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What I’m Teaching my Son about Money (mrmoneymustache.com)
203 points by edward on May 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 142 comments



This line stands out to me:

> Income is not something that employers or the government ration out to you based on a rigged system. It is a something you generate yourself. It is the byproduct of your hard work, combined with learning and mastering the system itself. Even the system itself is subject to your control if you choose.

It's easy to interpret this as a positive statement about the way things simply are, but I don't think the author quite intends it that way. When pressed, he might say it is a positive statement, but the clearly intended ethical significance of the statement—the fact that it has deep consequences for the way his son should act—suggests we can look deeper.

Specifically, it's important to understand the normative dimension of the statement: that when "income is not something that employers or the government ration out to you based on a rigged system", that is a good thing. And most importantly, it's possible for things not to be that way—whether because the laws or government of your country are not set up the right way, or because you yourself have the wrong attitude about your work.

The attitude interpretation is probably what the piece is focusing on (and what most readers will take away), because obviously the author can't teach his son to solve problems outside of his control. But the author is thinking about systems too.

When he says "the system itself is subject to your control if you choose" it's clear that there are plenty of systems where this is not the case, where the system is so huge or arbitary or irrational that "learning and mastering" it is not possible. Examples might include oppressive dictatorships, bloated bureaucracies, or sweatshops (especially to a child).

------------

The point I'm trying to make is that we have a responsibility not just for our own attitudes and actions, but also to shape our world in such a way that it is possible for the right attitude to pay off.

Edit: the author's point about how the son's savings account enables him to be generous is a great example of this. This is called "moral luck" by philosophers--the idea that certain conditions need to obtain before a person can be virtuous. The idea goes back all the way to Aristotle.


> "income is not something that employers or the government ration out to you based on a rigged system",

He retired in his 30s and derives income from "a rental house or two". I'd suggest he's doing well out of this rigged system. I'd also suggest that saving $70 on coffee is utterly eclipsed by his equity gains on these two properties and that the rent derived from them would enable him to bathe in coffee daily.


If it was just coffee sure, but where did he get the money to buy rental properties in his early thirties? It wasn't because of rich parents or a machiavellian scheme, it was because of a deep anti-consumerist philosophy that extends to everything from not owning a smart phone to riding a bike to buy groceries. Reducing his philosophy to one tiny thing like coffee is like saying a world class pianist could have shortened their practice by 10 seconds a day and still be world class—it's true in the most narrowly-defined strawman sense, but they got where they are by practicing as much as they could, not by looking for corners to cut.


> where did he get the money to buy rental properties in his early thirties?

Errr...leveraged debt, at a guess.


There's an awful lot of assumptions in your whole harangue.


The line strangely reminds me of the rose-tinted view of Atlas Shrugged.


Funny to me it sounds like an argument for Basic Income.


Nope

> "It is the byproduct of your hard work"


I am reminded of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I recommend it to everyone who has not read it.


Just absorbing the difference between the circle of influence and the circle of concern is a massive win for most people.


In a wider social- and group-context it is sometimes best to maintain the view that you are a victim being manipulated by outside forces.

In a strictly personal context it is often better to maintain the view that you are a fully empowered actor.


It's really quite important to maintain both.

Becoming wealthy without manipulating the system (or, put another way, becoming wealthy while creating a similar amount of value) requires both prudence and either a great deal of luck or a lot of hard work and reasonably good luck. Many people work hard; most do not become wealthy. Sometimes that's due to their own choices, but not always. It's something of a disservice to teach a child that he or she is a fully empowered actor; the reality is very different.

In the real world, you are competent, professional, and hardworking but your employer goes under during a bust. During the 2 years you're out of work, you drain your savings and have to start over from scratch. 5 to 10 years of earning, saving, and investing go down the crapper.

In the real world, you work hard, draw good pay, and invest wisely. Unfortunately, due to monetary policy established by unelected officials, you are faced with a choice of losing money to inflation every day or paying wildly inflated prices for any asset available to you. As a result, you never achieve financial independence no matter what you do.

In the real world, you may be faced with a choice between working a job that will never enable you to become financially independent and engaging a crooked physician to help you collect disability benefits from the government for the rest of your life. You find it impossible to accept that you should have to work for what others are given for nothing.

A child who grows up believing he or she is fully empowered is likely to respond poorly when encountering these situations later in life. It would be reasonable to interpret them (incorrectly, of course) as evidence of one's own failure, inadequacy, or even bad character. The reality is that the game is rigged, and badly so. The industrious good behavior the Calvinist work ethic endorses makes success a little more likely, but it's nothing close to a guarantee. Better to learn these lessons young, even if it encourages "cheating" later in life. Sadly, cheaters usually do prosper; the choice to be "honest" or not should be made from moral principles, not a misguided belief that it will lead to success/happiness/financial independence.


Read the book "The Millionaire Next Door". It is entire possible, and in fact commonplace, to become wealthy by quite ordinary and predictable means.

It isn't really about working hard, either. That's a myth. It's about working effectively, and making prudent, common sense choices about what to do with your income.

Of course, life can hand you a lot of bad luck that can derail your plans. But this is simply not the usual experience.


We've been on the (Dave) Ramsey Plan for years and I find that many of these plans boil down to a simple thing:

Delayed gratification. Give up the "wants" for now to get a bigger benefit later.

It sucks not going out to eat or buying Starbucks as often as we used to. But we do it by choice so that the $5, $10, or $40 now stacks with the $5, $10, or $40 from next week and the following week and can be put to something more important later on.

As a result, we were able to wipe out all of our non-mortgage debt in about 2 years. We didn't have a ton by current standards (2 car payments, student loans, small cc balance), but killing all of that immediately reduced our stress and increased our options.


Car payments will eat you alive. Get a car you can pay cash for. My daily driver is worth about $500. Everything is cheaper for an older car - repairs, insurance, taxes, and no payments. The savings are enormous.


The "Millionaire's Next Door" in that book were working in an environment different than the current, that's a fact. Now whether the current environment is "less honest and merit-based" (as I happen to believe), or not, it is certainly different.

Bubbles come and go, some are long, some are short, some are consequential, some are not. For example, real estate bubbles: these are most dangerous because it is usually the most substantial asset purchase an individual ever makes, and it is typically 90% leverage. If you fall ass-backwards into the right spot on the development curve, you can literally turn $50k (down payment) into a million++ dollars - if you guess wrong, you're bankrupt and you pray that you have a non-recourse loan.


Ok - downpayment on a house of 50k, 90% LTV. Must be 500K. Doubles in price to $1mm. Let's say it does this in 10 years. Wages haven't appreciated much. Where does that 500k come from? The next generation.

Zero sum game. Rampant inequality. Crashing social mobility.

As you say it's not merit based. How many people can save 500k in 10 years? Leveraged mortgage debt then becomes the only game in town. Game set and match the banks.


> Where does that 500k come from?

It comes from two places (at least):

1. Debt - someone pushes a few buttons on a computer keyboard and "poof", you've conjured a million dollars out of thin air

2. China - this is real money, but if it gets pointed at one geographical region, it can cause major distortions, especially if that real money can be confiscated at the whim of the politician who happens to be in power at the moment


No - we are seeing an increase in credit but not wages. Asset prices are running ahead of wealth creation so the young must pledge to work for longer for the same pile of bricks (and land).

Yes there is foreign money but still most buying is domestic. Foreign money is a convenient bogey man. It's the same in Canada and the stats do not bear it out.


> Foreign money is a convenient bogey man. It's the same in Canada and the stats do not bear it out.

Actually, no one knows, because stats are (deliberately imo) not kept.


