214 comments

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.

  • MoneyAhoy March 4, 2014, 11:39 am

    Spot on – the doom and gloomers have the adverse effect of fooling people into trying to time the market with their investments. This is pretty much the worst thing one can do as you’ll almost certainly fall behind the returns of an index fund over the long run.

    Reply
  • Kay March 4, 2014, 11:49 am

    I enjoyed this after just having finished Buffett’s letter this morning. I liked his analogy about the screaming neighbor and thought it was right on, of course. It’s just important to remind ourselves of these facts every now and then, especially when the screaming gets so loud as to drown out your own thoughts. Although I did disagree with Mr. Buffett on one point – a crazy ass neighbor screaming from the property adjacent to yours just might impact its value. Who the hell would want to settle next to someone like that?

    Reply
  • RayS March 4, 2014, 11:49 am

    The Walking Dead – Thanks to shows like this (which I admit my wife and I find curiously addicting), I personally question spending some money on non perishable food, guns, etc just to not get left behind during the “zombie apocalypse” and my responsibility to protect my family. I also see a new “doomsday” industry being created with commercials for food that lasts years, survival packs and bunkers.

    Taking a commonsense approach like you do in this post MMM, helps to keep the emotions in check and really spend time being more optimistic about the future. Almost all those who believe tomorrow will be better than worse, end up with healthier, more fruitful lives.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  • Free to Pursue March 4, 2014, 11:52 am

    I like the FULL STOP on doom & gloom discussions, followed by a FULL SPEED AHEAD on what I would call “personal diversification”.

    Personal Diversification:
    1. Saving & investing in a diversified portfolio;
    2. Increase self-sufficiency and sustainable living through continuous learning (“Plenitude”-style);
    3. Trying new things to find out how you want to develop, contribute and evolve as a person; and
    4. Fostering relationships, enabling you to invest in and support others, to everyone’s benefit.

    With the above, we have it all covered and take full advantage of our available span of control & influence. Sounds like a balanced and well-diversified portfolio to me.

    Reply
  • Ken W March 4, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Hey ya MMM,
    Love the nail gun and there are other points to this too.
    A nail gun is ‘technology’, we often hear of people who complain about ‘technology’ and its problems, they forget that the move from say charcoal to pencils to quill to fountain pens to biros to tablets is all part of a move of technology, generally you can choose where you want to adopt but most people don’t write with charcoal anymore. Same with construction, the move from stacking and tying, to slotting and doweling to nails, nail guns and perhaps screws (the day I started screwing instead of nailing drywall was a revelation) shows not only are the high end technologies improving the basic – need to make a home – technologies are too.
    My best example of this is the common screw. Now everyone has a flat-head screw driver in their toolbox, a few people know the difference between a Phillips and pozi, but OMG, the introduction of the square drive (Robinson #2) , it gives me goosebumps to think about how much time that simple change is making workwide!
    The point to all this is these ‘technologies’ all make things easier, not just a little bit easier, but phenomenally easier. Try going back to a week on the end of a hammer – your arms will not thank you. Even an amateur can get a nail in first time on target with 10 minutes of practice with a nail gun. Hell, my first leather handled Estwing (sorry to the Vaughan owners) d’near cost the same as a cheap nail gun today. There is a skill to using a flat-head driver that about 95% of the population struggle with, you can decrease that to about 51% of the population (ha!) with an R#2.
    The point I see is economists have a model that means that year to year the cost of producing something goes down 2-5%, that’s because it gets easier, the training required is less and more people know about things and can innovate. Even if there were a worldwide calamity at the present, there would still be large pockets of people who know not only that the technology is there, but how it works – and at the end of the day we can still go back to getting out the hacksaw and making cuts in the top of our square drives to take the suckers out! Or building up arms like popeye to nail for a day.
    Yeah I’m in IT too. :-)

    Reply
  • Bateauxdriver March 4, 2014, 1:08 pm

    This is just the shit in the arm I needed to power through this day. I’ve charged straight into life for decsdes now and there is enough water past the stern to know your words are true.

    Reply
  • Marcus March 4, 2014, 2:05 pm

    “if you tell yourself you feel fine, you will.”
    ― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

    “you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”
    ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

    Reply
  • Frugal Epecurean March 4, 2014, 2:11 pm

    Good words. I clip articles from the Wall Street Journal that foretell disasters that never come. One of my favorites is:

    “Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse,” published on June 7, 2010.

