Hi Pocketchangers! Welcome back! We hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are starting to celebrate the Christmas season! A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an IRA conference to further my financial knowledge and garner continuing education credits for a certification. It’s a great refresher course and it’s also a reminder that our money is our responsibility.
Exceptions exist, but in most circumstances no one is going to pay your bills or go to work or earn money for you. Let me know if you find one of those exceptions! No one is going to offer to pay off your debts, give you money to travel and see the world, or buy a car. No one is here to offer up their hard-earned time or money to you without some sort of recourse. If those happen to you, count your blessings! For the rest of us, you must take care of finances yourself!
One thing that we have learned as we started this journey towards Financial Independence is the fact that we are making our journey as we go. There are loose ‘guidelines’ defined in the realm of Financial Independence, but the journey largely depends on our lifestyle now and what we perceive our lifestyle will be in the future.
Along with that journey comes a level of personal responsibility. Let’s face it, with the advertisements and the ease of access to credit cards, consumer loans, and even mortgages, getting tied down by debt is too easy.
Debt is the financial independence killer.
But, working in the financial industry — that’s how the game works. We give out loans for cars, autos, boats, mortgages, and even “anything you want” loans. Our growth is directly tied to the debts… which makes what I write about difficult and challenging. But, the overall push in the industry is driven by consumerism.
A PRIME EXAMPLE
I received an email recently from a customer who I hear from every couple of months or so. I have put in quite a bit of time helping this customer with several inquiries over the past year, so I’m their ‘go-to’ contact at this point. The email I received asked about doing some debt consolidation because they are struggling financially.
Here’s a big picture summary of their financial situation known to me:
- New mortgage this year
- Auto loan
- Credit card
- Unsecured loan
It’s also worth noting the following:
- The husband has had at least two jobs this year
- They have a spending problem and constantly overdraw their account
Now, the debts themselves aren’t the big issue. Credit cards aren’t innately evil! Auto loans aren’t the devil! We aren’t breaking any laws, regulations, or policies by loaning money. In fact, we’re doing well at that. So, what’s the problem?
This customer’s problem isn’t that we keep given them loans, it’s that they feel loans are the only solution to their problems.
This is *THE* lie perpetuated by the financial industry – loans are the only solution.
EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT
I don’t think anyone would argue that education is NOT important. Studying and learning new things are the avenues by which we grow and improve. It led to the industrial revolution, the invention of the air plane, the light bulb, sliced bread, the iPhone, the computer, and so much more.
In the financial space, true financial education is available but lacking. Consider how much of a push to learn computer coding just in the past few years, contrasted with the marketing and availability of financial education. Even in our case, we’ve both worked in the financial industry for years and never have these types of conversations. Only by asking ourselves, “What are we doing? Where are we going?” did we realize there’s more to the financial life than paying off loans for 50 years.
What the financial industry has built forces us as consumers to either bear the full weight of learning and understanding, or to ignore it and perpetuate the lies by ignorance. The financial industry lives and thrives off of this lack of consumer understanding. This is where personal responsibility comes into play.
IT’S UP TO YOU
You, and only you, are responsible for your money.
You, and only you, are responsible for your financial well-being. For your survival.
You, and only you, are responsible for your long-term investing strategies.
Only you can choose to continue to follow the ‘normal’ path of debt up to your eyeballs, or choose to understand there is a better way.
Yes, the financial independence path (or any path different than the norm) may be difficult, and the ‘normal’ way is more comfortable, but in the end, what will you have to show for all that consumer debt? Friends, take your finances seriously! Don’t jump on this Financial Independence bandwagon because we say so.
Just… don’t follow a path of ignorance. Lead, and take control of your finances! Give your finances a good evaluation, make a plan or two for the next few years, and truly understand what your life and financials goals are, then get moving!
NOTE: Looking for some starter resources? Check out The Goods to get you started with tools and apps for budgeting, a few worksheets you can download, an early retirement calculator, and more!