Saturday, June 08, 2019

Early Retirement as a Religious Experience

Image result for mark manson

Mark Manson's latest masterpiece Everything is F**cked is a work of a genius. It stylishly blends the latest insights in psychology with postmodern philosophy and written in a compellingly unique voice.

This is a must read for fan of this blog.

One of the cooler ideas in this book is on how to start a religion and it is this section of the book that resonated with me the most.

Attaining Early Retirement and becoming Financially independent has always been to me a personal affair which I documented through my books at various stages of my journey. My earlier ideas recast financial independence as being akin to attain Nirvana by adopting a Calvinist work ethic.

One of the impediments of effective training has always been convincing students to take action.

As such, reframing Early Retirement as a Religion is a novel idea that might work. To start acting on one's own intelligence and investment ideas is not so much a logical exercise, but one based on faith and emotions.

Faith that, when a person invests on their own, things will not go south.

I will now imagine how Early Retirement can be re-engineered into a religious movement :

a) Sell Hope to the Hopeless

Early Retirement does indeed seem hopeless to a beginner.

We probably have about 10-15 years worth of work before we get interrupted with a string of retrenchments and retraining initiatives. Most investment products low ball their returns so an exit within 10 years is a difficult enterprise. As a consequence of this, this seems impossible to most laymen.

As I already have a product offering to make Early Retirement possible that combines a quantitative approach with using a bit of leverage, this is already something that is expected in a training course.

b) Choose your Faith

For such a high quantitative investing methodology, folks may argue that faith is unnecessary to invest employing my approach since I am a man of science.

I actually now believe that faith is fundamental to successful Early Retirement.

You must believe that there is a chance that markets may adopt historical risk and returns. Non-stationarity makes it a crap shoot but some evidence is better than making bold proclamations about "good sponsors" and "superior managers" or reading candlesticks.

Furthermore, you must also believe that doing it on your own is better than hiring an active investing professional because you will not be encumbered with expensive management fees.

There are a lot of horrible people showing evidence on the Web that shows that people are bad at choosing stocks on their own. When you ask them what they think about people's odds of choosing a "good" commissioned financial advisor instead, they become silent on this matter.

c) Pre-emptively Invalidate all Criticism or Outside Questioning

This is the stage where training is no longer helpful since I do enjoy addressing criticisms as constructively as possible.

There are, however, some forms of criticism are particularly bad where I would no longer advocate being reasonable to the person levelling it. One is that because most evidence points to most laymen failing at investing, you will also fail at investing.

To deal with this, a good religion needs an enemy. If Early Retirement were to made into a religion, its enemies might well be some commissioned Financial Advisors or MLM practitioners.

" You are an FA, of course you will argue that I cannot attain Early Retirement on my own. I am not paying you commissions to adopt your slave mentality! Go Away ! "

d) Ritual Sacrifice

Early Retirement already calls upon more ritual sacrifice than most real world religions.

  • Tracking your budget with an App. 
  • Forgoing restaurant visits. 
  • Frequent library visits to read investment books. 
  • Pre-funding your trading account to lower commissions.
  • I even started intermittent fasting today. 

Sometimes my job as a trainer is to document all these rituals into one single set of Holy Training Manuals.

e) Promise Heaven and Deliver Hell

The capitalist economy has already installed a Heaven and Hell for adherents to Early Retirement.

Heaven for Early Retirees is a life unconstrained by unreasonable job supervisors, where your taxi fares come from REIT dividends and DBS pays you to visit Japanese restaurants.

Hell is a life of constantly getting Retrenched, Retraining for a new job then going into a new job just to be retrenched again. Hell for civil servants is doing procurement.

f) Prophet for Profit

In case you don't know, we trainers already profit from conducting training.

In my view, the challenge is to sustain a reasonable profit. This means coming up with training that always improves with the times. This may mean adopting some religious practices to improve student outcome. And no, I don't share my insights for free.

As you can see, there is nothing much stopping me from turning Early Retirement into a secular religion.

This is possibly not that new, the FIRE movement is already attracting believers in droves.


  1. Hi Chris,

    I believe that this is entirely up to one who desire for FIRE or not. One will consider making the religious experience as he/she benefits from his/her example. One will use early retirement as a gateway to options. I personally favor such approach. FIRE allows me to have options. I have the liberty to choose the options of my preference.

    There is no right or wrong answer. It is up to one to decide the best option for him/her.

    To each of our own.


  2. Statistics do show that the average retail investor does worse than the average investment pro. But I would argue that FAs fall under "retail investor" themselves.

    And statistics also show that the average investment pro does worse than their passive benchmarks.

    Emotions are the biggest factor for retail investors, and seldom incorporated into models. Emotional capacity also varies from one individual to another.

    I wonder how many will bail into cash when their portfolios are down -50% in a major bear market? Or even just -30%.

    Just a partial bail out, or freezing up & stopping further investment contributions can result in serious impairment to their FIRE promise land.

  3. Could you please explain non-stainoarity?