“If you reach for a star, you might not get one.  But you won’t come up with a hand full of mud either.”

Leo Burnett

I came across this quote many years ago and, looking back, it’s the way my life has unfolded.  Personally, I never got that star but things have been pretty damn good and the reaching was fun.  I’m still at it.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:

Spend less than you earn – invest the surplus – avoid debt

Do simply this and you’ll wind up rich.  Not just in money.

If your lifestyle matches or, god forbid exceeds, your income you are no more than a gilded slave.

As individuals we only have one obligation to society:  To make sure we, and our children, are not a burden to others.

The rest is your personal choice.  Make your own and make the world a far more interesting place.

While giving is a fine and pleasant thing, no one has an obligation to do so.  Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something, most likely the idea of giving to them and/or their pet project.

Spend sparingly.  Tip generously.

You own the things you own and they in turn own you.

Money can buy many things, but nothing more valuable than your freedom.

Life choices are not always about the money, but you should always be clear about the money choice you are making.

Without F-you Money you are a slave.  If you have debt, you are a slave with still stouter shackles.

You weren’t born to be a slave.

Carrying debt is as appealing as being covered with leeches, and has much the same effect.  The idea that many, indeed most, people seem to happily cover themselves with debt is so beyond my understanding it is hard to imagine how, let alone why, the downsides would need be explained.

Take out your sharpest knife and start scraping the little blood-suckers off.

This includes car loans.

On luck:

  • If life hasn’t been turning out the way you’d hoped, take a moment.  Look around.  Open your eyes.  There might just be some luck flowing past waiting for you to grab it.
  • If you are basking in the glow of your hard work, initiative and success, congratulations.  Now, when you’re done patting yourself on the back, take a moment and give a little thanks.

Travel slowly, avoid the sights, linger in outdoor cafes, talk to the locals, leave your camera at home, do it now, do it while you’re young.

The problem with Beanie Babies, or anything else produced as a collectible, is that when people buy them they save them.  They will never be rare and rare equals value.

 Fads, manias and bubbles:  What they all have in common is that by the time you start reading about them everywhere, the end is near.

It’s OK for the other guy to get a deal, too.

You can’t pick winning stocks:  

If you choose to try to best the averages, God Bless and God Speed. You may well be smarter and more talented than I. You are most certainly likely to be better looking. I’ll look for your name along with Warren and Peter’s in the not too distant future.  I extend the same to all those folks I’ve met in Vegas who assure me they have bested the house. I listen, gaze up at the billion dollar casinos and reflect on how many smarter, more talented and better looking people there are than me.

Index funds.  End of story.

Vanguard.  End of story.

This whole civilization thing has been a huge mistake and we’d all be better off as hunter/gatherers.  But since we do live in this complex, technical world you had best learn about money.  Money is the single most important, effective tool in navigating it.

Sound investing is not complicated.  Complicated investments make money only for those selling them.

Keep a mental list of people you’d like to have a cup of coffee with.  Invite them.


There is nothing you can’t learn, no place you can’t go, if you read.

Addendum: I couldn’t have said it better myself….

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  1. Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    This is a great manifesto. Sadly, it has taken me much later in life to learn much of what you mention here. Now that I have it, I’m on a roll :-)

  2. Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Mr. Stoic…

    …it only took me five decades and countless mistakes to get here. :)

  3. Trish Rempen
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I agree with Stoic Investor. Now that I know, I share your blog with everyone who might pay attention.

  4. Andria
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:35 am | Permalink


    I found this site off of MMM. I am 34 and I want to spend the next 20 years investing as much as possible. I only have 70k saved. 30k in a roth Ira at Scottrade in stocks and another 30k at scottrade in stocks but in a Ira. Then I have 10k in a 401k.

    Just turned my life around in January after discovering MMM. I have 4k for emergency and I put 500 in a month making 3% at the bank.

    Any suggestions or where should I start reading first?

    I want to invest in other things but not sure where to start I want to try and retire by 54 but not sure were to put the money.

    • Posted October 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      Hi Andria….

      Welcome and congratulations on the new path you’ve chosen for yourself.

