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.