An Interview with the Lawyer who Retired at 33

TGretiredI accidentally began research for this article about 2.5 years ago, when passing through Chicago on the long drive home from a summer in Canada. There was a gathering of Mustachians downtown and we kept a pub and eventually the neighboring Falafel place open late. One of the group was a young attorney in a prestigious law firm and she generously offered me a spot in her apartment’s guest room.

As we got to talking, it turned out that my new friend was not your average lawyer. In her early 30s at the time, she was living in a tidy but simple place with a matching decor. She owned no car and used a bike to get to work. Hosted roommates and couch surfers like myself occasionally as a way to cut rent bills and meet new people. Her $100,000 law school debt was long gone, and she claimed to be only two years from retirement.

Anita and I have kept in touch over the years since then, and I was really interested to see if she would follow through with this plan. Having reviewed her financial numbers (a normal and uninhibited behavior among us money nerds), I knew that the idea was solid – she would have plenty of money to live on. But when the moment of truth came, would she really give up a job at the very top of the income scale? Untold years of school and hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition – all for a legal career that lasted only five years?

But eventually those years passed, and in August I saw the following picture pop up in my Facebook feed:


And I knew it was real.

Anita has always been an avid world traveler. So since her retirement date I have seen more photos pop up from Australia, Europe, Asia, South America, and other interesting locations. I knew we had to review her inspiring story here on MMM, because there are thousands of less fortunate attorneys in the audience who may be able to benefit from her help.

I caught up with her by email and phone recently as she was spending time in Santiago, Chile. For the purposes of this interview, we’ll call her Thriftygal, as that is the name she uses on her blog (more on that later).

My Interview With The Quitting Lawyer


Mr. Money Mustache: So, I read on your blog that you stumbled into law school in 2006, less than a year after I retired. There, you racked up over $100,000 in student loan debt but at least graduated with a relatively powerful degree that found you an immediate job. How did you accomplish this, when most lawyers tell me there are too many graduates chasing too few jobs?

Thriftygal: The oft publicized secret about law school is that only the souls who went to the top law schools (or those who graduated at the very very top of their class at lower ranked law schools) have a relatively easy time finding an absurdly high paying job. I also happened to job hunt in the sweet spot of the naughts before the recession hit.

So, in a nutshell? Luck.

MMM (aside): Got it – luck. Thriftygal not only got a normal economics degree in her early 20s, and did some full-time work in various industries to pay the bills. But she then went back and got a law degree from the University of Chicago law school on her own dime, which is apparently one of the country’s top five, with tuition currently listed at $55,503 per year. A pretty grinding kind of luck that sounds suspiciously like hard work, but I admire the modesty.

MMM: OK, so now you are a 27-year-old graduate working with an unusually high salary. Most of your peers are out buying big cars and houses to celebrate, but instead you feel a radiating evil coming from your mountain of debt. At less than a year’s gross salary, I wouldn’t personally perceive this debt as huge, but it is traditional among doctors and lawyers to stretch out the repayment over 10 years or more. In those intervening years, some people spend more than that on a single car or boat. Why were you so different from your coworkers?

TG: I love the phrase radiating evil! I thought of it more as a game though. These banks loaned me this exorbitant amount of money with the idea that I would pay them a crap-ton in interest over the years. I wanted the better end of the deal. If I wanted to pay them less interest by throwing a bunch more money at the principal, there was nothing they could do about that! I felt like I was winning whenever I calculated how much less interest they would squeeze from me.

Also, I’m a bit embarrassed to think about it now, but I remember distinctly worrying that my firm would realize I was a fraud and ask me to leave. I couldn’t fathom why exactly they thought I was qualified to earn $160,000 fresh out of law school. I realized after reading an article years later, I was feeling something called “imposter syndrome.”

MMM: A year later, the debt was dispatched. You were still in your 20s with no kids, no debt, high salary and low cost of living. Surely THEN you were ready to cut loose? What living conditions did you choose at that point?

TG: Oh, I cut loose alright! I bought a bunch of really expensive coconut water. I went out with friends a bit more often and let myself travel internationally for vacations. I still had a roommate because we were good friends and I enjoyed living with her. I still took my lunch to work most days because I liked peanut butter and jelly. I still accepted my sisters’ hand-me-down clothes because I hated shopping. I still biked to work because it was fun. All the things I did that were frugal were also good for my health and good for the environment, so I saw no reason to change just because I didn’t have any more loan payments.

MMM: What was the defining moment (place, time, age, maybe a story of a critical frustrating event) when you decided to go for early retirement rather than the traditional 40-year law career? What did you imagine your life would be like after retiring?

TG: I remember talking to a friend while we were in law school after interviewing with these giant firms. I asked him if I made four times what the average person made, why couldn’t I retire four times earlier? He assured me it didn’t work that way*, but I wasn’t sold on his reasons. I’ve never been a materialistic person, so the idea of stuff didn’t appeal to me. The idea of freedom and having my time be my own, sleeping in, reading and traveling, now THAT was the life I craved.

MMM: I remember when I was about 26 and my girlfriend (now wife) and I made the decision to really go for early retirement, there was still a period of several more years of hardcore working, earning and saving, while the rest of the world (for example our coworkers) continued on their merry way. I was getting more efficient and motivated, and this contrast made standard consumer culture seem more and more bizarre and extreme in contrast. Did you notice anything similar?

TG: The consumer culture never really appealed to me. I’ve never been a fan of shopping. I’m rather petite, so finding clothes was always a chore and not a fun activity. I like wandering and the idea of baggage and having a lot of junk to cart around was out of the question. I would much rather have the money than the stuff that I knew was destroying the planet and didn’t bring me much joy.

MMM (aside): Wow, at this point in the written interview I became a little worried: Thriftygal sounds much less materialistic than me.  After all, I am into fancy houses, nice audio equipment, I bought a nice car in my early 20s, and so on. In our subsequent phone call she reassured me she still has vices: a brand new Toyota Corolla bought on credit before law school, lots of international travel, great food and more than a few dollars on expensive drinks while out on these travels as well. And she likes to have enough money to be generous with others without regret.

MMM: Somewhere in this period, you were reading blogs – first Early Retirement Extreme and then Mr. Money Mustache after it came into the picture. How did you end up reading here, and then later providing me with a guest room in which to crash on the way through Chicago?

TG: I gobbled up every personal finance article I could find when I was paying down my debt and after a while I wasn’t learning anything new. I liked ERE, but thought it might be a little TOO extreme for me. My friend introduced me to your blog shortly after you started it and described it as “the PhD of personal finance” where everything else was “high school personal finance.” I thought it was pretty apt. :)

MMM (aside): Hmm, I would have thought ERE is the PhD while I’m more of the basic Computer Engineering degree with an apprenticeship in the construction trades. But sure, I’ll take the compliment.

TG: And then I saw your post about the first Ecuador retreat! I was out of debt by that point, infatuated with travel, about to move to Sydney, had a major blog crush on you and Jim Collins, so naturally I jumped at the chance of attending. It was one of the best vacations I’ve been on and it was so wonderful to meet so many like-minded people who didn’t scoff when I said I wanted to retire in a couple of years.

MMM: How much money did you figure you would need to retire on (either in terms of dollars or a multiple of expenses?) And did you quit when you reached exactly that amount of money?

TG: I read Your Money Or Your Life and started my own wall chart. As soon as my average monthly expenses for the past few years were less than my projected passive income, I knew I could live the same lifestyle I currently had (and loved) and wouldn’t need to work anymore. I stayed a bit longer than I needed to because I was living in Sydney and under contract, which I absolutely don’t regret.

MMM: Once you cut off the income stream, how do you keep the money allocated so that most of it remains at work for you , yet you have a reasonable amount flowing into the checking account for monthly expenses?

TG: I have a little over a year’s worth of expenses in my checking account. The rest of my money is tucked away in investments. When my checking account money starts to run out next January, I may look for a part-time job if the stock market is still in the meh range, but that’s a problem for future me.

MMM (aside): Uh-oh! You just said you might work again, I’m calling the Internet Retirement Police! I followed up with Thriftygal on this point and she said work would still be totally unnecessary from a financial perspective. She just likes the adventure of new and unusual jobs – one of her earlier stints was as a flight attendant!

If you have saved enough to meet the 4% rule and have the money stashed in low-fee Index funds, you’ll get 2% in dividends alone which can flow straight to your checking account. Then you simply set your account to automatically sell a tiny amount shares once per quarter to keep your checking balance where you want it. This is what I have done on years when my post-retirement income from miscellaneous hobby work was less than our spending.

MMM: I saw a picture of your packed bags in August 2015, and I knew you had pulled the trigger and actually retired. What have you been up to since then? And what unexpected challenges has retirement presented you with? Would you offer any cautionary words to other people who are striving now in the equivalent to where you were in, say, 2011?

TG: I’m on a never-ending quest to see the world, so I’ve been soothing my wanderlust and traveling. I spent a month in Asia, another month bumming around Sydney, a month+ visiting family in the States, a month+ in the Caribbean and now I’m wandering around South America.

The unexpected challenges question is my favorite one because I honestly thought that when I retired my life would be all fairies and unicorns dancing in the rainbows. And while I do indeed love love love my life right now, I’m surprised by how lonely I often feel. Most of the people I know work and can’t hang out during the week. I’m traveling, but it’s mostly solo as normal people can’t up and gallivant around the globe for months at a time.

I also struggle with laziness and worry that I’m wasting my lucky place in the universe. My advice to people who are striving is to be sure to have a clear idea of what you want your life to be post-retirement. Have lists of things you want to do and accomplish because if you’re the type of person who has the discipline to retire early, you’re probably the type of person who won’t be happy as a couch potato.

For me it was never about discipline because I never wanted the stuff, the things, the junk, the consumerism. I could be perfectly happy smoking pot on my couch. :)

MMM:  That point about everybody else being stuck in work is a good one – some early retirees feel like a kid skipping school and finding an empty town, and there was a recent New York Times story on the idea.

I have a different perspective since family life keeps me busy, then I have my carpentry addiction (plus more recently this blog) and a good number of local friends who are semi-retired or self employed without real work schedules as well. Everything always boils down to having good times with people you like.

So anyway, the entire world is now open to you. What do you see in your future? Would you ever take a job just for the fun of it? Start a company? Work part time? Settle in a different country?

TG: My short-term goal is to travel and tick off other items on my life bucket list. I’m learning to cook authentic Indian food. I want to write. I want to read lots and lots and lots and lots of books. I like to set my alarm clock for when I’d normally wake up for work and then cackle when I shut it off and go back to sleep.

My friends tell me I’m taking more of an extended sabbatical as opposed to retirement as I know for sure that I’ll take another job at some point. On my life bucket list, I want to see what it’s like to work in a factory. I want to start a business. I want to start a nonprofit. There is so much to do and see and explore and I just hope I can find the motivation to do it all!

MMM Conclusion: That sounds just right to me. When I retired 10 years ago I didn’t know exactly what was in store – I only knew that I wanted my weekdays to be as fun and productive as my weekends seemed to be.

But it turned out that I really love to create stuff (houses, sentences, events, designs, adventures, music, whatever), and these activities are often labeled as “work”. But if I have to endure even a single day without the opportunity do this “work”, I can get into a depressive funk. Sure, I like a leisurely breakfast and a mostly unscheduled life. But I can’t deal with too much ass-flattening inactivity.

One time I took a week-long trip on a cruise ship and it was hell for me. It was all consumption with no opportunity to work on anything at all. No tools, no Internet, no food planning or preparation, and no Nature. I had to resort to running up and down the 14 storeys of staircases, standing on the empty, windy top deck to look out at the ocean and using the gym between lineups at the buffet.

I wrote more about the connection between early retirement and continued work in a story for Vox Magazine.
It’s called “What Early Retirement Taught Me About Life (and Work)“, so please ignore the incorrect title that somebody there made up for it and slapped on.

 More from Thrifty Gal


It turns out that Anita has had a personal blog all along and just didn’t tell me about it. She is a pretty catchy writer and has used her site called The Power of Thrift to document the battle between her savings and expenses since 2013.





The Thriftygal book.

Update: almost two years later, she ended up writing a book and publishing it.  Operation Enough: How to Retire Remarkably Early is available on paperback and Kindle at Amazon. Way to go Thriftygal!





* Thriftygal’s skepticism was warranted here. Making four times more than average does indeed allow you to cut your career at least four times shorter, but that doesn’t mean hope is lost for those of us with normal salaries. Your time to financial independence depends not on your income, but on your savings rate, which means living efficiently is more important than earning more. It is very feasible to retire in your 30s after never earning more than $40,000 per year, but equally possible (and much more common) to make $300,000 and have nothing to show for it at age 60.



  • Krystal January 13, 2016, 10:20 am

    UGHHHH I make 30,000 as a social worker and my only option to make more is to go in to debt for school and then be thrilled if I make $40,000 a year. Good for this girl but this just isn’t reality for so many of us not making $160,000/ year :(

    • Matt K January 13, 2016, 10:38 am

      Well of course it’s not the reality for most of us…but that’s not the point of the story, is it? She made the best of her situation while many others go all out and waste untold fortunes because everyone else is driving an E-class or whatever else everyone else at 160K/year does. I suppose both you and I could have chosen a more lucrative path, could we have not?

      • Frugal Bazooka January 14, 2016, 10:17 am

        You hit the nail on the head. It drives me bonkers when I hear people talk about income inequality when they chose a fun “liberal arts’ degree and opted for a government job that maxes out at 70k. They bemoan the inequality of another person who busted their ass to get a law degree and work 12 hour days and earns $160k. What’s unequal about that? NOTHING!! If you want more out of life whether it be knowledge, money or financial freedom you will have to bust your ass somewhere along the way. If not, stop complaining…there’s even a name for it: complainy pants

        • Matt January 14, 2016, 11:27 am

          There’s a legitimate argument to be made that we as a society don’t financially value those who elect a life of service. Likewise, there’s also a legitimate argument that we financially overvalue certain professions that are almost always geared toward maximizing and protecting corporate profits and interests.

          If Person A and Person B both come out of school with a 1:1 income to debt ratio, with person A starting at 24k a year and person B starting at 160k a year, it will be much easier for Person B to live frugally and have more expendable income earmarked for debt relief than Person A, simply because Person A can only cut down expenses so much before flirting with poverty.

          Some people choose to go into public service out of a genuine desire to help others, and are rewarded for it meagerly. And they often make that decision as an 18 year old. Let’s not kick them while they’re down.

          I like this blog, but some of the “that’s what you get for trying to help others!” attitude I see from some of the comments drive me nuts.

          • Lost in Space January 14, 2016, 1:27 pm

            THANK YOU, I’ve noticed that myself!

          • Mrs. Healthywealth January 14, 2016, 9:08 pm

            This comment was very kind and appreciated. As a public servant I love helping the disenfranchised population. My mentality going into this field was to help others, and to have an nice paycheck. As a starting social worker, I made $45,000 base salary with a masters, but worked overtime every weekend to make $80k and pay off debt. Eventually within 8yrs I made $130k. But I worked at least 60-65 hr/week. It was worth it. I hope this doesn’t come off judge-y, it’s not meant to, making money to retire early for most public servants, has a lot to do with your mentality, putting in the time/effort, some luck, and being frugal. Seriously, many of us get a fat pension, everything else is icing on the cake.

          • murillo January 15, 2016, 1:34 am

            I agree. I have a master’s degree (not in liberal arts, either) and have never topped €35k a year. I subscribed to MMM on a family member’s recommendation, and find it a very elitist blog. I would suggest no matter how hard you “work your ass off”, some people just don’t have the intellectual or emotional stamina to get through demanding academic programmes or keep up with some ultra-lucrative jobs. I know a very intelligent woman who “cracked” in medical school and is having serious issues all around. Breakdowns happen. Too bad Moustachians add insult to injury by not recognizing that people struggling financially CAN be (and probably ARE) struggling intellectually, emotionally, mentally or in other ways, too.

