Let the Roaring 2020s Begin

First some great news: because of your support in reading and sharing this blog, it has been able to earn quite a lot of income and give away over $300,000 so far.

The latest $100k of that happens at the end of this article. Please check it out if you want to feel good, learn more, and even join me in helping out the world a bit.

As I type this, there are only a few days left in the 2010s, and holy shit what a decade it has been.

Ten years ago, a 35 year old MMM and the former Mrs. MM were four years into retirement, but not feeling very retired yet. We stumbled out of 2009 with a precious but very high strung three-year-old, a house building business that was way more stressful than it should have been, and a much more rudimentary set of life skills. It was a time of great promise, but a lot of this promise was yet to be claimed.

Ten years later, despite the fact that I have one less marriage, one less surviving parent, and ten years less remaining youth, I am in an even better place in life right now, and would never want to trade places with the 2009 version of me. And on that measure alone, I can tell it has been a successful decade.

This is a great sign and it bodes well for early retirees everywhere. Compared to the start of the decade, I am healthier and stronger physically, wealthier financially, and (hopefully) at least a bit wiser emotionally. I’ve been through so much, learned so much in so many new interesting fields, and packed so much living into these 3653 days. A big part of that just flowed from the act of retiring from my career in 2005, which freed me up to do so many other things, including starting this blog.

It has not always been easy, in fact the hard times of this decade have been some of the hardest of my life. But by coming through it all I have learned that super difficult experiences only serve to enrich your life even more, by widening your range of feelings and allowing you to savor the normal moments and the great ones even more.

Ten Years of Learning in Three Points

I think the real meaning of “Wisdom” is just “I’ve seen a lot of shit go down in my lifetime and over time you start to notice everything just boils down to a few principles.

The books all say it, and the wise older people in real life all say it too. And for me, it’s probably the following few things that stand out the most:

1) This Too Shall Pass: nothing is as big a deal as you think it is at the time. Angry or sad emotions from life traumas will fade remarkably quickly, but so will the positive surprises from one-time life upgrades through the sometimes-bummer magic of Hedonic Adaptation. What’s left is just you – no matter where you go, there you are.

2) But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits: most of your day (and therefore your life) is comprised of repeating the same set of behaviors over and over. The way you get up, the things you focus your mind on. Your job. The way you interact with other people. The way you eat and exercise. Unless you give all of this a lot of mindful attention and work to tweak it, it stays the same, which means your life barely changes, which means your level of happiness barely changes.

3) Change Your Habits, Change your Life: Because of all this, the easiest and best way to have a happier and more satisfying life is to figure out what ingredients go into a good day, and start adding those things while subtracting the things that create bad days. For me (and quite possibly you, whether you realize it or not), the good things include positive social interactions, helping people, outdoor physical activity, creative expression and problem solving, and just good old-fashioned hard work. The bad things mostly revolve around stress due to over-scheduling one’s life, emotional negativity and interpersonal conflict – all things I am especially sensitive to.

So while I can’t control everything, I have found that the more I work to design those happiness creators into my life and step away from things that consistently cause bad days, the happier and richer life can become.

Speaking of Richer:

I recently read two very different books, which still ended up pointing me in the same direction:

This Could Be Our Future, by former Kickstarter cofounder and CEO Yancey Strickler, is a concise manifesto that makes a great case for running our lives, businesses, and even giant corporations, according to a much more generous and person-centric set of rules.

Instead of the narrow minded perspective of “Profit Maximization” that drives so many of the world’s shittier companies and gives capitalism a bad reputation, he points out that even small changes in the attitude of company (and world) leaders, can lead to huge changes in the way our economy runs.

The end result is more total wealth and happier lives for all of us – like Mustachianism itself, it really is a win/win proposition rather than any form of compromise or tradeoff. In fact, Strickler specifically mentions you and me in this book, using the FIRE movement as an example of a group of people who have adopted different values in order to lead better lives.

Die with Zero*, by former hedge fund manager and thrill seeking poker champion Bill Perkins sounds like a completely different book on the surface: Perkins’ point is that many people work too long and defer too much gratification for far too long in their lives.

Instead, he encourages you to map out your life decade by decade and make sure that you maximize your experiences in each stage, while you are still young enough to enjoy each phase. For example, do your time in the skate park and the black diamond ski slopes in your 20s and 30s, rather than saving every dollar in the hopes that you can do more snowboarding after you retire in your 60s.

Obviously, as Mr. Money Mustache I disagree on a few of the finer points: Life is not an experiences contest, you can get just as much joy from simpler local experiences as from exotic ones in foreign lands, and spending more money on yourself does not create more happiness, so if you die with millions in the bank you have not necessarily left anything on the table. But it does take skill to put these truths into practice, and for an untrained consumer with no imagination, buying experiences can still be an upgrade over sitting at home watching TV.

However, he does make one great point: one thing you can spend money on is helping other people – whether they are your own children, family, friends, or people with much more serious needs like famine and preventable disease.

And if you are going to give away this money, it’s better to do it now, while you are alive, rather than just leaving it behind in your estate, when your beneficiaries may be too old to benefit from your gift anyway.

So with this in mind, I made a point of making another round of donations to effective causes this year – a further $100,000 which was made possible by some unexpected successes with this blog this year, combined with finding that my own lifestyle continues to cost less than $20k to sustain, even in “luxury bachelor” mode.

And here’s where it all went!

$80,000 to GiveWell, who will automatically deliver it to their top recommended charities. This is always my top donation, because it is the most serious and research-backed choice. This means you are very likely doing the most good with each dollar, if your goal is the wellbeing of fellow human beings. GiveWell does constant research on effective charities and keeps an updated list on their results – which makes it a great shortcut for me. Further info in my The Life You Can Save post.

Strategic Note: I made this donation from my Betterment account where I keep a pretty big portion of my investments. This is because of tax advantages which multiply my giving/saving power – details here at Betterment and in my own article about the first time I used this trick.

$5000 to the Choose FI Foundation – this was an unexpected donation for me, based on my respect for the major work the ChooseFI gang are doing with their blog and podcast and meetups, and their hard-charging ally Edmund Tee who I met on a recent trip. They are creating a curriculum and teaching kids and young adults how to manage their money with valuable but free courses.

$2000 to the True Potential Scholarship Fund, set up by my inspiring and badass Omaha lawyer friend Ross Pesek. Ross first inspired me years ago by going through law school using an extremely frugal combination of community and state colleges, then rising to the top of the pack and starting his own firm anyway. Then he immediately turned around and started using some of the profits to help often-exploited immigrant workers in his own community with both legal needs and education.

$1000 to plant one thousand trees, via the #teamtrees effort via the National Arbor Day Foundation. I credit some prominent YouTubers and Elon Musk for promoting this effort – so far it has resulted in over 20 million trees being funded, which is a lot (roughly equal to creating a dense forest as big as New York City)

$5000 to Bicycle Colorado – a force for change (and sometimes leading the entire United States) in encouraging Colorado leaders and lawmakers to shift our spending and our laws just slightly away from “all cars all the time” and towards the vastly more effective direction of accommodating bikes and feet as transportation options. Partly because of their work, I have seen incredible changes in Denver, which is rapidly becoming a bike utopia. Boulder is not far behind, and while Longmont is still partially stuck in the 1980s as we widen car roads and build even more empty parking lots, these changes slowly trickle down from leaders to followers, so I want to fund the leaders.

$5000 (tripled to $15,000 due to a matching program that runs until Dec. 31) to Planned Parenthood. Although US-centric, this is an incredibly useful medical resource for our people in the greatest need. Due to emotional manipulation by politicians who use religion as a wedge to divide public opinion, this general healthcare organization is under constant attack because they also support women’s reproductive rights. But if you have a loved one or family member who has ever been helped during a difficult time by Planned Parenthood, you know exactly why they are such an incredible force for good – affecting millions of lives for the better.

And finally, just for reasons of personal and local appreciation, $1000 to the orchestra program of little MM’s public middle school. I have been amazed at the transformation in my own son and the hundreds of other kids who have benefited from this program. They operate a world-class program on a shoestring (violin-string?) budget which they try to boost by painstakingly fundraising with poinsettia plants and chocolate bars. So I could see that even a little boost like this could make a difference. (He plays the upright bass.)

You could definitely argue that there are places that need money more than a successful school in a wealthy and peaceful area like Colorado, and I would agree with you. Because of this, I always encourage people not to do the bulk of their giving to local organizations. Sure, it may feel more gratifying and you may see the results personally, but you can make a much bigger difference by sending your dollars to where they are needed the most. So as a compromise, I try to split things up and send the lion’s share of my donations to GiveWell where they will make the biggest difference, and do a few smaller local things here as a reward mostly for myself.

So those are the donations that are complete – $99,000 of my own cash plus an additional $10,000 in matching funds for Planned Parenthood. But because environment and energy are such big things to me, I wanted to do one more fun thing:

$5000 to build or expand a local solar farm.

