After re-reading this article, I’ll admit that it does come off as a little bit of a rant. I apologize in advance for the getting up on my soapbox, but I think this needs to be said. . . . Just know that I warned you. 😉
Personal Responsibility and Financial Knowledge Go Hand in Hand.
The amount of financial knowledge available to us is staggering. Check out this story about the size of the internet.
All the information needed to succeed with our finances is only a click or two away. Anything you have a question about can be discovered in a moment or two through Google.
And yet so many of us are in trouble – financially speaking. We are up to our eyeballs in debt. We have little to no savings or retirement investments. Is it because we don’t know how to manage money? Are that many people without internet access – or access to any other financial advice? Maybe it’s an income problem?
Maybe it’s because there’s so much bad advice that it’s hard to differentiate between the contradictory info out there? Sometimes it is hard to know what action to take when you get conflicting advice.
Financial advice alone won’t turn around someone’s finances.
For the most part, the basic financial advice is the same. Live below your means. Save as much as you can. And invest in the market for the future. But what has caused this seeming disconnect between knowing and actually doing for those who should be doing better?
More than just the segment of the population without access to financial advice or low incomes, there are many more who just don’t care. I’ve seen and heard too many people who read an article/book about personal finance and say, “That’s just not for me.”
“I’m not going to apply those principles, because I don’t agree with them.” – is another popular excuse. They may not say it this way, but that’s what it comes down to. So how do we address this problem? How can we bridge the gap between financial knowledge and the application of that financial knowledge?
Note that there are those with income problems. And though they would very much like to implement strategies found in this blog or others, they can barely survive. I’m not talking to these people specifically in this article. The issues with the working poor are much different than those with average and higher incomes who make poor choices with their money.
Why are so many struggling even with good incomes?
The ‘why’ is fairly obvious. Our culture is steeped in materialism and greed. This is across all levels – from individuals rich and poor to small businesses to mega-industries. Money drives everything – and the pursuit of it. Adding to the greed is the entitlement attitude that causes those entitled to insist that they deserve nice things – without all the hard work.
For instance: The stock-market is driven by greed. Investors want results this quarter, and not returns from investments that may take up to 5 years to pay off. Those stocks “stagnate”, and are generally looked at as poor investments and slow performers. It’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately’.
And consumers want multiple cars, fancy houses, and luxury vacations. We complain about corporate greed, while at the same time stepping on the backs of others for our own “advancement” or next job promotion.
Entitled people look around them at all the “stuff” that others have. It doesn’t matter how that “stuff” was acquired. They want it too, and even worse – they think they deserve it.
And when it comes to down it – when the ‘rubber meets the road’ so to speak, entitled people don’t want to wait or to delay gratification. Laziness rules supreme. If I can have everything that someone else has – and I don’t have to work for it, why not? My finances will take care of themselves.
Living for the now trumps the future consequences of those choices.
When these attitudes are combined (greed mingled with entitlement) any “get-rich-quick” scheme will appeal to them. It speaks to their desire to have it now – without waiting.
From credit card rewards to incentives for switching cable companies, if they think they can “earn” extra now – they seem to not care about the future ramifications. Who cares if my cable contract – that I’m locked into – will increase $75/month next year. I got my $150 bonus now.
Commercials and marketing eschew future debt or negative consequences for fulfillment right now. It’s not that we don’t know the results of our actions. It’s that we think we are somehow exempt from those consequences. “That won’t happen to me.” Consumers exhibit the behavior of a spoiled, greedy brat. Just look at some of these Black Friday horror stories!
Bottom-line. We want our desires fulfilled now. And we are naturally lazy. And our finances reflect these attitudes.
What’s the Solution?
Financial knowledge is good, but recognize that anything that is worth doing will take time and effort. Take responsibility for the state of your finances, and put in the work to make the fixes. It’ll take effort – more than just a day or two. Successful people aren’t made in a week. It takes time and hard work. But oftentimes, this hard work is not noticed.
We never see the hours of sweat and toil ‘behind the scenes’. We see the successes and results – and desire the same.
But to achieve the same level of success in our finances as those we admire, we must be willing to take responsibility and put in the hard work. And hard work is just that . . . hard work. It’s not always fun and glamorous.
There are those that have great work ethics. They will always be trying something new, and sometimes failing – eventually succeeding. These are the people we admire. Their tenacity and persistence got them to the top. But you’ll never get there without hard work.
But how do you motivate a lazy or greedy person to take responsibility?
He has the financial knowledge and the income to succeed, but he lacks the motivation to take personal responsibility. To motivate him, you don’t “give” him anything. He must be forced to actually work for his money and his livelihood.
Consequences are a great motivator. We recognize this on a large-scale, but somehow this doesn’t apply on individual level. Remember the outrage over the big banks’ government bailout? They made poor choices, and yet were not allowed to fully suffer the consequences. Cue the outrage.
Why do we think we as individuals are any different? Our poor money decisions have negative consequences. If we don’t experience those consequences, we’ll never learn. It is harsh. And it’s also difficult to watch someone you love destroy their future with poor money decisions. But, consequences are a great motivator.
Are you in this situation? If you are, and as you are cleaning up your financial mess, you will be reminded time and again how you never want to put yourself in this situation ever again. You learned your lesson by experiencing the consequences of your actions.
Greed and laziness will keep you in debt and eventually financial ruin. To find the motivation to tackle your problems you need to find your “why”. What consequences would be devastating to you?
Use that reason to motivate yourself to make the hard choices. I think there are many who are struggling financially who would do better if they could find motivation. You see – we know what to do – we just lack sufficient motivation.
What do you think? Am I way off here? Or is personal financial responsibility lacking?
Let me know your thoughts below. Thanks as always for reading and sharing.