I recently attended a (mandatory) financial workshop. The workshop was geared toward a wide demographic of attendees, thus the information was kept on a rather general level. Most of the content in the various presentations was stuff I’d heard many times over, but I still managed to avoid blacking out completely. Keep in mind there were people in there from the age of 18 to 50(ish) there, all with very different backgrounds and experience levels. While we were not being sold any specific products one theme continued to dominate almost every presentation. It was this: In order to be successful in life you must:
- Live below your means.
- Cut all unnecessary expenses.
- Max out a Roth IRA.
- Start a 401k and put as much as you can into that too.
- Invest, invest, invest, the market will do the rest.
Here’s the thing, I’m all for living at or below one’s means. I believe in having a minimal amount of necessary expenses but not going over the top. Where I started to disagree with these individuals was when it came to the strategy for prosperity and success in life as a whole. They were presenting the 401k / Roth IRA course of action as “the only way” instead of “a way.” It was hammered home over and over again as if one should forsake everything but the occasional happy meal in order to dump all excess funds into investment accounts. If you are someone who subscribes to that methodology, well there probably aren’t too many people like that who are reading this blog but if you were that type of person more power to you. Whatever you need to do to sleep well at night go for it. Personally I don’t put much value in the market or having a 401k or Roth IRA. What bothered me was when I questioned their rationale for this line of reasoning they almost became hostile, as if I was questioning the very existence of a higher power.
The fun continued and I even got into a debate with a few of the instructors. At one point it was mentioned that if you have a debt to income ratio of 30% or more, you were in trouble and should seek financial counseling. I raised my hand and said: “Ok, I understand that. If I make $1,000 per month and have $300 in bills I’m probably hurting. But if I make (for example) $10,000 per month and have $3,000 in bills I’m probably not doing so badly. While saving and watching expenses is necessary, why not also touch on earning potential and how to tap into that? ” Their response was phenomenal. After some stuttering the instructor actually brought up M.C. Hammer and Mike Tyson and mentioned how both of them went bankrupt after trying to get rich quickly. What does that have to do with the cost of tea in China? I retorted with the example of my friends who were in their late 50′s (who religiously contributed to their 401k), who lost over half of their “nest egg” when the market crashed and now will be working into their 70′s. Silence. This followed by: “well they should have been in a lower risk portfolio.” Whatever.
Here’s the point of this post. Whether it be personal finances, shooting on the range, setting snares, setting up your kit, or prepping in general…there is never “the only way.” We should embrace what makes us feel comfortable but realize that there just might be other ways to arrive at a similar end state. Someone who dumps all of their disposable income into investment accounts might live out a wonderful retirement on a beach, but so could the person who never invested a dime in the market but put sweat equity into starting a landscaping company or online business.
The financial workshop I had to attend was just one example of how advice goes awry but I’ve seen it on other prepper sites or videos. Just remember that while YOUR way might be the best for you it might be completely irrelevant for someone else. You might swear by a kit from XYZ company or a certain method to conduct a reload, but I might like ABC company for chest rigs and prefer another way to conduct reloads. It’s all up to personal preference and what helps us all reach the desired end state.