Thoughts on financial and personal independence

Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. After a year off, J.D. is once again writing here at GRS. His non-financial writing can still be found at More Than Money.
¡Saludos de Ecuador!

For the past two weeks, I've been enjoying my third trip to that seldom-remembered continent, South America. I love this place, and love it more each time I visit. My past trips have been personal excursions for pleasure and introspection. But this trip was primarily business-related. (I am in the Galápagos at the moment, and that's just for personal edification — unless we count the tortoise photos, which could be used for GRS promotion.)

You see, earlier this year, my colleague Mr. Money Mustache contacted me to ask if I'd like to take part in a chautauqua produced by Cheryl Reed of Above the Clouds Retreats. Of course I would! It's my policy to say “yes” to requests like this. And so for one week in early September, MMM and I joined Cheryl and jlcollinsnh to present our philosophies to an enthusiastic group of 22 participants, most of whom were women and most of whom had reached (or were well on their way to) Financial Independence.

MMM has already shared his lessons from Ecuador. Today, I'll share mine.

Note: At my personal blog, I've already posted photos of the trip and raved about the non-financial outcomes. This article will be about the financial lessons I took away.

Improving Lives

Cheryl came to Ecuador on a volunteer vacation sixteen years ago. She did physical therapy for poor and disabled children. She loved the country, and was struck by the poverty. Five years later, she bought a 24-acre farm in the tiny community of Santa Elena, a couple of hours north of Quito. She's tried (and failed) to farm various crops. At the moment, she's farming coffee. She spends six months out of every year here; the rest of the time, she lives in the States.

Cheryl is passionate about improving the quality of life for the Ecuadorian people, especially those in Santa Elena. She sponsored one local boy through college, and she intends to sponsor more. She donated a laptop computer to another girl who wants to pursue a degree. And a portion of the “profits” from our week-long retreat will all go to Project One Corner, Cheryl's charitable organization that works to improve her tiny corner of this planet.

DSC_0390
Some of the “profits” from our retreat will help families like this in Santa Elena.

Moved by Cheryl's dedication to her community, MMM, jlcollinsnh, and I all donated our speaking fees to her cause. She used $1,500 of this money to help the above family rebuild their tiny home, which was severely damaged in an earthquake last year. This family of fourteen has been living in a chicken coop since then; with the money we contributed, they've been able to make their home livable once more.

During the prep for the chautauqua, we talked a lot about financial equivalencies. “The $1,500 we gave to that family is an espresso machine for some people at home,” MMM observed. “When I see that somebody needs help, and I see that I could help them with just half a day's work, well I can't say no.”

“I know,” Cheryl said. “At the end of our retreat, we'll have a nice dinner at a restaurant in Quito. The first place I contacted wanted $42 per person. I couldn't do that. That's $1,200. That's almost as much as it took to fix up that family's house. I chose a cheaper place instead.”

DSC_6059
The “cheaper” farewell dinner was still lavish and fun.

Converting to Mustachianism

Prior to this week in Ecuador, my exposure to Mr. Money Mustache's philosophy was limited. I admired his presentation on how to blog last year at the Financial Blogger Conference, and spent an hour talking with him after he'd finished. But I've had more contact with Mrs. Money Mustache since then. (“She likes your writing,” MMM told me on the plane form Houston to Quito. “You're all warm and fuzzy and not a bossypants like me.”)

But after spending ten days with MMM, I'm a convert. I'm in the process of reading his blog from start to finish. (You can too!)

A short summary of the Mustachian Way: MMM believes that this whole “get rich slowly” business is BS. He advocates getting rich quickly — but not through any magical means. The core of his philosophy is adhering to an extreme savings rate. If you can save 50% of your income, you can achieve Financial Independence in seventeen years. Bump that savings rate to 75%, and you can do it in seven years.

“I call this the shockingly simple math behind early retirement,” MMM said.

In general, Mustachianism emphasizes cutting costs. MMM believes that households with incomes greater than $50,000 per wage-earner have no excuse for not building substantial savings. He says it's still possible to enjoy a luxurious life on much, much less. (He and Mrs. Money Mustache raise a young lad on $30,000 in household expenses.) The problem is that most people have a million excuses as to why they can't reduce their luxuries. They drive SUVs instead of biking. They have cable television. They buy books and clothes and kitchen gadgets instead of finding low-cost (or no-cost) alternatives. As a result, they choose to postpone retirement until age 65 (or later) instead of retiring at 35.

DSC_5307
MMM shares his Mustachian vision for happiness and lifestyle design.

“The principles on my blog are that you can be happy with less consumption and more hard work,” MMM told me.

He's absolutely right.

The attendees at our chautauqua were all living proof of what's possible through extreme saving. Not all of them had achieved Financial Independence, but every single one owned responsibility for their current financial situation. Those that weren't yet at FI see the path and know what to do. (And, in general, are very young.) Those that had achieved FI did so through extreme saving, careful investing, and optimizing income.

