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 ;-)

  • brian September 30, 2015, 11:21 am

    So true, that article was clearly meant to get a rise out of people and attention (mission accomplished!), but its so flawed.

    Kids are like kryptonite for most jobs, as you are suddenly serving 2 masters, and you regularly have to make choices between them. Turbo charge your savings while you are young, and suddenly you can refocus your time however you want later in life.

  • Travis Rojakovick September 30, 2015, 11:26 am

    The reference to “suburban” people who are fat, depressed, and in debt is simply a lazy way of assuming people in the suburbs are all pathetic losers.

    In fact, people in urban areas are more likely to be depressed and have mental problems:


    And, New York City has a lower median income than New York State despite far higher housing/cost of living prices, meaning they are likely to be far deeper in debt and work longer hours to boot (at least anecdotally), and are able to save far less money:


    And, cities are far more violent places on a per capita basis, with worse schools.

    If somebody does like the suburbs, fine, but sweeping, factually inaccurate statements that people in the suburbs are depressed and broke is simply lazy snobbery. Its roughly the equivalent of saying everybody who lives in New York City is in a gang or is likely to be a violent crime victim, or is broke and depressed. Its a lazy stereotype with no basis in reality.

    In fact, a decent argument could be made that suburbs are the best place to achieve early retirement: better public schools, less crime, plenty of open spaces for kids to roam, close enough to big cities to earn a good living with lower cost of living than in a large city, a wage structure that is driven up by the proximity to a city, and less mental illness than a large city.

  • Mr. Frugal Toque September 30, 2015, 11:28 am

    “When you live your life around your retirement fund, you may as well retire now.”
    For her, “retired” means “dead” instead of “free”.

    “You can’t make a mark on the world if you’re too cheap to live in it.”
    She intends to make her mark on the world through conspicuous consumption rather than through accomplishment.
    How sad.

  • Bryan September 30, 2015, 11:29 am

    I totally resonate with MMM’s statement that you better get your shit together before you have kids. I have 3 kids now and I’m so thankful that I can play with them, enjoy life, take care of my body, and not think about tomorrow’s bills. Everything in life speeds up and gets more intense with kids, so if you are having financial problems, they will intensify. I like to think of my goal as “living like a teenager” in my 30’s. I don’t mean being irresponsible. I mean – like a teenager – having a lot of freedom, joy, fun, health, and yes, responsibility too. Boy, do the 20’s who are just partying have a rude awakening coming up. They will soon be fat, tired, stressed, angry mom’s and dads. No disrespect, but heed well this warning!

  • LTF September 30, 2015, 11:37 am

    We network for our social life instead of for work. I feel that many relationships now have a transactional basis to them because of the networking craze. Yuck, it feels slimy. I now avoid those kind of friendships. Helping out friends should not be about climbing the corporate ladder as much as giving moral support for life’s sometimes difficult events. Unexpected problems can crop up so 20 year olds should have at least 2K in a rainy day fund.

  • frenchlentils September 30, 2015, 11:52 am

    So torn on this one….I spent the first half of my twenties as a bike tour guide and yoga teacher in Europe. I traveled a ton, definitely did not start a “real” career, learned two new languages, and gained perspective on the world beyond the US. I was broke half the time, lived with roommates and on friends’ couches, ate a lot of lentils, and kept everything I owned in one suitcase. I finally came back to the US at age 27 to start my “real” career. While I may have that kind of theoretical freedom in my 40’s or 50’s after I have kids, watch them leave home, and at some point along the way retire from the job I love, I doubt I’ll have the same level of energy and willingness to try anything as I did when I was 22. I don’t think young people are well served by blowing their stash on parties and taxis (ride a bike, obvi), but I also don’t think staring at a computer til midnight is the best use of youthful energy, freedom, and openness to the world. I’m always trying to get my young employees to go do something crazy before settling down.

  • Scotty from Detroit September 30, 2015, 11:55 am

    My 20’s were filled with financial mistakes that I’m going to teach my children not to make. We bought a house we could barely afford, bought new cars, paid for cable, and spent way too much time inside missing out on life.

    You don’t have to spend money to have fun. My brother-in-law wasted money on buying a camper that he’s used once all summer. I spent $400 on kayaks that my family has used over 20 times this summer. We go on hiking trips in the woods. We go outside and live our lives.

    Who needs cable TV, a new car, and a cell-phone with mega-data when there’s a world out there waiting for you to explore it.

    Money can buy you some happiness, but I prefer a different kind of happiness, one that doesn’t cost much and comes from spending time with my family.

  • BMG September 30, 2015, 11:56 am

    As a 43 year old with 3 young kids and 20 years into my IT career I can confirm shit gets old. I’m an independent contractor partly because I don’t have any where near 40 hours a week to offer an employer. I feel quite productive if I can log 4 hours a day. Partly because kids are insanely high maintenance and partly my own lack of motivation because working at something you don’t love kind of sucks. I remember feeling amped and excited about my career in my 20s and assumed that would always be the case, so why worry about retirement let alone early retirement. I sure wish I had a 43 year old’s mindset in my 20s. I’d be happily retired doing only the shit I felt like doing.

