J.D. Roth: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mustachianism


J.D. completes a mandatory set of clean-and-presses with a barbell in my back yard, the standard way earn a beer at the MMM residence. June 2015.

Today our mutual friend J.D. Roth has stopped by to tell a story. I am happy to share this one with you because in real life he is the real deal and a very nice guy. If you weren’t already aware of his fame, this is the guy who who founded the blog Get Rich Slowly in 2006, then later sold it and went on to dabble in early retirement,  write some books, and do a bunch of inspirational presentations at various cool events like the World Domination Summit

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mustachianism

My name is J.D. Roth, and I’m a Mustachian. But unlike many of you, I wasn’t born this way. In fact, I’m only a recent convert to this budding “religion”.

When I was young, my parents were poor. Mom stayed home to raise us three boys in our single-wide trailer. When Dad could find work, he sold staplers and boxes and chocolate bars. When he was out of work, he dabbled with starting businesses.

Even when my parents did have money, they spent it all. My father once sold a business for a tidy sum, but he didn’t save a dime. He squandered the proceeds on a sailboat, an airplane, and a new stereo system. In a short time, he was just as broke as before he experienced his windfall.

Some kids might have learned from their parents’ mistakes. Not me. I left home and promptly adopted the same habits. In fact, mine were worse. I had access to credit cards and personal loans, which allowed me to take on debt — something my parents had avoided.

Get Rich Slowly
Eventually, I realized the error of my ways.

In 2004, I was 35 years old and carrying over $35,000 in consumer debt. I resolved to turn things around. Because I’d done well managing a couple of businesses, I decided to manage my personal finances as if I were managing a small company called JD, Inc. I set a goal to eliminate my debt by the end of 2007.

I read everything I could about personal finance. I began to make smarter choices. I found ways to cut my spending and boost my income. I paid off my debts, one by one. I learned how to flex my frugal muscles.

As I turned my life around, I documented my progress at a blog called Get Rich Slowly. I hoped my story would help others — and I hoped that others would share what they knew with me.

My plan worked.

In December 2007, right on schedule, I repaid the last of my consumer debt. But I didn’t stop there. As Get Rich Slowly grew, my income grew. Instead of spending the money, I saved it. I quit my day job to write full time. And eventually, I was able to sell the blog for a large sum of money. Today, ten years after deciding to get out of debt, I’ve achieved financial independence.

Over time, I developed a financial philosophy, a smart, safe set of guidelines designed to help people develop smarter money habits. For a while, I thought I had things figured out.

But then I met Mr. Money Mustache.

Intro to Mustachianism
I first encountered Mr. Money Mustache at a blogging conference in September 2012. I liked him right away. While the other speakers were talking about monetization and search-engine optimization, MMM spoke about building a cult through the power of story — a topic near and dear to my heart.

A sound blogging philosophy
MMM’s conference presentation


After his presentation, MMM and I sat down for a chat. I learned that not only did our blogging philosophies align, but so did our financial philosophies.

For instance, I believe that:

    • Smart money management is more about mindset than it is about math. Financial success comes when you master the mental game of money. It’s not about understanding the numbers. The math of personal finance is simple: spend less than you earn and invest the difference. We all get it. Instead, it’s controlling your habits and emotions that’s difficult.
    • The road to wealth is paved with goals. Without financial goals, you have no direction. If you have no direction, it’s easy to spend money on things you’ll regret later. But if you’re saving for a house, your daughter’s college education, or a trip to Europe, your goal will keep you focused, making it easier to spend on what’s important and ignore the things that aren’t.
    • Financial balance lets you enjoy tomorrow and today. You don’t have to choose between spending today and saving for tomorrow. You can do both. Strive for moderation in all things: Pursue your goals, but don’t forget frugality; be frugal, but don’t forget your goals.
    • You can have anything you want  but you can’t have everything you want. Being smart with money isn’t about giving up your plasma TV or your daily latte. It’s about setting priorities and managing expectations, about choosing to spend only on the things that matter to you, while cutting costs on the things that don’t.
    • It’s more important to be happy than it is to be rich. Don’t be obsessed with money – it won’t buy you happiness. Sure, money will give you more options in life, but true wealth is about something more. True wealth is about relationships, good health, and ongoing self-improvement. Everything else is a lower priority.

While many parts of the Get Rich Slowly financial philosophy were Mustachian before I met MMM, others weren’t. Or, more precisely, they weren’t Mustachian enough.

I hadn’t yet learned the power of badassity.

Learning the power of badassity


You CAN Get Rich Quickly
Most financial advisers urge people to save ten percent of their income. The bold ones recommend twenty percent. For years, I’ve followed suit. Since 2008, I’ve encouraged people to set aside twenty percent of their income for retirement, and I believed I was doing a noble thing. Since converting to Mustachianism, however, I’ve changed my tune.

Mr. Money Mustache taught me that traditional saving advice is far too timid. Slow and steady finish the race, but they don’t win it. Fast and focused finish first.

The shockingly simple math behind early retirement clearly demonstrates that with a saving rate of ten percent, it takes nine years to save enough to fund one year of living. (Or, to put it another way, if you maintain a saving rate of ten percent for nine years, you accumulate enough to take one year off work.) At this pace, it takes about fifty years to accumulate enough cash to retire — and that’s only because the power of compounding comes into play.

Compounding is great, but it’s still an external force — something beyond your control. MMM helped me see that the more you save, the more you’re taking matters into your own hands. Compounding becomes icing on the cake.

  • With a twenty percent saving rate, it takes only four years of work to fund one year of expenses. At that pace, it takes nearly forty years to prepare for retirement. Again, at this level of saving, you’re relying on compounding to boost your nest egg.
  • If you make the leap from timid to badass, something amazing happens. With a fifty percent saving rate, you save enough each year to fund another entire year of normal spending! And at 75 percent, each year of work would fund three additional years. If you can save half of your income, you can reach financial independence in just seventeen years!

I’ve argued for a decade that it isn’t possible to get rich quickly except by chance. My philosophy has been that the only reliable path to wealth is to get rich slowly, and my motto has been “slow and steady wins the race”.

Today I realize that what I’ve been opposed to for so long isn’t the “get rich quick” mentality; it’s the “get rich easy” mentality. If you follow the principles of Mustachianism, you can get rich quickly. By altering your lifestyle so that you’re able to live on less than half your income, you can save enough to become financially independent in fifteen years — or less. That’s quick, but it’s not easy.

Saving Is NOT Sacrifice
The trouble, of course, is that it’s tough to save so much money — especially if you’ve already bought into the modern adult lifestyle.

If you’re just starting out in the Real World, you can simply continue to live like a college student for the next ten years, and you’ll be golden. But if you’ve already spent time and money embracing the Western way of life, getting to a fifty or seventy percent saving rate can seem like real sacrifice.

That’s how it used to seem to me, anyhow. Mustachianism, however, has taught me that saving is not sacrifice. Instead, saving is deferred spending.

My friend Jim (better known as jlcollinsnh to most of you) explained it to me this way: “Saving isn’t deprivation. That money is still spent. It’s just not spent on a Mercedes or a big house. It’s spent on the future. Saving is money spent on buying freedom.”

I recently had a chance to chat with Tom O’Donnell, a senior vice president at Chase Bank. We talked about personal finance and our shared interest in travel. O’Donnell told me that a lifetime of saving has bought him freedom. “I get to choose what I do now because I saved when I was younger,” he said.

Saving is the choice to spend on tomorrow instead of today. (And debt is the choice to spend money on yesterday.)

The Mustachian salute!
Mustachians in Ecuador!


Financial Freedom Is a Process, Not a Place
I used to believe that financial independence meant just one thing: Having enough money that you never had to work again.

