In 1994, I tackled Chad Patterson….at varsity basketball practice. Chad was one of the star senior players (and a really good dude), and I was a solid sophomore point guard that played a little bit of varsity. I denied tackling him on purpose, for nearly two decades. I was just coming off of football season, and I blamed it on my football legs. But I tackled him on purpose. I pretty much had BSed everyone else in the gym that day. I even convinced myself that I didn’t tackle him on purpose. Did I mention he was dating my ex-girlfriend? I tackled him on purpose. Lying to yourself is great and all, but what’s the point?
I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of people lie to me about their financial lives. I don’t really care whether they are lying or not, because I usually have the numbers in front of me, and the numbers rarely lie. I’m usually more concerned that people believe their own BS. When someone starts lying to me, I think to myself, “I wonder if they believe this crap.” If they do believe the ish they’re spewing, they’re in trouble. Believing your own BS is always a recipe for a financial disaster.
Below, you will find the five biggest loads of crap that I hear on a regular basis. Again, I don’t really care if people lie to me. I’m just trying to help. I’m more concerned that they’ve started to believe the lie, and are on some sort of mission to find the real killer, when the lie itself…well…you know.
1. “I’ve got plenty of time to save for retirement”- Um, no you don’t. There are two factors that are important in any accumulation plan: money and time. You need both. You need to invest money for the future. And you need time to do what time does. I believe that time is the most important element of retirement savings.
2. “I spend the same amount of money on my credit card as I would if I just were to use my debit card for monthly spending.”- Things I’ve never heard a debit card user say: I spend between $1500 and $3500 per month, on my debit card. Do you know who says these sorts of things? People who use their credit card for everything, and then pay it off at the end of the month. While refusing to carryover a balance is a good practice, it also creates a blank check mentality which induces freer spending. You don’t have to believe me. Just put down your credit card for one month, and do all your spending on your debit card. You will spend less. And I don’t care about your points. Please shut up about your points.
3. “I have plenty of life insurance.”- You probably don’t. I’ve never quite understood people’s general aversion to life insurance. We’re all going to die. You don’t seal your fate if you buy life insurance. You actually seal your fate if you don’t buy life insurance. Why would you want your significant other and/or children to suffer financially, at your eventual demise? When you die, your income dies. And if your family depends on your income, then you are putting them in a terrible position. Skip a few trips to Applebee’s and buy the right amount of life insurance. Most people need about ten times their annual income in life insurance.
4. “I’m very aware of my finances. I check my bank balances daily.”- Do you know what online banking has done to financial awareness in this country? It is has killed it. And not “killed it” in a good way. Online banking has become a financial crutch for the apathetic. Do you think people in the 1980’s checked their check register every single day? No. They didn’t. Did they save more of their disposable income? Yes. Did they have less consumer debt? Yes. Online banking is a convenience tool, not a financial tool. If you were financially aware, you wouldn’t need to look so often. The more times you look, the more money you will spend. It’s called “balance spending,” and it’s real.
5. “I don’t need financial goals. They’re stupid and pointless.”- Okay. I don’t understand why people fight goals. You aren’t signing-up to walk on hot coals. You’re simply letting a piece of paper know what’s going on inside of your tiny dinosaur brain. The strangest thing about not writing down financial goals is that it actually makes your financial life easier, not harder. Sure, some goals will cause you to increase your effort, but most of the time, goals just allow you to better focus whatever effort you are currently giving. Start with 30-day financial goals. What would you like to accomplish financially in the next 30 days? How much money will that require? How would accomplishing this goal affect your life?
You can lie to me. You can lie to your friends. You can lie to your spouse. You can lie to your boss. You can lie to your dog. You can lie to your financial planner. You can lie to your hair stylist. You can lie to your therapist. You can lie to the IRS. You can lie to everyone at your high school reunion. Just don’t lie to yourself.
Sorry, Chad. I tackled you on purpose.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.