  • tpkeefe September 30, 2015, 12:18 pm

    My 40s are certainly better than my 20s in mindset, career, and trajectory, but I wish that I could have made more money in my 20s and could have learned about investing earlier so that I’d have more in the bank at this age. 50 (or at least ten years) is my goal for this.

    I had several false starts in my 20s (academic, English teacher in Korea, substitute teacher, working odd jobs here and there), along with living in a low-cost of living area that was very slim on professional jobs that paid a good salary so that I could save up money. I also lived through the early 90s recession, the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2001 recession, 9/11 aftermath, and the Great Recession — each time waylaying me financially and causing me to change course. When I got into IT in early 2000, that was the smart trajectory, but it took me some years before I got past the baby steps. In essence, I was tossed on some violent waves, trying to find solid footing.

    I do have some regrets over not having over a million dollars right now so that I could effectively be independently wealthy, but those circumstances were just bad luck. If anything, it caused me to be focused more in the now than in the future, which I believe is all that we can really hope for. Sure, if the economy were growing healthily and one can increase income over time, leading to financial independence, that’s great. Not go great if the economy tanks and you’re on the wrong side of when the wave crashes.

  • Marcia September 30, 2015, 12:21 pm

    Sweet! Shit can get old fast…oh so true.

    We were in our mid/late 30’s and early 40’s when we had our kids, and SOOO glad we had our shit together. I don’t think we realized how much more exhausting it would be to have a second.

    I’ve learned the last few years, that even being the one to “get shit done” might not get you a raise. But luckily, that doesn’t matter much except for my self-esteem. Do I want to bust my butt at a job that doesn’t reward me? No, but I’ll do my job. Do I want to run out and get another job where I have to prove myself with 50 hour weeks? Not so much.

    These days, my work days are shorter, and involve walking kids to school, volunteering with the PTA, knocking off early to take my son to baseball. But ya know, when you have FU money, you can do that.

  • Shaun September 30, 2015, 12:28 pm

    I posted this before, but am not sure if you were able to get a response going. I am considering a career in medicine, and am wondering if perhaps you could do an article about how to navigate the debt that is accrued through that much education and becoming financially independent. In essence, how can one continue with education and still remain financially independent, especially with the ever increasing cost of higher education in the United States.


    • Frugaldoc September 30, 2015, 2:36 pm

      1. Try and minimize undergraduate and medical school expenses by applying the principals used by MMM.
      2. Learn everything you can about finance so you don’t become like the 95% of doctors that are functionally financially illiterate. (I made that statistic up, but it seems close to what I have observed).
      3. If you do end up only getting into very expensive medical schools then massive debt is likely your only option. Become an expert at federal student loan programs (in specific programs that will eliminate your student loans after a set number of years of making minimum payments). If you are not proficient in federal student loan programs you have no business applying for a loan. There are financial advisers that specialize in this. It is very complex so find someone who knows what they are doing.
      4. Consider becoming a midlevel (PA or Nurse) which is a shorter cheaper tract but still has a good income.

      Hope this helps.

      • superbien September 30, 2015, 3:02 pm

        The 3 doctors in my family all agree – become a PA rather than an MD. Way less paperwork, the MD takes the liability (ie expensive insurance), salaries not too far off from a doctor, only 2 years of school rather than 4+ residency + internship + specialization. Becoming a doctor is brutally hard, and does not pay like it used to. PA or bust, baby.

        • Døitashimashite October 5, 2015, 12:42 pm

          Like. Plus look into medical physics. 2 yr Master’s program, cure cancer, make MORE than a lot of doctors!

  • Frugaldoc September 30, 2015, 12:45 pm

    I know this contributes nothing to the conversation…but take a few minutes to read the comments on that article. Pretty hilarious in a hateful kind of way. I have NEVER seen such negative feedback. It is an absolutely insane article though. Hurt my brain to read the whole thing.

  • Steve Miller September 30, 2015, 12:45 pm

    We have 2 sons that graduate college next year so the message of this is very timely. Our boys have been taught to be frugal and both already own Fidelity accounts with money invested. I am curious to see if their home training carries out to the real world once they begin making more money than they’ve ever had before. I trust that they will continue regularly depositing money into their investment accounts and not fall into the trap of over consumption.

  • Steve Miller September 30, 2015, 12:46 pm

    We have 2 sons that graduate college next year so the message of this is very timely. Our boys have been taught to be frugal and both already own Fidelity accounts with money invested. I am curious to see if their home training carries out to the real world once they begin making more money than they’ve ever had before. I trust that they will continue regulary depositing money into their investment accounts and not fall into the trap of over consumption.