            • Hector D. January 15, 2016, 1:35 pm

              Okay so I guess I’m playing both sides here …. ultimately what you choose to do with your life is your decision. What some people don’t realize is that cracking six figures isn’t the end all be all to have financial stability and retiring early … trust me on that, I’ve been there before I was 25 with barely a B.S. in a computer field! It’s what you do with the rest of your time, resources that matter!

              Sure could I be on the path to retire by 33, maybe but I don’t really want to because I love doing what I do and it still is considered public service!! I will say it again, it’s what you do after your regular 9-5 that really matter! If you have kids, what’s stopping you from getting a real estate license, and selling homes part time so that you can eliminate debt and invest like crazy into things that will give you a residual income each month? What’s stopping you from working until 11 at night only to come back home and get 5 hr of sleep and back at it 6 days a week!

              In a sense, stop complaining for real! She busted her a** and was able to benefit from all the years of hard work, you can too! Saying that public service doesn’t pay as much is complete crap, you just chose that particular public servant profession …. no-one is good at just doing one thing!

              I say this as a 28 year old ex-service member who lives with ankle/knee pains due to botched military surgeries, but you know what … that’s life! I typically work 60 hr/work weeks so that my wife can get a part-time job and spend more time with the kids and not have to pay day care expenses! Find a way to make it work for you if early retirement is what you want! If you are able to get a full night sleep, catch up on your favorite TV show but wonder why you aren’t making enough $$$ to retire early …. pffff, you are doing it wrong!

              I don’t mean for my comments to be taken as an insult, I really mean that!

            • Frugal Bazooka January 18, 2016, 10:42 pm

              I see your comments as inspirational, with zero insults attached. It continues to tickle me that people who don’t believe they can succeed for whatever reason bother to read a blog predicated on the assumption of a personal commitment to constantly strive for success without excuses.
              You sir make no excuses despite your hardships and that is why ultimately you will succeed at whatever you attempt.

            • John Galt January 16, 2016, 9:58 am

              Nobody here is picking on low income crowd. All Mustachians are saying is you don’t need a lot of crap to be happy. Of course, if you make less money, it is harder to retire early, but if learn to be frugal, you life will be less stressful.

              Read the millionaire next door. One guy was a bus driver and saved his money to send his kids to harvard and yale. He invested and drove the bus.

              All this sounds like sour grapes to me.

            • Mr. Frugal Toque January 16, 2016, 10:15 am

              I’d have a hard time trying to make a general observation about how Mustachians regard people with lower incomes, or people who don’t have the “intellectual/emotional stamina” to handle higher income jobs.
              Mustachian philosophy focuses primarily on the people who *are* already making lots of money, but blow it on commuting in large vehicles, owning a yacht, taking ridiculous vacations, buying restaurant meals on a daily basis etc. – basically those who try to find happiness through consumption of material goods.
              Any judgement you’re seeing against people with lower incomes should not be regarded as a vital part of the philosophy.

            • Megan January 18, 2016, 3:07 pm

              Thank you. Well said. It is important to keep in mind the intended audience of this blog. It was never intended to be a one-size fits all approach, though the concept of mindful consumption is relevant to us all.

            • Genevieve Hawkins January 20, 2016, 12:15 pm

              About two years ago MMM was about my favorite website I was checking it every day for new posts. Now I get to it about one time per month. The reason is because I don’t get much out of articles about saving for retirement on a 100K plus income. 160K per year is about 150K more than I need. So I prefer articles about bringing expenses closer to zero. There’s a lot of moralizing implicit in these–if only I gave up the (dog, car, kids, debt, big house, bad habits) then I could make bank and retire early. But I realistically never expect to make anywhere near this much in a year and will gladly settle for being happy instead…

          • The Vigilante January 15, 2016, 11:00 am

            Public service jobs are valued just fine. Your pay is never based on your ability to do nice things. You choose a career knowing this. If your goal is to make money fast, go into a career that (A) involves an employer trusting you with a lot of responsibility for your employer’s well-being, (B) requires specialized training and expertise, and (C) earns a lot of money for your employer. Those are the keys to a high salary: risk, supply and demand, and profitability.

            Compare a social worker and a CEO, for example. Risk: If social worker fucks up, someone may get hurt – a child, a family. If a CEO fucks up, millions of children and families may get hurt. Supply and Demand: A good social worker is a dime a dozen. A good CEO is hard to come by (impossible, in some minds). Profitability: A social worker doesn’t generate any profit. A CEO is responsible for pretty much the entire company’s ability to generate a profit.

            • Matt January 15, 2016, 11:40 am

              I’d love to see how you came up with the conclusions of your last paragraph, as I find the opposite to generally be true in regards to CEO risk. CEOs are OFTEN rewarded handsomely for their mistakes, and OFTEN times to the direct detriment to “millions of children and families,” as you so carelessly put it.

              Then you go on to casually conflate importance with profitability. Profitability is hardly an indicator of societal importance. Nor is it a requisite for a healthy, functioning democracy.

              There are many, MANY people, who have the functioning capacity to earn high wages and advance up the corporate ladder, but A) Cannot due to simple nepotism or favoritism, or B) Will not due to moral or ethical apprehension, or even C)Find the line of work to be emotionally unsatisfying.

              Functioning democracies NEED people who choose a life of service. I can only imagine how much poorer off as a society we would be without the likes of Martin Luther King or other members who dedicated their “hard work” to the cause of social uplift rather than profit.

              I’m sorry, but anyone who casually assumes that only the wealthy “worked hard” comes across as politically naive. There is GROSS inequality (especially in the US) and the numbers very clearly indicate that these factors are the result of economic design, and not some sudden cultural shift toward laziness. It’s fine if you want to pull yourself toward financial independence, but let’s not ignore these realities. That’s just lazy.

            • The Vigilante January 15, 2016, 1:08 pm

              If you read carefully enough, you’ll notice I didn’t say that the pay of the social worker or the pay of the CEO was in any way dependent upon *successfully* fulfilling any goals. That isn’t always the case. But here’s a tip: You have a better chance of finding proper incentives when you work for the kind of boss who assumes that hard work and good results correlate. :)

              And profit is immensely important to the function of, well, humanity, so long as money represents what it is truly supposed to: productive power. (Whether that’s true or not is another debate, not really relevant to this post.) Without productivity, we wither away and die. Your phone, your car, even your food are products that are not naturally occurring (at least not in quantities that can sustain all of us), and they are all the result of folks chasing profit. Now, that is “simply” put – which is how I like to put things. You were correct there! So let’s put it as simply as possible: Without social services, some people suffer. Without productivity, all people suffer. This covers one of the three reasons why a CEO is generally more well compensated than a social worker, and rightfully so.

              But then again, you are welcome to ignore all of this, as I’m just another wealthy lawyer 1%er elitist! (Nevermind that only the “lawyer” part of that is true – you’ve pidgeonholed me and gotten on your soapbox. I can’t change your mind!)

            • Justin January 15, 2016, 2:16 pm

              First of all, I don’t see anyone wondering why a CEO makes more money than a social worker. That’s a straw man.

              Regardless, by your logic, social workers should be paid as much as nurses and maybe doctors. And definitely more than lawyers. After all, if a social worker fucks up, someone gets hurt (abused, neglected, sick, suicide, murder); if a lawyer fucks up, well, a lot of the time, it costs people money. Thus, social workers should be paid more than lawyers. How about this; if a programmer fucks up, software breaks and an app runs poorly; company sales are slow and share value declines. Seems like

              Obviously I know that not how the world works, but that’s where your argument leads.

              As far as profitability: Maybe you’re a libertarian, but… Don’t you think some things (not everything, mind you) should be valued for their benefit to society, not just immediate profitability? Consider the financial cost to society of sexual abuse, mental health, poverty, homelessness. These things have long terms and costly consequences on the medical system, the prison system, the criminal justice system. Doesn’t it make sense to pay for prevention and treatment of these problems, even if the actual “customers” cannot fork out the dough? Sort of how we invest in roads and education?

              Finally, why do you think a good social worker is a dime a dozen? Google “social worker shortage”. Last I checks, lawyers were a dime a dozen though.

            • The Vigilante January 15, 2016, 3:05 pm

              It is not a straw man, but an anecdote in response to the comment embodying several of the comments here that “we as a society don’t financially value those who elect a life of service.”

              I am unaware of a social worker shortage, nor do I feel the need to look. I agree with you 100% that there is an overabundance of lawyers in most geographic markets in America right now. The salaries and unemployment levels help illustrate that the market is saturated. So in that sense, you have helped prove my point.

              You cannot take any single indicator of the market value of a job (in your case, supply) and say “Well then, this one is worth as much as or more than that one.” Just like any other commodity, labor is subject to many influences. The strongest of which, I believe, are the three I laid out above (which happens to include supply, as one part – see how much we have in common!).

              I also think you can safely assume that long-term profitability is built in to most transactions, including in labor. Not all, possibly, and maybe there’s some work available in education to correct this shortcoming in the market. But the wage of a social worker already includes the necessary incentive to get the bare minimum we think we need to accomplish enough social work goals. Same goes for lawyers. Maybe the market is correcting itself now, and maybe social worker wages will rise. Maybe not. Maybe they don’t need to. Or maybe they need to change drastically. I don’t know. But I do know that there are long-term benefits to all jobs that you are failing to see. How about how many people are not on the streets because Bill Gates helped make the offices of the world more efficient and thus helped productivity skyrocket globally in fields completely unrelated to computer science? Social workers might have reasons to feel good, but it’s very short sighted to think that only feel-good jobs actually do good.

              Lastly, I am not a Libertarian. I am not affiliated with any political party. But at least you did not assume one of the other, larger parties, and for that I am grateful. Thank you!

            • The Vigilante January 15, 2016, 3:08 pm

              Also, my “dime a dozen” comment was probably a poor choice of words. Let me put it this way: Compare the availability of a good replacement, and certain careers that are far less “socially valuable” – since that seems to be your concern – suddenly become way more profitable than the more “socially valuable” careers. Compare a social worker to an NFL player. There are many fewer people in the world who can be an NFL athlete than who can be a social worker. Fire a social worker and you can put out an ad and get a new one in days. Maybe a better one. Fire Peyton Manning and try to replace him.

            • Nathan May 30, 2016, 12:13 am

              As a programmer, I can assure you that the potential consequences of screwing up are much worse than you imply; if a programmer doesn’t do their job right, it could result in millions of people getting their identities stolen, bank accounts emptied, credit ruined, place of residence compromised, or any number of other awful things. Causing an app to run slowly is just about the least amount of damage a programmer could do if they mess up.

            • Leslie January 19, 2016, 11:26 am

              In 2010 a faulty P. G. and E. gas pipe line with defective welds resulted in an explosion that killed 8 people in San Bruno, California. The company was fined 1.6 billion by the state PUC. The CEO retired that year with a retirement package of 35 million dollars. Failure was profitable for him.

            • Aaron January 26, 2016, 7:50 am

              What shoddy work. Every CEO knows you should double check your welds!

          • Bill January 19, 2016, 5:40 am

            I haven’t seen anyone say, “that’s what you get for helping people”, but I can see people finding fault with those who chose a path that is not as marketable, and then complaining when their income lags the higher paying fields. It may not seem “fair”, but its normal economics. Usually businesses have more money than individuals, so those who can provide value to those with money (business) will usually be paid higher for that higher value. As you said, they are helping the business remain profitable and that’s why they exist. If you want to help people, who have less money than businesses, then you will be paid less. Unless you cater to the wealthy, which is why their advisors still do well. Accountants, lawyers, etc.

            I’m not sure that it is society that overvalues these people or undervalues those who serve others. Accountants and lawyers serve businesses, which are made up of people. I assume you mean the less wealthy, who once again are less able to pay higher rates. Its economics and the only way you can change it is through government and taxes, which throws economics out the window. Or charity, but that is voluntary of course.

            • Matt January 20, 2016, 3:23 pm

              I mostly agree with you.

              But implicit in your rationale (which I find no real fault in, in practical terms) is the idea that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Again, in purely economic terms, that rationale makes perfect sense (or cents…money puns, yayyy).

              And you are correct in your assessment that the only way to change the value of those fields would be through large scale governmental reform (which, I’m sure you would agree, would receive major opposition from corporate interests who massively benefit from the status quo).

              But my larger point is that its pretty cruel to expect an 18 or 19 year old kid to have a sound understanding of American corporate capitalism. Those who choose a life of service are likely to learn their harsh economic fate long after they have committed financially to their cause. Many of them probably find their way to this blog long after that realization. They likely have a greater appreciation of the devastating effects of poverty, because they see it on a daily basis. Someone who’s job is to secure corporate profits is not as likely to experience that world. To berate those who serve when they are already down is not productive.

              But I disagree with your last point. If you subscribe at all to the idea of democracy, or believe that a healthy society is one where citizens have agency over policy, then government does not “throw economics out the window,” but rather exists to protect the rights of all members equally, including the historically impoverished. Those regulations often feel restrictive to the “have’s” simply because it limits how deep into the pockets of the “have not’s” they can legally reach.

              Regulations and economic controls that are designed to dampen the destructive effects of unfettered capitalism are not throwing economics out the window, they are just preventing capitalism from destroying itself.

          • benny January 21, 2016, 9:50 am

            This is a great point. Those that have chosen to be servants to the less fortunate in society will often times be meagerly compensated and not enjoy financial freedom as soon as they would like. We should greatly appreciate those who have chosen a life of service because the economy does not compensate them fairly.

          • kim March 14, 2016, 2:25 pm

            I want to write a book just so I can name it Flirting with poverty!

        • Justin January 14, 2016, 11:57 am

          FYI, Frugal Bazooka, social work is not a “liberal arts” degree. Social workers are usually masters-level professionals and can be licensed healthcare providers. They can diagnose and treat mental health disorders and get paid by insurance companies for this service. Social work is hard work that is not valued much by our society (see: your comment) because the “customers” are often poor and marginalized. I agree that the original poster is complaining and that that’s not helpful, but as a social worker myself, I want to counter your characterization of her profession.

          • Miranda January 14, 2016, 12:31 pm

            Thank you. I have my master’s degree in social work. Depending on the state you are in it then takes another 2-5 years to get your clinical license, years spent working full time, doing supervision, and maybe taking more required classes. I love social work and I knew what I was getting in to. It’s not an easy field, but a very necessary one. We have a major shortage of social workers in this county because so many people write them off (until they need one) and so many others are unwilling or unable to do the job.

            • Miranda January 14, 2016, 12:32 pm

              Not to mention the years of unpaid internships that are required to graduate.

          • Frugal Bazooka January 14, 2016, 2:58 pm


            I appreciate your comments however I think you’re projecting a bit here. I am not characterizing a particular profession in any way, I’m alluding to the fact that many people chose relative easy majors in college that do not lead to a well paying job. They know this when they chose to focus on the social sciences or arts. I have no problem with following your heart and loving your job, but I do have a problem with complaining about it later.
            And how do I know about these choices people make in college? Because I was one of those kids who ignored the reality of what kind of job my degree would garner and followed my heart.
            I ended up busting my ass after college starting a business to make up for my lack of marketable skills, but I refuse to blame the system or the lack of appreciation for my particular degree for my financial problems out of college. The blame was unequivocally mine.

            • Justin January 14, 2016, 3:07 pm

              Thanks for the response; I understood your comment as referring specifically to the original poster’s academic decision, lumping SW in with Philosophy, English, Sociology degrees, etc., and so that’s where I was coming from. I generally agree with you about unmarketable bachelors degrees. In fact, I got one too, and had to go back to grad school and get an MSW which turned out to be much more marketable (see my comment down below).

        • Matt K January 14, 2016, 6:57 pm

          12 hour days is what a big law associate puts in on a Saturday or Sunday…at least that’s my perception as a former Big 4 CPA. We out in solid hours for a lot less than Anita but we also only have simple Bachelors degrees and often no debt (at least in my lucky case). Bonus, the demand for beancounters is high as evidenced by my own fortune of getting a Big 4 offer on the eve of the great recession (summer 2007) and still getting raises and promotions since then.

