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Mr. Money Mustache is arguably the most influential financial blogger on the planet. He hacked his way to early retirement in his early 30s, chilled for a few years, then established a website focused on financial independence that receives millions of visitors per month.
In this review, we cover the Pros and Cons of the "Mustachian" perspective on money and life.
First, I want to be clear. Mighty Investor's list of "pros" for Mr. Money Mustache is much longer than the cons. Overall, we think "Triple M" is great. He has a unique way of looking at the world, and he can help you "wake up" from consumer culture and learn how to build wealth.
Mr. Money Mustache Review - Pros
- MMM's great strength is his ability to focus on value and financial efficiency. He teaches readers to think less about "being cool" and more on how to make your money go very very very very far. For example, this post reframes buying a car from "what car do you like" to "what cars are the most efficient and provide value." Or -- for the guys out there -- this post challenges you to cut your own hair. Boom. In the blink of an eye, you no longer waste time, money, or wear and tear on your car getting your hair cut every month.
- MMM teaches shrewdness (in the positive sense of the word). Take a look at this post, where MMM purchased a piece of local commercial real estate for way under market value. This didn't just happen. From what I understand, either MMM or his wife, watch their local real estate market on a daily basis. If they see a screaming deal, they swoop in and make an all-cash offer immediately. Mrs. MMM has a real estate license for just these situations. MMM has made a number of real estate moves like this over the years that have created wealth.
- MMM encourages readers to go against the grain of consumer culture. If you want to just "be normal," you will probably end up broke. The core of the Mr. Money Mustache movement is to mock like mad how most people waste money--and to create new norms that set up extreme financial efficiency and self-reliance as the ideal. There is strength in numbers. MMM lights the way to a different cultural ideal that results in middle-class people piling up wealth.
- MMM teaches initiative, empowerment, self-reliance, and never "whining." MMM ceaselessly mocks the "complainy pants" who whine that "no one can ever get ahead in life, the system is rigged," etc. etc. etc. Instead, with cold logic, he shows how easy it is to save and invest large sums even on a middle-class salary. He praises initiative and self-reliance and avoiding an over-reliance on creature comforts. This rugged perspective is bracing and will make you think hard about your own lifestyle choices.
The Cons Of Mr. Money Mustache
There aren't a lot of cons to Mr. Money Mustache's vision, but here are a few for you to consider.
- First, MMM describes early retirement as a sort of financial Valhalla, where smart people go to die after attaining a modest financial independence. I think MMM paints with way too broad of a brush here. For many, leaving their job is a huge mistake, regardless of how much money they have. Work provides context. Work often means helping the world. Work provides structure. Work provides meaning. Work provides connection.
Mr. Money Mustache does not devote enough attention to the psychological challenges of early retirement. Nor does he acknowledge that for many people a life of meaning will include a long life in a traditional work role. Do you really want all the surgeons out there bailing on their career at 42 and riding their bikes around their neighborhood for the rest of their life? I don't!
FIRE (financially independent, retired early) is an amazing path for those who a) chafe at working in large institutions, b) are super independent-minded, c) have an entrepreneurial streak, and d) have skills that allow them to re-enter the workforce with ease should something go south. (See related thoughts on this topic here: "do as they do, not as they say.")
To me, MMM paints an overly simplistic perspective on financial independence and early retirement. He doesn't complicate it with these nuances. Perhaps MMM is an extreme personality who struggles to see how what works for him may only ever work for a minority of others.
- My second "con" of MMM is just a quibble. MMM sometimes lets his personal politics seep into his blog. I'm sure that for many readers this is a major positive. But MMM's tone can come across as condescending and disrespectful toward those with whom he disagrees--especially on hot-button issues like immigration or the environment.
- Finally, for the last few years, MMM seems to be winding down. He only posts about once a month. His writing now focuses less on personal finance topics and more about his keen interest in things like solar power and electric cars. If, like me, you have a strong interest in electric bikes, vehicles, solar panels, and the like, this won't bother you. But for in-depth advice on getting your finances in order, check out the early posts on the website.
Mr. Money Mustache -- Hacking Your Financial Future
To sum up, Mr. Money Mustache has a clear viewpoint, and he advocates it with great enthusiasm and humor. You know where MMM stands, and he entertains you along the way.
MMM's background is in computers and coding, and you can feel it in everything he writes. Basically, he hacked the modern world and figured out how to pile up a small fortune in a few short years. The algorithm is: a) unplug from the spending matrix, b) embrace self-reliance, c) save like mad, d) invest sensibly, and e) savor the simple things. The perspective is radical, but effective.
Yes, perhaps early retirement isn't the panacea that MMM paints it to be, but I'm still dumbfounded that more people don't embrace "the way of the mustache" and establish a solid financial foundation as quickly as possible.
What about you? What do you think of Mr. Money Mustache? What Pros and what Cons have I missed?
(P.S. Mr. Money Mustache himself responded to this post on Twitter. Since this article is all about him, let's give him a chance to weigh in as well. Here's what he said: "Thanks M.I., that is well written! (although I may be biased because it was so favorable :-)) To be clear, I do NOT advocate that people necessarily leave their job - unless that job is wrong for them. Retirement means continuing to work hard on something meaningful, for life.")