  • Phil September 30, 2015, 1:48 pm

    I wonder how this applies to school teachers like myself? I spent a lot of time getting advanced degrees, my National Board certification, and moving up on the salary scale in other ways. But there is no “putting 1/2 away in retirement”. I still did better than most school teachers though, and my wife and I have over $200,000 in our retirement accounts (still just one comma).

    Guess I get the knowledge of knowing I get the summers off (I have had one summer completely off in 15 years…but in the future I will take more), that I get a pension, and that I could be at home at 3:00 pm everyday that I don’t coach.

    I will not “shoot ahead” though.

  • Chris September 30, 2015, 2:05 pm

    I wish I read stuff like this when I was in my 20s. Reading it now actually made me a little depressed. But then I snapped out of it because even though I have J-O-B, my life still rocks pretty well.

    Better late than never, though. Those of us who had this epiphany in our 30s just have to make up for lost time by staying kick-ass healthy (fitness and health are the ultimate equalizers), and staying young at heart.

  • ClaireB September 30, 2015, 3:00 pm

    I spent 4 years of my 20s working at good paying jobs and 5 years in grad school. Then 2 years on a 30-country honeymoon. My husband spent his 20s as a musician, traveling, and living frugally. We started married “real life” with zero debt. Four years of being “settled down” we now have 2 houses, (almost) 2 kids, and a net worth of over 500k (according to Mint.com). I suppose I could be FIREd now if I had gone the MMM route (which is extremely admirable). But grad school (the most fun years of my life), meeting my husband, and starting our marriage out in the most adventurous way is like those commercials: Priceless.

    Instead of FIREing in the next few years, I’m going to take off some time to spend with the little ones. I can work part-time while they are in school and still FIRE in 10 years. That’s okay with me.

    I wish I could have FIREd before kids like MMM but I also don’t regret my 20s, because life is not the same after you have kids. You’re not the same, and your marriage is not the same.

    • Døitashimashite October 5, 2015, 12:47 pm

      “grad school (the most fun years of my life)”

      Jut curious, I don’t know anyone who had much fun in grad school (most say just a lot of work), what was your field of study?

  • Dave C September 30, 2015, 3:04 pm

    If you think mindless spending is the only way to have awesome experiences, you’re doing it wrong. The thinking part that is.

    I was certainly not the worst example by any means, but I could have done a lot better in my 20s at saving and still had the same amount of good times. Which is why none of the above applies exclusively those in their 20s. Work hard and eliminate wasteful spending while enjoying the most life has to offer is the best prescription for any age.

  • Mr. FI September 30, 2015, 3:22 pm

    Terrible advice, but I can see the appeal–it’s often what our elders believe all Millennials do anyway. I have a friend on Facebook who’s 26 and works for Edward Jones Investing who liked this article! Maybe it’s not so far off for the majority.

    2.3 million likes, thousands of comments, and lots of reactionary blog posts. I think she’s done her job and doesn’t have to believe even one thing she wrote. Brilliant.

  • Karen September 30, 2015, 3:55 pm

    After reading many of the comments I think many of your readers would benefit from reading your article in 2013
    50 jobs at $50,000 part 1&2

  • Alex Clifford September 30, 2015, 4:35 pm

    I’m 22. I like MMM’s stance in general. Many Americans make huge salaries, consume crud like a cat on cocaine and wonder why they’re no happier.

    I’d like to take MMM’s ideas one step further. What if we define richness as more than a retirement pot of money? What if it’s freedom, time, relationships, friendships, doing meaningful work, living somewhere you like, experiences count as wealth too?

    All these things have compound interest too. Being happier and healthier, means you can make better decisions, give more to others and calm down.

    Working a “real job” kills me. The bosses… the colleagues… BS work – I can’t stand it. So I found a way of working for myself from home with copywriting. I take on many projects, but it earns enough to get by.

    I moved from the UK to Spain, to maximise quality of life and keep my expenses to a minimum. My income is very low too, but I keep the books balanced more or less.

    MMM would say I’m failing because I’m not building a retirement war chest… I’m just breaking even. But I feel I’m building all kinds of non-monetary richness, and surely that is more important than the size of your bank account?

  • Nick Bryant September 30, 2015, 5:48 pm

    Long time reader here, very motivated and impressed by this article. This is the kind of MMM wisdom nugget that really gets me excited to keep pushing. I’m 25 and dealing with lifestyle creep (nights out, considering moving into an apartment instead of living with roommates), so these are good things to keep in mind.

    Also, at work, I’m kind of “checked out” in terms of my career. I have trouble wanting to get better at writing code. But maybe you’re right. Maybe I should be focusing on developing my skills to the expert level I can go get that high paying devops job in silicon valley, while living frugally. With 3 years of experience, I need to push HARD if I want to advance quickly.. But half of me just wants to quit. But now I feel more motivation to keep going.

