Camp Mustache – Q&A with Mr. Money Mustache, Afford Anything, & The Military Guide

Camp Mustache – Q&A with Mr. Money Mustache, Afford Anything, & The Military Guide

Mad Fientist: Hey, what’s up, everybody? Welcome to the Mad Fientist’s Financial
Independence Podcast, the podcast where I get inside the brains of some of the best
and brightest in the personal finance space to find out how they achieved financial independence. I’m really excited about today’s episode
because it’s unlike any I’ve done before. This one was recorded live back in May at
Camp Mustache in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re not familiar with Camp Mustache,
it’s a weekend conference put on by Mr. Money Mustache readers. It’s about 50 people. They all come to a really cool lodge in the
middle of the woods in Washington state and spend the weekend hanging out, talking finances,
drinking beer and roast marshmallows in the campfire. It’s a really good time. But on the last day of Camp Mustache, it’s
usually a time when Pete, a.k.a. Mr. Money Mustache, takes questions from the audience. We sit around, and he answers everybody’s
questions. So, I asked if I could hijack that session
this year and do a panel discussion where the audience members ask a bunch of questions
and we record it as a podcast and record all the answers. It was a lot of fun to do. There were some incredible stuff that comes
out of it. So, here it is. It’s a panel discussion from Camp Mustache
with Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant from Afford Anything, Doug Norman from The Military Guide
and me, The Mad Fientist. Mad Fientist: Alright! Welcome, Camp Mustache. [crowd cheering] Nice! Welcome everybody. I’m really excited to get two old podcast
guests back on the show. My first ever interview is sitting to my right—the
main man himself, Mr. Money Mustache. Mr. Money Mustache: Thank you, Mr. Fientist. Mad Fientist: Welcome back. It’s been over four years since we last
formally chatted. Mr. Money Mustache: Yeah, that’s true. I think I’ll be more polished this time. Mad Fientist: You were great last time. And then we’re moving on to my fourth podcast
guest ever, which is still way back (I think probably in 2012), Paula Pant from Paula Pant: Thank you! I can’t believe it’s been four years. Mad Fientist: And finally, on the panel, we
have Doug Nordman, a.k.a. Nords, from the Military Guide. He’s not been on the show yet, but I just
locked him down this morning for a future interview. So welcome, Doug. Doug Nordman: I’m just happy to be here. Mad Fientist: We are sitting here in a beautiful
lodge in the Pacific Northwest. There’s literally not a cloud in the sky. We just had a really fun, intense weekend. You could probably tell that I’m almost
losing my voice. Hopefully, it holds out. But lots of great chat. This is usually what rounds off the camp. It’s usually everyone ask a lot of questions. But I asked if I could record everything,
and then we squeezed up here too. So, yeah, we’re just going to kick off with
some questions from the audience. It may be directed at one of us, all of us. It’s all going to be interesting. So, for the first question… Audience Member: Hi, I’m Kevin from Redmond,
Washington. [crowd cheering] And my question for the panel is, “What
is your top recommendation for people who are close to FI?” Mad Fientist: So, I’ll hand over to the
Stache, since he’s the guest of honor here. Mr. Money Mustache: I think mine would be
it depends on what your issues are. But most people seem to have an issue of being
afraid to quit. They often get “one more year” syndrome
or “Am I really going to be okay after I give up this fire hose of cash from my real
job?” So, for people like that, it is to just set
an arbitrary date, which might be this afternoon, and just do it because the sooner you get
into the new, exciting experiences of this new life, that’s when the growth resumes. And that’s the whole point of retiring early
and starting new adventures, getting the growth. So delaying the growth is often a problem
in people like they make that happen five years or more past when they could’ve been
out there doing new stuff. Paula Pant: I’d say my top recommendation
is to think about what your “moving into.” There’s “moving out” of something, whether
that’s a job or whatever is the current thing in your life that you want to escape
or leave. But then there’s also “moving into”
something that really excites you. So, focus not on the escape, but the new opportunity. Doug Nordman: Start making a list of what
you’re going to do all day because it’s going to be a long list, and you’re not
going to get half of it done. Mad Fientist: Yeah, that was very similar
to what I was thinking. Think of those big projects that you want
to do and get a start, so that when you lead into early retirement, you have some momentum. I still haven’t gone there yet, so this
is all my thinking. But when I took three months off at the beginning
of last year, I had plans to do all these great things, and Parkinson’s law says whatever
amount of time you have to do something, that’s how long it’ll take, so I had three months
of to-do stuff and that’s how long it took, I really didn’t get stuff done I wanted
to. So, I think rather than having a big, daunting
start to something new once you have all the time in the world, I think it would probably
be more beneficial to start that hard thing now, and have some momentum going into joblessness. We’ll see if that works out, but that’s
what I would suggest probably. Question number two… [crowd applauding] Audience Member: This is for anybody who would
like to answer. What words would you share with someone new
to mustachianism to keep them motivated on their financial independence journey? Doug Nordman: Humans suck at estimating exponential
growth. And so you’re going to start this journey. A year later, you’re going to be 1% of the
way along the journey. A year after that, you’ll be 2% of the way
along the journey. And it seems like it’s going to take forever
to finish the journey. However, 10 to 15 years into it, one day,
you’re going to look at your finances, and realize that you’ve made tremendous progress
over the last year. It’s almost as if you have an extra person
in the household with a separate salary, and they’re almost earning as much as you. A couple of years later, that investment growth
is going to be getting more than you’re earning at your current job, and that’s
when you realize that you’re just about financially independent. So, stick with those first numbers of years,
whether that’s 5, 10 or 20 years, because the exponential power of compounding is growing
all that way, you just won’t appreciate it until the final few years. Paula Pant: The main thing that I would emphasize
is that—a core part of my philosophy has always been, “You can afford anything, but
not everything.” Every dollar that you spend is a trade-off
against something else. And I think that a lot of people, if you’re
looking at one purchase in isolation, it’s very easy to justify that particular purchase. But if you think of it as a trade-off either
against another purchase or against your time, then that contextualizes it a little bit more. And then it doesn’t feel like deprivation. It just feels like, “Oh, I’m just choosing
x instead of y” regardless of what that x is, whether it’s travel or just having
more time to spend with your family and friends, whatever that is that’s more important to
you than this shiny thing. Mr. Money Mustache: I think if you’re not
sure what you’re going to start with, it might be good to start with a philosophy of
life and read about—if you want to read some stuff or listen to some audio books or
whatever about just ancient principles that were around before we became this fancy society
that we are right now, things like stoicism and quest for having a reason to be alive. And basically, what it boils down to is enjoying
