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May 2, 2019

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) Meet JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out)

by Rita Silvan

Rita SilvanFor some, the transition from FOMO to JOMO is as gradual as an ocean tide slowly soaking the beach. Or, it can be as fast as having a “eureka moment” upon hearing John Lennon’s song, Stepping Out: “If it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to do it…Just leave a message on the phone and tell them to screw it…”1

Whichever way you come to it—and, at some point, you will—the Joy of Missing Out will top your Fear Of Missing Out. Some of the world’s best investors, like Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital, practice and preach the “less is more” ethos.

Admittedly, today it’s harder than ever to go JOMO but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s beneficial for our mental, emotional and physical health, and our creativity, and it can help us make better decisions and, ergo, enjoy better investment results.

First, let’s see what we’re up against. Remember when valuable information was accessible only to the special few, like stockbrokers and private bankers? I recall trekking to the Rotman School of Management library at the University of Toronto to read “Value Line” while scribbling notes in my spiral notebook. Today, I’ve got more information in a few keystrokes on my desktop or smartphone than was contained in that entire library.

That’s good and bad news. The good news is, as investors, we’ve gained a tremendous amount of autonomy. All it takes is some basic know-how to access quality information of a magnitude unthinkable not long ago. In fact, according to author Martin Gurri: “More information was generated in 2001 than in all the previous existence of our species on earth. In fact, 2001 doubled the previous total. And 2002 doubled the amount present in 2001, adding around 23 “exabytes” of new information—roughly the equivalent of 140,000 Library of Congress collections.”2

The other good news is, instead of two distinct groups: content generators and content consumers, the arrows now go both ways. That means more diversity of thought. Would the concept of the “Nifty Fifty” that dominated the investment world in 1960s and 1970s and misled investors into believing that 50 blue-chip companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange were sure bets for a buy-and-hold strategy, be as dominant today? It’s unlikely.3

Now for the bad news: it’s impossible to keep up with the quantity of information that’s rushing at us 24/7. Whether it’s from so-called “mainstream media”, social media, or other channels, we face a deluge of news (real and fake) and “opinionators”. This is leading us to feel burnt-out, grumpy, and increasingly prone to lean into cognitive biases, like confirmation and recency bias, that offer short-cuts to critical thinking and sound decision-making.

Folks, we’re collectively suffering from what childhood educators called “play gaps”: unstructured time to do as we please. Research shows that, at every age, we benefit from just hanging out and having fun. It boosts brain function, improves our relationships and enhances creativity, and energy.4,5

Perversely, even though technology was supposed to free us by improving work efficiencies, it’s put many of us on an “electronic leash”. Working hours in America and Britain have actually increased since 2000, perhaps as a result of people feeling insecure about their employment prospects if they take more leisure or delay responding immediately to a text or email.6

Google conducted a survey and found that the average person unlocks her phone 180 times a day in response to text messages, news alerts, emails and social media postings, as well as being in the grips of an addiction.7,8 This is the reason that Sundar Pichai, the C.E.O of Google announced a new initiative called “digital wellbeing” at last year’s developer conference, with the words “Joy of Missing Out” projected on the screen behind him.9

Android phones now have a dashboard that suggests breaks and bundles notifications, so users can actually think for more than 30 seconds at a stretch before being disturbed by pinging alerts. Apple has also introduced digital health apps, including “do not disturb” functions.9

These are some tech-enabled ways to JOMO—after all, Google and Apple don’t want disaffected customers to discard their phones entirely! It’s in their best interests to prevent us from frying our nerves. Happily, there are also no-tech ways to increase your JOMO. For your consideration:

Financial Benefits Of ìBenign Neglectî

Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and the pioneer of low-cost investing, advised investors: “Don’t do something, just stand there.” In other words, let the market do the work. Over time, the markets always trend upwards. He encouraged investors to recognize the power of compounding, instead of frequent trading or trying to time the market. Doing less, not more, is often the key to success.10

Be Intentional With Your Time

Investors are familiar with the principles of asset allocation to manage risk and return, but how many of us think about our time allocation on earth? After all, we have a finite amount and how we invest our time is as important as how we invest our money.11

Warren Buffett has a simple 3-step plan on time-management:

1.         Write down your top 25 goals.

2.         Circle your top 5 goals.

3.         Put the remainder in another list entitled, “Not to Do”.12

Practice Saying “No”

Marie Kondo, the world’s foremost decluttering expert and author of bestsellers, Spark Joy and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, tells us to toss anything in our closets that doesn’t light us up. It’s a good rule-of-thumb for most things.13

  • Must you reply to every email instantly? No.
  • Must you accept every invitation? No.
  • Must you read every issue of The New Yorker or The Economist, cover-to-cover? No.

Know your priorities so you can choose how you spend your time. An affluent woman who was “invited by American Express to own a Centurion Card that offers a six-star ‘lifestyle experience’” responded that what she wanted most in the world right now was, “to enjoy an evening at home with my dog”. (Here, here!) 14

The summer season gives us lots of inspiration to step back and “smell the roses”. For those who need a nudge, check out the recent book The Joy of Missing Out by Dutch psychology professor Svend Brinkmann who argues for the benefits of opting out and curing our neurotic hyperactivity.15 Another option is peruse the real estate offerings in the JOMO Collection—lovely stone cottages for lease in Wales that, in place of free Wi-Fi and phone signals, offer nature instead.16


Rita Silvan, CIM, is the former editor-in-chief of ELLE Canada magazine. She is a freelance financial journalist and the editor-in-chief Golden Girl Finance (, Canada’s leading digital magazine about women and financial matters. She is based in Toronto and can be reached at
















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