Your Job as a Personal Finance Literature Reader
Once upon a time, there was a businessman named Richard. He was very smart, and built a thriving business from scratch. Everyone was jealous of him, but he wasn't happy. As the business grew, so did his expenses and ultimately his lifestyle. He was living large, and though he can afford it, the high income / high expense lifestyle made him very aware of the fact that he could lose it all. As a result, he was obsessed with his companies' every decision, and his actions not only stressed him out, but his family and subordinates too.
His company's janitor, Poris, almost seemed to be living in a completely different world. He was married, and makes about 5% of Richard's income. Obviously, he couldn't afford nearly the same lifestyle as Richard. As a result, he was very frugal but he was stressed too. Poris is stressed about making ends meet, stressed about whether he'd get laid off and stressed about whether he could ever afford an actual retirement.
Usually when you read these stories, the author will ask you to point out the one with the better life. But the reality is that we don't want to be either of them. When we look from the outside, it's easy to spot that neither of them has a life we should envy. You make a bundle and you could be stressed. You made nothing and you could be stressed. You spend a bunch and you could be stressed, but you are frugal and it could still be stressful. Just nitpicking about one aspect of money matters tell you nothing.
One of my neighbors has a $200,000 2-door Bentley sports car. Does it make him rich, and can we automatically conclude that he's a shopaholic? Another neighbor has two very old Hondas. It's so old that the paint is starting to rust. Does it mean that the family is having a hard time making ends meet, or does it show that they are just frugal?
Due to the length of our articles, we usually write about one side of personal finance. Sometimes, we talk about and why it helps. Other times, we talk about making money with rental properties and REITs. By reading them one at a time, it is easy to forget that personal finance is all about balance. At the end of the day, the key is to make more money than you spend.
We write about all the tips, tricks, and habits because they either help you save or make more money. We (at least I) won't tell you whether it's right or wrong. After all, someone who is making $1 million dollars a year may think that all those latte factor articles are a big waste of time, while the same article may make so much sense for the family with a household income of $30,000 a year. If you read personal finance articles regularly, it is your job to know your own situation and figure out what's best for you.
Making your own coffee will guarantee you at least a couple bucks a pop, but you still have to figure out whether it makes economic sense for you. I personally don't watch too much TV because I can use that time to run my business and make quite a bit of money. If you take my advice and cut your cable but end up surfing the web for three hours a day, you are just changing the chair you sit on. If you feel miserable after you stop watching the NBA finals, it might actually hurt your finances. Every time you try to change your habit, it is critical to mind the big picture.
Personal finance literature is general, but it is your job to make it personal.