hardship and practicing voluntary hardship every day—for example, just having a bit
less clothes than you might normally wear outside, just all these other things. So, it’s finding ways to trick yourself
into being challenged each day. That’s a way to immediately make your life
become more meaningful. And even if you’re still at the very beginning
of getting your finances in order, having this as a framework suddenly makes everything
else work better. Suddenly, you can earn more money, you can
spend less money because you engage in this quest to make your life better which happens
to involve doing difficult stuff. And most people, we’re trained in this country
to avoid difficult stuff. And so that’s the first thing I think you
got to get rid of if you want to get anywhere that’s different from the other people. I just made that up. Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. So, you said something about the meaning of
life. And that’s an interesting challenge that’s
been coming into my life recently. It’s like a job easily distracts you for
x number of years. And then maybe children distract you for a
number of years. You really don’t have to answer that fundamental
question like, “What’s the point of me?” or “What’s the point of all of these?” But as someone who doesn’t have kids (and
may not have kids) and who doesn’t have a job as of August 1st, any recommendation
from anyone on the panel? What do you do to work towards a meaningful
life? Anyone want to take that on? Doug Nordman: I recommend buying a longboard
and surfing. After a while, you’ll find your meaning. Mr. Money Mustache: I like Nords’ answer
even though I don’t surf. It’s just a fulfilling passion of something
that’s difficult and cool. And you can get better at it over time. And so, for me, that’s like carpentry. That’s my longboard and waves. That just sticks with me through my whole
life. Everything else is a framework around that,
this core passion. So, you got to do something with your days. For our next question. Audience Member: My name is David Fox. I’m from Colorado. So I had a question maybe if you guys could
kind of rewind your minds to when you’re first starting your FI journey, so whether
you were like seven years old like Pete. I don’t know, maybe you guys were in your
early 20s or decided that you just hated your job and wanted to do something else, and maybe
three or so years into your FI savings, if you had any doubts or any troubles along the
way. Maybe you’re working a job that you don’t
like that can pay you to a point where you have FI. Maybe you’re just not finding other people
who identify with the way you’re thinking. Maybe you could share an anecdote or some
advice that kept you on that path or the step that you took to keep you going. I’d be curious to hear that. Mad Fientist: Well, I know for me personally,
I don’t think it was motivation to keep pursuing FI. It was more I want the opposite way and went
so hardcore that I made myself really unhappy during that process because I just didn’t
want to do anything that involved spending money. I just wanted to get there as soon as possible. So that’s the big recommendation I would
say not to do. I’m going to pass to someone else as far
as what your specific question was, but I figure I’d chime in before and just make
that point. Focus on the power you’re getting along
the way with all that money that you’re saving up, and use that power to make your
life a lot better along the way. Don’t sacrifice happiness for that final
number in the bank. One extra dollar in your bank account is not
going to make you really happier. Work on happiness while you’re pursuing
it. Anyone want to take that question from David? Mr. Money Mustache: I have something in my
mind for that. For me, that point was maybe when I was like
27 or 28 years old and I’ve been working in engineering for close to 10 years—eight
to ten years depending when you count the start date. And so I was getting a little tired especially
with this big company I worked at. I found I had to practice gratitude a little
bit, remind myself how great this job was compared to working at a gas station like
I did when I was 15 and remind myself that I was still in Boulder, Colorado and doing
all these great stuff. At the end of each workday—I worked on the
fourth floor of this 4-storey building—I remember I was kind of like jumping down the
stairs at the end of each work day zigzagging down to where I parked my bike. I remember thinking, “Okay, that’s another
$400 or whatever which is another”—and I would calculate how many more weeks closer
I’d pulled in my retirement because, by that time, $400 earned that day, I wasn’t
going to be able to spend until 20 years in the future, so it would’ve compounded to
thousands of dollars. So, anyway, I was like, “Yeah, I just subtracted
another 39 days from my work life.” Little mental games like that just made it
feel like I had accomplished a lot in one boring day. And then, I was also reminded that the job
was not that bad. It passed pretty quickly, so I was happy. And then, when I quit, it was just like a
really, really guilt-free, wonderful experience because I was like, “I did not miss that
job at all.” The next day I woke up, and that was the last
I’d ever thought about, going into the office. Mad Fientist: Excellent! Nords, how was it when you were coming about
with this? I’m not sure there was this many pieces
of external information that you could fall back on to help you during your journey? It’d be interesting, one, to shortly tell
your story, and then two, to see how would you answer that question? Doug Nordman: We were doing this with clay
tablets with styluses. And then, the number zero was invented. The early days, all I knew to do was to say,
“I knew you had to save a certain amount of money.” I had no idea what I was saving it for. I just knew that I just needed to save a certain
amount of money. And maybe for your initial journey towards
financial independence, you’re going to start getting out of debt. Maybe you’re just going to save because
you know you’re going to have some new expense coming up and you’re saving for that. But one day, you’ll figure out what you
want to spend your money on or you’ll track your spending and figure out what you’re
wasting your money on. And then, you’ll just start chipping away
at that waste until you boosted up your savings rate. But the thing that keeps you going is the
motivation to make your life better. And you’ve got to be careful with the line
between frugality and deprivation. I tell my military readers, “That’s easy! You spend most of your time in the military
in deprivation. You know exactly where that line is.” In the civilian side, you’re looking at
frugality, but if you’re not having fun, if you’re not feeling challenged and fulfilled
and enjoying what you’re doing and making that struggle towards financial independence,
then you’re probably into deprivation. That’s the time when you take a step back,
try not to save so much or try to raise your income, and try to enjoy life a little bit
more, so that you feel revitalized, you feel re-energized, you feel like you can make that
journey the rest of the way to financial independence. My regret in my military career is that when
I got to the 12-year point out of 20, my career path had stalled. I didn’t know it, but I just had my final
promotion. We also started a family. We had a whole new list of priorities that
had little or nothing to do with career. And so, at that point, I should’ve left
active duty and gone into reserves. The reserves or the National Guard is one
week in a month and two weeks a year of military. It’s just enough camaraderie, not enough
money, much better quality of life. If I had done that, then things would’ve
worked out about the same. We would’ve saved about the same amount
of money. We would’ve reached financial independence
