Fear of Unknown

The past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on several different things. All of them more or less boil down to the same thing though, risk of the unknown can be kind of scary. I thought we’d talk a bit about it.

Starting something new

Doing something new can be quite scary. Especially if there is a decently expensive buy in. For those that don’t know, I recently started a podcast talking about history.

While I had been planning this podcast on and off for about 3-4 years, and more seriously for the past year, I kept coming up with excuses to not finally jump through the hoops. “It’s too expensive to launch a podcast this month, I’ll wait until next month.” “I don’t have enough episodes written in advance.” “Those that I do have written need a lot more work too.”

At its root, these excuses were just me trying to put off something since I was concerned I wouldn’t enjoy it or that it would flop. So I’m going to give it a year, and we’ll see what I think at that point.

Starting this blog was a similar thing. I had considered it on and off for about 6 months to a full year Before I finally took the plunge. Here we are just over a year later and I think it makes a great place to get my thoughts about various personal finance topics in order.

The big move

Probably an even bigger event in my life, at least in the last few years was moving halfway across the country for a new job.

When I moved out here, I had visited the state of Illinois once when I interviewed for the job. Other than my knowledge of the state was that it was cold, Chicago was there, and Lincoln was from there. The town my job was in, was some small town I had never heard of before. I knew no one in the area.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit stress inducing. It’s a little scary to move to a new town 1200 miles away from home that you’ve been to once. But I took the plunge. The worst thing that could happen is that a year down the road I hate the new job or the area and I instead go looking for a new job somewhere else, either back home or in a new area.

Trying new Things

I don’t remember being one to shy away from trying new things. When I was in high school and during breaks from school in college, I’d occasionally go shopping with my mom in Santa Fe where she liked to stop at a specific store there. Whenever we were there I would look for “weird” fruit and give it a try. Be that a dragon fruit, star fruit, pomelos, or something else. For the most part this one end cap in the produce area always had weird fruits and I’d see what I could find. I’d find some interesting new fruit and give it a try.

After graduation while I was staying with my parents I started getting cookbooks from around the world (it all started with a quest for a good chicha morada recipe). I’d find one at the library, say a Malaysian cookbook, that sounded interesting and I’d get it. I’d then thumb through to find a recipe that sounded good and once a week I’d cook. Not all of them turned out well, there were a few Asian style soup recipes I didn’t care for. But it was only a handful of meals.

I’m the same way with new skills or hobbies. When I was in college I was going to lunch one day. I was living in the dorms that year so I had to eat in the mess. During the school’s club fair, I noticed one table had an anvil, a forge, and some very nice looking knives. I decided to give it a try and about two years later I was running the club. If I ever fix my forge I plan to pick up blacksmithing again, hopefully sometime this year.

Personal finance connections

Now you are probably sick and tired of me talking about things I have tried to do over the years and are wondering what this has to do with personal finance.

Well in a lot of ways many personal finance topics are scary and unknown. Am I choosing the right asset allocation? Do I really have enough to retire? Will I be bored after retiring? Is owning real estate better than stocks? I could go on.

A lot of people are afraid of where they’re going to start when it comes to investing. Even if they’re not going for anything for a complicated strategy. At the end of the day, they’re putting their money on the line and the fear of losing that money can dissuade them from getting started in the first place.

Sometimes though, you have to take a calculated plunge. Maybe it’s trying retirement on for size by working half time or taking a one year sabbatical. Maybe it’s trying a certain asset allocation for 3 years and seeing if it’s providing too much stress.

The point I’m trying to get at it is that while it may be scary or it may not work out, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work and you change course. Be it a new strategy, finding a new thing to do while retired (including going back to work), or finding a new job.

I actually think in this respect it’s better to start young. The younger you start the more time you have to recoup from losses from a poorly chosen strategy or if earlier retirement doesn’t work out the easier it will be for you to return to the workforce.

Wrapping Up

The whole point I was trying to drive at with this point is that while the unknown can be scary, sometimes you have to take that plunge. Be it in the personal finance world or in your personal life when it comes to trying something new. The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work out.

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