04 am

          The book “Superfreakonomics” has a neat section about stratosphere-level sulfur dioxide emissions helping in this regard, complete with a crazy plan to do it. Not the greatest solution, but a fun peek at the idea of geoengineering nonetheless:

          The real solution to me is getting people to realize that burning less fossil fuels is not a “cost”, it is an improvement in life. In many cases, it is cashflow-positive (smaller car/house or insulation), but you need people to care and think it is fun first.

        • Felly March 15, 2014, 9:18 am

          There is a company called Global Thermostat that works directly on carbon capture technology. They already have a fully operational plant in the Bay Area.

    • Miss Growing Green March 3, 2014, 12:18 pm

      Agreed, it is hard not to worry about those things. In fact, I have to make a conscious effort to limit the amount of time I spend educating myself on those kinds of world events because the whole thing can be overwhelmingly depressing.
      Where do you draw the line between staying informed and going down the path of negativity?

      • Frugal Paragon March 3, 2014, 12:30 pm

        It IS hard not to worry, but human ingenuity has always managed before. For instance, at the turn of the 20th century New York City was plagued by a completely unmanageable pollution problem, one that just got worse and worse and was making the city almost unlivable. No one could see a way around it or any kind of solution.

        The pollution problem was horse manure, and, somewhat ironically, the miracle solution was the automobile. I’m not saying we should be profligate with our CO2 emissions or that scientists shouldn’t be working on the problem, just that I think we’ll be OK.

        • Kenoryn March 3, 2014, 12:56 pm

          I remember learning about the horse pollution problem in environmental history. The differences between that problem and our current problems are:
          1) that one was primarily just an unpleasant nuisance, whereas this one threatens the survival of humanity;
          2) that one was localized and avoidable if you just didn’t live there, whereas this one is worldwide and inescapable;
          3) people recognized there was a problem and wanted to fix it. In this case, 1/3 of Americans deny that there is a problem, and massive lobbies are fighting to deliberately do nothing about it to protect their own temporary interests.

          I understand your point about human ingenuity finding a way around it, as we generally have in the past. It’s just that in this case, human ingenuity is up against other humans with their own ingenuity, and solving the problem is not universally recognized as a good thing. And the clock is ticking.

          I approach this by being informed about the issues, but using that information primarily to make changes in my own life to reduce my impact and contribute to solutions, and spreading the word about MMM and similar ideas for living a better and less destructive life.

          • Elyse March 5, 2014, 7:43 am

            I agree with your sentiment.

            I will play devil’s advocate, though.
            1) At the time, it was actually life threatening. Sickness used to be a much bigger deal, and the filth on the streets played a big role. With the technology of today, it wouldn’t be a problem anymore. We could easily use bikes and animals without worry of waste disposal.

            2) At the time, cleaning it would have been a socially unacceptable job, taken only by those that seriously needed the money. So very few did it. Nowadays, we could even make street cleaners for it. We can also communicate more easily and handle larger waste disposal projects. Back in the day, they couldn’t. You can’t really compare how many apples you have to how many oranges.

            3) It is way easier to accept a problem you can actually see. And 1/3 not accepting the problem is the ratio of people in 1770s that wanted to make USA a country. Only 1/3 wanted to be a separate country from Britain. 1/3 didn’t care, and 1/3 wanted to separate. People use what is available. When we won the Revolution, those that didn’t want to be a country either just said “ehh…ok…I guess we will do this now” or they left. We have 2/3 that accept the problem. Think what we can do with 2/3. Make something they can buy. Go make a great product that does something they want and save the environment. Pretty soon, no one will be using the old dirty methods. People want ease. So make the easiest solution be the one you want.

            If we don’t do something, we are acting just as the article above says: just bitching about it on the internet.

            • Kenoryn March 7, 2014, 3:03 pm

              I agree entirely about ‘doing something’: that’s actually the point I’ve been trying to make. Some of the comments above seem to be suggesting that technology will fix the problem, therefore we can confidently leave it up to the scientists to solve everything for us, and we don’t have to worry our pretty little heads about it.

              “Go make a great product that does something they want and save the environment. Pretty soon, no one will be using the old dirty methods. People want ease. So make the easiest solution be the one you want.”

              I actually endorse the MMM solution instead of this. Don’t make a great product, because it is the reduction in ‘products’ that will really bring us around to sustainable levels of resource consumption. Instead, spread the word about NOT pursuing ease, and pursuing happiness instead, independent from products. That’s what MMM is doing. For my part I am aiming to live sustainably, spread the word about this lifestyle, and hope in a few years to begin teaching sustainable living skills. :)

          • greg March 6, 2014, 7:16 pm

            “that one was primarily just an unpleasant nuisance, whereas this one threatens the survival of humanity”

            oh, the irony that this was posted on such an article.

        • juggleandhope March 3, 2014, 4:33 pm

          The idea that human ingenuity has managed – regarding horse poop or nail guns – to solve previous problems seems unreliable as a basis for a belief in the continued increase of prosperity in our communities.

          The Black Death, Atlantic slave trade, the Holocaust, the close call in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the wars in the Congo suggest that sometimes terrible things happen (or could easily have happened) which cause massive death, destruction, and the loss of previously safe knowledge. Yes, humans did continue living after these events but it feels like betrayal to imagine one of the survivors ignoring the piled high corpses saying “See! We’re fine thanks to our human ingenuity! No need to worry!”

          Kenoryn offers important points about climate change, concerns about peak oil seem worth considering, and the collapse of Rome also should give pause to the belief that we’re in some kind of never-ending upward spiral of prosperity.

          Have any of you ever read Candide? Or Jeffers?

          • Kenoryn March 4, 2014, 8:22 am

            Yes – il faut cultiver notre jardin.

          • Spectra March 4, 2014, 3:46 pm

            The article is about attitude and fear not the possibility of awful things. We all know the possibility exist that at an moment a massive problem may arise. Whether it be environmental, financial, military, or just a plain awful human being do something to me personally what I can control is my attitude and my response.

            Personally I fear a little for the safety of my family and hence lock the doors and have a security system (Non-subscription based).

            I fear economic uncertainty and job security, hence I save all that I can and payoff debt so I can be free while accumulating any and every skill I have the opportunity to learn.

            I fear myself dying and leaving my children and wife wanting hence I bought life insurance.

            I hedge my bets and spread risk around but if anybody thinks this means I have a 20-year supply of food and all my money in Gold, think again.

          • Anonymous March 10, 2014, 8:36 am

            1) The Black Death — we solved that problem with hygiene and antibiotics, etc.

            2) The Slave Trade — beginning with Great Britain, slavery was outlawed, and continues to be unacceptable to all civilized societies.

            3) The Holocaust — Decent people in every corner of the world rose up and went to war and sacrificed their lives to crush and destroy the Nazi regime. In the end, the bad guys were defeated. Just as in the end, Communist totalitarianism and apartheid collapsed.

            All are arguments for the triumph of the good over the bad — which is the story of human history.

            It’s not Candide-naive to acknowledge the fact that over time human life on this planet has been and continues to be constantly improving. Better health, more knowledge, more justice, more prosperity. No amount of cynicism masquerading as intellectual superiority can deny that historical truth.

            The average American lives a lifestyle of inconceivable luxury compared to Louis the sun king. Louis did not have access to highways and machines called automobiles that could zip you along them at ridiculously high speeds in complete comfort and safety for thousands of miles. He didn’t have a jumbo jet or a high def TV. He didn’t have 1% of the health care the average person has today. And all of these advances were made in a tiny slither of historical time, barely a couple of centuries, which is nothing compared to the history of human evolution. Progress is exponential.

            There is a human tendency to long for Apocalypse. That’s why we love zombie movies. There is a psychological desire to smash everything that lives inside every human — Freud called it Thanatos.

            I think these end-of-world climate nuts, for example, are expressing a secret, unconscious desire — a wish to see the world wiped out and so they look for “data” to support it. Doesn’t matter if so-called scientists are caught red-handed faking studies, we believe what we want to believe.

            I’m with the moustache on this.

            • Jason January 29, 2017, 7:59 am

              (1) Black Death – AIDS

              (2) Slave Trade – The current demographic constitution of the US penal system;

              (3) Holocaust – Uganda/Cambodia/Serbia;

              (4) Freud – Dr. Phil;

      • nmdude, formerly known as colodude March 4, 2014, 5:29 pm

        Miss GG, (oh wait, wasn’t that a movie?)

        Your last sentence–Probably the most important question. The Line. It’s a lot closer to Knowing Less and Doing More than Knowing More and Doing Less.

