Mr. Money Mustache Divorce: Should Happiness Be the Goal?

Early in 2018, a friend and I were talking about money.

We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and for some reason, we were discussing how we handle different aspects of personal finance. He mentioned something about credit cards, and at the time, I had been following Dave Ramsey for a couple of years. 

If you know anything about Dave Ramsey, you know credit cards are out of the question if you’re following his steps. So, I mentioned to my friend that I had closed all of my credit card accounts, and we went back and forth a bit on the subject. Somewhere in the midst of the conversation, he asked me if I had ever heard of Mr. Money Mustache. 

Until this point in my life, I had only heard of two personal finance gurus – Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard. I’m the type of person that does a bit of research on a topic, picks something I like, and then sticks with my choice until something else potentially slaps me in the face. I need to break that habit.

Clark Howard is a pretty good financial guide, but he doesn’t have a system set up for people to follow. Dave Ramsey is the opposite. You get 7 baby steps, and you stick to those 7 steps for life. Since Dave had a clearer path to follow, I chose him over Clark and essentially closed out all other information on the subject of personal finance

After being on the 7 baby step plan for a couple of years, I had grown a bit tired of them. You can learn everything you need to know about Dave Ramsey’s steps with a couple of hours of research. 

Being a bit wary of hearing Dave Ramsey's baby steps over and over, when my friend mentioned Mr. Money Mustache and how he had retired at age 30, it piqued my interest. 

Bye-Bye Dave, Hello Mr. Money Mustache! 

My personality type is a bit on the orderly side, so I like being organized and starting things from the beginning. Even though Mr. Money Mustache’s blog was nearing 500 articles by the time I first landed on the site, I started at the very beginning. 

It didn’t take long for Mr. Money Mustache’s writing style to captivate me, and I ended up devouring every single post on his site in a matter of a few months. 

This was what I was looking for. Someone who had all the answers financially speaking. Someone to fill in all the holes Dave Ramsey leaves you with. 

When someone retires comfortably at the age of 30, and not by winning the lottery, you should probably listen to what they have to say about money. 

So, I became a bit of a Mr. Money Mustache fanboy (or, as he would call it, a Mustachian). I started trying to optimize our finances as much as possible and started an eBay business to bring in more income.

Mr. Money Mustache and the Pursuit of Happiness

After reading every single post Mr. Money Mustache ever wrote and being indoctrinated in the Mustachian philosophy, I notice a recurring theme throughout the blog. Money isn’t really the focus. Optimizing your life for health and happiness is. 

If you just read Mr. Money Mustache’s content and take it at face value, you’d think he’s a major cheapskate who designs his life around saving a dollar.

You’d be wrong, though. Due to hedonic adaptation, buying things only results in temporary happiness that fades away once the “new” feeling has faded. 

Mr. Money Mustache teaches that to find lasting happiness, one should invest more in health, relationships, and embracing hardship. 

These three things certainly sound like they’ll provide a feeling of happiness longer than buying a new pair of shoes.

Judging him from his internet presence (which is all I have to go by), I’d say he has accomplished his goal of achieving happiness as well as anyone can hope to. He really comes across as someone who has life figured out. 

After reading all the posts, I had created an image in my head of the Mustache household (he, his wife, and kid) as a perfect little family that was probably way happier than the average American family.  

Mr. Money Mustache Divorce Announcement

At the end of 2018, Mr. Money Mustache published an article that blew my mind. He and his wife had gotten a divorce.

When I heard the news, I thought to myself, “how could this happen?” How could a couple split up when on paper, everything seemed so perfect? Also, Mr. Money Mustache is always writing about embracing hardship. What’s harder than a rocky marriage?

So, the news hit me pretty hard. The article didn’t get into the details, so I have no idea what actually happened to cause the separation. 

Looking back on things, I realize my surprise was just a case of naivety. No one is 100% safe from divorce. Really, all of us who don’t know the Mustache family personally have no idea what their lives are really like. 

When I started drinking the mustache kool-aid, I wasn’t following a real person; I followed the projected thoughts of a real person. Even when you read the most transparent of us bloggers, you’re still getting a polished version of reality. The fact that we pick and choose what we write confirms we’re creating something that isn’t 100% real. 

Does Getting a Divorce Discredit Someone’s Advice?

Put, no. While I was initially surprised to hear the king of life optimization was divorced, it doesn’t mean the advice he gives on money is any less valid. 

Mr. Money Mustache talks about many things besides money on his blog, but I never went to his site looking for relationship advice. I read his posts to get inspired in the art of frugality because he takes frugal living to the next level. 

I can’t say I’ve found anything on Mr. Money Mustache’s site that I could consider bad money advice. If you want to become financially independent at a young age, going down the path of Mustachianism is one of the fastest ways to become wealthy I’ve ever heard of. 

Should Happiness Be Our Life Goal?

I highly respect Mr. Money Mustache’s writings and think he’s a great person to follow for money advice. I find myself veering away from him when it comes to life goals, though. I’m afraid I have to disagree with him when he says happiness should be the number one life pursuit.

Jordan Peterson makes a pretty strong case against happiness as a life goal:

“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.” – Jordan Peterson

This is a much more articulate argument than I could come up with on my own, but I lean more towards Peterson’s idea than Mr. Money Mustache. It just doesn’t seem like happiness is a permanent thing, so why make our life’s mission to achieve it?

Final Thoughts

I’m certainly not a divorce or marriage expert, and for all I know, I could end up divorced myself someday. Every married couple can. Sometimes divorce is probably the right option. 

It seems to me like there’s a high correlation between divorced people and people pursuing happiness as their number one goal. When happiness goes, so does the relationship. 

What about meaning, though? 

Happiness may come and go, but you can always find meaning in your life. If meaning is your driver, you still have something to focus on when happiness is absent. And the best part about having meaning as your top pursuit is that happiness can always come back if you don’t currently have it. 

If love is putting someone else’s happiness above your own, and happiness is a selfish pursuit, happiness doesn’t seem to be the best marriage goal. 

Nathan has been a personal finance writer since early 2018. He and his wife reached a net worth of one hundred thousand at the age of 25 and are on their way to financial independence. His favorite way to make money is selling things on eBay and has grown his eBay business to earn five figures selling part-time. He loves sharing what he learns about finance and any eBay tips he comes across. If you’re interested in becoming an eBay seller, check out his reseller Facebook group.