I’ve become irrationally dedicated to rational living
February 24, 2016 11:39 AM   Subscribe

"Mr. Money Mustache is the alias of a forty-one-year-old Canadian expatriate named Peter Adeney, who made or, more to the point, saved enough money in his twenties, working as a software engineer, to retire at age thirty. We’re not talking millions. More like tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, which he and his wife diligently salted away at a time of life when most people are piling on debt and living beyond their means. He calculated a way to make these early paychecks last using a strategy of sensible investment and a rigorous, idiosyncratic, but relatively agreeable frugality." posted by missmerrymack (205 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
The booster-pack ban had created a quandary. [Ten-year-old] Simon had been invited to a friend’s house to play Magic with some other kids. This was deemed to be a good thing, since Simon was no longer in school and had a reclusive streak. But the father of the friend had established a twenty-dollar-per-kid buy-in, to cover the cost of pizza and a few new booster packs. “We’ll pay for the pizza, but I don’t want to buy the cards,” Adeney said. “Is it a social obligation to spend money on stupid stuff?” Simi wondered if Simon could bring his own used cards—perhaps wrap them as though they were new. Would the other boy have an issue with this?

So you're telling me that all I have to do to retire in five years is to become an insufferable skinflint whose bizarre mannerisms will ensure that my kids won't talk to me after they inevitably flee the house? Sign me up!
posted by Mayor West at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2016 [118 favorites]


Obviously, these are life lessons applicable to everyone.

/frugality porn
posted by benzenedream at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


If you're... you know, working, how is that "retired"?
posted by madajb at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


Yeah, I totally understand the appeal of frugality, but at some point it just gets antisocial and weird, and I feel kind of bad for Simon. Frugality is good, but so is moderation.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:52 AM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


[A]dmits to two regrettable “five-to-ten-dollar mistakes” in 2015. The first was buying his ten-year-old son, Simon, a mini-Rubik’s Cube, which broke when they tried to take it apart. Junk. The other was putting several slices of leftover mushroom pizza in the same Tupperware container as some plain slices, which Simon, citing the mushroom taint, then refused to eat.

Listen I hate working as much as anyone, but remembering months later about having to throw out two slices of pizza isn't happiness. It's something life might force on you (and does to some people, absolutely), but don't seek it.

Also, I have no clue about where he lives, his yearly budget ($24,000) would be over half consumed by not especially fantastic daycare where I am.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:53 AM on February 24, 2016 [57 favorites]


He responded to the article on his forums, here.
posted by smurfzambo at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'd also like to point out that the minuscule, inconceivably low amount he spends on the bare necessities, $24,000 a year, is 1.65 times as much as a full-time minimum wage worker earns.
posted by Mayor West at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2016 [230 favorites]


While I suppose it's impressive that he has so carefully engineered his life to reflect everything he wants and nothing he doesn't, it's a little concerning how his vision impacts those around him (particularly his kid wife). Does she get to be the "benevolent dictator" too, or is he the one making all the rules?

For that matter, why is the wife's contribution to the savings and work toward frugality such a side note? She must work just as hard at frugality as he does, even if he's the one writing about it. Admittedly, I rarely read the blog, so maybe there's some context I'm missing.

Also, this:
He imagines that his wife’s inner voice whispers, “Your relentless optimizations are a drain on my life energy.”
Isn't that sort of defeating the purpose?
posted by R a c h e l at 11:57 AM on February 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


Jesus christ. Another one of these god damn articles that act like all people need to do is be frugal.

Honestly, I'm sick to death of reading about people who make decent money bragging about saving it. The implication is always "the problem is spending." We may have a problem with rampant consumerism in our culture (or, scratch that. we DO have a problem with etc...) but holy shit, a kind of smug monasticism coupled with feeling superior isn't a cultural solution, it's an implied finger wag at the poor and a buttress to the arrogance of the relatively well off.
posted by shmegegge at 11:57 AM on February 24, 2016 [110 favorites]


Oh so all I had to do was be born 10 years earlier and be a successful software engineer, so that I could earn a fuckload of cash BEFORE the world economy dove headfirst into the toilet.

Well silly me!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [102 favorites]


Really, these poors, why don't they just eat cake?
posted by Dashy at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


We’re from Canada, so we’re low-key about money and stuff.

Does Canadian English have a different definition of 'low-key'?
posted by Think_Long at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [23 favorites]


Yeah I could stand to become much more careful with managing money, but it's bad to reduce life to nothing but a series of opportunities to save a few dollars.
posted by thelonius at 12:00 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


So you're telling me that all I have to do to retire in five years is to become an insufferable skinflint whose bizarre mannerisms will ensure that my kids won't talk to me after they inevitably flee the house? Sign me up!

I don't know, I'm sympathetic to the idea, if not the extreme.

My daughter is often invited on outings where the parents will say something along the lines of
"Hey, we're going out to the pumpkin patch, let's get all the girls matching shirts with pumpkins on them!" and I'm sitting at home thinking, you know, she has dozens of perfectly good shirts, I'm sure we have at least one orange one.
Or "Hey, we're going to see Star Wars, let's get all the kids Ren masks!", etc, etc.

I mean, it's $10 here, $5 there, but it adds up over time, and it's mostly useless crap that you wouldn't buy otherwise.

In this case, the kid already has Magic cards (apparently a lot of them), why does he have to buy more just to attend a party?
posted by madajb at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2016 [50 favorites]


He started at forty-one thousand dollars a year, with no savings or possessions except “a bike, a backpack, and a diploma.” ... He got his first raise soon afterward, to fifty-seven thousand and six hundred dollars. By the end of year one, he’d saved five thousand dollars. A year later, he had twenty-three thousand. By year five, a quarter of a million.

I know a few software engineers who were doing this sort of thing in the 1980s and 1990s. They made good money, had low housing expenses, and spent large amounts of their time at work, so they never spent anything. The savings can just pile up.

I predict that their kid is going to become a spendthrift. I also predict that Mister Money Moustache is going to end up wealthy... and dead, just like the rest of us.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Ran a quick looksee at his website. Is his frugality the reason his wife isn't wearing safety glasses when doing demolition work?
posted by bellastarr at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


But have we made absolutely sure he hasn't posted any pictures of cupcakes or whiskey?
posted by sallybrown at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [81 favorites]


The response posted by smurfzambo really is worth reading. I know it happens in every journalistic story, but it does sound like the magic card story was wildly mischaracterized.

He also says this in the response:
Remember, this whole MMM thing is secretly an environmental activism blog. It's about getting my fellow rich people to consume less, because we are the ones destroying the planet.

Whether you spend $25,000 or $25 million per year, you can extract full happiness from life - the extra products and "experiences" you can buy with the surplus money don't help once your true needs are met. But in order for rich people to believe this, they have to see it being done. They need to see someone who has the option of spending more money, and yet still does not do it. They need to see their peers doing this. So although I didn't expect to make THIS much money after retirement, it's pretty handy that I can continue to not buy too much shit and continue to live the same life as before.
While I don't know about the way that it implies "rich" people are the only ones that can benefit from that, how is this different than the Millionaire Next Door or any of the many philosophies that advocate mindfully setting priorities and appreciating what you have?
posted by R a c h e l at 12:06 PM on February 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


He responded to the article on his forums, here.

I know MeFi already has its knives out, but it is worth a read before the real stabbing commences.
Finally, the part about the blog making a shitload of money last year - it's true and it surprises me just as much as it surprises anyone else. The blog gets equivalent traffic to newspapers that have dozens or hundreds of staff, so even with pretty minimal advertising stuff, it adds up.

But I think this is an endorsement rather than a subtraction of what I'm promoting. Remember, this whole MMM thing is secretly an environmental activism blog. It's about getting my fellow rich people to consume less, because we are the ones destroying the planet.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:07 PM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


I've been reading Mr. Money Mustache for a number of years. He's the financial equivalent of a hypermiler. While it's basically untenable to go full hypermiler, it's useful knowledge to know what's really bad for gas mileage.

Similarly, using some of his techniques are incredibly useful. Like avoiding unnecessary recurring costs, or at least taking a hard aim at reducing them. Gym memberships, cell phone costs, etc.

Of course he makes a bunch of money blogging about this. That's what happens in today's internet hyper-specialization world. Those that are most hardcore in their specializations can monetize. The rest of us grouse on metafilter.

And honestly, I don't understand the vitriol here. Mr. Money Mustache isn't interested in shaming poor people or espouses that "all you need to do is be more frugal" as a complete solution for all people. What he's done is demonstrate that it's possible to live pretty nicely (for him) off of a much tinier amount of money than most would think possible. He is a financial hypermiler, that's all he is. And consuming less is not a bad thing to get on a soapbox about either.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2016 [88 favorites]


/shakes fist at R a c h e l
;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:08 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've known a couple guys like him over the years and the glimpses I've had into their inner lives have been a bit unnerving, and I've generally found myself feeling bad for their long-suffering spouses and kids.

One image I retain is of a particular friend (well, really his wife is a work friend of my partner) who liked to brag about appropriating toilet paper rolls and stacks of paper towels from university men's rooms to bring home for his family to use - hanging out at our place until 3 a.m. after a dinner party, ranting about his misunderstood childhood in rural Texas and how he was planning to handle the coming collapse of civilization. (We've never invited him to dinner again, though we see them around town periodically.)
posted by aught at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Anyone whose goal is/was "retire as early as possible" is all right by me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, I have no clue about where he lives, his yearly budget ($24,000) would be over half consumed by not especially fantastic daycare where I am.

Long(Strong)mont, Colorado. It's city, about 20 miles north east of Boulder, slowly dying as company after company shuts down or moves away. So, daycare prob isn't that expensive.
posted by sideshow at 12:11 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Optimization theories break down at nonlinearity: this is because the times and the difficulty at the hard parts of the optimizations are heavy-tailed, betraying an underlying fractal shape of the optimization space.

It is a trivial fact that the space of human happiness is deeply nonconvex, but I also like to put in a fractal ansatz to it, because it shows the nature of the difficulty of local optimization: it can eke out those power-law shaped gains and always make the illusion of progress while at the same time being grossly unoptimal. The movement in the optimization space is not smooth, and the failures in the movement in the optimization space (the numerical instability) radically chaotic.

As a guy who does numerical optimization for a living, I think this guy needs a random restart.
posted by hleehowon at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


I get how he went from a savings of $5K to $23K between years 1 and 2, but how did he go from $23K to $250K between year 2 and year 5 when he went into year 2 making about $60K per year?
posted by sallybrown at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yeah, this doesn't particularly enrage me. The general principles he espouses are indisputable, even if he leans into the proselytizing a little bit. Judging from the article, he clearly enjoys hamming up the persona, and presumably his saner wife is around to roll her eyes whenever he goes too far off the deep end.
posted by Think_Long at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


His kid will grow up to be a hoarder, mark my words.

Honestly, if my life and happiness ever gets tied up in depriving my kid of a $3 booster pack of magic cards, kill me.
posted by anastasiav at 12:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [20 favorites]


But have we made absolutely sure he hasn't posted any pictures of cupcakes or whiskey?

If he makes $400k pro annum humble-bragging about the virtues of frugality, it's probably also in the public interest to know when/if he publicly announces splurges on luxuries. Speaking for myself only, that kind of behavior would put his business operation in perspective.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd also like to point out that the minuscule, inconceivably low amount he spends on the bare necessities, $24,000 a year, is 1.65 times as much as a full-time minimum wage worker earns.

Nothing grinds my gears more than these people who think $24,000 is a big challenge to live on and then have the gall to make it into a money making enterprise. Mr. Money Mustache is not 'eschewing consumerism', he's abusing it.

how did he go from $23K to $250K between year 2 and year 5 when he went into year 2 making about $60K per year?
Under the table tax evasion. Duh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just a note about those 20$ entrance to the kids parties... You are pretty much ensuring that poor kids can't participate in the activities. Even if they remain in the friends circle of the better-off kids, the poor kids will really feel their poverty when there are a percentage of events that they can't attend, because they are poor.

Kids know that they are poor and are constantly reminded of it nearly every day they go to school; when parents create events they can't go to, I imagine that just makes it all that much worse.

The thing is, he isn't raising his child in poverty - his children will have the advantage of a college education, they won't experience the desperation that comes with poverty.
posted by el io at 12:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [35 favorites]


So, she didn't write a blog about it, but my mother was really trying to be frugal when I was a kid. And sometimes....it affected us, in ways she probably didn't anticipate. I have a bad memory from when I was about seven; I had a sore throat, and Mom gave me a cough drop from some package she had in her purse. But it tasted absolutely terrible to a kid, and I complained about it and then finally spit it out. And my mother had a fit about "that's like you just spit ten cents into the trash!"

This fit on her part did not teach me any damn thing about frugality - it only planted the seed that my mother cared more about a spare dime than she did her own child's comfort.

She's gotten better about this kind of hyper-frugality, but every so often she does let something slip still, and it's just reinforced some serious issues I still have about money and my own self-worth. I'm also getting better about those issues, but it's been a long slog.

I'm the face of this guy's son as an adult, and it really ain't pretty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2016 [75 favorites]


Of course he makes a bunch of money blogging about this.

It must be horrible for him to make all that money and be constitutionally incapable of doing anything with it. I imagine him sitting there late at night, looking at his bank balance, and going, god damn you... god damn you all to hell!
posted by Naberius at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


The above points are totally valid. I would like to offer my appreciation for Mr. Money Mustache, if not this particular article about him.

