Early Retirement is an Impossible Dream for Most

safety piratesWe’re about four years into this blog, and at this point I finally have to admit I am a complete and total fraud.

I mean sure, saved enough to retire in just nine years and have had a great time running around like a free man in this subsequent decade. But that was an isolated incident, which is a useless model for the average American. Above-average incomes, an appreciating market for stocks and houses, an unusually cooperative girlfriend-turned-wife, and of course plenty of White Person Privilege* came into the picture. It was really luck and fate that got us here, rather than individual effort and choices.

Just look at the bleak picture that the average person faces today in comparison. A dying economy**. Stagnant wages since the 1970s. Sky-high healthcare costs that just keep on rising. Long, congested commutes that could become unaffordable overnight on the whim of any Saudi oil minister. Poor school systems that necessitate private school if you want to live anywhere even close to affordable. A massive load of student loan debt from the ever-increasing cost of university tuition. The list goes on and on.

If you need proof to go with all those negative statements, just look at the results. Americans are facing a retirement income crisis, with far too little in the average senior’s 401(k) plan to maintain their current standard of living, even when combined with expected payouts from Social Security. With budgets already stretched razor-thin, it is impossible to expect the average person to cut any further – either before, or after retirement. Did you get the memo? 73 is the new retirement age. Sorry, but that’s the way it is, nothing you can do about it.

The great experiment of the personal 401(k) plan, foisted upon us by the elites since the late 1980s  is a proven failure. The government and our employers should be providing for our retirement through guaranteed lifetime pensions, rather than forcing us to navigate the murky waters of personal finance alone. I feel I have misled you these past four years, functioning only as a pernicious savings scold and encouraging pointless individual effort, when instead we could have focused our collective efforts on reforming our system.


Oh, and April Fools, of course. 


I sure hope you didn’t believe those are really the views of Mr. Money Mustache.

Although I did my best to make the awful shit in those preceding paragraphs sound pretty mainstream, it was extremely painful to type it into my computer. My keyboard started to shoot sparks out of its orifices and it is now oozing pus and blood onto my desk. Thoughts like those are so pointless, self-defeating, and just plain wrong and it amazes me that people keep cranking them out.

The problem is not with the intentions of my detractors. These are public-spirited people who are genuinely trying to improve the world. Our difference of opinion lies only in which method we use to get the job done.

The writers who harp about “America’s Retirement Crisis” are really attempting to get the politicians to do something about it: increasing funding to the Social security system and throwing a leash on the some of the nastier elements of the financial industry, who set people up with high-fee 401k plans and then sit back and skim their profits for life. These are fine goals, as long as any rules are implemented in an open and scientific manner, without resorting to rhetoric and fear in the political battle to get them implemented. But as you have noticed, I prefer a different approach.

See, the problem occurs when you rob an individual of the belief that he is in control of his own situation. When you spread the social meme that the the system is stacked against us, and that the system needs to change in order to improve our lives. Whether or not the accusations contain a degree of truth does not matter – you train a legion of powerless people who can’t take care of themselves, you also end up with lazy voters who are easily manipulated by whichever politician will stoop the lowest to appeal to their cheapest emotions.

Just look at the excuses that go around unchallenged these days. We whine that the national savings rate is only 5% and that the average person in their 60s has only about $100,000 saved. But then nobody mentions that only one percent of trips are made on bicycle in this country, and the majority of travel and commuting is done in single-occupant vehicles bought with dealer financing.

We talk about healthcare expenses as if they are imposed upon us, despite the fact that most of the nation’s health spending is done to treat self-imposed diseases related to the biggest four factors: exercise, diet, stress and sleep. US residents spend over $20 billion dollars on soft drinks – a beverage so evil and toxic due to its sugar concentration that any figure above zero is astounding to me. The shit shouldn’t even exist, and yet we guzzle it by the tankerload! You can’t prevent the truly random and unpreventable, but you can lower your expected lifetime cost drastically.

How could anyone possibly complain about having money problems, while simultaneously paying tens or hundreds of dollars per month to have passive video entertainment and commercials streamed into their house? People are simultaneously robbing themselves of money and the necessary mental quiet time that is a prerequisite to getting ahead – building skills, meeting people, getting better jobs or starting better businesses.

The average person spends over 95% of what they earn and burns most of it on necessities that aren’t really necessary. We borrow money and drown in the interest payments. We spend most of our energy working directly against our own best interests. Somebody needs to call bullshit on this practice, because we’re not going to fix it just by raising everybody’s allowance in their retirement years.

Fig.1: America's "Retirement Crisis", Illustrated with Pen and Marker

Fig.1: America’s “Retirement Crisis”, Illustrated with Pen and Marker

No matter how much cash you pump into a sick culture like our own, you won’t solve our money problems. Because the problem is not a shortage of money – it’s a shortage of spirit. A lack of desire and fire in our bellies to embrace hardship and challenge, to get the most out of ourselves, rather than designing a lifestyle that allows us to exert ourselves the least.

So that is why I take this particular stand. I know from first-hand experience, picked up on my own unremarkable journey from minimum wage to early retirement, that taking control of your own time and effort and spending is everything. The same critic that called me a “savings scold” above admits that he hasn’t even started his first investment account. While there is a place for public policy in every great society, it seems unwise for those who have not yet mastered a field of study themselves, to make nationwide prescriptions on that very same field.

So let’s go with a hybrid approach in solving our retirement issue. Policymakers can make sure that the Social Security program survives, because not everyone is going to become a Mustachian, and we’re wealthy enough as a society that there is no need to handle people the death sentence just for poor financial skills. And sure, we should also cut down the worst thieves in the game – there is no honor in a rich person assembling a team of lawyers and marketing gurus to get poor people to sign up for a loan on a 92″ television.

But when it comes to talking and writing about personal finance to each other, let’s drop the sympathy game. We are in control of things, not our government masters or “the elites***”. We get to decide when or if to start our families, and where to settle. Our education and vocation is another choice, as is who we spend time with and how hard we work. So let us never talk about these things as if they get handed down to us from the outside world, because people are all too prone to believe it.

But most importantly of all, let’s stop talking about expenses and spending as if they’re out of our control and as if more is better. Even retiring with zero assets and Social Security alone is enough for a plentiful lifestyle (typically over $1500 per person per month) if you embrace the idea rather than fearing it. Living on a low wage (even minimum wage) and saving a good portion of our income is equally possible. Since there’s a good chance you earn more than minimum wage, plus will have retirement savings greater than zero, there is really nothing to worry about. So, with our new freedom from worrying about stuff, let’s return to work and actually get something done.

* OK, Mrs. Money Mustache is 50% derived from the country of India, so she only had half as much White Privilege. But that’s still better than nothing. Plus there’s Indian Privilege to account for as well – is that higher or lower than White? We need to factor this in to the amount of sympathy we demand.

Sure, privilege does exist, and it might make it easier or harder to inherit a company or win a senate seat. But it can’t control your choice to ride a bike, buy less shit, or read library books in your spare time and I argue that frugality is the most powerful factor in earning your independence. After all, most of my equally-privileged engineering coworkers are still stuck in the office to this day.

** Isn’t it funny how these doomer articles keep repeating those words even when it’s not true? The recession ended in 2010 and the country returned to setting all-time records within that same year. We’ve been breaking new ones ever since, and the unemployment rate at 5.2% is almost as low as you can get.

*** Actually, it is possible that some of the whinier reporters might now consider Mr. Money Mustache one of “the elites”. At what level do you lose your respectable credibility as a fellow underdog and become an out-of-touch elite. Do you need $100 million, $1 billion, or is simply having your mortgage paid off enough to put you out of touch with the common man’s plight?  

Related Reading: Top 4 SUVs for Growing Families

  • Ken April 1, 2015, 6:11 am

    AH! You had me going there MMM! I’m happy with my 70% savings rate!

    • Tim April 1, 2015, 8:29 am

      At that level, you must be getting close to the finish line!!

      • Justin April 1, 2015, 11:26 am

        The “finish line” or even “early retirement” is an interesting concept. I know a couple of people who are in their 30s and could technically retire. But they are working harder than ever.

        I love the concepts on this site, and ultimately think it comes down to being financially free to pursue whatever it is you want from life.

        • Tim April 1, 2015, 3:55 pm

          I’m working right there to near the finish line… but I’m questioning where the finish line is “exactly” Less and less dependent on income from work… but I keeping working.. Just trying to define how I cut that off….

          • jessica April 2, 2015, 6:51 am

            Don’t have to stop working, just start doing more things you enjoy! Eventually those will add up and quitting becomes a non-issue.

          • The other Tim April 2, 2015, 10:23 am

            Well this just got confusing. You’re a different Tim than the one above! (I know becuase I sent the first reply above)

            But with all the comments about finish lines (I didn’t mean to spark fury) I’d like to note that mine is simply when I don’t have to work for a living anymore. It doesn’t specify what I’ll be doing, just that I’m financially independent!

            • anysteph April 8, 2015, 6:12 pm

              Justin, I’m in the same boat. It’s tough for me to decide when to pull the trigger. My husband is making the leap on May 15 so we’ll see how that goes, then hopefully I’ll get the courage to go next. I grew up in “pink slip” Detroit where having a job, any job, is paramount and that brainwashing to never stop a “steady job” is the hardest thing to fight. The saving has been easy by comparison. I think that what may finally get me to make the leap is the ever growing niggling in the back of my mind: What if you spent your whole day on all of your side jobs and projects? I do agricultural labor, freelance work, and designed and made furniture for a while and am just curious to see what might take off. We’ll see!

      • RetiredToWin Alex April 1, 2015, 11:49 am

        Ken probably has this covered, but it bears recognizing that getting to the finish line ASSUMES one will know one has reached it when one gets there. One More Year syndrome traps way too many people into continuing to harness themselves to a less-than-satisfying commute and job situation because they can’t — or refuse to — see that they have already won their race.

        And a lot of those folks are the same ones that whine and complain about not being able to retire — because they insist that they don’t have enough savings yet to keep them in newer cars, fancy vacations and high-tone restaurants for the rest of their lives.

        Me, I’d rather have the rest of my life under my control and the use of my time to enjoy. Thank goodness I managed to do that 15 years ago.

        • Ken April 1, 2015, 11:53 am

          Wow thanks guys for the comments, I’m flattered you commented. No I’m not there yet, I have a large post graduate debt to pay off. I will be done with that next April and then I might even bump up to 75% 80% savings rate, then I’m off to the races!

        • Karen April 1, 2015, 11:20 pm

          I have always loved my job but when I no longer had to work due to reaching “critical mass” I realized that I still wanted to work. The secret to being happy is to be able to do what you want.

    • Free Money Minute April 1, 2015, 11:33 am

      Working on getting up into the 70% savings rate. I figure I am down around 50-60% now. Either way, looking forward to having the flexibility to do exactly what I want soon.

      • Spectra April 10, 2015, 9:45 am

        I love coming to this site and being motivated higher.
        When I saw the 70% above I also thought, “Man, I’m only in the 55% range. I must improve!”

  • CL April 1, 2015, 6:21 am

    Funny April Fool’s post, MMM. I would not be surprised if I poked my toe in the waters of local politics post FI. It is ridiculous that the Social Security trust fund will run out and SS will only be able to pay 80% of what it needs to. It’s something that we need to fix, but no politician seems to be willing to actually fix the problem. We’re waiting for it to be a crisis.

    Sidenote: Asian households make the most on average out of any racial group in the United States.

    • Mari InShaw April 1, 2015, 8:01 am

      No one will attempt to fix Social Security until it is a crisis because you don’t get points for stopping what may or may not turn out to be a crisis. You don’t get called a hero for yelling at kids or drunk people on the subway platform to get away from the edge as the train in coming into the station. No you get called a cranky old person. But if one of the kids (or the drunk) falls on the tracks, and you jump in and pull them up, then and only then are you called a hero. Prevention is not sexy.
      Also there is no Social Security trust fund. No lock box. My retirement fund grows because companies are profitable and if it all works out the stock I bought in my younger days is more valuable. I might get money from social security because of what tomorrow’s workers will put into the fund and the government loans money at low rates.

      • CL April 1, 2015, 12:04 pm

        • dude April 1, 2015, 6:05 pm

          You realize that a government agency investing in government bonds isn’t really a trust fund, right?

          SSA guy: Hey Jack, we need more money to fund this year’s payout…
          Treasury dude: No problem, Bill! Hey Janet, we’re gonna need to sell some more bonds, but don’t let interest rates get too high…
          Fed lady: Not to worry, we’ll buy them no problem!
          Treasury dude: oh yeah, let’s increase revenue too… don’t want to increase the debt too much!
          IRS agent: *wink*

      • George April 1, 2015, 3:09 pm

        It is a myth that social security is going to run out of money. What they are saying is that due to the bulge in baby boomer retirees, there are fewer workers to support social security recipients. This is true, if the social security was a ponzi scheme. But in reality it is not. The political criminals have been using the hundreds of billions of surplus social security money over the past decades to pay for the federal government expenses. They were supposed to put an IOU for all that money they took. This means if the federal tax revenue don’t cover the social security in the future, they have no choice but to issue debt(Treasury bills/bonds). The Federal Reserve will be ready and willing to support that scenario(QEx).

        • jimbo April 7, 2015, 6:42 am

          No, not really.

          In reality, since the Federal governement is a currency issuer, it is actually impossible for it to “save money” – it’s like the Magic Kingdom “saving” Disney dollars. The only way SS checks could ever bounce is for the Federal government to refuse to cash it’s own checks.

          The “trust fund” is and always was a political tool to mask the fact that SS is a (mildly) progressive transfer scheme, in which the poor get out much more then they get in (not saying I disagree with this!) FDR, canny politician that he was, knew that the only way such a transfer scheme could maintain widespread political support was for ordinary middle income people to believe they had a stake in it – thus, the fiction that there is an account somewhere with your name on it. In reality, there is no way a society can “save” in the same sense an individual can save. (except in the sense of long term infrastructure investments like roads, etc.) Current retirees are supported by the labor of current workers – always.

