A Reader Story: Success Even After Self Destruction

rock-onThe best thing about Mustachianism is that it cannot be defeated.

When subjected to challenges, both the philosophy itself and the individual practitioners (YOU) just bounce back stronger and happier. Collectively, we are like a 300-pound heavy bag with a grinning mustachioed face painted on the front. We just keep absorbing punches and swinging right back, until eventually our assailants grow tired and we knock them flat with the very momentum they punched into us.

Although I’d love to take credit for this Ethos of Badassity, it’s really the oldest trick in the book. Predating even the first Rocky movie (1976), the successful and happy people of all eras have earned their good lives through resilience. Privilege and pampering will make your life easier, but only resilience and grit will get you to a place where you actually experience true happiness and life satisfaction. This is because happiness tends to come not from what you get, but from what you earn.

Armed with just that paragraph, you can instantly debunk most of the complaints that arise in our rich-country lifestyle:

“I don’t earn as much Mr. Money Mustache did, so early retirement will never be in my future.”

“I’ve had more bad fortune than you, so my life will never be as good”

“I’ve made too many mistakes in life – so the rest of my life will be spent dealing with the consequences”

These people are lamenting their disadvantages, while missing the best part: the further back you are right now, the more chance you have to make changes, experience challenge and even some voluntary hardship. The more of these things you can put yourself through, the better you’ll feel at the end of it all. And ironically, in most cases your wealth will grow right along with your badassity.

To put this fluffy philosophy into more concrete terms, let’s consider this story I recently received from Ethan, a guy around my own age who was in a very different place 20 years ago.


Dear Mr. Money Mustache,

Although I have submitted my tale under the title of “possible case study,” it is really rather the opposite.  I discovered MMM about 6 months ago and have read every post, some of them multiple times, and have spent a considerable amount of time skulking the forums.  

Over the course of those months, I have noted a relatively infrequent but painfully vocal subculture of readers who fervently believe the Vital Tenets of Mustachianism (VTOM) are irrelevant to them, due to what they posit is a lack of fortune or privilege at their own less than ideal starting point.  I am here to refute the Waah brigade with my own tale.

I graduated high school, circa 1993.  Entered community college, then on to the university, taking the absolute maximum amount of student loans, which in this case included sufficient funds beyond tuition and books that I did not need to work.  I basked in the warm, comforting glow of deferred interest as I changed majors enough times to effectively cover every possible topic which is almost impossible to leverage into a solid income:  English, Art History, Philosophy, etc. 

Meanwhile, I managed to develop an arguably record breaking fondness for a variety of illicit drugs, all of which were paid for with borrowed student loan funds under the guise of “living expenses.”

Fast forward a few years:  A mere 15 credits shy of graduation, I am expelled from college.  This coming after several “academic probation” periods.  A once noteworthy GPA placing me in the Dean’s List has dropped to below the paltry C- average required to attend.  Having failed to graduate, I am given a 6 month grace period before loan payments start coming due, at the generous late 90s rate of 2.06%. 

In a stroke of absolute consumer genius, I successfully apply for 9 different high interest credit cards simultaneously and proceed to max each one out on cash advances.  My addictive tendency has graduated from narcotics and now also includes the borrowing and reckless spending of ridiculous amounts of money.  At rates ABOVE 20%. 

Very shortly thereafter, my chemical indulgences land me behind bars.

Fast forward a few more years:  Ah, blessed freedom, welcome back to the real world.  And by the way, you now have not a dime to your name and your defaulted debts have been compounding interest for years.  You own no car, have no job.

 After a two week search I take a minimum wage job cleaning floors at night.  I live in my parents’ basement, and borrow a car or carpool with a coworker.  The IRS seizes my first tax return, due to unpaid student loans. 

I resolve to apply for every possible better job, regardless of how long it takes.  I walk into the first interview with a firm resolve to show these people that I can KICK ASS AT ANY KIND OF WORK.  I am prepared for cruel rejection.  Amazingly, I get the job.  Now I am a phone dispatcher, making $15/hr.  I do not stop there.  I force myself to believe that WORKING HARD MIGHT ACTUALLY GET ME AHEAD.  I complete my work quickly and accurately, then I ask for more.  Soon I am promoted, and promoted again.  Raises follow, bonuses follow.  Why stop there?  On to another round of interviews, again prepared to tackle as many as needed to step up my income level.  Again, one interview, one offer.  Again, I work like it counts, and it turns out all you need to do to get ahead is BE BETTER THAN THOSE AROUND YOU, which is shockingly easy, because MOST PEOPLE DO A HALF-ASS JOB AT MOST THINGS.  More promotions, more raises, more bonuses. 

Suddenly I have a fairly solid, but not spectacular, annual salary of just over $60k.  A marriage follows, to someone with about the same income.  I talk my employer into paying for online courses and finish off that last 15 credits, finally earning the degree that I paid for many times over.  We buy a $400k house (near Seattle) at 3.875% and a new car at 2.64%.  I make my payments on time.  My credit rating hits 825.

Now, there is actually some money kicking around, rather than a growing pile of final notice letters.  I begin to pay down debts, excited by all the fun things I will buy each and every month once those payments are done (I have not yet discovered Mr. Money Mustache, and have every intention of buying my iPads in 6 packs so I can toss them out the window every time they annoy me with yet another pointless update).  Debts once in default start to disappear.  And then, trying to figure out what-in-the-actual-fuck “investing” means, I stumble onto this blog, and devour the information in a matter of days.  I rework my plans.  I switch into aggressive debt-murder mode.

Final fast forward, another 6 months.  Student loans?  Gone.  Car payments?  Gone.  Mortgage payments?  Not gone, but a new and much more aggressive onslaught of extra principle payments has my 30 year mortgage on track to be a 10 year mortgage.  I begin to make projections.  I use conservative numbers:  a 4% return rate, and I assume I will never be promoted again, and that my income will never do more than scale with inflation (in actuality, the average increase in total compensation over the previous 4 years was more than 10%/yr).  I nail down the holy grail date of early retirement, and CONSERVATIVELY it is a mere 16 years from the date I STARTED WORKING. 

And this is with an adherence to the principles of Mustachianism that is MEDIOCRE AT BEST.  I drive a NEW car that is AWD (granted, it is a hybrid and manages a decent 35mpg, but still), and I am sitting here right now typing this on a ridiculously overpowered and totally unnecessary “gaming” computer (which I built myself) hooked up to multiple monitors (which I do not need).  I buy grass fed beef, free range chicken, cage free eggs, wild caught seafood, organic produce.  Last year I vacationed in Hawaii.  My lifestyle is ridiculous and extravagant, at least in my eyes.   There were many corners cut and many “luxuries” eliminated, but it has quickly become apparent to me that these things I “lost” were things that BROUGHT ME ZERO HAPPINESS.
My point is this:  If a college dropout former drug addict ex-convict with a mountain of bad debt who did not even start seriously working until he was 35 years old can destroy his debts and be on track to retire early after 15 years, or possibly sooner, then ANYONE CAN DO IT, regardless of the obstacles.