  • Nick Bryant September 30, 2015, 5:49 pm

    Long time reader here, very motivated and impressed by this article. This is the kind of MMM wisdom nugget that really gets me excited to keep pushing. I’m 25 and dealing with lifestyle creep (nights out, considering moving into an apartment instead of living with roommates). Also, I keep buying myself little toys to deal with not being too excited about my life, so these are good things to keep in mind.

    Also, at work, I’m kind of “checked out” in terms of my career. I have trouble wanting to get better at writing code. But maybe you’re right. Maybe I should be focusing on developing my skills to the expert level I can go get that high paying devops job in silicon valley, while living frugally. With 3 years of experience, I need to push HARD if I want to advance quickly.. But half of me just wants to quit. But now I feel more motivation to keep going.

    • ITBusinessAnalyst October 21, 2015, 2:37 pm

      Similar situation here,26, I was on fire with my career for about 4 years and then it’s like my motivation just fell off a cliff. It’s been a rollercoaster of “I love my job” and “I hate my job” ever since.

      If anything though, this experience has really motivated me to keep saving even more. If this is how I feel now I can’t imagine being “stuck” with this work limbo well into my 40’s.

  • ap999 September 30, 2015, 6:54 pm

    Her approach just seems reckless and also I think it was just a stunt to get the crowd riled up. But even then she make its seem like its an all or nothing approach… How hard would it be to do the minimum, say max your IRA at least and fill up your 401k, this should be relatively easy for the young high paid professionals, do that and blow the rest of your money without going into debt AT LEAST.

  • GermanStubble September 30, 2015, 10:54 pm

    As someone who worked an actual work job, you’re probably wrong here, MMM. You make it sound like companies value actual achievement and skills.

    From the big companies I’ve seen at least in Germany, that’s not the case. Most people in there seem to spend their days with meetings, “organizing” stuff (but mostly not having a clue, not really effectively organizing anything), doing PowerPoint presentations.

    If you’re not really working, but only juggling MS Office documents and emails, maybe networking is actually the one shot you have at getting a good salary. And oh, how those companies could have used people in power who actually know shit about how to ORGANIZE, how to MANAGE, y’know, actual skills.

  • Frugal Bazooka October 1, 2015, 12:36 am

    “Clickbait” – I love it. I try to learn at least one new thing every day and “clickbait” is a fantastic new word (to me) that makes no sense without the modern context of the internet.

    I suspect the young lady who wrote the article about living life in New York’s fast lane was not only looking for clicks, but also looking for a bunch of free publicity from all the frugalist websites stomping their feet and shaking their fists in the air.

    It’s all good fun, but don’t believe anything you read, especially on the internet…(lol).
    Or…or…like the sage advice from the Spinal Tap boys you should believe virtually EVERYTHING you read.
    either way, the only thing that matters is that you know the truth…which might set you free.

    The truth is pretty simple. If you bust your ass in school, work hard at a job and believe that you can succeed, you have a better than 50/50 chance of getting what you want. If not exactly what you want then…uh…at least what you need.

    ; )

    • Marlon Duque October 1, 2015, 8:40 am

      I also loved the “clickbait” word.

  • Matt October 1, 2015, 4:16 am

    In my personal case, having wasted my 20’s on drinking, getting fat and spending every penny I earn, I think I did it because it was just easier. I had that nagging feeling that I should be doing things differently but if I ever explored it more, I’d just get frightened off by the pressure of having to set myself up for the rest of my life right now and put it to the back of my mind so I could carry on living the easy life. I was nowhere near mature enough to take responsibility for my future self and just decided he could sort himself out when it came to it. I think all of us would have all sorts of wisdom we’d impart to our younger selves if we had the chance but then, would we still have that wisdom now if we’d done things differently then or is it a result of our past mistakes?

    Anyway, I don’t dwell on how wrong the past me had it as there’s nothing I can do to change it. All I can do is concentrate on is doing it right now, for present and future me.

  • Marlon Duque October 1, 2015, 8:37 am

    I’m 26 years old, and I’ve worked, saved and invested since 21. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we are on the way, because we are seen as stingy or as “an elderly-young” I would say. Eventough I truly believe I’ve been creating a good way of living, sometimes I get myself questioned. We who are in our 20s and believe in all that the article shows up live in a environmet that judges we are living wrongly, and were supposed to be a spendthrift in order to achieve social status and be among the coolest people. That’s terrible, but this idea has been sold out amongst 20s people. That’s why having this website is kind of a relief, it’s like a place to the “swimmers-against-the-tide”.

    Congrats to the article and, in general, to the website and the practicing of what you believe.

    Marlon Duque

  • Felipe October 1, 2015, 10:25 am

    Thanks Mr Money Mustache, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, definitely a favorite.

    Seeing as I’m in my early 20’s, this is particularly inspiring-especially knowing that the invested savings often do snowball into even more security and freedom for my next 80+years of life.