    I don’t seem to remember that one.

    Reply
  • chad March 4, 2014, 2:51 pm

    MMM, you say that “Humankind’s ability to live well and prosper depends at its core only on productive land, sunshine and our collective knowledge.” But, if that’s true, then why doesn’t North Korea prosper?

    Reply
    • Andrew March 4, 2014, 10:44 pm

      FEAR.

      Reply
  • rufusmcbufus March 4, 2014, 3:48 pm

    So then we should all just ignore the massive financial injustice that has been going on for the last 5 years (zombie banks being allowed to live through taxpayer bailout) and keep buying those index funds and demanding asset prices continue to inflate to infinity? I dunno, I hate HATE this system, and I’m still pissed off. Maybe that won’t get me anywhere but good lord I still want to kick someone’s ass.
    -rufus

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 5, 2014, 4:55 pm

      See, I choose to love the system instead.

      If you read the books and articles by the guys who actually orchestrated the bailout, it makes a lot more sense. Warren Buffet has made some really interesting comments about how it all worked too. The people who are the most vehemently anti-bailout and anti-debt seem to be the ones who decry “FIAT CURRENCY!!” as if it were a bad thing. Meanwhile, we all live great lives while they sit there worrying.

      Look around you at the results. Read the Gates Foundation annual letters. Massive prosperity in many countries, cheap goods, an improving state of the world. It doesn’t matter if there is another financial crash in the future. In fact, I can guarantee there will be more of them. But the lives of the poorest, and the understanding of the already-rich will continue to improve, which is the way I measure progress.

      Reply
  • Nina March 4, 2014, 6:58 pm

    Amen MMM. A beauty of a post.

    Reply
  • Genevieve Hawkins March 4, 2014, 8:25 pm

    One thing I’ve always found odd about the association of doomers with gold is there’s nothing valuing gold outside of the market. In the event of a total financial collapse, gold may or may not have value–you can’t eat it or drink it. It doesn’t seem to have any more or less value than paper money (which might have more value since you can start a fire with it).
    Gold stocks are even more head scratching. If there’s a collapse why would a piece of paper saying you own X shares of something be worth anything?
    I think David Cain on Raptitude said it best: “Nine things out of 10 I worry about happening never happen. Nine things out 10 that happened to me I never worried about.” So when the aliens finally make contact/the mushroom cloud blossoms over downtown Denver/all the fish in all the oceans die at once due to some critical mass of toxicity being reached/all the other millions of possibilities I’m not thinking of, you’ll know what to do. Or you won’t, possibly because you’re dead. So keep on trucking!

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    • HealthyWealthyExpat March 5, 2014, 9:24 am

      Another great post here, MMM, and interesting to see gold take a bit of a bashing. I think that most people who hold gold do not hold their entire net worth in it. They hold gold as a part of their larger portfolio and see it as a sort of “insurance” against major financial disaster and a hedge against inflation. Yes, there are issues with gold not paying income and not being edible, etc., but for thousands of years it has served as a form of money – especially in times of financial disaster when people need it most. Just ask the Vietnamese, for example, why most of them still hold their savings in gold. Gold stocks, on the other hand, are for speculation. I don’t think people buy them hoping they can eat the gold later! Just like index investors don’t buy index funds thinking they’ll be able (or even remotely WANT) to drink the coke from the part of the fund investing in Coca Cola company.

      Reply
      • Genevieve Hawkins March 6, 2014, 4:57 am

        I have no problem with gold…it’s probably a good thing to have in a balanced portfolio. I just never understood the connection between it and doomers–to me, real doomsday investments are things like guns, ammunition, underground bunkers, water purification tablets, and six years worth of meals. :-P Gold just seems like an establishment investment that is banking on history to make it seem anti-establishment.
        What I was thinking reminded me of my favorite Twilight Zone episode–some gold robbers, knowing they would be caught in their time, build a time machine to escape to 100 years into the future with their gold. When they arrive, they are still in the middle of the desert. They walk with their pile of gold, one by one succumbing to thirst. The last one alive finds a couple driving a futuristic car. He stumbles to them, holding out his last gold bar, saying “Water. water.” and falls to the ground dead just as the couple reach him. “What’s this he has in his hand? It looks like gold.” The man says to his wife. “Wasn’t that stuff worth something a long time ago?” His wife asks. “Yeah it was. Before we learned how to make it ourselves. So odd he’d be carrying it.” The husband throws the gold bar on the ground and they drive away.
        In a real doomsday scenario, who knows what is going to be of value. But for investment purposes…gold is fine. I’m not going to try to eat it either…

        Reply
  • Ryan March 4, 2014, 8:35 pm

    Definitely agree with the index fund idea for the average investor. Too many people I know keep their money in savings accounts and wonder why they don’t accumulate any wealth. Look at a long term chart of the stock market. It goes from the lower left to upper right. If you stay invested, you are guaranteed to make money in the long run.