Well here is some info on Canada:

http://www.greaterfool.ca/2015/05/14/the-tipping-point-2/

Vancouver not even in the top 10 yet we are told endlessly HAM is the cause.


It comes from inflation. Purchasing power of $1mm in 10 years time will be probably the same as 500k today.

The investment works because in 10 years time you own bigger chunk of the asset (Mostly due to inflation but also debt repayment from rent).


I hear all the time about this time it's different. I heard it when I was young, too. In the early 80's, if you invested $1,000 in Boeing stock it'd be worth $60,000 today.

I.e. you don't have to live a Spartan lifestyle to have an investment program, nor do you have to be unusually lucky, or any of that. Just underspend your income by 10 or 20%, and invest the rest in ordinary, boring investments.


But I'm saying, that's not true in some places. There are many geographical regions (even countries) where median local wages cannot buy the median real estate - historic ratios are totally distorted.


But your description sounds like a home the buyer lives in. That is not an investment, from an investor's point of view.

Instead, for a specific example, consider a 4-plex my wife and I bought for $65K down ($215K total - it is in an economically depressed area). Rents, when fully occupied (not always the case, we see about a 5% vacancy rate) are $700 a month over all expenses, including debt service.

Plus, we put close to 20% down but get 100% of the depreciation. End of the year: $7000 in our pockets, a legal tax loss of $800. And that is assuming no change in value of the asset. If someone offers to buy us out at %200 of the purchase price I would definitely consider it, but until then, I pocket the proceeds.

For me, doing the due diligence up front reduced the luck factor, my preferred way of obtaining my goals, when possible.


Your math does not add up. If your rental profits are $700/month (total for all 4 units), then your annual rental profits should be $8,400. For a property purchased for a total of $215,000, the depreciation should only be approximately $7800/year (straight line, 27.5 year recovery period), meaning that you should have annual taxable rental income of roughly $600.

Moreover, the amount of depreciation you can take (in total) does not increase with a change in the value of the asset; it's based on your "cost basis" in the asset. It only goes up if your costs in the asset increase, such as for property taxes paid, improvements, etc.

Finally, and this is a big one--the value of the land is excluded from the depreciation calculation--only the building and improvements to the property can be depreciated. So $215,000 is an upper bound on the recoverable amount--the properly depreciable amount is less than that, meaning that your annual depreciation should actually be less than $7800/year and that you should actually have more than $600/year in net rental income.

You need to talk to an accountant soon, because if you get audited you almost certainly will be paying back taxes and penalties.


Sorry, I was rounding conservatively, and my tax returns were prepared by a conservative, professional firm that I hold in high regards, so I am not concerned there, but thanks.

To be more accurate, we do get a bit more, but we withhold for repairs, replacement costs, wear and tear, new appliances, etc. So our income is higher, but I have trained myself not to count it, as the odds tell me I am going to have to pay for repairs. The $700 is what we get to hold onto most often, unless we are saving towards big repairs like new roof, outside paint, etc. And (crucially) I left out that we had enough first year expenses to legitimately lower that perceived income, as well as the interest that we get to deduct (interest being far higher at first in a mortgage payment). Next tax year will have different numbers, since we will have had different expenses and different occupancy (unfortunately they do not stay 100% occupied).

I am just trying to get out round numbers that show that it can work.

Most people have this concept that their house is their biggest asset, when a residence is really a liability for the person who lives in it.

I should not have taken the shortcuts in my math, but regardless, we do well. We have used the profits to invest in more education, and have recently purchased another unit in Florida that will start cash flowing in about two more months. Well, actually it cash flows now, but we had to pay for some new appliances, so in my head, we are negative for two more months, then we start paying off ourselves for the down payment. Again, I am more conservative.

So it is a slow path to wealth, but a valid path, nonetheless.


And I should have put this in the first comment I made: This is not legal advice, nor is it financial advice. Please seek professional guidance for specific situations. This only serves as an example of one specific deal I am involved in. And even I get the numbers slightly wrong sometimes - H/T to gamblor956 for reminding me to state this.


My point was, the simple advice "if you do this (prudent idea) then you can expect (this approximate outcome)" no longer holds. There used to be this idea that you could compare historic ratios (like a P/E ratio with companies for example) to determine relative value.

Now, in a lot (not all) geographical locations, all these historical indicators are useless. Asset values no longer have any relation to local economics, in various different ways. In the US in the housing bubble, it was loose credit. In Canada and Australia, this persists, because they somehow escaped the psychological popping of the housing bubble. And at least in Canada, there is the additional massive "unnatural" demand coming out of China:

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/03/vancouver-shaughness...

And this isn't crazy "no money down" like the US housing bubble - the Chinese have cold hard cash. Name a price, and they will write you a cheque.


I agree. That is why investing for capital gains, AKA flipping (buying low and selling higher) is more risk than I want. I pick deals where cash flows positively from day one. I have passed on several dozen deals and only purchased two so far. I have heard others say 100-20-5-1: Look at 100, put in bids on the best 20 (if they pencil out), maybe get 5 acceptances, choose 1. Those are averages, not direct experience, but it does encourage patience.


What sort of area are you buying in? Where I live you cannot buy any real estate of any type for $200k. Are you buying out of state or out of country? How do you manage the risk?


Del Norte County California has many houses for less than $250,000, but single family homes do not "pencil out" here - The rents will not pay for the expenses. Multi-family units can, and the more units, the more likely they will.

We also bought in Lee County Florida, where a single family home IS cash flowing. If the employment market stays stong, we will look at picking up more, assuming we find deals that are acceptable to us.

Risk: Insurance (property and landlord's liability), entity (LLC), and strong property management that is tight on screening prospective tenants. Last, watchful management: We keep an eye on the Property Managers, and provide overall management decisions, like where to keep rents, what improvements/repairs to make, etc.

We are new at this, only 5 years in, so we are still most definitely learning.


And I should have put this in the first comment I made: This is not legal advice, nor is it financial advice. Please seek professional guidance for specific situations. This only serves as an example of specific deals I am involved in - H/T to gamblor956 for reminding me to state this.


I'm an investor myself. I have gone the route of industrial property. Still learning as well. Not much multi-family where I am, maybe a few duplexes but they still sell too high for the yield.

So no worries about taking advice!


Happy land speculation. I thought Hacker News was full of actual entrepreneurs but it seems not, we have good old fashioned usurers and their foot-soldier landlords.

It's the American dream!


what ROI are you looking for when investing in new property?

how much do you pay for property management?


As we are just getting started, we look for at least 11%, and will move that higher as we get more experience (and more patience :)).

Property management in both locations is about 10% of Gross rents. One company also charges half of the first month's rent to cover turning, advertising costs.


I have friends who are long established investors. They won't buy unless there is an expected 20% return either in yield or flip. They are mostly retired now and don't buy much anymore.


11% sounds out of reach in the EU


If that's what you believe that's the outcome you get.

Everyone gets the financial outcome they want.


> Everyone gets the financial outcome they want.

I'm curious what you mean by that?


I actually stole it. The original quote is 'everyone gets what they want from the financial markets'

Everyone can unpack the statement in different ways, but essentially your financial position is a result of how much effort you put into it. Most people put little effort into it, or even knowingly make bad mistakes like buying new cars on credit, yet shrug their shoulders and do it anyway.

In the short term you might have a setback but people with priorities for financial success are able to overcome these and go on to greater heights.

An evidenced in these comments there are some people who want to talk about how the deck is stacked against them and they can't possibly get ahead - yet people from all walks of life achieve financial freedom every day, so this is patently not true. The people who think this way are getting the outcome they want, which is to priories blaming over achievement.


