The other night I was sitting on my bed with my wife and 3-year-old daughter Lily. We weren’t doing anything unique, just chatting and playing before it was my daughter’s bath time.
I asked Lily if she would share her soft fleece blanket with me because my legs were cold. “NO! It’s my blanket!” she said.
Anyone with kids knows this is pretty normal. Some things they love to share but other things are just off limits. It’s times like this that I try to teach her and help her grow.
“Honey, if you share your blanket with daddy, I’ll share my pillow and bed with you. We can both keep our legs warm with the blanket, but you can also rest on the bed and pillow and we can play.”
I continued, “But if you won’t share your blanket with me, then you can’t use the bed or the pillow. You will have to sit on the hard floor and play alone.”
Well, not every lesson goes as planned – she chose to keep her blanket and sit on the floor alone. In these moments I can’t help but kind of feel like a bad parent. Of course, I want her to stay and have that father-daughter time and play on the bed. But, children need to learn. So, I let her go pout on the floor with her blanket.
We shouldn’t really over think the things that toddlers do because their brains and emotions are just beginning to develop, but if you know me at all, I got to thinking anyhow. In her little world, she was more afraid to lose a part of her blanket than to gain use of the bed, pillows, and fun.
Looking at it from an investors point of view, the potential loss was that I would take the entire blanket and leave her with nothing while the potential gain was everything else. Though the loss seemed catastrophic to her (loss of her favorite blanket), the risk of loss was pretty low because I’ve never just taken her blanket away before.
But I realized something else…
Many adults have the exact same mentality about investing
By saying it I risk insulting a lot of people, but if you really boil it down, some people have the same mentality as my toddler.
People cling to their money like my daughter clung to her blanket. Rather than invest it, they would rather bury it, put it under the bed, spend it, or stick it in a savings account.
They are so afraid of the risk of losing part or all of the blanket that they would rather give up the bed, pillows, and fun.
The blanket is synonymous with their savings while the bed, pillows, fun are like retirement and financial independence.
Some people will hold tight to their small amount of money rather than risk it. To them, losing that money would be catastrophic even though the risk of that loss is quite low.
Growing is painful
Part of teaching my daughter how to be a better person is teaching her how to share. The lessons can be painful, but it’s important. Understanding investing and managing one’s budget/debt can similarly be a painful experience, but we are all better people after learning it.
In a sense, 2 years ago I was like my daughter. I didn’t really understand the concept of financial independence at all and just like my daughter I didn’t even know that I needed to learn this lesson.
Fortunately, I’m not a person trapped by my own thinking. I was always good at making money, but I realized that’s really only half the equation. Not only do you have to earn money, but you have to reduce debts, live within your means, and have an investor’s mentality.
I used to make all kinds of crazy money mistakes. Part of growing into FI was admitting that I made those mistakes and then beginning to fix them (like giving up my awesome truck).
There isn’t just one right way
Budgeting, investing, and debt management are just like parenting – there is no “right way” to do it. I was just out to lunch with PT over at PTMoney and his wife, and we were talking about that. Basically, my wife (who is Chinese) grew up with a completely different parenting philosophy than me.
My wife and I realized eventually that millions of Americans are raised successfully and a billion Chinese were raised successfully, so clearly both ways work.
There are probably millions of different parenting philosophies, but it doesn’t matter as long as the children grow up to be happy, successful, and good people. Why argue over the differences when clearly we can choose from either style. The key was to ensure the end goals were being met.
Similarly, there are countless styles and methods to investing and budgeting. I prefer my style of real estate investing, while others prefer a mixture of real estate and stocks like Mr. 1500 days, the location independent lifestyle like my pal Rob, or FI through extreme frugality like the Frugalwoods.
…and that’s where the same problems arise.
Have you ever met those parents who just think their style is the absolute best? Of course you have, because almost every parent thinks that (just most don’t go bragging about it)! The same is true with a lot of money people or gurus.
Of course, everyone thinks their money methods are great because they wouldn’t use them if they thought otherwise!
Now, I’m not saying anyone that I’ve linked to claims to have all the answers, because we aren’t and I wouldn’t promote people like that. My point is that we have the solution to our own debt problems and the formula we each used or are using to retire early.
Just like different parents can be great parents and also have differing styles, different money philosophies can be right because there are many people in many different situations with differing preferences. What matters is that the core goals are being met – controlling debt, investing more, and trying to achieve financial independence.
But, not every way works
Let’s be straight, though – I’m not one to buy into the many sensitive philosophies my generation is known for. Not everyone deserves a trophy and not everyone is right…
…and some things are just downright financially dangerous.
The reason why so many children grow up to be decent people, even with different parenting philosophies, is because the vast majority of parents truly care about their children and want the best for them.
Even with thousands of years of biology telling us instinctually to protect our children, some people still completely F up their kids and do terrible things to them.
If some people can’t even take care of their kids, do you think everyone cares about your money?
That’s why there is no “parent figure” to tell us what is good or bad. That responsibility is on each of us – to seek out and find good financial and investing philosophies then apply them to our own lives.
Well, you don’t have to, but, you might find yourself on the floor with just your blanket.