There’s a problem with personal finance… It’s not sexy. Most people find the topic of personal finance to be either boring, too complex or too depressing. In one of my first posts, I described how it felt to pay off a credit card in full. I had somehow piled up a few thousand dollars on the card, and the feeling of having it completely paid off felt pretty amazing. But there were no fireworks when I paid it off, no congratulations from the credit card issuer, and no tangible benefits other than not having to ever worry about that debt again.
If you’re not in the top 1% or didn’t receive a financial windfall, winning at personal finance often seems like an invisible accomplishment. Again, once you pay off a debt, that’s it. It’s just gone. Those around you won’t be able to visually tell you’re any better off, and if you’re normal you probably have many more debts left to pay.
Just like learning a new language, reaching your fitness goals, or advancing in your career, winning with your finances takes time. If you’re average, you probably have some lingering student loan debt, credit card debt, an auto loan and likely a home mortgage, too. Those debts won’t go away quickly, even if you’re “gazelle intense” (as Dave Ramsey likes to say). And as you probably agree, there’s nothing sexy about cleaning up your finances.
Unless your income is vastly greater than your expenses, winning at personal finance takes a long time. There always seems to be a tipping point throughout the course of each person or family’s journey towards financial freedom, but for the majority of the ride it’s slow and steady. And that’s a tough pill to swallow for a culture that thrives on instant gratification. The world doesn’t care about our individual financial situations, how much debt we have, or how much of a burden the debt is putting us in. Yet if we can manage to delay gratification, put aside that vacation, and focus until we’re out of our financial messes, the reward at the end of the tunnel will be huge.
One of my favorite financial sayings of all time is this: Don’t use money you don’t have, to buy things you really don’t need, to impress people you really don’t like. That line has so much truth in it – and so many of our decisions are based on how we think people will perceive us. But none of that matters! Fix your mess and ignore the crowd.