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Judging Up The Place

As personal finance bloggers, we are extremely passionate about helping people with budgets, saving money and investing.  One of the downsides of being so passionate about money is that we have to constantly keep ourselves in check regarding judging how other people do things – especially how people spend their money.

It Is PERSONAL Finance

Here is the thing – there is a reason why they call it personal finance.  Money can bring up a wide range of emotions – excitement when you have it, sadness or stress when you don’t.  For some people money brings nothing but sadness – and a life without wealth would make them happier than ever before.  Our role as writers and as financial coaches is to guide those who have questions to find answers – not to tell people who have made their decision that they are wrong.

This is where things are particularly difficult; wanting desperately to help someone who doesn’t actually want (or think they need) help.  This is where the judgement comes in:  How can they possibly think it is a good idea to spend that type of money on gifts for each other? Why do they spend so much money on vacations – don’t they think about their future?  It comes down to priorities – and as long as people are actively making priority decisions who am I to tell them they have their priorities out of whack.  There is an old financial saying “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, I’ll tell you what you value”.  How people want to spend their money is their decision.

The Black Hole

The problem is that a lot of people spend without thinking – they aren’t making decisions on how to spend their money, they are just spending it.  This is where problems arise – and generally debt starts to show its ugly face.  If you have ever watched any of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s shows (Til Debt Do Us Part, Princess and Money Moron), you know one of the first steps she takes is to show people what they spend money on.  These people generally don’t have any idea how much money they are spending – and what they are spending it on.  Their money is being sucked in a black hole often spending their full income in cash and then again on credit.  Even in this case this is no time for judgement.  These people need help not raised eyebrows.

When You Say You’re Wrong…You’re Wrong

It is very easy to take a quick look at someone’s finances and tell them they are wrong.  All you are really saying is “This is what you are doing differently from me – and since I’m right you have to be wrong”.  Well if there was only one way to do things and you were doing it – maybe – but more likely, you are in the wrong for judging the decisions of others.  That said, there is no need to keep your suggestions hidden – we all want to help right?  So whether you are active in financial coaching, planning, writing or if you are just interested in personal finance – try your hardest to focus on opening people’s eyes rather than slapping them in the face.  I know I’m guilty of it myself, especially with friends and family where I care so much but end up caring the wrong way.

It Is All About The Wording

If you do feel the need to intervene in someone’s personal finance decisions – there are different ways to approach the conversation.  Which of these do you think is more helpful?

“Do you even know what you spend money on?” or “Have you lined up your goals with your spending habits to make sure you are covering what you really want out of your money?”

“Investing in GICs is stupid – stocks are the way to go!” or “You’ve already made an amazing step by starting to invest in your future.  Let’s look at some other investment strategies to see if there is anything that better suits your goals”

“You spent way too much money on that couch” or “I’ve never purchased a couch at that level – if you don’t mind me asking what drew you to this model?”.  That one is borderline but you are taking on the role of seeking information on their thoughts rather than imposing your own.

Have you ever felt judged by someone who thinks more about money than you do?  Do you have any suggestions for financial bloggers just like us on how we can better approach the conversation?

Scott

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