So what’s the lesson here?

To me, it’s one of a great attitude translating into good, hard work. Ethan managed to burn a couple of decades of life messing around, and they led to predictable results. Then he got to work, and the results changed very quickly. Midway through this session, he encountered Mr. Money Mustache, and instead of wasting time writing complaints to me about one aspect of my story or another, he used the new information to speed thing up even more. This is exactly how you are supposed to do it.

When I read his story, I wrote back immediately, noting the sharp contrast of his own attitude compared to this complainlypants article on Medium.com:


I lamented to Ethan that sure, I have always tended to earn more money than average. And sure, I graduated without any student loans. And while I would claim these things happened partly because I worked and/or studied during most of my waking hours between age 15 and 21 and owned no car and went out to dinner somewhere between 1 and 2 times during that entire time period, that is totally beside the point. The point is WHY THE FUCK IS EVERYONE WHO MAKES EVEN MORE THAN ME STILL BROKE, EVEN AFTER 10 YEARS OF ADDITIONAL CRAZY INCOME!?!?

And here is what Ethan wrote back. Note the difference in attitude between the world’s plentiful Complaint Commentators and True Mustachians.

1 – I just got around to reading that article on medium.com that you linked.  Evenings are pretty full with the obligatory full body workout (home gym), crafting a gourmet meal for the wife and I, the evening walk to the nearby beach, etc, and I have a general policy of not touching my computer when there is actual life to be lived.  What an absolute bus-missing moron this dude is.  “I may never be able to retire (from my implied job that only pays $33k??) but that doesn’t mean I won’t be just as happy as Mr. Money Mustache.”  WTactualF?  “Life is hard and expensive…so you should clip coupons????”  Life, such as it is in this country, is actually stupidly easy for most, and expense is essentially irrelevant in the civilized world, because money is stupidly easy to acquire, even with minimal effort.  If I had started at age 20 instead of age 35 my biggest problem would be deciding which charity should get my excess funds.

2 – As much as it pains me to do so, here are some random details you might find useful if you decide to share my story.  In addition to the 35mpg AWD Hybrid that the wife and I carpool in (we work within walking distance of each other), I own a SECOND CAR which serves NO PURPOSE.  It sits in the garage, a massive depreciating asset upon which I am STILL PAYING INSURANCE.  To make matters worse, it is a paid off, late model LEXUS which gets HORRIBLE MILEAGE.  It has ZERO carrying capacity, as the trunk is almost entirely filled with an aftermarket subwoofer which I paid SOMEONE ELSE to install.  Hmm, what else?  A high priced cell phone plan under contract for another year.   Low deductible home owners policy which is way overpriced.  What’s my point?  Even with my current half-assed approach to lowering expenses I am already kicking a pretty serious amount of ass in life, given my circumstances, and as the remainder of these poor decisions are trimmed down and tuned up, the situation will continue to improve, and my actual cost of living per year will continue to drop, with every now wasted cent being put to work making me a larger and larger safety margin.  Sell the pointless Lexus?  Boom, 16k on its way to Vanguard, and so on.  Anyway, feel free to take aim and unload on that Lexus, lol.  I deserve it.


See how it works? You don’t complain about the advantages of others while simultaneously scooping out a big bowl of Sympathy Ice Cream for yourself. You acknowledge that although you are now doing a great job at turning things around, you still suck and thus could easily double your progress if you chose to do so.

And then, with the ball handily within your own court, you relish the privilege of deciding upon your next move.

p.s., there is no such thing as a “cool car”, once you become badass enough to realize that Luxury is Just Another Weakness. You don’t need Complete Consumer Immunity to win at life (I am nowhere near achieving it either). But it is important to at least theoretically understand that the coolest car of all does not exist – because your life gets better for every bit of car-dependence you can streamline out of it.

  • Mr. Money Mustache June 19, 2015, 8:25 am

    After a month with the comments feature disabled (part of a server switch), we are back! So the last two posts don’t have any comments yet.

    But some people on the forum were talking about this particular post and it brought up an interesting conspiracy theory. Is this Ethan guy real, or somebody I made up to prove a point?

    He’s real – in the rare event I make up characters, I’ll always tell you right up front. But the questions about privilege vs. disadvantages were pretty interesting:


    • RetiredToWin Alex June 20, 2015, 6:18 am

      Thank you so much for getting the comments back up, Pete!

    • Parker July 7, 2015, 12:32 pm

      If Ethan is a ‘real’ guy, he’s a liar. Even the best mustachian doesn’t have a 400k house in seattle, what I assume to be 100k in student loan debt, and a modest $60k/year salary and claim to be able to pay it all off in 10 years and also retire early. Further, his credit rating being 825 is an absolute lie. As someone like myself can tell you who has never had any credit problems and no debt, I just recently cracked 800 (usually am in the 790s). Sorry, don’t buy it at all. But this isn’t the first time the ‘case study’ seemed like a farce.

      • actualethan July 7, 2015, 8:08 pm

        I’ll bite:
        My $400k house is NEAR Seattle, not in Seattle, and is close to the median for my area.
        My “modest $60k/year salary” is , as I stated, just over $60k, and is about HALF of the household income. Household income BEFORE bonuses = $122k.
        $100k in student loan debt?!?! I went to a state university in the late 90s and only pursued a BA, the first two years of which were done in a community college. My total student loans started at around $25k after grants, at a low interest rate, and that amount still seems absurdly high to me.
        I don’t know what to tell you about the 825 credit rating. The last time I had a hard check on my credit was when my wife and I bought a car on payments. We ran both credit ratings and I had her beat by around 50 points, so we put it in my name. She, similar to you, has never had any credit problems or significant debt, but her score was lower. I have had several accounts in default and collection, mostly more than 7 years ago. I honestly do not know how credit scores are calculated, but that was not in any way a lie. Ran Credit Karma a few days ago and it reported an 807, so it may have dropped off a bit as accounts have been closed.
        I am rather inclined to stop defending myself. I was purposely vague to maintain my anonymity, but literally nothing in my submission was outright deceptive.

        • Lars July 25, 2015, 2:15 pm

          Thanks Ethan…great story and I have experienced something similar w/out the drugs but all else very close. Though I am a bit older and came to hard earned wealth and better choices later, I can validate that all of the above can be done. I went to a state college, majored in english, student loans prob less than 25K but spent too much, experienced a family trajedy right after graduating that pulled the rug out from under me – e.g. no parents, no family, nothing. Just me and a zipo job market in CA. Even with hustling and working very hard – three jobs: 1 pro at a newspaper, one weekend bar tending, and one evening jobs, I could not stay on top of the debt. I rented a room in a home in CA, long commute, care payment + loans…nothing fancy but was under it and initially was defeating myself with a mindset of I’ll never get ahead. And then I just decided that that was silly and it did not matter my major, background or whatever. I have met plenty of well to do people that are quite “average” and I knew I had more to offer than just that. So bucked down and did something very similar to what you did. I decided to go for the highest paying job I could get. I targeted every amor corporation in my area that hired college grads and scoured the papers, job boards, local college campuses that would put on interviews and went to every possible interview I could. That resulted getting into a management training program at GE – yes with an English degree – and it completely changed my life. I worked harder than everyone else, took assignments no one else would take, relocated where no one else would go and that led to promotion after promotion after promotion and so on. Paid down debt that was spinning of control, including credit cards and some other things I had gotten myself into when I was younger. I did finally relocate to PNW and you are right – average homes here before crash were 4oo+ and households with income above 100K could easily qualify and so it goes I wound up in a similar situation. As for credit score, the lower you are when you start recovery, the hire the rebound. It may not seem fair but that is the it works.

