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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.

  • DJ December 30, 2019, 8:57 am

    +1 on the footnote suggestion to watch the Inside Bill’s Brain documentary. The segment on nuclear energy was very educational as was the one about solving sanitation issues in other countries. It was absolutely fascinating to see what some really smart people can (or could) do with incentive funding and a supportive government. Human beings have so much work to do to change our trajectory.

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  • Scott Pepper December 30, 2019, 9:16 am

    Thank you, MMM, for helping to make this a better decade for me too. I found your blog in 2013, and though it was a couple years after I retired (at 53 with a little more than 600k in investments), I can’t tell you how much your writing helped to adjust my thinking and form new ways of thinking about the good life, and mainly, the validation (and relief) to know that those who thought I was nuts were actually wrong. Happy and prosperous 2020’s!

    Reply
  • Dilon December 30, 2019, 9:47 am

    Thanks for your way of life and putting it out there . I am a doctor married to a doctor. My wife’s family is big on buying the biggest house imaginable and the fanciest car they can buy on credit . Taking your advice I was able to get my housing cost in 2019 to around 5% of my income and transport cost to under 3% . Would never be able do it without your website. Thanks and wishing you a fabulous 2020 from Australia.

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  • Peter S December 30, 2019, 10:21 am

    Hi MrMM, your teaching has touched our family in Sweden. Since four years 50% goes to our retirement savings and we are about halfway on that part of life. My latest revelation is on the power of compounding. +15 years makes an impact on value. Start early is important, start now!

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  • Josh December 30, 2019, 11:10 am

    Thanks for all you’ve done this decade! I found your site maybe 3 years ago and have made some drastic changes in my spending and saving habits. I have more work to do but reading your advice got me on the right track.

    Here’s something funny I saw today – a friend posted a Facebook meme that used your Uber photo… but it wasn’t about money or you, just some Facebook joke! At first I thought my friend was turning over a new leaf with MMM, no such luck; haha. Photo linked below if you’re interested.

    https://imgur.com/WlaqnEz

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    • Mr. Money Mustache December 31, 2019, 2:47 pm

      Hahaha, solid joke and I approve the use of my image to illustrate it :-)

      Reply
  • BerndKaiser December 30, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Dear MMM,
    An interview with one of your followers in Germany led me to your blog and “The Shockingly Simple Math”. I had to do the calculations myself several times before I actually believed it. That was in March 2018. I now have a SR of ~60% and adopted Essentialism as a core value in my life.
    My job comes with a lot of autonomy and allows me to work on exciting projects with some of the most amazing social innovators in the world. I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling way to spend my time. Instead of retiring early, my plan is to use FI to support social ventures and to be more involved in my own initiatives. Over three decades, even my social sector salary will turn into a few million euros. Enough to make a small difference.
    Thank you for making me aware of this option, for helping me develop some badassity to get my SR to where it is today, and for promoting philanthropy and Effective Altruism among your readers! Looking forward to whatever you’ll do in the decade to come.

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  • Dirt Cheap December 30, 2019, 3:38 pm

    Good articles. I have been chastised by co-workers, friends, relatives and even my own mother for not buying into the consumerism thing. Your writings have allowed me to feel good about being cheap.. In 2020, the numbers show using the 4 percent rule that I can set myself free. I will no longer be a wage slave. Thanks for providing some clarity in this regard.

    Also – Extremely good job in supporting all of those charities. You set an example for the rest of us in showing we can make the world a better place.

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  • Ms Blaise December 30, 2019, 4:25 pm

    I loved the positivity of the post MMM, especially in the midst of the end of year round up on the news.

    Thanks for so many posts focused on what we can do, and how we are the architects of our days. It’s very bracing, like having a stern spinster aunt who calls a spade a spade.

    cheers.

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  • Rhodesian December 30, 2019, 5:24 pm

    A decade ago I was a 13 year old who had all the stereotypical 13 year old worries you might expect.

    A decade later I’ve graduated college debt free a year ago at 22, having discovered your blog at age 17 and worked 30+ hours a week while going to school full-time. I think most encouraging was that I’ve had from an outside perspective a typical American college experience (Fraternity, parties, lots of socializing, long hours studying/working) minus the debt and vague sense of entrapment that has accompanied some of my friends as they’ve graduated and gotten jobs in the “real” world. This is one of those pursuits that really has no practical drawbacks.

    Perhaps, even more encouraging is that many of my friends have openly accepted and begun their own financial independence journey as I’ve explained this pursuit as the pursuit of freedom rather than money. I’m excited that in another 10 years many of us will be in a position to begin giving back to our own community hopefully in the same way.