      I’m going to arrogantly assume that when you ask “…where should I start reading first?” you are referring to on this blog. :) Here you go:

      From there I’d read the stock series starting here:

      Finally, I just finished being interviewed here:

      …in case you get tired of reading.

      please feel free to comment and ask questions along the way.

    • Andria
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink


      Thank you for letting me know where to start reading.

      I have a few questions and I could use some advice please.

      I started contributing 40% of my salary which is almost $700 every two weeks to a 401k that is at Fidelity to the following funds:

      Asset Class Subclass Fund Name Current %
      Stock Investments LARGE CAP FID CONTRAFUND K
      Stock Investments MID-CAP FBR FOCUS INV
      Stock Investments SMALL CAP ALLNZ NFJ SMCPVAL AD
      Blended Fund Investments LARGE CAP FID BALANCED K
      Bond Investments INCOME PIM TOTAL RT INST
      Total: 100%

      Total current balance 10K Is this okay?

      Then I have a IRA through Scottrade of stocks that total 30K.
      Then we have Two Roth IRA accounts that total 30K through Scottrade of stocks and I am doing the max 10K contribution now.

      I am saving $500.00 a month in a savings account that is giving me 3%. My balance is 4k

      After reading your blog I am thinking I may need to change some things around. I want to start the VTSAK fund as well.

      Should I go in the VTSAK for a IRA or a mutual fund? I am thinking if I do IRA I could roll over the 33K from my Scottrade IRA and get it going. Then I will contribute any extra money to the VTSAK fund each month. Then keep my Roth IRA’s through Scottrade. Any suggestions would help. Or is this too much stock and should I do some bonds?

      I have never invested as much money as I do now so it is scary. : ) I like what you did for your daughter helping her to find something she does not have to constantly worry about. I need that. We are 34 so we are trying to save as much as possible for the next twenty years.

      Thank you and thanks for what you do. I am so excited to have found your blog and i signed up.


      • Posted October 3, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Hi Andria…..

        Looking at your 401k, the good news is that you have the US market covered with the small, mid and large cap funds. You’ve also got some international and some bonds.

        The bad news is you are using 6 funds to do it and they are likely high cost ratio choices.

        1st, you can dump the balanced fund. It is just duplicating what you have in the others. Hopefully you can dump some others as well.

        Personally, I don’t see the need for International as I describe here:
        or Bonds at your age.

        But if you want them, Fidelity has an interesting “fund of funds” fund that covers every thing you have in those six: FFNOX, Fidelity Four-in-One Index Fund. It has a reasonable expense ratio of .23%. If that’s an option in your 401k, it’s all you need. Assuming you want the International and bonds. If not all you need is one of these:

        Your 401k almost certainly will offer one of these Total Stock Market Index Funds:
        FSTVX or FSTMX. The first has the lower cost @ .07% so I’d go with that if you can.

        If not, it’ll likely offer one of these Index 500 funds: FUSVX or FUSEX. Any of these four work well.

        VTSAX is an excellent choice for your Roths and IRA.

        As for this being scary, be sure to read Stocks — Part I and the rest of the series. That should help you decide if and when you want to smooth out the ride with the REIT and Bond funds.

        In another week or so I’ll be publishing a post on Target Retirement Funds. These make things even simpler than the Simple Paths I’ve described. You might find them of interest, too.

        Stay tuned, and thanks for subscribing!

      • Andria
        Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        Okay great, thanks for taking the time to respond. I appreciate it and I am going to look into changing my Fidelity account asap.


      • Draggon
        Posted January 20, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Jim –

        I’ve been poking around on your blog a lot lately, and it’s pretty cool how much you go out of your way to help people. Generally speaking, you give them tremendously better advice for free than what they would get paying a “professional” for same. Kudos!

        The reason I’m posting (on a particularly old post) is because I was perusing the comments here and came across the mention of your interview with MF. I just got done listening and wanted to extend my thanks for taking the time to do that. It was wonderfully inspiring even though I’m still trying to put my finger on why. I have already read enough of your blog (and other resources) to know everything you talked about in the interview, but even so, hearing you talk about it resonated even stronger with me.

