Mr. Money Mustache (Pete Adeney) is the lifestyle finance guru who retired at age 30 and now has one of the largest online cult-like followings in recent history. On the surface, MMM seems to primarily write about financial independence and optimizing investment decisions to make you rich.
But what people generally glance over is that MMM is an unapologetic bike enthusiast who prefers to power his personal transportation (as well as bike trailer) with his own two legs.
In fact, MMM’s very first article in his popular “Get Rich With” series was titled “Get Rich With Bikes.” He even states that a bicycle is “probably the single most important and highest-yielding investment a human can possibly own.”
MMM routinely comments throughout his blog that biking is one of the single most important lifestyle changes to make you rich, happy, and healthy.
“Mustachianism has many facets… But if I had to strip it down as far as possible, down to just one single action, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about anything else, the choice would still be simple: ‘Ride a Bike'”Mr. Money Mustache
But how realistic is it to make biking part of your daily life? And more importantly, what kind of impact can MMM’s biking advice make on your finances and health?
I have been a secret MMM reader since I stumbled on his blog in 2016. As soon as I realized that his advice is founded in math and statistics, I instantly gobbled up all of his articles and immediately started biking to my job in NYC, saving 50% of my income, and investing in index funds for the following 5+ years.
Below is a summary of everything Mr. Money Mustache states about biking to save money, reach financial independence, and retire early. I will also review my own Mustachian lifestyle and share how much money I’ve been able to save through biking to work.
And to Pete, since I know you’ll be reading this, thank you for writing sh!t into the computer.
How did Mr. Money Mustache retire early through biking?
Mr. Money Mustache estimates that the savings of biking instead of driving add up to $93,432 over a 10-year period. One of his primary methods of saving money and retiring early was to ride bikes whenever possible, including to work, in the winter, with a child, and even with heavy cargo.
MMM makes a convincing argument in well over 30 total articles on his blog that biking is hugely underestimated when it comes to saving money, improving health, retiring early, and ultimately saving the planet.
How much money can you save through biking?
Mr. Money Mustache estimates that you will save 50 cents (USD) per mile by riding a bike instead of driving. The cost savings come in the form of gas, car deprecation, and maintenance.
If following MMM’s advice to make biking a lifestyle choice, the savings on just gas alone add up to be over $10,000 in a period of 10 years.
He states, “From this savings alone, doing a couple of bike errands per day (4 miles) in place of car errands will add up to $10,752 over ten years.”
But the savings don’t stop there.
The grand total of savings from making biking part of your daily life for 10 years adds up to a shocking amount: $93,432 in 10 years just from biking!
That $93,432 might seem like a lot for just biking around, but the math checks out for the average American consumer, and I’ve even seen very similar results in my own life (explained below). The estimated $93,432 is reached by adding up all of the savings from gas, insurance, health costs, added productivity, and other associated savings.
We’ll evaluate later in this article how he reached that calculation.
Now, the exciting thing is what we get to do with those savings! That brings us to how MMM invests his savings for early retirement.
Where does MMM invest the money saved through biking?
Saving money through biking is only half the equation. The other half is figuring out exactly where to invest those savings to let it grow into a sizable early retirement nest egg.
Mr. Money Mustache is a believer in simple passive investing through index funds. He has consistently advised readers to simply buy low-cost index funds from Vanguard. MMM himself even invests his chunks of extra cash into index funds. After selling his house for $400k, he invested 80% of that windfall into Vanguard’s index funds.
He states in his self-introduction, “my own retirement income comes from a dead-simple asset allocation: a bunch of index funds at Vanguard and Betterment which pay quarterly dividends.”
Now let’s get back to the above estimate of how much you can save by biking daily as a lifestyle. If you invested that $93,432 over a period of 10 more years, how much will it be worth? What about 20 years? And 30 years?
Here’s a breakdown of how much biking for 10 years instead of taking the car will add to your net worth.
Note: the VTSAX Index Fund has a 5-year average return of 11%.