        Educating oneself, you say? Do you mean being well-educated or well-informed?
        –If well-informed, what are the most trustworthy sources of info you seek? How much time will you BUDGET to it?
        –If educated, who are the masters? Are there four sides to the field? If so, study the masters from them all.If being educated means doing something, do it.

        Then ask, what will you DO with it once you acquired it?

      • Kim March 6, 2014, 6:11 am

        There are therapists in the SF Bay Area that specialize in helping patients overcome depression caused by thinking about climate change.

    • Prairie Practicality March 3, 2014, 8:17 pm

      Helium is a natural part of the air you’re breathing as you read this. It can’t be depleted or destroyed. It’s expensive to extract, but it is possible with today’s technology.

      Biodiesel can be made from canola, a plant that didn’t exist 60 years ago. It was bred from rapeseed, to create a new edible oil source.

      The list of possibilities is endless. Pick a resource and there’s alternatives (generally more expensive). The world is full of smart and awesome people solving all sorts of problems.

      • Kenoryn March 4, 2014, 8:35 am

        And creating new problems! ;) Seriously, though, my concern is not that there is no way to solve the problems. There is obviously a way, and in fact, the path is clearly laid out and most of us know what needs to be done. The problem is the will to do it; doing what needs to be done is not profitable and therefore corporate interests are fighting tooth and nail to make sure it doesn’t get done. So it all depends on whether political, public and corporate will to do what’s necessary will come around in time to prevent massive loss of life. I’m sure humanity will struggle on regardless. But it won’t be a fun time for many people.

        I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m not content to say, “Ah, someone else will fix it all with some wonderful new invention, so I’ll just keep on my merry way doing whatever I like!” I think we all bear a responsibility to start to turn the ship around, because it’s a long, slow process and one person can’t do it alone. I’m not saying we’re doomed. I’m saying we’re facing some serious problems and we had better tackle them with preparation now rather than panic later.

        • Prairie Practicality March 4, 2014, 1:21 pm

          I am helping fix the problems. Obviously not all of them, just the one I can. My specialty is GHG measurement, which is then used to develop mitigation strategies (by other people).

          I am tackling the problems as you suggest. That’s why I’m optimistic, If I can do it so can everyone else. I genuinely believe the world is full of great people making it a better place.

          My outlook is; do you want to be among the great or the pessimists?

        • theFIREstarter March 5, 2014, 10:13 am

          You are spot on with all your points as far as I am concerned Kenoryn, but I don’t think many people are going to read this article and have that as the take away.

          As Brave New Life pointed out below, the message of the blog is to acknowledge that life is great, and be happy about that, but also to take a proactive stance in reducing impact (or “stop doing dumb shit”) and living sustainably etc…

          I for one was always worried about these things in the back of my mind but never really did anything about it till reading this blog, and I am sure this can be said for many people. So on that evidence the message MMM is sending out is clearly doing trick.

      • anonymouse March 4, 2014, 7:58 pm

        Most of the helium we use is a product of radioactive decay of stuff underground and is extracted from underground. The problem is that once it’s released into the air, it has a tendency to rise… and rise and rise until it gets to the top of the atmosphere where it gets blown off into space and at that point it is literally gone forever and will never come back. It really is one of the few non-renewable resources in that way.

  • La Tejana March 3, 2014, 11:32 am

    The glass is always half full! A much better way to look at life than always being so worried, upset and negative. I read a study once where interviews went to an old folks home and asked the simple question “how do you describe an 85 year old” to a group of 75 year olds.

    The interviews then went back 10 years later and interviewed the same people. It turns out that the people who used negative words and said that 85 year olds were “old, grey, debilitated, etc” were actually in much worse health than those who used positive words such as “experienced, get to enjoy more time with grandkids, etc”.

    Things are what you make of them, so why not enjoy them a little?

    On an unrelated note MMM, at the risk of sounding young and superficial, do you have a 20-something protege you would like to fix me up with?

    Many thanks,
    La Tejana

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 11:43 am

      Haha.. while your request will make the Mustachians in my own age range suddenly realize they are old, there are surely quite a few qualifying twentysomethings (in Austin, TX?) waiting to click your blog link to apply :-)

      • Richard March 3, 2014, 1:19 pm

        How about a “mustachian singles” section in the forum? :) There seems to be a lot of interest in it.

        • arebelspy March 3, 2014, 1:49 pm

        • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:03 pm

          Yeah, I created that section a while ago after many requests. Now it just needs MORE PEOPLE! Go forth and meet!

          • lhamo March 3, 2014, 9:28 pm

            You need better branding for it — may I suggest “MustachianMingle(TM)”?

            • lurker March 4, 2014, 3:28 pm

              this is funny. hey is that a maxed out 401K in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?????

  • insourcelife March 3, 2014, 11:38 am

    I remember reading “Mr. Money Mustache gets Passed the Early Retirement Torch” back in 2011 and saying to myself “but MMM sounds so much more optimistic than Jacob from ERE”. This post further confirms the difference between Jacob and MMM – Jacob appears to see the world in a much more glass half empty light, with his peak oil worries and gloomy predictions. I’m with MMM here in an Overflowing Glass camp.

    Of course, a post like this should always have a reference to this video by Louis CK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEY58fiSK8E

    • BNL March 3, 2014, 12:18 pm

      I used to think the same thing…

      But I’ve come to realize that their message is based on the same set of observations, and with the same intent.

      ERE might say “hey, life may be good now but it’s dependent on some pretty unsustainable stuff so let’s get our shit together and stop doing those unsustainable things. Oh, and if you do this you can retire early as an added bonus.”

      Where as MMM might say “hey, life is great so let’s celebrate! But let’s not be stupid and keep doing some of this really dumb unsustainable shit along the away. And besides, if you stop doing thos dumb things then you’ll have the added benefit of retiring early so you can go have more fun”

      The tone is different, but the content of the message and the outcome are pretty much the same. To me, anyways..

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:08 pm

      Yeah, Brave is exactly right.

      You’ve probably already seen the article where I interview Jacob Himself on Peak Oil too, right?


      Our views aren’t all that different in that one, either. I estimated that we have a slightly longer period of plentiful oil/gas in our future than he does (which is unfortunately coming true as the fracking boom progresses) , but I still don’t think burning it up carelessly as we currently do is the path to ultimate prosperity.

      • Insourcelife March 4, 2014, 12:32 pm

        I agree that both Jacob and MMM have similar messages. I was saying that MMMs messages seem to be more effective (to me at least) as they are delivered from an optimistic “you can do it/world is wonderful/everything will work out” perspective. I know it’s not only me because I tried forwarding ERE’s posts to my wife and they were usually met with “ok, whatever” response. Same message delivered via MMMs post was always met with a “oh, cool” response and a follow up conversation. Not knocking on ERE as I totally get what he is preaching, but I too prefer a more positive tone of MMM. Less “extreme” helps too – most people will identify with MMMs cushy lifestyle much more so than with EREs RV-living/no kids/etc.

  • Joshua Sheats March 3, 2014, 11:48 am

    I suggest that Matt Ridley’s book “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” should be required reading for all 15-year-old’s with a re-reading required at the opening of one’s first investment account.

    You will never view the world the same again.

    • Michael Crosby March 3, 2014, 7:21 pm

      +1 on Matt Ridley’s book.

      Recently read another book and I’ll terribly paraphrase:

      We’ve had two great revolutions—The agricultural and the industrial. The agricultural is where we learned how to manipulate the atoms in food production. Of course they didn’t know what was happening with genetics, but nonetheless, they were successful.

      The second revolution was the industrial revolution to where we learned how to manipulate molecules to completely change our standard of living.

      The third change is on the way. We’ll be able to manipulate molecules to create whatever we want. Current billionaires will look poor to us in the future. It’s crazy and mindblowing, but when I look at what we have now, technology could stop and I’d still be shaking my head daily.

      But here’s the thing. Not only will it not stop, but knowledge is growing exponentially, not arithmetically.

      • Lucas March 4, 2014, 10:20 am

        So, what was this book? Sounds interesting!

    • Karen T March 3, 2014, 7:47 pm

      Loved Matt Ridley’s book! Ideas having sex is a great concept.

    • OhioSteve March 4, 2014, 4:32 pm

      Another good book on the subject is Abundance by Diamandis and Kotler. A good optimistic view of progress and resource use.

  • Sam March 3, 2014, 11:48 am

    MMM, your post put me over the edge in getting rid of the social media I’m addicted too. Keep up the good work.

