The Problem With Good Personal Finance? It’s Boring As Hell

The Problem With Good Personal Finance? It’s Boring As Hell

I first started reading about personal finance and early retirement just over 5 years ago. At the time, my partner and I were living in a tiny 1-bedroomed house, desperately trying to save up for a house deposit while seeing a large chunk of our earnings disappear each month on rent, food and transport. During this time I begun researching online for others who had been in similar situations and how they had adapted themselves in order to increase their savings rates. It’s a familiar story as I found a whole wealth of information from many who had been through the same situation and had taken to blogging to keep track of their progress.

Over the next few months I spent countless hours reading through the archives of these sites.. seeing their creators start from a debt emergency or 0 networth and then growing over time. Eventually though, inevitably, most of these blogs would come to an end. The posting frequency would drop off before eventually stopping entirely. Sometimes the sites would just disappear altogether or the posting style would change dramatically suggesting it had been bought by an affiliate marketing company. Back then I wondered what had happened to these bloggers.. had they been hit by a car on the way to Aldi? Or had they reached financial independence and sailed off into the sunset on a private yacht with no 3G signal? Now though, as I’ve been going myself on this site for over 3 years, I think I’ve discovered the true reason:

Good personal finance is boring!

One thing all of these sites had in common was that they all begun with a sense of urgency. A mission, a challenge to become debt free or save up for their first house deposit. Posts would begin with dramatically life changes as they suddenly shifted to frugality and reaped the immediate rewards of lower costs of living. Some would then go on to talk enthusiastically about the 20p they saved on the weekly shop or the recycled wooden clothes hamper now sparing the tumble dryer machine. I suppose back when you have 20p in your bank account it’s understandable to get excited about such things, however as time went on the posts settled into more of a rhythm. Rather than discussing the latest drastic cutbacks or changes they’d instead turn to documenting the inevitable but slow upward creep in networth or savings pot. You see, it’s much more interesting to both read and write about an emergency and about big changes in your life. Far less interesting is to talk about things when nothing really changes each month.

A big part of working towards financial independence is about automating your finances. Setting up the workplace pension deductions.. having a monthly passive investment direct debit and making consistent mortgage over-payments. This is good personal finance! But it ain’t half boring to talk about. And that’s the problem when trying to talk about personal finance with others. It’s why the media never really shows articles on people midway through their journey of financial improvement. They want to show those neck deep in debt and struggling to paddle.. then skip straight to the end with the rich 40 year old retiree.

Perhaps it’s just my perception but there seem to be far less established and active finance blogs now than there were 5 years ago. I know that the majority of blogs I used to regularly follow (Dividend Mantra, Young Cheap Living, Destination Financial Wisdom, Big Guy Money) have all but disappeared over time and I like to think it’s because they were all intelligent driven individuals who achieved the boring level of good personal finance automation thus not feeling the need to maintain a record of their journey any longer. Nowadays when I regularly check out the finance blogs posted in such places as MSE forums and Reddit’s UK finance areas they’re all by 20-somethings who have only been going a few months and are still very much in the exciting start-up phase. From checking back 6 months later, almost all have given up posting entirely and I’m not sure it’s because they achieved the good but boring stages. Could it be that the “I want it now” stereotype attitude of young people has crept into personal finance resulting in even less being willing to continue upon the long boring journey towards financial independence?

As always; interested to hear your thoughts.

7 thoughts on “The Problem With Good Personal Finance? It’s Boring As Hell

  1. You’re correct my friend.

    A 19 year old who invests only 2 hours of their weekly wage will be a millionaire when they retire. The challenge is patience.

    I wrote a book 10 years ago for my children. It’s called The Only Guaranteed Way To Become Wealthy In The World. It’s available on kindle for £2, but if you go to http://www.stupidisthenorm.co.uk you can download it for free. You would imagine that it would zip of the shelves, but sadly the youth want it NOW.

    I screwed up so much in my life (financially), and want to prevent my children’s generation to avoid my mistakes.

  2. Hi Guy,

    There’s certainly a version of good personal finance that is boring, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    My blog is just over three years old as well, but I’ve been investing for more than 30 years, and I never get bored.

    We live in the most interesting economic times of the last 500 years, and it’s never been easier or more exciting to be a private investor.

