Along your financial journey, you’ll come up to many people who think they know what’s best for you and your money. Many of them mean well—they might be close friends, family members, or colleagues who you’ve worked with for years. On the other hand, they might be complete strangers, forgetting to mind their own business.
In either case, it’s very tough to tell whether the advice is sound, and very easy to forget who’s in charge of your financial destiny—you! The situations vary:
- We’re in a desperate place and ask for help openly.
- Friends or family get excited about an opportunity that’s opened up.
- People perceive us as better off than they are, and try to project decisions they would make in our situation.
- People perceive us as worse off than they are, and try to help improve our finances by replicating how they got ahead.
The Problem with Advice
The fundamental problem with having someone else tell you what to do is that no one understands your financial situation like you do. You live and breathe it every day, you make the spending choices, the sacrifices; you understand where you came from and where you’re going, and what you hope to achieve along the way.
To have someone arrive and assume, however well-intentioned, that they can be fully empathic of your situation, or worse—dispense generic advice, is almost irresponsible. Dispensing any advice, but especially financial advice, should be done with the utmost humility and care. I have to be insanely careful with what I write here every day, and I’m sure some things still come across as assumptive.
Why We Fall into the Trap
Whether we mean to or not, we tend to follow advice from others blindly or adapt it to our own situation for various reasons:
- A desire to please family or friends by following their advice.
- Fear of rejection by those closest to you.
- Fear of failure, compounded by “I told you so” remarks from advice-givers.
- Perceiving advice received as common sense or the “right” way of doing something.
- Being scared of making decisions and wanting someone else to do it for us.
If you find yourself pressured to take other people’s advice often, it may be helpful to understand the causes behind your decisions as a means of getting past them and into finding a solution. Do you see the reason for your own way of thinking above, or is it something else entirely that drives you?
You Can’t Afford to Lose Control
As hard as it might be, and at whatever cost, we need to stay in control of our financial future. To do anything less would be a disservice to yourself and the equivalent of handing over your life to someone else. While being responsible for self may be scary for some, I believe it’s a critical step toward financial success.
You could, for example:
- Disconnect from negative influences entirely, or put a filter on your financial life and stop discussing it with people who dispense constant advice.
- Listen carefully to other people’s advice with an open mind, but let go of the need to apply anything but what you decide is best.
- Stop asking for advice just to have someone confirm what you’re thinking—most often, they won’t and you’ll be frustrated.
- Get a second (and third, and fourth) opinion on any topic you hear that worries you.
- Make a commitment, today, that your financial destiny lies in your hands and your decisions alone, and that you’re willing to take the responsibility for your choices.
Remember—most people want the best for you, and they mean well. But never misunderstand good intentions for a good understanding of what’s right for you!