  • Stephen March 3, 2014, 12:05 pm

    This is another great ’email to your doomsday friend’ kind of post. I’m still amazed how inexpensive and incredible life has become. And I enjoy the point about the fact that knowledge is here- even in depressions, people don’t suddenly forget everything we know. The collective gain in knowledge among society is one of the unaccounted economic principles that is missed when trying to measure ‘GDP’ or other types of economic production. It also makes me think that if things were to ‘collaspe’, mustachians would be well positioned moving forward. And now I’m off to buy a nail gun.

  • Miss Growing Green March 3, 2014, 12:09 pm

    Amazing motivation for the day- thanks MMM! Worry can be a form of self-paralysis, and stress (when induced by unproductive worrying) can have negative mental and health side effects. I’m not an optimist by default, but I know that optimists tend to be happier people, and I work hard at consciously changing my perspective to be more optimistic and hence, productive.

    Sort of a random question for MMM and the readers, but do you know what your Meyers-Briggs personality type is? I’m and INTJ and find worrying comes very easily/naturally to me. I’m still high-functioning (don’t let it paralyze me) but I wonder if some personality types find it easier than others to live in the moment and stay productive and worry-free.

    • Kenoryn March 3, 2014, 12:19 pm

      Interesting! I am actually an INTJ as well, but not much of a worrier. I am a planner though, and as long as I can plan, prepare for contingencies etc., no need to worry – that seems to be most of the time. But in uncertain environments or areas where I feel I can’t control something important I guess I can get caught up in worry.

      Actually, I bet a lot of Mustachians are INTJs.

    • PeachFuzzStacher March 3, 2014, 6:05 pm

      ENTP – Supposedly the ultimate optimist, but even I worry. It happens, just don’t dwell.

  • Taylor March 3, 2014, 12:22 pm

    I recently starting following your blog, and love it. I am an investment analyst managing a pension and 401k institutional fund, and I wish all of our participants received some of your advice along with their statements. Regarding this post, I don’t know if you have read The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley…it is a fun short read, and I think you would really like it.

  • Mark March 3, 2014, 12:23 pm

    Good Stoic advice. Some things are up to us and other things are not up to us. Focus on producing and investing in productive assets, and you will be gratified with the results in the long run. Focus on the politicians not following your sage advice posted in the comments of angryconservative.com or smartyprogressive.org, and you will definitely be frustrated. Try to time the next crash, and you will miss out on all the fun in the meantime. If you sell stock or real estate, you are buying dollars. If you buy gold, you cannot live in it or rent it or collect dividends on it. Back to work!

    • Kenneth March 3, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Wow, Mark, nice summary! Back to work!

  • Dakota March 3, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Better watch out MM. The IRP is already out to get you, and now the Nail Gun Anti-Hoarding Society is going to start discussing you at their weekly meetings! “This man must be stopped – he is wrecking equal distribution of the ThunderHammer Blaster 9800.”

    A perfect Monday reminder that all the fear mongering just serves to sell stuff. If we fortify our minds and bodies in ways that allow us to be badasses and create value for the world, it doesn’t matter what happens out there unless it’s The Road and everything around us is ash. And then at least we had fun building cool shit and living each day to the fullest.

    Today, I’m eating apple pie in the SoCal apple city of Julian and choosing to ignore all the BS in the news. I hope you use all 5 nail guns and enjoy every minute of it!

  • MR March 3, 2014, 12:32 pm

    MMM – I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and you’ve proven yourself to be a thoughtful, analytical guy who has common-sensed himself quickly to prosperity. You’re impressive to say the least. So with that said, and all due respect, I’m surprised by and disappointed with this most recent post.

    What I take issue most is your assertion that we should “base all decisions on the general belief that things will continue to get more Fucking Great all the time.” If one were to interpret this literally, it would mean that we should make life decisions as if there is absolutely no risk associated with them – don’t hedge your bets, don’t have a contingency, don’t buy insurance. To me, the literal interpretation of this philosophy is pretty short-sighted and irresponsible.

    Perhaps what you really meant is that we should not plan for or make contingencies against events that are EXTRMELY unlikely. I would agree with the sentiment but strongly disagree with the example: economic collapse. Just tell the people of Argentina, Turkey or Ukraine how unlikely this scenario is (I understand your audience is global).

    Also, while you’ve demonstrated yourself to be quite knowledgeable about an extraordinary array of topics, one that you seem quite unfamiliar with is monetary history – I suspect that a cursory understanding would prompt you to buy a bit of gold yourself. Mike Maloney’s “Hidden Secrets of Money” is a five-part series on YouTube that provides a simple overview.

    Finally, I’m no so sure it’s a great idea to knock gold investors (crazier ones), as I’m willing to bet that many of them share a virtue that you seem to value highly – self-reliance. While these investors are not investing in index funds, my limited experience tells me that they are also the most likely to grow their own food, build their own house and push the limits on that 17 cents per mile. These are you’re people, and you may have just inadvertently alienated a fair number of your readers.

    Thanks for indulging, and I look forward to your next post.


    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:18 pm

      Thanks MR.. I’ve seen the Hidden Secrets and it still didn’t want me to buy any gold. Then again, I avoid buying insurance whenever I can as well :-)

      When I say “plan with the expectation that everything will be great”, I don’t mean exposing yourself to unnecessary dependence and risk – for example, getting a car loan (ever) or having kids when you are just starting your career.

      Instead, I mean bank on the fact that society is slowly moving forward. Small catastrophes happen (so I wouldn’t invest all my savings into a single small country’s economy), but the economic system and prosperity never go away.

      It’s a safe assumption to have, and if you combine it with a Mustachian lifestyle of no debt and diverse skills, you’re covered either way.

      • MR March 3, 2014, 7:28 pm

        Thanks MMM! The great thing about the Mustachian lifestyle is that you don’t necessarily have to be an expert investor to get ahead. Given that the Dow, inflation-adjusted, is STILL lower than its 2000 high and that dividends are at historic lows, it’s not unreasonable to say that any young, index-investing Mustachian on his way to early retirement has done so despite the prescribed Mustachian investing style. But you’re right, you’re covered either way!

        To me though, the current market is definitely an unnecessary risk!

        • Walt March 4, 2014, 11:55 am

          And yet, despite all that, the basic idea of investing in index funds, not spending stupidly, and enjoying life works/has worked for many of the folks here… so feel free to keep hoarding your gold, dude. I’ll be busy riding my mountain bike (or if it’s raining, commenting on blogs!)


          • lurker March 4, 2014, 3:57 pm

            i am not promoting it but the Permanent Portfolio puts up some interesting numbers over the years……just in case the Pax Americana is actually reaching a conclusion after all these awesome years…

          • MR March 5, 2014, 7:45 am

            Hi Walt – I know precious metals investors get a bad rap, but please know that there is a thesis there. From a 30,000 foot view, we’re taking the short side of the debt bubble, money printing trade.

            You are right that index investing has worked out very well if you look at the last 100 years. It’s worked out great over the past five. However, if you started in 2000, well …

            You can make the same argument about selective time frames for metals too, I know. It’s all about buying low, selling high and knowing how to recognize opportunities. This does not mean you have to become a day trader; rather, you just need to recognize and act on macro trends that are likely to play out in the next 2-10 years and beyond. It just so happens that right now, by a number of measures (Shiller’s CAPE being a favorite), stocks are historically expensive. Metals and mining companies are historically cheap.

            MMM said in a previous post that he has a knack for buying things for 75% less than the average Joe. Why should that not apply to stocks as well? It would seem that doing so would provide the most early retirement upside, much more so than what could be saved by purchasing olive oil at Costco.

            I would venture to say that anyone who reads this blog has above average intelligence and ambition. A characteristic that all Mustachians share is that they know how to recognize and seize value. I’m just saying that this trait should be applied to their investing as well.

            • Ricky March 5, 2014, 10:54 am

              About the 75% thing… You don’t know that stocks are currently not valued at 25% of their future value in 1, 2, 3, 5 years, etc…that’s the point. MMM is saying you can sit and worry about it or be optimistic.

              Sure, I agree with doing the due diligence by looking at broad macro issues, but ultimately, no one can predict the future.

              As for me, I’d much rather be in assets that pay me even during the economic slumps and wait for the inevitable recovery. People forget that stocks are living breathing companies, and most of these companies’ income isn’t really affected so they continue to pay dividends regardless. Owning gold isn’t a bad idea though since it generally goes up when stocks go down. The problem is, if you’re of the notion that stocks are undervalued right now, you wouldn’t buy gold.