    I’m working hard, saving hard, studying engineering, currently at a 15-20% SW rate. Aiming for about 2% at 28 and the freedom to travel the world volunteering, build a family, or build a business I love that helps a ton of people and nature.

    Thanks again for the wise guidance, Mustache.

  • Alex October 1, 2015, 10:49 am

    I worked in London (software engineering) for a while on a decent salary in my mid 20s. I could’ve followed either article’s advice – network, schmooze and party, or knuckle down, prove myself and escape quickly. In the end, I found the money by itself was just not that fulfilling. I packed it in to study a medical PhD on a small amount of money. I’m now 30, doing cancer research at a US university and still earning less than I did 5 years ago ($44k now). But – it has been fantastic. I wake up feeling energized and like I’m doing something useful, rather than just making a faceless corporation (and myself) richer. I get to work with great people and travel. For me, having purpose is well worth the pay cut and delay to FI.

    In the same way MMM rightly says your 20s can be a time to get ahead, I’d encourage people to look at the bigger picture. I love MMM, but “earn more, spend less” isn’t the only way. At my “epiphany” moment before grad school, I decided I didn’t want to look back and think my 20s were only about partying or even getting ahead. Sure, work hard and play hard, but also work meaningfully. Pick a problem with the world and start chipping away at it. It may be heresy on this blog, but consider earning less – *if* the bigger picture makes sense. You may surprise yourself what a difference passion makes to your life (and maybe to others). Good luck!

    • Brendan O'Connor June 21, 2016, 8:49 am

      I think spend less on Ridiculous Things is the key thing I take from MMM. I don’t drive. I cycle to work and I like my job. So rather than look for more money I just try to curtail a bit of my spending and over time it mounts up.

  • Ricky October 1, 2015, 11:51 am

    I agree with everything in the article except the Apple comment :P There’s nothing inherently wrong with purchasing Apple products so long as you’re not upgrading every year and you’re actually putting it to good use.

  • Robin October 1, 2015, 2:43 pm

    Anyone who advocates not saving for retirement in your 20s has never seen a compounding interest table. If someone had shown me Dave Ramsey’s article in my teens, I would be a millionaire by now. (Even if you don’t read it, skim the table he uses to illustrate saving as a teen: http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-teens-can-become-millionaires/) It’s staggering to think of the years of compound interest one loses out on by saying “oh, I can save once I’m in my 30s…”

  • Matt October 1, 2015, 2:53 pm

  • Mustachian, 20-something Doc Student October 1, 2015, 8:31 pm

    Thank you so much for the brick of wisdom about 20s not being everything! I’m pursuing my passion through working on my doctorate, which has crap pay and long hours (both preventing the raucous lifestyle of the typical 22 year old) but a wealth of knowledge that will serve me for many, many years to come and enable me to help many people their mental and physical health.

    It’s hard not to regret going to grad school so soon – I’ll have little to no wealth when I’m finally graduated at 27 and it seems like common behavior to wait a few years after college and then go back, possibly accruing lots of debt in the process to get through a master’s before a Ph.D.

    It helps me feel a lot better about my decisions to read this post and recognize that while I’m not gaining wealth in dollar signs, I’m gaining massive amounts of mental strength have many future bucks attached and the potential for SWAMI status very, very soon!

  • Nick October 1, 2015, 9:42 pm

    I don’t really understand the math here. It seems to me like you would need to save close to 50,000 dollars a year in order to have the “better part of a million dollars” when you turn 30. (assuming that you start when you are 22 and get a realistic rate of return). Is that what you are claiming? Did you earn a really large salary during this time, did you already have a bunch of money when you graduated from college?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 6, 2015, 7:44 pm

      Welcome to the blog, Nick! I’ll answer that here just in case other new people are wondering the same thing.

      Yeah, my girlfriend (now wife) and I both started from zero, with no money from parents. I had to pay for my own college while she got some help from parents but still had to pay for her own apartment rent and groceries during her degree.

      We worked in standard cubicle jobs as software engineers in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Together we were able to save well over $50,000/year, rising to closer to $100k/year near the end of our careers. I highly recommend that field for anyone who has the ability and interest to do it – it pays even better these days.

      A rough recollection of how those saving years went:


  • Jane October 1, 2015, 10:44 pm

    Great post, spot on. Yes those fat miserable oldies are definitely the ones who chose the spend everything path! A few more like this and I’ll forgive you for the dog post.

  • SimB October 2, 2015, 1:51 am

    “People who are saving in their 20s are people who don’t set their sights high. They’ve already dropped out of the game and settled for the minor leagues.”

