Do You Say Anything When You See People Spending Foolishly?

May 29th, 2012 by 

Today, let's focus our attention outward, instead of on our 'personal' personal finance issues issues... let's talk about the foolish spending of our friends and family!

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." - Matthew 7:5, King James Bible

I know - I've made some bad spending decisions in the past, too... but perfection aside, should you say something when you see someone living on the edge and spending wildly?

Spreading Knowledge Cautiously

Ladies talking on bench about foolish spending

"Tell me more about tax-advantaged retirement accounts!" - A former foolish spending friend!

Dear readerr, hopefully you are at some stage in the journey to eventual financial freedom.

You have scrimped, saved, taken on additional jobs, invested, and moved down the path to a safe retirement.  You can cite from memory the pillars of personal finance and other personal finance basics which you have learned along the way: automate things; spend less than you earn; plan for the future.  You are a becoming a walking encyclopedia of financial knowledge.

However, you must note, the knowledge you have picked up is pretty far from common sense.

The truth is: many people you interact with on a daily basis have very little clue about Personal Finance.  They may earn a fair amount of money yet spend frivolously on things like new cars and vacations while lamenting their lack of savings.  Investment, retirement, and the acquisition of assets takes a backseat to trips, clothing, and entertainment.  When people have their priorities in the wrong place, do you intervene?  Do you try to correct the worst financial behavior of others when they bring things up in casual conversation?

Avoiding Being Preachy on Foolish Spending

It's a delicate subject... which is why I lead with a Biblical quote on hypocrisy.  Even the most knowledgeable among us make mistakes... even so called personal finance writers (that is not an indictment of my craft, per se, but myself!). If you can get past the feelings of hypocrisy, it also leads to a host of other problems for you:

  • What if people are just trying to vent?
  • Do you really want to defend your advice?
  • Will you come off as too preachy?

At least when it comes to a Personal Finance web site... readers seek you.  You don't have that luxury when casually (or seriously) discussing finances with friends, coworkers, and family.

On that note, let's open this up for discussion.  Do you ever offer unsolicited financial advice to others?  What spurs you to speak up?  Does your position change with very close friends or family? 

Don't Quit Your Day Job...

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