Soldier of Luxury

warriors_at_restImagine for a moment that you are a warrior. Everything you own is on your back or strapped to your body, and you move effortlessly through the jungle.

You’re on a mission of critical importance. Your success determines the fate of many people, who will be grateful if you succeed. But you are not worried – the mission is your life and your life is the mission, and your calm determination keeps you moving, efficient, and richly aware of each moment.

During the days, you move. Slipping through the paths and vines, noticing how well your body works for you without a complaint. You can walk, or even run, all day. Sometimes you need to climb the cliffs, sometimes you swim across rivers or small lakes. Sometimes the jungle opens up and gives way to open desert – tall cacti alongside your path and enormous mountains in the distance which glow red with each sunrise and sunset.

Your machine-like body requires a lot of food, but fortunately, you feast every night. There is always a stream with sizeable and delicious fish, trees which bear tropical fruit and nuts, and plenty of fresh water. Nothing in the world is as tasty as these meals you cook over the fire, after a dozen hours on the move. After the feast you turn in for a sleep on a bed of the softest grasses. The temperature is perfect and your sleep is uninterrupted. You rise with the sun.

Frequently, you will come to a village. You have arrived to save the people from an invading force of enemies that could be here any day, and they welcome you with open arms. You talk with their leaders, townsfolk, and children, and they offer you food, drink, and stories.

The enemy arrives the next day, with an army that fills  the whole village square. You step out to meet their leader. Miraculously, you find you are able to resolve the conflict without violence. They turn back and return to their own village peacefully, and your wise words of nonviolence become a foundation of their culture for all generations to come.

Gradually your reputation grows, and your welcomes grow ever-warmer. In one village, you find a breathtakingly attractive and intelligent mate, and find yourself sharing a hut with this person. You settle down for a while, continuing peacemaking missions but also raising children of your own. Your new home is a warm community where everyone knows and shares with one another. You spend your village days learning, overcoming challenges, solving puzzles, and laughing with others. Your children follow your example and grow strong themselves, able to give and help wherever they go. This is a truly happy life.

This all sounds pretty damned sweet to me. It’s the life of a soldier, with minimal possessions, great strength and ability, and the ability to do great service. But yet the harshest parts have been taken out – the wars, injuries, danger, and bureaucracy which dumps orders down the command chain at you. This imaginary, very badass, and very happy person is The Soldier of Luxury, so named because of the amazing combination of soldier-like simplicity and dedication, with the incredible luxury of a life with very little danger of being shot at.

You might dismiss the tale above as pure fantasy. Sure, we’d all like to have long walks, jungles and deserts, fresh fish and berries, safe beds and attractive mates, and satisfying challenges with the opportunity to heroically help and teach others. But that just isn’t the world in which we live today. We’re stuck with concrete and SUVs, schedules and meetings, douchebag bosses and politicians, and endless obligations, bills and mortgages.

Except we’re not. And in fact, today’s world is quite secretly arranged with the ideal conditions for living the life of a Soldier of Luxury. Never before in history has the opportunity been so close and ripe, and yet never before has it been so far from the grasp of the brainwashed masses of our very wealthy population.

We live in a place where the food is safe to eat, astoundingly yummy if prepared well, and yet far cheaper than it has been for almost all of history. Fresh fish is just one of a thousand things you could eat for your next meal. You can find a place to sleep with a soft bed that is completely free from predators, allowing a peaceful sleep that most of your ancestors could only dream of. The world’s information flows past with perfect accessibility and you can learn, and even contact almost anyone on Earth using the same device that is planting these exceptionally valuable ideas into your mind. With these three tools, you are already sufficiently powerful to accomplish just about anything that can possibly be accomplished (and a few things that they say cannot.)

The life of a Soldier of Luxury is complete. Everything required for the deepest happiness and most satisfying life is built right into the package. Anything else is superfluous. Complicating life beyond this is just adding doilies and decorations, frilly curtains and chandeliers to an already-perfect home.

Sure, you can safely add a few complications if you like. I have done so myself over the years, with houses and cars, touchscreen thermostats and espresso machines. It’s all good, as long as you realize what you’re doing – decorating something that really doesn’t need decorating, if you really know what you are doing.

So herein lies the formula for an instant solution to most of life’s problems. Study the description of the Soldier of Luxury’s life. Acknowledge that this Badass individual has truly got it figured out, and that indeed, he needs nothing more than what is already in that amazing life. Then realize that you too have most or all of his advantages, and you can design a life that is just as satisfying.

What would the Soldier say if you went to his village and complained that you cannot escape the monthly payments on your Ford Explorer because you need room to carry the kids to soccer practice and put the dog in the back? Or that you can’t ride your bike because it’s cold outside? The Soldier would pick you up by the neck and heave you into the river, then return to peeling mangoes and avocados for his family’s dinner, thankful for the end of the whiny disturbance.

But what do you, the modern Soldier of Luxury, do if not living in a village and peacefully averting tribal wars? You might instead live in a modern city, spending less time in the office and more with family friends. You might take sabbaticals, or retire early, travel to some actual jungles or deserts, or do some form of work which is so fun you would gladly do it for free.

This concept of “I can be absolutely happy, with virtually nothing” is critically important to unlocking your mind from the little cage that consumer society welds around it.

  • Most people are still stuck at, “I can be absolutely happy, if I just strike it rich and famous like the stars on TV.”
  • Accomplished high-income people improve on this a little, saying “I will be truly happy – as soon as I have about twice what I have right now.”
  • With a bit more wisdom, you can get to “I can be truly happy, with exactly my life right now. Nothing more, nothing less.”
  • This is not a bad place to be, but the freedom to make positive change comes when you realize, “I can be happy with anything, I don’t need all this fluff that I have now. I am completely free to find happiness with any level of spending, consumption, complexity – or simplicity – in my life.”

Herein lies the real secret to very speedy financial independence for almost everyone – realize that right at this moment, you could theoretically cut your spending in four, and still have a more luxurious life than the Soldier of Luxury.  And thus, you could still have a more fulfilling life than you have right now. It might take innovation and teamwork, but it could be done. You don’t even have to take that drastic step. You could just take a tiny one like going out for a long walk on a cold day. It’s still a step towards Soldier status, and thus a step towards freedom.

We all have the ability to become Soldiers of Luxury, for our world is perfectly configured for it. Opportunities for achievement are widespread, and even the lowest income is very high relative to the cost of true necessities. Every notch you can bring your own life closer to that of a Soldier is a step in the right direction. Benefits begin immediately. Strip and pare the unnecessary decorations and distractions. Reveal the true you, simpler and stronger and more satisfied with life. You are not decreasing your quality of life when you give up the pampering – you are giving yourself a life – perhaps for the very first time.


  • Emily A December 9, 2013, 9:48 am

    Another great one, MMM. I know I can be happy with virtually nothing; probably much happier with less than I have now. But I haven’t cracked the code to giving myself permission to step away from the rat race. Not sure why!

    • Free Money Minute December 9, 2013, 5:56 pm

      Time to make it happen Emily and enjoy the life you can have. Best wishes as you migrate in that direction!

    • thehungryegghead December 9, 2013, 6:38 pm

      Giving yourself the permission to step away from the rat race is not easy. When I did it back in 2009, I thought that my friends and family would be happy for me. With the exception of my husband and certain close friends, most were against it including my parents. I was actually shocked by many people’s reactions to my personal choices. I had no idea that quitting my job at age 28 without plans of looking for another one would spark so many different reactions from so many people.

      Truth to be told, I just no longer wanted to be a cog. I was earning good money, but I spent almost every penny of it trying to buy happiness. And for what? Buying stuff I do not need just so I could keep up with my friends. No thanks.