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  • AnotherRetiredEngr March 4, 2014, 9:16 pm

    Thank you MMM for the information and encouragement you provide. I would not be retired now without you showing us how to make it work. I quit at the end of the year. It is wonderful not having to go to work.

    This morning I just finished reading “The Clash of Generations” by Scott Burns and L. J. Kotlikoff. They show that this country is big time broke if you look at promised commitments (social security, medicare, …) versus expected tax revenue. It makes our stated “national debt” look small. We are spending money are kids will have to pay for. Finishing this book had me a bit depressed about this country’s future. Our government needs some real “leader”. Thanks for reminding me that things are great right now.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache March 5, 2014, 4:44 pm

      Yeah.. but my opinion is that we can easily cut social security costs, once we have a country full of self-sufficient Mustachians.. and make medical care less ridiculously expensive too, which will help Medicare. On top of that, remember that some of the stuff we’ve been buying with all that government spending is assets – stuff we use and benefit from: http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/02/27/debt_alarmist_chart.html

      Reply
  • Andrew March 4, 2014, 9:52 pm

    MMM, I truly appreciate your perspective and inspirational advice; however, I’m up for banking some new skills. Since you subscribe to the philosophy of offering great value and helping others, not to mention that you’re in the throes of your own home project, how about more DIY posts similar to that one you did a while back on how to build a sweet shower! Why not start your own YouTube channel and pass on your construction knowledge? Frankly, I’m itching to cut a hole in my house and install some southern-facing windows, but, clearly, FEAR has me protecting myself (and family) from failure!

    Reply
    • Deborah March 5, 2014, 5:17 am

      Actually an article on skills would be very interesting. I seem to remember that MMM wrote an article about the skills he thought were most valuable (and that carpentry ranked high while sewing skills ranked low and plumbing must have been about top of the list!).

      But that article was about current value, rather than value in sustainability, self sufficiency – or for when doom approaches. Sewing was way down the list because clothing is so inexpensive currently – but go back a few decades, and clothing took 20% of household expenditure rather than the current 5%. Who knows what the relative ranks will be in a couple more decades? Hand skills and health skills seem to me to be the most valuable in any scenario.

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      • RetiredAt63 March 5, 2014, 11:56 am

        Yes, spinners/knitters/weavers figure we will be top of the heap come the zombie apocalypse (more likely valuable slave labour). But we will be dependent on the sheep farmers and shearers.
        Through most of history people spent as much time clothing themselves as feeding themselves.
        “Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early times ” is a fascinating read if you are interested in where our efforts used to go.

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  • Diogo March 4, 2014, 10:17 pm

    Hello, brazilian mustachian here. First of all, I was the one who started the gloom and doom topic on the forums and I’m really glad it turned out a nice discussion with a whole article from MMM!

    Maybe I made a bad impression by writing too little on that post, but the greatest value I got from the hidden secrets of money is on how the central banking system works, and as a child on the 80’s and 90’s when we got hyperinflation in Brazil it was really simple for me to connect the dots and see that the US are heading towards that road. And I think it could be a disaster for mankind for a simple reason:

    When hyperinflation hit Brazil on the 80’s and on Argentina recently, the people run to american dollars to protect their wealth and live their lives as happily as possible complaining about the government with great humor.

    Now if the dollar tanks, all fiat currencies tank down together, since they are all greatly backed up by stached dollars on their central banks. And people having nowhere to run to protect their wealth, I do believe that gold and probably cryptocurrencies will be the safe heavens to hedge against it.

    And why do I believe the dollar tanking is very likely? Because 99% of not only americans but from the world population slightly above poverty treshold are CONSUMERS. And consuming too much is what forces the FED throwing QE’s around to keep economic “stimulus” which translates into consumption stimulus.

