Clap for Carers and the Normalisation of Behaviour

During the peak of our CV-19 crisis, as hospitals became full and almost on a war footing, some bright spark had the idea of everyone going outside their front door at 8pm of a Thursday evening and clapping…. ‘clap for carers’ was born !

By the second week practically the whole country was out at 8pm. TV shows scheduled to start at 8p got delayed so people could get back in afterwards. Lots of noise made by people banging pans, playing trumpets, violins, bagpipes and the rest was made.


Last night (28th May), we in the UK did our final ‘official’ Thursday night ‘Clap for Carers’. After 10 weeks, the organisers (and perhaps wiser voices) have recognised that the numbers coming out of their homes is reducing. It is noticeable where we live there are people that have stopped. The reams of people playing violins, drums, trumpets and bagpipes have reduced.

Is it that people are bored with it ? Is the CV-19 crisis Over ?

Well personally I think the answer is no to both those questions. But what has happened is it has become ‘normal behaviour’. What started out as a passionate cry of support is now just a show of support. Basically, it has stopped being a special event and become a part of everyday behaviour, and as with all ‘everyday behaviour’ it just becomes less important to ensure you do it – human nature really.

This is why the originators are  I think right to ‘call it a day’. Its purpose has been served and whilst there will be groups who still go out, that will reduce rapidly I think.

So what does this tell us in the Personal Finance/FIRE World ?

It tells us that humans are really good at grasping a cause, a simple idea, a concept, and getting behind it, but not very good at keeping it going for long.

How many people get bowled over by some presentation or other in the finance world, sign up only to find after a while the novelty wares off and it is not so special after all. (remember, touch points in my previous post on Social Media).

In the FIRE world we grasp the basic concept of it generally quite easily: Spend less than you make and save. But often it seems to me the human factors of noise come in. You can see this just looking at what people say about getting a new car. They invariably don’t go cheap and functional more than once. ‘I have saved all this money… I deserve a bit more… I deserve a touch of luxury’.

A very human trait and nothing at all wrong with it. Frankly, unless your goal is to pass on as much wealth as you possibly can (to those who never earned it), then you need to spend some and enjoy life. There is nothing at all wrong with saying ‘feck it, lets go on a cruise !’.

What does this really Remind Us to Do ?

There are several threads that regularly come across from so many people: learn to budget, plan ahead, have a reserve, Have an investment Plan, etc etc. All of these things are really about ‘setting up’. They could be easily viewed as one-offs or highly irregular. But therein lies the bear-trap.

The whole concept of FIRE is that it is a journey for life, and like all journeys, you need to keep reviewing whether the path is still right. The CV-19 crisis and economic shock we are in (and still have a long way to go to get out of in my view) forces a re-appraisal of pretty much all assumptions.

I have written recently about reducing travel and holiday expectations, looking to live a bit more of a calmer life, reducing social media exposure to reduce those touch and trigger points that give us all so much stress. We now have a different spend profile as clearly restaurants etc are closed. We shop differently and are less wasteful (in that we don’t overbuy because ‘we can’). The result of this is that I have already adjusted our budget plan for the rest of the year and into next year. Reflecting back into my future income needs, I find I could easily need less, so I need less of a start fund (just thinking in those terms).

This does not mean ultimately I will actually spend less, but it means that I have more options that are flexible.

The most important lesson really is that human nature normalises. We normalise our spend patterns and our future expectations. But as this 10-week Clap for Carers has reminded me, complacency is a human trait that just happens and reviewing your Budget, Future plans, Investment Strategy regularly is something to calendarise and schedule as a task to do. After all, our goals have changed in this crisis and it would be foolish to think they will not change again.