I was reading a good article at The Practice of Leadership called Leaders Participate and Actively Play in the Game of Life. While the article itself was about playing a leadership role in your own life in general, it slims down nicely to personal finance too. You can’t expect success if you don’t play a role in your financial picture. If you don’t take responsibility for the situation that you’re in, by first understanding your financial situation and then planning your way to the next stage, you can’t expect any kind of real results.
I think people are lead into being financial spectators instead being their own personal leaders for three reasons. The first is fear of not knowing – not knowing what to expect, or what you can do, or whether you’re even doing it right. The second is pure laziness and a detachment from your own reality – it’s easier to just keep spending and enjoying what you get without looking at the broader implications. Third is the pain factor that drives people into the spectator situation – it’s just such a pain and there are so many obnoxious talking heads saying confusing things that it’s too hard to figure out and too time consuming when you try.
Frankly, none of these are acceptable. You must be your own leader in life, which includes your finances. The third isn’t exactly your fault, though, so I sympathize, but that won’t help you much at this moment, will it? There is some effort required. As in most things like driving a car or using a computer, there is a minimum for you to understand, and without that you’ll be left in the dark driven more by a fear of the unknown. However, once you’ve hit a basic level of understanding, and created a basic plan to follow, it all becomes rather easy and automated.
Some tips that will help you block out some of the confusion: 1) Ignore Wall Street and any talking heads. They’re driven by today’s return and grabbing more audience today to boost their ratings today. You’re not. You’re needs are long term, and progress takes time, patience, and persistence. 2) Use the time you’d spend listening to the chicken’s cluck instead by buying a book and getting that basic level of understanding, or checkout a finance site like I Will Teach You To Be Rich that will actually help you get your finances under control. Remember once you have the basic level down, it gets much easier as you now have a financial infrastructure to work with. You need pipes in your house before you can run the water, but once you’ve got running water, you’re set from then on (until you decide you want filtered water, or a bidet in your bathroom, but you’ve still got running water).