As part of the retreat, I met with thirteen of the 22 attendees. Nearly all of them showed me their financial situation. Most had achieved FI. The average person to have done so was a woman in her mid-forties who still continues to work because she likes what she does. But she could quit at any time and live comfortably for the rest of her life.

What about increasing income? MMM recognizes the value of doing so, but it's not his focus. “I like to make fun of the ‘earn more' crowd, even though I think earning more is a good thing,” he told me. “I just think it should be a by-product of being an ethical businessperson. Plus, my secret mission is to reduce the world's consumption of Stuff, so I focus on that.”

IMG_2232
The entire group flashes the Mustachian Salute.

Other Insights

During my ten days with these fine folks, I didn't just learn about Mustachianism.

Jim (who is known by jlcollinsnh online) gave a short, sharp presentation on how to invest. In short: Stick as much as you can in index funds, then ignore the account. Let the money grow. Resist the temptation to think you're smarter than the market.

Jim also talked about the importance of “FU money,” having enough cash in the bank that you're not tied to your job. Most people have so little saved that they're tied to their jobs. They have no flexibility. But FU money is the little brother of FI. It gives you freedom to choose better opportunities.

Jim told a story about when he was younger (many, many years ago!), he was working at a job he liked. He wanted to take a few months off to travel to Europe, but his boss wouldn't have it. “Fine,” Jim said. “I'm quitting.” He had saved $5,000 on a $10,000 salary, and that was FU money for him. Surprisingly, this shifted the balance of power. Suddenly his boss was more receptive to the suggested sabbatical. Jim got to take the trip and then return to a job he loved ‐ all because he'd saved enough to walk away, if needed.

“If you don't have FU money, you're not free yet,” Jim said. “And if you have debt, your'e a slave.”

“A lot of people equate saving with deprivation,” Jim noted. “It's not deprivation. It's just a choice to spend on the future instead of spend on today.” And debt is a choice to spend on the past. “Saving is money spent on buying freedom.”

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MMM and Amy O. look on as I make some brilliant point

Anita from Chicago — a corporate lawyer — is in her early thirties and just couple of years from being able to retire. How did she do it? Through very Mustachian extreme saving. She keeps her expectations low. “I have everything I want,” she told me. “I just don't want very much.”

Val — who has been something of a nomad these past few years — has so much saved that she never has to work again. But this week, she just took a job that pays her more than she's ever made in her life. Why? Because it sounds like fun. Val praised the power of Financial Independence: “FI takes away the wall of worry,” she told me. “You can just do what you want.”

I also enjoyed talking with the folks who aren't very far along on their financial journey. Lise is a librarian from London, Ontario. She's scared to invest, so her money is just sitting in a savings account. She's overwhelmed by the options, and afraid to make the wrong choice. I hope my conversation with her — and Jim's presentation — helped to remove some of that fear.

Note: My own presentation was about fear, flow (or happiness), and freedom. I talked about making meaning in your life, and about putting your own happiness first. I've uploaded the PowerPoint slides for my presentation. I'll post a written version soon. It'll appear at my personal site — or maybe at MMM's site, if he'll take it as a guest post.

I particularly enjoyed the time I spent with Jesse Meacham. Many of you probably know Jesse as the founder of You Need a Budget, the popular software that's been helping folks for almost ten years. I've interacted with Jesse for years, but never met him until now. He's awesome: a cheerful, open-minded, Crossfitting nerd who tells fantastic stories. He kept us all entertained for hours during cold nights at the hacienda.

DSC_5750
Another night of Story Time with Uncle Jesse — “That reminds me of the time…”

Jesse shared lots of great insights into financial management — and life. Gems like this:

  • Don't forecast. Live on what you have. If you try to guess how much money you'll have a month from now or a year from now, you'll almost always be wrong, and your forecast will inevitably be too high. Forget the future when budgeting. Focus on the past.
  • Keep it simple When budgeting — or doing anything else with money — use the “mother-in-law test”. If you were to teach your mother-in-law to budget (or invest or buy a house — whatever), how would you do it? That's where you should start with your own finances. Don't make things more complicated than they need to be.
  • Seek new challenges. Doing new things keeps life interesting, especially once you've reached Financial Independence. “I got a puppy a few weeks ago,” Jesse told me. “I wanted a new challenge.” But your challenges might be learning a new language or taking on a new sport. Challenges make life meaningful and keep us from spending money on happiness drugs such as television.

At the end of a week of “crazy rich-person talk” (as MMM called it), everybody felt inspired to continue working to financial and personal freedom. But we also felt inspired to spread the wealth to others. For instance, MMM “hatched a slightly crazy plan to look into buying the 24 acres adjacent to Cheryl's existing farm to turn it into a permanent gathering point which also generates money for charity.”

As for myself, this experience showed me the power of small-group gatherings. I've done a lot of organizing of and speaking at large conferences (such as World Domination Summit), but never participated in something like this chautauqua. It won't be the last time. I have a slightly crazy plan of my own. I'm going to organize something similar much closer to home. Look for some sort of retreat here in Oregon in late 2014 or mid-2015. I look forward to more “crazy rich-person talk” — this time with you.

