Every year, as we approach Thanksgiving, I try to do the typical mind exercise. I try to figure out what I am thankful for and practice humility a bit. This year, in particular, I am struck by how lucky I am, financially. I imagine that if you’re reading this personal finance blog, then you are one of the lucky ones as well.
Personal finance bloggers, pundits, and media personalities are always talking about how people can succeed in their financial lives. Hell, I give that type of advice on a weekly basis! However, it’s when these “experts” start blaming those who aren’t successful, that I have a bit of a problem with it. They seem to be saying, “look, I know that anyone can make choices to be in a better financial position – just look at what I have done in MY life. People who don’t make those choices are wrong/lazy/dumb and don’t deserve financial success.”
Take a moment to open up this Wikipedia link on the self-serving bias in a new tab. I’ll wait.
You often hear bloggers talking about their success due to their frugality and wise investment decisions. These are absolutely important factors, but it’s also important for us to realize that it’s much easier to create these winning strategies if we come from a place of privilege. From the Wikipedia article on Socio-economic mobility:
The correlation between parents’ income and their children’s income in the United States is estimated between .4 and .6. If there was perfect economic mobility and being raised in poverty was not a disadvantage, you would expect to see 20% of children who started in that bottom quintile remaining there as adults. That is not what research shows. According to a 2012 Pew Economic Mobility Project study 43% of children born into the bottom quintile remain in that bottom quintile as adults.
More often than not, poor people will never be rich. And of course, there’s no reason for this other than their starting point. Of course, people that buck the trend and climb the socioeconomic ladder are truly inspiring.
Sure, there are actions all people can take to better their situation, but if they haven’t grown up SEEING the possibilities of bettering their situation, it’s very difficult to make the mental leap to do so. It’s hard to condition yourself that you have the capacity for more and even more importantly, that you deserve more.
I don’t mean for this post to be an attack or even mean-spirited. I just want to see if I can convey just how struck I am by my luck.
I like to think that I have found an amazing path on my journey towards financial independence. I think I have navigated NYC, a place that many dismiss as simply too expensive, very well. I have learned from some extremely smart personal finance bloggers about investment strategies and ways to reach my goals faster than I ever thought possible. But none of that ever would have been a consideration if I wasn’t lucky enough to have a financial role model early in life or have my basic needs taken care of so that I had time and energy to come up with my strategy. I’m thankful that I had access to education. Personal finance bloggers debate the value of higher education, but if I hadn’t had access to high school and college, my path to financial independence would either be MUCH more difficult or nonexistent!
I am amazingly thankful for the life that I have and my goal this Thanksgiving is to not look down on those who haven’t made good financial choices.
What are you thankful for?
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