The Reasons We’re Awful At Managing Our Money

These are some excerpts from an older, but superb, article by Morgan Housel on the website Motley Fool. Here are some of the highlights that probably apply to almost all of us:

People usually get better at things over time. We’re better farmers, faster runners, safer pilots, and more accurate weather forecasters than we were 50 years ago. But there’s something about money that gets the better of us. It’s one of the only areas in life we seem to get progressively dumber at.

For investments, our definition of “long term” is the time between now and the next downturn in the market.

For every $1 raise we receive, our desires rise by $2 or more.

We spend lots of money on material stuff to impress other people without realizing those other people couldn’t care less about us. You’d be shocked at how few people care where your purse was made or how much noise your car makes.

We don’t learn from other people’s financial problems. By the time we get the hang of making smart money decisions, our life expectancy rounds to zero.

We get upset when we hear on TV that the government is running a deficit. It doesn’t bother you that you heard this on a TV you bought on a credit card in a home you purchased with a no-money-down mortgage and a big line of credit.

We don’t realize that when we say we want to be a millionaire, what we probably mean is that we want to spend a million dollars, which is literally the opposite of being a millionaire.

We take out $50,000 in student loans to earn a degree in a subject you’re not interested in, doesn’t offer marketable job skills, and for which you have no intention of working in — all by age 22.

We’re part of the roughly half of all people who can’t come up with $2,000 in 30 days for an emergency, even though we’re also part of the roughly 100% of us who will need to come up with $2,000 in 30 days for an emergency at some point in our life.

The single largest expense we’ll pay in our lifetime is interest. You’ll spend more money on interest than food, vacations, cars, school, clothes, dinners out, and all forms of entertainment. You do this because you don’t save enough and demand a lifestyle you can’t actually afford. The future owns your income.

We associate all of our financial successes with skill and all of our financial failures with bad luck.

We hire a doctor to manage our health, an accountant to do our taxes, a lawyer to manage your legal problems, a dentist to fix our teeth, and a pilot to fly when we travel. You wouldn’t consider doing it differently. Then, with no experience, you go about investing willy nilly, all by yourself.

We lack enough basic financial knowledge to even realize that we’re making mistakes. People’s lack of understanding about things like compound interest and inflation can lead them to believe they’re making good financial decisions when in reality they’re tripping over themselves with failure.

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