Interview with Mr. Collins, Part Two: 50 Shades of FI

Welcome to part 2 of the interview with Mr. Collins. Be sure to check out part 1 if you missed it last week. In this week’s post, you’ll learn about:

  • The future of Mr. Collins’ epic Stock Series
  • The Mr. Collins Beanie Baby
  • Mr. Collins’ upcoming book. Rumor is that it will be just like 50 Shades of Grey, but you know, personal finance related. Here is a sultry sneak preview (make sure the children are in another room):

JLC-243x300“Does this mean you’re going to buy stocks tonight, Christian?”

Holy s***. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.

“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t buy stocks, I buy index funds…”


Mr. 1500: Mrs. 1500 is very stubborn. Like a mule, but without the unpleasant smell and better looking. However, I’m even worse (on all three of those fronts). It takes a strong argument and sometimes years before I will change my mind on certain things. One of those “things” is investing. However, your stock series really struck a chord with me. Despite my short term success (luck?) as a stock picker (“short term” is key here), I’m in the process of dumping most of those risky investments for index funds.

Your epic series started April of 2012 and the most recent update (#27) was published just last November of 2014. So, I have some questions surrounding the piece:

  • I have heard that you started the blog as a way to help your daughter. Is this true and if so, was she what you had in mind when you wrote the series? Has she read it?
  • Does the series have a finite end?
  • Do you still own any individual stocks (The horror. The horror.)?

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J. Collins: It is very true that my daughter is the inspiration for the blog. In fact, most often when I am writing I am writing to her.

As I describe in the beginning of this post – – in my over zealousness I managed to turn my daughter off to things financial. I consider it so important and so powerful a tool for expanding one’s options in life, I made the mistake of pushing far too hard.

Lecturing kids doesn’t work and is counter productive. Shit. Who knew?

In the Spring of 2011 I started writing a series of letters to her about this stuff. I hoped that at some point she might see the value and develop an interest. The idea was the information would be there even if I no longer was.

I shared these with a friend. He liked them and suggested other family and friends might also and that I should put them on a blog.

While I had heard of blogs, I had never actually read one. Somebody pointed me to WordPress and following the steps, I started posting. I sent an email with a link to family, friends and business associates. This is why the blog is named as it is. I wanted these people to know it was me. As it happened, all the variations of my name were unavailable. It wasn’t until I added the “NH” for New Hampshire at the end that one worked.

The great irony, to me at least, is that very few of my friends and relatives read it while at the same time it now has an international audience. Had I known, I would have tried to come up with a more clever name that better describes what it is all about. I still think about changing it, but now jlcollinsnh has a bit of brand equity.

It wasn’t until maybe a month in that I stumbled on ERE, I forget how. That led me to MMM and from there to others. I was surprised to see that folks were already writing blogs about financial stuff and stunned when I attended my first FinCon in 2013 and saw the ~500 financial bloggers who were there. If I had had any idea there were so many out there already, I never would have bothered to launch this one.

Jessica tells me she has read some of it, but mostly her attitude is that she heard it all through my endless lectures while she was growing up. That’s somewhat true, but writing this stuff down has better focused my thinking, and my readers’ comments and questions have steered me into important topics that would not have occurred to me otherwise.

For instance, when I started the Stock Series, I only envisioned the first five posts. There are now 27. Who knows? Every time I think it’s complete, a new topic presents itself.

Individual stocks. Damn. You’ve caught me out.

The last time I owned any was in 2011. I bought about 4 or 5 high-dividend payers figuring that those type of stocks would lead the recovery. Turns out, it worked very well and I sold after about 4 months with a 42% gain. But I can’t emphasize enough how much a role luck played in that success and how difficult it is to repeat.

So that was it. Until just about four weeks ago. When I picked up another stock.

This one is a play on oil prices. So far it is up slightly, but is not making the big, fast move I was looking for. Not sure if I’ll hold it or for how long.
I don’t write about these on the blog because

1. I don’t want anyone following my lead. I am just as likely (more likely) to be wrong as right.
2. I don’t want to have to remember to let readers know when I sell.
3. Picking individual stocks is a very poor investment strategy.
4. Picking individual stocks is a disease best avoided.
5. It’s stupid.
6. Crap. I gotta stop doing this. Thanks for the reminder.


Mr. 1500: Let’s lighten things up a bit for the next question.

I read your post about Beanie Babies and was greatly amused. Like your coworker, I have a family member who had ridiculous plans around her Beanie Baby collection. She planned to retire on them. We all know how well that worked out. However, I digress. If the Ty company called you up and said that it was commissioning a James Collins, Rare Limited Edition, Collectors Only, Beanie Baby, what animal would it be? What color? Please describe in detail.

J. Collins: Were I to receive sure a call from TY, or any other licensing firm, my first question wouldn’t be what animal. It would be, “What’s my cut!?”

That said, back in the 1990s I spent a few years working with a Native American Medicine Man. He identified my spirit animal as Bear. Not surprising to anyone who has meet me and my shambling size. As I am pretty grizzled myself at this point, it would probably be a Grizzly Bear with the silver highlights.