        I think part of it is that, contrary to my logical thinking based on real data, I’m still resisting – just like you talked about – the FACT that “I can’t pick winning stocks – and no one else can either.” I’m no dummy, but why do we do this to ourselves??? I’ve always been a good saver (like you), and I know I’m very close to everlasting (heh) F-You Money (though I’m still too chicken to pull the plug), but I’m also still thinking there’s “got to be a way”.

        It’s slowly but surely sinking in. Thanks for the inspiration!

      • jlcollinsnh
        Posted January 20, 2015 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

        Hi Draggon…

        Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad to hear the message resonates with you. Glad also you enjoyed the MF interview:
        It was great fun to do.

        As for individual stocks, once you have index funds set up to do the heavy lifting, there’s nothing wrong with setting aside a small percentage to add some spice.

        Truth is, and don’t tell anyone, I just bought an individual stock a couple of weeks ago. First time since 2012, so clearly I don’t make a habit of it.

        It is a play on what’s happening with oil prices. If I’m right, it might be a quick ~20%. If it stagnates, it still pays ~5.8% in dividends. If I’m wrong, opps! ;)

  5. Andria
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink


    Yes, I wanted to know where to get started on your blog. :). Thank you very much for the information so I can get started!!!!!!


  6. Andrew
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    I hopefully have 2 pretty quick questions.

    I have e-trade account which I am currently invested in the VFINX and the VFSAX. Am I duplicating myself ?

    I am 23, and also want to know is it better to have the dividends re-invest in the fund, or have them deposited into the account. I would assume to have them re-invested so you get them to compound for you. but a little advice would be great.

    Thank you – and what an awesome blog!

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      Hi Andrew…

      ..and thanks!

      VFINX is the S&P 500 index fund. It invests in the 500 largest US companies.
      VFSAX is not an actual fund. My guess is you meant to type VTSAX, which is the Total Stack Market Index fund.

      VTSAX invests in every publicly trade US company. Both are great choices, but I prefer VTSAX for its broader range.

      Yes, there is considerable duplication between the two. I’s suggest you chose one and keep things simple.

      And, assuming your goal is to grow your investment, yes I’d recommend you reinvest your dividends and capital gains.

      • Andrew
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Thank you!

  7. J A
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Hi Jim –
    Your writing is really inspiring to me. I’m 26 and I feel like I’m cheating at life by absorbing these ideas now!
    Just wanted to say hello and to thank you for sharing your thoughts and your integrity.
    I’m in MA so I’ll invite you for a cup of coffee some day.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink


      I love it! Cheating at life!

      I’ve often wished some of the blogs like Mad Fientest and MMM were around when I was starting out. Would have saved me a lot of heartache and $$$.

      Thanks for checking in. Coffee sounds like a plan! Let me know next time you make it up to NH.

  8. WS
    Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink


    sorry to bother you but I had a few questions to ask and was hoping you could help me out a bit. I’ve also asked MMM as well and am hoping someone can help us figure everything out.

    1) THANK YOU for your blog! LOVE it! Very helpful! Now because both you and MMM have recommended vanguard my husband and I are looking at rolling over everything to them from our american funds ira’s. the only thing that I’m slightly uncomofrtable with is NOT having someone local to answer your questions, make sure to follow up wtih everythings been done correctly etc. I HATE being transfered around on the phone with a company and feeling like I get different answers each time I talk to a different person. Thoughts?

    2) I would like some advise… when reading these early retirement blogs we want to save/ work for early retirement but the problem is noone explains HOW to pull the money out before age 59 1/2… soooo.. where exactly should a young couple (29) be saving our money if we want to retire before age 50 so we can live off of that money?

    3) my husband and I are now in a higher tax bracket… Im self employed and and have just recently incoporated into an s corp… im lookin at trying to determine If I should save into a ROTH IRA using my personal income.. or starting a SIMPLE/SEP and having the corporatin help fund our retirement.. we have only 1 full time employee other then myself and husband. He also works outside of our business. Any suggestions on what we should look at?


    We would appreciate any advice! Thanks!

    Also want to mention our tax brack is netting $100-$110k a year.. and we have 1 Rental house paid off.. and our personal home paid off.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 21, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Welcome WS!

      Congratulations on the debt free personal and rental homes! Great start for age 29!