This one is more of an investment than a donation, but it still does a lot of good. Because if you recall, last year I built a solar array for the MMM Headquarters coworking space, which has been pumping out free energy ever since. My initial setup only cost me $3800 and it has already delivered about $1000 in free energy, more than the total amount used to run the HQ and charge a bunch of electric cars on the side.

So, I plan to invest another $5000, to expand the array at HQ if possible, or to build a similar one on the roof of my own house, possibly with the help of Tesla Energy, which is surprisingly one of the most cost-effective ways to get solar panels installed these days. These will generate decades of clean energy, displacing fossil fuels in my local area while paying me dividends the whole time, which I can reinvest into even more philanthropy in the future.

What a great way to begin the decade. Let’s get on it!

* Die With Zero is not yet released, but I read a pre-release copy that his publisher sent me. The real book comes out on May 5th

** Also, if you find the scientific pursuit of helping the world as fascinating as I do, you should definitely watch the new Bill Gates documentary called Inside Bill’s Brain, which is available on Netflix.

  • Will fishburn December 28, 2019, 7:05 pm

    Thanks for the great post and guiding us through the last decade! I’m 33 and planning on retiring myself in 9 months along with my wife! It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been exposed to your sage wisdom! Thanks a million!

  • Juan December 28, 2019, 7:05 pm

    A hell of a decade indeed! I can’t complain at all either. Started the decade as a young and naive sophomore in college and I’m ending it as a father, husband, and 3-5 years away from being able to walk away from mandatory work. Thanks in no small part to your blog, which I found in 2015 (halfway through the decade funnily enough). So, THANK YOU for all the information, inspiration, and community you have created around Mustachianism and FI.

    Cheers to an even better 2020s and beyond!

    • Matt K December 30, 2019, 9:47 am

      Same experience +1 kid :) I too would like to thank Pete for the enlightenment in 2015 and since. A couple more years and hopefully the knowledge gained within this community will see us type a similar summary of the previous decade!

      • Juan January 3, 2020, 7:50 pm

        Cheers to that!

        Random aside: I thought mine was the first comment on this post. It seemed to be when I first left it and it felt like the perfect accomplishment to end 2019 :) I’m a little sad to come back and realize someone else was first.

  • HOLLY HODGES December 28, 2019, 7:17 pm

    MMM, my husband Will Fishburn just commented – thanking you for all your wise words over the years. We re-read your articles and it’s like going to church. Reinforcing good habits and honing in on new and different ways of thinking and living. We both started working on cruise ships about a decade ago. I know you’re not the biggest fan of cruise ships but having a job with a high salary and no bills whatsoever has allowed us to reach financial independence while seeing the world. We are currently 2 contracts (about 9 months) away from our big goal where we will then move on to the next chapter in our lives. It wouldn’t have happened with out you! Blessings & Happy New Year!

  • J D December 28, 2019, 7:29 pm

    Do you think it’s possible to recreate the success of your website if you were to start it today?

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2019, 10:23 am

      Hmm, that’s a great question. I don’t think there was anything special about 2011 when I started writing (and at the time, people were already saying that the blogosphere was saturated). But I also don’t know how much of this was luck, versus a combination of writing style and a hook “retired at 30” that news media just happened to want to write stories about.

      But if someone were starting right now, I’d definitely suggest doing a podcast and/or YouTube channel that goes along with the blog, which would probably be the least popular of the three. The audiences for audio and video are bigger than readers (I am just too stubborn to do much on those sides because I happen to prefer reading over watching/listening myself)

      • Marcia December 29, 2019, 3:47 pm

        ditto. I actually almost always refuse to watch You tube or listen to podcasts. Someone has to REALLY highly recommend a video for me to watch it. I prefer reading.

        • Sarah January 28, 2020, 7:35 am

          I’m like you Marcia, I hate watching videos (unless it is actively demonstrating a skill, like how to replace the impeller on my dishwasher – thanks you-tube guy). If the video content is something I could just as easily read (i.e. just a person talking at me), I’d rather do that, it’s so much faster and sinks in my brain better. I do love a good podcast, but I have so many I regularly listen to, it has to be really good to get added to the rotation.

      • Ian Grant December 29, 2019, 6:21 pm

        I agree. You-Tube is the way. People are visual. Acting classes are good for confidence in front of the camera.

        • Gareth February 12, 2020, 3:02 am

          For what it’s worth I’d welcome a MMM podcast, even if it were only one episode a month. Podcasts are my mainstay on my sucka 45 min drive to work.

    • Rob in Frankfurt January 6, 2020, 3:15 am

      I suppose it depends on how you define success. If you mean making buckets of money than I suspect that Pete is a natural born entrepreneur (possibly) could have built a billion dollar business if he had been inclined to. But for the vast majority of us success means fulfilling a dream not making bucket loads of money. I wrote 3 books built a website and even managed to sell a few copies. I had hoped I might make a living as a writer but the fact I didn’t doesn’t mean I wasn’t successful.

  • DJ December 28, 2019, 8:34 pm

    3562 days not 3653

    • FullyBearded JuniorMustachian December 29, 2019, 10:43 am

      Did you count leap years?

      • DuckReconMajor December 29, 2019, 4:01 pm

        If you do 2011-2021 it would add a leap year, ending at 3653, according to WolframAlpha if I did it right. I don’t agree with the 2011-2021 folks though so I think it’s 3652, unless there’s a factor I’m missing

  • John December 28, 2019, 8:52 pm

    I’ve been reading your work for the last decade. My wife and I will be FIRE in early 2020.

  • A fellow Coloradan December 28, 2019, 9:49 pm

    Looking back a decade ago, I was a 25 year old, one semester away from graduating from pharmacy school. Once I graduated, the 6 figure income came overnight. I then got married, and have two kids. We live such an extravagant life that despite a combined income of close to 300k, we couldn’t save much. One day, I got to thinking how wonderful it would be to work part time and have more time with my kids, I finally started questioning why with such a great income, I am working full time and expected to retire like everyone else at 65. So I started looking into alternative path for early retirement and discovered the FIRE movement and your website. This lifestyle resonates with me so much and I am rapidly turning my life around. I know you hear it all the time but this 35 year old Coloradan is inspired and grateful to cross path with you. Thank you for all the lessons.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2019, 10:14 am

      YES!!! Congratulations fellow Coloradan, your story is exactly the reason I write this blog. I predict you will be completely financially independent and work will be optional long before this next decade is out.

  • strummin December 28, 2019, 10:18 pm

    Thanks MrMM! Cheers to the next 3000 days!

  • Paul December 28, 2019, 10:33 pm

    Congrats on exiting the decade with a feeling of being in a better state/space, and congrats on all the kind donations.

    I want to comment re the Die With Zero topic, as I feel a similar perspective on my own life has been priceless when paired with the FIRE objective.

    I found awesome clairty was given to my FIRE plans when I planned my life backwards… planning from the presumed, expected old age end of life (plus imagining earlier exits due to potential health hiccups).

    By doing this I could better picture a final decade of very limited abilities (due to declining health/mobility/mental capacity), little freedom to travel or adventure, and little appreciation (or need) for fancy assets/toys/cars/items.

    So it was then necessary to imagine a decade prior to that for some of the indulgences I wish to enjoy, and that made it very, very clear that working to age 65 was really committing a crime to myself. It would rob me of everything I was dreaming of if I was to continue in the prison of work. Luckily, being single and childless (and already in my 50s) I am well set up financially (although deeply in the shadow of MMM’s wealth), so I’ve been able to pass on work, and there’s barely a day goes by that I don’t throw my hands up into the air in celebration of the total absence of time pressures and stresses.

    I remain agog and agast at the majority of people who are willfully blind to their fate, having adopted the consumerism programming of piddling away their money as soon as they get it, and in the process, they continue to imprison themselves forever in their jobs. They are slaves to senseless consumerism, and will likely die with a bucket list of dreams they never addressed.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2019, 10:13 am

      YES! Working in a job you don’t thoroughly enjoy until age 65 (or heck, even 45) is a sad fate which is easily avoidable if you get started a little earlier in life.

      The good news is work itself is inherently good for the soul – you just need to find the right work for you. And don’t necessarily need financial independence to get this work, it just makes it a little easier.

      For every dollar you cut your annual expenses, you are closer to being free because your range of options expands: lower paying jobs, more time off, transition periods between careers, and more. You don’t even need the passive income from a large stash of investments to get these benefits, even though I have tended to write about the whole package so far.

      • Bradlinc December 30, 2019, 8:18 am

        I would love to hear MMM expand upon the freedom you get from the very beginning of embarking down the FIRE path. The ‘retire early’ part is significant but often feels far off in the beginning. I began to feel the ‘financial independence’ part within a few months. I think a focus on the FI part may make the task less daunting for newbies. I have been on board with this lifestyle for a year or so now. The amount of power I feel over my life has increased dramatically.

