I first heard about Mr. Money Mustache getting a divorce when he and others mentioned it on Twitter in early December. It’s great he’s open about the divorce and has hosted a 600+ comment thread on his forum to discuss his divorce for months. Divorce is common and should not be taboo.
I was surprised to hear the bad news because MMM has consistently been writing about how he’s been living a great life full of intention and purpose. If you’re living a great life, one would think you would also be happy with your family situation, the most important element.
But as we all know, life happens.
With tremendous income from his site over the past few years, his business savviness of preaching basic frugality that turned him into a mutlimillionaire, plus thousands of cult followers as he lovingly refers to his readers, it is sad that he got a divorce while still raising a child.
A divorce is hard on a child. According to endless research, after a divorce, kids are likely to experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief. Here are some of the emotional impacts a divorce may have on a child:
- Young children often struggle to understand why they must go between two homes. They may worry that if their parents can stop loving one another that someday, their parents may stop loving them.
- Grade school children may worry that the divorce is their fault. They may fear they misbehaved or they may assume they did something wrong.
- Teenagers may become quite angry about a divorce and the changes it creates. They may blame one parent for the dissolution of the marriage or they may resent one or both parents for the upheaval in the family.
As a relatively new father and a husband, I want to reflect on MMM’s situation because I pray that my wife and I stay together for as long as we shall live. I think all married couples do.
I’m scared of getting a divorce because my relationship with my wife is the most precious thing. Money, fame, prestige, and accolades mean jack shit in comparison. I fear these things may have a way of negatively affecting our loved ones.
Unfortunately, nobody plans to get a divorce, yet they still happen at almost a 50% rate in America.
I understand how brutally difficult it is to be a full-time parent. My days start at about 5:00am and often don’t finish until 10pm with childcare, FS duties, and investment duties.
Since I’m in a similar position as MMM as a personal finance blogger with a family, here is my plan for keeping the family intact at least until our son becomes an adult.
Goodness knows we’ve had our moments that need work.
Plans For Avoiding A Divorce
The more open and honest we can be about difficult situations, the more we can potentially work through our own issues and help others. This is why the huge MMM thread about his divorce since November has been so helpful for reflection.
I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. I can only guess based on Pete’s life as a public figure who enjoys the spotlight and what was said in the MMM forum. Here’s my only direct experience with Pete.
In 2012, I invited Pete and his wife to share a guest post on Financial Samurai when he just started called: Early Retirement: It’s Not As Risky As You Might Think. It was a generous gesture to help promote his site since mine had started three years earlier and was much larger at the time.
If you read his guest post, it’s not a synergistic post that says good things about the host, like what guest posters customarily weave into their writing out of common courtesy. It’s more an attack on Financial Samurai, but I published it anyway because I enjoy different perspectives. Further, it’s fun to battle! Perhaps I have a thicker skin than normal. Who knows.
Almost every day I get asked by someone or some company to guest post on FS and I refuse, even if they are offering thousands of dollars.
After the guest post, I met Pete and his wife a couple times before at two blogger events. Both meetings were fine. He seemed like an introvert, and his ex-wife seemed like the more outgoing type. Her comments in his guest post reflect this as well.
Unfortunately, I did have one bad encounter the second time when he did a presentation to other bloggers about how to build a thriving blog and bashed my Yakezie Network at Fincon Denver in 2012. It was one thing to go on the offensive via a guest post. It’s another thing to publicly attack and denigrate one’s efforts behind one’s back.
The Yakezie Network was a blog network I started in December 2009 to help other sites grow. When I first started blogging in 2009, I had nobody to help me out. In fact, I was constantly rejected when I tried to guest post on other larger sites.
So I figured, by creating a network, I could help new bloggers thrive and build a fun community. The network did end up helping a lot of bloggers gain traffic, earn more advertising revenue, and develop new friendships. Part of letting Pete guest post on Financial Samurai in 2012 was due to the Yakezie Network’s ethos of helping other bloggers out.
But unbeknownst to me, Pete had a slide in his presentation at the conference the same year that denigrated the Yakezie network and laughed at our efforts. He said the best way to grow your site is to not join the Yakezie, but to follow his lead instead by creating a cult following. I thought that was poor form since I spent a lot of time helping newer bloggers out, including Pete in 2012.
