I overheard a conversation in my work the other week, which went along these lines:
“So I intend to overpay on my mortgage by £250 a month and get it down as fast as I can”. I was surprised – people talking openly, and seriously, about personal finance in the office?! I wandered over with my cup of coffee to join in.
“I know”, replied the colleague. “I have money sitting in a cash ISA doing nothing. I think maybe I should pay a lump of the mortgage off with it instead, but it’d make such a small dent in the scheme of things.”
It was at this point I felt I must rip my shirt open to display my blue T Shirt with MMM (Or ERE) – that’s Mr Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme – emblazoned across the chest.
“Ehrm, why would you want to do that?”, I asked. “If your mortgage is costing 2% and you could invest the money and get maybe 7%, wouldn’t you be better sticking it into a stocks and shares ISA?”
“Well”, replied my colleague, “I understand mortgages. I don’t have a clue about the stock market”. The other bloke nodded vigorously in agreement.
I asked them if they’d heard of of Index trackers?” Blank looks. Passive investing? Nada. Getting a life? (only kidding). We chatted on for a few minutes with me thinking that this was one of the few informal conversations about finance and investing I’d ever had at work. I offered to send across some links that might let them look more into things and paced back to my desk.
Now, what to send my colleagues to get them started on the road of passive investing? Well, Monevator of course, but when I clicked over to the site and looked at it from the perspective of a complete newbie I wondered if it was ever so slightly intimidating? I picked the post entitled “Five Reasons You’ll Love Index Investing”, and noticed that almost by the second paragraph references were being made to ETF’s, something that I don’t fully understand myself. Was it already getting too complicated?
I sent the link anyway and tried to resist sending any more. They’ll either be interested or they won’t, and if the easy and straightforward style of Monevator doesn’t grab them, what will?
I mulled other options though. What if I offered to host a “Canteen Coffee House Investor” morning one day before the nine to five day starts? These guys were in by eight fifteen anyway, maybe they’d be interested in chatting informally about investments, or shares, or pensions once a month? I know I would, and maybe one or two others in the office would too? Mind you, what if they became enthused, and sank their life savings into a US Tracker just as the market uncovers another Lehman Brothers? Would they hold me responsible for ruining their financial lives? Would they remember my warnings, between slurps of coffee, that the value of investments can go up as well as down? Or that they need to work on a five year horizon?
Apart from that paranoia, however, I like the idea. I sometimes feel that it’s a lonely life being British and interested in this sort of financial stuff. It’s not really who we are, is it? We’ll conveniently ignore the reality of The City and tell ourselves that money is a private matter and that discussing it openly is really rather vulgar. It’s so much easier to pretend we’ve no interest in it because our lives are so much more bright and vibrant while we’re just “getting by” and being happy with that, instead of being some sort of dull bread-head counting every penny and comparing the size to your pile to everyone else’s.
Sometimes I scan the UK and US forums for meet-ups of like minded British people, but they seem few and far between. I did attend one of Huw’s (Financially Free by Forty) organised FIRE Escapes, but only because it was right in my home town. It was really enjoyable too, but would I travel miles to attend one? Stay overnight somewhere? “No” has been the answer to that so far. Perhaps this is because although I’m interested in financial matters, I don’t think I’m THAT interested. Yes, I could meet up with a bunch of people for a few drinks maybe once a month, but in between I’d rather get on with my passive, non-financial life. As for flying to Ecuador for a Chautauqua, I’m sorry, that verges toward cultish, Jonestown Massacre, behaviour. Which is probably a very British way of looking at it too, but there you go.
I don’t see myself as an organiser, starting a Club or forming a Society, but I have to admit I am tempted with regards to investing basics. Why? Because it’s important, and because it changed my life for the better. I think people should know about it and that they would benefit from it too. Perhaps that’s why I continue with this “Early Retirement” blog even after I went back to work. At least I had the choice to do so, and it was Financial Independence that afforded that choice – and continues to offer it. Surely that’s information that’s worth spreading?