Defying Convention

A new way to look at old traditions.

I have long had a fascination of sorts with things that are not the color they are supposed to be, there is something visually appealing about things that are the wrong color (don't know how else to articulate it). A couple of examples include the blue turf at Albertson's Stadium where Boise State plays football or fire apparatus that is a color other than red (I have been a volunteer firefighter since 2003). The extent to which a football field must be green or fire truck red is maybe isn't such a big deal but it is unconventional on a small scale.

Taking on and defying convention in other arenas can be important in terms of quality of life issues (happiness), quality of life issues (physical health) which in turn can have a profound impact on quality of life (personal financial matters).

One form of convention is the idea of buying a house, it's viewed as a sign of accomplishment and maturity. Ever since the financial crisis, this bit of convention has been scrutinized repeatedly for perhaps not being as great of a thing as many think. This provided impetus for the tiny house movement and likely, FIRE which stands for financial independence/retire early. I have written extensively about tiny houses and FIRE, they are fascinating ideas.

Today I waded through a long read about tiny houses from believermag.com (via Abnormal Returns) that seemed to be a circling back to the idea to see who really is living in tiny house beyond "mediagenic" 20-somethings. The article focused on a community of tiny houses in Colorado called Peak View (there is a view of Pike's Peak). Part of the cohort that lives there is a group I have written about, retirees needing to downsize to make their financial plans work. The way I have framed it is that with the current median home price in the $250,000-$300,000 range (examples, $300,000 in Las Vegas, $305,000 Phoenix, $257,000 in Dallas), someone close to 60 either way, nearing retirement could sell their hopefully paid off home and buy a tiny house all in for $100,000 and add the $150,000-$200,000 to whatever retirement savings they might have. The context is people with less savings than they probably need as opposed to people who have no savings. This sort of trade down could be a huge difference maker.

I write all the time about taking bits of (investment) process from various sources to create your own process. What that really is about is allowing yourself to be influenced by something like a tiny house. I have no interest in living in a 200 square foot "house" but the tiny house movement validates the notion that people can be quite happy with less, with a smaller house than they think they need. If you look long enough, you'll find stats along the lines of average square footage for houses built in the 1950's & 60's being 1300-1400 square feet versus well over 2000 square feet now. From the believermag article;

We sat in his living room, which was, of course, small, but nonetheless accommodated a flat-screen TV, a dog bed, and a pair of recliners.

As someone who loves watching sports and has dogs (we're at five these days) that sounds pretty comfy and cozy to me. Think about your living room. What's in there versus how much you actually use? The house I grew up in had three rooms on the main floor that we used maybe once or twice a year. Arguably, my parents didn't need that space. I think the tiny house movement has served to alter perceptions (this is influence) and gives permission to live in a very small house even if not a true tiny house.

Another convention to defy, or at least consider defying, relates to the management of chronic health issues related to type 2 diabetes, hypertension and weight issues. From @Mangan150, widely followed in self improvement Twitter;

There's little money in health. The big money is in disease.

People are reversing these issues by changing their diets and taking up vigorous exercise routines. If any of these conditions impact your life you probably take medicine with the expectation that you'll need to take it or something else forever. I am in no way claiming anything absolute here and no one should take my word for it but I am telling you people are defying convention and solving these problems by changing their behaviors. There is no reason not to learn more if you are so afflicted. Generally decreasing sugar intake and exercising more frequently won't be wrong for too many people but you need to figure this out for yourself.

It is a similar story with cholesterol convention. There is a lot of research out there that says high cholesterol is not what clogs arteries and so taking a statin to lower your cholesterol doesn't help prevent your first heart attack (I am aware of research that says statins help prevent second heart attacks and not sure if it has been debunked). In my opinion, statins are a solution in search of a problem. There are many studies that link high cholesterol to lower, all cause mortality. We have been conditioned to take as gospel the conventions that high cholesterol and diets high in saturated fat are bad for us. Now think about the quote above, where is the money? It is not in people, on their own modifying their behaviors.

I can't stress enough that no one should take my word on anything other than as a catalyst to learn more than you know now. Being more informed, you may draw a different conclusion but being more informed won't make it worse.

A final convention to defy for this post is expensive investment products from insurance companies and brokerage firms. I just had this conversation with a long time friend about the extent to which whatever benefit is being pitched to you in an expensive or opaque insurance product can be created for a fraction of the cost, a small fraction, with ETFs at an online brokerage. Further, I would actually question the benefit they're attempting to sell to you. My friend was considering some sort of insurance product that limited the downside of the stock market while offering some portion of the upside. Very few people need this but if you think you really need it, it can be had much cheaper with the Innovator Defined Outcome ETFs and mind you, saying they are cheaper is not saying I have any plan to use them, I don't but their existence underscores the point, there is a much cheaper way to do just about anything embedded in an insurance product.

These all tie together to enhance quality of life; fewer money worries, hopefully fewer health worries and less money going out in the way of fees (so you keep more).

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