Other bloggers told me, “Hey Sam, did you see what MMM said about the Yakezie Network? What a d*ck!” etc. It’s always better to bring people up instead of drag people down. At least his public criticism helped me focus more of my time on FS and less time on Yakezie because it took so much work helping others without much reward. In this case, there wasn’t even a reward, but a public bashing.
So I confronted Pete and his wife why they did that, and they just sheepishly laughed it off and said it was no big deal. Not cool.
Until this day, I’m not sure why Pete decided to attack the Yakezie Network after I helped him out. Maybe he felt threatened or was too insecure with himself to provide love back. So perhaps this was a hint at the type of attitude he had behind closed doors that ultimately hurt his marriage. To constantly be on the attack (or on the defensive) where you think so many people are your enemy can’t be very healthy.
But what’s in the past is in the past and I bear him no ill will. I never went on the offensive as I chalked up the incident to the human condition. I had forgotten all about this incident until Pete publicly mentioned his divorce.
Instead, I’d rather make lemonade. Making me focus on Financial Samurai instead of the Yakezie Network after their criticism has really been one of the best decisions ever, so I’m thankful.
Here are some of the things I plan to do to help keep my marriage intact. Maybe they can help you too, especially if you have a child to take care of.
1) Keep a low profile. I have no desire for fame, which is why I’m not a public figure who readily does TV or big media interviews with my picture. I’ve had plenty of offers to come on CNBC, join the Rachel Ray Show, and more, but I’ve declined them all for the sake of privacy. Having a YouTube channel would be an anathema.
I’m comfortable with the money I accumulated before starting Financial Samurai, which is part of the reason why fame and making lots more money doesn’t interest me. I’ll share some details here and there, but I won’t be curating a fabulous lifestyle on Financial Samurai like you see in social media and on other sites.
I think fame is kind of like an addiction. Once you get the initial hit, you want to keep on getting more. The lower your self-esteem, the more you want the attention. And if you cannot love yourself enough to be happy with what you have, it will negatively affect those closest to you. The less distractions, the better, at least in my case.
I know Financial Samurai will always stay a small site. But that’s fine by me because I mainly enjoy the process of writing, which is why I write so much.
Please read: Be Rich, Not Famous: The Joy Of Being A Nobody
2) Keep building passive income. In order to keep the desire for more fame and fortune at bay, it’s important I continue to save and invest regularly in passive income investments. The more passive income I can generate, the less desire I’ll have to pimp out Financial Samurai and sell things like credit cards on my site for more money. Credit cards have the highest interest rates and get people in trouble. Yet, they often pay the most affiliate dollars, which is why you see them on so many sites.
We’ve currently got a goal of generating $250,000 in passive income by 2022 when our son goes to kindergarten. If we can achieve this type of passive income, we will never be beholden to anybody and the writing on Financial Samurai can continue to stay free.
3) Develop outside outlets. We live in a small house and are home all the time due to both of us being stay at home parents. As a result, life can get a little suffocating after a while. It’s important that both my wife and I find regular social outlets outside of the house to keep our sanity.
For me, it’s playing tennis and softball. I might even find some part-time consulting work outside the house twice a week. For her, it’s dance and arts and crafts. As an extrovert, it’s much easier for me to make friends compared to my wife, who is an introvert. But as an extrovert, staying at home all day is harder on me than it is on her.
4) Continue having open dialogues. Marriages take work. We must continue to speak our minds when something is bothering us and find solutions to our problems. It’s important NOT to let issues fester.
The best solution is often a compromise. I need to listen to her needs instead of just thinking about my own. I need to help her understand how I’m feeling instead of assuming she can just read my mind. I will ask her to share her feelings with me so there is no ambiguity or misunderstanding. We need to constantly be communicating.
5) Separate work and family life. My biggest problem is that it’s hard for me to quit working. I always want to be doing something. Taking a couple hours to watch a basketball game or a movie is tough because I find such activity to be unproductive. But I need to create boundaries for my work, and not let my work get in the way of quality family time.
My goal is to continue waking up two hours before my wife and son wake up on average, work as hard as I can during this time period, and STOP the moment I hear them up. I’ll only do work again once they take a nap or after our son goes to bed around 8:30pm.
