Money and Confidence are Interchangeable

So, I’m assuming you are here reading this because you want to get yourself some more money.

And since this is Mr. Money Mustache and not a standard financial publication, you’re willing to think about the bigger picture:

Not necessarily “Maximum money at all costs so I can have a nice, spendy retirement!”

More like “A good, fun amount of money so I can walk outta this cubicle with confidence and never look back.”

Making that mental leap is a huge one. It takes you from a life of permanent pursuit of the unattainable, to one where you get to the “Enough” stage pretty quickly. This alone will change the course of your life for the better.

But what if there were an even bigger mental leap that we were leaving out? One that starts with the hard-nosed math of living off of your investments, but then puts it on a more flexible scale that allows you take shortcuts and attain the freedom you want, much sooner?

Well, there is such a shortcut of course, and there is even a story right from my own life that illustrates it.

The Unnecessary Fears of Teenager MMM

Since I was a kid, I’ve always had confidence issues. I was afraid to attend the birthday parties of other kids, if there were too many strangers around. I was afraid to try new foods or join any teams. It took me a long time to become outgoing enough to start meeting girls in high school.

I compensated for these things by trying to be really good at everything, in an attempt to alleviate feelings of worry. Insisting on A+ grades even on the most pointless of assignments, just because I felt that “winning” was a safe defense against bullshit workloads.

I engaged in slightly compulsive weight training with a gang of close friends (and probably fellow misfits) until we were all well-dressed two hundred pound muscleheads, safe from the risk of bullying and gleefully (but needily) soaking up the status rewards of having fancier outer appearances. We would have all claimed it was for fun reasons or health reasons, but there was plenty of teenage insecurity driving up those barbell plates at 5:30am as well.

Even as a young adult, my desire to build up a massive financial surplus was probably at least partly driven by a desire to protect myself from things that could go wrong – like unemployment or being stuck in a job that I no longer enjoyed.

I’m not ashamed to admit all of this, because you need to see your opponent clearly in order to beat it. I went through this journey of insecurity and came out in a good place – in the safety of a well-designed life with lots of advantages. But since then, as I have spent the subsequent thirteen years learning more about that life, and meeting new people with entirely different successful lives, I have come to realize something I wish I could have known earlier:

I had nothing to worry about in the first place.

It turns out I didn’t need all that money, because my needs and wants will never be more than I earn from my natural desire to do useful work. You don’t need to be a musclehead in order to have friends or meet attractive people or deter bullies – normal fitness is just fine and being friendly and open is much more attractive – whether your goal is finding love or running a powerful enterprise.

You don’t have to OVERACHIEVE at everything you do – you can be strategically great at things you truly enjoy, carve the rest of the unnecessary crap out of your life, and spend your days in a much healthier balance of work and play.

Many of us are focusing our energy on building up the wall of protective money and insurance policies around us to ever-greater heights, working one last year and funding one last insurance policy against an obscure risk, when really our deficit is not in money. It’s in confidence.

And thus, it turns out that Money and Confidence are Interchangeable.

Figure 1: With no confidence, you need a shit-ton of money to feel comfortable. Find a smarter balance.

Think about it: It took me seventeen years of school and ten years of work to become an expert software engineer, making a growing six-figure salary and collect about a million dollars* of investments by about age thirty.

But then, years after retirement I started a carpentry business just for fun, and within just a few weeks of spreading the word, I had enough business to easily pay the bills with very part time work. And most notably, I still do some paid carpentry, just because it’s an incredibly fun and satisfying way to spend a few hours with friends, fixing up a house on a sunny day.

So, would a sufficiently confident carpenter really need to do the engineering career and save that million, in order to live a satisfying life?

In 2011, I started this website to write about money. Even without the lottery-like success it has lucked into, I would have still ended up with a writing career in a popular subject that was loads of fun and could again have easily paid the bills through things like consulting, advising, speaking, or connecting with new friends for business opportunities. And I’ve enjoyed writing since I was ten years old – with enough confidence, I could have started writing about money decades earlier.

So maybe a confident younger money writer with lots of drive is also already set for a great life, even if he or she isn’t sitting on a lifetime of investments?

In 2017, I bought a small commercial building alongside some friends and converted half of it into a coworking space, and it easily filled up with members. Despite charging only a third of standard rates, the income from this business could also be plenty to fund a happy family’s lifestyle if we managed it well.

If I had the confidence earlier in life, I could have shortcut the intervening work and achieved almost exactly my current lifestyle decades ago: no war chest of investments required.

More important than these examples from my life, are examples from yours.

Every day, I get emails from people describing their plentiful savings and unpleasant jobs, and then a description of the golden handcuffs or fearful assumptions that keep them working in their jobs.

They wonder when, if ever, they’ll be able to quit. When really, the problem is not the money, it’s the confidence. With confidence, they could quit right now.

Confidence allows you to change your current life entirely and instantly, without the need to change anything – because you’re just rearranging the feelings in your mind.

Imagine for a moment that you’re Jill CTO or Joe Attorney, locked into a prestigious firm and a two point six million dollar Washington DC dream townhouse. You’ve got an entire department reporting to you, your ex-spouse to manage, two kids in private schools, a standardized and rigorous vacation plan to address both sets of inlaws,  and a comfortable, safe brand new Lexus Hybrid SUV that you use several times per day because although you agree with Mr. Money Mustache that more people should be riding bikes, it just doesn’t work with your lifestyle right now.

You’re a high achiever, no doubt about it. But what is all this achievement buying you in life happiness today? Are you selling off your current years of youth to The Firm, and putting off your happiness because in just another decade or so, once the kids are grown and things settle out, then you’ll give yourself permission to be happy?

If so, you may have confidence issues, just like the rest of us.

What if we could take all that complexity and ass-covering and self-protection in your current life, set it aside, and consider the following ideas.

