Thursday, June 4, 2009

So You Think You Want Financial Change, Are You Ready?

June 4, 2009

Most of my financial understanding comes from the wisdom of my parents and grandparents and the school of hard knocks. I did work in accounting, in the private sector for a while, and in that time frame took some business courses to learn more about the work I was doing, but truthfully the most valuable learning I did came from several sources. First, the most important teachers were those who came before me and raised with me certain financial wisdoms and values that seem to becoming lost in our time. Then there are the life lessons, the times of relief when my mistakes didn’t cost me, and perhaps even more profoundly the mistakes that did. I don’t wear the mistakes as proud moments of victimhood but they are strong reminders of what not being honest with myself, not becoming educated before jumping into something, and dealing in fear can cost me.

As a thank you to those who have come before me and because I truly do hate to see others fall into the same traps and tricks I’ve fallen for, I do try to help others to benefit from what I’ve learned when it’s possible. The first and most important lesson I’ve learned in helping others is that they have to want the help. You can provide people with information but, it is their right and privilege to make their own mistakes. This holds true, even if you possess the tools to prevent them from doing so. Some people can only learn by doing. No matter how much it hurts to watch people you love and care for fall into the same hole you did, or one equally painful, for some it is the only way to learn. That has been a hard life lesson for me. I struggle with offering a way out and then realizing that I need to back off, but for my sake and theirs I’ve learned to do it. That has been an important life lesson.

The second important lesson I’ve learned for myself and in helping others is that all parties have to be prepared to be honest. It is in fact easier when someone is blunt and says they aren’t prepared to change and they are going forth regardless of the consequences often times than it is to deal with the person who isn’t honest with you or even his/herself about wanting change. You can expend enormous amounts of energy and resources helping someone but if the parties involved aren’t committed to actually doing things differently then no good comes of your time or theirs. This can come of people trying to please or even because they are ultimately not being truthful about whether this is a change that he/she even wants.

So one thing I’ve learned when offering help is to try to get people to be honest about what they want and if they are truly willing to make the changes necessary to get there. Change is inherently challenging for many of us. When we reach the point of wanting to change financial habits it is generally because we want better financial outcomes, it doesn’t always mean we want to change the habits that are preventing us from reaching those goals. That is one of the first challenges each of us meets when we decide to address the financial issue. We know we want change but are we really willing to make the sacrifices?

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