a couple of years later with a much better quality of life in between. And we would’ve gotten the same amount of
money at age 60 than I’m probably going to be getting around age 60 with my savings. We would’ve had a little less in our savings
by the time we reach age 60 and that pension kicked in. Instead, I grimly clenched my jaw and gutted
it out for eight more years. By the time I got to the 18-, 19-, 20-year
point, it wasn’t so bad. But from 12 to 17 years, you could definitely
see in my medical record the stress, the mental and the physical effects of trying to make
it all the way there while you’re still in a state of deprivation. So, if you find yourself in that state of
deprivation, don’t just gut it out and say, “I’ve got 10 more years, I’m going to
stay the course and keep on it!” Instead, back off a little bit, take life
a little better, maybe spend a little bit more money on yourself and delay your plans
a year or two. You’ll thank yourself later. Mad Fientist: Yeah, I’m just going to chime
in on that deprivation thing. If you are at that stage like I was, the good
news is that when you realize that and try to come out of it, by then you’ve optimized
things so much because you likely optimize all your spending before you started depriving
yourself of the things you like. So, when you come out of that and you start
spending more freely—like I did last year when I didn’t expect to have a salary, but
we were still working—I started spending completely freely, I felt like I was making
it rain all the time. And it really didn’t move the needle at
all because all the other things, all the other ingrained habits of being frugal were
still there. And by then, I had optimized so many things,
so when I stopped depriving myself, it really wasn’t that much, but it felt like it was
the best thing ever and I was able to do anything. Paula, you want to answer that question? Paula Pant: Sure, yeah. I mean, my choice is a little bit different
because my focus was just building passive income. Before I ever learned about FI, I learned
about self-employment. And because I didn’t know about FI, I thought
that that was the goal. And so I became self-employed. And then, in order to give myself some insurance
against ever needing to go back into employment, like W2 employment, I started buying rental
properties, thinking that’ll just give me a little bit of a safety net. And so it was after I started doing that—I
just kept doing it basically. And then, I was like, “Hey, wait a second. If I just continue to do this, eventually,
this rental income will be enough that I won’t even need to be self-employed if I don’t
want to be.” So, I guess my story is different in that
FI wasn’t a goal. Just avoiding employment was the goal. And then, A came about through B. But in terms of frugality versus deprivation,
that’s something that we also struggled with a lot. When I started working, my first job out of
college, I made $21,000 a year. And it felt like a lot because, in college,
I made about a $1000 a month. And I had to, out of necessity, support myself
on that. And so, relative to that, $21K a year felt
like a lot of money. And so, I guess my point is just that deprivation
is very much a relative state of mind. Instead of anchoring yourself to what fancy
people are doing, if you anchor yourself to either the way that you lived when you were
younger out of necessity or maybe the way that you see some friend live or just the
way that people in other countries or in very, very low income neighborhood in the United
States live, if you anchor yourself to those point, you’ll see that what might feel like
deprivation is actually still pretty awesome. Mad Fientist: I definitely recommend anyone
who’s struggling with spending to go spend some time abroad. You’ll quickly see how luxurious your life
in America is. Audience Member: Brandon from Denver. I kind of learned while I’m here that there’s
a lot of different types of cultures online even with very similar messages. So what thoughts do you have on guiding culture
on your forum with either yourself or with moderators to reach the audience that you
want and the culture that you want to have—or not? Mad Fientist: I think we’ll go to Pete for
this one because he’s developed definitely the biggest and the most impressive audience. Mr. Money Mustache: I think, for me, my own
personal situation, there are two different cultures in my online world. There’s like this main blog that has people
throwing in comments at the end of articles. And then, there’s a much bigger discussion
in this forum section where there are tens of thousands of people having extended discussions
that last like years. I basically don’t take part in that other
one because it’s too big. I don’t want to get sucked into it. So, we have—basically, it’s […] with
the amazing God-like guidance of Joe who is standing here… [crowd cheering] Mr. Money Mustache: Both cultures are great. But that culture is more of like a community. People get to know each other and they exchange
things back and forth. I think Joe has set up a set of rules that
people have to follow. They’re just loosely enforced. And then, gradually, as the body of discussions
grow, it serves as a model for other people. The rules are, “Be excellent to each other
and party on, dude!” That’s different from the main blog which
is more like quick, casual stuff. There’s not really an opportunity to talk
back and forth. So, I have different type of rules for that. And for me, it’s “only say things with
the goal of sharing information, helping or entertaining other people. There’s no sense just reading a comment
that’s a complaint. And also, respect what other people have said
in the sense that you should read through other things instead of just asking the same
question because you’re too lazy to read what everybody else has written before you.” So, for me, I get to be more of just a dictator. I use the comments section as a chance to
publish people’s helpful comments, which is very different. In that case, censorship is sort of appropriate
to avoid them getting just like a big zoo like the comments you would get on a CNN article. So, those are the two differences. But in both cases, we’re shooting for positivity
as being the guide that everybody should follow. And as soon as people see other people being
positive, it seems to be self-reinforcing. And I’ll notice in other websites, without
dictators censoring them, it’ll sometimes start out positive, and then a few people
will say something negative, and it will just be a race to the bottom of like a complaint-fest. It’s like, “Oh, yeah. I guess we’re complaining now. Well, I’ve got some complaints.” And it’s neat because that works in real
life too. If you’re the “I don’t accept complaints
person or at least I gently guide conversations away from complaints, then your real life
interaction is going to be a lot more fun too.” So that may be a more practical thing because
not everybody has to manage forums on their website, but everybody does have to manage
conversations in real life. It’s really fun to be the “I never complain
and I never nurture other people’s complaints in conversations.” I try to just gently bring it back to positive. So, if you haven’t tried that, you should
try it. It’s pretty neat. Any other answers? Mad Fientist: Yeah, I’m lucky in the sense
that people tend to find me through Mr. Money Mustache, and then maybe Jim Collins,;
they get to me. My success with the community that I have
on my site has been that I’ve associated with people that I respect like all of these
people in the panel and other people like Jim Collins and other blogs out there that
I really enjoy. That way, the people that do find me usually
filter through one of those potentially, and I get great people. Pre-screened great people are coming my way.. Mr. Money Mustache: At no charge! Mad Fientist: For no charge, I know! So yeah, I’m very lucky in that sense. And that was not thought out or anything like