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  • Fru-gal December 30, 2019, 6:21 pm

    Dear MMM,

    My husband is taking the ferry back from his job as a construction worker. From the ferry, he’ll bike home. My kids love their bikes and ask me when we can take the train next. I use car-sharing services when I need to rent a car or truck, but mostly bike, walk, run or take trains/buses everywhere. Our investments are in runaway mode. We’ve gotten to a happy balance with our house where we spend just the right amount on maintenance but no longer feel the need to “keep up” with splashy renovations. I got a better job and am saving most of my income. Debt is gone. This year we’re focusing on reducing our single-use plastic waste. Thank you MMM and ERE for EVERYTHING and happy new year! HEALTH (including planetary health) IS WEALTH.

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  • Cathleen Cooks Stuff December 30, 2019, 7:16 pm

    Even not having reached FIRE, the pursuit of FI has enabled some giving from our family- much more local, though- a chunk of change to help a friend’s toddler get ear tubes to he can hear properly and develop his speech (not covered by their health insurance), and another chunk of change to help a friend pay for chemo- she’s in a small law firm with no health coverage at all so it’s all out of pocket. I, of course, got berated for not “helping charities”- but though I have excess funds, I choose to spend them where its closest to my heart. Perhaps that’s selfish of me, but it’s my damn money- and if it’s to help a friend’s kid hear, and another friend live—then I gladly give up weekly diners out.

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    • Katie Camel January 2, 2020, 11:13 am

      Your generosity is astounding. You have an incredibly kind heart to help those around you in need. Charities are sometimes the least effective places to donate to, unless you’re looking primarily from a tax perspective. I give to charities but selectively. I often choose to help those around me too. Thank you for helping them!

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    • Scientist January 19, 2020, 6:56 am

      in ethics, the situation you’re talking about (valuing the well-being of some people much more than others) is called “partiality.” it’s obviously ubiquitous, but we create social welfare programs partly to overcome it. I think it’s far and away our biggest hurdle as a species.

      Reply
  • Steve Phillips December 30, 2019, 7:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing! You have been a great example in many areas of life, being transparent with your donations is a great add! I believe that giving to causes you believe in makes the world a much better place.

    Thank you again.

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  • Chris December 30, 2019, 8:26 pm

    Cheers to a decade (almost:) of great posts and life advice MMM! I was lucky enough to stumble across your blog in early 2011, when you were just beginning and it resonated with me immediately. FIREd in Dec of 18 and have enjoyed the last year as a free man! Getting ready to go back to work, part-time, at a job I’m excited about but don’t need to pay the bills. Here’s to another great decade!

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    • Dharma Bum December 31, 2019, 8:12 am

      I’ve been FIREd for 2 years now, and have been amazed at how fast the time has flown by. I had a crazy year involving personal family situations, including one parental death, and two children’s weddings, so that in itself consumed a ton of time and attention. I also did a ton of travelling, hiking, skiing, and house renovations, and, well, here I am!
      I am planning to get a part time gig this spring, after my next set of travelling is done, in May.
      Any tips on how to go about finding that job you don’t actually need?
      Happy New Year

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      • Chris December 31, 2019, 10:39 am

        Congrats DB! What a life, right? After pressing the pause button on working for the last year, it’s amazing how much clearer I can see the standard existential stress of daily working life.

        I recommend looking for a job you want to do regardless of what it pays, and let the money be a bonus. I turned down a higher paying follow on career to work in the minor leagues of aviation and so far feel really good about it. In my mind, quality of life trumps maxing pay every time. Best wishes!

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      • Kyle December 31, 2019, 2:11 pm

        Hi Dharma, might I suggest pursing what you love, possibly in a more financially lucrative kind of way? I followed a path similar to MMM’s (wasn’t my intention). I left the Engineering world in 2017 and now run a little side business doing home renovations. I gained all my experience renovating our own fixer upper over several years. It’s very informal. I take jobs when I feel like it, work for myself, and absolutely love what I do. This year I went 6 months between jobs to travel and hike a bit. Now I am in the middle of 2 bath renovations. Good luck with whatever you decide.

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      • Rick H January 2, 2020, 7:18 pm

        Hey DB,
        Agree fully with Chris and Kyle. Although not totally FIRE’d, I ended up quitting a high pressure job for the sake of my health and happiness (or lack thereof). I am now an ‘odd jobs’ and landscape guy, doing a whole manner of minor home maintenance and repair jobs contractors can’t be bothered with. I love it – being productive for a a number of hours, making someone else extremely happy, and walking out a few dollars richer for it. I’ve found painting in particular to be one area with lots of potential.

        Reply
  • Troy December 30, 2019, 10:27 pm

    Happy for your success MMM, awesome that your life has gotten better in so many ways. I also want to thank you for the effect on my life. I had always been good with money but never really saved/invested much prior to a few years ago, but after reading your blog and /r/financialindependence my net worth has grown significantly. The best part about having more money is that you really are able to realize what is and isn’t important, and helps with the “this too shall pass” mentality that being stoic can achieve.

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  • K December 31, 2019, 12:19 am

    Dear MMM,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It really inspired many people including me.
    I live in Asia. I’m thinking of taking the path of early retirement next year, after working for almost 2 decades and have saved enough for full retirement (turning 45 next year). Would really want to spend the next decades with more meaningful time and experiences with my family. Again, thank you and happy new decade to you and family!

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  • Claire73 December 31, 2019, 1:01 am

    A month ago I quit my job and moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’ve been reading your blog for years and it has been a very helpful tool in keeping my eyes focused on the prize. We had planned to make the move to Cambodia in 2020 but halfway through this year, we thought hell, why not do it sooner? Here we are having a great time, spreading our money where it can help local people, and looking for opportunities to add value to our own lives and to the community. Thanks, MMM!

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  • Frugal Bazooka December 31, 2019, 1:23 am

    I’ve had a few life changing/financial mentors over the years to thank for my good fortune and financial freedom. I am no financial wizard (i was still broke at 34 years old) – my success is due mostly to my ability to follow the path smarter people have forged before me. In that spirit I would be remiss not to recognize the positive impact MMM’s blog has had on my financial life. The early/middle blog posts esp created motivation, knowledge and pathways that few other similar blogs could muster. I strongly recommend new readers plow thru as many of those posts as possible. If I had to point to one overriding and influential aspect of MMM that sets him apart from all others it’s his indefatigably positive outlook on life. He recalibrates every moving part in life to find the silver lining – that kind of positive thinking jumped off the page (screen) right away. For him a flat tire is health giving exercise, high taxes are helping support the safety net and a market crash is a buying opportunity. This is the kind of positive mindset u will NEVER hear in our clickbaited media. It’s also the kind of positive thinking that is so desperately needed by many people trying to navigate their finances. So MMM, salud! Cheers! And Happiest of New Year’s – thanks for making one more person just a bit more free!

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  • Dharma Bum December 31, 2019, 8:04 am

    Inspiring year end post. Including the links to previous posts you reference in the context of your message is a great idea. I clicked on them all, and saw that I have actually read them all in the past. It’s been a great ride, and I’m looking forward to many more years!
    I am very surprised at how much money you have been able to generate through this blog, to the extent that you can afford to donate as much as you do. That is impressive and mind boggling. I am so technologically stupid that I have no idea how the blog generates the money.
    If you feel comfortable with it, would you mind explaining how that mechanism works?
    I find it fascinating.
    Congratulations on your remarkable success and for realizing your dreams through innovation, ingenuity, and hard work.
    Thanks again for all you do.
    Best wishes to you and your son in the New Year.
    Dharma Bum

    Reply
  • Nick December 31, 2019, 8:19 am

    As someone who is new to the FIRE movement, 2019 is ending on a very high note for me. The advice and strategies discussed here have put me on the fast track to not just Financial Independence, but a more fulfilling life overall. My New Year’s Resolution is simply to keep this momentum going. If I stay the course, I am confident that I will be able to reach FI by 2030!

    Thank you MMM!!!

    Reply
  • Ginzel December 31, 2019, 1:07 pm

    MMM,

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog for the last couple of years. Thank you for being a continued source of inspiration. Last Friday I became mortgage free after just 7yrs and 4 months. A colleague gave me some wonderful advice when I was looking to purchase my first home that I’d like to pass on. He told me to cap my purchase budget at 2 times my annual income. This has given me a huge advantage on my journey to FIRE and while it was a little disappointing at the time to “settle” for a smaller cheaper home then my mortgage rep told me I could afford it has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
    Best wishes for the New Year!

