I spent some time reading through the site recently and I realized how often I talk about myself and my own experiences on here, everything from my specific goals to my values and dreams, as well as a lot of the financial realities of my life.
Now, given that this site focuses on personal finance issues, why do I feel the need to write about myself so much? It’s a question that some of my readers have hinted at in the past and also one that troubled me when I first started the site. I posted my Road to Financial Armageddon series very early on, but I considered it to be a pretty major act of hubris, so early on I didn’t post much else about my goals or values.
As time went on, though, I began to reconsider this stance for several reasons:
Goals and values are foundation pieces of personal finance. Decisions like what house to buy, when to retire, and so on are all choices deeply rooted in individual beliefs and desires. What do you want out of life? Would you prefer to live in a less expensive house and retire a few years earlier? Do you consider it worthwhile to buy a highly reliable but expensive car, or do you look solely for the bang for the buck? Is going into business yourself the best way to go, or is there too much risk for you? All of these questions have different valid answers – it depends on the values and goals of the person answering them.
My specific goals and values often shade my perspectives on the site. I’m not a financial planner – I’m a person figuring out my own financial path and sharing what I’ve learned that might be relevant to your life. Because of that, I recognize that my own goals and values shade the advice I give here on a regular basis. For example, I don’t look deeply into some small business opportunities because I find them to be overly risky, so my suggestions focus on small business with minimal risk and low capital investment (like blogging or home computer consulting). I also focus a lot on mutual fund investing because I’d rather spend the time needed to chase individual stock investments with my family – I know I’m passing up potential amazing gains here, but I’d rather spend that time with my wife and son, so I don’t follow individual stock picks much. Those are just two examples – there are lots of smaller examples of such shading around here.
That means in order to make my advice as clear as possible to everyone, I’m open about my values and goals and I try to connect them to my conclusions when I can. I could just toss up my financial opinions without such a framework, but I would be criticized for it and rightly so – the advice wouldn’t have a whole lot of value for many readers. Instead, by connecting what I’m saying to my own values and goals – and clearly wearing those values and goals on my sleeve – I create a situation where most readers (not all, unfortunately) can see the connection and apply it to their own life even if they don’t have the same values and goals.
This is why I mention defining your own values and goals so often: they strongly influence every financial decision that you make in your life whether it’s obvious or not. For instance, if early retirement is not important to you, then you are much less likely to build towards it.
A recent commenter on the site summed it up very well when he said the following:
Even though some of your priorities are different than mine, your clarity about your priorities and what it means to really *live* them in the choices you make, is really helping me see *my* priorities more clearly.
And that’s how it should be – that’s why I write The Simple Dollar.