How to be Happy, Rich, and Save the World


Can we Change the Diapers of the Entire Rich World?

With this being the fall of 2016, I just passed the 11-year anniversary of my retirement from real work (Mrs. MM escaped her cubicle a few months earlier than me). Coincidentally, this Mr. Money Mustache gig just had its 5.5th birthday, which means that I’ve been writing about being retired for fully half of the time that I’ve actually been retired.

You’d think that this would get boring at some point, and indeed my production of new blog posts is slower now than it was in the early years. I only sit down to type additional shit into the computer when I really want to tell you something and happen to have the free time to do it.

But the desire to keep working on the overall project never gets any weaker, because it’s such a big one that allows me to learn so much in the process. If you’re a nerd like me, imagine having unlimited free time, money, and good health to spend the next 60 years working on and learning whatever you want. This is living life in a state of Permanent Nerd Nirvana.

The project, of course, is to try to get the people of the world’s rich countries excited about separating the idea of lifetime happiness, from the idea of buying expensive shit with which to pamper yourself. We use early retirement, personal fulfillment and social status as the carrot, and being a wussypants clown as the stick. It’s a human psychology problem as much as it is a financial or technical or political one.

So anyway, part of the deal is trying new stuff, in order to reach new groups of people. According to Google Analytics, about 21 million supposedly-unique people have visited this website since it was first created, and almost 90% of us are in the United States.

That’s 5% of the country’s population at best, which even assuming a fictional 100% adoption rate would still leave at least 95% of us as Sucka Clown Consumers subject to the risks of buying a new GMC Acadia and driving our kids 1 mile to school in it. Recent observations of my own neighborhood confirm this estimate. Badass bicycle-based living in the fresh air is way up, but we still need way more of it.

One of my recent attempts at this advocacy was giving a daunting presentation to a big scary theater full of people at an event called the World Domination Summit (as noted in the earlier article about doing difficult stuff). Since the attendees of this event are generally fans of author Chris Guillebeau, many of them had never heard of old Mr. Money Mustache before.

So the challenge in this case was to present a concise summary of financial independence and early retirement, how and why you’d want to do it, and why this is a actually good and ethical thing to pursue. I tried to make the case by walking through the following three logical steps:

  • Almost everyone (currently) sucks at money
  • Getting rich enough to retire takes way less time than most of us think
  • Work is better when you don’t need the money

Although the talk isn’t super-sparkly and polished*, I’m still pretty happy with the overall thing and it was quite well recorded**. I figured hey, since I put so much work into this thing, I might as well share it with you. You can then poach any ideas from it when presenting Mustachianism to your own stubborn friends and family members, or even make them watch the whole 28-minute thing. Also, since companies and local TEDx talk organizers occasionally pester me to come give talks at their venues, I can now respond, “Nah – how about I stay home and go on some hikes with my family while you just watch this video?”

So here’s a link to the full recording on my own YouTube page

Also, here’s a link to my slides and transcript, which I wrote in Powerpoint then converted to a public Google Slides presentation. Copy, plagiarize and share those ideas around as much as you like. You can even personally give my entire talk to your own company if you like – I found it was a lot of fun to deliver.

That’s it – no real article today as another sunny day beckons. But I am hard at work on more experiments and persuasive entertainment for you, as the project continues.

* The lines I forgot when giving the talk were:

Every financial adviser, and newspaper journalist, and even these softie liberals who are supposed to be working to make sure the common person gets a fair share. They’re all still stuck in this basic assumption that luxury products are part of the recipe for human happiness. “Well, the rich people can all afford cars and suburban houses and Starbucks, so we need to make sure the poor people can afford this stuff too, to ensure a fair society!” They never even think to question it. Which means most of their advice is useless at best.

** The stage production at the WDS is pretty amazing. Gigantic, glitzy with top-of-the-line people, lighting, and equipment. The only sad part (for me) is that I now realize they recorded it with a camera that’s up high in the seats. Meanwhile, among many other rookie mistakes, I was looking down to talk to the first level of the audience, which are the only ones you see due to  the bright lights on your face. In the video, it looks like I am talking to the floor. Also, since I use my hands a lot when I talk (and not just my face), I would have preferred to have them use a full-body shot instead of that awkwardly-close shot so much. But whatever – still better than anything I could have recorded myself!

  • susan November 9, 2016, 12:15 pm

    Wow, great presentation! I’m a long-time reader, although it’s been a while since I’ve checked in. I especially like the last part about being able to focus on making the world even better. It gives me even more motivation to retire early. You rock.

  • dana November 9, 2016, 8:30 pm

    Loved it! I was so depressed today after Trump winning. I feel if only we can work on some people, each of us (I am going to work on my sister) that we can make an impact on society.

  • Imre November 16, 2016, 5:28 pm

    I am presenting this to my Microeconomics class as a bonus lecture in a couple of weeks. We’all be talking about maximizing happiness, time value of money, how an increase in income does not necessarily shift the demand curve to the right for a mustachian, how to apply economics and personal finance to retire early and ultimately save the world. Perhaps not quite in those words, but will make sure to mix the viewpoint with a healthy dose of fist to the face.