          As long as the real surplus resources exist to support retired people, the Federal government will be able to use it’s ability to create and destroy money (which is what it is doing when it spends and taxes) to move those resources from current workers to current retirees. Everything else is accounting.

        • Zach April 7, 2015, 12:19 pm

          They bought bonds with the surplus. That’s a lot different than spending the money.

          • Reader from the Rockies April 8, 2015, 7:31 pm

            These bonds were issued by the Treasury and that money was spent by the government. Social security couldn’t spend money on anything than paying out benefits and administrative costs. The bonds are on the books as assets, but in reality the government did spend that money on all kinds of things. In a way, this is really no different than a foreign country or private inestor buying US bonds. The government in essence keeps refinancing that debt with new bonds. The creditor can be the owner of the old bonds and the new bonds.

            With social security, the problem is the sheer amount involved. Once the surplus is gone, social security will need to start drawing on those bonds. The won’t have the funds to refinance the debt and buy new bonds. So the government will need to get that money from somewhere else. They can print money, but that will cause inflation. No problem, except that the benefits are increasing along with inflation.

        • JB April 8, 2015, 4:15 pm

          It isn’t a ponzi scheme. You aren’t promised a certain return for your money. SS is dependent on people putting money into the system.

        • Dave March 12, 2016, 1:17 pm

          It absolutely is a Ponzi scheme, it never collected enough to pay retirement from the individual and on average pays about double it’s receipts out

  • EarlyRetirementGuy April 1, 2015, 6:25 am

    Spotted the April Fools plot twist a mile off. Great article though and completely agree about people needing to take control of their own lives instead of just moaning about how the government should do it for them.

    • Blessing S April 1, 2015, 2:46 pm

      Only on the first of April will Mr Money mustache talk this way… You had me last year with the SUV, story but not this year :-)

  • Mr Zombie April 1, 2015, 6:38 am

    Too much complaining is done by nearly everyone. It’s the default assumption that of you’re not complaining you’ve got it easy. Nah mate, it’s the same as you I just work it out.

    “Don’t be shit at life” is my new motto. Just got to crack on with it. Stiff upper lip and all that.

    50 mph winds and driving rain? Good stuff I’m heading out on my bike to find a hill to climb.

    Mr Z

    • Zambian Lady April 3, 2015, 5:42 pm

      Talking of too much complaining by everyone reminds me of my culture where one is frowned upon for saying how well they are doing in case they jinx themselves or are seen as show offs. When people are complaining about poor finances, it is good for those doing very well to also show some frustration whether in word or other sounds. Being quite is a sign of not agreeing with the complainers. So don’t be surprised if you meet my countrymen with healthy portfolios complaining. I find this quite tiring at times because why should I say negative things when things are actually going well. It seems to be a sign of ungratefulness and deceit.

      • ozquoll April 6, 2015, 7:31 pm

        Hey Mr MM, how about a post on how people are applying mustachanism around the world, with input from commenters like Zambian Lady? Would make interesting reading, methinks.

        • Michduck April 12, 2015, 3:15 am

          Ahh I must chip in. I’m a new comer to mm and have to say I thought it was my husband with an alias! We live in Western Australia one of the most expensive places to live . I can complain about the average house cost of $ 600,000 or the average grocery bill of $300 per week and the double income parents with no time for kids and the $5 coffee ( standard size) and $12 takeaway lunch sandwich. Orr, I can just say this. Our state of WA prospered due to natural resources and incomes sky rocketed,( average circa $70k and many mining people earn $200k pa for driving trucks). Now the economy is softening and people losing jobs everywhere, lag it seems from a global perspective. My other half and I worked on the basis of ” born with a mortgage” so we lived carefully in our 20’s and thirties to pay it down asap. I learned early about compounding interest and the effect of borrowing. Helps were both savers and didn’t throw cash around like no tomorrow like others did and still do.. As a result we are now very comfortable while so many friends both working to make ends meet. ( for them there is no tomorrow as they tread water in the financial maelstrom of reaping today what they sewed in the early years) These ends include spending $40 k on a front garden, meeting their kids every demand to keep up with their friends, people pitching themselves as a peer to a higher income earner and thus spending the same way to feel good about themselves and yet not having the income to keep up. Let me say it. Responsibility people and internal locus of control. This means don’t spend more than you earn, don’t borrow to buy that things or pay for expensive garden landscaping or material wants ( which is really self worth in disguise) and then complain how tough it is and expect others to support you or fix your financial future for you. What you sew you reap. Be responsible, learn about money, budgets, compound interest ( paying and earning) , and not measuring your self worth by the size of your latest material acquisition, be it car, to or buying a 10 yo the latest $800 phone. teach your kids about money, earning and learning. And don’t be fooled by politicians playing to your lowest point, entitlement.popularist politics will keep getting the country in debt too! Doesn’t help that a measure of national economic success is consumer confidence….ie go and spend on consumer goods and help our economy to achieve unsustaiable growth. A pyramid scheme which constantly needs feeding to prop it up and who feeds it, the credit happy classes. It’s a national past time to complain and the entitled debt ridden self inflicted class of Australia is heading there too.

          • Sue September 27, 2015, 12:49 pm

            Excellent comment, Michduck! “Entitlement” and the usually present “lack of self-worth” keeps so many people (i.e, “Non-Mustachians”) stuck in their self-imposed hamster wheel of consumerism.

            We ABSOLUTELY have the power to make better choices in ALL areas of life–financial and otherwise. Another excellent post from my favorite financial blog–Thanks Mr MM!!

  • ermine April 1, 2015, 6:39 am

    > Because the problem is not a shortage of money – it’s a shortage of spirit.

    I like that – and the diagram. It really does seem that way – every so often you got to the High Street and look at the stuff being flogged and just go “why – why would anybody buy this garbage” – and I guess that’s the missing top of the LH column in your sketch. Maybe we need some press articles on 45 is the new retirement age ;)

  • Finance Clever April 1, 2015, 6:42 am

    Another great post. Scared me for a second there :)
    It’s all up to our own selves, no excuses!

  • BCBiker April 1, 2015, 6:48 am

    The most value I have gotten out of your blog is the idea of control that each of us truly have over our financial situation. I have become more frugal for sure but my wife and I still blow money on stupid things with relative frequency. But I can identify the stupid decision as such and still know that we are on track for our financial goals, because we have reduced our commuting expenses to almost $0, don’t pay for cable, pay less than $20 a month for cell service. We are in control and that is empowering.

  • Mr. Frugalwoods April 1, 2015, 6:49 am

    Acting like white privilege didn’t impact your success is a bit much, no? Same with educational privilege, healthcare privilege, etc.

    Do you feel like it diminishes your achievements to acknowledge that some (perhaps small, perhaps not) amount of luck and privilege played a part in your success?

    I get that you feel like it doesn’t motivate people to tell them “oh, the deck is stacked against you”. But I would argue that it’s _also_ demotivating to those same folks to hear you act like you didn’t have a cultural, economic and health tailwind at your back.

    There’s gotta be some logical middle ground.

    • EMML April 1, 2015, 7:08 am

      Yeah that. I would add engineer privilege. Having the natural talent to do the most lucrative work of our time. It involves the intellectual ability to become an engineer, making the best salary out of pretty much any bachelor degree holder, along with the ability to be able to figure out the best bang for your buck and fixing/making shit yourself.

      • Jean Aymard April 1, 2015, 7:18 am

        Let’s not forget about Colorado privilege. I hear the guy hardly uses any electricity because of the fantastic weather they have up there. Meanwhile us lowly southern states HAVE to blast the A/C all year long.

        • Jason G April 1, 2015, 10:27 am

          You can always move ;) I know that I hate hot humid weather and hurricanes, so I CHOOSE not to live in the South.

          • Kenoryn April 4, 2015, 9:49 am

            I think that last one was sarcasm… I hope.. :)

      • catherine April 1, 2015, 10:45 am

        Eh, I think the idea of “engineer privilege” borders on whiny complaining. When I was in undergrad, the engineering and science majors were also the ones who were the most (on average) willing to put in hard work on a regular basis and who were able to keep a sane view on the importance of somewhat arbitrary things like GPA. People who valued straight As or easy As tended to gravitate to other majors with less stringent minimum requirements. Not saying that the liberal arts and humanities are completely devoid of hard-workers, but at the undergraduate level those areas are definitely overwhelmed by folks who are just trying to get the maximum grade for minimum effort.

        Also, you don’t have to decide from a super early age to study science/engineering to be successful at it. I was planning to major in international relations and thus spent my free high school electives learning extra languages rather than picking up additional math and science credits. Then I spent a year doing international relations courses in college before deciding that it was really not for me–coursework was too waffling and easy (all opinions are valid!). I switched to a science major and while I certainly had to work hard at it, I was successful.

        Bottom line: starting out in a STEM field will give you a leg up, but it’s not accurate to call it privilege, as the individual does have to choose and work for the benefits.

        • EMML April 1, 2015, 11:42 am

          Umm, yeah. I was thinking more along the lines of my dad, who was an engineer, and could fix nearly anything. He saved himself and family members thousands of dollars over the years my fixing things himself. MMM kind of reminded me of him, when I read about his radiant heat experiment. My dad did things like that. It’s a very useful ability that not all engineers have these days.

          And programming ability is another talent that people are damn lucky to have these days versus 100 years ago. It’s like being born in the USA–you’re swimming in a sea of privilege, and can’t even see it because you are surrounded by it.

          (Also, not everyone can hack the math involved in engineering classes. Surprising, I know.)

          • Rajib April 1, 2015, 12:14 pm

            Most people are not born with programming ability. It’s something you have to practice to become good at.

          • Rob the Lawyer April 1, 2015, 1:24 pm

            The thing is, there is no education or privilege necessary to fix things and save money! You just have to pick up tools and figure out how to use them, whether that means asking a friend, reading a book, or visiting YouTube. Humans are, by our nature, tool-makers and tool-users. (So are some other animals, to an extent. If a monkey can figure out how to use a tool, I’m sure you can, even as a non-engineer. As the complexity of the tool rises, so does your need for guidance, but that doesn’t make it impossible!)

            On a similar note, “programming ability” isn’t some innate characteristic that we’re all blessed with. It’s a learned skill. I taught myself HTML and bits of JavaScript and CSS in middle school, in my spare time, just by using search engines to learn and free web hosting to experiment. That’s not privilege – that’s work. The only “privilege” present in that equation was being born in a time and place where internet access was easy to come by. But that describes the entirety of the United States today, thanks to public libraries and cheap home internet options. And from that base knowledge that is so easy to obtain, you can build a much greater understanding of how computers work, and eventually learn to do some REAL programming, if you like.

            You’re right that we’re all gifted with different natural abilities. But to fault someone for using their natural abilities wisely and obtaining that engineering degree is pointless and counter-productive to your own well-being. The more logical response would be “How can I improve my own situation to it’s maximum potential using my own gifts, like this guy did?” And when it comes to those “engineering” problems you describe, I think you’ll find that if you have the ability to form a proper sentence (which you do!), you have the ability to fix basic things around the house without obtaining an engineering degree.

            And before I’m accused of being blind to the advantages I was given in school based on my engineering/math education, I direct you to my name – I am a lawyer, with a humanities background. I just choose to learn to solve my own problems before I pay someone else to do so or complain that nobody else does it for me for free.

          • TBone April 1, 2015, 2:52 pm

            With all due respect EMML, I think you’re still missing the point.

            – If you believe you can fix things around the house, and are willing to put in the effort to learn, you will become handy.

            – If you believe you can learn how to program, and are willing to put in the effort to learn, you will be able to write software.

            Obviously some people may be able to learn certain skills more quickly/easily than others, but we’re not talking about phd-level theoretical physics here. Almost anyone can learn these practical skills with the right mindset.

          • Virg461 April 2, 2015, 2:50 pm

            Programming ability? That’s learned, not inborn. And more people can “hack the math” than want to admit. I used to hear the same thing when I was earning my chemistry degree from the liberal arts crowd…..”ugh….chemistry.” You can do what you decide to do. And I mean no disrespect to the liberal arts. Do what you want, but realize that certain professions will always pay more.

            • Kenoryn April 4, 2015, 9:54 am

              High five to a fellow chemist, and I agree with your comment. Surprising how much your belief in your ability affects your ability. There’s a study Google could probably find somewhere about how black students performed much more poorly on a math test (50%!) when reminded of their race before the test.

            • Kwill April 5, 2015, 7:43 am

              Fascinating and scary. Thank you for mentioning that study. I didn’t find the exact one, but there’s this: http://www.apa.org/research/action/stereotype.aspx

            • Spectra April 10, 2015, 1:03 pm

              Another Chemist here. I have always struggled with higher level math (Calculus and Linear Algebra) but it didn’t stop me from getting a PhD.
              This reminds me of a saying a Professor of mine had on his wall:
              I have never found a problem, that if you look at in just the right way, you can make it even more complicated

            • Warbler April 14, 2015, 8:54 pm

              It might surprise you to learn there are aptitude tests for programming ability that correlate well with job performance. Some require no previous programming knowledge. When I ran a software shop I got better programmers hiring people who were largely self-taught that scored well on the test than hiring those with degrees and experience.

        • Susan April 1, 2015, 12:05 pm

          Catherine’s right. I’ve taught math at a community college for 21 years. It isn’t “privilege” that gets students through the tough courses – it is commitment and discipline. Hmmm, sounds a lot like the whole Mustachian theme. Those who wait around for luck lose out (too bad for Ryan Cooper). Those who get to work succeed.

          • emml April 1, 2015, 1:31 pm

            It was my privilege to have attended a great high school in which I learned math well enough that I tested out of a bunch of college math classes. I was also privileged with a talent for it, which some of my high school classmates did not have. They had other talents, though, so why push them into a major for which they had neither the talent nor interest? What I’m saying is that it is a privilege to have your abilities and desires align with the most lucrative/in demand field du jour.

