Let’s talk about personal finance time investment.
One of the great profound mysteries that I have been completely unable to understand or solve in my 7+ years of personal finance blogging is why the masses invest so little time in personal finance. Practically zero for most.
It is borderline INSANITY.
Think about this for a moment…
First, we dig ourselves high interest student loan debts in the tens of thousands that will take 20 years to pay back, so that we can hopefully get a high paying job.
Then, if we are lucky enough to get that high paying job (or any job), we then work 40, 50, or 60+ hours per week. This is the majority of our waking hours, at least 5 out of 7 days per week, and we do it for the next 40+ years. These are the years that are supposed to be the most vibrant and healthiest years of our lives.
Our jobs can leave us stressed out to the point of undesirable health. It is a rarity if you actually genuinely enjoy your job – a majority of Americans don’t. Even if you do, you could be just one unlucky appointment to a jerk boss or recession “right-sizing” away from having it taken away. Employer loyalty is a thing of the past.
We sacrifice a lot for our employers – health, family, friends, community involvement, time, and willpower for one primary purpose – to make income to pay for things.
Somewhere along the way, workers realized this tradeoff kind of sucked, so we fought for pensions so that we could sustain ourselves when our working days ended. But the balance of power shifted in the workplace, and now pensions are dead. All we are truly left with is the hourly wage or salary we make for the time and effort that we put in while we are working.
We then spend almost all of that money – saving just 5% of it, on average. Many save less, nothing at all, or quite commonly – spend more than they earn and dig themselves a hole of high interest debt that they have to work doubly hard to pay off. In fact, the average millennial personal saving rate is at -2%.
At a 5% savings rate, it would take you 20 of the best years of your life just to save up enough to buy back the 21st year’s living expenses. Let that sink in for a bit. Keeping your head barely above or below water is not successful personal finance.
Now, all of this might be fine if you absolutely love your job, couldn’t see yourself doing anything else with your time, have no desire to EVER retire (Social Security won’t be enough), AND you’ve done everything you possibly could to boost your savings.
Except, we don’t. Instead, we give most of our lives for that income and then we do nothing with it but consume.
If you’ve read this far, you may be an exception to this rule. Nevertheless, this is the standard in our country and beyond. 40+ hours a week to make money and then just over ZERO hours a week on personal finance to get the most out of it. We even spend more time planning vacations than retirement.
I’ve often wondered, what if, instead of zero time investment towards personal finance, the average was 7, 5, or just a simple 2 hours per week. Everyone can find 2 hours per week, right? And, what if, as a result of those 2 hours…
- Everyone created a budget and held themselves accountable towards it?
- Everyone spent an hour a week reading about ways to cut costs and properly invest their savings?
- High interest debt was feared and avoided like it was the Ebola virus?
- Everyone trained themselves to consume mostly needs versus wants?
- Everyone bought just the right amount of home to live comfortably?
- Everyone had an adequate emergency savings fund?
- Everyone was properly insured to avoid financial catastrophe?
- Everyone commuted by self-power or public transportation?
- Everyone learned what healthy foods were good to buy and then how to cook them?
- The personal savings rate jumped from 5% to 25%+?
- Everyone could eventually afford to work jobs they truly enjoyed versus working jobs they didn’t to pay for shit they don’t need? How much better would physical and mental health, job satisfaction, and general happiness levels be?
- Everyone put their savings to work for them as mini-dividend generating employees?
- Everyone could save enough to buy their time back so that they could use their energy, effort, and willpower to improve their lives, and their family, friends, and community?
The more time investment the better, but just 2 hours of personal finance study per week to manage your money (less than 5% of the time invested in hours worked to make your money) is really all it would take to get you to an adequate level of basic proficiency. Once that basic proficiency level was achieved, it would take even less time to maintain it. And in investing the time into this skill, you can even get rid of your financial advisor (which saves you even more money).
Sure, shit happens. Life events are not always fair. You may suffer a number of setbacks along the way that you’ll have to pull yourself up from. And you still have to find a way to make a decent income that will provide you the means to live within. But never in the history of mankind has there been the kind of resources available to you to learn how to do that and then how to get the most out of those earnings.
Two hours a week. That’s it.
Do it for yourself and encourage everyone around you that you care about to do the same. The dividends will be life changing.