In fact, let’s repeat all of this together in the first person so it sinks in for real:

A Recipe For Badass Confidence

  • I will always be able to get a job if I need one.
  • Billions of people are living far less expensive lives than mine, and yet many millions of these people are surely happier than me. What is their secret?
  • While I don’t control the entire world, I am in control of my response to everything I experience. And my response is the part that determines my happiness.
  • I am in control of my cost of living. Everything I do is a decision, and it’s made by me, not the world around me.
  • I can always learn new things. With proper dedication, I can gain any skill that I want or need. This means when I depend on other people, it’s just a positive choice we are both making. When others depend on me, they are acknowledging my strength and I will choose to pass some of it on to them.
  • My kids will be just fine. Just by giving them my love and support and being honest with them. They don’t need prestige and they don’t need the support of multimillionaire parents to prosper in life. Nobody does.
  • Exotic Travel (just like any other luxury) is not a necessity for a happy life. At a moment’s notice, I could choose to spend the rest of my life within driving distance of this spot, and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.
  • But on the other side of that same coin, I can always move. My current location is a mixture of chance and choice, but people move all the time and their lives are usually better for it.
  • I can always make friends. No matter where you drop me in the world, I could build up a loving support network of warm and caring relationships. Because people are the same everywhere – we all just want to be valued and given some warm attention.
  • I know that my real goal in life is happiness, and I will always have the right tools available to me to maximize my happiness. They’re everywhere, and they are free.
  • Millions of others have achieved this before me, with fewer advantages and in harder times. I have more than enough personal power to get this shit done, in spades.

That collection of points above, is my personal version of what Confidence means. But you’re welcome to use it, adapt it, even turn it into a t-shirt or tattoo for yourself. Confidence is the opposite of fear, and fear is the enemy that stands between most people and greater happiness.

And because it’s interchangeable with the need for money, that dozen or so bullet points can easily be worth millions of dollars.

The biggest bonus about this multimillion dollar recipe? If you haven’t followed it before, your initial results will come strikingly fast and fuel your desire to get yourself even more of it. Confidence is addictive, joyful, and self-reinforcing.

What To Do With This Amazing Power

You now have two complementary tools in your belt: Money, and Confidence. Both of them are useful. But it would be foolish to develop one exclusively, while completely ignoring the other.

Most people work too much on the money and use it to compensate for a lack of confidence. To get to the next stage in life, you will need to stop doing that.

The Freedom to live happily is your goal. Confidence is part of the price of admission.

*based on 2005 retirement date inflation adjusted to present-day dollars

  • Matthew In Michigan March 10, 2018, 7:45 am

    “I am in control of my response to everything I experience and my response is the part that determines my happiness”

    Very Zen like, I think the Dali llama would approve!! This is key for me, so simple yet so difficult to execute every time. If I were to tattoo any part of this great post it would be this….on my forearm :-)

  • Tonya March 10, 2018, 8:26 am

    This reminds me of something Jean Chatzky said at one of the keynotes for Fincon in St. Louis. She said someone asked her if she was ever worried about ending up a bag lady, and her response was “no, because she’d be the best damn waitress anyone had ever seen.” Basically, same thing you’re saying. She could adjust her lifestyle accordingly and find a job doing what she had to do and do well at it. I fully admit I do have those confidence issues. Having been through rough financial times before, it really shook me, so it’s something I’m really trying to work on!

  • Weronika March 10, 2018, 10:24 am

    On the one hand I agree with the article, on the other… By doing all those things like building a career, making money, getting funds to buy a house, get high quality education and health care, even by wasting some of it we learn a lot, build connections that we can later rely on, get to know ourselves better, etc.
    I’m not convinced that it’d be equally good if we just started from that point of “retirement”. I feel there’s much more than just confidence you get by following this road and the stages that may seem as a waste of time are often an important part of the process.
    At least I think I’d be a completely different person without it, and I like this version of myself better ;)

  • Sonya March 10, 2018, 11:39 am

    A closely related chart would be “Spending $ vs. Confidence” I find the most insecure people cover up with fancy homes, clothes, shoes, cars, etc. When you’re confident, you don’t need to flaunt your $. Your happiness is independent to luxury possessions and a super fancy lifestyle. This might be my fave article, thanks MMM!

  • Mighty Investor March 10, 2018, 12:34 pm

    This is a great post. Confidence is huge. A couple of additional thoughts.

    Many of us who hit FI may find a new area were we need to regain confidence. We know we can rock a job, but can we really rock FIRE? I for one found the first few months or leaving the high-powered job quite disorienting. I realized there were levels of insecurity in my personality that I wasn’t aware of. I’m glad I had the challenge.

    Second, beyond being confident in yourself, if you are really going to shoot for FIRE, you have to have some degree that life can work out, that not everything that could go wrong will go wrong, that the markets aren’t about to tank forever, etc. It takes time to trust that “yep, my investments really are enough.” This, too, is a process that is developed over time.

    Thanks for this one, MMM. Really a great post.

  • Dividend FIREman March 10, 2018, 12:39 pm

    I’ve been reading MMM posts for several years now, but this is the first time I felt compelled to comment. It has always been my view that anxiety and worry have ended more dreams than lack of money ever could. We (and our doubts) are often our own worst enemies.

    Things WILL be fine. Hope in your heart is a powerful thing. And so is the confidence that comes from that hope.

    Thanks MMM for reminding all of us that a rich mindset is more important than a fat wallet.

  • Amy March 10, 2018, 12:46 pm

    This post really struck me, as an overachiever. My biggest fear with FIRE is not having enough $ or being able to find work, but to make friends! I’d have to move (out of the most expensive US city) in order to FIRE, and it’s exhausting and daunting to imagine trying to re-network a friend community all over again (once again, probably those high school ghosts talking).In the last few cities I’ve lived in , friends have come either with work (I work with very cool, like-minded people) or with school so it’s hard to imagine creating a network outside of those low risk areas.

