If You’re Not Getting Rich in your 20s, You’re Doing it Wrong


Make sure your 40s are even better than your 20s.

Whenever something unusually interesting in the field of personal finance shows up in the news, Mr. Money Mustache hears about it. Our diligent network of Mustachian Volunteer Spies combs and filters the world’s information, both for pearls of wisdom and pellets of comically misinformed dung. Although I take steps to remain on a low-information diet, I still enjoy hearing about financial trends in our society, since this blog is all about changing the trends.

So people send me updates on things like tiny houses, urban planning breakthroughs, people who manage to blow even a double Silicon Valley salary and appear clueless about where it’s all going, and major league players like NFL Mathlete John Urschel who has been known to sleep in his Nissan Versa*. The world seems refreshed to see examples of high-wealth people living lifestyles of below-average consumption.

But one of the most interesting articles in recent memory has been making the rounds on social media this month, and it has fired up many Mustachians because it combines just enough spirited and uplifting “Fuck Yeah” insight on the good life, with a well-intentioned but horribly wrong conclusion. It’s well written and very persuasive.  With 2.3 million “likes” on Facebook (up from 1.2m last time I checked), it has probably fooled thousands of financially suicidal people into thinking they are not sabotaging their own lives after all. In fact, I suspect that article has gone viral because it tells people exactly what they want to hear: “Go ahead, be irresponsible and party on. This is the path to a better future.”

The article is called “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong.” To be fair, it appeared in Elite Daily, which is somewhat of a notorious clickbait forward-this-to-your-facebook-friends content mill** to begin with. But there are some brains behind the article and I agreed with about half of it, so it is worth properly ridiculing the conclusion right here, in order to Fix the Internet.

dinnertimeSo the author, Lauren Martin, seems to be a young, fun-loving person living in New York City. Having recently spent a few days there doing the old “Ha ha haah, aren’t our lives so prosperous!” clinking of cocktail glasses in expensive restaurants with attractive entrepreneurial people and delicious food flying around everywhere, I have a fresh memory of the vibe of that lifestyle. It makes you feel powerful, and feeling powerful is a useful precursor to actually being powerful – gaining the power to live a happy and excellent life.

So she goes into this narrative about how she came to the city with an overly frugal mindset, worried about money and denying herself the pleasures of restaurants, clubbing and taxi rides. A wiser friend encouraged her to loosen up: “Don’t save money. Make more money.”

This leads to a series of enthusiastic verses like these:

“When you live your life around your retirement fund, you may as well retire now. You can’t make a mark on the world if you’re too cheap to live in it.

Refusing to give yourself the luxury of enjoying your money negates the whole point of making it.

Your 20s are not the time to save; they’re the time to gamble. $200 a month isn’t going to make the dent that a $60,000 pay raise will after spending all those nights out networking.”

Sounds reasonable, right? How could I take exception with any of that?

I take exception because I’ve been in exactly that place. I arrived in my 20s with just the same sparky excitement for the big city, fun nights out, rapid career advancement and living to its fullest. Most motivated young people show up with the same dreams.

The difference is how you come out of those 20s.  At best, the advice above will get you some good memories, a strong career, a slightly larger waistline and weaker liver, and a negligible net worth. Better than the average fate, but a huge waste of an opportunity if you ask me.

With just a slight tweak on the money strategy, I came out with the same exhilarating decade of memories, good friends around the continent, and a beautiful and accomplished soon-to-be-wife. With the added benefits of a leathery shell of Life Battle Armor from the explosion of good-old-fashioned hard work and sacrifice, and the better part of a million dollars, which has continued to support the good life and grow to this day just before my 41st birthday.

Because here’s the thing about your 20s. They are the time to work. The very, very best time in your life to work your ass off and create an exponential snowball of money, skills, and friendships. Your brain will never be more sponge-like and inexhaustible. You will never feel more motivated and less cynical than you do now. And you will never have another decade of pre-childraising freedom in your life. For the roughly 90% of people who plan to have children at some point make note of the following two bricks of wisdom:

• No matter how much you like working right now, Shit can get Old … fast.
• Kids are way more work than you expect, accelerating the aging of the aforementioned Shit.

These days, kids tend to happen in your 30s. If you attempt that feat with nothing but a well-networked career and a hangover, your life will suck. You need to be well back from the financial cliff, not worried about how you’ll cover the next round of bill payments if you lose your job. It works even better if you’re completely financially independent by that point.

Gaining your Pleasure through Creation, not Consumption

The Elite Daily article builds its case around advancement, networking, and socialization. All good things, to be sure, but also a bit of an illusion. We all like to fantasize about a $60,000 raise brought about by drinking the right mixed drinks in the company of the right influential people. And sure, maybe occasionally things like that do happen. But to think of this as an actual strategy for getting ahead is roughly as smart as bringing your lucky numbers to the lottery vendor faithfully every week and crossing your fingers for the big win. In real life (even New York City real life), you get paid for getting really difficult shit done, better than anybody else can do it. 

This means fiddling with meticulous, gigantic spreadsheets at 11:56 PM so you can get the impressively casual email to the department polished and sent by 2:30am. Or wiring your brain to source code and compiler windows spread out across three 34″ monitors on your stand-up desk while you design software in zen-like silence at 6am before everyone else shows up at work. Or revising and re-researching your latest article for Elite Daily for the 55th time so it’s better and more viral than any article ever written before. It means training your body and mind in your off hours so that you can perform better than anyone else in the on hours. Inhaling books on investment, psychology, nutrition. Barbells and pullup racks in your apartment where your peers keep the Louis Vuitton purses and Apple products. Mixed greens in your apartment fridge where your peers keep redbulls and $50 bottles of vodka.

Sure, there’s more to life than work. There’s plenty of room at the edges for laughs over fine tequila and winks over surreptitious servings of weed. You can dance and feast and have ill-advised romances and circulate in the penthouse parties of billionaires. But this stuff is just the icing. It doesn’t make a good foundation. Work is the foundation, and all other activities need to be metered carefully to fit around that core of work.

Once you become an Actual Rich Person, with a business drowning in opportunities but short on talent and you deal regularly in financial figures that contain more than one comma, you start to see how this works. It’s easy to have a successful business if you can find really smart people who are willing to do really hard work for you, in exchange for a high salary. But all these younger people seem to just want to sit around and network and have cocktails. All the hard workers already run their own company. When you find that rare eligible workhorse, you grab her and shower her with money and opportunity, hoping she will accept. You need to be that lone workhorse, getting stuff done while everyone else is out late and living off of credit cards and parental subsidies. This is where money comes from.

Luckily, this is a happy situation and something to celebrate rather than dread. Doing your ultimate work is the core of human satisfaction. Filling the rest of your life with fun around this core makes things even better.

If work is your core rather than buying yourself treats, money automatically takes care of itself. This means you don’t need to painfully crimp your lifestyle to dribble a few percent of your income into savings. Instead you painstakingly design your lifestyle so you end up keeping and investing more than half of what you earn. Not hundreds per year. Tens or hundreds of thousands per year.

Sure, you’ll blow a few hundred here and there, but you won’t do something completely apeshit like buying a multi-thousand-dollar wardrobe or financing a new car. These would just be distractions from your real life goals, so why would you allow them to steal your focus?

Working with this level of focus brings you an unusually high income. Balancing it with less personal pampering allows you to spend less than everyone else while feeling like you are living like a rock star. The end result is being relatively wealthy while you’re still fairly young, and then realizing it was a damn good thing you did that, because by age 30 you’re ready to start doing your own thing without having the need to pay the bills get in the way of it. This leads us to our final brick of wisdom for 20 somethings:

•There is a lot more to life than your 20s, and if you do it right, life keeps getting more fun.

Those suburban people who you see who are depressed and in debt and horribly out of shape are the ones who didn’t get a handle on things at your age. Those who are free and fit and healthy are the ones who completely ignored the advice found in the Elite Daily article.

Which path do you choose for yourself, for that 70 year period that follows your 20s?



* The Major League players who are living frugal lifestyles include John Urschel, Ryan Broyles, Alfred Morris and Daniel Norris.

** And no offense Elite D – you’re just a modern incarnation of entertainment/opinion magazine and I can imagine it’s probably a fun place to work. I’m sure you are used to criticism just like I am. But since you happened to tread on my territory I thought it would be great to use you as a lesson in class ;-)

  • Jim Wang September 29, 2015, 1:00 pm

    There’s a case to be made for not being so frugal you just save save save, but the answer isn’t to swing to the other side. I spent the first few years of my 20s going to bars, hanging out with friends, and “networking” (yeah ok, it’s mostly drinking and having fun). Then I saw myself get fatter, slower, less energetic, and I figured out that, wait, you can do a ton of “networking” without the bar tab or caloric surplus.

    Your 20s are about taking risks and working hard because your time constraints (and stress and energy) are so much less. Take a gamble on a new career because you can, you don’t have four mouths to feed at home.

    And like you said, the best thing you can do is set yourself up for your 30s and 40s with a good career (and life) trajectory, rather than saddled with debt. I was lucky in that I just added a few pounds, I didn’t rack up high interest debt or a ridiculous car payment.

    • Stockbeard September 30, 2015, 12:26 pm

      Totally agree here. It’s all about balance, and the problem with the article mentioned hare is that the article is all about excess.
      The author might be well intentioned, saying that it’s ok to “let go” once in a while, but the message really comes across as “just go crazy with your money while you’re young, as this money is worth much less than what you’ll make after you get a raise”. Which is completely dismissing the power of compound interest and showing really little knowledge about how savings actually work.

      Now that I realize how this girl in her twenties should really be listening carefully to us who are already in our thirties, I’m going to take my own advice here and listen to what people in their 40’s and fifties have to tell me. Any takers?

      • Danny September 30, 2015, 2:53 pm

        The irony here is that the Elite Daily writers are probably getting paid almost nothing for NYC to write their articles. Now, there’s nothing wrong or shameful about making a low salary, but I don’t need someone with no experience with the highly paid professional lifestyle telling me how to get ahead, when they haven’t yet managed to do it themselves.

        It reads a lot like the dating advice I’d write on sites like reddit because I thought I was so smart and understood everything. Turns out, I lacked a lot of key experience to be giving… well, anyone advice.

      • Mary September 30, 2015, 5:17 pm

        This 50 year old says “Amen”. Just left my job after 28 years of drudgery because I finally had enough “f@*$ you” money to do it and 3 kids graduated from college debt free. You never know when that feeling of not being able to keep getting up to do the same old thing is going to hit. If I had it to do again I would have started my career in that situation instead of ending there! The feeling of freedom to know that my financial needs are met so that I can do what I want is amazing, so I can only imagine the possibilities if I had only been 30 years old when I left. You’d better believe I let all the young people I know that there isn’t a possession in the world that can replace that.

        • Daryl Gerke October 2, 2015, 9:12 am

          Congratulations Mary — this 69 year old engineer says “Amen” too! Laid off at age 23 with a pregnant wife, I got a quick lesson in frugality. Or maybe a reminder, as my dad died when I was 14. Life has a way of throwing curve balls.

          In any event, we immediately went into MMM mode. Bought an old house well below our means. Had a good time fixing it up, and learned a lot along the way. Bought used cars and did the same. Lived close enough to work to walk in decent weather. Rode the bus. Saved what we could, and never felt deprived.

          By age 40, was not FI, but did have enough “f@*k you” money to start an engineering consulting firm. The freedom and independence were priceless. But even with financial success, we maintained the “live beneath our means mentality.”

          By age 50, reached FI – painlessly. Almost 20 years later, still working on projects I enjoy, while avoiding those I don’t. Still happily married, with two kids and six grandchildren. Like Mary, we got our two kids through college debt free too.

          If MMM had been around in my 20s, I would have been a rabid disciple. The bottom line — MMM is right — the fools who piss away their money are wrong. Thanks for listening to this happy old curmudgeon. And thanks to MMM for spreading the word!

          • Buck Duster October 5, 2015, 1:55 pm

            50 comes a lot sooner than you think. We maxed-out IRA’s in our twenties, started maxing out the 401(k) in our thirties, a bit in college funds in thirties and forties. At 50, works seems a lot less interesting, but life outside of work is now much more interesting. It was not hard: low cost index funds, buying less house than we were told we could afford and ten-year old cars with 200 thousand miles. We still managed to live the good life all of these years. Of course, luck comes into play as well. I met and married the perfect woman and we raised two great kids without any major issues. Life could not be better.

            • Anthea November 23, 2015, 11:24 pm

              There are some really great success stories here.

              I’m 59 and getting a very late start. Divorcing after 30 years and as the stay-at-home parent most of those years, I worked part-time not making much but did earn good medical benefits for my family. My spouse took charge of the money. I thought we lived frugally, but reading here shows it was less frugal than I thought.

              I have a lot to learn about managing and growing my money when the divorce is final. Luckily we put both of our kids through college debt free. Not so for me. After a layoff in 2009 when I was a young 53 — and after 10 years with Starbucks — I spent a year unable to find decent work. I enrolled in college (2 years locally, 2 across the country at a great 4-year college). I believed the only thing between me and the job of my dreams was a degree. Now the rose-colored glasses are off and it’s nearly time to set out on my own with a meager income and the slim divided funds from the divorce.

              I came here to learn how I might kickstart my financial future. Living frugally and simply is truly what I prefer, so that’s not a problem for me. I enjoy it. I was hoping to find some feedback that applies to folks like me who didn’t make all the right moves financially in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or 50s.

              I posted on another thread that I’m considering paying cash for a mobile tiny home (Tiny Heirloom) hoping that might be the first step toward more financial freedom and a very simplified lifestyle.

              Looking forward to learning more here!

    • Free Money Minute September 30, 2015, 2:42 pm

      It is so difficult to make it through without gaining a few extra pounds. I was able to save some money, but sitting in an office adds up over time. ;-)

      • Kareni September 30, 2015, 5:54 pm

        Try UnderArmour’s MyFitnessPal app. Nothing like seeing a running tab of everything you’re consuming to change your eating habits!

        • Gene October 11, 2015, 3:11 pm

          MyFitnessPal helped me to watch my calories and helped me to lose 26 pounds in 2 months. It sure kept me aware of what I was eating but it got me trying to cut the calories a bit too much. I have been eating the Grok way these days and find that the weight comes of rather quickly and I have a whole lot more energy.

    • Kyle October 1, 2015, 2:51 pm

      Exactly, networking doesn’t mean spending $100+ on high end liquor in one night. In fact, if you’re that tanked, I don’t think you’re leaving a good impression on the people you’re trying to “network” with.

      These excuses Lauren writes about are just the standard excuses ultra consumerists regurgitate to make themselves feel better about spending beyond their means and living paycheck to paycheck. And yes, they will totally be those depressed looking people in suburbia in their 30’s with debt up to their eyeballs.
      Lauren will be writing pieces on her debt issues and unacceptably low wage soon.

      • Frugal Father October 3, 2015, 9:32 pm

        “When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.”

        Well at least she got this last point right, just not in the way she intended. :P

      • grisly_atoms January 2, 2017, 5:27 pm

        Well, Kyle, just so ya know, in New York City it is hard to get tanked spending only $100 on high end liquor. ;)

    • kiwano November 7, 2015, 7:00 pm

      It’s a pity none of the ballsy speculative investments I made in my 20s really paid off. Though at least they didn’t run up a credit card bill, margin account, or other related horror, or leave me out of shape…

  • Katie September 29, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Curious to what the advice would be to people who already have kids in their 20s.

    • Jim Wang September 29, 2015, 1:23 pm

      You can still take bets, you just have to be more careful about the downside. So switching jobs to one with better career prospects is still on the table but quitting to start your own business from scratch would likely be too risky.

      • John September 29, 2015, 2:10 pm

        I wouldn’t preclude a business: this can be done on the side to actually make your income statement more robust. When the time is right, the primary income source can be cut. A great company job is nice, but that company could be bought laying off all those talented people. A so-so company or bad one could simply go out of business, don’t cling to them, plan for the day that they can no longer support you for whatever reason, or the day you no longer wish to support them because i guarantee that day will come for one of you.

        This is exactly what is over the horizon for me: get some more ridiculous salary and start a lifestyle business leveraging all those very talented people i’ve met, learned from and helped over the last few years.

