I’m not going to join the chorus of voices telling everyone pursuing early retirement or financial independence to start a blog. Blogging is a huge amount of work, essentially a second full-time job for me at this point. And that’s without spending one second thinking about how to make money from it, given that that’s not our goal. But that would add even more time to the equation. Blogging is by far my biggest hobby at this point, leaving time for little else beside a few ski laps or hikes a week. (So no, I haven’t seen that show you love so much. I consider it a win if I can stay current on SNL!)
But I wouldn’t trade it, because blogging here has made more of an impact on our lives than we ever could have imagined. Some of these benefits you can get without blogging yourself, and some only come from doing the work. Today, we’re breaking it all down!
We’re just over two years into this blog, and I now can’t imagine life without it. Getting to know so many of you through this forum has made our life a thousand times richer. Even those where I have no idea what your name is, but I know something of your story from your comments — I love getting to know you in little snippets. And the dozens of you that we’ve met in real life or on Skype — we consider so many of you to be real friends, not just some random people we met on the internet. And you know how important those social connections are for long-term mental health and longevity!
Friends are certainly our favorite part of all of this, but having friends, no matter how wonderful they are, doesn’t get anyone to their magic number. But here’s how blogging has helped us get there faster:
This one is probably the most obvious, but it’s incredibly important. I know we have to write a quarterly financial update, and I never want to show the numbers going backward. Sometimes the markets get the final say, but it’s hugely motivating to have this blog — and those reading it — holding us accountable. There’ve been months where we’ve wanted to spend money on some trip, but we’ve though, “Wouldn’t it make the chart nicer if we invested that money instead?”
Writing two posts a week, and doing my best to make those posts interesting instead of just an account of our lives en route to FIRE, has forced us to think about FI a lot more than we’d have to just to reach our goal. We voraciously read articles about different financial news and theories, we explore alternate approaches to it, and we think about all the psychological aspects that come into play, too. A day rarely goes by when I don’t read or hear something that inspires a post idea, which keeps FIRE top of mind. And that focus keeps us on track to our goals.
“Writing Out the Proof”
Here’s an example from geometry class. #mathnerd When you first learn to do proofs, you have to write out every step and every bit of logic. But then you learn more postulates and theorems, and you can start short-cutting your thinking by citing those laws. (Ringing any bells for anyone?) But blogging is like those early proofs, when you actually have to explain yourself and your thinking, or at least it should be like that. And that process of having to explain things step by step has in more cases than I can count made us rethink something, or think about it from some new angle we hadn’t previously considered. That has broadened our thinking and improved our planning.
This is something you don’t have to blog to benefit from. Being engaged in the financial independence community means we’re constantly exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking about saving and investing. If we only popped in occasionally, we’d miss a ton, but by staying connected here, we’re continually thinking through different approaches we could take now and after we retire. Some of these have sped our progress undoubtedly, like learning to think of paying off our mortgage as a form of diversification, which motivated us to make that happen faster.
Finely Honed BS Detection
My least favorite phenomenon in PF blogs is people who’ve done something once, and therefore proclaim themselves experts. While many of us have spent a lot of time doing research and crunching numbers, few of us are true experts, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Thinking about early retirement, investment strategies, diversification and an endless list of other topics for the blogs has trained me to do two things: 1.) Be able to immediate tell when someone is claiming expertise they don’t really have, and 2.) See through bad advice because I read things with an eye toward how I would write about the same topic. That’s led me to write posts like this one (Our Biggest Lesson from the Financial Crisis // Don’t Bank on Going Back to Work), which in turn encouraged us to rethink our original plan of not working at all in retirement (Rethinking Work in Early Retirement // Contingencies, Sequence Risk and Fail Safes), as just one example.
This one and the next one are related. When we have to crank out 3000+ words a week on the blog, it forces us to talk about our plans and our finances more than we otherwise would. And that had many times led us to have some light bulb moment and realize there’s something we could be doing better. Honestly, this happens all the time.
Pressure-Testing Our Plans
In addition to improving our plans by talking about them together, we are constantly revising aspects of our approach based on input we get in the comments here. (I’m dead serious.) We think of everything we put out there as something to be pressure-tested, and we know that if we’re not thinking about something the right way, you guys will jump in and tell us so. You’ve helped us rethink when we should pull the plug, how long of notice we should give, and so many more things than I can count.
It may not materially impact our financial lives when you guys cheer us on, but I also kinda think it does. When you guys share our excitement, or give us high fives for hitting big milestones, that stuff makes our day. And it makes us work harder to have more high five-worthy milestones to share. If that’s not the best motivation to keep pressing on, I don’t know what is.
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What Has Impacted Your Pace?
Whether you blog or not, what factors have sped you along to your goal, or perhaps slowed you down? For bloggers, what has sped you along that I missed here? For non-bloggers, have you considered starting a blog for any of these reasons, or other ones? Let’s chat about it all in the comments!