      It’s been almost 5 years, I can honestly say that I have never felt so free and happy. I set my own schedule and its great not having to answer to someone else. Quitting my job was one of the hardest decision I ever had to make but one of the best.

      To be fair, it is not for everyone. My other friend tried it for year but felt that his job was his identity so we went back to work. Just figure out what it is that you truly want and then go about accomplishing it.

      • Ricky December 9, 2013, 8:18 pm

        How were you able to retire at 28 AND live in NYC? Were you a superstar in another country? (I assume you live in NYC based on your blog)

        • thehungryegghead December 9, 2013, 11:09 pm

          I am married. I am lucky to have a supportive husband who encouraged me to follow my dreams of becoming a writer. I am finishing up my book now and hoping to having it published next year.

          Not rich, it’s just that my husband and I do not have debt, mortgage, or kids. That makes life a lot simpler.

        • thehungryegghead December 9, 2013, 11:49 pm

          I also don’t have wealthy parents. We used to be poor but now I consider ourselves middle class.

          See my post on being poor in NYC. It used to be a private post, but I just made it public: http://www.thehungryegghead.com/2013/12/what-it-was-like-to-be-poor-in-nyc-in-the-1990′s/

          Living in New York is not so expensive if you live in the outer boroughs. We used to rent in midtown and that was way crazy. Now we live about 30 minutes from midtown Manhattan and it is a lot more affordable not to mention so much less hectic.

          • Melissa December 11, 2013, 6:53 pm

            I can so relate to this. I’ve been happily planning early retirement for years. I happened to mention my plan at a family event years ago, where everyone looked at me like I’d sprouted a horn from my head, and I was greeted with dead silence. Later my boyfriend told me that I should basically be ashamed of myself, that their family works until death and enjoys it. He let me know that my point of view was “lazy” in their eyes. (They are quite wealthy, by the way.) For a moment I almost felt that way too. But only one tiny little moment, before I came to my senses and decided they were small-minded and delusional.

          • Ricky December 11, 2013, 7:07 pm

            Makes more sense, thanks. Congrats on getting to where you have!

          • Matt December 12, 2013, 9:21 am

            So did you personally earn your early retirement?

            • Garrett April 23, 2017, 10:17 pm

              Matt: it doesn’t look like she did. 2 people living off 1 person’s paycheque while 1 of the people is pursuing the dreams of becoming a writer seems.. not personally achieved.

              My question would be this: why not at least work part time to keep filling the coffers with extra cash? If there’s no debt, stick that all into investing, especially if both people are being fully covered by 1 cheque. That still gives plenty of time to write, AND builds the future nest egg.

              Because it’s really hard (see nearly impossible) to just write for 10+ hours a day. Why not use some of that abundance of time to rapidly build the money snowball?

    • Scott B. December 12, 2013, 12:00 pm

      I recommend reading “Beyond Civilization”. The author will explicitly give you permission. Ultimately with all advice, we sit precariously perched on the ledge of a cliff and it takes guts to spread your wings and fall.

    • Nate December 19, 2013, 8:24 pm

      “But I haven’t cracked the code to giving myself permission to step away from the rat race. Not sure why!”

      Interesting!! I think about this question of “enough” all the time. Why don’t we give ourselves permission to leave the “steady paycheck” when the numbers work?!

      Maybe we are afraid we will, “miss out” — saving for some unknown event in the future? Maybe the culture has brainwashed us more than we would like to admit! LOL!

      I don’t know, but it is interesting to note that MMM has mentioned before that he could have (and wishes) that he had stepped away a little sooner than he did from The Grind.

    • Sophia November 21, 2014, 3:20 am

      Emily, I don’t know about you but for me it took 15 years of knowing better but doing the opposite and I finally realized that it was my circle. It’s hard to do anything alone, I now spend the majority of my free time either reading, listening (to MMM style podcasts/blogs) or spending time with other’s who understand and strive for the MMM philosophy. And that would be about 2 friends. This is better than having tons of friends who ask why at our level of success we drive…. or why don’t we go send our kid to this private school and so on. It’s almost as though for other’s to feel good about their choices they have to evangelize it otherwise it may make them uncomfortable. I suppose it’s human nature, but it’s powerful

  • Mark Ferguson December 9, 2013, 9:56 am

    “I can be happy with anything, I don’t need all this fluff that I have now. I am completely free to find happiness with any level of spending, consumption, complexity – or simplicity – in my life.”

    I think is a great way to think, but I don’t think you have to do it. You can have this belief that you will be just fine, but at the same time enjoy the fluff and things that you really enjoy from high income. The more income you have, the more you can invest and the more you can give away as well.

    My attitude is that I will be just fine even if I lost everything, because I still have me and I am what made the money, I didn’t get lucky and have it fall in my lap. At the same time I want to challenges, more success and enough money to be able to do whatever I want.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 9, 2013, 10:22 am

      Sounds like a happy way to live, Mark .. now if I can just instill a bit more of a sense of environmental urgency in you, which will help decrease the shine of certain types of consumption (because you become aware that consuming less is doing a service to others, which is therefore more rewarding for you), then we will be in full agreement.

      • theFIREstarter December 9, 2013, 4:06 pm

        MMM I’ve been reading rather lacklustre and uninspiring blog posts all night and the last one I come to is this… and Booooom! It’s another nugget of solid gold!

        I will float myself off to bed now, contemplating the ways of the Solider of Luxury! Thanks!

    • LL December 9, 2013, 5:06 pm

      You can be happy under any and all circumstances. I’ve been working on thinking that way about life and it only gets easier and better, day after day.

      Happiness depends on how we respond to our lives mentally, emotionally, physically, rather than what we have.

      Thanks for the inspired post and reminder, MMM.

    • Megan December 14, 2013, 8:56 am

      This same quote jumped out at me, but for a different reason. I am a busy, active, hands-on sahm of two. From what I’ve read of his blog, I can conclude that MMM and I have very similar parenting styles. But we have something his family doesn’t have to deal with: a colossal amount of junk. I call it junk because 99% of the time we are not using 90% of it. We live in a sensibly sized house and our stuff is making it difficult to enjoy it. So a few months ago I decided to tackle decluttering. With my parenting approach, it’s been a bit difficult to find the time to spend on this task, but slowly and surely, I am doing it. My reward so far is better peace of mind, more pride in the things we have kept, and prettier, more organized rooms. The fluff was killing us. Another benefit is that my kids are learning generosity, and that our love for one anotheratters far more than the toys they don’t really play with.

    • Nate December 19, 2013, 8:04 pm

      Hey Mark!!

      I agree with you to a certain extent. I grew up extremely poor. I know what it’s like to live on next to nothing, and I know what an income of >200K a year in a relatively low cost of living city can afford.

      The “fluff” can be fun, but not for long… It complicates things. It (seriously) makes it much harder to determine who your “real friends” are (even if only in subtle ways). “Would these friends still hang out with me if I reverted to my ultra frugal lifestyle?”. You may not want to know the answer to that… Remember that guest post a few weeks ago from that guy who has like 3 million bucks and his wife won’t let him retire? He is in prison with all that “fluff”…

      More importantly, the “fluff” pales in comparison (on the happiness scale) to one of the most satisfying things you can buy with money: your t.i.m.e. Once you buy your time AND deploy that time learning and living authentically, everything else (all the “fluff”) seems so much less… important…

      Time lets you breathe deeply and find perspective. That perspective will (more times than not) lead us away from the “fluff” and toward more meaningful things in life. That has been my experience anyways… I always thought when I, “made it”, I would be happy with this thing or that thing. Turns out once we had > 5 years of living expenses in the bank, all I wanted was to deploy more time learning, exercising and spending time with a small group of people I care deeply about.

