#14: New Year's Non-Idiotic Financial Resolutions

21st December, 2020

Welcome to the Idiot Money newsletter. The newsletter that's for life, not just for Christmas. This week: becoming wiser with money in gift form.

I want to know what help you would like with financial things. Because to celebrate the end of a pretty crappy year, and the start of a hopefully better one, to the extent I can, I’d like to help a few of you sort out your finances. This offer expires in two weeks.

In the decade or so that I worked in tax and financial advice, I noticed a fascinating ratio.

Weighing down one side of the scales were friends that, vaguely knowing what I did for a living, saw me as the perfect person to complain to about financial ‘stuff’. From cash, to property, to investment accounts, to myriad pension pots, to the contributions to those pots, to the whole debauched ‘system’ that was clearly designed to work against them in a very personal, vindictive, way.

On the other side were those that took me up on my offer to do for them – for free! – what proper clients paid often tens of thousands of pounds for. That turning complaining into arranging a time to turn up with details of everything they owned, earned, thought they might own, and any secret US passports they had lying around.

This latter group remains purely hypothetical. Those meetings remain something that can apparently wait until whenever it is that life proper starts. Monday? New Year? New job? Retirement? The Second Coming?

What they (possibly you!) preferred was to be told that believing a system to be designed against them was a totally acceptable, if not completely brilliant, excuse for doing nothing but swear at it, even if it ‘works’ about as well as those poor souls trapped in traffic that act as if making their faces redder will make jams smaller.

The more I made bouncing over these anxiety-inducing administrative hurdles sound not only achievable, but easily so, the quicker the conversation would change. No one, it turns out, wants to be told important things are easy. Because what sort of an idiot hasn’t done important easy things already? Where to go for dinner? Happy to debate it for a week. What to do with a lifetime of earning and spending? Let’s pretend that saying it needs ‘proper time to think about it’ excuses never actually prioritising that time.

If it weren’t so important, and if it weren’t so sad watching so many millions leave the pockets of nice people and end up lining those of cowboys, it would perhaps be possible to leave it there. But alas.

So as another new year approaches, I’m drawn to ask:

Are you planning to ‘sort your finances’ in the New Year? If so, maybe I can help.

For the next two weeks, please send me your financial questions.

  • What does having your finances sorted mean to you?

  • What would it look and feel like?

  • What actions would you be taking (or not taking)?

  • What state would you be in when doing so?

  • What specific questions would you like answering?

  • What even matters about doing it?

  • And if it’s that darn important, what excuses have you used to avoid doing it already? (Both the ones your internal spin-doctor spouts, and the real ones.)

And if you’d like me to work with you to bring this about, let me know that too (and of course for both regulatory and being-sustainably-helpful reasons, we're talking about pointing the way and marking your homework, not doing it for you)

I’m not selling anything, but this doesn’t come for free. If you’re interested in my help, you need to prove it, by telling me how much you’ll donate to EA Funds if I do. This isn’t an auction; it’s the commitment not the quantum that counts.

Depending on your desire, overall demand, and the limits of my ability to help, I will work with a few of you to sort the shit out of everything. And in the 4th January newsletter, I’ll do something public with the questions, the answers, and the nearest I’ll probably ever get to the ‘just tell me what to do’ checklist.

In the meantime, have yourself a very responsibly merry Christmas, full of what you want, and not what you’re addicted to 😊.

Comments welcome

Money Maxim of the week: festive cheer edition

Our words are the building blocks of our world. The metaphors that power our language are the myths by which we live. Everybody’s lexicon has a special inner circle. Words, phrases, and theories that ears can’t fail to hear across a crowded room. These Maxims are designed to interrupt our unthinking as quickly and as effectively as possible. To stop, challenge, and where helpful, rewire our relationships with money.

This week: Trigger #4: Needs, wants, addictions

Examining your expenditure is crucial to transforming your resources into a Good Life. But because of the most basic way we talk about it (typically in terms of 'needs' and 'wants') we bugger it up right from the off.

Needs and wants are the same thing; do you not ‘want’ a roof over your head? Your body no more 'wants' sugar than a smoker’s 'wants' tar. And is some form of meaning or purpose or a hug not a ‘need’?

Each time you hear yourself saying 'need' or 'want', just pause and check. Is it true?

The most common mistake is to confuse wants with addictions – wants make your life better, addictions do not, but they’re awfully cunning at convincing you otherwise. Every time we mistake an addiction for a want, and consequently say our 'wants' clash with our 'needs', we wire ourselves to waste money, by turning it into a life we don't really want to lead.

Remember: 'There is an abyss,’ as Pierre Hadot wrote, ‘between fine phrases and becoming genuinely aware of oneself, truly transforming oneself.’ If all it took to have a fantastic relationship with money were these maxims, I’d have dashed out a book containing only this section, and kept the rest of it to myself.

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