- After 10 years invested = $265,293
- After 20 years invested = $753,278
- After 30 years invested = $2,138,873
These numbers are incredible for just biking for 10 years and then just letting the savings grow in an index fund! And we’re not even accounting for a continued lifestyle of choosing to bike instead of drive. Chances are you will continue to take the bike over the car well beyond just 10 years. The wealth generation is exponential.
You can do your own math using any online compound interest calculator.
How I saved $10,400 in two years just with biking to work
After binge-reading Mr. Money Mustache’s blog in 2016, I immediately bought a road bike and started biking to my job in NYC from New Jersey every day for the next 2 years (even through the brutal NYC winters). It was a 26-mile round trip from Palisades Park, NJ to Manhattan, NY every day through brutal snow, heavy rain, and blistering heat. And after 2 years, I was able to save up a total of $10,400 just from not taking the bus or train (which costs $20 round trip).
The timing was also perfect for me since at the time I was just diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which meant my thyroid was overactive and my heart was pumping blood way too fast. That scared me to death, so you can imagine I took MMM’s advice on biking for wealth and health benefits seriously.
But the real beauty is what that $10,000 is doing for me right now. Since leaving my NYC job in 2018, those savings have grown to be around $13,600. What’s even more exciting is what will happen to that fund in the next 10 years. In 10 years from now, my biking fund will be worth $38,616. And that assumes I won’t be adding to it at all.
And what about my health? How did biking for 2 years affect my thyroid issue and heart rate problem? Well, I started biking with an overactive thyroid and a resting heart rate of 80 beats/minute. Now, after just 2 years of biking to work and taking no medication, my thyroid levels are completely normal and my resting heart rate is around 45 beats/minute. That’s a drastic change that even I was surprised by when I went back to the doctor for a check-up.
The simple conclusion is that biking positively affects the most important areas of your life.
The benefits of biking according to MMM
One of MMM’s constant uphill battles is getting readers to just get a bike and start riding instead of driving. There’s always a reason not to make biking a serious priority, but it’s the people who are serious about biking that achieve financial independence faster and can retire early.
As someone who has been biking as a lifestyle with my kids for the last 5+ years, I can attest that having a mindset of “bike more, drive less” is a fundamental quality of anyone who is able to think into the future and recognize how our actions now impact our finances many years from now. In other words, there’s a reason the early retirement community is one of many avid cyclists and bike commuters.
What does MMM say about the benefits of biking?
For someone who claims that bikes are a “money-printing fountain of youth”, MMM’s blog doesn’t actually offer an all-inclusive benefits analysis of biking. Rather, there are over 30 articles that cover different aspects of biking.
I’ve compiled the main benefits of biking according to MMM, based on different articles and arguments he’s made throughout the years:
1. Biking saves you $93,432 per decade
One of the primary reasons for MMM’s evangelistic efforts to convert everyone to bike commuting and bike trailers is because of the significant savings available. He makes a mathematical argument that you can save $93,432 every 10 years from just biking instead of driving.
That number seems absurdly high, so let’s break down the math.
$10,752 comes from savings in gas. This amount assumes a savings rate of 50 cents (USD) per mile biked, and an average of 4 miles per day. That would equate to 1,460 miles over 365 days per year. Or 14,600 miles over 10 years.
14,600 miles x 50 cents = $7,300
MMM then adds in the associated deprecation of the car, wear and tear, and maintenance required to a grand total of just over $10,000.
$30,000 comes from savings in not buying unnecessarily expensive cars. With a newfound preference to take the bike instead of driving around in a flashy car, MMM adds in the savings made from downgrading an unnecessarily expensive car (that won’t be used much anymore) to a used, fuel-efficient car. For a typical American’s spending on a car, that could easily equate to $30,000 or more per decade in savings.
$7,680 comes from replacing costly leisure activities with free bike rides. Again, MMM is considering the fact that the average American consumer spends a significant amount per month on paid leisure. His overall argument throughout his blog is that spending more money does not equate to more happiness. On the contrary, it’s the free things that are generally healthier and subsequently add to our savings, such as going on a leisure bike trip.