        • Christina January 20, 2016, 5:10 pm

          Um, settle down there Frugal Bazooka! I think Anita was right when she said she got that job because of luck. Lots and lots of people out there are smart, work hard, get a law degree and are either still looking for a job or making way less than 100K. For example, I graduated from a top 50 law school in 2007, my first job paid 41K per year, and I currently work for a private firm in Hawaii doing class action work where my salary is, wait for it…64K per year. Needless to say, the law loans are still in the picture.

          It’s nice to here Anita’s story, and I’m glad she is so awesome! But the reality is that the circumstances that made that possible applies to approximately 1% of the population.

    • Nathan January 13, 2016, 10:52 am

      You’ve got to get more creative. Find additional work. Find it thinking “I’ll do this extra for six months.” Do something that is completely different than social work, and you will find the additional work is actually energizing compared to draining. While I was in undergraduate, I worked three different jobs at one time (waiter at two different pubs and a gas station clerk). I found I was more energized than when I worked only one job. I was more focused on the tasks at hand (i.e., school work, getting good sleep and food), and I partied a lot less. It was a transcendental moment, where everything coalesced for me (I started paying off college loans before even finishing). Granted, I had the cheapest rent ever and no dependents. In the end, it is all about finding opportunities, and some of these opportunities will pay enormous dividends. Work extra now will pay dividends latter. So get creative and find those opportunities. Good luck.

    • MyFrugalChicago January 13, 2016, 11:21 am

      Not to be “that guy”, but you knew this when you picked your career, right? Your salary is in the range suggested by Salary.gov.

      When I went to college, I picked a salary that had a median pay of about 100k. I now make 150k.

      I am sure you benefit the world more, which is awesome… my goal was to be able to make enough money and be comfortable. Pros and cons to all careers…

      • Kevin January 13, 2016, 3:31 pm

        You’re right, but I understand Krystal’s feelings too.

        The “anyone can do it” message sometimes clashes with stories of how successful people who are many standard deviations above the mean are. It can end up being more of a bummer when it is supposed to be inspirational.

        The advice is universal which is good, but you’re probably not gonna get MMM or Anita like results unless you’re making 3 times the median household income like they are.

        • Elsie Brown May 30, 2016, 2:28 pm

          This has been my general sentiment in reading MMM articles. I love them and I think people love to hear that they can do anything. But I also think that not everyone is so smart, so educated, or so privileged. Given , MMM knows he’s privileged. The fact remains though, median wage workers won’t see the same kind of ‘stash growth unless they find a way to make more. And what’s the most accessible way to make more? Education which inevitably means debt. If you didn’t go to college straight out of high school like most of the early retirees we’ve seen, or worse you had kids, then you’re even further behind. So I think the message is incredibly inspiring, but sometimes it stretches the boundaries of reason.

      • Derek January 21, 2016, 6:20 am


        Thanks for that! I was going to say, we are all adults and are responsible for the decisions we make in terms of career/pay/etc..

        I have a great deal of respect for people that choose to take a lower salary for what they love doing or to have a great impact on the good of society. We know that money isn’t everything – and these people really prove it.

        I make six-figures and often find myself wondering if I “sold-out” into a profession that I’m not 100% happy with. The good thing with all of this (and it’s what MMM teaches) is that you are 100% in control of all of this. If you’re in a job that doesn’t pay what you’d like, you can always go back to school, find a mentor, start a side-business, or simply try and find another job in the same field that pays more. Don’t fall into the mental trap that you’re stuck!!!!

    • Stephen January 13, 2016, 11:33 am

      The fact that $160,000/year is not a reality for you (it isn’t for me at this point in my life either) isn’t terribly important. Everyone’s situation is unique and all you can do is make the best of your own. Dismissing her story as just a “special case” only distracts you from doing what is necessary to reach the same goal. It may take you (and I) longer, but that doesn’t make it an impossible dream.

      • Finance Clever January 14, 2016, 8:42 am

        Well said, Stephen!
        Also, income doesn’t have to be stagnant either. You can get promoted, go back to school, change jobs, start a side hobby/business (or many), etc.

        • Jessica January 15, 2016, 4:44 pm

          It can be done. I was making $55k base and up to $15k in bonus. At 30 I had a baby, read this blog and switched careers inspired by what I read here. 3 years later I now work less and am making $90k base with bonus expected as $10-15k. All with a BA in Psych, a throw away degree and totally unrelated to what I am doing now. I applied for jobs without regard to the education requirements but with a kickass cover letter because one recruiter once told me job requirements are just guidelines to get out the totally unqualified. My on the field experience and life experience made me qualified for what I do now. So a high income can be done with imagination (how do your skills translate) and persistence. We expect 5 more years working and will “retire” about 40. Which is still a pretty sweet deal!

          • Deb January 20, 2016, 10:34 am

            I’d love to hear more about your previous job, what your new job is, and how you translated your skills to the new job. I’ve been trying to figure out how to make my skills translate, but I’m just not sure where to start. Also, I think I suffer from the “imposter syndrome” referenced in the article, but it strikes before I even submit an application.

            I have a marketable degree (marketing major with minor in econ), but I realized at the end that I just couldn’t see myself working in that field (and thus never did). So I have the degree, but not the “real world” experience, and I’m trying to figure out new directions.

            • Kathy Abell January 21, 2016, 6:18 pm

              I’m wondering whether or not women are more subject to imposter syndrome than men are? No matter how successful a woman becomes (in whatever way that woman measures her success), it seems she always tends to think, “when will they find out I don’t really belong here (or deserve this)?” I don’t think most successful men have these thoughts.

              In my case, it took me a long time to come to grips with the idea that yes, I was the expert (in my very niche area) and what a surprise that was to me when I finally figured it out. LOL

            • Jessica February 8, 2016, 5:26 pm

              Sorry, I just thought to look if there were any follow up comments. If I were you I’d talk to a head hunter and even the forum section of this site for ideas. Also I spent about 6 hours a week applying to 3 or 4 jobs a week. I fine tuned my resume to each job. I disregarded requirements for experience/school if it looked like I could do the job. It took about 3 months each time and resulted in very few interviews, but it only takes 1 job. My evolution was psych BA to event manager to office/facility manager who handled renovation projects to now project manager who handles facility’s. The event manager customer service is what most interviewers loved. I have great stories about “fires” I put out and how to deliver excellent customer service in the face of controversy. There are so many niche fields, just go on Indeed and start exploring. Some jobs want you to answer certain questions essay style which really helped me refine over and over that cover letter. Good luck.

      • EMML January 14, 2016, 9:12 am

        Actually, it is important. The vast majority of people will never make anywhere near that salary in their lifetime. That makes it unrelatable, even if this lady seems like a really great person who would be cool to hang out with. I’d like to see more stories about how people can do this on a $40k salary, because that is the reality for most of us.

        • MrFrugalChicago January 14, 2016, 9:17 am

          Why is it a reality? Make changes so it isn’t. That is like saying “I am overweight by 100 pounds. Why do we have all these articles about doing physical activities? The real people in the world are also 100 pounds overweight. Make more articles about us.”. No just like you can lose weight, you can make more money. MMM had a good post of careers that pay well with limited school costs. Try one of those.

          There are two sides to the savings equation – income and expenses. You would be foolish to not work both. Who cares how frugal you are if you make 10k a year? Or who cares if you make 500k a year if you spend 499k. You need to work both.

          • EMML January 14, 2016, 9:22 am

            Do you want the masses to be mustachian, or just the elite few who have figured out how to make in the top 5-10% of the salaries in the US?

            • brett January 14, 2016, 11:43 am

              People take it upon themselves to create blogs and start dispensing vast amounts of knowledge and advice only to get nitpicked in the comments. It gets old.

              People need to remind themselves… it’s a free blog. There are tons of great articles on this blog containing vast amounts of information that can be used by people of all sorts of income levels. Glean what useful info you can and move on. If you see a gap, fill it. Create a blog and write for that audience.

              Another thing to consider. Maybe he’s not writing for you. Maybe you’ll tell your kid or niece about all this early retirement stuff. Maybe they’ll choose a lucrative career path and they’ll be the ones to retire after 5-10 years.

            • EMML January 15, 2016, 1:40 pm

              I’ve read this entire blog, and I seem to remember that MMM wanted to change the world. I would like to see him succeed. In order to really do that, he needs to reach people a little farther down the food chain. It’s really a numbers game–there’s just a ton more people there. If he’s happy just reaching engineers/professionals and the like, that is his prerogative, but it runs counter to his stated goals.

              (I actually have started a blog of my own, but I’m not there yet, and my career is currently on pause. I also have taken a more unusual path, so probably not quite so relatable to the masses either. Since this seems to be a gathering place for like-minded folks, I’d love to hear the stories of those that are closer to my family’s current income level. Several have been mentioned in the comments, so let’s hear more! Is that really too much to ask?)

            • Aaron January 26, 2016, 11:16 am

              Check the forums if you want to find more current and relatable material right now. MMM is writing from his experiences and from those of guest speakers/writers. Some past stories have been much lower income. But it’s not a bad idea to ask for more main articles that deal with success stories with lower income. They do exist, and they have been written (not sure how precisely they fit into what you are looking for though).

              In just about every article MMM talks about forging your own path, making it work for you, modifying as needed. He’s more about waking people up who are asleep to the fact that they have the power to make changes to their lives. He is more about guidelines (drive less, bike more) and thought processes (be happy with what you have, want less) than establishing a specific plan (he’s not proposing to get a $160k a year job to retire early).

        • darkadams00 January 14, 2016, 10:25 am

          “Unrelatable” with respect to time–yes. “Unrelatable” with respect to outcome–no. I was making $22k in early adulthood. I went back to school for a completely new field, went on to grad school, and shortly thereafter saw my first $100k year with income continuing to climb on a pretty rapid clip. Hard work–studying and working almost full time? Heck yes. But it was worth it to me.

          If that level of time/work investment is not worth it or the resulting job is not worth it, then one should readjust his/her “wanter” to align with his/her “getter.” In the worst case scenario, plot out exactly how long it would take to get the ole ‘stache large enough to retire if living efficiently. I’m certain it will be closer to the 4 years than the typical 40 years for most–even at the median wage.

          • EMML January 14, 2016, 7:00 pm

            I also went back to get a 2nd degree in a much more lucrative field. I worked hard and did awesome. Then some shit happened. Some real life and death shit. So, instead of being constantly reminded of what I am currently prevented from doing (the very thing that is causing much distress), it would be a hell of a lot more motivational to see others that make it work with what is currently available to me.

            (Even with the shitty salary/degree, I managed to save at a healthy rate. I don’t expect to ER in 5 years, as I’m already 15 in. I just hope to have ER still within reach.)

        • Stephen January 14, 2016, 1:00 pm

          For what it’s worth, I’m well within the “most of us” category you mentioned.

          I make little more than $40k (actually less than that after taxes). Even still, I’m closing in on a 40% savings rate while living in California (without feeling at all deprived). I do so using a similar mindset to what Thriftygal outlined in the interview: paying down what debt I had aggressively, not spending ridiculously, and investing wisely.

          So while I’ll likely never make $160k/year, I found her story totally relatable. Sure, the high salary accelerated her path, but in my opinion, the important parts of the story were not the salary, but the choices she made to make the best of her situation. People earning less can still make similar decisions to make the most of their own situation.

        • greg January 24, 2016, 9:45 pm

          > The vast majority of people will never make anywhere near that salary in their lifetime

          that’s true, but I think the general point of the blog still stands — saving 50% of the median household income of $52,000 can be within reach of many (not “all”, and perhaps not “most”). Saving 35% still has amazing results compared to the typical 5% or less for such a salary range (and things get even more ridiculous when income rises above $70,000 and the savings rate doesn’t change).

          I think there’s a good balance of contentedness with less and striving for more that hinges on the qualities of each side: embrace growth frugality brings if done “properly”, and use that real progress as a lesson and inspiration for doing and achieving more!

      • Yarrow January 14, 2016, 5:36 pm

        Exactly! I have been pretty disabled since my 40’s, and my partner after working part time for some years, started her own business 16 years ago and just this year raised her pay to 50,000. We
        Have no debts and own our home and cars. Two years ago we did a spread sheet after I noticed that our checking account kept getting higher balances and I wanted to know why. It turned out that we were (and are) living on half of our income. I receive 12,000 a year from forced retirement.
        I bake bread, make salad dressing, and make granola. We cook from scratch using almost no canned goods. After checking the USDA, I checked and discovered that our food bills are as what they think is very restricted. And we eat great! Even with a smaller income choices can be made that build wealth more slowly than the woman in the story in the story but do over time make a huge difference.

    • tcmJOE January 13, 2016, 11:52 am

      I think http://amateurearthling.org/2014/12/14/buy-yourself-out/ may be relevant–even at low income, if you can* live efficiently there are still many possibilities to save. Perhaps you might not retire in 10 years, but you could start to reach a point where you have some decent degree of financial independence, even if not fully.

      My financee is dealing with a fair amount debt from a MSW and IMO it strikes me as a bit of a racket, though if this is something you want to do for your own personal growth this is something to consider. It did align with her professional goals and we’re going to work hard together to knock the debt down, but if you can do without I might suggest doing so.

      *You may find yourself in cases, e.g. dealing with health issues, where this is difficult. If there are your particular circumstances my condolences.

    • MyName January 13, 2016, 1:21 pm

      I would consider a career move from social work to something else. One very ambitious hard working woman I know moved from being a social worker to becoming a physician’s assistant and started making far more than $160’000. She’s now a medical director at a clinic and works part time at two other place and makes over $300k.

      If you have a great passion for social work, you could come back to it once your financially independent.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 1:29 pm

        I agree – not all jobs pay equal to their value to society, so it’s worth factoring that in if your goal is earning more money. Switching fields could be a lot more efficient than spending more on education to advance a tiny amount up the income scale.

        As an off-the-wall example, last year Mrs. MM started an Etsy shop on a whim (something like her fifth hobby occupation since retiring from software/management). Even that online store, which involves her occasionally sitting at a table at home making bracelets and necklaces, earns more than $30,000 and could easily reach $75k if she did it full time or $100+ if she brought in an employee.

        I’ll cover this in a future case study article if she allows it (she is currently very hesitant).

        • Katherine January 13, 2016, 3:34 pm

          I definitely sympathize with @Krystal and understand where she’s coming from. As someone with a master’s in social science (sociology), I have definitely felt under appreciated and underpaid–when I could find a job at all! I don’t think it’s quite fair to argue that “she knew what she was getting into” by going into social work. Not all of us (who are lucky enough to find a job) can bear the corporate environment for long enough to retire early! (I am currently trying, but don’t know how long I can last.) It is often disheartening for the majority of us who make meager salaries to hear of those making $100K off the bat. But I do think it’s important to look at side jobs and opportunities as others have mentioned. The trick is in finding those side jobs…

          @Mr.MoneyMustache – I’d love to hear about how your wife made $30,000 (a year?) by selling bracelets on Etsy! That seems like a lot for an Etsy shop…?! I previously had an Etsy shop and only sold one necklace. :) I’d love to hear more about it!

          • John January 16, 2016, 11:56 am

            I’d also like to hear Ms.MM’s story of Etsy. As someone who is having trouble making $1/hour on Etsy, it would be good to hear how it is done and to get some inspiration.

        • greg wolf January 13, 2016, 9:04 pm

          Love MMM. Big fan of this blog. I have my kids read it. Naturally, I bum out every time a drug reference is made. Not the healthiest thing to promote, and it’s illegal in all the other states. Nothing slams the brakes on a bright, pre-early retirement career like a drug bust on your record. Not to be preachy. Just saying.

          • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2016, 12:13 pm

            Sorry Greg, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree here. My thoughts are that Marijuana is by far the healthiest of the recreational drugs and is way, way better for you than a beer or a soda at the end of the day. On top of that, it’s far cheaper per serving than even boxed wine and has spectacular benefits for creative people and social bonding.

