Author Topic: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?  (Read 14037 times)

sulaco

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Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« on: March 21, 2012, 01:25:42 PM »
Lately I've been feeling a bit like Mustachians are running around patting themselves on the back, reveling in their accomplishments, without a consistent view of what has brought them together. Some of the posts I've read on this forum and in the financial independence subreddit even seem to contradict the ideas found on MMM.

I've been going back through the early MMM blog posts to find the origin of "Mustachianism" and see if there was ever a definition post or general philosophy. The closest thing I could find was the post on Stoicism, but that is about stoicism.

The first mention of Mustachianism that I could find was on September 6th, 2011. Since then it's been slipped into discussion as if we should all innately understand it's meaning.

I know Mustachiansism is derived from the acts of a Mustachian, but right now that seems to be expressed as the last year's worth of blog posts from MMM. I would imagine our interpretations of what that means differ significantly. There's blogs like Toward Mustachianism, forum topics like Alternatives to Mustachianism. What am I to take these phrases to mean? It seems like these authors have a commanding grasp of the term.

I guess what I was looking for was a blog post or other reference along the lines of:

Mustachianism is:
  • Doing for yourself what others spend money on
  • Limiting cash outflows to needs
  • Planting dollar follicles
  • Replacing active work with passive income streams
  • Pursuing more noble pursuits than paper pushing
  • Understanding and demanding the value of your time and work
  • Measuring current habits
  • Reflecting on those habits and identifying areas needing change
  • Building discipline in all areas of life
  • Question all "conventional" wisdom

Maybe some of those are incorrect, maybe I'm missing some other principals.

What I'm trying to form is my own mental model. My current understanding is there is a healthy balance between hard work, frugality, and early retirement. Sometimes, however, attempts at frugality can tip the stupid-scale.

For example, I would lean towards saying that the Mustachian Office Chair is not Mustachian at all, but simply cheap. My mental model so far is that a Mustachian would get a properly constructed, high quality office chair - something that they may be using for up to a quarter of their working life - by doing the research and leg work to find the best possible chair at the best possible price. When the Mustachian has completed his working career - a few years later - the chair can be sold at nearly the cost it was purchased because high quality items do not depreciate as quickly as low quality items, and the Mustachian received a killer deal on it to begin with.

That said, maybe my mental model is skewed to what I've valued from this blog and community and maybe that's enough. What are your thoughts about the meaning of Mustachianism.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2012, 03:24:32 PM by jonhohle »

onehappypanda

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2012, 03:53:10 PM »
I think the general spirit of Mustachianism would be questioning the conventional way that we are told to live our lives: essentially, question the idea that you need to be a wage slave for 40 years or however long so that you can continue buying things you don't actually need.

Of course there are lots of principles that go along with that: frugality, DIY-ness, investing and passive income, etc. But the specifics beyond that can, and in my opinion should, vary from person to person. We all live different lives, and any attempt at coming up with an overly generalized model for Mustachianism may exclude people for fairly silly reasons.  Furthermore, attempts to define specific concepts like "frugality" usually end up in arguments because inevitably we have slightly different ideas of what's frugal (vs. cheap) and that most likely is a result of our different priorities.

For example, regarding the office chair thing I'd say the opposite- it'd be silly in my opinion to shell out a large amount of money on something you're just going to put your butt on and flatten. I work at a desk on a hard wooden chair and I'm just fine- if anything, I think plain old chairs encourage better posture and frequent standing/stretching breaks, which are better for you than any overly fancy "high quality" chair. And ALL furniture will depreciate in value if bought new, regardless of the price range it starts out at. But you know, that's my priority based on what works for me. What works for someone else might be different. I think that, in general, as long as you aren't running out to buy the first nice-looking thing you find at some horribly inflated price, or even the first cheaply made thing you find, then you're still probably relatively Mustachian. Any argument over which is best or more Mustachian just ends up being a battle of personal priorities and pointless semantics.

Guitarist

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 08:57:02 PM »
I think it's as easy as comparing yourself to your grandparents or great-grandparents (for the majority of us anyway). The difference is the abundance of wealth that surrounds us that allows us to save more then they ever could. I suppose we also have the added task of questioning conventional wisdom because the conventional wisdom back then actually made more sense.

arebelspy

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 09:24:10 PM »
I've wondered about this exact topic.

Specifically, one instance caused a sharp schism in my mind about the term Mustachianism.

I noticed early on that a LARGE number of "Mustachians" talked about paying off a mortgage early, even when still in the "accumulating" phase.  I.e. they aren't already FI, and looking to decrease risk (as MMM would be), but are still in the building assets and net worth phase, and they are throwing money at their cheap mortgage debt, merely for the concept of being "debt free."  That's not Mustachian at all, I thought!  Doing things the mathematically sound way, rather than the way that simply makes you "feel good" is the way to go.  I thought.

I've come to accept in the last month or so on the forums, however, that though we may have different ways of doing things, that doesn't mean one is necessarily Mustachian while the other isn't.