          • Matt April 1, 2015, 2:08 pm

            One of my favorite experiences from being a TA for freshman math classes in college was when I had a student who got something like a 48% on the first test, and you could tell she didn’t have great mathematical intuition (what many people call “not being a math person” even though it’s something that can definitely be taught).

            After she flunked that first test, she dedicated herself to coming to office hours every week and working her butt off so she wouldn’t fail the class. She ended up getting an A- and I was so proud of her.

            If everybody worked at school and careers like she did, we wouldn’t be having all these whiny articles and comments that MMM so frequently points to as examples of ridiculousness.

      • Karen April 1, 2015, 11:31 am

        So now you know what to do. Go get and engineering degree. Some may have to work harder than others but ANYONE can do it.

        • Darrel April 1, 2015, 11:52 am

          No, engineering degrees aren’t necessarily the ultimate. I’d rather the kids become mechanics, plumbers or another trade. Those are arguably more lucrative, and we don’t have nearly enough.

          • JP April 7, 2015, 6:26 pm

            I’m a geographer. I earn a six figure salary. I built my own business. I learned how to type taking classes on Saturdays for eight weeks. I am a Latino whose first language is Spanish. I earned a master and a Ph.D. You don’t need to be an ingineer. Just work hard and take all the wonderful opportunities that this country offers.

    • Jean Aymard April 1, 2015, 7:16 am

      The logical middle ground is everyone has cultural, economic and health advantages and shortfalls. Why pick on one of them?

    • Rob April 1, 2015, 7:35 am

      Glad I wasn’t the only one who hit that line and sighed.

      We collectively have a lot of problems that could be greatly ameliorated by individual-level changes, absolutely. But systemic injustice is real, too.

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 1, 2015, 8:08 am

        You’re all correct – I didn’t mean to imply that I had no advantages (although I will challenge anyone who insists I had no disadvantages as well. You just don’t get to read about them on this blog because I don’t focus on them).

        The point here is that trying to break down and itemize the advantages of others does NOTHING to help you with your own situation. And when it comes down to it, this blog is here to help you improve our own situation.

        Case in point: when looking at people of similar age but way above me on the success scale (Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, etc.), it would never even OCCUR to me to speculate about any advantages they had handed to them. I would only look at what they did, and what they are doing right now.

        Since I already see huge gaps between my own level of effort/effectiveness and what they put out, I know exactly what to work on next if I want their kind of success.

        • 3okirb April 1, 2015, 9:51 am

          Even with social injustices, we are putting ourselves in a better place than we would be otherwise by following these principles. (Not to mention helping the environment, showing our children what really matters, etc., etc.)

        • Doug April 1, 2015, 10:36 am


          I’ve never even heard of Elon Musk or Sergey Bin. Why? Probably because I pay too much attention to managing my own finances rather than being concerned with someone else who, from what you said, is quite successful. Wow, I’m going about it all wrong and better get with the program!

          • Jeffrey C April 1, 2015, 10:05 pm

            Sergey Brin is one of the co-founders of Google and Musk created the Tesla among other achievements. I hardly go a week without seeing a mention of one of them in some publication or website I am reading.

        • Tomboalogo April 1, 2015, 11:08 am

          actually a bit of an interview with Elon Musk recently had him tellin how he did an experiment to see if he could survive on $30 for a month for food. It’s what convinced him he could survive as an entrepreneur. I think he’d like this site.

          Myself, I’m still suffering from FUD (fear, uncertainty,doubt) over whether “I’m retired and just too stupid to know it. “

          • jessica April 12, 2015, 11:09 pm

            One of my favorite quotes is by Elon. He said that we all completely undervalue our capacity to LEARN and just how much we can LEARN in a short space of time.

            I constantly remind myself of this when facing, really, any challenge.

        • EMML April 1, 2015, 11:57 am

          Fair enough. I love this blog when it focuses on what people can do to improve themselves. Sometimes it devolves into looking down on them instead, and then I can’t help but point out the advantages that people in superior positions have enjoyed.

          Thank you for promoting a cultural shift. I hope that it keeps spreading. I’m afraid that is we want it to grow, it needs to appeal to more than the hard-working software engineers of the world.

          • vetstudent April 5, 2015, 4:10 pm

            Does it count that it appeals to high school schoolteachers, System Administrators, and broke ass veterinary students?

        • Rob the Lawyer April 1, 2015, 12:09 pm

          I assume you read of Elon Musk and Sergey Bin on the internet. And see, right there – so much internet privilege in your statement, MMM.

          Must be nice to have that internet just handed to you, and to be able to access things other than Facebook and the collective works of Ron Jeremy on it. Some of us don’t have that advantage!

        • Becky April 1, 2015, 1:50 pm


          My favorite thing about this blog is the focus on positivity as a means to reach self-improvement. If the goal is to make your own life better, don’t waste your time whining about the advantages of others!! By the same token, though, if you are privileged, have the empathy and ability to understand that you aren’t necessarily “better” than a person who has been less successful than you. Some of us (me included) did have a better start in life than others.

        • samjh April 1, 2015, 4:07 pm

          Well, look, privilege is a hypothesis. The observation is: generation after generation, white, male, intelligent people (all things that you have no control over) tend to occupy positions of power and wealth. This is an incredibly weird result. Why doesn’t it randomly fluctuate every generation?

          The privilege hypothesis is that, white, male, intelligent people tend to pass down their positions to people who look like them. They also create institutions that select for people who look like them (evidence on this for the legal system, education system, and workplace is so ubiquitous that I’ll save you the links).

          Alternative hypotheses, like that white male people are genetically better, don’t really stand up in the face of evidence. Women entered the workforce in droves in the 70s and 80s, and quickly started moving up the corporate ladder. This change happened way faster than genetics would allow. The same happened, to a lesser extent, after the civil rights movement. The change was so rapid that the only physical mechanism possible is a social one: institutionalized privilege lost power.

          There’s no rule that says you have to acknowledge the leading hypothesis. You don’t have to acknowledge the role of quantum mechanics or central banking or the Navier-Stokes equations in your life, if you don’t want to. But you subtlely mocked the hypothesis: do you have a better one for why the color of power and money is white?

          • DMM April 1, 2015, 6:33 pm

            @samjh In my view there is definitely an institutional bias, but the primary cause is the victim mentality of the supposed “disadvantaged” groups. Also a secondary cause is the patronizing attitude the advantaged groups have towards them.

            Imagine being raised from birth to believe that racist white people are holding you back, or for white people, thinking that “elites”, or Obama, or The Man, or the system, are holding you back. Even if you are a victim, thinking of yourself as one is extremely destructive & unproductive.

            I feel like I could write a novel about this but FWIW…

          • buckhamman April 1, 2015, 6:35 pm

            Well, a better hypothesis may be that some of these traits may be placed in inherently better positions than others.

            Lets take some random child, ignoring the color of his skin or other pre-imposed traits. Let us pretend he lives in a large house, has wealthy, intelligent parents. Both of these parents have a Harvard degree, work in financing, are hard working, and have high IQs. Well, it would be reasonable that parents probably value the child’s education and future-employment to match there own, so the child is more likely to grow up with their own Harvard degree and high-paying profession. It would also be reasonable to say that these parents would also value intelligent hard working friends and other acquaintances, and have their child be the same way, exposing the child to more relations that would further solidify these traits. The parents, and his other acquaintances, would keep him towards good grades and good habits and away from self-destructive addictions and laziness. He would be attracted to people that would most likely connect him to future success, and his traits would match the college’s and employer’s needs.

            Had the child grown up in a different family, things would be very different indeed. The child might take up drugs because his friend, or even parents, are doing so, and he would be satisfied with a career as a cashier at Wal-Mart, since that seems to be the only path. He would not be as familiar with high-paying jobs, the values of good decision making, and connect with others who can get him to higher-up places.

            People tend to follow the herd, especially if that herd is the one they grew up in their whole lives. White people happen to be born into white communities, and these communities happen to be very successful and pass on their ability to be successful to people around them. I would argue that intelligent white males in this country are not very prejudice, and their “selection” of similar looking people is greatly overrated. While people might have some natural, subconscious prejudice, it does not really affect much, and 99% percent of white employers are not thinking to themselves “Well, these two guys are pretty equal, but this guy’s white, so I’ll pick him”.

            There are obvious exceptions of course. The pool of successful people is very limited, so the majority of their children don’t beat 90 – 99% of the population in this fight. And many “not privileged” people become successful. And, of course, there is always some prejudice person who squashes success for those he doesn’t see as “fit”. And the fact of the matter is it is still not fair. Having an entire childhood being taught how to be successful and not having to deal with the hardships of not being successful is even more unfair. Ridiculously more.

            But it’s not about selectivity, it’s about choice, and it just happens that, often, community affects one’s choices. However, it’s still up to that person to make his or her own choice. And, after the right choice is made, prejudice takes a surprisingly small effect on success.

            • samjh April 2, 2015, 12:40 am

              “and 99% percent of white employers are not thinking to themselves “Well, these two guys are pretty equal, but this guy’s white, so I’ll pick him”. ”

              There are many (http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873), repeated (https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/cfawis/Dobbin_best_practices.pdf) studies that confirm that white employers actually do think exactly that, consciously or not. The world is overflowing with studies confirming the basic predictions of the privilege hypothesis. Please don’t bullshit people and put percentages on something you haven’t researched?

            • Rob the Lawyer April 2, 2015, 7:41 am

              I am vaguely familiar with these studies, but I have yet to see my questions answered in any journalistic interpretations of the data (which are necessarily skewed in favor of more controversy) or in any abstract of the various studies that “confirm” these biases. My questions are: How did they control for other potential reasons for a lack of contact, such as a (silly) desire to not impolitely mispronounce the more challenging name? (And it is more challenging in America based purely on lack of familiarity – there is no “privilege’ to that.) Also, how do they control for a bias against a particular social class? (Not that discriminating based on social class is any better than discriminating based on race – the economic means you are born into is no less an immutable characteristic than your race, and both may affect the name you are given, which in turn may affect your job prospects.)

              I have other questions, but my point is this: These studies prove nothing other than that different names are approached differently by potential employers, absent any other variables. It does NOT offer ANY proof at all as to WHY they are treated differently. So while buckhamman’s statistic may be pulled out of his ass, his hypothesis is a valid one (and MUCH more believable than any secret desire by the white man to keep the black man down). And if we want to rely on vaguely related psychological studies to “prove” on hypothesis or another, maybe you should consider looking into the volumes upon volumes of studies about child care and the impact of Mom and Dad’s means/education/parenting interests – those studies suggest that buckhamman’s hypothesis is MUCH more valid than the randomly drawn race card.

            • 3okirb April 2, 2015, 11:06 am

              People tend to hire people like themselves unless there is another factor involved. So unless you have a differentiator, a white person will hire a white person and a black person will hire a black person. Not every time, but statistically, that will be the trend. Subconsciously, people feel that by hiring someone like themselves, they know what they’re getting.

              BUT…This website isn’t about all that. It’s about making YOUR life as good as YOU can. I can’t help it if I don’t get hired for the color of my skin. I CAN help how hard I work, if I open my own business or not, if I choose to live within my means, who I choose to hang out with, etc. etc.

              You have to control what you can control and let the other stuff go.

          • stellamarina April 2, 2015, 5:14 pm

            I really think the world is moving away from the white privileged male as winner …..just like it is moving away from the US culture as the winner. There are lots of people who are not white and male doing very well out there these days…..and going back to home countries because they can do better there than in the US.

      • charles April 1, 2015, 12:28 pm

        And I read this and sighed. Glad to see MMM’s absolutely, 100%, dead-on, spot-on, hell-yeah, note below. Focus even for a moment on your disadvantages, systemic or otherwise, and you’re flat footed in a race you are now going to lose. Systemic injustices have been real since the beginning of time and will persist in perpetuity; and the best way to minimize their impacts is to bust through them individually. Therein you’ll find the paradox.

        If you wish to you’ll find “privilege” wherever you red-line the demographic – NY residents have “port privilege,” a very real economic advantage, all American’s have an economic privilege relative to many other cultures, OR has medical coverage privilege relative to Mexico and, say, AK. Worse yet not only is privilege (what a limp term) relative geographically it is temporally as well. Did Irish immigrants who were essentially slaves and not considered white at the time have white privilege they were yet unaware of? No. Yet somehow that privilege has been bestowed upon their ancestors. In the end the term is meaningless, misused and abused. The people the concept usage hurts the most are those who, in theory, are supposed to be the underprivileged – the fisherman who supposedly cannot fish because of their systemic disability. I reject it. I will not allow myself to accept that I’m underprivileged in any way. No thank you.

        I live in the best time in the history of the world to be alive and that’s all I need.

      • MArk Schreiner October 3, 2021, 9:13 pm

        All outcomes in our individual lives are due to some combination of luck, constraints, and choice.

        MMM rightly points out that we have the most power over our own choices/effort.

        We have some power to affect our luck and constraints, and that power that we do have flows directly from our choices/effort.

        So each individual will be best served by focusing on what they can control, via their own choices/effort.

        That said, there is still room for attempts to change systematic, unearned differences across people in terms of luck and constraints (privilege). Much of luck and constraints are socially determined. To “change the world” requires both changing your own world (your own choice/effort) and convincing others to coordinate their choices around these issues.

        (This way of “changing the world” is exactly what MM is doing.)

        I need to play the hand I am dealt with as best I can.

        If the game is rigged, then it takes working with others to unrig it, to my benefit of me as well as the benefit of others.

        There is no contradiction between the value/virtue of doing my personal best, regardless of the luck and constraints that the world deals me, and recognizing that luck and constraints are sometimes socially imposed, and that changing this takes convincing others of the problem and then working together to change it.

        If you agree that life deals some people a bad hand, if you agree that violence is inherently bad, and if you agree that that “bad dealing” is sometimes due to others’ selfishness enabled by unearned power (almost always backed up by violence or its threat), then denying the importance or value of attempts to try to work together with others to make the problem understood and then prevent/discourage/stop such selfishness is just selfish.

    • Dean April 1, 2015, 7:47 am

      This is a great, reasonable view on privilege. Thanks.