    Reply
  • April Atwood December 31, 2019, 2:35 pm

    I love MMM! My biggest struggle in learning to be more self-sufficient when it comes to building and repairs is finding building and repairs people who will work with women! I think a lot of the advice here is great but it assumes access to a club that isn’t easy for women to crack. I’d love to see some of your thoughts on how women can get more into carpentry or similar pursuits. I’m thinking I may just have to hire someone to make my bookshelves with the caveat that they let me know shadow…

    Reply
    • pandora January 5, 2020, 8:40 pm

      April,

      The basic skills are quite easy to learn. I find tool ownership to be the biggest obstacle (as they can be expensive). But you might be able to borrow those. If you have ever sewn from a pattern it is just like that. You can even make a template out of cardboard first, then trace the pieces on the wood, and cut them. You have to remember to account for the size of the blade (you will lose that wood, so you can expect to lose about an 1/8 inch from a chop saw blade). If you really look at how things are put together there is a surprising simplicity to most things (that haven’t been artisan made). Also hardware provides a certain amount of wiggle room for small errors and lack of skill. A piece that is put together with more complicated joints takes more skill, but I’ve done it and if I can do it you can too (though you don’t need how to do any of that to make a bookshelf.

      Here is a “low skill” way to make a bookcase:
      You will need pine boards, plywood, a drill, a drill driver, screws (2 sizes), brad nails (or staple gun) and L brackets to make this.
      Buy 4 pieces of 1×8 or 1×10 pine board (Lowes or Home Depot will cut them for you to the size you need [2 at same length will be the height and other 2 at same length will be width]). Buy ¼” plywood for the back at whatever size you need as well as buying the shelf boards after you put the outside of the bookshelf together in case your sizes are off. So again after you make the outside, you will measure the back for the backer board and the measurements for the shelves and have Lowes cut these pieces for you then install them.

      The first thing you will do is to put together the outside of the bookshelf (rectangle) using butt joints (this is wood literally sitting on top of wood, so picture one piece of wood horizontal and the other vertical piece “butting” up against each other). Usually you would use clamps to hold it together while drilling, but you could strategically use the wall and another person to hold it as you drill. You always want to pre-drill and countersink for the screws (buy a drill driver about 7/64th size always smaller than the screws you will use). For the outside you will use longer screws (1.5 inch screws for 3/4 inch wood) to join the pieces together. Once the entire outside is put together you can put in the L brackets. Install the L brackets with a drill, driver, and short screws (watch the length of your screws that you don’t go entirely through your wood). Put on your backer board using brad nails or even a staple gun. Finish how you wish and done. Even if it cost a little more to go with hardware, sometimes getting a small success like this can inspire us to continue learning.

      Alternatively, your local high schools Vocational Technical schools might offer wood classes for adults. Or check the local colleges, sometimes you can volunteer and have access to the shop. Ask around, you might be surprised at who is willing to help. But the sexism thing is for real. Men are more likely to help online if you pretend to be a guy. Honestly, if you’ve never pretended to be a guy online you are missing out. It’s quite a different world (and maybe even a little infuriating). But you gotta do what you gotta do-lol. Good luck.

      Reply
  • Married to a Swabian January 1, 2020, 12:01 pm

    Just a few Mustachian thoughts from earlier this morning:

    In our modest home here in Michigan, we have recently acquired some things that are new…well, they’re actually between 50 and 80 years old, but they’re new to us: clocks. Specifically, one German and one American made mantle clock, as well as a cuckoo clock from my grandparents.

    With much help from my brother-in-law, all are now working great and chiming out each passing hour. So last night, the cuckoo’s 12 chirps, not some ball in NY, determined when our family would embrace and ring in 2020. ;)

    As I watch the sunrise on the new decade, the ticking, chiming and chirping serve as a reminder that TIME is truly the most precious gift that any of us has. It is a luxury to be savored and spent wisely. It is more valuable than any fancy house, car or trinket.

    Thoreau’s quote, ”A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” rings truer for me with each passing year.

    With this in mind, I look forward to the dawning of the 2020’s!

    Reply
  • Joe B January 2, 2020, 7:50 am

    Hi Pete,

    Like many others I just wanted to send a quick note to say Happy New Year and thank you. Your blog has been a great motivator for me and has affected my family in a very positive way financially. We bought our first house in Mt. Rainier, Md. (similar vibe to Longmont) as a fixer upper for $150k. With the help of relatives, I learned a lot of DIY skills which I hope to extend to my own boys. We just paid off this house this last Aug. 2019 and it now has a worth of about $375k (hot market around here being the closest city to Washington D.C. and with Amazon moving in nearby Arlington Va.) No other debt and I’m now navigating being disciplined replenishing the savings account and adding more to my retirement investment accounts. It’s a good feeling having a paid off house at age 39 (my wife is 36) and three kiddos age 11, 9, and 2. My wife works part time about 3 miles away and uses our used Nissan Leaf we got for $8200 a couple years ago (I even charge it for free thanks to the 12 EV chargers installed at the City of Hyattsville where I work). I either take my scooter or bike to work which is about 1.5 miles away. I feel like we’ve got a pretty good grasp on living within our means and I thank you for the motivation and helping to alter the typical mindset. All the best in 2020!