            It is also not reserved for dropouts and low-achievers: you’ll find it circulating at most parties of wealthy business gurus in their 30s and 40s (in the Western half of the country, at least!)

            Do you have much personal experience with the plant?

            It is partially legal in 23 states and fully legal for recreational use in 4 states so far. Although it is readily available in every state, any prohibition of it is completely batshit crazy in my opinion, to the extent that I wouldn’t live in a place where it is considered criminal, or work at a company where its use was discouraged.

            More on my article coming on 4/20 called “The economics of recreational marijuana” ;-)

            • The Vigilante January 16, 2016, 2:16 pm

              For the first time in my life, I’m excited for 4/20!

              And I’m surprised (pleasantly) that you hold that opinion, MMM! I don’t smoke anything, but I think US drug laws are almost as embarrassing a habit as our clown car habit. We spend so much money on and ruin so many lives in trying to prohibit one of the least harmful things you can out into your body other than food and water – and we could be taxing the stuff instead, using the money to help fight actual crime!

            • Marie January 19, 2016, 10:41 am

              Oh man, I would love to read this. I think that how insanely good the cost/benefit ratio is is such an amazing unsung thing about marijuana.

            • Matt January 25, 2016, 9:51 am


              I’m not agreeing with the policy, but I think it’s important to point out that statements like “It is partially legal in 23 states and fully legal for recreational use in 4 states so far.” Aren’t technically true. Recreational marijuana use is very much against federal law in every state (Controlled Substances Act). Federal law trumps state law. In fact, a couple of states have already sued Colorado on this issue and it is in the Supreme Court right now.

              It’s the difference between something being “legal” and a state deciding not to enforce federal law. So technically, you do live in a place where it is considered “criminal.” But, are lucky enough to live in a place that – smartly -does not act on it.

            • James January 26, 2016, 4:51 am

              All I can say is what a waste of tax payer money. If the people of the state voted for it, the feds need to leave it alone.

              MMM I agree that weed should be legal. However: As one that promotes a life without needless spending, it is surprising you smoke. Is this the one vice of MMM? Like a gambler or a shopoholic? Being MMM I am sure you have weighed the costs of weed vs retirement living.

              At $20/oz I think I will wait till I can grow it in the ditch out back. Then maybe its benefits will out weigh the cost on my retirement plans. :)

            • Mr. Money Mustache January 26, 2016, 2:50 pm

              James, I don’t promote (or live) a life without needless spending. The best I can do is “slightly less ridiculous than average”. This still leaves MOST of my family budget being spent on luxuries including a fancy house, 2 cars, high-end food, international travel, beer and wine, a couple of $40 bottles of scotch per year and about $25 of marijuana products which is more than enough to share around.

              Also, one of the best things we can do to change laws we disagree with is to conscientiously and publicly defy them. The damned fools suing each other over this issue need to be both voted out of office and told to fuck off.

            • Mixed Bag April 7, 2016, 10:38 am

              For your 4/20 post, can you discuss the potential drawbacks? As someone whose attitude to marijuana was live and let live, and yeah it should be legal, I was surprised to watch a television show where there is a percentage of the population who are susceptible to psychotic effects, some having now lifelong mental health issues. I don’t remember the details of the whole episode fully, but apparently, the marijuana of yesteryear is not the marijuana of today. The naturally grown stuff had the fun-get-you-feeling-good chemical in balance with the prevent-the-feelgood-chemical-from-giving -you-psychosis-for -life chemical, so that normal marijuana was fairly innocuous. Apparently the newer bred stuff, with higher concentrations of the feelgood chemical, is way out of balance with the protect-you chemical, leaving some users – sometimes first time users! – with lifelong issues. Please do explore this for your 4/20 post. Even if you find what I’ve posted discredited by reputable sources, I’d be happy to read it, as it would address the concerns.


        • Matt K January 14, 2016, 7:10 pm

          Amen! My wife is an elementary school teacher and makes less than 1/3 of my salary as a corporate accountant. I’m not particularly religious but I’m not ashamed to say that she does God’s work (not you Mr. Blankfein!). The stories she comes home.e with make me both laugh and cry sometimes at the same time. She makes a tremendous difference in the world while I generate a lot of paper and move a lot of money around (sort of). If I got hit by a bus, my business would be just fine. At any rate, we decided that my job will advance us towards FI while hers contributes to society. I’m OK with the compromise even though it means more than 4 extra years of work.

        • Becky January 18, 2016, 10:38 am

          I would also love to hear some tips from Mrs. MM’s Etsy experience. Even if she would rather not share specifics, I know both of you are really good at finding ways to optimize the work you do to provide a return that is worth the time you put in. That is what I am most interested in as so often, many of the Etsy stories I hear are about sellers who put in.many hours for little profit, and I want to avoid that mindset. I currently manage rental property outside my “day job”, so am somewhat used to managing a “small business”. In the last few months, I’ve started researching making/selling a product, and am getting more and more excited about the idea, so an inspirational article like this would be perfect timing!

        • Deb January 20, 2016, 11:05 am

          Add me to the list of those who’d love to hear more about Mrs. MMM’s Etsy business. I, too, skip from hobby to hobby, and even had a jewelry shop set up for a short time. But I found myself without enough time to generate enough product and set up and market a successful shop. I sold a few things, but never even came close to what she’s pulling in.

          I’m interested in hearing how she chose her product line and suppliers, how much labor she puts into producing the products, how she came up with a pricing formula, and how she markets her shop.

          • Sherri January 24, 2016, 1:28 pm

            I would also be very interested in details on Mrs. MM’s Etsy shop.

    • Cristie January 13, 2016, 3:46 pm

      If you love social work but want to make more/additional money, your skill set is very applicable to life coaching. I’m a mental health epidemiologist who went into coaching as a side business because I missed working with people and after 2 years I now have more clients than I can handle. I bill at 125$ an hour (close to my hourly for my research work) and will probably transition to full time coaching in a few years so I don’t have to put in the 40-60 hours that I put in as a salaried epidemiologist and I can step away from the bureaucracy and constant begging for an ever smaller portion of the research pie.

    • Mable January 13, 2016, 7:51 pm

      I am an MSW. After graduating, I moved to rural Alaska, where the wages are higher and in the small villages there is only one general store so no place to waste your money unless you are addicted to internet shopping. Within four years of graduating I was making $110,000. Took in two roommates, we all bulk ordered food together. Left after 10 years with over half a million in the bank. I now live in a cheaper place and work part time—married someone with the same mentality and he, too, works about 15 hours a week. He came itno the marriage with over $200,000 in the bank. We now live on our combined part time salaries and his and my money are growing in investments. We could retire now but like working part time—I work in an art gallery and love it and he works in a plumbing store where he really likes talking about pipes and stuff (no accounting for taste!) You can do it. Stop whining and just make the sacrifices you need to for the next decade. Or else do nothing but whine and end up working until you are 65, having heard the same client stories over and over for 40 years.

      • Alaska49 January 16, 2016, 1:06 pm

        Wow, another rural AK person! Lived as a kid and taught there too. I know what you mean about the bulk food ordering. My wife would make a huge list and then we would hit Costco, Sam,s , Fred’s and then box it all up and send it out. The fun part was trying to remember what box had which particular item. I was in the Nome and Kotzebue area. Northern Lights, Iditarod, clear cold nights, those were great years.

        • Mable January 18, 2016, 1:05 pm

          Hey, Alaska 49, ever ask relatives who asked what you wanted for Christmas to send cases of toilet paper? My worst food memory was finding Shredded Wheat for sale for 50 cents a box!! The Barrow store had 96 boxes and we bought all of them. It took us almost three years to eat all of them (and they do go stale!) with powdered milk because regular milk was over $7 a gallon…I don’t think we ate Shredded Wheat again for about five years after we moved to Haines. And we have never used powdered milk again!

    • Sarah January 13, 2016, 8:15 pm

      Krystal–I’m a social worker too. Come to California, and you can make $60k-$80k+/year with an MSW. Cost of living may be higher than where you live, but it’s still possible to live very cheaply here.

    • Anonymous January 14, 2016, 12:25 am

      Seems like there’s an article that MMM ought to write, on “how to maximize the good you do in the world by choosing a high-paying career”.

      Which career path will do more net good for the world:

      – Spending 30-40 years doing work that directly helps people but only ever making just enough to make ends meet (retiring a bit earlier than the norm through advanced Mustachian habits, but not in your 30s).

      – Making a six-figure salary doing work you find perhaps somewhat less fulfilling, and then either retiring early and spending your leisure time on direct charitable work with the support of your retirement, or building up enough money to start your own charitable foundation or donate massively to several others.

      The same argument on a smaller scale: you can go volunteer at a soup kitchen, or you can work a job that lets you donate money to feed a hundred times as many people. The former may provide you with some amount of personal fulfillment or enjoyment, or help you learn about some specific problem, but if you’re trying to maximize the good you can do for the world, do what makes money and then be incredibly charitable.

      • Jeff January 14, 2016, 7:27 am

        This is something I’ve always kind of promised myself I’d do post-retirement. Like MMM, I have a penchant for home renovations so I’ve been mulling over the idea of making incredibly energy efficient rental properties that cost the occupants practically nothing in utilities and then renting them at regular market rates. Help some people out and the environment.

        • MegMustache January 15, 2016, 8:50 am

          Oooo Do this! Do this! It makes my green heart thump!

      • Frugal Bazooka January 14, 2016, 10:36 am

        This is a great point Anon – society, the media etc seem to have diminished the simple value of being prosperous. Making large amounts of money and taking care of your family in a way that allows them a level of future comfort and success is not a social evil, it’s a huge social good and should be extolled and rewarded. How that got lost in the current socio-economic discussion is beyond my comprehension. Ironically, if a celebrity, artist or certain politician makes massive amounts of money there’s a whole other value system applied.

        • Wilson January 15, 2016, 11:52 am

          I agree it’s not an evil but I’d be hesitant before calling it a social good. I don’t agree. One could argue that handing your kids financial comfort is more likely to turn them into self-centered d-bags than independent, striving young go-getters. Too much comfort will sap motivation and can lead to ruined potential. There’s a reason Warren Buffett is giving away the vast majority of his wealth and not passing it all through his several generations and many offspring. (Also see: Hilton, Paris).

          • Frugal Bazooka January 17, 2016, 3:13 am

            You may have misunderstood my post. Note that I said “a level” of comfort and success. I’m well aware of the problems of having trust fund babies waste their vast potential on recreational drugs due to the lack of life challenges.
            On the other hand a hard working owner of a plumbing business should be applauded for being able to provide his family with more than the first 3 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
            More and more the media castigates and belittles the success of those in society who are able to rise above the middle class either by working harder or working smarter. You’d be shocked how many people loathe websites like this due those very kinds of feelings towards the positive financial efforts of average folks.

      • The Vigilante January 16, 2016, 2:18 pm


      • jonathan January 29, 2016, 12:40 am

        I had a friend that was living off government subsidies and volunteering in the health care system. I hinted that they should do it for pay and donate half to charity dropping tax to nill and provide a better life style for their children.

      • Mark Schreiner August 30, 2021, 11:13 am

        Remember that if you do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and you are not producing something that it ultimately destructive to people or the environment, then you *are* helping people. The help is just indirect. It is unlike the direct help provided by a social worker, nurse, or doctor but it helps people all the same. I work in a job whose aim is to help poor people, and I am often asked, “What is the best, most efficient way for me as an individual to help the poor?” After a couple decades of thinking about this, my response is to do your “regular” job honestly and fairly so that most of your work effort helps people (if only indirectly). Then if you want the satisfaction of helping people directly, then befriend someone who is worse off than you and then the two of you can do what friends do for friends.

    • Justin January 14, 2016, 11:48 am

      I’ve been following MMM for several years, and this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to write a comment! Social workers CAN retire early. I am a social worker (MSW) and getting the degree was the BEST career decision I’ve made.

      I am set to retire in about 4-5 years, which will be about 10 years after graduation. I worked in an agency setting for about 3 years, then opened a private practice, where I am my own boss and run my own business. In private practice you can make more than you might in an agency setting. Running a business is hard work but I already feel semi-retired because I am in charge of my life and can set my own schedule (never thought I’d be a business owner, but it has been a really good “growth” experience). Meanwhile, my family continues to live frugally and save a lot of what we bring in. When I retire I’ll be about 40, and can, if I choose, continue to see clients in my practice (I just won’t need to see them); get a job in a social service agency getting a small salary and doing something new and rewarding related to my training; get political and advocate for higher salaries for social workers (which I think is needed); read books all day; or venture off and do new things.

      In sum, we don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves as social workers. I know that’s part of the culture of our field but we are not martyrs; we can take care of ourselves and do good work for others. I don’t think everyone should go into social work, but I would be sad if someone were to read these comments and decide against going into the field even though they felt drawn to it.

    • Kapitalust January 14, 2016, 1:12 pm

      Right or wrong, society places a monetary value on services. Some services provide more money (law) than others (social work).

      It’s much more productive to figure out what the services society wants and pays more money for than complaining about how the current service we are providing does not pay as much as some other service.

      I mean, to use an extreme example to make my point: Justin Bieber – love him or hate him – gets paid a bajillion dollars a year because he is providing a service that a lot of people are willing to fork over their money for.

      I *personally* find it insane, but my personal perspective on what I *think* society needs and should want is very, very different from what society actually needs and wants.

      Figure out what services society needs and wants, and go sell it to them. Then you will make more money.

      • Frugal Bazooka January 14, 2016, 3:09 pm

        Great post. The one variable you’re leaving out is there is only one person – at least to his fans – that can supply what Beaver gives to the kids. When you’re talking about showbiz the rewards are always going to be upside down and unexplainable. What i find interesting is the same people who absolutely hate a corporation or CEO that actually provides thousands of jobs gives a total pass to a narcissistic movie star, athlete or reality star who cares for no one but themselves. Figure that one out

    • Acroy January 14, 2016, 1:18 pm


    • JR January 14, 2016, 6:22 pm

      My wife earned even less when she only had a BSW. She went back to college and earned her MSW a couple years ago (cost $20k total over two years at the local state university which we were able to pay cash for) and now earns almost $70k per year doing clinical work. Honestly, I never realized that social workers could earn that kind of money.

      Pennsylvania in case it matters

    • phred January 15, 2016, 11:40 am

      a quick scan on Google shows many social workers at the $100k mark once they go into private practice

    • Brian January 22, 2016, 8:35 am

      Hey, a fellow social worker! Ugh. Got my masters and state license, reeeeally lucky to be slaving away at 40k while being a touch under 100k in debt. I never thought about money because I wanted to help people. Now I’m burning out and thinking about money constantly haha. I discovered this blog a month ago and binge read all the posts, now I have a plan to kill off all loans not covered by the PSLF program and start investing after that. I still have plenty of days where I feel that deep regret but now I feel hopeful for the first time in awhile. Our low salaries and crap conditions will make our successes that much more satisfying!

    • Cococo February 29, 2016, 12:38 pm

      Do you have your social work degree? If you do then the UK and Australia are always looking for SWs and will sponsor visas. In London you can make £30 ($45) an hour. Cost of living is a little higher but not much. London is desperate for qualified workers willing to do child protection, jobs are easy to get.

  • EL January 13, 2016, 10:25 am

    This is a great story and of course in line with many people who actually understand FI. She bikes to work in Chicago and it is fun for her, that is awesome. (Its freaking cold in the windy city) Even though she had a high income, she didn’t fall prey to over consumption which is the only way to really win the battle of money efficiency. Good job and good luck FI lawyer gal.

  • hypertrichosis January 13, 2016, 10:49 am

    So wait, out of all the people to stay with in Chicago, you ended up with another smart, good-looking Indian girl? hmmmm…

  • Thias January 13, 2016, 10:56 am

    This is awesome! And it just feels so unusual for her profession. We have all met numerous lawyers who always seem to be high spenders. It is great to see someone who proves that you don’t need to spend like your profession often tries to dictate to be successful. Amazing job Thrifty Gal! Congrats and enjoy your tour seeing the world!