    • Robin April 1, 2015, 8:31 am

      We don’t help people by convincing them that that their personal choices don’t matter, even if they weren’t born into ideal circumstances.

    • businessgypsy April 1, 2015, 9:54 am

      When people say “privilege”, they almost always mean guilt – and they’re preparing to hand you a big, steaming, expectation-laden tray full of it. Slam that tray of guilt to the ground! Along with worry, it’s a nearly useless emotion used to manipulate some degree of control or steering over your life. Play the hand you’re dealt, as everyone must and will if they seek to improve their lot.

      • Tim April 1, 2015, 5:21 pm

        Hear, Hear!

      • Kat April 1, 2015, 7:20 pm

        Privilege and guilt aren’t the same at all…I recognize my privilege and use it as a tool for allyship and advocacy. Privilege is by definition something unearned, and I’m not going to feel guilty for something I didn’t “do” – but I can acknowledge it and use it for good. I don’t know where the message got so turned around…maybe try reading Tim Wise or someone for some insight? Or maybe learning about oppression will be less difficult at first, and then you can move up to learning about privilege. Please seek out some truth on the subject, rather than spreading and encouraging falsities!

      • Mr. Frugal Toque April 1, 2015, 7:24 pm

        This is a very common belief among people who are told they have privilege.
        However, I’ve yet to meet a single person who has used the phrase and meant it that way. I’ve also never met a person who used the privilege of others as an excuse for their failures.
        Privilege is not the fault of the privileged.
        Pretending it doesn’t exist, however, is willful ignorance.

        • Nordic Person April 5, 2015, 4:43 am

          But then again, why focus on something that doesn’t affect your life?

          If my friend grew up in a financially more stable household than I, what does it do to my life to consider his “privilige”?

          If my neighbor has an easier time getting a well paid job than I, what does it do to my life to think about his “privilige”?

          If my cousin has an easier time doing well in mathematics, what does it do to my life to talk about his “privilige”?

          At worst it can potentially destroy my life to do these things, because it makes me think I am not in control in my own life, at best it is a minor case of complainypants (or jealousy) which doesn’t help anyone either.

          Unless the discussion is specifically about a political proposal it is only in the way of your own change. Even then, we have the option to overcome our political systems, usually by moving to a place with economical policies we agree more with.

          • Mr. Frugal Toque April 14, 2015, 7:02 am

            I don’t think the term “privilege” is used that way.
            When a white guy from a middle class family starts telling other middle class people how to make their lives better by consuming less stuff, we could all use that lesson, no matter what our financial starting points are.
            If, however, we start looking down on other people and saying, “Why can’t you take care of yourself like I did?”, they’re going to roll their eyes and call us on on our privilege.
            Did your parents teach you about saving? About the dangers of credit cards? About interest rates and loan? About the perils of car financing? About banks and bank accounts? Did they imbue you with a sense of long term planning? Did they talk to you about money?
            Or did you come from a place where no one had a bank account because the fees were too high for it to make sense? Did you come from a place where “money just comes and goes” and there seemed to be no use pretending you can save it?
            The eye-roll, you see, is that person calling you on your privilege. They’re not “making excuses”, which is a wholly different problem that MMM has addressed many times. They’re telling you that you have to sympathize with a new set of problems and tailor your advice accordingly.

    • Craig C April 1, 2015, 10:28 am

      He doesn’t sound all *that* lucky to me. Sure, MMM is clearly fortunate to have above-average intelligence, but I also have worked as a software engineer and worked with PLENTY of people that were roughly “average” and were making six figures or very close. Maybe it didn’t come as easy for them, but they had the same job as I did and likely got similar pay.

      Also, don’t forget that engineering isn’t the only job that pays well: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/07/25/50-jobs-over-50000-without-a-degree-part-1/

      I would also argue that “luck” is a bullshit term. What many people attribute to “luck” is actually due to hard work, good planning, and simply “not doing stupid things.” When I retire in two years (at 50), I’m sure many of my friends will say “man, you’re so lucky…wish *I* could retire, too” then continue paying $170/month for cable, trading cars every couple of years, and caring for the 4 or 5 children they *chose* to have.

      And the “white privilege” term simply pisses me off. Last I checked, minority-owned businesses get all sorts of advantages. EEO and affirmative action in the US actually give *advantage* to minorities in applying for jobs, as long as you’re actually qualified. Scholarships and college admission are also biased to favor qualified minorities.

      And as a matter of fact, “qualified” is a loose term in some cases. In a previous job (as a gov’t contractor), I referred an experienced, well-educated, well-qualified former co-worker (a white male) for a job in our group. The job instead went to a black female who was utterly and completely unqualified for the job. She was near-useless for the 3 years I worked with her.

      I put most of the blame for it on the laws and hiring practices…I can’t really fault her for taking a high-paying job even if she did get it only because of her race and gender. The only blame I put on her is for taking advantage of the system and for not even trying to learn the job *after* she got it. And before anyone screams “racist,” our manager was also a black female and I thought the world of her….she was brilliant, well-qualified, and one of the hardest-working managers I’ve had (higher-ups made the hiring decisions, FWIW).

      So claiming MMM (or I) had “privilege” and “luck” are just excuses and complainypants whining.

      I’d argue that for MMM (and myself…fairly similar background from my understanding), I would say that “luck” and “privilege” account for maybe 5-10% of it. At the absolute most.


      • Doug April 1, 2015, 10:40 am

        You mentioned luck. On that subject, I find the more effort I put into something, the luckier I get!

        • Tomboalogo April 1, 2015, 11:12 am

          when people accuse me of being lucky (really they do), I tell them I work damn hard to get this lucky. P.S. Software engineer too

      • Hugerat April 1, 2015, 2:04 pm

        Oh god, please not the “Affirmative Action helped one person I know get a job that maybe they she didn’t deserve or maybe I’m just speculating therefore privilege doesn’t exist” argument. White privilege isn’t just about being “lucky.” It’s about being born with a whole set of advantages that help you every single day, most of which you don’t even perceive.

        Think about it for a minute please. Who were your bosses at work? Your elected officials? People in other positions of power or wealth? Most likely other people like you (and me). I bet you look a lot like the boss, talk like the boss, walk like the boss, have the same haircut as the boss, maybe even grew up in the same town as the boss or went to the same summer camp. Before you could even walk you shared all kinds of experiences with other people in positions of power that grant you advantages every single day of your life.

        So please stop with the “white people are the ones really at a disadvantage” bullshit.

        • Danny April 1, 2015, 2:26 pm

          Yes, yes, yes.

          I recommend everyone read this as a basic guide to what privilege means (please ignore the feminist URL if you find that anathemetic, but it’s a very clear, important essay):


        • Craig C April 1, 2015, 3:01 pm

          Hi Hugerat,

          First, I never said white people are at a disadvantage, so please stop putting your own “bullshit” words in my mouth, thanks. :-)

          My point was that there are mechanisms, laws, programs and advantages in place to *offset* whatever “white privilege” may still exist. These are facts. They are real programs that exist. Real people take advantage of them. Far too many are NOT taking advantage of them, which is THEIR OWN FAULT. The old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” comes to mind.

          And for the record, in the instance I was talking about, my immediate manager was a black female (as I’d mentioned), and her manager was a black male. Above him was a white male (above him I don’t recall). I was probably the highest paid member on the team by the time I left, despite being in the middle age-wise and experience-wise, not because of some favoritism or “privilege,” but because I worked my ass off, was constantly learning and trying to improve, and always went “above and beyond” at work. Where’s the “white privilege” that contributed that that? There was none.

          Pardon the rant, but I’m very tired of hearing about oppression and racism, when most of the people saying it are doing very little to further their own cause, and instead expecting special treatment and handouts. Is there real oppression and racism? ABSOLUTELY. Is it as bad as some would have us believe? Absolutely NOT. The term “white privilege” itself is nothing more than an excuse….”I couldn’t get ahead because I didn’t have the privileges that whites had.” Perhaps 20, 30, or more years ago I would be more inclined to agree with you, but today it’s a bullshit excuse a big chunk of the time (yes, THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS). “Complainypants disease,” to use an MMM term. Stop bitching about “white privilege” and start creating your own opportunities. I feel like the Internet has been a great equalizer for racial inequality as far as opportunity goes. It’s all out there, just go get it.

          You want opportunity for minorities? There’s tons of it. You want an education? Again, there’s tons of it available, either at colleges (where “disadvantaged” people can often get scholarships) or using that fancy Library Card MMM would point you to. The Internet is a great resource, too.

          All of these things require a certain amount of effort, work, and ambition and will result in a career, and if you pursue it, financial independence. None of it requires any sort of so-called “white privilege.”

          My grandfather had to drop out of school in 8th grade to support his family, but worked his ass off and made something of himself. My Dad worked for a coal mines (as a mechanic) and built our home from scratch by himself, while Mom took care of the kids and household. I didn’t go to a private school, just a small public school in a town of 2000. My folks skimped and saved to send us to college so we’d have a better life than they did. I worked hard in college and now have a well-paying job and will be retiring in a couple of years.

          Nothing about my race has ANYTHING to do with that, and I clearly did not grow up in any sort of “privilege,” white or otherwise. The only “privilege” I grew up under had to do with two smart, loving parents, who were willing to do what it took to get ahead and give me the best start they could. For that I’m eternally grateful.

          No one else has “given” me squat, so pardon me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who had just as much “privilege” as me (regardless of race), but just want to whine and complain instead of getting off their ass and working for what they want.

          Craig C

          • anom April 1, 2015, 4:16 pm

            Craig, you are very “lucky” to have had “two smart, loving parents, who were willing to do what it took to get ahead and give me the best start they could.” Unfortunately, not everyone has that.

            I see nothing wrong with acknowledging we are all “lucky” or “privileged” in some ways. It takes nothing away from our accomplishments.

            • nordic Person April 5, 2015, 4:56 am

              But it does take away something from the person who is thinking it. Making a habit of thinking about how lucky someone of a different skin colour/is from a different place/ (or even as you said) grew up in a “two parent” home doesn’t change you life for the better, it just changes your fulfillnes of life for the worse.

              That sort of thinking is an infinitely bigger disadvantage to have, than any racial/gender/incomeclass/fitness/genetical/singleparent/minimumwage/educational/geographical/interest* disadvantage is today.

              *Someone in this comment section just explained how MMM’s interest in engineering was a “privilige” he should acknowledge because not everyone has is. Facepalm.

        • Hotdog! August 6, 2015, 1:25 pm

          When I put my notice in at one employer, the owner (my boss) called a recruiter to find my replacement. After the first set of potential candidates came through, the recruiter asked for feedback. My boss told him that he wanted candidates that looked and sounded like me, the guy next to me, and the guy next to him. And that’s what the recruiter brought him thereafter. That was in 2006 and it was for a mechanical engineering position. The owner was also a mechanical engineer.
          Even though the story is anecdotal, I have seen evidence of the same kind of thinking (better hidden, of course) in management in corporate America. So, based on my own experience, I would have to agree with the sentiment that white privilege exists.

    • Danny April 1, 2015, 11:50 am

      Privilege is real and should not be hand waved away, and it’s worthwhile to remember that it’s hard to see your own. But I feel that being aware of that, and having gratitude for what you have is totally in line with Mustachianism.

      Here’s an example I can think of: I have a “free spirited” semi-friend who tells me that I should stop trying to save up money in my uncool city and start traveling the world right now. But she’s able to do that because her oil industry CEO dad will catch her if she ever falls. She doesn’t need a safety net – her parents are her safety net. She doesn’t seem to realize that doesn’t exist for everyone and severely downplays how much it would affect her if she didn’t have that. She’s socioeconomically privileged, but there are various different kinds privileges beyond that. Race is probably one of them. I’m not going to deny that.

      BUT the philosophical righteousness of Mustascianism can still be saved by realizing: 1) If you’re capable of making a middle class income, then you’re capable of saving a large portion of it, and 2) Society is inequal, but it’s best to ignore that and focus on all the privileges you DO have. If you can read this, you have an internet connection. You can read. You have TIME to read. You’re probably somewhat healthy. Etc. Not everyone in life has that, and those are all tremendous advantages!

      So, yes. Are there injustices in society? You bet. Do they hold me back personally? No way. I’m so blessed for what I do have. I think that everyone, no matter how rich or poor, can benefit from that attitude.

    • Kat April 1, 2015, 12:59 pm

      I agree – I love this blog and I get the joke and I appreciate MMM’s advice, but white privilege (and male privilege and all the other privileges you may have) absolutely do play some role, small or large. It doesn’t negate your ingenuity and hard work, and it’s not the sole determinant of success, but please don’t become a privilege denier. I’m white as well, and I know we’re trained not to see our privilege – or the impact it has on those without it – so it can be tough to acknowledge, but please please know it exists and it helped you.

      • Lucas April 1, 2015, 6:29 pm

        So you think that being white and male is a privilege?

        You’re going to use vague or precise data points and statistics (a.k.a., lies) to argue for limitations. It is still hogwash and excuses (“in case I don’t become a millionaire, it’s because I’m not a white male”). It’s your own limiting beliefs showing through.

        Take the time to work that out and show yourself your skin color, gender, or family background doesn’t have to limit your success or, most importantly, your happiness.

        • Kat April 1, 2015, 7:11 pm

          I would advise you to look at race relations in America, and the way historically racist policies and practices have been codified into our everyday functioning. If you can’t face your own privilege, at least examine oppression (and realize one can’t exist without the other). I’m also not sure where you think I’m limiting myself – oh, except where I’ll earn less and be considered less competent, etc etc etc. But that’s not my doing.

          Please educate yourself (and try not to be so defensive). Not on stats, but on history and society.

        • Ginger April 5, 2015, 3:33 pm

          Statistics are not lies nor is the research shown using them. Pretending that the research is not there is like putting your head in the sand and then complaining that you have sand in your hair.
          One example of such study was two online courses, where the students do not see the professor. Half of each class was told the professor was male and the other female. In both cases the students rated the “male” professor as better on many variables, regardless of the actual gender of the professor.
          Realizing what privileges we have and what don’t is one of the best ways to uses those privileges and compensated for what we don’t have.

