Gichuki Kahome

5 Simple Concepts in Personal Finance That Many People Get Wrong

Personal finance gurus have driven the personal finance space with cliches that have complicated how we manage and think about money. They keep on telling you that there is a “secret” to doing well financially when there isn’t any.

“Not everything can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

~Albert Einstein

While there are a lot of things that influence our financial success, there can only be  a few of them that greatly affect how we do financially.

In this article I share some of the things that really matter and that are contrary to what many people believe.

1. You Cannot Personal Finance Your Way Out Of Poverty

The old school secret to doing well financially is “cut on your expenses and live below your means. Only spend on the essentials and save everything else.”

That’s the secret that financial gurus sell to people as the only secret to getting rich. They expect everyone regardless of their levels of income to be able to have a high savings rate.
What they do not tell you is that it is easier to save money when you have a high income.

Nick Maggiuli writes,

“The “secret” is the thing in personal finance that no one wants to talk about: it’s easy to save money when you have a high income.”

Low income earners don’t even manage to meet their essential needs. Yet you are expecting them to put money aside and save. Remember you cannot reduce your expenses to zero. You still have to eat and meet other basic needs.

Nick continues and writes,

“In all seriousness, you can talk about cutting expenses all you want but it’s income that builds wealth.”

For a person earning 10K per month, asking them to save 10% of their income, would mean they have to put aside 1K every month. This will be very hard considering that their income is not even enough to meet their daily basic needs.

On the other hand, for someone earning a net income of 100K, saving 10% would mean he puts aside 10K of his income and he still has 90K to meet his daily expenses.

For him, it should be much easier to save 10% of his income since even after deducting his savings, he still has 90K to spend.

Even if the person who earns 10K saved 100% of his income(which is impossible) they would still have 10K only. Nothing more.

As Nick writes,

“This is why the personal finance industry loves the “cut your lattes and get rich” style of advice. They love it because it opens a new door in a world where the other door(high income) is closed for most people.”

Yes, cutting your expenses works, but often the problem is low-incomes. You can talk about cutting your expenses all you want, but you cannot personal finance yourself out of poverty.

2. Striking A Balance Between Saving & Conscious Spending

For most people, personal finance means living below your means, never spending money on things you love because you only spend money on your necessities. This means never eating out at fancy restaurants, you don’t fly first class, you don’t go for expensive holidays.

We want to deprive ourselves of all the good things that our money can help us achieve.

Everyone is shouting about how we should try to cut down on unnecessary expenses and save as much as we can. No one ever talks about how we should spend our money to improve our lives.

In his book, “I will teach you How To Be Rich” Ramit Sethi writes,

“My friend Jim once called me to tell me that he’d gotten a raise at work. On the same day, he moved into a smaller apartment. Why? Because he doesn’t care very much about where he lives, but he loves spending money on camping and biking. That’s called conscious spending.”

Be intentional with your spending. Maximize on things that make you happy. Those are the important things in your life. Minimize everything else that doesn’t.

Don’t be that millionaire who is still worried about the extra buck charged for packing his groceries at the grocery store.

Ramit Sethi adds,

“Conscious spending isn’t about cutting your expenses on everything. That approach wouldn’t last two days. It is quite simply, about choosing the things you love enough to spend extravagantly on – and then cutting costs mercilessly on the things you don’t love.”

Imagine what your rich life would be like. What are some of the things that you would want to never worry about in your life? What would you like your money to do for you?

Enjoying money and using it to improve your life is not as bad as financial gurus making it seem. If you do it right, it helps you improve the quality of your life.

3. It’s Not What You Think

When most people think of acquiring wealth, they think of buying luxurious cars, houses, expensive holidays, eating at fancy restaurants. They falsely think that being rich is all about spending huge amounts of money.

In the Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel writes,

“When most people say they want to be millionaires, what they usually mean is that they want to spend a million dollars. And that is the literal opposite of being a millionaire.”

While many people focus on spending a lot of money, being rich is about investing a lot of money. It’s about having a high savings rate and learning to be satisfied with less. That’s the price that you have to pay before you can be able to spend huge chunks of money on luxurious items without going broke 

4. Debt Will Not Improve Your Credit Score

As I recently wrote, debt has become so easily accessible that it is quickly ruining our future financial positions. Companies have reduced the old school bottlenecks that made access to loans difficult.

True to Dave Ramsey’s words,

“Debt has become so ingrained into our culture that most people can’t even envision a car without a payment, a house without a mortgage, a student without a loan, and credit without a card.”

Companies have come up with new and clever ways to seduce people with debt. One new way is by encouraging people to take up debt as this will improve their credit score.

While this is true, what they do not tell you is that whenever you take bad debt, you are robbing money from your future self.

They are trying to make debt sound like a good thing that has financial benefits while it’s not. Yes, you will have a good credit score, but do you want to keep borrowing money until you die? Isn’t your goal to be so wealthy that you can meet all your needs without necessarily having to borrow money?

While they shout that taking debt will increase your credit score, they do not mention the stress that comes with doing monthly repayments for your loan. They do not even mention the high-interest rates on loans and the ridiculous fees that come with loans.

Make Your Own Money Rules

The best way to get the best from your money is by setting your own money rules. Guided by your financial goals, come up with the guiding principles that will help you achieve your goals.

The only person you should be listening to and learning from more than anyone else is yourself. Learn what works for you and learn what matters most for you. And that is how you successfully learn how to manage your money.


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