    So that’s why I believe the financial armaggedon is a very plausible and likey scenario. And we already know how the most civilized population can turn rapidly into barbarism on critical situations where looting and crime goes rampant where the state cannot reach.

    It’s like an islander who retreats to higher ground when he senses a tsunami is about to hit. He still hunts and does his stuff, but only on higher ground.

    So if you are full into mustachism, you probably don’t need all of your stash income, so it wouldn’t be a huge impact if you got some PM’s to hedge yourself against this possible upcoming tsunami would leave you in a great position not only to “get rich” but to help those in need in these dread times.

    I’m a bit worried about the poeple that are 100% positive, because you may be in denial… Taking some time to research and think carefully on the topic won’t hurt your badassity, and putting a small % of your portfolio into precious metals does not make you a gold bug.

    So this is a really good time to increase all mustachian skills and build up badassity, and really follow the article advice to do even great work and a greater contribution.

    I’m right now following both Mike Maloney and MMM! My family got really engaged into mustachism (learning a lot of basic skillsets and cutting on luxuries) and we decided to first buy a good chunk of gold (about 1kg) and then start the index fund/ REITFS/Bonds asset allocation.

    Curiously, all these fearmonging drove us deeply into mustachism. We started to learn how to grow our own crops, collect rain water and start a fire with bare hands, and self-defense training. I got some new huge motivation to work harder, live simplier and be really prepared to live like a native american ( one great article on this blog btw).

    Being positive and living happily no matter what, as the article recommends is the best attitude you can have, I agree with that.
    But turning your back onto what’s happening around can be naive and dangerous.

    Diogo.

    Reply
    • MR March 5, 2014, 4:47 pm

      Bingo!

      Reply
      • atom March 7, 2014, 12:37 pm

        I agree.

        I’d be wary to put my full trust in anybody 100% positive or 100% negative on the future, which is my issue with this post. A bit of realistic evaluation of the negatives of our existing situation is necessary if nothing else than to put things in perspective. As Diogo said, these can be good motivators to push us towards mustachism which is good preparation whether our monetary system survives or not.

        Some people have already discussed history, but its not something to be taken lightly. There are plenty of lessons and similar situations from the past that if not understood can and will come back to bite us.

        The American empire will not last forever. When it falls, how it happens, and what is left are huge unknowns that we cannot control. Thus we shouldn’t let them get us depressed, because as you said there’s work to do.

        Reply
  • Daniel March 5, 2014, 12:50 am

    Very good article – negativity does not help anybody!

    Just a comment on the following claim:
    “Humankind’s ability to live well and prosper depends at its core only on productive land, sunshine and our collective knowledge.”
    This would indeed be wonderful! To a large extend we have been living large on fossil fuels (it even gave rise to your nail guns). This sort of conserved sunshine is among the most awesome stuff our generous planet gave us as a gift. Let us appreciate this fact as well!

    Reply
  • jestjack March 5, 2014, 6:03 am

    Nice article….Bought a Rigid “wetvac” a while back after having others that were crap…and it works great….so I’m sold on Rigid. Is your nail gun electric or air? Heard good and bad about both. Thinking of taking the “plunge” as I will be doing a roof in the Spring (30 squares) and this might be just what the Doctor ordered. I’m getting a bit older and just may pay to have the 90 bundles “stocked” on the roof. How’s the radiant heat coming? Very interesting article….

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  • Bill March 5, 2014, 7:19 am

    Just remember what Maslow said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a nail gun, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

    Reply
  • Stan March 5, 2014, 7:28 am

    I am happy to say I paid off my mortgage and am now debt free. There has been an invisible weight lifted off my shoulders (I didn’t realize it was there until it was gone) and all I make (less living costs) will be going to giving, saving and spending on things I need and sometimes things I just want.
    I work full time and have a part time electrical contracting business that has helped immensely in paying off a 30 year mortgage in 10 years. I read about how people reset their mortgages for lower rates but end up paying more in the long run. Sometimes you have to buckle down and speed up and plow through the mountain of debt instead of trying to slowly climb to the top step by step.
    Oh, and I also have nail guns. They are great and save a ton of time and effort. My dad was a carpenter and I remember my days of hammering and bending nails by the hundreds. One tool I love is the hammerdrill. Use it with a large bit with a drill end and it makes drilling holes in a new house effortless.