        • Matt K December 30, 2019, 10:00 am

          I can attest to that feeling of freedom continuing to increase as time goes by (and investment balances grow). My wife and I are far enough along (about 4.5 years in) that even with 2 kids we could easily forego one of our incomes. It has given my much leverage to really push employers for more. It’s a funny setup – I need less money therefore I have the power to command more:). As we’re closing out 2019 I’m very seriously debating whether the pain of this high income job is actually even worth it. Comfortably thinking about leaving hundreds of thousands on the table because our MMM inspired lifestyle gives us that option. The option itself has a dollar value associated with it but the feeling of freedom is priceless.

          • Lazy Radish December 31, 2019, 1:19 am

            The power during the FIRE journey is real. I am a couple of years away from retiring, but I am currently taking a year off paid work to spend a lot of quality time with my two-year old. I have never looked back at this decision and seeing every detail of how my kid is developing is truly priceless.

        • Mike January 1, 2020, 1:00 pm

      • Cameron January 4, 2020, 3:49 am

        Hi MMM,
        This is something I’ve meant to ask you for ages. If before you FIREd you’d gotten the opportunity to do building/renovation work that you’d have enjoyed full-time do you think you would have still retired eventually?

        How much of a motivating factor was ‘I don’t want to be stuck at a desk programming all day’ for you?

        Great read as usual and happily new year!

  • Caroline December 28, 2019, 11:05 pm

    Thank you for all you’ve contributed this decade! I found your blog when I was in high school. While many ideas around taxes and investing flew over my head, the idea that I could make working for money optional was life changing. Now in my mid-twenties, I’m comfortably on my way to FIRE. Looking forward to seeing what you do in 2020!

  • Paul December 28, 2019, 11:22 pm

    Boy do I wish you were around when I was in my twenties. So many mistakes could have been avoided. Oh well, it’s never too late to change and you have certainly inspired me to do so.
    Keep up the good work and please don’t give up on your writing. You have a real gift.
    ( I still say you should buy yourself a Tesla. )

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 29, 2019, 10:05 am

      Thanks Paul and congratulations on your ongoing and upcoming life improvements!

      And thanks for the Tesla permission too. I will definitely allow myself this treat, if I ever find myself in a life where I need to drive regularly.

      • Jason January 5, 2020, 10:39 am

        Have you thought about sharing one? Something like starting a car club to buy teslas or aquiring one under the coworking space business? Far less wasteful than a personal vehicle that sits idle 99% of the time, and could easily be financially justifiable, or even profitable, if done right.

  • Mr. Grumby December 28, 2019, 11:55 pm

    I’m always inspired when I come here. Great post and thanks for the philanthropic ideas. I hadn’t heard of Givewell but I’ll look into it. I wish I had time to jump on the Planned Parenthood match! We give through a DAF and can’t get that done before the 31st. But I’ll keep my eyes open for another matching opportunity.

  • Namasteyall December 29, 2019, 12:21 am

    Thank you for a caring, intelligent community that speaks sense so much of the time: way beyond simply saving/ investing or even my huge ecological concerns, (since reading Silent Spring).

  • Egon Investor December 29, 2019, 12:49 am

    Great times ahead, indeed (I am sure)! Thank you for years of inspiring blogs.

    I can only second watching the Bill Gates documentary mentioned. His initiatives to battle climate change are very interesting.

    All the best,


  • IGMR December 29, 2019, 1:53 am

    Keep up the good work. Inspirational!

  • Dave December 29, 2019, 3:41 am

    It was a great decade indeed and thanks for the inspiration with your giving.

    “I am healthier and stronger physically, wealthier financially, and (hopefully) at least a bit wiser emotionally.” I’m delighted to say that rings true for me too, and I hope to continue the progress in the roaring 20’s. Life is good when you don’t want to be the person you were 10 years before, even though you were younger.

    Here’s to what will surely be the best decade ever!

  • Insourcelife December 29, 2019, 6:24 am

    And I’ve been reading your blog for a better part of this decade… It’s a great time to reflect and see where you stand compared to 2010. We had a son, saved/invested enough to quit our jobs and move to the beach… Excited to see what the next decade will bring!

    Happy New Year to all!

  • Anonymous December 29, 2019, 7:29 am

    It’s great to look back and see how we’ve grown. I found your blog only last year I believe, after getting to FI the old fashioned way- saving the gap over 30 years of enjoyable service to others! Love your ideas and contribution to helping people understand the real meaning of happiness. You mention you had a home building business. Have you considered writing a post on how to build a smaller cost efficient home? It’s something I’d love to do and I’m sure I could learn some tips and tricks from a person who knows the process.

    Cheers to a happy and healthy 2020!

  • MKE December 29, 2019, 8:06 am

    Interesting that in MMMs talk of daily habits, I realize that I am for the first time I am seeing one of his posts in almost real time, despite having recently decided to avoid the computer more. The word is “avoid.” So, along with some of the habits he talks about adopting, there are others to drop. Avoid your computer. Avoid your phone. Avoid your television. Avoid your car. The smaller the doses of cars, computers, phones, and TV you can take, the better off you will be.

    There are a bit of different strokes for all of us. While I agree with the “positive social interaction” bit, I am one of those people who needs less of it in order for it to be positive. I just read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” After decades, I realize I am not a freak. TV and computers and artitcles say everyone has to be around everyone all the time, and it’s just not true. Take time alone – lots of it – if that is what works for you.

    • V December 30, 2019, 10:16 am

      Love that book. Finding ‘Quiet’ and the FIRE movement, changed my life. Well- validated it. Lots of derived learnings still, but truly grateful to the early leaders in both those fields, and their courage.

    • Tracy December 31, 2019, 9:54 am

      As a fellow introvert, I can relate to this, reading that book was such an eye opener for me, and a huge relief that there wasn’t something wrong with me! Working in an office surrounded by many extroverts, it feels like a daily battle trying to explain why at lunchtime, you just need to take that hour to recharge your batteries rather than socialising down the pub, why you’d rather go home and spend time with your family than go to the office party etc. I don’t hate my job but I do find the daily extrovert office world very draining and I am very excited to be able to go part time in a couple of years, thanks in part to this website making me question so much about my life and what is really important to me, rather than living up to everyone else’s expectations.

      • MKE January 12, 2020, 9:08 am

        Another possibility, which is not as easy as it sounds, is to find less socially demanding work with your current employer or to move towards a more introverted job in the future.

  • Anonymous December 29, 2019, 8:38 am

    Cheers! Good to see you are using your influence and money to improve the lives of people around the world! Happy New Year!

  • Just some guy December 29, 2019, 9:56 am

    Thanks for helping me stay disciplined over a fantastic decade MMM! This decade I went from clown car commuting to remote work, brought my saving rate from 40% to 73%, and increased my net worth by $566k! The best part has been tweaking the habits to remove behaviors that don’t generate happiness. Target FIRE in 2023 and am looking forward to the next decade of growth and discovery! Thanks again for the inspiration!

  • FullyBearded JuniorMustachian December 29, 2019, 10:40 am

    I find the subject of philanthropy to be extremely interesting because personally that’s one of the biggest motivators I have to achieve FI. I probably won’t be able to (read: won’t choose to) retire from my day job before the date set by the government agency for which I work, simply because if I stick it out until that minimum retirement age of 49 (22 years to go) then I get free government subsidized health care for myself and my family for life at unbelievably cheap rates with exceptional coverage and my wife has chronic issues that would be horrendously expensive on a privately held plan. That being said, I still plan on achieving that FI as if I was going to retire so that all our household income just becomes icing and can be used to help fellow man.
    Currently my first 10% of pre-tax income is already being donated, and I really look forward to doing more. That’s a huge motivator for me. Right along with using the FI to be able to move from a big city into a rural, “person-friendly” city (as MMM calls it) somewhere in the mountains are probably my two biggest incentives for living a frugal lifestyle.
    Maybe this has been answered in previous blog posts that I haven’t read yet, (i’m currently about mid-2013 in the blog working my way up) but this article made it sound like making the investment for a solar array would potentially be a hugely financially rewarding endeavor. Is this something that has to be all insourced and MMM-style life-hacked to remain true or could I get someone to install it on a house with good solar exposure and achieve the same benefit?
    Last just a note: I think it’s great you gave to the classical music folks. My older brother went to a school that offered it but when we moved they didn’t have any programming for it and the only independent organizations that did it required outrageous sums of money monthly to have your kid participate. I remember my mom trying to find somewhere for him to continue his education and passion playing the cello, to no avail.
    Happy New Years, MMM and fellow readers. May we all achieve FI and be able to give wealth to the needy in meaningful ways!

    • Profit Greenly December 30, 2019, 3:49 am

      If you DIY solar you can drop its costs and give it a really high return. If you pay a company to do it the costs will go up, so your return will go down, but it’ll still benefit. In most states the return will still likely return more than investing the same money in bonds/CDs/etc. and in DC, MA, and NJ it will return TONS more due to local Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) policy. Here’s a post I wrote detailing the ROI of my system in PA.