that. That was unintentional, but it’s been great. I feel really thankful for that. It’s usually everyone I’ve met at any
of these Mr. Money Mustache events have been great. It’s this style of people because they want
even more than the blog. That’s the people that eventually would
find my blog. So, I’m lucky in that sense. Anybody else on the panel? Doug Nordman: For yourself, you’re going
to go find several Internet forums and join those, start commenting and find out if those
are your people—, Bogleheads in addition to Mr. Money Mustache. And maybe there’s a few other forums on
places like Reddit where you can start asking questions and find out who’s there and whether
they’re fun to be with or whether you’re just going to quietly move on and try again
somewhere else. On your own site, if you build your own site
and you’re trying to attract a tribe, you can wait for the commenters to show up—and
that can take some time. It can take 12 to 18 months before you build
a large community through comments on your blog. You can also go to the easy answer or the
faster answer which is build a Facebook group or join other Facebook groups. You don’t own that comment. You’re at the mercy of Facebook, and you’re
going to have to deal with Facebook constrictions on how you do this, but you can build a community
a little faster through Facebook to get more people and more comments. Once you’ve done that on Facebook at Zuckerberg’s
expense and with the number of people that are always there anyway, you can decide whether
you want to start your own forum on your own site and then build that up. Paula Pant: So, I would just say in terms
of online, I agree with Pete. Don’t let the weirdo into the cocktail party
because all the awesome people are going to leave. Don’t let too much negativity come in. Some people feel bigger by taking other people
down. It’s crabs-in-a-bucket sort of a thing where
that’s their whole mention, take people down. You just can’t let people like that into
your life. And by life, I mean—I’m totally missing
something here. Mad Fientist: Sorry, Pete was pinching me
like a crab. [crowd laughing] Paula Pant: Yeah, yeah. You can’t let the pinchers into your life. Mad Fientist: Great! Great question. [crowd applauding] Audience Member: Hey, this is Juan from Colombia. Audience Member: Hey, how are you, Juan? [hooting] Audience Member: My question revolves around
investing. We’re here in the middle of 2016 after a
long boom market. And even though I know what the textbook says
and what you guys say on your blogs, “Just keep investing every month a little bit,”
one cannot help to think—or to want to time the market anyway. That’s an internal struggle that I have
sometimes and other people here have this weekend. If you can just give some advice, either general
or specific, that would be great. Mr. Money Mustache: Super quick one. So, there are different levels of timing the
market that are more or less destructive. And sometimes, you just need a psychological
crutch to feel like you’re doing something. The destructive way would be like, “I’m
just going to sell everything, and then just hold it in gold coins under my mattress until
it’s cheaper again.” That’s really, really unlikely to work. It’s super likely to cause problems. At the same time, you’d feel like you’re
doing something, but then you’d feel bad when you have no money 20 years from now. So, instead, first of all, you could keep
training yourself and just keep reading these books and be disciplined and always just throw
every paycheck into the market. That’s probably the most winning strategy. But if you really, really can’t do that,
you could do little stuff like, “Well, stocks are so expensive. I’m just going to pay a little bit of my
mortgage off extra. I’m going to start doing $500 extra to my
mortgage next month or for the next year.” And so you’re still creating a win-win situation
where you’re getting positive returns on this money, and you’re diversifying a little
bit. You can’t really predict the statistics
either way. You might get lucky or you might get slightly
unlucky, but you’re still going to come out ahead and way better than almost everybody
else. So, the thing I like to think about with investing
is you don’t have to be anything close to amazing to make it worth for you. You just have to keep a net positive over
a long period of time. So, you can actually just do whatever approach,
but just don’t let yourself become uninvested. Don’t try to really outsmart the world. For me, I did pay off my house because I felt,
“Well, I want to keep investing in stocks even though it’ll probably exceed this mortgage
rate in terms of how much it gives me back.” But I paid off the house, and I’ve never
regretted it. I feel great not having a mortgage payment. Statistically, I would’ve been better to
leave the money in stocks and still have a mortgage now, but it’s not a contest for
most money. It’s just a contest for feeling good about
your financial situation and sleeping well. So, yeah, I’d say just be easy on yourself
while avoiding the most stupid possible decisions. Mad Fientist: Yeah, this is something I struggle
with as well even though I know better and the math shows that you’re better off just
having most time in market rather than trying to time the market. One thing that helped me was to set up automated
investing. Obviously, my retirements were always automated. My taxable accounts weren’t always automated,
so then I’d end up with a ton of cash, and I’d be like, “I really need to invest
this,” but then when you have a ton of it, you’re like, “Whoa! It seems really high rate now. Just wait until one dip.” It just never works out. So, I set up automatic investing, and that
really helped. But I have a confession. I stopped automated investing because I did
some tax-loss harvesting early this year, and I still haven’t started to back up because
I can’t get around my own stupid brain, so now I have a lot of cash again. So, it’s something I’m trying to work
on too. But I also want to point out that we could’ve
had this conversation in 2012 and been like, “Wow! This boom market is crazy!” And if you had stopped investing then, you
would’ve been sorry. You can never tell when the boom market is
going to stop. But that’s coming from some guy that’s
still struggling with this, so take it for what it’s worth. Paula Pant: The way that I’ve dealt with
this is instead of thinking about, “I’m going to invest less when I feel like the
market is high,” flip your mindset into, “When I feel like the market is low, I’m
going to invest even more.” So, whatever amount you’re currently investing
monthly, just keep doing that. And then, when you see a dip, be like, “Okay,
sweet! What is something I would’ve spent some
money on, just something ridiculous, but instead, I’m going to take that and invest that now
at the dip.” By taking that approach, you end up investing
more money than you otherwise would’ve because you’re just taking money that you would’ve
otherwise spent at a restaurant or on clothes or on fancy cat groomer or whatever. Now, that is the way that you enjoy timing
the market. It’s just bonus investments. Doug Nordman: I’ve spent 35 years doing
this. You can share from my wisdom and my mistakes. The first wisdom is you can’t control the
market. You can’t influence it. You can’t have any effect over it. The only things you can do is control your
reactions, control your responses and try to control how you feel. One of the ways to do that is to read all
you can about the market. I recommend history books. The more you read about the history of the
stock market, the more you’ll feel that today’s volatility is very mild compared
to what it used to be and you get an appreciation for no matter how bad the market have gotten,
