Do certain words make you uncomfortable?
Freedy Johnston’s album “This Perfect World” was released in 1994 when I was a sophomore in high school. I am not exactly sure how I came to hear about it, perhaps I found it at a now defunct store chain of Tower Records, but in any case, I remember falling instantly in love with the song Bad Reputation, and even now when I hear it, it takes me back 20 years to a special time in my life. I am psyched to revisit this song today to talk about the bad reputation of certain words in the personal finance space. When I was 50 pounds overweight, and I needed to lose some pounds (like a small child), the word “diet” came up frequently; however, I found that every time I heard the word diet, I had a physical reaction that was akin to hives. I finally joined Weight Watchers, and even though I was technically on a “diet” I loved that I didn’t see the word anywhere, and I could pretend that I wasn’t.
It seems silly that certain words have the ability to generate negative reactions like this, but I find this is the case in personal finance as well. There are words that I joke just have a bad “PR rep,” because they are well intentioned and important, but they bring on a negative reaction in people which prevents them from giving them their proper due. Below is a list of a few of those words and why I think they have an unfairly given bad reputation.
Top 5 Personal Finance Words with a Bad Reputation
Budget is the “diet” of finance. When people hear the word budget, they immediately think that their life will no longer be worth living and they may as well give up all hope of happiness. The fact is, just as our bodies have a budget on how much food we can eat until we get fat, our finances have a budget as well. Every single person has a finite amount of resources from which they can support their lifestyle, and if you do not understand your limit, you will become financially fat (i.e. loaded down with debt). Just like I had to revisit my mental view of diet, you need to revisit the word budget. Think of your budget as the road map to your financial success. It will give you clarity and direction and ensure that you will reach your desired destination in the most efficient route without wasting your time. If you are having trouble getting past the word budget, just don’t call it a budget. I call it a FitPlan, which is short for Financial Fitness Plan. The FitPlan is the work out routine for my clients to get them in the financial shape they desire. When they stick to their FitPlans, they get financially sexy.
I have a confession to make; I am one of those people who thought the word frugal was just another word for cheap. When people would say they were frugal, in my mind, I immediately relabeled them as cheap. I realize now that it is just because frugal has an unfairly given bad reputation. A frugal person is actually a smart person because they understand that life is about choices and they make financial choices that protect their money rather than destroy it. A frugal person weighs a number of factors before making a financial decision. A frugal person understands that labels and Keeping up with the Kardashians will only lead you to financial distress and unhappiness. Next time you meet a frugal person, remember that he or she will be retired and living the good life early, so maybe “cheap” isn’t so bad.
My older clients hate to think of retirement because it means death to them. My younger clients hate to think of retirement because it is a reminder of how long their financial journey actually is. Either way, retirement is inevitable for most of us, and planning for it as best as we can rather than avoiding it is the valuable financial strategy. I tell my clients to not think of it as retirement, but think of it as financial freedom or the ability to say “f-you” as soon as possible. The harder we work through our working lives at financial health and planning for financial freedom, the sooner we will have the ability to determine whether or not we want to keep working. And let me tell you, as a financial planner, I hate sitting with clients who have worked hard their entire adult lives just to have to tell them they have to work harder because they are not prepared for retirement. It’s like telling someone who just ran a marathon that they have to run another 5 miles. It is so much more rewarding to tell someone they have the freedom to say “f-you” to “the man” whenever they want.
Whenever I talk about insurance with my clients it’s as though I am telling them they have to go to the dentist. It is something they know they should do, but they feel it will be a painful process. Yes, insurance costs money and sometimes it is money that we spend without ever having it returned. However, in the chance that you have a need for this money, if you are not prepared, the result could be catastrophic to your finances. Rather than view insurance akin to the dentist, think about it as risk management and part of your overall strategy for financial health and well-being. Insurance is the vitamin for your financial health, you may not always see the benefits of taking it, but it is constantly working for you and helping you weather potential bad storms.
When I speak about investing in the stock market with some clients it’s as though I am suggesting a trip to Vegas where we plan to spend their mortgage or rent money at the craps tables. They look at me like I am crazy, and know nothing about finance. The fact is that investing is a necessary component in an overall financial plan that will help you achieve your life goals and get you to the “f-you” stage faster. The reason why stocks have a bad reputation is that they are volatile and unpredictable and that scares people. The truth is they have always been volatile and unpredictable at any given time; however, over the life of investing in stocks, you will come out ahead of the game. You just have to stay on the roller coaster and ride out the “tough” times. When people let the fear and uncertainty scare them and they get off the ride early, that is when they lose.
Do you think these words have a bad reputation? Are you guilty of thinking so? What other words are unfairly judged?