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Wednesday, August 11

Scratching the Itch

Do you have an itch? Doesn't everyone? By itch, I mean, do you have a bad habit? It may be so habitual that you don't even realize it's not a good thing to be doing. Smoking, overeating, gambling, day trading, video game-playing... these are the vices either I or my close friends engage in. I tried smoking - it's not for me. I definitely eat too much, but I also know I've really made some progress on improving my eating habits in the last two years (as in, I might eat red meat 3 or 4 times a month versus once or twice a day in the past).

One bad habit I see in most people these days is also something no one realizes is so bad. That habit is the need for activity or change. Why are we, as a society, so caught up in "new and improved" when "old and it works" really does work just fine? Here are a few examples of areas I've struggled with:
  • Excessive stock trading. When you buy shares of a company, you are buying a piece of that company. It's just plain dumb to constantly buy and sell shares. I really want to move to a total buy and hold strategy where the only trades I make are purchases with new funds.
  • Sweating the small stuff. I'm a Type A personality, which means I'm really anal when it comes to things like managing clutter, having a lingering item on my to-do list, or wanting to do some research on the Internet. That last one is ridiculous: I'll be busy reading when an idea comes to me. Rather than write it down and wait until later, I often find myself jumping onto my computer to look something up. That wouldn't be a problem except I always end up at the computer much longer than I intended.
  • Never sticking to plan. I thought this blog would help hold me accountable to my goals, and it certainly has made a difference. Still, I set goals at the end of each year but often change them. Wouldn't I be more effective if I set my goals and stayed on course until I achieved them?
I say all this because I've been wondering if it wouldn't be better to give in - just a bit - to some of these cravings in a controlled way. For example, what if I set up a small brokerage account and bought and sold to my heart's desire? Then I would leave the assets in my retirement account alone (buy and hold). Or what if I set aside a small amount of money each month as "Mad Money" that I could use at the Blackjack table, guilt-free? This is something I'm still thinking about. I just wonder if controlling those urges might be more productive than trying to ignore them altogether.

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