But Mr. Money Mustache taught me that financial freedom exists on a continuum. It’s not “all or nothing”, but an ever-increasing range of options. The more you save, the greater independence you achieve.

    • At one end of the spectrum, you’re completely dependent upon others for your financial security. As a child, for instance, you’re dependent on your parents for support.
    • When you no longer need financial support from your family, you achieve one degree of financial freedom. You still might be dependent upon other creditors (your bank, your credit card company), but these are companies and not people.
    • When you break free from the chains of consumer debt, you achieve another degree of financial freedom.
    • Further along the continuum, you achieve greater freedom when you do things like eliminate your mortgage or have enough money saved that you’re no longer glued to your job.
  • At the far end of the spectrum is complete financial independence. Here, you have enough in savings that you could fund your lifestyle for the rest of your life.

The more money you save, the more freedom you have, and the greater risks you can take. As your financial independence increases, you chip away at the wall of worry. You’re able to make decisions based on happiness and not on dollars. “The ability to let go of doing things purely for the money is a life booster,” MMM told us last year in Ecuador — and he’s right.

When he was young, the afore-mentioned Jim Collins wanted to go to Europe, so he saved $5000 from his $10,000 annual salary. Financially prepared, he went to tell his boss he was quitting. When his boss learned that Jim could afford to take the time off, he offered to hold his job for him. Saving gave Jim power he never knew he had.

“When you have even a little fuck-you money, the balance of power begins to shift in your favor,” Jim says. “You lose your fear. Fuck-you money buys freedom.”

Money Won’t Solve Problems — YOU Will
Still, money isn’t some magic pill that will make all of your problems go away.

I used to think that if I were rich, all of my problems would magically vanish. I’m not alone. A lot of people believe this. The mass media tells us that money can solve any worry. But it’s not true.

When I was younger, I wasn’t just deep in debt. I was also fifty pounds overweight. I had time-management issues. My relationships were built on a false projection of myself. When I achieved full financial independence, these problems didn’t disappear. Quite the opposite.

Supplied with what seemed like limitless time and money, I realized that I was the one responsible for fixing everything that was fucked up in my life — and it had been up to me all along. It was a harsh epiphany.

Todd Tressider (the Financial Mentor) told me recently that when he achieved financial independence at age 35, he had a similar insight. He felt directionless for a while, and it wasn’t until he realized that only he could solve his problems that he found his way again.

Money buys you freedom, no question. But you have to seize the freedom or it all goes to naught. (See: Lottery winners and professional athletes who piss away their fortunes.) You may have a a billion dollars, but that won’t make a difference to your health if you still survive on a diet of donuts and vodka.

Make Decisions as If Money Didn’t Matter
MMM slept on my sofabed last Thursday night. In the morning, as we packed for Camp Mustache, I mentioned that I was thinking of selling my condo.

“Hmmm,” said MMM. “You have a beautiful place here. I like your view of the river and all of the nearby parks. Yesterday, you and I walked through the neighborhood to do our shopping. To me, your home seems almost ideal. Why would you want to sell?”

“I don’t really want to move,” I said. “But I think I can make a lot of money on the deal. It seems crazy not to cash in on this market.”

“I see,” said MMM. “You know, I prefer to look at things in a different way. When I’m faced with a decision like this, I ask myself what I’d do if money weren’t part of the equation. What decision would I make then? Since you’re financially independent, you should make decisions based purely on your personal values. You should ask yourself: If you could live anywhere, where would you live?”

My condo in autumn
A lovely place to live


I thought about it. While I mulled things over, my girlfriend chimed in. “I’d live here,” she said. “I love this place.”

I nodded in agreement. “I love it here too,” I said.

“When you don’t have a shortage of money, you should make your decisions as if money didn’t matter,” MMM said. “You should choose to do work that you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid. And you should make buying decisions as if everything were free. I mean, if TVs were free, would I go pick up 37 of them? Of course not! I wouldn’t even have a single TV if they were free.”

The bottom line: Once you’ve achieved financial independence, you’re free. You can make decisions based purely on happiness. If you keep this ultimate reward in mind, the pain is worth it. It’s like going for a run. It takes effort. Sometimes it even sucks. But you do it because you know a short burst of effort will lead to a lifetime of health.

Maximum Mustache
While Mr. Money Mustache was in town last week, I got a chance to meet many local readers. I was pleased to learn that a large portion of these people are current or former readers of Get Rich Slowly.

But I noticed something interesting. When I met a Mustachian, the conversation often went like this: “I’m so pleased to meet you, J.D. I read Get Rich Slowly all the time…” …awkward pause… “…or I used to, anyhow. I guess you could say I graduated from GRS to Mr. Money Mustache. I don’t read your site anymore.”

“No worries,” I’d say. “Neither do I.” And it’s true. I’ve moved beyond the Get Rich Slowly philosophy. There’s nothing wrong with the site or its advice. But more and more, I find myself has moved beyond the basics. I believe more people should aim for maximum mustache.

In fact, I’m ready to retire from the world of personal finance. Based on my conversations with Mr. Money Mustache, I want to shift my focus so that I’m pursuing my passions. I want find other ways to improve the world. I still intend to expand my knowledge of personal finance and to help other people improve their money skills. But with a 8 years of writing about it under under the belt, I’m going to hang up my spurs. I’ll become a quiet Mustachian.


Mr. Money Mustache’s Afterword:

Part of financial independence is that you don’t have to advertise yourself anymore. So while J.D. didn’t mention all of his other work, I don’t mind sharing it with you:

Update: A year after writing this guest post, he realized that he couldn’t stop writing about money after all – so he created his newer blog called Money Boss – his most refined work so far with some great free downloadable guidebooks and such.

Before that, he wrote an edition of the Unconventional Guides series called the Get Rich Slowly course, as well as Your Money: The Missing Manual and is the “Your Money” columnist for Entrepreneur magazine.

The Get Rich Slowly course features recorded interviews with various personal finance and business personalities including the unusually honest and spectacularly productive web business guru Pat Flynn, my charismatic frugality arch-rival Ramit Sethi, fancy company founder and all-around cool guy Jesse Mecham, a beer-fueled session with Mr. Money Mustache, and various other more famous people.

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods June 19, 2014, 8:26 am

    What a thoughtful observation of the ethos of Mustachianism and why people pursue FI! I agree it’s not about money–it has nothing to do with accumulating a heap of cash. Rather, it’s about money enabling you to live a life of purpose and intention–not a life dictated by consumer culture. I like “Fast and focused finish first,” what a perfect distillation of early retirement and the idea that you can create the life you want to live. Thank you for this inspiring piece!

  • Free To Pursue June 19, 2014, 8:43 am

    “…I prefer to look at things in a different way. When I’m faced with a decision like this, I ask myself what I’d do if money weren’t part of the equation.”

    It’s a wonderful way of thinking. When I ask myself that question, I often come up with answers that don’t make “economic” sense but they do make sense to me. After all, I’m the one who has to live with the decisions, right?

    I’m learning to look inward more often, to figure out what I really want out of life, out of every day and every action. By getting clear about underlying motivations, I keep making myself happier because my choices are more in line with who I am and who I want to be.

    Mustachianism has changed the way I look at everything and it’s made my world a better place to be. I am grateful beyond words.

  • Free Money Minute June 19, 2014, 8:55 am

    Great tips on starting a blog. Creating that personal connection and sharing my opinion is something I need to work on. My FI dream is alive and well and I hope to be there in 5-10 years before the age of 45!

