Author Topic: should some of MMMs business expenses be counted in his yearly spending report?  (Read 55509 times)

daverobev

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I guess I don't really care.

I mean, I understand, if you consider his trips part of his lifestyle (of the rich and famous) that doesn't show up on the year end report.

But...it's not really part of his lifestyle.  I don't see where he makes a big point to go to exotic locations all of the time.  I don't see that it's a big part of his life, enjoyment, etc.  His life, IMO, would be just as enjoyable and fulfilling without these trips.  They are incidental to the business.

Then again, I'm not too terribly big into traveling right now.

So if I posted my annual budget on my blog, would I be considered "hiding information" if I left off the fact that I get free coffee at work?  Or if I left off the fact that my husband travels to places like Boston and DC for business and gets paid per diem?  Or if I left off the fact that we have "status" due to his travel and get free bags?

Now, I won't be posting - mostly because our computer crashed and we had to reboot it at an older date and lost all of our up to date financials.  And because I'm lazy.

Well first of all I'd ask if you or your husband were the ones making the decision to send yourself on a trip or provide free coffee at the office, like a self-employed person or the owner of a business does.

The second question I'd ask is whether for example you would buy your own coffee or go on these trips anyway if your business wasn't paying for them.

I don't know how his per Diem works, but if they give him a flat amount and that amount is more than he spends while on these trips, I think I'd at least count the difference.

Another factor I'd ask is whether the expense was necessary, and whether there was a cheaper way to do it. If you are doing a continuing education thing, and you could do it online at home for very cheap, but you choose to take off work for a week and do it at a resort or convention center that you have to fly to and stay at a hotel for. If you need a car for your work, did you decide to buy a cheap used car, or did you get a range rover to drive yourself around in? did you fly in coach or business/first? did you bring your spouse and kids along with you on the trip? did you need to rent the car ?


The good news is that Mrs. MM has responded to this thread (Reply #38); she did say "I do think this is a valid question" and she said "everything business related that we would have spent anyway was included in the expenses report", including most of the examples mentioned in this thread. Feel free to read the details in her response.

(By the way, Thank you Mrs. MM)

No offence intended Clearview, but in case you haven't realised it, you have a really abrasive tone. It 'sounds like' you're judging, when you may well just be enquiring. I think that is the reason for the 'hostility' you are receiving.

A comment regarding business spending - especially if you are working for someone else - is that the employee's time is more important than the price of things. If I was to send myself on business, for example, I would drop my frugality if it made sense to. There IS a good time to eat at restaurants, and that time is when you got up at 6am to go to meetings, had a 15 minute lunch break, finished at 6pm or whatever and just need to eat before.. going back to the hotel and continuing to work.

No, forget that - it doesn't matter if you're employed or self employed, you'll be doing some work for someone else (the person paying, ultimately, for the trip). If you get a per diem and save some of it - good for you. If you're self employed and really tight on time - get fast food, and get back to doing what you need to do so you can a) put in your invoice and b) go back home, relax, and resume frugality.

Here's the take home: Time is more valuable than money, full stop. Any 80 year old millionaire will tell you that ;) Frugality allows you to 'buy time' if you like. But when on a business trip, saving $50 by stocking up your minibar and cooking in your suite is... non-optimal.

mm1970

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Well first of all I'd ask if you or your husband were the ones making the decision to send yourself on a trip or provide free coffee at the office, like a self-employed person or the owner of a business does.

The second question I'd ask is whether for example you would buy your own coffee or go on these trips anyway if your business wasn't paying for them.

I don't know how his per Diem works, but if they give him a flat amount and that amount is more than he spends while on these trips, I think I'd at least count the difference.

Another factor I'd ask is whether the expense was necessary, and whether there was a cheaper way to do it. If you are doing a continuing education thing, and you could do it online at home for very cheap, but you choose to take off work for a week and do it at a resort or convention center that you have to fly to and stay at a hotel for. If you need a car for your work, did you decide to buy a cheap used car, or did you get a range rover to drive yourself around in? did you fly in coach or business/first? did you bring your spouse and kids along with you on the trip? did you need to rent the car ?


The good news is that Mrs. MM has responded to this thread (Reply #38); she did say "I do think this is a valid question" and she said "everything business related that we would have spent anyway was included in the expenses report", including most of the examples mentioned in this thread. Feel free to read the details in her response.

(By the way, Thank you Mrs. MM)
Do we choose the trips?  No.  If we owned a business, or I started to think of blogging as a business, would we?  Maybe.  Depends on the usefulness of the conference.  And never underestimate the value of networking.

My husband always prefers phone conferences because, well, neither one of us is happy about business trips that leave me home alone with the kids for a week.  The one exception was about 4 years ago (when we only had one child) - when he was scheduled for back to back trips to DC where he'd be home late Friday night and leave again Sunday morning.  That one time we opted for him to stay in DC for the week and a half, and we used miles to fly my son and I out for the weekend.  The cost was $150 (to transfer his miles to us).  We stayed with friends.

And yes, he gets a flat per diem rate - rarely spends all of it.

Hmm...I guess I'd be buying coffee anyway (making it at home though), but I probably spend more on the gas to get to work than the coffee is worth. 

lithy

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The only thing from that post that I became curious about was the shared internet connection.

It obviously cost something to set that up, but it was done as a blog project.  So, were those initial costs counted in business or personal expenses?  Because the long term benefit of lowered internet cost helps the personal line.

Of course, this is nit-picky, and I'm more curious than upset or anything (well I am mad, because I have no nearby friends to share internet with).  But accounting for the portion that is personal vs. business gets to be an overly complicated and dumb distinction over a couple hundred bucks.

I get free shirts, free meals, free beer, etc., etc. through work.  I don't factor this in as income or implied expenses in my year-end accounting.

cats

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I guess I don't really see the business expense aspect as a big deal.  From reading these boards, I get the impression that most people's budgetary black holes *aren't* things like expensive travel or charitable donations.  They're more mundane/everyday expenses like gas, car repairs, car payments, overly expensive phone plans, eating/drinking out on a regular basis, movies or other entertainment, etc.  To me, the MMM budget post is mostly just an illustration that "hey, your everyday life can actually be pretty sweet WITHOUT most of those expenses", and there is value in that whether or not the business expenses are broken down (unless they're buying daily Starbucks lattes as a "business" expense, then I'll be mad!).

Also, I really don't get the complaints some people make that MMM's retirement is only possible because he owns his own house.  Well...sure, but isn't that (hopefully) the case for many retirees??? 

sol

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To me, the MMM budget post is mostly just an illustration that "hey, your everyday life can actually be pretty sweet WITHOUT most of those expenses"

Right, I totally agree, and that's exactly why I thought that this accounting post undermined that very message. 

It's as if he said "look at how sweet my life is on only $25k/year!  My whole family went to Hawaii!  And Equador!  And we got new cell phones and upgraded our wifi!  And bought a new house and are remodeling it to be super sweet!"

Those things cost money, and they are the reasons why his life seems awesome to outsiders.  The message of "spend less and still be happy" is a hard sell when you're instead spending a TON of money.  Doing it through a business is just a technicality.

What would the MMM family do if not for international travel and luxury remodels and crossfit?  Those things add value to their lives, and telling people to be happy sitting at home twiddling their thumbs for $25k a year, while technically good advice for most people, isn't in tune with the vibe of the blog, which is very much about spending money to live it up.

I don't mean to be a huge downer.  I personally have no problem with anyone spending whatever amount they choose, normally not any of my business.  But there's a nagging odor of hypocrisy that results from this particular presentation of the facts.

I know, I know, "do as I say and not as I do" is a cliche for good reasons, and in this day and age we don't really expect our celebrities to live up to a moral standard.   But if MMM really wanted to write a blog showing how to be truly happy while only spending $25k/year for a family of three, the preferred way to do it would be to actually live on $25k/year.  Not just show that he could have, if he hadn't instead decided to spend twice as much.

Or, you know, do your own thing and don't listen to the cranky man on the internet.  That's cool too.

Insanity

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To me, the MMM budget post is mostly just an illustration that "hey, your everyday life can actually be pretty sweet WITHOUT most of those expenses"

Right, I totally agree, and that's exactly why I thought that this accounting post undermined that very message. 

It's as if he said "look at how sweet my life is on only $25k/year!  My whole family went to Hawaii!  And Equador!  And we got new cell phones and upgraded our wifi!  And bought a new house and are remodeling it to be super sweet!"

Those things cost money, and they are the reasons why his life seems awesome to outsiders.  The message of "spend less and still be happy" is a hard sell when you're instead spending a TON of money.  Doing it through a business is just a technicality.

What would the MMM family do if not for international travel and luxury remodels and crossfit?  Those things add value to their lives, and telling people to be happy sitting at home twiddling their thumbs for $25k a year, while technically good advice for most people, isn't in tune with the vibe of the blog, which is very much about spending money to live it up.

I don't mean to be a huge downer.  I personally have no problem with anyone spending whatever amount they choose, normally not any of my business.  But there's a nagging odor of hypocrisy that results from this particular presentation of the facts.

I know, I know, "do as I say and not as I do" is a cliche for good reasons, and in this day and age we don't really expect our celebrities to live up to a moral standard.   But if MMM really wanted to write a blog showing how to be truly happy while only spending $25k/year for a family of three, the preferred way to do it would be to actually live on $25k/year.  Not just show that he could have, if he hadn't instead decided to spend twice as much.

Or, you know, do your own thing and don't listen to the cranky man on the internet.  That's cool too.

If you take a look at it at face value, you are right. But the blog, his remodeling business, and other things are things that he wants to do -- which is no different than what people do in their retirement.  He's using his business, his contacts, and his education and desire to optimize to be smart with his money.  That's how people can get from the other 98% to the top 1%.  Save. Becoming FI.  Invest, even if it is safely.  And be on your own business so that you can write off a bunch of expenses.  His position didn't happen over night.  It took a lot of time, and a lot of hard work.  He's also learned a great deal about a lot of different areas. 

I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

steveo

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Insanity

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Because there two different accounts.  It is that simple to me.  There's the MMM personal budget and the MMM business budget.  They are distinct and different.  From what I gather, the income reported isn't total revenue generated by MMM's business ventures. 

If I get converted to a full time employee at the one contract I am on, I'll have a paid trip to Vegas ever year.  I can take my wife and the only thing I'll pay for is her airline ticket and her meals (and any gambling and side things we do).   We'd be out there for five days.  I wouldn't record what my company spent on my airline ticket, the hotel room, and my food in my personal budget.  but I can still say I went to Vegas!

arebelspy

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Because there two different accounts.  It is that simple to me.  There's the MMM personal budget and the MMM business budget.  They are distinct and different.  From what I gather, the income reported isn't total revenue generated by MMM's business ventures. 

If I get converted to a full time employee at the one contract I am on, I'll have a paid trip to Vegas ever year.  I can take my wife and the only thing I'll pay for is her airline ticket and her meals (and any gambling and side things we do).   We'd be out there for five days.  I wouldn't record what my company spent on my airline ticket, the hotel room, and my food in my personal budget.  but I can still say I went to Vegas!

...which leads back to Sol's question: are you really retired then?

:)
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

Insanity

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Because there two different accounts.  It is that simple to me.  There's the MMM personal budget and the MMM business budget.  They are distinct and different.  From what I gather, the income reported isn't total revenue generated by MMM's business ventures. 

If I get converted to a full time employee at the one contract I am on, I'll have a paid trip to Vegas ever year.  I can take my wife and the only thing I'll pay for is her airline ticket and her meals (and any gambling and side things we do).   We'd be out there for five days.  I wouldn't record what my company spent on my airline ticket, the hotel room, and my food in my personal budget.  but I can still say I went to Vegas!

...which leads back to Sol's question: are you really retired then?

:)

Then you are just playing semantics.  If your definition of "retirement" is not working, than there are people on "disability" who aren't working but are collecting money -- are they retired?