      It’s probably a good idea to get your solar install done in 2020 or 2021 because the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has already started to phase out and will be gone for home owners in 2021 (it was a 30% credit of total install costs, in 2020 it will be 26% and 2021 it will be 22%). There’s a chance a newly elected government will re-authorize it, but they could also go in a different direction. For example a broad carbon tax would reduce greenhouse gases more than the ITC does and actually increase the price of solar panels because it takes energy to make them. It would also increase their payout by raising electricity costs which would probably up their total ROI, but you’ll still get that benefit if you install panels while the ITC still gives you a rebate. Also, the sooner you install solar the sooner you help us cut our total CO2 emissions and stave off civilization disrupting climate change (hopefully).

      If you’re in a state where solar is profitable (most states) and not ready to DIY it in the next year I’d recommend paying an installer. That way you’ll capture more of the ITC and start earning money on it sooner. Also, if you plan to install it sometime this year you should reduce your tax withholdings Jan 1 based on the amount you expect to get back from the ITC. If you’re doing a big install this could be thousands of dollars and getting that back before you install your panels lets you invest it sooner and earn more. Also note that the biggest solar generation months are June, July and August, so if you can get it installed by then you’ll start out with big generation numbers (see my linked post for details).

  • Mary K Parker December 29, 2019, 12:35 pm

    You know, I think donating locally is just as important as the big charities.

    While I live in a rather affluent county, I know there are pockets of poverty, so our monthly donations go towards school supplies at our local school district and student needs at the local university. We also donate to a men’s homeless shelter.

    • Elaine January 9, 2020, 8:19 am

      The county we live in has the lowest average income in Ontario, so most of our donations are to local organizations that we can see do essential work for local residents that is not being done by governments. Many of the organizations are run by volunteers and we know that the funds raised are being used responsibly. I agree that in larger centres you have to do a lot of research to make sure that most of your money actually goes to the work of the charities.

  • Married to a Swabian December 29, 2019, 1:24 pm

    Thanks for all the fantastic advice and guidance, financial and otherwise, MMM! Wish I would have discovered your site sooner, but the past 3 plus years have definitely gotten us a LOT closer to FI than we would otherwise have been.

    Our last decade has had plenty of ups and downs as well, including the loss of loved ones, job changes, our son going off to college and two international moves.

    Through it all, we’ve gotten stronger, a little bit wiser and increased our net worth by over 3x. ;)

    It’s great that you’re able to give back with the charitable donations – sound like great causes.

    One side question: I recently searched the site for health insurance topics and founded your most recent post from early 2018 describing your unhappiness with the premium increases of ACA coverage. How has that been otherwise? How much do you budget in total for health insurance per year?

    Wishing you a great start to 2020 – Happy New Year!

  • Joe December 29, 2019, 1:36 pm

    I’m excited to start this next decade as a member of the FIRE club, complete with shiny blog. If all goes well, I’ll be well on my way to retirement by the end of it.

    Thank you for the inspiration and great blog posts. I also enjoy your podcast interviews, so I hope you find time to do a few more of those this decade. I’m so very glad you came on the Tim Ferris Show, otherwise the FIRE movement might have passed me by entirely.

    Keep doing the good work!

  • Jordan Brown December 29, 2019, 1:45 pm

    I discovered this website sometime around 2016 after a coworker forwarded me the video of the talk. I read every article and became a believer. I aggressively started saving for retirement, started riding my bike to work 11 miles one way, even sold my car. I got involved in construction projects, changed my eating, exercising with dumb bells, positive thinking, even negative visualisation. Life was great. Then I got diagnosed with glaucoma and I lost part of my vision in my right eye. It was sad but I could still get by with my good eye, and the doctors reassured me everything would be ok. I remember thinking to myself how great life was. Then I started to go deaf. First one ear. I remember being annoyed when my hearing in one ear was replaced with white noise. But I could still hear with the other ear. Months later I lost hearing in the other ear too. I underwent surgery for a cochlear implant. I am learning to use this. My balance is also now shot. I can’t ride a bicycle anymore. For much of 2019 I have been trying to stay positive. Looking forward to early retirement. I wanted to live the life I read about here, solar panels, diy construction, bikes, nature… I’m only 38, should be 43 when I retire. Over the past 6 months though my physical abilities have been declining. Test after test and doctor after doctor, still don’t know what is wrong. I have to use a walker now. I can’t do anything for myself, including make food. Walking to the bathroom is exhausting. I slur my words. It’s increasingly looking like a rare neurological diesese and there is going to be no cure.

    I failed. I worked hard, but I ran out of time. I had some happy times for sure, but I regret that I didn’t find early retirement sooner. I have so many regrets of playing it safe in my life thinking there would be time for that later, when I don’t have to worry about money. Who knew meaningful life would be over at 38?

    • strummin December 30, 2019, 9:44 pm

      You did not fail Jordan! So sorry to hear about your neurological disorder. I wish you the very best and will be hoping for a turn around for you.

    • Hayden December 31, 2019, 1:02 am

      Jordan, while it’s true that you may have missed a few things, it’s not fair to lable yourself as a failure. There is so much that is out of your control. Please have mercy on yourself, and realize that our lives are not an exercise in optimization, but instead a time to gain experience with the good and the bad. Please know that you haven’t failed. We’re not here to make you feel that way.

    • Craig December 31, 2019, 1:23 am

      Quite uncertain of the medical details or the quality of specialists you have access to, but The collection of symptoms sound similar to Chiari malformation if an underlying neurological issue is thought to be the root cause.

    • jcwords January 13, 2020, 7:07 am

      Jordan, thank you for sharing your difficult journey. It’s a reminder that there isn’t always time for everything. I wish you comfort and peace as you seek to discover what is happening, and I hope that it will after all, be curable.

    • Denise January 29, 2020, 6:44 am


      Get tested for Fragile X Ataxia Syndrome. Your symptoms sound like my uncle’s.

    • Shawn February 20, 2020, 12:15 am

      Jordan please consider a diet change. I know this may sound crazy but many people have had success with the carnivore diet..yes all meat. While your problems sound neurological.. your symptoms may be a result of a food that you are eating which is causing an autoimmune response where your body literally attacks itself. At this point you really don’t have anything to lose. I would suggest doing some googling of the carnivore diet and perhaps checking the sub reddit community.

    • drew February 21, 2020, 7:46 pm

      Jordan, you are not a failure! You have no control over rare neurological disorders. I bet it is incredibly frustrating to deal with this, and I would be struggling too. But stay positive and know that it is not your fault. I hope you get a diagnosis and path to treatment soon!

  • MnStash December 29, 2019, 2:07 pm

    In 2010, our family of 5 installed a ground source heat pump in suburban Minneapolis. We have not used a single therm of natural gas to heat our house since it went on-line in October of that year and have saved money along the way. If it handle MN winters, it should be able to handle just about any location in the U.S. In 2017, we installed 26 PV panels on our roof. To me, the 20’s should be the decade when we kick fossil fuels to the curb and save money in the process. It can all be a part of your FI plans.

  • Mike December 29, 2019, 2:27 pm

    What a decade here as well. Found MMM after already accomplishing debtfreeness so dug in hard on frugality and investing. In two days, I’m officially retired!!! Thanks MMM! Your repeated face punches are a big reason I’m at this cool place, 55 years old, healthy, husband, empty nester with a paid-for house, a sweet campervan we built ourselves and a $1.5M portfolio. Here’s to a life of people before things and living each day moment by moment. Happy New Decade!

  • karen December 29, 2019, 2:34 pm

    This is hard to admit but I am 61 and have made dreadful financial decisions for most of my life. Because of that, I don’t know that I will ever be able to retire. On the plus side, I have zero debt except for my mortgage, a federal pension (as long as the government stays intact) and a 457 account. I too wish someone like you had been around in my younger days. That being said, I am halfway through your blog posts and I am so inspired to do what I can with the rest of my time here. Your way of living and outlook on what is important resonates with me. Thank you for this blog and happy, healthy 2020 to you and yours.

  • Rum Tum Tugger December 29, 2019, 3:27 pm

    Thanks for being an inspiration to so many including myself. Although I first heard about you when you were featured in the Washington Post, I didn’t start listening until a few years back, after my wife and I tried the dual income with kids thing coupled with mindless consumerism and found it wanting. We’ve made many positive changes since then including a 33 percent savings rate on one modest income. Now we’re considering a cross country move to allow for me to bike to work, drive less in general and hopefully save even more. Even if it doesn’t get us to FI quicker we think it’ll make life more enjoyable along the way.

    Happy New Year!

  • Akira December 29, 2019, 3:50 pm

    Thanks for all the wisdom MMM!