I've had full-time employment for about a year. I make more than the poverty line and less than 50k. This was a monumental change in my life -- overnight, my personal budget was no longer "don't spend money." It became something murkier. First taxes. First health insurance. First 401k. First FSA. Renter's insurance? Life insurance? Credit card rewards? Vacation? Investing?
Adult financial decisions.

I have spent the better part of this past year attempting to attain something approaching financial literacy. I have found Mr. Money Mustache's site to be one of the most informative websites around for thoughtful and thorough analysis of the mundane financial choices that can have a huge impact on a person's future.

I have no intention of retiring early, and I don't think it's something my anticipated income will allow. However, ideas from his website like "giving every dollar a job" and "debt is an emergency" are a wonderful antidote to the mainstream consumerist mindset that is so easy to slip into as a newly financial adult making choices that will have a huge impact on my future. Thanks, MMM!
posted by femmegrrr at 12:24 PM on February 24, 2016 [63 favorites]


Honestly, if my life and happiness ever gets tied up in depriving my kid of a $3 booster pack of magic cards, kill me.

Seriously, go read the response.

Shit, I will post it. Here is the section from the response dealing with Magic:
a friend invited him over to introduce him to the game. There was a $20 buy-in for whatever reason, as announced in the email from his dad. "Awesome!", we all said. We'll pay for you (rather than having him pay out of his own sizeable 'stash), since this is kind of a special thing more like a joining a sports team than just buying yourself a video game. He went, and had a great time

at the big game night, each kid was given 4 decks of 15 cards each. These little packs cost $5 apiece. "Hmm, sounds like a bit of a racket", I thought to myself, but obviously this was not a big deal and I was glad he had a new pastime.

Magic the Gathering really captured his imagination, so he dove in. We researched the game together and it turns out you can buy packs of ONE THOUSAND (1000) cards for 20 bucks on Amazon. You get a curated mixture of like-new and new cards from game shops, because the nation is swimming in Magic cards after 20 years of popularity. So we bought him a thousand-pack for his birthday, and another for Christmas. He built a huge portfolio of custom decks and started playing the game with friends all over town.

Then another email comes from that first friend's dad: "Friday Night Magic Night again! Every kid should bring another 20 bucks!"

"Wait a minute - why would kids want to spend $20 on another few dozen cards when we already shared the news about the thousand packs and several of the kids bought them?" I asked his dad, who is a friend of mine.

"Oh, that's just what Tom likes to do, because he heard about these Friday Night Magic nights that the company that manufactures cards likes to promote"

It was at THIS point that I felt the conflict of trying to be easygoing vs. speaking out against what I feel is bullshit consumerism. So I told my son that he could certainly continue to go, but I felt it was a pretty expensive hobby for 9-year-olds, and he'd have to start using up his own money if he wanted to do so.

Meanwhile, I privately suggested to his dad that he squelch the $20 part of his son's game night and just encourage the kids to play for free.

As it turned out, his dad agreed and the game nights have been free since then.
This is what you are all objecting to. Nothing in that is objectionable. That is a good lesson for your kid, a good lesson for the other kids participating, and a generally positive outcome. CCGs are a fucking scam, for the most part. Pokemon was a very effective tool for extracting money from parents via their children.
posted by protocoach at 12:27 PM on February 24, 2016 [124 favorites]


I like MMM. I don't agree with his extreme, ascetic take, but the takeaway is sound. His thing isn't you wouldn't be so poor if you didn't buy liquor and cupcakes, it's you don't need to work so hard if you stop consuming every damn thing in your path. And holy shit that is a thing I can get behind.

There's an enormous difference between people who don't have enough money to have the luxury of choice and people who do have the money but make poor choices, and it would be really nice if folks would stop interpreting criticism of the latter as criticism of the former.

I had a coworker once who made ballpark $90K a year and was always complaining about being broke. He has a late model BMW and a motorcycle, both of which require payments and insurance, hasn't prioritized paying off the debt he accumulated during school (both student and credit card), even though he could knock it out in a year, easy, does things like go to Vegas with the bros every three day weekend, and eats out for nearly every meal. He's living far above his means and his means are pretty generous. He complained to me constantly about not having money for x, y, and z, and how he couldn't leave a job he hated because he couldn't afford it, but when I said things like "do you really need two vehicles or to fly across the country this month?" he'd react like I was asking him to kill puppies.

MMM is directed at people like him.
posted by phunniemee at 12:27 PM on February 24, 2016 [71 favorites]


Nothing grinds my gears more than these people who think $24,000 is a big challenge to live on and then have the gall to make it into a money making enterprise.

Wait, do you think it's *not* challenging to live in 24k/year for a family of 3? Granted it's a choice, but it are you going to argue that it isn't challenging? And yes, a ton of folks live on this (and less), but it's pretty challenging for them, right?

As far as the gall to make it into a money making enterprise... He's making writing. He's writing non-fiction, and apparently not a big huge fraud about it (maybe he has some 40' boats he's not disclosing, who knows). How is that dishonest or problematic? The fact that he has a large readership shows that a ton of folks are interested in living frugally... How and why is this a bad thing? While it's a choice for him, it's entirely possible that his writing is helping a ton of folks that aren't doing this by choice.
posted by el io at 12:28 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Mr. Money Mustache is the alias of a forty-one-year-old Canadian expatriate named Peter Adeney

expatriate eksˈpātrēət/ (noun)
1. A person who lives outside their predominantly white* native country.
* for other countries, see: immigrant
posted by rocket88 at 12:29 PM on February 24, 2016 [18 favorites]


It must be horrible for him to make all that money and be constitutionally incapable of doing anything with it.

Yep, he's a 21st Century Scrooge McDuck, dedicated to make the Big Lies About Poverty that "The Top .01%", Randians and Trumpists make seem reasonable. MMM is directed at people like THAT.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:29 PM on February 24, 2016


Simi wondered if Simon could bring his own used cards—perhaps wrap them as though they were new. Would the other boy have an issue with this?

Okay, I hate how much Magic: the Gathering relies on pay-to-win and overcharges for artificially-constrained cardboard and other silly stuff, but they were probably playing Friday Night Magic limited tournaments (in which you open up a limited supply of cards on the spot and build a deck from it). If Simon did this it would be hilariously over-the-top cheating, not that Mr. Money Moustache would know that if he doesn't understand how limited Magic tournaments work. Not that I'm disagreeing with MMM here, just that I find his solution amusingly unfeasible in this situation.

It sounds like they went to just hanging out and playing with the cards they have on hand, which is better for everyone in the end anyway, because by its nature those limited tournaments exclude people who can't afford it.
posted by john-a-dreams at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


I make less than $15K a year--my husband is the one with the Really Good Job, admittedly--but I am okay with MMM's style because I don't want to be like my parents: broke, no retirement fund, depressed, and one half too ill to work anymore and the other too old to be considered a viable candidate for employment in her old field (medical office managing).

If I have to scrimp and save to retire early, or at least be less at the whim of future employers who will continue to write me off because I am a woman approaching 40, I am okay with that. As far as I can tell, he's not hating on the poors; he's hating on the rich who make things worse for all of us.
posted by Kitteh at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


A lawyer friend of mine used to get made fun of endlessly by his fellow late-20-something colleagues because he wasn't blowing his six-figure salary on a flashy new car every two years, bottle service at clubs (or clubs at all) and god knows what else. And then, yes, many of them complained about being "broke."
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


I had a coworker once who made ballpark $90K a year and was always complaining about being broke. He has a late model BMW and a motorcycle, both of which require payments and insurance, hasn't prioritized paying off the debt he accumulated during school (both student and credit card), even though he could knock it out in a year, easy, does things like go to Vegas with the bros every three day weekend, and eats out for nearly every meal.

I had an utterly insufferable acquaintance that was a hedge fund manager. She complained about how 'poor' she was more than any other human being I've ever known (and I grew up poor, certainly have been around poverty). She was insufferable in many other ways, most amusingly how she was afraid that the revolution would come and her back would be up against the wall (in fairness, this was a pretty legitimate fear).
posted by el io at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yep, he's a 21st Century Scrooge McDuck, dedicated to make the Big Lies About Poverty that "The Top .01%", Randians and Trumpists make seem reasonable. MMM is directed at people like THAT.

...the dude who publicly rails against consumerism, who thinks driving a car in the city is dumb, who gets around everywhere on a bike, who calls his writing "secretly an environmental activism blog. It's about getting my fellow rich people to consume less, because we are the ones destroying the planet", that dude is somehow aligned with the ideology of Rand, Trump, and "the top .01%"? How does that track?
posted by protocoach at 12:36 PM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


[A]dmits to two regrettable “five-to-ten-dollar mistakes” in 2015. The first was buying his ten-year-old son, Simon, a mini-Rubik’s Cube, which broke when they tried to take it apart. Junk. The other was putting several slices of leftover mushroom pizza in the same Tupperware container as some plain slices, which Simon, citing the mushroom taint, then refused to eat.

mushrooms do not have taints
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2016 [41 favorites]


For some reason I hear his son letting loose into him every time he walks outside with shoes on to the tune of

"Dad, you're wearing shoes? Don't you want the feeling of hot asphalt or broken glass under your feet? I mean, that's what you need to feel alive when walking down the street, right? Pushing the frontier of comfort, building strength, and by extension, happiness, right, DAD?"
posted by bellastarr at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Protocoach, it gives them an EXCUSE to lie that "poor is all your fault".
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


The only thing I dislike about MMM is how he repeatedly glosses over the fact that him and his wife both started out in high paying careers. Well, it's not really that hard to become financially independent in a two income household pulling down ~200k with good savings habits. Yes, he took it far beyond good habits into a lifestyle choice that allowed him to retire early, but his advice usually boils down to "earn more" like that's a viable option for every one who didn't have the skills or good fortune to walk into a first job in the 10th percentile of all earners, then marry someone in the same situation.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:41 PM on February 24, 2016 [44 favorites]


it's an implied finger wag at the poor and a buttress to the arrogance of the relatively well off.

I don't think it's a finger wag to the poor at all. I think it's a finger wag to the people who make $100,000 a year and say "I'm barely making ends meet, it's a crime if they raise my taxes, how am I supposed to live on even less than I do now?"
posted by escabeche at 12:42 PM on February 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


In this case, the kid already has Magic cards (apparently a lot of them), why does he have to buy more just to attend a party?


Well the point of Magic draft/sealed is that you are opening a random selection of cards from a large set of cards designed to work together for this purpose, and choosing a subset of that subset to make a deck to play with for the night. Which is kind of a racket for the company that makes the cards, yes, but it's one of the most fun ways to play the game. But yeah if the actual story is that they're buying a *big* pool of random cards and setting up their own draft situation or other variant then that can be plenty fun too.
posted by atoxyl at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is what you are all objecting to. Nothing in that is objectionable.

What John-a-Dreams said.

I have no issue with the "hey, let's change from random deck tourneys to playing with whatever cards are around, but the thing about re-wrapping the cards "as if they were new" is what really pushed my buttons. Not just because of the cheating (which, I agree, he probably didn't realize) but because it smacks of the many large and small ways that poor kids often try to camouflage their poverty by essentially attempting (and probably failing) to "re-wrap" something cheap to make it appear to be the name-brand counterpart.

We don't have a lot of money, but I'm raising a kid who already has issues fitting in. If the $10 thing will help him fit in vs. the $2 cheapo knockoff, then I'm paying the $10, because long term my kid's fleeting moments of happiness and feeling like he fits in perfectly are much more valuable to me than the money.

Lots of things are more valuable than money in the bank. Lots. Of. Things.
posted by anastasiav at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


And he's not 'retired' if he's not giving away all his frugality advice for free. He's just getting exercise swimming in his money bin.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:43 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ironically, this article inspired me to finally look for a bike cargo trailer so I can bike to the grocery. Now I'm going to buy it. To be shipped from Amazon. For my money.

Guys . . . am I the problem?
posted by Think_Long at 12:44 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


I would love a bike cargo trailer myself for that sole purpose. That would be cool.
posted by Kitteh at 12:45 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, it's not really that hard to become financially independent in a two income household pulling down ~200k with good savings habits.

Yes, this is the thing that has always struck me as silly. It's not that you can't make terrible decisions while making $200,000 a year, but honestly, you have a lot more leeway. Your work is also likely more fulfilling and better respected, you're likely to have less stress and more access to medical care and exercise, etc etc.

I mean "I'm very rich and let my wealth accrue, driving around in my old car, wearing my WASPy mouldering clothes, etc," is straight out of upper class behavior from Paul Fussell's Class.
posted by Frowner at 12:45 PM on February 24, 2016 [32 favorites]


Protocoach, it give them an EXCUSE to lie that "poor is all your fault".

Since when did they need excuses to blame the poor for being poor?
posted by el io at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I bet he has a secret room full of socks he only wears once and giant Toblerone bars he takes a single bite out of before discarding.
posted by sourwookie at 12:49 PM on February 24, 2016 [17 favorites]


It never fails to surprise me how the knee jerk reaction to Mr. Money Mustache is almost always negative. Here's a guy who realized that hey! buying a new car every few years doesn't actually make him any happier. That he wanted to be retired before he had his kid so that he could spend more time with his wife and son instead of working a full time job. That being environmentally friendly in a meaningful way was very rewarding. That reducing his consumption didn't actually make him any less happy, and in fact had the reverse effect.

