“Hello Mrs. Farnickel. How are you, today? Making a deposit, are we? Great. We can just put that into your retirement account and make it go to work for you aaaaand it’s gone.” – South Park
Frugality doesn’t mean that your duct tape can’t match* your car! Splurge!
*if your car is silver
What if you could live the majority of your life without worrying about a job? What if, instead of hitting the alarm at 5:45AM on Monday morning you could get up when you wanted, and do what you wanted to do?
Scary. Sounds like International Communism! The entire world might fall apart! Beware, the Chinese Overlords are attacking!!!!
Perfectly capable people are exiting the corporate workforce and becoming independent, as in, “I don’t have to put up with another performance review” independent. Some examples of this are Sam from Financial Samurai (LINK), Mr. Money Mustache – MMM for short (LINK), and Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme (LINK). I list them in this order from least extreme to most extreme.
Sam lives in Sam Francisco, MMM in Colorado, and Jacob lives on Planet Jacob (Now in Chicago, after looking around a bit on his blog).
Early Retirement the Financial Samurai Way
Sam’s theory is by far the most conventional. He wants to make enough money from passive investments and activities like blogging that he’s happy. He thinks that exactly $211,000 a year is happy, because above that he has to give too much money to the government, which makes him not happy.
I think that most people can identify with Sam – he wants to have a big enough income stream (and no real job) that he can go to Tahiti tomorrow for a month and nothing changes, but he also wants to be able to buy all the stuff that he wants (within reason). He has property (houses and vacation homes) and rental property and other investments. He (obviously) could make much more – certainly $500,000 plus a year if he wanted to grind it down and devote himself to it.
One of my favorite posts of Sam’s is where he discusses how he can always pick up a tennis game at the public courts with great players who play a lot, but can never get a good game at the exclusive country club because those guys are pouring their lives out in corporate jobs that rip away their soul in exchange for money. But, on the bright side? It’s a LOT of money.
Sam doesn’t make the same choice. Your money or your life? Sam has chosen his life.
And, even though he doesn’t know me (and this blog doesn’t yet rank) I owe him – his blog gave me a lot of the motivation to restart blogging after my self-imposed eight year hiatus.
Mr. Money Mustache’s Money Machine
MMM notches it up a bit, even though (by everything I can tell) he’s making huge bank (hundreds of thousands of dollars a year) on his website. It seems that he gives lots of it away. Because he can.
Mr. Money Mustache is all about flipping the equation. He and his family live on $30,000 a year (2016). This isn’t horribly surprising since the average family income in the US is $56,000. Mr. Money Mustache’s major difference is that he doesn’t have a real job, blogs only when he feels like it, and won’t put up with anyone’s crap. If you have a deal, you have a deal. If you need oodles of lawyers? Probably not your guy.
His thought is the typical lifestyle of someone in the United States is “An Exploding Volcano of Wastefulness.” He advocates that you save 50% or more of your income, primarily by shunning many of the expense that most of us regularly take for granted, like being a multi-car family; ignore luxury and convenience and focus on true happiness.
Some of his points, along with my commentary:
- Debt is an Emergency. It’s killing you, and must be treated like an Emergency. NO FRILLS UNTIL IT’S GONE! I know I totally violated this rule with the hot tub (LINK), but that really has made us happy.
- Live close to work. You can bike. Cheaper and better for you. I agree, but selling the house because I have to travel 20 more minutes is extreme, so I’m not going to do that right now. Plus The Boy is a junior in High School. I’ll skip moving if I can.
- Don’t borrow money for cars. I agree (LINK).
- Don’t buy stupid cars. (Same agreement, same link.)
- Ride a bike to commute. I also agree, but live too far away, and I’m not uprooting the kids for my commute. Note that the car advice alone saves $250,000 in a decade.
- Cancel Pay TV. Ooops, I start to get a bit scared here. Three words: Game of Thrones. But this is a huge point: you end up paying money to do something passive that takes your attention and focus, and many times doesn’t make you any better, so you pay for TV three times.
- Don’t waste money on groceries. MMM has a pretty long post on calories and such here – but he lives on family food budget about 25% of ours, primarily by avoiding high cost packaged/convenience stuff. We could be better here.
- Don’t pamper the kids. They’re not in medical school until they’re in medical school. They don’t need the Princeton of Preschools. Kids eat paste. And that’s high school kids.
- No overpriced cell phones. Again, we can do better here. Inertia is killing me on this one – the time cost of change. The Boy gets better service and more data for less than I’m spending. Just need time to change.
- Fix your own stuff. This is like a triple reward. If it’s broken and you mess it up? It was already broken. But you learn how to fix things, which makes you better. And you don’t pay someone else to do it.
We’re buying a new dishwasher because the existing one sucks. I know we technically don’t even need one, but I like having one. In this case, Sears® won’t install it. I’ve done it before, and sighed. Okay, I’ll do it again. And save $75 for what will probably be either 15 minutes’ worth of work or an amusing blog post.
But there is a bigger point that I’d like to note – there comes a time when people tend to become more risk averse, and age is a driver to that. Pop Wilder’s Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) always flashed a continuous noon (or midnight). He could never figure out how to set the time, and didn’t want to mess it up so it didn’t work, kind of the opposite of mall lawyers attempting to poke their lawyer fingers into a copier to fix it by playing with all the springs and rollers and things.
Short version: don’t lose your youthful desire to tear something up just to figure out how it works. NOTE: I AM NOT speaking to medical professionals, especially ones that might work on me.
So according to MMM, follow the above steps and save 50% to 75% of what you make. After a while? Just stop going to work, but enjoy all that nice money you made, plus the lifestyle you created. MMM figures that, once you’ve started living a disciplined lifestyle, 25x your income should last you roughly forever.
Jacob’s Early Retirement Extreme Engine
Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme lives on $7,000 per year. Combined with his wife, they spend $14,000 per year. He says he currently has 119 years’ worth of annual expenses saved up as his net worth. You can probably do that much math, if not, you just might be too short for this ride, the Life Coaster.
Jacob maintains he spends his money much more efficiently than the average person – four times as efficiently. He uses a 12 year old 12” laptop and, being retired and all, when he wears a suit it’s a $500 suit he bought for $100.
Jacob is probably farthest away from mainstream consumer behavior, and seems to enjoy it – he and his wife lived in a used RV for years. Me? I have a seven foot stack of books from Amazon in my bedroom that I haven’t read yet. (Full disclosure – I did read Jacob’s book and there are some great ideas in it).
Me? I’m not retired yet, and college still looms for Pugsley and The Boy. The Mrs. and I do have plans, though. One day after Pugsley graduates from High School we’re moving to a shipping container near the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Someone has to welcome our new Chinese Communist Overlords!