  • Daniel Zehner January 13, 2016, 10:58 am

    I’m really trying not to have the attitude of “of course she could retire early, she’s maknig $160k a year and can save a LOT quickly!” but it’s very hard. Do you have interviews with people who also were able to find this type of freedom making say, $60k/yr with a spouse making $40kish/yr with kids? That would be awesome to hear a story like that!

    Good on our lawyer friend for bucking the trend of her peers though! Resisting that type of peer pressure is no small feat, even with such a high income to back it up.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 11:32 am

      Yeah, this example is extreme ($160k was only her STARTING salary!) and that’s part of the point – an extreme income should result in very quick financial independence rather than just an extremely large house.

      For normal people efficient living still works, and I’d argue it is even more important because it can mean the difference between abundance, and stress/debt and wondering how you’ll pay for food for your own kids. Here’s an example using two teachers: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/09/17/the-race-to-retirement-revisited/

      Just don’t get fixated on the “FIVE YEARS TO RETIREMENT” part of it. Even Mr. Money Mustache had to work almost 10 :-)

      • Daniel Zehner January 13, 2016, 11:38 am

        Thanks! That’s just what I was after! I forgot about that article. :) Still working my side hustles as a furniture maker and engineering consultant while holding down my day job to put extra sheckles aside for earlier than normal retirement. :)

        Totally agree with your second statement. Since my wife and I overhauled our finances last year, we’ve gone from being in debt and having lots of “oh crap how are we going to make this work?” moments to “whoops, we over spent in this area this month, but because we’ve been saving a lot we’re still on track.”

        Thanks again for the great inspiration and advice you put out here and for not coming down too hard on those of us who don’t quite take it to the extreme and are ok with doing that. :)

      • Mrs. Healthywealth January 14, 2016, 9:38 pm

        Grateful you posted this. My mom made $350000/yr for the past 20 plus years, and has roughly $120k in retirement account to show for it. Thank goodness for social security. But, she can’t retire and she’s in her 70s. So yes you can make a shit ton of money, but if you don’t save it, you’re screwed. She still can’t understand why I sold my Mercedes.sigh

        • Megan January 19, 2016, 2:41 pm

          I think the story of how she spent all that money is probably more awe-inducing than how this lady retired as early as she did. What kind of childhood did you have, by chance?

        • Megan January 19, 2016, 2:41 pm

          I think the story of how she spent all that money is probably more awe-inducing than how this lady retired as early as she did. What kind of childhood did you have, out of curiosity?

      • Winnipeg dude January 14, 2016, 9:49 pm

        My wife and I tackeled almost the same situation when our daughter was born 5 years ago. We made the decision to drop from 2 70k a year salaries to one, allowing my wife to stay home with our daughter for the first few years. Fast forward to now, my wife still hasn’t gone back to work as a teacher, and never will except for the occasional day of subbing to give her something to do. and we We chose to extend FI for a few more years, but I still plan to retire in 10/11 years, which none of my teacher coworkers believe is possible.
        It’s all about understanding that buying stuff that you don’t really need comes at a price. If your household is 80k+ a year you can retire early, it will just take a few years longer than someone making 160k

    • Iron Mike Sharpe January 14, 2016, 11:40 am

      Go to the forums and check out arebelspy. I think he and his wife were teachers and retired around 30.

    • JT January 15, 2016, 12:58 pm

      I worked less than four years full time (electrical engineer), my salary never exceeding 65k, and retired* before my 28th birthday. So yeah, it can be done.

      *I still do some consulting work, typically less than two months a year, the profits from which I use to acquire cashflowing real estate. I could fund the acquisitions with private money from investors, but I like the consulting so I do it. As MMM has said often, you’re highly unlikely to NEVER AGAIN MAKE MONEY after you retire.

      • Megan January 19, 2016, 2:44 pm

        Great story! Did you set out with this goal from the beginning or was there a come-to-jesus moment early in your career? Working fewer than 4 years to get to retirement is pretty damn incredible.

    • Dathan January 27, 2016, 1:16 pm

      Hi Daniel,
      I am married and have a 5 year old son. My wife stays home, and I make about 90k / year. Although I am not ‘retired’ I do have what MMM calls FU money. I can tell you that once you reach a point where your finances no longer own you, your life gets much easier, and truthfully my job has gotten much better. B/c I was willing to walk away from my job I was able to negotiate a work from home strategy, which has allowed me additional time to work on my side business. Once my side business can cover the remaining balance I can ‘retire’ from my 9-5.

      And for the record, my wife and I had over 65k in school loans and a couple cars. We chose to work hard, save hard, and now at 36 life is much much easier.

      Hope that helps.

  • superbien January 13, 2016, 11:09 am

    I love this post! Anita, you totally rock. What a level head you have, not getting caught up in other people’s default unthinking dreams. And good for you for not getting stuck in the language – are you early b retired, or on a sabbatical – who cares, if you’re pursuing things you enjoy that enrich you.

    I also appreciate the candor. I love travel too, but it really can be lonely. Well, for me – I know other people enjoy a lot of alone time. I like that you set goals like learning to cook Indian food. That seems to be Go Curry Cracker’s approach too, take classes related to local languages and cooking, to keep stimulated and engaged.

    I’ve been spending a lot of time lately imagining winning the $1.5 billion lottery… And honestly, a part of me thinks that I’d let it go and not claim it. I love the pride in my/our accomplishments, that were tyre result of hard work, sacrifice, lots of thought and discussion… Being handed money seems like it would be such a letdown. (plus all of the users crawling out of the woodwork)

  • Andres Salomon January 13, 2016, 11:17 am

    “Error establishing a database connection”

    MMM, you crashed her server. :)

  • Bob January 13, 2016, 11:18 am

    From all of these retirement and case study stories, I am mostly inspired to relocate to a country that does not steal 50% of my income. The problem is that I have no idea how(no foreign passport). What about making a post regarding that matter? Maybe you could shed some light on your journey, from Canada to the US. What was going through your mind? How did you set things in motion?

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 11:45 am

      Yeah, I’ve been thinking about writing something like “How to move to another country”. But it keeps boiling down to “Do a bunch of online research on how to do it in your specific country”.

      For Canada to the US, my path was “Apply to Jobs and earn job offers via interviews, use the TN visa to get 1-year work authorizations, upgrade this to the H1-B 3-year visa after being sure you have a job you like. Then apply for the permanent residence (aka the green card or I-485), wait a few more years, apply for citizenship, take the test and then you are now a citizen”. Took a total of 6 years and $10k of legal and government fees – not easy or cheap but very profitable and worthwhile!

      In general, I think it’s good practice not to ask anybody how to do something without first spending at least an hour vigorously researching it yourself with just good old-fashioned Google searches alongside a document where you collate your findings and relevant links. Then when you do find an expert to ask, you are ready to discuss the more advanced points instead of bogging them down with stuff you could have found on Google.

      • Daniel Zehner January 13, 2016, 11:55 am

        Any chance your considering moving back to Canada depending on who is elected this November? ;)

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 3:32 pm

          No, but congratulations to you guys for finally electing a cool, youthful, non-evil Prime Minister. Definitely a step in the right direction.

      • JT January 15, 2016, 1:00 pm

        Geographical arbitrage is an wicked cool retirement strategy. I wish you would write a post on that, for a country like Nicaragua maybe.

      • OsloGal January 18, 2016, 6:08 am

        Yes! I’d love to read a post on relocating since I’m right in the middle of a move from Norway to the US. There are so many things to think about that all need to come together in a short period of time: finding a job, a place to live, mode of transport, moving your stuff, moving your money, living without a safety net of family and friends, adjusting to a new set of surroundings, and if it’s a move to the US; a whole landslide of paperwork.. The paperwork is straight forward enough after you research it, but navigating a new place and making mustachian choices feels harder.

        My advice to anyone in a similar position; go to the MMM forums! I asked a general “what should I look out for in my situation?” after describing what I had planned and what my thoughts were. Luckily, some angelic soul in the forum saved me thousands of dollars by telling me about a little known tax trap: the currency exchange gain tax. Had I stuck to my plan of selling my apartment in Norway in the same year as I became a US tax payer, I would have started on this new adventure with debt to the IRS rather than as debt-free with a small cushion of savings. I did tons of online research prior to this, but would never even have dreamed that getting and paying back my Norwegian mortgage – in local currency – would be seen as a currency exchange transaction by the US.

    • MyName January 13, 2016, 1:31 pm

      It’s really about total take home pay. If somewhere has a %60 tax rate, but also will give you double the after tax income vs your current place with similar expenses, then does it matter?

      • Mark January 13, 2016, 2:42 pm

        I agree. It’s also about the services you get for the taxes you pay. I generally believe in lower taxes because I think the U.S. wastes boatloads of our tax money (I think anyone can see this across the board, regardless of political ideology). But I hear there are at least a few high tax countries where they actually do spend taxpayer money efficiently.

    • Mable January 14, 2016, 9:29 pm

      Steal 50% of your income? STEAL? Do you use roads, schools, national parks? Will you call the police when someone robs you? Your “stolen” money funds those sorts of things and many, many more—it was government funding that first started internet, stopped thalidomide from poisoning American babies…the list is endless. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who pays 50% of their income in taxes; if you do, either you or your accountant are incompetent. I am so tired of people acting like government is free, that democracy does not require some inefficiency to make sure that multiple interests are heard…whiner.

      • Winnipeg dude January 14, 2016, 9:59 pm

        The 50% rate that many people toss out is the tax that they are paying on the last few dollars of their income. In my province of Manitoba and if you make over 90k of income you are paying over 42% in income tax in any additionally earned income, but the taxes that you pay on the first 90k is significantly less. People love to look at the tax bracket that they are in and believe that all of their income is taxed at the same amount.

        Of course this doesn’t include the 13% consumption tax that I pay on almost everything that I buy or the property taxes that I pay on my house or my contributions towards Employment Insurance, but I digress.

    • phred January 15, 2016, 11:37 am

      To do this you will have to renounce your (supposed) American citizenship as all income is taxable no matter where earned above the one year exclusion amount

  • David Michael January 13, 2016, 11:20 am

    Great post! Congratulations to Thrifty Gal. What I love about this new generation of 30 year olds is how they set up a goal to retire by 40 or less. Amazing! I’ll be 80 next year, and it seems that most of us in the Silent Generation just assumed we would work until age 65 or so. Refreshing to have this new consciousness aided by blogs like yours.

    I retired over 20 years ago (age 57) living on about 30% of our working income because one of our planned income sources, a retirement annuity with the largest insurance company in California, went bankrupt (thanks to Michael Milken and the Junk Bond saga of 1990). In today’s drama, it would be equivalent to the financial meltdown of 2008 so well played out in the movie, “The Big Short”.

    As a result, every five years or so, I return to work taking on interesting jobs for a a few years in different areas of the world, such as teaching ESL for four years in the Middle East. Presently, I am a wine ambassador and demo wine tastings several weekends a month to bring in added income for part of the year. On our seven years traveling around the USA full-time in our small motorhome, my wife and I took on seasonal jobs (three months) once a year like Amazon Fulfillment Centers (Christmas season). Even though I have three advanced degrees, I loved all of the different jobs and learned something from all of them. It forces me to keep sharp while taking on new challenges.

    So…my message is that whether one retires at 30-40-50-60, there are so many ways to generate additional income to keep your dreams alive, provided one has no debt. But, having said that, it’s a heck of a lot easier to really, really save money and invest while one has the big salary. Getting paid at this age at $15 an hour vs. $100,000 a year during my professional career, makes a huge difference. Nonetheless, we have had a great retirement. Just about the time we get bored with traveling or volunteering, we take on another short term job that sounds interesting. Next one on the list is Costco for next year’s Holiday Season. There is no one way to retire successfully, regardless of age. In the end, we all share the same fate.

    • Danny January 13, 2016, 11:49 am

      As a former early retirement fanboy, I feel a bit like an imposter coming to this site because I quit my high paying job to follow my girlfriend to Hawaii, while just a 5th of the way to early retirement with no debt. I’m writing this from a coffee shop on an island in the middle of the Pacific. I cover my expenses with a combination of saved cash and occasional online tutoring gigs.

      I plan on finding a remote job and recreating that high salary (still learning the new skills needed for a career change). It’s been hard and stressful at times. It’s not been all island paradise: there have definitely been moments of panic and regret, and you kind of forget about the beauty of the place as you go about your day-to-day activities. As a shy introvert, it’s hard making new friends. Also, I was making like $130k total compensation at my old place with a low cost of living and now I’ll be lucky to get $80k in my high COL area, starting over.

      But do I regret it? Hell. No. Why? Because this feels like for once, I’m actually living my life. I’m not waiting to live at undefined moment in the future: every stressful experience and feeling of panic makes me feel I’m doing the hard of growing as a person, and not watching the years fly by in a florescent box.

      Seriously, that was the worst part of the corporate world for me: entering when you’re 25, and then looking up and seeing that you’re 28 in the blink of an eye and you haven’t grown or stretched your boundaries. I didn’t want to end hit 35 ready for retirement but with no experience getting outside my comfort zone or building the kind of life I really wanted.

      I guess I’m trying to echo what you said previously: there are many great things you can do to live right NOW instead of grinding away at the job you hate – and you can still retire early. I know it may be controversial here, but you can apply frugal skills and learn how to be free.

      • Alec January 13, 2016, 1:57 pm

        Danny you just described my life in a fluorescent box and wondering how I’m almost 28 and not 24 anymore. I even have a stunning view of Grant Park and Lake Michigan right behind me but this environment prevents me from looking at it much. I think you just gave me permission to move to Hawaii. Thank you. I better restructure and get out of here sooner than I had planned or I may wake up 35 tomorrow and still not be FI.

        • Danny January 13, 2016, 7:49 pm

          I think it’s pretty common, and I hear the effect of years flying by gets even more pronounced as you get older. Never put off living, as you may never have another chance. (IMHO, living simply and frugally is part of the way to live well).

          Now I’m nearly 30 and the fact doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Where before I was like, “Shit, I’m 29 and still here?!” now I’m thinking “I’m 30 and on track to the kind of life I want.” Make sure you have your cash reserves, make sure you have a realistic plan, then buy the plane tickets. Make the leap. You can always come back to the corporate world, and at least if you go someplace cool and keep your skills up to date you can have a good story to tell future employers.

          (If I had a chance to pick I’d choose someplace just as cool as but cheaper than Hawaii, but my girlfriend found a job here. :) )

          • Winnipeg dude January 14, 2016, 10:08 pm

            I so agree about making sure that you are truly enjoying your life as you save. If I kept at my corporate job that I landed when I graduated 15 years ago I might be retired by now, but instead I didn’t even last a year before deciding that making enough to survive and following your passions was more important. I lived the life of a ski bum for a few years and returned to school to become a teacher. I’ve so far been teaching for 10 years and will be for 10 more before I am FI, but I love my job, enjoy loads of time with my family and couldn’t imagine working in a job where I didn’t get 2 months off every summer. It’s about achieving a balance in life that works for you. The corporate world can suck the life out of you

    • diana January 13, 2016, 12:58 pm

      David Michael- great story, thanks for sharing. Lots of jobs would be hard (and unlucrative) as a career, but very interesting for a short-term project. Someday I hope to realize my dream of working the early shift making donuts at one of San Francisco’s 24 hour donut shops. I just want to see what that’s about.

      • Matt January 13, 2016, 6:29 pm

        Better make it quick before they shut down the All-Star Donut shop on Market and Van Ness!

        (architect living and working in SF, here…hoping to dig myself out of that 80k grad school student loan commitment I made as a 23 year old great recession undergraduate)

  • Laura January 13, 2016, 11:25 am

    Thanks- that is real food for thought. I admire her fearless attitude towards life and finance.