    That is quite a statement..! Being 27 (pregnant gf and I) and getting at a point where our savings are pretty decent, I thought the game had just started :)

  • Bee October 2, 2015, 8:51 pm

    Fantastic post!
    This article you’re writing about popped up on by Facebook feed a few weeks ago after one of my friends had liked it. I remember reading it in disdain.
    I am 28 years old now and I’ve been working full time for 8 years. I had some frivolous spending in my early twenties but got over that pretty quickly. I had saved a 10% deposit for our home by the time I was 24 years old (and my husband saved the other 10%), which is not a lot by Mustachian standards but still okay! We are now in a great position where our house has increased in value over 25% over the past 3 years since we bought it (Melbourne, Australia), we have very good salaries in secure jobs and we are planning to have kids in the next few years.
    The advice I would give to any person in their twenties is to work hard and save even harder. Find a job you enjoy, spend time with people you care about and travel to affordable destinations!

  • Felipe October 3, 2015, 12:59 am

    A favorite, probably because it speaks to me personally so much. I’m 22 and have no interest in working in an office past 30. I see all my friends in debt for cars, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, fancy jewelry, you name it. This article helps when swimming against the norms for my age.

    I’ve been saving for a few years now and am at a about 15-20% safe withdrawal rate. Expecting FIRE in about 5-6 years with a 2-4% SWR.

    In case anyone wonders how:
    No debt, car paid off, save hard (change your values if it feels stressful-read ERE), working hard, studying hard, and enjoying a simpler life based more on connecting with awesome humans and creating value than consuming. I take the bus, bike, cook 99%+ of my meals (eat out once per quarter to year), read from the library, say no to most consumption items except groceries. Love buy-it for life items. Cut advertisements and normal tv. Work hard, save even harder, take care of your health, and you’ll get there, likely within a decade if you’re diligent and starting without kids or debt.

    It’s particularly refreshing knowing how many others have built that initial freedom then have it snowballed into something lifelong and truly freeing. I’d like to travel the developing world, volunteer there, visit all 7 continents, build a carbon-negative home and community, then settle in and start a business or have a family. The freedom to raise a family with full presence, to build a business without needing the money, to live in any country and contribute without needing money pulls me forward.

    To all the doubters in the comments, there are a few people who even have billions in their 20’s. 0.1% of a billion is a million and much more likely to occur in basic Gaussian (bell-curve) distribution as it is far less of an outlier than a billionaire at this age. A billionaire in their 20’s is still an outlier, a millionaire is rare but in a blog like this likely more common than you’d expect. This article speaks particularly to their situation and I find it inspiring to read their posts. There is no reason a dedicated young person, with the luck of being born in a developed nation and the wisdom to begin in their early 20’s or late teens, can’t reach a million within that decade.

  • Rich 20something Year Old October 3, 2015, 12:48 pm

    So many great comments here.

    As one of the “rich” 20something year olds in New York, this Elite Daily article really bothers me. While my income still outpaces my net worth, my net worth vastly exceeds that of every one of my friends because I save 75% of my income. I make trade offs when I want something luxurious but budget doesn’t allow for it (I went out to the bars one less weekend a month in the summer to afford the occasional cab to work on hot summer mornings…I didn’t do both as Lauren suggests I should have).

    Also, you don’t get $60,000 pay raises because you met someone hammered at the bar. I had a friend who thought this is how it worked and when he got that new job offer from the guy he met at the bar, it was for a $5,000 raise…my buddy realized the money he blew on ubers, dinners, clubs was all for nothing…you get the raise like MMM said above, because you crushed an excel file at 2am and your client praises you in front of your boss or you found the solution to a critical problem after dedicating every waking moment to solving the issue.

    Borrowing a quote from the GSElevator twitter feed (no matter how much you love/hate it, there are some golden Mustachian nuggets hidden in there) “No one has a lower credit score than the guy posting pictures of himself flashing $100 bills.”.

  • casserole55 October 4, 2015, 6:21 pm

    My life played out very much like MMM recommends in this article. I entered the workforce straight out of college during a tough economic time (mid 70s). Worked my butt off for 7 years. Got recruited by another company and took them up on a job offer that gave me a $30,000 increase (which back then was HUGE). It took some courage because it meant moving from the East Coast, where ALL my family and friends lived, to CA where I knew NO ONE! The new job involved tons of international travel to Europe and Asia – as much as 180 days per year. It was a big paid-for adventure. People 2 pay grades below me drove BMWs. My peers drove Mercedes. Me – a Honda Accord. Everyone except for me wore a Rolex. I saved and invested about 40% of my income. After 5 years, and entering my mid 30s, I decided to stop for a while to pursue a last chance effort to be a professional singer. Never looked back, and never earned much money after that. I took 2 years off, became a work-a-day musician, met my husband, a choir director. When our son was born we moved back East and lived for 5 years in New England boarding schools so I could stay home. Our only bill for 5 years was phone. Then we put 50% down on a modest house. Continued to sing and work for non-profits. Retired at 59 (this year!) with mortgage paid, plenty of money. This was possible because of those 5 years in my late 20s and early 30s when I made A LOT of money and converted it into a financial machine that has been there for me and my family for our entire lives afterwards. By the way, what was I doing when I made all that money? I was a chocolate buyer! Sweet!