$37,500 comes from increased productivity. MMM’s main point with regards to health and productivity is that biking makes you more focused and gives you more energy, which in turn will increase your income.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that exercise boosts your productivity and energy throughout the day. For me personally, I did see a HUGE increase in energy and focus on work when I was biking to my job in NYC from New Jersey. For the first few weeks of biking to work, you will experience a slight dip in energy because your body is not yet used to the new exercise routine. But after just a few weeks, your body adjusts and you start to gain more energy and productivity from biking.
As an entrepreneur myself, I can’t deny that having more energy does help my businesses thrive and helps me make more money.
$7,500 comes from health care savings. MMM estimates an immediate return of around $500 per year in savings from doctor visits, medical expenses, and prescription drugs.
But is that an accurate assessment of health care savings from biking? I actually think that is a LOW estimate when you consider the fact that having a daily biking habit for an extended period of time will have a seriously good impact on your health long into the future. The savings become even larger well into the future IF you maintain a lifestyle of biking instead of driving.
2. Biking is good health insurance
Mr. Money Mustache quotes Scientific American in a study that showed that every 1 hour of exercise will extend your lifespan by about 3 to 9 hours.
If we take an average daily bike commute of 1 hour as an example, commuting by bike 5 days per week for 1 year would result in 32 to 97 days of extended life. That’s 32 to 97 extra days added to your life for just ONE YEAR of bike commuting. If that biking habit continues for 10 years, that would extend the lifespan by 1 to 3 years!
Not only does biking extend your life, but it also makes those extended years healthier and more productive as well.
Some will argue that biking is actually bad health insurance because of possible risks associated with cycling. To that, MMM has an in-depth response that we will cover next.
3. Biking is the safest form of transport
Safety is often the first concern people have when considering biking as a lifestyle. Or as MMM calls them, “Complainypants”.
Luckily, MMM offers an in-depth analysis for us on exactly how safe/dangerous biking is compared to other alternatives.
In a nutshell, his analysis boils down to a simple truth that the greatest threat to our health and mortality is inactivity itself in the form of driving around to even the closest destinations. In addition, MMM is consistently adamant that any associated risks of biking are heavily counterbalanced by the health benefits of biking.
MMM’s conclusion on bike safety is as follows:
Under even the most pessimistic of assumptions:
– Net effect of driving a car at 65mph for one hour: Dying 20 minutes sooner. (18 seconds of life lost per mile)
– Net effect of riding a bike at 12mph for one hour: Living 2 hours and 36 minutes longer (about 13 minutes of life gained per mile)Mr. Money Mustache
MMM’s estimates on bike safety leave us with the realization that biking is, in fact, safer and healthier in the longterm than driving.
Many will argue that the death rate for cyclists is higher than for drivers, but that is only true in some areas where the infrastructure and lifestyle encourage more driving and less biking. Therefore, the result is that there are more cars on the road, making it more dangerous in some areas to ride a bike. The death rate for cyclists continues to go down as biking becomes more popular. In countries like the Netherlands, as MMM points out, the death rate for cyclists is way down to about 1 per 100 million. This is simply because there is an infrastructure that supports biking in those countries.
I wrote an entire article on why riding with a bike trailer is actually the safest way to get around with a child. Check that out here.
4. Biking saves the planet from wasted energy
One of the main missions of the Mr. Money Mustache blog is to help humanity be more efficient with energy, primary through biking and being efficient with money.
According to MMM, the average American burns about 1 gallon of gas per day over 15 miles. When considering the amount of energy consumed through that 1 gallon of gas, as opposed to the energy consumed by taking an electric bike over the same distance, 98% of the car’s energy could have been saved. Instead, the energy is almost entirely wasted.
On top of that, the current reality is that 10 billion miles driven per year are under 1 mile. Under ONE MILE!
Just keep this mind-blowing statistic in mind, provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov):
“Car trips of under a mile add up to about 10 billion miles per year, according to the 2009 U.S. National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS).2 That’s like the entire population of Chicago driving to Las Vegas and back!