the American economy has continued to rise, gotten stronger, given everybody more wealth,
raised the standard of living. If you invest in the long-term benefits and
the long-term potential of an economy like that, then despite of the volatility, you’ll
still come out ahead 20 years from now. And remember, humans suck at appreciating
that exponential growth. So you have to stick around for 20 years to
appreciate how much things improved. If you find out that no matter how much you
read, how much you study, you still can’t live with the way the market behave, then
don’t invest in the market. Go find something else like real estate. Go find out a way to start your own business. Start your own income-producing way of bringing
in money. Maybe it’ll be passive income from rental
real estate, maybe it’ll be an income from a job. I know a hedge fund manager who, at the peak
of his prowess as a hedge fund manager, sold out. He took a big pile of cash and really enjoyed
life. Twenty years later, he realized that what
he really should’ve done is he should’ve hired a crew of hedge fund managers, paid
them well and compensated them well for doing it while he retained a small interest in that
hedge fund. Ten, fifteen or twenty of the profits would
go to him. That’s about as passive as your income can
get. He didn’t have to care about the stock market. He just had to care about how well his hedge
fund guys are doing their job. Mad Fientist: And Nords has mentioned the
history of the stock market. I actually have my computer here and I saved
some interesting quotes any time I come across them. Just to show how overwhelming the upper trend
in the market actually is, starting 65 years ago, we’ve had a new high over 1100 times
which is about once every 15 days, the market has been opened. So you’re hitting new high’s about once
every 15 days. And if you pick any month of any year, it
turns out you have a 75% chance of the market being higher one year later. So, three out of four times, this month next
year is going to be higher. So, the overwhelming trend is up. And this could be the lowest the stock market
ever gets, but nobody ever knows. So just keep the faith. Let’s hear it for Juan. [crowd applauding] Audience Member: Hi, I’m Isabel from San
Francisco. This is more of a light-hearted question. What is your biggest splurge? Mr. Money Mustache: My biggest splurge is
my relentless insistence on fancy houses. Every single detail has to be my view of fancy. For example, I could not live with a white
dishwasher or a white microwave. It has to be silver in color. And I would never be satisfied in the long
run with a plastic shower pan. It has to be finely installed tiles with just
the right grout and stuff. So, yeah, I’m really sucker for the physical
environment that I spend most of my time in. And even though I keep trying to put it in
the human history context, I’m wedging myself into a narrow slice of only this tiny fraction
of every experience. I’m living in a house like that, but I just
keep indulging it anyway. And I’m going to keep doing it. Mad Fientist: Mine is definitely fancy beers
and fancy scotches over in Scotland and things. Fancy food is also one of my splurges, but
I don’t really consider that a splurge because it’s nourishing. I at least feel it’s essential, whereas
alcohol is completely counter-productive for health. It’s good for social-ness… Audience Member: […] Mad Fientist: Yeah, right. It’s good for social situations. I was probably a lot more outgoing this weekend
thanks to all the beer. But yeah, since it doesn’t really contribute
to a good, healthy lifestyle, I consider that my biggest splurge. Paula Pant: For me, it’s travel. It’s a splurge, but it’s also a very intentional
and a very deliberate priority in my life because it’s been a big part of what shaped
me and what’s made me who I am. And I’ll do it with staying in AirBnB places
or stay in hostels or guest houses because it’s not about fancy accommodation. It’s just about meeting people and experiencing
the place. But yeah, my carbon footprint is massive unfortunately. I try to like—yeah, I mean, I admit it. I travel a lot. I spend a lot of my money and my time and
my energy there. And yeah, I’m just going to keep doing it. Doug Nordman: Surf wax. Any questions? I feel like I’m relentlessly optimizing
my life when I’m at home. I have a photovoltaic ray that I enjoyed building
solar panels and solar water heater. And yet that’s a hobby that clearly pays
for itself. I enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed putting it together. And now, I enjoy the benefits of having done
that. But Paula has already mentioned that one of
my splurges is travel. The other one of my splurges is spending excessively
when we’re traveling. And example of that is FinCon. I know I’m going to FinCon once a year. I know it’s only going to last for a certain
amount of time. No matter how hard I work at it, I probably
can’t spend an entire year’s investment income at FinCon—not for lack of trying. I go to FinCon, and I don’t worry about
the money I’m spending on a hotel room. I don’t worry about the money I’m spending
on whatever I see going on around FinCon or whatever else we do around Fincon. I know that’s a limited time of the year. It’s okay to splurge. I’m not making that a daily habit, and I’m
not making that a daily splurge that’s out of control. Mad Fientist: Great question! A round of applause. Audience Member: Hi, I’m Janet from Seattle. I think as a lot of us are working toward
FI, we’re really focused on the financial parts of it and maybe sometimes get a little
bit too obsessed about that. But it seems like a lot of experiences, once
you get there, that’s not really such a big issue. So I’m wondering for the four of you, what
has been the biggest challenge about reaching financial independence? And how have you dealt with it? Mr. Money Mustache: For me, it’s true that
the money part has completely faded away pretty quickly. So, yeah, we don’t think about money or
investments or anything. It’s more about trying to make sure you’re
getting the most happiness out of each day. And for me, because I can be a bit spaghetti
scatter-brained, it’s trying to get more strategic about long-term life stuff, so that
I really feel like I’m living a worthwhile life and not just getting too caught up in
little activities, just trivial pursuits or reading stuff that I don’t really get enjoyment
out of. So it’s more like day-to-day time management
that’s my big thing. I’m really, really happy with my family
situation and parenting situation and health. There’s certainly nothing to complain about. But there are definitely some days at the
end of the day where I’m like, “Oh, I just wasted this whole day of retirement in
a beautiful location.” So that’s the thing I’m working on, trying
to get those days down to zero. Mad Fientist: I’ve already mentioned the
whole meaning of life question that’s been popping up every once in a while. But I haven’t stopped working, so maybe
things will change after that. But also, the only other thing since getting
to this stage has been like a little bit of guilt or “Why am I so lucky that this has
happened? How did I get to be so fortunate to get this
sort of situation when a lot of my colleagues and friends and family aren’t? And they’re just as talented and hard-working
as I am.” Mr. Money Mustache: They’re not. You’re just really awesome. Mad Fientist: That is going to be the title
of this episode, the Mr. Money Mustache quote. So, those are the two major things that I
have struggled with that I didn’t really expect to happen. But they’re definitely manageable, which
is great. Paula Pant: For me, I think it’s knowing
when to stop with regard to any kind of money-making pursuit. And again, my story is a little different
because I was self-employed. And so once I became FI, I didn’t have a
