As this site is rapidly getting closer to being two years old (which is still a baby in blogging years), the same theme keeps coming back to me again and again. People spend too much time trying to justify their financial decisions instead of seeing them for what they are.
Whether it's financing new cars, fun toys, or even going out to eat too much – there's an underlying level of being offended by someone like me questioning financial decisions that I've seen over and over again.
How dare I say new cars aren't the best decision? Who am I to tell anyone how many times they should go out to eat? What kind of a jerk am I for suggesting that people avoid vacations to pay off their student loans instead? Video games are a bad idea?
I understand the frustration. I really do.
Some of the times that I've been the most annoyed and/or pissed off about other people's opinions were times that the mentors I surround myself with told me I was wrong. Just like most people, I've got an ego and don't love the feeling of having it questioned.
A lot of things have gone right in my life so far. I've got a beautiful wife. I'm not broke. I started an online business that most people only dream about.
But…that doesn't mean I'm right all the time. In fact – I'm wrong a lot, and I've surrounded myself with people that make sure I know about it. It's annoying as hell sometimes, but 1,000% necessary.
That's why I'm successful. I have people to question me, no matter how much I like or dislike it. I know that the only way I'll continue to be successful is if I maintain my ability to be coachable.
That might be a product of having an education degree and my career as a teacher, or it might be that my parents raised me that way. I'm not sure, but I do know that it's one of my best intellectual assets.
For example: car talk pisses people off – but why?
There's probably a lot of financial decisions I could use to make my argument, and I get that cars are the easy target. But they are easy for a reason. A ton of young people buy new cars, so it's something that's relatable to almost anyone in one way or another.
I have comment sections on Facebook that are filled with people who agree with my take on driving used cars, or people that think I'm an unfair jackass for judging a financial decision. I love reading through them, because the justifications of why people drive what they drive (new or used) are fascinating to me.
Some say safety, some say new cars make them feel good, and some just say they drive new because they like it that way. They're probably all valid in some way or another.
However, rarely do people call cars what they actually are: heavily depreciating assets. They attach a feeling or justification to a financed rolling object to distract from that fact. By the way – car companies spend a lot of advertising money every year (think GDP of Jamaica money) to convince people to attach emotions to cars.
Emotions sell things. It's pretty simple. If you can get people to feel like their purchase is an extension of themselves, you've won (in the advertising/marketing world). A lot of the comments on these posts are almost verbatim what I see in car commercials, and I doubt that it's a coincidence.
Be coachable. That's the #1 trait you need.
There isn't any “personal finance expert” out there that has been perfect with their money. However, they learned from their decisions and then got ahead. Even Dave Ramsey's story is built on making the wrong decisions in real-estate investing. Being right all the time isn't the point, and trying to justify every purchase really isn't either.
Being able to admit that you were wrong, or listen without emotion to an opposing view and and then make an informed decision for yourself is the key to kicking @$$ with personal finance.
Recognize your past financial decisions for what they are (good or bad), and then evaluate after and move on to the next one. Be coachable.
Question for you:
What do you think the key is to mastering personal finance?