Yet the comments are always fuck this guy for achieving something, for being happy with spending less money, for being "lucky", for depriving his kid, and most of all for telling ME what to do with my life. Of course his lifestyle isn't for everyone. Of course it's easier to save money if you have a higher paying job. Of course frugality doesn't solve issues with minimum wage or income inequality. He never claims that it would. It's a straw man that constantly pops up whenever people read about him.

It's interesting because if you read into it, his blog is less about money and more about maximizing happiness. He's really into stoicism as a philosophy (he actually has an post that explains why he likes stoicism) and that bleeds into why he makes the choices that he does. He's just realized that for him, chasing the money and the lifestyle upgrades and conspicuous consumption that's constantly being pushed on us by mass media was not making him happy at all!

My two cents anyways.
posted by smurfzambo at 12:50 PM on February 24, 2016 [74 favorites]


I think MMM is trying to legitimize the choice to be happy with what you have rather than always thirsting for more, and the choice to work as much as you need to rather than until you drop. I basically agree with his message, and I think it's especially relevant in the US, where avarice is often equated with ambition and overwork with virtue.

Something about his authorial voice is exasperating, though. He sounds like a very tightly wound 24-year-old bro. I suspect (hope?) that he's more thoughtful and more down to earth than he tends to come off.
posted by rue72 at 12:51 PM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


I had a coworker once who made ballpark $90K a year and was always complaining about being broke. He has a late model BMW and a motorcycle, both of which require payments and insurance, hasn't prioritized paying off the debt he accumulated during school (both student and credit card), even though he could knock it out in a year, easy, does things like go to Vegas with the bros every three day weekend, and eats out for nearly every meal. He's living far above his means and his means are pretty generous. He complained to me constantly about not having money for x, y, and z, and how he couldn't leave a job he hated because he couldn't afford it, but when I said things like "do you really need two vehicles or to fly across the country this month?" he'd react like I was asking him to kill puppies.

Man I used to live with this guy. Bragged about his $120K job but then would hit me up at the end of the month asking could I float him his portion of rent until his paycheck next week because he was soooooo broke. At the time I was basically a starving artist attempting to keep my head above water as a freelancer and was definitely not driving a brand new luxury car or going to Vegas with the bros. Once I pointed out that he could literally commute via cab every single day and it would be like half what he was paying for his car and this revelation to him was like I had just gone up on the mountain and received the ten commandments from God. He was just completely incapable of any kind of cost-vs-benefit in his own head, as soon as he had money in his pocket it was gone the next day.

So I actually like a lot of MMM's advice on the times I've come across his blog, I just remember that the tone and posturing is for the benefit of people like my former roommate.
posted by bradbane at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was curious as to how he made $400,000 per year giving away "free" advice on saving money. So I decided to actually read the article::

He makes money from the products and services he recommends—Betterment, Lending Club, Geico, and numerous others. They pay him for every customer who comes to them via his site. He insists that he makes these recommendations based only on his own research and experience.

If he's truly as altruistic as he claims to be, he'd go the Consumer Reports route and not take any advertising, let alone using his perceived credibility to drive readers towards certain providers for his own profit.
posted by Kibbutz at 12:52 PM on February 24, 2016 [15 favorites]


Protocoach, it give them an EXCUSE to lie that "poor is all your fault".

Kinda agreeing with el io here; they don't need ideological cover for that shit, and I'm not seeing anything in his work that indicates it's directed like that.

Well the point of Magic draft is that you are opening a random selection of cards from a large set of cards designed to work together for this purpose, and choosing a subset of that subset to make a deck to play with for the night.

Yeah, I get the appeal of drafting, but A) that's actively excluding anyone who can't foot the bill, and B) drafting doesn't make sense for a bunch of ten year olds, because they're ten and they build decks like this, and C) that especially doesn't make sense when you all bought thousand-card packs already specifically so you could all play without paying a ton of money.

We don't have a lot of money, but I'm raising a kid who already has issues fitting in. If the $10 thing will help him fit in vs. the $2 cheapo knockoff, then I'm paying the $10, because long term my kid's fleeting moments of happiness and feeling like he fits in perfectly are much more valuable to me than the money.

Lots of things are more valuable than money in the bank. Lots. Of. Things.

Yeah, and this guy was trying to make it so nobody had to make that choice, and teach kids that they don't have to spend money to have a good time, i.e., there are things more important than money.

And he's not 'retired' if he's not giving away all his frugality advice for free. He's just getting exercise swimming in his money bin.

Is there some indicator that he's not giving it away for free? I'm not seeing anything on the blog about selling some plan or subscription.
posted by protocoach at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Limiting your consumption, living within your means, whether it's a true or artificial limit, both are excellent ideas. The idea that an esteemed public figure (which he has become, in most part, due to his blogging) could be nurturing myths about wealth comes from the fact that the artificial lifestyle they've adopted seems reasonable to them, but were income inequality not so high right now, so many people would be living lives that would seem affluent to their standards.

They've bowed out of the system. The system still exists, and they're giving an example for people to point to saying that things work fine, if you live the right way. There are many right ways that don't involve runaway consumption! And the system needs a lot of fixing before people can even aspire to them.
posted by mikeh at 12:54 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have a couple 20-something friends who are struggling. They work so hard, for so little money, it breaks my heart. But not only do they earn low wages, they are also hemorrhaging what little money they have. Paying late and thereby incurring fees even though they had the money - they just weren't organized enough to pay on time. Gym memberships they don't use and can't seem to cancel. Failure to take care of their things so they end up needing to buy new things. Parking tickets. Didn't renew license plates on time so had to pay a late fee. Etc.

I'm not wishing they'd give up all their luxuries. But there's sort of a gamification aspect to so much of this finance stuff, and I wish I could get my friends to learn to play it better.
posted by elizilla at 12:55 PM on February 24, 2016 [16 favorites]


As to the negativity - for me, personally, I am full to the back teeth of advice from white, straight, educated, professional-class men telling me what to do to be successful. White, straight, educated, professional-class men already have so many advantages that they basically have to fuck up majorly not to have decent lives. It sits ill with me that yet another white, straight, educated, professional-class dude can talk about how he just loves stoicism (gee, maybe you could use something to be stoic about) and turn even his writing on frugality into $400,000 a year.

Honestly, I try not to think about white straight rich men that much, but this election is forcing it on me.
posted by Frowner at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [50 favorites]


MMM has offered tons and tons of mostly free and super informative and potentially life-changing financial advice to countless of people but fuck him anyways because something something i was raised in a coffin and now i eat dirt for a living
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [25 favorites]


And my mother had a fit about "that's like you just spit ten cents into the trash!"

This fit on her part did not teach me any damn thing about frugality - it only planted the seed that my mother cared more about a spare dime than she did her own child's comfort.


Oh yeah, been there! I head a headache when I was a kid. I recently had seen an alka-seltzer commercial. Thinking the pills would do that cool fizzy thing I dropped them into my drink. No fizz, just made it taste undrinkable. Parent forced me to try and drink the whole cup. Just...why? One sip was enough to tell me never to do that again.

Dad grew up in the depression though, so I forgive him in my head but in my heart there is some stuff I'm never gonna forget.

CCGs are a fucking scam, for the most part.


Here's my money saving advice for magic players: Hearthstone. It's more the F2P model, lots of benefits to spending money but you don't have to, especially if you are good at the game. I've decided to pretty much stop spending on it myself but it's still fun to play.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


He's done the optimizing, which is very good for him! And there may be a lot of small lessons to learn, but for people who are genuinely struggling, they're not going to do much better if I print out his blog and hand it out in poor neighborhoods, which is what some politicians strongly imply when they speak about how the working class handles its money.
posted by mikeh at 12:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess in short, every generation will have its group of members waving around a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad explaining how they're not going to make the mistakes of their parents and peers.
posted by mikeh at 12:59 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, I have no clue about where he lives, his yearly budget ($24,000) would be over half consumed by not especially fantastic daycare where I am.

Being retired, he and his wife can operate as their own daycare.
posted by theorique at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the extra background on the Magic card thing, because speaking as a member of (what I suspect is) the same general middle-class American culture that Mr. Money Mustache belongs to, the idea of asking kids to pay $20 to hang out and play Magic at someone's house seems screamingly outrageous. The "Friday Night Magic" thing makes more sense, but is obvious consumerist bullshit, and you can bet my dad would have had a stern talk with the parents of any kid who invited me to such a thing.

Which brings me to my dad, and some of the similarities I see between his approach to finances and Mr. Money Mustache's. His brand of frugality is more "lovable cranky dad" than the weirdness presented here (think Calvin's dad), but he also doesn't have a writer from the New Yorker determined to make him look kooky. He gets wound up about the idea of hair conditioner (what even is that stuff! all you need is shampoo!), buys Two Buck Chuck by the case, once used a cardboard box as a coffee table for more than a year, and brags to everyone about his garage sale finds. To his credit, I wasn't denied Pokemon cards or video games or whatever growing up (I did have to save up for the game systems themselves), although he would occasionally gripe about them - not in a "YOU don't deserve these, kid" sort of way, just generally railing against consumerism. We'd roll our eyes and be like "yeah, whatever, Dad," but eventually some of it sank in.

I think the key is this:

There's an enormous difference between people who don't have enough money to have the luxury of choice and people who do have the money but make poor choices, and it would be really nice if folks would stop interpreting criticism of the former as criticism of the latter.

Like in the greater world of the internet (and maybe that's the problem, that that's where Mr. Money Mustache is operating), it's really easy for all this to sound like more right-wing propaganda about the stupid poors. But the silly suburb where I grew up, man, with its McMansions and boats and shiny SUVs to haul them. Everyone tells teenagers that it's OK not to do what everyone else is doing but my dad was the only person I saw really living that, and looking back, it was extremely valuable to me to see that. Throw in the financial wisdom and I'm sold.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:02 PM on February 24, 2016 [27 favorites]


no one is claiming that MMM is the one and only path to financial salvation. just because his ideas aren't relevant for everyone doesn't mean they aren't incredibly useful for some or even lots of people.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:02 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


His brand of frugality is more "lovable cranky dad" than the weirdness presented here (think Calvin's dad), but he also doesn't have a writer from the New Yorker determined to make him look kooky.

Folks, this is a magazine that thinks the diaeresis should be a thing.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


I get how he went from a savings of $5K to $23K between years 1 and 2, but how did he go from $23K to $250K between year 2 and year 5 when he went into year 2 making about $60K per year?

I'm gonna guess, the first internet bubble of 1997-2001?
posted by theorique at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Between the Talia Jane thread and this one, I've learned a valuable lesson in that I would like to start a Patreon account for my podcast later this year, but I will have be sure to be able to take the heat because I will either not be poor enough for justify having one, or too well-off I shouldn't have one. I realize in the Internet Wilderness no one can win, but at least it's nice* knowing what kind of awfulness to expect.

*exhausting
posted by Kitteh at 1:06 PM on February 24, 2016 [17 favorites]


“Paying for parking is a sign from God that you’re in an area not designed for a car,” he said. “You are fighting the design of your city.”
See, this is the kind of thing that is very true in some ways, but then again... some cities are just designed very poorly!
posted by mikeh at 1:07 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


He reminds me of Steve Solomon, idiosyncratic PNW gardener/farmer/author, and his philosophy of "independent poverty." However, I wish that the New Yorker article had spoken to his wife to find out how much labor is required on her part to keep their expenditures down to $24K a year, and how she feels about it. (His wife isn't even named in the article; in contrast, his kid gets named in the second sentence.)
posted by KathrynT at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2016 [20 favorites]


This thread has been very interesting to read. Far more than the OP, though its a link that I think a couple of the young people I know in their first day jobs also trying to get their startup bootstrapped would appreciate. It offers tips that aren't easily available to them in general media.
posted by infini at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2016


His wife's name is Simi and she is named seven times in the article.
posted by dehowell at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


What's he gonna do when he sees a child crouching and using their hands as a cup?
posted by Carillon at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


If there's one thing metafilter hates, it's lifestyle bloggers.
posted by GuyZero at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think that my issue with this is that I really struggle with all-or-nothing thinking and with fetishizing self-control, and I have to work hard to be reasonably frugal without going really overboard with it. It's basically the money version of the eating disorder thinking that I also struggle with. So for me, personally, this guy wouldn't be helpful, because he plays into some of my nuttier impulses around money. And as with food, I have to remind myself that deprivation is not good for its own sake and that indulgence isn't automatically bad.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:15 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


As to the negativity - for me, personally, I am full to the back teeth of advice from white, straight, educated, professional-class men telling me what to do to be successful.

Kindly, if you can't see a value for yourself in what he's got to say, maybe, like the reaction a lot of white folks had to Beyonce's latest output, his blog is not for you.
posted by phunniemee at 1:15 PM on February 24, 2016 [22 favorites]


Between the Talia Jane thread and this one, I've learned a valuable lesson in that I would like to start a Patreon account for my podcast later this year, but I will have be sure to be able to take the heat . . .

