I’ve written before about Mustachian Spotting, a fun game where you attempt to spot people with the sort of characteristics that might lend them to the Financial Independence scene.

I’ve recently reached level 2 of this game recently, what excitement! Let me tell you what this entails:

This is where you get as far as having a real life conversation (I know!) with the potential fellow FI’er and to try to get a handle on whether they’ve heard of the most famous websites or books out there – I normally mention MMM and YMOYL 1 – to see if they are indeed already a confirmed worshipper at the alter of the Moustachioed one (or other FI pioneer).

It doesn’t matter whether they actually are or not, you will successfully defeat the end of level boss simply by having the balls to ask the question. I think this is a fair enough qualification for victory here, as stumping up the sentence:

“So have you heard of this website called Mr Money Mustache?”

Midway through an otherwise relatively normal conversation can seem rather odd if the person hasn’t already heard of it, and it is likely they haven’t, even if you think they are a secret MMM reader. I found a great tip for making this seem more normal is to ply them and yourself with alcohol first 🙂

I can unfortunately let you know that on the two occasions I made it to level 2 recently, the hit rate for having heard of any of this stuff was a big fat zero percent, so no extra special hidden fireworks ending after defeating this particular boss, but it was fun even getting to the point where I felt it was worth asking.

Here is a rough run down of my two level 2 encounters, as despite the zero hit rate there were some interesting things that cropped up in conversation.

Mr M – This is my cousin and her Husband Mr M who I wrote about in the earlier mentioned Mustachian Spotting UK post. They quit their London jobs and moved to a nice cottage in Kent a few years ago. I finally got to catch up with him at family wedding a month or so ago and started firing questions at him like a rabid MSUK player on his first level 2 outing would naturally do. I’m not sure if he thought I was odd or being too nosey about their finances and how the move played out, but I would imagine most people are curious about how they’ve effectively retired in their mid forties so I hoped he was used to it.

Anyway, as mentioned he had not heard of anything about MMM et al, and when pressed further on if he’d read any literature about this sort of thing at all that might have started him down this path, he couldn’t really think of any. He just said it seemed to make sense to save as much of his pay packet from the off. Truly badass to come to these conclusions on your own! I’m sure there are plenty of you out there reading this that have done the same but it was never anything my tiny brain could have come up with on it’s own… 🙂

We carried on generally chatting about life down in the Kent countryside and it turned out he has already gone back to work, as a librarian I think it was – slightly more chilled out than a job in the city though, right? Other fun/interesting insights that were mentioned:

  • Everyone in the countryside drives everywhere – He gets funny looks for walking to the local village which is about 1 mile away. And he commutes to work by bike which again is very uncommon apparently!
  • He said it was harder to live off investments than they initially imagined – I think he both meant literally, as in their expenses were higher than they initially thought, and mentally, as in they were not used to removing money from the cash pile rather than adding to it. Hence the job, and my cousin is also working part time now as well.
  • They both said that living out in the sticks was quite hard in terms of seeing old friends, family and so on.
  • Initially he’d planned on growing 50%+ of his food in their decent sized garden but for the amount of effort you have to put in he’s come to the conclusion that for most things it’s not really worth it (e.g. huge bag of potatoes can be bought for £2 whereas growing your own involves hours of hard work)



Mr A – This is my old work colleague who lives in France, and we went to visit him midway through our holiday we just got back from. He actually got made redundant a few years ago, and I wrote about that here:

“I was really quite surprised at how bewildered he seemed. This was a guy who I would say is pretty frugal. Without revealing too much, he had managed to set up a pretty cushy living situation for himself whereby he could work from home in a mortgage free house with his family. He could well have passed for a closet FI’er if I didn’t know any better. So I would have thought he would have some cashola saved up for a rainy day. He may well have for all I know, but I got the feeling from our conversation that it didn’t amount to anything that substantial if he had. Alternatively I could be way of the mark”

Well I am very happy to say that as it turned out I was waaaay off the mark! It turned out that he basically went straight into semi retirement and has been pottering about the house, fixing things up, and generally loving life for the past 2 and a bit years. I guess the whole bewilderment thing was literally just the shock of getting made redundant out of the blue, which is totally fair enough! Despite admitting that redundancy was probably the best thing that has happened to him, he was still bitter about the way it was handled, again totally fair play here as it was handled very badly and he put his life and soul into working for the company for a good 10 years. Anyway, back to the matter at hand… the finances!

So we got to chatting after a few vin rouges one night and I asked a few probing questions, and it turned out he has investments and said he was saving hard when working, and that’s when I asked about MMM and drew yet another blank. Bit of a shame but again it was good to hear there are other people out there making good financial decisions, living well within their means and putting the surplus to good use to create better life options for themselves. Some interesting facts about this particular situation and conversation:

  • They sold their London flat and bought a house in France for a measly 160,000 Euros 2. This equated to about £120,000 at the time. This is a 6 bedroom, (yes 6!!!) lovely old farm type house, with a garden the size of a football pitch. That is geographical arbitrage my friends!
  • His wife is still working but is enjoying doing so again after taking time off to raise the young kids into slightly less younger kids.
  • He is also working part time but the jobs sounds pretty cushty, are very low schedule/hours, and spends most of the days just maintaining and fixing up the house.
  • The main part of their plan going forward is to properly renovate half the house and split it off, and rent it out as a holiday home. He reckoned they could pull in about £30K a year from it (!!!) which I’d imagine is easily enough to cover most of their living expenses out there as there is not that much that is spendy to do in the remote French countryside.
  • He had a bit of a moan about how hard it is to maintain the house. Just a reminder that no matter how idyllic someones life looks, there will always have problems just like you, they just might be different ones.
  • He said he’d put some money into his kids investment fund accounts back in the Tony Blair/Labour days. I’d never heard of this but apparently it was free money, I can’t remember exactly what it was called but maybe other people can fill me in on that one? In any case it’s a break that is obviously not available now. He said he’d stuck it in some Biotech fund that has done very well for itself, he was very bullish on Biotech – I said I think I’d stick to a broad market tracker thank you very much for the advice though 🙂



The four important takeaways I got from these conversations:

  • Financial security and indeed fully blown Financial Independence is not the silver bullet to all of your problems.
  • Life is all about compromise, even if you’ve done all of the hard work and savings like a good boy or girl.
  • Downsizing/geographical arbitrage is the perfect example of these two above points, you get “the good life” but swap this for remote friends and family and swap many of your old problems for some new and different ones.
  • My theory that having a part time job or being self employed seems to be the optimal situation for happiness seems to be validated by all parties still holding down these kinds of jobs.


Hope you found reading about that as interesting as I found completing these level 2 quests!


Have you guys reached level 2 at all? Let me know in the comments!


Oh and one final thought… what should the completion of level 3 entail?! 🙂


  1.  Your Money or Your Life (amazon affiliates link) – Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez
  2. No it’s not the castle pictured above, just in case you were wondering… 🙂 – That is just a random French castle we came across on our travels! It’s called the Chateau de Pierrefonds if anyone wanted to know.