Although most in this community are familiar with Mr. Money Mustache content, many might not know his story and how his Financial Independence journey started. Pete was a software engineer from 1998 to 2005 before Financial Independence.
Once he hit FI, he was surprised that other people with similarly high incomes were not is the same position as him. Out of that surprise and frustration, Mr. Money Mustache was born in 2011.
In the beginning, Mr. Money Mustache found its own audience and had feedback that helped Pete keep the writing going. His first big break happened through a guest post on Early Retirement Extreme. Over time, 29 million+ visitors have connected with Pete’s content.
The thing that makes or breaks almost any blogger is if you start getting enough people reading your stuff…and commenting and giving you feedback, then you are encouraged to keep going. And keeping going is the real key to success.
Mr. Money Mustache
Pete was able to bring his story to life through his alter ego Mr. Money Mustache, even when he doesn’t have a mustache. It’s not really about facial hair or an exact literal meaning but “you must stash your cash” was a part of the inspiration behind the old western gunslinger/mayor type of character.
Being the child of two creative parents, the creative writing side of Mr. Money Mustache came easily to Pete. With a violent imagination inside of his non-violent personality, Pete has been able to write compelling content for millions of readers.
Carl, on the other hand, came from a very different background. His childhood was a struggle and he could see the mistakes his parents made with finances and it terrified him. Coming from a place of fear, and wondering if he was worthy to do what he is doing, he has realized it does not matter where you come from. It matters where you end up.
Carl adds that Mr. Money Mustache seems to be an amplified version of the real-life Pete.
Everyone starts from something, but Pete and Carl wanted to help change behavior for long-term wins. It can be difficult to change someone’s mind about anything. But, changing someone’s mind about personal finance can be even more challenging!
Different people need different messages because certain things will sink in better than others. For Carl, he does not find success by telling people about the mistakes they are making. He finds that pointing out errors will make people resist more.
Lead by example. Just show what an awesome life you are having and what you are doing and let people come to ask you about it. There’s an old saying that goes “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
People will be ready for the message at different points in their lives. Stress and hardship can be inflection points that make people want something different than what they have. Wait for them to be ready. That is what happened to him personally. He had a bad day at work and googled “how to retire early” and that became a point of change for Carl.
Pete advises bloggers that want to change behaviors to use the same principles that they teach authors about fiction writing. It’s important to make sure to be a character in your own financial story of life. The story has to be one that readers would want to live. Be personable, share relatable details, and let the reader feel like your friend.
Inflection Points Or Gradual Change
In the beginning, Pete found that starting a blog was a giant thrill. At first, he would say “yes” to every meeting because he was so starved to meet like-minded people. However, eventually, he had to dial it back because he didn’t want his whole life to be travel-based.
At some point, the idea of a Mr. Money Mustache headquarters co-working space materialized between Carl and Pete. The space took off and automatically started harvesting a bunch of fun people. It has continued to grow from the gradual refinement of what starts out as an opportunity.
Although a co-working space was not originally in the retirement plans, it has turned into an amazing opportunity to build community.
You aren’t going to know exactly what you want because you’ve never been in this position of unlimited adult freedom before. But once you have it, you can start experimenting on yourself and figuring out what it is that gives you the best life.
Co-working Space And Community
The co-working space is really a community building opportunity. The best part to watch is the random connections that lead to a better life for the people involved.
On the surface, it is just a place to go because you don’t want to work at home–a co-working space is really about meeting other people and having interactions with other people. But it goes beyond that…it becomes a community building thing…with magical interactions.
Many of the coworkers have found ways to connect business ideas and personal opportunities together. It brings people together and allows for collaboration, bigger opportunities, and increased value.
Day To Day Flexibility
For Pete, the amount of time spent at the co-working space varies. You can set your own schedule so he may spend between 0-5 hours there each day. The energy and fun draw him to the co-working space more often, even with his personal dislike of strict schedules. Others are more regular with their hours and schedules. But the flexibility is what makes it so great.
The more time you spend at your co-working space as an owner, the faster it will grow because your members will find that energy and find themselves hanging around more…I was a little lazy for the first year of operation of the co-working space…it is doing a lot better now that we’re putting more energy into it.
As an owner of the co-working space, Carl feels that his life is better because of it. You have the opportunity to help people in the community in a space where they can accomplish their goals.
If you aren’t in an area with a FI-centered co-working space, you still have options. Carl recommends setting up a Slack channel with your local ChooseFI group. Start building energy and connections through the Slack channel.
Join your local ChooseFI group. And if there is not one, then ask Brad and Jonathan to create one.