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  • Little House March 5, 2014, 7:56 am

    There will always be people shouting doom and gloom prophecies, that’s just human nature…to worry. However, those of us that can keep chugging forward, will be fine. As a teacher, I sometimes jump on the doom and gloom boat in regards to not-so-good-student behavior extrapolating that to the future of humankind, but then I remind myself that there have always been children who just don’t follow directions and make poor choices, but the rest of them turn out just fine so humankind isn’t in as bad shape as one child’s behavior might make it out to be. To quote a line from Dori in Nemo, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” I’m such a teacher dork.

    Reply
  • Kate in NY March 5, 2014, 9:43 am

    Has there ever been a discussion on this blog about “The Freedom Manifesto,” by British author Tom Hodgkinson? It’s a brilliant, quirky, slightly tongue-in-cheek little book, and it is very much in keeping with the philosophy of this blog – and this post in particular. The chapter titles include: “Banish Anxiety; Be Carefree,” “Break the Bonds of Boredom,” “Reject Career and All Its Empty Promises,” “Smash the Fetters of Fear,” “Submit No More to the Machine – Use Your Hands,” “Stop Worrying About Your Pension and Get a Life,” “Stop Working, Start Living” etc. etc. The author is perhaps more of an anarchist than the usual writers discussed here, but in general I think the book is very MMM. I keep it by my bedside, and re-read whenever I need a bit of inspiration.

    Reply
  • Ricky March 5, 2014, 10:22 am

    You basically have two options:

    1. Worry all the time and be dependent on a job.

    2. Let loose and be optimistic since the worse that can happen is you have to work again in your life.

    I lean towards option 2 because if doomsday does happen, there will be far worse problems than money by that point. I’ve always said it and will continue to say it because it’s true.

    The thing is, we are all doomed regardless of any financial or cultural crisis. We all die, right? We live and we die. Everything else is irrelevant. I’m not saying you shouldn’t hedge your risks, and most reasonable people will do this naturally, I’m just saying there is no sense in dwelling on what could go wrong when time is limited as it is.

    Great advice as always.

    Reply
  • JBC March 5, 2014, 11:22 am

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  • Dave March 5, 2014, 12:11 pm

    I don’t worry about Syria, or the Ukraine for one simple reason: if Einstein is right then we are all already dead anyway. Just as all of space is out there, all of time is out there too. We are only aware of the now, and what just happened. But, the past is all still there and all very real, as is the future. If things are gonna collapse, then they will, cause they already have.

    It gives me enormous comfort to know that the future has already happened and their ain’t a damn thing I can do about it in the present. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Brian Greene of Columbia University describe it way better than I just did. Its the most eye opening hour of tv you’ll ever watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqzgYRBlslw

    Again, Einstein has to be right for this to be true, and every experiment to date says: He is.

    Reply
  • Tom March 5, 2014, 2:17 pm

    It wasn’t so long ago that we didn’t know what was happening in the next state let alone on the other side of the world. Are we better off knowing everything? Was it better to just be worried about getting food on the table and making it through the winter.

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    • phred March 6, 2014, 7:42 am

      “Was it better to just be worried about getting food on the table and making it through the winter.”

      The world was a dark and scary place back then. There was the constant worry that the Vikings would attack, or the Indians, or the Whites — but from where and when?
      Superstitions abounded because so much was unknown. Many places were fearful; here be dragons.
      If your village was decimated due to drought or disease, where would the survivors have known to go?

      Reply
  • David March 5, 2014, 3:46 pm

    What’s your method for determining whether using a tool is optimal? A nail gun saves a ton of time, but it uses power and doesn’t build your muscles like a hammer would. However, the same could be said for driving (or riding the bus) instead of bicycling. I commute 7 miles to work via the bus/metro because if I tried to bike my hilariously ungraceful self through downtown DC I’d get pancaked by an SUV, plus I’d have to spend lots more time commuting and showering rather than being productive or seeing my family. While I’m working on my dexterity so that I can eventually bike safely, I’m curious about how you decide when to use a power tool for convenience, and when to use your own muscles instead.

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    • Mr. Money Mustache March 5, 2014, 4:31 pm

      That’s a neat strategy question. In general, I try to do as much hard stuff as possible as long as it doesn’t get in the way of more important goals. A nailgun is so much faster and creates a much more precise finished product, that it would be counterproductive to use a hammer just to get that extra bit forearm exercise. And there is some real time pressure on me since I want to move into this house as soon as I can.

      On the other hand, I would never buy a snow blower or leaf blower because they hardly save any time, quality is equal or better for the hand version, and there’s the free exercise.