I think that's a semantically discussion.  The true thing is it is personal.  Some people want to continue to do things that they enjoy and if they can make more wealth, why not?

Cromacster

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Because there two different accounts.  It is that simple to me.  There's the MMM personal budget and the MMM business budget.  They are distinct and different.  From what I gather, the income reported isn't total revenue generated by MMM's business ventures. 

If I get converted to a full time employee at the one contract I am on, I'll have a paid trip to Vegas ever year.  I can take my wife and the only thing I'll pay for is her airline ticket and her meals (and any gambling and side things we do).   We'd be out there for five days.  I wouldn't record what my company spent on my airline ticket, the hotel room, and my food in my personal budget.  but I can still say I went to Vegas!

...which leads back to Sol's question: are you really retired then?

:)

Always one to stir the pot, aren't we?


It all basically boils down to....
No, he doesn't include travel for work (or other business expenses) as personal spending.
No, he doesn't include any investments that he made or savings he had....which is what he is filing his housing venture under.
Yes, he still "works", but he doesn't have to.

I get free coffee at work! jealous?

Poorman

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I don't have a problem with it the trips - as they are part of the business that is MMM.  He was able to achieve that business by becoming FIRE and optimizing and setting it up.

I don't get this. Its like saying I only spent 10k when I have a business and I write off 80k worth of living expenses or stating because I want to drive a race car or have a boat its okay to spend that money. I mean of course it is but not if you tell everyone you only spent 25k. Its like people going to sales and spending $200 but stating they saved $50.

Because there two different accounts.  It is that simple to me.  There's the MMM personal budget and the MMM business budget.  They are distinct and different.  From what I gather, the income reported isn't total revenue generated by MMM's business ventures. 

If I get converted to a full time employee at the one contract I am on, I'll have a paid trip to Vegas ever year.  I can take my wife and the only thing I'll pay for is her airline ticket and her meals (and any gambling and side things we do).   We'd be out there for five days.  I wouldn't record what my company spent on my airline ticket, the hotel room, and my food in my personal budget.  but I can still say I went to Vegas!

...which leads back to Sol's question: are you really retired then?

:)

I agree that he's not retired, but many people say "early retirement" when what they really mean is "financial independence".  The latter term just doesn't have the same allure to the general public, so blogging about early retirement is what draws people in.  If somebody achieved FI at an early age, and chooses to do nothing productive, then yes they are early retired, but they may not be living a very fulfilled life.  The reason I like this blog more than ERE is that it deals with the mindset and quality of life at every stage.  I think human beings, in general, are more happy when they are being productive, so having a post-retirement gig shouldn't be frowned upon.  Many people consider retirement to be freedom from the corporate world to pursue dreams, which is really FI not early retirement.

ace1224

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my only "beef" with the budgeting had been that it wasn't really 25k a year because they didn't have a mortgage to pay, and for normal people you would have to add (in my case) 12k a year to have the same outcome.  but then i realized the whole point of MMM is to not be "normal" with your money like everyone else and even then 37k a year for that badass of a life still shabby at all.  it makes me wonder how people claim they can't get by on 100k a year.

gecko10x

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I'll just add a quick thought, since Mrs. MMM may be following:

MMM could probably write a good post (or three) about how you GET to the point of being able to "spend" $25k, when you're really spending twice that (or whatever), by having/using a business, networking, having extra time, etc.

I know many (most?) posts sort of hint at this, but judging by this thread, it may be too subtle. Instead of arguing about whether certain expenses should "count," we should be talking about how the average Joe can get those same type of perks out of his own life.

Eric

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I agree that he's not retired, but many people say "early retirement" when what they really mean is "financial independence".  The latter term just doesn't have the same allure to the general public, so blogging about early retirement is what draws people in.  If somebody achieved FI at an early age, and chooses to do nothing productive, then yes they are early retired, but they may not be living a very fulfilled life.  The reason I like this blog more than ERE is that it deals with the mindset and quality of life at every stage.  I think human beings, in general, are more happy when they are being productive, so having a post-retirement gig shouldn't be frowned upon.  Many people consider retirement to be freedom from the corporate world to pursue dreams, which is really FI not early retirement.

Of course he's retired.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/13/mr-money-mustache-vs-the-internet-retirement-police/

mpbaker22

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Skipped most the responses ... I can agree with the sentiment of the OP.  I wouldn't include charity though.  If for no other reason than I don't include it in my savings rate calculations.  I do (pre-tax percent saved) + (post-tax savings as a percentage of (post-tax income minus charitable donations)).

To the guy above me ... love it.

Poorman

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I agree that he's not retired, but many people say "early retirement" when what they really mean is "financial independence".  The latter term just doesn't have the same allure to the general public, so blogging about early retirement is what draws people in.  If somebody achieved FI at an early age, and chooses to do nothing productive, then yes they are early retired, but they may not be living a very fulfilled life.  The reason I like this blog more than ERE is that it deals with the mindset and quality of life at every stage.  I think human beings, in general, are more happy when they are being productive, so having a post-retirement gig shouldn't be frowned upon.  Many people consider retirement to be freedom from the corporate world to pursue dreams, which is really FI not early retirement.

Of course he's retired.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/13/mr-money-mustache-vs-the-internet-retirement-police/

That is one of his great blog posts.  I still prefer the term FI because many successful and wealthy people continue to work hard for decades after they've gotten to the point they no longer need to.  I don't think the term "retirement" encapsulates what they do very well.  I'm not part of the internet police and have no desire to detract from MMM's accomplishments.  I think his post was directed more at people that are naysayers trying to disprove that early retirement is even achievable.  I'm definitely not one of those people.

Insanity

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3.  Most extreme:  Move into a cardboard box by the river

There is a step up from this….
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nhgfjrKi0o

ace1224

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my only "beef" with the budgeting had been that it wasn't really 25k a year because they didn't have a mortgage to pay, and for normal people you would have to add (in my case) 12k a year to have the same outcome.  but then i realized the whole point of MMM is to not be "normal" with your money like everyone else and even then 37k a year for that badass of a life still shabby at all.  it makes me wonder how people claim they can't get by on 100k a year.

