In THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!!! (Part 1), we looked at the importance of getting your financial shit together, right now.

Remember the example of Kate and how powerful it is to get your compounding machine working early. As a quick reminder, £15,000 invested between the ages of 18-25 can turn into over £1 million pounds over the 40 years to age 65.

So compound interest is a wonderful thing but you are up against the clock.

We all have only so much time on this planet….soon it will be gone. Time is passing and the longer you leave it, the harder it will be. You need a sense of urgency because the maths of compound interest rewards you for getting your financial shit together as early as possible in life.

Compound interest does NOT reward you for being in debt: your compounding machine then runs in reverse. Compound interest does not reward student gap years, Duvet Days and aimless twatting around in your 20s and 30s. This is not just a financial thing: it applies as much to developing skills as much as to wealth accumulation.

As people get older, it gradually dawns upon them that they are not immortal.  Perhaps they’ve had some time at a funeral to reflect on the inherent shortness of life.  That often spurs people on to start saving for the future.

Better late than never: you can always catch up via frugality and saving harder. But the earlier you develop a sense of urgency, the better. And once you have this sense of urgency, you learn to protect your time from time wasters.

In my career in corporate finance, time was short. I went from one deadline to the next. Over time, I figured out ways to adapt and make the most of my time. For example, one of my favourite time “hacks” was cycling to work. This meant I used my time for 2 things at once: commuting and fitness.

This was good. But when I got to work, I noticed that there were people who would waste your time.  Sometimes there were clients that wanted you to do work for them but didn’t want to pay for it. Sometimes there were colleagues that wanted to complain or waffle on in meetings. Often there were people (e.g. recruitment agents, suppliers, financial advisers) trying to sell you something you didn’t need.

Staying focused is not getting any easier. You could say that the big tech and social media companies are creating a distraction economy where consumers are kept hooked to their smartphones like slot machine addicts waiting for the next set of flashing lights and ker-ching sound effects.

We’re targeted by outbound call centres selling conservatories / drains / insurance / tree surgery / US small cap stocks / double glazing to mention just a few of the products that I’ve been pitched over the phone. Being a softie at heart, I used to explain why I didn’t need their product.  But talking only encourages them.

The Escape Artist was brought up to be a nice, polite boy and my conditioning made it hard for me to tell them to fuck off.  Eventually I figured out that if you just put the phone down, you can’t hear them anymore. I no longer answer our landline because so many of the calls are total BS.

My point is this:

The World Is Full Of Timewasters Who Will Try To Slow You Down And Thwart Your Mission

You must be ruthless with these infidels. They must be put to the sword without mercy, their souls consigned to the outbound call centres in the fiery pits of hell.

I’d like to be able to say to you dear reader that in the wonderful world of FI, there are no time wasters. Sadly that’s not the case. One of the interesting side effects of writing a blog about being financially independent is that suddenly a whole bunch of people assume that you have nothing better to do than dance to their tune.

My favourite example was the email I recently got from a 19 year old guy I’d never met.  He informed me that he was currently in the holidays in his first year at university, the tone implying that he was a busy and important Man Of The World.

He’d been directed to my blog by a friend…problem was there were lots of articles to read.  He proposed that, in order not to waste his valuable time, I should compile a list for him of which articles would be most relevant for him and send this forthwith in gratitude for his interest in my humble blog.  The unspoken assumption was that I should drop everything to be his unpaid bitch.

I suppressed the urge to reply to his email. Instead I applied The Escape Artist’s Turd In The River Principle™ . For those unfamiliar with this, let me explain.

Imagine you are swimming in a beautiful river. The sun is shining, the water is clear as crystal and everything is fucking marvellous. Some clown then jumps in upstream and craps in the river. The turd comes floating downstream heading towards you.

The correct response to this is not to get angry, bend down, pick it up and throw it back at the clown…thereby setting off a shit-slinging contest where everyone gets covered in it.  No, the correct response is usually just to step aside and let it flow past you downstream and out of your life.

Having said that, one of the advantages of financial independence is that you do have a lot more free time. This gives you the option of taking a more engaged approach to timewasters.