  • Stephen January 13, 2016, 11:26 am

    Great interview and a great story!

    I especially enjoyed her mindset in tackling debt. Stickin’ it to the banks by paying it down as quickly as possible! I took a similar approach when attacking my own. It tends to lessen the burden of the radiating evil that one feels while owing any amount of money.

  • Fervent January 13, 2016, 11:28 am

    Wow this was a great interview. Her story about post FIRE life resonates with me. I have lots I want to do, but my day job is getting in the way right now. I plan to be just as busy post FIRE but doing things on my terms!

  • CashFlowDiaries January 13, 2016, 11:35 am

    This girl deserves this lifestyle. Good for her! I love hearing stories like this. Its very motivational. Its not easy to go to law school and become a lawyer not to mention hold back on using money when you are in your twenties and even early 30s. Kuddos to thrifty gal!

    My story is a lot different to start but we have the same long term goal which is early retirement. Unfortunately I will be somewhere in my 40s before I can retire and that is because I started late!

    Better late then never though!

    • Mrs. Healthywealth January 14, 2016, 9:34 pm

      “Unfortunately I will be somewhere in my 40s before I can retire and that is because I started late!”

      Haha you know you’ve been reading a lot of early retirement websites when you say “unfortunately” to retiring in 40’s…I can totally relate. Sure 30’s would have been great, but that’s when I was learning my life lessons to get on this track. I’ve finally gotten in a place where I’m grateful for just being able to be in this position to retire in my 40’s .

  • Dave C January 13, 2016, 11:50 am

    As a lawyer I can definitely attest that it is a bad profession for excessive spending. Three figure bar tabs, fancy vacations, and constant eating out are common among even young lawyers who still have a negative net worth. Several lawyers I know financed a luxury automobile right after being called to the bar. I’ve fallen victim to these traps as well (luckily, nothing too crazy like financing a car, and doing much better since discovering this blog). Great to see someone bucking the trend. Hope to follow in her footsteps.

  • Tom January 13, 2016, 12:06 pm

    Good for you Anita! Glad to see that another one of our Ecuador crew has pulled the plug. Amy and I are still working towards it. I’m hoping to “retire” from the full-time rat race later this year, with the idea that part-time work will pay for the fun stuff like vacations. Congratulations!

    • HeadedWest January 13, 2016, 1:38 pm

      I am a lawyer who saved 25x my core living expenses but it took 12 years, not 5. The extra seven years I “lost” saving is a long story, but can basically be chalked up to mental illness and the consequences of not dealing with it soon enough. I’m doing better now, but I hope readers can keep in mind that many of us struggle with challenges and that some of those are hidden. Not everybody is blowing their money on giant houses and expensive clothing. I never was a very materialistic person and if I had been in good health, FI could have come a lot sooner.

      • Wb January 13, 2016, 9:32 pm

        Thank you, headedwest and have been there. My particular challenge was TMJ issues and it was not cheap, but I overcame it, a small miracle. I believe there is another type of wealth is your health.

      • Kathy Abell January 16, 2016, 6:11 pm

        Headwest – I don’t think the intent of this blog is to dump on people dealing with serious life issues or struggling to hold on to the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Life is not a competition nor a race to see how soon each of us can retire (I didn’t retire until 55, which is better than 65, but certainly not 30s or 40s). The purpose of this blog is to slap clueless people up side the head and tell them, “LOOK! You don’t have to buy into that whole keep up with the Jones’s thing. Buying more stuff won’t make you happy. Don’t fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation with every salary increase!” I used to joke I never got a raise because with each raise I would increase my 401k contribution. While I wouldn’t say we lived frugally, we did live UNDER our means and did not go overboard in the fancy car arena. ;) So what it took you 12 years – it took me 29! and my husband 33. We still have a ways to go to reach the MMM level of frugality – I need to make vast improvements in the food prep area, but I am holding the line regarding the fancy cars! It helps that I am one of those blessed few with both a corporate pension AND a 401k; hubby also has a union pension. My pension was one of the reasons I stayed with my employer – that, and the short commute, not to mention the good software engineering salary. ;)

    • Val January 13, 2016, 8:52 pm

      Another of the Ecuador crew chiming in to applaud Anita! So glad to see you are doing it your way. I went back to work after taking off 18 months because I wanted a new challenge. Retirement 2.0 is coming soon.

  • Mrs. Paradise January 13, 2016, 12:08 pm

    MMM, I love your case studies! Anita, it’s super awesome that you were able to avoid giving to all the people that say you have to “spend this, and buy that…” to be successful when you have a high paying, high profile job. I hope you have an awesome time travelling the world!

  • Naloxone January 13, 2016, 12:26 pm

    The average starting salary in many medical specialties is nearly twice Anita’s (of course, medical school is 4 years instead of 3, plus a 3-to-5 year residency, plus a 1-to 3 -year fellowship). I work with more than one doctor still putting in 60+ hour weeks in the eighth decade of life. #cautionarytales To be fair, though, medicine is fun and rewarding most of the time. I speculate corporate lawyering might be less so.

    • Dustin Stout January 14, 2016, 12:25 pm

      Not sure why it has to be a cautionary tale. Some people are passionate about their work, and don’t want to retire early. Nothing wrong with that. Why do we assume that everyone should retire early? Find out what your passion is, and do it. That is all.

  • Chad Carson January 13, 2016, 12:27 pm

    Great interview and story! Thanks for sharing with us, Anita! And thanks MMM for having bringing her on.

    I think there were a lot of gems in this article, but most of all I liked the ideas about post “retirement.” Creativity and contribution don’t have to stop post FI. You just get to choose and experiment with methods other than the job that happens to pay you the most money.

    Freedom of expression and and freedom to reinvent yourself (many times) are exciting post FI possibilities.

  • Another Chicago Law Alum January 13, 2016, 12:28 pm

    The part about luck is the timing of it all. The $160K starting salary was due to an “arms race” in biglaw hiring in the 5 years before she graduated & height of bubble economy for clients. She is smart enough to know the role that played in her specific retirement plan. She hit the sweetest spot possible. Admitting it doesn’t detract from her hard work or accomplishments.

    Also, the hard part in sticking to this plan is not just eschewing the materialism. It’s recognizing that you don’t measure your success by your career advancement in biglaw. It is easy to think you will get out after a few years, and the culture sweeps you up into WANTING to be a partner and get the reputational and ego accolades. It’s not just the money. You have to keep a very strong personal identity of what matters to you and what you want in life, while impressing other people who presume that of course your goal is making partner (even though more people leave this track than make it).

    • TinyDancer March 4, 2016, 11:13 am

      Reading this blog post and comments late, but I think you nailed it on the head. I’m a 5th year at a Big Law firm with a 1-year-old baby and hubby who earns way, way less than I do. My FI date is about 4 years away and I fluctuate between “of course I can hang in there for 4 more years to have a lifetime of FI” and “I can’t do this soul-sucking, time-wasting, job for even one more day.” I often marvel at my friends/colleagues who are sucked into what I call the River Toward Success. They aren’t actively making a decision that they *want* to be a partner and have that life–indeed, most associates think partners seem pretty miserable–but they just “float” down that path of life, and once they’re 7 or 8 years in, well, why *not* try to make partner, since that’s the next marker of success? It makes me feel isolated and, frankly, sometimes I wonder if I’m the crazy one. But you’re right: you have to keep the strong personal identity of what ultimately matters or you can easily fall prey to the many, many traps in this field.

  • TheHappyPhilosopher January 13, 2016, 12:31 pm

    Congrats Anita,

    I admire anyone who has the courage to do this so young. It’s definitely easier to do with a higher income but don’t be so quick to dismiss it as obvious and easy. The vast majority of people I know with high income do not save large amounts of money. I’m beginning to believe that Einstein had it wrong: hedonic adaption is the most powerful force in the universe, not compound interest. Anyways, I am going to retire as soon as I win the Powerball tonight.**

    I think the comments about loneliness are interesting. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this topic. Thanks for sharing your story.

    **Kidding. Philosophers no not play the lottery!

    • zephyr January 14, 2016, 9:03 pm

      I agree about the loneliness – money/time/freedom does not necessarily equal happiness. For some it is community and a satisfying job regardless of the income level. I remember traveling all over Europe in my 20’s and although I saw AMAZING things, I often felt amiss, sad. If you are going to quit your job and be FI, ya better have an idea of what satisfies your heart.

  • Neil January 13, 2016, 12:39 pm

    Great story! I love it when high earners also acknowledge and utilize the power of frugality, rather than dismissing it. Also that she just recognized what was worth it to her to spend on, and ignoring the rest, even if it’s what society pushes as the norm.

  • Rakiki January 13, 2016, 12:50 pm

    Very nice. I have been contaminated with the early retirement bug and these thoughts run through my mind every single day. My wife and I have built up a 1.6M Canadian net worth and $38K in dividend income at age 38. House paid off, no debt. Our current objective is retirement at 45 with a $70K income and we plan on earning about $10K each part time. We are both in the golden handcuffs of public service work, which means we have to put in 20 years to get anything decent back from our retirement contributions. 7 more to go but it isn’t all that bad since we have young kids who are in school. It would be difficult to gallivand around the world for the next little while. But still, an inspiring story!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 1:35 pm

      Wow Rakiki – you could easily retire already with that kind of assets and dividend income.

      As long as you truly enjoy your work and aren’t staying around for even more money, this is a happy story. But do NOT work another day to get more money that you don’t need! I gave up millions in stock options and salary over the last 10 years of not being an engineer, but I’m glad I didn’t imagine any golden handcuffs. Plus, remember that people tend to earn money after retirement as well.

      This response is not specifically for Rakiki because I don’t know the full details of his situation, but rather for ALL the people who have more than enough but keep working to pad the coffers.

      Drop your fear! You’ll only grow MORE fearful with each year that you keep working in a situation like this, because you are indulging in a habit-forming behavior rather than acting logically.

      • Rakiki January 13, 2016, 5:49 pm

        Thanks MMM. I appreciate and agree with the logic. It’s all good for now, work isn’t too onerous and working conditions are pretty great. We save about 50% of our net income. Let’s just say you have stoked my engine a bit more to refine the calculations. I also need to badassify my significant other and take the katana to some recurring expenses. We are not quite there yet, but to hang it up mid-40s is still pretty sweet.

      • ESI January 14, 2016, 8:53 am

        You’re starting to convince me. :)

        I happen to love my job though, so I’m not sure if I’m staying because I love it or because I’m fearful. Finding the true answer to that might require more soul-searching than I’m willing or able to do.

        • AJ Clark January 14, 2016, 10:32 am


          The opportunity cost of missing out on lost wages, etc. is much larger for you (and for me) than I think MMM appreciates. I think Financial Samurai’s take on the matter is way better. He feels the income for maximum happiness is about 200K a year, which is pretty good, and translates to between 5 and 10 MM of investable assets.

          I just passed 1 MM in net worth, and according to MMM probably have more than enough to retire, but why would I? I have a very high paying job, orders of magnitude more than Anita’s 160K starting salary, and I don’t have a family yet. Why would I throw away my most important asset (my career) to live on 40K a year of passive income in a low COL state? I hope to reach 5 MM in net worth in the next 5-7 years, and then hope to reconsider early retirement, but who knows.

          When you have a big shovel, the best thing to do (in my opinion) is to keep using it. I would much rather retire with my ability to spend money on whatever I want (within reason of course) instead of living on 40K a year.

          I’m sure I’ll take heat from other people for this comment, but whatever.

          • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2016, 12:02 pm

            Hi AJ – you make a good point that a high income is a powerful tool.

            But just imagine for a moment that spending more money was NOT the path to happiness? What if spending even $40k per year was not only plenty, but almost DOUBLE what you might need to get the most satisfying life? Would you continue working in that case?

            As you may know, I cannot seem to spend more than about $25k/year even with what I feel is virtually unlimited income/assets. So I am sure glad I didn’t spend a day longer in my worn-out cubicle than I did!

            This lifestyle redesign is primary focus of this blog. It sounds like you haven’t read very much of it yet, but for a shortcut to understand my thought experiment, imagine you have $40 million per year in passive income from investments. What kind of work would you do in THAT case?

            That’s how a Mustachian feels on $40k.

            p.s. a quick terminology correction: an “order of magnitude” means a 10x increase. So for you to earn “orders of magnitude” more than Anita, you’d have to be at least 100x higher, or $16 million per year. It’s a nerdy thing to nitpick, but we like math here.

            • AJ Clark January 18, 2016, 1:00 pm

              Really? I thought an order of magnitude was dependent on the unit that you are talking about (at least that’s how I’ve always used the term). I make between 700 and 800K a year which is about 4-5 times larger than Anita.

              I’ve actually been reading your blog for years. I can agree with you that spending more money is *not* the path to happiness. 40K happens to be what I pay for in rent right now annually… However, it’s between 5-7% of my salary, so I don’t think it’s a completely outrageous expense. My largest expense by far each year is taxes… Not counting them, or rent, I probably spend between 60 and 70K a year, which really isn’t that much, considering my income.

              I’m not sure that to be considered Mustachian, you need to live ultra-frugally on 40K a year. I just think that you should live significantly below your means (which I’ve tried to illustrate that I do above). I know ESI also lives significantly below his means. Too many people in this country live *above* their means, and end up working jobs they hate for their whole lives.

              To me, it’s a trade off. I can continue working my (sometimes stressful, but sometimes rewarding) job, and live with virtually no monetary worries. Or, I can leave my city, family, and friends for low COL “paradise” and try to make ends meet on 40K a year… Which would certainly be do-able for me. I just really don’t think that I would be much happier there compared to here… And I really can’t justify throwing away a job that makes me this much money at a pretty young age.

              I guess to each his own.

              P.S. Not to give someone else free advertising on your blog, as I believe both ideologies are great, both ESI and Financial Samurai are good for people are career oriented and want to get the most out of their most valuable asset…

            • AJ Clark January 18, 2016, 1:07 pm

              P.P.S. I’m a pretty smart person, I had to Google “order of magnitude” because I was sure I was using it correctly. The second definition is “relative size, quantity, quality, etc.”. Which is in line with how I used the term. I never took physics or engineering classes, so that’s why I wasn’t exposed to the 10x definition.

  • Steve January 13, 2016, 1:07 pm

    Good interview! I’m another attorney with a ridiculously high salary. I started in 2011 and plan to be done in four more years. Anita’s story is pretty impressive. My expenses are likely higher than Anita’s and I have a wife and kid on the way. But we are about half way there, although I am worried I won’t have the guts to walk away from a 200k/year job when the time comes at 35. It is nice to see that I wouldn’t be the only one!

  • Brandon January 13, 2016, 1:25 pm

    Quote from TG: “Most of the people I know work and can’t hang out during the week. ”

    BOOM – right there is my sole problem in life summed up in one sentence. Although I’m not fully retired yet, I have a very relaxed and open schedule. Everyone else is bogged down by debt and constant work to barely keep up. They have no free time to do fun stuff with me, and if they have some time they don’t have any money. I guess it’s all about surrounding yourself with similar people with early retirement in mind and/or a life designed around living, not working.
    I really love the idea of working part time even after retirement. I have found that I only enjoy new experiences and don’t like to do the same thing forever. Get it, win it, leave it. A part time job would be an excellent way to gain new experiences and open up your mind to new ideas. Adventurous jobs like a flight attendant as mentioned in this post or as some kind of tour guide/ranger out West in the mountains would be awesome.
    Thanks for the new ideas and interesting perspective once again, MMM!

    • kaz January 15, 2016, 8:26 pm

      I found this problem to be solved by joining a Meetup group set up for people who did not work during the day. We regularly met up for brunches, lunches, movies, picinics etc. Best thing about it is that its usually much cheaper to to do stuff during the day than in the evening – so you have the same great experiences but at much less cost. For instance, many of the fine dining restaurants have great lunch specials. Movies and theater matinees are usually discounted. You get to go to the hip establishments and not have to fight the crowds like on a weekend.