job to quit. I just had a smattering of clients. And slowly, I had the option of letting go
of some client that I didn’t like. So, instead of having one very defined moment
where I’m like, “Boss, I quit,” it’s more like, “Okay, I’ve got a dozen different
clients. Maybe I’ll let go of this one and let go
of this one and let go of this one.” But then it’s like playing whack-a-mole,
right? You let go of a couple of clients, and then
these new ones pop up, and you’re like, “Oh, that sounds interesting. Sure! I’ll take it. And I’ve got this space in my schedule now,
so sure, I’ll take that one. Sure, I’ll take that one.” And then, before you know it, you’re like
working 60-hour weeks, you’re not really enjoying it and you’re like, “Why the
F am I doing this? I don’t even need the money anyway?” And then you fire a bunch of clients again,
a bunch more pop up and… So, that’s been the struggle for me. It’s like developing those boundaries and
being able to say, “Wait a minute!” It’s kind of similar. It’s in a different rein, but it’s similar
to what Pete was talking about, time management and setting priorities, really thinking about
how you want to spend your days and what’s important. And it’s even harder when there’s money
involved, financial opportunity cost involved. This also goes back to the “one more year”
syndrome. It’s the “one more client” syndrome
or the “one more project” syndrome. That is like the eternal thing that I’ve
had to fight. Doug Nordman: The two pieces of advice I have
are “don’t recreate your old environment.” You’re financially independent now, you
don’t have to go back there. The other one is “forget about who you were,
and discover who you are.” And that’s particularly applicable to military
retirees and veterans. Maybe you want to recreate some of that because
you miss the camaraderie, you miss the mission, you miss the people you used to work with,
you miss that sense of accomplishment that you got from the military some of the time
and you want to find more of that. Well, that’s where you go and figure out
some other way to do that. I find that way by writing, by writing about
military topics and answering questions for military readers. Other ways to do that are volunteering, finding
somebody else to take care of if that’s your family or if that’s your community
or figuring out something that gives you the sense of pleasure, the sense of accomplishment,
fulfillment by going out there and doing something completely different that gives you the same
feelings. As a nuclear engineer, I’m told—I’m
a little skeptical of this—that I tend to be hyper-competitive and a little over-achieving. When you reach FI, you can back off. And if you’re that kind of personality,
an even bigger challenge is becoming less hyper-competitive and less over-achieving. And it’s difficult! I’ve been FI almost as long as I was struggling
towards FI. And I’m still struggling toward that backing
off and not working so hard and not grabbing for every dollar bill that floats by. When you are FI, when you’ve gotten past
the point where you’re FI, and you’re no longer scrambling for every dollar, one
day you’ll wake up and you’ll realize that it is actually raining money out there. It is tempting to grab a bushel basket and
go out there and get your [share again]. But when you’re pushing yourself toward
FI, and you realize that the retirement calculators are giving you an 80%, 90%, 95% chance of
success, as human beings, we tend to focus on the 20%, 10%, 5% chance of failure. However, that 80% chance at success is about
as reasonable a success rate as you can get. It also means that eight out of ten times,
you’re going to have way more money than you need. So, one more theme to watch out for in financial
independence is the potential burden of stewardship. You get to financial independence with what
you think is enough money, eight out of ten times, it’s going to turn up to be more
than enough. A couple of those times, it’s going to turn
up to be way more than enough. Mad Fientist: Thanks! Good question. [crowd applauding] Audience Member: I’m Jonathan from Portland. Pete, you’re reasonably profiled in the
New Yorker which is an experience that not very many people have had. I’m a big fan of the New Yorker—have been
for a long time. To me, that seemed like a major development
in terms of people’s awareness of your blog and the whole movement I guess. I’m just curious […] what that experience
was like, if there were any surprises in terms of how the piece turned out and some of the
ripple effects of having been profiled in such a mainstream publication? Mr. Money Mustache: Well, it’s definitely
not as good as it sounds. There’s nothing special about any kind of
media profile. It’s basically not very fun, that’s what
I’ve learned, for any type of interview. The first big one that I really locked into
was right near the beginning of the blog. It was in the Washington Post. Everyone’s like, “Oh, wow! The Washington Post is huge!” and I didn’t
even know it. But that brought a lot of people to the blog,
so that’s what I realized is the benefit to me. Every time you do an interview of this type
of thing, it’s like a negative experience for you because you get a lot of negative
criticism, very little positive reinforcement comes with it. It’s usually pretty dull and repetitive
questions you have to answer. So, the only reason you should do it is not
for personal vanity, it’s if you have a reason for attention to be called to your
cause. So, in this case, I wanted more people to
my blog and the related blogs that I support. That’s why I do any of these. That’s the only reason that I do these interviews. And the New Yorker was surprisingly a small
effect. You think of it as a giant magazine because
your parents read it when you’re a kid and everybody else read it. But it only had a small, temporary boost to
the blog’s traffic partly because there were no direct links in it on their online
thing. That’s a really key thing. People have to be able to click and get there. So other interviews were actually much bigger
than that one. And then, the final comment I would have is
the New Yorker is kind of a satirical, high-brow, super New York-y culture thing, so they had
to make fun of me—I guess. I didn’t know this was going to happen. They got a lot of details wrong, which I felt
hurt the tone of the lifestyle I’m trying to promote. I was a little self-conscious about that. And the whole thing was different actually. I wanted it to be—what I thought we agreed
we were going to do, me and this writer, was describe mustachianism and what it means as
a cultural idea and could this actually become a big thing in the U.S. culture. But instead, it was a lot about this guy named
“Peter Adeney who does these weird things allegedly in this town and goes down to buy
his pot on a Wednesday” and stuff like that, all these stuff were, I thought, super irrelevant. But then that’s how some of these magazines
work. So, yeah, I wouldn’t recommend it. Personal profiles aren’t a personal boon. But I did like the wheelie picture that we
got to use. That was the biggest plus of that story. Mad Fientist: Next question. Yes, thank you. [crowd applauding] Audience Member: My name is Hunter out of
Washington. This kind of segues nicely to what you were
just talking about. We tend to focus on the nuts and bolts and
the tactics you guys apply to reach FI. Maybe you could say something to how, having
reached that or having become really close to that level where you don’t need as much
and you can leave a little less for yourself (you might be a little less this physical
body with needs and fears and stuff and you can champion these causes, and maybe you’ve
been living a little greater state of transcendence in some ways whether you get that in different
ways in your life which you’ve kind of touched on a little bit) — I’m just curious about