  • Stephen June 19, 2014, 9:01 am

    Man, that is another solid post. I think I’ve read through most of JDs stuff over the past but this is a nice combination of story and summary of practical mustachianism. The two parts that stood out to me, and the ones that really define the mustache are: Sacrifice is ‘not’ a sacrifice and making decisions without money involved. Lastly, you can count me into the crowd of ‘graduated to MMM from GRS’. I think GRS has a focus more on the basics and MMM is more like level 2 or 3. A great combination. Enjoyed the post and personal insight.

  • James June 19, 2014, 9:06 am

    Looking at that view, I just realized I work within sight of your house. Is that the St John’s bridge? I can’t tell if you’re on the east or west side of the river (looks like west, which I’m less familiar with), but yeah. It’s a gorgeous view. I’m actually thinking of moving in to Cathedral Park across the way in about a year. Why WOULD you want to leave such a place? Except maybe to get a bit closer to Portland’s central transit hubs, and thus spend more money?

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 19, 2014, 10:28 am

      That’s the view from the East side of the Sellwood bridge. I found JD’s neighborhood to be a great place to hang out, and it seemed pretty central. I borrowed his casual low-speed city bike and rode 3 or 4 miles down the path to get all the way to downtown Portland via the Hawthorne bridge, and it was a beautiful ride. Couldn’t see much benefit in being even closer to downtown than that, unless you had to do multiple errands there every day.

      • James June 19, 2014, 11:49 am

        Oh, yeah, it’s been awhile since I went down that way. That explains why it looked slightly off.

        Sellwood, like St. John’s, is one of the many outlying mini city centers of Portland. Great quality of life there. And it’s only half the distance to the ‘real’ downtown as St John’s. Good call on the choice to never move.

        And to comment on something more related to the article itself:
        It’s pretty cool to see JD Roth as a guest author and hear about how his thinking has changed. He was the first financial blogger I read who seemed to actually have good advice to give. Later I found ERE, then MMM. The changes in his thinking seem to have gone in basically the same direction as mine since he retired!

  • MarciaB June 19, 2014, 9:15 am

    I had the pleasure of meeting JD last month in Portland, and he is the gen-u-ine article. Great piece of writing, thanks for sharing your excellent perspective and thoughts.

  • Tara June 19, 2014, 9:32 am

    I started out at GRS and still read the blog; I find it complements what MMM is saying and still find both of them useful. The statment about making decisions as if money were not part of the equation was a good point and I will try to keep that in mind going forward, since I am FI but still working for the time being.

    • squeakywheel June 19, 2014, 9:02 pm

      I also really liked the bit about making your decisions as if money were no object. We are still working, but more out of choice than anything else, and I find myself making this type of decision very frequently. It is such a nice way to live…just wonderful not to have to worry about money. So glad we got off the consumerist bandwagon and therefore are able to be on the FI-wagon instead.

  • Even Steven June 19, 2014, 9:35 am

    It’s funny I basically grew up, financially that is reading and putting into practice JD Roth and Get Rich Slowly and now within the last year I have been shown some pretty great Mustache ways right here. I’m building and still learning and now sharing “my stories” because it’s fun and enjoyable, maybe I won’t build a cult like Mr. Money Mustache, but I guarantee I’m going to have a ton of fun trying.

    This comment has turned into more of a thank you than anything, as always it’s a pleasure to read JD and some MMM, thanks again.

  • kathryn June 19, 2014, 9:44 am

    Unless you have a very high income you can’t save your way to retirement.
    You need to invest in something that will pay you an income. For us, it was buying rental properties.
    Quitting work at 46 & 50 was a great feeling :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 19, 2014, 10:33 am

      Well, I’d still say you are “saving your way to retirement”. You earn money, don’t spend it all, and invest the difference somewhere. Rentals are one way to do it, but stocks are another great one. That’s still saving in my book.

      Savings accounts, on the other hand, are not a great place to put your retirement money.

  • Chris June 19, 2014, 9:44 am

    MMM’s presentation on blogging seems pretty interesting. Is that presentation publicly available?

    Best wishes,

    • Wojo June 20, 2014, 7:12 am

      +1 I was intrigued by the slide; would love to see the rest.

    • HealthyWealthyExpat June 21, 2014, 4:33 am

      Yes, any chance of a link to your presentation, MMM?

    • Maria June 21, 2014, 4:47 pm


    • Dave June 25, 2014, 2:17 pm

      Totally agree, I’d love to see the presentation.

  • Fredrik von Oberhausen June 19, 2014, 9:48 am

    Hmmm… I find it a strange twist here saying that people that have reached financial independence should not longer bring in the calculation of money into their decisions.

    To me that is more or less like the entire world is living today and they take credits to back up those decisions.

    That advice is in my opinion directed towards extreme savers that have reached FI and now need to learn to stop… or better put need to break out of the chains of always thinking about money. So if GRS is lvl 1 and MMM is lvl 2 then that would be lvl 3 in the process of reaching personal satisfaction and happiness.

    Good article! Thanks J.D. Roth!

    • Early Retirement Extreme June 19, 2014, 10:20 am

      Compare it to mastering a skill, e.g., wrist shooting a hockey puck.

      At level 0, we have the complainypants who say that the practice is too much; that they want more balance; that it’s impossible to learn; that they deserve longer breaks; etc.

      At level 1, people start practicing the shot and to do this they think a lot about where to put the puck on the blade, how to hold the stick, and in general put a lot of thought into the shot. This makes them somewhat awkward players, but they’re learning.

      At level 2, people have mastered the wrist shot, and they no longer think about the mechanics of the shot. They just think about where the puck should go. They think one level higher. They can do this because the underlying mechanics is automatic and correct. So while the idea is to make decisions not _thinking_ about money, rest assured that subconsciously, no stupid money decisions will be made by a level 2 player.

      At level 3, people master several techniques and they can begin to put them together. This is where “badassity” begins. Now the practice is in putting things together. Top shelving the puck while skating backwards. Saving while investing. Learning how to save more, then investing again. Using the investment cash flow to become FI, liberate time, and save even more. The player now thinks about where to go on the field.

      At level 4, the strategy has become as deeply ingrained as the simple mechanics was at earlier levels. This is Gretzky level. Skating to where the puck will be instead of where it is and “magically” finding oneself with great opportunities to do exciting stuff. Metaphorically the same thing happens in real life. Serendipity is very high here. Cost of living is extremely low and yet standard of living is high.

      At level 5, … I have no idea, but it’s probably amazing :)

      You may think of these as Wheaton levels. It is very hard to communicate with people more than 2 levels away. Both in the upwards/later and downwards/earlier direction, e.g. it’s as hard for a baby to understand how to walk as it is for an adult to communicate to the baby how to walk. It is almost impossible to learn the next level before mastering the previous.

      • Jordan Read June 19, 2014, 11:31 am

        I was trying to think of a good way to respond to that comment, but couldn’t quite get the point across. So I took a step back to think, and voila… this appears here, and it is so perfect I dont think I can add anything of value. Great answer!! Now I just need to figure out level 5 hockey… Pretty sure there are jet packs.

      • Brad June 19, 2014, 12:51 pm

        Excellent write-up with your hockey example, I can tell Level 5 with my billiard experience.

        Level 5; Everyone wants to play a game with you because even tho you win more often than not it is always a close, exciting game. You are knowledgeable in the lore and you can keep a humorous running commentary on it. You control the flow of the table so you only have to be able to cut, rail, jump, or curve the ball on the first shot because all further shots will be straight in, and even if you do make a mistake you error in whatever manner you choose. Everybody thinks they are a better player than you; if only they could get some of those easy leaves.

        • Early Retirement Extreme June 20, 2014, 8:35 am

          I think you’re still describing level 4. Gretzky level. But you make an interesting point in your last sentence that extraordinary skill is often mistaken for luck by less developed players. The same is seen in investing.