    • Marcelina October 7, 2015, 12:42 pm

      Your post made me smile. Just wanted you to know that. A great example of how your past self set up your future self for success. And it only took a short period of hunkering down and focus for a lifetime of breathing a bit easier. Thanks for sharing. You’ve inspired me.

      • casserole55 October 9, 2015, 9:17 am

        Thanks, Marcelina! Best of luck to you in your quest for financial freedom. One thing I would say that I got wrong – when I left my high-paying job, I had the romantic notion that working for less money and making a difference by working for non profits would be rewarding, easy, and less stressful than working in the private sector. My actual experience was that it WAS rewarding, but it WAS NOT easy or less stressful. The singing was and still is a complete joy.

  • vicky gleitz October 4, 2015, 8:07 pm

    I am sixty years old and just been getting into full retirement mode the last two years. Getting rich in your twenties is such a smart thing to do. We were looking at retirement in our early fifties [ which is older than you smart people, but younger than most] What I am about to share with you will initially sound like a story of failure, but if you bear with me, my advanced age retirement might inspire some of you.This does end happy.

    So, we were getting ready to retire. Youngest son is 18 years younger than oldest child. My youngest son became terribly ill nine years ago with a neurological condition that caused [according to the head neurologist at Childrens Hospital] “the most excruciating pain humanly possible. He would scream and pass out from the pain hundreds of times a day. We were made to understand that on such a rare disorder [ his thalamus, which signals pain to an injury was signaling that his entire body was in incredible pain. We were told that the pain he was enduring was MUCH worse than a tazer. We tried different drugs, none of which helped. We tried eastern medicine, accupunncture, accuprrssure, cranial scrapal massages. We went outside of the United States in search of relief from his pain. Every day he begged me, “Mommy, please help me die.” We went to every faith healer. He was on thousands of prayer chains. We bought every new age product and even made appointments with the most well known psychics [ heck, with anyone saying they were psychics] All those crazy lotions and potions that promise all sorts of things that would trigger any sane person to ask “what kind of crazy would fall for that?” That would be me, but I did not believe anything, I just had to try everything.
    He is not totally healed, but is doing an easy thousand times better. Anyway, long story short, about six years ago or so, we had a net financial worth of NEGATIVE $300,000 dollars.
    My son eventually stabilized enough that I decided to seek work. Unfortunately, that same week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through the whole “slash,maim, burn, poison” treatment and then was put on meds for an indefinite period of time that meds that will hopefully keep me in remission.

    At this point we could not afford our mortgage, We could not sell our home because it was WAY upside-down. We were encouraged to walk away but we felt that people walking away from their homes was one reason that prices kept plunging. We scraped along as well as we could, but finally decided to rent out our home and we moved into a little travel trailer in the mountains. We had been members at a nudist resort for many years and that is where we moved. [ not too far from your home, MMM. If you want to visit, we run the ice cream shop and I’ll treat you to my incredible hot fudge sundaes]
    Our renters were paying our mortgage, and we were paying extra every month. And we were living in one of the prettiest places on earth. The peace was healing to my son and myself. Unfortunately, my husband was always worrying about us and now has heart failure.

    Trying to get to the finish. Property values went way up. Consolodating all our assets, enough to buy 3 small homes, 2 for rentals, in Pueblo for cash. love living in my little 700 sq foot house [ huge compared to a travel trailer] with a chicken coop in the backyard. We will keep running the ice cream shop in the summer, but we will be selling my handmade jewelry as well. I also have 2 contracts for large orders of my jewelry. [ jewelry making was something I started getting into when I was too sick to get out of bed] there are other things as well , but I have rambled long enough and we are living well enough that we will not have to give up our annual caribean cruise.
    Point is, you can accomplish a lot in a short period of time, even with some major obstacles.

  • It's never too late October 5, 2015, 6:56 pm

    I read a lot of success stories on here and it really is awesome . Me, well I kinda squandered what would have been FIRE at about 50, possibly earlier. I had a huge windfall land in my lap after making a $300k profit on the sale of a house at the peak in 2007. I blew through all of it on penny stocks. What a lesson. Nearly didn’t make it out of a long depression. I am OK now but still think about it sometimes. It was a real death spiral of desperation. My hard learned lesson is never try to outsmart the market, it is a fools errand. MMM’s investment strategy is brilliant, for 2 reasons. 1, it is a reliable way to earn good returns over the long term, and 2, you can set it and forget it, which eliminates the stress of investment decision making and emotional mistakes. Financial news is irrelevant, so you are free to ignore it and focus on fun or productive activities. I still haven’t had the guts to invest yet, but when I do it will be total market index funds. Hopefully my misfortune can help someone avoid the temptation of stock picking.