        • Jim Wang September 30, 2015, 4:23 am

          I agree 100%, I was just talking about the case of quitting to start a business from scratch. I think everyone should have a side business/hobby that makes money, then switch over if it grows large enough. There’s much less risk there.

          I’ve always believed that when you work a company, regardless of what you do, there are smarter, hungrier, and less time-constrained folks graduating each year who can do your job. You need some insurance and a side business is it.

          • Maxwell C. October 2, 2015, 8:42 pm

            Those same new graduates will also destroy your business with theirs, through competition. Owning ones own business isn’t a Magical panacea. Some of the richest, earliest-FI people I have met never even *considered* owning their own business.

            • John October 27, 2015, 2:45 pm

              Maxwell, exactly how does your jaded perspective make sense? You are essentially saying “Don’t start a business, even on the side, because ‘new graduates will also destroy your business with theirs…'”

              Of course starting a business isn’t a “magical panacea,” but that’s no reason from discouraging people from researching and implementing their ideas.

              I started a business around 40 and in just under 17 years it has made me wealthy. I shudder to think what might have been had I worked for someone else. F** that ; )

    • Matt September 29, 2015, 1:28 pm

      Being in that situation myself (I actually started working hard about a year before my son was born, and discovered MMM and embraced Mustachianism around 4 months prior), this is my approach: Cut out the working long hours part of MMM’s 20s-with-no-kids piece above, but still work hard, do good work, and strive to always be better in your field, and apply the same logic to not being wasteful with your spending. So far I’ve been rewarded career-wise and I make enough so my wife can stay home to raise kids without having to put in much overtime, while being able to save nearly 50% of my gross salary. I’ll be working a few years longer than someone who didn’t have kids in their 20s, but it’s worth it to me!

      • Money Sloth September 29, 2015, 10:58 pm

        I’ve also had good luck with the approach Matt lays out here.

        When you have a young family, you don’t have the sheer amount of hours that others do to put into your work. You have equally valuable assets, though: focus and determination to make things better for your family. As long as you use those to identify what’s important and get the most out of your minutes, you can get important results quickly, both in your career and in your finances.

      • JD September 30, 2015, 8:17 am

        I agree with cutting out the long hours. Not necessary to work hard and be productive. It can actually be counter productive. If you really stay focused during work hours you’ll get way more done than 95% of people that allow distractions and non- critical tasks to fill up their day and need overtime to get the real work done.

        • VB September 30, 2015, 2:15 pm

          There’s another side too, though. Work life balance is great, but, as an engineer in his mid 20s, I love my research, and care deeply about it. Avoiding long hours would basically mean depriving myself of the actual fun I have writing code.

          • Patrick October 2, 2015, 5:25 pm

            I just turned 30 recently and felt the way you did two years ago. Now all I think about is retiring ASAP. As MMM so astutely put it: stuff gets old FAST.

        • Doug October 7, 2015, 9:07 pm

          I also agree with the idea of cutting out long hours. In different places I worked, I remember many employees who wanted overtime for the extra pay. Myself I would work the extra hours if it was required, but preferred not to work overtime. I wanted to have something that resembles a life outside of work. If you want to accumulate wealth, it’s easier to cut your expenses. Personally, I would have preferred to work less, like a 4 day week. We would all be better off if everyone worked less hours and turned those fewer hours into more jobs.

    • John September 29, 2015, 1:36 pm

      TL;DR: one spouse works their ass off, the other focuses on kids. 10 years later, if the hard work paid off, the single salary comfortably supports everyone.

      long version:
      My life’s core was around hard work throughout my late teens and all of my 20’s (everyone assumed i went to university, but when you work in your primary interest, you don’t need to). during that time, i only worked for 2 companies. at the end of the second company, i had a good salary. months before i turned 30, i started at the third company for a ridiculous salary, a salary i was aiming for by the time i was 40. all that hard work from 18 to 29 turned into a lottery ticket. i was exactly what that company needed, exactly when they needed it and they paid me the highest number i could imagine (should have imagined higher, doh!).

      kids? by that point, we had two kids already. neither planned, just kinda happened. but now in my very early thirties, i don’t work very long hours any more. occasionally i’m gone for a week on travel but most of the time, i’m home before 5pm with enough energy to have nerf wars at the park down the street or occasionally a video game with my son (man i used to love video games, not so much any more). the salary is so large that we save 50%, live in a 2000 sq ft mansion (sorry MMM!) and my wife stays home to pursue her interests when not taking care of the kids. in the mid 20’s we tried the day care double job thing and could not understand how on earth anyone would do this, let alone this being the norm, so we made it our goal that one of us would focus on the kids.

      Downside? my wife has decimated her career from not working for the last several years. She would need to go back to school and would probably go into something else… if she ever wants to. we are not considering that until both kids are established in school or a school alternative, still figuring that one out. the benefit from her being available all the time, and me being available more than 50% of the time is too sweet.

      yeah it’s nice now but it wasn’t always like that. i’ve wanted to quit so many times over the past decade-plus. i’ve wanted to leave it all behind, move back with my parents and give up. or go live in the carribean doing nothing for 6 months. but i didn’t, and now as my future self looking back, i’m very grateful for all the hard work, shitty hours, overnight shifts, corporate bullshit, bad boses, re-orgs, quarterly reviews and entry level wages that my past ,self accepted in exchange for what i have today. Past Self; you were a god damned work horse. I’d never do half that crap for the money you were paid now but look where it got us. Thanks bud!

      • Justin September 30, 2015, 7:34 am

        John – I loved this! This is me too! :)

      • Ellen October 2, 2015, 2:05 am

        Wow, we did the very same thing, with the exception that I started working again from home. Had kids in our 20’s. Husband worked full-time, I stayed home with the kids. We always lived frugally. After the third kid was born I started a small online business from home, just because I was bored and I loved the internet. Fast forward 15 years: husband and I run successful businesses, we had some bad years in the progress, but we had lots of time to spend with our kids in those years and kids aren’t really that expensive when they’re young. Now the oldest two are in college, we pay for their education, we live in a nice home and still save lots of money. If we keep this up we’ll be retired by the time our youngest finishes university.

    • Leslie September 30, 2015, 11:16 am


    • Tom September 30, 2015, 11:31 am

      It has been hard as shit for us. Wife got pregnant before finishing her degree (accident…we have 2 now). I was in the process of starting a bookkeeping business when this all happened and I had to find a job asap. Found the position I am currently in and agreed to a contract that would help me finish my CPA in exchange for staying here for about 4 years. Fortunately this time will be up in January, but due to the nature I have missed out on 4 years of decent raises. I started at 40k and am up to 47.5k at the moment, we can’t seem to find anything that makes sense for my wife to do that child care costs don’t eat up.

      The things that I would say have been the hardest to deal with is:

      Living away from immediate family, so no grandparents to watch kids.
      Wife not finishing her degree.
      Being stuck in a low paying job for an extended period of time, and having difficulties dealing with standard emergencies (ER visits, car problems etc).

      I’ve been all about frugality since before MMM existed, but even for us things have been extraordinarily difficult and I believe that if anyone could avoid any of those situation above you would be able to do pretty well. Kids prior to near financial independence, or at the very least decent career advancement, is extremely hard to deal with. I constantly juggle with trying to build side business, work above and beyond at the job, and family time and the side business work is what falls off first since family truly is most important.


      I am in the process of lining up new work for January when I can leave my current position and I see bright stars in the future, so it’s not all bad.

      • Angela September 30, 2015, 12:18 pm

        If I could go back to school and get a decent degree and not the POS degree I got in Sociology from a top school I would. I made the wrong decision at 20 and now in my early 30s, with one child and another on the way I feel trapped. I completely agree that raising kids can be incredibly difficult and the child care costs alone are frightening. I find that now I have to work until the kids start school so we can afford for me to go back to school to get another degree. Not fun, and not looking forward to doing school AGAIN with children to look after and guide. If I could talk to my 20 year old self I would say take the risk now and put in the effort now. You will never have the time again!!!

        ps I’ve been at the same job for 7 years, my salary has increased from 46 to 53. Talk about crappy!!!

        • N September 30, 2015, 2:17 pm

          Hi, even with a sociology degree there are well paid jobs – like in market research for example.

        • Debbie M September 30, 2015, 5:25 pm

          My highest salary ever was 44K, with 27 years at the same employer. I had a BA in psychology and an MA in sociology. So 46 to 53 sounds awesome to me. (I do live in a real city, though not in one of the super expensive ones.)

        • Jason October 1, 2015, 6:59 pm

          Look into the insurance biz. My dad’s bud has his under grad in history and is an adjuster. I wanted to be a history teacher but all my history teachers were coach’s too. Blows dude, but underwater basket weaving don’t pay the bills. Computers or health is where the money is.

      • greg October 2, 2015, 9:50 pm

        as someone who still doesn’t have kids most of the way into bare-bones financial independence, I must say you’re right that it’s a LOT easier. Since I have started talking about kids and a place to settle down willingly where prices are pretty darn high, it does make me realize how much farther there is to go when adding all that on.

        I really admire your drive and attitude, and definitely sympathize even more now that some of the realities are hitting me in the face as I crunch numbers.

        But MMM-style, I’ll still have the opportunity to approach things from more of that “place of power” =)

    • MadScientist September 30, 2015, 12:22 pm

      Shit, yes! How DO you deal? I’ve been trying to figure this out for the past few years. My wife and I got married three years ago, we were both in our last year of school. We planned to have kids in 5-10 years. Instead, the statistically best birth control in the world FAILED and she got pregnant in 5 months.

      Thankfully my physics degree is highly employable and gave me a pretty solid starting salary, so I got a good job a few months before he was born, but it is SO. MUCH. HARDER. to save on one salary, with a kid already. Thankfully we’re in Quebec where daycare is heavily subsidized, so my wife working for minimum wage is actually better than nothing. She just started a couple months ago, so now we can save a lot more than before. Still not really early retirement territory though. More like “probably before my grandkids are in school” retirement. So any tips on income maximization with kids is desperately needed, I presume not only for me!

      • Thirty something October 8, 2015, 5:35 pm

        Do you mean 2nd best birth control? Last time I checked abstinence had a near perfect success rate.
        We are expecting baby #5 soon and with one income it slows things, but the little ankle biters are amazing. And even if we take longer, we are enjoying the ride. We did start saving in our 20’s though – against the advice of elitedaily. But I feel pretty good about that decision and our current trajectory.

        • Pat October 9, 2015, 6:14 am

          You did notice that they are married? Abstinence would not normally be considered a viable method of pregnancy prevention for a married couple. Not to mention (for those going that route) that “almost sex” has resulted in pregnancy, although rarely.

          It used to be that IUDs were only recommended for a woman who had already been pregnant, but there is a new one out that is OK for never-pregnant women. MadScientist didn’t indicate whether his wife had an IUD or was on birth-control pills (both are pretty effective, neither 100%) but they have options for the future.

          • Thirty something October 10, 2015, 3:53 pm

            I did and I wouldn’t expect married people to abstain. Just saying 99.9% effective still isn’t 100%. So they probably used the “second most effective” form of birth control based on numbers. I’m surprised at the number of our friends who have had similar results (eg pregnancy) despite 99.9% effective contraceptives. And others who have tried (lots of things) to get pregnant and failed. Didn’t mean to get off topic – just thought it was an entertaining aside. I’ll stop.

      • emily October 13, 2015, 4:49 am

        Perhaps you are looking at the wrong part of your retirement goal. Mustachian retirement is both Financial Independance and Free Time to do whatever you want.

        Your wife going back to work on minimum wage (I would say about 9 CAD dollars in Québec) and having your child in daycare (I think it is still 7 CAD a day) is, yes, economically justifiable.
        But since you decided to have a baby (accident or no, keeping a baby is a choice, so try to look at it in this positive lighting) you could decide to live your Free Time part of retirement now.
        You’ll get Financial Independance later, no ?

        As a disclaimer, I did realize my pregnancy too late for abortion anyway, but let’s say adoption could have always been an option, count out all emotion. (I didn’t count out emotion, I love my girl – plus I was in a relationship and 26, so realy I jumped in happily but this reader seems to feel caught in it… I’m just sayin’… babies are not a plague, they are something you willingly, -naively ! wink wink – take on )
        And because I feel like talking about myself, I got pregnant on the pill, with interrupted intercourse (that was a bad few month in my couple so i am absolutely sure this is the only reasonable non-alien abduction way I could have gotten pregnant ) – don’t trust natural or medical birth control people ;) !!!

        Back to the subjet, maybe you want to reevaluate your goals now that you have a family : perhaps the Free Time part of retirment is what is more apealing/needed right now, the Financial Independant part can come later.
        Perhaps your wife enjoys going back to work, I know I did for a few months, then ‘stash that extra as quickly as possible because shit gets old of course, and babies get sick often especially in daycare, and someone will be taking lots of days off, and employers might not like that, and one of you might start to feel guilty about not being 100% at work, or might feel guilty about not being 100% at home, you know…
        All is about attitude. If you embrace double work, child in daycare, embrace it fully. If you decide to have one worker bee at home and one outside, embrace it fully.
        Don’t make early retirement an extra weight on your young family.
        All the while, you can of course live below your means and save save save.
        Just don’t get blinded by FI just like others get blinded by new cars and granite countertops. What matters is living without regrets.

        For me, going back to work for minimum wage while having my baby away most of the (awake) day, just to stack money to be free from work in my 40s (when the child is 20) doesn’t sound great.
        She could (still) get any job at minimum wage when the child is 5 and goes to free public school, if she feels like me that the younger years are very important and fulfulling for the mother and child.
        I’m not taking into account compound interest of saving now rather thant 4 years from now a minimum-wage salary.
        If she had a career going like me, perhaps the choice would be harder because you can’t make up for lost experience or being out of touch for too long. Also the salary is often double or more minimum wage. What are the first years of a child worth ? Huge question.
        Do I want to take care of a child full time or do a grown-up job and feel good about myself that way? Huge/personnal questions !

        I can totally understand if the final choice is still her working and baby going to daycare.
        Just ask yourself the right questions, do I prefer FI or Free Time right now?

        Unfortunately I think that’s a compromise one has to make once you start a family.

      • KharymR November 2, 2015, 10:15 am

        If you watch a few of Tony Robbins’s videos you’ll hear him say how he promised himself to never have kids until he was financially secure, but things didn’t plan out as he’d hoped at the time and his wife became pregnant. He then wen’t from earning in the region of $30,000 to $1,000,000 within 12 months, and did consecutively for the next 7 years until he decided to increase it.
        Tony has really changed my perspective on certain things so I would definitely recommend his videos such as the ‘hour of power’.
        Hope things workout for your family :)

    • Jessica September 30, 2015, 1:04 pm

      For my husband and I it looked like this. Lots of tilting toward and then away from careers, and taking turns doing it. I make significantly more and have the more established career, so I’ve stayed working at some % the whole time.
      -The first couple of yrs after our first was born were hard. I traveled a lot for work (worked from home the rest of the time), he worked FT also.
      -after our 2nd was born, he quit his job and stayed home with the kids for a few yrs. We traveled for business as a family, often.
      -When our youngest reached preschool age, he went back to work while I went down to part time to support that change at home
      -I’ve now advanced in my career to a different role, and work completely from home. I have the flexibility–and choose to–work on east coast hours (I’m on the west coast)- so I work a traditional FT job, but am done by the time my older child gets off the school bus. In a year they’ll both be in school and we’ll have no need for afterschool care, ever. We choose to limit our kids’ activities so that most afternoons are slow-paced and child-led…..and we’re also not spending the extra money and feeling frazzled about the self-inflicted obligations.

      I didn’t get into the whole frugal lifestyle until after we already had kids and bought a (foreclosed, affordable) house, so it’s been a lot of “making do” with our choices thus far, and cutting costs in the obvious ways. But I feel like we’re reaching a good spot where our savings % will be able to take off and stay there permanently, while our income also just got a boost with me going back up to FT. I plan to put that on autopilot and evaluate the options in a few years…..at which time I’ll still be under 35. Bottom line- there are employers/lines of work out there that are more family-friendly and flexible, and actively pursuing those has been crucial to achieving a family/work balance we are happy with, while also maintaining both of our careers-which allows us to make/save more.