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Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body

I don’t know about that whole FU money thing….

There are so many hungry people for jobs these days and so many people out there with equal degrees that

1. There’s someone else who will easily do the work out there
2. There’s so many other people to do the work out there it’s keeping the wages lower

The balance of power is not in your hand.

rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation)
rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation)

I think you may be missing the point. Collins wasn’t bluffing with his FU money – he was ready and able to walk away. The balance of power was definitely in his hands.

Also, I’ve been reading MMM for years and I retired early over a year ago. MMM is awesome! If you haven’t read him, then stop reading my drivel and go there NOW!

Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com
Derek @ MoneyAhoy.com

Agreed – MMM is really great and will alter your thinking on just about everything!

lmoot
lmoot

I dunno…with only $5k, he wouldn’t be able to walk far, not without having to get back into the job market.

He may have been serious about leaving, but if the supervisor had said “Well..good luck!”, he would have been screwed. I think his boss saved his butt from making a juvenile mistake of thinking his little money would take him anywhere.

5k is not f/u money…it’s you better not f/u money until you have some serious f/u money.

Marsha
Marsha

But this was “many, many years ago” when $5000 was real money–half a year’s salary in this case.

Nate C
Nate C

Folks, MMM is NOT retired. He runs a blog. As many of you here know, running a blog is hard work. JD – you quit your job at the job factory to blog full time. Flexo at Consumerism Commentary same. Jim Wang at Bargaineering same. To say that he’s retired is insulting / condescending to all the people who are also working hard on their own small businesses, and earning a good buck but not claiming they are “retired”. It’s hard work to write, manage comments, etc.!

Clay
Clay

Then it’s all about developing your personal moat – having skills and abilities that put you above the competition. Even just years of experience that new grads lack might qualify.

Michelle at Making Sense of Cents
Michelle at Making Sense of Cents

Love this post. Just this past year I read MMM from beginning to end, and I frequent him forum more than a couple of times each week. It is very addicting!

We are working on FI. I am in the process of switching to self-employment and doing what I want. For years we were spending pretty much everything we made. However, that didn’t make us any happier. I’m glad that we have realized that.

Brian
Brian

Great post! Sounds like an amazing trip. I have never read MMM, but will check his site out. It’s interesting to hear about his get rich quickly idea. I have never thought of it that way, but retiring early would be a wonderful thing to pursue other interests.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

MMM’s ideas were first laid out (to my knowledge) by Jakob Fiskar of Early Retirement Extreme. He’s the original source.

MMM added his own brand of marketing and perhaps a less “extreme” approach than Jakob, but it was Jakob’s formula all along. Regardless, Jakob “anointed” MMM as his ideological successor some time ago.

Jakob moved on to other pursuits but his old blog is still up and he has a book for sale here:

http://earlyretirementextreme.com

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies

Mr PoP loves Jacob’s book, and it passes the “value product” test:

New book $11.70, free shipping through prime
Used book $10.99 + $3.99 shipping

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/145360121X/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=

When a used product costs about as much or more than the new one, this can be read as – people who have bought the book tend to see tons of value in it and aren’t willing to give it up for a song. So it’s a highly valued product, which tends to correlate with very useful!

Will
Will

Longtime reader of both GRS and MMM. Love both! And really looking forward to the Portland gathering as I am just over the river in Vancouver!

Anne
Anne

I don’t know if I’m the only person who feels this way, but I have the need to put this out there. I tried reading MMM but was seriously put off by the bad language.

I mean the man is addressing the public, not his buddies over a beer. Does he honestly use the same words to his wife…son….mother?

I stopped reading. Just my humble opinion.

Mrs Random
Mrs Random

The great thing about the internet is that everything is public and voluntary. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to go there. I like MMM’s language – it isn’t used egregiously, and always to either punch something up or add a bit of humor. I kind of like being talked to like a buddy.

Jeff
Jeff

I was starting to wonder if I was the only one here who doesn’t care much at all for MMM, almost feels like being Stan in the “Passion of the Jew” episode of South Park.

My main dislike of MMM is that the advice that I read there wasn’t new, a lot of it was of the “no duh” variety, and he’s also one of the preachiest and most judgmental personal finance bloggers I’ve seen. There’s a very strong “my way or the highway” vibe to his writing that I didn’t care for.

lmoot
lmoot

I agree that you’re entitled to feel that way, but I disagree with your assertion that he should amend his style because he’s “addressing the public”. I don’t really consider a personal blog as the same thing as addressing the public. Yeah, it may have evolved into that as readership increased but at the end of the day it’s a guy, with a pesonal blog, speaking in the way he prefers to speak. It’s absolutely refreshing that there are still some folks left who do not allow their personalities to be watered down just because they are now considered a… Read more »

Ed
Ed

Clearly everyone has their own opinion here. But for me there is a difference between “watering down your personality” and speaking respectfully to get your message across.