    Reply
  • Arno January 2, 2020, 8:11 am

    Let me take this as a chance to say thanks, Pete (just like so many others). Thanks for the edutainment you are providing, and Thanks for the well-required kick in the behind every now and then.

    A decade ago I was launching into my diploma thesis (Master’s thesis is probably the US equivalent) as an Engineer. Graduated debt-free in 2011 thanks to a reasonably financed public education system here in Germany and very generous parents supporting my life, as well as with a little nest egg inherited from grandparents. Got a job that allows me to bring out my inner nerd (which is probably why I feel so at home here on this blog – I can relate to these “add 10% here and you will save 5% per annum in the long run”-style discussions) and had great fun. Bought an apartment for cash five years ago and fixed it up, roughly shaving 50% off my already-low costs of living.

    Soon afterwards found myself with quite a bit of money just left over, and in the process of researching what to do with it stumbled over this blog. Which gave a sense to me saving and investing money and also keeps me on track (reasonably – I guess we all stray from time to time, am I right?).

    Lo and behold, 2019 marked the first year I could have lived off my capital gains (which has about as much to do with exceptional market returns as it has to do with my savings). If things don’t go absolutely haywire, I can retire comfortably in another 10 years. If the market continues like 2019, it’ll be more like three years.

    Arno

    Reply
  • Katie Camel January 2, 2020, 11:06 am

    ” Change Your Habits, Change your Life” To me, this is the basic premise of the FIRE movement. As long as you’re willing to change your habits to reduce your consumption (if you’re prone to overconsuming), you can make substantial progress in reaching financial freedom earlier in life.

    Another great post, MMM! Thanks for being so generous with your wisdom and donations! Happy New Year!

    P.S. Looking forward to checking out those book recommendations.

    Reply
  • Ryan Schlomer January 3, 2020, 7:10 am

    Change Your Habits, Change your Life

    Unfortunately, habit are hard to break, and people don’t even want to give some of the bad ones up. It doesn’t matter if they are financially related habits or ones like my [young] kids slapping other’s butts. Hopefully people learn that once they get rid of their bad money habits or the ones that cause pain and suffering to others and for good habits, everyone can win in the end.

    There are many adoption agencies out there for us pro-lifers to donate money to. Instead of complaining about MMM’s donations, let’s put our money where our months are. If adoption isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other agencies out there to support.

    Reply
  • Skillful Wealth January 3, 2020, 4:31 pm

    Two things I like about this post. The first is the idea of creating habits to increase your happiness. As you said there will always be ups and downs, but if you can increase the likelihood of your ups, then you are sure to be happier for it. Especially if you do it in an efficient way such as your riding your bike to work mantra. Because of you I now ride my bike as much as I can around town to do errands. I always get strange looks when I tell the cashier at the grocery store that I rode my bike, but I love it. I even inspired a friend recently to buy a bike when she saw my wife and I riding around town.
    The second is your takeaways from the book “Die with Zero.” Until the past 6-12 months I had been hyper focused on retirement, with the wish that a big pot of happiness was at the end of the retirement rainbow. I have now realized that retirement will not solve some of the things that I had hoped it would. Instead of waiting to do cool stuff, I do them now. Yes, I am still saving and investing to reach my goals but am also focusing on my wellbeing just as much. Thank you MMM for your post as always and your charitable giving (both financially and your insights).

    Reply
  • Rie January 5, 2020, 4:10 pm

    I’ve been very inspired by this blog! Turning 50 this year and have a 14 y.o. and 10 y.o. I’m at the point where late this year, the numbers will “work” as long as we move to a slightly smaller house in a somewhat less expensive area. We are currently scoping nearby options as my husband a local small business with a small income that he’ll keep working at. (Bikability is one of our criteria.) The two things holding me back are 1) uncertainty around health insurance as I’m a breast cancer survivor so a change in pre-existing condition coverage could blow the numbers out of the water or be disastrous for me due to lack of coverage and 2) general fear that you always needs as much cushion as you can get. Ironically I think quitting my somewhat stressful job would make a relapse less likely but could leave me in a bad position if I do relapse. Trying to work up the courage to make the leap later this year!

