Reading the latest entry in one of the blogs I frequent, I was at first surprised that Mr. Money Mustache was not aware of the government shutdown that is all over the news. We don’t have cable TV nor do we watch news on one of the channels we get with our over-the-air antenna, but we certainly know what’s going on in the world on any given day and about this shutdown, which hits so close to home. I have a Flipboard app on my phone and mostly scan/read news there, sometimes going over to cnn.com to catch up on anything I want to read about in more detail.
MMM advises us all to “pay absolutely no attention to the news”. Don’t watch cable TV or local news, don’t read news on cnn.com or Flipboard, don’t read newspapers. Get the news from your friends who will relay the important information to you anyway. He goes on to suggest that we drastically limit the time spent on Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, email and other common distractions and read more books, learn new skills, get in better shape and work on making our lives better.
I totally agree and practice unplugging, learning new things, insourcing, spending time with the family. I don’t have a Facebook account and don’t waste any time on other social networks. I limit other non-productive activities and would much rather work out or go for a bike ride than watch news on TV. When I do watch TV, it’s stuff pre-recorded on the Home Theater PC that I built, in part because I can’t stand having to watch advertisements AND don’t want to pay monthly fees to a company that can provide a commercial-free experience (TiVo, Netflix, Cable DVR etc).
However, I don’t see how anyone can live so isolated as to not know what’s happening in the world and close to home. I feel like it’s our responsibility to be informed so that we can make informed decisions. Key advice for staying safe in all kinds of situations is “be aware of your surroundings”. I can’t agree more and extend that concept to the news as well. The more aware you are with what’s happening around you, the better prepared you are for dealing with the effects.
You don’t have to watch the 24 hour Fox News channel or any other networks that feed on fear and sensationalism. You don’t need to listen to pundits trying to process the information for you with some hidden agenda. Processed anything is more often bad for you than good and it applies here as well. Get the news, analyze it yourself and make decisions if necessary.
Here is a quick example of why I believe being informed matters. Some of my work, and therefore money, comes from contracting with the Federal Government. If the Government is shutdown my finances might be directly affected, so it’s in my interest to know how the situation unfolds. So far, despite the shutdown, it’s business as usual for the agencies that I work with but it does not mean it will stay this way. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the available funding and when it will run out, so, understandably, people have an uneasy feeling, including myself. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that my family is much more prepared than your average worker as we can live at least a year comfortably if all paychecks stopped right now, but that does not mean I’m not paying attention and making contingency plans in a situation like this.
I am holding off on making a big principal-only mortgage payment that I usually make this time every month. Same with investments such as SEP, Roth and brokerage. That alone will give us even more of a cash cushion if things go south. As soon as I learn that this uncertainty is over I will take this additional money sitting in the bank and pay down the mortgage and invest as usual.
What I am NOT doing is getting a new car with this fabulous offer: During the month of October, furloughed employees will be able to buy or lease a new Hyundai vehicle and not make payments for three months.
I am also NOT participating in these fun activities and promotions: Freed from the shackles of their desks and BlackBerrys, federal workers who are locked out of their offices in the shutdown are filling up bars and restaurants. Hosts at watering holes from the Hill to Georgetown said they were crowded midday Tuesday as thousands of workers left their offices for the unplanned day off. Some bars offered drink specials, like the whiskey shots and discounted beer pitchers at Union Pub & 201 Bar, which is just blocks from the Senate office buildings Capitol.
Buying a new car seems like the stupidest thing to do when you are out of a job with wasting money on bar drinks not far behind. Consumer Circus troupe is in town in full force.
Back to Mr. Money Mustache’ article though… Reading the comments some were calling him out on being a bit arrogant and condescending. While I can see how a lot of what MMM has written can come across this way I understand why the author is able to say things like “don’t watch the news!” MMM is financially independent and skillful in all kinds of DIY. His family can live the rest of their lives knowing that they will do just fine no matter what’s going on in the world. This shutdown won’t have any long term effect on their family. Yes, maybe the value of their investments will go down, but they don’t need to liquidate any of it to support their optimized lifestyle and in the long run the market always goes up, so why worry?
We should all strive to reach FI as soon as possible. We should all learn new skills to become less dependent on others. We should all try to insource more rather than outsource everything in our lives. All of these are ideals that I subscribe to and the foundation for this very website you are reading.
As we work on getting to that truly wonderful state we can’t ignore what’s happening in the world around us. I would argue that the less financially FI/skillful you are the more susceptible you will be to various external influences. Being financially independent and having a set of valuable everyday skills is like having an insulating blanket providing a level of security that we all crave. MMM’s blanket is thick so he is able to completely unplug from the current events. For the rest of us, staying informed throughout this journey is one of the ways to mitigate the shocks that can rattle the sustainable system we are busy building for our families.
Once we achieve the state where we could just ignore everything that’s happening in the world, I still doubt we would want to completely shut out the news. I appreciate knowing what’s happening around the world and would not want to isolate myself from the information that’s only a click away. Like everything else in life – it’s all about balance.
Readers: Have you been affected by the shutdown? Are you following the news? Do you ever adjust your behavior based on current events?