I remember once being told that you can learn from anybody. Even a person who seems like they don’t have their act together can easily teach what NOT to do which is just as invaluable as learning what to do. The problem is that most people feel that taking advice from someone is an indictment on their own personal worth. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you need help. Even if you’re a subject matter expert on a given topic, you should always try to expand your knowledge so that you become even more proficient in your field of interests. For example, my personal background in finance has afforded me the opportunity to build wealth and retire early, but that doesn’t stop me from constantly reading about personal finance. I have no problem reading a book or article that rehashes what I already know as long as I can get something out of it. Sometimes, a nugget of information can make the investment of time or money more than worth it.
When it comes to people, it’s our thirst for knowledge that drives us forward. It’s this desire to become better, more productive, individuals that allows us to innovate and create products and solutions that have marked the upward surge of mankind for centuries. But what if we’re talking about a topic that you don’t care about. Is it worth expanding your knowledge on the impact of saltwater intrusion on carbon storage in temperate tidal freshwater wetlands? Maybe not, but even if it’s on a topic that doesn’t interest you, it still might be on something that has a huge impact on your life. If this is the case, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make the effort to improve your knowledge in this area. There’s even a lot of big name universities like MIT, Princeton, Harvard, etc. that offer various course online that you can attend for free from the comfort of your home.
But what if this topic is, for example, personal finance? Now I know for most people spending time learning about saving, investing, debt management, taxes, etc. isn’t real exciting, but there’s no one who can deny the fact that personal finance has a huge impact on your daily life. If you think I’m stretching the importance of this topic, just think of this. Every day you spend money, pay bills and make decisions about discretionary versus mandatory expenses. Based on this premise, doesn’t it make sense that you should do everything you can to be a better educated manager of your money? Of course it does, but most people would rather eat a worm than talk about money which is why U.S debt levels are through the roof and the percentage of household savings versus other countries ranks the U.S. a pathetic 16th (data from the OECD – Economic Outlook, June 2012).
Even if you decide that managing your finances is important, don’t make the mistake of handing over the entire responsibility to a financial advisor in the hopes that they are better educated and more motivated to manage you money than you are. Although I won’t deny that they may be more knowledgeable than you, never think for a second that they care more about your financial situation than you do. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to care about your finances more than you. And why is that? The obvious answer is that although you are their client, if they fail you they still have other clients. Even if you take your business elsewhere, who do you think will be greatly impacted by their poor performance? This is why you must take an active approach to managing your money. You don’t need to be Warren Buffet, but you do need to expand your knowledge any way you can by reading and asking questions to ensure that your financial future doesn’t rest solely in someone else’s hands.
This investment in your education will pay dividends as you become a more knowledgeable consumer who can ask important questions when you’re offered something that sounds a little too good to be true. There are a lot of unscrupulous people out there that pray on your fear of the stock market by offering solutions that sound like the lifeline you need to provide a financially secure retirement. When this happens, and it will, your best defense against people like this is to take an active approach to expanding your personal finance IQ.
So when it comes to improving your knowledge, especially in areas that are critical to your financial well-being, swallow your pride and open your mind to the idea that there’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t know something. This acknowledgment is the first step to being a well-rounded person who isn’t spending their golden years trying to comprehend what went wrong.