      1. My pleasure!

      Regarding Vanguard my experience has been that they are extremely helpful and it is easy to get a real person on the phone. My suggestion is that you call them directly and explain what you’d like to do. Then you can evaluate your experience with them for yourself.

      2. What I think you are asking here is how to balance tax advantaged (IRAs, 401Ks) “buckets” with regular investment “buckets” so that you can easily pull money out without bumping into the 59.5 age limit rules.

      If you are planning to retire before age 50 that implies an aggressive savings rate. With such a savings rate you should be able to fully fund your tax advantaged buckets and still fund your regular buckets. Then, before 59.5, just tap the regular buckets.

      If you haven’t already, for more on this you might want to read:

      3. You can fund both a SEP and a Roth.

      Since you are self employed, a Simple/SEP is a great option and provides great tax deferral. Go for it.

      You should also fully fund Roths for both you and your husband, assuming you are under the income threshold. For 2013 that’s 178k in adjusted gross income assuming you are married and filing jointly.

      Hope this helps!

  9. Ken
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for publishing this insightful blog on investing and becoming FI.

    I’m 34 and have received an inherited IRA of about 100,000. Would you recommend putting it all in index funds (VTSAX) now with the market being “expensive”?


    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted March 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Welcome Ken….

      I’m glad you are here. But rather than answer your question I’m going to give you an assignment.

      Sit on your 100k until you read the stock series here on the blog. The answer is in there, along with a bunch more you should know before investing.

      Good luck and check back!

  10. FiscalEngineering
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I am totally with you on “Spend sparingly. Tip generously.” I don’t eat out often, but when I do, I make sure I tip generously. I cook and bring lunch to work 95 % of the time to “make up” for the tips that I know I’d give when I eat out. I always tell myself these tips will be for waiters/waitresses with a minimum wage who are college students or single mothers or whoever needs to support their family.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Well played, FE.

      Tipping well is just part of the cost of the meal!

  11. Reuben
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Hi Jim

    I am reading your posts from New Zealand and have been really enjoying learning about index funds and Vanguard. I am really keen to start investing my savings into one of these funds however being based in New Zealand I have to face exchange rate risk if wanting to invest in VTSAX etc… Do you have any recommendations on how to go about my investment and what my potential options are?

    Thanks, Reuben

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Hi Reuben…

      Thanks for stopping by. If you haven’t already, check out this post:

      Be sure to read the comments as they are becoming, as I’d hoped, a source when international investors share ideas on how best to implement what I talk about here.

      After reading all that, post any specific question you might have there and I, and probaly some others, will try to answer it.

      Also, as you learn more, please fill us it with a comment there.


  12. Rod
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Every time I read this manifesto, I get the same great feeling. I’m working on mine, but yours is so profound. If I ever get out east,
    ill buy you a coffee, and hope we can visit. Thank you kind sir, Rod

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted December 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rod…

      Thanks! I’m honored you like it well enough to read more than once.

      I’d be delighted to have the coffee with you. We can compare manifesto notes!

  13. Corey
    Posted July 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    This is the most awesome article I have ever read. I am printing this and sticking it above my desk!! So I see it everyday. Now I have both you and MMM above my desk.

    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      That’s quite a compliment, Corey. Thank you!

      Just curious, which post of MMM do you have above your desk?

      • Corey
        Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        Actually it wasn’t one of his articles. It was his interview with Forbes in which he basically spells out all of his philosophies on managing finances and living a more simple life. (Its like 7 pages long actually) That was my first time stepping into this new beautiful world of valuing your freedom over material things.

  14. Posted September 30, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Jim,

    Question for you: nowhere in your manifesto (or entire website) do you talk about “socially responsible investing” (e.g. divesting from fossil fuel companies). I’m curious what your take on it is.


    • jlcollinsnh
      Posted September 30, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Hi Joe…

      Actually this has come up several times in the comments here:

      My concerns with them are that they tend to be actively managed funds. That means stock picking and high ERs, two key indicators of poor performance. Plus, everybody’s idea of what is “socially responsible” differs.

      That said, since there is big money to be made offering these, they have sprung up everywhere like mushrooms after a rain. Those interested can likely find one that closely matches their sensibilities.

      As for me, I figure asking my money to make me more money is asking enough of it as it is. ;)

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