Where's the emoticon for "looking for the closest wall so I can bash my head against it"?

Dude, what part of MMM's message do you not get?  They paid off their f*ing mortgage!  They are not "normal people" and they don't want to encourage anybody to be "normal people."  It is about being badass and bringing your expenses down by making choices that "normal people" think are a bit nuts, all the while living a completely awesome life. 

In their case, they were able to do that partly because they had two very decent incomes for 10 years or so that they saved most of.  And their blog about that experience and everything that came after is so compelling it draws many people here who want to engineer their lives in a similar way.  It isn't about coming here to whine about how impossible it all is, or how they are tricking us by not including optional business expenses in their annual personal spending totals.  It is about coming here to say, "hmmm, MMM and his wife have a paid for house and are therefore able to keep their living expenses at around 25k/year for a family of three, all while living a very nice, relatively low impact life.  HOW CAN I GET ME SOME OF THAT THERE LIFESTYLE?" 

A challenge for you -- how closely have you really looked at the $1000/month housing expense you have, and what could you do to bring it down.  Options for optimizing range from the relatively modest adjustment to the extreme, for example:

1.  Modest adjustment:  Refinance your mortgage or move to a slightly smaller/cheaper house
2.  More extreme:  Take in a roommate, or 2 or 3
3.  Most extreme:  Move into a cardboard box by the river

Now, there are pluses and minuses to all of these approaches, and the choice is up to you.  But the point is you have choices.  And they are your choices.  And you are responsible for the outcome.

If you don't want to push yourself, fine.  Just accept the fact that you are not going to achieve the level of financial and lifestyle awesomeness that MMM has attained.  Convince yourself that instead of a 25k budget they really have a secret mortgage on a McMansion in the burbs that they aren't telling us about, complete with a hot tub and a grow op and an electricity bill to match.  See if that makes you feel better.
dude, calm down. maybe you didn't understand what i wrote, or maybe i wrote it poorly.  i had the word beef in quotes followed by "had been" as in past tense, not present, and then i talk about how i realized the whole point of MMM was to not be normal like everyone else.  i wasn't whining, i was saying that even if they did have my housing expense its still pretty bad ass.   they do way more shit than i do only spending 25k.
and i am not complaining about my housing expense, i'm totally ok with what i pay.  and eventually i'll pay it off early and then my spending will go down by 12k a year.  i never said anything about the mustache family having secret bills or hot tubs or whatever, nor do i think anyone is trying to get anything over on us. 
and i still stand by what i said saying i do not understand how people can't make it on $$$ a year. 

Mrs MM

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This is all very interesting.

We've always lived on about $25k, if you didn't include the mortgage (even before the blog). Our lifestyle has not inflated at all, which is the whole point.

The amount spent on Ecuador according to Mint was $0, as all of it was paid for by the retreat organizers. If you had to allocate a dollar value to it, it would probably be the cost of the retreat that others paid, plus the plane ticket, which was about $900. MMM is the only one that went (he had to be talked into it, by the way, so it's not something he would have normally done). We don't normally separate our family for 10 days like that. It was a lot of work for him. He had to prepare a speech and had countless one on one sessions that took up most of his days. Yes, he had a lot of fun, but it was business through and through. It was less fun for my son and I, as we were without a dad for 10 days.

At the end of the expense article, MMM writes: "*Note: I did not include any costs related to rebuilding our new house in this total, which so far have added to about $25,000 including things like engineering, permit fees, steel, lumber, electrical and plumbing parts, kitchen cabinets, and all new windows and doors. This is because the end result will be selling our current house and ending up with $100k to spare from the transaction. It’s more of an investment than a spending spree, although it sure feels otherwise when all these cardboard boxes keep arriving on the job site."

So, he does disclose that we spent $25,000 on the house so far, thereby effectively doubling our spending, yes. Would we have done this without the blog? The answer is likely Yes. We have a line of credit that we are using to fund that purchase. But, we also plan to sell this house, thereby being $100k further ahead. There's nothing to hide here, it is all included in the article.

The only other travel spending (besides Ecuador) is the trip to St. Louis. Again, MMM would never have gone there except for the financial blogger conference. Again, we lost him for 4 days. That trip probably cost about $500.

Hawaii was last year, but as I mentioned, the cost of MMMs plane ticket was the only thing expensed, so it wasn't very much ($700).

I have yet to put together all our blog expenses for the year, but the amount is pretty minimal. It seems that many are imagining this huge amount for blog expenses that is allowing us to inflate our lifestyle beyond the $25k listed in our expenses. That is in fact false. I can honestly say that none of these expenses would have been incurred without the blog.

Our Mint account doesn't even include our business expenses as those are all on separate credit cards and bank accounts.

Anyway, it seems like different folks see things differently. We always do what we feel is right and in the most honest way possible to help our readers as much as possible. There is no hiding of information or trying to trick readers. Remember, this is our private life we are talking about and I personally already feel uncomfortable with how much MMM shares with everyone. He chooses to be open and honest about everything, which I think is what people like. So as a reader, I would be happy that he chooses to trust everyone and share so much of his life and his finances.

Mrs MM

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I'll just add a quick thought, since Mrs. MMM may be following:

MMM could probably write a good post (or three) about how you GET to the point of being able to "spend" $25k, when you're really spending twice that (or whatever), by having/using a business, networking, having extra time, etc.

I know many (most?) posts sort of hint at this, but judging by this thread, it may be too subtle. Instead of arguing about whether certain expenses should "count," we should be talking about how the average Joe can get those same type of perks out of his own life.

There are no perks. The spending is $25k. As I mentioned, we have spent about $25k (not including mortgage) since about the year 2000 when we both started working in the US and living together. I've always tracked our annual spending and it was almost always the same, even when we didn't have a business.

There's no secret to reduced spending. We actually spend a lot more than we could/should. You guys know that.

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Okay, for those interested, blog related expenses in 2012 were $2294. That includes flights, conference fees and hotels, hosting fees, etc.

So, it's not really all that much.