As an example, earlier this week I received a friend request on Facebook from Gemma from Macclesfield. My first thought was that it was a mistake because I didn’t know a Gemma from Macclesfield.

So I thought about just deleting the friend request. But The Escape Artist is at heart a Nice Guy and it would be awkward if Gemma was a real person and we’d met. Plus she had a nice doggie in her profile photo so she must have a heart of gold, right?

Sensing a potential comedy opportunity, I accepted Gemma’s friend request and sent her a message on Facebook messenger.

After all maybe I was wrong to be cynical? You know churches have those signs outside that say “A stranger is a friend you haven’t yet met“. Well maybe Gemma was a friend I hadn’t yet met?


Here’s the full conversation:


TEA: Don’t think we’ve met before (sorry if we have!) but I’m checking before deleting you?!

Gemma: Hello, How are you..?

TEA: I’ll take that as a no

Gemma: I’m very grateful. In fact I do not think I know you but I want to know you unless you have no problem. OK?

TEA: Hhhhhhmmm…are you attracted to my sparkling and bubbly personality?

Gemma: I come from Fort Macclesfield and you? thank you…how old are you?

TEA: As you can see from my profile, I’m 15…can’t wait til I’m 16 and can get a girlfriend

Gemma: Cool. I am 28 years old. you are married…?

TEA: you’re too old for me then


Gemma: I’m not married. what do you do in life as work?

TEA: I work for the Police in the vice squad…investigating prostitution and shit like that

Gemma: Cool.  I am a cashier. you live alone or with your family?

TEA: I killed my family because they kept sending me text messages

Gemma: I live alone in my apartment. What are you doing at the moment?

TEA: I’m laughing

Gemma: I am single. Now I’m half naked in my room. In my bed. Can I ask you a question?

TEA: Ooh this is fun!

Gemma: Do you like a sexy woman like me?

TEA:  Hmmmmm…you seem like a dog person…I’m more of a cat person…it would never work between us

Gemma: We should have a video call…are you alone? I will call you

TEA: If only we could get over the whole dog / cat thing

Gemma: If we make a video call you must not tell anyone

TEA: I promise that I won’t show our sex video to anyone else

Gemma: Are you alone?

TEA: No, God is always with me

Gemma: Call me

TEA: What should I call you?

You missed a video call from Gemma

You missed a video call from Gemma

Gemma: Call me back now on Facebook

You missed a video call from Gemma

TEA: but its all happening so fast

Gemma: I know…just call me…we make video call

TEA: But will you still respect me afterwards?

Gemma: Yes….call me back

TEA: Do you pinky promise?

Gemma: yes

You missed a video call from Gemma

TEA: I think we should take things slow…will you buy me diamond ring?

Gemma: no

TEA: Emerald?

[no response…cut to tumbleweed]

At this point, after about an hour of utter nonsense (and several attempts to try to call me on Facebook video), Gemma finally gives up and goes off to find someone even dumber and even less busy than The Escape Artist to pester.

At the time I was in the gym and the whole thing livened up my work-out by providing me with comedy between sets of deadlifts, bench-presses etc.  But Gemma didn’t know whether I had a demanding job and a deadline to meet.  It was almost as if she didn’t really care about me at all.

As I’ve said before, it would be wonderful if everyone could get to financial independence just by being nice, normal and agreeable…and if all the children could play nicely in The Sandpit together.  I regret to have to inform you that it doesn’t always work that way.

Remember, you only get one life…this is an emergency!


  1. I work in a technical business and currently work in sales. It means I have to call a lot of people up and do the whole sales talk. It now really annoys me when I get suppliers to my company calling ME up and trying the same rubbish on me. They don’t cut to the point and half the time they want to talk football but don’t actually say what their company is called (the mumble it) and don’t say what they do (like, we sell valves).
    So, I’ve learnt to be more efficient at work by cutting out the cr*p and being more direct.
    I don’t do s*xy chat – but I’m not sure if that’s a soft sell like Gemma or a hard sell like TEA wanted.

  2. Even though I worked hard at my job and got ahead in my 20’s, outside of work and in my personal life I wasted my 20’s away. I didn’t acquire any new skills. Now I have a great income producing side hustle, but I really wish I would have started doing it in my 20’s. It could have been a huge business by now….

