Ask the Readers: What do you Fear?

Do you read Warren Buffett’s annual letter? I love Warren’s letters because they are filled with optimism. However. page 25 of this year’s letter is scary. More on that in a moment.

Ugly Business from two Weeks Ago

First, we have to get to the business from two weeks ago. And the business was not good. It was actually quite shitty (desperate times call for desperate words). I wrote about how my relentless pursuit of FI was coming in between Mrs. 1500 and I. We’ve been extremely busy with our jobs and our home remodeling project. We’ve let a whole lot go by the wayside, including our marriage. Some weeks, we almost live at Home Depot. Recently, I had this conversation with my youngest daughter:

  • Me: Do you know who this is? (I showed her a Pink Panther toy)
  • Daughter: Yes, he is on the boxes at Home Depot.


My kids probably know their way around Home Depot better than most adults.

Anyway, Mrs. 1500 and I both admitted that we felt disconnected from each other. Here is what you had to say on the matter:

Richard from FrugalityMagazine:

At the risk of being a “party pooper” my experience is that as soon as I’ve finished that big project I soon get itchy feet and end up starting another one. I just can’t help it – and wonder if you’ll start itching for a new challenge when life becomes “normal” again.

Reader Mysticaltyger:

I don’t have the “Type A” personality problem. But you have to be really careful assuming things will go back to “normal” if you’re this personality type….because there’s a pretty high chance you’ll just bit off more than you can chew in some other area of life and you’ll be back to working 16 hour days.

Richard  and tyger are both right. I have a long list of crazy projects that will last me years. At least part of the problem is me. I have a very hard time dialing it back.


I can’t argue with Meneer en Mevrouw:

The investment with the best ROI is definitely your marriage.


This one from Reader anonymous strikes a chord (yes D minor*):

After 12 years of marriage and 16 years together, my ex-spouse asked for a divorce after we made it through a really tough time. And, I want you to know, we were the couple everyone – myself included – thought was together forever: we never fought, we were good to each other and respectful, we supported each other’s dreams. We expected things to get back to normal when we were finally able to resolve the problem.

…Embrace a sense that there will be a new normal – and then, things will change again, and you’ll have another new normal after that. During forty or fifty years together, people change – and they should! Who would want to be the same person they were at 12 or 20 or even 36 for the rest of their lives?

I’ve always thought that the Mrs. and I have a healthier relationship than most. We’ve had some minor rough patches, but nothing serious.

That part that anonymous mentioned about people changing is interesting. Whenever I consider a marriage that has failed, I usually think that the cause was financial issues or cheating. I’ve never considered that some marriages fail just because people evolve. This actually sounds healthy and perhaps “failure” is the wrong word.

The Mrs. and I aren’t the same people we were when we met, but we’ve grown with each other. Our changes aren’t coming between us.


More wise words from Reader Judy (and nice work on 50 years!):

Mr 1500, you have already slayed the dragon by recognizing that you both are feeling unconnected. Having been married over 50 years, there are so many highs and lows to come yet in your life, do not fret over the occasional strain. Look forward to time together on your vacations, and enjoy your children while they are young. Small children, small worries – bigger children – well, you get it !


Mike Hardy mentioned something that I’ve been thinking; leaving my job/FI may be the cure to what ails us:

I was not able to relax until I had divested from company, house, rental house etc.


Many of you recommended that we make it a priority to schedule alone time. On Friday, we did just that. We had a neighbor watch the kids while we had a drink at a local microbrewery and dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.

Spendosaurus and Frugalsaurus enjoying some time at the microbrewery.

Spendosaurus and Frugalsaurus enjoying some time at the microbrewery with us.

I won’t say that everything is fixed, but maybe we’ve hit bottom. Our home improvement chaos is really almost at an end (I hope to finish by the end of May) and my time will free up then. If I let it…

Thank you all for your comments. I really appreciate them.


The only thing to fear is fear itself. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

More heavy stuff for this week’s questions! What do you Fear? Now that’s a broad question, but I’m limiting myself to topics related to FI (you don’t have to though).

Warren Buffett’s annual letter is usually loaded with great advice and optimism. This year was no exception, until you get to page 25:

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 9.58.46 AM

Scary, right?

The proliferation of horrible weapons and the rise of stateless, extremist organizations aren’t good. Nuclear bombs ended WWII. Will a nuclear detonation in a big city trigger WWIII?  Perhaps.

Readers, what do you think?

  • What do you fear? FI or otherwise.
  • Is it silly to worry about extreme events?

Maybe I should just shut up and listen to the Blogfather, Jim Collins.

I'm going to give you a Stock Series you can't refute.


