1. Kat

    Going off your myopic point – we also don’t know all of the details of someone’s life or mental health. Me taking a portion of my emergency fund to pay off some credit card debt is “doing it wrong” until I explain that debt is an anxiety trigger for me and I could feel myself spiraling. Sure, I’m “doing it wrong” when I use money that’s only supposed to be for an emergency, but I feel so much lighter and more able to function (and able to work longer hours to make up the difference) now that the debt is paid. What is generally the “right” thing to do may not always be the actual right thing for each situation.

    Also, thank you for always being honest and upfront about your personal situation. I think you’re kicking ass and doing great work. Best of luck to you!

    • That’s a really powerful and valid example you shared, Kat. Thank you for that. Personal finance is so personal, and it’s really easy to forget. And anything that gets us motivated to make more excellent money moves is worth it in my book!

  2. I come from an opinionated family, where anything they wouldn’t do is labeled wrong. None of it is helpful. It’s taken a lot of resolve to let them know that what we are doing is working just fine for us. As you mentioned it’s never in a helpful “have you considered this?” kind of way. Which is my favorite way to offer advice, “have you considered…?” It leaves the door open to the fact they are intelligent, capable people who perhaps have given more thought to thier life choices than I am in passing. 🙂

    • That phrase is really powerful, Ms. Montana. I really like how it leaves the possibility open for an exchange of ideas — not just one person telling the other what to do or think.

    • Same here. We’ve been given a lot of opinions, a lot of criticism. Blogging has meant that most of those folks bite their tongues. 😉 I can’t wait to hear what people say when we hit the road in two years. We’ll be doing lots of stuff “wrong.”

      Being at the conference last weekend, we discovered just how “wrong” we’ve been. There are countless ways we can all make progress, achieve our goals. No one way works for everyone, so I don’t think there is much that’s “wrong.” I just say, you do you! 🙂

  3. My favorite way to help is to just give the best advice I can – WHEN ASKED. I’ve learned giving unsolicited advice is 9 times out of 10, not the right answer. The issue is, like you noted, people rarely publicly talk about money. I haven’t really received any bad money advice in a long time because people so rarely talk about it. Also I think most people know I’m pretty into personal finance, so they don’t try to give me advice too much 🙂

    • I agree with FF here about offering advice. But it’s also hard to help people if they don’t know that you are “into” personal finance. Staying in that “coaching” vs. offering advice is key. I love what you say about capitalizing on strengths. We did a lot of work on solution-focused thinking a few years back. That is key in making positive change!

      • That’s a really great way to view a role — as a coach, not necessarily someone who knows everything, but someone who can help you strategize and support from the sidelines.

  4. Barb

    A professor of psychology in college told us that another person’s unsolicited criticism is ALWAYS about them, and not the person being criticized. He taught us it can even be useful as it tells you what that person values or how they see the world but not to ever get sucked into thinking the comments are about us.

    I’ve thought of his wisdom often and turn the “advice” around in my head…oh, my worn jeans make me look like I live in poverty? I just learned the criticizing person equates a certain style of dress with financial success. This has nothing to do with me and everything with him. The hints into what beliefs another has can be quite valuable if you can not get defensive and remember the comments aren’t about you.

    • What an awesome professor, Barb. I’ve definitely been guilty of giving advice when I shouldn’t (I do it more in my head than aloud), and there’s definitely some truth to that. When I judge people on how they spend or save, it probably reflects my own trepidation with money.

  5. kim domingue

    First, let me say, this was a very astute observation and the comments are as well.

    I enjoy reading blogs and sites about decorating, diy, crochet, ect. Quite often someone will ask a question about how to do simple thing and, every so often, someone else will make a snide remark about how “everybody knows how to that!”. Well, everybody DOESN’T know how to do “that”. If they did then they wouldn’t have to ask, would they? In my mind, “everybody knows how to do that” and “you’re doing it all wrong” are the same type of dismissive, unhelpful, superior attitude type of statements. They serve no purpose aside from making someone else feel inept or stupid.

    • That’s so true, Kim. And I’m not sure what the point of letting everyone know “everyone knows how to do that” would be either. It’s such a missed opportunity to actually show your expertise and be helpful.

  6. I wish people would embrace the $#!* sandwich feedback form more often. Yes, it’s cheesy, and yes, it takes more thought and more work. But it shows the recipient that the criticizer has thought about it and is truly trying to be helpful.

    Good feedback is hard to give, and some that is delivered gently and with enough detail to be helpful is worth its weight in gold. Even if it’s wrong, it can help the recipients think through why the perception is inaccurate or how they can act to be even more true to their goals.

    I’m sorry that this troll was taking up your mental bandwidth and dumping on your site.

    • We work on this so much in class. One strength, one thing someone might consider changing or doing more of, and another specific strength. It’s definitely more thoughtful, but if my 12 year olds can do it, we can, too! 🙂

  7. It’s so hard to tell someone they are ‘doing it wrong’ unless you know the ins and outs of their life. Every strategy should be built on multiple unique variables, so what’s wrong for you might be a very good solution for me.

    Conversely when I read about a strategy that works for someone else, I get excited but don’t immediately implement the idea until I know it’ll work for me.

    Good stuff today Penny. I, for one, think you’re doing things right. ?????