      The bike decision usually wins for me, because it is much faster than a bus – even faster than a car over many city trips. You don’t even need a shower once you are accustomed to riding the bike – it’s no more strenuous than walking. So there is no penalty – and thus I generally don’t use a car unless it is unavoidable.

      Reply
  • Pranil March 6, 2014, 12:41 am

    So I just finished reading every single post since the beginning of time! Pretty freaking excited.
    Love the blog MMM, heading over to the forums shortly to see how many other Mustachians are out here in Australia! Be interesting to see what people are saying about the cost if living, housing market, rent vs buy etc….as a recent convert to the Mustachian Way I’m sure there’s a bunch of learning to be had.

    Next time I’ll post something relevant to the article ha! Cheers.

    Reply
  • Ann Stanley March 6, 2014, 4:33 am

    ‘Produce value for the world much more than you consume things from the world. Producing is a happier activity’

    Brilliant. ‘For’ not ‘from’. It’s as simple as that. And it always will be.

    Reply
  • The Dude March 6, 2014, 8:59 am

    So when is your book coming out? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Reply
  • Jiffypop March 6, 2014, 10:21 am

    Some of the best articles I’ve read are ones that don’t necessarily jive with my existing viewpoint, but rather make me think. This is one of those articles.

    As one who holds a little bit of gold, my initial reaction to the article was, ‘Hey, I think MMM just poked fun at me’. But upon re-reading this article, MMM appears to be focusing on those with extreme positions where gold and other doomsday prepper related goodies are the ‘first and last line of defense’ in maintaining financial and general independence.

    The small amount of gold I do hold is an insurance policy. First off, no person legitimately wants to cash in on insurance. I want things to continue to F*king great. I really like my life as is. However with that said, I think that there are some scenarios have small but significant chance of playing out that warrant such insurance. I’m not talking about anything that say…homeowners insurance wouldn’t protect against such as war, famine,
    pestilence, Jesus coming back on an asteroid…etc. The scenarios that really concern me are the ones that are just disruptive enough to bring an end to the ‘big house of cards’ metaphor mentioned in the article without altering life as we know it.

    Here are a couple of points that are rattling around in my head whenever I re-evaluate my gold allocation:

    1) Major financial corrections have occurred in the US every 80-90 years, with smaller but sharp recessions and financial market panics occurring roughly every 10 to 15 years in between. These events are ultimately good for the entire financial system as poorly managed companies cease to exist, freeing up their resources to be used by well run companies. However, companies (major banks in particular) that would have failed in the most recent major financial correction were not allowed to do so in 2008-2009, even though around 6500 healthy local and regional banks existed according to the FDIC. Instead, the US government ‘just stacked up a few new cards in a haphazard way’ instead of allowing a normal clearing out of system. Thus despite everything being F*king great, I find myself forced to acknowledge the shadow of the next house of cards collapse looming in the background.

    2) US federal fiscal policy is the antithesis of everything mustachian, and there is no willingness in DC to correct this course. Perhaps I am just envious that I don’t have my own personal QE style printing press, but I cannot help but picture a mad economist in the basement of the federal reserve board building busily tearing off strips from existing dollars bills, taping them together into a new bill, and shouting ‘Its ALIVE!’ whenever I think of quantitative easing. The US has put at risk the value of ‘the full faith and credit of the United States government’ that backs the dollar. So, I fail to see how the house of cards can indefinitely be reset.

    Given those points, I believe that the chances of a prolonged financial correction (lets say 3-5 years…payback for the house of cards delays), unmanaged by the US must be accounted for. Gold is one of the few asset classes that performs well in such circumstances, and can serve as a bridge to meet cash flow needs in lieu of selling off other assets at depressed values.

    Ultimately I suppose it all comes down our interpretations of cash flow and diversification. A recession or depression resistant source of cash flow is all that is needed to navigate a clean reset of the financial system. Gold is just one of many tools in that regard. I am definitely looking for opinions on other options.

    Reply
  • David March 6, 2014, 2:51 pm

    Hey, if you want to get good news on tv instead of all the negative news we hear in America try tuning into the Japanese, Chinese or Korean stations, if you have cable. They have all English versions with everything translated. They tend to concentrate on positive news that makes you feel great.