      The people who belonged to the group were a great mix of early retired, people who worked from home, shiftworkers, share/forex/commodity traders, partners of expats who couldnt legally work, and contractors who were inbetween jobs. If there is no Daytime Meetup group in your area – set one up!

      • Megan January 20, 2016, 1:26 pm

        Good point. When I was home on maternity leave the biggest worry I had (aside from caring for this new tiny person we had magically created) was how to fill my time and stay connected with other people. The idea of being home alone all day for weeks on end was really scary. I made a number of great friends who were completely different from the type of friends I normally make through school/work. What we had in common was being home with a new baby during the day. Those friendships were very meaningful to me. The corollary to being retired is (I expect) that you will make new friends with new people in different places in their lives than the people you normally socialize with now.

  • Chris January 13, 2016, 1:51 pm

    Just really impressed by people who have these realizations at such a young age.

    Hats off to an incredible person.

  • Syed January 13, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Enlightening interview and great example of taking full advantage of the opportunities available to you. Being a medical professional myself, I get tired of hearing other professionals complain about how long their commute is or how much they have to pay in taxes, while they are financing fancy cars and big houses. You can live where you want and find a position with a nice commute if you look hard enough. It’s so easy to just go with the flow of complaining and financing that retirement, let alone early retirement, becomes an impossibility.

  • ams January 13, 2016, 2:36 pm

    Good for her. Why did she become a lawyer, though, if not to practice law? Was it just for the cash?

    • TheHappyPhilosopher January 13, 2016, 3:18 pm

      I know more lawyers that are unhappy practicing law than are happy. Many times what we think a career will look like when we are 19 has no semblance of reality once we finally get out into the real world.

    • MrFrugalChicago January 15, 2016, 3:07 pm

      Why did MMM become a software engineer if not to software engineer?

      I became a software engineer because I like it. I plan to code till the day I die. Apparently the subject in this post, as well as MMM, do not find the same enjoyment from their career.

      • Mark January 16, 2016, 11:36 am

        That’s correct. Most people find that anything they do for a long period of time gets boring, even if they love it at first. Maybe you’re the exception, but I wouldn’t count on it if I were you. I have a friend who retired at 58 from engineering. All he knew how to be was an engineer. I told him he was smart and could learn new things. His reply was “but I’m a good engineer”. He had the money part solved, but he never developed an identity outside of being an engineer. 12 years later, he suffers from depression and other health problems and his house is in nightmare condition because he sleeps and watches TV all day. Don’t let yourself end up like my engineer friend.

  • Legal Eagle January 13, 2016, 2:37 pm

    Before all you MMM readers rush out to take your LSAT and submit your law school applications, take careful note that Anita had $100,000 in student loans. Also take careful and considered note that she went to University of Chicago Law School, which is ranked in the top 5 of all law schools. If you go to any law school ranked outside the top 5-7 and you’re paying for it with student loans like Anita, you’re just asking for trouble. Also, bear in mind that many people absolutely loathe working in large law firms where they control your life with 80-hour workweeks and more stress than you thought possible. If you don’t get a job in a large law firm (known as “BigLaw” among lawyers), you can expect to make $40,000 to $60,000 but your student loans will still be in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. Anita also graduated before the bottom fell out of the legal industry.

    It’s extremely common to find law school graduates with $200,000+ in high interest loans (which, by the way, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy) working temporary document review jobs or working for peanuts in small law firms. Law firm salaries are bimodal, if you’re not among the minority working in large firms (almost all BigLaw lawyers went to the top 14 law schools, but only the top 5 law schools are reasonably safe bets these days), you can expect to work long, grueling hours in small law firms for a fraction of the pay ($40-60k like I stated above). For the vast majority of law school grads, they end up making very average salaries ($40-60k), but have HUGE student loan debts ($150-200k+) with high interest rates (think 6-8%). If you want early retirement, law school is simply a very bad bet.

    If you don’t get into one of the top five law schools (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, U. of Chicago, Columbia), you’re better off not going unless you’re absolutely dying to be a lawyer and you have first-hand experience shadowing a lawyer, understand what the day-to-day life of a working lawyer entails (hint: many, if not most, lawyers hate their jobs and want to get out ASAP), received a full or nearly full scholarship. From a financial perspective, there are better things to do with your career: medical school or computer science.

    tl;dr Rule for Applying to Law School
    1) Did you get into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, U. of Chicago, or Columbia law school?

    Yes: “consider” going to law school.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 13, 2016, 3:22 pm

      Agreed – the legal profession is a much more difficult path to riches than, say, software engineering. Software is still a top 1% field in terms of getting the really great jobs, but you can get there with no university degree at all and be making $120,000 by age 20. Provided you spend some of your high school years making stuff that shows off sufficient skill that is.

      See this other Mustachian’s work for reference: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/08/25/indexview/ .. Tristan is still doing the high-end education, but he could have gone directly from high school to industry if he wanted.

      • Dave C January 13, 2016, 4:44 pm

        From my understanding the problem of huge student debt and low starting salaries is greater in the American legal profession than Canada. Any law school in Canada can land you a job in “big law” and the difference between the high and low starting salaries is not that vast.

        Still, I agree even in Canada law is not friendly to the early retiree due to the time and expense of getting a degree then working your way up, which makes Anita’s accomplishment all the more impressive!

    • Ian January 14, 2016, 10:46 am

      I don’t disagree with all of your points Legal Eagle. But let me offer my experiences briefly as a counterpoint:

      1) I did not go to a top law school 5 school, or even a top 50. I chose to stay in CA at a less prestigious law school because I knew I wanted to practice in that market.

      2) I did not graduate in the top 10% of my class. I did not participate in any prestigious activities (i.e., law review, moot court).

      3) I graduated with $200,000 in SL debt with 6-8% interest.

      4) I graduated at the height of the recession 2009. This was when firms were laying off substantial associates.

      5) I did not go into BigLaw. I practiced at a smaller firm where my starting salary was $70-80K.

      6) I did enjoy the work. Everyone at the small firm enjoyed the work.

      7) I moved to a larger market and am now in Biglaw. I like it. Some are totally unhappy.

      8) I expect to make more than $300k in 2016. I work 50-60 hours per week. I still have a six-figure SL debt but have refinanced to a very low rate. I can kill it within a year.

      9) I consider myself lucky and my experiences are probably an exception.

      Not everyone takes the traditional route you described above.

    • Dan January 14, 2016, 10:31 pm

      I think this is the over-simplified, pessimistic version of reality. I went to a third-tier school, and graduated at the tail end of the market crash. Nonetheless, because I was able to get a full scholarship and attend part-time while continuing to work, I graduated with zero law school debt.

      What’s more, since I am patent-bar eligible (for those who don’t know, this means I have a degree in science or engineering) even that third-tier law school diploma was sufficient to land a 6-figure job right out of school, in my low Cost of Living town.

  • Steven January 13, 2016, 3:53 pm

    Any plans in the future to make the same Canada to Chicago to Omaha trek?

  • Scott January 13, 2016, 4:42 pm

    Great Job Anita! Most long term international travel is done by people right after college or after their careers over, so it gets a little lonelier in your 30’s & 40’s. I started traveling in my 30’s after FI. I found unstructured adventures enjoyable. But I would get much more satisfaction when I would intersperse my adventures with attaching myself to a community setting such as a working gigs in Antarctica, long term volunteer on a Kibbutz in Israel, or various shorter volunteer and work stints. Long term travel is much more fun when you get to swap stories with people you get to know, especially other travelers. It gets even more challenging if you ever decide to settle down. Most non travelers & consumers can not conceive of anyone taking a vacation longer than a week or two, let alone a young person with financial independence. Happy travels!

  • frank January 13, 2016, 4:53 pm

    Superb article!

    I really resonated with the need to own less stuff. When I found out I was FI (actually it was MMM himself who told me I was.. I was just saving/investing not really knowing why) I owned a really fast airplane that i built myself. I used it to fly aerobatics, acrosss country to visit the in-laws etc.. I was happy.
    The thing about airplanes though is that they are maintenance hogs, even though the amount of maintenance pales to insignificance when compared to the thousands of hours it took to build it!
    As it was also a “big hole in the sky into which to throw money” I sold it an put the resulting $100k into investments. I was surprised at how good that felt.
    I am now beginning to realise that the less stuff I own, the happier I feel! The fact that I worry about pipes leaking backa t the house or the rentals when we take foreign vacations is also not lost on me!

    Hmm.. This Summer we will be taking a 2 month tour of Thailand, Laos, Veitnam and China.. By train! I know it will be hard to forget about the house (which we basically built ourselves) and the rentals. The plan is to see i there is somewhere other than the US we’d rather live when my Wife finally quits work.

    Of course in the back of my mind I am thinking I could be even happier if I sold the house, rentals, tractor and my substantial collection of tools…hmmm

    Frank, AKA ‘Exflyboy’

  • Sheila January 13, 2016, 5:31 pm

    When I’m at the ripe older age of 90, I want to look back on my life and think about all of the wonderful experiences I had. I’m sure I will not remember all of the Starbucks coffee I drank or the the latest PS game consul I played with. Though I do have fond memories of playing Nintendo and Pac Man…but still, great memories over stuff!

  • Adventures with Poopsie January 13, 2016, 5:56 pm

    While an extreme example (I can only dream of $160k in income), the point of this story is valid. It’s not about what you earn but about what you spend. Sometimes this is tough to learn, and I’m still on the journey to getting there. I really want to see the new Star Wars movie, but will my life be any worse for not seeing it? And that $40 (me and Poopsie), will be far better off elsewhere. Loved the interview MMM, would be keen to see more “success story” type posts.

    • MJB January 14, 2016, 8:27 am

      The answer to your question is, “Yes.”

      Don’t be frugal to the point of missing out on fun stuff like the occasional movie, especially if it’s a quality spectacle that doesn’t come around all that often in theaters. A little fun here and there (and I’m not talking “take a week long Caribbean cruise” kind of fun) will not sabotage your future self. A good option might be to hold off until the move is in the second run theaters – assuming you have some in your area?

    • TheStoicStudent January 14, 2016, 5:47 pm

      My local movie theater has a “Super Tuesday” where you can see any currently released film for $5. I think most theaters have a bargain day, so do some search on your local theaters. I am a movie buff but I found this to be the most efficient way to watch new films that I’d really enjoy watching in a big screen.

    • Mark T January 16, 2016, 11:15 pm

      It will be available to borrow at your local library in a few months. Consider it a exercise in patience. I love movies and used to go multiple times a week and rent them at Blockbuster(yes I’m old). But now I just get them at the library or watch them on Netflix for a fraction of what tickets cost today. Just looked it up; $16 for 3D tickets for Star Wars, plus snacks it will easily cost a family $100 for one outing which could be done for under $5 with home made popcorn and drinks and borrowed at the library.

  • David January 13, 2016, 7:08 pm

    People who love exercise will always outlast people who have to make resolutions to do it. Same thing applies here. People like Anita who genuinely don’t care about material possessions will always be able to retire before people who have to discipline themselves to forsake luxuries. So yeah, her high salary played a role. Her disregard for material things played a bigger one. Thanks for the inspirational post, Anita.

  • Unsure January 13, 2016, 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the great post and hats off to all of you who are so good at minimizing expenses and tracking your progress on the journey so clearly.

    My own progress on the journey is less clear. I started out for several years at a non-profit earning minimum wage. In my early thirties I had maybe two thousand dollars as a net worth. Then I moved on to work privately as a consultant in the same field (education) and had a huge jump in my earnings. Since I was used to living like a student still, I was relatively easily able to save a large percentage of my income. Like Anita, I didn’t think it could last so I thought I’d better save as much as I could. I felt like I was living large but I had no car, shared accommodation etc and could save big. First I was aiming for 50K, then 100, then 150, 200, 250 etc….After a few years I got married and chose to take on more of my wife’s preferences which meant higher rent and much higher discretionary spending. Having a kid relit a fire under my #ss and I went into earning and savings mode again. Now I’m mid 40s, minimal mortgage and probably have enough real estate income to ‘retire’ from my main work however:

    – I’m finding it’s hard to stop
    – Unlike most people here I’m really poor at tracking my income and expenses so don’t know for sure how we would be (also my income and expenses vary wildly from month to month)
    – I spend a lot of money on eating out and random things (I suck)
    – I spend a lot of money on travel as I live half way across the world from my family

    To me, money equals freedom and I like to have occasional big cash infusions (10 or 20K) coming in that I can use for overseas trips home (6-8K for flights alone when I bring family), eating out, etc. I’m afraid if I let go of working in my field altogether, although we could survive, maybe I would feel limited or like I was trapped.

    Also, would I miss my old job which I still enjoy aspects of? Would I replace it with more fulfilling adventures? Or would it be a fair amount of wasted downtime without using better aspects of myself? I know I ought to feel like I can clearly answer those questions myself but I don’t always trust myself.

    I’m blessed to be in the position to ponder these things thanks to hard work, a lot of luck, inspirations like MMM and much more. But due to my own areas of suck I’m unable to cut the cord yet. In a couple more years I think I will have more financial clarity. In the meantime I’m working less and get to spend some quality time with my son while he’s young so I’m truly lucky but I do wonder sometimes if I’m making as much of this life as I could.

  • Michelle January 13, 2016, 11:21 pm

    Great post! Early retirement is what I’m aiming for as well. I earn a great income online and this will allow me to retire comfortably by the age of 30, but I could probably retire just fine in about a year or two if I wanted to as well.

    Even though I do make a large income, I think what you said is important – that your savings rate is important. We save a significant portion of our income each month and we live on very low budgets, even though we travel full-time and have a great time. Living on a low budget IS possible!

  • Rob January 14, 2016, 1:24 am

    I think this blog needs a new rule that makes the word “luck” the only banned 4 letter word. Winning the lottery is lucky. Getting a good job and ignoring pressure to spend takes determination and good planning. Be mindful and realize that choices determined your end goal. Even the choice to buy a lottery ticket;)

    • Bee January 14, 2016, 3:06 am


      • Sheila January 14, 2016, 12:34 pm

        Thriftygal also worked to get her job as a lawyer at a top company. She worked hard to study for the LSATs, worked hard in a top law school, worked hard to pass the bar and then to get a job. Sure luck played a small role, but her hard work and determination payed off.

    • FruGAL February 16, 2016, 12:45 pm

      I do appreciate that Thriftygal was being modest by highlighting her luck and downplaying her hard work. However, I think it’s great to be mindful that good circumstances are often a combination of hard work AND luck. While hard work was certainly a prerequisite to Thriftygal’s high-paying job, she is absolutely right to chalk up her good timing to luck: “I also happened to job hunt in the sweet spot of the naughts before the recession hit.”

      I know many people who went to Top 10 law schools who were law students when the economy crashed and got closed out of the big firm market. Good people who had worked their butts off to get where they were. Suddenly even the unpaid government internships were absolutely cutthroat because paying gigs had all but evaporated. Big firm hiring happens in a really rigid way, where firms hire summer classes of law students, and then extend them permanent offers, and that’s how they hire the majority of their junior attorneys. There are a few other windows for getting one’s foot in the door, but for the most part, that’s it. So when the firms shrunk their summer classes down during the bad economy, many people missed out altogether on the opportunity to get these jobs.

      I applaud Thriftygal for her gratitude about the role of luck in graduating law school at the right time.

  • Skytenshi January 14, 2016, 1:51 am

    I absolutely resonate with Anita. I am currently 32 (turning 33 this year) and will be leaving the legal career for good on 29 February 2016. A lot of my friends say it’s a waste that I devoted so many years of hard work at school and university to obtain my qualification only to walk away from my career so soon. Some cannot imagine why I would want to live frugally when I could continue making ridiculously good money in order to continue a ridiculously excessive lifestyle. For a typical lawyer, this means lots of luxurious vacations, daily fine dining, materialistic purchases and membership of exclusive clubs.