          Thank you for sharing and I just want to support that it can be done. I have gone on to have roles in Finance, Technology, Marketing, and so on and could retire at any time. I choose to stay in the corp world as I am amazed at what I have been able to accomplish and have also been able to see the world. I mean I have been everywhere on the company dime, seen so many amazing things, met wonderful people and so on. I will not ever entertain any noise of…but I majored in XYZ…totally does not matter. Or I could never switch from this to that….NOPE. A person just needs to decide and go for it. Sometimes all it takes is asking for the job – said the english major to the CFO that resulted in promotions, relocations to amazing places, and so on.

          • Drew January 19, 2016, 3:17 pm

            First generation High School Graduate and English Major here. Graduated undergrad in 2009 during one of the worst job markets with one of the most benign majors. I worked as a proof reader for the local paper, spent my weekends as a landscaper, and resold text books as a side hustle. I made $32,000 in my best year.

            One day I said “to Hell with this.” Went back to graduate school, chose a more regional MBA program that offered me a significant academic scholarship instead of one the top 10 programs charging $120+.

            After school, I took a job with a fortune 50 company offering a $35K sign on bonus and a $96K salary.

            I went from living a hyper frugal lifestyle and saving a couple hundred dollars every month to maxing my 401K, saving $500/month in stocks, putting $250/month toward my kid’s 529, and I’ll be debt free in the next 9 months. (about $50K left on my student loans).

            We live in a country where corporations are literally throwing shit loads of money at people who are willing to work hard. So, if you don’t like the way your life is going, do something about it. Your job doesn’t pay enough, find a better one, take on a second job, quit and get an advanced degree in a field that will pay you six figures. There are options which means there are no valid excuses.

            • STBJ June 22, 2016, 8:52 pm

              I have a 2nd job. It makes all the difference in the world in terms of fixing mistakes rapidly.

        • Greg December 5, 2016, 4:32 pm

          You’re a dead-set fuckin’ legend, Ethan! Although everyone’s journey is slightly different, we have the power to choose to get off the train at whatever station we like. Inspirational stuff.

    • Melili January 17, 2016, 11:46 pm

      At age 46, after working hard to succeed in my career, it seemed I wasn’t as far along in the path to retirement as I thought I’d be. Then I read MMM and it feels like I’ve surfaced from the depths! I took a good look around at my cluttered home and actually calculated the time it would take to use the things I have accumulated all up.
      Cars and Clothes- 10-15 years. Makeup- 5-10 years. Toiletries- 1-2 years
      From looking at my giant box of eyeshadows alone, I could wear some every friggin day for all eternity and I still wouldn’t have enough eyelids! I look at my little girl and am now seeing that this crap is trying to cost me the freedom to enjoy the only childhood I will have the privilege to witness.
      I’m back in charge of what I want- and that is the freedom of time to spend with the people I love sooner.
      Wish me luck!

      • AndAHalf March 12, 2018, 5:16 pm

        Cackling at not enough enough eyelids to wear all your eyeshadow – I feel the same about mine! (I have two pallettes and a few more one offs.)
        It’s been about two years since your comment… hope you’re doing well!

    • STBJ June 22, 2016, 8:49 pm

      Hey MMM. I too am Ethan. Wrecked my finances for twenty five years of marriage, liquidated all of my investments by 30, sent my kids to IVY league schools and paid 50% of their tuition by mortgaging my house and borrowing against retirement, bought at least two clown cars new on credit and two compacts on credit. At 52 years of age started using a spreadsheet to track debt emergency of 365K, got rid of stupid time share, refinanced house twice, sold some crap, saved 25%, used small inheritance to pay off other debt. Debt is now 147K 6 years later. Just putting a few MMM principles to worked I have removed $400 per month of even more stupid spending. If I can be in better shape spending 75% of what I make anyone can. Thanks. On track to buy new house, anything else I want , and have more $ for retirement. Ethan’s story other than prison :) is close to my story.

  • galaxton June 19, 2015, 8:55 am

    Phew! Yay comments!

  • rory June 19, 2015, 9:04 am

    I have to admit when I read the article my ‘spidey sense’ or conspiracy-theorist started wondering if Ethan and MMM were the same guy. There are a lot of similarities in styles of writing, and what I’d consider too many points that dovetail perfectly to points that MMM has made in the past.

    I’ve willing to give MMM the benefit of the doubt because I’ve learned so much from the website over the years. It is also possible that all of these similarities could have happened if Ethan was a rabid and repeated reader of the MMM blog (writing styles blend).

    At the end of the day, though, what occurred to me was that I was simply jealous or incredulous that a person with so many disadvantages to me was going to be at FIRE before I was. Overcoming the ‘criminal’ tag is a huge obstacle. On comparison I’m white, college educated … and make less money. The options include that this is a lie somehow, or that I suck and should work harder.

    That’s a tough lesson to learn… and it’s all too easy to make excuses for yourself. I’ve been doing it all week. But it gets you nowhere.

    Which of course is the point MMM is trying to make.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 19, 2015, 10:20 am

      Yeah – Ethan’s somewhat similar writing style was part of the reason for for conspiracy theory.

      But there’s an alternate explanation: I get happy emails like this every day, and in this case I just liked his style enough to publish it wholesale on the blog. In fact, I don’t even think of it as a writing style, more of a life attitude that is so overwhelming that you can’t help when it comes through in your style.

      The style of invincible, slightly over-the-top optimism with appropriate use of profanity just happens to work for me, and hopefully for the self-selected people that like reading the shit we cover here on MMM.

      • Kyle June 19, 2015, 4:17 pm

        I wish my writing style was as good. I think the engineer in me ends up too dry. Maybe when I’m closer to my financial goals I’ll turn into a true mustachian writer.

        • Retired To Win June 20, 2015, 6:11 am

          Writing skill evolves and develops. I can see that even in my own blog’s posts across time. But what really counts is the content and how it’s presented. I have no doubt that MMM would still be wildly popular even if the blog’s style was a little stodgier. (Perish the thought!)

    • Rick June 19, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Despite his litany of disadvantages, Ethan appears to has the advantage of being a DINK – double income, no kids. Folks in that position have an easier time accumulating wealth than those of us who have decided to add to the next generation of Social Security payers.