      • Athiban Vasanth June 19, 2014, 1:11 pm

        As always excellent reply Jacob ! :)

        Perhaps level 5 is when you graduate from financial independence to economic independence.

        “You move beyond money. Either you have so much money you can’t possibly spend it all or you have found ways to live without using money at all. Maybe you become a BILLIONAIRE or maybe you become a MONK.”

        Its the Stage 4 that Jacob mentions in this post – http://earlyretirementextreme.com/the-evolution-of-the-meaning-of-money.html

        Guys like Daniel Suelo, Ran Prieur and Mark Boyle comes to my mind. You become wild and free !

        • -JR August 3, 2014, 2:23 am

          Wow-another Ran Prieur reader, I read his land blog ages ag0, what an interesting fellow!

          It really shows the quality of a blog when guest posts are just as riveting as the main man MMM himself here.

      • bobwerner June 20, 2014, 1:23 pm

        One would think that at level 5 one would realize that it isn’t really about hockey at all. At any sport or activity that you are intently focused on you can reach a zen or “flow” level. I just recently mastered Tetris at level 15. Pretty much can do it while eating cereal.

        I noticed now that the journey is over for Tetris I’ve lost interest.

        With financial independence it would seem to be the same human dilemma. You master it, been there done that sorta situation. I’ve seen people on this site express that they were amazed that once they reached their FI goal there weren’t fireworks or they didn’t really feel that super about it.

        So this is where the Level 5 player finds themselves. And that is the point where they realize there are other equally interesting things to choose. They have the time and resources so they may choose from the full menu of choices. Ironically they will probably choose spinach salad and beans over steak and fried potatoes because they are now more in tune with themselves and their needs to be healthy.

        The advanced levelfiver probably isn’t going to choose a life of golf and leisure. They are going to find other paths of discovery and growth. Think Maslow (even though he never actually did a pyramid thingy)

        • Early Retirement Extreme June 21, 2014, 6:27 am


          Subconsciously these principles/philosophy/behavior begin to flow out into other aspects of life where they are equally effective. I’ll use Musashi (famous 16th century swordsman) as an example of many who have followed a similar journey. After killing some 60 people in duels, being unbeatable for all practical purposes, he stopped dueling (what’s the point of dueling if victory is assured), retreated into the mountains and focused on calligraphy, art, etc. which he also quickly mastered.

          With FI specifically, I try to tell people that it’s just the beginning to where real living begins, much like a PhD is not the end of education but the beginning of real learning; and a black belt just means that one now knows all the techniques of the art and that mastering them must now be the focus instead of just learning what they are.

          • Laura July 1, 2014, 5:01 pm

            Some people truly enjoy thinking about their money. I know I do. I love my spreadsheets, I’m always going to have them and use them no matter how much I accumulate. For me, it’s fun, it’s visual, it’s how my brain has always worked. I want to include money in all of my thinking because I enjoy it. It doesn’t stress me, it makes me happy.

            That said, taking money out of the equation in making decisions is just a natural consequence to aging with or without wealth. You just get wiser. It’s that simple. You have a lot of life experiences to look upon and you have a deeper sense of self-knowledge.

            The next level is becoming more aware of that self-knowledge. That is where happiness is.

            I realized the other day that I no longer have to think about business. I used to be interested in it, even after I stopped working, I kept up and read biz books etc. then one day I realized that I was bored by it all, I was done. I didn’t want to think about marketing ever again, or customers or how or why people spend or read or whatever. It was such a relief. My interests have totally changed, and that interest in biz was just leftover. I am free of it now and have moved on. It was a habit of thought that I hung on to until I became aware enough to notice that I no longer wanted it. Awareness is key to self -knowledge. That is the next level. Rich or poor.

  • Big Guy Money June 19, 2014, 9:57 am

    “When you break free from the chains of consumer debt, you achieve another degree of financial freedom.”

    So often we’re focused on the end game – the freedom that comes with financial independence – that we don’t appreciate just how free we are simply by ridding ourselves of consumer debt.

    In our case, we went through a debt payoff period in 2012 and cleared over $800 in monthly cash flow. Fast forward to mid-2013 and my wife was able to quit her job because they no longer provided the value of employment we thought they did. The rush we experienced in being able to walk away from a job because WE didn’t need THEM was amazing.

  • Mike June 19, 2014, 9:57 am

    Back when JD Roth ran his blog “Get Rich Slowly”, don’t kid yourself, it was a first class blog. I used to be as passionate about that blog that I am about MMM. Excellent writing, just like this post.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts JD, and I like the idea of moving on. Much like Jacob at ERE.

    I think what I learned the most, was the posted image about cutting costs–a triple win. I’ve got to remember that one. And also saving money is like spending for the future. Excellent. Thanks JD.

  • Spoonman June 19, 2014, 10:06 am

    J.D. Roth, I’m very happy to see you around these parts. I had the great pleasure of listening to your story through Mad Fientist’s podcast and I was very much impressed by your openness. You are very candid about the mistakes you’ve made earlier in life, which is something I think many people have difficulty doing.

    Btw, the view from your house is amazing, I love that photo. I would totally stay there as well =). Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

  • Woof! June 19, 2014, 10:21 am

    This is actually a great introduction to Mustachianism. I think this will be the article I link to when I share the blog with people.

  • James June 19, 2014, 10:21 am

    Great article! Beautiful photo also! I bike across that bridge almost every weekday on my way to work and spend a lot of time at the waterfront dog park. I’m also glad to hear MMM approves of the neighborhood… it might not be Longmont, but we have it pretty nice ;) Hopefully I’ll catch you outside one of these days.


    • Mr. FI June 19, 2014, 10:30 am

      That picture is beautiful. That’s around Sellwood Harbour, yes?

      • James June 19, 2014, 11:12 am

        Yep, that is the sellwood bridge in the picture.

    • Free To Pursue June 19, 2014, 11:18 am

      Portland looks beautiful. It makes me want to get there even sooner. Can’t wait to see it in person at WDS in mid-July.

  • Dividend Mantra June 19, 2014, 10:42 am


    Great post. I think you summed up Mustachianism masterfully!

    The private conversation you had with MMM is really insightful. Once you get to the point where you start thinking in terms of “life” instead of “money” you’re truly free.

    And I couldn’t agree more with your commentary on Jim’s take on money being spent on freedom. I like to ask what’s worth owning more than your own time? What could be worth more than freedom?

    Great stuff!

    Best wishes.

  • Edward June 19, 2014, 10:44 am

    So strange to see JD, whose GRS got me interested in personal finance, become amalgamated in philosophy with MMM. I didn’t so much as “graduate” from GRS as stumble in here one day and get a whole new reality check–it entirely changed my brain in bright technicolour flashes. It felt like I’d been underwater for years and finally surfaced gasping the sweet air. Stupid as it sounds, I never even *thought* to save 50%. Mustachian simplification of my life has rained down gold coins of wealth and happiness. …But I never would have become interested in personal finance (and found this place) if JD’s writing hadn’t been so damn interesting. (Thanks for that, JD! The pavement stones you set in from of me began the road to early retirement.) All that said, I do read GRS if I pull it up and see Kristen Wong’s name in the byline. That girl has never needed to convert to Mustachianism, seems she’s like us naturally.

  • CB June 19, 2014, 10:54 am

    Great article JD! The part that resonated with me most was, “But Mr. Money Mustache taught me that financial freedom exists on a continuum. It’s not “all or nothing”, but an ever-increasing range of options. The more you save, the greater independence you achieve.”

