Three excuses people use to ignore their finances
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot
If you’ve read any of my posts over the past few weeks, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m on a bit of a mission this year when it comes to creating more order and building stronger focus in my life. I’m not entirely sure where the drive to make the change came from, I’m sure that some of it is rooted in the fact I turned 40 at the end of last year, but I think a lot of it stems from realizing that not being organized meant that I was wasting a lot of time chasing my tail and creating a lot of unnecessary stress for myself. Having spent a good part of the last 5 years “drinking from the fire hose”, as my ex-boss used to say, it’s taking me a while to adjust to the calmness that accompanies being ahead of the game. I definitely still have a long way to go (the habits of 20 years die hard!) but on the days where everything is working as it should, it’s totally worth the effort.
One thing that has become very clear to me over the past couple of months is that we make a lot of excuses to justify not making a change. I’ve written before about the process of change and how uncomfortable it can be but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that no matter what the situation we’re trying to alter (fitness, organization, finances, etc.) we tend to make the same excuses. The excuses I made to myself about why I couldn’t be more organized were the same excuses I used to make to myself about why I couldn’t gain control over my finances, my fitness or my eating habits. When I thought about it, it became clear that the excuses I’d been using were the same excuses I hear time and time again in financial planning meetings, so I thought for this post, I’d take a “Mythbusters” approach and tackle the three most common excuses:
It’s too complicated
There’s no doubt that new things can be scary and yet we forget that, as kids, almost every day that we were in school we were confronted with new things and we just dealt with it because it was part of the learning process! In the workplace, we’re routinely challenged to deal with new situations, new tasks, and new technology and, while we might not enjoy the learning curve, we’re unlikely to turn around and refuse to do it. In all areas of life, if we want to progress and improve then we have to take on new learning and understanding and apply it in order to move forward. Finances are no different.
While it’s true that we don’t teach financial literacy in schools and that many parents don’t talk to their kids about money, that’s no excuse for not taking control of our own learning and finding alternative resources. Yes, the financial industry does a great job of making us feel like we need a degree in finance to handle our money effectively, but there are also plenty of people who are committed to debunking that myth and sharing simple, effective ways to take control of your finances. Sites like RetireHappy.ca and MapleMoney.com are packed with easy to digest information and there are plenty of great books, radio and TV shows, created by people like Dave Chilton, Gail Vaz Oxlade, David Bach, and Dave Ramsey, which show you clearly and simply how to manage your money.
It takes too much time
One thing I know for sure is that you will never have time to do something unless you create the time to do it. Just like you need to give every dollar a purpose to stop it drifting out of your bank account, so you need to carve out the time for the things that matter. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself using your spare time to surf the internet and watch random TV shows. I don’t mean to suggest that there’s anything wrong with downtime (I’m all in favor of couch-time!) but when statistics suggest that the average adult in North America watches 4.5 hours of TV daily and spends 5 hours/day using digital media (e-marketer, 2013), it seems unreasonable for anyone to claim they don’t have a couple of hours a month to monitor their money. Honestly, once you have a money management system in place, a couple of hours is really all it takes. Investing that time to manage and improve your situation can reap huge rewards. All it takes is the commitment to make it happen.
It’s too late
It’s true that starting early gives you a huge advantage when it comes to building wealth and minimizing debt but that doesn’t mean that, just because you didn’t start saving at 16, all is lost. Every action (and non-action) that you take today has an impact on your future. When it comes to building wealth or eliminating debt, small changes make a big difference over time and it matters less how much you save and more that you’re saying something. Creating that saving habit is powerful because once your account starts to build, it motivates you to save more and before you know it, you’re on track to accumulating something significant. There are plenty of people entering retirement with a nest egg that they didn’t start building until their 40s and plenty of people heading into retirement who wish they could go back just five years and do things differently. Whatever your current financial situation, there is nothing you can do to alter your past but so much that you can do to alter your future. It all comes down to choice.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Jim Rohn speak. At one point during his keynote, he said, “life is a journey. Each one of us is sitting in a boat and five years from now we’re going to arrive somewhere. Your choice is whether you’re going to drift with the tide and risk still being in the same spot or whether you’re going to chart your course, set your sails and head for a destination of your choosing.”
Don’t let excuses hold you back from charting your own course and achieving your financial dreams. Let this week be the week you take control.