      • actualethan June 19, 2015, 12:10 pm

        This is an excellent point, and I am profoundly thankful for the dear wife every day, for many reasons above and beyond the additional income. I think, however, that the far more crucial factor is spending vs. savings rate, a relationship which can scale with many differing circumstances. Every reduction in the cost of living propagates across the entire timeline, assuming it is shifted into debt reduction (interest not paid=profits) or investments, simultaneously reduces the amount needed down the line to maintain that (now less expensive) lifestyle, and then in turn pulls the target date ever closer. And THAT bit I picked up from the blog. In retrospect it seems like utterly obvious, common-fucking-sense stuff, but I didn’t GET it on my own, and the culminating effect of assimilating MMM’s concepts was analogous to a mag-lev freight train of possibility smashing into my forehead.

      • Red Head Money June 19, 2015, 5:28 pm

        My husband and I are what you call DINKs. 99% of our friends have kids. We are generally in the same money bracket: take home of $40,00. That’s high for this area of Pennsylvania. They also have: cable bills, expensive cars, overpriced homes, cell phones, drive EVERYWHERE even though most things are within walking distance, private school tuition (Catholic schools mostly), every computer/game box imaginable, eat out consistently and use the “you don’t have kids that is why you have more money than us” line too. All those things that I listed above….my husband and I don’t have. I take that back. We don’t WANT. Our 30yr mortgage will be paid off in under 9 years. Our friends are proud and mystified by what we have accomplished. All have said they should adopt the lifestyle too. But they haven’t yet…..habits are hard to break. It took me several years to adopt this lifestyle and many discussions with my husband. I am 100% on board. All I have to do is look at our bank account. If the “next generation of Social Security payers” was a jab at people who don’t have kids then shame on you. If it wasn’t, then I apologize.

        • Doug June 21, 2015, 10:21 am

          Wow, your comment is something I can really relate to as I’ve had the same experience. I’m single (which means only one source of income) and if I had a penny for every time I heard that excuse I would have been able to retire at least 10 years earlier. It’s all in the choices you make.

          The next time your hear that excuse refer them to http://stopworking.ca/ . Now click the tab for About The Author and you’ll see he and his wife are not only retired but the have not 1, not2 , not 3, not 4, not 5, but 6 (yes, six) children!

        • Rick June 25, 2015, 11:38 am

          I posted the “DINK” comment above and I think that it warrants further discussion. First of all, I certainly agree that people with kids can live frugal lives and achieve financial independence. I am trying to do just that. However, I do think that we need to honestly acknowledge that, all other things being equal, a family with kids living at a given spending level will take longer to reach financial independence than a couple without kids living at the same spending level. Kids just cost more.

          Furthermore, while there are some areas where you can enjoy economies of scale (i.e. kids sharing rooms, hand-me-downs), the more kids you have, the longer it will take to reach financial independence. This holds true even at a mustachian spending level and I think that it would have taken the MMM family a lot longer to get to financial independence if they had had their kid before retirement or had more kid than 1. Each kid needs some sort of additional food and clothing, an appropriately sized bike, and professional or parental child care just for starters. One of the main messages of this blog is that even small expenditures over time add up to huge numbers that you could have earned if that money were invested instead. I think that most of the numbers that you see in the press about how much it costs to raise kids are ridiculous, but kids do come with a ton of expenditures, big and small, that are going to slow down the investment snowball.

          None of this is an excuse for stupid spending by us breeders, but I think that folks without kids need to acknowledge some of the challenges that come with having kids and keep those things in mind when discussing financial planning with their friends and family. For example, people with kids run into more consumer traps. Have you ever been to a Babies R Us? Do you know that these things actually exist? https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=google%20shopping%20baby%20wipe%20warmer
          The decision not to buy a wipe warmer is a no-brainer, but there are other decisions that are harder, especially given the deep emotional desire to provide your kids with a good upbringing (and the fact that kids are both cute and totally greedy). Do you buy your kid the fancy robotics toys, the trip that thing their friends are doing, the new baseball bat? Folks who have decided not to have kids have foregone a million little spending decisions in favor of one really big one. Of course, in the age of reliable and affordable birth control, the decision to have a kid can be seen as one big luxury purchase, but I don’t think that point is going to get you very far in talking with your friends who already have them. My point is that if you are talking to people with kids about finances, you need to acknowledge that kids are an additional expense even while you are trying to convince them that a lot of their expenses are totally ridiculous.

          Keeping all that in mind, I don’t think that the reader story submitted by Ethan is implausible. A couple with two incomes who are both committed to paying down debt and investing is basically a money making machine and I think Ethan’s story of how he is doing it despite some challenges is inspiring. I also think that it would be even more inspiring to hear more stories involving the road to financial independence told by people who have the one big challenge that most of us have chosen to have – kids.

          Finally, the decision whether or not to have kids is a personal one. I have pretty strong feelings about my kids, but whether or not you have kids is none of my damn business.

          • Katie June 25, 2015, 1:32 pm

            You shall pry my wipe warmer from my cold, dead hands! I kid, I kid. In all seriousness, I own that exact warmer and find it invaluable. I have a thing about a baby screaming to high heaven in my ears because I had THE NERVE to wipe her heiny with a cold wipe. So for baby #2 (she’s seven months old now), warm is where it’s at. Now, I do believe there are numerous places to cut costs in regards to infants. :-) For me, though, my sanity during diaper changes (which happen … a lot) was important.

          • Scott July 1, 2015, 5:29 pm

            The point that everyone seems to miss when they say things like this is that the solution for financial independence on sites like this are not strict formulas that require specific components to work.

            I have one income and kids and we’ve been able to make it work because it’s about choices and not seeing yourself as a victim but taking your life and your money into your own hands. But the people that make excuses won’t ever see it that way and that is why they make excuses.

            • Cody July 19, 2015, 10:39 am

              Maybe you should submit a case study, Scott. Call it Single Income With Kids (“SIWK”) to show how you do it all. :)

            • John July 31, 2015, 10:43 pm

              I have two kids, wife and one income. The one income is large and the wife not working allows for it (accommodating travel for business meetings). In canada there are also tax benefits for being in this situation.

              I have saved more money this year, than I had previously in my entire life combined…. and the year’s far from over!

              If I do this for another 10-12 years, I can comfortably retire, assuming I won’t get another pay raise… But I think anyone with Ethan’s ideals will likely be in the multiple 6 figures before retiring, and retire with a 7 figure bank account. Formula? Read every article on here, read some twice, read the forums. Sit and think for a while, then execute.

              Maybe the single largest thing though is not anything this website says, but exactly what you googled to find it: This indicates the kind of person you are and the way you think. I have it within me to try and be better tomorrow than I am today.

          • alsoCanadian March 29, 2017, 6:43 pm

            Well written. Kids are a ‘luxury’ mixed in with basic instinct. And when they are young, it’s exhausting to take care of 1, 2, 3, or 4 of them. With that fatigue probably comes a lack of focus and resorting to bad spending habits, lack of exercise, eating poorly, etc. Yes, excuses all, but young kids are a lot of work. Then, comes the sporting / hobby / tutoring expenses. On tutoring (ie extra after school lessons), it would be ideal if taking an hour off work (or TV) could mean that you could impart knowledge to your kid, sitting beside and helping to understand homework that isn’t assigned by the teacher but is really good for him to do – you’re simply a better parent than I ’cause that didn’t work for any of my 3 kids.