  • Amy December 27, 2016, 12:23 pm

    The video is very well done and I wouldn’t have noticed you looking down at the audience if you hadn’t mentioned it in the blog post. I don’t think I have ever commented but I have read your blog for a few years and also went back and read all the old posts I missed. Lots of good stuff in this blog. I am a 42 year old homeschooling Mom to five adopted kids. I have to say that your principles are great even for those who have never made the salary you and your wife once made and who have higher expenses from a few more mouths to feed. I am a way back follower of Amy Dacyczyn and have been saving money since my childhood. In my late teens I heard about a very well rated college in the South that provided free tuition for students with financial need and so I got accepted there and graduated from college with no debt. I met my Canadian husband at this college and he also graduated with no debt. I have been a SAHM for 13 years and my husband works as an Administrative Assistant. We have a lovely newer 4 bedroom, 3 bath, colonial home with a 2 car garage on 3 acres that will be paid off in 3 years. It is valued at about 320k. We plan on my husband cutting back to part time work in about 5 years since we will have about $400,000 in our 401k by then. We paid for three special needs adoptions from China with no debt incurred. We have no other debt besides our mortgage. My husband drives a 2005 Honda Civic to work and I drive it whenever we are not hauling the whole family and our son’s wheelchair around in our minivan. Our family vehicle is a 2002 Toyota Sienna with only 100,000 miles on it. We bought it six years ago with 79,000 miles on it. Our kids have far too many toys, books, games, name brand clothes, etc. but they haven’t cost us much since we get most things at yard sales or Goodwill. All the educational stuff can be resold when we are tired of it usually at the price we paid for it at our state’s annual Used Homeschool Curriculum Sale. I honestly can’t think of anything we want or need at this point. I want my husband to be able to cut back to part time in five years so he can devote more time to music which he loves. I plan to volunteer when I no longer have to homeschool my kids. Financial freedom is priceless!

  • Jen December 28, 2016, 2:04 am

    I got interested in early retirement in 2011 – first found the ERE blog, then this one; followed posts here for a year or two, then went on autopilot after (seemingly :) having absorbed the core principles. Checked back here today as this coming new year marks a milestone for me – I have just finished building up my stash and will be financially independent from the next year onwards. I am not retiring – I will continue working in the same field (as I do love it), but in another job. I have handed in my notice and will be leaving in March. Don’t know yet where to – am currently hunting for an interesting and meaningful job (that is what I write nowadays in my cover letters!). Was very happy to see this video today, as it validated what I kind of figured out myself over the last few years – putting “meaningful work” in the middle hexagon :D

    PS – many others have shared their experience on this before, and it indeed feels as good as I imagined – telling your boss you are quitting your absurdity-ridden job and leaving them puzzled, as you do not have any other offers yet. Standard questions – “wouldn’t it be difficult with kids to raise?… etc”. Unbelievably liberating!
    PPS – another awesome thing about not needing the money is going to job interviews, actually interviewing your prospective employers and then politely declining their pre-offer without even hearing first about the package, as the job seems like another futile waste of human life hours.

  • FMaz February 15, 2017, 2:58 am

    Good job!

    Those lines you forgot only made you relatable. :)

  • Garwick Wong February 17, 2017, 12:58 am

    Hi, I just read your blog for not very long time and need time to digest. Your writings give me an impression about 3 ideas. 1. We always need to spend money rationally. 2. We always believe that money can’t buy happiness and health. 3. We always focus on finding ways to increase our level of happiness and health without spending more. Is it right?

    I have a question to ask, “How do you find friends and get along with them? Are they all like you, or they accept that you are not like them? I ask this question because my friends usually like to dine out and go shopping.

  • Al February 21, 2017, 5:16 pm

    I’m a long-time reader of your blog and it something that has changed my life. I’m close to retirement and loving it – all thanks to your blog. As part of this process I’ve also been thinking more about life, health and the planet – props on the promotion of sustainable transport. However, there more than one way to “save the world” that keeps getting missed and it is what we put on our plates. Eating meat causes more greenhouse gas than driving cars. What’s surprising is how long this has been known but it is effectively hidden from the public knowledge (see: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html). Anyone seen the documentary “Cowspiracy”?

  • Michael December 1, 2020, 1:48 pm

    Hey MMM, your awesome-amazing-difficult-funny presentation video has disappeared from the embed and Vimeo. I’d love it if you can get it back, I want to show my family! Thanks mate!
    P.S. you changed my life man, I’m 1.58 years from FIRE xo

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 1, 2020, 7:24 pm

      Thanks for the alert Michael! Conveniently enough, I had more recently posted that on my own YouTube channel, so I changed the link to point to that.


Leave a Reply

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

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


welcome new readers

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

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

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets