There is a saying that "you get what you pay for," which basically means that free things are worth about as much as you paid to receive them--nothing. The same can be said about the news and advice available on most media outlets online, and in particular, those articles featuring content related to: personal financial advice.
How many times have you come across personal finance related articles and then been struck with the doom-and-gloom-sucker-punch-to-the-stomach feeling of all the things you are doing wrong with your money?! It's enough to cause ulcers on top of an already sensitive topic such as money. Even without being told all of the things we should be doing or are doing wrong, the "mystery" behind personal financial management and even personal financial success is enough to keep the average person up at night losing countless hours of sleep.
Here at BetterDecisions.money, we began to address this issue with our first posting about "Budgets". First, while budgets can work, I know of only one family that keeps an active budget. On the other hand, I know that most financially successful people do something instead of "budgeting," and yet, so many books and articles about personal finance begin with content related to Budgets and why you need one. Why the disconnect? What are financially successful people doing instead of create and sticking to a budget? We dive into this in future entries, so stay tuned.
These are the reasons why BetterDecisions.money exists. Because when you read articles like this from Yahoo Finance, does that type of money-shaming-list-content irk your gird or what?! "The 11 worst money mistakes to make in your 30s"--are kidding me? From mistake #1. Saving too much in the wrong places to mistake #8. Overspending on cars, it's enough to make you close your browser tabs, stop procrastinating, and actually get back to your work! Who wants to be told the mistakes they're making about their money anyways? How is that even helpful advice for you or me? The answer: it's not.
I'll hand it to Yahoo! Finance, the article touches on some excellent points, but focusing entirely on your mistakes rather than re-framing your mistakes into genuine learning experiences, can really lose readers and alienate good, smart, hardworking people like you. You know you've made financial mistakes: you have, I have, and even millionaire Donald Trump has declared bankruptcy. In fact, Trump has made many financial mistakes, which were not only public, but also documented and available for media and public consumption and discourse alike. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be that way for your mistakes, your mistakes can easily be translated into money learning experiences. You have gotten better about money over the years, now let's outline how below.
11 Things You're Probably Doing RIGHT with Your Money
1. You're informing yourself about your money.
If you're reading this blog post, Yahoo! Finance, or any other personal finance related content, that means that you care. Caring, and an awareness to learn where you are at with your money and where you'd like go with your money, cannot be taught or bought--so kudos to you for caring enough to educate yourself. Keep it up!
2. You're saving for your retirement.
Thankfully enough baby boomers and Gen Xer's have lost or never been offered cushy pension plans, and as a result, offerings such as 401ks and IRAs have become more common place and at the very least begin to empower each of you to save for your retirement. Also, because you and I both know enough about human nature, we won't actually sign ourselves up to contribute to these plans if it's overly complicated. Started a new job is hard enough, let alone completing all of the necessary insurance and retirement paperwork. So you know what? Rather than saying that "you're making a mistake" and that "you should be investing more in your 401ks, why aren't you?", companies and benefits providers got smart and just began to automatically enroll you into these programs. See, now you're saving, and you don't have to set anything up and complete needlessly tiresome admin work in order to do so. Now that wasn't so hard was it? Admitting your own nature to put off complicated paperwork, doesn't have to work against you, and admitting your human nature can work for you--just as automatic 401k enrollment programs has increased enrollment without any extra effort on the part of employees.
3. Recognizing that there is more to life than money.
Poorly insured? High deductible this and self-insure that. PPO, HMO, IDK and you don't know! Why does it have to be so complex? The answer: you already know that we all want more money to achieve some level of freedom or security or combination of both. Ultimately you want to feel: happier. You already know on many levels that no amount of insurance or money or salary alone can make us feel "secure" or "free" or "happy", but you are also aware that money, while important, isn't as important as our health, our families, and our own internal happiness in our lives--those are the things that money can't buy and they are also the things that can create a sustaining feeling of happiness in your life.
4. Knowing that sitting all day at a desk is the new smoking--it's killing your spirit and your health
Have you ever disliked your job? Have you ever had a hard time getting up in the morning to go do the same old routine? How do feel when you've been "thrown under the bus" again at work...by email...in red bold faced font calling you out on your mistakes with your manager(s) cc'ed? Ugh, it stinks, and these experiences zap your motivation and energy--it happens to all of us! Then you procrastinate and you perform worse on the job, when you know that you could be performing better but can't find the motivation to do so.
If you've ever dreamed about quitting your job for something better or even day-dreamed about being a National Park Ranger exploring the great outdoors each day, smiling in the sunshine, determining your own schedule, or maybe you've fantasized about moving to a sleepy tourist island resort to be a paddle boarder by day and bartender at night If this is you, dreaming of a better way to enjoy your days than sitting at a desk for 8, 10, or more hours, then you've already realized that today's American corporate job "ideal" isn't matching up with the promise of "happiness" and life satisfaction that you're told these jobs should provide you. Why do you need coffee and caffeine to "get started" in the morning after you've slept all night? These poorly-matched, demotivating jobs are killing us...and your gut is telling you so, these are signs that your aware of what's not working in your life and it's not a mistake to listen to your gut about how your job makes you feel and impacts your health in both positive ways, but more often than not, in negative ways.
5. You're delaying marriage or reconsidering marriage overall
With a 50% nationwide divorce rate and many of you coming from broken or divorced families--it's no wonder why you would delay or reconsider marriage entirely. Marriage, beyond the simple financial aspect of creating a "married filing jointly couple," is a decision on which you should spend your time deciding. It's ok to admit that you're not ready or to admit that marriage isn't a personal life goal for you. It's also more considerate than rushing into marriage and then divorcing as a result of not listening to your gut about a relationship and your desires only to lose 50% of your assets in a divorce settlement and facing the untold emotional awfulness that oftentimes comes along with divorce as well. A healthy respect for the institution of marriage is a beautiful thing both spiritually and financially. And if you're found "the one"? Go for it! Marriage management, like money management, is not something you only "do once" and then forget to maintain. Marriage management like money management, are made up of simple series of habits which can improve where you are today and bring you closer to where you'd like to be tomorrow. On the onslaught of relationship turmoil, most marriages on the brink of divorce, can oftentimes improve their relationship by first visiting a financial planner rather than beginning in couple's counseling.