Martin
Martin

I’m a huge fan of financial freedom. My goal is to be free by 30. I started by graduating from college debt-free. My next goal is to sell my rental property for a handsome profit.

However, I do believe that making more money is a huge part of that equation of financial freedom.

Maybe if MMM wants to make fun of making more money, he can consider taking down his MMM recommends page.

Holly@ClubThrifty

I agree. I don’t understand the point of making fun of people who want to make more money.

If you make more money AND cut your expenses then you can get where you want to be that much faster. Isn’t that the point?

AB
AB

Problem is, when most people make more money, they spend it on more stuff, flashier stuff, etc. Those who have the discipline to save more when they make more are a dying breed in this consumerist culture.

Holly@ClubThrifty

I don’t think that “most people” who make more money go out and spend it on more “stuff,” especially people who read this blog.

And, saying that you usually make fun of the “earn more” crowd is incredibly condescending to a group of people who are obviously trying to improve their lives by earning more.

Why not encourage people to make the right choices with the additional income that they work hard to earn? That strategy would probably be a lot more helpful than “making fun” of them. Because, really, what does that accomplish?

HKR
HKR

What coincidental timing! I had a conversation with a coworker not ten minutes ago, and he was telling me how we are “All Wage Slaves” because no one can choose not to work, and we are all forced to give away part of our money in taxes. This post gives so many examples of people who have chosen to work harder and work smarter now so that they can choose not to work later; it is very inspiring and just goes to show that no one Has to be a wage slave. As for the taxes bit, I choose to… Read more »

Esther
Esther

JD,
I enjoyed the post and looking forward to the retreat. I will definitely check out MMM. Thie is the first time i hear of him.

Matt I totally understand your point, however we, (most of us) give our employer the balance of power and believe that it’s not under under our control.

Retiring early sounds good to me.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

If people want to change their lives and are attracted to MMM’s philosophy, then I think that is fine. If people are happy with their lives and are not attracted to MMM’s philosophy, I think that is also fine. If people want to change their lives and are not attracted to MMM’s philosophy but would prefer to Find Something That Works for Them (which was always the philosophy behind this blog, and probably the thing that I enjoy most about it) then I think that is also fine. I enjoy MMM’s writing style in a way. He’s not an apologist,… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I find MMM’s writing style to also be very similar to Ramit Sethi’s. FWIW, I find Ramit to be much more clear about his aims in adopting the tone that he does. I also find the “earn more” approach to be much more compelling than the “ultimate frugality” approach, but I understand that’s just me. Other people can Do What Works For Them.

lmoot
lmoot

See I don’t consider when MMM berates people, or has harsh comments towards a sector of folks, bullying. He doesn’t do it out of malice (at the worst, it’s ridicule) or intent to harm. And typically, after a verbal punch in the face, he keeps it moving. Nobody is his victim. The people who write into him know what they’re going to get, and that’s why they wrote in. I agree that the readership can get aggressive, and try to copy MMM’s style in a less charming, more bullish way…but you will have the mindless sheep followers, wherever you go.… Read more »

Jane
Jane

” I never got the feeling that he hated people…only what people do.” That sounds remarkably like the Christian doublespeak – “love the sinner, hate the sin,” as if what people do and who people are are so easy to separate. And your idea about MMM fits in quite well with my perception of him and his followers as engaging in a quasi-religion. The conformity even goes down to the ridiculous mustache pose J.D. posted above. Seriously – for a bunch of supposedly free-thinking people, you fall in line with each other pretty easily. I know I’m perhaps reading too… Read more »

Agree
Agree

MMM is a good message that was originally written by Your Money or Your Life – then taken a step further by Early Retirement Extreme. The big difference is he has paired it with exceptional marketing. Much of his success is due to developing a cult of personality and the flowery language, for better or worse. I suppose there are a lot worse cult leaders that could be followed. But does seem like his material over the past 6 mos. has become repetitive and the ideas are drying up. 10 ways to say the same thing. His audience will get… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot

Interesting analogy. However, I question how many groups of people have been tortured and killed at the hands of “christians” and how many groups of people have *actually* been punched in the face by MMM because they drive cars. I guess I can see the ridiculousness in the language that puts it above reality. When MMM says he wants to punch people in the face, it’s funny…because you know he doesn’t really believe people should be punched in the face. When I’m told that I will burn in the eternal fires of hell because I am an atheist…well it’s still… Read more »

cathleen
cathleen

I also read MMM on occasion and find him dogmatic and rigid in tone but I take it with a grain of salt. He can come across like a convert, or a born-again vibe that I don’t like but I let it roll off. The one thing I don’t read anymore are his articles which constantly drone on about how “everyone can use bicycles instead of evil cars”. I personally know of half a dozen people riding bicycles killed by cars in my neck of the woods. One just yesterday, so it’s a sore point for me. Risk vs reward… Read more »

Carla
Carla

That is why I’ve shied away from many PF blogs over the years. I know the bloggers are giving advice based on their own experiences but I don’t like the ‘my way or the highway, because its the only right way’ attitudes many have.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith

I guess the bottom line for me is that:

1) I tend to find evangelism distasteful, regardless of the topic;

2) I think his tone squashes discussion rather than encouraging it;

3) It’s all a little There’s Only One Right Way to me.

imelda
imelda

Thank you for expressing so well what I’ve long felt about MMM. I find his website comments sections creepy – and you’re so right, that photo in JD’s post can also be seen as creepy! I understand the fun behind it, but there’s more than one way to look at at it.