      • Mary-Ellen September 30, 2015, 2:42 pm

        I would love to hear more about how you were able to make career moves that complimented family time and minimized the need for child care. We are working on making a plan before kids come and it will probably involve a career change or two. And I am a bit stressed about making good decisions in that regard.

        • Jessica September 30, 2015, 3:45 pm

          I pursued a specific role within an industry, that I knew had homebased employees as a standard, and went from there (it also used my degree and I find it interesting/valuable, etc..). My husband still works in an office, but with more experience there are more flexible avenues he could pursue if he wanted. Going into a job search with an eye for options like telecommuting, flexible schedule, or part-time work are good ideas. Or, if you’re already established- presenting those ideas to your management (this has worked for both of us with our employers—there’s usually no harm in asking). And just to be clear—we have definitely needed childcare. :-) But being able to opt to work the early hours makes me more available to them, and reduces the cost, especially as we enter the school-aged years. We also didn’t hesitate to have my husband stay home when the childcare costs would have been eating up his take-home pay anyway–so I would say to keep an open mind to all the options and be willing to make changes as life changes.

          • Mary-Ellen October 1, 2015, 10:12 am


        • Ellen October 2, 2015, 2:53 am

          We started a business from home. I started it, my husband joined it after 3 years when it generated enough income (= equal to his full-time job). We both worked the hours the kids were at school, we alternated working when they were home. There were lots of late-night and weekend-hours involved, so be prepared to work hard! It took us almost 10 years to really get ahead, like: earn substantially more than my husband made on his job.

  • Penny September 29, 2015, 1:09 pm

    “Getting really difficult shit done, better than anybody else can do it.” That comment is everything. Of course networking and fostering relationships is important, but so is buckling down and getting to work. I have quite a few coworkers that seem to want to skate by throughout our 20s–and it looks like they’re having a great time–but I am confident many of them will be kicking themselves later on in life. Society excels at seizing the moment, and we suck at delayed gratification for the most part. There’s something to be said for balance, but ultimately, I want to do something today that I’ll look back on and be proud of.

    • Jim Wang September 29, 2015, 1:25 pm

      Networking is like marketing, you still need a solid product or you’re just spreading the word about how crappy of a product you have. Networking but not being able to do work, not that valuable. :)

    • Mike October 14, 2015, 8:38 am

      When I was 18, my high school chemistry teacher gave me one of the best pearls of wisdom I have ever received, as a send-off to college. He said “You can play for the next 4 years and work for the rest of your life, or you can work for the next 4 years and play for the rest of your life”. That has stuck with me ever since. It should be extended through your 20’s. This was the late 80’s, so the term “Mustachianism” hadn’t even been invented, but a lot of people were Mustachians.

  • Lucas September 29, 2015, 1:11 pm

    Way to lay the smack down! People don’t get paid based on the number of people they met and schmoozed at dinner parties. They absolutely get paid based on being able to solve problems, do things better, or see new opportunities better than others. Working hard while learning as much as you can is key. Exploring different experiences and viewpoints is invaluable. You can get this mostly free and you certainly can’t get it by doing what everyone else is doing.

  • Kathy September 29, 2015, 1:23 pm

    I’m in my early 20’s and most of my friends think like Lauren Martin. They think I’m weird for not wanting to live in DC where everyone else lives (in extremely expensive apartments), depriving myself of shopping sprees and for being excited about saving money. I think it’s weird that they are cool with living paycheck to paycheck, a 45 min commute and accumulating credit card debt. Difference of opinion I suppose.

    • Dj September 29, 2015, 1:40 pm

      Kathy, any suggestions for moving to DC? I’ll be moving from San Diego and working near the Kennedy center… Selling both cars and living in the city seemed like the best option, but maybe not?…

      • Kyle C September 29, 2015, 2:16 pm

        Dj, try it without a car for sure. Bike, mass transit & Zip car will get you around. Cheapest digs in DC are the proverbial group houses, but if you’re too old for that focus your home search across the river in Arlington. If you don’t mind a longer Metro commute try along the blue line in Maryland. My 2 cents as a DC oldster. Welcome and good luck!

      • Kathy September 29, 2015, 2:20 pm

        It depends on your price point and what kind of lifestyle you want. The Kennedy center is in Georgetown, notoriously expensive and not metro accessible. You could try Arlington, VA since it’s nearby, has an active night life and lots of young people in need of roommates- Still expensive, but you could rent a room under $1000/month there. DC is a small city so if you do choose to live in the city you don’t need/want a car (some of my friends use Zip cars/uber). We have the worst traffic in the US now so living close to work is ideal.

        • Runrooster September 30, 2015, 7:23 am

          Actually KC is a five minute walk from Foggy Bottom metro, and there are lots of students and youngsters to share with in that area or Rosslyn. If you work in the burbs, live there and commute in for the occasional evening, sure. But I was also spending crazy hours at work, like mmm says about being more productive in the early mornings or late evenings. Metro is great, but don’t expect to get anything done in packed train cars or half asleep mode. Subway is pricy too , so think about whether you want to pay $300 and 60 hours a month to save a few bucks on rent.

        • Andrew C September 30, 2015, 8:39 am

          The Kennedy Center is less than a 10 minute walk from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station.

        • Barb September 30, 2015, 6:39 pm

          What did I miss? This retiree used to walk from the metro to the Kennedy center all the time.

        • Kathy October 1, 2015, 9:31 am

          Sorry- I meant living in Georgetown (nearby neighborhood) isn’t metro friendly, not the Kennedy center.

      • Kris September 29, 2015, 2:32 pm

        Definitely sell the cars. I lived in DC (in the actual city) for 13 years without a car and managed to save well over half my not-so-large salary. I lived with roommates throughout my 20s and into my early 30s; in DC I found it to be normal and socially acceptable for people to share a house with roommates at practically any age. It is a very bike-friendly city these days too. Coming from San Diego you’ll probably be able to save even more than you do now. Apartment prices are leveling off too due to a combination of over-building in boom times and a gradual reduction in the Federal workforce and contractor spending.

      • Meg September 29, 2015, 2:35 pm

        Depends on your lifestyle, but there are also lots of group houses for young people! You can get a room in a house for $700-1000, easily. Look on Craigslist. Bus system is great.The Metro has had a lot of bad press lately but all in all, can’t complain too much about it. From a biking perspective, Kennedy Center is downhill from the rest of DC so it would be an easy bike commute! While having a car is nice for the occasional Costco run, parking is hard to find on the street and expensive in a garage, so I would recommend that you sell one or both of your cars. I use Car2Go (40 cents a minute) when I need to zip from point a to point b. I LOVE DC, hope you will too!

      • Meowkins September 29, 2015, 3:22 pm

        Hey DJ,

        There is a DC group of mustachians you can hook into on the forum. I agree with Kathy, your best bet is living in Arlington, VA if you’re going to be working at Kennedy center. The orange line near the Vienna end (Ballston, Courthouse, etc.) is likely your best bet – check out wmata.com. You could also check out Crystal City & Braddock Road for affordable areas near the metro, but I guess a slightly longer metro commute.

        I haven’t had a car for the four years I’ve lived in DC. I do have a zipcar subscription, but I could live without it if I had to. I think it’s doable and would save you a lot of money, especially if you chose to live 2-3 miles from the metro on a bus line.

        • Barb September 30, 2015, 6:47 pm

          Ill second arlington and Ballston. While I am not a twenty or thirty something, we lived in the DC area for over 20 years. In face we used to live in Alexandria and when we moved we moved in, rather than out. As a family with a teenager who drove, we had a single car. My husband biked to worth.

          I do need to add this, and it may apply to marrieds rather than young people. One needs to look at total costs when living somewhere. The DC area has high housing costs. However-there are more groceries per capita than anywhere else I have lived and high competition amongs stores. Loss leaders abound. As do thrift stores, yard sales and swap meets. There are free things to do almost every weekend (admittedly not bar hopping). My total lifestyle cost for a family was less in northern virginia than it is in Denver.

          • MacGyverIT October 4, 2015, 12:25 pm

            What is the tax rate in DC (10%?) versus the tax rate in Arlington, VA? Isn’t there VA state (~6%) and Arlington county (??) tax as well?

        • Zuai October 28, 2015, 1:05 pm

          I also work near the Kennedy center and live in Arlington, specifically off the Virginia Square Metro Stop on the Metro Orange Line. I’m actually splitting a room in a 2br with a friend for $500 a month which is dirt cheap but he is a friend so I’m not sure if you’d want to do that with a random. I could bike 3 miles to work but there is also bus and the Metro for under $6 a day to Foggy Bottom. I personally like this area of Arlington as it has some breathing room and a huge clean park nearby for sporting and such. Its also very safe and quiet at night compared to some parts of DC.

      • superbien September 30, 2015, 11:40 am

        Dj, focus on finding a place in Rosslyn and biking or metro’ing into work. The bike trails are epic in the metro DC area.

        In Rosslyn (a neighborhood of Arlington, called after the Rosslyn metro station, right across the river from DC) people tend to work more than live, so it can be way less expensive than in Courthouse or Clarendon (down the street), and very safe, and quiet.

        Be wary of anything in SW DC (Anacostia especially) – there are good areas, but you’re not likely to find them from fresh out of state. NW DC can be good, but expensive. I think Rosslyn reaaly is your best bet.

        The Arlington govt keeps a listing of apartments and proces, but also keep an eye on Craigslist.

      • Maggie September 30, 2015, 12:02 pm

        Dj, check out Mt Pleasant too. Great neighborhood with lots of group houses and shared apartments, and if you lived there you could bike-commute to Kennedy Center in ~20 minutes almost entirely on trails! See bikewashington.org for trail maps around the city. Also as you investigate neighborhoods don’t forget the bus system. It is cheaper than metro, reaches more neighborhoods, and will let you put your bike on the front if need be (whereas metro allows bikes only on off-peak hours)

      • Leslie September 30, 2015, 2:12 pm

        I have lived in Rockville MD for 3 years. Don’t live in Maryland on the north/northwest side of DC. Insanely expensive rents, housing costs, taxes, living expenses in general. If you don’t end up in DC (avoid SE DC, lots of crime there), Virginia is much better. For example, I pay 20 cents per gallon of gas extra over Virginia prices just across the river. Also, Rosslyn, Crystal City, and Arlington are much shorter commutes to DC. Takes me 35 – 45 minutes one way to Center City DC from my house on the Metro (unless the Metro is f***ing up as usual; then can take much longer); takes much longer to drive (a 2-hour drive to go 23 miles was common). $11+ daily Metro fare to commute. If you are young and single, live close enough to bike to work and you will save a bundle.

      • Dj September 30, 2015, 10:48 pm

        Thanks for the tips everyone–I’ve got a lot to think about!

      • Christina October 12, 2015, 4:59 am

        Living in the area around the Kennedy Center is expensive. Neighborhoods that are close by and affordable are Rosslyn (just across the Potomac, short walk to Georgetown, and a bike ride from the Kennedy Center around one Metro stop-), Glover Park north of Geowrgetown (need to use bus / bike to Kennedy Center), Cathedral Heights (need to use bus / bike to work), Burleigh (same here), Pallisades (same). Expensive areas are walking distance from Metro lines e.g. The red line corridor. You should probably avoid any place that requires you to switch metro lines down town during rush hour on your way to work. if you live in one of the leaflet neighborhoods parking is usually not a major concern, but around the Kenedy Center it’s difficult, so personally I would aim for a car free commute but would keep one to get to places around DC like national parks, beach, mountains, ethnic food markets, etc. Zipcar is expensive if you need it for a day more than once per month.

    • Meg September 29, 2015, 1:52 pm

      What’s so interesting about the Elite Daily article is that she is trying to tell us what our priorities should be. I follow MMM because it’s all about getting your priorities in line, and spending accordingly. Usually once you do that you realize you DON’T need lots of stuff, but treasure the occasional treat and the peace that comes with being mindful of what you are spending. I think you, Kathy, have different priorities than your friends and are more aware of what you truly value! Maybe you can spread some of your frugality to your friends… credit card debt is no joke. But overall good for you for knowing what you value and for spending accordingly!

      It’s funny that you mention DC, because I am in my twenties and I actually live in downtown DC! I value what the proximity gives me. I can commute to work via bike, am close to my friends, museums, nightlife, without having to own a car! But there are sacrifices, like having (lots) of roommates and having friends over instead of going out and paying $9 for a Miller Lite. But as I get older and my priorities change, maybe it will be time to adjusting my spending without losing sight of the big picture.

      Props to all the twenty-somethings who are seeing the light! And thanks to MMM for leading the way!

    • Woof! September 29, 2015, 2:19 pm

      I’m in the same boat. My coworkers at my last job would, in the same breath, lecture me about living life to the fullest because I only go out to lunch once a week, and then complain that they have no money to pay living expenses + student loans + car payments.

    • Renee May 29, 2019, 12:22 pm

      Kathy, how are you communicating these opinions to your friends? I’ve had such a hard time with peer pressure, going out with friends cause my friends arranged to go out for a special occasion, and living with regret for giving in every time. Don’t know if it’s one of those “no excuses!” sorta things.

  • Michelle September 29, 2015, 1:26 pm

    I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw this article. Of course, the first thing I did was scroll down to the comments. Thankfully EVERY single comment I saw, was criticizing the post.

  • Mechjaz September 29, 2015, 1:27 pm

    Sure, tell that to some people I know that are so eyeball-deep in car payments, they can’t afford to drive it anywhere (true story). Maybe it’s self-fulfilling Mustachian prophecy (or paradox?), but the person in my head was thinking along those exact same lines. “I need this! Having a car is supposed to be fun, first and foremost! I deserve this [multi-year arrangement in which I am charged to use my own money to pay for a new car, which is not new considering I drove it off the lot]!”

    He’s in his twenties. He and his wife are depressed and stressed all the time. Nothing a little good networking can’t fix, right? I’m sure if he had bought more $20 cocktails, he’d be in a different place. There’s so much wrong with the article in question I can’t even articulate all of my frustrations. Make your mistakes, be stupid, and learn from them. Don’t dig your heels in and fight for your stupidity, don’t try to justify it with some terrible, youthful hubris and worst of all, spread that attitude to other people.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a clown-car to sell, because I screwed up and I’m going to fix it.

    -A twentysomething

  • Dave September 29, 2015, 1:33 pm

    Great post. I appreciate you rebutting this “advice”. I wasted my 20’s financially, unfortunately, and I’m working on catching up. I’m still young enough to go ultra Mustache and retire by 40, but I don’t have as much energy to claw through Excel or keep up with the latest technologies. It’s just not as interesting to me anymore. I hope the 20 – somethings reading this post will think longer term than I did and realize if they save now, they can do whatever they want later and it’s not like you’ll feel too old in your 30s or 40s. Unless you’re still stuck in a cubicle!

  • Conor September 29, 2015, 1:34 pm

    I operate in that beautiful shade of gray. I’m young, I’m in DC, I make decent money. I spend a good amount, I save a good amount. I do pity the types working so hard they don’t have time to exercise or enjoy a few beers.

    Productive people find a way to be efficient so that they can accomplish a lot in a small amount of time. Hard work is not a great answer at any age. Some of the people who work the hardest never get ahead. Efficiency, charisma, and smart decision making are much more important than hard work.

  • luke September 29, 2015, 1:36 pm

    How can we discuss money making in your twenties with once mentioning graduate school? In my opinion, this is creation/investment but also causes lost years income. Even with many graduate programs offering stipends, participating in one means that you are foregoing a much higher salary for years while you invest in yourself – both financially and intellectually (more to life than money!). I think both this article and that which is critiqued do a terrible job by making cases for absolutes and assuming that all 20-somethings operate on stereotypes. Let’s be real. Not everyone who is poor in their twenties is that way due to $50 vodka runs. Instead, they might be stuck in a lab working towards a PhD while their former peers are in industry. It is not and never will be a one size fits all solution. I’m labeling both articles (especially the headlines) as clickbait.

    • Ramparts September 29, 2015, 3:06 pm

      Why does grad school have to cause years of lost income? You can go to grad school part time while working full time — no lost income and a nice salary bump when you finish.