In the future, there may be more co-working spaces around the country sponsored by ChooseFI but for now, the local groups are the best place to start finding your community of like-minded people.
Second Generation FI
Pete had a childhood that was a bit of a hippy style upbringing. This involved taking care of his own finances.
The biggest thing my parents did right, other than reading us Lord of the Rings and all other classics, is that they did not get us much of anything. We had to take care of our own, like as a kid, you couldn’t just have whatever you wanted…And as soon as we were 14 or 15 years old, we were pretty much paying for our own clothing. You still got free rent and food but that was about it…I was forced to be frugal because it was really hard to get money and I didn’t want to just lose it right away.
As a result of taking care of his own things, Pete had a different outlook than most kids.
Lessons To Pass On
Pete’s goal is to keep the best parts for his son while removing some of the other stuff. Pete does not want his son to come from a position of shortage, cheap, or lack of generosity. Pete wants to teach his son the positives of money.
I want him to feel that money is something that is finite and that it comes from your own efforts, not just from begging your parents. So that every time he wants to buy something, there has to be a trade-off.
Pete feels that his son has picked up some of the principles of FIRE along the way. Pete can see his son making choices that prioritize long-term financial success. Plus, Pete pays his son for things that are truly payable. Recently, Pete and his son have started a YouTube project that has earned around $1,000. Pete is actually concerned that if the channel takes off, then his son may get a distorted perspective of money at age 14.
I think that the trap of wealthy or middle-class people is that we pamper our kids too much, like, ‘don’t worry junior, your only job is getting good grades. We are going to pay for your college. We are going to buy your car for you, then we will get you that down payment. We will pay for your wedding, and there will be a nice estate waiting for you at the end.’ All that stuff, I think, is quite risky as a way of making your kid not ever have the benefit of having to work hard or find their own way money-wise.
Pete is trying to teach his son the lessons of Financial Independence without “ruining him.” Pete’s next step in parenting is to teach his son about the joys of manual labor. Marketable skills have changed…but there is a joy in manual labor by using your hands and body for building something.
Carl shares his thoughts about teaching his kids about money. He believes going to college is an option. It is good for some, maybe it’s not the right path for others. They are trying to teach their kids entrepreneurial skills and concepts. It’s important to let them have “skin in the game” because it’s important for them to know money is not just handed to them.
Personality, age, maturity, and even some genetics are puzzle pieces in teaching kids about money. It’s little lessons and opportunities to learn about money, over time that add up. And letting choice and consequence be teachers as well.
Doing Hard Things
Working hard at something brings about feelings of accomplishment and enjoyment.
That’s pretty much the secret to everything. You get happier when you do things that are challenging to you. There’s a sweet spot between life is too easy, you’re depressed; and life is too hard, you’re also not happy at all. But there’s a sweet spot of effort and exertion and difficulty…
Society has a downfall of taking things to the extreme of convenience. This actually takes away the good parts of putting forth effort.
I pretty much need to do something difficult every day. That’s my biggest revelation of the first 13 years of retirement…’No difficulty’ means not a good day. I go to bed less happy those days. So I make sure I get out [an hour walk, workout, the co-working space, etc.] It would be easier to not do those things. All these principles–it’s so magical because those are all the same principles that make you wealthier too.
The whole secret to human life is to do hard stuff and embrace it too. It can affect more in your life than you might realize, including your rate of pay.
Rapid Fire Questions
Brad and Jonathan ask Pete and Carl some burning questions about FIRE and retirement.
Are You Really Retired?
Although Pete had to change the official definition of retirement for the United States, Pete is still retired. He chooses to spend his time on things other than golf and watching TV though.
Pay Off Your House Or Invest?
Pete says that it is a pretty close call. If you are just thinking about the numbers, then it is not even a huge difference. He advises that people go by what their heart tells them to do. For Pete, he paid off his house early even though he would have made slightly more money investing. It is worth sleeping better at night.
What it really boils down to, everything is about how you feel. The only reason to retire early, and to get any money in the first place saved up–is because you feel better about it. [Generally] it’s not a make or break decision either way.
Carl also supports paying off your house early if you feel called to do so. Especially if you feel that it is too tempting to have the cash on hand. Plus, the psychological benefits of paying off your house early are huge.
Are There Any Luxuries That You Would Like To Buy, But You Just Don’t?
Pete cautions that the more you can afford, the more ridiculous your purchases can get if you don’t check yourself. The reason that people end up with 10 homes and memberships to golf clubs they’ve never seen is that they don’t question themselves.
However, it is okay to buy nice things if you have thought about them carefully and know that the purchase will add value to your life.