That is a very dumb statement. I think it might even be a joke. In a zero sum game of housing speculation where there is no wealth creation of any kind then by definition if you win it's at the expense of someone else.

They are achieving financial freedom by stepping on the throats of their brothers and sisters. If you want to "achieve" financial freedom that way fine, but I'll rest easier on my (cheap) death bed rather than surrounded by trinkets bought after exploiting the poor and needy.

Your comment is so wrong it's hard to comprehend the mindset.


I think we're talking about several different things here. I'm asserting that there are five essential inputs to one's economic outcome. In no particular order, they are:

1. The activities in which one engages to obtain income. This can be labor, crime, cheating and manipulation, employment of capital, or some combination of these.

2. Starting position: did you enter adulthood with an inheritance or trust fund?

3. Management: what do you do with the income you receive?

4. Environment: macroeconomic conditions and public policy (presently inseparable).

5. Luck, those arbitrary events that affect an individual or small group of people (as distinct from environmental factors that affect everyone). These can be positive or negative.

Individuals generally can control (1) and (3), though the available options and their merits are products of external forces. You seem hung up on the notion that these are the only two factors that matter. You acknowledge (5) but assert that it's ultimately irrelevant to outcomes. You don't seem to acknowledge (2) and (4) at all.

I am asserting that a high probability of good economic outcomes (i.e., financial independence) requires that at least (3), (4), and (5) all be favorable if we begin from the premise that the only sources of income and capital available are the proceeds of labor and one's own accumulated capital. That is, we're not going to cheat or steal and we weren't born into anything.

I am not asserting that good economic outcomes are impossible under other circumstances, only that they are highly unlikely.

It would be very useful to bring some data into this conversation. I would like to compare the outcomes achieved by hypothetical pairs of individuals who satisfy our constraints on factors (1) and (2) and are identical in their luck (there are no material events) and management, but differ in environment. For example, suppose that there are two individuals born 20 years apart, one in 1955 and the other in 1975. Both are male Americans, both are employed in full-time, year-round work beginning at age 20, neither is ever unemployed for any reason, and both set aside some fraction of their age-appropriate median-wage income and invest it in one of a few simple ways (we can vary that fraction and how it's invested). Each pays the taxes he legally owes and no more, and for simplicity's sake each is single and lives in a state with no personal income tax. The object of this exercise? To check in with each at age 40 and see, in today's dollars, the purchasing power of their assets and the purchasing power of the income those assets produce. We could then examine other splits; for example, two people born at the same time, one in Japan and the other in Switzerland. Or fraternal twins, one male and the other female. The possibilities are limited only by the availability of data.

It would be great to see such a study. If anyone has done it, the results are not particularly easy to find. Most of the data exists: historical tax laws from the Tax Policy Center, historical income data from the Census Bureau, deflators and unemployment data from the BLS, interest rate and bond market data from the Fed, and stock market prices and dividends from the exchanges and many other sources. Some countries keep better records than others. Having looked into what's available, I think someone could put together something reasonable in a week or two.

According to your thesis, these studies will show that everyone will obtain approximately the same outcome, because in all cases we have controlled for luck, starting position, income, and management strategy. Only the choice of management strategy will have material impact.

According to my thesis, these studies will reveal (a) that environmental factors dominate the outcomes, (b) that there are many environments in which there is no non-oracular management strategy that will yield an outcome as good as that achieved by a male American born in 1955 who employs a simple, moderately frugal management strategy, and (c) that the vast majority of environments that have existed over the past 20 years, including today's, are strongly detrimental to positive outcomes.

I assert this despite the ultra-simplified deterministic model I propose to use. I further assert that the stochastic injection of periods of unemployment (in accordance with actual historical rates) will radically worsen outcomes in at least 3 quintiles relative to the above-mentioned baseline.

Finally, I assert that these results are obvious. I'm not exactly going out on a limb here.

I know I sound like a "progressive". I am not. I do not advocate redistribution, higher minimum wages, more rent control, or a culture of victimhood. Quite the opposite on all counts. What I do advocate are changes to public policy that make it much less likely that decades of any individual's working life will be lived in an environment that strongly penalizes the proceeds of labor and accumulated capital. You should not attack me based on your preconceived ideas about "what I want", from either the markets or public policy.

More directly to the point, my original assertion was that teaching a child that factor (3) is the only one of import does him a great disservice. Prudent management of one's finances is almost always necessary but almost never sufficient. Acknowledging this is not casting blame but rather observing the world around us, thinking critically about how it works, and accepting it as it really is: healthy things for any child to do from an early age.


> teaching a child that factor (3) is the only one of import does him a great disservice.

I've seen a lot in my life with this, and it's wildly untrue. I know many families with multiple children, and over time some of those became millionaires and others did not. None I know started with inheritances. I know a lot of self-made millionaires. All of them share a common attitude that their future is in their own hands, and it's clear from the arc of their financial lives that that is true. Their choices produced their outcomes.

The ones who did not become millionaires also share a common attitude that nothing they could have done differently would have changed anything.

The fatalistic outlook you have will be self-fulfilling. But you can choose to change it. It really is up to you. The choices you make matter. If you want to know more, I can't recommend a better book than "The Millionaire Next Door" about how ordinary people doing ordinary things become wealthy.


I've read it. I think if I were born in 1950 it would be worth its weight in gold. Someday someone will write a similar book that would have worked perfectly for people who were born in 1980; unfortunately, by then it will be too late for us and instead the next generation will debate its (in)applicability to their lives.

It's not fatalistic. As I've been saying all along, you have some control of some things. Exercising that control constructively is necessary. It simply is not sufficient.


Take a look at the stock market returns for the last 5, 10, 20 years. At pretty much any point you could have invested and had handsome returns by today.

I also know people who abandoned the market at the bottom of one of the various dips. They're all bitter about the recoveries since. Taking a longer view, the various machinations of the market that seemed so important at the time are lost in the width of the line on the graph.

Yes, your choices are by far the #1 factor in any success, or lack of, that you have. Telling your children anything less is a disservice.


"According to your thesis, these studies will show that everyone will obtain approximately the same outcome, because in all cases we have controlled for luck, starting position, income, and management strategy. Only the choice of management strategy will have material impact."

No, you haven't understood my thesis at all. You seem to think I'm making some sort of political or statement related to the current economy.

The point us that every gets out a combination of what effort they put in and the decisions they make. For some, born with a trust fund, those efforts bad decisions are easy. For others, new immigrants without qualifications, those efforts are going to need to be huge.

For all, they will get back what they put in. All will get what they want, when you read want as not what people say they want but measured by their actions.

I might say I want to get fit but unless you see me out training you would quite correctly surmise I don't actually want to get fit. Everyone gets what they really want.


What's the benefit of using a moral framework that doesn't lead to success and happiness?


I would disagree with that. If in a social context where being a victim works, then a new social context is needed.

Even pretending to play at a victim is corrosive to a proper attitude of being in control and responsible for your life outcomes.


I love his blog because he not just tries to educate people about personal finance or money as an end to itself but about money with a purpose.

An attitude like his can almost be considered subversive today. If it wasn't for 'keeping up with the Joneses' the world could be a much better place and more people could live the lives they actually want to live.


Money (and it's alternate form, stuff) too often ends up being read like a scorecard, when it's really a means to an end. I love MMM for the exact same reason as you do - he gets that money is what lets you do things that you find enjoyable or rewarding, not something you flout around as a status symbol.

Thank god MMM is a subversive, because his is one of the only revolutions I could see myself subscribing to.


There's an active subreddit for discussing Financial Independence (FI) that often links to MMM and recommends his blog to people interested in learning about the topic.