MMM is wrong in many ways, but god forbid you say that to him or his rabid fans. Ugh.

Wes
Wes

Honey, I think you should read this: http://www.timelessfinance.com/2012/09/12/personal-finance/

Sometimes there actually is a right and a wrong way to do it. MMM may take it to the extreme at times, but his formula – pay off debt like it’s an emergency, save up as much as you can – is in fact the only way available to most of us to actually become rich.

Jessica
Jessica

I’m pretty sure there are at least 387 million people who remember South America more frequently than seldom. You were just there, perhaps you should have listened to a few.

(And when did my mother-in-law become a grade A idiot, exactly?)

lmoot
lmoot

I thought that was weird too. Since when was S.A. seldom remembered? I feel like he was posturing an entire continent as a poor, forlorn lost-world in order to set up the theme of poverty in the piece. Being originally from a 3rd world country, I feel more aware of the theme and verbiage of traveling 1st worlders who over-emphasize the reach of the poverty, and of the assistance provided. “Cheryl is passionate about improving the quality of life for the Ecuadorian people” Surely not all Ecuadorian people? Probably just the needy. One doesn’t volunteer in NOLA after Katrina for… Read more »

K Bennett
K Bennett

While we’re on the topic of annoying language, I could’ve done without the comment by Jesse Meacham on keeping it simple, so simple that even your mother-in-law can understand it. As I mother-in-law in good standing, I can assure you that a. I’m not stupid and b. I know more about personal finance than about 98% of the people I encounter, most of them wayyy younger than I am.

Carla
Carla

I didn’t find it amusing either. I thought it was sexist and ageist.

cathleen
cathleen

ditto

I thought, “where the hell didn’t that come from?”

Maybe his MIL is an idiot or maybe he really has sexist attitudes. I know a lot of people who do, unfortunately.

cathleen
cathleen

ditto

I thought, “where the hell did that come from?”

Maybe his MIL is an idiot or maybe he really has sexist attitudes. I know a lot of people who do, unfortunately.

Interestingly, in my family, it’s always been the women who do the finances and investments. Including me.

Jeff
Jeff

Not to mention also that a lot (possibly the majority) of personal finance blogs are written by women.

Marsha
Marsha

My first (and unkind) thought was that Jesse was stupid for marrying a woman with such a stupid mother. Intelligence has a strong hereditary component.

charles@gettingarichlife

Earning more money is very important for FI. You can have enough FU money but if it’s suppose to last 40+ years you better make sure its large enough to last. MMM built his but the money he makes now probably surpasses what he made when he had a corporate job. Most people won’t have that luxury if their money runs out. You need a big enough income to develop that cushion. Look in the PF world there are hundreds of thousands of bloggers hoping for FI, but only a handful like MMM that achieved it at an early age… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

True, there is a lot of luck involved in his story. Had he not gotten big with his blog would that money he saved for early retirement have really lasted?

Woodstock
Woodstock

The link for the PowerPoint slides gives me a

500 Internal Server Error

Louisa
Louisa

I appreciate the comment about South America. Sometimes JD’s language is a bit inane and over-worked.

As for MMM, I enjoy his irreverence, but don’t like he way he puts down the majority of the population. He could use some humility.

Maybe it’s my generation (of that apparently not too bright mother-in-law age), but too much success too fast can lead to cockiness, and I see it in boh of them, even though they have good things to offer.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo

Personally, I can’t wait for a future when we can finally say “that seldom-remembered city, Portlandia” 😉 😀

Jane
Jane

Wow. $1995 (excluding airfare) for a week stay in a Third World country. This is not to denigrate the destination but rather to point out the discrepancy between this cost and what it actually costs to stay in Ecuador for a week. I like J.D., but I wouldn’t pay anything close to that to attend an event that is essentially a chance to soak up the “guru vibes” of your favorite PF blogger. If you just wanted to experience Ecuador or volunteer, you could have done it for much less. While I appreciate that a significant portion of the proceeds… Read more »

Chris
Chris

Wow, agreed with Jane. I’ve been to ecquador and 2k plus airfare is simply a rip-off unless you are staying very lavishly. It’s even worse in my mind considering this was a “personal finance summit.”

It’s great money was donated, but the donators were clearly the guests, not the organizer.

