Sean Cooper didn’t just pay off his $255,000 mortgage in three years; he taught us all a lesson in personal branding. Mr. Cooper, a pension analyst by day, mild-mannered blogger by night, took an almost Machiavellian-like approach by achieving fame through mortgage freedom.

Buying a home in one of Canada’s most expensive cities at the age of 27 is an accomplishment in itself, but Cooper didn’t stop there. He decided to rid himself of this ‘death pledge’ in just four years – before he turned 31. Like any good blogger, Cooper published his lofty goal for all to see and then updated readers regularly on his progress.

Unlike most bloggers, however, Cooper followed through on his goal and, on September 22nd, 2015, he made his final mortgage payment and became debt-free at age 30.

Sean Cooper’s introduction to the personal finance blogosphere began as a part-time contributor on Million Dollar Journey. It was there we learned of his mortgage-killing ambition. By the time his goal was within striking distance – about a year away from mortgage-freedom – Cooper kicked off a one-man media tour that would give any good PR firm a run for its money.

After priming the pump with updates at the Financial Post, and The Globe and Mail last summer, Cooper hit the media jackpot this year by inviting CBC and other media outlets to attend his mortgage-burning party this fall. To say this went viral would be an understatement; Cooper nailed it and his story made international headlines.

I wanted to debate the merits of Cooper’s sacrifices over the last three years and whether they were worth it. From living in his own basement while renting out the upstairs, to subsisting on $100 a month in groceries, working 80-100 hours per week, not to mention the single-minded focus of paying down his $255,000 mortgage at 3.04% instead of investing even some of those funds inside an RRSP or TFSA.

But the internet has already done a good enough job criticizing Sean’s approach:

Instead of trying to determine whether Sean’s decision to nuke his mortgage cost him more than a million dollars, or how someone who seemed insecure about his finances will proceed now that he’s mortgage-free, or why brown bagging your lunch every day cuts down on the small joys in life, I want to go back to what I mentioned at the top about personal branding.

Sean Cooper, mortgage-killer and frugality expert

Sean Cooper has brilliantly positioned himself as the go-to expert on frugal living. Now, any time a media outlet or journalist is looking to interview someone about frugality, Sean Cooper will get a call. And when Sean Cooper writes a book – because you know that’s coming next – the publicity stage has already been set for a successful launch.

Was three years of sacrifice worth setting himself up for at least the next decade – if he plays his cards right – as Canada’s frugality expert? Hey, if Derek Foster can milk that “Canada’s youngest retiree” thing for six books over the last 10 years, Cooper sure as hell can ride this mortgage-free-in-3-years wave for at least a decade or more.

So congratulations, Sean, on all the sacrifices you’ve made to reach mortgage freedom! Because no headline is ever going to read: How one man became financially free by carefully saving, investing, and paying down his mortgage over two decades while achieving work-life balance.

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