It is okay to get things that you really do enjoy. I literally own thousands of items myself and a lot of them are pretty nice and luxurious. …I don’t regret buying, but I think that’s because I thought about each thing and made sure the pros and cons were weighing correctly.
For example, the hot tub that Brad wants to buy is an example of an item that people notoriously buy and never use. Brad is carefully weighing his decision though. If you are carefully weighing your potential purchases, then you are less likely to run into items that you don’t actually want, use, or need. Such purchases become a burden to your psyche. Whether you decide to get something or not, thinking about it can help you stay out of trouble.
The wealthier you get, the less that threshold of affordability is going to hit you. But there is definitely a point of enough. And your life gets more and more complex for everything that you add. …because I know it would be more work to take care of and to think about that extra item…
Carl adds that the consumers of time and mental bandwidth are the enemies.
Check out Pete’s recent article about forgoing the purchase of a Tesla 3.
Is FIRE A Movement? Do You Think FIRE Is Going Somewhere?
Although Pete did not come up with the brand “FIRE,” he says that it is certainly good branding. Mr. Money Mustache is built around changing behaviors of people, so having something that sticks in people’s heads is great.
The FIRE movement sounds more substantial to news outlets, so the mainstream media does feature it often. Market Watch even has a dedicated FIRE tab. However, the features are not always positive but that is the cost of being in mainstream media.
Pete thinks that the number of people practicing FIRE are higher than they have ever been. With millions of people in the U.S. practicing FIRE, it is an exciting time to be a part of the community.
Jillian From Montana Money Adventures Talks About Moving The Ball Forward–What Steps Do You See To Move The Vision That You Have Forward?
It really depends on how motivated you are. Most listeners and readers are just looking for ways to improve their own life and their family’s life. That is great because they are influencing family and friends with their decisions. Some people become more evangelical about FIRE when they realize how different their life has become. When people see the difference, they tend to get involved more, to make positive changes for their communities.
The movement seems to spread by itself easily because it is just fundamentally right, it aligns with human nature. People live better when they do this [FIRE], so it’s a long term win.
Resource: Montana Money Adventures
Do You Look Back At This Choice To Walk Away From Corporate America With Regret? Should We Be Worried?
Although Carl missed the big paycheck at first, he did not regret his choice. Regret is not something he has in his choices to do something different.
I’ve never had that thought even once. I don’t think there is any amount of money that would cause me to go back to work. The main thing is figuring out what’s important to you. Usually, that doesn’t revolve around money.
It is important to figure out what makes you happy and realize that it doesn’t involve money.
Pete agrees and adds that getting rid of the money worry allows you to explore what your life is about.
No, you should not be worried because worry is a waste of time. There’s never a reason to worry about anything. Financial Independence is really just the starting point. Getting rid of the ‘money worry’, which is a great thing to get rid of, and then begin this journey of exploring what really makes a good life for you. And, it’s a much more human way to live.
He compares it to being in a life-long university class to figure out what your life about life.
Carl has one problem with the FIRE movement. Many focus on the FI number and then sprint towards it. Instead, he supports finding a way to be happy every day of your life.
I realized about half way through [his 1500 days of getting to FI]–‘What are you running to? You’re just running away from a stressful situation. What the heck are you going to do after you quit your job? This is ridiculous!’ I even thought about deleting the blog because ‘I’m going to look like a fool because I have to stay at work becasue i have NO IDEA what comes after this!’ …Don’t wait to live life until after your hit FI number. Do it right now.
How To Connect
The best way to connect with Pete is through Mr. Money Mustache, start on the home page to dive into 5-10 recommended articles.
The best way to connect with Carl is through 1500 Days.
The Hot Seat With Mr. Money Mustache And Mr. 1500
Favorite Blog: 1500 Days
Favorite Article: Pete The Practical Benefits Of Outrageous Optimism On Mr. Money Mustache
Favorite Article: Carl The Practical Benefits Of Outrageous Optimism On Mr. Money Mustache
Favorite Life Hack: Discovering that bicycles are faster than cars in most situations. Plus, riding a bike makes you physically fit while saving money.
Biggest Financial Mistake: A business mistake that I made shortly after retiring early when I started a construction company. We built beautiful, eco-friendly houses by the real estate crash made those first few years of retirement extremely stressful.
The advice you would give your younger self: Don’t start a million dollar company involving credit. [The construction company] Also, don’t worry about anything.
Bonus! What purchase have you made over the last 12 months that has added the most value to your life? Bought a house in the same neighborhood as his separated wife in a very nice neighborhood to stay close to his family. I feel joy and solace being in my home.
New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!