      • BadMedicalAdvice September 29, 2015, 9:17 pm

        Please let me know what jobs you suggest I maintain while in the third and fourth year of medical school. Please let me know how many hours I should devote to my primary aim of becoming a competent physician and matching into my desired competitive specialty, and how many hours to devote to working part-time.

        I didn’t waste any time and yet I will be heavily in debt and starting to earn 100k+ in my 30s.

        PhD candidates in bench research are in a similar boat. If you spend 80+ hours a week in a lab it’s hard to imagine working a second job.

        • Ramparts September 30, 2015, 1:55 pm

          As I mentioned below, this can depend entirely on your field and what exactly you mean by “grad school”. For me, it meant getting a masters in computer science. For you it sounds like something completely different.

        • NJFP September 30, 2015, 7:36 pm

          I assume you are familiar with the White Coat Investor site, if not please check it out, it is critical for you at your stage. I graduated med school in 1997 with 186K in loans and a five week old baby, I am in Primary Care, my spouse (fellow med student) in Psychiatry. We spiraled deeper and deeper into debt over the years, between paying for daycare and then private schools grades 3-8 for our learning challenged child. Have lived modestly all along and bought a very cheap house in 1999 which rose in value and I was able to pay off Sallie Mae with a 2.89% interest rate heloc on the house, and I still has 163K left to pay back all these years later! Do whatever you can to eliminate that med school debt asap, it can trap you for decades. Geographic arbitrage is key, we are in NJ and on the low end of the pay spectrum for primary care, but I understand that some new FPs start at 200K out west. I know of a Surgeon/Dermatologist couple who got a 700K/year package from a hospital in North Dakota. Downside–they have to live in North Dakota, but will be rolling in it before long.

        • Døitashimashite October 1, 2015, 5:32 am

          For others who are considering the medical field, can I personally recommend looking into the whole wide variety of non-doctor medical specialties, such as medical physics? My wife got a Master’s from Emory, much cheaper than a medical degree. She doesn’t have a “Dr.” in front of her name, but she makes more than a lot of doctors, wears the white coat, and has probably more personal time with patients and control of their care than the assigning oncologists, who are running around doing paperwork.

          She’s recently “down-shifted” into two-day a week consulting, at $125/hr. She is VERY happy with her career choice.

        • The Vigilante November 16, 2015, 2:18 pm

          Your job, in the third and fourth year of medical school, is to learn to be a doctor. And to do it better than everyone else so that you earn scholarship money. And then to live incredibly frugally and, if you can, get a small part-time job as well.

          I finished law school in 2013 having spent $11-14k each of those three years while also working three jobs – one part-time weekend job during the year (full time during breaks), one as a research assistant to a professor, and one more part-time job when visiting family. It is possible, but not easy.

          I should add: You won’t get rich doing that. Even if school is entirely covered by scholarships. You may, if you’re incredibly good, break even. But you won’t get rich. I incurred very heavy student loans during my three years (combined with the four years of undergrad immediately prior) because all of my hours of work meant that I could only almost cover my $11-14k living expenses myself. I borrowed the entirety of the tuition, books, etc., and a little bit of my living expenses. So…yeah, my twenties set me back a bit. But because I took the advice people are trying to give you, I have around $50-100k less debt than my average peers. (Which is hilariously embarrassing when you consider that I owe more than 3X my annual gross salary, at the moment. I can’t imagine being the average doctor/lawyer/PhD)

    • nicoleandmaggie September 29, 2015, 4:40 pm

      I was going to make Luke’s point as well. Yes, many of our friends are now multi-millionaires from stock options during the dot com boom in their 20s, and we wasted that time in graduate school when we could have been getting ridiculously wealthy.

      But… I have a good life now. I have mad skillz. Being a professor is a lot like being productively retired (in that you work all the time on stuff you love doing that makes the world a better place). I’m a lot more useful to the world now than I was at 22. And I certainly would not want to be having babies during graduate school in my 30s when I could be done with graduate school in my 20s. It is also extremely unlikely that I would have had the earnings potential with my liberal arts degree that I have with my technical PhD, even taking into account compounding (investing what I could have made while in grad school from what I actually made…).

      As for working full-time while getting a PhD, you are not going to get out of a top 5 graduate school in 5 years while working full-time. And many scholarships preclude working more than part-time for the program itself. (RAing part time and doing a modicum of TAing makes sense, and one should never pay for a PhD, one should always be paid.)

      • Gyosho September 30, 2015, 7:43 am

        I mis-spent my 20s in grad school in the humanities, along with other slacker pursuits like traveling and writing novels. Although I didn’t make any money during that time, the good things that came out of it were:

        1. I learned to live well on an extremely small budget.
        2. I got comfortable being an outlier in terms of not owning a fancy car/house/passel of rugrats and in using a bicycle for my main means of transportation.
        3. I did not rack up a huge amount of student loans.
        4. Slacking lost its charms fairly quickly, and when I hit 30, I was ready to buckle down and do some real work.

        I am now in my early 50s and because of the frugal habits developed in my 20s, even though I didn’t earn any money during that time, I still am ready for FIRE. Indeed, I am the only person I know who could retire more than comfortably today.

        • tpkeefe September 30, 2015, 3:59 pm

          Your situation was somewhat similar to mine. Closer to age 30 is when I started to be able to do some real work. My heart was in it, but the circumstances were difficult — three recessions and 9/11 thrown in for good measure.

      • Ramparts September 30, 2015, 8:26 am

        Nothing wrong with going the full academic (PhD) route! I was thinking more in terms of those fields were a Masters is sufficient, like computer science. In this case, working full time while going to grad school for 2-3 years to get a masters degree is perfectly doable. MBAs are similarly achievable while working full time. But that definitely doesn’t apply to all fields of study!

      • tcmJOE September 30, 2015, 12:25 pm

        Yeah, finishing up my PhD here (was working full time). My feelings here are:
        1. Hey, at least I paid off all my student loans. Though it helped that I got a fellowship, lived pretty frugally (bike commuting all the time!) and otherwise was not too spendthrift.
        2. You can expect a decent bump in initial salary from work (http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/economics.cfm for my own field of physics). So it does help.
        3. It was worth it to me as a matter of personal improvement. I may not be getting rich compared to if I immediately jumped into the job market post-college (though one reason I went into grad school was to avoid dealing with job searching during the financial crash of ’08) but I feel like I’ve gained a lot of intelligence and knowledge of the world due to the experience.

        • tcmJOE September 30, 2015, 12:30 pm

          Just to clarify, was working ON THE PhD the full time.

    • superbien September 30, 2015, 12:31 pm

      Hmm, I call BS too. I worked my ass off when building my career, and my networking was done nights and weekends on proposals, and volunteering on industry boards and committees, and having lunch with co-workers (brown bag, food truck, or take-out, all the same so long as you get out). I think that boozing and schmoozing is mostly social, not networking, so let’s not mix up the two.

      As to losing time, I went to grad school on the weekends, while working full-time (plus proposals), and got an MBA in 2 years. My work covered half the cost while also paying my salary, and I paid off the rest of the debt. (it paid off in a big raise, and another even bigger one several years later)

      Am I retired yet? No, and I could likely be more frugal… but thanks to awesome bloggers like MMM and Simple Dollar and Budgets Are Sexy, I have no debt, lots of retirement savings, and a healthy savings account. Still have my share of crazy luxuries (big apartment, newish car, cute dresses and shoes, dogs, and baby on the way), but what a great life I have!

      Thanks to everyone for being such a great supportive community. I am so appreciative.

    • Meg September 30, 2015, 1:31 pm

      For grad school, at least for science, you don’t go to make more money. You’re not going to make more money doing public sector research or working as a professor – if you can find a tenure track that is. My husband went to grad school for physics, and all his HS friends didn’t do grad school. We’ll probably always be behind them financially, but that’s okay. Husband has his absolute dream job. He gets to do research full time, mentor both undergrad and grad students, and we get to travel a lot – we’re currently living in Germany for one year. Of course this means that a normal career is not really possible for me. So I’m mostly a SAHP and I do some stuff on the side, like getting paid as a native speaker to teach Germans advanced English. And that’s okay too – I worked a lot from the time I was 14 until 25 and half of our assets are in my name should we ever divorce.

    • Freedom35 October 1, 2015, 12:55 am

      Grad School: Some people retire at 30, that’s when other people finish school :)

      But it not that bad financially or personally, speaking from experience.

      US and Canadian science and engineering PhD programs pay you at least $25,000 / year to be there. (Someone can comment on other fields)

      The US median household income is around $50,000. That means a couple made up of grad students makes as much as the average household. You are getting paid decent money to do cool stuff in a field you love and hang out with smart people. What’s not to like about it?

      On top of that, it’s usually socially acceptable to be as frugal as you want and not care about the superficial stuff like status the person in the stupid article was talking about.

      What’s not to love?
      You get paid to have fun, work hard on interesting problems, make cool stuff and expand our knowledge of the world. I don’t think anyone is saying that is a bad way to spend your 20s..

      • nicoleandmaggie October 2, 2015, 10:29 am

        This was my experience as well (in economics, DH in STEM). But we were certainly not getting rich on 36K/year (which inflates to ~50K today). And we have non-grad school friends who were getting rich!

  • Patrick the Bold September 29, 2015, 1:36 pm

    Yay! One of my favorite blogs just dismissed an article from one the worst websites on the internet!! Thank you Mr. Money Mustache!

  • Adam September 29, 2015, 1:38 pm

    Well that was much more succinct than my response of sputtering dumbfounded and despairing at the future of my generation.

  • Adam September 29, 2015, 1:44 pm

    Great advice MMM.

    I think there’s a time and a place for networking, but in my experience it’s rarely particularly expensive. Those types of events are often free food. Buy a drink or 2 and you’re not racking up huge bills. And working hard is definitely going to get you further in your 20’s than just hitting up networking events. Best place to network is in your company.

    I did some dumb things in my 20’s (financing a car), but managed to save a healthy chunk of my income, take some great trips with friends, and have continued to bump that savings way up in to my late 20’s. There’s a lot of room to have a great life and save a lot. Blowing your whole salary is both unnecessary and stupid.

  • Zach September 29, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Great response article to that dreadful piece. Many others bit back a little too hard, and some swung too far in the opposite direction. But this focused on two important things: balance and foundation.

  • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 1:47 pm

    Wow. I’m almost speechless. The assumptions that underlie either side of this argument are simply mind boggling to me. The idea that anyone in their 20’s could even make $60k/year – let alone get a $60K raise really makes it clear that y’all are talking to the most privileged of the privileged! When I was in my 20’s I was battling major depression, trying to make it as a musician, fighting to hold down a part time minimum wage job, leaning heavily on Catholic charities for food, struggling to pay the rent each month, and feeling like each day that I didn’t open a vein was a major victory.

    I suppose my situation is a bit unique because there aren’t many Phi Beta Kappa graduates from elite universities who find themselves in my position – but the emotional damage of an extremely dysfunctional upbringing will do that. Nevertheless, it all put me in touch with a segment of society (aka the majority) that seems to be invisible to folks like you. The people I encountered in my 20’s didn’t have the luxury of fancy nights out on the town or retirement plans – most couldn’t even afford to see a doctor when they were sick! And while this may come as a shock, most weren’t getting help from their parents, in fact, most were trying to help their parents pay the bills!

    So I dunno… I mean, all things being equal, if you’re making a bundle of moolah in your 20’s I say save it rather than spend it. But perhaps while y’all are trying to make that very difficult decision between saving a million dollars and buying that new sports car, you might want to give some tiny thought to the millions of young people out there who don’t have the opportunities you do… who are working several jobs just trying to keep the wolves at bay. Maybe, just maybe if you can begin to comprehend the depth of your privilege, your decisions might get a little easier.

    Sorry for the snark, but posts like this really drive home how deep and vast the inequities of this society are.

    • Guest September 29, 2015, 2:07 pm

      You said it. I’m 32 and JUST hit the $40k mark last month. I work 60 hours a week, take care of sick parents, live in a cheap-ass dump listening to gunshots at night, save what little I can, battle depression, battle social anxiety, battle a heart problem that zaps much of my paycheck. Both sides of this argument are insane to me. You can’t win at life when life won’t let you.

      • EcoCatLady September 30, 2015, 12:50 am

        I hear you. But here’s the thing… it’s not impossible – I made FIRE at age 39 having never made more than $45K per year. It’s just not quite as simple as the “stop being a stupid idiot and sell the second Lexus” argument would make it sound.

        • wandergazer September 30, 2015, 1:03 pm

          Hi ecocatlady!

          What a refreshing comment. I am in my 20s still under 45k and being in the legal support staff field, the prospects are fair but not excellent. As in, I may get to 50k eventually/moving firms, etc. It is often disheartening to be on these online communities and see so many success stories but find out they are programmers or financial executives or have other high paying jobs.

          So I’m glad to see your comment! If you don’t mind sharing, did you do anything specific to achieve your target? Was your target around $1mm like many others?

          Thank you!

          • programmer October 5, 2015, 3:09 pm

            Please don’t be disheartened to hear the professions of those in success stories. I can’t speak to becoming a financial executive, but it’s really not that hard to become a programmer, especially if you’re only in your 20s. There are so many free resources online to learn, and community college to get a (cheap) credential if necessary. If your legal field isn’t lucrative or inspiring enough for you, put the work in over the next couple of years to learn a more valuable skill. You can do it! You’re not trapped in your current career track, you just need to believe in yourself. I wish you the best!

    • Danno September 29, 2015, 2:16 pm

      I agree with you. I grew up blue collar and it wasn’t a choice between saving and splurging.. It was 3 jobs, community college, and student loans. My last job paid for 1/3 of my Bachelor’s degree, so that counts for something. But yea, overall you are right.. People with money love to tel other people who WEREN’T BORN WITH IT how to fix problems they never had nor know how to fix.
      It’s like, Yea dude, we appreciate the advice, but you had parents with connections, upper middle class or higher upbringing, along with it the career networking and parental involvement, inheritance risk buffer, etc.
      My upbringing has led me believe that having kids or getting married is not, and never was an option for people like me. It still seems very true even in my 30s. Those things are reserved for people with money, and good looks. (Or people who make bad decisions, or who were never told how to NOT to make bad decisions, owing to the topic above about parental involvement.)
      I was scrubbing tables till 1am during highschool and college while other people I knew were partying and still ended up better off with me and have their own homes by now, etc. It pretty much always depends on where you start.

      • Danno September 29, 2015, 2:32 pm

        Given my situation, even so, I still believe that I am VERY “privileged” compared to MANY out there who had it worse. Yea I worked my ass off for nothing for years.. but I’ve had a good life, good health, a brain, etc. It truly is sad how good the few have it and how bad so many STILL have it, even in the richest parts of the world. Some of the US welfare policies help no one either.. They just hurt both the working class, and the poor. It rewards bad behavior and doesn’t help anyone, including the poor that collect it. I wish they would go to a system similar to Switzerland where EVERYONE gets a base “welfare”, even people who work. That way it’s fair to the people who work, and people who fall on (or were born into) hard times still have a buffer. Cheers

        • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 8:16 pm

          Agreed. I too count myself among the privileged here. I spent some time living in Norway, and they have a similar system to the one you describe in Switzerland. I think it’s a much more sensible system, and doesn’t foster the same sort of class warfare that we seem to have in this country. We tend to view social programs as some sort of a “handout” to the “less fortunate” which inevitably breeds an “it’s not fair” sort of discontent. Seems to me that we’d ALL be so much better off if we just considered things like health care, housing and food to be basic rights that were guaranteed to all citizens. The economy would be better off, the crime rate would go down, and people would be much less miserable in general.

          • Norm September 30, 2015, 8:32 pm

            Hear hear, ECL! So many politicians preach the gospel of “economic freedom” without realizing that that is meaningless to the lower half of earners. Where is the freedom when your paycheck disappears into food, shelter, healthcare and transportation? You don’t have a choice but to spend money on those things. Minimum wage isn’t enough to live on. In a real economically free society, those base needs are either already met for everyone publicly, or are subsidized. That’s how playing fields are leveled. Stop me before I get into our false notion of meritocracy. :)

      • Døitashimashite October 1, 2015, 5:45 am

        ” It pretty much always depends on where you start.”

