The Medicine of Mustachianism (a guest post from Marla)


Camp Mustache Seattle, one of Chancellor Taner’s ongoing assignments.

Foreword from Mr. Money Mustache :

Marla is a long-time friend who I met on one the very first of the Ecuador Chautauqua trips. Since then, she has served as the Chancellor of Fun in the MMM organization, which is an informal and haphazard group of entirely volunteer planners who sometimes create interesting events.

Marla wrote this on March 18th, which makes her optimistic perspective from that moment in time even more appropriate today as we emerge from the chaos.

The Medicine of Mustachianism
By Marla Taner

I love face punches.  I love the shockingly simple math of early retirement.  I love that we all enjoy debating the merits of financial independence versus retiring early.  And I love that in the end, this blog is not really about money.  

And it’s not because my portfolio just lost more than 30% and it’s not because my friends and family are enjoying their moment of schadenfreude.  I wrote this blog post because when the rest of the world is going crazy all around you and you suddenly realize with clarity what the whole point of Mustachianism is, you want to share it with everyone you care about as soon as possible.

Yes, it’s true.  After nearly seven years of “retirement”, and watching When Harry Met Sally* for the 1000th time while self-isolating, it took the Corona Virus to inspire my first blog post.

First, a dose of confession.  I don’t always follow MMM’s advice.  In particular, I love politics and I watch way too much of the 24 hour news cycle on TV.  I justify it with all the usual excuses: it’s important, I want to be informed, this is an incredible time in history.  But, as with much of MMM’s sage advice, while I’m doing what he recommends against, his voice is in my head (or his virtual fist is in my face) reminding me why this is a bad idea.  I am still a work in progress.

Since the news cycle shifted from those ubiquitous tweets from you-know-who to worldwide calamity, it has become abundantly clear that I need to turn off the news.   My palms are sweating, my pulse is racing, it’s hard to sleep. You just might feel this way too. Here’s some medicine for that:

The Low Information Diet

Second, take a a dose from the optimism gun by reading The Practical Benefits of Outrageous Optimism.

Finally, learn what to do (and not to do) in times like these by figuring out How Big Is Your Circle of Control.

We are the lucky ones.  What I earned during my career was far greater than the average world income of $5000 per annum.  By being frugal and running against the herd, I saved more than 50% of my income over a 15 year career. 

My expenses are low. I can make my expenses lower if I really need to. I have the luxury of staying home and gathering my loved ones close during these difficult times.  And even though my net worth is suddenly, shockingly lower; I have time on my side. Let’s remind ourselves of the stock market chart throughout history.  

Inflation adjusted S&P500 price, (not even including dividends!) Image source

Yes, I realize that being lucky does not insulate us against hardship.  We are not immune to sickness or loss, disability or discrimination, tragedy can still strike.  But, let’s be grateful for what we have, and remind ourselves of our resilience. After all, even if the worst happens, we’ll still be okay.  In fact, my favorite post was this one that inspired me to pull the trigger on FIRE in 2013:

If I Woke Up Broke

Finally, a dose of what’s really important.  Yes, the whole point of Mustachianism. MMM retired at just 30 years old because he wanted to be the best Dad he could be.  He didn’t “retire” to write this blog, start a movement and change the world. He realized his needs and his wants were small.  Being a great Dad didn’t mean constantly travelling the world, or competing for the best private schools or private equestrian leagues.  It was taking his son on adventures in the neighborhood, teaching him to ride a bike, building forts, playing games, giving him the gift of his time. 

And, when you ask MMM now what he’s figured out about happiness, he tells us that to have a great life, you just need to put together a string of enough great days. While everyone’s great day is different, Pete’s includes time outside, exercise, time with family, socializing with friends and some hard work. 

And so, as we all face this global pandemic together, let’s think about what makes our own great day.  Chances are, it doesn’t cost much. The ones you want to spend it with might be locked inside with you right now.  The great outdoors still beckons with singing birds and the first signs of spring. There are great meals to cook, books to read, movies to watch, and chores to catch up on.  Our homes have never been this clean. And if we can’t meet up with friends in person, let’s call, text or video chat with each other.  

On a final note, let’s thank our amazing health care professionals on the front lines, those that are making sure our shelves are stocked with necessary food and supplies and all the “caremongerers”.  

Mustachianism really is the best medicine.**

*thanks Nora Ephron.

**with all due respect to laughter.

My thanks to Mr. Money Mustache for providing his favorite stalker with this platform to share my thoughts.  Marla Taner met MMM in Ecuador at the first Chautauqua and has continued to stalk him at Mustachian and FIRE events ever since.  You may or may not be able to find her on Facebook.

MMM here again: I am going to try to invite Marla back here to respond to any questions here in the comments. What would you like to ask a 40-something Canadian early retiree who has been at it for so many years, and lives a totally different lifestyle than me? No kids, travels the world freely, not a hardcore bicycle nazi like I am?


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