the sense of strength and clarity you’ve gotten from not having those needs and having
to be so preoccupied with just arranging your life around your basic needs. Mad Fientist: I’ll kick off this one just
to change up the order. But yeah, I think there’s an incredible
amount of power that you get from being able to not have to work for a living. And I am still working, so that’s why I’m
really focused on “I’m going to use that power after I quit.” I know obviously Pete’s having a huge movement
and changing lots of people and helping the environment with all these bike-riders now. That’s great. And that’s something, luckily, the blog
has taught me. It really does feel great to help other people
and be creative and create things and put it out in the world. Hopefully, that reaches people. I know that’s something I’m going to want
to do a lot more of and use the power of not worrying about the monetary reward, to maybe
tackle some things that other people aren’t tackling because of the monetary reward. Paula Pant: I would say the ability to work
on long-term projects. I think, to me, the greatest thing has been
I don’t worry about anything on a month-to-month basis because I know that I’ve got this
passive income that comes in that can cover all of my bills—and extra with a nice buffer. And so, the question of supporting my cost
of living just doesn’t enter my mind. And so if there’s something that I want
to work on that I think is a worthwhile project, I can work on it! And that’s amazing. But again, the biggest barrier is me. And this goes back to prioritizing. When anything is open and available to you,
it’s very hard to choose. And so you really have to focus in on like,
“What are my priorities? What are my values? What do I want to create in this world? What do I want that contribution to be?” And sometimes, it can be messy and you zigzag
around or try something. That process isn’t smooth. So, yeah, having that space to—like a child
almost—try stuff and finger paint a little bit— Yeah, I’ve forgotten the original question. Now, I’m just going to pass this to Doug. Doug Nordman: That was good. I think it was either Socrates or Plato or
maybe it was Peter Parker from Spiderman that said that “With great power comes great
responsibility.” When I started writing and began writing the
book, one of the hooks that I used to get the help I wanted to write the book, one of
the hooks I used to make sure everybody understood that I was financially independent was to
give all the profits from my writing, all the revenue from my writing to military charities. That way, I’m not having some junior enlisted
person buy my book on figuring how to achieve financial independence, “Oh, by the way,
you just paid me $8 and a couple of bucks of that is going to go toward prolonging my
financial independence.” One of the things I did after I reached FI
was take some of that extra money that I had for investing. Everybody should have 10% to 15% of their
investment portfolio in what’s called “highly aggressive, shoot-the-moon, testosterone-poisoned”
investing… [crowd laughing] None of you have ever heard that term before. In my case, I took that and devoted that towards
something I’ve always been curious about, angel investing. My impression of angel investing was you went
into a room, you ask a lot of questions, you did your due diligence, you wrote some checks,
you went away, you came back 18 months later and Google was paying you a million dollars. That reality is not there. The reality that surprised me was that you
learn a lot more about investing by becoming an angel investor than you ever learn from
reading about Wall Street or the randomness of stock markets or how to analyze a stock. So, angel investing, the 8-year journey I’ve
spent on it so far has made me a tremendous investor. I wish I had started out being an angel investor
first. That would’ve saved me a lot of problems
in the long run. The second thing that angel investing taught
me is that it’s a good thing I’m doing it now, it’s a good thing I’m immunizing
myself about angel investing now, so that when I’m 82 years old, I won’t be tempted
to go out and start writing checks in the hopes that I do discover the next Google. I don’t think that’s going to end well. I’ll be able to wind down angel investing
and focus on what I think are the important parts of it now while I’m at the hypothetical
peak of my cognition and able to not be tempted by the unknown later on when I’m not at
the peak of my cognition. The third thing that really surprised me about
angel investing was how fulfilling it would be developing the relationships with the founders
and the other investors. Another word for it might be angel philanthropy
because you really are giving away large sums of money, and those large sums of money are
going out to create jobs. And instead of giving somebody a handout,
you’re giving a person who’s incredibly committed, enthusiastic, fierce, hard-working
founder what they need to go out and solve tremendously ugly, gnarly, nasty society problems. And then, you know they’re going to work
on that a hundred hours a week and hire a bunch of people and create a bunch more jobs
and use the revenue they bring in to grow the business and hire more people. You’re actually pouring your money back
into the American economy into the kind of people that you really would like to help
without giving them a handout. So, angel investing has taught me a lot more
about stewardship, philanthropy, charity and investing. Mr. Money Mustache: I have a super short point
to add. I was always kind of cautious in my younger
years because of my upbringing. We’re kind of a cautious family. So, I was like, “Save your money. Protect yourself. Build up walls to make sure you can never
possibly run out of money.” That was fun and somewhat rewarding. But then once I got to the ridiculous surplus
point, shortly after that, then I realize, “Well, the only logical choice is to devote
your time to helping other people because you don’t need to help yourself anymore.” And then I realized that that’s actually
a much more fun way to devote your time. So, in a way, being almost purely generous
is the most selfish thing you can do because you’re having—it makes you feel much better
than just giving yourself stuff, giving yourself more security and treats and everything. It’s like a double win because you can be
selfish by being generous for the rest of your life. So that’s a great pursuit. It’s suddenly a new thing to do with money
and time. That was a big surprise for me there. I didn’t know that that was going to happen. Alright! I think we have Eric. [crowd applauding] Audience Member: Hi, my name is Eric. I’m from Everett, Washington. My question was more around—this is a great
community, right? We’re a bunch of like-minded individuals. I’m about seven months into my journey. I’m the type of person that once I find
something that I really enjoy, I go all in and I go down the rabbit hole really quickly. And then, I become very evangelical and annoying
about it. So, how do I temper that? We go back to our circle of friends, and they
may not be even aware of this—this community and this fire. How do I temper that? How do I bring them along in that journey? Mr. Money Mustache: You probably can’t. People don’t really listen to you that much
in real life, I find. But you can just model the behavior and make
sure you’re having a good time of it. And then, you’re curious friends, which
are, in the long run, the ones that are worth keeping, they are going to ask you themselves. And if they see good results, they’re going
to naturally want to follow it. And non-curious people, they get old after
a while, so you might drift into different friendship patterns as you go further on. That’s my super quick answer. Paula Pant: I agree. I find that you’ll have friends who are
very receptive and very open and who will just start asking you questions. I have a friend who is right at the beginning