6. When you do marry, you care and you want to share that experience with your whole community
Today the average American wedding costs $26,000, but why exactly are you being told that it's a mistake to spend big on the biggest (*hopefully*) day of your life? Instead of considering this a mistake, consider it the first "project" for your marriage. This is the first time, and sometimes last time, but hopefully not the last time, that most couples work together towards a common goal: a beautiful wedding day. Your wedding day doesn't have to be perfect, and yes, most couples go over budget, and yes, you're going to wish you saved more and paid more of the wedding bill in cash instead of credit--but don't beat yourself up for this!
Appreciate your wedding day for what it is: a promise to yourselves to commit your lives selflessly to each other as a couple, together, in front of your friends and family and your entire community. Why is this such a bad thing? No, you don't want to go into irreparable debt to afford a big wedding, but don't consider this a character-fault either. Note: to those of you in your 20's, everyone says they want a "small, inexpensive wedding"--and the average wedding cost is clear: even if you're single, consider saving $20-$100 per month for your future wedding. If you delay or never get married? Buy yourself that new car you've always wanted if you can afford it!
7. Nesting when you have your first kid
What's not to love about spending a lot on your welcoming your first kid into your family? Can you attribute excessive marketing to convincing you what you will need and overspend on? Can you blame the "keeping up with the Jones' with little baby Jones" phenomenon for your excessive spending on your first child? NO! Even recognizing that you spent too much on your first child, and modifying your expectations and spending for your second child is incredible growth. Is it a mistake? Maybe, maybe if you instead invested the money for a return on investment, but even then in that very slight, but ideal case, would you have felt comfortable knowing that you could have spent more on your child but that you didn't? It seems needlessly harsh to judge new parents when there isn't really a helpful, financial guidebook out there for how to prepare for your first child. New parents like you are doing the best that you know how to do, and that's already a beautiful thing in loving your new baby.
8. Wanting to reward yourself for working hard
Buying your first new car, there is nothing like it. The new car smell, the pursuit of the best negotiated price, the online build outs and months of dreaming towards that goal. Sometimes it's a car, a Porsche, a new sport utility vehicle, but it's normal to want to reward yourself with a big purchase from time to time. Most financially successful people have a money "turning point", but denying yourself a reward, can prevent you from experiencing a critical human emotion: that generally speaking, more and expensive toys, bring us joy, but not long lasting joy. Does that mean we stop buying toys?! No, but it does mean that you can enjoy the short-term pleasure of rewarding yourself while also focusing your efforts on making better decisions that result in longer-term rewards, daily satisfaction, and overall happiness. It doesn't have to be a choice between rewarding yourself and being broke or depriving yourself of rewards and having a fully funded retirement account. It's not that simple, and you can have both: rewarding yourself as well as having a fully funded retirement account.
9. You want more in life
You do. You want more from life, your job, your career, and your relationships. And that's not only OK, but you should want more in life. It's a natural human drive to want more. It feels awful when you've silenced that voice of "wanting more" and you suppress that desire over and over again year after year. Admitting that you want more from life can be fun and the perfect motivation to use to get your financial house in order, once and for all, and start worrying about the more important aspects of your life. It's never been an easier time to handle your finances once and then have your main financial goals set up through simple systems and automation tools. "Once I pay down this debt, then I can," or, "as soon as I fund my retirement this year, then I'll save for..."--you never have to think like this again! How about instead: "now that I'm fully on track to max out my retirement accounts this year, let's start to earmark some funds for our annual family vacations!"
10. You recognize that the standard advice of "work hard, do well" doesn't translate in the real world
You're obviously smart if you're reading this blog and you're taking a look at betterdecisions.money. You've probably completed some college or your entire degree. Maybe you may have student loan debt and you work really hard at your job(s). You've taken all the advice seriously "do well in school, go to college, graduate, get a good job," but wait, and then what is supposed to happen next? Do you feel like there is this tremendous gap between what you were told would make you financially successful and what it actually takes to be financial successful? That's because you're right, there is an education gap between what you've been told and what it actually takes to be financially successful. But what's great about you doing some things right with your money is that the knowledge to financial success is freely and widely available and has worked for many people, and it's available to you too. Financial planning is easier than you ever thought and available to you now.
11. The traditional advice you've been given--doesn't work
And that's ok. But instead of allowing yourself to be scared and bullied by the money-shaming media, consider turning the news off, closing that extra browser tab, and instead seeking out others with the financial life that you'd like in your own life to look like. Learn from the mistakes of others, appreciate your own learning's in your 20's and 30's, and get a plan in place to systematically and automatically secure your financial future. If you've ever felt that "it shouldn't have be this hard to get ahead," guess what--you're right, it doesn't have to be this hard.
"'The rule of thumb should be to lie below your means,' emphasizes Egan. 'If you can't afford to buy the new car, then buy certified pre-owned. Savings first should be your mentality.'" People are being paid to give you this advice, and it's not helpful and it's certainly not working either. If people already knew how to "play-out" what a life living below their means looks like we wouldn't have excessive levels of consumer debt in America.
Spot being bullied by the negative money-shaming media. If you'd like to learn more about personal financial planning and how you can easily improve your financial life in one simple workshop and start making better decisions with your money, then check out our upcoming events schedule.
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