              In a nutshell, bears buy gold and bulls buy stocks. It isn’t really that much more complicated it just depends on your attitude and outlook.

            • Walt March 5, 2014, 10:31 pm

              You’re assuming that you invested *everything* in 2000 and that you’re going to *sell it all* now, right? That’s not how it works – you are *constantly* sticking in $ and reinvesting the proceeds. Totally silly to say that if you’d started in 2000 you’d be doing terribly – actually, you’d be doing great, as you’d have been buying during all the crashes as well.

              I tend to think that any macro trends that I could accurately predict have already been predicted by about a zillion other people and priced in.

            • MR March 6, 2014, 5:18 am

              Not assuming that, and a 3.5% annualized return, 1% inflation-adjusted, since 2000 is not “doing great.”

              Also, it seems that almost everyone is predicting higher stock prices and lower gold. Perhaps it is that sentiment that is priced in?

            • walt March 8, 2014, 2:06 pm

              I think 3.5% after-inflation returns are *damn* good if you’re cherrypicking the start point like that! 2000 was the absolute highest price/dividend ratio in history!

              3.5% for doing *no actual work* and having the worst possible luck? Sign me up! In fact, I did sign myself up, around 1999, and now I can go ride my bike anytime I want…

            • MR March 11, 2014, 8:29 am

              It’s 3.5% BEFORE inflation. The real return is a bit over 1%.

              You’re right to point out that dividend yields in 2000 were historically low. It’s one sign that the market expensive. We’re not exactly at cheap levels now: http://www.multpl.com/s-p-500-dividend-yield/

              The larger point I was trying to make is that the Mustachian investing style of regularly dollar-cost averaging into index funds seems inconsistent with the a key Mustachian principle of stretching your spending dollars as far as possible. If I were to apply Mustachian investing to the purchase of say, ketchup, I would apply my ketchup budget in regular intervals irrespective of price. Sometimes I would get more, other times less, depending upon whether it was on sale. I would defend this by saying, on average, I’ve done okay.

              Obviously this example is ludicrous. Everyone knows that you stock up on ketchup when it is on sale and you save your ketchup budget when it is full price (overpriced?). I’m just saying that this can be applied to investing. There are plenty of ways to know in real time whether the market is cheap, fairly priced or expensive, as it is historically so today. Same goes for metals and every other investable asset.

              The other point is that you don’t have to keep your cash on the sidelines. It so happens that when the market is expensive, precious metals tend to be depressed, as they are now by a number of metrics.

              Finally, I would say that anyone who advocates buying gold and mining stocks at any price is just as foolish as anyone who would buy stocks at any price. You buy when things are on sale. Mustachians know this and they can apply their skill for doing so to what is their most important determinant for early retirement, investment decisions.

      • Michell March 4, 2014, 4:04 pm

        Your comment that prosperity never goes away is interesting. It makes me think that he discussion is dependent on the personal definition of prosperity. If prosperity means having a bunch of plastic crap that one buys with plastic cards, trading out the car every other year as styles change, or having the latest greatest techie-toy…then yes, economic changes can definitely change one’s level of prosperity. However, if prosperity means being educated, self-reliant, valuing community, and doing work that you love that adds value to your community, then prosperity does not go away. The question is, do we see prosperity as an exterior quality, at the mercy of exterior forces, or do we see prosperity as an interior force and quality that cannot be easily stripped from us? How we define prosperity has a lot to do with our sense of optimism and competency to continue to meet our needs. It is an issue of locus of control. Interior or exterior. Active agent or passive recipient. Do we act on the world, or are we acted upon by the world? Finally, I would say that opportunity is everywhere, but not everyone has the eyes to see.

  • Maverick March 3, 2014, 1:02 pm

    So now I’m interested in your nail gun…is it a full head? If so, fist bump! I honestly don’t know why clipped head nailers even exist. So what, you get a few more nails per foot. The clipped head reduces holding force and are not acceptable to my knowledge in high wind zones.

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:20 pm

      Yeah, I think the round-head nailers have mostly beat out the clipped-head ones in recent years. But the best part of this nailer is just that it never seems to die or jam. Just keeps nailing forever.

  • Liam G March 3, 2014, 1:19 pm

    The production mindset is such a great place to be. Too many people ask (complain) “Why does it work so well for so-and-so?” They never stop to evaluate their own life when compared to so-and-so’s life. They don’t see (or want to believe) that so-and-so has decided to kill the TV and work on fixing up a rental property or a house to flip. They simply believe it’s impossible, and it’s easier/more comfortable to believe it’s impossible, or that they got dealt a bad hand, sit back, drink another beer and change channels.

    The really great thing about Humans (and Americans in particular) is that we are highly capable of getting off the couch and working to change our own life’s trajectory. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s possible.

    • Jeremy January 28, 2017, 3:09 pm

      I am printing this comment and putting it up in my room!

  • Justin March 3, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Even if the world became 20% less awesome tomorrow, it’s still a great time to be alive! I see “nail guns” all around me and think how wonderful it is to have so many inventions to make life so easy. Yet some folks are stuck always wanting more more more. Figuring out what is “enough” is a sorely undervalued trait.

  • Jordan Prince March 3, 2014, 1:51 pm

    While I agree with the general sentiment, I’d like to point out that historically this has not been the case. When Rome fell, hundreds of years of innovation were lost overnight, and much of it was only rediscovered a thousand years later during the renaissance.

    Such a fall seems unlikely today, I’ll grant you, but when the Empire stopped expanding and could no longer afford to pay the military with conquest gold, and hired barbarians instead, and couldn’t even pay them, it fell, and it took EVERYTHING with it in Europe for a thousand years.

    So you can’t completely write off naysayers, saying that nothing bad ever really happens. Bad things have happened and knowledge has been lost and civilizations have been destroyed – and one thing nobody argues with is that history will repeat itself, because we’re all dumb monkeys at the end of the day. History is littered with the corpses of the unprepared and prepared alike.

    Albert Einstein said, and I’m paraphasing, “I know not which weapons World War III will be fought with, I only know that World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” I think that’s a true statement.

    I don’t think anybody should live with that specter over their heads by any means, as tat’s no way to live – and they should live life they way you try to do, but to disregard the idea completely is not intellectually honest. It should be acknowledged as a possibility – just as getting hit by a car is a possibility. But that doesn’t mean you never walk across a street!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:28 pm

      Wow, I had never heard that Einstein quote, but it is nice and spooky when you think about the implications.

      While the history of Rome is always amazing to consider, I think such a giant and longlasting backwards step of technology from a plain old one-empire collapse would be impossible today, because of the Internet and its wide distribution and storage of information.

      But a giant nuclear war between superpowers that affected every major city, which seemed quite possible for a while there, would do the trick. With sufficiently ridiculous world governments, we could end up at that situation again. Some of the smartest thinkers still consider future nuclear wars to be the greatest threat to human prosperity. I don’t know enough to comment, so on that issue I’ll just have to cross my fingers.

      • Tristan Hume March 4, 2014, 6:21 am

        It is possible to be optimistic even about the possibility of nuclear war. If it ever happens there will probably be some countries who are not involved (Switzerland?) who will still have power, infrastructure and people with which to bootstrap the rest of the world back to prosperity. Certainly the millions who live in the cities that were bombed would die, but the rest of the world may do just fine. On the bright side it solved overpopulation and global warming…

        The only scenario I am truly worried about is a massive solar event like the one in 1859 that would take out every power grid in the world. It would be extremely difficult to recover from since no one would have working infrastructure to recover with. You couldn’t build new transformers because the factory requires power and metal from electric smelters, and every power grid in the world is offline. To recover we would have to rebuild all the steam based industrial era equipment of old, all with a government that has lost all its previous long distance coordination capabilities. It would be recoverable but it would certainly ruin my career prospects as a programmer.

        • Klumanen March 7, 2014, 2:49 am

          Ah, ok there’s optimism and there’s nihilism (disguised as optimism) and that’s stretching credibility. I’m assuming you’re very young(or trolling) to argue that the historic political neutrality of Switzerland will somehow shield it from the destruction caused by thermonuclear war. Seeing the upside of a nuclear exchange as a reduced burden on the planet owing to annihilated human populations is a moribund view, is existentially meaningless (what reward and happiness in life can you measure but your own?) and ecologically wrong – the planet would likely be shrouded in ash cloud, deprived of sunshine and thrust into an iceage – let alone the catastrophic mortality rates for much life on the planet caused by radiation. Believe it or not the Swiss will not sit under a bell jar unharmed if it comes to that.