Certainly some things are un[/u]Mustachian, however certain ways of doing things may have more than one Mustachian way to go about them.

You go to the store.  Is it more Mustachian to ride a bike, or walk?  Strictly speaking, probably the latter.  However does that make the former not Mustachian?  Not necessarily.

Investing and keeping the super cheap mortgage is better (IMO), but that doesn't mean paying down the mortgage debt isn't also Mustachian.

That's why it'll be hard to come up with a universal definition of Mustachianism.  We each do things differently, and they may be correct for each of us.  That's fine.

Mustachianism is about making conscious choices to better your life and the world around you.  Go forth, and do it.
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nolajo

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 10:36:15 PM »
I've always gathered from MMM that the single most important part of the equation is essentially the ethos of stoicism - evaluate all aspects of your life with logic and don't just be content with less or with facing challenges, relish them. Once that's been grasped, you automatically have an edge over the average American consumer. How you choose to use that edge is where I think a lot of people diverge. It may be getting to FI quickly, or becoming competent in a wide variety of skills, or simply taking more control over your fate and not merely following the well-trod path we were initially presented with. Regardless, you're conscientious about how you live your life and what purchases you do have to make.

Physics

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 06:03:05 AM »
Hey arebelspy, I also noticed the two different approaches to mortgages.  I rectified it in my mind by noting that it isn't a purely deterministic mathematical calculation, it is a probabilistic one, since investment returns are not strictly guaranteed.

Therefore, there is an opportunity for an individual to insert their own personal risk assessment into the equation, which can skew it one way or the other depending on the specifics.

For example, I think I remember that you have been heavily investing in real estate while floating a mortgage on your main residence, and I completely agree you are doing the right thing, but still in the face of that statement, I did choose to pay off my mortgage.  I looked at it analytically, rationally, and then made the choice, in this particular case, I'm going to err on the side of conservative use of my funds, and end the chapter of my life where I have a mortgage on my main house.  Really I think either of these actions are mustachian in the sense that they are rational, measured, dare I say stoic financial choices, and are both infinitely better than the standard American approach to home buying.

Cheers!

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2012, 06:05:58 AM »
If you read through my "what's the point" thread, the most common response is freedom/independence, so I think any Authoritative Philosophy has to include personal liberty as a core value:

Mustachianism is the pursuit of financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence through a disciplined and ethical use of capitalism.

BenDarDunDat

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2012, 07:21:12 AM »
For example, I would lean towards saying that the Mustachian Office Chair is not Mustachian at all, but simply cheap. .

That container store chair looks quirky, but it also has 143 reviews that left a 5 star rating.  I've got an old walnut school teacher chair and it's had a long- long life, but I've also had to do periodic clamping and gluing just from my own personal at home computer sitting - which is far less than my chair at the office. 

rjack

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2012, 07:38:27 AM »
Mustachianism is the pursuit of financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence through a disciplined and ethical use of capitalism.

+1 but I'm not sure about the "and ethical" part is necessary and unambiguous.

arebelspy

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2012, 09:44:06 AM »
If you read through my "what's the point" thread, the most common response is freedom/independence, so I think any Authoritative Philosophy has to include personal liberty as a core value:

Mustachianism is the pursuit of financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence through a disciplined and ethical use of capitalism.

Well said.  And I think the "What's the point" thread is a great place to look for commonalities when trying to make a "definition" (if one could ever be reached.)
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MMM

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2012, 10:13:01 AM »
I think Nolajo comes closest with the sentence "evaluate all aspects of your life with logic and don't just be content with less or with facing challenges, relish them. "

I believe the single most important characteristic of Mustachianism is embracing challenge and even hardship as a good thing, rather than running away and whining about it.

From that, all the other aspects automatically flow (valuing learning, doing things yourself, becoming more disciplined, working on your health as well as your wealth, giving to others, etc.).

Once you understand that, you can see why consumerism and many other activities are Antimustachian. People drive their kids half a mile to school because they aren't willing to put the effort into riding a bike, or they are too fearful of social pressure or other factors to do it, or are too sucked in to watching TV to spend the time to read books about WHY it's actually better to bike than to drive.

To understand Mustachianism, just think of a person who is handed a gigantic, difficult, challenge, and embraces it with gusto.

Danielle

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2012, 04:21:10 PM »
For example, I would lean towards saying that the Mustachian Office Chair is not Mustachian at all, but simply cheap. My mental model so far is that a Mustachian would get a properly constructed, high quality office chair - something that they may be using for up to a quarter of their working life - by doing the research and leg work to find the best possible chair at the best possible price. When the Mustachian has completed his working career - a few years later - the chair can be sold at nearly the cost it was purchased because high quality items do not depreciate as quickly as low quality items, and the Mustachian received a killer deal on it to begin with.