    Keep going,

    Mike

  3. Some interesting thoughts there Guy – it is such a long road to retirement and it can’t be easy these days with all the temptations to spend. Having looked at buying a car recently, the finance deals on offer are very clever – you mean I can have a brand new Mercedes Coupe for £350 a month! The other things to be considered, the deposit, the mileage restriction and what you may get at the end of your contract (i.e. a total stuffing) fades away against the “affordability” of the monthly payment. When I were a lad, buying a Mercedes was a complete fantasy (although buying a flat wasn’t). As you say though, everyone wants everything now, and long term commitments are boring. I would love it if the papers and media could make financial independence more interesting and exciting but you’re right – it just isn’t. It’s hard graft over a long time and going without. And only a few of us are interested in that!

  4. Nice post!

    Totally agree that there is an overwhelming excitement when you first get the buzz for seeking FI. Then over time you figure it out, make your life changes and crack it – and that becomes the norm, and it feels easy and, well, ‘done’. So I can understand why the bloggers dry up as the new-ness of it all wanes.

    I certainly started out excited for around a year, I’d say, hoping to retire in 7 years (from what was admittedly already a good financial platform). Then I worked out how to be more dramatic with my expenses and cut it to 3 years. I’ve recently retired aged 45 and it all feels very normal and achievable, yet only 2-3 years ago I felt I was on the cusp of a great unique discovery and about to make a rare, brave and ambitious move. It’s not, really. Many people can do it, if only they knew how.

    One area I’ve found surprisingly challenging is adapting to retired living. I thought I’d find it super-easy as I have a million things I want to do but the lack of an official structure and timetabling has made it a lot more disorientating than I ever imagined. I’m quite surprised there aren’t more bloggers and forum-ites in this realm. Or perhaps I’m a rarity in finding it so weird and everyone else is sailing along quite merrily :)

    • I still come across the occasional new blog either by the comments on others or my own, but you are right not many seem to make it past the 6month to a year stage which is all but crucial to keep on going!
      Have to say that after nearly 5 years I am finding it harder to keep up regular posting but that is not from lack of ideas, I have got literally 50 drafts waiting to be finished in my draft box and tonnes more notes on ideas scratched around in various places. Half my ideas are probably not really anything to do with PF because you are right, it is quite boring… But most definitely fall into the “FI” sphere as I think that covers quite a large spectrum of topics (health, technology, investing, life hacking, gardening, DIY… the list is almost endless!)

      One that I’ve come across recently that I really like and hope continues is https://deliberatelivinguk.wordpress.com/author/wephway/
      Check it out if you want to read something a bit more fresh that the usual copycats :)

      @Stephen – I am really interested in hearing about people who have already FIRE’d and are finding it hard to adjust so maybe you can try to direct yourself into writing a blog and fill that niche now that Jim McG has gone back to work? :)
      Not shadenfraude on my part… I just can imagine me having similar sort of issues if/when I achieve full FI which is one of the reasons why I’m not driving full force towards it any more now that I’ve gone part time (I find my part time days off that have no structure can feel rather directionless)

      Cheers!

  5. theFirestarter and Stephen – thanks for your posts. I have reached FI now and am planning to retire inside of two years when I will be 58. After so many years of structure and being defined by the job whether I like it or not, I too am concerned about the adjustment period when I stop working.
    I am very much looking forward to owning my own time, and not being obliged to report to an office/cubicle every day from 0800 to 1730 and often much longer, having to check work e-mails every evening and weekend/holiday etc. However, I know there will be an emotional/mental aspect to the retirement adjustment and I would be very interested to see some blogs on this topic, even though it may (hopefully) be just a temporary concern.
    Thanks.

  6. Understand where you’re coming from Guy. Not all elements of personal finance are interesting and the initial excitement getting on the FI boat can wane over time. Passive investing is also rather yawnsome but probably not so when your pot grows over time!

    For my part, I ‘m coming up to 4 years blogging now but the actual act of blogging serves as motivation to keep me on track. I do actually have to work at keeping my costs/expenses down – whilst a part of my savings is automated, the other part takes real effort.

    I don’t have a ton of blog drafts ready to go like @theFIREstarter but do have a few and I guess most of them are related in some way to my journey.

    Also, I agree with @MikeRawson – we live in interesting economic times and it’s both scary and exciting.

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