Accountability

Pinning Grandpa by Randy Son Of Robert on Flickr!Who are you accountable to?

I’m accountable to my family. The choices I make, both positive and negative, impact their lives directly and indirectly in many, many ways. Every time I see them, I’m driven to make good choices that build a long term future for both myself and for them.

I’m accountable to my readers. If I don’t consistently write compelling and useful material, the readers will cease to come. That means I have to constantly strive for new and interesting angles and perspectives on personal finance topics.

I’m accountable to my own future. I have big dreams and big goals, and I see that the little choices I make now have surprisingly large impacts on those goals. Whenever I devote time to something now, for example, I take away time from something else. Whenever I spend money on something, I take money away from building that future I want.

Not too long ago, though, I wasn’t really accountable to anyone at all – or at least I didn’t see it that way. I didn’t see how my actions today really affected my future – or perhaps I just didn’t care to look. I looked at my writing as primarily a method to make me feel better, and I didn’t really worry too much about my family at all, believing that if I had a steady job, they’d be fine.

All of those assumptions were false. Every choice I make in my personal life affects not only my own future, but my family’s future – so I must make good ones. Every choice I make in my professional life not only affects my income level, but also affects you, the reader – so I must make good ones there, too.

Being accountable to others – my family, my readers, and my future self – is a very, very powerful stick, indeed.

However, for people at different stations in life, it can be difficult to find such accountability – and without such accountability, it’s easier to make poor financial choices. Here are four different ways to find accountability in your own life.

Your future self What do you want your future to be like? Perhaps you’d like to be thinner, or perhaps you’d like to be in better financial shape. Whatever it is, that goal can provide accountability for you. Sketch that goal you have out in as much detail as possible, then come up with a plan for making it there. Then, keep a copy of that plan with you at all times and look at it when you’re tempted to make a poor choice.

Your career or side business Another great filter for keeping you from making bad choices is a simple question: is this choice really good for my career or for my business? Frivolous spending is rarely good for your professional life, nor are most time-wasting activities.

A trusted relative or friend Lay out your goals and plans for the future to someone you really trust and care about. By doing this, you become accountable to that person – they know the things you are striving for and want to help you succeed. Not only can they help you stay motivated along the way, the thought of their disappointment in the event of your failure can help you keep your eye on the ball.

An audience Start a blog about your personal struggles and send the URL around to people you know. Let the challenges pour out there – talk about the things that are hard, the things that are easy, and the things that you’re learning. Alternately, you can sign up for a tracking service like Wesabe or Gyminee to keep detailed track of your forward progress – and allow that information to be shared with your friends.

Accountability is a key part of success no matter what you attempt in life. Who are you accountable to?

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  1. Without accountability there is no consequence. If there is no consequence, then there is no urgency and urgency is the spark of motivation.
    So, the question you ask of “Who are you accountable to?” is a deep and meaningful one.
    This should evoke serious thougt in those readers who have desires beyond where they are right now.

  2. Michael says:

    There is no accountability without reckoning or enforcement, so you are not accountable to your future self. And accountability the other party holds you accountable whether you feel accountable or not. Your suggestions are helpful, though.

  3. BirdDog says:

    This is very thought provoking for those of us who are single. You are absoloutely right, I am accountable to my future self. Sixty year old BirdDog will want to retire (probably before 60) and 28 year old BirdDog is responsible for it. Thanks Trent!

  4. Caleb Nelson says:

    I started a blog a couple of months ago in order to hold myself more accountable. Putting your information out there for people to see and judge is a very powerful way to keep it together, financially.

    Caleb
    http://www.mefinanciallyfree.blogspot.com

  5. Kris says:

    You stated that you read about 3 hours per day but wish you could cover more material. Have you ever taken a speed reading course? I love to read and would like to increase my speed to cover more material. I thought you might have some suggestions.
    I read your article every day and send it to my friends. It has such great advice on a variety of topics. Thanks for doing this!
    Thanks!!
    Kris

  6. I think blogging is a great way to keep yourself accountable. It’s been a big reason that I’ve been able to cut back so drastically on my food-wasting habits…the pressure of having other people look at my pictures of my food-waste each week has really motivated me!

    I think that my husband and I help to keep each other accountable too…if we didn’t talk about money so regularly, it’d be easy for us to do some sneaky spending!

  7. colleen c says:

    Having loved ones trust me so much is also a form of “being accountable.” My husband pretty much leaves the finances to me. He really never says much about the spending or where money goes, and as HE is our family’s only breadwinner, that is saying a lot. Knowing he trusts me like that is humbling… I would never screw up because he trusts me enough to police MYSELF. That’s a very big deal to me.

  8. Keith says:

    Trent,

    This really struck a chord with me as its something I’ve struggled with. When I was in the process of making a career change I ended up drifting around rather aimlessly and ended up wasting a lot of time and money.

    I realized later that I needed to approach things like other people were depending on me. Once I looked at work and school as things which impacted people beyond me I grew much more focused and disciplined.

    Thanks for a good article.

  9. Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy says:

    I agree that blogging is a great way to make yourself accountable to a large audience of people. It is, however, still not as powerful as friends and family. You can always quit your blog and continue on with your life without many repercussions, but letting down your friends and family in a similar manner is a much tougher pill to swallow.