    My husband and I are really motivated by the idea of getting to a place where we can work just enough to cover our expenses, so that we can enjoy our work but scale it back. For us that means having a nice big stack in our investment accounts and no mortgage. Most people wouldn’t call it retired if you are still working enough to bring in $40k or so per year, but to us that feels like it would be a great balance and would allow us to pursue fun projects rather than our full time professional jobs.

    I love seeing JD on the MMM blog! It’s like my two favorite TV shows having a cross over episode. I started reading GRS way back in 2007 and was a loyal daily reader for years. I moved on about the same time that JD did, and actually found MMM through JD’s link after they met at the financial blogger summit.

  • insourcelife June 19, 2014, 11:23 am

    Pretty cool to see an impact that a “Mustachian” way of thinking can have on someone who’s already achieved FI. We hear a lot about people who are struggling to get out of debt, change their life and possibly achieve FI but definitely not enough from those that are already there. To me at least, their stories are even more interesting so this was a good read.

    • Michael June 19, 2014, 4:20 pm

      Funny that you should mention that. I am halfway through a piece describing my journey to FI and early retirement that I was going to submit to MMM. Basically to provide a bit of encouragement to those on that journey and to show that Mustachian principles when applied do work.

      I kid you not, it starts “My name is Michael, and I am a Mustachian”…

  • Oh Yonghao June 19, 2014, 12:04 pm

    I had the pleasure of meeting JD a couple times while Mr. Money Mustache was in Portland. It was sort of awkward because I have never read his blog, but I like the name. This article articulates the progress which he has made in understanding the problem with so-called get rich quick schemes, their premise is to get rich easy.

    There are so many good gems in this article, and the comments have added more. I love the way this blog has come about and the personal point of views that we get even from guest authors.

    Myself, I’ve never had consumer debt, so sometimes it’s hard to relate to people who do have consumer debt. I believe I’ve hit Mustachianism at the right time in my life, debt free, good paying job, and some money in savings. Now I have money in investments, and only debt is the mortgage on our first house. The money saved up helps relieve the stress of work, which in my sector can come with sudden layoffs. Now I know if I am ever faced with that there is enough in there to sit comfortably for awhile as I gear up for the next job. As my savings increases I can become pickier about work and salary begins to play second fiddle.

  • Mr. Grump June 19, 2014, 12:42 pm

    I am not sure what to think or make of it at the moment but it seems like this blog is shifting from how to get to FI to product reviews and living FI. The last few posts seem to be the beginning of MMM backing away from the blog….I sure hope not.

    • insourcelife June 19, 2014, 1:26 pm

      OR he is just busy with the move to that new house…

    • BobToday June 20, 2014, 1:22 am

      Exactly, see his previous post: “A Foreword from MMM: I’m taking some time away from the computer this month as I swim in the torrent of self-imposed work caused by moving to a new house and selling the old one.”

    • James June 20, 2014, 11:20 am

      Well, there DOES come a point where an author loses steam on a topic that’s oriented around giving practical advice to solve a specific problem. It’s inevitable. Maybe that’s soon for MMM, maybe not, we’ll see.

      • Mr. Money Mustache June 20, 2014, 11:28 pm

        Never! I now have 158 articles partially written in the Drafts folder. So much more to write about, but no time to write it just yet.

        All these 14 hour days of moving and construction have made me lazy on the computer. And then we leave for summer in Canada this Thursday. This blog deserves more attention!

        • lurker June 21, 2014, 9:03 am

          heck no. time to go fishing with your family!!!! you have more than earned it.
          glad to hear about the backlog of articles waiting to punch me in the face.

        • Bryce June 21, 2014, 9:33 am

          MMM – I’m $1M dollars in debt and in need of advice. If this is compelling enough for you to want more details (and perhaps do a Reader Case Study), I will furnish them. But you have many readers so I won’t waste my time or yours unless you’re interested.

          In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS! My brother in law pushed me to your blog two months ago. Since then, I’ve read every one of your posts. You’ve accomplished the impossible. You have managed to disrupt – via personal anecdote powered by impressive achievement – some personal, deeply held political and cultural positions that I considered sacrosanct. This is no small achievement.

          I applaud the surgical ruthlessness you apply to personal finance and personal life. Since many of our societal and political problems are the aggregate of +300 million personal and financial choices, the philosophy espoused by your blog is a remedy of sorts. Imagine that! Societal ills and political footballs neutralized by a Badass LifeHack Ninja with an online following.

        • Chris June 22, 2014, 1:02 pm

          That’s great to hear! If you filter out the guest posts and the “meet up” posts there have been very few new content posts over the last several months. Clearly that makes sense with the new house, but still glad to hear the pace should pick back up sooner or later!

  • Brian June 19, 2014, 12:57 pm

    I discovered GRS during some dark times while I was in a job I hated, the economy was imploding, I was given a pay cut, and I felt crushed by the weight of my mortgage. JD Roth not only had a hopeful message, but he’s also a good writer. I consider my life to have been influenced by a handful of thinkers, and JD Roth is one of them. He may not have known the ultimate destination, but he lit the path.

  • in2themild June 19, 2014, 1:01 pm

    It is wonderful to read how JD has come full circle in just a decade to be ready to ‘retire’ from his current vocation in the world of personal finance. I started to read the GRS blog the first year I started my career in 2006 and he helped me to shape my own personal finance life. I found MMM from a GRS article and became truly inspired to guide my life to early retirement. For me, GRS was the strategic plan and MMM became the detailed technical manual for how to opt out of the traditional consumer lifestyle. I owe both a debt of gratitude for helping me to set a course for financial freedom.

  • dude June 19, 2014, 1:24 pm

    Funny, I just posted today in the Forum in response to the thread about “What was your a-ha moment?” (or some similar title) that the “Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement,” which JD cites as an eye-opener for him too, was that “a-ha” moment. The force and logic behind that single post is at once both unassailable and epiphanic. It truly changed my life.

    • Early Retirement Extreme June 19, 2014, 2:29 pm

      You’d be surprised how many don’t (or didn’t) put two and two together even when seeing the math. I think it’s because the idea is simply so unusual compared to conventional “wisdom” that the mind is simply unable to see/acknowledge it until the mind is ready.

      Essentially two thoughts/realizations must be put together before it ‘clicks’

      1) Decreasing spending increases savings.
      2) Less savings are needed to support decreased savings.

      This is a simple logical argument.

      Compare this to the standard refrain that everybody repeats to each other:

      1) You need a million dollars to retire.
      2) Save 10-15% in a retirement account.
      3) Increasing spending increases one’s standard of living.
      4) It’s better to increase earnings than decrease spending.

      There’s no explicit logic here. Just a handful of “rules” based on authority. Few consider why these “rules” are the way they are.

      When coming from the latter perspective and being presented with the simple math, lots of cognitive dissonance results. Not only is the first argument a different way of thinking (using logic and reason instead of following authority and examples), it also goes directly against dearly held consumerist values like “increasing spending increases happiness”.

      One of the things that has changed over the past 6-7 years when we first started blogging about this argument (and almost everybody dismissed the ideas as extreme craziness) is that there are a lot more voices. Back then the number of FI bloggers could be counted on one or two fingers. Now there are dozens.

      Furthermore because the strategy takes about 5-10 years, the early adopters are now crossing the finishing line.

      It’s a little bit as if we were discussing running a marathon and we’re now in the 3rd hour with the faster runners actually crossing the finish line. It makes the argument that it’s actually possible to complete such a distance in good spirits much more compelling compared to back when it was just a couple of crazy people running long distances for fun. As we enter the metaphorical 4th and 5th hour within a decade or so, I expect the number of finishers to explode.