FrugalJU
FrugalJU

Wa Wa Wa!!! Its funny to me all the negativity against the PF bloggers who attended this trip. Jealous much? Maybe one day when we reach FI like most of them have and get ourselves some FU money we can hang out with other like minded fun individuals in another country just because we feel like it. Now lets get back to work, save more, spend less, make more and come back with some positivity. I think GRS and MMM are great and have helped many people. If you don’t like it, bounce. You are just one click away to… Read more »

Jane
Jane

“If you don’t like it, bounce. You are just one click away to finding out the latest features of the new iphone or what the latest shenanigans a particular celebrity is up to.”

This is classic. I just had to laugh at how well this poster illustrated Honey’s point above about the underlying meanness and quasi-bullying. If you have to resort to ad-hominem insults to make your point, it must not have been very strong to begin with.

Dear Debt
Dear Debt

I appreciate hearing about your experiences. Though something about having a retreat about being rich and financially free in a third world country just doesn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t do it. However, I am heartened that Cheryl seems to be a part-time resident of Ecuador and seems generous with her time and money. I have some issues with retreats like this and certain blogs, because it all makes it so simple, like “you can do it too”. I do believe with education, hard work, hustling and cutting expenses people can become financially independent, but something that is often… Read more »

Laura
Laura

“Would we say to people in Ecuador, “Just work harder, cut your expenses” to get out of poverty? No. There are real barriers to financial success, and real privileges for many of us as well.” OMG, yes, yes, yes, YES. The flip side of that is the assumption that if you’re American, you must automatically be wasting your funds on designer handbags and plasma t.v.’s and just need to work harder and cut your expenses to GRS or become Mustachian. I don’t deny that the *average* American overconsumes compared to the *average* 3rd world country resident, but I hate the… Read more »

Mrs EconoWiser
Mrs EconoWiser

Haha, MMM is a bossypants. I just love how the guy conjures up cool new words. I have to agree that I do very much enjoy different writing styles when it comes to my favourite PF blogs. I certainly enjoy MMM’s swearing and what he likes to call bossypants approach. However, I also enjoy this blog’s approach which is more mainstream indeed. Anyway, GRS MMM and jlcollinsnh are still my favourite blogs so the combination of the get together is awesome from my perspective!

Blair Illiano
Blair Illiano

You sound like you had a great time at the chautauqua, J.D! I’m definitely tempted to give mustichianism a try now.

Amy
Amy

Oh I’m late to the comment party…I have to ask this question though – why did you choose to travel to South America for this meeting? Take two steps back and consider that you traveled many many miles to meet in a private group to discuss the ins and out of money and your ‘wealthy’ lifestyle, possibly convert to the beat-you-with-a-stick style proselatizing of MMM (ugh) and take lots of pictures of your elite little group while living off the generousity of the poorer people hosting you in their country? If any of that is true…then…that’s strange. Elitist? Exhorbitantly expensive… Read more »

imelda
imelda

The thing about MMM is that it’s more than just “you must do it my way.” He’s not bossy so much as insanely judgmental. It’s more, “you must do it my way or there’s something wrong with you,” or alternately, “you must do it my way or you don’t really want it.”

Giddings Plaza FI
Giddings Plaza FI

Good to read about your experience–thanks for sharing this, J.D.! And, good idea to open a chataqua retreat place in Oregon. A retreat to encourage those of us on the road to FI, and to open up a new world of FI, sustainable “less stuff” living for others who are interested.

Brad
Brad

There is a lot wisdom in the follow statements from the article:
““A lot of people equate saving with deprivation,” Jim noted. “It’s not deprivation. It’s just a choice to spend on the future instead of spend on today.” And debt is a choice to spend on the past. “Saving is money spent on buying freedom.”

These statements hit the nail on the head for me. One would do well to adopt these tenets to the extent that you are comfortable with…everything else is just noise.

Marla
Marla

Great post J.D. (as was your post on your personal blog). As a Chatauqua attendee, I can’t believe the comments on your post. Yes, it was expensive but priceless for those of us who attended (most of whom are financially independent). As a proud member of the MMM “cult”, I encourage you to join in the fun rather than indulging in the bitching and moaning. MMM is a sincere, generous person who shares valuable insights with wit and disregard for mainstream conventions. I learn a lot reading his posts and laughed harder than I have in years sharing stories and… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.

Hey, all. Just back from the Galápagos, where there was NO INTERNET (Horrors!). Anyhow, I’m just now reading comments First, not sure why jdroth.com is down. Working on it. Second, if the “so simple your mother-in-law could understand it” comment bugs you, chill. I make fun of men and women equally here, as does Jesse. Give it time, and I’ll make fun of your father-in-law too. (But odds are that won’t piss you off…) Third, if you don’t understand why I referred to South America as “the forgotten continent”, you’re not paying attention. How many people in the U.S. know… Read more »

Jane
Jane

“Finally, I would love love love to see less whineypants commenting around here and more constructive conversation.” This is just patently untrue. Large portions of the comments above were very much constructive – criticism but nonetheless constructive. Is honest and civil discussion now not welcome by this blog’s founder? Just because someone doesn’t agree with a phrase a presenter used or the premise of the conference doesn’t make them a troll. Apparently J.D. has now got caught up in the idea that we must all agree with everything he says or we’re “whineypants.” What a ridiculous and juvenile phrase. This… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.

