Blog | Personal Finance

’Tis the Season (to Pass Blame)

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Life’s Feedback Provides a Financial Education

This week, we elect a new president.

For many, elections are emotional roller coasters. This is because they place much, if not all, their hope in politicians to save them. I'm amazed each election year how much time, energy and money some people put towards their favorite candidate. I'm also amazed at how elated or devastated those same people become when their candidate wins or loses.

Bred to blame
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From a young age, we're taught to rely on others for our well-being. This starts, of course, with our parents who take care of us and feed us. This then moves to school where we're taught by our teachers, fed by the lunch crew and perform for a grade. It then moves to work where we're paid for our time and rewarded for our good efforts with promotions.

Given this, when things go badly, we're often prone to blame others.

For instance, if we have a hard childhood, we blame our parents. If we get bad grades, we blame our teachers. And if we don't get promoted, we blame our boss.

Politics is no different. Most people believe that a politician will save them. If the economy is bad, like it is now, we assume it's the government's fault. And there is no season where blame is passed around more than during an election year. All you have to do is watch the commercials.

Moving beyond blame
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And while there is a measure of blame in others that is rightly found in all these instances, it's very rare that we stop blaming others and take a good hard look at ourselves.

One afternoon, I was teaching how to invest using my financial education board game CASHFLOW® as a teaching tool. A friend of mine brought along a friend who was recently divorced, had been badly burned in the settlement, and was searching for some answers. Her friend thought the class might help her out.

In the opening round of the game, this woman drew a "doodad" card with a boat on it. At first she was happy. "Oh, I've got a boat!" she exclaimed. Then as her friend explained the numbers and how a boat was not a good thing in the game, she got frustrated because she had never liked math. When she finally realized how the numbers worked, it dawned on her that the boat was eating her alive. Later in the game she also was downsized and had a child. It was a horrible game for her.

After the class, this woman was upset. She had come to learn about investing, not play a silly game.

Her friend tried to get her to look within herself to see if the game reflected her in any way. The woman said that was ridiculous and left.

This woman's friend later called to give me an update. She said that her friend had calmed down and could now see some slight relationship between the game and her life. Although she and her husband had never owned a boat, they did own everything else imaginable. Her husband had run off with a younger woman after twenty years of marriage and she realized they had nothing to their name after all that time. All they had were doodads.

She realized that her anger during the game came from the realization that she didn't know how to manage money and do the math required. She was embarrassed. She had believed that it was the man's job to handle the finances, and now she believed that her husband had hid money from her in the last five years of their marriage. She was angry at herself for not being more aware of where the money was going, as well as for not knowing about the other woman.

When life gives you feedback...
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Just like a board game, the world is always providing us with instant feedback. This woman learned a valuable lesson. While her husband was certainly to blame for her place in, was she. She had severely limited herself by relying on others to take care of her. Instead, she should have been working with others while taking care of herself.

This week's election is an opportunity for instant feedback. As you watch the results come in, take note of how you react. What does that reaction say about you and where you place your hope? If the news isn't good about how you react, what are you going to do about it?

I've said it before, politicians cannot save you. Only you can.

Rather than blame others for where you are in life, today I encourage you to look within yourself and see where you can make changes personally, which will lead to changes financially. In fact, I'd say that would be a much better way to spend election night than watching—and fretting—as the results come in.

Where are you going to make changes personally and financially today?

For more information, please see our free, financial education community here

Original publish date: November 06, 2012

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