      What I’m saying is that not only do we have a logical argument to support the idea, we also have the example of an exponentially increasing number of people to follow, and we have voices of authority (the great recession helped a lot here since it made it pretty clear that conventional financial advice was swimming without its pants on when the tide went out so to speak). I think that is why more and more are coming around now.

      • Jacob June 26, 2014, 1:04 pm

        This comment needs to be pinned to the top of every discussion on FI. Srsly.

  • Nicola June 19, 2014, 1:41 pm

    A great post – really sums up the mustachianism approach to things :) we need to up our savings rate I think – we’re doing okay but could be doing better! At least time is on our side ;)

  • Al June 19, 2014, 1:49 pm

    This is a great distillation of the essence of Mustachianism. I appreciate the background story on JD. Now, I’m with some of the other commenters here, very curious to know whether MMM’s presentation on blogging is available somewhere?

  • Mortgage Free Mike June 19, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Gosh, I would love to meet both of you guys. You’ve both been an inspiration to me. I agree that money management has so much to do with one’s attitude, not necessarily the math. If you continue to make excuses for silly purchases, you’ll never get ahead. Once you see the bigger picture, a whole new way of living comes into focus. Cheers.

  • Jessie June 19, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Awesome article, but my one criticism is it drives home what a male-oriented world early retirement can be. Not a single lady quoted?

    • Catherine Marie June 21, 2014, 5:16 pm

      For whatever reason, I think ladies in general are less interested in finance and ER overall. Not one of my female friends wants to hear anything I have to say on the subject; NOT ONE. I get blank stares and uncomfortable body language. Quite frankly, I get the impression they think I’m tacky for even speaking about it. So I end up talking to their husbands, instead!

      • bobwerner June 23, 2014, 9:57 am

        Ditto, my wife simply has no interest in managing money efficiently. It is as if she thinks there is a money spring that will never dry up so let’s make sure to use all the water. I wish she could see the power of damming the flow and filling the lake? Anyone?

        • Barbara June 25, 2014, 5:55 am


          Maybe you’ve read these articles; maybe not. Everyone’s marriage is different. I hope y’all have the same values and goals– it makes these conversations easier. My husband’s first wife (sorry) went out and bought a $500 bracelet to console herself when he was laid off from a job. Those were two people with very different hopes and dreams, and that marriage did not make it. (And she is 63 and still lives hand to mouth while we are completely FI.)

          Assuming you do have the same goals and are really partners, maybe this story will help. About 20 years ago, a good friend of mine who lived in a beautiful small rent controlled apartment in Manhattan thought she needed a bigger apartment. The difference between her then rent and the new rent was something like $1500 per month. So I (being crazy frugal and thinking this was insane) suggested that she instead take the $1500 per month and put it into a savings account for a few months to make sure she could afford it and to see what living with less disposable income would be like. Well, in 6 months she realized that what she should be doing was investing the extra money, not throwing it away on rent.

          Maybe there’s something like this in your family where you can take a small thing (not going out to dinner once or twice a month?), investing the money and watching it grow. Maybe that will help her see that hanging on to resources so they can work for you rather than giving them away gives you a whole lot more freedom. I hope so. This is my second marriage, too, and life and marriage are a whole lot easier when you’re on the same financial page.

          • C.J. July 14, 2014, 9:25 am

            That is great advice that you gave your friend. I wish that I had given myself that advice before my last move. My husband and I discovered mustachianism about a year too late, just after buying both a house and car (on credit) that were much more (larger/more expensive) than we needed and which ate up all of our extra income that could have gone to FI investments. At the time we didn’t have any consumer debt and we were already saving what I considered to be a decent amount, more than enough for a standard retirement, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do with the extra money. Using the money to buy back extra years of my life had honestly just never occurred to me! Trying to get on the right track now, sold the car (at a loss, but still an improvement to our bottom line over not selling) and will likely resell the house as well, but man things would have been easier if I’d had your friend’s advice BEFORE throwing myself off of a financial cliff.

            • Barbara July 16, 2014, 3:45 pm

              CJ, I’m a lot older than MMM, and I only wish he’d been around 30 years ago or so…but you know, you do what you can. I’m crazy frugal by nature, but I haven’t been a great investor– it’s only because my husband and I didn’t ratchet up our spending when our income increased (after all the kids were out of college) that we’ve been able to retire at the not young ages of 59 and 63. You sold your car– that’s amazing– and I imagine you’ll be able to sell the house, too, and you’re on your way. That you’re both on the same page means that working towards FI becomes a game that you both enjoy playing and not a hardship. I have no doubt you’ll be climbing out of the abyss very soon,

        • Mark June 25, 2014, 9:42 am

          Dude I hear you, same with my wife. I finally shamed her into getting a job, guess what … she is enjoying working, finds it challenging and rewarding, and now we have a chance to keep our house into retirement. Of course she hasn’t changed her spending ways, but now she pretty well pays for all of her excesses out of her income so mine is finally geared toward debt repayment.

        • debt debs June 26, 2014, 7:16 am

          Bob, maybe turn over the money management to her for a bit so she can see how it is. It was a real eye opener for me and although my husband was the frugal one before, I am even more frugal than him now. It’s easy to ignore and bury your head in the sand if you’re not looking at it. It’s hard to ignore the facts. Make her a partner and your ally. Easier said than done, but giving her responsibility may be a start.

        • jgrdarrash July 9, 2014, 9:55 am

          Married to similar, but not as bad. I try to keep as much money out of sight as I can. So he sees the checking account, but the savings account is at another bank where it takes 3 days to transfer the money to checking. So OK for emergencies, but not immediate “I wanna buy” moments. And I scoop the max off my 401(k) at work before he can see it.

          • LURKER P September 2, 2015, 4:36 am

            In my case its my husband that is not interested in personal finance and thinks FI is a lazy mans dream. I wish i could find more articles that address this instead i keep seeing articles about the wife not being interested in finance.
            I love GRS, it opened my eyes in so many ways to basic personal finance and i think has prepared me for MMM as well . Now to implement what I am just learning despite a doubting spouse hmm….

      • Lorin June 23, 2014, 2:51 pm

        Come visit the forums! There are lots of ladies with mustaches there, including me.

      • Doug July 3, 2014, 12:27 pm

        That’s also consistent with my observations. I’m a long time mustachian, semi retired and working on and off since my mid 30s (I’m now 53), and am pretty much retired. Not many people in the general population really get the idea of early retirement, but of the small number who do get it, they are almost all men. Women on average have a harder time grasping the idea of living without a permanent full time job. I have no idea why, possibly that women are more caught up in the idea of consumption for status, which obviously requires more income.

        Lorin, I’m sure you are right that there are a lot of women in the forum, but that’s only because all mustachians, including women are concentrated there. The makeup of the forum is not at all representative of the general population.

    • postconsumerlife July 26, 2014, 10:24 am

      Jessie, There I was, happily reading along all the comments after happily reading an inspiring post and happily reading ERE’s Jacob chiming in, when wham! All the responses to your comment.

      Seriously, folks? “Ladies in general are less interested in finance and ER overall.” And “Dude I hear you, same with my wife. I finally shamed her into getting a job.” And this doozy: “Women on average have a harder time grasping the idea of living without a permanent full time job. I have no idea why, possibly that women are more caught up in the idea of consumption for status, which obviously requires more income.”

      Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wonder if it has to do with the fact that these observations occur on a site named MR. Money MUSTACHE?

      I really love this site. Love the take-no-prisoners writing style. Love the insights that make me wish I would have thought of that. Even don’t mind the punch-in-the-face testosterone level, which usually cracks me up. Plus, some of my favorite posts are actually from MRS. Money Mustache.

