I have plenty of friends who are bad with money.
Despite decent salaries and barely-there responsibilities, they’ve little to show for 20 years of work but memories and wrinkles.
Some have allowed hundreds of thousands of pounds to trickle through their fingers.
Others bought their first property long ago thanks to parental urging (and in part with parental cash) and it is the London house price boom alone that has salvaged their net worth – at the cost of retarding their financial education.
Incidentally, if you’re thinking that having me as a friend has clearly made little impression on my friends’ finances…you’re right!
It’s not that I haven’t tried.
But I’ve learned it’s a bad idea to bring up money with people who’ve been careless with it, especially if it’s one of your favourite topics.
They get defensive or alienated or worse.
And I’m sure I’ve been unbearably preachy at times, especially in my 20s.
A lot to learn about money
In the past few years though, it’s been a slightly different story.
Friends who’ve noticed my obscure passion for investing will sometimes ask off-hand about ISAs, or pensions, or their daughter’s university fund.
And while I’m not the world’s most empathetic person, I’ve discovered this is their cue for a chat.
They finally feel ready to “be sensible” with their money, as they put it, and they want to know what to do next.
Of course, what they should do is a big subject – it’s the subject of an entire blog about managing money!
When it comes to investing, I usually suggest they start simple with a cash and tracker split across ISAs or perhaps a Vanguard LifeStrategy fund, although there are lots of variables, such as whether they have a workplace pension or big obligations.
That’s even more true with personal finance, where different approaches work better for different people.
Finally, I stress to them that I am not their financial adviser, and that these are just ideas for further research.
This isn’t just because it’s true – I’m not their adviser, I don’t have all the information required to be their adviser, and I’m not qualified to be, anyway – but also because the whole point is they need to learn the basics for themselves.
People ask me “What is a hot stock to put my money into?” or “Should I put this £10,000 redundancy into a wine fund?” or similar.
(Really, they do).
They have a lot to learn about investing, and more to learn about themselves.
You are what you bleat
For my part, I get to hear them justify what took them so long:
- “I don’t have the time to win big on the stock market.”
- “There’s no money at the end of the month for saving.”
- “I’ll think about investing when I’m not in debt.”
- “When I’ve got more money, I’ll start to get serious about it.”
This is all terrible thinking, if also terribly common.
Many people wonder why lottery winners often end up broke.
Not me. Time and time again, I’ve seen people believe that thinking follows facts:
“When I’ve got out of debt and I have more money, THEN I’ll start taking all this seriously.”
In reality, the facts follow the thinking:
“When I start taking all this seriously, THEN I’ll get out of debt and have more money.”
If you want to make money your tool – an asset, rather than a liability – start behaving now like the rich person you’re going to be:
- You don’t have non-mortgage debts as a rich person, so get out of debt.
- You save money, time, and energy by investing with index funds.
- You get paid what you’re worth.
- Young? You’re richer than I’ll ever be again. Compound your money rather than buying clothes you don’t need.
Here’s some advice I once heard1 on being the person you want to be.
It’s not about money, and it’s all the more powerful for that:
I finally reached a decision a few years ago when I was deeply into an ‘I’m ugly and I always will be’ phase.
I sat down and made a list of all the things I would do if I were ‘beautiful’.
For example: I’d feel confident in a room full of beautiful people, I’d wear great, well-fitted clothes, I’d walk with my head up, wear make up and do my hair properly, buy and wear high heels, and so on.
Then I decided to do it anyway. I only have one life, and not enough money for the surgery required to meet my mental image of perfection.
I’m damned if I’m going to let that stop me from having the life that I want.
Amen to that.
From now on, you’re good with money.
- Tweaked for privacy. [↩]