    • Terry March 17, 2018, 9:24 pm

      An interesting observation, Amy. My husband and I (no kids no siblings no parents) kept moving for his software consultant work and over 25 years, have had our friendships dwindle. We float around the jamband music scene and have the occasional great encounter that sustains us socially for a while. Having a new tight circle of friends now? I stopped dreaming of it just in this last year.

  • Alex March 10, 2018, 12:48 pm

    Thank you for this. In a way this post really shortcuts the Early Retirement scheme. I’m 24 and would consider myself retired. I may only have a few thousand in savings and only a little income from odd jobs and creative projects. If I needed more money, I could take a job or set up a small business. It takes a big stress off your back once you know you don’t HAVE to be part of the corporate machine.

    There are bloggers that say you need X hundreds of thousands or million dollars/pounds/euros to achieve a good 5-figure income. But that’s not really necessary. If you have a willingness to work, and learn and put your energy into creative and productive pursuits while being frugal – you can have a very high quality of life, with low stress.

    Once you cut down on that high-stress, adrenaline city, big job life – you don’t need to do expensive things to recover and get your energy back.

    We have (older) retired friends who are actually MORE busy than they ever were when they worked and managed a restaurant. Now they’re always growing vegetables, working on their house, cooking top-notch food for themselves and us as neighbours, working on neighbour’s houses, craft projects too.

    It takes balls to step out beyond your fears and your safety net. But once you do it gives you a real zest for life and you want more freedom and your horizons expand along with your heart.

    Yours sincerely, from someone who’s lived off little more than confidence and fumes for 4 years,

    • Dharma Bum March 13, 2018, 5:50 am

      This is very impressive, considering your young age.

  • Carly March 10, 2018, 1:00 pm

    This is just what I needed right now! I work an office temp job that makes me $13.40 per hour. For the last 10 months I have been gradually trying to build a piano studio, and make a living as a piano teacher while I work the temp job. The job has liked me so much that they’re keeping me on “permanently” and allowing me to take 2 days per week off to teach to boot.
    I am now up to 18 students, and make about as much teaching as I would working full time at the temp job. I’d like to quit, and pursue teaching full time, as I make $40/hour at it. I’ve not had the confidence to let go of the security. This just might have helped me :)
    Advice from other readers is welcome as to what I should do!

    • Charlotte March 11, 2018, 2:38 pm

      That’s so awesome! You can do both. Keep the temp job to build a $$$ buffer then let go and teach full-time. On the other hand, sometimes life is more fun when you have variety so you can keep both jobs too 😁

      • Carly March 11, 2018, 6:04 pm

        True, but I hate the office job with a burning passion, and it hardly pays anything at all!

        • Ann March 11, 2018, 6:33 pm

          My two bob’s worth Carly:

          If you hate that job with a burning passion, give two weeks notice immediately.

          Continue to attract more piano students but raise your price to the highest the market will allow, or just below it. I have found two things about raising prices (I am a private English tutor)

          1. Existing clients couldn’t care less if you raise your price. If you told all of your clients that the price was now $45, they wouldn’t care. They just want the best for their kids.

          2. People like to spend money! And they think that if you charge more, then you are better. Of course you have to work hard for them in return – enjoy finding ways to actually be better. I charge $90 an hour, advertising on a web-site where some tutors charge as little as $30 yet I am constantly booked out. One woman said to me, ‘I have booked a tutor for my son but I’m worried that she’s not very good because she only charges $30.

          Remember, if you can attract 18 clients, you can attract 36. That’s $1440 a week or $1512 if you raise the price to $42 or $1620 if you raise it to $45.

          I would try $50 for your next few enquiries to see what happens.

          • Carly March 11, 2018, 7:10 pm

            Thank you for the advice!! I have been apprehensive about raising my rates, because I’m pretty young and don’t have a TON of teaching experience, and I didn’t want to charge beyond what I’m worth. I don’t have a music degree, but I do have 17 years of study, college level theory knowledge, and I perform and gig regularly, which are enough to qualify you in the music world. Maybe I should value myself more.

            • CL Frey March 11, 2018, 10:03 pm

              Definitely! The biggest regret that I have about going freelance is not raising my rates sooner – I went from needing lots of low paying hours to being better paid for less work. And really, the ONLY thing it came down to was confidence in what I was offering to clients. The other thing that made a big difference to me was automatically putting 20% of every cheque i got into savings (or more, if you can). It gives me an automatic cushion – otherwise I would wait for the big jobs to pay everything off and catch up, and that’s just too stressful.

            • Ann March 11, 2018, 10:13 pm

              17 years study
              high level theory knowledge
              working musician

              There, I’ve written your ad. for you.

              NOW QUIT.

              I forgot to mention in my previous comment, I am 56 and only have two regrets in life: one was staying is a relationship a year too long in my early 20s, the other was working in an office for 4 years. I was totally unsuited to it and hated every minute of it but I was young and so low in confidence that I thought it was my fault that I hated it. I thought I must just have a bad attitude because everyone else seemed to be coping. That’s before I learned the importance in finding work that actually suits your personality type.

            • Ann March 11, 2018, 10:25 pm

              Oops. I see by your website that you don’t need an ad.
              What on earth are you doing in that office job?? :)

            • Carly March 12, 2018, 3:08 pm

              Thank you for the encouragement! I definitely think that I will be quitting :) I hope I’m able to maintain steady business!

            • EJ March 12, 2018, 12:14 pm

              One thought from the more money, less confidence side of the scale: ask the office to hire you direct and pay you more. Ask for $25 an hour. It is certainly on the high end for an office worker, but they know you and like you, can cutout the payments to any temp agency that placed you, and you can always negotiate. If they are stuck at the (almost insulting for a smart, hard-working, reliable person) $13.40, it may be easier to walk away.

