Personal Finance Doesn’t Absolve Personal Responsibility

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I’ve noticed a theme I seem to keep harping on in my latest posts where I keep whining (let’s call it what it is) about various companies or entities. I just want to clear something up right now that I first believe in Personal Responsibility. In my own life my stupid financial mistakes and poor purchasing chooses are clearly my own. An outside entity or corporation did not force me to trade in a relatively new car for a brand new truck. The mortgage companies did not hold one of my family members hostage to instigate the purchase of my first home with zero money down. They surely made it easy for me to make those poor decisions by loaning me the money, but the responsibility is mine alone. I don’t want to sound preachy but an important first step in getting your personal financial life in order is understanding that it’s yours to manage. It’s also your mess to clean up.

Some Internal Responsibility Conversations

These may be some thoughts rumbling around in your own grey matter, I certainly have had many of these conversations with myself.

My Employer just doesn’t pay me enough so I can’t get ahead. No one’s holding a gun to your head making you work there. You can find another job, or even take on another. Your income is one of your best tools for building wealth, so if you are unhappy with your current job, look elsewhere. Even in today’s strained economy people are hiring.

If I just win the Lottery, I’d be set. If you were just hit by lighting you wouldn’t care anymore, and your odds are better. Read some books, take a class, start an online business. Figure out how to start your own lottery with only one ticket ever printed, you’ll win every time.

Bob has a Lexus, how can he afford that we do the same thing? Odds are Bob can’t afford it. Do yourself a favor and check out “The Millionaire Next Door” from your local library. Most Millionaires drive Ford’s and Toyota’s. Who would you rather be? Aspirational or a Millionaire? This one’s hard for me I admit it. I love cars and gadgets, and when I see someone with something new and shiny I become envious, and always call to question how they can have that but I can’t. This book as well as “Start Acting Rich” both by Thomas Stanley have helped me a lot to be more realistic about some of these areas in my life.  Again I don’t deserve these things, they are just stuff.  I want them.

Personally Own Your Finances

This is an important enough concept that I want to detail it a little more. By taking responsibility for yourself and your finances, you are putting yourself in the drivers seat. No one is ever going to care the same about your own fiscal life as much as you and that’s the way it should be. Sure you can hire some outside help to give you advice, but that needs to be tempered with your own knowledge and experiences.  So when the financial planner recommends that you put your emergency fund in a Short Term Bond use some of your base knowledge that you’ve hopefully learned here and through your own pursuit of knowledge you’ll be able to ask some hard questions.

Admit Your Mistakes and Move On

We’ve all made mistakes.  I’ve been making them most of my life, reviewing them and learning from them will keep you from repeating the mistake.  James Joyce said “A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” Dwelling on your mistakes will quickly take the wind out of your sails.  Use that mistake as a springboard for finding your next mistake and consequently your next discovery.  This is also true of excuses.  Rather than admitting a mistake we often find somewhere else to place the blame.  That’s not going to help your financial situation either.  My 6th grade teacher Mr. Kerns used to say “Excuses are the refuge of cowards.”  And as far as maxim’s go that has stuck with me all of my life and it will always ring true.

Take to Arms

Dave Ramsey often quotes Charlie Tremendous Jones who said “Five years from now you will be pretty much the same as you are today except for two things: the books you read and the people you get close to.” Your going to have to go out there and find those people yourself but here’s a great list of books to help you in the right direction.

The Total Money Makeover If you are just going to read one book on your financial journey this could be it, especially if you are facing a mountain of debt. This book will help simplify your financial life and give you the tools to get going. Grab this book and subscribe to FiscalGeek and you’re set.

The Millionaire Next Door I absolutely love this book. If you are a number geek then you’ll be so at home. Think you don’t need a budget? Find out why 78% of all the millionaires polled still use one themselves.

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream This is a great read and true account by Adam Shephard who decides on graduating from college that he’s going to head to a city with basically no money and see if he can make it.

48 Days To The Work You Love If you’re sick of your job, or can’t figure out how to get ahead, Dan Miller has some great advice for those looking for a career change or even finding the job you really want in your own company.

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Matt Jabs 2009/10/28 at 7:50 am

Great stuff Paul. You really hit a home-run here.

I have been harping on banks a lot lately, and while they do have deceitful business practices, ultimately it is OUR responsibility for signing up with their poisonous contracts. I am aware of this fact and documented it well in my own written account of Personal Responsibility. However, with that said, I think I need to address this point on my own blog… because it is a fantastic topic that most of us need to revisit every so often.

Cheers man.

paul 2009/10/28 at 8:01 am

Thanks Matt, it was something I just had to get out there.

Craig 2009/10/28 at 8:30 am

I love gadgets and that’s my big purchases when the time comes. I try to save and pay in full before ever buying, currently doing that now to replace an iphone. But there are ways like learning to make some side income which can help. Like anything else, it’s all about personal responsibility, something people need to have.

Vinny Financio 2009/10/28 at 9:50 am

I completely agree Paul! We are responsible for our actions, our mistakes and our results.

Btw, great books you recommended! Dr. Stanley’s latest book “Stop Acting Rich: And Start Living Like a Real Millionaire” is a future classic as well
.-= Vinny Financio´s last blog ..Credit Card Use Dissuades Saving for Emergencies =-.

paul 2009/10/28 at 12:58 pm

So true, I’m reading it right now. I love data and over and over again he keeps coming up with new nuggets.

Lydia aka Ms. MoneyChat 2009/10/28 at 9:50 am

My favorite, “If I just win the Lottery, I’d be set. If you were just hit by lighting you wouldn’t care anymore, and your odds are better. Read some books, take a class, start an online business.” LOL!