        • Steve April 9, 2015, 10:24 pm

          As an white male I can being a White Male gives me privileges than non-white males do not have. However there are non white males who are more successful than I am.

    • Tom April 1, 2015, 5:57 pm

      I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” which can be summarized as: Really successful people (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Beatles, etc.) got where they are with a bit of luck, a moderate amount of opportunity (right place, right time), and quite a lot of dedication and hard work. I believe in white privilege, but it’s not going to get you very far in life with minimal effort on your end. It is nice to not be harassed by police and to be comfortable in your surroundings at school or work as part of the racial majority, which are pieces of privilege that one doesn’t even perceive without learning a bit about it.

      • Kat April 1, 2015, 7:14 pm

        Right. I’m not at all saying MMM got where he is solely because of privilege (I even mentioned that in my original reply). But not being harassed by the police, plus having greater access to quality education and being less likely to land in prison for minor offenses (etc etc etc) can play a big part of someone’s success. We’re just trained not to see it. But like you said, just being white and male isn’t enough…I can think of plenty of white males who’ve gotten nowhere because, well, they’re doing it wrong.

    • Kat April 1, 2015, 7:48 pm

      Has anyone on this thread every considered that the idea of “white privilege is a myth” comes from people in power who want to keep it? Sort of like, say, the idea of consumerism? I mean, not that those people have ever lied to us before… ;)

    • Prudence Debtfree April 1, 2015, 9:45 pm

      In their book The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman note a consistent difference between successful men and successful women. Every woman they interviewed included in her explanation of her success, “I had some luck” – with timing, chance meeting, etc. Successful men, on the other hand, saw themselves as the author of their success. I think we might be seeing evidence of that difference right here.

      • Mr. Frugal Toque April 2, 2015, 7:25 am

        The hardest thing you’ve had to do in life, whatever it was, is really, really hard (to you).
        The fact that the hardest thing I had to do in life was get through high school and university makes me feel like I did something really, really hard to get where I am.
        But, for example, a black woman growing up with a poorer background had to do all of that while getting randomly stopped for jaywalking and dealing with hiring prejudice at the minimum wage jobs she worked. She wouldn’t have had the parental financial help I had in getting through university either and she would have dealt with people telling her that people of her race and gender aren’t good at math (in 1993, my university math prof literally told the women in our class this).
        So she looks at me and says, “You had a lot of privilege working for you.”
        That does *not* invalidate the hard work I put in.
        That does not mean I don’t deserve what I worked for.
        It just means that *she *is *not* getting what she deserved for her even-harder work.

        The point MMM is making however, still stands.
        Yes, we need to address these problems as a society.
        However, as individuals, we still have to make the best of our own situations. I know plenty of white, heterosexual, English-speaking men, who come from educated parents who didn’t abuse them, who didn’t do crap with their lives. They had the same opportunities I did, but instead of learning to work hard and be proud of their work, they went on welfare at the age of 18 because they could.
        We all have our privileges and advantages, some of us more than others. We still owe it to ourselves to make the best of what we have.

        • 9 O Clock Shadow April 2, 2015, 2:39 pm

          Ah Monsieur Toque, thanks. I am outwardly a brown skinned, had some ugly incidents growing up (very few – but they stung). I don’t dwell on them but they are there as a warning not to engage in broad brushing myself, and inspiration that others who have no such experience (such as yourself and MMM) openly acknowledge it exists. No chips on my or my wife’s shoulders so nothing ugly to subtly pass on to our son either.

          Part of financial independence for many minorities is simply the freedom from worrying about being vulnerable to that kind of perceived and sometimes real institutional bias. Bias like that is so pernicious and weighs heavily on everyone involved, including the vast, vast non-racist majority.

          I hope MMM gives you an honorary striped shirt and referee whistle. Now let’s get back to the wide world of Stoicism!

        • Jane F April 7, 2015, 8:30 am

          Thanks Mr FT, great break down.

          Here’s a piece that explains privilege in terms accessible to Mustachians – Bike riding! Keeping in mind that we choose to ride bikes unlike being born a minority.


        • Mark Schreiner October 3, 2021, 9:23 pm

          Thank you, Frugal Toque!

          Writing from 2021 here, we’ve missed you for the past few years.

    • Jemma May 29, 2019, 1:20 am

      I love this blog, but I do think that stating “I’m not privileged because not everyone with my starting circumstances is in my position now” (in this case, because many people with the same job and background are still working) misses the point. He doesn’t have privilege compared to those people who, assuming their other circumstances genuinely are the same, could probably also be in his position. Whereas say a single working mother from a racial minority, with a child with disabilities, couldn’t be in his position regardless of what choices she made.

      So, his point makes sense if he’s talking about people with (or with the capacity to do) lucrative or even average-income careers who are complaining about not having enough money, but the privilege point still stands with respect to some groups.

  • sam April 1, 2015, 6:49 am

    Very interesting article.

    Ultimately this feeling that we are not in control may come from a cognitive bias humans have called ‘Learned Helplessness’. Which is where historically we have been helpless in being able to change our situation so now we still believe we are helpless even though in the modern day we are able to make many choices.

    I believe the fact the historically there were many controls to keep ‘Poor’ people poor, such as non land owners not being allowed to vote etc, people believed they were helpless and controlled by the wealthy elite. Lack of knowledge around health and what effects disease meant they believed they were unable to control their health by what they ate.

    However, things have come a long way since then. In most of North America and Europe, we can get all the information we need to make correct lifestyle choices, for free on the internet, so this historical helplessness has been lifted.

    Do you understand what I mean?

    You have the power to educate yourself to make the right choices in your life!!

    Read MMM to give yourself the priviledge of a good financial education!! We are blessed at even having the oppurtunity to do so!! Thank the people that came before us for giving us the priviledge of the open and free (mostly) internet! Use it to make good choices, not just to consume more!!

  • Neil April 1, 2015, 6:53 am

    You are correct that embracing hardship and suffering is the key to personal growth. Some people embrace it, others run from it. The trick is convincing the runners to convert to embracers. The best way to do that is unfortunately not cleverly formed arguments and pie charts, but a life lived with joy despite your circumstances. “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

  • Frugal Buckeye April 1, 2015, 6:58 am

    Amen, Amen. I’m glad that the end of the post returned to typical MMM truthspeak. Much as I enjoyed the joke of the first part of the post it’s always good to hear you say it like it is.

  • Single Dad Living April 1, 2015, 7:06 am

    Great post, you had me for a minute there.

    My favorite line was “extremely painful to type it into my computer”, I would have felt the same way if I had to write something that went completely counter to my personal philosophy

  • Charlie April 1, 2015, 7:07 am

    Wow, usually the April 1st articles are good for a chuckle and a quick skim. I’ll get the premise and move on.. but this one will probably make my ‘top 20 MMM articles’ list.

    • Jenn April 2, 2015, 7:29 pm

      I’m with you Charlie! This goes on my ‘favorites’ list for reference too. GREAT examples of everyday hypocrisy: healthcare gripes while consuming soft drinks, scarcity complaints while purchasing cable TV, inability to save while financing vehicles. This stuff is mainstream and it’s insane! I hear it from supposedly reasonable people all the time.

  • Eldred April 1, 2015, 7:18 am

    I didn’t think about it as an April Fool’s joke, simply because you’ve made statements like that before, dripping with sarcasm. So I still knew you weren’t serious. Good reminder!

  • JB April 1, 2015, 7:20 am

    Most people aren’t willing to do what it takes to save. We have enough to retire now, but I have to hit 60 years old to get free healthcare from my company. I might make it to 57, which is 7 more years. We will see what our portfolio is to see if I suck it up and work til 60. I probably won’t make it. We will have the money to pay for medical insurance. Is 3 extra years worth it? I will have to run the numbers to see.

    • Kenneth April 1, 2015, 10:59 am

      3 extra years is NOT worth it. Obamacare is cheap.

      • businessgypsy April 1, 2015, 11:51 am

        If you’re counting on that subsidy continuing, you may be in for a shock. Meanwhile, for those of us who don’t qualify for the free lunch, healthcare insurance costs have gone WAY up and services have gone WAY down. Only the healthcare conglomerates are winning in the long run. I’m in agreement not to wait, but don’t build your foundations on the AHCA’s sandy soil.

        • Ginger April 5, 2015, 3:41 pm

          You are funny. I had to buy COBRA insurance before, because before ACA, I could not buy it on the open market for ANY amount of money. The cost now on the exchanges, before subsidizes, is less than the cost was projected to be (prior to the ACA), based on the average increases per year. Since ACA the increases in insurance have decreased.

  • Catherine Jean Rose April 1, 2015, 7:28 am

    Bravo. Love the bar graph, though I would argue my household income is smaller than most, and yet, for my age, I have a higher net worth than 90% of my peers. Quick example: a co-worker asked me to look over her finances and needed help with taxes. She’s a few years older than me, but we are both married w/three kids and live in similar sized/priced homes. As I reviewed her income tax documents I noticed her household income was ~$60,000 more than ours! So what made up the $60K difference? Well, for starters, DH and I had $25K off the bat put into tax-deffered retirement vs. their $0. Next, we paid $15K less in income taxes. They also paid about $11k in mortgage/home equity interest, and we paid so little that we didn’t even itemize this year (~$1500). The rest? Ridiculous spending most certainly!

    • Jason G April 1, 2015, 10:58 am

      It is unfortunate that people don’t take advantage of the money that the government “gives” you(In the form of reduced taxes) to build your 401(k) profile. People always say that you need to at least put in enough money to maximize your employers match, but people never factor in the 15 percent or greater match that comes from the government in the form of reduced taxes.

      For example a person who has a 401k and high deductible health insurance plan can put away before taxes:
      $18,000 a way towards a 401k
      $5,500 a way towards traditional IRA
      $3,500 towards HSA(gets converted to normal retirement account at age 65)

      This person would in effect have the government contribute $4,050 towards their retirement if they were in the 15 percent bracket, and $6,750 if the person was in the 25% bracket.

      Put another the way, using the 25 tax rate example, its like putting away $20,250 after tax dollars and the government contributing $6,750 to your savings.

      Either way people need to take advantage!

  • Huxley April 1, 2015, 7:41 am

    Yes I think social security is imporatnat, which is why it should be scaled back. My non-fact based proposal:
    Reduce the rate to 6% for everyone, or at least less than currently.
    Anyone making more than median income get zero SS in retirement. They should be able to save enough themselves
    Those making less get more than they do now.
    Obviously disability and death benefits remain.

    I don’t see why a household making $100k+ for decades should get any SS. They should pay some to insure those making minimum wage, but other than that should be able to save on their own

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 1, 2015, 8:12 am

      It’s a neat idea – make it more of a welfare/insurance program rather than a pension plan for people of all incomes. I’d certainly welcome the option to opt myself out of social security benefits in exchange for lower premiums.

      We richer people could still pay whatever is needed to retain the function of supporting those who really need it when they hit old age.. but voluntarily give up the option to collect benefits as long as I’m already earning much more than $40k/year indefinitely through investments.

      • SavvyFinancialLatina April 1, 2015, 8:56 am

        When FDR introduced social security it was only meant to be a welfare program, particularly poor widows. LBJ signed it as a retirement system for everyone.

        • a1smith April 1, 2015, 1:19 pm

          When FDR started Social Security in 1935 the average life expectancy in the US was 61 and the age to start collecting Social Security was 65. The average life expectancy of a child born in the US now is 79 and their age to start collecting is 67. Something to think about . . . .

      • Huxley April 1, 2015, 10:04 am

        Problem of course is getting rich people, sorry: struggling middle class, to give up their god-given right to have the government forcefully invest their money for them in ultra-conservative bonds for 40 years, and then pay them out a small fraction of it when they’re near death.

      • Craig C April 1, 2015, 10:38 am

        In some ways, I agree….people with millions in the bank certainly don’t need the relatively small amount they’ll get from SS, so why not leave it there for those who actually NEED it?

        But….the rich paid into it just like anyone else (likely more than average, since deductions are a percentage of pay, with a cap), so that seems grossly unfair. Also, I’m realistic enough to know that some people are simply L-A-Z-Y or have no self-discipline to save (I know several married couples where both make well over six figures, but have near-zero retirement savings…in their late 40s).

        Personally, I have no interest in rewarding laziness or lack of self-control. It’s like welfare programs in general…great idea, and a definite necessity to help those who have simply had a run of bad luck, BUT too many are lazy and just taking advantage of the program. They should be kicked off of it. My parents know several guys who are on SS for “physical disability,” but have seen them playing football, working on their roof, etc.

        I won’t need my SS benefits when I retire in 2 years (at 50), but I’d be seriously pissed if someone wanted to take them away. The $150K or so that I’ve paid into that program *would* have let me retire already if I’d been able to invest it myself, so I’m a little bitter at what little I’ll get out of it anyway. I’m already viewing SS as a retirement bonus that I may or may not get.


        • Jason G April 1, 2015, 11:13 am

          Its a shame that the government even suggests that we need to eliminate the Social Security System, especially since we literally buy tanks by the thousands and park them in a lot never to be used. Our wasteful military spending and the “welfare program” designed to appease swing states with military industries by NEVER making cuts to our military spending is the real problem. I think spending the same amount as China seems reasonable:


          • EricP April 6, 2015, 3:17 pm

            Military Spending decreased throughout the 90’s and only increased due to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Military spending has again started to decrease and has dropped every year since 2010. Please do research for yourself and don’t just parrot what others have told you.

          • a1smith April 7, 2015, 8:10 pm

            There are many, many benefits that are derived from military spending. For example, the internet was a DARPA project. GPS came from the military. Hmmm, there are two big contributors to Google Maps. Just the internet is enough to justify ALL military spending for quite some time; it started the information age.

            A lot of medical research is done at Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda National Naval Medical Center. Here are some more examples – digital cameras (from spy satellites), radar (WWII), microwave oven (from radar). This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many, many more.