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This is all very interesting.

You made some good points here and I appreciate your willingness to engage with this group.

I think the blog's message is a good one.  My family of five also lives on about $25k/year in non-housing expenses, and we also feel like it is pretty luxurious.  It's totally possible, and a worthwhile message to be spreading.  Especially to people who struggle to make ends meet on twice that.

But the blog wouldn't be as interesting to read if every post was some variation of "well, I stayed home with the family every night this month, again.  I sure do love them, why would I ever want to spend money to go do anything else?"

So instead the blog features other interesting projects, like house remodeling and international travel.  While there is a clear effort to show how even these expenses can be minimized, the recent trend has still been away from the old philosophy of frugality and towards the more typical blog showroll of "look at all this cool stuff we're doing" which is only a short step away from the stereotypical consumerist message of "if you could afford to do this stuff, you'd be happy too!"

I don't think think you're being dishonest, though I gathered from this thread that other people here might lean that way.  It's all clearly laid out, but that sort of exposure invites criticism and in this case my contribution to that criticism is that some people reading the blog might be either dissuaded or incredulous that this family does all this great stuff and still claims to only spend $25k/year.  When in fact that number supports a lifestyle that doesn't normally include things like overseas trips and buying extra houses.

Mrs MM

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You made some good points here and I appreciate your willingness to engage with this group.

I think the blog's message is a good one.  My family of five also lives on about $25k/year in non-housing expenses, and we also feel like it is pretty luxurious.  It's totally possible, and a worthwhile message to be spreading.  Especially to people who struggle to make ends meet on twice that.

But the blog wouldn't be as interesting to read if every post was some variation of "well, I stayed home with the family every night this month, again.  I sure do love them, why would I ever want to spend money to go do anything else?"

So instead the blog features other interesting projects, like house remodeling and international travel.  While there is a clear effort to show how even these expenses can be minimized, the recent trend has still been away from the old philosophy of frugality and towards the more typical blog showroll of "look at all this cool stuff we're doing" which is only a short step away from the stereotypical consumerist message of "if you could afford to do this stuff, you'd be happy too!"

I don't think think you're being dishonest, though I gathered from this thread that other people here might lean that way.  It's all clearly laid out, but that sort of exposure invites criticism and in this case my contribution to that criticism is that some people reading the blog might be either dissuaded or incredulous that this family does all this great stuff and still claims to only spend $25k/year.  When in fact that number supports a lifestyle that doesn't normally include things like overseas trips and buying extra houses.

That is an interesting view, Sol. But, we've always done this type of stuff. We've always traveled a lot and the travel portion of our budget has usually been pretty large compared to others. We take a lot of road trips and camp though, which keeps costs down, as I'm sure you and your family do as well. Since we've had our son, we've always taken extended trips to Canada, as being with our family is very important to us. Not needing to work allows us to travel a lot.

The trip to Hawaii might have happened without the blog, as we might have contacted several home owners through VRBO or Airbnb. We've done similar things in the past, although not to this large an extent. In fact, this was our 3rd time to Hawaii. We travel a lot less now that we have our son, as we focus more on things that he would find enjoyable.

House remodeling would have always happened too. MMM loves it and I can't imagine a situation where we would stop buying houses and fixing them up. Before the blog, we owned up to 5 houses at one time and were constantly moving around and fixing things up. It's how things have always been.

The one area we are spending a lot more in, since the inception of the blog, is food. We are paying more to support local and organic food. Plus, we eat more meat due to my gluten intolerance (we used to never buy meat). This is probably the biggest increase in our spending and where we've really let loose.

I think the focus is changing, not due to a change in the old philosophy of frugality (as that is always the undercurrent, I think), but to a broader perspective and to cover what is currently of interest to us and what we're doing. It may seem like "look at all this cool stuff we're doing" to an outside perspective, but mostly it is normal to us. MMM might play it up a bit to show that frugality doesn't have to mean deprivation. For us, having a nice house is a luxury that we spend money on. Travel is another one. Yet, the spending is still reasonable.

Sure, the newspaper stuff and the opportunities have changed a little, but I don't think it has affected us very much. MMM turns down opportunities all the time. Very rarely does he decide to do something, as he will only do it if it lines up with his values. He's the same guy he's always been. He's excited about all the new stuff that is going on, but his message is still the same. It's just that it can reach a wider audience now.

oldtoyota

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Counted for what?  Who the hell's counting, and why do they care so earnestly about MMM's spending?  He tosses up a blog post with some interesting information, neat.  Nitpicking apart what you want to "count" and not gains you...?

I'm all for questioning things.  But harping on them, not so much.

I mostly agree with this sentiment personally, however, MMM put up a public blog, posts his annual spending for all to see and comment on, and then hosts a forum with a section called "continuing the blog conversation".  So, it would seem that in a way he is welcoming the nitpicking, questioning, etc.. Call it complainy-pants, call it questioning his assumptions, whatever. If folks want to do it, knock yourself out.  Personally,  i don't really get how its important but then again, I also don't get why folks are insisting on calling out people who want to talk about it.

+2

steveo

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my only "beef" with the budgeting had been that it wasn't really 25k a year because they didn't have a mortgage to pay, and for normal people you would have to add (in my case) 12k a year to have the same outcome.  but then i realized the whole point of MMM is to not be "normal" with your money like everyone else and even then 37k a year for that badass of a life still shabby at all.  it makes me wonder how people claim they can't get by on 100k a year.

I have no issues with this at all. Paying off the mortgage to me has the benefit of living a lot cheaper for life.

We've always lived on about $25k, if you didn't include the mortgage (even before the blog). Our lifestyle has not inflated at all, which is the whole point.

I get this 100%. I'm paying off a mortgage and I don't even consider the payments including interest as part of my living expenses because these costs will dissappear within a couple of years.