Jane, I’m well aware that much of the conversation here was civil. But much was way off-topic. If you’re on-topic and civil, there’s nothing to worry about. But even this comment you’ve just made crosses the line. You write: “Apparently J.D. has now got caught up in the idea that we must all agree with everything he says.” You’ve never seen or heard me say anything but the opposite. I welcome constructive criticism and intelligent debate. But comments like that — comments that assume motives on my part or on the part of other people — are not constructive. Nor… Read more »

Jane
Jane

From my perspective (and I’ve been commenting on here a long time), what made the GRS comment section so good was the presence of intelligent, dissenting voices. This only happened and was cultivated because you as the writer and moderator seemed comfortable with those voices co-existing with your own. That’s why I was so taken aback above by your rather transparent attempt to shut down dissenters. It didn’t strike me as your usual mode of communicating. Perhaps the comments haven’t necessary changed but rather your perspective on them has. Many of the above comments that bother you also come from… Read more »

imelda
imelda

“It’s not just me who thinks so. I came home from the Galápagos to a dozen “what’s the deal with your commenters?” emails.” JD, don’t you think that explains your reaction? As far as I can see, the comments to this post are very much in line with comments to every other post. Your readers have always varied in the strength of their responses to different articles. This post, like many many others, generated some strong responses. NONE of them was out of line. Not even close. This thread that I’m commenting on has really shocked me. I’ve never seen… Read more »

Amy
Amy

JD – a thought from a reader who has been with this blog since you were the blog…. You say this “At one time the Wall Street Journal praised the commenters on this site as some of the best around.” and you are correct! This blog was the best around – and you were pretty much the sole author of it at the time. The scene of this blog has changed considerably since then – you sold it and took a hiatus (well done and deserved, no doubt there) and the blog become a multi-author content blog. It’s audience changed… Read more »

Karl
Karl

Imelda, The Korean war is often referred to as the “fogotten war” because it was overshadowed by Vietnam. Referring to the war this was isn’t an insult to veterans of the Korean conflict but rather a way to point out that it needs to be given more attention. JD writes “…I’ve been enjoying my third trip to that seldom-remembered continent, South America. I love this place, and love it more each time I visit.” “Seldom-remembered” could also be expressed with “over-looked” as in “South America a hidden gem, often over-looked by travelers”. The last thing I’d call JD’s words about… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot

That’s fine. But that’s a reference to Korea, not the entire continent of Asia. I’m not trying to discredit J.D.’s whole article because of a statement, but I am reading into that statement as a bit sensationalist, considering that the gravity of poverty in Ecuador should be sufficient enough to stand on its own without dragging the whole of S.America into it. My first reaction (and apparently the reaction of many other people who read that statement) was “Hunh?” South America probably has just as many if not more international destinations than North America. You got Brazil, Argentina, Peru, The… Read more »

Laura
Laura

Every single thing 63/Amy said. I can’t like her comment enough.

This entire thread shows the very best of GRS – polite dissenting discussion. It is one of the major strengths of this site. MMM would be greatly improved by adopting it.

Karl
Karl

Imelda, Still I think we’re reading a different post. Are you now saying that JD’s use of the phrase “seldom-remembered” somehow understates or infers that there is not a lot to see in South America? JD’s point is that the continent deserves more attention and tourism. This is clear no? Where does he say otherwise? To me the clear answer is no, he’s not denigrating the wealth of attractions in South America. Now you can argue that South America isn’t overlooked. That’s okay. I’d disagree because like JD I think South America (and Central for that matter) ARE overlooked and… Read more »

Chris
Chris

I have to concur with the others. I don’t read any of the prior comments as “over the line.” They are simply challenging some of the content of the post, something that has been done here for years.

Debate is healthy and I hope GRS continues to encourage it. I love much of what MMM has to say, but agree that his tone comes across as my way or the highway and is really only applicable for a small portion of the worlds population.

J.D.
J.D.

Again, I have no problem with polite dissent and constructive criticism, and I never will. It’s part of what helps me grow as a person and as a writer. I think Amy has a point — I’m pretty out of touch with GRS and the community, and I’ll admit that. I’ll work to regain the feel for what’s going on around here, and I’ll try not to get defensive. Sound fair? But I’m asking all y’all to chill a bit too. If we all relax, we’ll have better conversations. At the Quito airport now catching a flight to Houston, and… Read more »

Jorge Granados
Jorge Granados

Hi JD, I really enjoy your posts, just two things.
South America is not a continent, the continent is called America, South America, central America and North America are just a name of the divisions.
Also US people are not Americans, all of us who live in the continent America are Americans

Bee
Bee

I respectfully disagree. North America and South America are two different continents.

imelda
imelda

Yeah, agree to disagree, guys; it’s taught differently in different countries….