  3. This post was priceless! Doubtful that 19 y/o will even realize you wrote about him. Often wondered what would happen if I said yes to all the people I do not know trying to friend me on Facebook. Was just wondering yesterday how to get co-workers in our open office to quit trying to talk to me about ridiculous things while I type up my patient’s notes.

  4. Haha this is hilarious!

    Time wasting needs more resistance. And more resistance gives more time! Simples.

    I would have blocked Gemma within 60secs. Can’t be dealing with that crap! In fact, if I get a phone call that smells like time wasting, I drop it with not a word said. Followed by a block.

  5. Julie Knox · · Reply

    Oh my god. 15K turns into a mill if you put it away in your twenties?! Why couldn’t that be the one thing that your parents tell you!! Also, I need more of a ‘it’s not too late’ narrative than a ‘you blew it’ narrative. What’s your advice for the person in their forties who wants to sort their shit out?

  6. Mine would be get the fook on with it.

  7. In the first interaction I try to chat/listen to whatever complaint they have. I think I would be too much of an asshole if I just avoided that. But if I see that the same person is always complaining or chatting about sports for hours, I definitely avoid the situation. It is not only about lossing my time, it also drains my energy.

    That facebook conversation was hilarious! It reminded me of the TED Talk “What happens when you reply to spam email” by James Veitch.

  8. So glad I’m not on Facebook. If an old fogie like TEA gets those kind of messages imagine how many such a handsome young man (at least according to my mum) like myself would get!

    1. judging by the shape you’re in, only from your mum

  9. Mixed feelings about this. I spent most of my 20s working ridiculously long hours and taking professional exams, and what I concluded was that it’s no way to live a life! My gap year on the other hand was one of the most valuable and transformative experiences of my life.

    I also hate the way email and pressure of work destroys the human side of relationships at work. You know, those people who are so time pressured they send one word answers to your emails, or make you wait 3 months before they’ll grant you 15 minutes in their diary (this is normalised behaviour in my workplace). I get why they do it, and for sure it may make them more ‘productive’ and ‘successful’, but to me, that’s not a humane way to work or live.

    Surely, one of the gifts of FI is that you don’t have to live in that driven, hyper productive way? You can actually make space to waste time, do what comes along, smell the roses etc etc

  10. TheLuckyOne · · Reply

    Nice work mister T. One of my personal favourites that I have stolen from your column is the “put your own oxygen mask on first”. I find this easy to visualise and it gets me back on track.
    Also is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the call centre staff are now getting their revenge by hanging up on us?
    Oh just me then …..

  11. FI Warrior · · Reply

    It’s funny that people often don’t get that you don’t want to waste your time. Even those who know that I’m FI assume I must be available any time because ‘What else would I be doing?’, given I don’t have to be treadmilling for busywork in conventional business hours. [most likely in some fake jobs category]

    They don’t see that that inclination may have been linked to why you sacrificed so hard for FI, because actually you treasured your time so much that you didn’t want to waste even a couple of minutes in a meaningless conversation with people on autopilot. It’s a big difference in mindset, someone may look at you pottering around in your garden or seemingly browsing the net and assume you’re bored or doing nothing. But it may be exactly what you feel like doing at that point in time and you don’t have to drop it to please others by doing what they think is ‘right’, because you simply don’t have to and don’t feel worth less than them.

  12. Great post as usual TEA!

    I’m all for cutting off time wasters at the earliest opportunity, and you are right you certainly get a lot of them running a blog!

    I normally deal with this by just not actually having time to check or reply to emails so don’t have too much choice about it 🙂

    I do try to give much more effort in replying to actual readers (or potential readers) who’ve written in though and although the tone and laziness of the 19 year old may have been annoying I think I’d have tried a reply in that instance. You could have asked a few questions and done a case study post about him for example “I’m young and clueless… Where do I start” or even just done a page where you highlight your best posts to people. Readers are essentially your customers so sometimes pays to listen to what they want even if sometimes they come across as asshats.

    Although saying that I suppose the whole point of FI is that you don’t have to deal with asshats if you don’t feel like it…

    Anyway off to work where I have 3 meetings booked in already today… Won’t be getting much done today then! 🙂

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