The amount spent on Ecuador according to Mint was $0, as all of it was paid for by the retreat organizers. If you had to allocate a dollar value to it, it would probably be the cost of the retreat that others paid, plus the plane ticket, which was about $900. MMM is the only one that went (he had to be talked into it, by the way, so it's not something he would have normally done). We don't normally separate our family for 10 days like that. It was a lot of work for him. He had to prepare a speech and had countless one on one sessions that took up most of his days. Yes, he had a lot of fun, but it was business through and through. It was less fun for my son and I, as we were without a dad for 10 days.

I also can understand not including this as an expense but I think a note should be added to the spending.

So, he does disclose that we spent $25,000 on the house so far, thereby effectively doubling our spending, yes. Would we have done this without the blog? The answer is likely Yes. We have a line of credit that we are using to fund that purchase. But, we also plan to sell this house, thereby being $100k further ahead. There's nothing to hide here, it is all included in the article.

I think that this should have been included more clearly but I didn't notice (my fault) the note. Your expenses were 50k but you expect that to save money in the longer term.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 03:25:44 PM by steveo »

lithy

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Those of you that have a mortgage should really be counting the repaid principal as savings, an investment with a return equal to your APR.  That money isn't disappearing, it is going into the equity of the house.  So your 'housing expense each year might be only a few thousand dollars rather than 10k+.


Your only expenses for the mortgage each year is the property taxes and interest paid.

...and the maintenance
...and the repairs
...and the health issues derived from the former

Insanity

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Those of you that have a mortgage should really be counting the repaid principal as savings, an investment with a return equal to your APR.  That money isn't disappearing, it is going into the equity of the house.  So your 'housing expense each year might be only a few thousand dollars rather than 10k+.


Your only expenses for the mortgage each year is the property taxes and interest paid.

...and the maintenance
...and the repairs
...and the health issues derived from the former

There's two ways to look at it.  Your expenses might be less, but you could have made enough in investments to cover the differential. 

Personally, I am not rushing to pay it off, but I am putting a little extra toward it every month.  Even if I pay it off a year or two early, it will make FI that much easier to achieve.

foobar

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The counter arguement is that if he wasn't taking those business trips, maybe he would have more of a hankering to go on one. 

 You mention you get free coffee and should that count? What if your work place is buying your breakfast, lunch and dinner 5 days a week? To some extent it depends on what your measuring. You want to know how much money you need to live on? Add that stuff up. Heck you should also count depreciation of things like cars while your at it.  You want to know how much you spent? Ignore it.

I guess I don't really care.

I mean, I understand, if you consider his trips part of his lifestyle (of the rich and famous) that doesn't show up on the year end report.

But...it's not really part of his lifestyle.  I don't see where he makes a big point to go to exotic locations all of the time.  I don't see that it's a big part of his life, enjoyment, etc.  His life, IMO, would be just as enjoyable and fulfilling without these trips.  They are incidental to the business.

Then again, I'm not too terribly big into traveling right now.

So if I posted my annual budget on my blog, would I be considered "hiding information" if I left off the fact that I get free coffee at work?  Or if I left off the fact that my husband travels to places like Boston and DC for business and gets paid per diem?  Or if I left off the fact that we have "status" due to his travel and get free bags?

Now, I won't be posting - mostly because our computer crashed and we had to reboot it at an older date and lost all of our up to date financials.  And because I'm lazy.

jsloan

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Doesn't this really just boil down to a marketing ploy?  I mean what is more interesting headline: "Retire at 30" or "Quit your job to become a small business owner with substantial savings".  If you are still being paid for conferences or have the ability to write off expenses then you are a small business owner regardless of how much enjoyment you get from the activity. The IRS doesn't have a 1099 checkbox for "happiness".

When you start to figure out the details of this MMM's life you realize that his overall message is sound, but the marketing aspects of the site tend to conflict with the nuts and bolts of retirement. 

     

arebelspy

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lol.

It is amusing how some people can read the message and just not get it.

(Because they're worried about a little spending that is related to the blog, or because they want to count this, or that, or whatever.)

If you can understand the message of MMM, awesome.  If you get stuck on a tiny thing and dismiss the message due to that tiny thing (or dismiss it all as marketing), well.. Best of luck with your method.
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jsloan

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If you can understand the message of MMM, awesome.  If you get stuck on a tiny thing and dismiss the message due to that tiny thing (or dismiss it all as marketing), well.. Best of luck with your method.

I guess everyone asking questions in this thread is a "complainypants" or "doesn't get it".  No one is using a different method, we just see that the math is different when we plugin the same inputs as MMM.  They are asking the "how" questions, which I think is a great way to figure out your own path.   

I also think that new readers have different expectations of "retirement" than those of MMM which can be confusing when you refer to owning your own business as "retirement".  I think a better response to these individuals would be: save as much as you can, crunch your own FI numbers and perhaps focus on more flexible work options (real estate, part-time, etc) if you come up short.

RootofGood

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I'm late to the party, but I get how Mr and Mrs MM are portraying their expenses.  Sure, they might have lots of blog income to pay for expenses like trips and the blog itself opens up the door to freebies for Mr. MM (like the costs of the Ecuador trip). Are those business expenses, personal expenses, some hybrid?  Who cares! 

Whether the MM's spend $25k or $33k per year is largely immaterial.  I imagine Mr. MM started the blog because he was like "hey, I've got something to say and I'm gonna build my own soapbox to share my ideas".  It turned into this large profitable successful animal, and probably opened a few doors along the way.  Sweet!  Just like his other hobby, carpentry/handymanning, it happens to generate income. 

Maybe the take away should be "don't be afraid to make money from your hobbies in early retirement".  And if you do end up moderately successful at monetizing what you do for fun, don't be ashamed of it.  Enjoy it.  Use it for good.

Shor

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I also think that new readers have different expectations of "retirement" than those of MMM which can be confusing when you refer to owning your own business as "retirement".  I think a better response to these individuals would be: save as much as you can, crunch your own FI numbers and perhaps focus on more flexible work options (real estate, part-time, etc) if you come up short.

I think people are really stumbling because they are coming in to the blog with their own idea of what 'retirement' really means for them, and then try to apply that to MMM and now there's a conflict of understanding.

