It's Time to Face Your Financial Reality

It’s Time to Face Your Financial Reality

Last week, in celebration of Halloween, I shared a tweetstorm of the scariest things you could say to a Personal Finance Geek. Maybe you read that and felt bad about yourself because you have done some of those things (or still do). DON’T. I shared the original tweets. What I did not share were all of the conversations that followed. SEVERAL of these tweets inspired responses from other personal finance bloggers that said things like “Me 2 years ago,” “…said my husband,” “been there!” or “still paying off that debt!”

We are not better than you. And you are not worse.

Be Truthful About Your Situation

When Florin was born, she had colic. She was adorable and we loved her, but she cried all. the. time. If she was awake, she was screaming. During the first two weeks of the colic, I lied. Everyone would ask: “how’s the new baby? are you just loving it?” and I would say: “Yes. It’s so great. She’s cute.” Two weeks in, I remember reading the Wikipedia article on colic which mentioned the chance of depression or car accidents in the moms dealing with the colicky baby. “YES,” I thought. This is HARD. The next time someone asked me how great everything was, I immediately responded: “Well, she has colic, which is really hard, but she’s cute and we’re doing alright.” I still remember how freeing this was.

Could I do anything to change the situation? Nope. (Trust me, we tried.) We just had to wait it out. But admitting the reality of the situation was revolutionary! Part of the burden was lifted because I was honest about it. 

Getting real about your numbers is hard. Maybe you don’t want to know your debt balances because you know they’re bad. But if you ignore them, they get worse! And if you know you’re in debt, but pretend you’re not, you’re fooling yourself into thinking it doesn’t bother you. It does. In your quiet moments, you’ll feel like you’re alone with a screaming baby that just won’t stop because that debt won’t just go away.

Make a Plan

The good news is that (unlike a colicky baby) you can change your financial situation!

As personal finance geeks, these phrases scared us not just because they may be unwise financial choices, but because most of them involved ignoring the problem. They bother us because WE’VE BEEN THERE. Do you know phrases that PF geeks LOVE to hear?

I have $60,000 of credit card debt… but I’ve got a repayment plan.

We bought a house without any money down… but now we’re working aggressively to get rid of our PMI

We haven’t started saving for retirement/we liquidated our 401k a few years ago… but now we’ve got a plan and we’re saving aggressively.

Do we all wish the first part of the phrases didn’t happen? YES. But we can’t ignore reality. What we can do is change it!

It doesn’t matter what your financial situation is. What matters is that you’re MOVING FORWARD. Find out your numbers. Stick them into a spreadsheet and set small, attainable goals to get out of your predicament.

Give Yourself Grace

The personal finance blogging world is FULL of amazing people who have started in horrible financial situations and changed them. Many of these people have even created a new career path based on their experiences. If these people had spent their lives ignoring their problems or regretting the past too much, they would have stagnated.

Instead, they were honest about their situations (very publicly in a lot of cases!), they made a plan, and they changed their situations (and lives!).

Fear and regret do not help us lead better lives. Do not forget the past. Learn from it. Move out of it. Use the past as a step-up to the future you want to experience.

Tell Your Story

The other common theme with financial scary stories is a lack of knowledge. People don’t know what PMI is, how much home they could comfortably finance, the impact of ignoring retirement accounts, what a credit limit increase really means, how credit cards work, or the reality of student loans.

Do you know why I keep writing about money? Because THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW! Is there a general lack of personal finance bloggers. NO. There are THOUSANDS. But if I can change the path of ONE PERSON it will have been worth it. If there are enough of us blogging about sound financial principles, maybe a basic internet search for student loans will lead them to ways of avoiding or paying off student loans rather than all the money available (with interest) to students. Maybe someone else will figure out how to make sure they’re ready to retire at 65. Maybe another person will realize they don’t have to wait until 65 to retire.

Everyone’s story is different. We can learn from each one. Your story is valuable. It’s worth telling no matter where you are on the journey.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links which, at no cost to you, helps support Northern Expenditure and keeps our heat on in the winter. Thanks!

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27 Comments

  1. You are the best, M. What an amazingly encouraging post. So important to remember that even those of us doing well now still had to get to this place. We’ve made tons of financial mistakes along the way, for sure, and that history makes us appreciate the victories so much more!

  2. I love your point about there being so many PF blogs out there now. Yes, the field has thousands of voices. But if someone can find personal finance stories from real people, instead of banks and financial institutions, maybe they will be inspired to educate themselves. That’s actually what happened to us 😉

    • MaggieBanks

      I think pretty much all of us found someone in this community before starting our own blogs. If we keep the snowball rolling, we’ll take over the internet!