    Reply
    • John Norris January 15, 2020, 1:31 pm

      Rie, so sad you don’t have “socialised medicine” like we have here in the UK. And like most (all?) of Europe…

      Reply
      • Rie January 20, 2020, 9:20 am

        Yes, it is sad. And stressful.

        Reply
  • Lincotetracus January 6, 2020, 9:47 am

    Hi everyone !
    I’ve been reading for a while, and am surprised by something : when I read the comment section, the general opinion is almost always that a life without debt is something very rare these days, and that it is something most people don’t ever experience in there life. I’m living in France, and from my perspective, living always in debt seems like a mostly American thing. So, I wonder : is the vast majority of the people reading this blog American, or is my view of debt biased ? Is there any statistic on the country of people reading this blog ?
    (Don’t hesitate to tell me if anything I wrote is unclear, I’m used to read English but not write it.)

    Reply
    • MKE January 12, 2020, 9:23 am

      Your English is good. Most of the readers, though not all, are probably American. Most Americans carry heavy loads of debt and do not pay cash for large unnecessary purchases (luxurious cars, enormous houses, dream vacations). Borrowing is easy and encouraged by advertising.

      Reply
    • Married to a Swabian January 13, 2020, 6:25 am

      Hi Linco, yes, it’s true – most Americans “Spend money they don’t have on shit they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like!”. This is known as “The American Dream”. A phrase that was coined back in 1931. It’s meaning has since been perverted into a kind of consumerist propaganda ideal to mean that ANYONE can live like the suburban families the see on TV!. This typically includes buying a big house, a fancy car, a university education and lots of “toys”, even if those things don’t make sense financially. The industries that profit from this are all too willing to continue the promotion and propaganda. The idea that pursuing this ideal is somehow patriotic has also been reinforced by US politicians, starting with the office of president, for many decades. We tell our citizens frequently that the US economy is 70% driven by consumer spending! All of my (American) grandparents, in contrast, lived through the Great Depression and they were frugal and paid cash for everything. They are MY role models!

      Reply
  • EAJ January 6, 2020, 10:55 am

    I love the part MMM wrote about “Change Your Habits, Change your Life.” One daily habit I would add is getting a good night of sleep. I can tell I am a lot more anxious on days when I haven’t slept enough. After a night of good sleep, my mindset is so much more positive.

    Going on long walks with my dog is my other favorite habit that I try to do daily (I walk him every day but it is not always as long as I would like). This gets me outside, gets my dog and I exercise, and I feel like an explorer when I discover a new trail or a new favorite street. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way but I get a lot of joy out of discovering new places on foot, especially if when I can walk to them from my house. My husband and I live in a small city and we are lucky to be walking distance to a couple of long trails in the woods and a lot of different neighborhoods in the city.

    I have been trying to change daily habits after hearing this idea on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert. He is in AA and is a sponsor to other addicts and he promotes this idea of your daily habits increasing your self-esteem and happiness. It is a strategy for staying sober, but so much of AA’s teachings can be helpful for those who are not in recovery.

    Reply
  • Andreas January 7, 2020, 6:15 am

    Thank you very much. It was when I found your blog things started to change. Read it from start to finish.
    Kinda miss those days, the exitment of FIRE opening up.

    Again, many thanks! :)

    Reply
  • Sean January 7, 2020, 11:48 pm

    I’ve been following you for a few years and I realize that while I was pulled in by the financial wizardy, I continue to come back because of the emotional depth you imbue into your writing. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

    Reply
  • M January 8, 2020, 2:13 am

    I discovered this site in 2015 shortly after I had started working in New York City and I’m happy to say this fall, one day before my 28th birthday, my portfolio hit my FI number. This blog has literally changed the course of my life. While I haven’t retired yet, it’s allowed me to ease some of my parents financial obligations and take much bigger risks at work knowing that even if I lost my job tomorrow, nothing else has to change.

    Thank you so much for setting me free.

    Reply
  • Nate January 8, 2020, 8:14 am

    Let the 20’s begin!

    I discovered Mr. Money Moustache a couple of years ago and have read several dozen articles which always leave me feeling optimistic about the future and more informed to make good decisions.

    I am an 18 year old man living in northern Ontario and I have not yet started full time work or even the post-secondary education I will need to complete first (I have my high school diploma but returned for a “Victory Lap”) so I certainly don’t expect to retire this decade, but perhaps the one after.

    Thank you MMM for helping to educate me on financial matters, many of which seem like they should be common sense, but are nowhere else have I found so clearly articulated.