  • Ron December 9, 2013, 9:57 am

    Mandela’s death has inspired me to think similarly. Granted, his legacy is choosing reconciliation instead of retribution, but I think the length and nature of his imprisonment intrigues and inspires people who routinely opt for convenience and luxury over sacrifice and hardship.

    • woodnclay December 9, 2013, 10:32 am

      Great to hear Nelson Mandela’s death mentioned, which is a significant world event. Some of the UK TV coverage has reminded us of what true suffering and hardship actually is. Most of us can easily forget that. It puts some of the perceived hardships of reducing consumption into perspective!

      • HealthyWealthyExpat December 10, 2013, 1:26 am

        Yes, Mandela was FORCED to decrease his consumption by the very fact that he was in prison. Whenever I feel the consumer society starting to have an impact on my thinking, I immediately try to think of all those who don’t have the choices that we do. Like MMM pointed out in a recent article, it is all relative. If you have your health, food, accommodation, and social life sorted, you should be a very happy human being.

  • Miss Growing Green December 9, 2013, 9:59 am

    Very well said and so very true! In the past few years we have cut our possessions by at least 50% (and we already didn’t have much, by typical American standards). The only item I can recall buying in the past year is a used printer on Craigslist for my online business. We can now happily say that, minus the furniture in our house, we could pack everything we own into our small sedan and drive away into the sunset. :)

    It is so freeing to exit the race for some always-changing-arbitrary financial / society status. We grow happier with every year we continue to simplify our lives, and often talk about how “becoming minimalists” is the best choice we’ve made together.

    • Money Saving December 9, 2013, 1:19 pm

      That’s awesome! We’re getting closer to that state of being, but I’m working on my wife to get us there sooner rather than later.

      It’s funny how you can fool yourself into living in an alternate reality where the unimportant becomes important and vice versa!

      • Jen December 12, 2013, 7:38 pm

        Same here. I think in a family you have to get there together or not at all. I have very hard time convincing my husband of merits of minimalism and early retirement. With what we have now we could in principal retire, but that would mean moving into a smaller house and probably closing my husband’s Amazon account:) At the moment however it is unthinkable for him. But I think a couple more years will do it. We are moving in the right direction – got rid of the car a while ago, also bought a small rental property. I see my husband likes getting monthly rent payments and maybe with time will understand that by ditching shopping another property would be within our reach sooner.
        All the best.

    • Emily A December 9, 2013, 3:27 pm

      This is so great and inspiring! I took a minimalist challenge recently and it definitely changed the way I operate. I’ve been thinking of taking another one to further hone my skills and build minimalist thinking/doing habits!

  • Joe December 9, 2013, 10:03 am

    ‘This concept of “I can be absolutely happy, with virtually nothing” is critically important to unlocking your mind from the little cage that consumer society welds around it.’

    Simply put, does not get any better. Thanks for yet another inspiring post.

  • Ree Klein December 9, 2013, 10:13 am

    Interesting way to make a point! It’s a journey, that’s for sure. I earned a good income, saved a lot and paid off all debt (including the mortgage) while I was working in the jungle (read as “corporate America!).

    I thought I lived pretty frugally then, but now I’m having to find ways to cut back so I can do what I love until I’m able to earn an income from my passion.

    The truth is that when you have a desire, you find a way. It’s amazing how many things we can cut and still live a beautiful and fulfilling life!

  • Justin December 9, 2013, 10:19 am

    The sooner one realizes that happiness doesn’t come from money the more content the rest of their life will be.

    I think about what would happen if I were born in some squalid hut in a jungle. Maybe the same village where the Soldier of Luxury ends up. Espresso machines and thermostats didn’t exist in this world. Would I still be happy and optimistic about life? Probably.

    As long as I have my family and friends, intellectual pursuits, and a positive attitude, I’m pretty sure I could deal with any environment. Obviously my heated house and four wheeled car help make life more comfortable and easy. But humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years before our modern amenity laden houses and gas powered autos were conceived. I cannot believe that humans have only been able to experience happiness and contentment for the last hundred or so years!

    • dude December 9, 2013, 11:03 am

      Mostly agree, but it’s worth noting that the vast majority of humanity did not have the time for intellectual pursuits until the division of labor arose, and intellectual pursuits (self-actualization), being at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy, are generally only possible when the lower, more pressing needs are met first.

      • Steve December 9, 2013, 10:49 pm

        Great to bring in Maslow and self actualization.

      • Chris Forbis December 10, 2013, 4:43 am

        Actually, most hunter-gatherers work(ed) considerably less than the modern, capitalist 40 hour week. Agriculture (and the exploitation it led to) changed all that…

        • Kenoryn December 10, 2013, 8:13 am

          Guess that’s why most people still don’t seem to have time for self-actualization.

  • CTY December 9, 2013, 10:41 am

    Brand new to this sight–loving it & now reading each post from Day 1. Your parable is inspiring; I especially like how the soldier has not left the jungle. A past post discusses managing the risk–I’d say this soldier is “managing the jungle”.

  • Holly December 9, 2013, 10:54 am

    We have dramatically cut down what we own over the last few years and I have become happier each time we’ve gotten rid of something. Now that we have less, we can take more time enjoying the things we do have and we can take better care of them.
    At the same time, some things make us happy- like my coffee maker and our piano. We choose to have these things because we can, but they aren’t a necessity.

  • Done by Forty December 9, 2013, 10:57 am

    As is true with most things, less is more.

  • dude December 9, 2013, 10:58 am

    Enjoyed this one, MMM! Just this morning, a cold, rainy/snowy/sleety day, I decided against driving my car the mere 2.5 miles to my doctor’s office for an appointment, and decided to ride my bike. It was cold, my feet got soaked right through my bike shoes and socks, and my entire ass was completely soaked when I got there (no fenders). But it was exhilarating! And I saw at least a half dozen other hardy souls on the way all doing the same thing! (and I couldn’t help wondering if they were Mustachians). The hot shower I took on my return home from the doctor’s office was positively extravagant! I swear, connecting to this website has been like taking the red pill offered by Morpheus in The Matrix! It’s been that eye-opening.

    • Jay December 9, 2013, 12:21 pm

      “I swear, connecting to this website has been like taking the red pill offered by Morpheus in The Matrix!”

      This sums up my feelings about this blog too. After getting my first job out of grad school, I had a weird feeling in my stomach about buying a car, gadgets and the other trappings of consumer indulgence.

      I didn’t know why I felt like that. Just like Neo in The Matrix, I didn’t know why what everyone was doing, the world around me, felt slightly…off. Reading this blog answered all those questions. I was (relatively) frugal even in my pre-Mustachian days (though I eventually bought a car, used, for cash) but without actively thinking about it. Now I seek out frugality (I have my weaknesses), ride my bike more than ever and have clear goals. I see the matrix for what it is.

    • Jojojo53 December 10, 2013, 10:39 am

      I just started bike riding 6 months ago after a 45 year absence. First of all it was easy to ride again, just like riding a bike you never forget. Now I ride every day in rain, sleet and hail all of which I try to avoid. In Netherlands our city bikes all have fenders to avoid rain splash. As I become a more experienced rider I keep getting better. I am not cold in the cold weather. I tend to overheat from the exercise and warm clothing when riding in cold weather. In Netherlands many riders wear rain pants and leave them on the bike to dry. With more experience you will find the bicycle and clothing that work best for you. I gave up my car when I moved here just to see if I could possibly live without it. Now I don’t even realize I don’t have a car.

  • Matthew December 9, 2013, 11:07 am

    I don’t think I’ve commented here before, but my wife will attest that I’m an enthusiastic reader.