*According to Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, D minor is the saddest of all keys:

Join the 10s who have signed up already!

Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.

*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.

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46 Responses to Ask the Readers: What do you Fear?

  1. TMM says:

    Mr 1500,

    You’re certainly not alone in this, I think people who are motivated by FI are often very focused and dedicated upon achieving certain things. Getting a promotion, saving money, even conducting a housing remodel like yourself.

    Almost in an OCD like state I often find myself going to extreme lengths to achieve what we want to achieve, I loose all sense of balance in my life, I do the things that MUST be done; go to work, eat, sleep and spend 100% of my excess time working towards that goal. When the goal is something as big as FI then it’s no surprise that my relationship became strained too.

    I’m so glad that you’ve both managed to see this problem, communicate and look to resolve it… Now that’s a sign of a healthy marriage.


    • 1500 says:

      Thanks much TMM! This is the problem of FI people; the same qualities that makes us able to attain FI at 40 can also bit us if we don’t watch out. I think they are good qualities, as long as we can keep them under control.

  2. Glad to hear you guys got a night out, sounds like a step in the right directions. Good luck.

    Pretty ominous letter there Mr. Buffett. I don’t fear bad things, I can’t let them rule my everyday thoughts, if the poopie going to hit the fan, its all about how I react. Just need to have a plan in place to deal with it.
    Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…Championing Financial LiteracyMy Profile

  3. Mr. PIE says:

    The following wise words were from someone who knew a thing or two about catastrophic events:
    ” I never worry about action, but only about inaction”, Winston Churchill
    Being open, talking, doing things outside the blog and home is your action. Good for you.

    There are times I worry about worrying itself….Yikes.

    Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Was it worth it?
    Can’t remember who this is ascribed to but it resonates.
    Mr. PIE recently posted…Ten ThingsMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      I love the Churchill quote! He has some great ones. And this (!):

      “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Was it worth it?”

      Yeah, I’m a worrier, but it seems like less than 1% of the stuff I worry about actually happens…

  4. Team CF says:

    We sincerely hope that you guys will have many more “pub-nights” together. Meneer en Mevrouw are definitely right that the best ROI is a good marriage. As long as you realize this on time, and work towards it (read: communicate together), there is a really good chance that it will turn out fine.

    As for the extreme events, would not worry too much about it. You got no influence on them anyways. Better to take care of your own body, as this is most likely the reason why you wil end up, a lot earlier than you are planning, on the wrong side of the grass!
    Team CF recently posted…Real Estate and Financing in the Netherlands – A Quick OverviewMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Thanks so much for the kinds words Team CF. I hope that it’s only up, up, up from here too. It’s something that I really have to work on.

  5. grbkeb says:

    I 100% concur with Warren’s sentiments on this subject. It is also the reason why I think you should achieve FI as soon as humanly possible and live a life that you want on your terms. I’ve built a huge nest egg, and I tell myself that the only way that my conservative life plan can fail is (1) if I develop a drug or gambling habit (2) I fall for a crazy woman who takes me for everything (3) World event on an order of magnitude greater than a 911 or the Financial meltdown of ’08.

    The way I look at it, that type of event is completely out of control. If it does happen, we are all proverbially “screwed”, any financial plan anybody had is toast. So get busy getting to the point where you can live for your life and do the stuff you want to do. Can you imagine working until 65 years old saved multiple millions of dollars, finally ready buy that sailboat to cruise the Caribbean and boom (no pun intended), the world changes and its all gone. It has absolutely happened in the past, and will again…hopefully not in any of our lifetimes, but don’t risk it in the pursuit of more stuff or more money than you really need.

    • 1500 says:

      Oh wow, awesome points. I especially like the first one about achieving FI as soon as possible. Even if nothing ever happens, you’ll be able to enjoy life before you’re old and frail.

      “(2) I fall for a crazy woman who takes me for everything”

      Hilarious! Don’t do it! Tread carefully!

  6. Chad Carson says:

    Wow, I love this blog because you keep it real. Thanks for laying it out there.

    I think a lot of ambitious people struggle with the balance of goals and regular life. And it seems all marriages have their ups and downs. At least you’re acknowledging it.

    This might sound like taking OCD goals in one area and moving to another area, but my wife and I make a goal to have at least one monthly date night like your pub evening. We’ve also made a goal to do a separate outing with each of our little girls (me with eldest one month, my wife with youngest, and vice versa next month). I’ve found that when life is the busiest, we have to plan those important but not urgent things, or they’ll just get run over by all the urgency.

    The same concept has been on a larger scale with mini-retirements for us. We’re taking a 1+ year trip to South America as a family in 2017, and it is just in time. I’ve been pushing hard with real estate, my blog, a couple of side projects, etc … and the trip will enforce a little balance and calm in my life.