That or a gorilla. Late in my career I had a younger colleague and friend refer to me as a Silverback. Again my size, grey hair and more senior position likely played into that perception.

Personally, I see myself as a sleek, lithe, powerful, graceful Jaguar. But that’s delusion, and a tough sell to anyone who has met me. πŸ™‚


Mr. 1500: I have heard rumors that you are writing a book. I went into a bookstore with Mrs. 1500 and got very excited when I spotted a business book written by Jim Collins. Alas, it was just a doppleganger. If a book is in the works, please fill us in.

J. Collins: I am, and sometimes it seems like I have been doing so forever!

The good news is that last spring, Tim, one of my readers and a professional editor, stepped forward and offered his services. If this book actually gets published (and it will!) his encouragement, input and enthusiasm will be in large measure the reasons why.

The core of the book will be based on the Stock Series, with other parts of the blog included as appropriate. Early on I was advised to include material not on the blog in order to force folks to buy it. Not my style.

The advantage the book will offer however, is that it will condense the content and ideas in the blog and put them into a more coherent order. The blog, after all, has been created somewhat randomly as ideas for posts occurred.

This process has turned out to be far more time-consuming and far more work than I had anticipated. Plus, these days, when there is work to be done I am far too easily distracted. πŸ™‚

In any event, hopefully this spring!

Oh, and I have plans for a second if all goes well with the first.


That’s all for this week’s post. Tune in next week for part 3 and a chance to win a signed edition of Mr. Collins’ book. It will be a contest. Brush up on your knowledge of knowledge of space-time deforming objects and the Blue Brothers…


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19 Responses to Interview with Mr. Collins, Part Two: 50 Shades of FI

  1. Mrs. PoP says:

    I definitely thought Jim Collins (NH) was the same Jim Collins who wrote the business book, Good To Great – which is actually a good book about what separates “good” companies from “great” ones – until someone corrected me. Turns out there are quite a few Jim Collinses in the world!
    Jim – Is it annoying to have a fairly common name? Or do you like it?
    Mrs. PoP recently posted…Our Neighbors Are Freaking CoolMy Profile

    • jlcollinsnh says:

      Not really very annoying to me as the other Jim Collins was on the scene first.

      Might be annoying to him, however. πŸ˜‰

      I do try to go by the jlcollinsnh moniker to avoid some of the confusion. As you can see with this interview some, like Mr. 1500, fail to respect this. πŸ™‚
      jlcollinsnh recently posted…Chautauqua October 2015: Times Two!My Profile

  2. My first lesson on investing came from my first boss in high school. He taught me about passive investing and helped me start my first investment fund. He was awesome.

  3. Oh crap I forgot I have a Rubbermaid bin of Beanie Babies in my parent’s basement! My FI date just jumped forward 10 years! πŸ™‚

    Can’t wait for the book, it better be in paperback and not just on Kindle! Thanks!
    Fervent Finance recently posted…Post College Finance GuideMy Profile

  4. Good news about the book! I just found the “stock series” recently and am working my way through it. It’d be interesting to see in a finished/packaged format.

    Looking forward to part 3!
    CharlesMakesCents recently posted…Two Paths to Financial IndependenceMy Profile

  5. Do you still go to Fincon? And would you recommend others newbie bloggers like myself attend?

    Looking forward to finishing up the Stock Series myself after finding them from the 1st part of this series.

    Gen Y Finance Guy recently posted…Paying Off Your Mortgage Early vs. Investing The Extra Payments In StocksMy Profile

    • jlcollinsnh says:

      It took a fair amount of arm twisting from some of my blogger friends to get me to go to FinCon for the first time in 2013. One even got me a free ticket.

      I l-o-v-e-d it and went back last year. On my own dime no less.

      Great fun and great folks. πŸ™‚

      The only draw back I can think of is….

      …I’ll be there again this year.
      jlcollinsnh recently posted…Chautauqua October 2015: Times Two!My Profile

  6. Kara says:

    I definitely had a collection of Beanie Babies…not super large but I loved them each dearly. I remember the ‘investment’ craze around them too…people were selling for a least a few thousand dollars at one point!
    Kara recently posted…Staying Motivated With FinancesMy Profile

  7. I’m still blown away that 50 shades of gray reads like that. Maybe if he adds some S&M into personal finance the masses will gobble it up?
    Chris @ Flipping a Dollar recently posted…Chef’s Knives on eBayMy Profile

  8. Jason says:

    I love the interview and your stock series. Not sure if you have heard but there is a great book on the Beanie Baby Delusion. It just came out a couple of years ago. I picked it up and it was really a great read.
    Jason recently posted…My Financial Investments RevealedMy Profile

  9. jlcollinsnh says:

    Thanks Jason…

    Glad you’ve enjoyed the Series.

    I had heard there was a book out but not the title. Might have to check that out.
    jlcollinsnh recently posted…Chautauqua October 2015: Times Two!My Profile

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