    In college, I lived in an apartment with two other guys, kept the drafty place at 60 through Minnesotan winter, lived on $25-$35 for food and entertainment a week, and was ecstatic nearly every day, despite suffering with an obliterated disc between L4 and L5. It’s important to be reminded that I currently live a life of unimaginable luxury compared to those days and really should be happy every moment (an I mostly am).

  • Pura Vida Nick December 9, 2013, 11:12 am

    This is very insightful, MMM. Thanks for helping me see “the good life” a little clearer.

    I was good at step 3, “I’m happy where I am, right now.” Now as I continue to move to financial independence, I can also move towards the next step, being happy anywhere, with any level of $ or spending. Gracias!

  • Richard Hunter December 9, 2013, 11:13 am

    Metaphors don’t prove a thing, but they’re very useful for illustrating a point. This metaphor was brilliantly chosen. Congratulations on another excellent piece.

  • Dave December 9, 2013, 11:26 am

    I love the 4 steps of enlightenment for the Soldier of Luxury. The soldier’s life is even better though. He has a band of friends along for the journey – those who help each other out. And he has the ability to communicate magically with thousands of people, regardless of where they are in the world. Much can be taught to and learned from these many others.

    Life is amazing indeed.

  • Christine December 9, 2013, 11:29 am

    I think I’m a little closer to that goal. I am happy with my life and I work on things I truly enjoy. It makes a big difference in my life to have things to work on and achieve. Thanks for the great article!

  • Jo December 9, 2013, 11:50 am

    I really like the message in this article and I agree. I was reading an article the other day that argued that most success is because of luck. It gave an example of the Beatles. That they had been rejected by the EMI record company numerous times because of poor performances, not creative, etc. They almost split up but David Epstein persisted and finally got them an album.

    I was wondering what amount of luck, Mr. MM, do you think has been a part of your success. To me it seems that you have had a lot of early luck. You were lucky to get a highly paid job in a town, Boulder, where most PHDs wait tables. You were also lucky that you did not have the financial knowledge so you invested in index funds and not individual stocks. In the end you seem to have hit on lots of luck in your success. Will you write about what luck you have had?

    • Jack December 9, 2013, 1:38 pm

      Or consider that maybe he had the financial knowledge to invest in index funds and had the knowledge to pick a field/hobby that wouldn’t leave him as someone with a PhD waiting tables.
      It really isn’t luck or all that hard. The only luck in this world is hitting the lottery of being born in the US, Canada, Europe or a related country.

    • Lina December 9, 2013, 2:01 pm

      I view the Beatles example differently. I see it more as an example of hard work and practice. Beatles are often used as an example for someone that has achieved their success by hard work and by doing the 10 000 hours normally needed to become an expert by touring in Europe before they got their contract with a record company. Behind most of the success stories you find thousands of hours of practice and hard work.

      There is a Swedish famous downhill skier from the 80’s Ingemar Stenmark that won several olympic gold medals that said something like this: “I don’t know anything about luck, more I practice luckier a get”.

      • theFIREstarter December 10, 2013, 12:29 am

        How about this for a rather lovely and appropriate coincidence. I was going to reply saying the quote originally came from Arnold Palmer but thought I’d do some due diligence first. Check this out:

        The earliest instance of the expression found by QI that uses the word “practice” is not from a golfer. It appears in a memoir published in 1961 by a soldier of fortune during the Cuban revolution.

        ( From http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/07/14/luck/ )

        • Lina December 11, 2013, 9:32 am

          I guess it seems to be a typical answer from athletes. Probably because it is annoying as hell to be told that you win was due to lack if you think about how many hours you have put into training.

      • Jay December 11, 2013, 9:51 pm

        I think of hard work as “necessary but not sufficient”. I’ve done reasonably well for myself personally and professionally (so far). Am I hard-working? Maybe; I don’t really know how hard other people work. Smarter? Probably more than average. But I know plenty of people who are more hard-working and/or smarter than me who haven’t (yet) achieved what they want to.

        I’d chalk a large part of that up to luck; I’ve had it and they haven’t. It’s the only explanation, as far as I can tell. And people who are more successful than myself are probably both harder-working and luckier than I am.

        The same is true for The Beatles; they were just one hard-working group that made it big, out of a sea of other hard-working rock ‘n roll bands with crazy hair who worked JUST AS HARD, without ever experiencing a fraction of the fame. On the other hand, there’s probably no successful, lazy, music group. Because hard work is necessary, but it isn’t sufficient.

        • John December 13, 2013, 5:10 am

          On the subject of luck, there is a book called “The Luck Factor” by Richard Wiseman. He has studied luck, and shows that it correlates with an optimistic, outgoing outlook. People with this tend to notice opportunities (even simple ones, like money dropped on the sidewalk), and act on them. They also trust their intuition – which is not sixth sense, but subtle signs observed at a subliminal level. All of these attributes create “luck”. I don’t know which of these helped Mr Money Mustache; and whatever it was would have be augmented by hard work and the ability to think differently from the herd.

    • Edward December 9, 2013, 2:17 pm

      Why would you call it “luck”? Did it ever occur to you that it was perhaps the result of a well thought out, carefully executed plan of an engineering genius?

      I’ve been in a rock band. We had our tunes on the radio a few times around Canada and trust me, no-one (no-one!!) gets there just by luck.

      I’m seriously sick of luck. I live frugally, save money, save, carefully plan trips abroad and people at work say I’m “lucky”. It’s not luck, it’s what I’ve planned for.

      The only *lucky* things I’ve had in my life: I was born in a pretty nice, affluent country to good parents. I’ve never had a drunken/texting driver slam into me and break my legs and put me in a wheelchair. Everything else I’ve built (everything!) myself. …Take your luck and stuff it!

      • Jo December 9, 2013, 5:51 pm

        Talent could be considered luck because a person is born with something that very few others can do. Ingemar Stenmark would still have to work the 10,000 hours that someone mentioned to be in the top .01% but with no work he would still be in the top 1%. Engineering genius could be considered luck. I have known lots of smart people who tried to live in Boulder and had to take menial jobs then move somewhere else and work in the corporate world. Lots of success has to do with being in the right place at the right time and is not planned. And if the success is early enough in life, especially financial success, then decisions that are made later in life are less risky because they don’t have the big impact that they have on less successful people. I think Mr. MM had early luck and thus success and so he can make riskier choices than others who were not as successful early. I’m just sayin’…

        • Chris December 9, 2013, 8:32 pm

          Jo, go back to article #1 and read them all. Then come back and re-contemplate your luck hypothesis.

        • Sarah James December 11, 2013, 12:25 am

          Hi Jo,

          Time does play an important role. It’s certainly easier to plan for and reach financial independence if you start going for it early in life.

          I wouldn’t chalk all financial independence up to luck though.

          My husband and I had a period of very slim living when I was working to put him through school. Having been conditioned to live cheaply, once he got a job, we decided that we’d save at least one of our very middle class paychecks every month. Fast forward 12 years, and we’re about to check out of the workforce.

          We’re lucky that we were both born in industrialized coutries and are healthy and can hold down steady middle class jobs. That puts us into the same lucky category as millions of other people who won’t retire until they’re 65+. It’s not luck that makes us different from the traditional retirees. It’s a matter of deciding that we can live far below our middle class means, then doing it.

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 9, 2013, 10:58 pm

      Tee-hee, you are funny, Jo: Boulder a town where most PhDs wait tables? More like “Boulder, the town where skateboarders get to be CEOs”.

      The unemployment level (5.0%) is so low in that area that the roads to all surrounding areas are clogged every morning, as it sucks in additional workers, both high and low-skill, to feed its burgeoning job market. There are so many companies and jobs, that the prosperity has overflowed to neighboring cities, like my own Longmont, which is finally starting to Boulderize after decades of relative averageness.