        • Huxley April 1, 2015, 11:37 am

          Well, under my plan you’d pay less into it. But yes you would still pay and get zero direct benefit. What you would get is the privilege of living in a society where a large minority don’t live in destitute poverty with nothing to lose, and you’d have to send your kids to fortress schools in armored cars. Think some african countries. I really think paying some taxes to ensure my fellow citizens don’t suffer is good for me as well. But I realize this is socialism talk that no american would accept.

          There’s plenty of stuff I pay taxes for (bombing brown people in far away lands) that I have no interest in, but that’s how it works. I’d argue this is more beneficial that many other things.

          And what I’ve read say benefit fraud is such a tiny, tiny part that I don’t even worry about it. It’s a nice boogeyman though.

          • EricP April 6, 2015, 3:20 pm

            Under your plan you would still have people living destitute because you are assuming that because someone is making $100k that they are saving any of it. You’ll find that isn’t the case and all those individuals would be living destitute.

        • skunkfunk April 1, 2015, 1:22 pm

          Key word being “opt” out, not “forced” out. Voluntary. Optional. Don’t have to.

          The point is, you can probably do better by investing the money and paying slightly less into the system.

          • Jason G April 1, 2015, 3:05 pm

            True most people can do better investing their own money in index funds, but social security is designed to force people who do not have the for-site to save to at least contribute some money towards their retirement.

            Without SS old people all over the country would be starving and freezing to death, because they wouldn’t have money towards food and housing. Age discrimination is a real thing and most old people cannot find full-time well paying work. SS in my mind is an absolute requirement in a civilized society.

            If people could opt out of social security you would have many people opting out to buy more stuff only later to find out that they will be homeless in their last years on this planet.

            • ecmcn April 1, 2015, 6:02 pm

              This is the key point, that SS’s value is in preventing lots of people who can no longer work from being destitute. I know it’s painful to think what you might do investing all of that money yourself over the years, but millions of starving old people (regardless of why they don’t have money) doesn’t help anyone.

              I think MMM has the right idea, that some amount of socialized pension along with a free market that allows someone to retire in nine years if they really want to is a good compromise.

              One change I’d like to see with SS is to get rid of the 6.2% employer tax and roll it into the employee tax, so you just have a single 12.4% SS tax that you see on your pay stubs. Of course, you’d need a 6.2% raise at the same time. But I think this would more realistically show what your true wage is and what the true tax is. I’m a supporter of SS but it *is* expensive, and people should see it as it is.

      • Jimbo April 7, 2015, 1:48 pm

        The problem: you do that and you have just removed any support for SS. It becomes a program for “them” rather than for everyone, and it becomes easier and easier to cut.

        There’s a reason Republicans have been pushing privatization for decades: even they know that it would lead to huge transition costs, but it would lead to two positive (to them) outcomes: it would line the pockets of the financial “industry”, and it would further immiserate the working classes, making them easier to control (the latter is why they both opposed single payer (even in the face of evidence that it would control costs) and favor mass immigration (the only difference between them and the Democrats on this issue being that the Republicans would prefer to import a non-voting Helot class while the Dems just want to import Dem voters))

        FDR was said to have been asked, when SS was first passed, why he insisted on setting it up with “individual accounts” as if it was a retirement fund rather than a tax-supported transfer scheme. HIs response: “I don’t want any damn politician messing with my program!”

    • 3okirb April 1, 2015, 9:55 am

      The first thing to help SS payment is to write a law that the money can’t be used (or used as collateral for) any other program other than Social Security. Also, as of now, you only pay SS on the first $118,500 of income, and to be fair, you only receive benefits up to a capped amount based on what you’ve put in.

  • Ryan April 1, 2015, 7:44 am

    Interesting that the most common issue people have with MMM is that if everyone did it, the economy would fall apart. While that may be true if everyone started doing this all of the sudden, that isn’t going to happen. I haven’t seen any blog or website have that kind of impact. This is not macro-economics, this is personal finance.

    • Moustaches April 1, 2015, 9:53 am

      I think that it is a false premise to state that if everyone was moustachian, the economy would fall apart. Sure, certain industries would go downhill (fast food restaurants, cars, etc). But others would actually improve (bikes, grocery stores, housing). And an economist would say that an increase in personal savings rate is beneficial to the long term economic health of a country. It allows you to have enough money to buy things down the road that are truly useful such as a college education for your son, solar panels, a garden in your backyard, or a rental house, instead of spending everything you earn on plastic toys from China. Finally, even if the economy went downhill, being moustachian is about more than money, it’s about being happy. If everyone was moustachian they’d be more happy because they are winning at life, are healthier, and are seeing progress with their finances, and not wasting their lives.

      • EricP April 6, 2015, 3:25 pm

        Actually economists are not in agreement about what would happen if personal savings increased substantially. It’s called the “paradox of thrift.” And that last part, if the economy did go downhill, everyone being Mustachians isn’t going to help that much if unemployment is 20%+ (Not saying that would happen, but if it did, it won’t really matter how frugal people are when the jobs don’t exist)

    • Ash April 1, 2015, 10:22 am

      Yeah I see that argument a lot too, and its usually framed like “We will still need some people to do work (grow food, sell food in stores, …), so if everyone pursues FIRE then who will do the work???” I think even if everyone started along the FIRE journey we would always have a number of people who are still not FIRE’d and will have to work. For example, kids just out of college who start at 0 or negative net worth will still have to work. Also, some will choose to work longer than others, and what about the FIRE’d people who don’t just sit on their asses all day? As far as I know FIRE people don’t just plop in front of the TV for the rest of their lives like “k I’m done.” I do think there would be a pretty large correction in the economy as people’s buying power became focused on essentials instead of on the more frivolous things, but so what? I don’t think it would end the world.

    • ecmcn April 1, 2015, 6:51 pm

      > Interesting that the most common issue people have with MMM is that if everyone did it, the economy would fall apart.

      I’d change this to “…the most common issue *writers who don’t understand MMM* have…”

      When I talk to normal people about early retirement I never get this. It’s more “that sounds really cool; we need to eat out less” or “does Mr. Mustache live in a trailer or something?” People are generally intrigued by the possibility, whether they join up or not.

      Many writers on the other hand often go for the quick knock-out “if everyone did this the world would end therefore we can all dismiss it out of hand.” Usually accompanied with pronouncements that MMM lives an ascetic lifestyle and is just selling tote bags to a bunch of dupes. [MMM – Great take-down of the dude from The Week, btw!]

      You do occasionally see a thoughtful analysis of the “what if everyone did it” idea, however even those I have a problem with. First, the core MMM tenant of joining self-restraint with the modern industrial engine (e.g. the stock market) to allow someone to retire in ten years is an incredibly profound, powerful idea. If you’re writing anything about economics and don’t say “holy shit!” to that idea and instead move on to the almost-entirely theoretical “what if everyone did it” story to dismiss MMM you probably don’t understand the significance of the ideas. And then there’s the almost-entirely theoretical thing. I think it’s a fascinating topic and I do like reading peoples’ ideas about what would happen, but seriously, let me know when 1% of the population is on the FIRE train. Or 0.1% for that matter. It’s not going to happen [sorry, MMM], and if it did it would be gradual [and great! so keep trying MMM!]. So the discussion may be interesting but it’s irrelevant and in no way should be used to dissuade anyone from taking MMM seriously.

      While I’m rambling, the other common MMM article in the mainstream press is the fluffy person-of-interest piece. For once I’d like to see one actually focus on the core ideas (and presumably validate to their readers that this isn’t some crazy hippie thing). I know, they have to cover his back story and talk about his bike and whatever, and people can always come to the site to learn more, but you’d think an occasional reporter would think “huh, could I do this?” and run some numbers.

    • YarnStache April 6, 2015, 4:16 pm

      I’d like to stop and think about this idea for a minute. What IF everyone was suddenly struck with the desire to live a Mustachian life? What IF the economy as we know it fell apart? Would this necessarily be a bad thing? So much of our economy caters to the decadence of consumers, which takes a toll on fellow humans, and a toll on the environment. These industries are held up by even more industries: finance, transportation, construction, business services. That’s not to say that these supporting industries only contribute to the production of consumerist crap, but it’s a part of it.

      The economy would never completely disappear. Some people don’t mind working, and there will always be young people who have not yet built their stache. But with the sheer volume of “bullshit jobs” that we have today, I’m not convinced that a paring down of the economy would be a bad thing.

  • EL April 1, 2015, 7:50 am

    Good Joke on 4/1. It is all on us to do better with our saving and spending agreed. Even though we shouldn’t complain about the lack of the average persons efforts, it is a proven fact that many people get nepotism in some way. The best jobs are reserved and handed down for the most part to a select circle of people. I do agree that people need to step it up more, and do whatever they can to improve financially. Nice pen and paper drawing, I’m sure you had fun creating it over breakfast.

    • Mark Ferguson April 1, 2015, 7:57 am

      That is a horrible attitude that the best jobs are reserved for certain people. The best jobs are not jobs, but running your own business. Anyone can do that, but few have the guts or ability to focus on a real plan to implement it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 1, 2015, 8:32 am

      El – you’re right that the best jobs are given by referral – from powerful people who need help, to people they trust and who have a history of getting a lot done. Now that I’ve become old enough to have a number of friends who run larger companies, I see the inside scoop of how this system works.

      The secret to becoming an “insider” and getting these good jobs? Spend a few years working really hard and building up your own reputation as someone who gets a lot of shit done. The owners of your company will notice that instantly, because there is a severe shortage of smart and effective people in the world.

      Soon enough, you too will be one of the “elite”, sharing a glass of scotch on the front porch with the other company owners and passing around more names of hard-working people that you can hire for your companies. It will be frustrating, because the shortage of available people will persist.

      • Brett April 1, 2015, 11:36 am

        Literally laughing out loud. Your greatest asset, MMM, may not be your financial badassity, but your writing and wit. This was the best comment I’ve read in a long time- thanks for sharing that “insider secret”.

      • JB April 1, 2015, 2:57 pm

        It takes effort to network, I have my current job because of the organziation I am involved in. I was on the Board and my current boss was the President at the time I started on the Board. I showed up to meetings, got my work done well so when he was looking for a replacement for retirement, I put in my application and it was the easiest job interview ever.

  • Mark Ferguson April 1, 2015, 7:55 am

    I had an investor email me the other day asking how he could possibly buy a second rental since it would take him 20 years to save 20 percent down. I asked him a dimple question. Why would it take you 20/years? He replied with, well it would really only take three. It shows the mindset that so many have that it is impossible to save when they don’t even try. I am up to 14 rentals and I bought them all with 20% down. There is a mentality that you should use creative financing to buy houses with less money down instead of save more or make more.

    • Ms. Must-Stash April 2, 2015, 7:40 am

      Great point! I frequent a big real estate investor site and see the same patterns – a ton of talk about creative financing and not nearly as much about building a solid financial foundation and saving.

      Personally, we just bought our third rental property in a year, of course all with 20% down. Friends and family want to know why we still live in a smaller house; it was a conscious choice to invest the money that could have gone to a larger primary residence into income properties instead.

      • Eldred April 2, 2015, 8:44 am

        I’m fighting a sliding scale – when the properties were really cheap, I was still in debt, and had a 13-month unemployment stretch. Now that I could potentially save up, the prices are rising such that 20% of a current purchase price won’t be 20% 3 years from now when I’d have it saved up.
        But for both of you – how did you find your rental properties? Did you work through real estate brokers? Buy them as foreclosures/auctions?

  • HenryDavid April 1, 2015, 7:56 am

    The key to this blog is the way it redefines what a good life can be.
    Decent, not extravagant housing; sound nutrition; a rich social and family life. Biking to the public library.
    All of which almost anyone with NorthAmerican privilege can achieve, on a low low income.
    After that . . . it’s all unnecessary bullshit.
    And its the unnecessary bullshit that makes people poor.
    Yet advertising-drunk people have a hard time believing it.

  • Insourcelife April 1, 2015, 8:09 am

    Every time (which works out to be about 97% of the time) I read a story or hear about financial misfortunes in this country (US) this line from Trent Reznor’s song starts playing on repeat in my head “I’m sick of hearing about the “have’s” and “have not’s” – have some personal accountability”. There is no other county on Earth where it’s as easy to become FI in a short period of time. Average intelligence, ability to listen, learn and put knowledge into action is all that’s needed to get to the point of financial success.

    • Tomboalogo April 1, 2015, 11:17 am

      personally I like “get over it” by the Eagles

      • Kevin April 1, 2015, 2:57 pm

        I heard one by Weird Al yesterday called “First World Problems” that really made me think of MMM

      • Heath April 1, 2015, 5:39 pm

        Both great choices! I still remember all of the words to Get Over It, and it cracks me up how permanently relevant they are :-)

    • Mr. Frugal Toque April 2, 2015, 7:34 am

      “I’m sick of hearing about the “have’s” and “have not’s” – have some personal accountability”

      The trouble is that it isn’t working. The vast majority of people are making stupid decisions with their money.
      If it were a small number people making those decisions, I could put it down to personal weakness or whatever. But when I see a huge chunk of the population behaving this way, I have to believe we need bigger solutions.
      This blog is currently one of those solutions and has already reached lots of people.
      But what else should we be doing?
      Early education is probably a good idea. Children ought to be taught from a very young age how money works and how to (not) spend it. The utter destruction of the “Payday loan” industry is also a good idea. That’s obviously far too dangerous a carrot to dangle in front of most people.
      Big, system-wide problems require big system-wide solutions.

      • Ms. Must-Stash April 2, 2015, 10:41 am

        One of the most compelling pieces of research I have seen in recent years addresses this issue by showing people their future selves. Anecdotally there appears to be a small percentage of us (probably most of whom read MMM at this point) who have a long time horizon and really can picture ourselves in 5, 10, 20, etc. years. But the vast majority of humans aren’t wired to think that way.

