April 11, 2022

LeadershipMarkets & Free Enterprise

The Meaning Behind “I’m Fine”

By: Patrick Nalepa

The dreaded four-letter word. As Mel Robbins says, being “fine” can cripple many aspects of your life. I believe that one of the worst areas to be crippled is personal finances.

After less than two minutes talking to a prospective client, about 75% of them say, “It’s really cool what you’re doing and a lot of people will benefit from that, but I’m all set. I’m not accumulating debt on credit cards and I’m paying down my student loans, while investing in my company 401k along the way. So, while others will find value in what you’re doing, I don’t need a budget. I’m fine.” This is a tricky place for financial coaches, because while most financial advisors would likely give you a pitch of why they invest your money better than others, my assistance is more elementary and foundational. I don’t sell products, all I want is to shine a light on areas of potential improvement for clients and help them brainstorm ways and techniques to create efficiencies in their financial lives so they can ensure a strong foundation in perpetuity.

That said, when someone retorts that they are fine, I dig deeper to uncover the real reason they don’t want help. Sometimes it’s as simple as they are not mentally ready to be held accountable for their finances and don’t want the help because they know it will be uncomfortable and may change their status quo. Yet, they just don’t want to “hurt my feelings” by saying it or are ashamed to admit it to themselves – both of which are sad to see. Why should someone else’s feelings ever stand in the way of your financial literacy, goals, and dreams? The answer is never.

Sometimes people genuinely believe they have a handle on their personal financial matters because they are saving enough in their 401k to get the company match, they are on-time with their required student loan payments, and they are living a comfortable lifestyle with what they have left each month. Maybe there is a nice car payment for a few hundred a month, a one-bedroom apartment all to themselves, and a “healthy” allotment of leftovers for discretionary activities that come up throughout the month. But hey, all the bills are getting paid, they’re investing in their 401k, and the loans will be paid off by the mandatory 10-year term. That’s pretty good isn’t it? This person couldn’t be part of the 75% of Millennials and Gen Z that live and spend to “keep up with the Joneses”, right? I mean they’re not taking on any new debt AND are saving for retirement!

The real answer is yes AND no. Yes, if the situation above describes you, you are in the top 50% of young working professionals. But it may surprise you to know that by doing these things you are simply “getting by.” Not accumulating debt shouldn’t win someone a trophy for being great with their finances, that should be the bare minimum, something our current society has forgotten long ago. Because while it’s great that this person is not taking on additional debt and saving for retirement, they’re really just being strung along in the game that society has set up for us. As Dave Ramsey says, “You need to live like no one else now, so one day you can live like no one else.”

In order to be great, you need to be radically different. Sadly enough, in this day and age, all that means is thinking for yourself. And yes, this expands well beyond financial well-being, but I will reign it in. You should be doing things that no one else is, approaching common questions from uncommon angles. The most practical example of this on a personal level is to track EVERY DOLLAR that comes in and out of your accounts each month, so that you know not only how much you spend but WHERE you spend it. When I do this exercise with my new clients, most of them are shocked to see where their money truly is spent on a monthly basis. Once we see these results we can start to change behaviors and habits to establish and accomplish goals.

So, while it is good that the aforementioned person is saving into a 401k, paying all bills, and paying off student loans, if that is all that person is doing they are simply living for NOW and the temporary pleasures of the moment. Before people get on my case, yes we should enjoy our lives today and have goals built in to do so, but if we don’t start living contrary to the norm and setting up paths to accomplish our dreams down the road (not as far as you think) we will never have the ability to control our destiny. It will be controlled for us. We will be required to live within the bounds that society allows us, not that we choose. How do you expect to buy a house, purchase a car, buy a rental property/vacation home, send a child to college, or even retire if you are simply doing the bare minimum? Let me save you the time and trouble of doing the math. You will not be able to accomplish all your goals and dreams in this life if you do not live according to a different discipline, a different set of rules than a majority of your neighbors, your coworkers, and your friends. Just because others are fine with living in the now and “kicking the can” down the road, you don’t have to join them. Fine isn’t good enough for you. Live radically different so you can accomplish your radical dreams.

If you are interested in learning more about financial coaching or want a free consultation, please reach out to me at [email protected] or check out my website at nalepafinancial.com.