        I have to confess, this makes very little sense to me or my experiences growing up in the US and personally knowing LOTS of immigrants who have come here and done really well for themselves….. lots of classic Horatio Alger types who had little in the way of status, connections, or money. They had brains, personality, and gave it the old college try. Now they send money home every month to their adoring parents.

        • lunanoire October 3, 2015, 12:09 pm

          Many immigrants who come to the USA may not have much money, but they have other great intangibles: a work ethic, business skills, and connections within their ethnic community. A person could come to the USA as a relatively poor STEM grad student and end up doing quite well. A person could also come to the USA and through their community, get help finding a job and a place to stay. They could also join one of their community’s savings clubs or go to a bank tailored to them. They could open a business tailored to their community, so having great English is not necessary. They could also receive business services from others in their community. The cohesiveness of these groups is not the same as being born poor in the USA to a poor family in a poor community. Heck, some of the poor immigrants to the USA are only poor because of exchange rates and grew up with private school educations and servants. They grew up feeling like they could achieve anything, which is not the message that poor people get when their family has been poor for generations.

          Effort and hard work matter, but so does being part of a cohesive, self-sustaining community that invests in its people.

      • Dee October 26, 2015, 8:24 pm

        Danno —

        It truly doesn’t matter where you begin. It does matter where you end up. That is the reason for MMM’s site here. He demonstrates how it can be done regardless of your income. It’s really about your out go. And your attitude.

    • Megan September 29, 2015, 3:50 pm

      I do see the point you are making and I think it is very valid. I do want to point out though that the target MMM audience is not the people who are working hard to barely make ends meet. Rather, he targets the middle-class, college educated people with decent jobs (or decent trade jobs for those who didn’t go the college route) and have money to burn after meeting the necessities. His message is that for many people in this country we can afford to cut out some luxuries and make more conscious decisions about how our money is spent in order to be in a significantly better position in the future. This is absolutely not true for everyone and isn’t meant to imply that anyone with a heartbeat can make $60K at age 22 and if you aren’t there is something wrong with you.

      • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 8:08 pm

        I totally get that, and I do appreciate MMM’s message. I guess it just shocks me that people making that kind of money would consider themselves “middle class” because I would consider them to be incredibly wealthy!

        • canadian05 September 30, 2015, 9:17 am

          Average household income is $72k and median is $52k. So a single earner household could easily be middle class while making $60k a year in the most strict definition. Although, it seems people usually refer to the middle class as anybody not in poverty but not especially rich. And I wouldn’t consider a 2 earner family making over $100k/year but with a negative or neglible net worth rich. They’re still placing themselves in the middle class.

          It’s possible for me to get a $60k raise if I can work my way into management or higher which isn’t out of the question. However, I’m still middle class until that happens if it ever would. I make less than the average but more than the median.

          That’s the boat I’m in until my wife is out of school. Then we’ll move from middle class to top 10% suddenly. But we’ll continue to live as efficiently as we can. Hence, reading on this blog.

          • EcoCatLady September 30, 2015, 12:27 pm

            Agreed… I think it was the $60K raise I was responding to. Seriously though, I’m just blown away by these salaries – from my perspective $60K is a salary an executive could get after many many years of work. I guess working in the non-profit music sector gives me a distorted sense of what “normal” is!

            • superbien September 30, 2015, 1:35 pm

              I agree that a 60% raise is crazy high, unless one is seriously underpaid.

              But I do also think your expectations are shaped by the non-profit world. In a major metro area on the East Coast, with a college degree, I would expect someone in an average big corp (not high end) to make $40k-$45k, entry-level; a mid-level manager $80-$120k, VP can be all over the map.

              That said, the absolutely most financially stable person I have ever known made barely $12k per year, in an expensive city. He knows how to live well, at well below the poverty line. There’s a lot of lifestyle inflation that sets in with bigger salaries.

        • James October 1, 2015, 1:55 pm

          They are actually middle class, though. The median American household income is 55k/y, and 60k/y personal income for folks with a bachelor degree 25+ (that’s roughly 50% of the country). So 60k/y is definitely not rich — it’s solidly middle class.

          Still want to acknowledge that being middle class is a privilege in and of itself, compared to the lives many people lead. But this kind of income is not so rare as you seem to think.

      • ceo September 30, 2015, 5:03 pm

        I think the principles of frugality and saving help everyone no mater what class or income level…:)

    • Diane C September 29, 2015, 3:58 pm

      Would it be fair, EcoCatLady, to ask you to be responsible for the choice that you made to become a musician? A lot of people do shit they don’t especially love just to get ahead in this world. Don’t mistake this comment for lack of sympathy, but you seem to be asking for some kind of exemption because of your chosen career path.

      Your closing comment perplexes me “…posts like this really drive home how deep and vast the inequities of this society are.”

      Hmmm, can you name a modern society that is not inherently inequitable? What’s cool about ours is that hard, smart work can be rewarded. A person’s “place” in this society can change based on the value of their contribution, not just the color of their skin or their parent’s level of achievement. Sure, there’s an element of chance and some begin with more than others, but there are also many opportunities for success.

      It seems to me that it’s an easier path through life to figure out what things society rewards and exploit that knowledge to achieve your own goals. If your passion does not pay, do it on the side until you can FIRE and then do it all day, every day if you wish. That’s the whole point of mustachianism.

      • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 7:44 pm

        To be clear, I count myself among the privileged here. For me personally it wasn’t a choice between making a lot of money or doing something I loved – it was more of a “find some path that will allow me to not make the vein-opening a reality” sort of thing.

        But I was mostly referring to the many people I met along the way who simply don’t have the opportunities that the somewhat (pardon this term) “spoiled” readership of this blog seems to take for granted. I’m thinking of one girl who answered phones at the music school where I worked – she was putting herself through college, working 2 jobs and trying to help her family. She got talked into co-signing a loan so her mother could get a car. Then when her mother defaulted on the loan we were left with no choice but to follow a court order to garnish her wages. She quit shortly after that because, really… what’s the point in working your ass off when you don’t even get to keep the money?

        I guess I just think that is’t really easy for people in a position of privileged to toss out the “work hard and you’ll be rewarded” card without realizing that many, MANY people around them are trying to run the same race they are, only they’re starting from about 50 miles back with a 100 pound weight strapped to their backs.

        And, for the record, I reached FIRE at age 39 having never made more than $45K/year in my entire life.

        • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 7:46 pm

          p.s. Pardon my typos… guess I type too fast when I get worked up!

        • jlcollinsnh September 29, 2015, 8:34 pm

          But the girl you describe didn’t start from about 50 miles back with a 100 pound weight strapped to her back.

          She started from exactly the same place I did: Working multiple jobs to put myself thru college.

          The difference is she stopped along the way and voluntarily strapped that 100 lbs pound weight on her back in the form of co-signing her mother’s loan.

          Her hard times have nothing to do with the “inequities of this society” and everything to do with the irresponsible behavior of her mother.

          And the point of continuing to work is to pay the debt she voluntarily co-signed for, to put the mistake behind her and to move on with a hard earned lesson under her belt.

          • EcoCatLady September 30, 2015, 12:48 am

            Well, I would argue that coming from a family where your mother would pressure you into cosigning a car loan when you’re 20 years old is the equivalent of a 100 pound weight. Seriously, how many of us can truthfully say that we would refuse a parent who asked us something like that? I neglected to add that her parents were immigrants who had limited opportunities because of language barriers and societal prejudice.

            It’s not just about “working your way through college.” It’s all the other stuff – like battling social and racial stereotypes, like not only having a family who cannot help or support you, but one who is actively dragging you down, whether by fault or by situation.

            I’m not saying that people like you didn’t work hard to get where they are, I just think the whole “level playing field” thing is a convenient story we tell ourselves because we really don’t want to face the fact that we are infinitely more privileged than a lot of other people out there.

            • jlcollinsnh September 30, 2015, 10:52 am

              We agree her mother is the problem. :)

              But not because her parents were “immigrants who had limited opportunities because of language barriers and societal prejudice.”

              Not all, or even most, immigrants respond to those challenges by burdening their children.

              Here is a story of another daughter of a immigrant mother:


              Be sure to check out the mother’s story in Addendum #2

              These are not people who enjoyed any kind of a level playing field. Rather they spent their energy focused on building success regardless of the field.

            • EcoCatLady September 30, 2015, 12:31 pm

              I’m not saying it can’t be done. What I am saying is that there seems to be an idea out there that people like her somehow “deserve what they get” because of their parents. But even if her mother was just an irresponsible idiot, how is that her fault?

            • jlcollinsnh September 30, 2015, 1:54 pm

              The decisions we make in life have consequences.

              Growing up with an irresponsible mother and failing to recognize that has consequences.

              Co-signing a loan for an irresponsible person has consequences.

              Quitting your job to avoid responsibilities you voluntarily took on has consequences.

              She is not alone in this. We all make mistakes and those mistakes have consequences.

              Those who accept responsibility, correct the mistake and learn from it benefit from the experience and they can take pride in the hard earned lesson under their belt.

              Those who insist “it’s not my fault” or who listen to those who say “it’s not her fault” are condemned to continue to repeat them and to miss the valuable lessons facing and correcting mistakes can offer.

              It is not a matter of saying they “deserve what they get” it is a matter of understanding that not accepting responsibility is a path to a very ugly place.

            • Arianne July 15, 2016, 9:02 pm

              My parents were also immigrants who had limited opportunities because of societal prejudice and “accent” barriers (is what I would call it not really language barriers). They were well educated, hard working middle income earners in a 3rd world country where I grew up. Then, they moved our entire family to a first world country so their myself and my siblings could have better opportunities. Because they weren’t able to break through the prejudice, etc., they got automatically got demoted to below middle class. I, too, am an immigrant who has an “accent barrier” and society probably prejudices me as a female and not of Caucasian descent. I started like the person you described. However, my parents, (I love them very much and currently am working my way to financial freedom and increased wealth so I can support them through retirement), weren’t the most financially savvy individuals. I was somehow blessed to be frugal and a hard worker. At the age of 17, when my parents insisted that they were going to take out a car loan, I LOANED THEM 10k myself. I earned that money from a minimum wage part time job while I was in high school, while also contributing to the house bills, and a small side online hobby/business. Right now, I am 25, have about 300k in net worth, and am working towards 1m in the next few years. I started like the person who you mentioned. So if you want to equate it to a 100 pound weight, sure. But I did it, and so can she, if she wants to. And this website is a great place to actually grasp the basics of being financially intelligent which is a prerequisite to any long term wealth generation/preservation.

          • ams October 1, 2015, 12:33 am

            The concept of working to put oneself through college is something I find interesting. People throw this phrase around, but it means very different things for different people. For some, working your way through college is a brief period of relative scarcity between the financial security of ones family, and the promise of security with new credentials. For others, it is a continuation of the grinding poverty of their home of origin. There is no sense of certainty that it will lead out of poverty. I guess I’m pretty sick of people from middle class backgrounds referencing their college years as their “poverty experience”. It’s not the same at all. (Don’t know if that’s what you are doing, it just brought up this issue for me).

            • Miri October 1, 2015, 7:59 am

              Yeah, that “poverty experience” thing annoys me. My standard of living went up a lot when I moved out of my parents’ home and started living off of student loans, scholarships, and part time work. I could not empathize with the students who had as much money as I did, or more, and thought this was somehow a hardship.

              (Not saying you can’t be poor in college. Just that some of the people who think they are…maybe need a reality check.)

              I was an idiot and lent money I couldn’t afford to lose to my family too. I did eventually get it back, but it could have gone the other way, and it was really stressful. Definitely a lesson learned.

    • SteveC September 29, 2015, 5:40 pm

      MMM’s message at at least in part to face punch people for complaining about how difficult life is with what should be consider a generous surplus of money compared to the majority of the country.

      Granted it does not put any of us in touch with what the less fortunate population has to deal with. So I guess I could see how all this debating and discussing decisions like these seem kind of surreal and stupid for those who have known real struggle. Not can I afford private school or another new car kind of problems.

      • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 7:59 pm

        I hear you , and I heartily approve of that aspect of MMM’s message. I guess part of my point is that those making under $60K are not the “less fortunate” – they are the majority. The median household income in this country (the US, that is) is just under $52K. I guess I just chafe at the assumption that anybody not “getting rich” in their 20’s is some sort of spendthrift slacker. Not saying that it’s not possible to reach FIRE on significantly less money because I did it, I just think that there are a LOT of whiny-pants people out there who have NO idea how good they’ve got it!

        • superbien September 30, 2015, 2:47 pm

          Yeah, the title pissed me off a bit too, then I realized that he was mirroring the other article’s title, and trying to provoke comment. Even with my privileges of stable family and good education, I spent my 20s working really hard, and the rewards didn’t come until my 30s. There were a lot of “why the heck am I working so hard again?” days, and “how the heck do I pay these medical bills?” days. My 20s were a foundation, but certainly not a time to be rich.

        • Emmeline October 1, 2015, 12:08 am

          I am really glad you are making this point. I have started reading these blogs and chafe at the privilege implied. But I keep reading because I want to learn those things that my parents (who have spent most of their lives in financial insecurity) weren’t capable of teaching me.
          MMM seems to have some blind spots — I bawked at the idea that it is de rigour to have children no earlier than your thirties — but what’s good is that the comments section here is so good.
          On a similar note, I felt a bit crappy reading this post because I am 27 and have no savings to speak of, but it’s because I have been studying since I finished high school. So I have never even earned a minimum-wage full-time job (which to be fair is much higher in Australia where I am). But reading the comments I can see that the attitude of frugality I have already fostered is helpful as I look to having a full wage. So the challenge from reading these kinds of blogs is to move towards an attitude of saving and investing, instead of living from paycheque to paycheque, as I have been doing as a matter of necessity.

    • Gerard September 29, 2015, 6:37 pm

      I also spent my twenties (after getting an undergrad degree) trying to make it as a musician, working part time, barely making rent, and never thinking about retirement. And of course hanging out with people without privilege, because I was one of them. Luckily for me, I didn’t have the depression to worry about… none of those other things in themselves contribute to vein-opening.
      But even then, I had the live-on-less make-ends-meet fun-for-free attitude that paid off in spades when I went back to school, upgraded my skills, busted my ass, and became a professional. Half my life below the poverty line, and now in the top 10 percent.
      That’s the cool/useful part of all this, I think — kicking ass when you have nothing and kicking ass when you have everything but are tempted to piss it all away actually seem to call on the same mindset and skill set. It’s just stunningly easier with everything, which is why those people get the lion’s share of the ridicule on here when they suck.

      • EcoCatLady September 29, 2015, 8:26 pm

        I hear you, and I totally agree that living on less will serve people equally well at all ends of the income spectrum. I think perhaps part of my reaction to this post is the title, because from my perspective “getting rich” is not a lofty goal to which we should all aspire. I mean, I get that it resonates with the majority of people in this society, but I guess I just see the pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake to be a morally questionable objective, especially in a world where there are so many who really, truly are struggling. It seems to me that we’d all be better served if our society celebrated “enough” to the same degree that we celebrate excess.

        OK ’nuff said… perhaps I’ll go listen to some Bernie Sanders speeches now! :-)

        • Gerard September 30, 2015, 5:10 am

          That would be awesome, just to make the point: “Coming up next, a profile of Carlos Relatively Slim, the world’s Enoughiest man!” :-)

        • Old Lady September 30, 2015, 7:32 pm

          Until I made an excess amount of money, I was not able to give money to causes I believed in. I came from poverty stricken immigrant parents, paid my own way through college and grad school and worked like the proverbial dog so I could retire at 50. Until then, I contributed time but no money to various causes. Now it gives me great pleasure and I hope helps others to give money to non-profits that do work important to me. If I had lived my life a different way, I would not have money to contribute.

          My inspiration was a guy and his wife who worked in a construction business and squeezed every bit out of every penny and lived extremely modestly…so that they could reach what they felt was God’s plan for them—to retire at 45 and adopt several special needs children who were so disabled that they required round the clock care. They had the money to hire a nurse to be there at night when they slept (two of the children required having their throats aspirated every hour 24 hours a day). They both felt that they were called upon to work as hard as possible so that in their late middle and old age they could care for children who were languishing in hospitals or foster home after foster home. I wish I were as giving as they are!