        Unless, apparently, we use virtual reality to introduce you to your future self, like these Stanford Researchers did: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703410604576216663758990104

        So now imagine that we could systemize this. Instead of doing those stupid career aptitude multiple choice tests in high school, what if kids had to do a visualization exercise with their future selves? The technology is available now: http://faceretirement.merrilledge.com/

        • Spence April 7, 2015, 12:55 pm

          My sister teaches at a junior high that recently did some excersise like this, called “future night” or something like that. They gave kids cards and had them go around to different stations as their future 30 year-old selves. The kids with the best grades could choose any occupation on the list that they wanted. Other kids had their jobs assigned. At the different stations they learned where their earnings were going, and at the last stations, how much they had left over to save for retirement, etc. It was a reality check for most kids–they actually started to think about how much they would have left over after expenses.

  • Jon April 1, 2015, 8:11 am

    I think the main way to fix this savings rate issue is obviously investment/savings automation. I’m 24 and it’s alarming to see how many of my friends save literally 0%. I try to teach “Set it and forget it” but I think we can take it a step further than that. I’ve found that by increasing the frequency of when my money is taken out (I changed from monthly to either daily or weekly debits from my account) I was able to save more. So instead of 1000/mo coming out, I switched to 250/week or X dollars per day. The reason I did this is because once that 1000/mo used to come out, I used to justify that by making stupid,unnecessary purchases for the rest of the month because hey! I already made my contribution, might as well reward myself now. But since I switched, the money is coming out almost daily so it’s almost like a constant reminder that I don’t need to buy that latte before I bought myself financial freedom.

    I switched brokerages and retirement accounts to weekly contributions and I also signed up for both Acorns and Digit and that allowed me to save an extra 300-400 a month without really noticing. Some may complain about the fees of acorns or no interest on Digit accounts, but it beats just burning that money on unnecessary purchases.

    • Eldred April 1, 2015, 9:05 am

      It’s posts like this that make me with time machines existed. Oh, if I had such frugal thoughts at age 24 and could actually have saved a bunch, instead of not learning until I was almost 50 and had too many expenses to make quick changes. Even if I *had* such examples(I didn’t), I’m not sure I would have actually taken it to heart when I was young. I’m working on it now, but the reality is you’ll be able to retire before you get to my age, where I probably won’t be able to retire until age 75(I’ll be 52 this year). Yeah, I need a time machine…
      On the plus side, I think I’ve been able to educate a few younger people on the errors of getting into debt and mortgaging your future..

      • Kenneth April 1, 2015, 11:50 am

        I didn’t learn until I was 60. Had 2 car loans, 200k mortgage debt, 10k credit card debt and little saved. I got the fever even before I found MMM. Today, I have no debt, no mortgage and am retiring in 8 months at age 65 1/2.

        • Eldred April 1, 2015, 12:30 pm

          Wow – that’s awesome! What do you do for a living that you were able to pay off over $200K and save enough to retire in only 5 years?!?

    • JB April 1, 2015, 3:00 pm

      Personal choice not to save money is a choice. It isn’t that hard to set up an IRA and have $100 a week taken out. You can only do so much for so many people. Most people are opted into a 401K these days.

    • 9 O Clock Shadow April 2, 2015, 9:57 am

      Hey Jon – nice set-up
      What a dead simple way to increase savings – daily draws instead of monthly ones. The picture becomes much clearer too from the last day of the month to the first day of the new month, so silly ‘surplus’ spending isn’t as tempting.

      Real time inventory control is a massive competitive advantage in the Business/ Supply Chain world, and this set-up gets close to that. The ideal would be daily paychecks and withdrawals so your daily Net Worth calculates and displays. When in the Red you could make smaller course corrections that would not seem overwhelming, and daily positive reinforcement would pop up when you are in the Black.

      If any of your friends are App developers maybe this could fly?

      • jon April 2, 2015, 12:31 pm

        it would be hard to gain any traction, i feel like. you would have to get people to voluntarily switch their direct deposit over to this supposed account and then the account or app would pay out daily paychecks. is that what you are suggesting?

        • 9 O Clock Shadow April 2, 2015, 1:28 pm

          Totally agree that would be a pain point. I was thinking that it would gather your macro personal finance data from a trusted site and do the calculation right away.

          Actually, the best option may simply have it add up your daily amount spent and send you a “You spent $____.__ Today” message. You could set a budget and have it display Black for on budget, Yellow for slight over, and Red for anything over 10%.

          It would work for someone who has all their accounts in 1 place – Debit, Credit, and Direct Deposit of paycheques.

          I think it would be a very effective, yet simple reminder that your spending was good, bad, or approaching total financial spaz. Basically a dashboard with Min Max parameters for daily spending, saving, and servicing long term debts (mortgage, student loans).

          • Happyback April 2, 2015, 7:55 pm

            “…or approaching total financial spaz.”
            –THIS cracked me up!

          • Denise December 21, 2015, 9:34 am

            This app exists already: Mint and YNAB (You Need A Budget)… I personally use Mint, which has a budgeting tool; it’s run by Quicken and Intuit in the background so it’s less scary to give your bank info, but it pulls from the accounts you link and gives you real time info on your spending (particularly if you use a credit card). It’s weak when tracking investments, but great for following your net worth and spending over time. The website also has a trends tab which is fun to play around with.

  • EdSymanzik April 1, 2015, 8:14 am

    While I understand what you mean in your chart by “Normal People”, I would label that column “Undisciplined”, “Average”, “Sheep”, “Lemmings”, or something else that doesn’t give them the dignity of “Normal”.

  • Joe April 1, 2015, 8:23 am

    I’m a 52 year old who discovered MMM a couple of years ago – with the long held belief that my moderate income and recurring expenses made my most reasonably approachable retirement plan the one called “death”. Now, I feel like punching myself in the face – over and over again.

    Now, I know I don’t have to wait till I’m 65 to retire. I can do it a lot sooner. If we had this wonderful Internet back in the early 90s and Triple M with it, I may be close now. Your articles have changed my way of thinking completely. And even though I’m still working a “job”, the gap between my savings rate and my obligations is now a cushy five figures. Little house. No car loans. No credit card debt. No stupid spending.

    I could lose the job, and be fine for months. A feeling of empowerment. Thanks for all of these posts. I look forward to every one, and hope the MMM train never stops rolling.

  • Increasingly Misanthropic Jeff April 1, 2015, 8:55 am

    You’ve linked to and tweeted some articles recently that have totally deflated me. The Great Illusion of Retirement Savings, How Easy Is It To Become a 401k Millionaire, and The Pernicious Ideology of Personal Finance are all either thoughtless drivel or the sleaziest, most cruel sales pitches I’ve ever read asking the reader to buy into the very flawed concept that they are weak and helpless, to stop believing in themselves, to grasp at straws to find someone else to blame for their low income, low savings. It’s clear to me that people not only read this lowest common denomination smut but they believe it. Sad.

    I wanted to respond with a laundry list of counterpoints to nearly everything the sleazy writers wrote in those articles but decided not to because I don’t believe that it was thoughtless drivel, I think they consciously wrote that salacious nonsense maliciously with the intent to make people feel helpless and, of course, to make ad revenue. These people are worse than any financial salesperson, used-car salesperson (I guess a new-car salesman is even worse), or politician.
    We are humans and humans are bad asses that were designed (by God or sculpted by the sandy winds of time) to be intelligent, creative, ingenious, our own masters, push ourselves to achieve the impossible, and adventure and explore in spite of how treacherous the lack-of-trail is!

    When the fuck did we turn into baby birds that need someone to go get our food and to chew it for us?! This isn’t a fair comparison because at least the baby bird has to one day jump out of the nest.

    MMM, your articles do give me hope but I think the tide is rising against your ideas.



    • Mr. Money Mustache April 1, 2015, 11:42 am

      Interesting theory, Increasingly Misanthropic Jeff, and thanks for sharing it in such deluxe words.

      While I certainly agree that much of the news industry is deliberately stoking fear and sensationalism in order to get cheap views (Fox news especially – check out the book Atheist in the FOXhole for some neat stories of it), I think the writers I’ve been doing battle with recently are above that, and are actually trying to help.

      It’s an ideology thing – at the core might just be different ideas about the role of government. I’m kind of centrist by US standards – I like the individual to be given as much freedom as possible, but still think the EPA is a good thing to have, for example.

      • IMF April 1, 2015, 2:32 pm


        Don’t get me wrong – I am 100% for the EPA, grants for research, Social Security, welfare programs and any other government-sponsored program that protects people and the planet we call home or promotes science and education. Though we must be looking through different lenses, for instance, I feel that the only objective that social welfare program like Social Security and welfare should have is to seek its own end by helping people get beyond the need for it through education and job placement if possible. There will always be a need for these social safety nets and I would gladly pay into them because they are absolutely necessary. However, our social welfare programs are not shrinking and our government seems to think its a problem that can be remedied by throwing more money at it. I’m also a Centrist who leans to the left on a lot of social issues but I’m becoming disenfranchised by the liberal writers who excuse everyone from personal responsibility.
        I find myself to be a happier person when I’m on your Low Information Diet when it comes to thinly veiled political propaganda wrapped in a personal finance package. Now, give me Death By Black Hole, A Brief History of Time, or The Singularity Is Near and that’s information that I’ll binge on and be happy.

        Also, thank you for considering my words deluxe. I wasn’t trying to but I can see how using ‘salacious’ and ‘malicious’ in the same sentence might be seen that way. Also, I’m sure my subconscious wants to impress you.

        Great article and blog.

  • Liz Tee April 1, 2015, 9:00 am

    Oh man, you almost made me soil myself! Many of us got a (very) late start in the MMM mindset, being significantly older then MMM himself. I’m fortunate that, through a series of unfortunate events, I inherited some IRAs that should cover me for the bulk of my retirement, which I hope to reach in the next year or two. I’m currently using the MMM mindset to pare down my expenses as low as I can so that I can enjoy that modest retirement and not have to work until I’m 70+, like I’d planned. But more interestingly, I’m helping a friend, another middle-ager who is single parenting two young teens on a very low income, implement MMM principals to make that low income seem livable. Poor choices early in life eliminated many options for improving their situation to MMM levels, but at least now they don’t feel disadvantaged and are even taking it as a challenge to live the simplest and best life possible. No opportunity at this point to save for the future, but living without debt in the present is a HUGE step forward. I thank MMM for giving me the tools to help them.

  • Doug April 1, 2015, 9:07 am

    Okay, I confess. I started thinking you were serious, completely ignoring the date, and wondered what you were getting at. You reeled me right in! This years April Fools joke is even better than last year’s, about how you “need” a big SUV if you have a family.

    You’re quite right, a lot of people don’t take charge of their finances and when they fail to get ahead they blame the system, the government or who/what ever else. I’be heard it all before. Many times people I’ve worked with (in my pre retirement days of course) would say things like: if I had your money I would buy a new truck, luxury car, SUV or other expensive vehicle, would buy expensive toys like a new snowmobile, or whatever else. You don’t need to be an MBA or certified financial planner to see that’s why they don’t have the savings I’ve accumulated. Now the punch line, a lot of these guys made more money than I did in those days! So, what do I do now with these savings, live the life of a miser in self deprivation? You be the judge. I’m writing this note from the Keflavik Airport in Iceland, where I have been travelling around for the last few weeks before going back home to Canada. Yes, I had a great time here. Oh, poor me, such self inflicted deprivation! I could have had a big truck, and a big house full of rubbish I’ll never use, and still be working to pay for it.

  • Even Steven April 1, 2015, 9:08 am

    As Chuck Norris would say “No Excuses”

  • JK April 1, 2015, 9:09 am

    I like the principles laid out in this 1/2 April Fools post. The only point I would ‘disagree’ with is that everyone can be a business owner. Its good if you’re wired that way, but not everyone is. Be that as it may, there is plenty of room to work within ones abilities and push the bar, and with enough common sense, figure out a path that leads to FI as soon as possible.

    My main takeaway was a prior post about people who complain that what’s discussed here can’t be done. instead of figuring out how to do it and taking some personal responsibility. I finally made a move (11 miles away) that is proably going to result in 2015 costing me 50% less than last year which can be diverted to retirement saving leading to leaving the rat race sooner than later. Again, much (though not all) is about the choices we make..

  • Mr. Enchumbao April 1, 2015, 9:14 am

    Excellent post! At least you have the White Privilege Mr. MM and you were born athletic. I was born skinny and Latino, I have no chance of retiring early. LOL. As someone that is less than 4 years away from early retirement, I think about what people are going to say about my “luck”. I’m ready to have a laugh. I was born poor but my parents brought me to the U.S. at the age of 12. I struggled in high school and early college due to learning a second language and not hitting the books as hard I should have but still managed to graduate. I worked harder and smarter every time and that got me to a nice salaried job. Even though I’ve been working with the same company for the last 9 years, it wasn’t until I changed my spending habits and my relationship with money 5 years ago that everything else changed for me as well. Congrats on your 4 years of blogging! These articles keep us going!

  • Jo Russell April 1, 2015, 9:15 am

    That little pen drawing was spot on. I’m going to reproduce that on every stall door of every public washroom I spend more than 30 seconds in. :-)

  • Jager Schnitzel April 1, 2015, 9:23 am

    MMM–thanks for today’s post (my first bday present of the day, as it turns out). It’s painful to read the first paragraph, as many whom I’ve tried to introduce to Mustachianism sound exactly the same defeatist tone. “That’s fine for him, but I just don’t see how it could work for our unique, high-earning dual-income situation.” Many of us have had advantages, all of us have opportunities to improve both our lives and the lives of others–it just takes discipline and and desire. Thanks for continuing to bang the drum.

  • Tanja April 1, 2015, 9:39 am

    F Yeah! My fav April Fools of the Day. Keep pumping out your empowering content!!

  • Michelle April 1, 2015, 9:52 am

    Whew! You got me again! Last year the SUV’s and now this…..I gotta keep track of the date.

  • jlcollinsnh April 1, 2015, 9:59 am

    Well, sure.

    It’s just sooo easy for you to come along now and confess that you’re a fraud. You think this makes it OK??!!

