I took the summer off from social media and lots of other social things as well. My mom died in June, and I just felt a bit too emotional to deal with the negativity that sometimes prevails on Facebook and other platforms. I needed some time to heal before hitting the internet again. One of the things that happens on social media, is that whatever you post about, becomes the subject of group discussion. So, if someone posts that they bought a new car, for instance, people feel it’s Ok to tell the new car owner why their new car isn’t all that great and how they paid too much for it and so on. Yes, I’ve seen this happen on Facebook. Some people seem to be thicker skinned than others about these types of comments, but there is no reason to give someone your unvarnished opinion about their purchases, especially if they didn’t specifically ask for your advice before the purchase. That’s just rude! The appropriate response to such things is, “Congratulations! Enjoy!”
It’s another thing to speak generally about what you think is a good or bad purchase or investment. People can then come to their own conclusions and you’re not calling anyone out specifically.
I’ve lived a very circumspect life for several years, and I don’t let money fritter away if I can help it. I make every effort to live within my means, and that means I don’t allow much in the way of extraneous spending. I’m surprised sometimes at the amount of money some people I know spend on things like Door Dash, gaming software, and streaming apps. I don’t know, but I suppose lots of people are still spending money at Starbucks, which became a thing back in the 90’s. Since they’re still in business everywhere, I can only assume that they’re still making good money. I’m retired now, so I just make a pot of coffee at home. It’s cheaper and I don’t need to leave the house.
Many of my posts in the past several years have been trip reports of my road trips through Colorado and Utah. I love the scenery in these states, and I hope to indulge my passion even further. I would be lying though if I said the cost of gas alone isn’t keeping me somewhat closer to home these days. Becoming a landscape photographer turns out to be the slow way to get rich, but I do know a few who have turned it into a profitable business. I’m envious of those people. I really am. But anyway, people seem to feel very judgey about this and feel that I’m wasting my money on it. They’re not afraid to tell me so. Maybe I am, but I’ll say this: I always pay cash for my trips. I don’t use credit cards for travel of any kind. I usually purchase any flights and hotel rooms months in advance, as I’ve found this to be a good way of saving money for a cash-only buyer like me. I don’t use credit card points. I think that’s just a trap to get people to use credit cards. Other people vociferously disagree with my assessment and insist that they always pay their cards off in full at the end of every month. It’s true that less than 50% of people really do pay off their credit cards in full every month. If you’re one of them, congratulations. You’re a master! The majority of people with credit cards have a balance of over $6k according to the US Government.
Is all this to say I’m a perfect person or money manager? Oh, HELL no! But for people who have had or are having trouble with credit, the solution may be something like the alcoholic who can never have a drink again. If they have one, they just never stop. They fall off the wagon, so to speak.
By speaking out about this now, I’m putting myself on the line. Many people want to jump in and point out any bad financial decisions I may appear to have made to defend their own spending habits. The only way to avoid criticism about this topic is to just shut up about it. After all, we’ve all been taught from early on not to jump in where angels fear to tread. Some people may feel that if I speak up about it, I deserve whatever I get. I’m not sure that’s true. Once again, I think we need to speak in generalities and not specificities.
Aristotle once said, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” I don’t think this is possible for me. However, in my speaking up, I will speak in general terms without calling out any one person and whatever they’ve recently purchased, be it a car, a vacation, or a mobile home. That’s none of my business unless someone indicates they would like some input or advice. Let your conscience be your guide.
Also, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about the use of credit one way or the other. Some people feel very strongly that leverage is a good thing. Maybe it is to wealthy businessmen, but I haven’t found any benefit to it for myself just yet. My preference is to be free and uncomplicated in my life choices. Trying to intentionally change someone’s mind about how they manage their money personally is a non-starter. As the old saying goes, “Those convinced against their will, are of the same opinion still.” Not to mention, but the more critical you are of someone else’s purchasing decisions, the more stubbornly they will defend them. People will come to their own conclusions based on their own situations and will change their actions only when, as, or if they feel the need or desire to.
Still, it may be worthwhile to at least consider the alternative view I’ll be sharing with you in these blog posts. Once again, these posts will have nothing to do with investing. I am not the person to ask about that, other than to say that at some point in your financial journey, you might want to sign up for the 401k at work or something. When I was helping people do this during my HR and Benefits career, I always made an appointment for them to speak directly with an investment counselor at the company that held our retirement plans. They have ways of assessing your risk tolerance and making suggestions about how you should invest your money. It’s not my job or right to do this. I’m retired now, and I can only say that I wish I would have started saving in my organization’s retirement fund sooner.
So today, I’ll close with this quote from Nadia Bolz-Webber, a fantastic minister who writes a blog I follow. She was talking about the people who followed Jesus around during his ministry on earth. She describes them thusly:
“…perhaps there were people in the crowd who totally had their crap together. People who had solid relationships and never had collection agencies calling them and always backed up their hard drives. People who only bought books at Lifeway and who didn’t have terrible secrets and who always knew exactly what they were doing. I mean, of course it’s possible those people were in the crowd, it’s just … that’s not who we are told were coming to Jesus.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber
And I’ll add you don’t have to be as perfect as Christ himself to help others. We’re all in this together.
I would like to invite you to follow my blog and receive these short stories by having them delivered directly into your email inbox. There is a link on my page to do this. For today, it will take an extra click, but in the future, it’ll be automatic, which is so much easier.
Journey in Joy