ETA: @Jorge: What name do you give people from the United States, then? (in English, I mean)

Cheryl
Cheryl

This is Cheryl from Above the Clouds Retreats who hosted the event in Ecuador. First I will admit that I have not been a follower of any of the bloggers who presented at my event, but I believe in their philosophies of Financial Freedom or any type of freedom for that matter. I am living that freedom by choosing to only work half a year so I can spend the other half in Ecuador. I have had to make what some would say compromises to do so, but I call them choices. Money has to come into the equation because… Read more »

Laura
Laura

Thanks, Cheryl, for your input. Although I had no opinion on the location or cost of the event, I appreciate that you wrote a thoughtful reply addressing the issues for those with concerns. I think honestly that the reason much of the discussion took the turn it did about MMM is that a subset of those readers/potential readers cannot voice their concerns and be listened to but only ridiculed instead (which is IMHO a form of bullying). When raising valid concerns more-or-less politely is dismissed as bitching and whining, people are turned off. 67/Chris commented that MMM is only intended… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.

Great comment, Laura. Thank you.

Laura
Laura

You are most welcome, and thanks very much to you for starting and contributing to Get Rich Slowly. This blog and its community have helped and encouraged me more than I could express. My financial life is turning around for the better thanks in no small part to GRS.

Ellie
Ellie

Wow JD, what an incredibly condescending and sweeping generalization you just made about Americans’ knowledge about South America. Maybe you’re just hanging out with an unenlightened crowd. No need to paint us all with the same brush.

J.D.
J.D.

Ellie, I spend most of my time with very well-educated people. I spend some of my time with those who are less informed, as well. Universally, people know very little (almost nothing) about South America (or Africa). Americans, in general, are insular and unaware of the world at large. I’m not the only one who perceives this; in fact, it’s a common characterization of Americans at large. YOU are not uninformed about South America. *I* am not uninformed about South America. But we are but drops in the pond. I challenge you: This week, talk to you friends about South… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot

Can I piggy-back on J.D.’s challenge and suggest that you also ask those same people about Europe and the Middle East? If you’re going to have someone ask folks about what they know about S.A. and use that as a basis for the argument that S.A. is forgotten, then it’s best to compare their knowledge or lack of knowledge of SA, to their knowledge or lack of knowledge of what you consider to be less forgotten continents. My experience has been that some people just don’t care what’s going on anywhere but “here” wherever here is, and they are non-biased… Read more »

Chris
Chris

JD – all is good, excited to see you posting again! If you’re interested in a tad bit of advice from a long time reader, don’t jump on the MMM bandwagon too much. While I am sure MMM is a great guy and all, your style and approach speak to a much broader audience than his does. While his lifestyle facts are practical for many, I believe he lacks the general empathy and understanding you have brought to the table over the years. While some people do need a “kick in the face” from time to time, that must the… Read more »

imelda
imelda

In fact, MMM’s strategy is not practical for most people. To follow the principle of his advice, you have to earn enough money to be able to not only survive on 50% (or 75%) of your income, but to be content living at that level for life. So, I could move in with my parents and save 75%+ of my income for 7 years, and by the end I’d have enough money…to keep living with my parents. The flip side is to earn enough to do that without living with my parents – again, requiring an income that’s unrealistic for… Read more »

Teinegurl
Teinegurl

Well what a lively discussion! After i read the post and then the comments i almost forgot what i had to say but i wanted to know Where are the women of PF blogsphere in this group? Where are the people of color ?? I see a lot of white people while poor i feel like a big piece of the puzzle is missing. Even a South American PF blogger might have evened out this inbalance. While i know most of this bloggers are self made and did not inherit their money, I don’t see how a single mother such… Read more »

Justin @ RootofGood
Justin @ RootofGood

Wow man, haters gonna hate! The FU money is a key concept. I pulled mine together and suddenly doing crazy things at work like being honest, thinking of the best interests of the constituents, and doing things the right way were ok. Sometimes you get punished for that, but that’s ok if you can withstand the worst case outcome (being fired!). Being financially independent is so much better than the alternative – being broke. Why not save money hard core and make your future better, even if you don’t know what the future holds. Sure, many can’t save 50% or… Read more »

Christie
Christie

I’m ready for a chance to meet you all. I’ll go to Ecuador, or here in Oregon. Sign me up. I could even help out if you wanted…

I had serious plans to attend the next Chatauqua. I heard about it on MMM’s site a few months back, and really was impressed. I did something similar in Guatemala and Honduras a few years ago…great inspiration to this day!

CF

Paula
Paula

Interesting. People in the US seem to grow up only to develop concepts to quit work as soon as possible.

My co-worker recently said to me “Paula, you really love to work”.
Don’t you love to work, too?
Why not?

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