    So long story short, sometimes you’ve got to use the hacks you’re good at (setting goals, planning) to trick yourself into what you really want to do.

    Buffett’s apocalypse scenario is scary. I usually say it’s not something we can worry about, so just keep living your life. But indirectly I think we can. Certain leaders we elect can try to tackle this problem (or exacerbate it by pissing the rest of the world off). Enough said.

    I don’t think there is an investment strategy that adequately addresses this risk. Seems like all asset classes would be effected. But I’m no expert on that. Learning to farm or head off into the woods for a few months may be a good hedge:)
    Chad Carson recently posted…Never Negotiate Alone: The Real Estate Buddy SystemMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Wise words Mr. Carson. You have your stuff together. I think the mini-retirements are great way to hit the reset button in life too. I suspect that by the time you’re done with your South American adventure, you’ll be jumping at the bit to do something else.

      “I don’t think there is an investment strategy that adequately addresses this risk. Seems like all asset classes would be effected.”

      I had the same thought. Nowhere is safe. But, if something that bad actually happened, maybe we wouldn’t care so much about our money nest eggs anyway.

  7. Mattattack says:

    My biggest fear is saving up this big nest egg and dying before I get to use it. Luckily, I’ve been able to balance keeping my Carpe Diem mindset and still planning for the future. So if I die, its not like I’m gonna see my life flash before my eyes and think: “Is that all? That sucks!” I’ve had a fulfilling life so far, and will continue to do so. But it would suck to plan and work for something just to have actions outside of your control keep you from reaching those goals.

    I think that is pretty universal: people fear things out of their control.
    Mattattack recently posted…Post 4 Student Loans, How I Loathe TheeMy Profile

  8. I’m so glad that you two got to spend time alone together. I feel a constant cycle of things in our marriage. We’re amazing (obviously), but not everyone moves in the same direction exactly all of the time. And sometimes we’re both completely on the same page and sometimes we get a bit off. But time together is always the key. The more we spend together, the more aligned we are. We understand where the other one is at in that precise moment. And that is always the answer.

    As for fears… they always go back to something insane happening to my children. Most of them, statistically, shouldn’t happen. But with so many school shootings, etc. It’s hard not to have such a fear as I send them off every morning.
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…The 4-Year PotentialMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “We’re amazing (obviously), but not everyone moves in the same direction exactly all of the time. And sometimes we’re both completely on the same page and sometimes we get a bit off. But time together is always the key. The more we spend together, the more aligned we are.”

      Oh wow, that is great. I see it with us too. It is easy to start moving in separate ways if you let it.

  9. This is always my challenge. I need to stop and smell the roses and NOT feel guilty. I have to come to terms with that sometimes it’s ok to spend all day being lazy. Like yesterday, it was a Netflix marathon with my husband. Looking back on it today, it was nice to spend time together.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted…Corporate FogMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      “I have to come to terms with that sometimes it’s ok to spend all day being lazy.”

      I know, right?

  10. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with OCD (though have suffered with it much longer than that). I reached my breaking point with anxiety. I fear many, many things. I think chief among my fears is something happening to my boys.

    Hang in there, 1500s! I don’t know you personally, but I know you are a great couple and a great team. We’re coming up on 11 years, and feelings have waxed and waned over that time. Kids really, really change things. I’m not like I was when I was first married, but no matter what my husband is my best friend.
    Jen @ Jen Spends Less recently posted…How to maximize space in a tiny bathroomMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Hi Jen, long time, no talk! I hope your thawing out in NY!

      “Kids really, really change things.”

      Yes, they sure do. Mostly for the better. If only their mouths had a “mute” button at times though!

  11. SpacemanFry says:

    Glad you and your wife took a little time off, but I think you need more. While I’m driven myself, I’ve always known when I need to take a break. Otherwise everything that makes me productive and driven starts to suffer. Think of it these terms… you know when you’re coding late at night and you’re so tired you can’t figure out that bug that’s driving you nuts but when you wake up in the morning you figure it out in 10 minutes? I think a similar thing applies.

    Hmm, I feel that Buffett is being somewhat overly pessimistic here. The way I look at it, except for cases of total nuclear war, we will survive and come through any attack, probably stronger. This country has an amazing ability to band together and accomplish big amazing things, especially when threatened. But at the end of the day the type of personalities and skill sets that are enabling most of us to become FI and retire early will serve us well in adapting, surviving and thriving in whatever happens.

    I’d say why worry about something you can’t control. Get to FI faster, enjoy your life while you can and rely on your adaptability and skills to get you through hardship.

