I was watching Suze Orman, a personal finance guru, on TV at Lifetime Fitness the other day. She had a segment called “Can I afford it” where people send in questions about whether they should make a certain purchase accompanied by their financial position, income debt etc. There was no closed caption so I couldn’t hear the advice, but caught the gist of the answers, usually “no” given the inquirer’s situations. As a finance guy I was somewhat amazed by some of the questions.
I find it interesting that anyone would ask someone else about what they could afford. I think many people go in to their mess by asking mortgage brokers if they could afford the mortgage. What others can afford may have nothing to do with what I can afford. Ms Orman’s usual answer was no, in light of the asker’s financial situation. Sounded like common sense to me, but I’ve talked myself in to a lot of unnecessary unaffordable spending myself.
While I agreed with what I saw from a financial point, I think the solutions to our financial issues are deeper. I have come to believe that what all of us really want is to have inner peace, a meaningful purpose and to survive in the world. Included in purpose is to serve others, our employers, our families, our friends and others. There are many benefits to having that mentality, better relationships that we all crave, and a development of unselfish, greedy behavior that only compounds our financial problems to name only a few. Plus, if we ever get to a position of power, we can coach others to do the same so they can also be successful.
I recommend a similar solution to Ms Orman, with a few caveats. First, take care of one’s needs then prioritize the other stuff. (It is amazing how few real needs we have if we are honest with ourselves) Second, figure out if you can afford the other stuff given your individual cirmstances, and most importantly, determine whether the expenditure helps you meet your main goals of having peace. Obviously, financial stress is one of our biggest “peace stealers” so we should avoid it as best we can.
Sound too simple? I don’t think so. I am one of the best at talking myself in to buying what I want and can figure out how to afford it most of the time. But do I need all this stuff?
I think this approach is simple and I am working on this myself with good results. Less stress and more focus on what I can do for others both financially and emotionally. It is difficult for me, I will admit that; I want everything also. But when I get around those with less it makes me more grateful for what I have and that brings peace to me.
These concepts allow me to pursue happiness, which our Declaration of Independence says our Creator established as one of our rights. I don’t think we will ever reach a happiness nirvana, but by pursuing it we will be better off than waiting for it.