    Or look for NHK (Japanese) CCTV (Chinese) or Airiang (Korean) on the web. These stations are delightful. I don’t even watch American news because they are always glorifying war and how we need to keep attacking countries that have not attacked us. What nonsense.

    Reply
  • Chris Bergmann March 6, 2014, 6:54 pm

    This is why I read this blog! I am Brazilian and it seems that predicting doom has become quite fashionable over here. “corruption is everywhere”, “the World Cup will be a failure”, “we’re in a housing bubble which will burst anytime soon”.Most people simply forget that 30 years ago we were under hyperinflation of 80% a MONTH, just on the wake of a military dictatorship. My parents had to buy groceries on payday as money would be worth nothing the very next day. And “somehow” we all survived. Inflation is now 7% a year. Sure, there is an immense amount of work to be done so we can get even close to US standards of development… but we will only get there by working hard. And the more time we spend complaining and worrying, the less time we have to work and improve.

    Reply
  • snoop March 6, 2014, 7:55 pm

    Plus, in a pinch you can use a nail gun to eliminate rival drug dealers and meddlesome pests.

    Reply
  • Dan March 6, 2014, 8:36 pm

    I find the mainstream media tends to blow everything out of proportion. It’s all about creating a buzz and selling a story rather than just reporting the facts. The stock market feeds into the media hype and seems to make huge swings everyday based on the days news. Whether it’s Syria, Ukraine or any other current story there is always something negative going on that the media reports. I tend to prefer reading news online rather than watch TV because the. I can pick and choose which stories I like to read rather than being force fed a bunch of negativity for 30 minutes (or more)

    Reply
  • anon March 7, 2014, 11:17 pm

    I’m one of those that happen to think that potentially some things may get really ugly between deadlocked gov’t, an unsustainably high debt, accelerating structural unemployment due to tech, etc etc. These opinions are held as a former analyst at a major hedge fund and currently a software engineer. I’ll undercut myself and say I’m hardly an authority, but I’m not part of the fear porn crowd either.

    It took me a second to realize it, but I also get that the majority of people who share these views probably spend all their time focusing on them, or even worse, use them as an excuse for why prosperity is impossible.

    I *am* waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that doesn’t prevent me from also agreeing with everything else you said. A happier life comes from focusing on what you can control. I’d like to think I do my best to help out the people around me as well as the present and future versions of myself.

    I think the reason I wrote this comment is that I liked your article and wanted to say that your core points stand, regardless of what you think the future will be like. It’s orthogonal. If the future’s great, then awesome! You should do your best to make it better. If it’s got some serious issues to be worked out? Great, do your best to make it better.

    Reply
  • Steve Adams March 9, 2014, 9:02 am

    “five different sizes of nailguns” !!!?!?!?!

    Oh the humanity – oh the consumption! – I hope you lend out the other four when you are not using them.

    Of course I’m kidding, thanks for the periodic does of realist optimism. :)

    Reply
  • Mick72 March 11, 2014, 10:52 am

    MMM, I appreciate your blog. My positive comment is that I’m reminded of Your Money or Your Life, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez…great book!
    My negative comment is that I’m also reminded of this posting from John Michael Greer: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2007/01/this-faith-in-progress_10.html
    Watch out for the dogma of the religion of progress! It can so easily go unnoticed and undermine a clear vision of reality, not to mention our efforts at living the “good life” (http://www.goodlife.org/).

    Reply
  • Jeff March 12, 2014, 12:59 pm

    On what principle is it, that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us? – Thomas Babington Macaulay

    Reply
  • Albert March 12, 2014, 2:18 pm

    The thing is that 9/10 (or 99/100 if you prefer) MMM is right, but in some rare cases doomsayers are right. And if they are right just once out of 1,000 times the impact is far greater than optimists being right 99.99% of a time (Black Swan effect).

    P.S. I didn’t read all comments so perhaps someone has already made this exact point.

    Reply
  • Lito March 13, 2014, 1:25 am

    Hi MMM,

    I’m just getting started on your site here, so I apologize if you answer this somewhere else… But what happens if everyone removes themselves from debt? I’m a huge advocate of everything you’ve said so far. But I’m just curious. Does the economy need debt to function? Can everyone actually have a surplus instead of a deficit?

    Lito

    Reply
  • Daisy March 15, 2014, 9:58 pm

    As far back as history itself, there have always been doomsday people who are convinced that we’re going down, no matter what. And that may be true, for all I know, but I don’t let it stop me from enjoying life, and investing my money where I see fit.