      As for financial knowledge – it took me quite a few years of stumbling around buying individual stocks before I GAINED the knowledge that index funds deliver a much higher average performance. I was “lucky” to have read all those books, otherwise I’d still be speculating on market swings, IPOs, and “support levels” and losing money while thinking I was making it.

      Your illustration is a perfect example of what causes “bad luck”, however – chalking success up to luck and creating inaccurate speculations to back it up.

      Success comes from making choices that on average work out well for you. The luck comes from being one of those people that happens to like making those choices.

      • Randall Pitts December 10, 2013, 12:34 am

        I couldn’t agree with you more about luck. Luck does exist but It is completely random, seldom occurs and has zero effect on long-term success. Long-term success is the result of making the right decisions most of the time. Failure or “bad luck” is the result of making the wrong decisions too often. Basically we decide to be successful or unsuccessful. It’s that simple.

        Great post MMM! You are always encouraging your readers to make the “right” decisions.

        • dude December 10, 2013, 6:00 am

          Yep, I have to agree. I’ve always had an uncanny knack for having things work out for me, attributing it to my “luck of the Irish.” But in truth, many people make their own “luck.” My attitude has always been “things will work themselves out,” and that’s allowed me to be casual and not over-stressed about a lot of things in life, thus making clear-eyed choices and good things have always seemed to follow. Sure, I was probably born with above-average intelligence, at least in the book sense, but there are many different kinds of intelligence, and rarely is one person born with a dearth of all forms of intelligence. Figuring out which one you have and maximizing your potential based on that type of intelligence is key. There are probably more millionaire plumbers than there are millionaire college professors.

          • Al December 10, 2013, 9:22 am

            I’ve always liked that study where people were interviewed to discuss how much ‘luck’ they felt they had. There was a short break in the interview and the person was given a newspaper to read while they waited for the interview to continue. In the paper was an ad that said: Tell the interviewer that you saw this ad and you’ll get an additional $50.” There was a high correlation between those that considered themselves lucky and those that saw the ad.

            i.e. When people are engaged and open to possibilities, ‘luck’ is more likely to happen.

      • bback December 10, 2013, 7:39 am

        The harder I work(train/play), the luckier(more skilled) I get. Strange how that works. I’ll take luck if I can get it. But make no mistake, I will not only survive but thrive with my hard work, skill, blood, sweat and tears.
        The difference between middle class and the 1% is willing to risk it all to make that much. Jo doesn’t see those unlucky ones that failed and so can say he is one of them. And this person considers themselves one of the unlucky ones because? I understood happiness and didn’t risk it all to be the 1%. I am happy right where I am. I am also responsible for being where I am. If I need that yacht then I will have to take some risk. Meh, I like the view from the beach.

      • Jo December 10, 2013, 10:51 am

        Touche! Ok you win the Boulder argument. I am glad it is doing so well there. But read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlier and he mentions that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sun’s Scott McNealy and others were all born in 1954. Why were they successful? Because they were in the sweet spot for the pc revolution. No planning there. Just luck.

        Most successful hocky players were born in January because they were always bigger than their later born competitors. Just luck.

        So in your instance, I think you were too young to lose your shorts in the crash of 2000. No one talked about index funds until after that crash. So you were lucky there. You might have been too young to buy a house in the housing crash of 2008 or the real estate in your area might not have lost 50% of value like in Cal, Nev, Az, or florida. That is all luck and accidental timing. Also your choice of being a soiftware engineer could be luck too. What if you were good at civil engineering instead? I’m just sayin’…But thanks for the response. A good discussion…

        • Jamesqf December 10, 2013, 11:27 am

          Maybe MMM is too young to have experienced the 2000 crash, but I’m not. In fact, I got started investing right after the ‘Black Monday’ crash of ’87, when I took all my savings and invested them in stocks. It only took a couple of years, and a broker who kept trying to ‘churn’ my account, before I got into mutual funds. And I’m still not entirely sold on 100% index funds.

          So I was there through the 2000 crash, the ’08 crash, and all the rest, and I lost nothing in any of them. Luck, or the sense not to sell when everyone else is panic-selling?

        • Lina December 10, 2013, 12:37 pm

          I believe we have read Malcolm Gladwell books differently. He pointed out that Gates and co where lucky because they where born in the right time period but he also states that the made the 10 000 hours of programming needed to become really good at what they are doing. So it wasn’t simply a lucky thing both a combination of right timing and hard work (many hours programming).

          In my experience you mostly have to act in some way to be “lucky”. Many of my colleagues for example sign up in a waiting list and hope to get an apartment after a couple of years. I have contacted landlords by e-mail and phone and I have basically never had problems to get centrally located apartments. When I point it out what have worked for me they are not taking action but rather complaining about the difficulty to get an apartment. But I am a “lucky” one!

        • Clint December 10, 2013, 6:35 pm

          Read MMM’s post on his “biggest mistake,” Jo. A lot of luck there, I guess, what with hooking up with a crappy business partner and all. He sure was lucky to have that awfully unlucky experience so that he could rise above. Otherwise he might’ve had to rely on hard work :)

        • Richard December 11, 2013, 3:56 pm

          Interestingly, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t read Malcolm Gladwell books and then sit there thinking “it’s too bad I wasn’t born at the right time to see the birth of an industry like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller!” I’ll bet they weren’t even born in January, but I’m too busy making myself luckier to look that up.

    • Kenoryn December 10, 2013, 8:26 am

      I don’t see luck in there, just good planning, and for the Beatles, a hell of a lot of hard work and persistence (e.g., they kept going after being rejected numerous times, where someone else might have given up – nothing lucky about that.).

      MMM is from Ottawa, and could have chosen anywhere in North America to work. If it turned out that there were no good-paying jobs available in Boulder & area, he would have gone somewhere else – and that would not have been luck, but a conscious decision. And I don’t think it’s a lack of investing knowledge that causes MMM to invest in index funds! The complete opposite, really.

      Here is an interesting article about luck, and those who seem to be chronically lucky vs unlucky.


      • Jo December 12, 2013, 9:36 pm

        Let’s change the phrase from “luck” to “what kind of hand one is dealt”. Below are some cards that if held would change ones outcome drastically. And remember, everyone is dealt a hand.

        Graduating In A Recession – “Graduating in a recession leads to large initial earnings losses. These losses, which amount to about 9 percent of annual earnings in the initial stage…but not disappearing until about ten years after graduation.”

        Being born a black male in the US:
        “in 2008 black men earned only 71% of what white men earned. The median hourly wage for black male full-time workers was $14.90; for comparable white workers it was $20.84.”

        Birth Order – “it turns out that first-born kids are the most likely to earn six figures and hold a top executive position among workers with siblings, according to findings from jobs website CareerBuilder.com.”

        Being a legal immigrant – “A study by the Fiscal Policy Institute demonstrates that 18% of small business owners in the U.S. are immigrants – a share that exceeds their proportion of the population by a whopping 50%! Other studies suggest higher savings rates amongst immigrant populations, as well as lower debt burdens.”

        Being drafted into the military – “Social Security Administrative records indicate that in the early 1980s, long after their service in Vietnam was ended, the earnings of white veterans were approximately 15 % less than the earnings of comparable non-veterans.”

        • Richard December 13, 2013, 9:09 am

          If you are a large group of millions of people, those things could certainly be an obstacle. Luckily, if you are just one person there are infinite ways that you can change your life. You just have to work harder than average to get there. And since the average includes all the people who sit around whining that they aren’t lucky enough as well as people who got lucky and didn’t have to do any work, you don’t even have to work yourself to death to do well.