    I completely agree with your philosophy on habits. We only have a limited budget of willpower to spend everyday. Habits are another kind investment- with a little upfront effort, they snowball and either free up energy if they’re good ones- or put you in the hole if they’re bad ones. It’s Prachett’s ‘Boots’ theory all over again!

    I found your blog last year and plan to retire this decade using the combined powers of a cushy Comp Sci salary and my frugality muscles(habits)!

    Thanks again and here’s to a great New Year!

  • Marcia December 29, 2019, 3:51 pm

    “But You Are Really Just a Bundle of Habits” That’s gold, right there. Lately, for me, those habits are: regular exercise (1 hour a day), sleep, snuggling the kids (okay, maybe not the teen so much), family dinners, work, cooking meals, packing lunches, reading, walking the dog.

  • Chris December 29, 2019, 3:58 pm

    Mr. MMM,

    Great post and thanks so much for ALL of the great posts over the last 8+ years. Your writing has really motivated me to do a better job with my finances, and improve my overall life as well. Well done and continued success in this upcoming decade!

  • Longwaytogo December 29, 2019, 4:20 pm

    But what if you DO ENJOY your job?? (I’m a construction worker, wife is a teacher)

    Of your things that make you/me happy I get many from my work – hard physical effort outside, helping people, positve social interaction, etc.

    While I do enjoy some inexpensive activites – hiking, reading, spending time with local friends, home cooking. I also enjoy going out to dinner, fancy mountain bikes, skiing, traveling and the like.

    Guess I find myself more in the “lifestyle design” camp then the FIRE plan.

    To that end I have switched to a 4 day work week (while retaining old salary) and take off 4-6 weeks a year for travel, kids field trips, playing hooky on snow days, whatever.

    We’ve also tried to reign in our spending to put ~15% into pre-tax retirement, re-fied to a 15 yr Mtg and my spouse is half way to her govt pension. So hopefully We can exit in our mid 50’s should we choose to do so.

    Rambling a bit now…. But I guess my point is for some with lower income, higher debt, kids, HCOL etc. The importance of balance between today and tomm may lead to greater happiness then the rush to FIRE.

    Anyhow, enjoy the Blog and Forum. I too am in a MUCH better place then 2009 and def some of that I credit to your site!!

    So thanks, and happy new year and all the best in the new decade.


    • JeffD December 30, 2019, 10:06 am

      Having no debt is a life changer. Almost no one knows what a life without debt feels like in this modern world. It multiplies happiness in ways that most people can’t understand until they reach that point. To me that is the true gift of the FIRE lifestyle.

      • Scientist January 19, 2020, 6:24 am

        not everyone feels this way—I know I would be quite bothered not having a mortgage with a low interest because I generally believe in maximizing how hard my money is working. similarly, I guess I’m not into FIRE because I do research I generally like. I purposely took low salary in my 20s to maximize my opportunity to work hard in one area the rest of my life. I also worked hard to get tenure, i.e., the freedom to work my butt off for years and get paid as long as I’m doing it by same employer. Many of the perspectives I read here make me think hard about how others approach their jobs and choices

  • BT December 29, 2019, 5:15 pm

    I was introduced to you by my oldest son who at 26 is well on his way to FIRE. For me the last decade has seen a great deal of change as well, divorce, the sale of an oversize home that I built myself and seeing my three children complete college.

    Thanks to your blog and being introduced to “The Minimalist” podcast by my daughter I’m in a much better place than I was just a few years ago. I spend time evaluating every purchase, not only from a financial perspective but also from the point of its environmental impact. As a result of being more conscious and budgeting every dollar I’m set to retire in January 2020 at the not so young age of 56 (but younger than the average retiree) It’s not that difficult to live on $24k / year, in doing so I’ve removed so much clutter from my life and found life to be so much more fulfilling.

    To an even Happier New Decade

  • Reade December 29, 2019, 5:43 pm

    Great article love your perspective and thanks for donating to some very worthy causes.

    I will FIRE this decade probably in about three years when my kid is five. Can’t wait to leave the big megacorp and set my own schedule.

    Would love to attend one of your meet ups so if you plan one in Toronto please let us know. Otherwise I guess I could drop by MMM world headquarters some day. Best wishes to you and your family for this upcoming decade.

  • Dave December 29, 2019, 6:11 pm

    I read this post with mixed emotions. While I’m not as well off as you financially, I would not trade places with you for one reason: while you are divorced, I’ve been married to the same women for nearly 44 years. Almost everything positive that’s happened to me in my life is due to her. I’m sitting here an a modest home in the central highlands of Arizona with no mortgage, almost no bills, and a guy down the road that sells me fresh eggs from his hens for $2/dozen. Yet without my sweet wife it would be meaningless.

    • Deb in Toronto December 29, 2019, 7:32 pm

      Hi Dave,
      in the spirit of assuming you are just commenting that you are happily married – as am I – having been a long time reader, I feel that the message and invaluable information shared through MMM’s blog have been squarely focused on offering materially excellent guidance on helping readers reach financial independence alot sooner than is the norm. MMM’s personal life should be respected as being private. He wrote about his divorce a while back seemingly because people were poking around about his marital status. Whether or not he wishes to be divorced, it is a fact he has shared. I don’t recall him ever recommending divorce, but it happens. Financial issues are, fortunately for him and his family, not an issue. As with many other readers, I have learned much from this blog and really appreciate the effort made to share this info. Happy new year to all.

    • Kristel December 29, 2019, 11:12 pm

      Ouch! Congrats on your long marriage! But… a little empathy for those who aren’t so fortunate in the long happy marriage department might be helpful. Most people are not so fortunate as you in that area – also I hope your dear wife feels the same way about it. =)

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2019, 9:59 am

      I am enjoying this little discussion and thanks for the support!

      I believe this is something that people should understand from both sides:

      – if you are in a relationship or marriage and happy about it: congratulations!
      – if you were in a relationship or marriage that was NOT working for both of you, and you managed to come out of it in one piece and find a wonderful life beyond (or even if you are still in the process) – congratulations!

      There is nothing inherently good or bad about staying in or leaving a relationship in general. It’s all a case-by-case basis because every interpersonal relationship is complex and different from every other one.

      However, I am truly happy for people who have found someone they love being with, especially when it can last so long.

  • Gordo December 29, 2019, 6:51 pm

    FYI: Planned Parenthood is under constant attack not for the reason you cite, but because they are the largest abortion provider in the country. Many people still believe it is wrong to kill an innocent, living, human being, which is indisputably what happens when one has an abortion. You cannot dispute that the fetus is alive, and genetically human, with distinct genetics from the mother, therefore it is NOT in fact the mother’s body to do whatever she wants with, it is a living human being, even capable of feeling pain and wincing/”screaming” while being killed.

    • Chuck Albacore December 29, 2019, 7:11 pm

      Gordo: Really, that’s what you think is the appropriate response to this post? Did you even read it? Jeez.

      MMM: Nice job! Great article! Great ideas! Great inspiration! I too am donating what many would consider a ton of money to people in various situations worse than my own. Keep up the good work and keep those pizzas corner-ful!

      • Kristel December 29, 2019, 10:57 pm

        Can’t help but notice that Gordo didn’t mention any of his own generous donations to good causes!

      • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2019, 8:59 am

        Right, and WHY do people like Gordo even have this issue on their radar? Instead of, for example, the much larger number of deaths that are caused by preventable disease or poor health or car culture right here in the United States? And why does he repeat the same arguments almost word-for-word that we hear in every political speech?

        Because politicians found a soft spot in our culture, and decided to start putting it into their campaigns and their speeches, even when they KNOW it’s a tiny issue compared to everything else we can unite behind in order to help hundreds of millions of people right now.

        I’m not saying it is wrong to have an opinion one way or the other. But I AM saying it is irrational to focus on extra difficult and divisive issues that tend to split along the lines of religion, rather than more math-based improvements that everyone can agree on.

        Politicians do this because they know it works, but I consider base emotions and religion a cheap way to manipulate people. It’s like handing out drugs to kids. Just because you can do it and get people hooked, doesn’t mean it’s ethical to do so.

        • Jess December 30, 2019, 11:58 am

          Kind of seems like you brought up a super divisive issue and then beat up Gordo for talking about the divisive issue. It’s your blog, it’s a great blog, and you can write whatever you want, but it’s likely a lot of your readers are pro-life so why alienate us? We can debate the ethics of killing the inconvenient unborn – and change nobody’s mind on either side – or we could not bring it up here. It’s your blog, write what you want and donate where you want, but bringing up highly divisive topics and bullying people who disagree seems beneath you, MMM.

          • Mr. Money Mustache December 31, 2019, 2:42 pm

            You have a good point Jess.. but unfortunately almost everything I write about on this blog is super divisive, so I am using this thing as my platform to try to encourage society to move towards the things I think work best.

