I get kind of irritated when I see people on financial forums tearing another poster apart because they’ve done something stupid with money. Well, so have we all at one time or another. Perfection with money isn’t possible. Even if your last name is Buffett or Gates, chances are you’ve made some mistakes with money. The trick to doing well financially is to learn from your mistakes and to do better the next time.
To my mind there are two kinds of mistakes with money. There is the kind of mistake that comes from just not knowing any better or getting caught up in a firestorm of bad events, and there is the kind of mistake that comes from deliberately blowing money and not really caring that you’re screwing up. Most people who are posting on financial forums suffer from the first type of mistakes.
When they post, they’re seeking to educate themselves so they can do better going forward. If you don’t care about money or success with money why post on a financial board? People who want to learn are generally the ones who post on finance boards. There’s no need to tear this kind of person apart. They want help. Just be kind and offer it to them.
If perfection with money were possible, we’d all be rich. No one would end up in debt, everyone would live within their means, no one would get surprised with a huge tax bill, and no one would retire unprepared. But it happens. Even people who have it all together can make mistakes. You can chase a bad investment. Forget to update a will. Do the math wrong on your taxes. Balance your checkbook wrong and bounce a check. There are thousands of ways to mess up with money.
I hate when I see other people getting beaten up for their mistakes. I hate when I see them beat themselves up, too. It’s one thing to admit the mistake and move on. It’s another when you start telling yourself (or others tell you) that you’re a screw up, no good with money, or a failure. You’re not. You’re just human. Figure out what you did wrong, fix it, and then vow not to do that again. Will you make another mistake down the road? Probably. The trick is to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Learn, fix, and move on. When you mess something else up, learn about it, fix it, and move on. We all make mistakes in every aspect of our lives and money is no different. All you can do is the best you can do.
None of us are ever going to be perfect with money, so don’t tear other people up about their mistakes. You’re not perfect, either, and having a negative attitude makes you look like a jerk. Now, if you see someone who keeps doing the same stupid thing over and over again, that’s different. This person probably has no real interest in learning, and instead would rather play the victim. Rather than tearing them up, though, offer your advice and if they don’t turn things around, just ignore them. But for people who are genuinely trying, try a little compassion and some helpful advice. And if it’s you who’s beating up on yourself, stop it. Perfection isn’t possible. Do the best you can do. That’s all you can ask of yourself.