      • CVAND March 4, 2014, 12:10 pm

        One has to remember that the printing press was still over 1000 years from being invented when the Roman Empire fell. Since we have stopped depending on Monks and Clerics for copying books we have not had a significant loss of acquired knowledge. You cannot burn down one library and destroy the majority of human scholarly activity now that there are thousands of libraries with all of the same information. The development of the internet with huge digitization projects of major human scholarship is just another step in assuring that we will not have another (significant/prolonged) Dark Age. Almost universal secularism is another limit on the loss/non-use of already acquired knowledge. I’m with MMM, we are pretty well-protected from another Dark Age. I will bet all of my Gold on that!

    • Stephen March 4, 2014, 11:39 am

      About Rome, since it’s come up a few times now. The collapse of Rome was a really big deal in part of Europe and North Africa. There was a huge loss of technology and culture… in parts of Europe and North Africa.

      Other parts of the world kept on chugging either oblivious to this collapse or were minimally affected.

      We really don’t have any example of a collapse of human civilization.

    • Joshua March 5, 2014, 8:12 am

      Technically, Rome never fell. Western Rome, just got poor and could no longer defend itself. Eastern Rome, or Byzantium was a very wealthy, learned culture that lasted for many centuries. We think that just because western Europe was in a dark age that the rest of the world just ceased to exist. I’m sure that advances were still being made in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. Like the main message of this blog post, it’s all about perspective.

      • Jason January 29, 2017, 7:51 am

        The dark ages is also somewhat of a misnomer. This period included the founding of the first modern universities, the introduction of Aristotelean philosophy into the west (St. Thomas Aquinas via Islamic Scholarship) and the ascension of the modern city-state. Yes, it was still an “enchanted” world, filled with the devil and hobglobins, but many of our institutions find their historical antecedents in this period.

  • Deborah March 3, 2014, 2:13 pm

    I found myself arcing up a bit at this post, but agreeing with the conclusions.

    A nail gun is symptomatic of our culture. It is a GREAT tool. Unlike a hammer, it has not been around for long, and may only be around for a few more short years, because it could be replaced by some tool that is even better, or a fastening system that completely replaces nails. At that stage, like typewriters, valves, fax machines, floppy disks and other devices that were ubiquitous at times in the 20th Century, we could loose the knowledge to produce it easily.

    A nail gun is also a piece of equipment broadly associated with men rather than women.

    But does any of this matter? Definitely not! If we continue to learn, we will understand the post-nail-gun replacement, and use that instead. Or we can decide to be productive in a completely different way. Learning helps us to be complete people, ready to transform as the world around us transforms.

    We have more time to learn because we have concentrated on financial independence and have thus reduced our reliance on meaningless activity to supply money.

    We have also learned to look at life in different ways – to question fundamental truths of those around us, and go in our own (very productive) directions. We have learned to plan and to follow our plans. We have learned to succeed!

    So what if our current way of life is doomed (I don’t think it is)? During our challenge of gaining financial independence, we have developed a zest for learning, for succeeding. We relish challenges. We understand that a huge challenge is something we meet with a series of small, seemingly insignificant steps. This is what financial independence gives us.

    • ChransStache March 5, 2014, 10:55 am

      Deborah, if you find MMM’s specific example a bit limited, I would like to offer an example specifically for women. If you look to the world of menstruation, I find a very useful, inexpensive and hygienic alternative to main stream pads and tampons is the silicone menstrual cup. I was surprised to learn that this technology has actually been around for over 60 years, and I find it highly desirable over the alternative. It’s especially desirable over using plain rags that you have to hand wash, as would have been used throughout most of human history. It may not seem like a life changing technology, but it could be for the people who use it.

      I think this is a perfect example of the power of human thinking because not only is it a novel solution to a common problem which reduces landfill waste, but it required an understanding of the female anatomy and the way our abdominal muscles are able to hold something in place. I personally find that pretty inspiring and proves the importance of understanding ourselves as a species in order to further our survival (or comfort once survival is surpassed).

      The limiting factor to both of these types of examples is that they rely on modern technology and manufacturing methods to be created/utilized. But I agree with what you said, we have overcome small and large challenges and are capable of handing many more. Even if these kinds of modern technologies are replaced or lost, there are equal or better alternatives yet to be developed. The worst case scenario is to return to the traditional hammers and rags of history, and that honestly doesn’t seem too terrible to me.

  • Nick March 3, 2014, 2:16 pm

    I must admit that I sometimes get caught up in the doom and gloom but it’s websites like this one which help keep me grounded. The messages put forth by MMM are aligned with a more sustainable lifestyle (living close to work, consuming less) and actually contribute to helping our current and future situation. It’s nice to get a punch in the face from MMM every once and a while to straighten me out a again.

  • Frank March 3, 2014, 2:19 pm

    Thanks MMM,

    I have recently started chronicalling (is that a real word?) my path having “retired” just over 6 weeks ago here.


    Your post was relavent because I was just about to post an update that said I am scared to death… We have just finished our first month spending compilation and came up with for Feb.. $1824 (on essentials) vs a budget of $1908. In addition we spent $295 of our “Woohoo” money.

    OMG I thought.. were are “dangerously close” to the budget that we dreamed up back in Jan

    Now our $1908 monthly budget is $22,896 annually. This allows for an additional $12,000 ($35k total available to spend) of fun or “woohoo” money.. Which could be spent to make repairs should some catastrophy happen.

    So wait a minute.. we came out on target AND we have allowed $12k of fun money on top of this and I was worried!

    The best part.. is my Wife is still working and we get rent.. the $35k above is the net (after taxes) of our existing salary plus rent.. i.e I’m not touching our stash AT ALL!

    I suppose after 30 years in the work place one is so programmed to work and earn a salry its hard to let go of this.. Yes I have been institutionalised!


    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:34 pm

      Congratulations Frank!

      I do find that many early retirees tend to immediately set up a second income source for themselves, because they are so conservative they are afraid to use the money they so carefully saved for retirement. Even I was guilty of this in certain years.

      As long as you enjoy the ride and make fun of yourself regularly for being irrational, you are doing fine.

    • ermine March 7, 2014, 2:37 am

      @Frank > Your post was relavent because I was just about to post an update that said I am scared to death…

      So was I when I had just retired. It does get better, but the adaptation period was about six months for me. I feel easy and okay about the original plan now, but it felt like hell just after I quit.

      I’m on the hard-line end of the IRP – I don’t expect ever to sell my time for money again, so maybe I set myself up to make the transition from 30 years of working full-time harder. All I can say is hang in there, it gets better :)

      Oh and MMM – this post is Fucking Great. I’ve got a tendency to the doomer mindset, but I really enjoyed this!

  • SavvyFinancialLatina March 3, 2014, 2:20 pm

    It’s hard to ignore the doom and gloom. But it helps my hubby is much more positive than me!

  • dutch March 3, 2014, 2:25 pm

    Ive noticed the most fearful doom and gloomers are my friends who, either by circumstance or choice, are the most dependent on society. Debt, food stamps, inner big city residence…etc… Some of them have given up entirely and just become closet communists.

    independence gives strength.

    Id like to think that is a core founding American principle refreshed by the rugged Western half of the country.

    • Michael Crosby March 3, 2014, 8:03 pm

      How many millions that get food stamps/EBT card write the govt. a thank you letter?

  • Bob March 3, 2014, 2:35 pm

    “learn as much as you can, and deliver great value and help others as much as you can for your entire life. Waste as little of the proceeds from this activity as possible, reinvesting them into doing more of step 2”

    It ought to be pointed out that even if you are a Doomer, MM’s steps 2 and 3 are still very good strategies. In fact, if you really do think the shit is going to hit the fan, I would argue that learning as much as you can in order to be as productive and helpful to yourself and others is even *more* relevant.

  • RJ March 3, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Fantastic post.
    Reminds me of a quote attributed to Henry Ford: “It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
    And the news has got to be one of the biggest wastes of time.

  • ael March 3, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Your point on retaining knowledge is well taken for most (short term) disturbances. However, the Middle (Dark) Ages did occur with substantial loss of knowledge although some of it did detour through Arabic lands.

    • Oliver March 3, 2014, 3:21 pm

      And a lot of hammer manufacturers lost their jobs.