              Also, I remember paying $40 an hour for reasonably priced piano lessons in the mid nineties in a relatively low cost of living area (Michigan). $40 in 1996 is $64 in 2018. How about $30 for a 30 minute lesson and $50 for an hour?

            • Carly March 14, 2018, 3:58 pm

              Thanks for the advice! I definitely plan on raising my rates within the year…..another area I need confidence in. I need to trust my worth!
              As for asking for a full time position at $25/hour…..that’s probably not going to happen at all, and would probably insult my manager who has been extremely supportive of me. Honestly I’d rather just try to strike out on my own. I don’t think more money will make me feel less like I’m wasting my time there. I’d rather work fewer hours, have more students, and have the time to focus on being a better musician. I’d like to develop my writing skills as well!

    • Elaine March 25, 2018, 6:01 pm

      I’m now in my 45th year of teaching piano and theory, and 15th of teaching singing. I have diplomas in piano, organ, and voice, as well as a university business degree. After university I worked in an insurance company for 7.5 years until I couldn’t take it any longer. A friend said that I should concentrate on my music, and since I’d been working tons of overtime I had about 1.5 years of expenses saved up. I took the plunge and have been self-employed ever since doing an ever-changing combination of music and business work.

      I’ve lived and taught in both a large city and a rural area. You have to gear what you charge and how you build up your studio to where you live. I would have no business if I charged city rates here in the country. But I still make $40/hour, and since I’m no longer taking new students and am letting my work load decrease by attrition, I’m happy with that. I could charge a bit more here, but not a lot.

      I didn’t feel well-prepared when I started teaching, but you learn a lot quite quickly, and everyone develops their own style. Don’t count adults out. I live in an area where there are a lot of retirees, and lots of them want to make up for what they didn’t do when they were younger. They’re enthusiastic and work hard, and they’re lots of fun.

      It’s a bit of a leap to take, especially being a music teacher, as students do come and go, but being self-employed is really great.

      • Carly March 30, 2018, 8:36 am

        Thanks for the advice! I actually have about 6 adult students, and I love them! I love that they’re there because they want to be, just because they enjoy it. I started teaching seriously a little over a year ago, and I know what you mean by feeling unprepared. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I feel like I’m getting the hang of it and my business has been growing!

  • Sam March 10, 2018, 1:23 pm

    Your point about travel rings so true to me. It’s almost as if traveling is becoming a new status symbol replacing the fancy car and big house. People will go to great lengths to blow huge amounts of money to get some pictures to post online for others to envy.

    I’m not saying travel isn’t fun, but people should realize that it’s definitely a luxury. Sometimes you just need to step back and realize that you can have a good time right where you’re at with a shift in mindset.

  • Oldster March 10, 2018, 1:59 pm

    You hit the nail on the head Pete. (which is what you’d expect a reasonably competent carpenter to do). While I do think that happiness is largely a choice – you can actually feel happier just by choosing to feel happier – the acquisition of confidence is something that requires some practice and at least some small amount of risk. You’ve got to reach for something more than you have in order to obtain it. You have to put yourself out there a bit in order to see that it is within you. One of the things I like most about this community is the sense of support. Everyone is trying to do their variation of Financial Independence in order to secure more happiness. It is really a beautiful thing.

  • Anton March 10, 2018, 2:23 pm

    Great post thank you.

  • ZJ Thorne March 10, 2018, 5:29 pm

    I’ve always been confident, but only recently acquired money. There has not been a true correlation in my life so far.

    I started a business before I truly knew how to run it so that I could make a life I wanted. It took some money, but mainly it took being confident that I could learn enough quickly enough. I keep on learning and improving my skills and have no desire to stop that. Even once I’ve paid off what needs to be paid off and have assets working for me.

  • Eric March 10, 2018, 6:24 pm

    Earlier today I was reading “Tribe of Mentors” and Debbie Millman wrote not about confidence, but about courage. A friend of hers described how overly confident people were really annoying, usually arrogant and that they were probably compensating for something. Instead, have courage. “When you are operating out of courage, you are saying that no matter how you feel about yourself or your opportunities or the outcome, you are going to take a risk and take a step toward what you want.” The confidence comes after you have the courage to take the risk. MMM can do what he does now because of confidence (the money is already there, so nothing to lose), but to do these things early on before you have the money, that takes courage. Its a bit of semantics, but thinking of it of courage helped me understand the concept better. Thanks MMM for the serendipitous post!

    • Ms Blaise March 11, 2018, 3:04 am

      I like this framing. Here in NZ we are a little dubious about confident people, but we adore courageous people!

  • Nick March 10, 2018, 9:00 pm

    Very good article. I stepped away from work back in 2014 but I still don’t have the confidence you discussed in your article. I’m still debating taking a job in order to bring in some money. I can technically not work again but I find I’m so programmed to save that I “want” to bring in some money. I will use your list in order to help me get better focus on my plan going forward. I’d prefer not to take a 9-5 jobs and instead pursue some more of my interests; bee keeping, biking, business (micro greens), etc. The thought of working for someone is very unappealing but I find myself considering it. Thanks again. Nick from Canmore, AB, Canada.

    • Dharma Bum March 13, 2018, 5:55 am

      Why do you want to bring in some money?
      Are you starving or homeless?

  • Laura March 10, 2018, 10:16 pm

    Really needed to read this. I’m pregnant with a surprise baby and this has really rocked my confidence!! I even told my husband that we should buy life insurance the other day, which doesn’t make any sense. When I think logically, I know we will be fine with this change, but its scary! It’s hard to resist the urge to buy hundreds of dollars of baby gear just to feel confident that we are prepared. I’m trying hard to think logically and not out of fear… ahhhh! ;-) Thank you!