of paying attention to her finances. She’s 36, and up to this point, she always
thought, “Well, as long as I’m paying my bills on time, that means I’m financially
responsible.” She just discovered that there’s actually
more to it than just that, and she’s like wowed by it and amazed it and really open
to learning. I don’t have to bring her along because
she brings herself along. She’s always asking questions. And her enthusiasm really rubs off on me,
and it makes my afternoon more enjoyable because I get to re-experience that stage vicariously
by being with her. But I’ve got other friends who are like,
“Money is evil.” And there’s no talking to them because they’ve
just got this wall where they’re like, “I am better than you because I never think about
me because money is evil.” There’s nothing you can do with that. Doug Nordman: You’re in a role, the teacher. And when the student is ready, the teacher
is already there. The teacher has already been there for many,
many years before the student was ready. So, the people that you’re wanting to perhaps
persuade of the wonderful world of FI, they may not be ready yet. So, the best you can do, they say that living
well is the best vengeance, well, living well is the best example as well. And so one day, they’re going to be ready,
and they’re going to come and talk to you. In the meantime, if you want an outlet where
you can feel like you’re accomplishing something without waiting for people to recognize your
brilliance or your wisdom, the other thing you can do is start writing. And it’s as simple as posting in Internet
forums. Somebody asks a question on a forum, you answer
it from the perspective of financial independence. That person who asked the question might not
quite be onboard with you yet, and the response that they’ll give you will be, “Yeah,
but… this isn’t working for me. It’s not the right time in my life,” whatever
their excuse may be. However, thousands of people will be reading
that same thread on that Internet forum. And some of those people will be ready. You can start a blog. Same purpose. Whenever I answer a reader’s question on
the blog—most of the time that I answer a reader’s question on the blog, I never
hear from the reader again. On the other hand, I have another couple of
thousand people who will read that post and they’ll be ready and they’ll respond. So, it’s not that you can’t reach those
people in the immediate circle around you as much as you’re demonstrating what you’re
living, the shining example of truth and the way you live your life. People will gravitate toward that. You don’t have to be needy for the people
to follow your example and do what you want them to do. You just have to live the kind of life you
want to live and show the example you want to be. Those people will come toward you. Mad Fientist: Great question! [crowd applauding] Mad Fientist: So, we’ve been going about
an hour. I know Pete doesn’t like sitting still for
longer than about 30 minutes. He’s probably getting antsy. And I’m in dire need of vitamin D. I can
see the sun is shining. So, we’re going to take our last few questions. Anyone else still want to ask something, if
you want to pop up. Audience Member: Once you reached FI, how
did your relationships with your personal friends, your ex-coworkers or your family
changed? And what effect did that have on you? Doug Nordman: Financial independence will
separate your co-workers from your true friends. And you’ll find out you have a lot of co-workers. The other thing financial independence will
do is give you and your spouse and your family time to grow closer together. One early 1980s, 1990s perspective on financial
independence was “What happens if everybody stops working and goes and does whatever they
want do all day? What kind of an example are we setting for
the children by behaving in such an irresponsible manner?” The answer to that question is the kids don’t
care about your work. They care about you. They want to have more time with you. As adolescents, they just want to spend time
with mom and dad and play around and have a good time. As teenagers, they don’t want to be seen
in public with you, but they do want your car keys and your wallet. They want you to be there for them to support
them. And years later—I’m almost positive of
this—when they’re young adults on their own, they’ll come back and thank you on
a regular basis. And I’ll let you know as soon as that happens
in my case. Also, what will happen once you’ve reached
that financial independence and you’re out there living your life and waiting to find
out where your co-workers and your friends are, you’ll find new friends. You’ll find new people that you encounter
on the journey, and you’ll have a good time with them because you have the time to reflect,
the time to think about the way you want to live your life, the things you want to do
with your time. People see will you enjoying life, having
fun and say, “Whoa! That’s somebody I want to get to know.” So, again, the more you enjoy yourself as
a responsible adult with financial independence, suddenly, the more people that will gravitate
toward you and want to learn more about how you did it. The right kind of people will be the ones
that will gravitate toward you. Paula Pant: Yeah, I’d say it goes back to
the friend thing. Some people may not even realize it. A lot of people don’t think too hard about
what they themselves or others do for work and money. So, at least in terms of friendships, I think
some people don’t even know or it doesn’t even register. There’s no impact at all. And then, the friend that I just described,
the one who’s just discovered the world of money management for the first time, those
are the friendships that get enhanced. So, in my experience at least, as far as friendships
go, it’s either completely neutral because it just doesn’t register for them or it’s
actually a friendship enhancer because, now, you’ve done this thing that they think is
really interesting and they have a lot of questions about it. Mr. Money Mustache: And my final thing is
just echoing Nords’, which is I found family and close friends become much closer—especially
the family part, because suddenly, you never have to say no to stuff that you would want
to do because of work. So, as soon as we retired and had a kid, we
started spending the entirety of every summer in Canada hanging around with siblings and
grandparents and stuff, whereas in the old days, if we had kept our jobs, it would’ve
just been two weeks, limited. And if they plan something in the middle of
the winter or anything else, you can always just go up there and just have time. It’s nice to take work away as your first
priority. And that lets people you care about—I think
they sense a lot more warmth coming from you because you no longer have to give your soul
to the office anymore. Mad Fientist: I think that’s a good way
to end this. So thank you all for being here and asking
amazing questions. Thanks to my panelists being open and honest
and answering all the questions. It’s been a lot of fun. So thanks! [crowd cheering]

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I recently found out about the camp and Fincon but we haven't been able to attend either yet. Looking forward to seeing you guys at one of these events soon. My husband and I are 4 years from reaching financial independence and this keeps us motivated and inspired.

  2. I so wish these were videos – I can't keep track of the voices and who said what….Please change your podcasts to be videopodcasts. Thanks

  3. I automatically save/invest 30 percent of my gross income and spend the rest. Only debt is mortgage. No budget. Enjoying life while looking out for the future. I am not depriving myself. There has to be a balance. Stressing over saving will NOT work.

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