  • FIreReadyAim October 5, 2015, 10:31 pm

    MMM, where were you when I was in my twenties? I’ve done enough dumb shit since I started college 20 years ago to have been your arch villain. So I smack my head and go WTF, you could have been retired by now if you hadn’t been dicking around, but it’s better late than never, and we are moving in the right direction – not perfect, but we maximized our 401(k)s last year, and got close to maximizing the IRAs. We both come from families that could have been better with money (understatement!) – and breaking through from that has been a bitch. So thank you for providing the inspiration to keep moving in the direction of badassity, even while trying to clear the old bullshit out.

  • Wild Bill October 6, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Interesting that the “Dog Ownership is Optional” post has twice as many comments…

    • MJ October 7, 2015, 12:46 pm

      No kidding!

  • Doug October 7, 2015, 9:46 pm

    Yes, I also disagree with the idea that recklessly blowing your money in your twenties won ‘t make much difference in the grander scheme of things. The sooner you start saving and building up a portfolio the sooner you get compounding (the eighth wonder of the world) working for you. The day I turned 30 (in 1990) , I only had a net worth of about 100 grand CDN. That amount may not seem like much now, but over the years that amount (as well as savings in my 30s and 40s) has compounded nicely, despite my making some costly investment mistakes along the way. By all means START EARLY!!!!! I remember watching a show called Moneysworth on TV Ontario in the late 80s and early 90s, and that message was drilled into me and I’m better off for it. So what did I “deprive” myself of? The extra and unnecessary expense of newer cars, going out to clubs where I have to shout at the person next to me because the music is so loud (are we having any fun yet?), or a bunch of expensive toys that sit around rusting and depreciating most of the time. As for travel, I’ve enjoyed budget travel camping or staying at hostels (where I met other like minded travellers) and enjoyed the experience as much or more than staying at expensive hotels.

  • Doug October 8, 2015, 7:38 pm

    Some additions to my above comment dated October 7, 2015, 9:46 pm. Not only are many of these clubs or bars noisy, impossible to carry on a conversation, when I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s they were also full of cigarette smoke. If I am going to pay money to ruin my hearing, get a headache, and have my clothes smell bad then the only “club” I need is the one I’m hit over the head with for being such a fool.

    On the subject of starting saving and investing early, for those of you in the younger crowd the years will go by FAST and before you know it you’ll be my age of 54. Those of you closer to my age know what I mean. Those younger years for accumulating wealth will be GONE forever. Don’t waste them, get compounding working for you NOW. Another consideration is if you’re my age, are working and get laid off (something happening a lot now in the oil and gas sector) you’ll find there is a lot of age prejudice out there working against you. It’s just not as easy to get a job when you’re older. If that happens to you, you’ll be glad if you had the presence of mind to use the years now behind you to build up a portfolio.

  • Senad October 9, 2015, 4:40 am

    Wow, I can not believe I am done reading every post since the beginning of time including most comments (and excluding the brewery stuff).

    It was a little obsessive, so now I feel relieved that I can spend the time reading and doing other stuff again! :D :D

  • lifetimeandmoney October 9, 2015, 9:12 pm

    Awesome article, and as someone who is in their early thirties I completely agree with what you’re saying! Definitely wish I had done a few things differently in my early twenties. The twenties can make such an impact on the trajectory of your life depending on what small decisions you make. I also spent far more money socializing, networking, buying junk etc and didn’t contribute anything to my 401k! Err, while I now have a relatively high income, I feel like an idiot for having studied so much about economics but paying little attention to my own personal finances. My naive outlook was always living in the moment and making the most of my time, which was great and I’m happy for many of the fun experiences, but I definitely should have created some more balance and thought more about planning for the next 20 years… If only you sent me this blog about 10 years ago.

  • Sandy October 10, 2015, 12:24 pm

    MMM, you are absolutely correct in everything you write and this is a very enjoyable and useful article. My spouse and I were high earners and we literally spent everything we earned over the years. Bigger houses, bigger cars, a large family and all the rest of it. We realized what a big mistake we were making in continuing to live this way in our 40s, largely thanks to blogs like yours that helped us to think in a different way financially. Neither my spouse nor myself received any financial advice from our parents (who themselves continue to live hand to mouth in their old age) and both of us grew up poor. Hence, when we had money we spent it. It was a novelty for us for a long time.

    It has taken us a few years but today we have a net worth of around half a million dollars. We revamped everything about our lives, including our kids’ expectations. Our kids all attended university but they did it mostly on grants and by working.

    Our ONE saving grace is the fact that my husband will be receiving a sizable pension until age 90, which thankfully is half a lifetime away. Were it not for that asset, we would not be able to even THINK about retiring and living life on our terms. We would most definitely have joined those depressed ranks of suburbanites that one does indeed see running around town, trying to fit everything into the Saturday and Sunday before the daily commute begins anew on the Monday. Been there done that.

    So, all you 20 somethings out there, read this article and take it to HEART. I wish that such advice had been as readily available to us when we needed it. You will most likely NOT have pensions to fall back on so you will need to save hard and be financially smart. Good luck :)


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