If you liked the article, you might find the community there interesting: http://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence


Suppose that there are, broadly-speaking, two levers on a person's financial independence function: money brought in, and money spent. The FI subreddit and MMM focus, IMO, almost exclusively on reducing money spent.

I subscribed to the FI sub hoping to find a lot of discussion about efforts to bring money in. Instead, I find a lot of people angling for a definition of financial independence that includes wearing the same clothes for seven years, barely ever eating out, and vacations that resemble nothing I'd call travel. Whatever discussion around increasing income does take place is usually centered around picking up another job. For me, as long as the income earned is a linear function of time invested, it's a losing proposition. There's a reason why "work 10 jobs" isn't commonly suggested as a way to get rich.

I know this sounds snobby, there's not any way around that.

My definition of FI is not having to deliberate, rationalize and bargain with myself when it comes to purchasing something I want. Yes, reducing wants is a major factor in happiness, but finally there will always be something that I want, despite pursuing a life of frugality and parsimony. The FI/MMM approach leans way too far towards ascetism for my tastes.

Are there any communities, besides HN, which focus discussion more on strategies for increasing income and less on lifestyle amputation?


An issue here is that providing general advice about increasing income non-linearly is much more difficult and less reliable than decreasing expenses. Almost anyone can decrease expenses, but how many will succeed at increasing income outside of extra work? (Remember, something like 90% of new businesses fail).

There are a few ways that are reasonably reliable. Owning multi-family housing has a pretty easy to understand cost and revenue, and property ownership can be leveraged to purchase additional property, and so on.

If someone I don't know (we're talking about internet forums here), I don't know their personality, their strengths or weaknesses, they say "I want to become financially independent". Well I can almost guarantee if they eat out half as much, walk/bike to work instead of making car payments, they'll be in a much better financial position. If I tell them to create a tech startup ... well, that could end in several ways but probably not good.

Additionally, what does it cost them to follow the advice? Spending less, by definition, has no cost. But saying "buy an apartment complex" or "start a tech company" has real cost. How do they get to the point where they can do those things if they can't afford it now? That's again where the "spend less" comes in.


I actually had a conversation like this with a freelancer a few weeks ago. He was cutting back expenses to achieve financial independence (you know, 10-20 years from now).

When I asked him why he didn't just increase his (seemingly low to me) freelancing rates by 10-20%, he said that was impossible. Little did he know I charge nearly triple his rate for sort of similar work, and spend about 50% less time than him working.

You don't build wealth by saving on small purchases, you do it by earning.


Charging more can increase sales without changing the quality of your product, assuming the product is already "good" or marketable. An increased price adds a perceived 'quality' or 'prestige' and you'll get bigger spenders, although fewer spenders. This is because of the bad reasoning that "more expensive = better".

My mother did this with her home business by slowly increasing her prices. The product she delivers hasn't changed in the slightest - but she now makes 5x more than she was before!

People fall into the trap of lowering their cost to increase buyers without paying attention to how much they are working. They see an increase of price "would ruin them financially" because they would get less clients.

Of course, finding the balance is important.

There was a story on HN where someone was setting up custom sites for $75. They quickly realized this was more work than they expected and began charging $2,000 a site (after charging more and more per site, from $200->$500->$1000).

People were still purchasing. Same work. $75 --> $2,000.


Absolutely. I live by this.

In contracting or consulting, you want to find critically important projects to work on and then almost shock people by what you're charging. Then overdeliver.


>Then overdeliver.

I feel this brings up another important thing. Set realistic expectations. Always set the bar at what they expect while remaining near the bare minimum of what you can realistically deliver...then do everything you can do deliver past that.

1) If you overpromise and underdeliver you give yourself a bad rep and have an unhappy client.

2) If you promise reasonably and overdeliver your client will be happy. Happy clients often lead to more clients.

Assuming in 1 and 2 you did the same amount of work and the only difference was you didn't promise them the world and a field of kittens to boot. Marketing for 1 might land you the sale; but that's incredibly shortsighted. 2 will almost always do better for your business.

You will likely lose some sales if you market with #2 in mind. However are those the types of sales you want to begin with?


It's both. You have to control the urge to spend or an increase in income will have a commensurate increase in spend, leaving you no better off.

Breaking the nexus of the 'more stuff' mindset is important as groundwork in increasing income. I have read quite a few stories on here where someone hit a wild payday with an online venture but were broke again in 2 years. That is because they never tamed their desire to spend, and when lack of income was removed, all of it got spent, and more. Worse still, their expectations of life increased to the point where being happy again required a much bigger income.

So it's better to put a frugal mindset in place and practice - and be ok with that- so that any increase in income can be channeled into building assets that will increase financial independence.


Yes, true. I was talking about small purchases.

My personal framework is not to worry too much about small purchases (i.e. coffee, eating out, etc) but to consider it when making a larger purchase (i.e. a holiday, car, house, etc).

Before I spend money on a larger purchase, I tend to think: would I rather spend/waste money on this, or have it compound over many years. For each million invested properly, you can get annual gains between 50-100k.


Did you tell him you charge 3x as much? If so, how did the conversation go after that?


I did not. I wanted to show him he could earn more (maybe not directly tell him I was making 3x), but he already got sort of annoyed/hostile when I brought up he could probably charge more, so I left it at that.

I brought up it's usually more about value and trust than it is about the price of things. When a real estate broker sells a house for $500k, they (tend to) get 2.5% of the purchase price. That's a lot of money for basically showing people around, in most cases. But they do deliver significant value to the seller.

Another example: I regularly work with a lawyer. He charges like a professional. We've worked together frequently on something during a 2 year period, and there's a trust relationship. He bills properly, like any professional would, but his billables are reasonable and he doesn't charge me as much as he does his other clients. Could I find someone cheaper to do the job? Absolutely. Will I go looking for someone else? Hell no, he's awesome at what he does and we work well together. We can also relate, since I have an interest in his area of the law and he has an interest in IT, which in turn leads to interesting conversations.

Once you're past a certain price point, it's not about price, it's about value and trust. Too bad I couldn't show him that.


Ramit Sethi[1] focuses almost exclusively on increasing income. He thinks the "latte factor" is bullshit, since you can just bring in more money.

Personally, I think that increasing income and reducing expenses are two sides of the same coin. You're either changing the numerator or the denominator in the time-to-FI equation. The really powerful stuff happens when you do both at the same time.

[1]: http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com


Perhaps you know the math, but I think it is important to be clear to readers that a penny earned is LESS than a penny saved.

Put another way, are making $10,000 more dollars per year and spending $10,000 less per year the same? No. You will retire exponentially (literally, if not colloquially) sooner by spending less.

The MMM resource: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-sim...


I'd say that making money without spending time is investing. Maybe that's the keyword you've been missing. The obvious caveat is that on average people that try to do non-boring investing make less money.

MMM talks about a bunch of non-stock investments. Real estate and peer-to-peer come to mind.

If you want online communities for investing, pick your poison. https://www.quantopian.com http://covestor.com https://www.reddit.com/r/investing


You kind of made his point there:

Yes, reducing wants is a major factor in happiness, but finally there will always be something that I want

If there's always something you want, where do you stop? It seems the key to happiness is to learn to live with that want, rather than try to satisfy a desire that can't be satisfied?


To me, saying "want nothing more" is as naive as someone saying "I want everything". FI means freedom from scarcity, not freedom from ownership. I don't look at people who buy $100,000 homes in the suburb -- and have to consider a 1 hour drive into the city to see friends or a show -- as being independent, even if they are free from wanting a house in the city. I view them as prescribed by their scarcity to a life separated from their mates and a vibrant culture. MMM, and presumably you, might ask if dining with friends and taking in novelties like arts and culture are truly worth spending money on, but to me the answer is obvious.