    • phred March 3, 2014, 9:35 pm

      Much that was lost at the start of the Dark Ages may not have had much value in the first place. Society did lose the knowledge of concrete, but that wasn’t Portland cement. True, they did lose how to worship Mithra and Isis. However, I suspect that the chief reason those times were called the Dark Ages is that the former beautiful people had to suddenly start working for a living. They no longer had time to play their one-upmanship status games of who could dress the finest, write the cleverest, speak with the best oratory, hold the most lavish parties and whatever else they called culture — which were not much a part of the commoners’ life at all.
      The Dark Ages brought to Europe many new inventions created there and others imported from China or India. Some of these were the wheeled plow for heavy soils, the stirrup, horseshoes, tidal mills, treadwheel crane for heavy lifting, wheelbarrow, bit&bridle, paper money, paper mills, brandy, glass made of wood ash & sand, grindstones, soap, the fork, spurs, 3 field crop rotation, sundials, hourglasses, the crossbow, compass, Hindu (we call it Arabic) numbers including the zero. A bit later were eyeglasses, the foot-treadle loom, spinning wheels. More important was the idea of medieval towns allowing more freedom and more self government than the Romans ever allowed.

      • phred March 4, 2014, 12:04 pm

        and the horsecollar so a horse could pull more than a man

        • RetiredAt63 March 9, 2014, 7:19 am

          And Hay!!! so more livestock could make it through the winter.

  • Mark March 3, 2014, 3:26 pm

    I agree that everything is pretty FUCKING GREAT!!! for ME, and I try not to take it for granted. There are many people in other parts of the world who would not agree that things are fucking great. People fear for their lives continuously, ie live in a war zone, or don’t even have clean water to drink or enough food to eat. I don’t mope around in depression worrying about it, but at the same time I appreciate that things are pretty great for me right now and hopefully will continue to be.

    And the other thing, forget about nail guns. Have you priced TVs lately? The 42″ plasma that set me back $2000 in 2004 dollars could be replaced today for maybe $300/$400!!! And if I wanted to pay $2000 for a TV I could get an 80″ screen!!!! I could open my own freaking theatre!! Life is Good!

    • Mr. Money Mustache March 3, 2014, 5:44 pm

      Agree on the “helping the rest of the world” part. Disagree on the TVs, since watching television runs exactly against what this whole article is about. But maybe you are just messing with me here because you already know how I feel about the Idiot Box? :-)

      • Todd March 18, 2014, 11:57 am

        It’s important not to confuse the television the display device with television cable or satellite media service, Mark only mentioned the former, which is essentially the same as a large computer monitor. I don’t subscribe to cable or another idiot service and use my “TV” attached to a computer I built myself to watch Ted talks and the Daily Show streamed free from the web, so I consider it a “genius box.”

        What do you watch Ted talks on? Because if it’s an LCD display device of any type, isn’t it neat that the technology has advanced so far and the price has come down so much? I do hope the Chinese or Koreans who made it were enriched by their employment and not exploited unfairly.

  • Scott March 3, 2014, 3:28 pm

    This post reminds me of a Leunig comic (Australian)..

    A man is visiting a psychic, looking into a crystal ball.
    She says (paraphrasing) “I see a horrible world in the future, wars, suffering and despair.. But amazingly, you are unaffected and living a pleasant, happy life with a beautiful woman whom you love!”

    I think there is two sides to this story.
    There is a fine line between responsibly maintaining your own lifestyle and finances and blissful ignorance of the world around you.

    I hate to say it, but everything is not “Fucking Great”. This is the same attitude in Australia that is leading our politicians to put asylum seekers in detention camps indefinitely and for the majority of our citizens to not give a shit.

    The trick is to maintain a kind of cognitive dissonance about it: I can have a wonderful life filled with all the security and love that I desire; however I need to acknowledge that there are many, many people who don’t have the same privileges as I do, and I need to use every available opportunity (whatever it is that may arise on an individual level) to ‘even the scales’ so to speak.

    I think it’s not the future doom and gloom we need to worry about; but the ‘doom and gloom’ that definitely exists in the world around us should be held in mind and will help me lead a more socially and ethically responsible life.

  • borg March 3, 2014, 4:21 pm

    This is (as expected) written from the point of view from someone with a certain amount of financial security, and it does nothing for people like me whose industries are crumbling and layoffs are around the corner. This isn’t fantasy, this is happening to me.

    I’m glad the people who already own land and have investments can feel glib, though, good work!

  • NickB March 3, 2014, 4:38 pm

    Funny, I disagree with your reasons and conclusion, but not your positive outlook. My take is that the end very well may be on its way, but we can’t do shit about it. Might as well ride the crest. Adaptatibilty to circumstance is the only real winner in a dark age. That and a diversified skill set. Brains and endurance will always come out on top, collapse or no collapse. Mustachians meet both of these former qualifiers.

  • John Pedroza March 3, 2014, 4:47 pm

    While I can’t say I endorse your use of the F-Word I do agree with the idea. The world has been negative for way too long. As long as we allow ourselves to be shackled by the media’s doom and gloom we will never invest in our future. We will never strive to become better than who we are. I just recently paid off all my debts (including a $38K student loan) because I knew that if I worked hard I would find a way. It wasn’t easy. I had a lot of opportunity costs. My salary was cut 10%, but I never gave up hope. I just stuck to my plan and it worked. Was my way the best way? No, but I if you don’t do anything you are pretty much guaranteed a result (if you know what I mean).

  • Jon March 3, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Boom! Refusing to lose….MMM gives optimism the “angry fist” it sometimes needs to drive a point home ( enter nailgun tie-in ). Well done, Sir!

  • Flannel Guy ROI March 3, 2014, 5:41 pm

    There is definitely something to be said for appreciating the awesomeness of today, staying positive/optimistic, and not obsessing over things you can’t really control nor hedge against.

    There is, however, also something to be said for a rational evaluation and response to risk, IMO. This is how we end up with incredibly useful models such as the efficient frontier and the MMM-famous 4% withdrawal rate.

    For me, a risk is worth worrying about inasmuch as I can act to mitigate it in a way that adds value to my life. So there isn’t really anything inherently wrong with investigating possible “doomsday” scenarios if you do it in a level-headed rational way, adjust accordingly, and move on (MMM does this very elegantly, albeit with a non-doomsday scenario, in his “Safety is an Expensive Illusion” post – http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/07/safety-is-an-expensive-illusion/).

    This post, on the other hand, seems to be targeted more at someone who might irrationally obsess over doomsday scenarios, someone that might miss the forest for the trees. Somebody that isn’t assessing risk in a pragmatic way. But there might be a little “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” going on here.

    I mean, if you live below sea level in New Orleans, or on a coastal flood risk area such as parts of Long Island, NY. Assuming things will continue to be great and investing more of your money into real estate might actually cost you more in the long-run than “protecting” that money. Acknowledging, examining, and acting on this risk in a smart way (decide to rent instead of own, beef up insurance policy, or simply divert future investments away from local real estate), would statistically probably yield a much happier outcome for you.

    The same thing should be done at least occasionally for so called systemic risks. But once you’ve thought things through and optimized your life appropriately, get back to having fun and enjoying yourself (“hit it and quit it” as Funkadelic say). And then you can rest even better knowing that at least you gave some of the more realistic “doomsday” scenarios a fair shake versus having pretended that they weren’t even there to begin with. None of these activities are mutually exclusive of MMM’s formula for Economic and Life Success, but I would argue that they are value-adds and also have potential synergies. (Sorry for the novel-length comment!)

    -A pragmatic worrier

  • tariskat March 3, 2014, 6:25 pm

    All I can think is the saying from (the newer) Battlestar Galactica, which vaguely chronicles the rise/fall/rise/fall/etc of the human race: ‘all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.’ Perhaps MMM is a reincarnated philosopher.

  • George_PA March 3, 2014, 6:55 pm

    While we are talking about nail guns, I was thinking about getting a framing nailer to help build a shed in my yard this summer. My neighbor has a compressor that I could borrow to drive it.

    Do you recommend getting one on CL or buying it new from the store? I was concerned that the ones on CL would have too much wear and tear from a contractor or professional. Thanks.

    • Fatboy August 2, 2014, 4:01 am

      All the professionals are getting Paslode type compressor-less nail guns which means that un breakable, trade quality nail guns which need an air line are almost being given away.

  • Big Boots Buddha March 3, 2014, 6:57 pm

    I feel a little conflicted about the post. On the one hand, right on. No reason to be down just for the heck of it. But as others above have chimed in, there are counter-examples: the fall of Rome, terrible situations like several African countries.

    I would also add something like WWII to the list. As an American, when I heard my grandfather talk about being a paratrooper it scared the shorts off me as a kid, but he ended up a well-to-do man in the post war years with an elementary school education and hard work. It wasn’t so nice for the Chinese or the Soviets. Not because of material progress, but -ideology-. Just because the MMM crowd is pumped and high fiving doesn’t end the possibility of laws being changed and life getting worse, perhaphs even bad.

