I haven’t written in a while. Like for 3 and a half months. There’s really no excuse for it, but I will make my weak case here:
Writing about finance is tricky. It’s mostly tricky because it’s a subject that effects everyone. And since finance effects everyone, most people have an opinion on it. That means bringing up conversations about finance, or investing, or running a business is a slippery slope. The thing about personal finance is that it’s personal. It’s easy to offend. And that, in my opinion, is why it doesn’t get talked about openly. It’s why it’s not taught in schools. And, in turn, it’s why so many people struggle with financial literacy and, as a consequence, struggle to create the life they envision for themselves.
So that’s primarily why I haven’t been writing as much as I want. And I understand why so many financial bloggers remain anonymous. Money is a buzz word, but not in an positive engagement type of way. It’s more like a car wreck. If you start talking openly about finances, lots of people will turn and crane their neck. But most folks won’t open their mouths. It’s a bit weird to me, honestly. How can something so important to all of us be so taboo? My best guess is that pride stands in our way. More than that, money becomes a reflection of how we judge ourselves. We attach our self worth to our net worth. And that can be dangerous. But there’s a light at the end of that tunnel.
Like so many other habits we create in life (diet, exercise, drinking, etc), we have the ability to change our habits with money. In order to change a bad habit, though, we must admit that there is a problem in the first place. And that is the hardest thing to do. We all suffer from excusitis and it comes in many shapes and forms. Have you ever told yourself that you’ll start that diet or exercise routine tomorrow? We’ve all battled with excusitis and that battle is ongoing. Breaking a bad habit (and creating a good habit) is a daily practice. It doesn’t happen over-night or even weeks or months sometimes. Practice makes perfect and we must practice self-work daily if we want to improve our lives. That goes for everything we do in life; our work, our health, our relationships, and, yes, our finances.
My journey didn’t start until I realized I had a problem. This wasn’t a my-world-is-crumbling-around-me-and-I’m-at-the-bottom-of-a-well problem. It was more dangerous than that. It was subtle. I’d allowed myself to feel complacent with my finances. I had some savings. I wasn’t in debt. I could live life pretty much however I pleased. But I didn’t have a goal. And I hit a meta-physical wall one day as I began a train of thought along the lines of “what’s this life all about?” “Sure,” I said to myself, “I’m doing OK. Nothing is wrong. But what’s the point? I feel like I’m treading water.” That was the impetus to start. As I let me mind wander, one question led to another and another, and I realized that I didn’t have all the answers. Hell, I didn’t have many answers. All I knew is that I wasn’t up to my eyeballs in debt and that I had managed to save a little bit of money. I had enough cushion to feel safe, but I didn’t know anything about finance and I didn’t have a plan for my life. The second part of that sentence really scared me. Because, again, I felt complacent. Stagnant. Unmotivated. On the outside, and to the outside world, I was doing great. On the inside, I was feeling trapped by a lack of forward movement and direction.
With loads of deep work to do on myself (this wasn’t all financial introspection), I picked up a book: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Again, I wasn’t in debt. I was just looking for something to grasp onto. It could very well have been a fitness book. Or a psychology book. I was looking for something. I just happened to land on finances.
I think I read that book in three days. I was captivated and motivated. So I kept reading. I started to become interested in budgeting and then investing. And as I searched out more and more resources, I found a community that continues to inspire me everyday. That’s when I realized that financial literacy and education isn’t just about making more money or getting rich, it’s about questioning your world. Because everything in our world intersects with money eventually.
Which leads me back to writing and sharing and teaching others about finance. I’ve seen what a tiny bit of motivation can do in someone’s life. Thinking about your money situations leads you to think about your life, as a whole. By questioning your spending, you question your values. And the numbers don’t lie. I was just scared to look at them. Because deep in my heart of hearts, I knew what those numbers would say. I knew what they’d reveal about the person I was. And that’s why we don’t feel comfortable talking about money. Because, deep inside all of us, we know our life’s truth. We make excuses for the way our life is and, if left unchecked, those excuses become our reality. It’s not until you take a few scary steps into the vulnerable world of accountability that you can make the changes necessary for growth. I would imagine that’s why Dave Ramsey terms his path to debt freedom “Baby Steps”.
I was lucky. I wasn’t in a dire financial situation when I started this journey. But I work with a lot of folks who are in personal and financial struggles that I can’t imagine. And I have so much respect for them, and anyone, who is willing to be honest, to have a conversation, to start those first small, terrifying, and meaningful steps to exchange bad habits for good. There’s light at the end of that tunnel.
***ASIDE: I will write more articles that deal with the nuts and bolts of my finances soon. You know, the crane your neck to look at other people’s finances type of articles that we all enjoy!