It’s (Mostly) About Priorities

The ‘it’ is achieving financial freedom. Soon after the one year anniversary of this blog, in the post, Talking Personal Finance in Public Forums, I discussed my thoughts following the publication of my first book and one year’s experience managing the blog; and participating in personal finance conversations across multiple social media platforms. I noted there were some things that disappointed me a little, some things I found quite interesting and the conclusions I had drawn with respect to how people approach personal finance.

PrioritiesAmong the many thoughts from that post was this passage, “Most people are not interested in personal finance; at least they aren’t that interested in talking about it in the forums with which I am familiar. Perhaps people are too busy with other things in their lives. Perhaps they aren’t comfortable talking about personal finance in any forum. Perhaps most people believe they are already financially savvy (I find that hard to believe if you trust the reports/studies with respect to Americans and their finances in general and preparedness for retirement specifically). Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, I have been genuinely surprised at what I perceive as a lack of interest for learning more about personal finance and getting fiscally fit.”

Now, more than one year later – and two more (fictional) books, numerous updates to the blog, too many posts to count and the observation that a lot of the early bloggers I previously communicated with have left the game (perhaps that is a discussion for another day) – my thoughts have changed … slightly. I no longer believe there is a lack of interest. I believe the problem for too many people is that there isn’t enough interest to make personal finance a top priority. Two recent interactions have crystallized that belief for me.

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The first involves a co-worker who is considering retiring in a year or two. In the past, my wife and I enjoyed a personal relationship with him and his family. I know them pretty well. He had read the book, we discussed a few broad ideas and he indicated that he and his wife were interested in working through the RWR Simple Retirement Workbook with me and engaging in a more detailed conversation. We tentatively agreed to meet one night, plug in the hard numbers and discuss how they might go about drawing down their various savings/retirement accounts for annual income in retirement. That was five months ago. While we have both spent some time on the road for work, there have been ample opportunities to get together … and numerous proclamations that he was working on finding the time to do so. I doubt we’ll ever meet to have that discussion.

Detropia | RetirementSavvy

The second involves the friend of a cousin. Through my cousin, this friend is aware of my books and work on this blog. After a preliminary conversation – through my cousin – in which this friend indicated they wanted to know more about Roth 401(k)s and discuss the selection of funds for a new workplace plan they recently became eligible for, we agreed to meet one evening. The meeting has been postponed twice by the friend. In this case, the interaction only began a couple of weeks ago. I suppose it’s possible that the friend will find some time and the meeting will actually occur, but I have my doubts.

Plots Against Pensions | RetirementSavvy

More than two years after starting the blog, writing the books, participating in various social media and all the experiences generated from those activities, I believe the reason most people have not achieved financial freedom – and likely never will – is because they have not made it a priority. Just as being physically fit requires a plan that includes carving out time to workout – no matter how hectic work is or other commitments – being fiscally fit requires people to carve out some time to read more, talk more and learn more.

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There is no doubt that it can be tough to find the time; and there is no doubt in my mind that the way in which we currently practice Capitalism often works against the individual. I have written about the forces working against individuals on numerous occasions. (Links to multiple posts are scattered throughout this post). However, it is because of those reasons that people need to be even more engaged in educating themselves, making their personal finances a priority and securing their financial freedom.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

8 Comments

  1. James, I am sure it must be disheartening to know that most people do not seem to care about a solid fiscal future, however, there are people like me that do read what you have say. I have found the blog to be both informative and entertaining. Keep up the good work some of us really appreciate it.

    • Thanks for the great feedback, Brad. I am indeed disheartened. Unfortunately, for a number reasons, or combination of reasons (e.g. a belief that it is too difficult to understand, keep putting it off because they have plenty of time to get around to it, scared to talk someone and reveal their low level of financial literacy, etc.), too many people unnecessarily deprive themselves of a life that could be had with the understanding of a few concepts and adoption of a few practices.

  2. Sadly to say that I was one of those people who never took the time to make my finances a priority. For most it’s not until a tragedy happens to that jolts people out of their slumber and makes them face their financial fitness or lack there of. This is a really great article!!

    • Thanks for the great feedback, Petrish. Unfortunately, as you note, it often takes a significant event – often negative in nature – to wake people up. I see it all the time with respect to financial as well as physical/health issues. Intuitively most people know what they should be doing, or at least what they should not be doing, but find it difficult to find the discipline to act. Thanks for taking the time to add to the conversation and thanks for your service.

  3. A Google+ reader notes …

    “I have had similar experiences. People express wanting to talk to me about, saving, investing, etc. I reach out and say to contact me but no one ever has. I think most people are too busy and feel that planning for retirement can wait. Thinking about my past, I never planned to retire early or retire at all, I was just a prolific saver and investor.”

    • Exactly. In the moment you are speaking with them, they seem to be fully engaged. However, there is rarely follow through.

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