      So to say that financial independence is something women don’t get or can’t get or need to be taught by men? Well, that’s just ludicrous. Here’s some non-anecdotal evidence for ya.

      Girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men spend only 30–40%. (Source: womendeliver.org)

      When women have the same amount of land as men, there is over a 10% increase in crop yield. (Source: 50.usaid.gov/infographic-why-invest-in-women)

      And finally, women investors make 1% more in the market than men. (Source: theweek.com/article/index/216424/why-women-are-better-investors)

      I’m sure Jacob will be able to poke holes in these studies, but if we’re going with shaky anecdotes, my own observations of the women I hang around with do confirm it. I suppose it depends on who you hang around with.

      We’re here. Maybe instead of beating our chests or publicly waxing our mustaches, we’re quietly pursuing our passions and living it. Which is what I think JD was getting at to begin with in this great post.

      Stepping down from soapbox now and returning to regularly scheduled program of passion-pursuing.

      • Jillian September 14, 2014, 8:28 am

        Great soapbox PCL!

        I’m a not so young (61) freshly retiring single parent that has always been focused on finances. I never made the early retirement club, but I worked hard, stayed focused, spent > 90% on family expenses & returned to school at the youthful age of 46 for a career in medicine which allowed my investments to grow into FI.

        I felt so wealthy with my 1st $50 into my IRA when I was 34! It took 4 more years before I could add to my IRA “wealth” & I never looked back!

        Yes, we mustachian women are here…never doubt this! And we remain quietly powerful while, yes…pursuing our passions.

  • TB June 19, 2014, 2:52 pm

    What I always like about JD is that he’s a cool, normal guy. Like his blog says, it’s a ‘get rich slowly’ kind of deal with him. If I did my math right, it took JD 3 years to get out of consumer debt and start getting into the black. That’s the best story of all because honestly, dude, I get sick of the “get out of debt in 2 months!!” sort of BS. Because it’s just that, BS. You gotta work hard, slowly, and slog through it. You got yourself into trouble, now get yourself out!

    I’m clean shaven for my construction work, but my heart wears a mustache.

  • Glen June 19, 2014, 3:03 pm

    I like JDs comment about all of this being more than math. When it comes to making decisions, having a code or philosophy, has made these types of decisions a little easier. If the financial decision falls outside my value of freedom or happiness, I just don’t do it. Thanks for great insights .

  • Conrad June 19, 2014, 7:21 pm

    Wow, what JD wrote about mustachian’s who used to read his site rings very well true for me. I started reading his site a year ago and was completely absorbed in it, it gave a great look into personal finance, in a no nonsense style. I found this site a few months ago and I can completely agree with it almost superceding Get Rich Slowly, in my experience.

    However, I never forgot how important the baseline of JD’s opinions and advice were to my current thinking of personal finance and it is great to see that it all ended up intertwining in the end.

    This was a great read!

  • Ed Mills June 19, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Like J.D., my wife and I spent our 20’s and mid-30’s clueless about money. Eventually, we came to our senses and got serious. First, we slayed our $40K of student loans. Wow, what a feeling it was to watch our net worth “grow” from -$40k to $0! Then, we methodically saved $100K during a teaching stint in the Middle East. After 9-11, we returned to the U.S. with a net worth of $100k and a sense of financial security . Stateside, we promptly landed teaching jobs in Georgia and began our new lives

    In 2003 at ages 38 and 36, we began fully funding our 403b and IRA accounts to the amount of $30k. I remember thinking how great we were doing with our savings. After all, we were saving 35% of our salary ($30k/$85k), awesome right? Kinda, looking back I realize that had we been more mustachian (is lower case okay guys?) we would have greatly accelerated our path to financial independence. While we were fully funding our 403b and IRAs every year and partially funding our 457 accounts, we should have been saving closer to 70-80%…every year. In 2009, we quit our jobs, took new jobs, and began saving about 60% of our salaries (around $80k a year from 2010 to 2012). Around 2010 I stumbled upon MMM and began to realize the importance of frugality. While we were already pretty frugal, the ‘Stache showed us that we could be even more frugal.

    For us the big takeaway is that if you live frugally and save like a mofo (70-100%), you can get to financial independence at light speed. This new realization means that we will never view savings 10-30% of our salary as a kick-ass savings plan. Instead, we plan on living low on the hog while plowing our entire salaries into our savings, investing and retirement accounts. Of course living frugally in the developed world is certainly not a life of deprivation. I am constantly amazed at how well we live on so little money (at least from the perspective of most Americans.)

    Let me wrap this up by saying that I’m with J.D. While saving 10-30% of your salary is great, screw that. Go for the gold by living frugally and saving 70-100% of your salary…having your financial independence at age 30 or 40 will far outweigh any sacrifices you make.

  • Jana June 19, 2014, 8:24 pm

    Previous get rich slowly reader here and now I’ve grown a mustache. Paid off our house last month!

    • Denise W. June 25, 2014, 10:38 pm

      Way to go! That is one fine collection of facial hair you have acquired.

  • Green Girl Success June 19, 2014, 9:48 pm

    I love this insight, however, I have to disagree with one tiny detail… you say FI can be achieved quickly, but not easily. For me, once I realized that living mindfully, simply and minimally made me happier than I have ever been, my bank account started skyrocketing… effortlessly and easily. Granted, I am an engineer and I was lucky to be making close to six figures at the time and was saving well over 50% of my income, but it was not a sacrifice. Instead, I felt more alive without a lot of ‘stuff’ holding me down.

    So, once I realized that I only needed a fraction of my current income to live happy and healthy, I sold my car, put my savings into a few small rental properties, quit my job and became free to work because I want to work, not because I have to work.

    I also look at this lifestyle in a similar light as “bad-assity”… i.e. for me, there is a correlation between low environmental impact living and a more fulfilling life. Living outside my comfort zone can be exhilarating, not sacrifice. The few things I spend a premium on are organic whole food, non-toxic personal care products, living in walkable areas and occasional travel. When you are not throwing your money away on cars, cable TV and shopping, you can afford these few luxuries. :)

    Great, great article!

    • CB Newman June 20, 2014, 3:44 pm

      I’m with you Green Girl Success! Before knowing about these websites, I committed to working and saving almost all of my salary for 12 years. My husband and I lived frugally and happily while I stayed home for about 10 years taking acre of our children. I went back to school, got a degree, made a decent salary and socked it all away. Fast forward 12 years, we are both fully retired, house paid off and living a lifestyle similar to yours. Life is good, I’m very thankful for all we have… we live a simple life and continue to look for ways to simplify it! Great articles and posts!

  • Kush Sharma June 20, 2014, 12:33 am

    I think if one were to some up everything in one sentence, it would be the cliched – Do what makes you happy! It always comes down to this, one way or the other. Nothing inspires like happiness and nothing is more simple and basic to our human nature. Hence, a person who is genuinely simple and happy in his or her wants will always be able to save money and eventually grow money because they are not desperate about doing so. It’s just like a bonus for them.

  • Frivid42 June 20, 2014, 2:24 am

    Great story much like my own, started looking for debt freedom by 45 but after finding MMM and ERE e few years ago i now aim for full financial freedom by 42 (in less than 4 years)

    • TheeDean June 20, 2014, 9:49 am

      Care to explain how YOU did it? How long did it eventually take you?

  • Aaron June 20, 2014, 6:59 am


    I, like those you mentioned at the end of your post, started off first with Get Rich Slowly. As a recent college grad with no clue about handling personal finance, your blog was a godsend. After 9 months or so of GRS and some similar blogs, I discovered MMM and ERE and “graduated” to the next level. However, I am eternally grateful for the foundation that was laid through GRS.