The reaction is interesting. When someone like Susan Orman gives general financial literacy advice, people generally just accept it and move on. But when financial literacy intersects with life style and consumer choices, then holy hell do the opinions spring forth. I'll listen to you about taking my employer match for my retirement account, but don't you dare suggest some alternative purchasing strategies.
posted by Think_Long at 1:16 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


She is named. She even appears to have been the source of the controversial idea about bringing the already-owned Magic cards.
It was a Wednesday. The Adeneys were all home. School day, weekday—it doesn’t really apply. Mrs. Money Mustache, a.k.a. Simi, is from Ottawa. She, too, had done well, as a software engineer in Boulder, and retired. Since then, she has passed the time and brought in some additional income by working as a real-estate broker, and then by making jewelry, which she sells on Etsy. Her own Mustachian credentials are strong, but she projects an air of slight forbearance. “People say I can’t be as hard-core as Mr. Money Mustache,” she said. “The other day, he was scrubbing the floor with a giant sponge. I said, ‘Why don’t we get a mop?’ ” He felt it would be a waste of space. She went on, “I’ve gotten used to it all, but he’s a weird dude.” He uses a woodworker’s vise to squeeze more juice out of limes. He stirs peanut butter with a power drill.

In an office off the kitchen, there was an acoustic guitar, a drum kit, an electric keyboard, a desktop computer, a medicine ball, and a washer with no dryer. The Adeneys hang-dry their clothes in the back yard, which faces south. When Simi’s mother visited, she didn’t want to hang her underwear outside. Still, Simi said, “My parents are proud of us. They know not to buy Pete anything. Whatever it is, he’s not going to like it.”

[...]

Simi wondered if Simon could bring his own used cards—perhaps wrap them as though they were new. Would the other boy have an issue with this?
I agree though, I would love to hear more from her. I'd also like to hear about his son's experience. This is the kind of project that is really a family endeavor. I get that he's the public face, but I'd still like to get their take on things.
posted by protocoach at 1:17 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think the difficulties of this are a testament to how absurd it is that we expect people to "bootstrap" themselves. I mean I'm also in software and pretty decent off with no debt and a car-free lifestyle, but I think dealing with my taxes, retirement accounts and health insurance are sometimes as hard as my job. No actually they are often harder. They are often like an extra job. And the health insurance thing I've messed up a few times, leaving me way behind financially on everything else and with the time suck of calling insurance companies and hospitals, which has a high opportunity cost. The whole process makes me want to hose my budget with a $100 bottle of bourbon. I can only think that people who expect everyone to figure this out just are sadists or something who are expecting most people to drown and then expect we won't lend them a net.
posted by melissam at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


His wife's name is Simi and she is named seven times in the article.

So she is. I stand corrected, and I'm not sure how I missed this.
posted by KathrynT at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kindly, if you can't see a value for yourself in what he's got to say, maybe, like the reaction a lot of white folks had to Beyonce's latest output, his blog is not for you.

Fair enough.

When I really think about it, I have to admit that his blog also pulls up a lot of anxiety for me, of the "I will never make lots of money, unlike this guy, so if I don't scrape and pinch right now all the time I will die in the gutter, and I'll probably die in the gutter anyway", and I can see, on consideration, that I react to that anxiety with irrational anger.
posted by Frowner at 1:19 PM on February 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


I think the difficulties of this are a testament to how absurd it is that we expect people to "bootstrap" themselves.

Totally agree. And the audience he's attracted says to me that even a lot of people who are nominally comfortable are really anxious about this.
posted by protocoach at 1:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


And the audience he's attracted says to me that even a lot of people who are nominally comfortable are really anxious about this.
I don't know. I think that it may kind of be the opposite: it's fun to read his blog if saving money is kind of a game for you and not the kind of thing that actually keeps you up nights.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


I am in between; I am constantly kept up nights worrying about money, mostly because too much of it is entwined with my husband's job and if something happens to him, I'm fucked. We're pretty middle class right now, but things can change. I am trying to figure out how to make more money for me so I can make sure that I might be okay if my circumstances change. I'm no longer ashamed of saying: "I want to be paid what I am worth and I want to have enough money to make sure there's always a roof over my head." So as someone who worries about money, I still find his blog worth reading if there's some specific corner I can cut in our current budget.
posted by Kitteh at 1:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


a lot of people who are nominally comfortable are really anxious about this.

I have this constant background anxiety, sort of like what I used to feel like before a major test. I don't think it will ever go away, even if I become nominally wealthy. The thing that really kills me about it is that if I ever told this to my parents they'd be so disappointed -- because they tried so hard for me to not have to worry the way they did.

Also, I think it would be funny if he referred to himself in the third person when he wrote.

Yes, but it would have to be in an exaggerated, Python-eseque British accent. I will accept nothing less.
posted by aramaic at 1:44 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


So why I don't like Mr. Money Mustache: I think his judgement can border on misanthropy, and in doing so blind him to some things.

One of the prime examples of it is this article. In it he rails at the inefficiency of a drive through bank.

Together we figured out the system: there was a little building to house three employees. But there was no walk-up access to these people; you could only communicate to them through microphones and speakers, and send them packages through a system of subterranean vacuum tubes. The tubes terminated in three lanes into which you could drive a car. Then there was a fourth lane equipped with the slightly newer invention of a computerized bank machine, and the fifth option of a walk-up bank machine right in the building itself.

A million dollar parking lot, thousands of gallons of Diesel, and a million pounds of trucked in materials, consuming a prime piece of downtown real estate big enough to house a huge number of people. All so a few dozen people a day can spend an extra minute burning gas and sitting on their asses instead of using their legs for those 60 seconds.

Just think for a minute of the enormity of this expenditure for such a tiny marginal benefit, and compare it to one example of a slightly more efficient option:

The bank pays the city a small annual lease fee to keep a tiny bank machine booth in the 21-acre public park just across the street. Bank saves money, city makes money, and people benefit for many decades from less traffic and wasted space.


So banks like these have a pretty standard purpose out in suburbia, and if he did some research, he'd know it. They are designed for small business that deal in petty cash to do deposits. Restaurants, retail stores. While an ATM would be cheaper, it'd also be much easier for some joker with a gun to hold up someone trying to stuff $2000 of $20's into a machine. That's also the reason they are designed to reduce human contact. It's not to keep them from you, it's to keep you from them. That's what the microphone speakers and vacuum tubes are for. And in his zeal to hate on them, he doesn't realize they are saving on one of the most expensive things any company has, payroll. You have a regular bank, you have guards.

Then he goes on to complain about someone idling their car:

If the average Joe Taxpayer or Josephine Consumer were able to prop open one eye even just a tiny bit for just a brief period of time, in order to give the slightest shit about efficiency – meeting goals with minimal waste instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool, the change we would experience would be absolutely spectacular.

This is almost Kunstleresque in its misanthropy.
posted by zabuni at 1:46 PM on February 24, 2016 [38 favorites]


Is it Simi Mustache or did she keep her own name?
posted by biffa at 1:48 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've got no hope, given my likely future income and current debt load, of an early retirement. But I like a lot of what MMM has posted on his blog, and find that he's got some good mental tricks for framing frugal and healthy decisions as smart and fun decisions, so that I don't feel like I'm depriving myself when I make the right choice. I also enjoy a bit of over-the-top shaming for things I know damned well I shouldn't be doing, occasionally do anyway, and usually regret. Accordingly, I appreciate the clown car article.

The style's not for everyone (and occasionally not even for me!) and not all the advice is applicable to everyone, but I like the cut of his jib. It's useful to see a broader range of lifestyle possibilities than I see demonstrated by most other media I consume, and see ways to enjoy life that don't make it harder for me to make rent every month. And I am intensely envious of anybody who's got a paid-off home in the Front Range, because Longmont's not exempt from the skyrocketing real estate prices around here.
posted by asperity at 1:50 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


he thing that really kills me about it is that if I ever told this to my parents they'd be so disappointed -- because they tried so hard for me to not have to worry the way they did.


This sounds like my in-laws. My husband and his family grew up very poor as a kid--turns out that being a minister in rural Ontario and New Brunswick doesn't pay much--so he remembers what it was like to pinch pennies, to make do with less. His parents did put all of their savings away for their retirement, so finally, in the past ten, fifteen years are they finally comfortable and not having to worry anymore. This lesson of frugality and making do has been instilled in him and his sisters, but I have no doubt they would be unhappy if they knew the extent of money worries we can have. I mean, we are incredibly incredibly lucky: our only debt is our house (we do not own a car or have children) but when you grew up with not a lot, that fear never goes away. I remember being in awe when I asked my husband why he didn't have any student debt from university; it turns out he worked many many hours while he was in school to pay it for himself.
posted by Kitteh at 1:50 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


He's basically the Scott Jurek of personal finance.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:51 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, remind me to always pretend to have maxed credit cards on Metafilter.
posted by michaelh at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Wow, remind me to always pretend to have maxed credit cards on Metafilter.

You qualify for credit cards? Check your privilege, bougie slime.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2016 [55 favorites]


I keep on thinking about the Magic story (and MMM's version of it, excerpted in the comments here).

Because I am an artist who lives in Seattle. Where Magic comes from. A lot of the older members of my circle of nerd/art friends are living comfortable lives because they were involved in Magic, one way or another. And a lot of the ones my age are living comfortable lives because they work for "casual" video game companies.

And I wonder if MMM's secretly-environmental stance on Not Consuming Excessively would extend to, say, his kid having a modest habit of giving money to PopCap to keep playing Plants vs Zombies 2. The folks at Wizards have a business of providing entertainment with fairly repeating buy-in costs, that uses pieces of cardboard as its delivery medium; the folks at PopCap also provide entertainment with fairly repeating buy-in costs, but uses the Internet as its delivery medium. Both of them have the repeating buy-in costs in part because it provides a way to give those nerd/art friends ways to maintain a decent living so their biggest daily concern is "dreaming up new cool things for your kid to play with". Is it still excessive consumption when it's not consuming resources to print all those pieces of cardboard? And then I stonedly drift into dreams of a post-capitalist paradise built on top of automation.
posted by egypturnash at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Then he goes on to complain about someone idling their car:
If the average Joe Taxpayer or Josephine Consumer were able to prop open one eye even just a tiny bit for just a brief period of time, in order to give the slightest shit about efficiency – meeting goals with minimal waste instead of just sliding along blindly in a chute greased with their own drool, the change we would experience would be absolutely spectacular.
This is almost Kunstleresque in its misanthropy.


Many mornings on my way to catch the bus, I walk past a shiny late-model Dodge Charger to which somebody's hooked up a remote starter. They turn that damn thing on in the most ridiculously warm weather, making a limited public resource -- the air -- more difficult to use for no goddamn reason. Whoever owns that car is not going to have any problems starting that engine when it's 40-50F out. There's no ice on the car they could be attempting to melt by running the defroster. Any benefit obtained by having a seat heater operating would be equally well obtained by wearing a fucking coat and boots. Like I'm doing. Walking past that car, breathing the cold and marginally-more-polluted air. And I have no idea how long they're running the thing for, but I've seen it going at a wide range of times in the morning, and it could easily be running for more than a half hour.

I consider leaving notes, or maybe printing out the weather forecast or some information on how engines don't benefit from pre-heating and how they're contributing to neighborhood kids having asthma. Haven't done it yet. But there's a lot of waste out there that benefits nobody, actively harms everybody, and costs the perpetrators a non-zero amount of money, and maybe what I really ought to leave under the asshole's windshield wiper is a link to Mr. Money Mustache.
posted by asperity at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


but his advice usually boils down to "earn more" like that's a viable option for every one who didn't have the skills or good fortune to walk into a first job in the 10th percentile of all earners, then marry someone in the same situation.

I have a good friend like this. He lucked into a good job and found a partner with a paid-off house AND a good job, and doesn't have a clue that the way he lives (which is not extravagant, but allows big expenditures if needed and tons of savings) isn't an option for everyone. He seems to think they've just made poor choices while he's made good ones.
posted by maxwelton at 2:13 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


I've been reading MMM for a couple of years now and like many of you find his personality a bit insufferable, but his forums are a goldmine of useful information, positive people, and encouragement. I was kind of blindly saving money for years (lest you all hate me, my first job out of college paid $11k a year, and even after 15 years of working as a grownup AND with a master's degree I've still never hit $50k). Finding the early retirement community online has really made me kind of focus on why I'm saving money. Last year on my sub-$50k salary, I was able to max out my IRA, workplace retirement account, contribute to my workplace pension (8% of my salary) and social security, and sock away an extra few grand on top of that. I think I lived on about 12k in a high cost of living city. Of course I had many of these tendencies before I found an online community of like-minded folks -- my aunt, who is in her 90s and grew up during the depression, helped raise my brother and me -- but for people who really couldn't give a shit about having a nice car and actually enjoy bringing their lunch to work every day, it's cool to have a community of others who feel the same way.
posted by jabes at 2:16 PM on February 24, 2016 [21 favorites]


engines don't benefit from pre-heating

Good luck trying to convince people of that! That's how Dad told them to do it.
Hell, you still see drivers swinging the opposite way before turning, like they are driving a team of horses
posted by thelonius at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


hen he goes on to complain about someone idling their car

Yeah, people who idle their cars have pretty much earned any contempt for it that comes their way.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I guess what I don't understand is what's the point of earning and saving multi-hundred-thousands a year if you are living on $24k? And I don't mean this in a snarky way, I mean this honestly. What's the point of making 15x your living expenses? MMM says that consumerism isn't happiness, and I believe that, but neither is hoarding. Maybe he's giving it all away? Prepping for the apocalypse? He's likely not saving for medical expenses - he lives in Canada after all.
posted by muddgirl at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I haven't read the OP because I'm trying to think this out without reacting to his persona: If a significant fraction of high earners did what he recommends, would *low* earners in general be better off, worse off, or unaffected? (Hi Rawls!)