            As for sports, hiking is great, but there is some value to putting them into organized sport and, if they achieve a little bit of success, then you’re off to the races with select / competitive rep teams and all the accoutrements.

            Kids are lovely, but they are expensive.

      • Lars July 25, 2015, 2:33 pm

        Agreed this is a great point but when the kids come if that is what we choose to do, we have to be diligent to not backslide into old habits of throwing money away for convenience. Kids are surrounded by consumption pressure at school, by friends, and by how much they watch TV. We have to attack the habits and bring them up to be/do more with their amazing talents much younger than the schools systems would promote. Despite getting myself into a debt pickle in college years that I climbed out of with the right mindset, my parents raised me to earn my own way and to contribute to the family by helping to care for the home, the yard, my own things, most of which I paid for myself by starting small businesses or working at restaurants, health clubs, or the odd jobs in the community. This early experience did not prevent me from making mistakes but it did help me recover from them much faster. Kids can create the money trap cycle all over again. The same one this community strives so hard to keep out of. Or we can look at it as extending the challenge to raise beautiful minds that can also break the cycle and develop skills far beyond what the school systems expect. Kids can become a thriving and vibrant part of our economic community while having fun, developing their imaginations, helping others, while helping themselves. Our kids are saving for their own college education or not – if that is what they choose by the time they get there. We are intent on raising them smarter than we were, teaching them about how the world works, the flow of money, how they can contribute to it or not, make choices and trade-offs. My 10 year old son turned my on to Supernova at Motley Fool and helps us with stock picks for example. We make a game out of it and choose as a family a portfolio we can build together and share the spoils. We are only limited by our imaginations and our minds.

      • jsbinkyiii January 11, 2016, 2:35 pm

        we have a single income family with 4 kids under 8 years old. I work two jobs that gross $75,000 for the last 2 1/2 years, but at about $40,000 prior to that. i drive like a car clown in two minivans that are worth $5ooo put together, and i have had a positive savings rate for all 8 of my full-time working years. Currently i have a 20% savings rate and a 11% giving rate. Every raise I get for the rest of my life goes to increasing that savings rate. I am constantly frustrated at my failure to reach true mustasianism over the 6 months that i have read this blog, (thanks to the reader who made this blog a kindle document) but my wife is retired and i love my job so we can make it work.

  • forestbound June 19, 2015, 9:31 am

    Comments are working but the forums aren’t… I’m going through withdrawl here!

    • RetiredToWin Alex June 20, 2015, 6:15 am

      The Forums just get overwhelmed at times due to hyperactivity. The only (maybe) solution would be to switch the Forums to a heavier-duty server. (Note that the MMM blog is on a different server system than the Forums.) Barring having that happen, the answer is to be patient and keep checking back. The Forums always come back up.

      • Mr. Money Mustache June 21, 2015, 12:35 pm

        Yeah, we are going to move the forum next and see how it goes. It might be a programming or config bug rather than server issue (in theory, the current machine should be more than enough already for the lighweight “Simple Machines” package that runs the forum), but it’s worth a try.

  • Jake June 19, 2015, 11:39 am

    Yea comments! An avid reader and rare commentor, I felt the need to comment on this article immediately after first reading it. I did’t realize there was a conspiracy brewing in the forum. After first reading, the conspiracy for me was how closely this mirrored my life and the life of a great friend of mine. As a matter of fact, when I sent this to my unnamed friend, it became the final brick in a foundation of conversion to mustachianism that he had been building. Now there are at least two of us in Fargo ND, waaay up Nort! Thanks to Ethan for having the balls to share his less than perfect life story to motivate others!

    I should also add, less than three years ago, not only was I a financial mess, but I was one of those complainypants. Sitting on a mountain of debt, virtually no savings, and an average paying job, I whined constantly to coworkers and friends about how I had ruined any chance of financial freedom long ago. At least, I thought, I now had a career I somewhat enjoyed to keep me busy until death or disability. Sadly, even an enjoyable & fulfilling second career left me at the whim of corporate politics, bad managers and ridiculous schedule requirements. Thanks to an attitude change similar to Ethans, my entire perspective has changed. I now chit chat with coworkers of my plan to partially retire in 6 years or so (many are very intrigued, most think I’m crazy). I have nearly eliminated my debt and have a substantial amount of “f” you money saved in Vanguard index funds. I’m now confident enough to tell my manager “no thank you, but I can help during my scheduled hours” , when she demands more of my precious free time. In six years (firecalc says I can do it in 3 or 4, but I’m a safety margin guy), I plan to cut back to less than half time, eliminating all the nonproductive tasks out of the career I otherwise enjoy. The most amazing thing is, when people ask me what I cut out of my “budget” to lower living expenses, I have NO IDEA. Other than sticking with my 1998 corolla(instead of buying a new car as I had planned) & moving close to work, I’m hard pressed to identify a single cut because I miss nothing. I’m simply less wasteful & have a better attitude towards life.

  • Craigmarstash June 19, 2015, 12:44 pm

    Just goes to show whatever point you are in life someome is worse off and kicking more ass that you. Thats what gives me the will power to get on my bike every morning. The single greatest hurdle in my transition from weird guy who doesnt like to spend much money to a mustachian wasnt spending less, it was not having money sitting in my account needing to be spent and actually using it to earn money.

  • Kim P June 19, 2015, 12:45 pm

    I’m a longtime follower of your blog and I am definitely a “believer”. I am completely confident in your story but my first thought when reading this reader’s story is that many details didn’t ring true to me, or he was exaggerating to make a point. The one that particularly stands out is that he now has a credit score of 825. Besides the jail time my story is very similar to his. I have been working hard to improve my credit score for the last 10 years and mine is only 725. Although the reader’s story is definitely inspirational, I think the exaggerations take away from the message.

    • Mr. Money Mustache June 19, 2015, 2:37 pm

      Credit scores can be a counterintuitive and mysterious thing – I would assume he is telling the truth about the 825 and not exaggerating. Even my own has fluctuated and is usually but not always in the 800s – I’ve never had a late payment or anything like that, but number of credit lines and credit card applications, etc. can cause temporary changes.

  • Alix June 20, 2015, 5:01 am

    Ethan is a completely inspirational badass! I, too, got started saving waaaaay late, and discovered Mustachianism only relatively recently. But already I save a third of my income and my only major vices are lipsticks and handbags (I have a problem there, I admit). Thanks for sharing Ethan’s story — I’m off to save a little more money!

  • Kapitalust June 23, 2015, 4:22 pm

    I once wrote on my own blog about how I repaid my ~$54,000 in student loans. Inevitably, 95% of the comments turned into how my situation didn’t apply to any of them, therefore there was no point in the story. Complainypants to the max.