    What about all those people who read your stuff, believed it and went out and got themselves rich and retired? What are they supposed to do now?? Just go on enjoying life and freedom and all that??

    Jeez, doesn’t this just make for a fine April 1st!


    • Joe (arebelspy) April 1, 2015, 10:35 am

      Hah! Jim, this was the best reply, I was laughing so hard. Poor us, who followed the advice of MMM and got rich and happy, and followed the advice of JLCollins and saw our investments grow. :D

      • jlcollinsnh April 1, 2015, 10:45 am

        Yeah, but I haven’t copped to being a fraud.


        Maybe next April 1st….

  • DC Jr Mustachian April 1, 2015, 10:02 am

    Was looking forward to some creativity today. Just wish you could have kept the joke going for more than 1/3 of a blog post!

  • Ellen April 1, 2015, 10:03 am

    My mother law jokes that she paid for her second home in on an island in Maine by cutting her children’s hair for all those years instead of paying someone else to do it. Because, in a way, that is exactly how she did it. Lived/saved on a modest teacher salary. She and her husband bought the island property relatively inexpensively when the island was completely undeveloped. Built a house 20 years later. And now 20 years after they built the house,that island is its own town with shops, post office, church, police and fire department. They were active in building up the social community with of their interests too–gardening, books, crafting, arts,cooking. Now, at 91, it’s the perfect place for her to spend the summer. Often alone. She knows everybody and everything about the place and vice versa. Yes, she got lucky, but that was the risk she took that paid off. I really wish you could meet her, she’s fearless!

  • Increasingly Misanthropic Jeff April 1, 2015, 10:09 am

    I’ve read studies that show how longevity and quality of life both drop when people retire without plans on how they will spend their time. That is to say thinking about how they will continue to engage their brains and body in something they want to do instead off resigning to watch TV and their meaningless life pass by, sitting on the sofa and eating junk food.

    Maybe Social Security is the bigger failure – it has and still does make people think that they’ll be okay in retirement even if they don’t participate in their own financial future. Every acknowledges that it’s this hazy payday in the future and it’ll have problems but they delude themselves into believing it will be there for ME and it’ll be enough.

  • Jason April 1, 2015, 10:10 am


    Agree that it’s not a lack of money in our society. There is so much opportunity out there for those willing to step up to the plate and take it, but I think fear holds many back. Fear from what, I really don’t know. Fear from failure? Is working for most of your life at a soul-sucking job not failure? I guess that’s up to individuals to decide.

    Complacency is also quite dangerous. People get comfortable with the status quo. That’s a shame when the status quo sucks.

    Best wishes!

    • DeeinTX April 12, 2015, 2:14 pm

      Fear of success, because many of us have defined what failure might be for ourselves; many have not defined what success might be for ourselves. That is why I truly enjoy MMM’s blog and the comments of all of you as you move forward to your FI.

      As to your comment on complacency being dangerous — spot on! I recently (April 1) took the leap to a more lucrative position (18K more) from a public sector position. Briefly, I gave my resignation to my manager; he called me a “rock star” and requested the opportunity to counter. I gave him the 5 days he requested to counter, while researching the salaries of his other “rock stars.” When the counter offer was made, I respectfully declined; it was significantly below what the other “rock stars” were taking in. Guess I wasn’t “rock starry” enough. :-) Add to that the absolute laziness of many of my co-workers, I had to get out before I became infected with that most pernicious of diseases!

      I am now with a new gig, with new tools and processes and people to learn. And making significantly more as I exercise the love of my craft! My commute (public transportation – 41.25 a month, pulled out pre-tax) is longer, however I am a great reader, so spend that time efficiently. The extra money? Into a 401K. I am lavishly comfortable on what I was pulling in before, while saving about 50% after-tax. The point of my post?

      Be fearless. Wisely take the opportunities to increase your little green family and put them to work for you. Have a trusted other to back check you on your financial decisions. And stay away from nay-sayers and ner-do-wells. Sub-standard relationships will torpedo your best efforts.


  • Jon April 1, 2015, 10:10 am

    – a beverage so evil and toxic due to its sugar concentration that any figure above zero is astounding to me. The shit shouldn’t even exist…

    You are correct for the average person, there is no reason to drink soda/sport/energy drinks just to sit on your couch and watch TV. But don’t be fooled, sugar and sodium (often included in sugar arguments) both have their place if you exercise regularly. The key is to use them correctly, and in moderation, as is true with most things in life.

  • PR April 1, 2015, 10:38 am

    Why do I feel giddy every time I see a new post show up in my RSS?

    Love the chart – definitely going to be sharing that one!

  • Laura April 1, 2015, 10:40 am

    This blog has really helped my partner and I become educated about investing and feel empowered to save a large amount of our incomes to buy our freedom with. I am 26 years old and since I started reading this blog a little over a year ago I have moved my investments from an account with Edward Jones to one with Vanguard (and convinced my older sister and brother-in-law to do the same) and have not only started IRA and 403b accounts but have began maxing them out. I think your influence in large part is what prompted my boyfriend to sell his car and commute to work (and most other places) by bicycle. I just wanted to say thank you MMM for writing such an informational, encouraging, and entertaining blog. Because of you we now have a much better financial start to our lives than we would have otherwise and I find great comfort in feeling in control of my spending. We are closing on our first house next week and we are putting 20% down! I just hope you continue writing and influencing people for many, many years to come.

    • Kenneth April 1, 2015, 12:05 pm

      Nice job, Laura! Spread the word amongst your millenial friends..

      • Jonathan April 1, 2015, 1:27 pm

        Nice job Laura! This blog has also has helped my wife (29) and I (33) to focus on saving and given us hope for an early retirement. Previously, I thought I was stuck working to 59 1/2 whether we saved or spent our money, so we just spent it. We were frugal enough to not get in debt, but we were buying tons of crap we didn’t need or have time to use.

        We ran across the blog last summer and ended up going from our minimum 401k contribution to get my employers match to maxing out the 401k and opening and maxing out an IRA for myself. We went from our pathetic 6% saving rate in 2013 to 32% last year and this year we are on track for at least 50% with hopes of getting closer to 55%. We switched health insurance to high deductible HSA plan and are opening and maxing out an IRA for her.

        We are going to hit the limit on tax sheltered accounts this year, so we just opened our first taxable account with Vanguard this morning to give us a place to shovel excess money somewhere on a monthly basis.

        We hit 100k in net investment worth last month and have our eyes set on 250k in the next 3-4 years, barring a bad market.

        All of this on one income while my wife stays at home with our 3 kids and we have a fourth on the way. Thanks for the great articles and motivation to take control of our lives! I’m happy to no longer be a sheeple.

    • brooke April 1, 2015, 4:41 pm

      Congrats Laura! I am 26 as well and my fiance and I are closing on our first home next week as well, so exciting! We do have a good bit of student loan debt to pay off, but no consumer debt. Also this is my first year in real estate and I’m pledging 100% savings of my earnings while my fiance supports us both. Here’s to hopefully a busy year!

    • Smart Money MD April 5, 2015, 9:57 am

      Congrats! I wish that I had understood these principles when I was younger, and I’m trying to catch up now. Spread the word!

  • JP April 1, 2015, 10:40 am

    I was getting ready to comment, “agree to disagree” and then I read on! Nice trick MMM. Privileged or not, it is the mindset that changes everything. I have aunts and uncles that are in their late 60s and claim they will work forever, and it’s not because they want to. They always needed the newest TV, the nicest Mercedes, the biggest house, and now they are paying for it, forever. I have a close friend that grew up in a very poor neighborhood, with even poorer parents. He is now worth over 50 million. His 3 keys to financial success are to 1. Live below your means 2. Save, and 3. Don’t do anything stupid.

    • Happyback April 2, 2015, 8:12 pm

      Great keys.

    • Happyback April 2, 2015, 8:14 pm

      Great keys!

  • Keith April 1, 2015, 10:46 am

    I’ve noticed you mention your hate for soda a few times in the past and in this post. I must confess it is my one vice.In my defense I live a reasonably frugal life (about $30,000 per year in spending). However, soda is terrible for my health. I need a swift kick in the nuts to wake me up. I never drink soda at home, but get me out and, oooooohh, that fizzy water. Feel free to set me straight.

    I also want to give you a real ‘thank you’, no April Fool’s joke. I am the black sheep in my family for living a frugal life. My wife and kids are on board which is all that counts. My parents are another story. It has gone so far as my mother and father both manipulating my kids. Here are some of the gems my kids bring home from grandma and grandpa: “Tell your dad he should stop acting so poor.” “Tell your dad he embarrasses the family when he lives like that.” “Don’t end up like your dad.” Tell your dad he is too young to be retired.” Needless to say, I don’t see my folks as often anymore. It hurts. It is such a wonderful experience to read your blog knowing there are a lot of people out there like me. Almost like a virtual family. And I love my family no matter what they say. It’s just nice not being judged for not spending. So, thank you. It is a great pleasure to read your blog. Your wit shows how pleasant living right can be.

    • Jim McG April 1, 2015, 11:49 am

      Shame to read about your family Keith. I stepped out of work in December and told people I’d retired early, largely because I was seriously considering doing so. It’s not quite that simple though because I quite liked the work I did. But. The biggest pressure I feel to return to work is social pressure. People find it really hard to accept that you don’t want to strive any more for the bigger house, the bigger car, the designer gear, the exotic holiday. You can watch their jaw drop when it begins to dawn on them that you’re quite serious about becoming a bit more frugal and less materialistic. Many of the people who do sympathise are already in the fortunate situation of having enough financial comfort to retire early themselves, but many also have zero intention of cutting down their current standard of living either. People just don’t get it, which is why this place is a tonic! Hope your family come ’round and learn to grow some facial hair soon.

    • Kenneth April 1, 2015, 12:08 pm

      Sometimes, Keith, your real family, is not your family.
      You are right that all that counts is your wife and kids.
      We are close to disowning some members of our family – but for now, just keeping the contact as minimal as possible.

    • Brooke April 1, 2015, 4:36 pm

      Wow Keith that must be rough! If anything I would have expected your parentsv to be super supportive – the logic being that the less tied up with work you are, the more you can see your parents, kids, wife, etc and have that quality time. Shame that they can’t see it this way, and instead make your kids feel like their dad is doing something wrong.

    • Happyback April 2, 2015, 8:18 pm

      I don’t know how you answer your kids when they relay those messages to you, but you could consider saying something like this, “I love spending my time with you, and your mom MORE than I like spending money”. That would keep your children respecting you, and remind them the entire point of any job is to provide for the family that we love.
      Best wishes.

      • Keith April 7, 2015, 8:26 am

        Thanks for all the kind words.

        Happyback, my kids are on board with mom and me. My parents make my children feel uncomfortable when they belittle me for my money-(non) spending habits.

        My oldest daughter is 20, saves 37% of her gross income and pays her way through college without a loan. My kids spend, but they question every expense before they make it. It is funny listening to my oldest discuss with her boyfriend if they should go out to eat for a special occasion or if she should cook the meal at home, ask mom and dad to leave for a few hours, and enjoy a candlelight dinner. I really am lucky to have such a great nuclear family.

  • Willis Montgomery III April 1, 2015, 10:52 am

    Fun post on April Fools. Thanks for driving the message home.

  • Dollar Flipper April 1, 2015, 10:55 am

    Reading those whiny articles just blows my mind away. “These 5 things are holding everyone back!* *4/5 of them are poor decisions that individuals are making but we’ll blame the system anyways.” Please keep shoving it down everyone’s throats because it’s the only way the masses will learn.

  • Marvin McDude April 1, 2015, 11:04 am

    Before I found MMM, I was very much the personal and professional victim that left complainy-pants comments on Yahoo Finance articles. But I’ve been reading your blog for about 2 years now, and it has changed my life. Savings rate has gone from 0% to 60%, and you’ve given me the map to cut spending and increase savings however I can. You, my internet friend, are a master map maker. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    • Brooke April 1, 2015, 4:19 pm

      Wow I love that Martin! So cool that you were able to do a 180 like that, most of the time people are so ingrained in their beliefs it prevents them from being able to process another way. This gives me hope for the people that always reply to my comments on finance articles that the MMM is “impossible” or “over-simplifying”, etc etc etc.

  • John S April 1, 2015, 11:24 am

    Thanks MMM. I needed this article today. I’m selling my 2004 Cadillac CTS and am buying a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback today, no April Fools. I’ll certainly miss the luxury and performance of the CTS, but I am trading 24 MPG for 38 MPG; and aging Cadillac maintenance for much newer Focus maintenance. I feel like I’m taking a hit to status and cool factor, but I also know that the car doesn’t define me; I do.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 1, 2015, 11:28 am

      Yeah – plus even if social status mattered to you, you can feel reassured that any thinking person would assume a CTS driver has some cluelessness issues, while a Focus driver is more likely to be more thoughtful.

    • David August 30, 2018, 2:14 pm

      No “hit to status or cool factor” with the Focus. When I ordered my ’01 Focus ZX3 hatchback, I spec’d the manual transmission, sunroof, side airbags, antilock brakes, and bright yellow paint, and took a $750 pass on the power windows & doorlocks. Total cost was less than a used luxury/performance car, which was the only way to get those safety & stylin’ features on a used car in ’01. It’s still running strong and almost as pretty as new, with 38K on the odometer.

      Focus, Fiesta and Fit are now about the only models where one can spec a sunroof and a manual without opting for an expensive performance package. ‘Too bad that the first two are about to be orphaned.

  • mjbaker888 April 1, 2015, 11:28 am

    On our “savings scold” friend… I don’t believe “Coop” has done his diligence by reading your blog end to end. The latest debate on Twitter stems from his position that one cannot be at once productive (i.e., “working”) *and* be called “retired”. Ugh… same old same old from the early retirement police. Most readers here (Mr. Ferguson, noted on owning your own business!) I think would agree, we have a lot more to contribute outside of and after our workaday careers. It’s not about living the dream of recliners, cocktails, and general sloth. That’s just a waste of precious time.


Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!


welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets