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

  • Mr. TYMP March 15, 2018, 5:36 am

    This is great. I have tried to convince people of the importance of confidence, but it never seems to stick. Sometimes it may come off as cocky, and maybe that’s ok.

  • veganomie March 15, 2018, 8:41 am

    Just curious, do you have any tattoos? I’d think MMM would say that tattoos are a waste of money, but I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before.

  • phred March 15, 2018, 11:21 am

    While thinking of Shopcraft as Soulcraft, I was wondering if you would’ve been further ahead if you had skipped engineering school, and gone into a carpentry apprenticeship as soon as high school was finished?

    • HeadedWest March 17, 2018, 4:09 pm

      I think that this is generally the case for most people and I definitely plan on pointing this out to my children when the time comes.

  • Ricky March 16, 2018, 1:30 am

    I agree to an extent – money makes us comfortable and makes life more predictable. It also can make us complacent though, depending on the person I guess. I think money and confidence are also inversely related though. The more confidence you have, the less money you actually need. I think less confident people need money to be happy. If you equate money to confidence then you’re basically saying that no matter what, the more money you have, the more confident you should be. I just don’t think that’s always the case. I think a lot of it depends on the person as well.

    If you have tons of money and are afraid of spending it because you’ll lose your confidence then I would say you’re still a very unconfident person. The confident person would be willing to spend in order to boost their happiness. Sure, they may find that the expenditure wasn’t worth it and go back to how they were living, but the confidence person would always be willing to give up money if it meant fundamentally changing their lives for the better rather than focusing on money itself. It’s complicated, I admit, because I totally agree on one level and on others I see how it doesn’t always apply.

    • Mark Schreiner May 7, 2021, 8:38 am

      understand MMM to be saying that money and confidence are *interchangeable*, not *equal* or *equivalent*. One can attain a given level of happiness/contentment/good-life with a lot of money and little confidence, or a lot of confidence and little money. Hence the graph, which unfortunately does not indicate that the curved line represents different combinations of money and confidence that provide a given level of happiness/contentment/good-life (the iso-happiness curve). If you can manage your confidence better than your money, then you would lean heavier on confidence, and vice versa if you are better at money then confidence. And in general, there is a sweet spot or range because being “pretty good” at both brings more happiness that being great at one and bad at the other.

  • DividendFamilyGuy March 16, 2018, 5:18 am

    Thanks MMM. I needed that as our building was closed (some 200 people layed off) and I am now looking for a job. Life has a funny way of working out if you have hope and a bit O confidence.

  • kyle March 16, 2018, 6:00 pm

    Well put. Looks like this was written through the vantage point of a Stoic mindset.

  • Jo March 18, 2018, 10:36 pm

    I am a single mum and last year I quit my stable part-time job to start a small gardening business with a sideline of writing. I earn just enough to live on, and aim to keep my savings intact – they will keep me going for a couple of years if all else fails. I cannot imagine ever achieving FI, and indeed, that is not one of my goals. What I am after is a life full of splendid adventures and joy. I am confident that I can live so frugally that I can work just enough that I still enjoy my work, and have plenty of time left over for my children and a happy life. FI would be nice, I guess, but if it isn’t possible, as you say, there are billions of people who make do without it and are perfectly content..

  • Pupalei March 19, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Well I did it! Read all posts from the beginning (2011) and caught up last night ! Just a post to express a virtual, appreciative fist bump. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Here’s to retirement in 10 years!

  • Mike March 20, 2018, 6:06 am

    You live in a very different world than I do. Where I come from, money has nothing to do with confidence, its about who you are as a person and the relationships you have with friends, family, and God.

  • Jeremiah March 20, 2018, 11:05 am

    Confidence needs to be based on reality to avoid being false confidence. Or confidence in something that is not dependable. While I certainly appreciate the purpose of this post and agree with much of it I think it should be pointed out that confidence and optimism are powerful, but sometimes reality is more powerful. It is easy to be lulled into false-confidence by success. I too struggled with confidence as a youth and for the most part feel better about it now. However I try to keep my confidence in check when it comes to things like money. I have seen too many who had every reason to believe things would continue to go well struggle when unanticipated events occur.
    My own father lost his Director level 6-figure income during the recessions after Y2k. He had already had many jobs in many industries and always done well. He decided to go back to school and get a degree and did great there. However he struggled to find good jobs for the rest of his working life. Luckily he had avoided debt his whole life and is now only struggling instead of homeless.
    My Wife is reading the book NomadLand about people who are forced to live out of RVs because they can’t afford houses. Many of these people work hard and have skills.
    Many small businesses fail. I am not saying people shouldn’t take chances, but it is folly to assume that everything will work out and you don’t need a contingency or cushion. The author may be able to provide for himself through his own industry now, and there is a good chance he will be able to for some time, but that is not something we can 100% count on. Age and illness don’t care how confident you are. Either to economic trends, replacement industries, etc. He has done great and I applaud him, but I applaud the route he took over the route he seems to think he could have taken where he leaves security before creating the nest-egg.

  • classical_liberal March 21, 2018, 12:32 am

    This is the kind of shit that drew me to your site four years ago! Great post!

    I have to admit, I only frequent the forums now, and learned of this post from another blog. Even much room in the forum has become wrought with big spending and over-saving (this is an opinion, not objective) advice.

    I’m not sure if you read these comments (MMM), but this article reminds me to thank you, I don’t think I ever have. Your writings have inspired a great personal confidence shift towards the positive. You are far more than a lottery winner, you were the right person, at the right time, using the right style, to push a message that has changed the lives of countless, take pride in that an enjoy the confidence boost (ha) you deserve.

  • Dan March 21, 2018, 12:39 pm

    “When everything falls into place, I’ll find happiness.” – Ego
    “When I find happiness, everything will fall into place.” – Spirit

  • Ben Kurtz March 21, 2018, 3:00 pm

    Shouldn’t there be a z-axis on this graph?

    The plane that currently constitutes the graph should be rendered as a surface in three dimensional space: The area above and to the right of the curve should be above zero, with higher values the closer you get to the upper right-hand corner. The curve currently depicted should be the zero-line of the surface, and below and to the left of the curve the values should be more negative, with the lowest values down at the lower left corner, at the origin.

    Think of a relatively steep hill sloping right down into the ocean. Your job is to be above the waterline. Having just barely enough money and self confidence to be basically comfortable is nice. But having a big surplus of each is very likely to be much nicer — that fact should be rendered. Therefore: higher on the surface is generally better. True, there are may be limits to how high you can climb, and there may be better things to do with your life than climb to the very summit of this particular hill, but most people probably agree that there are degrees of comfort / happiness / feeling secure, and that more is generally better (at least within reason).

    It must be said that high altitude opens its own set of options. A guy with a million dollars in the bank enough self confidence to run his own welding business will probably have a better and more fulfilling time than a worry-wart corporate lawyer with two million dollars in the bank who fears to leave his firm because if he leaves how is he going to make payments on his Lexus? But then, the guy with a $5 billion real estate fortune and an insane level of self-confidence gets to the President of the United States, while the guy with a $50 billion software fortune and a merely sky-high level of self confidence gets to run a charitable trust. The real estate mogul and software tycoons are making tradeoffs at a far higher isobar lines than the welder and the lawyer.

    So there’s that.

  • Brad March 23, 2018, 2:23 pm

    I love this article and the safety margin one (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/17/its-all-about-the-safety-margin/). It begs the question: How much safety margin is Enough? These two articles and many threads on the forums (e.g. https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/post-fire/anyone-actually-doing-a-5-wr-or-higher/) take a very handwavy approach. Has anyone seen a structured or quantitative approach? I’m sure that MMM’s 7 levels of safety from 2011 article has a <0.01% chance of failure. That seems way more than Enough!

  • Garrett March 24, 2018, 8:11 am

    MMM, you say “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.” after you’ve earned the money and achieved FIRE.

    I challenge you to back up that statement in the most badass way possible: Donate 100% of your investments and net worth, as well as donate away the profit of the blog. Live on -only- the money you earn from your natural desire to earn. None of the investments at your back. Don’t save too much, because your earnings will always cover your needs and wants. Also, don’t invest while testing this theory.

    • Garrett March 26, 2018, 4:48 pm

      also, you mention in Mr Money Mustache: Your Money Can Work Harder than You Can
      that, in 2 months you earned $7000, while your investments earned $9000. It’s doing a lot for you. You even state in there that if you didn’t have the savings, that you’d have to work really hard to stay afloat, and that any job loss could be a disaster. So while I agree that there is interchange between confidence and money.. a person can feel a lot more confident when there’s a giant sticky cashball rolling behind them. ;-)

  • Mac March 27, 2018, 10:20 am

    “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.”

    IDK if it’s necessarily confidence that you needed to pull that off back then. “The subconscious can only expand a little beyond it’s own mental image of itself.” is a quote I pulled from a recent book I read about living life without incurring unsecured credit card debt. I think it takes time and time alone to be able to train your subconscious to incrementally handle bigger and better lifestyle changes.

    • Ann April 4, 2018, 11:53 pm

      Not just time. Small actions.

  • Elliott Pearce March 27, 2018, 1:18 pm

    I would contend that exotic travel is not a luxury good. Many of the most exotic places in the world are much cheaper than the U.S. and similar developed countries and place a much higher value on manual labor and other basic skills. One could travel extensively by saving a little money beforehand, making frugal decisions about where to stay and what to eat, avoiding the “tourist traps,” and working while traveling to supplement his or her income.

  • Walter March 28, 2018, 3:01 pm

    The only item on that list that I don’t quite agree with is the part about being able to make friends anywhere. My wife and I have moved around the last few years and some places have been much more difficult that others for forging connections with people. We’ve been in our current location (bay area) for over a year and made a handful of friends, but the geography of how things are spread out here (and the traffic) really works against us getting together. And the frustration from not socializing as much really affects my happiness and feeds back onto my confidence.

    So my experience has shown that the quality of my social network is strongly influenced by where I live, which affects my confidence when thinking about the possibility of moving for a new job.

  • Married to a Swabian March 29, 2018, 4:53 am

    Another great post, MMM.

    Since we just went to see the Eagles with Joe Walsh a couple of weeks ago, I’ll add their philosophy from “Already Gone”: “So often times it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key…”

    My (Swabian) wife and I would like to THANK Mr Money Moustache for helping to nudge us in the right direction. Last week we completed the sale of our current home, pocketed a nice little profit and are downsizing (right sizing ) to a ranch house in the woods WITH NO MORTGAGE!! Being debt-free hasn’t completely sunk in yet, but it will. The confidence that comes with knowing we are a little more in charge of our future has arrived! We’re now A little less beholden to “the Man”.

    Working a day job and then working on remodeling the new (45 year old) place until 9:00 at night isn’t the easy way, but it is the best way. It feels great to build equity…and confidence at the same time. ;)

  • Financial Sloth March 30, 2018, 12:07 am

    Great article. FYI, this is one of my favorite blogs on PF, but it’s my first time posting. I especially relate to the mantra, “I will always be able to get a job if I need one.” I have career changed about 4x now and been moderately to very successful in each. Having done that and knowing that I can do it again gives me a whole lot of confidence in life. Even though I guess we are FI, I enjoy the success of accomplishing goals. Not out of fear, but out of a desire to experience everything I can in this brief opportunity to experience life. So the confidence of knowing you’re doing things because you WANT to succeed, not because you HAVE to is great. Again, great piece and as a mentor once told me, “if you don’t really know WHY you want something, you’ll probably never get what you’re really looking for.” Thanks MMM.

  • Ted April 2, 2018, 11:40 pm

    Great article! It reminds me with a theory I came up with awhile ago. I was in a position of changing careers and was not sure if I was making the right decision. I realized that I was focusing to much on one thing and not taken alot of other aspects into perspective. It’s like the strands of a spider web, and I was just focusing on one strand. The spider web will still be standing if the one strand failed. I call this the spider web theory. It’s great to want to excel and build a great spider web, but make sure to not get caught up in just one aspect. Or worry to much if that one thing doesn’t work out. Remember everything else that you have built and any other blessings you have. Also realize if you slacking and need to spend more attention on a strand. I know I’m rambling, but It felt like a weight taken off my shoulders having this perspective.

  • Iain April 4, 2018, 1:42 am

    This is something I’ve noticed myself since I started working. Those on the lower end of the payscale definitely come across more relaxed and easy going at work, whereas all the directors/managers (who earn a much better salary) seem fed up and annoyed more often than not.

    Obviously, this is not the case for absolutely everyone, but it rings true most of the time. It’s definitely making me question whether or not I really want to try and progress to a higher level in my career – I’d probably be happier off with a side hustle along with my current low-mid level career.

    Great post, it’s really got me thinking!

  • Doug April 8, 2018, 9:21 pm

    Are money and confidence really interchangeable? Personally I found that as I accumulated more money my confidence went up. When I was starting out in 1986 I didn’t have a lot of confidence or money, but did have the presence of mind to save and invest. At that time I couldn’t afford to quit the job I had and, being single didn’t have another income. In 1995 the company I worked for went through downsizing and I took a buyout with a years pay. It was too good to pass by, and having accumulated about $400,000 I had just enough confidence to go for it. I didn’t have enough money to fully retire so I worked on temporary assignments, with time off in between for other pursuits. As I accumulated more wealth I was less concerned about having enough money and had even MORE confidence than ever. Also, as I’ve accumulated more wealth, how much I make per hour or week isn’t as much of a concern. I’ve also found that I can take jobs that aren’t in my field and not be bothered by it. I mean really,what difference does it make? I now have about $1 million net worth and more confidence than ever.

    • Mark Schreiner May 7, 2021, 10:37 am

      Money and confidence are both interchangeable (substitutable) and mutually reinforcing. Having more of one compensates for having less of the other, but having more of one also tends to cause an increase in the other.

  • Laurie April 10, 2018, 1:53 pm

    I love your common sense approach to viewing life and living life. So much of our ‘conditioning’ and experience growing up teaches us to work and structure our life in this never ending cycle of job, work, survive and then maybe have enough money and health left to enjoy a retirement. If this is even possible. To do things differently requires confidence, faith and action.
    I can certainly relate to Mark B’s comment above. I wish I had this kind and of advice decades ago.

  • David Renwick April 12, 2018, 10:01 pm

    Someone drew me a chart of SELF-confidence once:
    I gather MMM is singing the praise of possesing self-confidence, which really is rocket fuel.
    That said, the chart in question had self-confidence in the middle of the page, like the hub of a wheel, with spokes of physical-confidence, professional-confidence, emotional-confidence, and relational-confidence all supporting it.
    Balance people. Don’t over tension a spoke, the wheel won’t roll well.
    And failure is a real option. Fail confidently.

  • Shane April 18, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Well I recently experienced just this. I have spent over 20 years in mid-high level management roles in the corporate world. I am am what I call a social introvert, so being popular in an office is not something that comes to me naturally, nor do I like it. SO I spent a lot of my years being the misfit, who got the work done well but fumbled along in fitting in socially with teams.

    Then, earlier this year, I became more aware of FIRE and started plotting a plan to break away from the shackles of…the OFFICE! Fast forward a few months of re-balancing investments with cashflow as the focus, I have gotten to a point of basic FI.

    Now the amazing thing is, it has changed my attitude & confidence almost overnight. I had no idea this would happen but it really has. My self-analysis and navel-gazing lead me to the conclusion that my gain in confidence could be directly attributed to the fact that I did not really need a job to sustain myself. Hence I was not just showing up to work to impress people so that they would continue to keep me in the job, so I could pay the bills.

    Now that I can pay the bills myself, I did not have the desire to impress that much (not that I had much to start off with) Bit the feeling of self-confidence and self-reliance is…to be blunt….#$%^ a% awesome!

  • The Scientist April 25, 2018, 6:42 pm

    I’m a bit behind on my MMM reading, but this one hit home with me since I found myself recently contemplating the same thing about money, happiness and confidence. I too overcompensated with knowledge over confidence early in life but I have come to realize the importance of conquering fear. I can totally relate.

  • Jessica Piper May 16, 2018, 9:54 am

    What if more free time doesn’t result in an increase in happiness?

    I recently doubled my income almost by accident. I lucked into a company that pays a salary about the same as I was making before but then also heaps on stock and bonuses way beyond what I’ve seen in my prior companies. The real kicker is that I’m working less hard than I did at those other companies.

    At 46, I already had enough saved to be financially independent. But how do I walk away from easy money? I know I can always get contract jobs or another full-time job, but none of them will pay as much as this one.

    I think what I really fear is the unfamiliar and the unknown. Making all this money is freaking me out a little because I’m not used to it. It’s making me want to run away. But run to what? To less money in exchange for harder work? That seems crazy. To a life of leisure that might actually turn out to be un-fun after a while?

    I’m not lacking confidence, at least not about money. My real fear is that I won’t be able to enjoy my free time. What if my hobbies start to feel lame? What if my friends and family become annoying or are too busy working to hang out with me? What if traveling becomes a drag? And then I have all this free time to just sit and miss the easy money along with the comfortable knowledge that I’m rapidly growing my already large pile.

    It really seems crazy to walk away, and yet here I am reading your blog. I’m definitely torn.

    Maybe I should just soothe myself with meditation and continue raking in the money. :-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache May 17, 2018, 10:52 am

      Hi Jessica,

      You’ve expressed the problem so well with your comment!

      Money is no longer the issue for you, but you do need to have something to retire to – a focus-and-flow-inducing pastime that you really enjoy. For me, the biggest one of these things is carpentry.

      Because you’ve worked much longer than I did (46 versus 30), your career habit may have already displaced some of your other interests. But don’t let habit become the defining factor of your life. Change and challenge are necessary to make for a life fully lived, in my opinion..

    • Floren May 17, 2018, 12:41 pm

      Is the money that you like or is it the job? Are you not taking the plunge of early retirement out of fear or because you actually like and enjoy your current situation?

      Maybe you like your job a lot and then, why would you stop doing something that already makes you happy? Especially given that you don’t even have to worry anymore if there are layoffs.

      If fear is the underlying reason, I would think of it as something to overcome. If your hobbies become lame, then you’ll have time to find others that are not. If your family/friends are busy, you’ll have time to make new friends or what about volunteering on something? And travelling may eventually can become tiresome (or not!), but before that happens you’ll get to enjoy while you are still rather young! I think it beats the alternative of never finding out :)

  • King Cashbags June 17, 2018, 11:54 am

    I have a problem with lack of confidence which is really ridiculous when you consider how awesome I am.

  • Miriam June 26, 2018, 2:22 pm

    Yea it took time for me to build my confidence as well. What helped me was getting a good education (an affordable one), reading, taking care of myself and especially my health. My top pick though has to be one from out of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s playbook: weight lifting. Building muscle and getting in shape has given more confidence than almost anything else. So that is one thing I would recommend to others.

  • Rob July 6, 2018, 4:22 pm

    This is a fantastic post and it truly resonated with me. I’m probably what you would call leanfire and I’m teetering on the edge of making the leap to a location independent freelancer probably the end of this year escaping themidwest before the cold hits. The reason I’m delaying is largely because of fear or skepticism about my ability to generate decent income after cutting the cord from my corporate gig. Even though I sort of know I can generate enough to get by it’s fear.

    The fear is stemming from one line in your post that I disagree with. “I will always be able to get a job if I need one.”

    You see, I was long term unemployed for two years during the financial crisis. I may have been doing some things wrong but I definitely feel like there are things out of a persons control when it comes to finding employment in certain job markets. I won’t rant anymore but if anyone is interested in my story about long term unemployment you can click my profile to hear the full story about losing my job in the 2008 financial crisis.

  • kamiwhoami July 31, 2018, 1:38 pm

    I love this list and believe it covers just about everything a person would need to feel secure. I wish things didn’t happen to us as we get older, things we didn’t think about much years ago. I wish it were true that someone can always make friends, but it IS harder as we get older, harder than we think, and they’re not the same kind of friends. I probably am quite a bit older than most readers here, and am retired from cubicle life and other kinds of work lives experienced after the cubicles. I am most grateful that my time is my own, finally. I wish I had been able to read a blog such as this decades ago, it might have made a difference in the choices I made. I screwed up in so many ways, but my main regret is the loss of friends along the way.

  • hmmmmm April 18, 2019, 5:47 pm

    Brilliant article. Just what I needed to read as I lay here pondering why I haven’t left my job yet.

    I earn big $$$ and work long hours and without the money I’m miserable. But it’s so hard to leave as you also leave the dreams behind with what you were going to use the $$$ for.

    Thing is I need another job and I’ll prob find a better obe

  • Annie September 17, 2019, 11:53 am

    Your words are what this perpetual temp (with four failed perm job interviews in the past six months) needed to hear this week, MMM. Thanks so much for all that you do!

  • Seth December 9, 2021, 3:10 pm

    I think I figured out why Pete “gets it”.

    The Stoics and other Greeks before them called it ARETE.

    You will only achieve happiness in life through Arete. Side note, when they said ‘happiness’, they probably meant something more along the lines of “a good flow in life”.

    Arete is virtue or excellence. To me this is excellence in life in general which you attain through hard work, proficiency, challenging yourself, thinking hard on things, continuously improving, having a nice social network, being physically and mentally fit, etc.

    Mustachianism fully obeyed = excellence, or, a really damn good flow in life.

  • Gazebo Kayu April 18, 2022, 10:33 am

    For selfish reasons I’m glad MrMM went through everything he did. If he hadn’t, this website would probably have been different. It was exactly what I needed when I found it. I was depressed and this website helped me turn my life around. Thank you Pete for this information.


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