I'm mostly coming up with better-to-unaffected -- the worst effect is an increase in the rhetoric that everyone should be able to do this, but I think there's not much marginal gain left for that rhetoric (it's already convinced everyone who wants to believe). Conversely, he's a privileged social voice for low-money pleasures that need support -- city parks, maybe low-cost MtG games for his kids' friends. Presumably his family is better support for practical than for luxury businesses. And there are two high-paying jobs that have other people in them. What am I missing?
posted by clew at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


...and my comment was made from the position of someone who has zero debts (not even a car loan or mortgage) and has the privilege of making enough money to live in comfortable means, save a bit of money, and hop on golden opportunities when they come along, just like MMM.
posted by muddgirl at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2016


He's likely not saving for medical expenses - he lives in Canada after all.

He is Canadian but lives in Colorado, so having it extra money for the shitshow that is the US healthcare system isn't too nutty.
posted by Kitteh at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was being a bit facetious, but he has said that he pays for catastrophic insurance. Even if he has a million dollar bill he could pay it off with two years of savings and investment.
posted by muddgirl at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2016


I guess what I don't understand is what's the point of earning and saving multi-hundred-thousands a year if you are living on $24k? And I don't mean this in a snarky way, I mean this honestly. What's the point of making 15x your living expenses?

Seems like it's some combination of setting up his kid(s?) for life, having money to give to charity, covering the costs of the website, and living true to his own principles. If the money's coming in for doing what you want to do, rather than what you have to do, there's nothing wrong with having it.
posted by protocoach at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


He also tends to make large capital expenditures, like a rental house, that doesn't get accounted for in his yearly budgets for some reason. So, his fixed costs might be 24k, but he's spending significantly more than that on investments.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, people who idle their cars have pretty much earned any contempt for it that comes their way.

The thing is, this is taking a systemic problem, environmentalism, and turning it into personal piety. This is another problem I have. Residential use of almost any environmental resource is not the issue. And in the words of the current US president, "we can't solve global warming because I fucking changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective". While every drop raises the ocean, my drop isn't really going to do that much.
posted by zabuni at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


The 20 dollar buy-in for the Magic card party was odd to me, and I think I would have rejected it too, but not because of frugality. If you invite your 10-year-old's friends over for a party, you pay for the pizza. If it's a party for established players of the game, they bring their own cards and they can buy booster packs whenever they want; if you want to introduce them to the game, build some decks out of your undoubtedly vast collection Obviously you don't want to include your valuable cards, but my experience was that you could build some perfectly nice demonstration decks out of your commons and uncommons left over from the search for rares. Demanding kids pony up for new booster packs sounds more like MLM than a party.

But yeah, if you are obsessing about $5 dollar purchases for months, then it's not very healthy.
posted by tavella at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Seems like it's some combination of setting up his kid(s?) for life, having money to give to charity, covering the costs of the website, and living true to his own principles. If the money's coming in for doing what you want to do, rather than what you have to do, there's nothing wrong with having it.

I'd dig that. I have decided I am tired of being ashamed at wanting to have and make more money. I am not planning on hoarding it or being a dick when it does happen, but I do plan on making sure I can retire, I can help out friends/family who need assistance, that I can make sure getting sick won't bankrupt us, and finally be able to give to charities and causes I would love to support financially. Personally, I would LOVE to be able to make my parents comfortable for the rest of their twilight years and pay my dad's gigantic medical expenses. That is what I would do with having a decent amount of money. Take care of the people I love.
posted by Kitteh at 2:42 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


He says that he doesn't intend to pay for his kid's college, so I think it's unlikely that he's going to set his kid up for life.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:43 PM on February 24, 2016


The thing is, this is taking a systemic problem, environmentalism, and turning it into personal piety. This is another problem I have. Residential use of almost any environmental resource is not the issue.

Of course this is true, but if there suddenly stopped being a consumer demand for more cars/televisions/whatever just to get the new thing when your old one is perfectly fine, or for a mcmansion and swimming pool on a huge suburban sprawl lot, that might cause some sort of difference, no?
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heck, I'd rather rich people spend all their money rather than invest. That return on investment comes out of somebody's pocket. Spending money puts it into other people's pockets.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:45 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


What's the point of making 15x your living expenses?

I suspect that making that much was an accident, but that he is a true believer (perhaps to a fault) in the minimalistic lifestyle, so he doesn't want to inflate his lifestyle despite having the cash flow to do so. Maybe it's a con and he lives it up in secret or plans to do so in the future, but I don't think so.

I was raised with a much lighter level of frugality, in part because we genuinely didn't have money when I was little, and I did take away the lesson that lifestyle inflation (or at least stuff) doesn't buy happiness.
posted by Candleman at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Heck, I'd rather rich people spend all their money rather than invest. That return on investment comes out of somebody's pocket. Spending money puts it into other people's pockets.


I don't get this. Don't most purchases benefit some wealthy people? I'd rather rich people subscribe to reasonably-rated municipal bond issues.
posted by michaelh at 2:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd rather rich people gave less-rich people jobs that paid a living wage.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:58 PM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


The thing is, this is taking a systemic problem, environmentalism, and turning it into personal piety. This is another problem I have. Residential use of almost any environmental resource is not the issue.

Local actions have local effects. I don't want the exhaust pipes I walk past spewing uselessly any more than I want people littering in my neighborhood (we have public trash cans!) Not all environmentalism needs an exclusively global perspective (and the people who live nearest busy highways and such suffer the most from automobile pollution.)

I'm glad the elementary school down my street has "no idling zone" signs around the entrance, because the concentration of exhaust at drop-off and pick-up times can be extremely unpleasant and can have measurable negative effects on the health of the kids whose classroom windows are just a few feet away. Idling engines is some clownish bullshit.
posted by asperity at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: He says that he doesn't intend to pay for his kid's college, so I think it's unlikely that he's going to set his kid up for life.

Which is a tremendously shitty thing to do to a kid in the US, if you have money. Because whether or not you pay, your income and resources will be considered. Which means in this case that your kid will be utterly impoverished in actuality, but will be unable to get any financial assistance whatsoever. I don't think it's unreasonable to say to a kid 'you will have to work during the summer to pay for your extra expenses' or even 'I want you to have a part-time job during school', nor do I think that parents are obliged to pony up for an expensive private school as opposed to a state college... but flat out refusing to pay anything when you have huge amounts of money is a shithead thing to do. That alone makes me think poorly of him.
posted by tavella at 3:04 PM on February 24, 2016 [48 favorites]


Also, I think it would be funny if he referred to himself in the third person when he wrote.

Check out the first few entries. He sort of does a dual personality 3rd person type of thing for awhile, but at some point the crazy person and the realist merge into the current stoic amalgamation you see today.
posted by zrail at 3:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I commute ~100 miles per day. 2001 Prius, paid off. I used to work closer to my residence, but I lost my job when my company went under. I would love to bike to work. Can he get me a job close by? It all sounds so easy!

My rent has tripled since 2012. Can he get me a place to live, near my work, that is affordable? It all sounds so easy! (I do not want to move to Oklahoma, sorry, he also suggested that I be happy)

I suppose I could kill the TV service, that additional $2/month in electricity savings would really help me out...

There are some cool tips here, sure, but I don't know that I want to be happy the way he is happy.
posted by Chuffy at 3:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


I mean, his plan to earn enough money to actually retire, and not fake-retire, seems to be to own a bunch of rental properties and have a web business. Neither of those avenues are particularly novel or particularly easy to break into, so the idea that he can teach me to be wealthy (which he states several times is one of his primary goals) seems a little bit off-base. Heck, I just looked at my annual spending (not including housing since he has the capital to just buy a big house outright and is not including any of that money in his budgets for some reason) and we don't spend much more than his family per year. Looking at his 2014 budget, he actually doesn't live incredibly frugally when you consider that he's not factoring in many people's #1 expense - housing.

I think I prefer Get Rich Slowly (or what Get Rich Slowly was a few years ago), which does advocate for frugality and for making sure your income matches your budget, but to me has advice for people starting from all income levels, not just people who already have high-paying jobs.
posted by muddgirl at 3:13 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


You guys, he lives on $24k in a paid off house. My big question is, does he have health insurance and are they paying the cost of that out of the 24k or is it being paid out as a business expense? (Perhaps he has previously explained on the blog, maybe one of you know?) I think most families could live pretty comfortably on $2k per month if mortgage/rent, health insurance, and childcare are not expenses to be paid.

He may have interesting things to say about consumerism, and I will definitely check out his blog, but it doesn't seem like he's really a paragon of frugality. He banked money from a lucrative career, and now he does what he wants.

I am volunteering this year in the volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) program and I have many clients who are supporting their families around the 30k range (and not just one salaried job) - they are paying rent in a HCOL city, complying with the ACA requirements, paying self-employment tax in a lot of cases, paying childcare costs, taking care of elderly or sick relatives. That is impressive frugality.
posted by stowaway at 3:19 PM on February 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


This guy is a friend - another personal finance blogger. He is supporting a wife and two kids with this blog and some consulting that results from it.
posted by COD at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


//My big question is, does he have health insurance and are they paying the cost of that out of the 24k or is it being paid out as a business expense?//

He has catastrophic insurance with a deductible of $20K or something like that. I think he was paying well less than $1000 a year for it. I guess you can do that now because if somebody in the family gets a chronic, expensive disease he can just sign up for health insurance in the next open enrollment period. Although I didn't think catastrophic coverage was qualifying coverage to comply with the requirements of Healthcare reform. But then he can easily afford the penalty so maybe he just pays it.
posted by COD at 3:29 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


My big question is, does he have health insurance and are they paying the cost of that out of the 24k or is it being paid out as a business expense?

I assume he's paying for an HDHP/HSA combo through one of the businesses. His article about ACA has this to say:

As of January 2015, more competitive providers have entered the Colorado market and I can now get a better-looking plan from Colorado HealthOP which includes children’s dental coverage for $408/month.
The other thing that article talks about is how people who are able to FIRE at a certain income level from investments in a Medicaid expansion state basically get free healthcare because of the subsidies. Dismiss this if you must, but Congress didn't insert a means test for the subsidies, just an income test. If they want to add a means test at some point they can, but it's so far down the list of priorities it probably won't happen.
posted by zrail at 3:40 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I prefer Get Rich Slowly (or what Get Rich Slowly was a few years ago)

J.D. Roth (original author of GRS before he sold it) has recently started blogging again as Money Boss. It's basically the same message as the original GRS but skewing toward more advanced techniques.
posted by zrail at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


Ctrl-F sanctimonious - not found Mefi, I am disappoint.

I used to follow MMM, and like others said above, he does have some useful suggestions and information. But they're so often couched in this sanctimonious "if you're not doing it exactly the way I am, you're a fat, gluttonous, moron and horrible human being" tone that I just couldn't keep reading. You really see this any time he mentions car ownership or driving - even in the NYT article, when he talks about "fighting the design of your city", you see how completely sheltered and just clueless about what options real people actually have. Like zabuni said upthread, it's misanthropy (which I'm normally very much in favor of) but it's *misinformed and misdirected* misanthropy, which I have learned I cannot stand (Hate humanity for creating pointless jobs that require 50 miles commutes in the first place, don't hate the people who have no better choice in life but to take them).

He's also incredibly naive when it comes to the whole "bike everywhere" thing - if literally everyone adopted his philosophy of "if you can't bike to work, move" the three actually bikeable cities in the US would all turn into San Francisco, and everything north of the mason-dixon line would begin to look like Detroit.. I exaggerate for effect, but you certainly get my point.

There are a lot of great personal finance blogs out there that do not adopt his tone. Mefi's own jdroth has a lot of good things to say in this space. Lifehacker's "Two Cents" articles are occasionally edifying, particularly for those just out of college. You Need A Budget offers some good intro material on budgeting. There's no shortage of good info on personal finance out there, and the really good stuff comes without the affected persona schtick and, yes, sanctimonious moralizing.
posted by namewithoutwords at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2016 [19 favorites]


Moderation is the mean. I am, to my regret, a spendthrift ("like a drunken sailor" was my father's not-lovingly-at-all characterization), while my wife is Little House on the Prairie 19th century frugal. She tells me she is pleased with us together because "We would not have 9/10ths of the fun crap we have" if not for me, and I am pleased for without her I would not have a savings account, or, indeed, would probably be sewing buttons on prison uniforms in debtors prison, or whatever we got now.
posted by Chitownfats at 3:45 PM on February 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


Pretty much still debtors prison.

There's no shortage of good info on personal finance out there, and the really good stuff comes without the affected persona schtick and, yes, sanctimonious moralizing.

I agree that there's tons of good stuff out there, but different tones work for different people. Sometimes it helps to have somebody shout at you a little bit, and some people respond better to it than others.
posted by protocoach at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I guess what I don't understand is what's the point of earning and saving multi-hundred-thousands a year if you are living on $24k? And I don't mean this in a snarky way, I mean this honestly. What's the point of making 15x your living expenses? MMM says that consumerism isn't happiness, and I believe that, but neither is hoarding. Maybe he's giving it all away? Prepping for the apocalypse? He's likely not saving for medical expenses - he lives in Canada after all.
posted by muddgirl at 5:22 PM on February 24 [+] [!] [quote]


so, I think the answer to your question about "What's the point of having all that money" is because you can use that money for perpetual retirement. You can read his post on it here, but it's a long post so here is my summary.

you have X expenses per year. If your invested money to produce $X each year, then you don't need to actively work for income any more. MMM assumes that 4% is a pretty solid number to assume as investment returns - so for every $4 you expend, you need $100 invested.

