Meet Mr. Money Mustache. Hundreds of thousands of readers follow his bold advice on his self-titled blog — and for good reason. He has cracked the retirement code while many of us were struggling with student loans. At 23 years old he began working and saving…and saving some more. By age 30, he’d amassed some $800,000 in cash and investments, and then entered early retirement.
How, exactly? I flew to his home in Longmont, Colorado, where the now 38-year-old lives with Mrs. Money Mustache and Mustache Junior, for the scoop.
The Rule of 70%
While a popular rule of thumb is to try to save 10% of your income every month, in the race to retirement Mr. Money Mustache saved and invested close to 70% of each paycheck until he had about $800,000 racked up. At that point he felt comfortable quitting his job, as the dividends from his stock portfolio and income from a rental property were finally enough to support his family’s lifestyle. “I just figured based on a 4% withdrawal rate of your savings, if you have $800,000 saved, you could draw an income of $32,000 a year from that. Our needs are less than that, so we actually don’t need $800,000 in savings.”
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But wait. How does the family live on less than $30,000 a year with a child? “It’s by cutting out stuff, the invisible stuff, that’s most expensive. I kept the headline items, like a house, trip to Australia and good friends and good food, but I cut out stuff like spending $50 on coffee a week or having a brand new car every few years,” he says. “We do a lot of stuff ourselves. We go to parks. We do music together. We ride our bikes, go to the library. Kids love it. Costs almost nothing to do.”
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Treat Debt Like Your Hair Is on Fire
We should mention that Mr. Money Mustache graduated without any student loans. He never really had any credit card debt and advises his readers, who aim to retire early like him, to treat debt like a scary emergency, as if their hair is literally on fire. “If you have credit card debt, you don’t make little payments on it. You don’t go to the movies and put $10 on the credit card. You stay home, you earn as much money as possible, you eat the cheapest food possible and get that emergency solved,” he says.
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The Mustaches intentionally live in a town with a relatively low cost of living. Their property taxes in Longmont are only $200 per month, and the home’s solar design and insulation keep energy bills to under $40 per month.
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Who Needs a Car?
Longmont is also a bike-friendly town, which encourages even more saving. By biking to most places, Mr. Money Mustache figures it helps the family save roughly $10,000 a year on transportation costs. “I kind of have a rule: You do not drive the car for trips within the city, because you don’t need to. The bike will do it just as fast, and it’ll be better for you,” he says.
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Could you follow in Mr. Money Mustache's financial footsteps? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.