Life often goes a little (or a lot) better when we talk things out with another person. It gets us out of our own head – the echo chamber – where all we can think about is the one perspective we see of a situation. When we talk things over with another person, when we consult, we seek their perspective. It’s a second opinion on our reading of reality. Is there another way of understanding what we’re looking at? Is there something we missed? Are we making a sound assessment? As we bounce ideas off of others, we can determine if we are on a good course.
Now, we don’t want to just get advice from anyone. Many people will tell you something’s great, when it’s not, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Or they speak simply from their own opinion, which could be just as flawed as yours. So, there are a couple of rules you need to follow in engaging in consultation:
1) Involve those who will be affected. This could include your spouse, partner, perhaps the kids. There’s no point in trying to make major changes in your financial well-being if someone’s going to be undermining it – either because they’re not aware of what you’re trying to do, or they feel judged, or they think they’ll need to give something up. It will be much easier if they’re on board or even helping, after you’ve accounted for their needs and wants. They need to be in on the plan from the beginning.
2) Be detached. We’re talking tools and strategies, not personal identity. One way to visualize the conversation is that you place an idea on the table and once it’s out in the open, it no longer belongs to you. Instead, it belongs to all who are consulting. You can bat it around, look at it from different perspectives, see if it holds water. If it doesn’t look like the right way to go, fine. If it does, whatever, great. Maybe it’ll morph into something that will work. The point is that you strip your emotional attachment as best you can and attempt to look at the issue as objectively as possible.
3) Seek perspective from someone who’s qualified to be giving it. Sure, many of us THINK we’re qualified to be giving advice. But there’s two points to consider: 1) Where’s the proof? and 2) Is it right for you? A lot of time, people only parrot what they’ve heard others say. This is called “hearsay”, not sound financial advice. There are a lot of rules of thumb or sayings that are handed down across the generations. Some may have grains of truth, but others are simply perpetuated sayings that relate to a money personality type, or they’re taken out of context. When you think about who is qualified, it may be someone who has actually undergone training in personal finance and gotten a certification. On the other hand, book learning isn’t the only way to be qualified, which is why you want to consider the proof, the data. Does the person actually have wealth that they accumulated strategically and with effort? If so, they may have good perspective. Are they stressed over money or living paycheck-to-paycheck? If so, run away, very fast. If you don’t know the answer, you can ask. Often, if we’re secure in our financial well-being, there’s a degree of pride in the accomplishment. We’re happy to help guide and share advice that worked for us. And that leads to number 2 – while it worked for us, it may not work for you. Everyone’s situation is different. The contexts in which wealth is built are constantly changing, so don’t expect your path will look exactly like theirs. (Hense, we operate according to applied principles, rather than rules.) The learning you gain on your own, at each step that’s immediately relevant for you, will teach you loads. Read a few different books, consult a couple of different perspectives, and you’ll see that each may give different advice, but in the end, you’ll distill principles that can be found in common across all the perspectives, and then have a good sense for yourself how you should proceed.
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