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Some of the personal finance advice out there is just depressing isn’t it?

Full of guidance telling you to:

  • Sacrifice interminably to reach a faraway goal with an implied subtext that adopting a spartan approach to life in the interim and foregoing all of life’s pleasures, however big or small is the sole route to financial success.  Note that said advice fails to provide equivalent guidance on how to enjoy achieving that goal when we get there which explains why so many of us find ourselves in existential crises when we do. We’re so focused on the ends that we are terrified to enjoy the means en route.
  • Never take debt as if doing so is an immediate fail, irrespective of context or need.
  • 50/30/20 your way out of poverty (presumably by robbing Peter to pay Paul?)

But to borrow an analogy from Cash Is Queen, albeit applied differently, cutting your cloth according to your size hits differently when that cloth is threadbare.

Imagine pulling two ends of your coat together and finding they simply don’t meet, regardless of how much you twist and turn. The outcome? Exposure to the elements and misery.

The truth of the matter is, in this case at least, you can’t out-budget a low income.

And you shouldn’t be shamed for not being able to do so.

But that’s how it must feel at times to be on the receiving end of some of this advice.

So when I read this article last week from popular US personal finance commentator Suze Orman, about the one big thing all retirees should cut from their budget I eye-rolled HARD. (If you didn’t click through it is eating out.)

  • But what if eating out is a central feature of YOUR planned retirement lifestyle, after years of cooking for the family or even just something you thoroughly enjoy in your life today?
  • What if taking a low interest credit card on a short term basis provides you with a lifeline that gives you a little breathing space while you restabilise yourself before paying it back?
  • And what if your personal tried and tested route to success based on experience, by necessity involves you rewarding yourself for your micro wins the cumulative effect of which spurs you on to greater longer term success?

Yes the spartan approach might get you there quicker, but the path to success littered with small  treasures might get you there happier overall. 

So in the last week of Mental Health Awareness month, remember that not all opinions are good ones. Feel free to flex your free-thinking muscles and select only that advice that works with your current circumstances, lifestyle and value system. Even if it’s at odds with the great personal finance “experts”, your peers or even me.

Only you know what’s best for you. Trust yourself.