One of my favorite pastimes is to sit on my couch, for at least a few hours at a time, staring blankly into space. I do not use this time to meditate. Or think through tough issues. Or daydream about what I may someday accomplish. Instead, I am unthinking, unmoving, unblinking, near-Kardashian in my catatonic state.
And I feel proud of what I accomplish in these precious hours (up to ten a day). Why? Because I know that I have gotten further in achieving financial independence in this lifeless space, than many others who are undertaking (seemingly) real activities in pursuit of the same goal. Simply put, many people pursuing FI waste precious time and money on utterly fruitless endeavors – so useless, in fact, that they’d be better off spending this time literally doing absolutely nothing.
Here are some of my favorite examples of such activities – feel free to indulge, but only if you accept that they are most likely to drive you away from FI. In fact, the more you participate, the more (time and money) you lose:
Pursue useless fake degrees – this topic deserves its own blog post, but to make a long story short: for-profit “institutions” like the “University” of Phoenix comprise the biggest waste of time and resources in human history. In fact, I’ll bet their mere existence shaves at least a point off the U.S. GDP. These places provide no education whatsoever, signal to employers that applicants are not worth looking at, and force students to accumulate massive debt with no hope of paying it back. You would get far closer to FI by placing yourself in a medically induced coma.
Day trade – they done the math and it’s been proven: the more you trade, the more you lose. In fact, Fidelity Investments, in a ringing endorsement of my “stare into space” strategy, found that the portfolios of the dead performed better than any others. I’m too young to die so I heed their advice in the next best way: managing my portfolio by lying motionless during all trading hours.
Climb pyramid schemes: I spent a short time working for a pyramid company (oh excuse me, “Multi-Level Marketing organization”) and I can personally verify the research: after expenses, only 3 in 1000 people make money on these schemes. And if you’re that good at selling, don’t waste your skills at a pyramid scheme. You’d be much better off in corporate sales or starting your own business. Or try my alternative: starting blankly in a catatonic state – it’s far more profitable.
Flip houses: doyou ever listen to the boys over at Bigger Pockets (love those guys)? Even though they, like me, are obsessed with real estate, it seems like none of them – and few of their guests- are house flippers. Sure, you can make a ton of money – in a raging market that is. But in that environment you can probably make more with a “buy and hold” (or rent) strategy. Most people have no idea what they are getting into, and often spend far more on repairs and upgrades than they ever anticipated. This article in the Washington Post summarizes it nicely.
Investing in goofy, highly speculative businesses or commodities: to wit: bitcoin; a bar; a restaurant; a friend’s start up (personal experience here); a penny stock with a hot tip; anything a relative is doing. If you must invest in any of these, please be a “silent partner”, i.e., not involved in the day to day operations. That way you will just lose all your money, but at least not all your time.
Pursuing your true calling: I have written about this extensively, but must reiterate it again: pursuing your life’s passion should be a hobby, not a vocation. Please, please don’t go to Cordon Bleu cooking school or finally chase your dream of becoming an artist, writer, or actor. At least not before you have achieved FI. From a fiscal fitness perspective, you’d be far better off lying on your sofa, binging on Netflix for 12-15 hours a day.
In conclusion, I have a recommendation for any of my readers that want to test out the “stare into space” strategy: a contest with your friends. Let them approach financial independence via coursework at the university of Phoenix, day trading, opening a bar, on any other of the activities profiled above. You will strive towards the same goal by curling up in a fetal position, muttering gibberish to yourself.
My money is on you to achieve your financial goals faster, more successfully, and with a lot less work.
Have you pursued a financially disastrous strategy towards FI? Perhaps one alluded to above? Please tell me about it in the comments!