  • Tina March 10, 2018, 11:05 pm

    I started on my Mustacian journey 7 or 8 years ago, paid off my student loans quickly in a 6-figure paying job, was well on my way to financial independence by 40… but then my badassity grew quicker than my ‘stache… so now I’m a ski bum who’s going to be living in a tent in Alaska over the summer. Maybe I’ll eventually get back to building the ‘stache, but my goal now is to live the life I want to day to day and not have to go on expensive vacations to get away from my job, or in the long term, “retire”. Great to see you writing something that resonates with my experience.

  • Kevin March 11, 2018, 6:15 am

    Sorry to go off topic, but how did you learn carpentry?

  • The Wealthy Accountant March 11, 2018, 10:37 am

    I loved the storytelling, Pete. Thanks for sharing a personal part of your life. I for one enjoy hearing how others deal with issues as a way for me to lead a better life. Your example is exemplary.

  • Frankie March 11, 2018, 2:07 pm

    This used to be my big escape from life in my younger days – building up enough money to escape and protect myself from ‘difficult’ situations. I’m in a completely different place now, despite the pressures of everyone to keep forging ahead like Joe Attorney (which is very difficult to ignore – you often find yourself second-guessing yourself), so it’s wonderful to hear this message blaring through the noise from you.

    How I wish I could grab and shake all these young kids who are chasing the same escape and make them see! Your words are probably more effective though than my shaking….

  • Charlotte March 11, 2018, 2:28 pm

    Another thought-provoking post! I’ve been working on being more confident, specifically about believing that I can achieve whatever I want. That other MMM post about the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” was very inspiring. It’s hard to change a mindset of worry but re-reading the post and book re-inforces the concept. This is just the boost I need!

    Recently I took a confident risk of being a SAHM pursuing an MBA with stipend. I loved being able to make this choice due to an efficient lifetyle. However, the low income was scary. Now I’m done and job hunting.

    My overall plan was already about reasonable investments plus semi-retired work. I’m confident I will get there in just a few years. 😁

  • AliInKY March 11, 2018, 2:46 pm

    My net worth is $1.3M and I’m still incapable of pulling the trigger. My concerns lie in:
    – How to best use my time when I leave the cubicle behind
    – Personal connections

    • Ann March 11, 2018, 6:09 pm

      I understand you Ali.

      I resigned from my teaching job five years ago and I remember the day I after the summer break when I was due back at work I had a feeling of absolute desolation. (What Have I Done? All My Friends…! Why have I cast myself adrift from all that safety, familiarity and community?? )

      The feeling lasted for about 20 minutes!

      Now I have new connections, I have had time to re-make some old connections and I am still connected to the people I used to work with (poor dutiful workers!)

      And even as recently as the Christmas holidays I suffered from a bit of existential trouble from too much time on my hands. I still work about 20 hours a week and I thought, thank goodness for that, I’d never be able to cope with full retirement. But I spoke to two fully retired friends and they both said the same thing – it’s normal to suffer from loss and emptiness for about six months, but then WOO HOO! before you know it, you have PROJECTS!

      I hope this helps.

  • Ann March 11, 2018, 5:54 pm

    I have been a life-long over-thinker and under-actor. So not naturally bold. But I have taken two actions in the last ten years that have convinced me that boldness is magic. I moved the family to a more affordable but still brilliant location so that we could pay off the house, and because I liked the house and bushland surrounds (and river) so much that I didn’t want to leave it in the mornings, I quit my teaching job to work from home. People tried to stop me. ‘Just take leave for a year in case it doesn’t work out!’ Now they say, ‘I wish I could do that, but my circumstances…’ I don’t try to persuade them anymore, or even explain. They don’t know what they don’t know! If they ask, I do tell them that I am financially better off even though I work less that half the time and that my mind is full of creative ideas instead of stress. I also acknowledge that yes the new lifestyle is why I look better and yes I have lost 10 kilos because that’s much easier to do when you’re not an employee. But what I have not told them about is the rampant, wanton self-confidence I now have! If I can give up my house and my job I can do anything! I can live anywhere and as humble English teacher I can make a living anywhere in the whole friggin’ world! It’s a tap I turn on and off.
    Thank you Pete, for the hours of inspiration, entertainment, excitement and support I have had reading this blog.
    Your post about sweeping the front path on a Monday morning (I think) had me salivating at the prospect of all that time and freedom! The image sustained me until the day I resigned. Thank you also for all the thinking you do. That saves me a hell of a lot of bother! Just off to chuck a few more dollars into Vanguard now, and see how the coffee’s going.

    • Frugal Bazooka March 22, 2018, 10:58 am

      Your first line describes upward of 90% of the people I know…including myself.
      I often wonder what evolutionary attribute this particular curse ever had…in other words how does this benefit us in anyway?
      but then I realize that asking that question actually exacerbates the very condition I’m trying to exercise from my daily life…

      • Ann April 4, 2018, 11:25 pm

        Ha Ha!

  • Julia March 11, 2018, 8:39 pm

    The first one is definitely a showstopper for me. I see many friends trying to get back into a corporate career after 2-7 years break when they stayed home with kids and it is very challenging. So I keep thinking: “What if?” What if one of us gets sick, we go over budget for medical expenses and will have to go back to earning money for living? Where would I start? Would I even be able to get the job?

  • Ms ZiYou March 12, 2018, 2:06 am

    I am always one who has said happiness was my ultimate goal, but I never really managed to articulate it that well.

    And I’m another that identifies with the Type A overachiever, embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t realise until my thirties that not everyone was like this, and I could actually coast a lot and enjoy life. Not sure where I lost this, as I coasted the early years of school as they were not exactly stimulating.

  • Kristine March 12, 2018, 4:27 am

    What a powerful post.

    I don’t know what it is like having strong confidence from the get-go. It feels like it is something that has developed and grown as I have matured as an adult. I wouldn’t say I am all the way to “confident” yet, but I’m getting closer and closer every year in different aspects of my life.

    I will print this and put is someplace visible. Awesome reinforcement!