    I am, admittedly, fairly cautious when it comes to certain investments, but I think that a healthy dose of caution is good, as long as it’s not taken too far.

    Reply
  • Joe (yolfer) March 16, 2014, 11:32 pm

    My kids and I are currently way into this LEGO song that could pretty much be the soundtrack to your Three Point Formula

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StTqXEQ2l-Y

    Reply
  • Todd March 18, 2014, 1:31 pm

    I found this post and the following discussion on environmental disaster particularly interesting after having just finished “The Conundrum: how scientific innovation, increased efficiency, and good intentions can make our energy and climate problems worse” by David Owen. I recommend it for any contemplating what they can do to help our Earth or thinking that they are doing enough already. The book asks hard questions and points out difficult facts, and in the end the only solutions presented are those MMM describes so consistently; overall reduction of energy use, especially fuel (as opposed to merely efficiency improvements), less travel and driving, less consumption for all. More human muscle power, more stay-cations and home cooking, more appropriate technology, and more appropriate wants and needs.

    I know it’s been pointed out before, but MMM may be one of the most accurate and truthful environmentalist advocates out there, without even intending to be.

    Reply
  • Guy Madison March 19, 2014, 11:16 pm

    I think they guy that invented the nail guy should have won the Nobel Prize, its an amazing tool and just think of all the man hours this century that have been saved with nail guns!

    Reply
  • SEVY May 1, 2014, 11:09 pm

    Off topic and a little late but looking at the photo I was surprised you didn’t install glass/windows in the upper wall extensions to let that southern light carry into the rooms at the front off the house.

    Reply
  • Vicki B May 4, 2014, 8:08 pm

    Fantastic and inspirational article. Growing food is a cheap and useful way of becoming productive whilst also being great for your health.

    Reply
  • w22w June 26, 2014, 8:44 pm

    ha! Love it. There are plenty of reasons to be “concerned” about the state of our world/country etc. but there are WAY more reasons to be optimistic. I can see within my own industry (healthcare) the vast improvement in productivity and accuracy afforded by electronic medical records. None the less, many of my fellow doctors still wax nostalgic for scribbling on paper to place an order and plowing through a 4 inch thick mess of old paper medical records chart to find critical life altering medical history information. Really? Really! Sure someone will still have some anecdote about why we are worse off now, usually told while they spend 15 seconds to find an old EKG image file in the electronic medical record that totally alters the trajectory of the care of their patient.

    My other favorite is “peak oil” and the “inevitable” doom that we face when the oil runs out. I think of we spent a fraction of the investment made to develop horizontal drilling and fracking we would be way closer to successfully harnessing the absurd amount of energy raining down on this planet from the sun every second. Sadly, for now, the economic incentives favor better oil extraction vs alternate fuels. We man face some real issues vis a vis the CO2 issue, but at least if you embrace some of the intent of this blog you can know that you’re part of that solution too.

    The concept, promoted in this blog, of investing in your own technological capability (ie, learning to fix or build something rather than replacing / buying) cannot be overstated. Wins all around! Thanks MMM!

    Reply
  • Toubo January 15, 2017, 9:26 pm

    Hello again,

    I do not fully agree with the fact that everything is fucking awesome and that it will carry on being that way, due to super-cycle theory and the fact we have just made the house of card 1 floor higher since last crisis BUT…

    It does not matter much to a mustachian anyway:

    – Either MMM is right and then all is great, end of story.
    – Or anyway living a Mustachian life, with an understanding and acknowledgement of the luxury already in your life, living is smaller size cities and tight communities and having various skills that you can rely on to help people and maybe earn a bit on the side will anyway make you able to cope quite well with whatever disasters heading our ways.

    So the basic advices of being (reasonably) optimistic and to carry on with your mustachian life is quite sound. Now if you are not a mustachian and still live the big life on credit, I would worry much more…

    Reply
  • Jason January 29, 2017, 10:18 am

    Hannah Arrendt in “The Origins of Totalitarianism” explains the epistemological conditions for the rise of the early 20th century totalitarian/fascist regimes as follows: the truth is (has to be) that which one does not know. That includes everything, from one’s empirical relationship to his/her own reality as well as the mainstream media. Hence, the acceptance of national fables, conspiracy theories and end of world scenarios.

    So in essence, a toxic mix of ignorance, apathy, lack of confidence and pessimism.

    Reply

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