          On your specific points:

          – Graduating in a recession – search for “recession-proof graduate” for a simple strategy used by a successful young man. This would work just as well whether or not there is a recession going on and in fact whether or not you graduated. Since 98% of the economy hasn’t gone anywhere your chances have not diminished by much.

          – Being born a black male – I’m not in the US so not familiar enough with this. However most of the other points here are applicable to anyone.

          – Birth order – my oldest sibling is earning around 6 figures but having some psychological issues due to work and other personal pressures (that are put off and aggravated due to work). I have a similar income and I run a business where I choose what I do, when, and with who so my life is not unlike the Soldier of Luxury. I would happily accept a large drop in income to keep my lifestyle, My investment portfolio will soon make that irrelevant though. We both have a similar intelligence and preference for technical work and some people say that I’m more lacking in social skills so this difference isn’t due to an innate advantage. I do think more like the Soldier of Luxury and I credit that for making the difference.

          – Being an (illegal?) immigrant – actually this sounds really good. I’m not sure where you’re saying that it’s bad to have less debt, a higher savings rate, and more chances of being in control of your life. In fact just yesterday I read a story about a man who was an illegal immigrant for over a decade – today he’s a successful and well-connected businessman who has a high chance of becoming the president of his home country should he choose to run for it. That’s just one story but again I’m really not seeing the problem.

          – Being drafted into the military – granted there are physical and psychological risks and it takes up some of your life. There is no way I would want to diminish what military personnel do, but all of us face risks and opportunity costs so it’s mainly a question of degree. Many people use their experience to learn more discipline, work harder, learn valuable skills, uncover market opportunities to start a business, and make connections with others who will help them later in life.

          Luck does play a role. But as Mark Cuban says, you only need to get lucky once and you have unlimited tries so luck is not really the deciding factor. As long as you haven’t been killed by a meteorite you’re already lucky.

      • Jo December 13, 2013, 9:07 am

        Wow that is an interesting article about lucky people! So it comes down to a personality type who feel more confident so they relax in certain situations and listen to their intuition. Meditation sounds like it would help ones luck.

        But was it a good start that made these lucky people feel more relaxed? Did they receive good cards in their hand so that good things happened early so they developed that behavior? The article doesn’t answer this question. My guess is that the answer is yes. These people have had a lot of good things happen upfront so that there is less pressure later on the decisions that they make. There is less risk so they feel less pressure and can be relaxed to make a good decision. Their early good luck makes them feel lucky!

  • CALL 911 December 9, 2013, 11:57 am

    I just made an unmustachian move, and the worst part is all of the “stuff” I don’t want, but can’t bear to part with, so I moved. Tools that are rarely used (especially the cheap unrentable ones). The fifth redundant doodad (the first four will eventually break). The (now) spare washer/dryer. I have improved a TON in the last year of reading MMM and opening my eyes, but I realize I’m nowhere near this soldier of luxury. I am becoming more content, both with what I have, and with what I DON’T have.

  • FI Pilgrim December 9, 2013, 12:01 pm


    “Never before in history has the opportunity been so close and ripe, and yet never before has it been so far from the grasp of the brainwashed masses of our very wealthy population.”

    Every time I chat with my younger brothers about their plans and financial future I get the feeling that they have been brainwashed somehow. WHY? HOW? Why don’t you see the reasoning that the other brainwashed people out there do not deserve the respect you give them with your attempts to be like them?!

    • George December 9, 2013, 12:46 pm

      I can relate to this. I agree with this article and have been following the MMM philosophy for a couple years now.

      I too have encountered resistance from family members and my spouse that simplicity from things leads to happiness.

      It is amazing how brain-washed people are and how deep it goes. It is engrained into people so powerfully hard by companies. I am finding that you cannot simply convert people quickly, it really takes time and slow hard effort. After all, the brainwashing starts when you are just a small child growing up in the world. Why do you think mcdonalds likes to host children’s birthday parties? disney too, is always out there;

      In turns out the solider of luxury has main enemies, coming from every direction possible. The enemies come in the form of advertisements, the enemies are always trying to get you to up your standards on everything you own; they try so hard to make you feel inadequate and disguise the truth; the enemies what you to believe that no matter how much you have, it is never enough;

      The ads show up in my mailbox everyday. Even if you don’t have cable TV, take your bike out around town, the enemies are even plastered onto signs and on the sides of buses or vans. Do you need food? then you need to go into battle with the enemies down at the grocery store, they are always trying to manipulate your buying habits. Try to visit just about any website and the will plaster every corner of it with the enemies of the solider of luxury.

      I have to give credit though to the State parks in my state which in general ban all advertisements. I definitely like how advertising is restricted in protected forest lands. Pretty much anywhere else though, you will also see the ads or enemies lurking around every corner.

      • Chris December 12, 2013, 9:49 am

        George how have you overcome the resistance of your spouse? I am a big believer in what is discussed here, but even when I talk about something like dropping cable, which she watches about 3 hrs a week, her resistance spikes. She wants to buy cheap everything in order to combat the fact that we don’t make ends meet some months. We clash here too as I believe “cheap” stuff is a lot of what is wrong with our world. I realize these changes take time, and your point on “brainwashing” is well taken, but we have been having this kind of stalemate on different things for close to a year now.

  • This Life On Purpose December 9, 2013, 12:07 pm

    Great post MMM.

    This reminds me of my backpacking adventures, when I traveled and lived out of a backpack for up to six months. Some of the best and happiest times of my life, with no possessions beyond what I can carry on my back.

    You learn to live with less, learn to interact with your surroundings more, and learn to appreciate the smaller things (like a hot shower!).

    I hope to do it again sometime soon in order to get back to that mindset. It is just so easy to accumulate stuff and get attached to meaningless “things”. Those things can then trap you if you are not careful.

    • Patty December 9, 2013, 6:22 pm

      I so agree with this sentiment!
      I too have felt happiest when backpacking through Europe in my twenties or canoe tripping in the wilderness: few possessions and living more simply than I ever have since.
      I miss those days and am actively trying to get back some of that simplicity, bit by bit as I deconstruct some of the complexities of my “modern” life.

    • HealthyWealthyExpat December 10, 2013, 1:58 am

      I did the same over 20 years ago, and still travel quite a bit. I find that the best trips are the ones taken with the least on your back. I just came back from a weekend away, and all I had was a small day pack. It was exhilarating getting off the plane and walking right on out the door.

      The same can be said about a trip in the wilderness, which you don’t have to wait to do. Get out there next weekend for a day hike, X-country ski, mountain bike ride, etc. with the bare minimum on your back and feel the freedom!

  • No Name Guy December 9, 2013, 12:51 pm

    When a person is deep into the Wilderness, with only 15 lbs of possessions on their back, you learn how little you really need to be happy.

    I highly recommend to all to take a summer away from the BS and do a long hike. After a few months in the woods living with just what you can carry, you learn that nothing is better than a sweet water source (such as Lava Springs), or the view from Vidette Meadows, or the simple pleasure of a dinner on the trail on the flank of Mt. Thielsen, or finding a camp spot with 3 inches of soft needle duff to set up on (talk about a luxurious mattress that Mother Nature provided).

  • Stephanie December 9, 2013, 1:29 pm

    When I first got married my family thought I was depriving my husband by not wanting a TV. They didn’t realize that he didn’t want one either. After 8+ years of marriage we have never had a TV (or any of that stuff that comes with it). We are one of the happiest couples, if I do say so myself!

    My family still says “what do you *do* if you don’t have a TV.” A lot. Can you imagine how much more I can get done since I’m not chained to a big shiny thing all day every day? When people ask me how I have time to garden, can and dehydrate produce, cook from scratch, sew stuff, blog, etc, I tell them it’s because I don’t have a TV.