    I really dig Ethan’s story. THAT’S the attitude so many people need.

    I could have wallowed in a puddle of my own tears, crying to myself why I had negative net worth and no job when I finished college. Could have done that EASILY for 3 years.

    But instead, I found a job, paid off my debt, and on my way with a portfolio of income producing assets growing by thousands every month.

    Ethan, you are a cool man.

  • Stannis June 24, 2015, 12:24 am

    The statement about working harder than your average colleague being shockingly easy was my key takeaway. It sounds so simple when you put it like that, but instead I seem to just go with the flow and not do more than required because “that’s not my job” or “I’m not getting paid enough to do more”. Now I realize that it’s just myself that I’m holding back with that attitude and that Ethan is clearly onto something.

    • Kevin May 23, 2017, 7:32 pm

      that’s what i got too. not something that’s really been focused on the blog as yet, but almost everyone i know (and i work in a fairly self-motivated sector in my estimation) has a case of “career complacency”. a little too much comfort, a touch of boredom, too much of life organized around their work such that it is difficult to extricate themselves from it, and most of them have never seen the other side of the tracks, so they don’t necessarily appreciate what they have. it’s not difficult at all to smash the performance level of your colleagues, especially when you are just starting out around the minimum wage. i found the exact same thing at college. a lot of times mature students who are trying to bounce back from rough situations are the most dedicated students around. they know what they want, and because they know first hand the consequences of poor decisions and complacency and wasted youth, they do everything in their power to avoid them.

  • Jeff June 30, 2015, 11:52 am

    I love stories like this because they remind me of my own. I had even more advantages and fewer excuses than this guy. I finished college at 21 and was already reading about investing, but I managed to fuck it all up more than once, between bad spending habits and a lack of discipline. I was pretty much flat broke after my second divorce at 31. At some point between 32 and 33, it finally clicked and I stopped screwing myself over… just turned 37 and am on track for FIRE, racking up rental properties and ETF shares, and looking forward to the rest of life with great excitement and joy. :)

  • Paul July 3, 2015, 1:11 pm

    I”m glad I came back to look at this article because I was desperate to leave a comment after first reading it. When I first read the article, I have to admit that I thought it was just put up by one of MMM’s fanboys to bolster the mustachian lifestyle, because for the life of me I could not mathematically figure out how Ethan could possibly live such a non-mustachian lifestyle of consumerism while having all of the benefits. Aren’t we supposed to forgo all of the wasteful spending in order to have the mustachian lifestyle in the first place?

    But I’m willing to put all my doubts aside if I could just see a summary of income – expenses – savings, to see how Ethan’s lifestyle makes mathematical sense. Without those facts I can’t help thinking it’s just a good story. But also, imagine how inspiring it could be to all the holdouts who can’t imagine living the mustachian lifestyle. If they knew you could accomplish so much while keeping so much of their “normal” life, I think that “carrot” would attract a lot more people into the fold.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 3, 2015, 3:43 pm

      It’s up to Ethan if he wants to take the time to make a little table of expense estimates. But in general, I tend to believe stories like this. People always question the math in my own “nine years to retirement” story too, but it’s completely true and there was loads of sloppy spending in there, so it would be easy for anyone with similar income to reproduce:

    • actualethan July 4, 2015, 7:02 am

      Happy to oblige. I am forwarding along a simplified version of my budgeting and projection spreadsheets to MMM, perhaps he will embed them in the original post?
      While I would not have chosen the phrase “non-mustachian lifestyle of consumerism,” you will notice there are some areas where spending is downright excessive – we spend well over $500/month on food (and alcohol) for a two person household, but high quality food is important to me, and thus worth the high cost. We also average around $4k/year in purely discretionary spending, which is again acceptable to me in order to ensure some small scale travel throughout the year.
      I am sure those more experienced than I will see holes in my projection logic; I am new to investing and financial planning so surely there is much I have missed. To account for this, I intentionally leave out several avenues of income (bonuses, profit from downsizing house, etc).
      The bottom line is we have a combined income of around $122k (and rising), typically rake in another $5k in bonuses, and maintain a low overall cost of living. This predictably leads to a good financial picture overall, which will continue to improve as I continue to advance my career.
      I certainly would not refer to myself as a “fanboy,” but there is useful information to be had here in the blog, as well as in the forums, much of which is more or less universally applicable, and it was exciting to me to see it applied to my own situation so effectively.

      • Paul July 6, 2015, 12:34 pm

        I am thankful that you both have posted a reply to my request. Please don’t take my reference to “fanboys” as an insult. If anything I’m the biggest fanboy out there. I’m in as much awe as I am envy of MMM’s accomplishments. He has managed to achieve what I consider a truly idyllic lifestyle. I only wish I was young enough that the internet actually existed and I could have found this website at a time when it would have made it possible for me to emulate this path to the extent that you have. While I have your ears, let me also say MMM, how fortunate and even blessed you are to have found a spouse to be your partner in your endeavors. Growing up and into my adulthood, I have found it truly rare to find a woman I was attracted to who wasn’t totally addicted to consumerism. No doubt you may have noticed this as well, but in the off chance you have not, keep it in mind. Oh, and Ethan, I had one more request as well. Could you also include a mention of the type of profession you are in? I totally get the kind of money that MMM and spouse made in tech, but I find bonuses to be rare in most industries in this world now so I’d be most interested to know what industry you are in.

        Thank you both for your time and attention.

        • actualethan July 6, 2015, 3:11 pm

          Hey again Paul :)
          Without getting TOO specific (have to protect the precious anonymity!), both myself and my wife are basically accountants. We both work in the type of industry where the standard business model is a smallish corporate office (around 30-35 people) and a larger, less central workforce of 200-300 employees – the type of model you might see in fields like agriculture or construction. The wife makes a bit more than I, and tends to get a larger bonus as well, but in both cases our income levels are close to the median for our job titles. Our bonuses are generally not too large, around $3-$4k each, so not a huge change in overall compensation – it really is the low spending rate that makes all the difference. The wife tends to (lucky for me) be much better at resisting the consumerism bug than me; I still sometimes have to fight the urge not to spend like crazy all the time, lol. One of the perks of post-consumer-addict life is that there tends to already be a ton of STUFF lying around, which makes it easier not to buy more.

  • Brad August 4, 2015, 7:05 am

    Give em hell class of ’93. I only have stubble on my money mustache, but have already realized that removing our restaurant habit and putting that money toward the mortgage will cut 11 years off the loan, according to BankRate. It’s never to late to get started. Keep kicking ass.

  • Anon August 24, 2015, 3:41 pm

    I’ve been a long time reader here but do not comment much. It is interesting to see how many jump at the thought that it is not possible. Everybody is in their own unique situation as is mine. Although I think I have read every post I don’t recall reading anything from somebody who is divorced, so here is my story.

    I have two awesome boys who are now 13 and 10. They live with their mother and I see them one night a week and every other weekend. I miss them often.