            For example, using science and math more often when making public policy decisions, reducing natural resource and fossil fuel consumption, separating religious beliefs from the legal system and all sorts of other things that are labeled “left-wing” by certain politicians in the US, whereas in most Western countries these things are accepted as just plain science and not something to fight over.

            Welcome to MMM – it’s always been that way, because I’m a non-religious engineer trying to engineer a more rational society :-)

          • FullyBearded JuniorMustachian January 2, 2020, 7:28 am

            Yeah this was a difficult post to read and the comments made it worse. As a very pro-life individual I tried to skim over it but then I find comment sections like this and it’s hard for me to want to continue reading through the blog when my personal religious beliefs are belittled “it’s a tiny issue compared to everything else…” exact words on the topic of the pro-life debate. I think fixing pot holes versus preservation of human life has a clear winner. It’s definitely NOT a tiny issue for millions of Americans and I see no connection between telling millions of people their beliefs are a waste of time and “engineering a more rational society”.
            It’s his blog and he will continue to use his platform to push his opinions but I think this will be my last time commenting with this made up name I’ve been using, and I also think I’ll stop sharing links to his blog to the dozens of people I’ve been excited to share it with. This is not a cause I want supported.
            MMM, use your platform how you wish. I’ll make sure my clicks to your links and affiliates no longer generate income that go towards supporting the largest abortion clinic in the US and possibly the world on the premise of “Averting poverty for the mothers -wait no, I should just call them women because the baby was purposely murdered- who don’t use condoms”

            • Arno January 2, 2020, 8:50 am

              Your call, FBJM, and I’m not going to stop you.

              Just let me urge you: Re-read. I’ve not seen the “tiny issue compared to everything else period”. It’s more of a “tiny issue compared to everything else we can agree upon to help people”.

              Like universal health care. Pretty sure that’s going to save more lives than closing down every abortion clinic in the world.

              I’d have to read MMM massively wrong if that included fixing potholes.

              Plus (and this also goes @Gordo): I strongly believe providing safe abortions as a last resort will save lives. Mothers’ lives who would have died otherwise in botched illegal abortions and childrens’ lives who will live because the mother received support in advance of her decision leading her to reconsider. Plus all those lives that Planned Parenthood saves by providing healthcare apart from abortions.

              Making “They provide Abortion” the single talking point about Planned Parenthood and making “Abortion is Killing a Human Being” the single talking point about abortion will scare pregnant women in trouble away from seeking help when they need it the most.

              And @Gordo: Your “indisputable” facts can and are disputed (e.g. the fact that a fetus at any age, as you write, will experience pain and will wince when dieing) as well as the conclusions from them. Plus you are conveniently leaving out the fact that a fetus is incapable of living without the mother (until about 20-25 weeks gestational age) which could lead the reader to a different conclusion.


            • Taconite January 2, 2020, 4:00 pm

              You may not read this, but I am sorry to read that you are letting the 5% of MMM’s charitable contributions you disagree with drive such a wedge. I try to not have such a strict purity test. As a religious person myself, I try to remember some things that Jesus actually did address like “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “love your enemies… and pray for those who mistreat you”.

        • Abu Iskander January 3, 2020, 9:10 am

          Actually, as a fellow engineer, I ran some numbers to check how tiny the issue really is.

          There were 60,948,303 abortions performed in the US since Roe vs Wade(not a minor number by any means). This is around 20% of potential US population that died without a chance to take their first breath. Plus since 1973 this is also their potential children that are not among us, so this number is actually higher. For perspective this is 50% higher than the deaths in WW1 (40M) , 3X all military deaths of WW2 (and more than 100X Americans killed in WW2). 60M is really an astronomic number by any means.

          So let’s compare some other numbers you mentioned. Car culture? I assume you mean car accidents. 37K people dead last year (compared to 300K+ per year from abortions). Preventable disease? What is preventable? Let’s say 100% of diabetes deaths are preventable (they are not). That’s only 85K per year. What else? Opioids? 64K. Suicides? 44K. Homicides? 15K.
          So if you take all diabetes, opioids, suicides, murders and car accidents deaths combined you will still not get near to the amount of abortions.

          BTW I am fully aware that Planned Parenthood does a lot of other things other than abortions and I than you for your generous donation. Just please don’t say abortions are a tiny issue compared to everything else.

          • JD January 3, 2020, 3:38 pm

            If you want to limit this number of potential children lost, you could take an engineer’s approach, and advocate for women’s access to education, jobs, prenatal care, and maternal nutrition programs, as well as everyone’s access to sex education and free contraception. You’d be doing a real service to potential and actual people everywhere.

            • Abu Iskander January 3, 2020, 4:00 pm

              Did I say anything against women’s access to education, jobs, prenatal care, and maternal nutrition programs, as well as everyone’s access to sex education and free contraception? I absolutely support all of this.

              However, this is not what I was talking about. Mr MM. said that abortions are a “tiny issue” compared to everything else in terms of loss of life . They are absolutely not, which is what I pointed out, bringing some statistics.I don’t think that at any point did I say or bring any numbers which would support the idea that women should not have access to education, jobs or free contraception (which here in the US they thankfully already do).

            • Taconite January 6, 2020, 9:03 am

              Free contraception? Unless you work for a “closely held” business like Hobby Lobby which has successfully argued in court that they do not offer health insurance that covers the cost of women’s contraceptive care because it is against the Company’s religious beliefs…
              …Though I do believe that vasectomies are still covered…

            • K MacG February 12, 2020, 7:16 pm

              The piece you’re missing is that since this is about access to safe abortions, the number impacted by Planned Parenthood should not include women who would have had unsafe abortions were a safe one unavailable. Based on comparisons between jurisdictions where abortions are available and where not, this can be estimated at around 50%, so 150k per year. Then of course the women’s lives that would have been lost as a result – WHO estimates 1/270, so just another 556. Of course, many of the fetuses aborted would have aborted on their own, too, since God if you believe in him apparently doesn’t share his worshipers’ feelings on this and is constantly aborting fetuses himself, left, right and centre. You’d have to take off 10-20% for that; let’s say 15, so 45000. Then you need to factor in deaths and suicides resulting from people being forced to give birth against their will or not being able to care for their children, children born with serious illness or addiction, etc. We’ll say that’s a small number too, another 500. That gives you an overall corrected number of 104,000.

              Now what about car culture? It plays a significant role in lower fitness and obesity for Americans. Heart disease kills 647,000 Americans per year. How many could have been prevented by a culture of walking and biking? Then there’s pollution: about 200,000 deaths per year, primarily attributable to cars. Cancer? We all know gasoline is carcinogenic, yet we handle it all the time for our cars. Car interiors contain vinyl, responsible for the new car smell that causes your DNA to mutate. How many of the 607,000 annual cancer deaths might be caused by cars?

              However, if one is primarily concerned about the loss of potential life, there is a far greater issue we should be occupying ourselves with: insufficient sex. If we want to maximize the number of potential humans, we should all be having as much sex as possible with as many people as possible (except women while already pregnant) during all of our fertile years. Girls should be getting pregnant much younger and continue having babies one after another until they are physically incapable. This would result in far more than 300k lives per year that would otherwise never have begun.

          • Jason January 8, 2020, 5:49 am

            You are actually understating the yearly number, but equating adult deaths to abortions is not rational. You would need to subtract all those that wouldnt have survived anyway. The vast majority are early term, and many further are by medical necessity. You should also give credit to pp for the unplanned pregnancies they prevent – which may lead to abortions legal or not.

            Its not a cut and dry issue, like you try to imply. Its a messy wedge issue used for political gain. There are plenty of policies that would clearly save lives, but unfortunately, the divided public is much weaker than a handful of monied interests.

    • Jimmy December 30, 2019, 3:04 am

      Your opinion Gordon. I respect it but please respect other’s who think you’re wrong. Planned Parenthood is my only charity annually because I believe it is a major tool to bridge a power and poverty gap for women.

    • Ron Cameron January 5, 2020, 5:09 am

      If you can’t understand why someone wouldn’t support Planned Parenthood, try this:

      Think of something you absolutely despise. For me, it’s animal abuse. Let’s say there’s a business owner in town who is very well meaning. He teaches! He donates his time and money to charity! He does all these wonderful things! But he also often kicks his dog. YOU might think that’s perfectly normal treatment of an animal. But for me that man doesn’t get my business. And he doesn’t get any promotion from me despite his other good deeds. Now apply that to PP. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds an organization does if they’re also doing something you think is absolutely unspeakable. You won’t have anything to do with them.

      I have no interest in “arguing” on here. Just trying to get people to understand a viewpoint they currently don’t. Not necessarily agreeing with a different viewpoint, but understanding it.

    • Richard January 9, 2020, 2:56 am

      Yeah, me too. I won’t be back here, sorry. Thank you for your other charitable donations, but supporting an organisation that has ended millions of innocent lives in the most tragic of circumstances is beyond the pale. I don’t understand how you could possibly think that is a more effective place to put your charitable donations over so many other charities doing good work that respect the fundamental and equal dignity of all human beings.