    But the example that seems to work well to attack being being optomistic all the time would be something like Germany in the 1930’s. Or China in the 1940’s. Totalitarianism can slowly grow over time but if everyone is saying, “Wow everything is great”, life can go south fast. The things I worry about aren’t financial doom, though sometimes it pops up, the Great Depression did happen and my grandmother explained what it was it to live through it. But what if more and more laws were put in place and freedoms were taken away. Thats a kind of doomer thinking too, right? Would the 3 part strategy work equally well against it? It seems it wouldn’t.

    So, I just want to express again. Right on with the article. I agree as I personally know gold bugs and the screaming gets old. But there are (sadly) many kinds of doom porn out there, not just that the markets might tank. And some are worthy of a thought now and again.

    • anonymouse March 5, 2014, 6:31 am

      Except, wasn’t the problem with Germany in the 1930s that everyone was afraid… and the Nazis did everything they could to build up that fear and create external and internal enemies for people to be afraid of. That is what drives people toward totalitarianism: the feeling of security it gives, which feels necessary due to extreme fear. If the German people figured that, even after the Weimar hyperinflation, thing would continue on a course of “generally great”, I don’t think the National Socialist platform would have been nearly as popular.

  • weedy acres March 3, 2014, 8:09 pm

    Dude…lose the cord. Buy a Paslode.

    I’ve bought all 6 in my arsenal off ebay, used in great condition for about 2/3 the new price. You can always sell them again for about what you bought them for, but I’m too in love with them to part with a single one.

  • Lucas Lessa March 4, 2014, 1:24 am

    Thanks for yet another refresher and reminder of the mustachian thought discipline.

    I like how your post title is tentative: not *really* doomed. In my view, we are not doomed, at all. Not even close! And things continue to get better and better on a bigger and bigger scale for humanity.

    You know how the stock market we invest in goes up in value, down, up, has a bear year, up, up, up, crashes and climbs up again?? (not necessarily in that order). Civilizations do the same dance. Great times, abundance, famine, a war, then more long-lasting feast and greatness.

    You can draw a parallel, then — the markets are but a reflection of the application of human energy and its efficiencies. Remember that a reflection is imperfect, though.

    Throughout it all we evolve, learn, become more efficient and creative. Why else would we be here?

  • Marc March 4, 2014, 3:04 am

    I hardly ever worry, but my wife worries all the time.

    If something is stressing or worrying me, the firs thing I do is check if there is anything I can do about it. If the answer is no, then I refuse to remain worried about it. No point in worrying about something which you have no control over, just go along for the ride.

  • Genevieve Hawkins March 4, 2014, 6:03 am

    I am all for positivity. Except today. I’m waiting to hear back from the US Embassy on my husband’s visa, which doesn’t mean much except determining if we can live and raise our children in the same country together. Not hearing back might be a good thing–since they’re processing it, it probably means they have all our paperwork in. But I am wallowing in it anyways, surfing the web, clicking from doom and gloom link to doom and gloom link. Right before I found your new post I hit rock bottom–an article about how school kids in Mississippi get locked in prison for talking back, dress code violations and flatulence (isn’t that farting?). Which made me wonder what the hell happened to my once great country, and ponder doom and gloom.
    But what I think is a common thread with doom and gloomers is uncertainty in their personal lives–whether it’s related to job prospects, an illness, dependence on government for everything, whatever. There’s a huge question mark hanging over how they can move forward, which causes inactivity. No nailgun if you’re running out the security deposit on your rented house and hoping you don’t need to make alternative arrangements to stay for longer. It’s hard, almost impossible, to know how to move forward in those situations without spinning your own wheels. So it’s easier to distract yourself with meaningless trivia and hope the whole system collapses under its own weight. Maybe then you can make a plan!

  • Steven March 4, 2014, 7:05 am

    I’d rather see a sunshine and rainbows approach to life and money than a sky is falling and it’s raining lava any day.

  • Not a Doomer March 4, 2014, 7:10 am

    I love your blog, but I must say this post for some reason rubbed me the wrong way. On a couple fronts. Firstly, classifying people who chose to buy gold as crazies, isn’t intellectually honest. Gold is not an investment, but it is insurance. All Central Banks hold gold, and they hold it for a reason, they know historically that all is not GREAT all the time. It’s a hedge against a Black Swan event. To paraphrase research you can find and vet yourself: Two stockmarket crashes, and a global property slump followed after the year 2000. During this period, Asset Performance data show, the investment return from gold has beaten the S&P500 stockmarket index ten times:


    Secondly, While respect your outlook that all is fucking Great, it may be naive to some extent, and slightly dishonest. If you’re speaking for Americans only and citizens of the 1st world only, then you are closer to correct, though there are communites in the US that suffer big time, I come from one of those places in the sticks of Alabama. Warren Buffet even admit’s a lot of his personal fortune is due to being born in the right country, in the right demographic, during the right times. I LOVE this man for his honesty and candor. Not taking any credit for what people have termed financial genius. I can tell you first hand, all isn’t fucking Great all the time.

    I have worked a lived in over 50 countries, mostly in what people term 3rd world or developing, many times in conflict zones. I’m not in the military, and I’m not a diplomat protected by armed guards, so I don’t have that sort of protection and get to witness life upclose and personal, in real time.

    I currently work and live in Afghanistan. This past Xmas 2013. when the Taliban decided to shoot rockets at the US Embassy, I can tell you life wasn’t great for the people who had to disarm the rockets and got killed in the process. It was worst a month later when Suicide bombers organized a sophisticated complex attack, and decided to blow the door off of our beloved ( we perceived safe) Lebanese Restaurant and killed all the patrons inside, one by one: Americans, Europeans, Afghans, and other Asians. My colleagues are still terrified to go out in the evenings as we have live and work here without protection: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25790747

    Oddly, the only thing I can remember about that restaurant is the delicious chocolate cake, and wine they served in tea cups, as not to offend anyone. it was one of the only places you could get booze.

    I worked for Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone in the early 2000’s. Only for about a year to be honest. However, during that time if you walked along the beach in Freetown any day, you could see children, elders, and other innocent people who had the limbs chopped off indiscriminately of all ages, literally from 8 to 80 by rebels, because we love our diamonds in the West so much. It was a campaign of fear and terror. I Sadly admit, I was glad and relieved when the rebel leader Foday Sankoh died in prison, waiting trial, while I was there in 2003.

    When rebels entered Kenema or Bo ( Still in Sierra Leone), I can’t remember which town now( Bo or Kenema), they chased my boss, a Frenchman and several of our nurses, and our log/admin guy in the bush for three days. When they found them, they took them back to the house, and made the men watch them rape the female nurses for three days. They shot between there legs with AK -47s, yelling we’re going to kill you white dogs. Then, as quickly as they started, they just left. Not a word, they just got bored and left. My boss was the only person who came out of that situation a little sane, The rest, especially the nurses, not so well. My boss now owns an apartment in Marseille,a good guy,and great on the BBQ. I miss him.

    When the rebels made it to my Assistant’s house, she had her 1 year old with her ( Sami) she was also sitting with her friend, who was 9 months pregnant. When she heard the rebels she didn’t even think, she took off and ran to the bush, and ran for what she said was hours. She ate grass and leaves in the bush for three days, and searched for bananas when she could find them. She was worried when she didn’t see her friend, and felt guilty she hadn’t waited on her. She stayed in the bush for three days before she tip toed back to her house. On her way back along the trail, she found her friend nailed to a tree, like Jesus on the cross, ripped open from top to bottom, fetus and umbiblical cord on the ground, covered in ants. She’s kindest, sweetest women I’ve ever known, and the best assistant, I ever had. We lost contact, years ago. i think of her often, and cry occasionally.

    I worked in South Sudan from 2011 to 2013, my wife is there. The army and rebels have gone mad in 2013 ( December) and 2014. I called my friends and wife to find out that bodies have been lying in the streets of Bor and Malakal for weeks, the stench I’m told is unbearable, and dogs are eating the bodies, which ironically is dealing with the smell some what.

    I could go on, but why? We live a very privileged life in the US, I’m s grateful for it, but I’m not confused about my place in this world how quickly things can go badly and my luck in this world. I’m humble about it all, and in awe, things could have turned out differently for me.