    Happiness doesn’t come from stuff. I think it comes from relationships (God, family, friends, self) and as a consequence of our choices.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque December 10, 2013, 5:18 am

      This always sends a cold shiver down my spine:

      >> My family still says “what do you *do* if you don’t have a TV.”

      What kind of weird, emotionally incapacitated state must you be in to say something like this? You actually believe that your days would be void of all interest and activity if you didn’t have the television blasting?


      • Lina December 10, 2013, 12:40 pm

        It is not just family! I haven’t had a TV during last twelve years. Almost everytime that I tell people that I don’t have a tv they ask me what I do when I don’t have a tv.

        • Sean Gibb July 16, 2017, 7:15 am

          Not having a TV, is a good thing ! This is a big lifestyle change that many people should do. I want to make a T-shirt that simply says ‘TV is Evil ‘. I recently asked my college class how many of them watched TV. Most put up their hand. I responded, by forcefully saying, ” Stop watching TV !, it’s garbage in, garbage out ! “, then went on a short rant about the evils of TV. At every opportunity, I will rail against TV, and try to wean people away from the ‘Dark Side’ , ha ! ha ! …

  • Karen December 9, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Cool post. I think people don’t realize how they complicate their lives acquiring so many things they think they need.

    Glad I jumped off of the hamster wheel of wanting more.

    Enjoying what you have now is a gift. Thanks for the reminder.There’s a children’s book called the Gift of Nothing. Good stuff.

    I just might break my low PF blog diet and be a casual sampler of your blog. At times, I need frugal validation. ; )

  • Jamesqf December 9, 2013, 1:49 pm

    “In one village, you find a breathtakingly attractive and intelligent mate…”

    Aye, there’s the rub. Unfortunately, in the world of harsh reality, it’s a lot easier to find breathtakingly (or even just averagely) attractive & intelligent mates if one displays the outward signs of extreme prosperity. Ask any peacock why he has that tail :-)

    • nkturoff December 9, 2013, 2:55 pm


      But the goal is ‘breathtakingly attractive AND INTELLIGENT”, right? The breathtakingly attractive ones who have drunk the consumerist Kool-Aid are not the right ones…

    • Alix December 9, 2013, 4:16 pm

      Yes to this (she whined). If only this part were so easy!

      I’m no Soldier of Luxury yet, but more and more I find saving just as pleasurable — or even more so — than spending. MMM, what hath thou wrought?

    • Richard December 9, 2013, 6:05 pm

      As our fellow mustachian and Soldier of Luxury, Macklemore, teaches us the peacock didn’t work as a corporate lawyer in a big city for 30 years to pay for its tail :) Though I am far from an expert there are two important things I have learned to help me as I practice.

      First the game of mating is about choosing who you want, not waiting to be chosen. The mindset behind your comment is not unlike an anti-mustachian who says “I don’t get it, how will I be able to afford a 4,000 square foot house where I run the air conditioning on full blast right up to the day I turn on the triple furnaces?”. Your mission – perhaps the most important of your life – is to work tirelessly to get to know people until you have found someone who not only tolerates your interests but is excited and inspired by them. Failing to do that is letting down other mustachians, along with the rest of society that benefits from strong relationships between wise people to set an example.

      And second one of the most attractive things you can display is to be confident and passionate about the life you have carefully chosen. As you are well aware this makes you as distinctive as a peacock and is also an excellent signal that you can support a family and entertain a mate. One of the most powerful advantages you can have in mating is being a leader. Leaders don’t do what everyone else is already doing.

    • Mrs. PoP December 9, 2013, 7:07 pm

      Luckily our lives are significantly more complex than that of a peacock, so a “nice tail” needn’t be an outward display of wealth. There are plenty of us ladies out there that find a man’s brain (and heart) much more attractive than his, well… tail.

    • Leslie December 10, 2013, 9:18 am

      On our second date my future husband drove us in a 12 year old car that was a total rattletrap. We broke down in the middle of nowhere. He got out opened the hood and jiggled something. Then we drove to the nearest auto parts store. I realized that he knew how to fix stuff and for me that sealed the deal. We have been married for 22 years.

    • Kenoryn December 10, 2013, 9:27 am

      Surely the Soldier of Luxury displays all the outward signs of prosperity: fantastic health and fitness, solid practical skills for living, and an excellent reputation earned through her hard work and service to humanity.

      Ask any woman what she would look for in an ideal mate, and I guarantee you’ll never find anyone who says, “Well, it’s most important to me that he possess a large number of objects. After that, it would be great if he were greedy, lazy, miserable, self-absorbed, fat and unhealthy.”

      The Soldier of Luxury would probably have a hard time attracting a mate who was looking for those qualities, it’s true. But the Soldier of Luxury would certainly not be looking for such a mate.

      So if you do meet someone who says, “I don’t give a damn what HE is like, I just want him to have a fancy car!” then that’s your first clue that she’s not the breathtakingly attractive and intelligent mate you were looking for.

  • Yoonz December 9, 2013, 1:59 pm

    Walking the 2 miles home from the gym last night in 10 degrees temperature and 6 inches of snow (inspired, in part, by this website), I realized that I have become comfortable with the cold weather and that I am actually enjoying it for once.

    Last year, when I spent most of my time sheltered from the cold with the luxury of central heating, the 5 minutes going outside to the car waiting to turn the car’s heater on were miserable, because I hadn’t made my body adapt to the cold temperatures.

    • Alix December 10, 2013, 7:40 am

      That’s why I love to walk this time of year — your body really does acclimate to the cold, if not always the wind! And as soon as this ^%$! shin splint heals, I’ll be back out there, no matter what the temp. In the meantime, though, in an effort not to lose all my conditioning, I’m trying not to turn the heat on when I get home after work unless it’s below 25 degrees outside. Two sweaters, yoga and some hot tea usually do the trick.

  • Jake December 9, 2013, 2:27 pm

    Great post. The Soldier of Luxury reminds me of the story of the Fisherman and the Businessman. The path to happiness doesn’t have to be the most difficult.


  • Tara December 9, 2013, 2:55 pm

    I had a revelation yesterday related to this post – it suddenly occurred to me that even if the stock market went to zero, I would be just fine. I have all the material posessions I need, I am able to work, and I have a network of family and friends. Whatever happens outside myself, I will be okay. It was very calming, after way too much useless worrying about what the market is doing and will I ever be able to retire in safety.

  • daydreamingofearlyretirement December 9, 2013, 3:06 pm

    MMM, this is a great way of framing the argument for a minimalist lifestyle. A story of someone else’s life helps us to realize how little we would really need to make us happy, and prevents us from making instant excuses about why we can’t live how we should. Your encouragement and perspective have been a great help to my wife and I in realizing how little we need. This has led to us paying off 108k in student loan debt (accrued thoughtlessly in pursuit of the “American Dream”) in a little over 2 years! Even though we have far more money available now, I can’t imagine ever going back to that lifestyle. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  • nick December 9, 2013, 4:22 pm


  • cgk December 9, 2013, 4:27 pm

    Happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.
    — Chinese Proverb

    • Mr. Frugal Toque December 11, 2013, 8:01 pm

      The meaning of life? That’s simple. Try to be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope to fall in love.
      – Mallory Keaton

  • Kay December 9, 2013, 5:58 pm

    I can see the mechanism for financial independence and indeed, I’m well on my way through cutting expenses and revisiting “needs”. Stress is reduced by living a simpler life.