Working at home and being a stay at home dad is much harder than I imagined. One idea I have is leaving the house for 2-3 hours a day and going to a co-working space.
6) Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Another big weakness of mine is a lack of patience. I pray for patience every week. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been one of the fastest to get things done. This has carried over to my adult life, which has helped with things such as productivity and reaching financial independence. However, on the negative side, I sometimes get frustrated when my wife takes longer than expected or doesn’t understand something I’m saying.
I need to take deep breathes and let her go at her own pace. Putting pressure on her won’t help the situation. I also need to realize my endurance is higher than hers. The more I can take time off from FS, the better our relationship will be. I really need to start smelling the roses more. One of my goals for 2019 is to hire more help!
7) Work on humility. It’s easy to get a big head once you start getting rich and famous. For example, we’ve all have heard of men who dump their wives for someone else once they make some money. I fear I’ll become an insufferable blowhard if I let any success get to my head.
Instead, I will continue to write about my failures as a person, as a writer, and as a father. I’m not going to cultivate an image that my life is perfect and that financial independence is perfect, because they are not. Posts such as The Negatives Of Early Retirement Nobody Likes Talking About is the truth, and it resonated with people who have already retired.
For every couple wins I write about will be matched with a loss to keep things more balanced.
8) Be kind and recognize effort. The worst thing we can do as spouses is ignore our spouse’s efforts. Let us tell our significant others every night how much we care and appreciate them. Let’s highlight specific reasons for our appreciation, rather than a blanket statement.
It is also important for us to be consistent in our mannerism. So much of life is a public show due to the internet and social media. We can’t treat our spouses with respect and love in public, and then privately berate them and take them for granted.
9) Consider keeping separate finances. One of the reasons why a spouse can get resentful is if he or she always feels like he or she has to ask for permission before spending money. By having your own separate checking or savings account, this strategy helps relieve this pressure as nobody likes asking for permission, especially as a mature adult.
If keeping separate finances is too extreme, then create a third account for free spending. The third account can be treated as a savings account that is built up over time to be spent on whatever a spouse desires.
Avoid Divorce If You Can
Despite our best efforts, some of us will still get a divorce. Nobody plans on getting a divorce when getting married. But if you have kids, it’s best to seek counseling and work on the marriage as much as possible. If things just can’t work itself out, then divorcing is probably for the best because we shouldn’t be fighting in front of our kids and sucking out their life force.
I married my best friend and I love her very much. We are a team, and we plan to stay together as a team to raise our boy. But we understand our relationship will take constant work.
We first met each other as college students when we had no money. We share the same philosophies. We’re going to try hard not to let money change us. And we definitely won’t let fame change us because we are nobodies.
Money and fame simply magnify who we really are e.g. if you were kind and understanding before getting rich, you will continue to be kind and understanding after getting rich and vice versa. If you were an asshole before the fame, you’ll probably be a bigger asshole after the fame.
The best way to avoid having fame and fortune disrupt our lives is to not seek it. Let’s find happiness in the things we already have.
Thanks to Pete and the thousands of MMM forum posters who have shared their thoughts on divorce. You’ve helped me reflect tremendously. I’m sure Pete will be fine too as his blogging business will continue to generate tremendous income and he’ll probably find someone new, if not already.
The more open we can be about this topic, the more we can improve our own lives and the lives around us. Difficult situations will get better over time.
Nobody is perfect. I wish us all the best in our marriages. And if not in our marriages, then in the new relationships we forge with others.
How A Divorce Ruined My Life, But I Clawed My Way Back (helping another new blogger share his story on FS as a guest post)
Try Bird Nesting To Help Your Children After A Divorce – For more stability so the kid doesn’t have to shuttle back and forth
The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Married Couple – Here’s a look at how much married couples should have if they want to achieve a comfortable retirement lifestyle.
Move Over FIRE, Welcome DIRE: Delay, Inherit, Retire, Expire – I know the FIRE movement is hot, but may I suggest the rise of a new movement as we come to the end of a wonderful good run.
About the Author: Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 as a way to make sense of the financial crisis. He proceeded to spend the next 13 years after college working in finance. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 due to his passive income investments. He spends time playing tennis, taking care of his family, and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.