The point of this post: the world of personal finance can be as confusing as a room full of five-year-olds playing soccer, and the financial industry needs to stop pretending that it’s not.
Yesterday was my oldest daughter’s first day of soccer.
It sounded like insanity, and – at its most organized – it looked like this:
She’s not in this picture. When it was taken, she was sitting beside me, crying. She didn’t want to play, although – not fifteen minutes before – she was full of beans, excited to be there, and looking forward to playing soccer.
What happened between the first picture and the second to upset her so much?
My daughter has never played soccer before, except on a wide open field with me and her three year old brother. Her idea of “playing soccer” involved running as fast as you can, picking dandelions, and generally acting like a five year old in a wide open space that happened to also contain a ball you could kick if you felt like it.
Last night, “playing soccer” suddenly became something you did with a group of kids you’ve never met and aren’t introduced to, being coached by a grown-up who doesn’t know your name, and playing by rules you’ve never heard of but everyone else seems to be familiar with.
If I sound like a disgruntled parent, I’m not. The organizers and coaches are busy people who volunteer their own scarce time, and I’m grateful to them. I’m upset with myself because I didn’t anticipate her confusion and explain what to expect.
There’s a certain kind of person who – when presented with a game to which they don’t know the rules and don’t have the skills – will run onto the field with enthusiasm and (hopefully) figure it out and develop the skills as they play.
My daughter’s not one of those people. Frankly, neither am I. She and I are people who would like to sit on the sidelines and get the game figured out before committing to playing it.
When it comes to money, most of us – by necessity – have to start playing whether we know the rules or not. Money starts moving through our hands before we have it really figured out. We hear people in the financial industry yelling at us from the sidelines to Start Saving! Borrow Money for School! Open an RRSP! Buy a House! and very few of us take a time out to get familiar with the rules before swerving over to follow whatever instructions we’ve been given.
Following instructions blindly isn’t the way to get to where you want to go. Oh, you might accidentally find yourself living within your means, or with enough money to put a hefty downpayment on a house, but it’s unlikely.
It’s not rocket science, this money thing, but unless you take a time out to get a solid grip on what you want to accomplish on the field, you’re going to find yourself sitting on the sidelines with your head in your hands, upset because the whole thing is just so overwhelming.
Don’t let it be. Tune out the random yelling from the sidelines, find a coach who knows how to explain money in a way that you’ll understand, and start playing with confidence.
Come on. It’ll be fun.