As somebody who's read a lot of MMM, I think your impression is mistaken. (At the very least, MMM hates commutes: he'd rather everyone live close to work and walk or bike everywhere.)

Everyone wants more, but more often doesn't lead to happiness due to hedonistic adaptation. His philosophy is not about being cheap: rather it is about carefully examining what really makes you happy and choosing to align your spending with that, which naturally leads most people choosing a more frugal path. (Also note: frugal != cheap)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonic_treadmill http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/10/24/frugal-vs-cheap/


What I took away from the MMM approach was that the fundamental idea is not to always ask whether things are "worth" spending money on, but rather that by freeing yourself from desire, you are richer in many ways. The financial one is sort of trivial: you will keep more and need less money. The more interesting, philosophical side has to do with what it means to be rich. If you define it as "the ability to do whatever you want", then you really can be as rich as you want just by playing mind tricks on yourself. It sounds kind of like Buddhism to me.


About the -isms, its not Buddhism, but Stoicism.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/02/what-is-stoicism-a...


Yeah, I read that page. I wasn't familiar with Stoicism, but Buddhism sounds very similar in some respects:

"• What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

• What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana."

(from http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm)


There is a famous (many claim infamous) person who uses catch phrases like "don't live below your means, expand your means" and "savers are losers."

He purposely uses hyperbole, possibly to break through the established messages being broadcast far and wide by the institutional investment consortium. Or maybe he just enjoys being a contrarian and having people sling hate at him, I do not know him personally, so I have no idea.

Every time I use his name at HN I get down-voted, but I also know that SOME of his recommendations work.

Such as "the best investment you can make is in your self/mind/thinking."

He definitely rubs many people the wrong way, but just like when I read someone whom I think is a poor author but has a message to convey that contains truth, I find underlying reasoning/principles that work, or can be made to work for me, YMMV.

For example, as stated in other comments here, multi-family rentals can be profitable, and are fairly straight forward to me, now that I have done the research. My wife and I are slowly accumulating properties that cash flow - They produce more in income than they require in expenses and debt service.

Likewise arbitrage in paper assets and commodities is another way to structure gains - Having your money work for you, also called investing, in the more traditional sense of the word. I am currently studying Stock Options as a method for investing with insurance (hedging) and doing so with some leverage (buying a stock=1 to 1 - Buying an option is a ratio, like 1.50 to 100, depends on the option).

The biggest rewards come from starting a business that can be grown to be so successful that it gets to IPO stage (financial exit), or is able to continue without the founders, if they so choose (royalty/profit distributions). That is the frequent path of the majority of contributors to HN, based on my reading.

But all of it requires significant knowledge, the equivalent of another job. Knowing what/who to study is a challenge, mentors and coaches can speed up the processes significantly.

If my conservative planning goes correctly, I expect to be earning more in passive income within 10 years than I have expenses to consume. Then, "work" takes on that optional quality. I will not stop working, but which projects I take may change drastically. I do not say this to toot my own horn, but to just state that it can work, if the person is sincere.

All of that said, if you want to know more, please post such and I will answer any questions I can, what little I can offer, I have only been studying and doing this for about 5 years. An Internet search should definitely find who I am talking about, because as I said earlier, there are many who really dislike this author, but a number (like me) who have taken something away from him that works for them, and many people post. Again, YMMV.


The 'expand your means' concept is really to break the scarcity mindset that many people have.

There is a difference between being frugal - not wasting money by buying crap on credit - and being cheap, like wasting your time shopping around for 10c savings on bananas or fuel.

The main thing is to control both - curtail the urge to spend, and spend time working out investment options and concentrating on cashflow.

It doesn't matter what people think of who you follow - being unafraid of other peoples opinions is arguably step number 1.


Mr. Money Mustache really helped me with life as I ran my startups, because he taught me that I could live a great life with almost no money. Therefore, even if I failed, life could be great. This simple bit of wisdom massively reduced my anxiety, once I internalized it.


With my 6 (almost 7) year old I've been giving him 2% daily interest on whatever is in his chequing account. He's aware I'll scale it back when it gets out of hand :) But so far he spends enough on nerf equipment that it hasn't posed a problem yet! Now he wants to keep more of his money in the bank to see it grow, and I didn't have to say that specifically, which was the entire point.

A rule I did have to institute later though is that if he forgets to ask for his interest that evening, he doesn't get paid.

We also have to rely on his last bank receipt to calculate the amount owed because it appears impossible (at least here in Canada) to open an online account for a child his age.


You make your kid ask you... every. single. night... to please give him his 2%? You are warping that child's mind with your mind games.


Disagree. The point is to get the child to internalize the value of savings and investing. Silent accumulation of wealth (the point of investing as a adult) is useless from an educational point of view (the point the parent is making for their child). It also teaches the value of speaking up for what is due. Hats-off to matb for it, IMO.

We give our kids an allowance of sorts for chores above the basics. We also allow them to blow this money on "stupid crap". We once let them split a pack of candy at an ice rink, but they didn't have the money yet (we were traveling). Once everyone agreed that they'd buy it with their allowance, I bought it with them understanding that they needed to pay me back.

Later that weekend, it came time to pay their allowance. We could have easily paid them $2 each (the net), but it was far more effective to pay them $3 each and then make them physically pay us back the $1 each, even though it resulted in significant frustration and a more than a few tears now that the candy was gone.

That's education, not a mind game.


When I was 8, I had a ScotiaBank Getting There savings account. It wasn't online, but then again, that was 20 years ago. Is that still a thing?


I should clarify he does have a bank account (with his own Interac card) but no way to access it online. This is with TD Canada Trust. I don't imagine it's much different across other Canadian banks.

Edit: sorry, to actually answer your question, yeah they still have those -- they just call it Youth Account at TD


Great article, it gives me some new ideas like the excel bankaccount with monthly interest. I value the curiosity that our son has. He likes to ask about how we make money with our own company, what taxes are and why you have to pay them. He's really happy when he can buy us an ice cream from his own money and have a good time together.


Agreed! This particular quote: "Income is not something that employers or the government ration out to you based on a rigged system. It is a something you generate yourself. It is the byproduct of your hard work, combined with learning and mastering the system itself. Even the system itself is subject to your control if you choose."


I liked this line:

> To me, raising kids to feel pressure and fear so they can be COMPETITORS is bullshit. Life is not a competition. It’s a gigantic collaboration, and the world welcomes and rewards people who see it that way.

Life is not a competition; it's a collaboration.


I like the idea of a spreadsheet. I suppose its ok to give your kids a 10% ARR, too bad we can't get that on anything as close to secure as "Dad's checkbook" :-).

But the key message which I really like is spending is your choice, and if you can't afford something you want to buy it may be because you chose to spend the money to buy it on something else instead. Recognizing that is what you are doing when you "spontaneously" buy that over priced beer at the ball game is a good life skill.


The stock market will, on average, do better than 10%/year. There will be some -50% years along the way, though.

To get 10% with zero volatility, you have to invest with Bernard Madoff.


Well I've only been really fully diversified since 2001 but over 2001 to 2015 it hasn't done 10% year over year, closer to 7.8% :-) And that included the tight clench in 2007 - 2009 which is why 'security' and 'return' are inversely related.

And I see the S&P has done slightly better (8.3% [1]) over 10 years so I should probably kick myself to having anything in a stock or fund other than SPY :-)

[1] http://quicktake.morningstar.com/index/IndexCharts.aspx?Symb...