Therefore, if you plan to spend $40,000/year, you need to have $40,000 x 25 = 1,000,000 invested. So if you want to 'retire' with an anual expense of $25k, having $625,000 invested will allow you to do so. According to MMM.
posted by rebent at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I think most families could live pretty comfortably on $2k per month if mortgage/rent, health insurance, and childcare are not expenses to be paid."
posted by stowaway at 6:19 PM on February 24


I'm glad you pointed that out, because I was reading his blog thinking "we live on less than he does without even trying that hard." Mortgage paid, no kids, blessed with Canadian health care. Mystery solved.
posted by crazylegs at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Hmm. I am now even more curious how his health care spending breaks down. (I also uncharitably wondered if he managed to qualify for Medicaid!) No doubt they can absorb the penalty for not having insurance. But do they go to the doctor at all, ever? My family got the flu this year (in spite of flu shots, lucky us) that turned into an ER visit. Not a catastrophic medical event but a costly one.
posted by stowaway at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised nobody's taken this on:

"He’d recently returned from an annual weeklong meet-up in the Ecuadorean Andes."

That doesn't sound particularly frugal.
posted by crazylegs at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


you have X expenses per year. If your invested money to produce $X each year, then you don't need to actively work for income any more. MMM assumes that 4% is a pretty solid number to assume as investment returns - so for every $4 you expend, you need $100 invested.

All well and good, but is that not the very definition of becoming a rentier capitalist? I thought we hated them?

If I save money and don't invest it, I lose to inflation. I do hope to retire someday so I have to participate. But so many things I might invest in, boil down to just owning someone else's life blood and making them pay me for it. :-(
posted by elizilla at 3:59 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Therefore, if you plan to spend $40,000/year, you need to have $40,000 x 25 = 1,000,000 invested. So if you want to 'retire' with an anual expense of $25k, having $625,000 invested will allow you to do so. According to MMM.

Which is mostly reasonable for a retiree in their 60s who is also receiving Social Security. But it's wildly optimistic for someone in their 30s/40s. It's based on the Trinity Study and others begun in the 1990s that assessed investment returns and the maximum withdrawal rate that would not totally deplete a portfolio within 30 years. But if you're retiring at 40, you're going to want to plan for your money to last a lot longer than 30 years.
posted by AndrewInDC at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


For all the people w/ questions about his budget, here's what he spent in 2013 and 2014. So, $273/month for health insurance.
posted by indubitable at 4:08 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


So the answer is the same as it is whenever I boggle at someone else's life and wonder how they do the things they do: Don't have a chronic illness. Best advice ever. Wish I had followed it.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2016 [38 favorites]


you have X expenses per year. If your invested money to produce $X each year, then you don't need to actively work for income any more. MMM assumes that 4% is a pretty solid number to assume as investment returns - so for every $4 you expend, you need $100 invested.

Therefore, if you plan to spend $40,000/year, you need to have $40,000 x 25 = 1,000,000 invested. So if you want to 'retire' with an anual expense of $25k, having $625,000 invested will allow you to do so. According to MMM.


It's not just MMM, the 4% figure is pretty well-accepted in the retirement planning community. Well, people will quibble over, "Is it really 3% or 2.5%? Was the Trinity Study's result just a consequence of a particularly lucky time period in the markets?" but it's not like he's just some guy pulling this number out of his ass. The term used in these circles is, "safe withdrawal rate", i.e., the rate at which you can withdraw from a portfolio indefinitely and not run out of money.
posted by indubitable at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the link to their spending, indubitable!
posted by stowaway at 4:34 PM on February 24, 2016


Although I didn't think catastrophic coverage was qualifying coverage to comply with the requirements of Healthcare reform. But then he can easily afford the penalty so maybe he just pays it.

IME being self employed the catastrophic plans got converted to "bare minimum + HSA account" plans under healthcare reform. I think the standards for copays/deductibles are a little worse than a standard plan, but otherwise same benefits (you get the free checkup visit, max out of pocket, etc). Anyways, if you are self employed or an obsessive hypermiler blogger, the advantages of the HSA are pretty huge tax and retirement wise [if you are lucky enough to be healthy]. I would guess he has a very large sum exceeding his deductible in his HSA so he doesn't have to worry about healthcare cost at all, and it's just another account he can max out every tax year for maximum tax advantage. Then all he has to worry about is paying his lower-than-average premium, which is also a tax write off.

The fucked up healthcare system in this country really invites all kinds of weird strategies for dealing with it.
posted by bradbane at 4:35 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I see "software engineer", I think "Oh, he finds optimization problems with his money fun, instead of a source of anxiety." I do this and enjoy it but feel like I am a significant outlier in this attitude; it's just not how a lot of people think. And I wonder if much of the negative reaction comes from this temperament difference.
posted by solarion at 4:47 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Archetypal redditor is boring as fuck. Film at 11.

Also, it's shockingly easy to bank 50% of your income if you're a software developer and not motivated by status and other forms of idiocy (why must all my colleagues drive BMWs? They're not even very reliable!) With a little effort -- but far short of this level of obsession -- you can really sock it away. That is to say, everything is easy when you're young, healthy and you make a lot of money.

Also, for me, with a lot of these things, the savings are a side-effect of doing the right thing and not the primary motive -- e.g. riding my bike, turning down the heat.
posted by klanawa at 4:53 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd rather rich people gave less-rich people jobs that paid a living wage.

The neat thing about municipal/school bonds is they pay teachers, clerks, park employees, librarians, etc.
posted by michaelh at 5:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


The fucked up healthcare system in this country really invites all kinds of weird strategies for dealing with it.

"Ignore it, don't get sick, and if you get sick, ignore it and pretend you're not, because few forms of physical suffering are more painful than dealing with the American health care system" has been working pretty well for me. But I'm a lucky bastard, and not particularly worried by the prospect of an early death, so YMMV.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:34 PM on February 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read my last complimentary article already but somebody linked to this clown's website earlier. What I want to know is why anybody takes this seriously, its all deliberately provocative like all the other gurus, as oversharing as any home improvement psycho blog. How do you stand out in the personal finance landscape? Do you think it's by repeating the same Vanguard blah blah blah ad nauseam? No, of course not, its by having some moronic shtick like this guy. Whether or not he believes what he is saying is beyond the point, he comes across as a cast member of some reality tv show, "The Miser" to Dave Ramsey's "The Preacher" or Suze Orman's "The PBS Woman". If you subscribe to my free email newsletter I'll tell you about the revolution in tech that has Warren Buffet scared, I'll also include my 10 personal finance tips that will make sure you will never run out of money no matter how much you are earning today.
posted by Pembquist at 5:49 PM on February 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Long(Strong)mont, Colorado. It's city, about 20 miles north east of Boulder, slowly dying as company after company shuts down or moves away. So, daycare prob isn't that expensive.

Source: I live in Boulder, about 10 miles away. Longmont is no dying mill town. The average income and housing prices are both on the way up as Boulder gets less and less affordable. Colorado's child care costs are among the nation's most expensive, and as the metro area grows they are going up.
posted by mynameisluka at 6:17 PM on February 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


I kind of like MMM, but his readers.... ugh. Some of them use the ideas to justify really shady shit.

One guy I worked with would underpay on group lunches, and never leave a tip. "Just being frugal!" Dude, you make $125/hour and drive a $50k car, you're just an asshole. Another co-worker got a seller's agent to be her buyer's agent on a house. "I'm so proud of my house! I got a great deal!" Yeah... isn't that fraud?

So, about MMM's hometown of Longmont. I've lived here for 12 years now. Beautifully run town (minus a few stray lawsuits and a missing light rail.) I should be getting my municipal gigabit fiber hooked up this quarter. Electricity is from a co-op, much cheaper than the other utilities. BUT... the cheap times are coming to an end. Housing valuations are up 25% last year alone, and rentals are through the roof. Nearby Boulder's growth is removing the last really affordable place in the region. If MMM were starting out now, I'd suggest he move.

(On preview, what mynameisluka said.)
posted by underflow at 6:18 PM on February 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


The only part of this that I hardly ever see mentioned is why exactly people spend money.

In the same way that poor people might spend frivolously (?) on lotto tickets or cigarettes or booze, middle class people spend frivolously on nicer-than-they-can-really-afford cars, coffee, the expensive cable package, or a trip, because they are desperately trying to make themselves feel better in the only way our culture has trained them to--by spending money. And in the aggregate, someone making $15,000 a year that spends 20 bucks a week on booze and smokes isn't doing anything more profligate than the middle class couple making $60,000 a year that spends $400 a month on that spiffy car.

And of course, by not doing these things, they are making their lives feel worse while not really making any sort of dent in the systemic oppression that is capitalism.
posted by Automocar at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


Because whether or not you pay, your income and resources will be considered.

Yeah this is super important. (Incidentally this is also a big problem in the USA for LGBT kids who are estranged from their parents, or whose parents are using access to college to police their behavior.)
posted by en forme de poire at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like this guy and read his sanctimony as nothing more than zeal. I changed jobs to bike to work. But I choose to send my kids to private school and order take out twice a week. It's just nice to know there are ...other options. I might choose to buy the $700 ski outfit I'm lusting after, but to choose that and complain of my extra hours at work, I should be reminded, is hypocritical. To choose to buy that ski outfit and go into debt for it is stupid and worthy of scorn.

And it is absolutely true that a shit load of things I pay for -- cable TV, extra sneakers, evenyetstill more Lego has not increased the level of happiness in my home and I'll bet my retirement that my kids would prefer me home playing board games and occasionally railing about wasteful consumerism than working long hours away from them to buy them Lego sets they don't need.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2016 [14 favorites]


On the one hand, I love the idea of not getting caught up in consumerism, of learning to save money here and there so it can go to things that really count, and so on. On the other hand, I've never made much money, and I've had to be in therapy because I still freak out if I spend $5 on something I don't need. I recently got a job, and I decided that I was entitled to a bagel every other morning, because I like the people at the bagel place. Even then I'm still have a hard time writing about this here because I still feel kind of guilty about it. I'm planning on buying a (used!) book this week, and I don't care in the least if it's consumerism, because I want to deserve it.

So yeah, this really isn't for me. Not putting him down, just saying that I like knowing that it doesn't have to be for me or for anyone who can relate to what I'm saying. It's OK (I think) to get a bagel in the morning if you want it.
posted by teponaztli at 7:05 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


He stirs peanut butter with a power drill.

This is genius and I want to know what attachment to use. A small wooden spoon maybe? I will experiment and report back.

I don't think it's a finger wag to the poor at all. I think it's a finger wag to the people who make $100,000 a year and say "I'm barely making ends meet, it's a crime if they raise my taxes, how am I supposed to live on even less than I do now?"

I agree, and I've known quite a few of these people. At the same time, there is a major tinge of "you could do this too!" to this kind of writing that elides the key steps of having a high paying career and being able to buy a house at the right time in the housing market. Reducing spending is great, but it all works best when you start the process with comparatively large amounts of money and aren't dealing with expensive or chronic health conditions.

once used a cardboard box as a coffee table for more than a year,

As someone who has done this, though not so much for frugality as for finding the options for sale locally to be uglier than a cardboard box, I fail to see a problem. But joking aside, the point (made far above by Frowner, I think) that being able to ignore that kind of social expectation is itself a major form of privilege is worth considering.

Because I am an artist who lives in Seattle. Where Magic comes from. A lot of the older members of my circle of nerd/art friends are living comfortable lives because they were involved in Magic, one way or another. And a lot of the ones my age are living comfortable lives because they work for "casual" video game companies.

A few years ago I happened to meet a set of people who had had the opportunity to benefit from Magic at the beginning -- but had declined, and are now all entering their 50s and 60s without that kind of serious money, all because of an unlucky decision quite a few years ago. It was interesting how keenly they felt the lack of that money that they had never for even a moment possessed.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wait, do you think it's *not* challenging to live in 24k/year for a family of 3? Granted it's a choice, but it are you going to argue that it isn't challenging? And yes, a ton of folks live on this (and less), but it's pretty challenging for them, right?

If I moved from single to married brackets, my total expenses would be in the 26k range. We can debate whether that means post taxes, midwest vs coastal state rents, health insurance, or disabled family members, but the real challenge of living like that isn't income, it's the implied wealth gap.

I own my car outright, so I don't pay gap insurance. Nor does my annual budget have a line item for car depreciation. My car insurance premiums are cheaper because I pay in full every six months. They're also low because I have enough in my emergency fund to set a high deductible. I buy my own cell phone instead of financing from the carrier. I've haven't paid an overdraft fee in the past four years because my emergency funds and checking accounts are funded. All of this takes capital outlays to reduce operational expenses. It is simply too damn expensive to be poor.

It also takes time. Not just in the 'stay at home parent who cooks all the meals' time, or the 'clip coupons and bikes between five grocery stores' time, but in the 'every month I reconcile the income, asset, liability, and expense accounts down to a penny' time, and the 'learn how the saver's credit works' time. This is a process I've built up over years, and a data set going back just as long. Every year I get better at it.