If we all chose to power half of these short trips with our feet instead of petroleum, assuming an average fuel economy of 22 mpg and an average fuel price of $2.50/gallon, we would save about $575 million in fuel costs and about 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year. That’s like taking about 400,000 cars off the road each year. The total financial savings are even bigger — almost $900 million dollars — when you include savings on maintenance and tire replacement.”
So if you have similar driving habits as the average American, you could cut your driving time and costs significantly by just biking instead of driving.
My only criticism of MMM’s biking savings estimates
In general, I agree wholeheartedly with MMM’s analysis of the true cost of driving and the tremendous savings made by biking. As I mentioned above, I have actually saved well over $10,000 with bikes in just 2 years. However, there is one thing that kept coming to mind when I was writing this review:
These savings estimates are accurate for the average consumer, but not really for people who already have some common sense.
This is not a criticism of MMM, but rather an observation.
In other words, people who tend to read MMM’s blog already don’t have typical spending habits on expensive cars, vacations, leisure activities, and unhealthy habits. Therefore, the savings a typical MMM reader will have will likely not add up to $93,432 per decade.
For that reason, I’m writing my own personal savings through biking on this blog for the sake of showcasing exactly how much (and more) a Mustachian lifestyle can save you by just biking more than driving.
In my case, I’ve saved and invested well over $10,000 in 2 years in just transportation costs. That doesn’t even account for the health benefits, my thyroid issue being fixed, my heart becoming super-efficient, and the amount of productivity and energy biking has given me.
If I were to give a conservative estimate on how much biking has directly saved me over 5 years, I would say at least $20,000, PLUS the investment returns on that money, PLUS the tax savings on that money invested in retirement accounts.
In conclusion, a typical consumer will be able to save around $100,000 per decade through making biking a daily habit. For the average MMM reader with common sense, they can expect to save around $50,000 per decade.
Referenced Articles by Mr. Money Mustache
Get Rich With… Bikes
This article is one of MMM’s finest pieces of work. It outlines the mathematical reasoning behind riding bikes as a viable wealth-generating activity. There are several monetary benefits mentioned in this article that you probably haven’t thought much about. His conclusion is that replacing daily car commutes with biking is estimated to save you around $93,432 per decade. Check out the article to see why!
Bicycling: The SAFEST Form of Transportation
This article is what pushed me over the edge to actually get a bike and start commuting to my job in NYC from New Jersey. I thought it was just too dangerous, but after reading the solid considerations in this article, I bought my first road bike and never looked back.
What Do You Mean “You Don’t Have a Bike”?!
Another classic by MMM, this article pokes fun in the traditional Mustachian manner at anyone who won’t consider getting a bike for whatever reason. A really good article to send to any of your friends who aren’t yet into biking!
How To Ride Your Bike All Winter – And Love it
A must-read for anyone planning on winter riding. Well, really this article is for anyone who lives in the colder parts of the world.
I managed to bike through the snowy winters of NYC with a normal bike and all the right gear. Check out my winter riding guide and gear recommendations here.
MMM Challenge: Try Getting Your Groceries with a Bike Trailer
MMM is an advocate for bike trailers to get around with kids and tow heavy items, especially when grocery shopping.
This article challenges readers to start getting groceries with bike trailers.
If you need help figuring out bike trailers, I made a helpful guide just for you.
The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement
This one of the most important articles on the MMM blog. It’s where he shares exactly what it will take to reach financial independence and retire early. Not only that, it lays out a surprisingly feasible path to early retirement within just a decade or so.
How to make Money in the Stock Market
This article covers everything you need to know about where to invest the money saved through biking. It’s an in-depth analysis of the stock market and why it’s a good idea to invest in index funds in the long-run.
We Sold the House! Here’s How I’m Investing the $400,000.
Here’s a glimpse into what MMM himself would do with a $400,000 windfall. Hint: 80% of it goes into Vanguard index funds!
How to Carry a Big Wallet and Leave a Small Footprint
This is the article I referred to above about the wasteful nature of driving as opposed to biking. It goes deep into just how efficient biking can be when we decide to make it a lifestyle choice.