    It’s interesting that Anita mentioned if she is making 4 times the average person, why she can’t retire 4 times earlier. A lot of my friends in the legal industry are also making over $160,000 a year (and in jurisdictions with much less burdensome tax obligations than the US) but they cannot for the life of them imagine retiring early. Last time I met up with them, they were complaining that their income was not enough to support a family of 4 while maintaining a reasonable living standard. The more you earn, the more you spend. It is unfortunate that most of the world operates this way.

    Like Anita, I envisage that someday, when I am bored, I may return to paid employment, but it will be on my own terms, and it will certainly not involve reentering the rat race.

  • Ben January 14, 2016, 2:31 am

    Not a bad Trivia player either ;)
    The Sydney Team misses your random and accurate input.

    I can account for the Mustache tendencies of Anita considering we regularly targeted winning the $100 voucher at the Sugermill Pub and each person in the team got a free steak and a few beers for the table

  • Bee January 14, 2016, 3:06 am

    I think Thriftygal is very humble is claiming her situation came across with ‘luck’!

  • Pete January 14, 2016, 7:55 am

    Thats a great story and I love the idea of retireing early. I would appreciate it if someone can share with me the dollars and cents that she had to have on hand at the time she or anyone else had when they retired. If I do this I need to compare to others. I nned to have a dollar goal to know if I have enough to do the same as they did. Can you please share these details with us!

    • Mr. Frugal Toque January 14, 2016, 9:32 am

      We generally invoke the 4% rule:
      Since investments grow at an average of 7% per year (long term), it’s safe to take 4% out every year, leaving 3% to account for inflation and market fluctuations.
      The trick, then, is figuring out how to live a happy life without a high consumption life style so that the 4% you need doesn’t require a nest egg in the multi-millions of dollars.

      • Pete January 14, 2016, 11:09 am

        Thanks for this. I am familiar with the 4% rule but I am always curious to know just how much money these folks have in the bank and/or investments when they decide to pull the trigger on early retirement. Its just something I want to know but this information is seldom provided. If anyone has the dollars and cents totals they had at the time they decided to enter early retitrement please share the info…I know the total amount each person needs/has will vary based on desired lifestyle…I just want the actual dollar details…

        • Laura82 January 14, 2016, 2:12 pm

          Check out the Forum. There’s a subforum of people who have already pulled the trigger. Some of them go into detail of how much they had when they retired.

      • Meg January 14, 2016, 1:20 pm

        I understand the calculations, but I don’t *believe* them. It’s like rappelling down a cliff. The first time I did it, I understood that the rope would support me, but I’m afraid of heights, and that first step into thin air would not have been possible for me if I hadn’t seen other people do it without plummeting to their deaths.

  • Meg January 14, 2016, 9:45 am

    It’s none of my business, but I would be interested to know how much money Anita had saved before retiring. I’m in a similar position, but I’m scared of taking the plunge. Cold, hard numbers of people who have retired successfully would help.

    • Pete January 14, 2016, 11:11 am

      Thats what I want to know as well!!! For anyone who has retired early out there, please share these details with the rest of us!!!!

      • Kathy Abell January 16, 2016, 8:03 pm

        Pete and Megan – You are forgetting part of the equation: 25 times your expenses. It doesn’t matter how much you have saved (i.e., $5k, $1M, $2M) if it’s not 25 times your expenses. In my case, I tracked my monthly expenses for a year to come up with my number – which was discouragingly high. :( Then I realized some of the needed income stream would be provided by hubby’s pension and eventually our social security checks (so we wouldn’t have to rely solely upon the 4% safe withdrawal rate from our stash to fund our lifestyle). After taking another look at post retirement income sources (including dividend payments from our investments), the number didn’t look so bad after all. Plus, there is lots of potential progress to make on the spending reduction side, so that will make the stash last longer also.

        The main point is not to worry about other people’s number – take a look at your spending circumstances and go from there. If you don’t have insight to your annual spending, use your monthly spending times 12, or your weekly spending times 52. Then multiply by 25 to get your number. ;)

        • HeadedWest January 17, 2016, 2:38 pm

          This is absolutely correct. Especially for the less frugal among us, using your own spending as the starting point is the best approach because it naturally leads you to question whether you can adjust that number downwards. For me, slashing spending was the key after I already had a good bit stashed away.

    • Lauren Graft January 14, 2016, 4:11 pm

      Check out the FIRE calculator tool (http://www.firecalc.com) that runs market simulations over the whole history of the market. You can run it with your numbers but make sure you select long time period (60 years at least if you are young). You’ll find out that in order to be guaranteed that you’ll never run out of money even in the worst market, you really need 1M – 2M depending on your withdrawal rate. Anything else and you are taking a risk.

      But for many people FI does not mean they’ll never, ever work for money again. It just gives them more power in making choices in life. So they can quit the job they hate and not worry if they don’t have another one tomorrow.

    • kelsey January 15, 2016, 8:31 am

      I was wondering the same thing, just an idea or ballpark figure. Is it 500k or 1m or more? Will she have enough if she ever gets married and has kids as well?

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 16, 2016, 12:15 pm

        Hi Meg – $500k would do for a frugal single person (if they later paired up with another likeminded person they’d be sharing $1M). I had a little under $1M in total assets when I retired 10 years ago, shared for the family of 3.

        • Meg October 18, 2017, 5:02 pm

          I must not have checked back because I didn’t see this comment until I checked back today to re-read The story of the 33-year old lawyer I remembered from a few years ago–thanks for replying!
          After reading up on FIRE over the last few years, though, I disagree that $500k would be enough for a frugal singleton to retire on unless she has a paid-off house.
          I have been frugal over the past few years on a BigLaw salary, and I’m planning to retire shortly after my 39th birthday late this year. I worked a little longer than Anita did, but the extra time was worth it for this risk-averse lawyer’s peace of mind.

  • Troy January 14, 2016, 10:07 am

    I find the most interesting aspect of this story the unexpected challenges portion.

    Lets be real, if you came to me and said I am going to interview a single frugal attorney who makes $200K plus per year and enjoys very frugal lifestyle and is focused on saving, the result is easily foretold. So that’s great, but it is also easily replicated.

    What was more interesting to me is the fact that after all the money, and the frugal-ness, and the goal reaching, she is lonely, still single and seems to be “antsy”. Interesting that the picture in her mind doesn’t quite match the reality after the goal is met. It is probably hard to form relationships when you are “wandering” and moving about constantly. There are always opportunity costs to our decisions, and I wonder if loneliness is one of hers. That is not to say her accomplishment is not respected. It is simply interesting to me that sometimes what we think is important ends up not being so important down the road.

    In my life, having a family and children, I cannot imagine any life goal not revolving around them.
    Sure I would have more money and more free time If I was single, or married and childless, but I realized at an early age that seeking out and having those relationship was extremely important to me. I think that is more important than getting a head start on early retirement.

    This blog is excellent at pointing out the decisions we make at an early age can have drastic effects on the remainder of our lives. Figuring out the people part sometimes gets forgotten, as many focus on the money. I would suggest focusing on the people first, as this interview spotlights

  • Jaime January 14, 2016, 10:11 am

    The stock market indeed has been in the meh range lately. Sucks that she might have to go back to work if this shit continues but luckily she has a degree and legal experience to fall back on so building up additional stash comes easily. For me, being an average Joe, the market kinda freaks me out because of all the volatility. MMM, how do you sleep at night with all of these ups and downs, breh?

    • Sheila January 14, 2016, 11:19 am

      Stocks are on ‘sale’ right now and it’s the perfect time to work, since the job market has improved, and buy index funds.

      • Jenny$tache January 14, 2016, 2:07 pm

        Agreed. If for some reason you MUST cash in some investments now, that truly sucks. Otherwise, WOOHOO! time to stock up. It’s only Jan 14th and I’ve already invested about 75% of my planned 2016 contributions. The usual extra I would have put toward the mortgage has been redirected to the retirement stache for as long as this sale continues. Mortgage will be done at Dec 31st this year even if I don’t pay down a single extra cent, but I was planning to accelerate the final bit have it done by July 1. Having a plan for the year’s investments, mortgage pay down and scheduled home maintenance projects is great, but when there is a fabulous sale happening in the markets, then the plan gets a total overhaul so I can maximize the investments when the market says Buy!

        • wb January 15, 2016, 2:24 pm

          I can appreciate the concept of “stocks are on sale,” but after a personal rate of return last year (yes 12 months) of -2.9779, every visit to my financial freedom calculator is a major downer. Where is this mythical 7%? I am afraid to continue using this in my spreadsheet.

          • MrFrugalChicago January 15, 2016, 2:32 pm

            Do you know get what long term gains are? If the market did exactly 7% every year, why would we have things like savings accounts?

            If you get anxious by daily or even yearly ups and downs – hide your password to your brokerage. Set it on auto-deposit, and have your SO change the passwordt and not tell you what it is.

          • HeadedWest January 16, 2016, 12:58 pm

            If you look at the history of publicly traded stock indexes going back to the late 1800s, they seem to move in alternate periods of 15-20 years of exuberant growth followed by 15-20 years of “flatlining”. There was a period of exuberance from 1915-1929, followed by the great depression and WW2, then stocks took off from 1948 – 1965, followed by the stagnant seventies, then starting with Reagan they took off again. This is all roughly speaking.

            In order for this trend to continue, the flatlining period that began in 2001 needs to continue for a couple more years – which means no growth or even a crash. More cautious souls may therefore wish to work an extra year or two even after investing 25x their annual spending. And after all, if the market does crash it will make a great buying opportunity.

  • Doug January 14, 2016, 11:31 am

    “I like to set my alarm clock for when I’d normally wake up for work and then cackle when I shut it off and go back to sleep.” – So cruel.

  • Justin January 14, 2016, 11:44 am

    Pretty cool story, MMM. I’m another lawyer that retired at 33 (though I ended up practicing engineering instead of law). Definitely doable.

    For my own blog, I interviewed a law school classmate that had basically done the same thing as me without knowing to call it “saving for early retirement”. By 34 or so, she was set to quit work and her husband (also a lawyer) could quit and work at Subway if he wanted. Yeah, they had big salaries but also had big law school debts (out of state law schools) and lived in a spendy city (DC).

    The same story got them there as what you and I did – save a big part of their income, live in a regular house, drive a modest car (or take transit or ride a bike), DON’T keep up with your Jonesing co-workers. The shocking thing to me is why more of these incredibly smart and successful professionals aren’t able to achieve FI at an early age.

    • Skytenshi January 19, 2016, 10:11 pm

      As a fellow lawyer, let me share with you the most common responses I got when I said I was quitting law:

      1. What are you going to do with your time?
      2. All that time and effort you spent on your education and you are quitting?
      3. Where (as in which firm or company) are you going?
      4. How are you going to live? I can’t do that. I need to be able to go on vacations whenever I have to.
      5. You can only do it cuz you don’t have kids. Private/international school fees cost a lot. I would like to give them the chance to do whatever they want.
      6. Good on you. I would like to do the same, but I just don’t have enough savings.

    • Megan January 21, 2016, 1:28 pm

      As someone blessed with a high salary married to someone who also has a high salary I honestly think that one big factor to why more people in these positions don’t all retire early is simply not knowing it is possible. I always saved because my mother (the accountant) told us to, but I never had a goal in mind. It was just something I did but without a fire under my butt (haha), there was no reason for me to inspect my spending, spend time learning more about investing, or otherwise taking charge of my finances. Once I figured out that FIRE was something that existed and was possible – wow!

  • Bruce January 14, 2016, 12:21 pm

    It would appear she probably has 10 years of earned income to qualify for social security and medicare when the time comes. But if she doesn’t she’ll probably want to work again briefly in the USA to get there.

    • Jim January 14, 2016, 5:25 pm

      I agree completely. I don’t care how FI you are, never pass up free money or that extra safety cushion for old age. If she hasn’t met the SS/medicare threshold, she has to be so close that it would be criminal not to finish. And if she already is starting to feel the pull to part time work (out of boredom or the need for a challenge), that will do the trick for SS as well.

  • Giovina January 14, 2016, 2:06 pm

    I love this story! I feel like I should be earning more with the degree that I have, but for the time being I have a good schedule, I’m taking classes and I live close to work in a city I like so it’s pretty comfortable. Unfortunately I am projecting quite a while until financial independence, and I still want to be able to travel while I work. I don’t want convenience to hold me back from reaching my goals, but I’m not sure how to progress from where I am now without giving up some of the aspects of the job that I like.

  • Rob I'm Not a Ludite January 14, 2016, 2:33 pm

    Hey Mustache what about doing an interview with Arebelspy over at the forums, he FIRE’d at a good age, didn’t earn a lot and is well respected

  • Jenny$tache January 14, 2016, 2:53 pm

    Comment for MMM regarding the “Cruising was hell” comment. Sounds like you took the wrong sort of cruise. A cruise is very different things to different people. Yes you can do it the traditional way – lay by the pool, get a massage, line up at the buffet and spend your nights drinking in the clubs or gambling at the casino. Basically indulgence of every sort. Personally none of those activities appeals to me either. If I want to do those things I could stay home and over eat, sit in the sun on my back deck an every evening head to the local bar or casino. I’m guessing your unhappy experience was a Caribbean or other tropical destination. I agree those are mostly about sun, booze and every sort of over indulgence and lack of activity. I’m going to profile here and say they likely appeal to the same people who go to all inclusive island resorts. Eat, drink heavily, perhaps snorkel and then fall back into your lounge chair.

    We’ve been cruising annually in the Mediterranean for 7yrs now. I have never been to the casino or the spa on any ship. We use the cruise as a simple way to get to multiple destinations without having to rent cars, plan routes, make multiple hotel reservations etc. It’s a great one price way to sample some of the great cities of the world. Those cities that really appealed to us will get a longer return visit. We choose based on the itinerary with a heavy focus on stops in places with great hiking, biking, castles, ruins or caves to explore, and some of the finest museums and galleries in the world. When we do have a day at sea and are “trapped on board” there are all sorts of activities but you need to be selective (and perhaps be on a cruise line that offers the activities you want). Yes there is bingo by the pool (yawn) but I’ve taken tango lessons with the onboard performers, cooking classes with the chef, did introductory Italian classes, and attended presentations on middle eastern markets and bazaars, the Hermitage Museum’s vast art collection, and the construction the Roman Coliseum. The ship is simply a nice hotel that moves every night while we dine well in the Dining Room (not at the buffet) and sleep deeply after a day of physical exertion. Don’t write off cruising based on one experience. I’ve found it to be a cost effective way to cover a lot of ground and see and do as much as I can stand to pack into each day. For us cruising isn’t the vacation, it’s just the method we’re using to get around to see the places on the itinerary. Saying we going on a cruise for our vacation would be as insane to me a saying we’re going for a drive. That leaves me wondering where are you driving to? What will you see along the way? The car is simply the transportation not the entire vacation.

    • ESI January 14, 2016, 4:43 pm

      +1 to this comment.

      We are the same as the comment above except that we go to the Caribbean. We’ve been three times, loved it each time, and made memories with our family that can’t be bought anywhere.

      Yes, we could make memories elsewhere and for less money, but does cheaper always equal better? Does every decision have to go through the “this could be 17 days earlier I could retire” lens? This is the part of retiring early and living the “simple life” that I’m not sure is for me. I admire those who decide this is the path for them and can stick to it, just not sure that path would make me happy.

      But as I said above, you have me considering…

      • Rob I'm Not a Ludite January 15, 2016, 6:27 am

        @ Jenny$tache

        Have you read Root of Goods review of his cruise? It’s the Moustache’s go on a cruise, highly recomended

    • Bee January 16, 2016, 4:35 pm

      I agree. I guest is depends on the destination the cruise it going to and the type of cruise ship you travel on.
      I’m looking at booking a cruise to New Zealand because of the cost effectiveness and the fact that it covers so many of the different islands in New Zealand. It departs from my hometown, Melbourne. It is a great alternative to having to board multiple flights, arrange hire cars and then pay for accommodation for two weeks. I imagine it must be a great alternative for families too.


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