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ty. I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m lucky if I have a decent half baked idea. But our plan works for us. And it’s like you said. It’s so tempting to try to replicate an exact recipe for someone else’s life…but it’s not always the wisest move.

  8. Penny, I’m gonna echo the people that have already said it, and I know there’s tons and tons of other people who would agree- that you are definitely not doing it wrong. Not only do you have hard numbers to prove that you are doing a kick-a** job, more to the point, you’re doing it the way that works for Penny (and Mr. Penny). And in the end that’s what matters. Because personal finance is personal. So yes, while it hurts when someone lobs an unthoughtful and unhelpful insult, you’ve definitely recognized it for what it is!

  9. Great insight in this post, Penny. I think another problem with such a generalized comment like that, is how everyone has their own needs and priorities. You can’t just opine that someone is doing “it all wrong” when you don’t know their entire situation.

    We made a lot of money mistakes over the years, but we’ve learned from them. I too try to focus on the positive and keep moving forward, less and less concerned about the opinions of others – feedback, tips, and experiences are helpful, but general opinions are pretty worthless.

    • That’s so sage, Harmony. And I do think I learn more from others sharing their missteps than their perfect plans. Different strokes for different folks, I guess!

  10. That goes right along with “You don’t know how to do THAT” with anything that seems common to you, but obviously wasn’t something the questioner had learned. Yes, totally, mocking someone willing to ask a question unless it’s something seriously as basic as “should or shouldn’t I stick my vulnerable flesh and bone hand into a burning flame?” is the right way to go. *eyeroll* There’s a great comic about turning that moment into an awesome learning moment where you get to share something you love with them.

    I have been mum for so long about money stuff among family and offline-only friends that it always sets me on the wrong foot when asked, but I’ve learned to lead off with: “It all depends on your situation. What I take into consideration is ….”

    Then I just tell them what I might do and why, but leave it at that. If they want to know more or if they have a different situation and want to pose those questions, great. Often, though, they don’t want to do the work or it’s not worth it to them to learn, and that’s fine too. That’s their own choice to make, not mine!

    I spent entirely too much time in my teens and 20s trying to help people who didn’t want the help and it was all wasted effort – they had to want the change!

    The worst money advice I’ve witnessed is someone advising the entire withdrawal of retirement funds that weren’t even needed, without telling them about the penalty and fees if you don’t roll it over, so that person took a 20% haircut on their money for *no good reason.* I’m still peeved that that person remains a know it all about money and tried to educate me on mileage programs. !! I’m going to be snooty here – ME. On TRAVEL HACKING. I’ve been travel hacking over ten years, and I have an internet connect, AND I know how to use it.

    Ok, that snootiness totally comes from being annoyed that person is doling out bad money advice and is being trusted, and I can’t say anything about it because the people doing the trusting won’t hear a word against their advisor. So I keep my mouth shut and reject all advice they offer.

    • I love this snootiness, Revanche! And it’s really true. People have to want to help themselves. Presenting your ideas as your own personal considerations is a terrific way to start a conversation.

  11. I’ve always talked pretty openly about money as an adult and honestly had no idea it was “weird” for the longest time. I noticed that people would sometimes get a little guarded whenever I’d talk openly and casually about money, but it never dawned on me why until years later. I’ve become more aware, but I still try to get people to talk about money. I hope that even that little bit will help break the taboo and cycle of bad money advice and judgement.

  12. For some reason when I saw this title the first thing I that of was your pregnancy and the fact that you will now have to listen to the hundreds of people who have some comment of what your a doing wrong in your pregnancy, preparation for your child, and everything that comes once they are born. I don’t have kids but I remember this being a common frustration amongst my sisters and friends during this stage in their lives. if it hasn’t happened yet I am sure it will so remember this post when you need clarity. I’m certain had I ever been pregnant and endured what my friends had, I would currently be in jail for harming someone due to their good intentioned but completely unwelcome commentary. 😉

    So, about the money, I have run across this recently as well. I decided this year to contribute to my Roth 401k instead of my traditional. I know the benefits of both (especially in relation to the FI crowd) but I read a post recently that made me view things for a different angle. The post asked “how much of your money in retirement is actuall yours?” When I started to think about it I realized that a great portion hasn’t yet been taxed which means it eventually isn’t mine!! Mind blown. I switched all new contributions to my Roth the next day. I got a well intentioned comment soon after regarding my decision and how it wasn’t the correct assumption based on FI. Yes, I know I can convert my traditional to Roth in FI, but I liked this idea of knowing exactly what was mine. Plus, I know I will still work after FI so the numbers are a bit up in the air. Anywho, we chatted a few times and then I let it go. This works for me for now, I thought. And a few days ago I switched it back to traditional! Haha, not because of the comment, but because I heard a podcast that explained things in a different light…again. Either way, we have a right to change our minds, we just shouldn’t be pressured by someone else’s ideas of right and wrong. It reminds me of the saying I once hear, “I don’t have to be wrong for you to be right.” Thanks for your insight, Penny!

    • What a great story, Miss Mazuma. I waffle on the IRA/Roth all the time. Right now, we still do Roths. Because pensions (theoretically my income will be higher in retirement than it is now). But that’s such a pie in the sky fantasy, I’m not sure we’ll stick with Roths much longer. Conversations are key, and I’m so glad to have your blog to read. So many awesome ideas to mine from it!

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