          • Fargles October 5, 2015, 5:15 am

            That is beautiful. Yes, I hope that if I can reach FI, after paying off my student loans, I will then have the means and freedom to be able to really contribute something to those who need it. It’s interesting to compare a normal working life to the religious life, where people voluntarily give up all the extras in advance, and hardly need anything to live on. They are able to dedicate almost all their time to helping others (by prayer or by service) while others make relatively small donations to promote what they are doing. When I look back at the last few years where I was unemployed or underemployed, I used a ton of resources and still wasn’t able to make it on my own, because “modern life” isn’t set up for people to live a low-cost life without making some unusual choices. (I think of cultures where it’s normal for families to pool resources.) But it’s nice to look ahead to a time when in spite of all that I might be able to really give generously.

        • Dee Smith October 26, 2015, 8:41 pm

          You know, I have to ask this. How long have you actually been reading MMM? Do you realize that MMM is not talking merely about money when he speaks of riches? Have you bothered to read his posts on the “riches” of spending time with his child, his wife, working on this blog, working on projects that mean something to him more than a paycheck, spending time working on his families homes?

          Respectfully, I call your comments here morally questionable. Yes, there are many, many people who are struggling. I think that MMM’s blog DOES celebrate “enough” and perhaps you have been temporarily blinded to that fact. Read over the archives, because I don’t think you are at all getting what this is about.

    • Me September 30, 2015, 7:37 am

      Privilege sometimes has little to do with it. My family was on welfare as a kid, and I worked hard in high school and college (I did luck out and get to go to a good public high school). I had a six figure job in IT by my early 20’s. People who get somewhere in life aren’t just “privileged.”

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 30, 2015, 9:34 am

      Well said, Ms. Eco Cat, but remember we are having this discussion on the Mr. Money Mustache blog. It is specifically targeted at people who tend to make above-average incomes and might otherwise spend it on bigger houses and cars until it was all gone. It’s an anti-consumption blog for ecological reasons, rather than a social equality blog.

      At the same time, I find it is helpful for everyone to hear about higher incomes and realize they are out there. It is hard to make a six figure income in your 20s if you are dead convinced that it cannot happen. On the other hand, I know a good number of people who have hit the SEVEN figures before 30 now.

    • superbien September 30, 2015, 12:42 pm

      That’s really valuable perspective, thank you. You are right that a lot of people pretend that their success is innate, rather than acknowledging how many advantages have been handed to them. I will put my hand up here, I’m so fortunate in what advantages I was given. The thing that is so frustrating is seeing other people with those same advantages wasting them, through their own decisions.

      But you’re right, illness and disadvantage can just snowball and make hardworking people, with heads squarely on their shoulders, still struggle and *hard.*

      I have several friends and relatives who literally have to save up resources and energy to shower, or leave the house… That sucks, and a lot of the “hey, try this” advice is just insulting to someone trying to find the spoons just to get through the day.

    • Eliza February 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

      In NYC the cost of living is so high that increasing your salary by $60k before you turn 30 is not rare. A starting salary for an NYC public school teacher (notoriously underpaid field) is $49k. Most people I know in Accounting, Computer Science, Finance (average Finance position not lucrative Investment Bankers) were offered a $60k salary straight out of college. The firefighters and police officers I know in the city who are in their late 20s are making close to 6 figures with their overtime and their starting salaries are around $40k.

      The cost of living just eats into all of these salaries. I’m not talking about living the treat yo self life that the Elite Daily author described but just paying rent, commuting ($121 a month for the privilege of using the subway that is constantly breaking down) and groceries is grossly expensive compared to the rest of the country. Also, the expectations at work for many white collar industries in NYC is that 12 hour days are the norm so these salaries aren’t handed over with ease. Sinatra is still right when he said “if I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere”

      Average apartment rent prices by borough (includes housing that take over and hour to commute one way to Manhattan and housing in awful neighborhoods). This is from a 2016 Douglas Elliman report.
      Manhattan: $4,044
      Brooklyn: $3, 045
      Queens: $2,992
      Bronx: $1,700
      Staten Island: $1,500

      I live in NYC and I could focus on how hard it is to get by here, having to walk everywhere, carry my laundry for blocks, and the old walk up I live in but I am focused on the MMM way by stashing as I work my butt off, investing where I can, and starting a side hustle for extra money. You should stop playing the victim and see what you can do with your situation because at the end of the day, no one is going to change your situation but you.

  • Jackelope September 29, 2015, 1:49 pm

    Just yesterday, I was reading your blog and thinking “But….but what if I spend massive quantities of money to fit in with fancy folks and thereby earn recognition and a pay increase??” This article sums up all the reasons that line of reasoning won’t add up. Thanks for the timely post MMM!

  • Mick September 29, 2015, 2:02 pm

    This post is Money. Another must-read article for my 22,20,& 16 year olds. My preaching goes over better when I have a collaborative article to point to:)

  • jlcollinsnh September 29, 2015, 2:02 pm

    Ms. Martin’s article is one of the most misguided I’ve read in some time.

    The core mistake she makes, of course, is conflating spending money with happiness and life satisfaction. And to suggest that when you are young is the only time you have to enjoy life.

    On my own blog I routine hear from people in their 30s, 40s, 50s+ who lament not starting on the path to FI in their 20s. Never once has anyone who did, said they wished they’d squandered more.

    My prediction: in 10-20 years Ms. Martin will be writing about how unfair the system is and how it is just not possible to get ahead anymore. She’ll have a large audience of those who followed her advice in this article.

    Here’s my advice to my own 20-something kid: http://jlcollinsnh.com/2013/06/04/my-path-for-my-kid-the-first-10-years/

    If she follows it, she’ll have an outstanding career and an ever more powerful financial position that lays ever more freedom and opportunity in her path.

    Ms. Martin will be sure to chalk this up to the unfairness of luck.

    But what do I know? I’m one of those irrelevant parents unworthy of a hearing.

    • Bryan September 29, 2015, 2:34 pm

      You are absolutely dead on with this comment: “On my own blog I routine hear from people in their 30s, 40s, 50s+ who lament not starting on the path to FI in their 20s. Never once has anyone who did, said they wished they’d squandered more.” As a 50 something, I hear many of my coworkers concerned about the next round of layoffs. This is all due to lack of planning and no net worth. Disturbing!

      The key is finding out a way to have some of these experiences without the expense. It is possible with some creative thinking and recognizing it is a losing proposition to keep up the “make believe” lifestyle with our peers. This turns into a spending arms race – with retailers as the only winners.

      It is much better to be the smart worker looking to deliver quality work and ideas. The focus should be on building your income while minding the expense.

      • nht October 17, 2015, 12:40 am

        I’m 50 and I wish I had both squandered more AND saved more in my 20’s. I’d like to have blown more money on loose women, fast cars and foreign travel AND bought some shares of Apple. No regrets though. Life’s been good.

        What Ms. Martin wrote is one extreme of the spectrum: work hard, play hard, save nothing. Burn the boats. Make more money.

        This blog preaches the opposite save hard, work hard, play frugal and sell the boats.

        Offense vs Defense. A penny saved vs two pennies earned.

        And the piece of advice that her successful friend gave her is correct for someone in their 20s: Make more money. In your 20s you can afford to work long hours and take risks in pushing your career or starting your own business and risking your last dime. $60K raise is not the goal. It’s peanuts.

        For someone in their 20’s “Burn the boats”, all offense, no defense is an acceptable strategy.

        That isn’t exactly what Ms. Martin is suggesting but her friend is with their advice.

        And given some of the success stories here, you can completely blow all your money when you are 20 and STILL be a prodigious saver later on and STILL achieve financial independence and an early retirement. So you lost 10 years of compound interest…once you reach 25 times your annual expenses you’re golden right? So what if you reach that at 55 instead of 45? Trading 10 years between living the NY lifestyle Ms Martin wants between 20 and 30 vs working that soul crushing but reasonably well paying job between 45 and 55 is a reasonable trade. And what the heck, you might like your soul crushing job.

        The key is still to reduce expenses down to $25K/year target as you hit that $500K asset mark with zero debt.

        There’s more than a bit of arrogance here regarding other folk’s lifestyle choices. Financial Independence is dependent on many factors outside our control. A significant change in global economics (say due to climate change) or personal situation (say due to cancer) could make many of our savings axioms false and 25x our annual expenses too little to insulate us from financial ruin.

        Doesn’t keep me from saving but I remain well aware that it could all go away that moderation in everything, spending and saving, seems the best course.

  • Matt R September 29, 2015, 2:04 pm

    I found the article true and on point. At 47 I did focus on work and advancement. I never turned down overtime and saved and invested all I could. Today the 20 somethings do have it harder but there are jobs to be had and if you work hard I know there is advancement still. One just needs the work ethic to do it. I never made that great of money top $46K average $35k. I could of made more but found the BS in the job place was NOT worth it to me so I focused on financial freedom. I achieved that in my early 40’s but kept full time until 46. That was when the boss got to be too much. Now at part time on my terms and financial free fellow coworkers are not mocking me about being cheap. So my take is that MMM is saying balance fun and work. He’s spot on your 20’s is the time to work because ALL jobs get old. Why does everyone spend themselves into slavery of a job?

    • tpkeefe September 30, 2015, 2:07 pm

      “Why does everyone spend themselves into slavery of a job?”

      A lot of it has to deal with conditioning to be working in jobs. This happened to me because of my parents, who were also trained to go to work at a job instead of doing something else, like building a business. Back then, the economy was a lot better so their material wants were satisfied early on, and they could have two kids on a lot less money than you need now.

      When I was in school, there was no education on how the economy and businesses really work. It wasn’t the mind-fuck that’s now going on in public schools, especially, and, rather, it was core liberal arts training, which trained me how to think. It was college preparation. I then went through college with the idea that it didn’t matter what I majored in because companies would take you and train you. Those days are long gone. Sad for those that don’t have the in-demand skills at the right time.

      What you say about BS is very clear to me — and I encountered this early on in my working life. I still have scars from it because I did Joe jobs where my co-workers were limited and they resigned themselves to their fate.

  • Danno September 29, 2015, 2:08 pm

    I fall somewhere in the middle..Age 31.. Save about 30% of my income, live with a roommate (I want to get out of that situation ASAP), drive an ’09 midsize sedan once in a while (I live in the city, so it doesn’t get much use.. maybe twice a week at best). I’m working on finishing up the last few licenses in my quest to become a professional pilot, which is where a good chunk of my money goes. I don’t want kids. ever.
    Net worth over 110k, 0 debt. I don’t think I’m doing bad aside from still renting. I know that’s a whole other topic, but if home ownership was bad, people with money (Including MMM) wouldn’t do it. I’m a resourceful person who can fix issues myself (car problems, house, etc.), so that would help I’m sure. The problem is my job, family, and friends live in this area (Philly) where the cost of living is too high. Anyway, I’m nowhere near Financially Independent, but at the same time I’m not worried about money since I’m not in debt and have a decent sized retirement fund going. Perhaps a balance like this or even a bit more frugal than me is a good goal for most people? I go out to eat and go out for beers at least once a week and I don’t feel like that’s going to affect my future a great deal. I know the math behind it, but c mon, you gotta live life outside of your house and neighborhood at least once in a while.

    • Garrett September 29, 2015, 3:24 pm

      I think home ownership is good or bad depending on where you live. It should be more of a financial decision and less of a emotional one.

      In some parts of the country, it works out to be cheaper on a monthly basis to rent and in some places it’s cheaper to pay a mortgage.

      One downside to consider before buying is that a house tends to cause you to be “stuck” to a particular location which could be a negative if you need to move once you finish your pilot’s license.

  • Laur-ass September 29, 2015, 2:22 pm

    As a mid-20s Mustachian, this really hit home for me. However, how am I supposed to have time for “training your body and mind in your off hours so that you can perform better than anyone else in the on hours” if I am staying up til 2:30 AM sending emails and then being at work at 6 AM?! I like the general spirit of the post, but I would gladly forgo a $60k raise if it means I can have some semblance of a life outside of work.

  • James Roloff September 29, 2015, 2:40 pm

    As somebody who just turned 25 yesterday (happy birthday to me), I can say I see this all around me.

    I have friends ranging from mid-twenties to thirties, and it’s blatantly clear as to who is financially responsible, and who is not. But here is the kicker… despite the vast differences in savings rate and incomes, we all are out doing the same things. We are all out enjoying a few craft brews, getting away for a weekend trip, etc, etc. But some are financing everything they do, and some are budgeting their activities with cash.

    Income really isn’t the issue here either. I know people in our circle who are making less, but saving more, and still living the same fulfilling life.

  • EL September 29, 2015, 3:40 pm

    Yeah that article is trying to get massive clicks and gives horrible advice. If you start early the compounding effect works wonders, and young people need to learn and understand that concept. I started my IRA at 19 and I don’t regret it, and I had tons of fun.

  • Megan September 29, 2015, 3:43 pm

    Thanks for this rebuttal. I admit that reading the comments section of personal financial articles usually leaves me angry or depressed, but reading the comments posted to this click-bait left me with more faith in humanity than I had before.

    The similarity between college and work in your 20s struck me just recently. Whereas others view college as the time to party and have a great time, I viewed college as the time to work my bums off. It mostly sucked but that was an investment in my future worth making. Similarly, the first 10 years of my career have been hard work (though not as much as college!) where I make my mark, and establish my reputation. Now that I am almost 11 years in, married with a kid, I can (relatively speaking) kick back and rely on my reputation to pull me through the days when I show up to work half crazy from baby sleep deprivation or spend my afternoons commenting on websites like this one. :)

  • Heather September 29, 2015, 4:11 pm

    The problem I have with this is that I’m not in my 20s. Better late than never–and I wasn’t so bad in my 20s anyway. Anyway… check out these ridiculous tips for getting rich http://www.businessinsider.com/actions-to-get-rich-2015-9 I’m not sure jumping out of planes is going to get me to my goal of early retirement. Even if it would, I don’t think I’d do it.

  • Stephen September 29, 2015, 4:16 pm

    I wish I felt more motivated to work hard at my job… I’m 23 and have an engineering job in the DC area. I like my job alright, and do it well, but don’t always feel like I have the drive to go above and beyond like you mention in this article. I don’t have many friend either, so it’s not like my social life is preventing me from working harder.
    I’m not sure if this means I should get a new job, or if I’m just lazy and need to apply myself more. Luckily I still live at home and am able to save the vast majority of my mid-five figure salary.

  • Tonya September 29, 2015, 4:17 pm

    Ooh I can’t wait to re-read this at a deeper level and also read the original article. As someone in my mid (good lord) 40’s now I can see a tiny bit of both sides. Although I definitely lean towards MMM…of course if you would have had me give my opinion when I was in my 20’s. It seems that most people live life in pyramid style instead of more of an inverted pyramid style. Most of the good foundation for life should be laid down in your 20’s because that will set you up for SO many more good habits and a good financial life. But youth is often wasted on the young and people of that age generally do not set up a solid foundation. I did not. I did, however, set up a healthy foundation, and I know that has paid off 10 fold as I look at my non-healthy counterparts. And then it gets tougher to develop those good habits later in life. I did not do that with my finances, and yes, it is WAY tougher to make it up later in life. AND..retirement is that much closer…or much later…depending on how you look at it.

  • Luke McCarthy September 29, 2015, 5:21 pm

    I’m in the last few months on my 20s, so for me it’s a time to look back and contemplate. I didn’t get my financial act together until the last couple of years so I somewhat regret the wasteful years where I also missed out on the amazing post-2008 US stock bull market (my portfolio is currently worth less than the cash I put in, but of course that is a longer-term concern…) I did not waste money on partying since I’m an introverted shut-in, but I had my days of living paycheck-to-paycheck buying what I now see as worthless junk.

    Earnings-wise I’m doing a lot better than average for a person in the UK of my age, it’s hard to be a programmer and not earn well, but I could probably earn a lot more if I hadn’t stayed in the same job treading water for the last 7 1/2 years. My savings could be a lot worse, but they could have been several times better had I learnt the basics a few years earlier.

