For most people in this country, financial problems are caused by not thinking enough about money.
One of the guys I hire occasionally to help me build houses, for example, is permanently broke and always requires full payment in cash at the end of each workweek. Yet at the beginning of each workday, he arrives with a fresh cup of Peet’s coffee from the gourmet shop he drives past on the way to my construction site, and a $5.00 pack of cigarettes that will get smoked in a hands-free manner as he runs the saws and nailguns with those talented hands. He makes casual purchases without worry, but then must confront a gut-dropping wall of worry whenever the money runs out, which is every Thursday.
Although white-collar professionals may scoff at the obvious folly of this particular lad’s behavior, they tend to follow exactly the same script by signing up for monthly payments on cars and furniture, and voluntarily creating car commutes that send even more money up in smoke than a daily pack of cigarettes. The money may not run out every Thursday, but it does run out every Recession, when the job evaporates or the housing market crashes. Same problem in a different package.
But you’re totally different. As a fellow Mustachian, you join me in peaceful laughter at all forms of self-imposed money shortage. Those problems are not part of our world. You make a good income, but continue to ride your bike, cook your own food, and conduct your commerce on Craigslist. This creates an incredible money surplus, which increases your net worth more every month than the average person saves in a year. Even if you’re just starting out, financial independence is less than ten years away, and if you’re an old person in your 30s who has been doing this for a while, it is even closer. So how could life be any better?
If I could go back 12 years to visit my past self in the midst of this scene, there is a bit of wisdom I would love to share. It wouldn’t be stock tips or the sports almanac that Biff used to make himself rich in Back to the Future. Rather, it would be a bit of mental adjustment that could make the journey even more fun. It would a message something like this:
Dude. Chill out. You’re already rich, and thus it is time to start living that way.
This seemingly Antimustachian sentiment is not an endorsement of bullshit luxury spending. You don’t suddenly “Deserve” a new Mercedes, and you’re not about to go hire someone to cut your lawn and fingernails for you. But what you can do is give yourself permission to stop worrying about money, forever.
Once you have established the habit of non-ridiculous living and the correspondingly pumped set of frugality muscles, you are out of the woods. Riches are inevitable. You may not see it yet, because you are still climbing the ladder. Your naturally cautious and calculating nature requires you to hedge all bets thoroughly.
But you know that spreadsheet of yours that predicts a net worth in the millions in a surprisingly short time? That shit is for real, and it really does tend to come true. There is a future you out there, that looks almost exactly like the present you except with slightly grayer hair and more experience, and the future you has more money than you know what to do with. How does he or she live that future life?
Bringing that visualization back to your present life, you can use the knowledge to relax a bit. When you are faced with an unexpected expenditure or an unavoidable ripoff, you can laugh it off rather than pounding your fists against nearby objects.
Suppose you somehow end up downtown, and your spendy friends want to go to hit the $50.00 restaurant, sip a few $7.00 drinks and then take a taxi home. You’re out of your element: there is no nature around and there are no bikes in sight. Everything is bullshit. People idle their cars in unnecessary lines and pay $25.00 to park them in frustrating concrete mazes. How do you react?
The old me would start to sweat. “Inefficiency! Irrational spending! A week of grocery money flying out the window! Must escape situation and be unhappy until inefficiency is resolved!”
The new me would react differently. “Hey! I recognize this situation. It’s one of those ‘lots of money’ deals, and money happens to be one of my specialties. While my friends are about to spend 10% of their entire net worth this evening, I will lose a negligible fraction of a percent, and still go to bed tonight further ahead than when I woke up. So I might as well have some fun with it, because my financial position is so secure.”
The key bit of wisdom here is to take the relaxed perspective of your future rich self, and transport it into your current frugal one. You don’t have to start deliberately spending more, just deliberately worrying less.
As an advanced Mustachian, Money is your specialty. You are an expert at earning and accumulating money, and not wasting it. It will never be a problem for you, and this is a rare and incredible advantage. But in order to maximize the advantage, you need to convince your naturally cautious mind to let go of worry and embrace the surplus. Start feeling rich. Allow yourself to laugh at your occasional mistakes and indulgences. Notice how much better life feels with this constant companion.
But then when you’re done reveling in your wealth, you can fold up that fat wallet of yours, return it to its designated pocket in the backpack and hop onto your commuter bike so you can get back to work.