This morning, I had a little catch-up with the recent posts of Mr Money Moustache, the frugality and early retirement guru. And if you’re on this blog, then you’ve almost certainly encountered his broski “smash yo living expenses in their face, my moustachios” style of living on his blog.
Recently, Mr Money Moustache released an update of his family’s 2016 financial status. Which is pretty great – those guys are pretty thrifty.
The Money Moustache Legend
Here’s a quote from the “About” section of the site:
Mr Money Mustache is [was] a thirtysomething retiree who now writes bout how we can all live a frugal yet Badass life of leisure.
My wife and I studied engineering and computer science in Canada, then worked in standard tech-industry cubicle jobs in various locations throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Then we retired from real work way back in 2005 in order to start a family. This was achieved not through luck or amazing skill, but simply by living a lifestyle about 50% less expensive than most of our peers and investing the surplus in very boring conservative Vanguard index funds and a rental house or two.
This blog was born in 2011 out of exasperation. Six years into this early retirement, life was going well and our little boy was growing up nicely. But many of my friends and former coworkers remained broke, constantly complaining about how hard middle-class life is these days, and how much they would like to be able to afford to lose at least one of their six-figure salaries so someone could stay home with the kids.
Firstly, kudos. Early retirement in one’s thirties is a fairly impressive accomplishment.
And there are a LOT of personal finance bloggers out there (South African ones included) who are charting their own early retirement journeys using the Money Moustache model. And yes: specifically, that model. Because who doesn’t want to live a “Badass life of leisure”?
But if you’ve been reading Rolling Alpha for some time, you’ll know that I’m somewhat skeptical of this ‘early retirement‘ dream. Mainly because it sounds like it’ll be followed by multiple decades of boring.
The “Early Retirement” Myth
So let me go back to the “Exposed! The MMM Family’s 2016 Spending!” blog post from a month ago.
Here are some key phrases that I want to highlight:
- “Every year, this annual report seems to come out a little bit later – mostly because I’m no longer all that interested in how much money we spend. And Mrs. Money Mustache, my faithful assistant in creating these reports in past years, has disappeared completely from the blog – justifiably more interested in her Etsy Shop than family finances. Such is the nature of retirement.”
- “Higher Income is forcing me to pay full-price for health insurance.”
- “But then again, our family business (of which we are employees) pays these premiums on our behalf, so they are pretty painless.”
- “In late 2016, I gave away $100,000 of this blog’s income to various charities, with much more to come. Having a business that makes and gives away money probably reduces the need to give away my real retirement savings.”
- “Travel as Mr. Money Mustache (trips to Ecuador, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and a couple of other places) added up to about $4,000 between flights, hotels and food. None of this is stuff I would have done for personal fun, but it may have burned me out enough that I skipped or missed other personal trips (camping, etc) that would have increased my travel spending.
No one has ‘retired early’ here.
Even if they did initially, the MMMs now have jobs and/or work in their lives. Etsy shops and running a successful blog that pays enough money to dish out $100,000 donations*.
*I definitely want this dream.
Which I totally support, by the way. I don’t believe that we’re built to live leisurely. Humans like to work. And we like our work to be rewarding. And nothing says rewarding like “for your work, here’s some extra purchasing power for you #$$$”.
Some take-home observations:
- A Badass life of leisure is actually a Badass life of entrepreneurial self-employment where you’re in control.
- Even when people don’t have to work, it often turns out that they want to work.
- Even leisure pursuits (like blogs) tend to become businesses if you put enough work into them.
- The “early retirement” dream is actually the “achieve financial freedom early enough that you can work for yourself, without the financial worries that go with it” dream.
But let’s not keep pretending that “early retirement” is somehow analogous with “self-employment”.
Because they’re not the same thing.
Rolling Alpha posts about finance, economics, and sometimes stuff that is only quite loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, or like my page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rollingalpha. Or both.