    Great post, thanks.

  • David C June 20, 2014, 7:10 am

    Great article. “Get Rich Slowly” was my gateway drug to Mustachianism. I discovered the blog on a cold November day in 2007 and realized that I was not alone in my struggles. It helped me to figure a few things out. Then I discovered MMM and started striving to a whole new level. I thank both JD and MMM for righting my path.

  • Bateauxdriver June 20, 2014, 10:50 am

    I remember reading get rich slowly occasionally. I never developed a cult attachment to it though. I’ve always been a saver and debt hater. I’ve invested in Vanguard funds and have been a Boglehead for decades. I could have easily saved more without much sacrifice but, still made it to debt freedom by 30. Now at 45, I have FI if I want it. Like stated by JD and others however, with FU money it isn’t as much of a chore going to work. I’ve got 5 weeks of vacation time now and in 2017, I’ll have 6 weeks if still working. I work 12 hour shifts so I only work 1/2 the days of the year even though I average over 40 hours a week. I have plenty of goof off days in my schedule. With my company tossing 20k a year into my retirement plan and over 100k salary it’s hard to leave. I plan to in 2018. I want to hike the AT and liveaboard sail after that. With FU Money in hand I may go ask for a sabbatical to do the AT earlier. I don’t mind working. I just want large lumps of time off to do things. Past 2018 I see my self working a few months and taking off a few months. There are some cool jobs I actually like to try. I volunteered as a Fireman/Medic in my community for a few years and it was awesome. I recently gave it up to free up time for other activities. I’ll probably do it again in the future. Every one should try it if for nothing else the badass skills you are taught and the human experience you gain. I’m likely to give the Coast Guard Auxiliary a try soon. They are great people and with my military, fire and boating experience I should fit right in. That is what FI independence means to me. Cool and badass experiences instead of coupled to debt and the daily grind workload to support the habit.

  • Madeline June 21, 2014, 12:13 am

    Ok–so after you pay all the debts and mortgage and can quit your job, two rental property incomes=monthly nut, WHERE DO YOU INVEST YOUR SAVINGS?? We are in a dilemma here! used to do bonds at 7-9% (yes we are a bit older than most of you folks..) Our $$ stash in languishing…. but we are 59 and early retired..what to do with the savings?????????????????

  • Jef Miles June 21, 2014, 1:08 am

    Great post here JD, money is really only the root of all evil (the age old quote) if people let it be..
    By seeing it an abundant and accepting that it will not make you happy that is the way I’m starting to think.. Am powering towards Financial indepenedence :)

    Cheers for the insight

  • Ken June 21, 2014, 5:46 am

    First time I read through all the comments, why? Because it was so positive, and so encouraging. I was just lying in my bed all alone, but I felt so much love and peace, knowing I found a way to a better life. Thanks for sharing. I’m just a little under 2 years to my FI day!

  • Mike T June 21, 2014, 8:35 am

    When we discuss saving as a parentage of income, is it expressed as a parcentage of take home or gross pay?

    • Catherine Marie June 21, 2014, 5:27 pm

      I do it as a percentage of take home.

      • Chris June 22, 2014, 1:05 pm

        I think take home pay makes sense, but it needs to be qualified. Remember that employer benefit deductions and 401k contributions all technically impact “take-home” pay. Probably a better way to say it is post tax income. You should definitely count 401k contributions as savings and you should also be aware of how much you’re paying into employer benefits.

  • Nick Loper June 21, 2014, 4:01 pm

    Love this. I too am a relative newcomer to Mustachianism (not that I was a crazy spender before), but am doing my part to spread the word to all my friends who’ll listen. Cheers!

  • Deb S June 22, 2014, 6:55 am

    I found it very interesting how your views changed from the earlier GRS to the new FIF&F (Financial Independence Fast and Furious) approach. If I had my time over, based on what I know now, I wish I had gone that route. Saving 50% of my salary in my twenties would not have been a struggle if I had only realized how important it was.

    I’m 54 years old, in major debt, and living Mustachian-like so we can get out of $394K of debt in 6 years. At 2 years through we had paid off $120K. Four more years to go and then hubby can retire. He will be 65 then. It’s been quite an eye opener. I’m so glad I found the frugal lifestyle which will support us well in retirement.

    I’m really happy to have found such a great network of people supporting and promoting frugality, although many are so much younger than me. I’m still looking to network with more 50-somethings. I can’t be the only one with this much debt?! #scary

    • Early Retirement Extreme June 24, 2014, 5:48 pm

      It’s funny, because back in the days, I remember saying that popularizing these ideas would take something like a JD of financial independence—JD being the all-time best PF writer, ever. Unfortunately (for the idea of extreme saving) JD himself was leaning more towards the slow approach at the time and I was never good at reaching the masses with my particular “style” of blogging. I stopped blogging because I felt I was just repeating myself (kinda what JD alludes to here… at some point we run out of things to say) and because I saw that MMM might be that person—actually I was quite sure—to take it to the wide masses. It’s funny that things have kinda come full circle with JD “converting” over to the extreme side of PF on MMM’s site.

      • debt debs June 26, 2014, 7:11 am

        You’re blogging again though, right, ERE?

        • Early Retirement Extreme June 26, 2014, 7:13 am

          I only write new updates once or twice a year. The rest of the posts are recycled because with 1000 posts on the subject, I don’t feel I have anything else to add to the subject.

    • CincyCat June 25, 2014, 8:21 am

      I know exactly how you feel. When Mr. CincyCat and I were first married, we were still full-time, undergrad college students. Our first apartment’s rent was only $315/month, and our annual income was in the neighborhood of $14,000. (Not a typo.) We had a used car, and I could walk to school & work. If someone had smacked us upside the head back then, we never would have moved to a $550, then an $850 rent apartment the moment we graduated & got our “grown up” jobs. Kids did not come along for 6 years, so we had plenty of time to save our brains out with our professional salaries, but we chose lifestyle creep (and taking on ridiculous amounts of consumer debt) instead. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  • Mike G June 23, 2014, 8:07 am

    I found MMM through the recent Wash Post article and have already implemented major changes in my habits. We’ve always been good with saving , but maybe not with the other aspects on FI. One thing I was wondering: are there FI sites focusing on the average family, say 2 adults, 2 children? Anyone have any websites that they could recommend?

    • FI Pilgrim June 23, 2014, 8:31 am

      Mike G, my site is more like what you’re asking about. Two small kids and a third on the way, and how the pursuit of FI mixes into that. I hope you’ll check it out!

  • Melissa June 23, 2014, 9:24 am

    I too loved this post. But, I’m also looking for something a little more like “me” – divorced with a houseful of kids at home (and 15 years to go!). Any encouraging blogs out there for the non-college-educated, single parent households?

    • bobwerner June 23, 2014, 9:48 am

      Try Dave Ramsey

    • debt debs June 23, 2014, 11:13 am

      Melissa – I can recommend a couple of blogs that I think you would like for your situation. I don’t want to put the links here on Mr. M’s site, but if you pop over to my blog and send an email or twitter to me I can give you the urls.

  • Giovanni June 25, 2014, 6:30 pm

    Another great post, thank you MMM. The quote “Saving is money spent on buying freedom” should be engraved on everyone’s wallet.

  • Irving Rivera July 7, 2014, 2:35 pm

    J.D., agree sometimes mindset is more important than the math of compounding returns. The problem that many savers have if that they are afraid of leverage and heavy saving up front in the early days of their careers. The secret that nobody tells them is that in order to retire early they need to learn how to invest outside their 401k and IRA. Because what is the point of rich at 65? That is exactly the problem with winning the rat race so late in the game.


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