I agree with the general premise of the article, but there are a few points that struck me as somewhat misleading.

> On the other hand, having crossed the threshold of having more than enough money for a good life almost a decade ago, I cannot even imagine my son not earning a plentiful and permanent surplus very early on in his adult life.

If I remember correctly, the author's net worth was greatly boosted by the stock and real estate market bull market of the 90's. During that era, making an earnest living and investing aggressively in these two markets would handsomely reward you. To automatically believe that the same is true in the current era or any other future era is a dangerous assumption.

In regions with the biggest opportunities from employment, employees are increasingly priced out of the real estate rally and the tax savings home ownership affords you. Similarly, there are no guarantees on how much longer the current 5 year bull market run in the public equities market will last, and how sharp and long lasting an eventual correction will be. While it is possible for informed individuals to navigate times of volatility in the markets, it is a matter easier said than done, particularly for a young professional who has not experienced market turmoil first hand.

> And yet consider the stunning case study of the children of the nation’s uber-wealthy enclaves like Palo Alto, California. Despite incredible wealth and some of the best educational institutions money can buy, kids there are more stressed, less happy, and more likely to commit suicide than others who live with a fraction of their privilege.

The problem arises when high-achieving parents assume that their kids need to be pushed to achieve more themselves, to beat out the other high achievers and gain access to the most elite schools, in order to compete in this incredibly challenging modern world.

It's worth examining "why" these parents behave this way -- what their underlying motivations are. I'm going to simplify the situation and focus on what I believe is the largest slice of the hypercompetitive student population: the children of successful immigrants (this classification is very representative of the Palo Alto and Cupertino school districts).

The immigrant parents who are sending their children to High School now overwhelmingly came from modest means and worked their way to financial and social well being and stability. As immigrants, their situation was highly volatile, both with respect to employment and residence status. As the author himself notes, parents want their children to have it better than them. The worst part about being an immigrant? The fear of not knowing what will happen to you tomorrow. The fear of losing your job and getting deported was a very real possibility. What they want for their children is first and foremost, stability. More than pure financial EV, they wish to maximize the predictability and stability of their children's employment prospects. Status and financial returns are secondary.

Anecdotally, even self made millionaire behave this way. Read "The Millionaire Next Door," (a book primarily about small business owners with prudent spending habits who saved their way to 7 figures) and you will find that most of these self made entrepreneurs want their children to become doctors and lawyers so that they won't have to endure the volatility that the parents suffered.

How do you maximize professional stability? The narrative of "go to the best school and study a technical, skill based discipline" is actually not misguided. The problem if any is that you quickly hit precipitously decreasing marginal returns on any additional academic competitive effort. But from the parents' perspective, even "poor marginal returns" looks like a no brainer. After all, they would have loved to have that opportunity to increase their employment stability before being subjected to the economic forces themselves. The stress in children is a result of wildly differing perspectives and experiences between the immigrant parents and the child born to safety and prosperity. The parents truly want the best for their children, informed by their own experiences and difficulties. Sadly, even "the correct decision" for any person is hardly ever the correct decision for another.


Attaboy - this is what I thought when I read this. Land prices for the boomers made them. For their kids unless they are bequeathed land they will have to pay a vast chunk of their salary to rentiers.

Things have changed from the 1990s. The expansion of the money supply has detached asset prices from wages. Older people rode that wave and loved it. The price? Their kids are going to be farmed forever via the financialisation of housing.

Fantasy land. I work hard and I'm well paid, in a high percentile. My financial security is way below someone who went balls deep into debt in 2000 on housing. They could have done a low stress, low pay job and they'd have more equity than me as I've had to spend a tonne on rent.

ps in fact on his "about" section he has this:

"very boring conservative Vanguard index funds and a __rental house or two__."

The first time I heard about the compound interest for kids was this "bank of dad":

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/05/owen_on_parenti.htm...

Itself it's totally unrealistic now thanks to QE which itself of course is pumping asset prices which is great if you have "a rental house or two".

Retired in his 30s to have a family. Must be nice especially if you have a family slaving away in your rental houses for you so you can capture all their labour.


My financial security is way below someone who went balls deep into debt in 2000 on housing.

That may be true, but that doesn't mean opportunities for FI disappeared with depressed home prices after the dot-com bust.

Unfortunately real estate is often the go-to option since it's (relatively) easy to get a RE purchase financed, whereas good luck getting a loan to e.g. buy into index funds.

"very boring conservative Vanguard index funds and a __rental house or two__."

It's still possible, depending on what real estate market you look in, and if you're ok buying somewhere out of state and having someone manage it for you. A friend who lives in the bay area bought two rental properties in Dallas ~2 years ago and (even with a property manager fee) it's been a great supplement to her income. I've been thinking about doing something similar.

Must be nice especially if you have a family slaving away in your rental houses for you so you can capture all their labour.

This is a weird thing to say... makes no sense, really.


>It's still possible, depending on what real estate market you look in, and if you're ok buying somewhere out of state and having someone manage it for you. A friend who lives in the bay area bought two rental properties in Dallas ~2 years ago and (even with a property manager fee) it's been a great supplement to her income. I've been thinking about doing something similar.

From personal experience -- buying in a market you are not familiar with (i.e. you don't live there) inherently increases the riskiness of the investment because you are on the short end of information asymmetry. You may be able to ride momentum, but in aggregate you are signing up to the short end of the bargain.

More importantly, what are her after tax returns on capital after the management fees, and what is her leverage? What is the profile of her risk exposure on these properties? Just because the properties are working out for her now from an absolute returns perspective doesn't mean that (a) there aren't better investment options out there, and (b) the risk adjusted returns are good. Just my 2c.


Most amateur landlords do not factor in voids, repairs or the possibility that housing will not rise and rise.

Luckily most don't have to factor in opportunity cost because most don't "own" but are in fact highly leveraged. Housing is the only mainstream access to leveraged debt - that's why people love it.

Go to your bank and ask to borrow $400K "because you think google's shares will go up". They will say no.

But real estate? They love it, especially as it's all back-stopped by the government now.

Everyone wants to pile in and exploit other people working to capture some of their labour.

What happened to adding value and working hard? Can we all be rentiers? Who will grow the food?


>Go to your bank and ask to borrow $400K "because you think google's shares will go up". They will say no.

You could buy call options, which include a leverage component.

An at-the-money 1 year call option (LEAPs) is a huge leveraged bet that the price will spike. If you are wrong, buy another at-the-money option in a year. But you must be prepared to lose 100% if you are wrong. (Like like you would have lost 100% if you were leveraged to the max on housing in 2008.)


This is why I put "only mainstream". Every time I put that someone like you who thinks options are a way to show financial intelligence comes along.


Can everyone try to get a reliable income stream off of housing? No, because it's not generating wealth it's just playing the crazy system we have.

This is my beef with this and the reason for my last comment about this guy capturing labour of others. Can we all just rent off each other and watch the dollars roll in? No - other people have to do actual work so rentiers can kick back.


>Retired in his 30s to have a family. Must be nice especially if you have a family slaving away in your rental houses for you so you can capture all their labour.

I will never understand this kind of thinking. A rental agreement is beneficial to both parties - otherwise it would never have existed. You're no more "capture[ing] all their labour" than they are "squatting on your property".


Land is special because it can't be made. Imagine that you land on some planet, with no way to go back. You can work remotely using the intergalactic internet. It turns out you're the second guy there, the first guy now legally owns all the land. He agrees to rent you some land for living, at the maximum price you are capable of paying. Isn't he capturing your labor?

