Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Financial Rant

Excuse me... pardon me...

Watch your elbow there... I've got this big soap box here under my arm. Here, let me just set this down. Ooofff. There we go....

Wow. Soapboxes are heavy. I see why they are only made figuratively now days and not literally. Lend me your shoulder would you? I'm just going to step right up here and don't want to tip...

Thank you! Ah, that's much better. Quite a view from up here.

So, look. There's been something I've been wanting to write about for weeks, nay, months even. This is something that's been going around and around in my head for a long time, but every time I start to write about it, it comes out as a rant. I don't consider this blog as a place for rants so I kept stuffing in back down into the old mental filing cabinets, but it won't stay there anymore. I have to write about it and along with writing about it I am going to make a deep confession about something I am not very proud of. However, instead of jumping right into the dark and nasty stuff, let's start with something positive, shall we?

I started this blog at the tail end of May last year. Before that time I was always interested in finance (in fact, I got myself completely out of debt... twice) but since that time I've become enamored, enraptured by personal finance; some might even say obsessed. Part of it is pure and simple - I'm picking up survival techniques, but it isn't just that. It is also fascinating to me how many people out there are on their own financial journeys.

Take a look at my blogroll over there. There are people like the author of Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy, who has been through bankruptcy and is now working her way back to financial freedom. Or the author of Moolanomy, who not only shares his financial wisdom, but is also working on really innovative ways to network personal finance folks together, (see pfbuzz for an example.) There is Passive Family Income, a blog by a father who wants to create passive income streams so he can spend more time with his family, and then there is J. Money who actually wildly maintains that Budgets Are Sexy. And that's just a few of the folks, click over to pfbuzz and pick an article at random - there are all kinds of folks out there who are dedicated to one kind of financial path or another.

Bloggers aren't the only ones that inspire me. I have friends and family members that do the same. Those that will talk to me about finance (which is still a pretty taboo subject for most folks I know) tell me about how they are creating budgets of their own, scaling back on purchases, and using creative visualization to get more work.* Over and over I see people striving for their financial goals, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen.

Which leads me to both my rant and my confession...

When I hear of people who are giving up, I get angry. Really angry - and (here's the confession) I find myself being judgmental. It is terrible. Here I am try to be the best all-inclusive "support others" liberal that I was never raised to be - and I find myself wanting to just shake people. In the last three days I have heard two stories on NPR and read another in a news magazine about people losing their homes to foreclosure and I find myself thinking, "But did they really, truly try or did they just give up?" When I hear stories about people I know that aren't paying their bills and aren't even making the effort, I want to walk up and smack them!

It is like there is two extremes in me. I have the highest respect for anyone who tries to do something - even if they fail. Anyone who is out there, brushing off the dust and picking themselves up has my sincere admiration. Anyone who takes on a a financial challenge, whatever it may be, I just want to give them a standing ovation. But when I hear in the news about those who seemed to give up their homes, lives and happiness without even trying - without even a fight, I can't find a lot of pity.

Oh, I know there are two sides to every story - and I also know that what I hear on the news is just a brief human interest segment on the finance show, but I still can't help thinking things to myself like, "So, you need more income? Don't we all! What are you doing about it? Have you checked out Moolanamy's 40+ Alternative Income Ideas and Resources?" or "You - over there complaining about not being able to pay down your debts, have you read Mrs. Micah's post on How to Manage and Start a Debt Snowball?!?" It isn't just bloggers - there are 34,736 books on Amazon all under the heading of Personal Finance (really, I checked.) Trying to save money? Then go check the books out at your local library!

The thing is, personal finance isn't hard. None of us are geniuses. When I hear people say to me, "Oh, you can do it because you are so... (fill in the blank)." I get angry. I'm not any more fill-in-the-blank than anyone else. Okay, some of the terms in finance are complex - I will give you that, but that is why people invented things like dictionaries, libraries, bookstores, Wikipedia and Google... so you can look things up. Much like many things in this world, like plumbing or cricket, for example, it all becomes a whole lot less complicated once you know the terms. There a couple of more things you need for personal finance goals - drive, the willingness to learn and some motivation, but really that is it.

You know what I want? I want every single person who is struggling with a personal finance goal to do two things, 1) go out and get help - whether that is asking a friend or family member for advice, hiring a professional, reading a book or perusing blogs - whatever it takes, I want them to get the information they need. I guarantee it is out there somewhere. 2) I want them to make a effort to reach that goal - whatever that goal may be. I want people to stop sitting on their couches waiting for the president or the tooth fairy or whoever to bail them out. I want them to take matters into their own hands and just try.

Oh, and I also want world peace.

...told you I was a liberal.




* Speaking of creative visualization, Master Your Card has a really great blog post about using creative visualization to complete your personal finance goals. Seriously, it is worth checking out!

Photo by: /\/\ichael PatricI{

20 comments:

Pinyo said...

Wow. I am totally blown away by this. This is one of those from the heart...truly speaking posts. I completely agree with you, personal finance is not that hard to learn. And I would encourage everyone to learn and ask.

I know some situations can be real tough to get out of, but there are many that could be fixed with a little know how.

Catie said...

Finance is tricky.... but man, cricket is just downright baffling.

Dawn said...

Thanks Pinyo! I really don't have any desire to offend anyone. I hope I didn't. All I really want is for folks to realize that they have the power to achieve their financial goals. It can be done.

Bouncing Back said...

Thanks for the shout out! This is an excellent post. I can only say DITTO about a lot of your words of wisdom. We have the tools and technology to really learn about personal finance. I wish I had discovered the PF world 6 years ago. I have this feeling it would have made a world of difference in my ah "fiscal education".

Great post and I don't think you offended anyone!

Catie said...