  10. DD says:

    Accountability is huge!

    I’ve been a guest writer at The Happy Rock for the past four months, and I can’t tell you how many decisions have been altered because of the fact I knew I’d be blogging about it.

  11. Chelsea says:

    Hi Trent, Your post really touches on what many Americans struggle to be with finances: accountable. There are good reasons (time, mainly) and we all have them. Intuit, makers of Quicken, now offers Quicken Online 100% free. The product is a great way to see where your money goes, establish a benchmark for improvement, and get accountable. Luckily, Quicken Online anticipates upcoming bills too, giving you the most accurate financial picture possible. Contact me directly if you want to tour the product or have questions! Thanks.

  12. We are accountable for everything we do online. Whether it’s a blog post, an article, or a comment. We sometimes write careless stuff online without thinking of accountability or consequences and this can impact others directly and indirectly .
    Cheers,
    A Dawn Journal
    http://www.adawnjournal.com

  13. GettingUp says:

    Trent, a great post about something that is in short supply… accountability. People really have a hard time taking ownership of what happens with them.

  14. Studenomist says:

    Hello Trent,

    Could you please elaborate on your accountability to your readers?

    For me accountability became a major issue when I realize that after University I wanted to obtain my Master’s Degree. This means that I must be more serious about my education and more catious with my spending..

    Studenomist
    http://www.studenomics.com

  15. Excellent post, Trent. It should be required reading for anyone who plays in the NFL or NBA.

  16. Middle Class Hick says:

    While I think that this is a true statement about accountability, this is not a new concept. It used to be called Honor. You were held and bound by your Honor to your family, friends, etc. If you want to learn more about honor, watch the movie Rob Roy, read books about the samurai, or read Sun Tzu the art of war.

    People had different codes over the histories, but honor is something they all had. They “mostly” followed the laws, but realized they were all accountable to all the people you stated.

  17. Moneyblogga says:

    I started blogging as a way to get the poison out of my system. Toxic family relationships took their toll on me over the years and, after losing my best friend to a tragedy ten years ago, things really went haywire. I kept it all together on the outside – no one ever knew what was really going on inside – but the double life I led and the terrible personal choices I was making just added to the poison until OVERLOAD hit a year or so ago. I knew then that I had to be accountable to the people around me who loved me but who had no idea what I was doing to myself. Blogging is a great way to get the poison out of the system and come up with an alternative plan to live. I feel a big difference in my attitude and perspective already in the space of a year’s time and, in another year’s time, I expect to feel even better.

    I can’t talk to friends and family so blogging anon and reading about other peoples’ trials and tribulations has gone a long way to helping me to sort out my crazy behavior. It’s free therapy.

  18. Kevin says:

    Accountability is what my business is all about.

    Good post, Trent.

  19. Nero says:

    “We are accountable for everything we do online.”

    I completely disagree. Only on very, very rare occasions is someone actually held accountable for their online actions and blog posts. For the most part, you can say, do, and act however you want under the veil of anonymity, and most people do.

    Additionally, anytime someone brings a counter-point to your blog, posts a negative comment, or generally calls you on your bullsh**, you can simply ignore them and delete the comment (as I know, from experience, even Trent has done).

    As for being accountable to your readers, that’s not entirely true. At first, it may have been, but now, based on your popularity, you could post the worst advice ever (and sometimes do) and still receive roughly the same amounts of praise and criticism for it.

    You could tell people that, with some ridiculous justifications, getting and paying for a servant (maid) is *frugal*, and they’d not only believe you but commend your great logic. Ironically, you did that last week, and I highly doubt your hit count went down that day.

    Blogging doesn’t make you accountable to anyone since the readers either add to your own justifications for your actions, thoughts, ideas, logic or you completely blow off, ignore, delete, or otherwise counter opposition to the conclusion(s) you’ve already made. No one wants to here *other* opinions, they want others to justify their own opinion.

    And that isn’t accountability.

  20. tinybird says:

    Accountability is so key. Especially to yourself. I keep trying to lose weight & it’s not happening because I let myself get away with it. Blogging is a good public way to have that accountability too!

  21. Maureen says:

    Love this post, love the blog. But most importantly, what is the significance of the Marine in the photo? (and was it taken at Pendleton?)

  22. Nick says:

    I feel as though I’m only truly accountable for myself. Sure I have my girlfriend, and she’s probably next in line for my accountability, and friends and family, but truly, only myself. That doesn’t make me feel like I can slack, or I have it easy, because I’d have higher expectations of myself than anyone else could I imagine.

  23. Payroll Guy says:

    As Dennis Miller would say…Look at You! …All growed up and being Accountable!!!
    We are all accountable for our own lives. You must answer for your own life, no one can answer for you. Do not waste your life doing trivial things. Do important things. Each person must find for themselves what blows their hair back and go do that!

  24. Dan says:

    Maureen: The photo of that Marine was taken at MCRD San Diego…where my Marines are made.

  25. Joshua says:

    Excellent post. I echo what has been said here in both the blog and many of the comments. I would only add this: For those who have a faith, there is an enduring accountability to the divine, and it is through that accountability that we can often be more able to meet our responsibilities to ourselves and others here on Earth.

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