    • EP January 9, 2020, 4:41 am

      It’s more of a living human about to be(ing).

      When does the human be?
      1 fertilised egg?
      4 cells?
      1 ounce if cells?
      when it has limbs?
      when it can speak?
      when it can have empathy for other humans?

      It’s a spectrum, but I think it shows a complete lack of empathy for the potential mothers who have to make one of the hardest decisions of their lives. Maybe you should stand outside planned parenthood and volunteer to adopt if they don’t go through with it?

      There are actual humans with actual problems in the world, so I don’t know how you reconcile that with your own beliefs that a woman shouldn’t have control of her uterus.

    • A Woman and a Mother January 10, 2020, 1:42 pm

      You are entitled to your opinions and please show respect to opinions of others. I’m a woman and a mother, who respects other’s freedom to choose, and happens to be married to a wonderful man who does not support abortions. We are happily married because we respect each others opinions. God forbid, we ever be in a situation when we need to choose, it will be decision we will make together as it concerns only us, not the rest of the world. My husband does not feel the need to tell other women what to do with their bodies, but he has great compassion and empathy for them and their difficult situation. And he has my most respect and appreciation. If you are so upset about children dying, go ahead and put your money/time where your mouth is. Go adopt, raise those kids, save their lives.

  • RobL December 29, 2019, 6:54 pm

    Congrats on being able to do so much good with your surplus funds. I’ve also been officially FIREd for several years and find myself with extra investment “income” to dispose of. You inspired me to look at GiveWell, but I was disappointed to see that it seems to be dedicated only to health related charities. I see a greater need to have a positive impact on our environment and fellow species dwelling on this planet that humanity is working so hard to befoul. I’m left wondering if there are any groups similar to GiveWell that calculate which environmental charities have the greatest, most efficient impact with donors’ funds.

    • Catherine January 8, 2020, 10:50 pm

      Congratulations on your FIRE status. May I suggest that since you are retired
      you have time to investigate environmental charities and can maybe suggest them in a future comment? Would love to see what you find out there.

  • Tony Perrozzi December 29, 2019, 9:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this post & everything you do. I discovered this site about 6 months ago & have done a 180 degree turn in my finances & my thinking in general. I was probably 1/2 mustachian before the term even existed, but felt I was doing something wrong compared to my peers. My wife & I (waiter & receptionist, no 6 figure salary here) are now looking at a freedom to meet our maximum potential as human beings that was unimaginable a year ago. You are truly changing peoples lives & once again I can’t thank you enough.

  • Anonymous December 29, 2019, 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the update MMM. Although I only recently stumbled across your blog, I’m excited to cross into the next decade with a brand new outlook on life, money & freedom. Your attitude is contagious :) Happy New Year

  • Chris December 29, 2019, 10:52 pm

    Well done for donating so much to worthwhile causes.
    What I do not understand though is why you still promote investing in index funds (the standard ones, replicating the Dow Jones for example)!? Is putting money into these index funds not directly supporting companies that work contrary to the causes you support with your donations? Companies that build weapons, cars, damage the environment directly, have questionable ethical standards in how they treat their workers, or the workers of their suppliers in poorer countries? How do you reconcile this? Why not much more explicitly promote more ethical index funds that try to put your money into worthwhile causes? Or at least not into causes contradicting your stated values?

    • Kristel December 29, 2019, 11:24 pm

      I’d like to hear MMM’s response to this one too! Mostly because it’s an issue I currently have with my investments – are there good ethical alternatives? If so maybe you can list some that YOU recommend? Maybe MMM can list some he knows of? I’d love to have a short list of great index funds that perform well, and that for example, have divested from fossil fuels, or etc. If they even exist? What about Vanguard’s Social Index Fund? Or others?

    • MT December 30, 2019, 12:11 am

      All of these donations are to awesome causes, but I too have started to question the index funds where I stash my money. As a practicing Mustachian, I’m not much of a consumer, and I try to buy from more ethical brands. But if I turn around and shovel my savings into VTSAX, I feel like like I’m undoing any good I’ve done 1000 times over. Investing in “bad” causes so that I can grow my money and eventually donate it to “good” causes seems counterproductive as well. I’ve found a couple of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) ETF’s at Vanguard which feel like a small step in the right direction (no fossil fuels, weapons, etc.) but I wonder what solutions others have found to this issue.

      • Arno January 2, 2020, 7:52 am

        While I seem to recall MMM had an article about that exact contradiction (or whatever the correct English word would be) somewhere on this blog, I can say for myself that ESG / SRI ETFs are my compromise. Guess none of the ones I buy are available in the US, so I’m not going to name exact products, but there is an MSCI World SRI and an MSCI Emerging Markets SRI.

        Also keep an eye on the replication – synthetical index funds following an SRI index don’t make much sense to me (in an ethical way – if you believe SRI is the future in a “Smart Beta” way and you want to get SRI returns instead of total market returns, that’s beyond my point).

        That’s because I went with a “Qualified Discarding” approach. I could either

        a) do nothing with my savings – basically zero or even below-inflation returns (and my bank could still finance weapons, big oil etc. but there are eco-social banks around, at least here in Europe)
        b) buy managed investment fonds with fonds managers selecting based on eco-social criteria
        c) pick stocks myself
        d) buy total market ETFs
        e) buy SRI / ESG ETFs

        a) would prolong my working career by 50% (guessed). Not an option for me
        b) would add significantly to my investing cost (and open me up to the risk of bad decisions – I guess I don’t have to repeat the ETF-vs-actively-managed funds discussion here) – the “extra good ethical feeling” does not feel worth it for me
        c) would be too much work for me, hands down, if I wanted a reasonably diversified portfolio
        d) would mean I’d retire early because I’m making money of people dying. Even if me withdrawing my funding from those kinds of business won’t change a lot (they’ll probably lobby politicians to give them more tax money anyways, which has a much larger influence), I don’t want to profit from that either
        So e) is my personal compromise. Go find yours. It may be different, and that’s OK.


    • RobL December 30, 2019, 7:37 pm

      Along similar lines, I worry that the prevalence of index funds (and funds in general) leaves investors with no voice when it comes to voting shares at annual meetings. We can’t hope to influence the companies we own in a positive way if we give our votes to fund managers.

    • Carlos January 4, 2020, 1:45 am

      I’ve recently been changing some of my investments. I wanted to share the following resource I found helpful:

      • Kristel January 8, 2020, 9:52 am

        Thank you Carlos, that looks to be a very useful tool! I’m transferring my HSA to a new provider, and picking new investments. Fossilfreefunds.org gives Vanguard’s FTSE Social Index Fund a “B”, and Fidelity’s U.S. Sustainability Index Fund, which I would’ve thought would be very similar, a “D”.

    • Johan January 5, 2020, 5:05 pm

      Anyone using YourStake to get Vanguard to do more on fossil fuels portfolio phase out?

  • Kristel December 29, 2019, 11:18 pm

    Another excellent article, thank you! I somehow had missed (or not remembered reading) The Life You Can Save post – it inspired me to add my puny donation to GiveWell this year. =) My other contribution was to The Gold Standard for carbon offsets; I don’t really consider that one a donation exactly (and, neither does the IRS)!

  • Remo Uherek December 30, 2019, 2:02 am

    What a great and inspiring post. Love it.

    Have you checked out microlending platform Zidisha? It‘s a great way to support entrepreneurs in developing countries, not with donations, but with loans that are repaid, i.e. multiplying each dollar you put in there.

    In the spirit of:

    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” — Maimonides

    My $1000 have already funded $2500 worth of loans, and it keeps going.

  • Profit Greenly December 30, 2019, 4:04 am

    Hey MMM,

    Thanks for all the great posts. If you’re gonna call it a solar farm though you need to be adding more than $5k worth of panels (that’s more of a solar garden). With your low energy usage and gas heat you probably don’t need more than this for your own use though. Two options on that. First, you could eliminate your gas usage and increase your electricity use by replacing your furnace with a heat pump. Seriously, how have you gone so many years without a heat pump post? They’re engineering marvels that are the closest things to “free energy harvesters” that exist. What other device can use 1 Watt of electricity to get 4 Watts of heat? Here’s the full data from my first year with a HP, and this is without realizing that I could disable the resistance heating elements to save even more energy.


    Now I know a heat pump costs more up front than a gas furnace, but I bet with your DIY skills you could knock the price down a bunch. Also, don’t forget to factor the flat monthly fee your gas service charges you into the price per therm (or ccf or whatever they bill you based on). If you can shut off gas entirely you’ll save this fee and improve your indoor air quality (heat pump hot water heaters and induction ranges can get you there if you need them). Heck, you could DIY some sort of electric solar hot water heater combo that would probably work great in CO.

    The other option is to build a true solar farm that powers more than just your own house. This is certainly hard to do, but you have to resources to make it happen. Heck you could just sign up a bunch of neighbors to get on board and make the MMM solar Co-op, running fiber optics between the houses to share internet as well.