It's still 'beneficial' to both parties, because if you don't pay you will get legally killed for trespassing by police robots.

That's the situation on Earth, except 'the guy' is 'older generations' and the homeless are generally allowed to sleep rough on public land in most countries. Also no intergalactic internet.


On Earth, you can turn away and choose someone else.

If someone is renting too high of a price, then you go somewhere else.


Where do you think all the money comes from due to the huge rise in housing costs between now and 1990? It comes from the next generation paying more of their labour for the same house someone had to work far less for 20 years back.

And this is because banks have financialised housing. Prices are set by available credit.

We all have no choice in a world where land is financialised. You can't float in the air. You either live miles away from the source of most jobs (cities) and pay in commute time or you live nearer in and give someone a huge slice of your wages whilst they cream it in.

And in our current system it will always be like this. Productivity up? More wages to spend on rent!


If your argument is the government should be far less involved in housing and stop monkeying with the currency so much, then I'm with you.

But unless you're an absolute dictator you have to live in the environment in which you find yourself. People who buy real assets risk the possibility they'll go down in value, too - a lot of people where I live got wiped out in 2008.


Yes but it's better to not think "ah I see we are in a bad situation let me try to get on the side of the exploiters and get me a piece of the pie". It's just wrong, they are exploiting people.

Some did get wiped out in 2008 - those who got in late. Not MMM blog man who has "retired" but still takes rental income based on the differential between buying back before 2000 or so before housing was financialised and the cost of renting now. This doesn't take finance knowledge you just have to be born at the right time.

So many blogs have "yeah I saved a bit and my 3 houses quintupled in value and I wasn't handing over half my pay to a landlord like kids now...so let me give you some advice!"

For too many for too long housing has been a one way bet. And because they are creating nothing that money comes from the labour of others.

The more productive we become the greater the economic advantage of the land and therefore the greater the rent. If we all work harder and/or smarter the landlord gets it. And if we all try to get our slice of the pie we go to hell in a handcart. Together.


Can't reply to your reply Zrail.

Due to the financialisation of housing the yield has not been 4%. People have gotten massive appreciation on their land which has left them with a lot of equity if they bought before banking went insane (pre 1990-1997).

The primary cost of housing is the land, not the cost to build, not the upkeep. The land. And the land price is set by available credit. Banks can create credit at will. They only have to stop when the price of land reaches the maximum and individual can service monthly in interest on the debt. With ZIRP this has reached insane levels. All of it is utterly unrelated to either wages or the cost to build.

I'm not blaming "home owners". I'm blaming speculators who are buying more than one home. A place to live and a place to extract economic rent from others. These guys are the foot soldiers for the banks. An army of exploiters in a zero sum game devoid of wealth creation.

Financial speculation in an item pushes prices way beyond their reasonable utility. For example the tulip bubble - people didn't want to live in a tulip but up the price went as speculators piled in.

If you're cool with that then fine. I'm not.


Imagine the opposite extreme. No one is allowed to own a dwelling they don't live in. Graduate college, get a job, and want to live someplace? Pony up to buy a place, hope you have the 10-20% downpayment bucko...because there's no housing for rent. Every time you move, you're on the hook for 5-8% of the total value of the house in commissions and fees. You think that UHaul truck was expensive? Wait until the moving costs are that plus $15K each time. (which comes out of/delays your next downpayment savings)

Suddenly, the availability of short and mid-term rentals seems like an economic good compared to a world where there were none of those dastardly "foot soldiers for the banks".


Rentals are fine but without massive equity accumulation. Speculators are enabling banks to push up prices and then new speculators buy in at high prices and lock in high rents as they need to pay back huge amounts of interest to the banks.

We basically need land value tax to discourage land speculation and to inhibit the huge unearned income flowing to land owners. And once this tax is introduced get rid of labour tax.


I suspect that would end up quite regressive, as the renters would end up paying the land tax on the buildings they rent (indirectly, of course).

Many of the lower income renters pay little net tax (often negative with EIC) today.


I don't understand your argument. Everyone has to live somewhere. For some people, that means renting. Someone has to own the building they live in.

It's not like the person who owns the building does nothing to earn their rent. Building maintenance, loan servicing, taxes, insurance, vacancies, all of that and more has a cost (just ask a homeowner). From what I understand, 4% annually is a good return after expenses.

If you're arguing specifically about rents in the Bay Area, then sure that's a problem that needs to be fixed. But blaming the property owners for high rents is sort of blaming the messenger, no? No additional land and laws that prevent building upwards directly leads to higher rents because of increased competition, and high salaries at tech companies (combined with a bunch of other externalities like private buses) just makes it worse.


>But blaming the property owners for high rents is sort of blaming the messenger, no?

In the Bay Area, property owners directly influence the community rules and laws that restrict the construction of high density developments. This is the case in both SV and SF.

I don't blame the land owners -- they are acting in their self interest, as they have the right to be doing.


Is there some kind of crazy "only land owners can vote" policy there? Or is it like everyplace else in the country: all residents can vote?


hah - suddenly the reply button appears - i guess it's a timeout to stop rage replies. I replied above. Take it or leave it :-)


I don't see that anyone is being exploited here. Pre-2008 in my area rents were far below the equivalent house payment because there were more people who wanted to own property and rent it out than there were people who wanted to rent. In effect the renters were subsidized by buyers who were betting on rising home prices.

Historically, in the US at least, as a land owner your appreciation tracks the CPI pretty closely. It will go out of whack for a few years, but then there's a correction. I just can't buy into your exploiter-exploited mindset.


The tonne smells of England or so, which is at least relatively tight on housing (which is a situation where rent tends to end up including quite a bit of economic rent).


Yes, but we've seen this in the US also. The whole system totally messed up to bail out the banks from ramping housing up to 2008.


> Land prices for the boomers made them. For their kids unless they are bequeathed land they will have to pay a vast chunk of their salary to rentiers.

My parents are boomers; I received no land and only some help with my college tuition, and I've owned my own place for over a decade.

My secret? I don't waste money on stupid stuff (and especially, I didn't waste money on stupid stuff when I was younger). I've never had cable. I didn't spend tons of money eating out or partying, back in my 20s when that was the thing to do. I drove a crappy used car for over a decade. Back when I rented, I rented a crappy old apartment without dedicated parking spaces; when I bought a place, I bought a crappy little place.

Meanwhile, I had a colleague earning more than me, who literally had no savings, nothing more than a few $20 bills in his pocket, and I've known plenty more young people in straits nearly as bad. Sure, they drive nice cars, eat at fancy places and drink fancy drinks, live in swank apartments nicer than what you'd see on TV, wear nice clothes and nicer colognes, and so on and so forth—but they have no savings, or almost no savings!

You can trim your lifestyle, and you can save 20% of what you make. Saving from your very first paycheque is possible, and it's desirable.


A strange attitude to have and display. Yes, the 'game' is rigged to a certain extent. Everyone knows this. Every age has had the rules set by someone other than them.

My answer is : so what? Either you want financial independence and security, or you don't.

You can blame QE and land supply and all sorts of things. You can rant on the porch at passers by until the day you die.

You can be a victim of circumstance or you can make your own circumstances. The choice happens whether you make it consciously or not. It all depends on the attitude you want to take into it.

Personally I try every day to acknowledge where I am in life is a result of the choices that I have made. I am not a victim of anything because all outcomes I have a say in. If I want different outcomes I acknowledge I must make different choices.

Playing the victim card requires acknowledging that you are powerless. Some people prefer to live that way. I don't.