    • 1500 says:

      “you know when you’re coding late at night and you’re so tired you can’t figure out that bug that’s driving you nuts but when you wake up in the morning you figure it out in 10 minutes?”

      Yeah! Or when you’re in the shower or you go for a walk and the answer just shows up. All of us coders are cut from the same mold apparently.

      It is hard to turn off though. Like when I have a code problem, it will drive me nuts until I figure it out. Similarly, I have a hard time stepping away from projects. I wish I had an easier time turning it off.

      I think the chances of a full-on nuclear war are remote. I worry about a rogue entity getting a hold of some old device and lighting it off in NYC. The world would change really fast.

      But as you said, there is no point to worry about something that you can’t control, so why bother.

  12. Chadnudj says:

    I definitely have fears, most of which are based in reality/past experience: losing my job (it’s happened before, and always could happen again), health problems (knock on wood I’ve been lucky so far, but my family has a history of heart disease and my dad passed away from heart-related illness), having to support my mother financially in retirement (one I’m really struggling with as I feel certain it may come to pass unless she makes some life changes soon), expensive repairs to my home or my rental home (although these are definitely lower now that I have a decently healthy emergency savings fund)….

    But I also refuse to let fear run my life. I have real fears, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to let the imaginary/distant fears (think: global catastrophe, random crime/violence, complete and total accidents) ruin things. I face my real fears with what I can: I work hard/network and my spouse works (fighting the job fear), I’m paying down debt/saving as much as I can (fighting both the job fear and preventing me from falling into my mom’s situation of not having enough for retirement), I’ve got health/life/car/home insurance and exercise (fighting financial fears and health fears), and I continue to save in my emergency and taxable accounts (large expense fears). I’m making progress, and getting a step or two ahead of my fears everyday.

    • 1500 says:

      Fear can be a powerful motivator and dare I say, be a positive influence. It definitely has been in your life.

      I guess I live pretty much the same. Saving money came out of fear of being broke. I worked hard because I always had the same fear of losing my job…

  13. Jason says:

    Well, I certainly have a fear about a biological attack. However, I have published enough research on politics and the like to know that this danger is much more from a terrorist group like ISIS than say China. The truth is that America, in most respects, has already won. Almost 98% of the world participates in the rules of the global economy (e.g. the WTO, trade, etc). Practically, every country participates in the rules of the global order (e.g. signed treaties on human rights, nuclear proliferation, etc). That doesn’t mean it is perfect by any mean. But that order, in essence, disciplines the countries that participate in it. Because the international order is so important for the vast majority of states they don’t want to step outside of it or they become a pariah state like North Korea. That is why when people complain or worry about a rising China or India I don’t pay much attention. The international order, which is primarily of an American creation that needs improvements no doubts, has created an international network of rules and regulations that the vast, vast majority of countries must follow or be ostracized.

    In terms of my own personal fear. My biggest fear is that I don’t do enough. That I am inadequate in the moment and in the future. It is a fear that has propelled me in my career, but it makes it hard for me to relax and just enjoy those accomplishments because I constantly feel that I need to do more.
    Jason recently posted…The “Four Walls” Emergency FundMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Neat thoughts Jason!

      Yeah, I think the superpowers are smart enough never to engage in a full-on conflict. There would be no winners. I also think that even the craziest and most unstable of nuclear armed nations (DPRK/Pakistan) are smart enough not to sell a weapon to a terrorist organization. It will probably be a while before a rogue entity could build or steal something truly dangerous, but I think it is a possibility in my lifetime.

  14. Daniel says:

    It is interesting that Buffett has chosen to address a “Black Swan” threat in his newsletter. As a cyber expert I really do balance on a high level of fear of a serious Cyber Attack on this country. We are so drastically unprepared for the impact and we live in a time of “just in time delivery” that from a systems perspective we are not as durable/resilient as we used to be. Some of that has helped but some has potentially set us up for a world of hurt.
    Technology is awesome, but the other side of it is that it has lowered the level of required capability to perform threats the previously existed in the hands of Nation States (which had somewhat rational leadership). Nuclear/radiological, biological and chemical threats (CBRN) now can potentially be pulled off by hostile NGO/transnational terrorist type (AQAP, ISIS, etc). I think Cyber has an even lower bar, and personally I am happy every day that there isn’t an event.
    Daniel recently posted…March “Reads”/ReadsMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Yikes. But interesting.

      On the radio one day, someone from the CIA was talking. She said that the thing they fear most is the nuke in a big city. Even more ominous, she said that the higher you go up in the leadership, the more scared people become.

