An annoying email I got
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This is nothing personal against you, because every personal finance author I’ve read says the same thing, but your advice is not for real people like me. The “spend less, save more” theory is great for singles or young married couples with no kids (and therefore, fewer attachments, expenses, etc.) I’m 30 years old, married, with two children. I make a very good wage for a 30-year old, but after a mortgage, two car payments, a wife who is a full-time student herself, daycare, and (many) other various utilities, activities, etc. there’s not much left for saving.
Granted, things will be better in a couple years when my wife is done with school and we’re back to being a dual income household. But all you personal finance gurus are people who have graduated from Stanford (or some other 1st tier school) and worked your way into a high paying, high end job. You represent about 0.01% of the population. Not that I hold that against you–I wish I had been that successful. But I need some other strategies to help me get my finances in order.
So what’s the alternative? Throw your hands up and say, ‘I give up — there’s nothing I can do’? Or are there small, systematic ways you can save more, invest more, earn more, and spend money in a conscious way?
I also pointed him to The Shrug Effect. He wrote back:
I think you miss my point. At no time did I resent your success and doubt that I ever could have done that. Had I had differing priorities in my younger days, I’m sure I would be in a much different position than I’m in now. But I chose to get married, have children, and support a wife’s dream of medical school, among other things.
My whole point, which you missed, was that most of the the personal finance articles available are not geared towards people in my situation.
Huh? I’m not the only personal-finance writer online — there are lots of other people who write about getting out of debt, frugality, etc. My response:
This is an interesting discussion so I’d like to continue on it for a minute, if it’s ok with you.
I understand your point, but I’ve seen thousands of articles about people in your situation. Few, very few articles, are geared towards young people who have everything together. Most of the articles are about how to get out of debt, how to spend less, etc.
I’m curious: Exactly what kind of advice are you looking for?
He didn’t respond, so I re-pinged him a couple days later. His final response:
After sitting on this a while, I realize that there isn’t really any advice I can be given. I want to–and do, for the most part–give my wife and kids whatever they want. Until I stop doing that, the whole saving more, spending less thing won’t work for me.
I think that’s very perceptive of him to realize that there isn’t really any advice he would listen to. Notice how at first he didn’t think any personal-finance advice was relevant for him (even though there are millions of articles online for every conceivable situation). Could the problem have been him, not the advice? Answer: Yes. So here are my thoughts.
1. If you don’t say no to things, your life is guided by external priorities, not your own.
- If you don’t say no at work, you’re going to be resentful of your workload
- If you don’t say no to going out all the time, it’s going to be tough to save money
- If you don’t say no to your family sometimes, you’re not going to be able to save, much less grow your money
2. Ordinary actions get ordinary results. Look around. Do you see many rich people around you? No, because they are behaving in predictably ordinary ways: Not knowing how much they spend, not being conscious about where their money goes, and not setting investing goals. Want an easy way to see this? Go ask your friends who just went on vacation (or bought a new handbag or iPhone or whatever) this: “Wow, that’s awesome. How long did you save to be able to buy that?” Their reaction will be priceless, as if the antagonist from Saw II is holding their head in a vise and ordering them to look at the moon while opening their mouth. Try it.
As always, there are no secrets to personal finance. Fundamentally, you can either cut costs or make more money. When I say that, people roll their eyes, but they fail to dig into each part. Cut costs? That means saying no. That means being merciless with budgeting and negotiating and making smart purchases for the long term. Make more money? That means entrepreneurship, working two jobs, or asking for a raise.
The whole point of this site is that getting rich doesn’t happen to you. You make it happen. Until you step up, nothing will change.
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