Stop Wasting Time Collecting

How did society get to the point where almost everyone was going to a record store every week blowing 30 bucks on a bit of plastic printed with recorded music. I write this as my music collection is being ripped from CDs to digital files. I had to borrow a CD player from a friend, I have no way to play CDs yet I have a couple hundred or so of them. As I do this and reflect how much they used to mean to me. Turns out as a teenager, a great deal. A CD collection was a window into a soul. It was something I was proud of, even if it was far from complete. Actually, it would never be complete. There was always something new to discover. Or something that showed a bit more of my personality that my collection not yet reflected.

As the CD player spins at 1000's RPM I cannot help think this is the mentality of all collectors or some expensive consumer objects. People buy expensive objects or start collections all to project a fleeting image. But right now as I hold these obsolete plastic disc, I cannot think how much of a waste it all was. In reality, no matter how much a liked an album, I would tire of it of say 10 to 20 plays. Yes, there are some classics but there would be five albums that I could put on infinite repeat. The rest as I rip them, I cannot imagine ever playing them again. Twenty years later I am still tired of them and have no intention of having a listen. There is way too much exciting music I have never heard to listen to go back. As for being a reflection of my soul. I can hardly recall looking at a collection and thinking they were a better or more interesting person based on their music tastes.

So, why am I bothering to rip these previously cutting-edge compact discs? Because of the sunk cost. I have already spent my lifetime quota on recorded music so I am going to have to live with it and live without a music subscription. So, bye-bye new music. Maybe, this is why oldies stop listening to new music they have real bills to pay and cannot justify the cost any longer. Hopefully, this will change with the lucky young folks who can buy a music subscription and never be burdened with a music collection.
200 CDS * $30 a pop = $6,000 - Six thousand bucks! This was a massive amount of money at the time.
Spotify $120 PA * 50 years = $6,000 - a lifetime of unlimited music would cost the same as my pretty small collection.

At the same price what a fantastic deal Spotify is. Perhaps the price will go up, but maybe something better will come along too.

What happens with these collections these reflections of the soul? They degrade and you change. New collections need to be refreshed. One day you were collecting vinyl and then you started collecting CDs and then you started collecting MP3 players and now again you rebuilding your vintage hi-fi collection with audiophile vinyl. All along the while, you hoped just this one more piece and then I will be a step closer to happiness but its never complete. Eventually, one collection will lead to the next.

As your income increases so do the collection options. Perhaps, you could level up and start collecting classic cars, not only did these signify status but also exude cool but also could be an investment. Investments can be collections too, I have met quite with few people who couldn't wait to tell me how many investment properties they have and how much capital gain they have made. Perhaps these are healthy collections but these are big decisions that could easily be made in an emotional way leading to bad decisions.

After investments perhaps you should try collecting experiences. That's where it's at. Travel, fine dining, sporting events, one of a lifetime rock concert. This will make you happy. Now I can even collect these and gloat about them on my timeline for the world to see. Will this work? Maybe more so, but in the end, you are still consuming a passive mass produced product. Once the show is the experience was most likely pretty shallow. But at least your relatives won't have to junk or sell this collection.

Another experience that blends experience and investment in education. I think to myself now and then "let's do another degree". They are fun and once I complete it I will definitely be employable forever. Or I will be able to change careers or I will finally get promoted. Realistically a degree is one of the most expensive things you do. Not only do you have the opportunity cost but the degree itself is significant. Beyond your first degree, there must be steep diminishing returns.

Finally, the last thing that is left, especially for the financial independence community is money. Collecting enough money to live a life financially free is an obsession that once you start it might be hard to stop. But I think its healthy, as the collection itself starts producing. This differs from the collection of investment properties (or stocks or cash) in that you are producing for an outcome. That outcome is options. The option to free from work would have to be the greatest freedom I can imagine.

One final thought about collecting, it takes time. Lots of time. Think about all the research, hunting, organising, maintaining, storing and displaying it can absorb a lifetime. Everything here, I confess I have collected at some point. Now I cannot help think what am I collecting right now and squash it. Instead, I need to focus on producing, this is where the real human experience lies.

What am I collecting:
  • Music
  • Books
  • Education
  • Friends
  • Travel experiences (countries)
  • Cars
  • Cafes
  • Degrees
  • Tools
  • Investments
  • Money
  • Clothing
  • Trinkets
  • Art
  • Gadgets
  • More to come

This article was updated on January 3, 2019