    You write a wonderful blog, I only ask you be fair in your assessments of our fragile world, and more fragile markets. I say this of course sitting here in Nairobi, Kenya, waiting on my wife as we prepare to go on a African Safari ( Masi Mara) to glimpse at Lions and Leopards like the priviledged expats we are, though in full knowledge, that not so far from here in the kibera slums, life isn’t so great for the inhabitants.


    • Russell March 16, 2014, 5:06 pm

      Your comment chilled me with the first hand account of the pain and inhumanity that is inflicted upon humans by humans.

      The area of the world you speak of is a window into the depths of very base darkest attributes of humanity.
      In my work with refugees of South Sudan I hear of the things that don’t get reported by a first world news coverage.

      We can find many iterations of stories of inhumanity purpetrated in the cause or defence of an ideology or nationalism.

      In relation to the MMs ” things are fucking great ” yes perspective is needed when you apply that sentiment. It does no good to anyone to deny the inequality and deprivation that is experienced by many.

      We all exsist in a very thin veneer of civilization when the lubricant of money and distraction dry up and the reality of dwindling resources get in the way of unbridled optimism so doth the beast arise.

      It may be well to postulate if gold is a good investment if you have a surplus to invest and the deliberation of the notion of averaged indexing can be a pleasant diversion as you sit on your back porch and sip your beverage of choice.

      There are many in this world to whom genuine wealth of safety ,peace and health are not an option.

      So again the concept of everything being fucking great has a first world flavour that can have a sour taste in the mouths of those that are far removed from the artificial comfort a money system and dealing with underbelly of despotism that is in all civilisations.

      • Not a Doomer March 17, 2014, 9:10 am

        Hey thanks for your kind words. After writing I thought people would think I was a bit morbid or lying. I’m encouraged you read it and responded. Where did you work with South Sudanese refugees? In Lokichoggio? I worked there on border in 2000/2001 myself. I worked with the Carter Center on Guinea Worm Eradication. Maybe we met? There was also another camp not far away up in Kakuma, I visited there a few times, but was based down in Lokichiggio as I stated previously. Speaking of South Sudan, my wife went back today, and there are reports of dogs still eating the dead in the streets, and a potential attack on Juba, from Bor by rebels. It’s easy to embrace badassity, when you’re tucked away safely in North America, not so easy for the majority of the developing world, especially when you’re running for your life ,and you have to leave your child behind, just to survive. Again, i’m all for positive thinking and optimism, though my first hand life experience teaches me to be humble, grateful, and acknowledge the truth of our world, both good and evil, both bad ass optimists and doomers. But not to acknowledge our ability to be first world and bad ass is a direct result of a lot of pain (Slavery/Native Americans) and so forth is intellectually dishonest. Naivety is our greatness sin in the US. Though again, to be clear, i’m all for optimism, just not at the expense of real world truth.


    • TDJ March 17, 2014, 12:52 am

      Just wanted to thank you for sharing this. I couldn’t agree more. Positivity is certainly necessary and a good thing to project, but it sure isn’t certain that things will get better. The fact that they have been so good for so long would, according to history, indicate that they will actually get worse sooner rather than later. A lot of massive issues that humans face are converging at the moment. Faith in technology and human ingenuity are nowhere near enough to go on saying that the world will most likely continue to be awesome.

      The ” fancy-ass computer with a belly full of expensive food and nice clean clothes.” that MMM refers to is the exact reason why we are facing catastrophic environmental collapse at our present rate of consumption and emissions.


      Lots of suggestions and plans have been provided, like the ones in this study, for us as a species to avoid catastrophe. So sure I agree its possible. to avoid it. But then look at the scope of the required changes and honestly ask yourself if you think its even remotely possible that they will be implemented in time.

      Again thanks for sharing, this paragraph:
      “I could go on, but why? We live a very privileged life in the US, I’m grateful for it, but I’m not confused about my place in this world how quickly things can go badly and my luck in this world. I’m humble about it all, and in awe, things could have turned out differently for me.”

      hits the nail right on the head and I think MMM could use a punch in the face of your much more accurate, realistic, and honest assessment.

      • Not a Doomer March 17, 2014, 9:16 am


        Thanks for a well worded and erudite response. I’m grateful. I appreciate a balanced response, similar to the Vanguard Wellington Fund I guest :-) At any rate, keep up the good fight and a 1000 blessings to you for your response again.

  • Mr, 1500 March 4, 2014, 7:11 am

    I’d also point out that downturns are healthy and should be embraced and used to our advantage. Everything in life is cyclical. If you look at downturns as a positive event (buying opportunity) instead of freaking out, you’ll be a lot better off long term.

  • Big Guy Money March 4, 2014, 8:04 am

    IF we truly do go through a doomsday scenario, what really has value? Nobody knows. Precious metals could.. Food probably would, but who really knows? I think it’s a waste of time and energy to plan for the worst.

    Also I completely agree with Mr 1500. I somehow trick my brain into thinking these two things: 1) if the stock market goes up, I think “Yay, look at my investments increasing! 2) if the stock market goes down I think, “Yay, I get to purchase stocks that are on sale!

    It’s a win/win.

  • Kurt March 4, 2014, 9:13 am

    Overall I agree with your theme. With that said, I’d bet a lot that someone in France was expressing very similar sentiments to yours on 13 July 1789. Sometimes, revolutions do happen and, sometimes, human-made catastrophes do occur.

  • Janna March 4, 2014, 9:36 am

    Thank you for that post–and the link to Warren Buffet’s letter.

  • sara March 4, 2014, 10:31 am

    It’s funny, but I’ve managed to come out in a similar place to you by starting out from almost the opposite end of the picture:

    Accepting a 100% certainty that the thing we all fear the most–dying–is going to happen to me at some point in my life, that nothing I do can prevent that reality, and that the longer and healthier I live until then, the greater the likelihood my death will be horrible, excruciatingly painful, and alone. For some reason, starting from the point of accepting that–and that I have absolutely no control over it–makes it far easier not to worry about other stupid things, but to focus on being happy and productive and loving other people today. By the same token, recognizing the level of deep brokenness in the world has enabled me to stop thinking that there’s some point at which my life is “successful” that I need to reach before I can be happy, and to instead focus on being happy, good, and productive today.

  • Jordan Read March 4, 2014, 10:48 am

    Life is pretty Fucking Great!! Thanks for doing this. I opened a Life Is Awesome thread in the forum, and while it’s focused more on Negative Visualization, I think it sits hand and hand with the not worrying thing. I still use a hammer and nails though…maybe I should think more about getting a nail gun.

    Keep up the great work MMM!

  • Danny March 4, 2014, 11:11 am

    I agree, but I think to be fair civilization has collapsed in the past and it could collapse again – perhaps on a grander and dramatic scale.

    But what’s the point of worrying about it? Chances it will happen are slim and you have no control over the fate of civilization. Be happy!

  • Edith Esquivel March 4, 2014, 11:21 am

    Even if the world is doomed, even if all they say is true, and our planet is headed for extinction, even in that case, all we can do is try to live sustainably, get more into activism, and enjoy.

    We already take that attitude in the biggest doom of all: our death. Our bodies are one day, without doubt, going to rot and smell, and be hidden, or burnt, and forgotten. We don’t know how much suffering will be involved, not much, we hope.

    We have managed to accept the possibility of suffering and the certainty of death, and move on. And so, we can manage and move one if we believe the Earth, or our societies, or economies, are going to “die”, just like we are.

  • ultrarunner March 4, 2014, 11:24 am

    Interesting. A friend and I had a conversation related to this last night. He’s all wound up about what’s going on over the Ukraine, and wants to pull money out of the markets, etc, etc. He asked if I was worried.

    Me: “no, what should I worry about?”
    Him: “nuclear war?!?!?”
    Me: “nothing I can do to prevent nuclear war, very little I can do to prepare for it, that’s way out of my circle of control. Want to go for a run?”


  • LH Gervais March 4, 2014, 11:32 am

    Great article! One thing that I am trying to avoid as I age is falling prey to the timeless tendency to see the end of the world around the corner as one approaches midlife (you see this theme recur time and time again when reading biographies). This article is very helpful in advancing that goal and resisting the pull of “Doomerism”.

    Both MMM and Warren Buffett are perfect examples of what you can accomplish if you can stay focused on what you can control, and can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs…

    Keep up the great work, MMM :)

    • Frugal Epecurean March 4, 2014, 2:14 pm

      LH – Keep optimistic as you head into midlife! It is possible.

      I’m a few years past 50, and I actually feel less fearful than I did a decade or two ago. Keep learning, working on your skills, building positive relationships, and enjoying life — as MMM advises.


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