    Okay I’m done planning out your 2020’s for you. I’m sure you can think of some even better things to do. But remember the amount of CO2 we can release into the atmosphere without warming the planet over 1.5 C is dwindling quickly. We need a Mustachian level of action to get us back on track to a sustainable future.

  • Magnus December 30, 2019, 4:55 am

    I love the “this too shall pass” philosophy. I actually have it inscribed inside my wedding ring and is often taken entirely the wrong way, thankfully not by my wife though! It is the thought that there will come a point where we will die and so we should squeeze as much happiness out of this life as we can while we’re here. We also appreciate every good day, even when kids and life and each other are wrecking our heads! This too shall pass is a great one for emotional states and not getting too attached to them. Here in Ireland we would say “tá fearghal orm” and “tá athas orm” which translates as I have anger on me or I have happiness on me. I like the idea of the emotion being on me rather than identifying my whole self eg “I am angry”. This allows us to move more quickly through an unhelpful emotional state and recognising the transient state of a helpful one and to maximise it while it is on us. I’m so grateful to MMM, been reading your blog voraciously for a year now and made some huge changes and heading to FIRE in about 12 years but more importantly will hopefully inspire my kids to achieve it much younger and quicker than me!

  • pdean December 30, 2019, 5:50 am

    Thanks for the post!
    Re Givewell — I was curious that none of their approved, or even eligible, charities (at least that I found) are tackling climate change. Perhaps because of a lack of metrics? Or difficulty in proving ROI?

    Not trying to troll — I’m just working on my own EOY donations and that’s where my heart (and wallet) is these days.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 30, 2019, 9:49 am

      Yes, I asked GiveWell’s director exactly the same thing. Her response was pretty deep:

      “We are thinking about where environmental and climate change charities could fit into our criteria in the future; for example, we mention reducing carbon emissions in our February blog post on how our research is evolving to look at new areas that might impact the lives of people in poor countries. We have also done some preliminary research into air pollution as part of our investigation into policy-oriented philanthropy (see these conversation notes). However, it is unlikely we will have an environmental charity recommendation in the near future (the next few years), as our thinking on these topics is quite preliminary, and we’re not sure that climate change and environmental causes are as promising by our criteria as others we’re prioritizing.

      Right now, we think the most compelling way to approach the question of where to give in climate change and/or the environment is the Open Philanthropy Project’s framing of importance, neglectedness, and tractability. The Open Philanthropy Project reviewed climate change as a potential cause area and found that it neither seemed neglected nor tractable.”

      • pdean December 30, 2019, 10:32 am

        Thanks so much for the reply!

      • Brad Vosburg December 31, 2019, 8:03 am

        Improving lives (health, education, stability)of the impoverished makes them more stable humans and more likely to have less children. Good for the environment.

        • Pdean December 31, 2019, 5:44 pm

          Good point.

      • Gr8bkset January 5, 2020, 3:30 pm

        I asked a similar question to Givewell a couple years ago and they didn’t have an environmental organization that they could recommend.

        May I suggest you look at trees.org? They help those who live on less than $2/day to restore degraded land in the Sahel region of Africa and turn it into forest gardens, providing these people with livelihood and food so they don’t have to emigrate. For each dollar, they plant 10 trees.

        • John Norris January 10, 2020, 11:59 am

          I’d like to echo trees.org and the 10 cents cost per tree planted, not one dollar like others.

    • Scientist January 19, 2020, 6:43 am

      I have been involved in GiveWell since its inception, and they unfortunately continue dodge the scientific and moral complexity of climate change. It continues to sadden me. Speaking like a Bayesian, wide credible intervals are not a convincing excuse for inaction when the modes are so terrifying. My relatives tend to donate to more traditional public health causes while I throw tens of thousands at climate change lobbying, women’s rights (population control), and rational conservation (ironically, I’m the one who actually works in public health).

      • Kyle C January 27, 2020, 11:30 am

        But the reality is, you aren’t actually fixing climate change. which continues apace, whereas the charities that Givewell favors do actually improve people’s lives today, right now, on this planet. That’s the nature of the tradeoff. You can certainly disagree, but it’s unfair to tar GW with “inaction” — they are balancing actions that they know will lead to a certain result (tractability) against actions that have nothing like that certainty attached (or, in the case of “lobbying” certain elected governments, is almost certainly an out and out waste of the money).

  • Mama Minou December 30, 2019, 8:06 am

    Hi MMM,

    Thanks for a decade of writing! I’ve been reading your blog for almost that long, and have come a long way financially in that time. In fact, I emailed you in 2011, when I was a newly minted RN working at Planned Parenthood (which provides primarily high quality, affordable, patient-centered contraceptive and sexual health care), and you were not quite as busy or well known as today. I was buoyed by your encouraging response and inspired to continue with my frugal, bike-riding ways. Today my family is 2/3 of the way to our savings goals. In the meantime, my husband was able to build his own business and we helped one son through college and paid off our house. My adult children still roll their eyes (affectionately) when I talk about not firing their little dollar employees. And, I hope that realizing how wealthy we already are helps curb the culture of more and more consumption.

    Thanks again, and best wishes to you and all your readers for this new decade! I always look forward to seeing a new post.

  • Tony December 30, 2019, 8:41 am

    Congrats on quite the decade! Love that you donated to your son’s orchestra program. I remember reading about your thoughts on musical training/lessons in years past. Do you feel slightly different about it now that you have a son playing in symphony orchestra?

  • Joe December 30, 2019, 8:53 am

    Question for your Mustachians out there.

    I am one of the ones that was lured into buying a Telsa model 3 through my own purchase justification machine. Now I am looking at potentially selling it for cash. I would like to know what your opinions are on the matter.

    1. I bring in around $114,000/yr
    2. I have a $20,000 student loan at 3.5% interest. I have delayed paying this off because I figured I could earn a substantially higher return in the market and also can write the interest off. With the current year done and an uncertain outlook next year, I am less keen to keep up this strategy now.
    3. Telsa is paid off (just paid it off with a lump sum) and I have around $16,000 in cash reserves.
    4. I have another vehicle (2012 focus). I live in the country where I have to drive significantly for work. Wife is looking for employment right now, so we will need two vehicles (eventually) once she finds something. I wish we lived in a city where we could bike, but unfortunately this isn’t a reality and probably wont be.

    Would it make sense at this point to sell the Tesla, use it to pay off the student loans, and buy another used vehicle when the wife finds employment? I’m not sure due to the depreciation of the Telsa for the year I have owned it (bought at $55k, unsure of what I could sell for now) in addition to the electricity vs gas (since gas would be more expensive).

    The one thing I am unsure of is property tax, which I am sure will be quite a bullet to bite.

    No other debt. Net positive cash flow around $42,400/yr after tax in the current situation.

    • Ron Cameron January 6, 2020, 4:33 am

      It will almost always make financial sense to sell a $30k+ car and pay off debt. Yes, you took the depreciation hit. That’s already done though. And yes, the market historically returns more than the 3.5% you’re paying on your loan, but I’d suggest evaluating the decision from a behavioral perspective.

      If you pay off all the debt and refuse to take it on in the future, you’ll think about purchases differently. Buying a $55k Tesla feels much different when you have to pay cash for it! Suddenly that crusty old 2012 Focus, or evven a “new” $15k 2015 Nissan Leaf looks pretty sweet. And living debt-free can be exhilarating! Debt=slavery. You HAVE to work to pay off that student debt or car. Take control, do the work and make the money under your own conditions, and then use that cash to pay. I think you’ll find the behavioral benefits will far outweigh the any financial drawbacks to it!

    • eyesonthehorizon January 7, 2020, 11:53 pm

      It looks like resale values on a 2019 Model 3 are decent despite depreciation (sunk cost), so the questions I’d ask are more about your spending and your values. Since you say you want to nix the debt, could you reduce your lifestyle footprint, permanently or temporarily, to knock out the student loans in less than the six months your net cash flow suggests it would otherwise take? That both builds good habits, revving up your long-term cash flow while shrinking your income dependency, and cuts out losses to interest. The math, of course, works out to sell the Tesla, which is a luxury nobody on earth needs, for a cheaper vehicle, but we aren’t creatures only of math; in the long run, it’s your recurring habits that make or break you and that you need to inspect most closely. I am not sure you’d ask about selling if you didn’t already question what it brings to your life, but either way, do consider that fully: does it bring you so much joy that you’d be willing to significantly alter other areas of your spending to keep it? In the long run, lifestyle change/ downward spending shift may make a bigger difference than an extra $30k from a sale (although combining both obviously would be bigger still.)

      (And if you did get another vehicle, what would stop you getting a less-spendy electric? And could your wife work remotely to cut commute needs?)

      • Alfredo April 26, 2020, 2:14 pm

        2020s began roaring, no duobt!


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