  • Lady Dividend March 12, 2018, 4:46 am

    I have tons of confidence, and a bit of money, so I’m happy to trade that confidence for more money as the former seems to be a renewable resource (come to think of it, so is money).

    But yes, if you’re not happy what’s the point? I recently gave my resignation at my job. Everyone was a bit confused that I’d be doing the exact same thing at another company, only with slightly more pay and way less workload (about a third). I decided to stop complaining with my colleagues about it and just get the hell out of there.

  • Dharma Bum March 12, 2018, 7:56 am

    I was one of those guys that e-mailed MMM, complaining that I was tired of the corporate-slave life but too scared to quit, even though I had significant savings and investments. He requested permission to do a “case study” on me (which I eagerly and happily agreed to), and then immediately proceeded to punch-me-in-the-face by illustrating what an idiot I was being. Classic MMM.
    Well, he was absolutely correct.
    The upshot: I did quit. I did retire. I did go through an anxiety period (i.e., “Now that I am not commuting to a corporate slave job that I despise every morning what will I possibly do with myself what will I tell my friends and family how will I define my self worth what will other people think of me what will I do if I run out of money what if I get bored…), but now, I am HAPPY, I am BUSY, I am learning new skills (slowly but surely), I am HEALTHY, and guess what?
    Thanks MMM, you are a great inspiration, and great writer, a funny dude, and an extremely polite, courteous, and friendly guy. Even though my face still hurts!
    Can’t wait to visit Longmont again.

  • Joey Graziano March 12, 2018, 8:55 am

    This reminds me of a thought exercise I often make.

    For the first half of my life, I was robbed of an education due to my parents choice to pull me out of school at the age of 7.

    Because of this act, I grew up living a life of low self-esteem, poverty, and envy at the world due to my circumstance.

    Eventually, in my mid-20s I stopped feeling sorry for myself obtained a high school diploma, college degree, and many IT certifications. I value hard work, even manual labor because they were my bailout. Now at 33, I have a six-figure income, no debt, a home paid for in cash and could theoretically achieve FIRE in two years.

    Looking at all my peers who were given the perfect lifestyle, they don’t seem to value what they have. In fact, they suffer from over-indulge. Big house, huge SUVs, boats and… No freaking time to or options due to the demands of their debt.

    Isn’t it funny that I had to start out with nothing to appreciate the benefits I now have? I find it funny that without sweat, blood, and tears, I would not be able to measure the value of the resources I currently have access to. But more importantly, I would not be as passionate as I currently am to pay this forward and teach others about the value of financial literacy.

    Thanks for this post MMM. This was an enlightening thought exercise.

  • MrD_123 March 12, 2018, 9:44 am

    Good post. I am however surprised it is such a discovery for so many people. Personally I always considered insecurities, fears, competitiveness and various natural instincts – main motivators behind various achievements. There is nothing bad about working out to feel safer and more secure just like there is nothing wrong with FIRE – they are both just steps in life that help you reach higher heights which is exactly what the author is describing. Confucius once said in 479BC “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I heard this saying from Warren Buffet. I would caution people about this though. Just like with any wisdom you want to be careful here as I could see a lot of people misunderstand it and use it to justify mistakes like taking on ridiculous student loans to do something they think they should like and wind up making a big mistake. I think for majority of people using this wisdom as a starting point would be a mistake. Instead it should be a point you come to (hopefully sooner than later). So I wouldn’t recommend kicking your fears and insecurities to the side and rushing to replace them with a sense of puffed up confidence filled with the hot air of motivational speaking. Don’t be one of those Tony Robbins’ followers burning your feet or buried in hundreds of thousands of student loan debt because you thought you’d be the next Steven Spielberg. Learn, have a safety net ad get to a better place in the process. There is a big difference between brave
    wisdom and naive stupidity. Make sure you are not confusing one for the other.

  • Frugal Bazooka March 12, 2018, 10:04 am

    The issue of confidence in building wealth is key, but I would argue that having a solid partner (wife or husband) is even more important. I could never have achieved financial growth and abundance without a partner who was willing to support and abide the rigors of frugality, saving and investing.

    As sincere as your beliefs are, just having a lot of confidence does not always equal financial success.
    There are a boatload of other attributes that must be included in the equation. Confidence is very important, but most of us don’t always have massive confidence when we start out…what we do have is a burning desire to improve. Confidence comes with and builds off of those small successes that propels us. At some point the nexus of success and confidence becomes unbeatable, but…at least in my case…confidence was a result of success.

  • Elaine March 12, 2018, 10:20 am

    This was extremely timely. I quit my corporate job 2 months ago to go freelance. And my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our daughter after this school year. (Yes we are paying Ivy League tuition.) Even though I still fret over these decisions, my gut says they are the right moves. This post just confirmed it.

  • green livin March 12, 2018, 1:28 pm

    I’ve been reading the blog for 2 0r 3 years, and this is the BEST post yet! It really addresses the fundamental issues of the human psyche.

  • Drew March 12, 2018, 2:27 pm

    I love this article! As I get closer to financial freedom, there’s a thought in the back of my mind telling me that I should have more of a safety net and that I should work another year, another year, another year. Some of this is absolutely reasonable, but there’s a limit where the benefit of assuaging our fears (paranoias?) gets to be cost prohibitive. I will stick to my original time frame with the confidence that I can be flexible enough in my post-financial freedom plans to make any circumstances work for me. :-)

  • Florida Mike March 12, 2018, 6:17 pm

    I like this post. So don’t misunderstand my skepticism. (Its a product of the lack of confidence I suppose?) :)

    I especially like the axis labeling on the graph (shit ton). Didn’t know that was a unit of measurement but I do agree its a good one.

    My skepticism is only based on those things we cannot control that do affect our confidence levels (and in some cases our money) Having been through a divorce, being sued and having to absorb other costs we don’t expect (outrageously high health insurance for one) but need to endure sure does beat up both our confidence and money levels.