      If/when it happens, it will probably be the work of a transnational group, so how do you even respond to it? It’s horrible to think about.

      I don’t work directly in security, but there is a whole lot of it at my job too. I agree that the barrier of entry is low. It is a difficult task. You can plug 1000 holes, but forget one, and it doesn’t matter…

  15. Gwen says:

    I have a fear of being stranded some place, which has a somewhat unhealthy reaction of me being paranoid about my car keys, monitoring my gas tank and keeping an eye on my phone battery so it never goes out. Another fear of mine is big crowds. I’m a fairly tiny female and people in crowds don’t always act rationally (see the headlines from this year’s Mecca) so I’d hate to get crushed because of a panic, real or imagined.
    Gwen recently posted…Dreaming of FIMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Big crowds! Brace yourself for Omaha! They are mostly super old though, so you’d be alright, even in a octogenarian stampede.

  16. Believe Fire says:

    I’m glad you guys took time for a date night and hope you make it a priority moving forward. We’ve barely been married a year so I don’t think we have much wisdom to add. I will say that our marriage really benefits from spending ample time together, which is much easier now that we’re traveling the world.

    As far as what Buffett said on page 25, it’s possible that something catastrophic will occur soon, and it is scary to think about. MMM had a post awhile back about circle of influence vs. circle of control and I think it applies here. There is likely nothing I can do to prevent such a catastrophe, so I plan to enjoy the good in life and focus on the things I can control.

    • 1500 says:

      Yeah, that was a good MMM post. I need to keep that in mind at all times so I stop thinking about all of this silly stuff.

  17. Home renovation is the single most stressful thing we’ve gone through together — and yet we’ve subjected our marriage to it multiple times! I bet a lot of the angst will pass once it’s over — but just don’t rush into the next project.

    Random Q: Your sidebar says you just hit a big financial milestone! When are you going to share that??? 🙂

    As for fear, my biggie is that we are not properly preparing for global warming, sea level rises, the end of oil, etc. We’re going to have to embrace some pretty big changes one way or another, and it sure would be nice if that could happen without tanking the economy. I wish more corporations would show more signs of actually thinking ahead on this stuff, instead of the phenomenon that seems to be happening of C-suite types just hoping the changes will become the next person’s problem, not theirs!
    Our Next Life recently posted…Make Sure Your Vision Includes Joyful GenerosityMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Home renovation is stressful! At the worst point, our family of 4 was living in 800 square feet with one toilet and drywall dust everywhere. I don’t ever want to go there again.

      And you noticed! Thanks for that! Tomorrow!

      Agreed that the world is changing. It is terrible that humans are so reactive. There will be folks standing up their knees in water in the middle of Miami still claiming global warming is a hoax.

      There are rays of light. Elon Musk is a huge one. Coal has been going south for a while now. Solar gets cheaper every year…

  18. CJ says:

    While I do recognize the dangers of what Buffet has described, I realize that preparing for an eventuality that has a small probability of happening isn’t something I’m personally going to do. I don’t have a prep-er bone in my body. Recognizing the eventuality is a little bit different than preparing for it.
    I have a better likelihood of developing cancer (I’m a scientist, so paying for cancer treatment is realistically the closest thing I have to my ‘worst case scenario’.), and I’m not preparing to save for that. I haven’t decided if dying or living a long time in incredible amounts of pain is what I fear most.

    • 1500 says:

      You have a good point about cancer. I’ve looked past a lot of things that are much more likely to happen. Life is good, hell, life is great. Time to stop worry and just live the best I can right now.

  19. JC says:

    Wow, that Buffet piece is a sobering thought, isn’t it. But, what are you going to do. If it happens it’s the end of everything. And there’s nothing we, as individuals, can do about it. So we must soldier on and follow our plans.

  20. Very interesting thought by Buffet. However, I do not think it is something that most people can realistically prepare for. This is where trust in your political government and other governing powers come into play and we must all hope they do their job.
    My biggest fear currently is not being able to work in the United States as I am a foreign citizen. I am hoping that my work visa will be picked from the lottery system so I can work in the United States without the fear of having to move back home. The uncertainty really sucks.
    Stefan @Mllnnlbudget recently posted…Millennial’s Guide to ETFsMy Profile

    • 1500 says:

      Dah, I’m sorry about your uncertainty. This is terrible and really brings me back down to earth. I have zero problems compared to stuff like this.

      It also sucks that people who want to stick around here and work hard can’t. Shit, there are enough lazy natural borns to go around after all…

  21. lamvanchuong says:

    This is always my challenge. I need to stop and smell the roses and NOT feel guilty. I have to come to terms with that sometimes it’s ok to spend all day being lazy.

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