Heading in to this blog, most would consider retirement that point where you're not working any hours, and you are making enough money to meet or surpass expenses without worrying about re-entering the workforce barring substantial market changes.

Owning your own business, or even more specific owning a selection of rental properties, and only having to do work occasionally to keep them on track: is this still retirement? If you spend 90% of your time with your family and can still do that occasional side-gig for free spending money, is this enough to qualify for retirement? If the side-gig is needed to pay for bills, or pay for a necessary expense (buying a car, or and investment property) then this is probably still at the FI status.

The definition of FI was having the financial independence that you could do your job (or leave) without it really holding you back from exploring what you want to do.
Would ER then mean that your financial security is to the point where all expenses are free and clear of the work you do now? If you need to work a job to supplement that side-gig, you are probably sitll at FI. If you can pursue side-gig and pay all the bills and not even need the side-gig to succeed at all (full loss on all investments in to it) then you have reached the acclaimed RE.

Now, what if you have repeated side-gig failures such that the upcoming future becomes shaky? Have you just spent your way off of ER and are back in to a FI status where you will need to rely on a side-gig / job giving income at any point in your future to meet expenses?

Just tossing out ideas on what might really qualify as FI and RE. Some people think it means a state that once you hit, you never drop off of. This is unrealistic given that sometimes things go South, and sometimes events come up that are not within your plan..

jsloan

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Just tossing out ideas on what might really qualify as FI and RE. Some people think it means a state that once you hit, you never drop off of. This is unrealistic given that sometimes things go South, and sometimes events come up that are not within your plan..

This is my big issue with the blog/philosophy.  I think this blog severely underestimates black swan costs, particularly in health care of those 55+ (at least in the US).  Traditional retirement plans take medical expenses in old age very seriously, but here it seems to be an after thought.

The work around here is once you are FI you continue to "work" by investing in real estate or running other passive income schemes to hedge against something going south.  I think this is a great way to make your money work for you and allows you to hedge the ups and down of the stock market.  If real estate happens to be your passion, great, but if not I still think its a good idea to find something to generate income and keep you busy.  Best case scenario: you end up with more money than you need, worst case: you don't burden your family with additional medical costs after you can no longer work. 

arebelspy

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"Planning" for black swan events is silly, IMO.

There's no way I'm going to work an extra decade on the chance that something disastrous happens; something disastrous already did - I wasted ten years of my life on "what if" paranoia!

It is a very personal decision though, and to each his own.  If it makes you comfortable to have your belt and redundant suspenders, each with their own lock and key, go for it.
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Shor

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If it makes you comfortable to have your belt and redundant suspenders, each with their own lock and key, go for it.
Those sound very difficult to remove! Do they come with a catheter and built in bedpan? :)

arebelspy

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If it makes you comfortable to have your belt and redundant suspenders, each with their own lock and key, go for it.
Those sound very difficult to remove!

Well, yeah, but dammit is it secure!
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

jsloan

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"Planning" for black swan events is silly, IMO.

I guess I see real estate purchasing and maintenance as work with a lot of downtime.  Maybe we are getting our terms confused again.  I would not consider myself retired if I was still managing real estate or a portfolio.  I don't see why hedging my bets is bad thing if I can also have time to pursue other things at the same time?

Also, I am a bit more sensitive to medical expenses as I know it has caused some hardships for some of my family members who were also well prepared financially.     

arebelspy

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Maybe we are getting our terms confused again. 

Must be, because I didn't even understand this latest post, or how it relates to black swan events. ;)

Yes, real estate can be work. Or it can be mostly passive.  Same with managing a portfolio of stocks.  ...okay?  :)
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"Planning" for black swan events is silly, IMO.
I would not consider myself retired if I was still managing real estate or a portfolio.

I hear sirens in the distance (those annoying European ones as that).  Do your investments magically work out perfectly for your entire retirement?

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I would not consider myself retired if I was still managing real estate or a portfolio.

I guess you would then be paying someone?  or trusting a friend/family member? 

Hell I would call myself retired if I chose to work at 7-11 15hr/week because I liked the free coffee and talking to regulars.  Retirement seems more about doing what you want to do indefinitely with the freedom to do something else when you like.  For me retirement is not about becoming a connoisseur of The Big Wheel spinning strategy from The Price Is Right.

jsloan

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Must be, because I didn't even understand this latest post, or how it relates to black swan events. ;)

The nuts and bolts would be: choosing to retire with about 2 M in assets, some of those being real estate.  It seems to be that the number around here is 800K-1.2 M which seems low to me based on traditional retirement estimates even with frugal spending habits.  In my estimation this would be a good hedge against the ups and downs of life while still maintaining a good work/life balance.

Cromacster

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Must be, because I didn't even understand this latest post, or how it relates to black swan events. ;)

The nuts and bolts would be: choosing to retire with about 2 M in assets, some of those being real estate.  It seems to be that the number around here is 800K-1.2 M which seems low to me based on traditional retirement estimates even with frugal spending habits.  In my estimation this would be a good hedge against the ups and downs of life while still maintaining a good work/life balance.

You also seem to be assuming that once you retire any income you have stops.  If I "retire" at 40 yrs old, I'm not just sitting on my porch drinking sweet tea watching the clouds fly by for 50 years.  I'm going to want to do something and that something will most likely produce some income.  Hell, working at a local coffee shop (or 7-11) for a few hours a week doesn't sound half bad.  The appeal is if I ever come to a point when I'm tired of it, I quit.  That won't likely be what I do, but who knows.

And I feel you are confusing retirement with financial Independance.  That 800k-1.2m mark is the standard for financial independence.  Or whatever number where your investment returns meet your spending level.  It means freedom.

arebelspy

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Must be, because I didn't even understand this latest post, or how it relates to black swan events. ;)

The nuts and bolts would be: choosing to retire with about 2 M in assets, some of those being real estate.  It seems to be that the number around here is 800K-1.2 M which seems low to me based on traditional retirement estimates even with frugal spending habits.  In my estimation this would be a good hedge against the ups and downs of life while still maintaining a good work/life balance.

How did you arrive at that number?

