Recently I received an out-of-the-blue request from Keith Morris, the editor of the new LifeTuner Chat Carnival and the Community Manager for LifeTuner, to write an article for the upcoming carnival on "Financial Lessons Learned the Hard Way". First off, I'd like to thank Keith for tossing an invite my way and having the optimism to think that I might have something interesting to contribute. Second, I hope I can offer you some first person narrative which readers enjoy enough to finish. That's the thing about introspective pieces... I wonder if my personal experiences are useful or interesting to you readers! Well, let's toss aside the deep commentary and cornucopia of supporting links for a second and do some old fashion writing. Who's with me?
"If you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself." - Bob Dylan
Break down "Personal Finance" for a second. What do you get? The person in the phrase refers to you (second person for a second). The most important thing to derive from this small observation is that the only person you can trust to look out for your interest is yourself. You can be the most jovial and trusting person in the world in non monetary matters- but when it comes to your finances, recognize that you are your own best advocate. Everything you undertake in your journey into the wide world of Personal Finance- whether your niche is frugality, income maximizing, investing, networking- has to have you at the center.
Why am I harping on such a vain topic? When I was younger than today (but not as much as you may think), I was surfing an earlier incarnation of the internet. I discovered an online trading house for a particular set of trading cards which I had obtained. Being an avid collector of the cards, I even had a few duplicates. Minnow, meet sharks.
I made two successful trades the old fashioned way... sending envelopes with cards in clear protectors to other American participants in the web board. Both times I
received exactly what I was looking for soon after. Having successfully dipped my toe into the water, I decided to step up my game and offer my most valuable card on the web board. After quickly receiving a few offers, I picked one that maximized my value. Being young(er) and naive, I wrapped my card in hard plastic and sent it on it's way... never to be seen again, and of course never to be converted into the other cards I had agreed to in the trade.
Is that experience the root of my cynicism? Hardly... but it certainly didn't help my view of the world at the time. I definitely made a pact to be more careful in the future. Your lesson? Trust is the cornerstone to any relationship. Reviews and recommendations build trust. Remember- verify your trading partners. Seek out some recommendations. If you don't have that option, (and even if you do have it it) take advantage of any opportunity to inspect goods in person. Whether it's a car or a random Craigslist purchase, it's harder to pull a fast one in person. Either way, don't get taken like my young self did. Maybe you'll avoid my cynicism?
Remember to put yourself first in any remotely financially linked transaction or situation. You are your own ultimate teammate. Take Bob Dylan's advice and trust yourself- the idea of 'too good to be true' is true. Approach situations with a healthy skepticism and you'll often be pleasantly surprised (and way less often be disappointed). Hope this helped!