    I guess we get through them but they sure do hurt.

  • FrugalDad March 12, 2018, 11:13 pm

    First-time post-er after reading for the past 14 months and appreciating the wisdom you are sharing, MMM. A question I’ve been having – though perhaps have overlooked in my rummaging through older posts – relates to one’s children. I get that being there and loving them is what is called for in parenting, but colleges appear to say that parents are the principal source of $ for students to attend, hence the CSS Profile and FAFSA querying the parent’s assets/income. How does one retire early (or even save at an appropriate level) during their kids’ college years? For me, with kids 17 and 13, this will be the next 8 years.

  • Sara-Jayne March 13, 2018, 3:47 am

    Hey MMM!

    I found your site at the start of last month and in that time I’ve read through about 95% of your posts (I don’t own a car, and I’m not in the US, so I could pretty much skip the posts that went into detail about those!)

    One thing that this post re-highlighted to me was how you’re confident enough(!) to show that you understand you’ve had some privilege in terms of your FI journey. (“Millions of others … fewer advantages in harder times.”) It might seem like a small thing to point out, but I get so tired of finance bloggers who assume they’re the most amazing thing since the invention of fire and it turns out they’re earning 250k a year from a job their (white, upper-middle-class) dad gave them.

    I think understanding this privilege actually increases the optimism (and therefore confidence) of an individual. It’s less about ‘Everyone has it worse than me, the pressure is on!’ and more ‘Hell yeah of COURSE I can do this, how could I NOT?’

    In any case – looking forward to reading your stuff on an ‘as published’ basis now…it’s weird to have to wait!

  • John Paul March 13, 2018, 6:05 am

    Confidence is the ability to look at a 15% unemployment rate and know that you’re easily in the top 85% of people who can add value to any enterprise.

  • Lee March 13, 2018, 7:31 am

    This has been one of the most insightful articles I’ve read in the personal finance world in years. I’m working through something similar with debt payments right now. Paying down debt quickly while keeping less savings on hand is scary. But it really helps to realize that I need to be more confident in myself to get past that feeling. I know I’ll be better off doing this. Plus I’ll always be able to get a job and take care of my family. There meet be bumps along the way, but I’m smart and awesome and will be able to manage through anything.


  • Steveark March 13, 2018, 7:39 am

    I guess every post has to have one dissenter. I like what you said except for one thing, I feel like you are implying that hanging around a high paying job longer than you have to is a sign of fear. I worked through my fifties because I was having fun. I was FI early on but there was no way I could do what I was doing, managing hundreds of people and spending billions of dollars if I left work and I liked building big stuff as an engineer, the kind with a hard hat. My people appreciated me, that I was a regular guy who honestly knew and conveyed that I wasn’t a shred better than any of them, just blessed by circumstance to be in the position. And I felt I was doing something noble providing so many high paying, safe and meaningful jobs, not a single cubicle to be found at our place. The kind of company where if somebody or one of their family members was in need our owners would just write them a personal check as a gift. Where we cried at each others family funerals and laughed at family weddings together, where the union and management went fishing together on the weekend. It was an extended family but it did not interfere with my family with only an eight minute commute I could drive home for lunch and did not work long hours. In fact my kids, everybody’s kids, interned there as they grew up. I ask myself if I should have retired earlier than I did now that I know how good life is after the 9 to 5 and honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. This life is pretty awesome but that life was pretty awesome too. The only thing that resulted from my staying at work as long as I did is I have a lot more money than I need because we have always been frugal by choice. I still buy used cars and live in our first house because they are plenty, more than enough. I feel like I share the same philosophy as most of this community except for the part where I never wanted to quit work early. But I stayed out of joy and not out of fear, or at least that’s how it felt and feels to me. Does that make sense or do I sound like a crazy addled baby boomer?

  • Kiev March 13, 2018, 7:40 am

    Thanks for that great article Mr. MMM and greetings from Germany. I did recently read again your posts considered to be the best ones. I did find an article where you have met coworkers of your old company after some years. Their life did not change, even after they have met you and have seen what could be possible. I wonder if you have ever met your roommates of Boulder again or if you are still in contact. You did live together to save money, but you may also have spent time together so I do not think that it was just a money arrangement.
    I am asking this, because I finally know what life could be. I have remote friends I see only from time to time. I know that they are not fulfilled by their job and I would like to give them some hints how life can be improved. And I wonder if you have experience with that. I am meaning people who shared similar thoughts and have been friends for a long time span.

    To all
    There seem to be a lot of people here quitting their jobs recently. You are also supporting the left behind coworkers getting a more decent live. The more people are quitting the better the conditions of working should be. That could be a logic for companies understanding that they have to provide more than just an increase of salary to keep people attracted.

  • insourcelife March 13, 2018, 8:48 am

    Loved it. I had a plan for a while now – Pura Vida 2020. That’s when we were gonna pull the plug on the 9-5 and do something a bit more fulfilling with our lives. Well, the closer we get to 2020 the less I want to keep on doing the same old. The numbers work – it’s the confidence that’s lacking. What if? Just need one more year…

    Better rename that plan to Pura Vida 2018 because it’s happening this summer. Once our McMansion is fixed up after a burst pipe, it’s going on the market. We bought a fixer upper on an island and I should be done fixing it up by June… Our son will finish out the school year and then we are moving to see what it’s like to live the life without a security of a stable paycheck.

    MMM, I’ve been reading your blog since I first found it in 2012. Every time I need a shot of confidence I come back to find a post like this waiting. Keep doing what you’re doing as there is nothing quite like this…

  • whitethunder March 13, 2018, 9:34 am

    Depending on your state of mind, this line of thinking could be a slippery slope. Fear is your friend, and serves to protect you from danger. Sometimes, the danger is perceived but sometimes it is real. Everything in moderation, even moderation :)

    • Jeff April 3, 2018, 11:32 pm

      I once read something that said a miser’s only excess is moderation.