You're right with your current mental model of Mustachianism in this context.  In fact, half of the reason I started that thread was to get a kick in my complainypants for considering buying chairs retail.  But I wasn't sure if it was worth my while to "invest" in a supernice chair or get a "just good" chair for less and not worry about re-sale.  For what it's worth, I'm going to wait until May when all the college folk leave and see if I can't score myself a chair for free.  If not, Craigslisting the things I do find will surely give me some extra cash to justify a purchase.  Do I get my mustache badge back now? :)

Also, from the point of view of a baby 'stache, I can understand how seeing all the FI mustachioed role models talking about being debt free would make you want to do the same (on a subconscious level of social "pressure" to fit in).  Especially if you are just starting out and haven't stopped to think about your numbers from every possible situation.  It's important to remember that we're all at different stages at eating the FI elephant, some have just taken considerably more small bites than others!

I think the challenge is the most important component of Mustachianism.  Some people have more of a baseline challenge in the process of reaching their financial goals than others (ex. poor choices with prior spending, having children to budget for, etc).  It's important never to be TOO comfortable with the current situation.  Right now I'm saving around 50% of my income, but what if I snuck away an extra $50 or $100 each paycheck?  Less comforts now for peace of mind later!

Parizade

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 05:54:53 AM »
Mustachianism is the pursuit of financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence through a disciplined and ethical use of capitalism.

+1 but I'm not sure about the "and ethical" part is necessary and unambiguous.

I understand, and I was hesitant to add "and ethical" for that reason. I left it in because I just think it has to be mentioned. This is a very diverse group representing a broad spectrum of religious and political beliefs, but a sense of social responsibility seems to cross all boundaries here.

MMM, if anyone is qualified to write the Authoritative Philosophy it is you. As I read your post, however, I couldn't help feeling that you were channeling the nuns of my childhood [shudder]. Are you Catholic?

What good does suffering do for us? Paul says in Romans 5:2-3 that our sufferings produce endurance, character and hope. Through faith, suffering brings about hope in God and, through endurance, salvation. Additionally, Romans 8:17 makes it clear we are heirs with Christ, but only if we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. Paul is teaching that suffering must be embraced in order to obtain the glory that the Father has bestowed upon Jesus. Paul gives us hope for the future in Romans 8:18 by telling us that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. It is clear that any sufferings we or others endure, no matter how difficult they seem, will be more than worth it when we enter into eternal life.

from the Catholic Basic Training website
http://www.catholicbasictraining.com/apologetics/coursetexts/8m.htm

sol

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2012, 08:43:36 AM »
Paul says in Romans 5:2-3 that our sufferings produce endurance, character and hope. Through faith, suffering brings about hope in God and, through endurance, salvation.

I have a hard time accepting that any religion that teaches that YOU must suffer, while simultaneously the head of that church lives in his own private city surrounded by mountains of gold, is preaching anything but hypocrisy.  If suffering was the road to salvation, the Pope would be an ascetic.

Instead, I suggest that religions that glorify poverty (and there are many) are instead trying to rationalize the iniquities of the status quo as a means of maintaining control of the power they have accrued.

I find little or nothing divine or spiritual about wanton consumption, so don't mistake me as supporting hedony while I condemn morally dictated destitution.  Instead, I suspect that economic prosperity and spiritual prosperity are poorly (anti)correlated, at best.  I see no convincing relationship between wealth and happiness beyond covering the basic necessities of life.

Nor do I think the sort of social welfare that Catholicism in particular supports is unique to any one religion.  There are good people the world over, and they come in all stripes.  Using your wealth to make the world a better place is, in my mind, a noble goal that will bring you happiness and peace upon your deathbed in a way that a bigger television will not.  Even the most fervently anti-religious must see the value in that.
 

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 10:27:03 PM »
I don't believe Mustachianism is a philosophy at all. I see it as a group identifier for us, the readers of this blog. The word has benefits for the readers and owners of this blog and lots of other groups use this to build loyalty but I don't think there is any significance to the term or most of the similar terms used around her . Don't get me wrong - Mustachianism is unique but unique in the way a car with a custom paint job is unique. In the case of the car, there is no other car exactly like it but there of plenty other model of that cars including some with different custom paint jobs.  Even so, I see it as a fun game in moderation so I'll stop hijacking this thread.

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2012, 06:34:09 AM »
Pax sol! Looks like I inadvertently touched a nerve with my post. Sorry, that was not my intention. I was raised Catholic but I'm an atheist now. I actually agree with most of what you wrote.

Lars, I applaud your very logical conclusion.

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Re: Authoritative Philosophy of Mustachianism?
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2012, 02:58:49 PM »
I too am completely non-religious. But not from a conversion - just by default, since there weren't many religious people in my family or the area in which I grew up.

But I do like when we find areas of agreement between religious and non-religious ways of thought. Things like being ethical, helping others, taking care of our own natural environment.  It's nice that we are able to get along even without insisting that all of our beliefs must match exactly.