It really is an interesting point you raise. I know a couple of people who have been out of work for quite a while and yet are turning down jobs because they aren't right or don't involve enough money. And I'm thinking "Seriously?! You're about to lose your house and you're turning down work???"

Miss M said...

Honestly, I don't think most people care to try. They are happy saying finance is too complicated for them and leaving it at that. Personal responsibility reached an all time low lately and the credit crisis is an outfall of that. Popular media doesn't make it any easier, it's filled with people living these fabulous (unattainable) lives. The middle class got in trouble trying to comsume like they are wealthy. I have to stay away from magazines and catalogs, they make me want things I really don't need!

Dawn said...

Catie - EXACTLY!! (Both on your comment about Cricket and people not taking jobs and losing their houses.)

The job thing *really* drives me crazy. As you know, I took my current job with a "I'll be here a year" attitude... 9 years ago. Even if it isn't right or won't pay quite enough, it is a start! I feel sometimes like people would rather give up than make an effort. Yet I can testify that making an effort is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling - and that is what I want for them, rather than misery and depression, which is where they are heading!

Kristy said...

Hey Dawn,

What a great post! You've captured my sentiments exactly! And thanks for the mention!

Dawn said...

Bouncing Back - You and me both! But, the thing is, even though we didn't have the information back when we could have used it - in some ways it almost doesn't matter. I think you and would each love to be able to get rid of our financial burdens, but the best part is, even though we can't go back in time, we can start learning and turning things around now. As cliched as is may sound, it really is never too late.

Dawn said...

Miss M - I agree. I also don't think media is doing us any favors by the way they have been reporting this crises. Those stories I heard and read were pretty "Oh these poor people - there is NOTHING they can do!!" And I thought "Nothing?? Really?? Because I bet there is."

Oh - and speaking of popular media encouraging us to have lives we can't afford, Frugal Chick has a neat post about a book review on this very subject. If you get a chance, check it out: http://frugalchick2008.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-green-with-envy.html

I found her comments really interesting.

Dawn said...

Kristy - You are most welcome! And I love this latest series of posts you've been writing. They've really got me thinking. Good stuff, lady!

laura @ no more spending said...

Great post Dawn..all the information is out there, you just have to want to find it.

I love the fact that you used cricket as an example, that's easy for me to understand, whereas american fooball isn't, being british and all!
But by watching it solidly every week for a while now, I'm finally getting to grips with it, thats all you have to do, make yourself learn :)

Kristy said...

Thanks! The 7 Habits series is good in general, but I've been thinking of it as a finance tool for a while and wanted to get it out there. I'm glad it's giving you some food for thought!

Tristan said...

I totally agree that too many people just give up, but I can tell you from personal experience, it's sometimes very difficult to pull through these tough times, especially when you are in an unsupportive relationship.

Dana Seilhan said...

I feel the same way about diet and health, actually. I'm undergoing a weight loss program and it's working pretty well. Other than having to avoid certain foods and having to cook more, it's also fairly effortless, and it works, and I get good nutrition too. And I love learning about this stuff. A friend of mine has way less weight to lose than I do, and constantly preaches the virtues of eating smaller portions and avoiding dietary fat. She also complains about having to exercise. How much weight has she lost? I don't remember, but it wasn't much and she's gained it all back again. When I tell her about tracking what I eat, she tells me I'm too nitpicky. But I eat less junk than she does, don't have to watch my portions as much, and don't even have to avoid eating fat. And am still losing. *shrug* Maybe if I get smaller than her and she's still stalling, she'll pay more attention.

Oddly, she's better at finances than I am. But she had good habits from the beginning, and I didn't.

It's this general thing people do of not being curious enough to investigate for themselves how something works, though. I don't understand it because I'm a nosy so-and-so, I want to find out how things work. The main thing that delayed me taking control of my finances for so long was an almost complete lack of information. I knew you had to keep your checkbook balanced, that you should spend less than you earn, that putting money in a savings account was a good idea and that paying the minimum payment on a credit card was stupid. That was as far as I got for a long time, and everyone around me in my life was as ignorant as I was.

It IS simple ignorance with a lot of people. But if they have that curiosity to find out how things work, it really helps--too bad many of them don't have that.

Dawn said...

Tristan - You make a really good point, and honestly, it isn't something that I have dealt with as I have always handled my finances alone. However, I was just having a conversation with a dear friend of mine last night about how when two people have a relationship that is based on or deeply involves unhealthy behavior, when one part of the couple decides to change their behavior and the other does not, the relationship has very little chance of surviving.

Having financial problems and relationship problems all at once can be a huge burden to bear. I would never fault anyone for struggling with that.

Dawn said...

Dana - You make GREAT points. Anyone reading your comment alone could learn. I would take away from it:

1. Not every system works for every person.

2. If your system isn't working for you, find a new one that does.

3. Be curious!

I'm a curious person myself, I love research. I understand how not everyone is into that, but at the same time, how can you grow and improve your life if you don't learn?? I just don't understand it. And there are SO many ways to learn - from reading online, books, videos and CDs, podcasts, and just old fashioned going out and asking people that know. Whether it is finance, health, or anything else I strongly admire anyone who is out there making an effort!

Like you, I was raised with very little financial knowledge. My mom and I talked about how we each deal with money (cash vs debit vs checks) just a few weeks ago. It was the first conversation like that I remember EVER having with my mom. But you know, it is never too late. Sure I wished I had jumped in and started learning earlier, but really, anytime someone wants to learn something there is a world of information waiting out there for them.

"Patrick Bateman" said...

Just wanted to say hang in there...

Slinky said...

Just found your blog and this post. I had to LOL a little, because I just wrote a rant that sounds suspiciously familiar to this. It's set to post next Monday if you care to check it out. :)

Dawn said...

Patrick - Thanks so much!

And great minds Slinky, great minds...