This is a guest post from Mr Money Mustache, a software engineer who retired at age 30 together with his wife. He is now 36 and has a 5 year old kid. You should definitely subscribe to his blog.
A few months ago, I had an inexplicable need to start writing about personal finance. Why? Because the people of the United States just need some serious schooling, and I couldn’t hold back the urge to add my voice to the still-small chorus of people dishing out these lessons.
Every time I walk past a Starbucks drive-through lineup of Idling Cadillac Escalades and then return home to read about record levels of foreclosures, bankruptcies and complaints about our recently-inflated-but-still-cheap gasoline, I become fired up again. Every time people complain about not having enough money to raise their kids while continuing to buy new products on credit, it forces me to write even more.
The reason I must write is because I am somewhat of a alternate version of Jacob. Originally a software engineer by training, I could not help but to try to optimize my money earning and spending in the same way that software engineers compulsively optimize their code to be as simple and efficient and self-evident to future software engineers as possible. In the industry, they call it “elegant”. To me, money feels just like software. If your earning and spending is not elegant, then it’s crappy, and you are causing suffering to you and your species and planet by not optimizing it. It’s an emergency!
Because of this optimization, my software engineering career was short-lived. I had put aside enough money to support a middle-class lifestyle with a wife and young son shortly after the age of 30, so it was no longer efficient to keep trading free time for more money.
And it turned out that not having a real job was a LOT OF FUN! I took on all the challenges and hobbies I never had time for. I got to read, write, exercise, learn, camp, hike, bike, drink fine beer and wine even on weeknights, sweep the driveway on Thursday morning in my pajamas, AND my wife and I get to be double stay-at-home parents. Our 5-year-old boy is completely flourishing with this unlimited attention as we read through hundreds of books together and keep advancing to new levels of learning in all sorts of fields – just from getting to spend time together. I’d recommend it to any parent!
But the rest of the world was not getting any more efficient. I saw the gullibility of the poor and middle-class citizens of the rich world, and the way in which the more advanced corporations are able to take advantage of this gullibility to keep everyone forking over most of their income in debt payments. And it just seemed more ridiculous with each passing year. At first, I just spent my creative energy on making fun of people. It is after all kind of funny to watch people causing their own financial destruction and then angrily blaming the president for their fate.
But then I realized it would be even more fun to try to change the behavior of some these people. At this point I discovered the Early Retirement Extreme blog, as well as assorted other ones on the web, many with quite a large following. The following is large, but the number of people who know nothing about personal finance is still much larger. And despite their ignorance, most of this larger group would actually LIKE to be in control of their money, and become rich, and be able to quit their jobs like the personal finance bloggers have.
So a new superhero was born. His name is Mr. Money Mustache, and he is basically the persona that is constantly talking INSIDE my head when I see the rest of the world making stupid financial decisions. Mr. Money Mustache is bossy, and he has strong opinions. But he is also quite knowledgeable and a good listener. He’s like a good set of windshield wipers to keep the windows of his readers clear from the shit that rains every day from the world’s marketing machines.
Despite the fact that Early Retirement Extreme and The Simple Dollar and all the other big guys have already covered all the major topics wonderfully, Mr. Money Mustache wants to bring yet another angle on the message to still more of the indebted masses. His angle is a bit more luxury-oriented, partly because he’s a parent and feels the emotional benefits of a fine house and a reliable car. But also because the American public is probably not willing to make any major sacrifices, so to ask too much will shrink the audience. I feel they MIGHT be willing to learn a few frugality tricks to enjoy the good life on the cheap while starting to actually build up some wealth. And once the frugality light clicks on inside someone’s head and they feel in control of their wealth, they can become an entirely new person.
But besides the fun, Mr. Money Mustache has to make his readers rich through frugality because it’s the right thing to do. If enough of us do it, we’ll accelerate the world’s shift away from the current ultra-destructive path, and become a more rational, peaceful, and thoughtful place while we’re at it.
ultimate prosperity to you all!
Mr. Money Mustache
Originally posted 2011-05-24 19:58:13.