    I am at somewhat of a crossroads regarding my future and I thought I might poll for advice:
    I am considering taking a 4 year degree in geography or history at a local university and have the marks to do so (perhaps leading into a 2 year masters in urban planning at Queens) but am unenthusiastic about the prospect of waiting that long to join the workforce. I have the funds available to do so from family so this would not put me into debt.
    A path that strongly appeals to me is joining the Canadian armed forces through the Royal military college in Kingston, Ontario. I like the order and discipline of the military but wonder if I might end up regretting the lack of personal control over my life in time. This would be a 12 year commitment (4 years of school and 8 years after of guaranteed (/mandatory) employment in the military), but I would be payed the whole way through.
    My third option is to go into the trades by working with a cousin who runs a home renovations business in Ottawa. I like hands on work and find it the most emotionally satisfying but in that field I would be more vulnerable because when you are self employed there is no safety net and if I couldn’t work I would be out of luck.

    Obviously there are other relevant details in my life that I’m not going to post publicly on the internet but considering the above what would you do in my place?

    Reply
  • Ted Bendixson January 8, 2020, 8:28 pm

    I did the “do the kinds of things you can do with a young body while you still have a young body” thing, both in my twenties and continuing into my thirties. I am 36 now.

    I spent most of my 20s living in mountain towns and snowboarding every day. For a few years, I worked from home as a freelance writer and made barely enough to get by. Of course, I only worked three hours a day and hit the slopes really hard.

    I got very good at snowboarding one year, trying totally off the wall things like double backflips on the biggest jump you could hit at Breckenridge. I never went pro or anything, but I definitely got a certain feeling of confidence and risk tolerance from the crazy ordeal.

    But here’s the sort of nutty thing. It’s really hard to give up that always active life. If you aren’t injured, you’re still going to want to hit the slopes, even as you age out of your prime years.

    I have a real job now, make seven times what I made during my snowboard bum days, and I still go snowboarding five days a week when the season is at its peak. I just can’t quit jumping. I fucking love it.

    Now I’m pretty sure I’ll be like Tony Hawk or something, still doing 720s on terrain park jumps when I’m fifty, trying to look cool for my nephews.

    All of this while continuing to amass a giant ball of investments that will enable me to one day stop taking the one or two meetings that get in the way of spending the entire day perfecting my switch backside 540s.

    So to those who don’t want to rush into the work world, know that you don’t have to. You can bum around for a bit and enjoy being a dumb twenty something. You can even figure out ways to never have to give up the lifestyle you enjoy, if that’s what you really want.

    Sure, it will delay your retirement a little. But it was in the dirtiest most alcohol drenched days of ski bumming that I truly learned how to be frugal.

    Reply
  • Marlowe January 15, 2020, 5:05 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Thank you for you many posts! Always a joy to read.

    Also, may I commend you on your thoughtfully administered generosity! No doubt that your giving has made a difference in the lives of many people – including this writer – who has now been inspired to ‘do more’. Take care, Marlowe, Toronto CA

    Reply
  • Brent January 16, 2020, 9:13 am

    Just wanted to say a Huge Thank You, Pete! The concepts you’ve written about over the years have set my family on a path to FI and early retirement (4 years to go). Something I never dreamed possible in my youth. I’m not preachy, but when the subject comes up or other people ask, I always simply tell them to read your blog. If I can do it, they can do it. What a wonderful message and service to others that you have put out into the world. Best wishes for the next decade.

    Reply
  • BC Kowalski January 16, 2020, 12:03 pm

    I find it hard not to look back at my own decade and not see it as an amazing transformation. Ten years ago I started my first full-time job since graduating college as a returning adult at age 30, found FIRE, bought a house, started another blog, started a podcast, wrote stories and had photos in publications like USA Today and San Francisco Chronicle, had a story I broke make international press, and all the while happily rode my bike as much as possible. Of course it hasn’t all been peaches and roses but I think me ten years ago would be amazed where I ended up. Turning 40 last year brought similar reflections.

    The gratification now versus later idea seems to be one popping up a lot in the active FI community. There’s a balance to be found, for sure. I’ve seen people who call themselves FI who barely save anything, and others who didn’t want to buy groceries because they’d gone so far down the rabbit hole. Finding a happy medium is best for most people, and that means sometimes a little lifestyle inflation isn’t a bad thing. I recently started jiujitsu again, which involves expense and unfortunately some driving; but it fulfills an important element in my life. Travel has been less important to me. I’m a big fan of enjoying what’s in our backyard first, while making the occasional trip abroad. Credit card rewards don’t replace the carbon a plane trip flings into the atmosphere, after all.

    Happy new year!

