Every single day of the week, over a thousand personal finance bloggers (many of whom are way more successful than I am) are read by hundreds of thousands of people. All of them, and you and I, talk a lot about what’s “really important to know” or “what you have to know” about your personal finance details to be “successful”. Yes, there are always some new ways of thinking about that, but there is one undisputable truth about your personal finances. That truth is easily identified and it is:
The most important rules of successful personal finance are the ones that just never change.
The wheel has been said to be invented by the Sumerians around 3500 BC. But, there is evidence and also a historical belief that the wheel was first used around 12,000 years before that and was “invented” many times by totally different societies that had no contact with each other. That information is interesting because it reinforces my premise that once something is established and proven to be an item that actually works and works well to accomplish a goal (like the wheel), it just never changes.
The wheel, while widely believed to be first used on chariots in Mesopotamia, was more than that. An early use of the wheel and axle was for pottery wheels. The wheel and axle was used for winches (a device that is used to lift up objects with a rope, cable, or chain) on wells to pull water up to the surface and likely used centuries before the Sumerians attached wheels and used it for their transportation connected to vehicles called chariots.
“Big Wheels Keep on Turning…”
Just as CCR and Ike and Tina sang back in the 1960’s, the big wheels keep on turnin’ and that is a truth not only when talking about Mississippi riverboats, but also when it comes to your personal finances.
The fundamentals of finance, the principles of budgeting and saving money, have not changed over time. While the ideas of what are the best types of investments might change with the each passing decade and newer tools may appear to help guide you to your decisions about your money, the rules of basic personal finance never have and remain the same: Spend less than you make, have a plan, be patient, consider the long term, be aware and take advantage of compound interest, and understand the differences between true needs and wants. These are things just don’t change with the seasons and always relate to financial success.
One of the Best Has Said It in the Best Ways
J. Money, author of one of the most successful personal finance blogs for over ten years, has said it really well and what he says is pretty much what I am saying here today. If you haven’t read or checked out his blog, “Budgets Are Sexy” at least every once in a while, you should. He is a believer and he has tried to spread the word to those who will at least open one ear.
J. Money states pretty clearly what his goals are and what you should be most concerned about every day when he says:
My goal with this blog is to get people to stop and pay attention to their money. Especially you, the younger generation. You won’t find any long in-depth instruction manuals or anything else that bores me to death here, as I really want this to be a fun place to share and interact with each other.
The funny part, to me, is that despite the 35 years apart we are in age, his philosophy and mine are pretty much the same. I have found out that it doesn’t really matter what generation you speak to, but rather the message you send.
If you haven’t ever heard the message before, because you are young, then certainly J. Money speaks to you directly. But even when you are not particularly young, it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from hearing it over and over again as you “grow up” financially and move on towards that eventual frontier ahead called retirement. That’s what I think and do and is my stated goal. It’s why I write and go on and on about the “wheel”. Hey, I just realized I made a funny. I guess I’m really writing about the “Wheel of Fortune” although I certainly didn’t invent that (give credit to Merv Griffin for that from back in 1975!).
Money Makes the World Go ‘Round?
With all the talk about money we all do, and let’s face it, we do it a lot, it’s easy to feel and say that money does actually make the world go ‘round. But here’s the thing. You have the controls and you decide where the throttle goes. Does it go straight to the top (ala “this one goes to eleven”) or do you ease up on it and make the ride a tad less bumpy and dangerous while you move on to your destination? It isn’t always best to seek out faster and more dangerous ways to get to your goals, especially financial goals. Just ask someone who tried that and see where they wound up. For every daredevil who had success, there are hundreds of financial corpses strewn along the road.
So, What Do We Learn From All of This?
First, will you learn everything you need to know from personal finance bloggers? Hopefully that answer is yes, but more likely, not everything. Mistakes happen. That’s what fuels bloggers to write and what makes you read about what they write. So the lesson learned here is pretty simple. You try to avoid mistakes but when you make a financial mistake (or any kind really), you learn from it and never repeat it. That’s how you move forward and ultimately improve your financial life. That’s what I think. That’s also what others think and say, and it certainly seems to be what J. Money thinks, and I think he is 100% correct.
So if personal finance bloggers are just reinventing the wheel, is it worth your time to keep reading them? I think it is. Just like the wheel has a variety of uses, personal finance bloggers bring new perspectives to age-old topics. They share their personal experiences, and that of their readers, so that you might better understand your own situation. Plus occasionally there are real changes in laws and in products and services that affect personal finance. And from time to time there are changes in your own situation which may give old topics new relevance. Personal finance blogs can provide real value, even if they are just reinventing the wheel.
I hope I am not writing some kind of obituary for personal finance blogging when I say all this, but it does have a ring of truth to it.
It’s perfectly okay and highly recommended to read personal finance and saving tips each day and to learn all you can about how to budget and save better. After all, you aren’t born with some deep-rooted wisdom at birth and at some point, you either learn from your mistakes or, better yet, learn before you make them so you can move forward financially in life.
But, at the end of the day, most of the information and tips you are exposed to and do learn center around a psychology of creating new money habits, breaking old ones, and understanding how your money works for you over time. The truth is that while you are in the learning mode (and yes, you always will be in that mode) you will make mistakes and that eventually leads back to proving my point. There’s very little about ways in which to learn how to save and earn money that’s really ever truly new. It’s more about using the tried and true “wheel” in the very best ways you can rather than trying to reinvent it.