I’ve been reading personal finance blogs for a few years now and have been writing some posts myself for about a year. On personal finance websites you can find all sorts of guidelines and advice for almost every financial topic you can think of. Investing, taxes, saving money on food, credit card rewards and student loans are just a few of those topics. Reading, and implementing, these words of wisdom is enlightening and is a sure way to improve your financial life. Most people are putting their current and future financial situation at risk, so it would be a good idea to listen to these nerdy financial bloggers whose passion is learning about money.
But how much good advice can be too much? Reading all of this advice is great and helpful, but sometimes you can’t help but think every piece of good advice you hear is just another reminder of something you’ve been doing wrong financially. I realize this sounds incredibly pessimistic and we shouldn’t let our past financial mistakes paralyze us, but I struggle with this myself sometimes. There are so many different aspects of personal finance that if I’m not able to reach the zenith in each one, I feel I have fell a little short. Here are some of the great pieces of advice most of us have come to hear about our finances:
-Max out your 401k ($17,500 is the 2014 limit)
-Max out your Roth IRA ($5,500 for 2014)
-Max out your HSA ($6,650 for 2015)
-Get full health coverage
-Get a big life insurance policy
-Get disability insurance
-Eat all of your meals at home
-Start biking to work
-Don’t turn the AC or heat on in the house
-Have at least a 20% down payment for a house
-Buy your cars with cash and make sure they’re at least 15 years old
-Ask for a raise at work every year
-Use credit cards for everything
-Get rid of your gym membership and run every day
-Don’t buy any name brand products of any kind
-Check out the local thrift store for clothes
-Keep trying to get more side income
-and many, many, MANY more!
While some of these examples are a little extreme, I’m just trying to illustrate the fact that there are so many facets of personal finance we can work on, it can become overwhelming to try to chase them all and be perfect at personal finance. If I don’t buy my cars with cash or I enjoy eating out once in a while, does that mean I have failed as the CEO of my finances? This is a question I did struggle with at some point, and sometimes still do. But I’ve realized there is almost no way to reach the max in all of these areas. For example, I love using credit cards for everything so I can get rewards and keep better track of my finances. Yet I know people who hardly ever use credit cards yet are doing just fine financially. Does their decision not to use credit cards mean they are trying to sabotage their financial health?
I’ve come to realize that this is EXACTLY why the subject is called personal finance. For the same genetic and social reasons that all humans don’t grow up to be the same person, everyone’s financial tendencies end up being a little different as well. Obviously, the general idea is to spend less and earn more, but there are so many different ways to do that. Some people love thrift stores, others don’t care for them. Some people love spending money on new luxury cars, but they don’t care about buying the latest gadgets. This personal finance journey we’re on is all about finding out what we value and trying to optimize that.
So while I may not be perfect in all aspects of personal finance, I know that I’m a heck of a lot better than I was 5 years ago. And that personal improvement is what we should all really seek.