Boredom on the road to FIRE

By Slow Dad - April 13, 2017

Personal Finance is simple. Financial Independence is easy. Yet boredom can potentially derail even the most well thought out of journeys.
"Are we there yet?"

I've recently taken my kids on a road trip to the beach.

Like any driving holiday with young children, the hardest part was the getting there. Running the gauntlet of impatience, boredom and frustration in order to be rewarded at the journey's goal with sand, surf and ice cream.

In between retrospectively recognising the wisdom of birth control, and pondering the current going rate on eBay for slightly used 4 year olds, I got to thinking about how boredom can potentially derail even the most well thought out of journeys.
Boredom can potentially derail even the most well thought out of journeys.
A little gratuitous nudity to liven up a post about boredom 

Personal Finance is simple

All a person really needs to know to succeed could easily be printed on a t-shirt.

Scott Adams did a pretty decent summary of it, which RetirementManifesto turned into an internet meme for your convenience. I'm pretty sure if Fritz started selling that meme printed on t-shirts his prospective retirement date would be much sooner!

Financial Independence is easy

Ultimately all it takes is a bit of careful planning up front, then the implementation of a largely “set and forget” strategy.

Physician on Fire wrote up his simple 3 fund portfolio, containing some US shares, some international shares, and some US bonds. While he has a heavy home market bias on his market weightings, and hasn’t diversified his bonds beyond the US, he certainly keeps things effectively simple.

You made a plan, put it into action...

Let’s say your behaviour is already governed by a simple successfully proven personal finance formula, you’re spending less than you earn and investing the rest.

You sat down and did the strategising about asset allocations, then implemented and automated things until your finances hummed along like a well-oiled machine.

You sat down and did the strategising, then implemented and automated things.

Perhaps you researched optimal tax minimisation strategies.

Maybe you even picked out someplace you’d like to end up at the end of your journey towards Financial Independence, like RetirementInvestingToday or Ms OurNextLife have done.

... and then what?

How do you fill in the next 10/15/20/40 years between that point and achieving your goal?

You like researching and learning about personal finance.

You have a slightly unhealthy fondness for a good spreadsheet.

All the hiking and Xbox and golf and beach holidays in the world aren’t going to scratch that itch.

Boredom sets in

Human nature suggests that few people are content to stand back and leave things alone. They like to tinker. Adjusting asset allocations here. Rebalancing there. Shopping around for an ETF charging 0.01% OCF less than the fund you already hold. And so on.

Financial Advisors love restlessness. They make a fortune out of this tinkering, stinging the bored investor with brokerage fees, fund entry and exit fees, always profiting from the churn. Jim Collins told a great anecdote recently about how apparently the two best performing classes of Fidelity client between 2003 and 2013 were those who were dead and those who had forgotten they held accounts.

Some big brain folks strive for bonus points, refining and extending those basic strategies to intellectually stimulate themselves and reach their goals faster. Fire v London’s fascinating adventures with margin lending to finance a dream house purchase is one example. ERN’s options trading to supplement his investment income is another.

One well trodden path is that of real estate investors who utilise leverage during the accumulation phase of their journey towards Financial Independence, who then seek to reduce gearing levels and diversify into other asset classes (such as stocks and bonds) once they reach the point they feel they have accumulated enough. This was part of the approach I adopted, while Coach Carson has written about the lead up to this approach.

Other options include becoming a mortgage lender like the Rob Dix from the PropertyGeek has recently done, branching out into private equity or angel investing like Nords did.

The common thread is diversification. Initially investors may be driven by a desire to spread risk or seek improved investment returns. For many I suspect there is at least equal attraction in the prospect of a new investing frontier to learn about and master. Bitcoins, classic James Bond cars, Pokémon cards, there are potentially limitless choices.

So what?

Once your finances are under control and firmly in “set and forget” territory how have you kept the boredom at bay, and what strategies have you deployed to resist or channel that urge to tinker?

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  1. Gratuitous nudity indeed but for some reason all I see is a bunch of girls that look like they're on the toilet!

    Anywho, boredom has definitely gotten the best of me. I have 5 more years before financial freedom and I feel like all I can do is sit on my hands and wait! I have been considering starting the points building phase of most FI plans but keep getting hung up on the details. For years I was so focused on rebuilding my credit score I hate to go and mess it up by opening cards even knowing the score will eventually rebound...numbers. It's all about the numbers! Oh, speaking of, did you find it how much the 4 year old would go for?? ;)

  2. Thanks Miss Mazuma.

    I find the credit score thing a little ironic. Much of the FIRE conventional wisdom consists of variants "all debt is bad" and "if you can't afford to pay cash for it, then you can't afford it". People diligently dig themselves out of a debt hole and feel they no longer need worry about credit scores, as they don't want to get back in debt... only to then adopt travel hacking as the path to happiness, at which point they once again worry about maximising credit scores for the sign up bonuses and so on!

    I was shocked to learn that the Australian eBay frowns upon the selling of children.

  3. How can one get bored when you have a great community of PF/FIRE blogs to read on daily basis? :) There is nothing wrong on having a slightly unhealthy fondness for several good spreadsheet which is a good way to keep checking on how the journey going. ;)

  4. Very true JoeCrystal. The PF/FIRE blogosphere may well represent a great diversion from the urge to tinker with portfolio allocations.

  5. I tinker around with a little 'fun money', ie my Monkey Stocks last year, Dogs of the FTSE shres this year, my P2P/property crowdfunding - if I lost it, I'd be upset at the loss but it wouldn't make a huge impact on my overall portfolio.

    I don't tinker with my 'real' portfolio - that's just invest and forget and yep, boring.

    Passive investing is boring - imagine Gordon Gekko making a sexy killing on index trackers.....or not!

  6. Lol weenie, "imagine Gordon Gekko making a sexy killing on index trackers"... I wonder whether it was the boredom of index trackers caused Gordon Gekko to go postal in "Falling Down"?!