    Before I got divorced I had been remodeling and selling homes every two years to avoid the capital gains. The last house I had I bought for $649k and sold for about $1.2M. Once the divorce was settled I had about $250k to my name and she got the rest. (In CA FYI) My wife did not work at the time of the divorce and her promise of getting a job once the boys were school age did not happen. At the time I made around 98k annually but because she didn’t work all financially responsibility was in my lap. Alimony plus child support was $3k/mo. After taxes and paying that I barely had enough for myself, save the money from the sale of the house. Now, I made a mistake. I thought I had to reinvest within a year the money I made from the house or be taxed. I couldn’t seem to find a straight answer about that. Ended up getting a condo for $459k or something ridiculous. I thought I could renovate and flip it but the market crashed. I did end up going back to court (and get this, because she doesn’t work or have a source of income, I have to pay my lawyer and hers, talk about punching yourself in the face) and after doing a retirement account payoff I got rid of alimony and negotiated a slightly smaller amount and have been paying $1700/mo since. Still not an easy amount to swallow each month. I did get re-married and my new wife works (thank goodness). It was a bit of a relief, but more mistakes ensue.

    We wanted to buy a house because we thought maybe if we had a house the boys might want to live with us and we wanted to have kids together. In hind site we should have waited to get the house when an actual child was on the way because as it turns out, we can’t have kids together and even the state adoption agency said they’d look at us last to adopt because we both work. But we had the house and were renting the condo out at a $1k loss each month and could not afford for her to quit.

    Turning Point:
    A friend at work introduced me to Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball payoff method and book. I read that, loved it and convinced my wife to read it. (She’s a CPA so the concepts make sense to her.) We made the decision to let the condo go instead of bleeding out every month. Short sold super cheap to our dismay( $220k) We got 1099 for over $190k from the bank. Ouch. We paid off a 401k loan, a car loan and a couple of other small debts. We did a 6 year remodel of the house we were in and I convinced my wife that we should sell it back in May of this year. Even with double income we were still living check to check (We did however max out our 401ks and 457 plans after the debts were paid off).

    We sold the house to an awesome family and moved to *GASP* a mobile home. We did this for two reasons. The market is ridiculously high again in CA and I didn’t want to buy another home at an overly inflated cost. I’ll explain more about that in a second. I failed to mention that I have an insane commute. I have a decent job but it is 1.5 hours away from my home so I commute on the train 3 hours a day. It’s horrible. I told my boys that I would keep the same schedule with them but I was going to move closer to work since that is where I spend most of my time. They were pretty crushed about the idea of me living so far away so I looked for the cheapest home I could find that is close to a train station and to them. So back to why a mobile home…

    Last mortgage+insurance+taxes+PMI $3400/mo (25 years left on the mortgage) PMI of $200 was going to expire late 2015. Could not refi because of the short sale on our record. (this cost does not reflect ANY utilities which add up to over $300/mo)
    New cost. $889/mo plus utilities (less than $100/mo). for the MH land lease.

    Since we do not want to stay here when we retire we felt we could save more each month investing the monthly savings vs any equity we could gain on the house. We are on track to retire at 51-55 (about 8-12 years from now)

    My biggest hang up for early retirement is the divorce and child support. I can’t just quit my job. The courts will keep you responsible for the CS payments because you have exhibited that you can earn XXX amount. It is an awful situation so my wife and I are trying to make the best of it and plan for the future so when we do have the freedom we can exercise it accordingly. But just like Ethan, who I’d say qualified as hitting rock bottom, can overcome that situation, and I have overcome mine, anybody, with the right attitude and commitment can overcome theirs.

    Where we stand now.
    Combined: over 700k in retirement accounts.
    Over $90k in Vanguard/savings/bank
    No debt. No mortgage.

    live 2.5 miles from beach and enjoy bike rides on trail behind our community. I even have a trailer for my surfboard to hit the beach.

    Could I do more, yes, I think everybody can, but we really like where we are at now. Oh yes, so why a mobile home? Most condos in the area have half or less the sq ft we do, share walls, uncovered parking, higher cost of entry, no yard and high HOA fees. While I would rather own something outright, this is incredible saving and very comfortable space for us. Especially as part time parents. There is so much more to my situation as well and more details in the numbers but you get the gist. We will also keep our eyes on the housing market and should it dump again (where it got me before) I am in a situation where I could pick something up since I have money in the bank/vanguard that grows every month.

  • Ishabaka August 29, 2015, 5:51 am

    This line from the medium.com article struck me:
    Someone who genuinely loves music and spends more on speakers than you did on your whole audio system? Not stupid.
    I genuinely love music. It is one of the greatest joys of my life. I write and play music, and have been a professional musician on and off. Here are my speakers:
    1. A set of Bose computer speakers I got (tax free), from taking some internet surveys – cost $0.
    2. An old modle Bose Acoutic Wave I found on ebay for $300 (less than 1/2 the price new), that works perfectly, and has a stereo in jack, so I can play anything from a computer to a record turntable (1976 Hitachi I bought used around 1980, for $75, has needed one new belt, and one new cartridge).
    I have found Bose sound to be extraordinary – but the cost new is extraordinary.

    A note about Hitachi – I have a Japanese godmother, who was a teenager in Kawasaki during WWII. She had a Hitachi sewing machine at the time (age 16), that was her most valuable posession. When her family had to evacuate due to the US bombing, they buried the Hitachi in a well, so it wouldn’t get destroyed in a fire storm. She still has it, and it still WORKS FINE. It’s made of cast iron, and weighs 40 – 50 pounds, so she gets me to move it when she wants. She used to maker her living as a seamstress, so I am sure the machine has paid back it’s cost dozens of times. It’s a reminder to me of the fact that saving money doesn’t necessarily mean buying cheaply made products.

  • vicky September 2, 2015, 11:45 pm

    My husband and I just retired at twice the age that you were when you retired. We almost retired 10 years ago. We never made a lot of money, but that was never a problem, because, like most Autistic people, I have never understood so many peoples obsession with big cars, fancy clothes and homes, none of that crap [ and I have had difficulty understanding how that “stuff” could make anyone happier]
    So, we were all ready to jump into retirement and my youngest son became extremely ill. He would scream in pain and then pass out, sometimes hundreds of times a day. After many tests they discovered that he has lesions on BOTH sides of his thalamus [ rare on both sides] and that it causes a confussion that causes his thalamus to send signals to the nerves in his body that they were under acute attack, The neurologist said that he was experiencing the most excruciating pain humanly possible. Very little is known about this condition and it it is too rare of a condition that they put no research money into looking for a cure. I asked about it getting better itself one day and he said that he did not know because every patient he had read about killed themselves because of the pain.
    For 5 years my son would beg me, say “Mommy, please help me die.” Sometimes I worried that maybe I should.
    since western medicine ccould not help, we tried acupuncture, massages, cranial scrapal therapy, reiki, and tried every lotion and potion and gadget around. We took him to faith healers, to shaman, to france, brother john, everything. Within 3 years we went from ready to retire to having a net worth of NEGATIVE $300,000.
    My son is not cured, but he is doing so much better. He is 21 years old and the “experts” all say that he will ever be able to work or be on his own. I do not agree.

