The tagline on Mr. Money Mustache’s blog is “Financial Freedom Through Badassity.”
I didn’t talk to Mr. Money for this story, even though he’s living his unusual life a few miles away. He’s a busy guy. I found him because of this article in The New Yorker magazine, which inspired me to head over to his blog to find out more. (All quotes here are from the article, written by Nick Paumgarten.)
Mr. Money stuck in my head for a few reasons:
- he retired super early through unusually creative measures
- he’s living well while staying true to his principles
- he cares about the planet
- his small business — The Mr. Money Mustache blog — earns him $400K a year
Who is Mr. Money Mustache (otherwise known as Peter Adeney), you ask? He’s a transplanted Canadian with a background in computer science and a frugal bent. From the time he was young he liked to save, and he carried that on into his adult life.
He is, by his own reckoning, a wealthy man, without want, but he and his wife, who have one child, spend an average of just twenty-four thousand dollars a year. Adeney is a kind of human optimization machine, the quintessence of that urge, which is stronger in some of us than in others, to elevate principle over appetite, and to seek out better, cheaper ways of doing things. He presents thrift as liberation rather than as deprivation. Living a certain way is his life’s work. ‘I’ve become irrationally dedicated to rational living,’ he says.
Mr. Money started a blog after friends wanted to understand how he got to where he is today. His solution is simple: save a little money when you’re young, invest it instead of getting into debt, then retire and live frugally while continuing to make your money work for you. That way you don’t have to go back to work and the money continues to come in.
Posts on his blog have titles like “Luxury Is Just Another Weakness,” and “Is It Convenient? Would I Enjoy It? Wrong Question.” His philosophy goes against the precept many Americans follow of living large and acquiring what we want, whether it means going into debt or not.
None of which is to say that he doesn’t live well — he eats organic food, travels, enjoys the many craft breweries in the area, and has time to homeschool his son. As he says, he just doesn’t spend money on stupid stuff. “Paying for parking is a sign from God that you’re in an area not designed for a car,” he said. “You are fighting the design of your city.”
He’s married to Mrs. Money Mustache, also retired from the tech industry, who shares the homeschooling and makes jewelry she sells on Etsy.
Mr. Money had a relatively uneventful start after college. He jumped into a job right after graduation as a computer engineer: $41,000 a year in 1997. He had a bike and a backpack. “He got his first raise soon afterward, to fifty-seven thousand and six hundred dollars. By the end of year one, he’d saved five thousand dollars. A year later, he had twenty-three thousand. By year five, a quarter of a million.”
His investment strategy is pretty basic: use your spare cash to buy a rental house and glean that income, and invest in relatively safe index funds. And more than anything, pay attention to every dollar.
Retirement, in his hands, is a slippery term. It doesn’t mean playing golf or sitting on the porch. It is merely the freedom to do what he wants when he wants. He likes some kinds of work, when they aren’t jobs—carpentry, home improvement, the blog—but he disdains the idea of spending another minute of his life in a cubicle, in order to afford a dryer, or a Tesla.
Mr. Money’s blog gets about 750,000 visitors a month and the forum has nearly a million posts. His readership is 55% male and mostly younger than he is. When another lifestyle blogger called him out for being cheap, among other things, this is how Mr. Money handled that situation:
Kessler snickered at Mr. M.M. for rotating his bike tires and stocking up on rolled oats. He also wrote a blog post entitled “Being Frugal Makes You a Loser.” Provoked by the L-word, Adeney posted a Trump-ish response in Kessler’s comment section: “You forgot to mention my $400,000 paid-off house and my 3 months of annual travel. Or my two cars, fleet of six nice bicycles, or the fact that I give a few tens of thousands of dollars of my time and money to charity and helping people out each year. But yeah, you are correct that I do like rolled oats.”