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Slow Things Down

The modern world goes by in a whirl.  Most parts of the US have a reputation for how fast things move, especially for the folks on the east coast.  People have road rage when the traffic moves too slow.  We get frustrated when the service is too slow at a restaurant.  We even get depressed when our careers move too slow.  We’re a society addicted to speed.  Still, sometimes it can be financial advantageous to slow things down.

My recent Experience with Rushing

First, I’d be remiss to not point out the irony of this post.  The idea came from me getting frustrated for exactly the opposite advice from this post.   I was sitting in a restaurant in Shanghai and it took the wait staff almost 30 minutes to place my order.  Mind you I was one of four people in the restaurant and there were no less than 6 waiters milling around talking to each other.     So, mind you the advice I’m about to give is as much for me as it is for the audience.

Advantages of Slowing Things Down

We live in a world of instant gratification.  So much of what we do today we expect to fall into place almost before we ask.  The thing is this instant gratification comes at a cost.  Some of these costs are born in buying things when they first come out at a premium or buying things that maybe you wouldn’t buy at all if you gave it some thought.   The being said there are other ways that it can be financial advantageous to slow things down.

  • The first point is around investing.  It’s very common for people to want to rush towards a financial goal.   It’s a whole cliché that people want to get rich quickly.  The problem is, the true path to wealth is paved in slow but steady progress.  You should not chase yield to speed it up, as the increased risk is ultimately no better than gambling.  The only sure way to make money in the stock market is to invest for the long run and wait for the overall momentum of the economy to drive your holdings up.
  • The second place to consider slowing down is in your career.  There is a tendency to want to job hop for salary increases and move ever upward.  The thing is, sometimes it’s more advantageous to stay put.  Sometimes job hopping can hurt your perception when applying for jobs.  Sometimes your current job will present you with learning opportunities you will not get elsewhere that will result in higher pay down the line.  Sometimes your current job has better intangibles than money, such as work life balance.  Do not always be in a rush to job hop for more money, take it slow and make reasoned decisions to mold your career in a long-term direction.
  • The third opportunity is around your purchases, but in a different respect.  Speed and convenience are expensive.   For example, you pay more for pre-made foods then you would if you made it yourself.  You also typically pay more for other items that come pre-assembled.  Part of the reason places like IKEA are so inexpensive is you are doing the assembling.  You can make your money go further by buying less based on convenience.
  • A final point on purchases.  Slowing down your purchasing activity gives you time to search for cheaper options.  Buying used tends to take longer than new.  So, does searching for an alternative product that would do the same job for less.  Yet if you take the time to slow things down these can often lead to significant savings.
  • The fourth is around life in general.  Stop and smell the roses.  Even if you have a goal like early retirement, slow down and enjoy your life today as much as you reach for your destination.  After all, life is about the journey not the destination.  Besides, you may never make it to the destination due to things outside your control.  You only live once may have negative connotations, but there is a veil of truth in every overused and misapplied cliché.  I consider this the most important example.

How to Slow Things Down

When I get like I was at the recent restaurant, or even when I get in a rush to meet a goal, I find myself deferring to a handful of strategies repeatedly. 

  • The first of these for me is to remind myself that a lot of what I am rushing will not positively impact me if it finished sooner.  Take my dinner.  I had nowhere to be and I was at dinner by myself on a business trip.    As soon as I took a few minutes to think about it I realized if they delivered the check sooner I would just move upstairs to execute the next step of my evening, read blogs.  So, I just cracked out my phone and read some blogs on the hotel wifi.  Problem solved.
  • The second is remembering to enjoy the things as they occur and setting just as many goals around those short-term items.  For example, I enjoy doing things with my kids.   Ensuring I enjoy my time with them is more important than rushing towards retirement.  No one on their death bed says they wished they retired earlier.  They talk about those things they wish they had done which retirement may or may not enable.  They say things like I wish I spent more time with my kids.    To help that along I have goals for things like spending a few hours a week teaching my son to swim.  That builds into my life those slower important and enjoyable things.  I personally am extremely goal oriented, so this one works for me.  You may not require these goals, but I do.
  • For purchases, I stress to myself that if it’s worth buying today, then it will still be worth it tomorrow.  If I can’t say that’s true, then it probably is not worth purchasing in the first place.  As such typically I take a time measured in months when it comes to spending on truly discretionary items.
  • Finally, for everything else, I constantly read, and now write, reminding myself to slow things down and think them through.  It’s very helpful to read studies about the problems with timing finances.  It’s great to reread my investment and career development plans and remind myself how my current position is best fit to my long term plan.  I could write a post on slowing things down ; )  The point is the act of thinking about slowing things down often results in me doing so.

Do you find yourself susceptible to rushing through life?  How do you push yourself to slow things down?

6 Comments

  1. Great post! I used to rush through life, but age, retirement, and illness have slowed me down considerably. I don’t recommend waiting for those to happen to you…slow down now! You’ve provided some great ways to do that. I especially like the idea of having a long term plan so you can check in with yourself to confirm you’re still on plan.

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 27, 2017

      Thanks Gary. Sorry to hear about your illness, but I hope the other aspects are at least enjoyable. Live for the now, prepare for tomorrow.

  2. Max Your Freedom
    Max Your Freedom July 27, 2017

    Great reminder on slowing things down! I agree that our modern world of instant gratification has made people much less appreciative of time in general. This is why I like the concept of slow travel, it fits into the same points you made. I have to apply the same advice you give to remind myself to stop and enjoy the moments. It takes effort!

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 27, 2017

      Great point Max. Slow travel has a lot of benefits. We’re setting some slow travel up for next year as we speak:)

  3. With twin boys, I’m currently dreaming of slow. They move 100 miles an hour from 6am (if we’re lucky) to 8pm. Then I slow down, open a book to read, and fall asleep in 2 minutes.

    But seriously, I like what you’re saying. It’s more of a mindset — even when they are running, I try to remind myself to watch them, consider this time of life, remember what it was like to be a kid, and appreciate how lucky I am to have 2 healthy kids.

    I also like how you tied this into retirement. Retirement is not how we will judge our lives, it’s the journey and the quality of living that will matter. –Rich

    • fulltimefinance
      fulltimefinance July 27, 2017

      Thanks Rich. I can definitely identify with the kids. Our 2 year old and 5 year old boys wear us out at the speed of light.

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