A couple years back, we participated in a few online discussions about whether Personal Finance is a worthy subject for schools to dedicate a course to. Although we agree that the financial education levels of the typical American are pretty embarrassing, we disagreed with the group, which suggested that the best way to make up the gap was to dedicate a term of school to the topic. Let’s face it: the basics of Personal Finance are so simple, we were able to fit them all into a single post. In essence, Personal Finance is boring: if everything is going right, there shouldn’t be much for you to do!
You Know It So Well it Bores You!
Since folks seemed a little bit skeptical that Personal Finance actually was insanely simple, we decided to illustrate that fact with a single post here on DQYDJ we entitled “Personal Finance 101“. That article divided everything you need to know into 7 sections (Debt, Savings, Investing, Insurance, Responsible Credit Usage, Taxes, and Fitting it All Together). Anyone who made an honest effort to read those words and put them into effect would without doubt edge out the typical (North) American’s financial knowledge and be well on their way to an enjoyable retirement, if not early financial independence.
That’s just the thing. If we can encapsulate all the important sticking points of Personal Finance into a single blog post, why would it be worth it to devote 6-13 weeks to the topic? Personal Finance is boring, and we wouldn’t want to bore a bunch of elementary kids to tears.
Einstein Comes Alive
In our last article, we told you how the phrase “Personal Finance is Personal!” makes us roll our eyes.
The most popular form of Personal Finance blog on the net isn’t the ADHD style of the site you’re currently reading, it’s in the form of a “Debt Blog” or “Journey” describing an author’s (or an author and his or her family’s) trip out of debt. The best debt blogs are a celebration of newly found good habits – because of hitting bottom, an inspirational book, a mentor or whatever, a blogger makes real progress and eventually shuts down the debt blog or pivots to the ADHD style. Far more common are the other types of debt bloggers – people who never change their thinking and try to apply their old habits to the new journey, with disastrous results. For these folks, their mantra is “Personal Finance is Personal!” – and, like a slow moving train wreck, it’s hard to look away.
It was Albert Einstein that (supposedly) said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
How true that is.
If you want accountability and people to push you in the right direction – well, those are things that the internet can provide for you! The Personal Finance sphere is full of people who love to help others, and we will gladly share our advice and knowledge to those who are willing to take it. The rest of you? Don’t expect us to feel sorry when you don’t change your way of thinking.
Personal Finance IS Boring
That’s the thing – you’ll know you’re on the right track when the personal finance aspects that people are learning are mind-numbingly boring to you. There’s only so many times you can be told “pay off your high interest debt!” or “get a side hustle!” before you stop reading the inane commentary from some blogs. That’s a good thing – you’ve made it; you’re in the club! Your cash flow is in good shape, your debt is either gone or on its way to gone, and financial independence is a matter of time and degree… not a matter of “simply”, you know, shifting your entire ingrained worldview.
Think of a marathon. If you’ve been sitting on a couch for 5 years watching TV, well, you’re sort of like the train wreck blogger discussed above.
You will never, ever finish the marathon if you continue to do things the same way. But read an exercise book, read a running blog, talk to other runners, and above all practice (!) and you can finish this journey even if it’s a slow walk. Sure, some people will run faster than you – just like some people will make more money than you. But your journey to change your ways isn’t even part of the 26.2 miles – it’s merely to get you to the starting line!
That’s right – the mind shift required to run towards financial independence and begin to pay off your debt is literally to just get you to zero – to start. But all that practice you put in, that advice and knowledge you assimilate – that will help you when you actually start the race.
And, of course, a good run is uneventful – your heart rate is pegged, your mile times are consistent, you’re hydrated and all that jazz. Yes, boring is the best way to describe it – but boring is good. Crises are interesting, but not good for finances… or marathons.
The Time is Gone, the Song is Over, Thought I’d Something More to Say
It’s appropriate that Pink Floyd also included the lyric, “no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun” in that song. You’re never going to complete this marathon if you never get off the couch – you won’t even hear the starting gun if you’re nowhere near the race.
Now? Back to boring. You’ll have your automation and plan in place and you’ll be executing everything. It’ll be a tough slog, but you’ll be on your way to Financial Independence – it’ll just take time. (See our financial independence calculator).
It’ll be incredibly slow and uninteresting, sure. Every paycheck will work in much the same way – your investments will rarely change, your debt will tick down slowly, your net worth will tick up and to the right slowly. Mind-numbing, but free of the major crises you invited with your old ways – and the minor crises will melt away because you’ll be so far ahead of the crowd.
So yes, again, boring is good, and it means you’re well on your way. It also means it’s now time to introduce another famous inclusion in a Pink Floyd song, “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!“. The meat’s boring. But the pudding – financial independence and the ability to buy all those things you put off during the journey – is amazing.
So don’t tell me Personal Finance is Personal – that just signals to me that you’re trying to excuse a bad decision you made. Tell me that Personal Finance is Boring. Now we’re talking – that’s the right adjective!