  3. Preach it! I’ve been spreading the gospel to my friends in the same program as me. They talk about paying off debt and then they ask “what now?” That’s when I get all excited and share the good news with them. Most of them have even taken my advice!!

    • MaggieBanks

      WOo hoo! Starting them young! That’s the ideal scenario. Imagine acting upon what you’ve said, finding yourself in your mid-thirties accidentally super close to being able to retire! WELL DONE, friend!

  4. No one is perfect and the only way to succeed is to realize your past mistakes and improve upon them. No one in the personal finance world is without mistakes. Its easy to look at their posts after they have turned it around and think why didn’t I do that? The harder part is to realize it took them a lot of hard work to get where they are and you can do it too if you put your mind to it. Great inspirational post.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh man. Seriously! With finances, it’s SO EASY to say: “There’s no way I’ll get there – they’re so far ahead!”

  5. What a great follow up to your Halloween post! We can definitely relate to your message here – after years of spending based on the amount of our available credit, we’re finally starting to feel the momentum shift towards a positive financial outlook. It has taken a lot of work and determination, but it’s never too late to change your story. Thanks for the additional encouragement and keep spreading positive financial messages 🙂

  6. “Do you know why I keep writing about money? Because THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW! Is there a general lack of personal finance bloggers. NO. There are THOUSANDS. But if I can change the path of ONE PERSON it will have been worth it.”

    You are awesome. And this is why I write as well.

    I love that you are realistic and straight up in saying what we all know is the reality. Money is hard! But it’s even harder to pretend everything is okay, when it’s not. Support is the best way to gain success.

    • MaggieBanks

      At some point, there will be enough of us to tip all the scales of the internet so real, basic, encouraging money answers are the first ones to pop up! And the progress we’ve made from being part of such a great community is amazing!

  7. Stories are powerful! And every part doesn’t have to be perfect in order for the story to be good. Everyone learns, grows, makes mistakes, and tries to figure it out. Only people trying to get elected tell the story of, “Well, I started out awesome, then in the middle I was really great. Then I basically finished awesome. Everything I have ever done is amazing.” Maybe that’s why I don’t get to be president. My story is messy, and winding, heart warming and heart breaking. Full of mistakes and triumph. Lessons learned and ones I am still wrestling with. But I think those are the stories that people can come alongside of, and try to apply to their own lives.

    • MaggieBanks

      Ba ha ha ha. I love your presidential narrative! But I agree. We are all messy. We’re all trying. And we’re in this together!

  8. Seeing how much our blog had affected a reader in the comments on my 2 yr blogiversary post was amazing! They saved over $65k this year, and are targeting $100k next year – woohoo!!

    Also, I talk A LOT at work about debt, finances and investing and people are listening. One person got a debt snowball going to get out of their credit card debt, and another sat with me and we figured out how much PMI would cost over 4 years. It was about $13k. Only if they were able to also pay an extra $1k toward the mortgage and be done with PMI in 4 years. Now, they’re saving for a bigger down payment instead of house shopping. 🙂

    I think it’s awesome there are so many blogs and stories out there and if we can all just connect with at least one person, and inspire them to do something different financially, then that’s a win all around! Nice post!

    And I had a series of “Bad Money mistakes I’ve made” when I first started blogging, so we’re not perfect, but we’ve learned and try to help others avoid our mistakes. You know like cashing out a 401k, living off of credit cards and student loans, prioritizing concerts over savings… Eesh – I’d give myself an ulcer now if I still lived like that.

    • MaggieBanks

      You guys are the best around I know for loudly preaching in REAL LIFE. Good for you! I like to mention good financial principles in friend groups, but my friends are either doing good things or shut me down: “Oh, we don’t want to retire early.” Me: “Even so… you need to save more than $100/month to retire comfortably at even an old age!”

  9. Love this post! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this community, it’s that there is no financial situation too dire. Some people’s mistakes are minor — others are bigger in financial scale — but they can be acknowledged and turned around.

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes! And this community is SO AMAZING about helping and supporting. Together, we can move toward greatness!

  10. Love this post and I love the encouragement. Everyone has made mistakes, but the best thing to do is to face the reality of it all and improve for the future.

  11. “Common theme….is a lack of knowledge.” Maggie, I share your concern. The folks that SHOULD be reading financial blogs are the ones who aren’t reading them! Think of a friend who needs some help, send a few articles their way, and try to find a way to politely lead the horse to water!! Until then, we’ll all keep writing on, and hope they find us…..

  12. Totally agree Maggie. Things aren’t going to change for people if no one is talking about personal finance. I try to write about it on the blog and weave it into everyday conversations (quite hard to do I might add).

    • MaggieBanks

      I agree. The rhetoric is about spending and debt. To go against that is often tricky in social situations.

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