Why 2MM and not 3? Or 10?

What SWR is safe?  4%? 3? 1? Only a zero percent SWR?  Must it be negative, perhaps?

How safe is safe enough?
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

RootofGood

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It seems to be that the number around here is 800K-1.2 M which seems low to me based on traditional retirement estimates even with frugal spending habits.  In my estimation this would be a good hedge against the ups and downs of life while still maintaining a good work/life balance.

What are these "traditional retirement estimates" to which you refer?  Are any of the MMM fans who retire in their 30's or 40's traditional in any sense?  Some people are fine on $10,000 per year, others need $30,000 to be secure.  Some need way more.  It's a pretty individual question based on where you live and what you want. 

I guess we might as well use the 80% of income rule to figure out what we need.  That would be slightly more accurate than "traditional retirement estimates".

jsloan

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How did you arrive at that number?

I ran through a lot of different scenarios on firecalc for best/worst cases.  I found that there was a wide range of money needed for $30,000-$50,000 a year with a 3.5%-4.0% withdrawal rate depending if I retire during a downswing in the market.  The 2MM number was kind of a compromise based on best/worst cases and I think I can get there when my youngest daughter starts college.  I'm kind of taking the approach that I can most likely hit that number in about 15-20 years but I will reevaluate if conditions are better than I expected.  In the next 5 years I plan on quitting my day job so I can focus on our side gigs (real estate and software).     

Also, my savings rate isn't as high as a lot of people on this board, but hopefully it is still respectable (last couple years it has been 40%) so I wanted to take that into account as well and try to be as realistic as possible. 

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What are these "traditional retirement estimates" to which you refer?

I guess I mean those that retire at 50+ years of age with a traditional pension and/or large net worth (2M+).  I use my parents as an example who have a combination of both real estate/savings/pensions which round out to about 70,000+ per year in retirement.  My parents retired when they were 52.  I talk with my parents how are now in their 60s who stress the importance of saving more than your think for medical costs because they really under estimated how much health insurance/medication was going to cost for them.  Granted my dad had heart surgery 5 years ago (not related to lifestyle) so there has been a lot of costs related to that.  My dads surgery was a related to a genetic defect which does make me concerned that I could have it as well.     

Maybe I am being a bit too conservative?  My short term goal is to make my life more flexible by quitting my day job and investing more in real estate.  I want to be able to still grow our net worth while also getting out of the 9-5 and I think I can do this without living off any money invested in the market until I'm in my late 40s or 50s.         

I appreciate the feedback.  Sorry I turned this thread into something that I should have posted in Ask a Mustachian :=).   

LisaCO

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I'm also new to the MMM blog and only recently joined the forum.  I think this will be my third post.

I think this thread is fascinating.  I had a very different reaction to the travel expenses than the OP.  I looked at it as MMM was able to set up his finances so that he could take on interesting part time work that provided him the time and money to remodel a house and travel for business.  I'm less concerned with whether his expenses are under estimated because his house is paid off or if he (or anyone else) is technically retired, financially independent or any other word used to describe a particular life style. 

I'm more interested in the questions that reading the blog and forum has caused me to ask myself:
  • What is my ideal lifestyle?
  • How do I structure my (actually our since I'm married) current expenses to get to the ideal?  If the ideal really is unobtainable, what can we do?
  • Does it include an active work component and is so what is that?
  • Should we pay off our house or keep the mortgage and invest the money to reach our goal more quickly?
  • What do we spend money on that is really important to us and what should we cut?

We won't make exactly the same choices that anyone else makes, but We're trying to reach our goals, and not anyone else's.  Hopefully this makes sense.  It's getting late and I've spent the last few hours reviewing our 2013 spending and I'm not done yet.  We spent a lot in 2013.  Talk about an eye-opener.  Who spends over $2,1000 on books and movies at Amazon?  Not us this year.  It's not really important and it should be cut.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 11:56:04 PM by LisaCO »

soccerluvof4

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To me i could give a rats ass about the little incidentals. I was interested in the psychological part of it meaning would he/she been able to kill there desires if not able to gain benefits of these trips hence change there way of living or increase there spending. By reading 3 pages of this ,  reading everyone's posts I feel comfortable with the answer I have come to.   The basis of the forum and how he began is still there in the beginning of the blog. The transparency is in the fact he tells you what he is doing. The benefits is having a thread that becomes informative and constructive that perhaps we can learn something from. He posts a weekly thought we debate. People post threads that get ripped to shreds for not saying things that are perfect. I know, I have been ostracized for asking a question and wasn't specific enough in my details.  I understand and respect the OPS questions and maybe sometimes people can just say to themselves " I am going to let it go because maybe to me it doesnt matter (as like me) but to someone else it might".  Having said that ...I dont believe everything I read anyhow BUT I appreciate the intelligence of alot of people on here and the things I am learning. I hope I have offered up somethings to help someone and I am thankful for the forum even though I too will perhaps not agree with others on Allocating funds, the definition of retirement...etc..!

AJ

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I think.. the point is, if you're 'living on $24k' while spending half (?) your time 'working', the question becomes... what would you do if you were NOT spending half the time working. Would you end up spending MORE than $24k because you got bored sitting at home?

What would the MMM family do if not for international travel and luxury remodels and crossfit?  Those things add value to their lives, and telling people to be happy sitting at home twiddling their thumbs for $25k a year, while technically good advice for most people, isn't in tune with the vibe of the blog, which is very much about spending money to live it up.

This idea hits home for me, and I *think* is what the OP was originally getting at (or at least, what I read it as). I know what my "number" is to cover minimal expenses (about $600k), and I have a rough upper limit number after which I wouldn't have any idea how to spend the extra (about $20 million). But there is a wide distance between those two, and I struggle to ascertain where on that spectrum to call "enough". I've been working since I was 15 - I don't know what retired-AJ will be like or want to do with her time. Maybe she'll just want to read library books all day and play at the park with her kids. Or maybe she'll want to be a badass philanthropist and fund tons of pet charity projects.

I'm curious to know what criteria other people used to determine their "number", however much or little it may be.