    My life satisfaction is quite low but I don’t think an extravagant lifestyle would have made me any happier. I still live with my parents, so in many ways I feel like my life has been on hold. I don’t think I could stomach taking on mortgage debt with property prices propped up as they are for fear of negative equity, but I also don’t want to give up my high savings rate (~75%) to rent an apartment and live alone. It’s a dilemma I see no way out of for some years to come.

    • eddy October 1, 2015, 5:11 am

      Savings rate of ~75%, you’re doing well fella, keep that up for a few more years then head up to the north of the UK and pick up a house for £50k (Ilkeston, in derbyshire for example, it’ll be a laugh, trust me), then live your life doing what you want (you’ll be FI but no doubt can pick up some remote working if you want to). You’re right to be worried about the UK housing market, it’s a trap (especially SE). Enjoy, things are looking good for you.

  • Student Loan Stomper September 29, 2015, 6:23 pm

    This post is so relevant to me right now. I have been getting a lot of “live while you are young” comments lately. I also stumbled upon the article mentioned here a few weeks ago and as crazy as it is, it made me wonder if I am really doing the right thing being so frugal and trying to kill student loans. One place I really struggle is clothing and appearance costs and skills. I grew up in a “one pair of shoes” family and wasn’t allowed to even use makeup until I was 16. I feel like this combined with my frugality is why people comment on my “inability to live”. I get frustrated sometimes about wearing the same tops for 3+ years, when other women have cool new stuff all the time. But at the same time I don’t want to be laden with student loans forever. Coming from under privilege is very difficult in many ways, not just because of the added struggles of getting a good job, but because some skills and expectations are just not there.

    I am also struggling because I would like to travel some before kids but I will be 28 soon and we still haven’t started funding retirement as we have been paying about 50+% of our income on loans. I just worry that I won’t get the chance again…. Also, I worked my a** off in college and didn’t do as much socializing as others and I do kind of regreat that. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my pre child years, and my 30s, etc…. But I would love to be free to do what I want someday.

    Looking forward to more comments on this post.

    • Frugality Runs in the Family September 30, 2015, 9:05 pm

      I can appreciate this post–I’ve had to juggle student loans and retirement in my 30s, out of grad school. Been there, done that.

      I would respectfully suggest that you not entirely put off funding your retirement. The time you have for compounding assets in an IRA or a 401(k) is extremely valuable, and over the long term, stocks almost certainly will pay more than the interest rate on your student loans. So fund the IRA or 401(k) for maybe $1,000 this year. Next year, maybe $1,500. And when you get the student loans paid off, fund your retirement to the limit (unless you’re aiming for early retirement, in which case don’t save so much in a tax-sheltered account). It will totally be worth it when you’re in your 50s and you have a comfortable six-figure balance in your IRAs.

      At the same time, good work on paying down those loans! Getting out of debt slavery was one of the most liberating things I ever did.

    • Teri October 4, 2015, 9:40 am

      Thrift stores have great clothes for so little money! My dh and I are finally solid wage earners (6 figures), yet I still follow my “extreme poverty years” type of clothes shopping because it’s fun! For example, last month I bought a like new pair of fancy leather boots for $5.99 (I have hard to fit feet), a fashionable blouse worthy of work or weekend fun (just dress it up or down with accessories) for $2.50, and a brand name cardigan for $3.99. People always comment on how nice and fashionable I look. It doesn’t take much money to dress well in the USA. I have a ton of masters’ education level friends whom I regularly run into at thrift stores in my city and many with whom I shop. It’s such a hoot!

      Maybe you need to find some friends who love to thrift and plan a fun Saturday afternoon shopping date. They can tell you what looks good on you too, to prevent shopping mistakes. (But at $3.99, a shopping mistake at Goodwill is really not a mistake: your purchase benefits the handicapped anyway. Just donate it back the next trip to double your “donation.”) Make clothes shopping an adventure!


      • KR October 7, 2015, 12:11 pm

        Don’t forget eBay. I pretty exclusively wear Prada shoes that I get for a fraction of retail, almost brand new, off of eBay. It’s amazing to me what rich people will buy, wear once, and then cast off. Or, in some cases I think they’re too lazy to return things. I’m able to find shoes that have no wear on them whatsoever.

  • Mrs Handlebar Moustache September 29, 2015, 6:50 pm

    I have a dream; that every 20 something could read this intelligent and well written post. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mr Money Moustache for bringing some balance to the bombardment of consumerist nonsense we are exposed to on a daily basis by mostly vested interests.

  • JC September 29, 2015, 7:43 pm

    When I read this article I immediately remembered the freakonomics podcast that talks about how Milton Friedman – the famous economist – apparently gave the advice that young should people actually not save since based on a normal 35-40 career they will be making more money overtime – almost a consumption smoothing theory

    To be fair one of the hosts didn’t actually agree with that logic but interesting non the less – see half way down the page:


    Btw- I don’t agree at all and can personally vouch for the benefits of staring at spreadsheets until 2am in your 20’s and even early 30’s mostly because I did – it’s just so much easier to be in a position of strength for career and finances by 30’s rather than starting to save and/or take career serious right when you are starting to plan a family and/or start the inevitable decline in ability to deal with corp work BS

  • JP September 29, 2015, 8:00 pm

    I really hope Lauren reads this article someday. I just turned 30 and I can safely say that I pushed my 20s to the limit. However, I still went on 2 vacations a year, spent many nights out with friends and when I met my now wife, we spent more nights eating out. None of it was unruly spending, just spending enough to not sacrifice happiness. Instead of going out to eat one night a week, I suppose we could have cooked every night. I have friends that haven’t saved a penny because they are living the lifestyle Lauren explains. Meanwhile, age 24- I started a business, age 25- I doubled the size of that business, age 26- I opened a second business, age 27- bought a 2 family, age 28- bought a 4 family, age 29- bought another 2 family. Our net worth is through the roof and our passive income is hefty enough for my wife to stop working in a job she hates. However, none of this would really matter if I never started following this blog. When I started looking at purchases on a happiness scale, silly purchases went out the window. Just yesterday, I heard the roar of a gorgeous pickup truck pulling into my parking garage.. I smiled, and thought to myself.. man that guy is lost.

  • Jeremy September 29, 2015, 8:05 pm

    My first real vacation as an adult was at Age 28. That also happens to be when I first decided I must figure out how to retire early. That shit did get old

    This is my new favorite post

    • mjb September 30, 2015, 9:50 am

      Here here, Jeremy. Same with me. A trip to Peru at 28 was a serious eye-opener. At my first job out of college, age 22, I was basically scared of “missing out” when HR’s 401K enrollment blitz launched. Fear of missing out actually saved my 20s. That, and waiting until 28 to take a real vacation. (and having a roommate to share rent, and avoiding pets and expensive toys certainly didn’t hurt either..)

  • Joe B September 29, 2015, 8:19 pm

    This is a great post, but it’s got me thinking: I’m 32 now and spent most of my 20’s bouncing between jobs as I tried to find work I could stand doing for more than a year or two. During that time I was unemployed twice (once due to my department getting eliminated during the recession, and once because I was horrible at my job). Besides the one job from which I was fired, I was good at most of the jobs but never thrived or felt driven to make a career out of them.

    I’ve been working in my current job for almost two years. I like my co-workers, I’m great at what I do and both the company and job are both well below-average in terms of stress. However, the pay is below average and the upside (in terms of raises, promotions, etc) is very limited.

    Have I missed the boat when it comes to putting in the work in my 20’s and reaping the rewards later? Is it too late for me to work hard now and enjoy a still somewhat early retirement later?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 29, 2015, 9:15 pm

      Of course not Joe! And sorry for making you feel like you missed the boat. Hard work and reasonable spending are rewarding at any time in life. It’s a gift to your future self while also feeling right in the present.

      • Jay A. September 30, 2015, 3:20 am

        Amen, MMM.

        I could keep face-punching myself for not Googling “early retirement” and not discovering ERE, MMM, and so on until I was 43 years old, but where would that get me?

        You and I are going to be so much better off than many others because of the choices we’re making now and the ones we’re going to make in the future!

      • tpkeefe September 30, 2015, 12:35 pm

        This is connected to my other post:

        I, too, feel like I “missed the boat” because I spent my 20s bouncing from job to job — sometimes by choice and sometimes by accident. Fortunately, I always had a frugal mindset in place and kept my debt burden to a minimum. I also tried to read and learn as much as I could while waiting out the storm in some instances. I was just cursed by not being in a profitable field (IT) until I was closer to 30 and being in a small, formerly industrial city that was dying. Had remote work been an option at the time, and if I had had an interest in being a software engineer, I could have hacked my circumstances, making decent money to move to a different city and then start making some real money. I managed to get to that city (Washington, DC), but then 9/11 happened later that year. Bad, bad timing.

        I learned during my 20s that, in some respects, you have to learn to live like you’re already retired, since you don’t know if you’re either going to be able to retire or retire, period. (You could kick the bucket long before then.) Now, this doesn’t mean to live the hedonistic lifestyle, like some do, but you can experiment with what your life would look like (either with or without kids) when you do actually have substantial money in the bank and can afford to retire early and be the truly MMM badass. As for me, I learned to live frugally early on, so my lifestyle wasn’t going to be expensive when I was older. Sadly, because of more than one incidence of bad luck in my 20s, I wasn’t able to work my ass off and start saving. I knew that would come later.

        I also wasn’t about to kill myself in a job that I hated in order to be financially independent early on. Sure, that would have been nice, but working in a factory for ten years, leading to a host of physical injuries, wouldn’t be worth it for the early retirement.

    • Fleurdelis September 30, 2015, 5:44 am

      Hello Joe, I have a similar story…

      my country suffered more than others for the recession and I lost a lot of time in my 20’s.
      Now I have a good job but the salary is a bit below average. On the other hand, I have flexible hours, so I can have side jobs and I am attending University in the night for my second degree… if your current position does not reward hard working you can always work hard outside. A 100$ p/w it is a 5200 p/y income boost!

      I do not think I am too late for early retirement, I plan to reach my goal before 47… which is pretty good in my perspective.

      About this article, the editor wrote that “if you are saving in your 20’s you are not betting on yourself”. I think betting it’s the right word, but she is not betting on herself. She is betting that everything will be ok or better, like she will always be in her 20s, willing to work in a prosperous economy… I think this is ridiculous. Without mentioning the empty lifestyle she promotes in the article.

    • HeadedWest September 30, 2015, 10:00 pm

      Hey Joe,

      Some people started saving for FI at 22 and finished at 30; an 8-year time frame.

      So, you’re 32 now. One day, you will be 40. Do you want to be working out of necessity when you are 40? Nah…. :)

    • chris October 1, 2015, 3:43 am

      its never to late I found my at 35 I was selling insurance or trying to sell it my heart was not in it . a friend ask me to sell his car and I could keep the money over the price he wanted and I made 2500 that was a lot of money in 85 so I starting looking for other cars to sell fix and flip and it worked . that success lead me to flip houses and rentals. I am 64 now and I will never retired because there are too many opportunities out there and I enjoy the chase. so don’t give up find that one skill in you that people will pay you money or learn new ones so to create your own business. good luck and never give up your best years are ahead of you.

    • joy October 9, 2015, 4:53 pm

      I’m in the same boat, but just found a place/job I truly enjoy AND am good at … and finally the pay is where it should be. I just turned 30. The silver linings on my cloud are that a) while I’m behind in my savings, but I DO have savings and b) I have no desire to have children (and the solid understanding of the medical technology needed to prevent that decision from slipping out of my hands). Better late than never.

  • SU September 30, 2015, 1:31 am

    Yes! Jen Dziura, a fellow purveyor of blunt advice, wrote a good article about how to spend your 20s here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2015/09/feminist-have-it-all/

    From the article:
    “I only enjoy fully wine, and babies, and travel, and breastfeeding in bed at 2pm on a weekday because I have already built businesses and run conferences, I occasionally make money in my sleep via my various websites, and I have constructed a social environment for myself in which absolutely no one says stupid shit to me like, “So, will you keep working?” or “Does your husband help out?” (Sometimes that means cutting certain people out entirely, and I’m fine with that. YMMV.)

    “I don’t think work-life balance applies to your launch phase of life (which is probably your twenties). If there’s going to be a phase of your life where you work little or not at all (because of a baby, for instance), there should probably be a phase of your life—when you’re young and full of energy—that you work sixty hours a week and get single-minded and cut out people dragging you down (here and here) and maybe you go in a room and code something (here and here) and don’t talk to anyone until it’s done. Saying maybe it’s good to work extra-hard in your twenties doesn’t necessarily mean just giving that extra time to a boss—it may mean a side hustle or night school or a startup or aggressively networking and seeking mentors or a future entrepreneurial plan ready for activation if your job turns to shit.

    Years before having a baby, I wrote a somewhat sarcastic article about preparing for motherhood in a cutthroat capitalist economy. I suggested making twice as much money as you need before you have a baby, so you can make half as much after and be okay. Obviously, that’s a fucking challenge! But if you have time for a challenge, there you go. And I basically did do that. Once, a coworker asked why I was working so hard (this was at a company where I was paid hourly, so the more I worked, the more I made, in a very direct way). Society tells us that only “crazy” women say, “I might need to have a baby when I’m single, so I’m making sure I can make twice as much as I really need.” So I said, “I want to buy a Manhattan apartment.” But I got shit done.”

    • sara October 8, 2015, 10:03 am

      I am doing exactly this right now. I have $150,000 set aside as my “childcare and adoption of IVF” fund, and am working to pay down my mortgage. Once I do that, I’ll still need to work, but will be able to sustain my lifestyle and support a child on a fraction of my current income.

  • Travis September 30, 2015, 1:36 am

    You could say that your 20s is the most expensive time in your life to screw around and go out drinking and networking. The time value of money when you are my age, 25, is incredibly powerful. If you look at statistics, the vast majority of people see their salaries expand at a rate slightly above inflation, maybe 3-4% annually if you’re lucky. You can network all day but the most it’s going to get you is maybe a few promotions along the way. $60,000 raises are so atypical I think a frugal mustachian on $75,000 a year with 50% savings absolutely annihilates a Daily Eliter saving 10% of a salary that grows to $200,000 over time.

  • HenryDavid September 30, 2015, 1:38 am

    What about folks who get very highly educated? You spend your 20s in grad school, med school, etc.
    No opportunity to fall into the spendy-20s trap. Does this make you clever? Maybe. You are definitely working hard and getting better than most people at difficult shit. You’re just not getting money. But you are building intangible assets of great value.
    However I saw lots of my co-grad students fall into the spendy-30s trap once they actually started real jobs, if they were so lucky.
    They key seems to be, at least add no massive debt if at all possible. Ideally, keep 90% of your frugal grad student habits. Anyway, for my generation, starting work in the 80s, a spendy-20s problem was rare. As were. . . . jobs.

    • Megan September 30, 2015, 10:04 am

      That is a good point to consider because I think people choosing to pursue advanced education should make a careful calculation of the opportunity cost of starting a career later. Just as an example, you can make more in medicine once you are done with training than in engineering, but the price is starting your career 5+ years later and likely with lots of debt. There are also ways to have your cake and eat it too such as starting a career after a bachelor’s and then doing a master’s part-time while working (I even got my company to pay for it!). Yes, it is a lot of work juggling work and school but doing that in your 20s when you have time and energy is totally the way to go. In my early 30s now I am so glad I invested that hard work to get ahead then.

  • buschaot September 30, 2015, 3:52 am

    In the end, it’s all about the distinction between producers and consumers.

    Producers are the ones that manage to create things, ideas and businesses by working hard and spending time on that, in order to give an extra benefit to others.

    Consumers are the ones that just consume the things that others have produced, so they don’t create any extra value.

    By following MMM’s path you end up as producer in the end :-)

  • Chuck Bugle September 30, 2015, 3:57 am

    Young people tend to have memory problems. They go to college and have the best time of their lives w/out spending much money (outside of tuition). And then the second they graduate, they forget all the fun they were able to have w/out spending money, and instead write articles about how if you’re not spending money, you’re not having fun.

