Ever met a “should” – er? A person bound by invisible scripts who wants you to conform to their world view?
People seem to crawl out of the woodwork with opinions about how you should spend your money and manage your career.
- “Now is the best time to buy a house!”
- “You have to go to grad school if you want a good job!”
- “You’ll never earn money singing / painting / acting / writing / starting a business.”
The “should”-er’s will be adamant that X, Y or Z is the best decision – even though they’ve never done it before.
If they HAVE done it, that’s almost worse. They’ll take one specific case study – their own — and extrapolate it to the world.
- “I got rich making widgets, so you should start widget-making too.”
- “I have a law degree and an MBA, and now I earn $200,000 a year. You should get a JD-MBA too.”
- “I had a small business and it failed. You should stick to the corporate world.”
These are the “should”-ers: that pesky, meddling choir that insists they know what’s best.
The “should”-er’s believe that X investment or Y career path or Z educational choice is the best because it worked for them, or it worked for someone they know, or because conventional wisdom says so.
They forget that what’s best for you is influenced by your age, health, interest, talent, skill, team, risk tolerance, family obligations, and economy. They forget that personal finance is personal.
The “should”-er’s often buy into career and money myths:
- That everyone should go to grad school.
- That everyone should look for a well-paying job at a major company.
- That everyone should invest in the stock market.
- That everyone should own a house.
These are huge, personal decisions, influenced by an ever-changing set of factors. Don’t let conventional wisdom – a chorus of “should’s” – pressure you into sacrificing years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars towards a goal that might not be yours.
“It Depends:” Accurate, Unsatisfying
Does it make sense to go to grad school? That depends on your industry. If you want to be a doctor, you’ll need a medical degree. There’s no getting around it.
But if you want to be a journalist, an entrepreneur, or a Certified Financial Planner, you might not need that extra diploma. Unless, of course, you decide that you do.
“It depends” might be the least satisfying answer in the world, but it’s usually the most accurate.
Should you get a well-paying job at a major company, or should you risk the startup route? It depends. Do you thrive on risk? Do you have family obligations? How’s your health? What work-life balance do you prefer?
Does it make sense to own a house vs. rent? Depends on where you live, how long you’ll live there, and what the rent-to-ownership ratios are in your neighborhood. There’s no blanket “should” about it.
Should you invest in the stock market? It depends. What other opportunities are you forgoing by putting your money in the market? You can invest in anything, you just can’t invest in everything.
Should you travel the world? I don’t friggin’ know. Do you mind long bus rides and strange foods? Does spending three months in a country where few people speak English sound appealing?
Life is complex. It should be celebrated for its richness and complexity, not reduced to a set of directives.
The “should”-er’s forget that career, marriage, family and education don’t follow a one-size-fits-all regimen. They boil all the complexities of life, love and money down to a set of invisible, ingrained scripts.
I recommend you ignore ‘em. But that’s just my advice. Take it or leave it.
Thanks to Images of Money for today’s photo.