    The most challenging part of this journey, for me, will not be the cutting of expenses or riding my bike in the cold. It will be the psychological struggle that I may be headed for in giving up my employment safety net. There is a perceived safety net in not being a Soldier of Luxury. Employment is a safety net, first and foremost, because it provides a stream of income. It is also a safety net because it is what our society expects of us, so being “employed” helps us fit in.

    I’ll admit, that even as I plan for financial independence, I struggle with how I will ultimately handle letting go of the safety net. But I imagine that building up enough assets will replace at least the majority of the employment safety net. At any rate, it is a struggle I look forward to.

  • MrKlms December 9, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Excellent article, and very biblical too! It reminded me of the Matrix, we can take the blue pill and allow others to dictate how we perceive the world, or take the red pill and escape, and see it the way it truly is.

    Also, great site, I have been making in-roads to altering my spending and setting plans into action, but i will save that for another time. Cheerio from Down Under.

  • Steve December 9, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Thanks for another great post MMM.

    Like many others have said, it’s always refreshing to read your words and get a wandering mind re-focused on what’s truly important in life!

    Always aspiring to be a Mustachian!

  • nathan December 9, 2013, 7:44 pm

    Content and riches
    Seldom meet together.
    Riches take thou,
    Contentment I had rather.

    Benjamin Franklin

  • greg December 9, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Mr. MM,

    This post is reminiscent of so much South Indian philosophy: emphasizing the idea that one should be happy with what you have, rather than having what makes you happy. It also reminds me of Aristotle’s story of Thales, the ancient philosophy who cornered the market on olive presses simply to prove the value of philosophy. Thanks for writing and inspiring.

  • Nancy Ging December 9, 2013, 8:07 pm

    I love this article, MMM, but have to disagree with one part–most Americans are eating food that is hazardous to their health. It won’t kill us on the spot, but over time we get obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Our foods are filled with chemicals pharmaceuticals, hormones, GMOs, and industrial by products. That corn we eat may be creating holes in our guts, just like it does in the guts of cows that feed on it. We’re in the midst of a nearly silent food crisis, imo. Healthy food is available, but it generally requires some effort to find and obtain. You may not be able to find it in a grocery store. These days the soldier of luxury needs to know more about the stream before he simply eats the fish in it. Better yet, he needs to know his farmers. Otherwise, I think your article was right on! Loved it!

  • The Warrior December 9, 2013, 8:20 pm

    Eliminate as much as possible and only add what truly brings happiness.

    I strive to live the life of the Soldier of Luxury. I’m not far from there, but I’m not that close either. I am fighting through the vines that are holding me back in hope of reaching the clearing sooner rather than later.

    The more I drop, the more I gain.

    Yes, the struggle is there, but the struggle is part of the journey.

    I’m getting there. It’s a work in progress.

  • Insourcelife December 9, 2013, 8:48 pm

    It’s easy to forget how good we all have it with the constant widespread whining happening daily. An occasional reminder like this one is refreshing, so thanks for that.

  • twinsmom December 9, 2013, 10:11 pm

    its amazing how when we are forced and left with no choice we can just easily scrap everything and realize that we still have enough to live a decent life. we were just in this situation, ever since we got married, we both live with 2 incomes, everything gets spent on bills, and other extras, and life happened that we only have to survive with 1 income and we actually did. without hesitation, we eliminated everything that we can and kept the core, for 2 years that we survived with 1 income, we were still able to celebrate our twins birthday in disneyland, sent them to pre school, ate out once every few months, expenses cut in half, and still we made it.

  • John December 9, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Cuts right to the fucking point! Love it. I have a persistent thought of what am I waiting for? What if our ancestors had access to the information we all carry around in our pockets today? They would probably shit themselves at how easy everything has become and how luxurious we have it. They would also probably be astounded at how overweight and out of shape we all are considering how much we lounge around and drive, shying away from manual labor at all costs. Perspective is always a nice way to tell ourselves to shut up and enjoy this life.

  • charles December 9, 2013, 11:52 pm

    My most pleasurable moments in life is swimming at the beaches two blocks from my house. Outdoor warm activities are priceless, don’t need to spend a lot of money for that. MMM I live in the neighborhood you stayed at when you were here.

  • mable hastings December 10, 2013, 4:25 am

  • Ignatious December 10, 2013, 5:50 am

    Similar imagery / really old essay…


    Nice post modern day Elbert.

  • MonicaOnMoney December 10, 2013, 6:07 am

    This article is really great timing because I was just talking to a friend yesterday about the what ifs. What if I was debt free? What if I could do anything? What if I didn’t have to worry about money? What if I paid off my mortgage?

    But you’re absolutely right. I could cut my spending and expenses down by 4 today and could achieve a lot. I think it’s especially hard during Christmas when the expecation is for lots of gifts. But I’m changing that up this year too! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Mr Money Motivator December 10, 2013, 6:09 am

    For the first post ever I find myself not certain where you are coming from…

    Soldiers require an immense support structure of logistics to survive more than a few days on their own (ex logistics officer here!).

    So I have mentally replaced the phrase ‘Soldier of Luxury’ with ‘Warrior of Wisdom’


    • lentilman December 10, 2013, 7:27 pm

      I think he means more of a Bear Grylls type of soldier. Basically drop him off and he’s on his own- no support needed.

  • Gunhild December 10, 2013, 6:21 am

    I was just thinking about how I can ensure more freedom*. And considering going for a walk.
    Thank you for yet another inspiring post.

    *I am inspired by (you and) Harry Brown’s How I found Freedom in an Unfree World – which is freely available on the internet

    • Insourcelife December 10, 2013, 8:12 am

      Thanks for the reference to a good read. I easily found a PDF version after putting your sentence in Google.

    • Børge December 12, 2013, 11:10 am

      One up for How I found Freedom in an Unfree World. It’s among the best books I’ve ever read.

    • Tyler December 12, 2013, 11:30 am

      Great comment! I’ll finish reading this tonight…but I’m already hooked.

  • phred December 10, 2013, 7:43 am

    “Your machine-like body requires a lot of food, but fortunately, you feast every night. There is always a stream with sizeable and delicious fish, trees which bear tropical fruit and nuts, and plenty of fresh water.”

    Most streams are so polluted you will come down with at least one disease. Ditto if you eat the stream’s fish. The fruit & nuts that seem free for the taking are most likely owned by someone who may take a dim view of your stealing and may send a spear flying your way.
    In some countries — I believe England is one such — bedding down anywhere for the night is illegal.
    This was a great story — a good “if only” — but even nomadic tribes practice materialism and accumulating geegaws.

  • phred December 10, 2013, 8:01 am

    Creating good luck is not hard. Get to really know people in your community. Help them when you can. As you make more friends (they need not be close friends or good friends — just friends) they are more likely to help you when needed even if the help is a much needed bit of advice to point you in the right direction. Part two is to keep learning skills so you can fix problems as they occur while setting better directions for your life.
    Creating bad luck is equally easy. Stay cooped up in your home, only associate with a (very) small group of people, buy stuff you don’t need because you think it’ll make you happy, and because it also represents the only human contact you”ll have that week. Refuse to learn new skills because it’s too much trouble and you’ll probably fail (again). Only help others if they help you first; don’t give them more help than they gave you — keep score! Don’t set goals because they’ll take too long. Only make an effort if someone presents you with the perfect solution instead of just a good enough solution. Keep believing the cavalry is coming to rescue you so you just have to sit and wait in the meantime.

  • Drew December 10, 2013, 11:06 am

    This post is as hilarious as it is wise. Thank you.

  • Frugal in DC December 10, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Agree 100%. Reminds me of this great quote from Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh:
    “I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.”–from his Five Mindfulness Trainings – http://www.mindfulnessbell.org/five_mindfulness_trainings.php


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