Great post.

paul 2009/10/28 at 12:58 pm

Thanks Lydia appreciate it.

Liz Pulliam Weston 2009/10/28 at 1:10 pm

Good post, Paul. But I would add that believing in personal responsibility does not preclude believing in corporate responsibility.

We all know the difference between fair play and foul play (if anyone needs a brush-up, my six-year-old is an expert in what’s fair and what’s not). The bank execs who created today’s bounce policies and the brokers who pushed option ARMs on unsophisticated borrowers should be ashamed of themselves.

The first step in getting your financial act together is taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. But a step further down the road of financial development is to start holding corporations accountable when they indulge in foul play. That’s a big part of what I do and I plan to keep battering them over the head until they get it right.

paul 2009/10/28 at 4:14 pm

Thanks Liz and I agree 100% I’ve been trying to strike a balance from my usual barbs at the corporate attempts to take my money and focus a little on us. My overall plan is to get them out of my life entirely, and bring as many of my readers with me as I can. The day I send my latest burning mortgage payment to Wells Fargo will be a day of celebration indeed. Thanks for commenting, BTW anyone who doesn’t know, Liz is the bomb!

Credit Card Chaser 2009/10/28 at 9:10 pm

I definitely agree with you. There should certainly be a fair balance between both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility (and really corporate responsibility is the same as personal responsibility because people are behind every shady and deceptive tactic even if they are working for a company – i.e. it was the mortgage brokers lack of honesty in being deceptive about the way an ARM works and pushing it to an unsophisticated borrower just for a larger commission in many situations, etc.).
.-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Think You Could Go Into Massive Debt While Making $10 Million/Yr? =-.

Larry 2009/10/28 at 2:01 pm

really great post. budgeting is key and many people just don’t take the time to do it. check out it does everything for you, all you have to do is monitor it.

Credit Card Chaser 2009/10/28 at 9:06 pm

I am a big fan of as well (although sometimes it has trouble logging into all of my different accounts and pulling updated data in).
.-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Think You Could Go Into Massive Debt While Making $10 Million/Yr? =-.

Credit Card Chaser 2009/10/28 at 9:06 pm

Love this post because I almost want to add little thought bubbles to the top of everyone’s head that makes those kinds of excuses that say something like, “But I would read some books, take a class, or start an online business except for… I’m just so lazy… Oh wait, I better not admit that out loud…” 🙂
.-= Credit Card Chaser´s last blog ..Think You Could Go Into Massive Debt While Making $10 Million/Yr? =-.

Craig Ford 2009/10/29 at 5:44 am

While there certainly are financial situations outside our control there are also those we can control. As you pointed out reading and learning is something that cannot be taken away. Focus on what you can control. Thanks for the great post.

paul's wife 2009/10/30 at 9:09 am

I don’t usually have much to say here on fiscal geek, but thought I’d throw out a couple of my thoughts. 1 – I do think the banks have a lot to own up to with all the ridiculous lending they were participating in. I’m also annoyed with the government, that they think the consumption lifestyle is something we need to get back to. The fact is, when our nation was living by overspending and going into debt, we were building an unrealistic economy. Now the whole nation will need to “reset” it’s expectations. 2 – The “millionaire next door” type books really resonate with me b/c I like the idea of living a life of contentment. I try to tell our boys that we are more than blessed because we have everything we need, and most of the things we want. I’m so thankful that we are getting to the place financially where we are living on less than we make and preparing for the future. I’m looking forward to the next step – when we can give the rest away to people and organizations that are in need.
As DR says: Live like no one else, so later you can GIVE like no one else.

gordon gredell 2009/12/31 at 10:06 am

i just got quicken STARTER, and want to start jan. 1, showing my balance at that point! have 2 checking accounts (1 has auto pay). also have 2 credit cards, i pay in full each month. how do i get started? how do i establish categories, especially from the credit cards? as you can tell i’m an 81 yearold beginner! THANK YOU!

paul 2009/12/31 at 10:41 am

Hey Gordon I think you meant to comment on the Quicken review based on your comment but what you would do is start with your initial balance on January 1st. You might want to check out the a href=””>Quicken Community Forums at the Quicken Site for some more help there. As to your categories question I found this article at the Quicken site you might want to look at. In general you can find some beginner data at Hope that helps.

Belmont Thornton 2010/04/20 at 9:09 pm

Matt-Thanks for the valuable insight.A informative and thought provoking article indeed. The books mentioned are nice and I am planning to buy the ‘total money makeover’. Personal responsibility is very important to achieve a good financial health.

AC Raven 2011/02/02 at 10:38 am

Great insight. If everyone took responsibility for their finances we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in as a country. Wait, we probably would be. It’s important for people to just go out and get what they want. I mean this figuratively in the sense that they should go out and find a way to achieve their goals which in turn will allow them to buy the fancy gadget or new car you were referring to.

settlement 2011/02/27 at 8:13 pm

This is so true that people come up with excuses when they make mistake.

Isellstructured Settlement 2014/03/10 at 5:16 am

Nice Post…All the views you shared about Finance is well knowledgeable. I like it Keep Sharing such Posts…

Paul Fund 2014/10/15 at 9:47 am

Amen. Financial responsibility is important. So is accepting your mistakes. That is what so many people fail to do. The result is that they continue to repeat the same mistakes.

Mark 2015/02/02 at 1:35 pm

Great post. More people need to be financially responsible and getting enlightened on the basics is the first step. Thanks for this article.

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