Some people find these words exciting - concepts that fill them with enthusiasm and purpose. If you are one of these people, then this article is not for you.
Because there are many people for whom these words are boring, wicked boring. And for all of you creatives out there: the writers, artists, musicians, designers, and other right-brain thinkers, these concepts not only bore you, they drain you, erode your vitality and all that gives you joy (okay, okay, overstatement here, but you get the point).
You may be one of the many people out there who don’t like the concept of money: don’t want to deal with budgets and bills and debt ratios, credit scores, and such. You have more important and compelling things to do with your life force. Like live, love, and create.
But, alas, there’s no way around it. There are some things you just have to know. Money is one of those things. You can ignore money - but it won’t ignore you (I cannot claim authorship of this great quote... but I can’t find who originally said it).
For all of you who hate money, here are some tips on how you might want to approach the topic, make it work for you. I hope this helps:
It’s them, not you - Some people blame themselves for not knowing enough about money. But this isn’t fair. The financial advice industry has proven itself in recent years to be as broken and dysfunctional as you suspected all along. There are many great people working for financial firms, and they can help you. But make no mistake, the upheaval that is occurring in this industry is well-earned.
You already have the tools you need - You already know much of what you need to know in order to manage your finances. You know how to read, add, and subtract. You deal with complex situations every day in your life and work. Topics of personal finance are not so complicated that you can’t understand them, completely. And don’t let anyone tell you different.
Engage with the topic - Avoidance is expensive. People have all manner of visceral reactions to their own money that have nothing whatsoever to do with actual dollars and cents. People look at their finances and feel: proud, ashamed, guilty, boastful, resentful, confused, canny, self-righteous, none of these, all of these, and so on. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t want to think about money. But, as I’ve already said, you can’t ignore it or avoid it. Avoidance ultimately leads to late fees, penalties, missed premium payments, delays, defaults, or worse. Whether your personal financial story looks good or bleak, you can only make it better by digging in and dealing with it.
Seek your own information - There are lots of places to turn to if you want to educate yourself about personal finance. You’ll probably want to use a blend of online resources, books (such as, ahem... mine), and personal conversations to learn what you need to learn. Friends can be a good starting point for information. Ask what they do to manage things. But remember, whatever your friends do might not work for you at all. You’re unique so ultimately you’ll need to find solutions that are a fit for little old you. Who cares if the plan that works for your genius brother or sister or roommate or colleague is a disaster for you? You need what works for you. Not what works for them.
Make them speak English - As you gather information, you might decide that you want to talk with, or work with, a financial advisor, planner, consultant, or whatever their firms calls them. You’ll of course take the time to find someone who will understand you and make every effort to address your unique needs (selecting the right one is a topic for another column on another day). Whomever you end up working with, remember, they’re working for you - so make them take all the time you need. As they explain things to you (their process, their fees, the products they use), you have every right to make them slow down and explain things in language that you can understand. If they can’t use simple language, then something is wrong. The smartest people make complex topics easy to understand. Don’t let industry jargon prevent you from grasping what you need to know. Don’t let them use jargon that they understand and you don’t.
Take the long view - Of course you want to fix all of your problems quickly. There may be some problems in your financial profile that can be addressed in the short term. Maybe you need to refinance your mortgage, transfer balances to credit cards with better terms, need to allocate some of your savings toward debt reduction, need to finally update your resume and begin to find a new job. But many financial problems take much a long time to resolve. Don’t get discouraged by this, just understand that things can take time. If, for example, you want to get out of debt, you can get organized in the short term, you can make a dent over the course of three years, and over the course of five years or more you can make a major difference. Just stick with it.
I hope this can be helpful for you. The main point, in summary, is that you are the boss. It’s your money and your life. No one else is going to fix your problems if you don’t. And, though it’s easy as heck to avoid things day after day, don’t. Find resources and people that work for you, and use them. Dig in.