News Effect


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 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 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? 




4 thoughts on “News Effect

  1. Hello there!

    I read MMM’s post as well and by and large agreed with it. The thing with MMM is that he is the King of bold and sweeping statements and does not mince his words, as you obviously already know being a reader. There different ways to take it, two of which are:
    1. Nit pick over the details of his arguement and find fault with them (this shouldn’t be hard, as with any bold/sweeping statement)
    2. Understand the general gist of what he is saying, and then decide whether you agree or disagree with the overall stance.

    I find that most people that seem to “hate on him” definitely fall into category 1, they can’t see past the fact that he is generalising massively and is not going to go over every last detail of the what, why and wherefores of every situation his post might touch upon, not least because that would make for an extremely long and boring blog post. I would imagine most people in category 2 would also be people that agree with him, because he talks a hell of a lot of common sense!

    There are many, many examples of people getting wound up with his no nonsense “attitude” which is a bit silly as he himself admits to a lot of indulgences which sometimes break his own rules (in this case, he obviously does check the news sometimes, and even mentions facebook I think in his post).

    In terms of blogging… I think that is probably why his site has become so popular. People gravitate towards natural leader types and by and large that means making strong statements and not backing down from your views (in the comments section afterwards for example).

    Anyway, bit off topic but that is my two cents on the phenomenon that is MMM :).

    I totally agree about being responsible as we work towards FI – in fact you could (should?) argue that you will become even more so, as you’ll have more time on your hands to keep an eye on events and more importantly, actually get involved in matters that are important to you. Personally I cannot wait to try to make a difference (I’m not even sure in what area yet) but as they say you have to help yourself before you can help others.

    Thanks… and jeez that ended up being quite a long one!

    Still loving the blog by the way and wish you all the best, I’m going to put you on my blogroll when I finally sort one out as I’ve found some of your “how to’s” very helpful already.

    Cheers again,


    • Trust me, I love MMM’s blog and mostly nod in silent approval while reading his posts as his outlook on life is very much aligned with mine. This is one of those rare times that I can say we have a difference of opinion. But yeh, I agree that he has the natural born leader qualities that people will flock to each and every time. He IS making a positive difference and that’s great no matter if we disagree on small issues like this one.

      Thank you for the kinds words on the blog. As you know, it’s a lot of work and comments like yours keep me going!

  2. We had an internet outage Monday night that lasted through Tuesday at our house, and the I wish I hadn’t been quite as bothered by it as I was. While I’m definitely not one for abstaining from information just for the fun of it, I think that I’d like to get to a place where being without a high speed internet connection for a day isn’t quite as disappointing as it was.

    • You know that you have a problem when the first thing you do is reach for your smartphone to check up on things (news, Mint) when you wake up every morning… Yep, that would be me 🙂

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