    I had to quit working to take care of him many years earlier, but when I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago, we knew that we needed to change things. We bought a little travel trailer and moved into a nudist resort. We also took over the ice cream shop there, which made enough to cover our membership and trailer spot. my husband had been injured in an accident years before, and with severe arthritis in his spine, [ plus all the other damage] the stress was so great he suffered heart failure. Time for retirement.
    After saving up so much over the past 3 yeasrs, and selling stuff, we had a net worth of $260,000 dollars, and for us, that is enough for retirement. 3 houses in Pueblo, paid off in full, came to $125,000. One to live in, 2 to rent out. my husband has applied for ssdi and should have no trouble getting it.
    We decided for hobbies and good nutritious food to get some laying chickems and a beehive and a garden.
    I started creating unique jewelry and we sell some of it or barter with it. we will keep the ice cream shop in the summer, an that is a little money. We will still be able to cruise once a year and save some money every month.
    There are free bike rentals at the senior center, crafts, and a free workout room.
    I started a vlog for other Autistic people, and just found out that I can make some money from this. In am working on the third authaven, a retreat by and for autistic people. There is nothing like it in the world.

    we started a share an receive club in our neighborhood, which helps everyone and brings neigbors close.
    I am trying to put together a “Goddess” party at the nudist club. We will have everyone bring something decadent or super healthy to eat, nothing in between. We will give each others massages, pedicures, facials. Everyone will bring stuff they do not want or need nd there will be tons of trading. I will ask women who are willing to, allow me to take any unclaimed stuff and place them in the share and receive club [the neighborhood is pretty poor and so many people need things. Since there is not an autistic support group that I am comfortable with here, I am going to be putting together an autistic support group.Life is GOOD [did I mention that I have 6 grandchildren?]

    There are many other things we do. that makes our food bill almost non-existent [and that is with feeding about 150 homeless people every month]Life is good. I do not feel deprived. Probably because I am not deprived.

  • JReyn September 3, 2015, 6:39 am

    I will say that financial responsibility is useful no matter WHEN destruction happens. In my case I was lucky enough to start growing my mustache as soon as I graduated college (getting a decent job, staying out of debt, etc). Then, out of the blue, a debilitating illness hit me and sent me in and out of the ER. It’s more controlled now, but I thank my past-self’s foresight in having an emergency fund that I didn’t have to worry about how I would pay my medical bills on TOP of everything else.

    Even now my health makes it far more likely that I won’t be ABLE to work until retirement, and I’m not too worried about it. I’ll work as long as I want to/can, and my finances should more or less protect me. I’m even doubling down in getting an income stream from work I enjoy and can do even while sick, in case I lose my job before I’m fully prepared.

    I know that my situation would have financially RUINED people with no cash on hand (or worse, DEBT).

  • Greg November 2, 2015, 7:58 am

    Another great one as I sift through your ENTIRE BLOG! lol
    I just read that company-pants Medium article and I agree with you and Ethan completely. I would say to that author that he has been completely assimilated by the consumer culture – proof is in that last line that his cars will be cooler. Very sad.
    As a late comer to the ways of MMM, (54 yrs, deep in debt, too large/expensive home, teeny weeny savings) I can say to him that he will not be happier – the day will come when he will just feel burdened. As for us (myself and lovely wife) we are going to go super ballistic on this debt situation simultaneously with expense reduction. Take Control is the battle cry.
    Thanks MMM!

  • PA Hiker March 13, 2016, 6:33 pm

    I know it’s late comment here, but I will anyway. This post really resonated with me. I am also a late starter (early 30’s) who’s done a mediocre job of it. Two big sub optimal decisions along the way have been keeping a long daily commute (1 hour each way) and hoarding cash for a long while as opposed to investing early on. Even so after 16 years on a salary starting at 40k at currently at 75k I am very nearly FI. I will likely quit the rat race for good by the end of this year. If I can do this, ANYONE can. It is not magic or luck, it is just math and a mindful approach to spending. It doesn’t even have to be perfectly implemented, just consistently.

  • Jenny March 18, 2016, 11:04 am

    Thank you so much for sharing the very inspiring story of Ethan! I am in the same boat and started a similar journey at the age of 35!! 35 seems to be a lucky number for Ethan and I! Thanks MMM for the blog, your words, your insights, and for continuing to shed light into the frugal living movement!

  • Nik July 10, 2016, 8:12 am

    I love Ethan’s story! I had a similarly utter jacked up financial life (without the drug use and jail time, luckily), and FINALLY, at the age of 45, I’m on track. I have about $1,000 a month, about 60% of my income ( I could save more, but I like going out to eat and I like drinking), going into an investment account. My housing and transportation are paid for by my job, so my only bill is my cell phone. I am in an unusual situation, but considering that I have coworkers who have NOTHING saved after working here a year, and others who have paid off thousands of dollars in debt after working here a year, I have to say IT’S ALL IN THE ATTITUDE. I make about $21,000 a year before taxes, and am on track to have $12,000 in savings at year end. Oh, I also have about 9% of my income going into a retirement account – it’s automatic so I always forget to include it in my monthly savings total.

  • HFBandit October 19, 2017, 6:38 pm

    I’d like to weigh in on the DINK bashing that’s going on. Kids are an EXPENSE, yes, but they don’t have to be EXPENSIVE. You as the parent make the decisions about what to buy your kids. Don’t over-compensate for your ‘deprived’ childhood by showering your kid with shite they don’t need. Half the time, all they really want is 10 minutes of your undivided attention.
    The most impactful money-based moment of my life was when my friend, at 15 years old, reported to me that his parents had paid off their mortgage. Now, after years of wasteful spending, we are on track to giving that same moment to our own son. To me, that’s worth a few tears over him not being able to have the latest, coolest whatever.

  • Jeff July 31, 2019, 3:11 pm

    My story is less complicated that Ethan’s, but same result. I’ve been tremendously underpaid most of my career until 7 years ago. I’m also divorced (during the recession) and was unemployed for 2 years during the recession, as well as off and on from 2003-2008. Career was in shambles. I started over again at 44 with almost no savings. Paid off my debt and started maxing my 401k by 2013. I’m nowhere near FI, but I have almost no debt ($6k in auto debt at 3%) other than a house I just bought.

    It would be a lot easier if I was remarried and a DINK, but I can’t really control that, especially living where I live. But I’m finally to a point where I wouldn’t panic if I lost my job tomorrow, and probably 1/5th of the way to FI. Compounding and lowering expenses will speed that up, but it will take another decade or so, unfortunately, unless I get married to a responsible woman before then. But I expect to pay off the mortgage in 10 years because I bought way less house than I was approved for, and will never have another car payment once this one is done. Therefore, I could live cheaply and just work part time if I want, and finally live where I want. FI gives you a lot of options. I’m tired of working for the man. I also may get a part time job in addition to my full time job if its something I enjoy. The question is what. That would certainly speed up the journey to FI.


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