It's a challenge, but one I find fun and engaging specifically because the worst case scenario is I contribute a fraction less to the Roth IRA. When it's a matter of 'If I don't solve this, the family is evicted,' it gets more soul draining rapidly.
posted by pwnguin at 7:30 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, on preview, what pwnguin said. That $24K excludes the major housing costs (maintenance plus taxes only, which seems to work out to around $200/month), child-care (school-age kid, public school, one parent doesn't work also I think?), and income tax. And none of that money has to be set aside in order to accumulate a safety cushion, to save for retirement, or to pay off e.g. student loans. In a less expensive area, housing and care for a young child seems like it could be an extra ~$15K a year; if you're in an expensive area, it could be up to $35K a year. Those are huge fixed costs. Plus if they have an unexpected expense they're in great shape; if someone really only making $24K a year has a health scare and needs to use credit to deal with it, that can get rough really fast.

$24K for everything else certainly sounds tight, don't get me wrong, and I do respect that he's trying to stay off the hedonic treadmill. But factoring tax, child care and rent, it also doesn't seem that crazily far off from the lifestyle of, e.g., a two-grad-student couple with a baby.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:33 PM on February 24, 2016


(Oops, sorry, not public school, homeschooling from stay-at-home parent.)
posted by en forme de poire at 7:37 PM on February 24, 2016


once used a cardboard box as a coffee table for more than a year,

As someone who has done this, though not so much for frugality as for finding the options for sale locally to be uglier than a cardboard box


OMG you guys I totally solved this

You put some attractive fabric over the cardboard box! BOOM fancy coffee table until somebody puts one up on Craigslist that you like and also some shelves you can use to store the books that were in the coffee table box.

Pretty sure I win at shabby chic. What do I win? Is it silverfish? SCORE
posted by asperity at 9:20 PM on February 24, 2016 [22 favorites]


This is genius and I want to know what attachment to use. A small wooden spoon maybe? I will experiment and report back.

What kinda peanut butter are you buying that needs power tools to eat?!
posted by madajb at 10:48 PM on February 24, 2016 [4 favorites]


The good shit separates into a dense layer of nut clay topped by a couple inches of oil. Recombining is a serious PITA so I eagerly await the report.
posted by sockpup at 11:43 PM on February 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't use a wooden spoon! Oil will go everywhere. You need something more wiry but very sturdy. I think a normal beater would work if you went slowly.

If you don't want to bring a drill into your kitchen, there are peanut butter stirrers out there and you could make your own, if you were trying to be frugal...
posted by bink at 12:21 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing you cardboard box coffee table people don't have cats...
posted by kitten magic at 2:08 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, he's not hating on the poors; he's hating on the rich who make things worse for all of us.

The rich who spend all their money aren't making things worse for us to the extent the ones just leeching money out of circulation into their savings accounts are...
posted by Dysk at 2:38 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


So wait, people shouldn't have savings? I'm confused.
posted by Kitteh at 3:34 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Vance Packard documented the crafting of marketing communications from the industry's perspective that sought to advise consumers that debt was good, living on credit was good, and upgrading products every year or two was good. Otherwise the silent generation, with their roots in the Depression, would have never consumed the output of the post war productivity boom fast enough.

That's also why advice like in the OP feels counter to conventional wisdom, three or so generations later.
posted by infini at 4:17 AM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I used to follow MMM, and like others said above, he does have some useful suggestions and information. But they're so often couched in this sanctimonious "if you're not doing it exactly the way I am, you're a fat, gluttonous, moron and horrible human being" tone that I just couldn't keep reading. You really see this any time he mentions car ownership or driving - even in the NYT article, when he talks about "fighting the design of your city", you see how completely sheltered and just clueless about what options real people actually have.

Yes. This is what bugged me about him, but I didn't want to editorialize in my post. I'm happy his lifestyle works for him, but the contempt he shows for people that live differently is disgusting.
posted by missmerrymack at 5:20 AM on February 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


"This is genius and I want to know what attachment to use. A small wooden spoon maybe? I will experiment and report back."

In the paint department of any hardware store, there's a variety of paint stirring attachments that ought to do the job.
posted by klarck at 5:38 AM on February 25, 2016


Folks, this is a magazine that thinks the diaeresis should be a thing.
The real injustice is that 'diaeresis', which tries so hard (three vowels in a row!), doesn't even get one diaeresis of its own. Check your crypto-non-diphthongic privilege, you naïfs.

I spell it with two.

Diäëresis.
posted by zenoli at 6:10 AM on February 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's an incredibly facile look at how the economy works. Money in a savings account does not collect dust.

The less money on deposit, the riskier and tighter the bank's loan system is. This makes credit more expensive and less available for those who need it to buy houses or start businesses. The people who get shut out or buried under loans they can't afford are generally those who need it the most.

Also, as was pointed out upthread, he doesn't actually advocate sticking your money in a mattress, or even just in a savings account. He advocates investing in stocks and bonds, which is to say putting money back into circulation and supporting the government.
posted by protocoach at 6:48 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


My motto is Never Refuse Advice. From anyone, about most things, but especially about money. I've been seeing the cloud of impending old age lately, and I'm worried about having enough money, I can't stop thinking about it, so I will take advice from rich bloggers, poor bloggers (did you see the thing in the article about the guy who lives in cave?), and everyone in between. Bring it on, tell me what I should do, inspire me to be as cool and perfect as you are!

Whether I follow the advice, that's another story. But I've found that pretty much everybody has at least a few good ideas.
posted by JanetLand at 7:11 AM on February 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


All well and good, but is that not the very definition of becoming a rentier capitalist?

Well, he's a rentier capitalist in clearer ways than that because he's a landlord.

It's a schtick, it's a contrivance that snowballed, there's some snippets of decentish advice wrapped therein, but as with so much in America it has to be delivered through a slightly cultish cosplay to stick out: welcome to Colonial Frugalberg.
posted by holgate at 7:31 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised nobody's taken this on:
"He’d recently returned from an annual weeklong meet-up in the Ecuadorean Andes."
That doesn't sound particularly frugal.


I'd bet he was there as a speaker or consultant whose expenses were paid for by the event organizer. One of the "secrets" of upper-middle class professional / academic life is to fold as much of your travel / adventure expenses into something you can get other people to pay for, in the guide of meetings, conferences, tradeshows, etc.
posted by aught at 7:58 AM on February 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


sanctimonious moralizing--

Well, he is Canadian. Sanctimonious moralizing comes naturally to us (an example from my own comment history). I thought the Canadian angle in the New Yorker profile was quite interesting.

In an introduction to Thorstein Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class (which takes a very similar view--basically, why are you all wasting so much money?!), John Kenneth Galbraith talks about how anglophone Canada was heavily influenced by the Scottish. I'd speculate that living beside a larger and wealthier neighbor may make morally-superior-thriftiness a natural position to take. "We may not be rich, but at least we don't waste our money the way you do!"
posted by russilwvong at 8:07 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


John Kenneth Galbraith talks about how anglophone Canada was heavily influenced by the Scottish.

Yes, Scots Canada is an invisible but omnipresent force in Canadian society. Its influence is disproportionate to the actual number of extant people who can trace their lineage to the Scots, but if ever there was an example of the moral philosophy of Scots Canada, this guys is it.

Well, other than the part where he tells people what to do. A true Scotsman (har) judges silently.
posted by GuyZero at 8:17 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Heck, I'd rather rich people spend all their money rather than invest. That return on investment comes out of somebody's pocket. Spending money puts it into other people's pockets.

So does lending it to them. He's actually been dabbling in microlending now. If he ends up advocating for it, and if that were to catch fire among the mid-moneyed class, you could see real appreciable and broad change.
posted by butterstick at 8:18 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Lending is only good for the lendee in the long run if they can leverage that money to make more than they will have to pay back. Otherwise it just makes things cost more and enforces the concept of a rental society. Microlenders are the new landlord.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:06 AM on February 25, 2016


The less money on deposit, the riskier and tighter the bank's loan system is.

(1) While I don't have time right now to dig up links to confirm this, I don't believe that most bank lending these days is driven by consumer deposits.

(2) The amount of money you have to lend has nothing to do with how risky it is for you to lend it. Putting $50 into a 30-day T-bill is way way safer than putting $100m into the latest high-yield distressed debt offering.

He advocates investing in stocks and bonds, which is to say putting money back into circulation

Not under the present circumstances. Many of the world's largest corporations are sitting on giant cash piles. What they aren't doing: increasing pay to their lower-paid workers (which would put cash back out there, as lower-income workers tend to spend more of their income) or investing heavily in infrastructure and research (thus directly purchasing goods and stimulating demand). Further, to the extent the value of a stock appreciates, that value is not realized until you sell it (or take a loan against it, which most folks won't be doing). Those gains on your portfolio are not in circulation.

...I mean, I kind of thought everyone knew about the paradox of thrift? Is this really not so?

I don't have a problem with guys like Money Mustache, I like the basic idea of rejection of consumerism that drives some of them, and find the better money-management bloggers can really offer useful information for people who are lucky enough to be in a position to take advantage of it, but unfortunately they do tend to feed into a broader attitude in society about why the poor/working class are in the position they're in. Also, judging by the comments I've seen on blogs like his, some of the readers are really, really naive and are likely to blow themselves up following the advice ineptly. It's really just a matter of chance that they're reading that kind of blog and not following the latest get-rich-quick asshole.
posted by praemunire at 9:33 AM on February 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


He stirs peanut butter with a power drill.

This is genius and I want to know what attachment to use. A small wooden spoon maybe? I will experiment and report back.


Life hack: store natural peanut butter upside down
posted by lock sock and barrel at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


...I mean, I kind of thought everyone knew about the paradox of thrift? Is this really not so?

Sure, but the paradox itself indicates, he's being rational. Besides, it's not like this guy is going to single-handedly sink the economy.

Many of the world's largest corporations are sitting on giant cash piles. What they aren't doing: increasing pay to their lower-paid workers (which would put cash back out there, as lower-income workers tend to spend more of their income) or investing heavily in infrastructure and research (thus directly purchasing goods and stimulating demand).

So funny enough, who are these cash hoarders?

1. Apple
2. Microsoft
3. Google
4. Pfizer
5. Cisco
6. Oracle
7. Johnson & Johnson
8. Qualcomm
9. Medtronic
10. Merck
11. GM

With the exception of GM, guess what all these companies do? They spend a shit-ton of money on research. And they, for the most part, have really, really high-paid workers.

The companies that have low pay and don't invest in R&D also, surprisingly, don't actually generate enough cash to hoard. Anyway, yes, cash hoarding is indeed problematic, but not for the reasons you describe.
posted by GuyZero at 9:49 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I like the goal Money Mustache espouses (financial independence - which is clearly not the same thing as early retirement since the guy's still working) but disagree with his way of doing it.

The way to financial independence isn't saving to ridiculous extremes. It's making more money. If you don't have a high income, good luck retiring at all, let along retiring early. And some stuff he says is utterly ridiculous, e.g.: "...you can work a minimum wage job ($11.00/hr) in this city, pay for rent and food, and still save almost 50% of your income, retiring from your job working at Starbucks by age 37." The city he is referring to? Toronto. What a joke.

His own story of how he became financially independent doesn't add up either. In year 5 he magically saved $100k despite a combined pre-tax income of only $160k. He bought a motorcycle for $10k which canceled out his investment gains of $10k. So if he really saves 70% of his income as he claims, then that works out to $100k/70% = $143k after tax income for an effective tax rate of 10%.

The rest of the math in his wealth history don't make any sense unless you assume he pays literally no taxes, or he is doing some weird stuff like adding in the value of his home. His own investment history was very lucky as he started working when the dot-com bubble burst, allowing him to buy in at low levels, and retire around 2008 when the housing bubble burst.

Moral of the story: Get a high paid job as a software engineer, perfectly time the market, pay no taxes, build your own house (or two, and rent one of them out), you too can retire early and live off $24k a year.
posted by pravit at 10:18 AM on February 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


GM spent over $7 billion on R&D in 2014 which likely puts it in middle of that list of companies listed by GuyZero.
posted by zenon at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, this fellow is really my cup of tea. Right now our family is in a weird transition (New town, new jobs, one-year-old one-year-olding) and, through no virtue of our own, are in a position to be nearly debt-free with some savings or completely debt-free with not a lot of savings (And sort of homeless, if living comfortably with relatives who have a pretty big house qualifies). Basically we have the opportunity to start at square one, which fills me with excitement and trepidation. Things that have become glaring through the move and entire process is 1) How much stupid crap we've accrued and 2) How little interest I have in working for anyone 3) How preferable it would be to have one of us stay home with our little human, and if so, what that would mean for our family's finances. He really is living the dream - or at least my dream - and my hat is off to him. Sure he's proselytizing, but the essence of what he's saying is like Pollan's food thing, "Save money, don't buy crap..."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 AM on February 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd rather rich people gave less-rich people jobs that paid a living wage.

We don't head enough from the people with servants type on MeFi. I'm sure they'd be welcome.
posted by biffa at 10:38 AM on February 25, 2016


GM spent over $7 billion on R&D in 2014 which likely puts it in middle of that list of companies listed by GuyZero.

The list is by amount of cash hoarded, I didn't actually check their R&D spending, I'm actually surprised GM spends that much. Apparently my caveat was unnecessary.
posted by GuyZero at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sure, but the paradox itself indicates, he's being rational. Besides, it's not like this guy is going to single-handedly sink the economy.

