I just read a whole thread on Twitter “bashing” FIRE and extreme miserliness.
The gist was, “Why to be miserable just to save money?”.
It then started veering into the mentality of “If I can’t/don’t want to be miserly, then why shouldn’t I spend/waste tons of money?”
I rarely get political, but I think we have the same issue with politics today.
Extremism in Personal Finance
THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE WITH PERSONAL FINANCE AND POLITICS TODAY IS EXTREMISM ON BOTH SIDES.
FIRE VS Frugality
The problem with extreme blogs and subreddits (though why anyone uses that as a barometer is beyond me) is that the extremism is broadcast and amplified on social media. At the other end is the extreme materialism that has permeated our culture. Those that show off their extremely lavish lifestyles. This, too, is broadcast and amplified on social media.
I know that I sound like a grouchy old lady complaining about today’s ills and “social media,” but I am just a millennial who sees what is going around in the world. There is no moderation. There is no “middle ground,” there is no “balance.” There is either good or bad. Extreme one way or extreme the other way.
In terms of finance, there is either a miser or a lavish spender. Pay off all your student loans in 2 years or never pay them off. Never buy deodorant or buy $11 deodorant. Analyze each purchase or never look at the bill.
This is not only in the Personal Finance World.
I think that “we” (as in people who live today) often tend to look at things and then either hate or love them. If we have an idea with which we disagree, we automatically take up the opposing stance without considering that there may be a middle ground. There may be a balance. There may be good and bad mixed up together.
We are so desperate to label everything “good,” “bad,” “tolerant,” “intolerant” that we can’t see that maybe there is a middle. Maybe there is a mixture of both. Maybe there is a little bit of grey in a lot of issues.
Problems in the Personal Finance World
Now, since this is a personal finance blog and I don’t want to sit and complain about “what is wrong with the world today,” I will turn my rant to personal finance. After all, you will have to excuse me if I rant about Personal Finance- that’s sort of the point of my blog 🙂
There is a way to be financially responsible without becoming a miser. There is a way to enjoy life without spending all our money. You can be financially stable without being a millionaire or retiring at 40.
If you choose to practice extreme frugality out of choice (many people must do this out of necessity), then I guess that is your choice and right. Just be aware that extremism can often lead to abuse, and then it is no longer your choice or right.
This Shouldn’t Stop You From Being Responsible.
My message is this: don’t be turned off from being financially responsible by extremism. Don’t stop listening or doing the best you can just because you heard/read/saw/experienced the other end. Allow yourself to find the medium and the balance that works for you.
You can stick to a budget and still buy things you enjoy.
You can cut frivolous spending and still do things you enjoy.
You can use hand-me-downs and not traumatize your children.
You can save money and still spend some.
You can be careful about going into debt and still go to school.
You can make careful financial decisions and still have children.
You can choose to stay home often and still go to a family wedding.
You can not buy a brand-new Audi and still have a decent car.
You can shop sales and use coupons without driving you and your family crazy.
It does not need to be all or none. It really doesn’t. That voice in your head? The one that is telling you that it’s not worth doing unless you’re doing it completely? Realize that extremism is rearing its ugly head.
Let’s not let extremism of any sort ruin our lives and our futures.
I rant some more about the world of personal finance. I sometimes feel that personal finance bloggers can be out of touch with those who truly struggle and are not frugal by choice.
There are many good posts and articles about the FIRE movement that don’t preach the “scorched earth approach” like this one about why Financial Independence is for everyone.
Be wary of extremism when it comes to getting your financial life in order. That’s pretty much why I don’t like no-spend days.
1 thought on “The Number 1 Problem with Personal Finance”
This article hits home for me. I completely agree with you. I recently wrote a piece called ‘The Problem I have with the Financial Independence Community’ which touched on some of the things you mentioned, namely the ‘extreme’ mindset of some of the folks. There’s a few other things but I’m not going to re-write the post here.
I really like Ramit Sethi’s approach to finance – cutting everything that doesn’t matter to him ruthlessly and spending what he wants on the things he enjoys. It’s more balanced and frankly – realistic. If someone was going to work towards a finance goal, having a plan they’re happy with is paramount!