The interwebs are filled with financial advice, cautionary tales, and success stories beyond my wildest imaginings. Amidst all that collective wisdom, though, are some sayings that seem significant but might actually be problematic oversimplifications. Here are five tweetable money truths that simply don’t ring true for me.
You’ll be happier when you’re not working.
Maybe I will be, maybe I won’t be. But until Santa brings me my time machine, I can’t know, can I?
What I do know is this. I don’t relax well. (Correction: Mr. P would like you to know that I don’t relax ever.) While I could funnel my energy into lots of things that aren’t teaching, the thought of not working towards something makes me want to peel my skin off. I like learning. I like being productive. I even make to-do lists on vacations.
Truth be told, I’d rather worry about making myself so happy now that there’s no point in worrying about hypothetical levels of happiness in future scenarios.
It’s all about spending less and earning more.
In fantasyland, yes. In real life, no. For some people, this is absolutely all there is to it. But for a lot of other people, there are so many other obstacles to overcome, money isn’t even close to the entire picture.
Time and health are two of the biggest ones that come to mind. And then there are entire systems that work for or against certain people. So while this saying might make for a good tagline, it’s not a universal salve.
Money can’t buy happiness.
I put this quote up at the start of class one day and has students journal about it. There were lots of poetic responses about how the best things in life are free. Love, friendship, family. And that’s not wrong. In fact, it’s the feel-good response that we start teaching kids from a really young age. But my favorite response of all said this: “You know who is never gonna say something like that? A poor person.”
And that’s how you get schooled by a twelve-year-old.
It’s all about effort.
I’ll set the scene. It was junior year honors physics. Aside from learning that unless you’re taking biology, every high school science class is actually a second math class in disguise, I also learned that this bootstrap ideology is bunk. At least from a high school level science perspective. You can’t physically lift yourself in the air.
Why we are so married to the metaphor is beyond me. I mean, sure, there’s the American Dream. I get it. I’ve taught entire curricula based on it. But spoiler alert: it’s usually a sham. Just ask Gatsby.
And let’s circle back to the physics of it. Force upward equals force downward if we’re just talking about me lifting myself. But it’s true that I could build momentum. I could use the ground or another higher-mass object. But that’s not all effort then. That’s knowledge and circumstance and ability and maybe even a little bit of luck. I’m not saying effort doesn’t matter. But it’s not everything.
Using cash is best.
Credit cards, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There’s earning LOFT rewards cards for a few cents at the grocery store. There’s fronting myself a zero-percent loan for my first Master’s degree. And wedding. There’s even a bit of travel hacking. Credit has served me well and in ways that cash simply cannot.
Of course, I completely understand that credit cards aren’t for everyone. But cash definitely isn’t for me. It runs through my fingers like water one dollar bill at a time. And it makes tracking a bit more complicated. Hey, if you can run on the honor system all the time, you’re a far better person than I.
So Tell Me…Is there any financial wisdom that you could do without?