    Reply
  • Michelle January 17, 2020, 8:04 am

    Thank you MMM! You continue to inspire ever since I found your blog many years ago. I turned 50 in 2019 and now feel particularly lost though. I’ve checked off some important things on my to-do – buy an apartment (no small feat in NYC), I haven’t had any debt for years now, create an animated comedy (check my website link), get a job that is not sitting at a desk (part time retail has increased my stamina after sitting at a desk for 15 years), and many other accomplishments. I don’t have my own business nor a blog though. I thought the animated comedy might lead to something more but it didn’t (or hasn’t yet?). It might be the New York winter but boy do I feel lost. I grew up in Los Angeles and also I lived in Boulder, Co for a few years and miss the sunshine. I wish I lived in Boulder/Longmont so I could join the MMM co-working space! Anyway – thank you for the inspiration. Trying to keep my head up.

    Reply
  • Vi January 19, 2020, 11:05 pm

    Hi mmm. Have been reading your blog for years, more earlier on when I was beginning my career. Really helped our family reach financial independence. I have always appreciated your commitment to the environment. Love your sincerity.

    Reply
  • Shannon Henry January 20, 2020, 3:22 pm

    Congratulations on the past decade and the incredible strides you’ve accomplished! My greatest take away is “Change your habits and change your life”. It is so true and unfortunately so many people get caught up in the “busyness” of life. Very interesting comments and some very polarized views. There is strength in diversity and I strive to respect everyone’s point of view, even if I don’t necessarily agree.

    Reply
  • Nick January 21, 2020, 11:17 am

    Have any readers out there heard of/given to https://edenprojects.org/ ? They claim to be able to plant 1 tree for $0.10. Seems to check out based on my tertiary research, but they are not listed on GiveWell.org, possibly because they are too small or too new?

    The basic concept is that they focus on areas that are extremely poor, very biodiverse, and have ecosystems in immediate danger. To me this seems like a win/win/win, because they fight extreme poverty by hiring the world’s poorest to do the work, fight climate change by planting trees (in a much more cost effective way than other charities), and fight habit/species destruction by focusing on extremely sensitive areas.

    Would love to hear others’ opinions. My personal goal is to plant 1MM trees this decade, but I want to be sure my money is used effectively.

    Reply
  • ThisTooShallPass January 22, 2020, 6:55 am

    Great article!.
    This question may not belong to this blog post but since this is latest I am posting it here also.
    I searched and read quite a bit on this topic on this forum, however, I really appreciate the wise minds to look at my situation and provide some insight that puts me in the right direction. I truly respect this forum’s collective wisdom.

    In less than 6 months I plan to Retire Early from my job. Wondering if it is better to buy a house 100% cash or go for mortgage (20% down).

    Excellent credit rating, 15 year APY @ 3% and 30 years at 3.8%

    $400k comes out of the taxable savings account earning 2.35%.

    Age: 44, Married with two children

    Currently Renting. Relatively closer to work. High cost of living area with the highest property tax in the country.

    Planning to buy a house in low cost state but not too from where I live so current friends are “accessible”.
    Brand new house priced at $400k (2,300 Sq. Ft. , already factored in for some upgrades like bigger lot for vegetable garden, moving costs and certain one time costs).

    Expenses at early retirement would be $25k but we are flexible both ways.
    The magic number $625k (using 4% rule of thumb) is in taxable accounts (30% tax managed muni bond index, 70% stocks index for now but will transition to ~90% to stocks over time)

    ROTH, IRA’s are in good shape (don’t like to touch this for another 15-20 years, however, may take out some money from ROTH early for children’s collage in few years.

    If I go for the mortgage this $400k will be dollar cost averaged into the markets over 18-24 months (more like 80 or 90 stock index rest bond index)

    Thank you, let me know if any additional information is required.

    Reply
  • MrsNoDoubtFIRE January 27, 2020, 7:45 am

    Once again I am inspired by your article, MMM! This decade has been an interesting one for me, full of learning and bad decisions, but after discovering your site three years ago my husband and I have really turned things around. We are still a long way off from FIRE, but we are definitely enjoying the journey!
    I look forward to the day when I can afford to give away large amounts money to causes I support, but this year I am starting to donate time and physical labour to my community. A friend is the manager of a local salmon hatchery, and we’re tasked with the enormous and never-ending job of clearing invasive plant species from around the stream. Back-breaking, yes, but also highly satisfying and a far better use of my time on weekends than other activities I’ve been revolving my weekends around (Netflix and booze, mainly).
    Thanks again, and happy 2020 to everyone!

    Reply

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