And yet all you suckers clicked on it anyway. This is just too easy.
You know how everyone and their dog is on the Goodreads and has some sort of reading challenge going on? (I have also joined that particular site, but only because it gives good suggestions of what I should read next) We’ve taken the leisure activity of reading and reduced it to some sort of challenge that needs to be accomplished, like flossing daily.
Think of it this way. You know the difference between The Bachelor and a Frontline documentary on PBS? One of those programs is trashy in every way, while the other is usually pretty good. You could maybe argue that PBS is a left leaning organization and will therefore produce programming accordingly, but I’m a right leaning guy and I don’t notice it very often. Besides, it beats episodes of Sesame Street interrupted by the television version of a hobo with an empty baseball cap.
Television, as a medium, is neither good or bad. When I was 18 and watching business TV after working the night shift at a grocery store, I learned a crapload of stuff on the markets and investing in general. The value ideas of guys like Benj Gallander and Kevin O’Leary have stuck with me for years afterwards. They were instrumental in making me the investor I am today.
And I also watched a lot of episodes of The Simpsons. That show is great fun, but I doubt I learned much of anything from Homer’s antics. It does give me a convenient excuse to put this in though, which I will gladly take advantage of.
Reading is the same way. I almost exclusively read non-fiction (the only fiction I’ve read as an adult is Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Fahrenheit 451, that 1963 book by Stephen King, and 1984), but even a lot of that isn’t changing my life in a meaningful way. I enjoyed just about every book I ever read, but most have faded into the background of my brain, right next to the trivia of who won the 1994 World Series. I’ve retained bits and pieces from most books I’ve read, but I can only think of 10-20 that changed my life in any material way.
I also read a lot about individual stocks. I read about the ones I’m invested in, about the ones I’m interested in owning, and even a bunch of large caps that I write about for my other job. I could probably give you the gist of the investment thesis for about 200 companies, some with more detail that others.
This isn’t to brag about how much I read, since that’s basically the intellectual equivalent of bragging about the size of your johnson. That point is this. Out of all the information I consume, most of it is a waste of my time. Clicking on the 14th Seeking Alpha or Motley Fool article of the day isn’t getting me any further along. It’s just procrastinating before actual work time starts. But some of it is good, so I keep reading.
I like to think my readers only read my blog while hating all of the other trash out there, but that’s just not the case. Chances are you’re going to hit the back button is about 30 seconds and go read 14 other personal finance blogs, because you’re at work and you’re procrastinating too. You probably want to go procrastinate over at the hot blond from accounting’s office, but you don’t because that would be the opposite of subtle.
I’m guessing most people reading this are pretty good at saving money. Most probably aren’t great at investing, but a simple ETF portfolio and a decent enough savings rate can cover a lot of sins. Most are living below their means and not buying too much house or a bigass SUV. And if they are consuming a little more than a hardcore frugalist would like, it’s because they have an above average income. If that’s you, let me ask you this.
If you have the basics down, why are you reading stuff that just repeats those basics back to you?
There are several reasons, I suppose. You have friends that are addicted to spendahol, and want a community of like-minded people to hang out with. Or you’re bored at work. Or maybe you’re like that addict that is constantly tempted to go back to the well and reading this stuff keeps you from the evil clutches of BIG CREDIT CARD.
But for most people, I think it’s just routine. They wake up, have their coffee, and check their favorite blogs. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that — provided the content is making you smarter in some way. It could also be entertaining, but let’s not kid ourselves. Most finance blogs aren’t entertaining.
The takeaway is this. If you read my blog, or any other, and it isn’t educating or entertaining you, it is a waste of your time. If you’re consistently smarter than the author and are on a whole different level, it’s a waste of your time. If you constantly disagree so vehemently about an author’s opinions that you yell at your laptop, it is a waste of your time. If it’s the same stuff you’ve already read 100 times, it’s a waste of your time.
It’s just as valuable to sit and stare out the window as it is to read the 1,583rd blog post on the debt snowball. Which is why you shouldn’t bother. Either spend your time reading stuff that entertains you, that makes you smarter, or get the hell to work. The rest of the stuff is a waste of time.