  • Lance! March 13, 2018, 12:42 pm

    I’m going to quibble on the “exotic travel” line item. If by that you mean some high-end resort in Fiji, then yes, people should skip it, but I’m a big proponent that people need to get out of their bubbles (particularly Americans), see the world and experience how others live. This can be done cheaply; it’s mostly airfare that costs an arm and a leg.

    • Florida Mike March 13, 2018, 1:10 pm

      I agree! The wife and I travel all the time and you can find decent hotels and meals anywhere in the world for pretty much around the same price at home. Its the actual GETTING THERE by air fare that is the tough part.

      But at the end of the day, its all worth it. We were just talking the other day and agreed we have never had a bad day traveling. Our worst day on the road somewhere exceed our best days at work by tenfold!

  • Peach Fuzz March 13, 2018, 2:10 pm

    I like the part about friends, but I am curious how to find more friends with similar interests. I’ve made decent friends with the neighbors, but they mostly are interested in consumerism. It would be great to have friends in the area with similar interests in Mustachianism. Maybe I should start a Mustachian meetup in my area! I am also very interested in the coworking space, which effectively accomplishes the same thing. Since I am already in real estate I’m strongly considering copying your idea there…

  • eightyeighttoone March 13, 2018, 9:41 pm

    I know this is true because I have lived it in reverse! I love this line, “So, would a sufficiently confident carpenter really need to do the engineering career and save that million, in order to live a satisfying life?”

    I used to do what I love for a living, but due to insufficient confidence, decided to go to law school to play it safe. That was about 7 years ago. Suffice to say, it quickly became clear to me that the extra money wasn’t worth abandoning my vocation. I should have my law school loans paid off this year. :) I love the idea of finding happiness in the balance among confidence, contentment and self-reliance. Well said, MMM!

  • Dan March 14, 2018, 6:13 am

    Generally useful advice, but as someone who has struggled with confidence and economic instability, it feels a little simplistic. Reminds me of the Troy McClure book “Get Confident, Stupid!” Aside from the complexity of self-worth being tied to overall mental health rather than achievement, and mental health being a larger hill than just ‘Be confident!” It’s also easy to hind-sight – “Now that I have this good job, I will never worry about having a job” but, before you get to that point, there’s a lot of valid self-doubt. I’ve only recently reached a point where I’m able to even think clearly because for so long, my options were very limited. There’s a lot of good research and writing on the impact of economic instability on decision-making, which often impacts poor communities and helps sustain generational poverty. It genuinely impacts how the brain processes information, and is not easily bested by “Be Confident”. I love this site and it has helped me a lot, and it’d be interesting to see you write about some of these larger themes with a broader context.

  • Kev Bot March 14, 2018, 7:12 am

    After a moment of clarity back in my college days where I realized that I was a giant weenie I read a book about manliness. It was a critically important preliminary lesson in badassity. This book stressed the importance of having a “Manly Code of Honor.” I have been working on mine ever since. MMM you just helped me so much with the detailed wording of many of the lifestyle based elements of my credo.

  • NoDebtLife March 14, 2018, 9:35 am

    I left my 6 figure job 1 year ago (at 44) and moved to a place that has a cheaper cost of living. It was scary and awesome! My husband and I both “work” part-time and hardly make any money and we can do this because we don’t have a mortgage or car payments. I love my new job and my new-found free time! The confidence comes when you pay off your debt! It was the key to this life change and worth every penny of sacrifice during the rat race days!!!

    No debt = Confidence!!!

  • Expat AJ March 15, 2018, 1:31 am

    What do you do when your confidence has been blown? Not necessarily confidence in yourself, but confidence in your job prospects? Imagine this scenario:

    A person follows his dreams, but they get stifled. He worked hard, he probably could have worked a little bit harder, but didn’t want to completely destroy his personal life. Then some things happen that were genuinely out of his control that made his hard work and abilities look substantially less impressive. Knowing that the chances of working his dream job are now slim to none, he decides to change tracks, as he had a plan b.

    He does things his friend’s and family call brave: challenges himself to move to another country (a long-term goal of his), builds a life there, gets another degree with very strong grades and internships in the area he wants to work for his plan B, and he gets a job offer to do the kind of work he wanted to do in plan B. However, after taking the job and tying his residency in this second country to this company for two years, he finds out that the work he was told he would do is not what he is actually doing, and most of the important items on which he decided for the job are not as he was told (often almost the opposite of them).

    He doubts that after the two years he will be in a position to get the type of job he worked for and wanted in plan B. He doesn’t have a plan C or a very big net worth. He is confident that he can do most things (except visually artistic things), but he doesn’t no what. He isn’t confident that he can find something fun, fulfilling, or enjoyable that would pay the bills. He would gladly accept the challenge to break the current bonds of corporate BS, if he only knew where he would go from here.

    What do you think he can do, MMM?

    • Florida Mike March 16, 2018, 6:44 am

      I know what you mean AJ as I alluded to that in my post.

      A divorce after 24 years killed my confidence and ruined my financial situation. Half of everything I owned GONE and $11k in legal fees to boot.

      7 years later I am recovering but can only think where I would be (probably retired early!) if she had not decided to walk out.

      My only advice would be to develop a Plan C and try your best to make it happen! Best of luck!

      • Expat AJ April 26, 2018, 3:17 am

        Thanks Florida Mike.

        I’m working on plan C. I’ve been bouncing around a business idea in my head for something I really like, am passionate about, and which I think other people would like, too. I still have a lot more thinking to do and information to gather. It might slow down my path to financial independence, but I could see it being fun once off the ground. And if it succeeds, then maybe I’ll be able to cover my expenses with the income.

        My parents had a 9 year long divorce battle, so I know how ugly it can be for everyone involved. I wish you all the best with your plan C, as well. I’m sure as a mustachian, you’re in a better position than most to recover :)


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