    • mikey g October 2, 2015, 3:34 pm

      yep and I suspect it’s all due to cognitive dissonance as a logical response to the system shock of the “real world” of conventional employment, and its consumerist kissing cousin

  • Stephen September 30, 2015, 4:41 am

    “When you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain.
    You’d be surprised at how cautious people get with just a few thousand in the bank. ”

    The author must never have experienced the feeling of having FU money in an account.While I don’t have truly FY money, I have enough that I could walk out of my job tomorrow without worrying about another for a few years. Never having to worry if the next pay cheque comes or not means I can choose to do random shit if I want to. It also means I can concentrate on the job making me a rockstar as I’m there because I WANT to be, not because I HAVE to be.

  • Gordo September 30, 2015, 5:10 am

    You can also start to lay down the foundation for success before your 20’s. I started working around age 10 and just kept at it. I learned something from every job. While cashier at a grocery store, a parent of one of my high school classmates came through my line and tried to convince me to quit working and enjoy my youth, “you have your whole life to work”. I ignored that advice. My next job was at a software store, then I actually got to work, at age 17, for a software development consulting firm doing real software development and code debugging. This put me far ahead of my peers all before even going to college. I was at the top of my class and could have gone to an expensive high ranked college, but I only applied to one inexpensive state school with a reputable computer science program. The few thousand I had saved from my high school work years were put into internet related stocks and options and grew exponentially — every penny saved had enormous value as it compounded. I continued to do commercial software while in college, which set me up for many job offers upon graduation. After 18 months working for da man I was ready to do independent consulting for six figure income. Note that I never did any “cocktails for networking”, I worked hard and got results for networking! Two years out of college I could pay cash for my mmm “mansion” (and I did). Became a millionaire shorty thereafter. You decide which path in life is better. Securing a good future while young sure feels great when you are older. Its also easier to do when you are young, full of energy, with fewer distractions.

    • Jumbo millions September 30, 2015, 6:10 am

      Agree I followed a similar path now 42 and can retire. Working on teaching my children some of these lessons.

  • Aperture September 30, 2015, 6:49 am

    I would add one piece of advise: work in a field and for a company that rewards hard work. I was that spitfire worker – able to identify and capitalize on million-dollar opportunities for my organization, and putting in long hours to accomplish these. In the last decade, I have watched others (my supervisor and my department’s leadership) take credit for my work. Today I am paid the same as my partner who shows up late and goes home early and can seldom be found during the middle of the day. I know because I was her supervisor for five years until I got sick of that bullshit and stepped back down to be her equal again. Choose an industry where people are in a role for a few years at most. Healthcare (where I work) is the opposite of that world – people are literally in the same job for a lifetime, so very little upward mobility.

  • zhelud September 30, 2015, 7:39 am

    I agree with the author that networking is important to one’s career, but I think she is confusing “partying” with “networking.” Why does networking have to be done at expensive bars and restaurants? When you are in your 20s you can take advantage of free or reduced membership rates in professional organizations, for example, and make lots of useful contacts. Some professional conferences also have reduced rates for younger people (if you can’t get your employer to pay.) Your workplace may have a formal mentoring program. Your alumni network may have free or low priced events for younger grads. And if your college’s career center isn’t handing out directories of alumni working in different fields who you can call and chat with, they are not doing their jobs. People are usually happy to talk over coffee rather than lunch or dinner. (Or even no refreshments at all!) And of course there are tons of ways to promote yourself through social media that don’t cost anything.
    The best 2 jobs I ever had, I found through networking- but I didn’t have to spend a cent.

  • Rick September 30, 2015, 7:58 am

    Quick story about “Networking” vs. Getting it Done. Years ago, when I was right out of law school, I was working in this office with another young lawyer, who I will call Jim. Jim was a great networker, and was really into talking about all of the schmoozy things that old lawyers who run the industry like to talk about – cigars, aged whiskeys, playing golf, sailing. I, the tee-totaling Mormon boy, would sit there at lunch in the conference room, feeling that I was missing out on a networking opportunity because I had zero experience with any of those things.

    Fast forward four years. I had spent some time out of state and was looking for work back in my home state. I hear that this firm is hiring and I see that Jim is working there. I call Jim up and he tells me that the Boss is in fact hiring, but it’s probably Jim’s job. Sure enough, the Boss, who also loves cigars, old whiskey, and golf, ends up firing Jim and hiring me. Turns out the Boss was not looking for someone who shared his hobbies and interests. He was looking for someone who could get it done.

  • Dan September 30, 2015, 8:32 am

    This article seems to boil down to a thing my dad always said. I don’t know if it’s original to him, but I haven’t heard it elsewhere.

    “99% of success in life comes down to who can keep their finger in the fire the longest when they’re young.”

    At the time he was trying to get me to not slack off in school, but I’ve found it’s still true now that I work as what MMM has described as a high-power corporate mercenary.

    • Gyosho September 30, 2015, 8:17 pm

      I think this is a variant of the Marshmallow Test, which has to do with impulse control. Kids who could wait longer for a marshmallow at the age of 5 turned out to have better lives than those who scarfed their marshmallows right away.

      • Dan October 1, 2015, 8:48 am

        That’s similar, but not quite the same.

        Whereas the finger in the fire analogy is about being a workhorse to build valuable skills and work ethic, the marshmallow test is about delayed gratification and not becoming a consumer sucka. Or more simply, the former is about income and the latter is about spending.

        Two sides of the same coin, maybe, but still different.

    • tpkeefe October 1, 2015, 9:18 am

      The thing to remember about being a workhorse and building skills is that one should be doing it with a long-term goal in mind, as well as understanding that not all skills are worth the same.

      One valuable skill that my parents taught was the importance of going to work and being on time. That worked for as long as regular jobs were fairly easy to get and one could advance. It doesn’t work that well for freelances or those that have been laid off more than once, though not fault of their own. The environment is too chaotic for them. Not for everyone, mind you, but for those that have been through this once before. Looking back, it would have been more valuable for me if my parents had taught me more entrepreneurial skills — the means to find a way to make money when regular jobs were scarce. Also, how to network with potential customers.

      Another valuable skill my parents taught me (and which came, also, from deep within) was the importance of working hard and applying oneself. Sure, I slacked off in school, but I was smart enough to succeed and graduate a year earlier than my peers. That hard work ethic carried over into my adult life and I still have it. However, it took me a while to learn how to work smarter and not harder, to be more efficient. Hard work, in itself, isn’t the enemy. Wasted effort is. Sometimes, you can’t avoid that. Others might not have the same work ethic and you’re faced with picking up their slack — time and again.

      • Dan October 2, 2015, 12:04 am

        I never had a long-term goal, so I guess I lucked out. Honestly I don’t know where I’ll be in 5 years even today. I’ve always just did what seemed like my idea of fun at the time; first Physics and a few years working in a lab then law school. Now I’m a patent lawyer, and we’re all evaluated based on billable hours anyway so if I’m picking up somebody else’s slack I’m getting the credit.

        It’s an intense amount of work, but I’m keeping my finger in the fire knowing that at these rates, I’ll be able to hang out with MMM and some home-brew in a few short years if I want to. I probably won’t, because I’m having a blast already, but who knows.

  • Dave E September 30, 2015, 10:51 am

    Don’t forget the importance of global though & roughing it. Hostel’s are much more bearable for 20-somethings and a more worldy view will sustain N. American’s ability to compete. Where was this wisdom 30 years ago? Thanks Mr. Money Mustache Man

    • Doug October 9, 2015, 9:27 am

      Why would hostels be more bearable for the younger crowd? I’m in my fifties now and have stayed at many hostels in my forties and fifties. While most hostellers are younger, I have met some people my age and older in hostels, even a guy 87 years old at one place I stayed. I found after a day out sightseeing, hostellers would often be together in common areas socializing and discussing things to see and do. It was great getting travellers of a wide range of ages together like that. Often I completely forgot that I was twice the age of most travellers, it didn’t seem to matter.

  • AMac September 30, 2015, 10:52 am

    There’s an underlying assumption in this article – that we have years and years ahead of us; if we work hard and save early, those later years will be filled with health and happiness. While this assumption may be true for many (most?), there are 21 year-olds who get acute leukemia, who get mowed over by drunk drivers, whose lives are destroyed by hurricanes, floods, & fires.

    I’m not suggesting that we should hide in the corner and be afraid of the world. Nor am I suggesting that we abandon all of our Mustachian beliefs. I do think that there is some middle ground that makes sense though. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! I wouldn’t discourage a 25 year-old from occasionally doing something exciting/meaningful now, even though it might not be the most financially savvy choice. Life happens and it doesn’t always unfold according to carefully laid-out plans. You might never get another chance to visit Lake Malawi in Africa, or take that long backpacking trip with your far-flung cousins.

    • tpkeefe September 30, 2015, 4:04 pm

      This is what informed some of my decision-making in my 20s. I went over to South Korea to teach English in the mid-90s when the market over there was still hot. The benefits were: get out of my hometown, where I wasn’t progressing, despite with a college degree; make some decent money that I could send home; and do something daring when I still had the time, interest, and energy to do it. At first, it was a financially savvy decision, but then it went to pot in the 1997 Asian financial crisis. I left after 1.5 years. But, I still did it when I had the chance, and I don’t regret doing that.

    • Ishmael October 5, 2015, 5:24 am

      Mustachianism isn’t about extreme frugality though – that’s the domain of other bloggers. MMM preaches what makes the most sense, which is “lifestyle design”. It means to figure out those things that truly give you happiness, focus on those things, and cut the other bullshit out.

      By focusing on true happiness, you naturally bypass most things that typical consumers spend money on, because they simply don’t bring you true happiness. They only can provide a temporary serotonin burst, which fades quickly. Consumerism is empty, and is why so many people are depressed in our society.

      Once you cut out the bullshit, spend (carefully) on the things that do provide happiness – buying a cool board game so you can spend many hours bonding with friends, or going on a neat trip that you’ve saved up for and dreamed about for a long time, that will provide an experience and memories that will last you a lifetime.

      Of course, one of the most valuables thing you can “spend” your money on is your future freedom to do WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT, whenever you want to do it, and that’s why saving rates so highly as a criteria.

      I find a lot of people miss that essential part of Mustachianism, and think it’s about “depriving yourself” of things to save money, simply for the sake of saving money.

      It’s harder than it sounds, because you really have to know yourself well to make the right decisions.

      • Doug October 7, 2015, 9:21 pm

        You and I are definitely on the same page, what you wrote looks like something I would write. I’m 54 years old and, and during my working years I lost count of how many times I tried to explain how it’s not about depriving yourself but about optimizing quality of life. I would rather have less stuff and actually have time to enjoy it than more stuff (read: rubbish) and never have the time to enjoy it because I had to work more to pay for it. Most people never appeared to understand. As of now I’m retired and LOVE it.

  • ap999 September 30, 2015, 10:53 am

    Not too long ago I was in my 20s (now 31). All my friends and peers enjoyed blowing money away like it was so cool, usually it was on the parties, the expensive cars and other toys or the very expensive trips to Vegas. I loved to save and invest, al though I still had my fun, I had my trips to Vegas and international travel, but I would do it on moderation and occasionally and of course by saving up first and not leaving a balance on my card. I was never the one to make it to every event that my peers and friends would put out, because I valued saving more. It really paid off, I was made fun of or called cheap for whenever I did not show up for a night out or a trip to miami beach or vegas. I had other hobbies and priorities, a lot of stuff for me gets old fast. I don’t know how most people lived the way they lived, I would feel out of place real fast and make a change. Fast forward to today, I have over a 500k net worth in stocks, bonds, p2p lending etc and no debt! I never carried any debt in my life which I am proud of. My peers, friends and people I know who made the same amount or more income than me are either still broke, deep in debt, or just finally realized the need to start saving, and investing in 401ks and IRAs. Lets just say they can’t keep up with me now, while I still live a balanced life and travel and enjoy my hobbies. All of them have slowed down, any time I ask if some one wants to come out on a trip with me, no one wants to go because they can’t afford it and are busy paying off credit card debt. In fact most of them despise me or are jealous of me since I don’t have the same worries as they do, and I am in much better financial situation then they are. So was it worth it? hell yea it was worth it for me! I have quite a bit of peace of mind… I feel much more setup for my 30s and 40s. Being Financially independent feels like its on its way, while my peers are still struggling with the basics such as budgeting, paying of debt, saving and reaching at least a positive net worth. Whenever they ask me for advice and I direct them to bogleheads or your blog or give them a few suggestions, they don’t like it after all. No one likes the hard truths.

    • Andy September 30, 2015, 2:43 pm

      Wow, that’s awesome! I just turned 31 too and have approx. 170 k in assets with no debt (joined the party late 3 years back). Are you in the 6 figure salary range and investing since 2008 ? Thanks.

      • Ap999 November 3, 2015, 5:40 am

        I do make 100k plus now. But before not even close! 18-20 spent some time in college, and worked part time. At 20 I enlisted in the Army, never really made much at all but saved As much as I could based on my small military income. At 28 left the army, got into consulting since 2012 and started making 100k a year almost right away, saved aggressively and invested heavily in index funds since then. The most I made in the military was during my deployments, around 30k to 35k for one year. Saved and saved what I could. Last three to four years really helped jump start my net worth of course. I’d say in my military days I learned the disciplined to save as much as I could from the little I made. When I got out of the military it was even easier, I was used to living already on a 15k to 20k a year salary and working my ass off. So as soon as I started making 100k plus I still lived like I was on a enlisted military income.

  • Jonathan September 30, 2015, 11:15 am

    Oh boy another set of articles by people who have not lived in New York for long (or at all) about how you have to choose between starving in a roach infested hovel or a high life that leaves you impoverished if your way above median income paycheck stream dries up. This is New friggin’ York, the legends are totally true, you CAN have it all. I make a healthy, but comparatively modest salary (less than 80k), my savings rate hovers around 40% (the recent 10% market downturn went largely unnoticed on my bottom line). I live (alone) 20 minutes from midtown in a great neighborhood for less than $1600/month. I buy farm-fresh veggies every week, and enjoy good wine and meats. I’ve gotten complements on my posterior from my 3-mile round trip walk commute to work.

    I’ve built a network of friends, each with their own “we can do this super cheap” niche. I’m the museum guy, thanks to free memberships to the Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art I’ve scored. After-hours events? I get in cheap, and can bring a +1 whenever I want,. Ever wander a world-famous museum drunk at 1:30am? It’s great! My cheap theater tickets friend scored us $15 tickets to a show that INCLUDES A FREE DRINK. Another friend ponies up $100/year for the opportunity to score us all $12 field-level tickets to baseball games WHENEVER WE WANT (and I live close enough that I eat dinner before hand, and round trip subway fare is only $5.50, so I don’t get fleeced for parking or food). This city is so awash in free and cheap entertainment that I refuse more plans than I commit to, simply because I don’t have the energy.

    New York isn’t the anti-mustachian city a lot of complainypants comments say it is. Applying the principals of mustachianism here is neither difficult nor time-consuming, and the rewards are unparalleled.

    • Debz September 30, 2015, 7:38 pm

      That is so cool I love it!!! I’m an Art teacher and would kill to wander around a world famous museum at 1:30 a.m.! Your life in NYC sounds freakin amazing!

  • Mario Furtado September 30, 2015, 11:17 am

    Dear Mr. Mustache,

    Thank you for tackling this article. I too saw this last week and had the feeling that someone was fooling themselves, but I don’t have a public outlet to express the problems with this thinking. I believe that what the author is missing, and a lot of people miss this, is that exponential growth, whether it’s your job, family, or wealth, has to be constantly focused on.

    Even with a conservative 7% expected growth rate per decade, the money you save in your 20s has that one extra ‘doubling’ time over every other income stream. You can’t afford to not let that stream double in that time. It can make over 30% of your residual net worth in your old age.

    Also I love that ‘get shit done’ line. In my late 20s – early 30s my wife and I both held down engineering jobs, had two kids, and I went to night school for my MBA. I know I could do it again if I had too, but damn; I don’t want to ever do that schedule ever again! Now the job has paid of with the bump in salary, the kids are much older (and also exponentially growing), and the wealth has tripled (from low numbers obviously) in that 6 year time frame. The foundations for all were laid in those 20s and 30s and now I can’t wait to reap all of it going forward.



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