Sure, and of course not (and obviously demand is a much trickier matter than can be summed up in such a simple analysis). A lot more people than read MMM would have to stop spending money for there to be a significant effect. So this is all fairly tangential. But, since it's come up, the post I was responding to was arguing without an understanding that putting your money in a savings account or into a stock portfolio has, viewed broadly, a negative effect on demand.

They [Apple, etc.] spend a shit-ton of money on research.

Apple spent about $8b on R&D last year. However, from 2012 to 2015, Apple has also handed back $112b to shareholders in stock repurchases and dividends, and they're aiming to hit $200b by 2017. Money that goes back primarily to wealthier individuals (because those are more likely to be shareholders and/or employees benefiting from options), who are likely to save a significantly higher percentage of their income than the less well-off. And even after that, Apple is holding nearly $200b in cash, which makes $8b look kind of anemic for a tech company.

(And this is all assuming that you'd be buying a new issue of stock, which you probably wouldn't be.)

And they [Apple, etc.], for the most part, have really, really high-paid workers.

A relatively small number of highly-paid employees. See above.

Liquidity Coverage Ratios govern how many loans a financial institution can take on.

As I said, and I do want to flag that I'd need to go through some research to confirm this, consumer deposits are no longer the major source of assets available for lending.

A lack of liquidity in a financial institution means a lower amount of available loans, thus meaning riskier clients have less ability to access credit and/or must compensate in the form of higher interest rates to get at it.

Sorry...what? Assuming accurate assessment of risk (always a big assumption), a bank which is making fewer loans to risky clients is at less risk. The exact opposite of what you said.
posted by praemunire at 11:40 AM on February 25, 2016


. And even after that, Apple is holding nearly $200b in cash, which makes $8b look kind of anemic for a tech company.

You know what the 2015 spending on R&D was for the entire UK? $40B USD. (Now admittedly it looks like the UK is an underspender in this area). By this chart it looks like Apple's R&D spending in on par with the total R&D spending of any non-G20 state.

Apple's ability to generate cash is immense but that has nothing to do with their R&D spending, which by any measure is equally immense. It's farcical that anyone would describe spending $8B USD on R&D as "anemic."
posted by GuyZero at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2016


The good shit separates into a dense layer of nut clay topped by a couple inches of oil. Recombining is a serious PITA so I eagerly await the report.

Don't you just turn it over?

Though, now, I'm looking at the vitamix right next to the peanut butter on the counter....
posted by madajb at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2016


His own story of how he became financially independent doesn't add up either. In year 5 he magically saved $100k despite a combined pre-tax income of only $160k. He bought a motorcycle for $10k which canceled out his investment gains of $10k. So if he really saves 70% of his income as he claims, then that works out to $100k/70% = $143k after tax income for an effective tax rate of 10%.

Here's a comment of his from that post in response to a reader asking "How do you save this?", which helps explain that some of this is just estimates:

I think the savings rate was in the 65-70% range in most years. Remember that from year-to-year, the overall savings balance represents some investment gains in the principal as well – stock dividends and appreciation.

You might also be overestimating taxes – remember the mortgage interest deduction, as well as a maximum 401k/IRA deduction for each income earner. Factoring those in, you don’t need $170k of income to save $110k, and that is before even accounting for the tax-free capital appreciation of stocks as mentioned above.

Don’t get too hung up on the exact numbers in any particular year, because I pulled this whole article out of old memories – I didn’t start my current “net worth” spreadsheet until around 2005. The salary numbers and dates are exact, as is the retirement date and the 800k ‘ish balance at that date. So I know I got there somehow. The years in between are just my best estimate.

The bottom line is that we earned some solid average office-worker salaries at the time, but only spent $30-40k per year. Which is still a shitload of money for two people with no kids at the time to spend. Easy!
posted by jabes at 1:02 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is genius and I want to know what attachment to use.

I've always chucked in one of these little dough hooks that came with our hand mixer, it works great. Also I have left the jar upside down for weeks, it does not help. There's no substitute for powered agitation.
posted by contraption at 1:30 PM on February 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you've got one of those machines at your grocery store that grinds peanut butter fresh from peanuts, try it sometime. The resulting peanut butter seems... fluffier... than the jarred natural peanut butter and seems to take a long time to separate. At least, I've never had to stir that stuff, and we maybe have peanut butter every week or two.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:36 PM on February 25, 2016


I learned about the idea in the late 20th century from a coworker who I think just used a section of wire coathanger.
posted by contraption at 1:37 PM on February 25, 2016


> I'd bet he was [in Ecuador] as a speaker or consultant whose expenses were paid for by the event organizer

Or even if he wasn't, it isn't a "gotcha." I hadn't heard of him before I read the article, but I used to be a fan of the similar Tightwad Gazette. She saved money in insane ways (e.g. making her own baby formula), and she did it explicitly so she could spend money where she wanted (buying a farmhouse, and fixing up antique furniture as a hobby). For people who don't need to worry about survival, frugality is about having enough money to do what you want, when you want, by not spending money where you don't have to on stuff you don't really care about.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2016 [13 favorites]




She saved money in insane ways (e.g. making her own baby formula)

See, this is why I like "extreme" money bloggers -- they challenge my assumptions. Does this thing *have* to be bought in a store, or can I do it myself? I've never had kids, but the formula thing is a great teaching lesson anyway -- don't make assumptions about how you have to spend your money. Now, I've read enough so that nothing seems "insane," even if I wouldn't do it myself.
posted by JanetLand at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


See, this is why I like "extreme" money bloggers -- they challenge my assumptions.

Agree 100%. Even if I look at someone's "extreme" actions and say "that's crazy and I would never do it", they have expanded my horizons by challenging me to consider something that I might not have thought of on my own. And, if I decide that something is worth doing and not as "extreme" after all, it's a win!
posted by theorique at 1:42 PM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


The booster-pack ban had created a quandary. [Ten-year-old] Simon had been invited to a friend’s house to play Magic with some other kids. This was deemed to be a good thing, since Simon was no longer in school and had a reclusive streak. But the father of the friend had established a twenty-dollar-per-kid buy-in, to cover the cost of pizza and a few new booster packs. “We’ll pay for the pizza, but I don’t want to buy the cards,” Adeney said. “Is it a social obligation to spend money on stupid stuff?” Simi wondered if Simon could bring his own used cards—perhaps wrap them as though they were new. Would the other boy have an issue with this?

A truly wise man would have taught his son the joys - and economies - of Living Card Games such as Netrunner, Mage Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. And "penny sleeves" are called that for a reason!
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:28 PM on February 28, 2016


The first was buying his ten-year-old son, Simon, a mini-Rubik’s Cube, which broke when they tried to take it apart. Junk.

"We smashed our kettle to pieces with a hammer. Don't waste money on kettles, they're useless."
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:30 PM on February 28, 2016


I'm continually surprised that people can think someone who calls himself Mr. Money Mustache takes himself seriously. MMM is a character and all the "You deserve a punch in the face for not taking care of your debts before buying a new car" and "badassity" bravado are part of that character's shtick.

As others have pointed out above, his whole message is that if you are middle class in America (or similarly developed country) you are actually rich with respect to the vast majority of the world. And instead of spending all of those riches on consuming material objects while hating your daily grind, you can work on making the daily grind obsolete and focusing solely on your happiness. Coincidentally, you'll be improving the environment and your fellow community members.

Personally, I think his optimization and commitment to doing things the hard (but spiritually fulfilling, at least to him) way is a little overboard. However, he did say in an interview somewhere that happiness is really the only thing to worry about maximizing. If buying crap really makes you happy, go for it; if it's saving up for financial independence, go for that.

MMM has also pointed out several times to his readers that he is not directing his advice to anyone who is earning a low income. To those people he says the best you can do is try not to go into debt needlessly and try to get a better paying job. He actually did two posts on jobs that pay $50K a year but don't require college degrees. His basic advice for how to find jobs like that? Look for things that stupid rich people pay others to do for them when they should be doing it themselves. Those are the same rich people who could be "enlightened" by Mustachianism, but realistically will still be around long enough to make dog walk and house cleaner viable professions.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 10:55 AM on February 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


you are actually rich with respect to the vast majority of the world

Isn't this just as true for people in the US who make minimum wage, though? Even if you make $18K a year, if you enter your income here it will still guilt-trip you about how cushy you have it.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:31 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Found the John Kenneth Galbraith quote:
[Thorstein Veblen's animus] was based not on anger and resentment but on derision. I must here cite an experience of my own. Some ten years ago, to fill in the idle moments of one of the more idle of occupations, that of the modern ambassador, I wrote a small book about the Scottish clansmen among whom I was reared on the north shore of Lake Erie in Canada. The Scotch (as with rare etymological correctness we called ourselves), like the Scandinavians, inhabited the farms; the people of the towns were English. From Toronto in the nineteenth century other Englishmen, in conjunction with the Church of England as a kind of holding company for political and economic interest, dominated the economic, political, religious and social life of Upper Canada to their own unquestioned advantage.

In writing the book I found it agreeable to recapture the mood of my youth -- of my parents, neighbors, the more prestigious members of the other clans. We felt ourselves superior to the storekeepers, implement dealers, poolroom operators, grain dealers and other entrepreneurs of the adjacent towns. We worked harder, spent less but usually had more. The more prestigious clans and clansmen took education seriously and, as a matter of course, monopolized the political life of the community. Yet the people of the towns were invariably under the impression that social prestige resided with them. They were English not Scotch, Anglicans not Presbyterians, and were identified, however vicariously, with the old ruling class. Their work, if such it could be called, did not soil the hands. We were taught to think that claims to social prestige based on such vacuous criteria were silly. We regarded the people of the towns not with envy but amiable contempt. On the whole we enjoyed letting them know.

When I published the book, by far the largest number of letters I received were from people who had grown up in German and Scandinavian communities in the Midwest who told me that it was really the mood of their childhood that I had described. "That was how we felt. You could have been writing about our community."
I've been reading a lot of Joseph Heath lately. He expresses this view pretty well (commenting on Canadian consumption, not the US): These houses are the source of a great many problems in the world.
Even during my own lifetime, GDP per capita in this country has more than doubled. My children are growing up in the country where the average person is twice as wealthy as the average person was when I was their age. (And that’s not even taking into consideration technological change.) Yet there is no discernible change at all in how people feel about their financial situation, or their consumption. The suggestion that we might want to have a carbon tax to combat global warming, or a road toll to reduce congestion, or even just a more progressive income tax to help the poor, is met with howls of outrage. We are told that hard-working Canadian families are just taxed out, they can’t possibly shoulder these additional burdens. Apparently there are just so many other bills to be paid, there is no room at all to solve these pressing social problems.

Now I happen to believe that this is actually how most people honestly feel. It’s not just a made-up thing. The average Canadian family does feel financially pressed. The question then is how it could be, given that these hard-working families are approximately twice as wealthy, on average, as families were when I was young. How is it possible to double the wealth, and yet not create any slack?

(And don’t say it’s because median incomes are stagnant, the 1 per cent have taken it all, etc. This is Canada, not the U.S. — the income trends are different. Plus anyone who’s been in an average suburban home of late knows full well that people have a pretty elevated consumption level. Just take a look at that house above, which is being sold to people probably in the upper 60-80% income range, definitely not upper 10%.)

The answer is that people are stuck in a race to the bottom, involving various forms of (implicit or explicit) competitive consumption. House size is one of them. Houses just keep getting bigger and bigger. (In Luxury Fever, Robert Frank cites the factoid that the bottom income quintile in the United States enjoys the same amount of living space as the average European.) I recall once asking one of my in-laws, who had just bought a new suburban home, which model she had chosen. “The biggest one,” she said. I love that answer. It’s one thing to buy the biggest one, but to buy it under that description is just awesome. Let the race to the bottom begin!
And: Lifestyles of the 1% (Vol. 1: heated driveways).
posted by russilwvong at 2:25 PM on March 5, 2016 [4 favorites]


We do have a Canadian Dream. It's something about showing how our region is smarter or better than Ottawa or those socialists in BC, or those slackers in the Maritimes. I live in Alberta, bastion of the "The federal government is stealing all our oil money!!" lifestyle. My father was from "Old" Ontario and really believed all that stuff Galbraith is saying about the Church of England, along with a healthy dose of Britannia rules the world boosterism, and that somehow we have to uphold British upper-class values because. As a little kid I couldn't figure out why we would want to think of ourselves as British squires, even living on Vancouver Island (which was actually still a colonial outpost in the 1960s. More tea?).

It seems like the average Albertan's economic plan is "I have the right to get rich however I want, you can't stop me, and nobody from any government is going to take that away." At the same time we have a dedicated right wing press whose bread and butter is telling us exactly that, followed by endless tales of the perfidy of "Liberals". There was a classic in the Calgary Herald yesterday about how Alberta's NDP hasn't accomplished anything since they've been in power (almost a year!), followed by howls of outrage from the commentariat, who have been convinced that every economic problem is the fault of our new premier and prime minister. Kind of amazing, but scary. I see a lot of unnecessary pain on the horizon.
posted by sneebler at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2016


russilwvong thank you for that passage, that's really quite interesting. I think "We're better than them because we spend our money better" perfectly summarizes the mentality in my childhood home.
posted by rebent at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


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