Are you saying that our current system is one in which the actors are mostly in control of their own actions? And those actions are mostly transactions with other actors? If so, how is your position (that the actors are mostly in control of the consequences) self-consistent?

e: the people who disagree with you (eg, me) are saying that intent does not clearly translate to effect in a chaotic system.


> If I want different outcomes I acknowledge I must make different choices.

Would love to see you try and sell this in Iraq, for example. An extreme but it illustrates the flaw in your theory.


I get seriously depressed by renting, and the realisation it's only going to get worse. Inflation up, rent up, wages stagnant. It won't be long until over 80% of my salary would get me a studio 20 miles from work. Currently, renting a room in a landlord's money spinner is 25%.


Maybe you'll be renting from one of HN's many "entrepreneurs" :-)


I like your post. Good balance against MMM, and one that matches what I've seen of my friends from immigrant families.

Granted, those who survive to adulthood from that kind of pressure seem to be extremely successful go-getters. But I also know of my peers who instead felt isolated from their "Tiger" parents, and instead ran away from home and never looked back (until their bank accounts ran dry).

The extreme pressures of the "Tiger Immigrant Parents" can be unhealthy. But as long as the pressure is done in moderation, it seems to lead to a number of "elites" who do well in school, get great jobs or become community leaders.

One day, I guess I'll have to make that decision on what kind of Father I will be for my child. For now though, I'll take advantage of the stress-free bachelor life (and at worst, deal with the responsibilities of being an uncle)


Competition is like medicine.

In moderate doses, it inspires you to work hard and achieve personal growth and exploration in any number of areas. I myself benefited immensely from friendly competition between academically gifted peers.

However, take in too much of the competition medicine, and you quickly overdose and will start to suffer a wide array of negative symptoms.


I really liked the compassion and care that MMM shows for his kid. In too many articles like this, it's clear that the author cares more that the child adopts the parent's ideology than that the child is actually happy. The goals and methods were moderate: earning one's own money (at an appropriate age), learning to control one's own life (I would add "to the extent possible") and not over or undervaluing wealth.

My only reservation was the artificial 10% interest rate. The current interest rate is 0%. Over the last 100 years interest rates averaged 5%. This is a concern to me because people on the Right tend to fetishize compound interest rates, while MMM seems to focus on true fundamentals.


I am one of those people who followed the path (and was told to) of "study hard, get a good job, work hard till retirement, spend wisely, ...". A few years back, I realized that one important thing nobody taught me during my childhood is that a very important part of everyone's life is to provide value to others in exchange for money that you live by.

At that time, I decided to teach my children about this. One of the ways I have thought of doing this is to ask my children to start earning a small amount of money early in life by providing value to others in ethical ways. I am glad to read that the author, who can be considered an expert at managing personal money, is being successful at a similar experiment.


This connection—between earning money and providing value to others—is something that sounds obvious, but I only really internalized it recently, after reading Kevin Simler's Congolese Trading Window thought experiment[1].

It would be easy to take this line of reasoning into dangerous territory and suppose that earning money is equivalent to being morally virtuous, but this neglects externalities and the sometimes fundamental difficulty of accurately pricing certain kinds of goods (subjective wellbeing, community, a sense of meaning, etc.). Money is, at best, a very rough proxy measure for human value.

[1] http://www.meltingasphalt.com/wealth-the-toxic-byproduct/


That's a good article. It has a long introduction that resembles libertarian twaddle, but then Section V brings it home to tie the knot in a way most econ 101 libertarians ignore.


Actually the article is completely wrong.

If you make money "squarely" as described in I-IV, then you have created some value. Cashing out in section V is simply consuming that value.

All we can say (given the assumptions in I-IV) is that the person was a net positive (or zero) for the Congolese economy.

The technical mistake that the author makes is not realizing that adding value to the Congolese economy means increasing the total amount of physical wealth in the economy. When the person cashes out their yacht, they are simply exchanging cash for the physical wealth they helped create.

I don't think you can logically say that I-IV are "libertarian twaddle" and that V "brings it home", because V is predicated on I-IV being true. If you're interested in the theoretical basis behind "econ 101" I suggest you look into general equilibrium theory.


It ignores the fact that, for every transaction that was made, the other side also made a profit. Saying that the man is time-shifting the grain is equivalent to saying that the farmer is time-shifting money. On the average, profit is half of added value. Spending half of added value doesn't "almost perfectly cancel out all the good you did".


While I don't have kids myself these types of experiments aimed at pushing kids in a certain beneficial direction. e.g. My dad had a policy that he'd cover the cost of all bookstore purchases. All other entertainment expenses get funded via allowance.

I wouldn't be surprised if small nudges like that have far reaching effects much later in life.


I wouldn't be surprised if small nudges like that have far reaching effects much later in life.

I suspect that having a nudger around who cares enough to do that kind of nudging is what really matters.


>I suspect that having a nudger around who cares enough to do that kind of nudging is what really matters.

That too. I'm proud to say that my dad was a true class act - he swore both his kids would walk into life with a varsity education and no debt come hell or high water.

That being said I still think its the small practical things that count. All those small things accumulate towards one massive social edge that is hard to quantify. Suppose you need to pick an engineer to build a bridge...the one grew up with legos the other grew up without. Who do you pick? Trivial childhood detail?


Even having a household with books in it is a massive boost in life prospects.


I remember the nudge of my dad that he wanted to treat all his sons equally. So the same financial rules and support for all of us. He learned us to value fairness.


wow I really massacred that sentence...sorry guys. It was supposed to read:

>these types of experiments aimed at pushing kids in a certain beneficial direction ---interest me---


Great article! It's funny to think how our kids are overwhelmed by useless subjects and have no background on personal finance.

On the long-term, it's fundamental for building wealth and a future for oneself.


> more likely to commit suicide than others who live with a fraction of their privilege.

data that supports this?


Mr money mustache needs to spend some of that dosh on a properly scalable server, I think.


I love the fact that you guys are using that spreadsheet.


Can I please deposit some money in the Bank of MMM?


I'm glad to see MMM here on hacker news!


If your kid asks for something, don't just tell them it's too expensive. If you don't want them to have it find some good reason, but not always "it's too expensive". The kid will get a distorted idea of the value of things.

A few years ago I finally figured out that the reason my mother always says things are too expensive is that her father committed suicide when she was just seven years old.


I never say "too expensive" to anyone, even myself, ever. If it's too expensive in the sense that I think it's a bad deal (e.g. that 1br/1ba 400sqft house is too expensive at $700k), then I express that.

Everything else though, I say "you have to save for it". A Model S isn't too expensive, I just have to save for it. My wife wanted a couch that I thought was a little unreasonably priced, but I said if we save for it, sure. Savings is separate from retirement and so forth so knock yourself out.

Interesting thing about this is it forces you to choose -- you can't save for 10 really expensive things all at once, unless you're prepared to wait 15 years for the money to accumulate. So this method forces you to choose priorities.

Works great for a kid I think -- you're saving for this $10 book, but you want a $3 candy bar... what is that going to do to your book savings?

You can have anything you want if you save for it.


>The kid will get a distorted idea of the value of things. //

Are you equating price with value here? Just because something is expensive doesn't mean it is valuable.


Not to speak for OP, but my mother used to do that too, used 'too expensive' as a reason when she didn't want me to have something. That video game rental was 'too expensive' or those hideous velcro shoes were 'too expensive' and what have you. It was really confusing to hear that McDonalds was 'too expensive' and then have delicious grilled steaks for dinner that night.


I myself eventually learned to save up then purchase what I regard as being of the most lasting value.

I figured that out on my own - no one else taught me.

Yes I agree, I wear very modest close for example. Denim jeans because the cloth is comfortable and durable.




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