The penny drops — why I failed to find what I was looking for

Can I just say that this week’s assignment was a real chore. You’d think trawling around the internet to read personal finance blogs wouldn’t make it to the top of the list of things I’m begging you not to make me do again … seeing as I am one of these very bloggers, and must surely have an interest!

And really, I do. The comment above is no reflection whatsoever on the quality of blogs I clicked my way through.

Instead it reflects a profound error in the intention behind the assignment.

I thought I might learn stuff, I thought I might find some new blogs to follow and in particular I was keeping an eye out for advice on what to do when you’re in a financial quandary (a recent reality when I decided to sell my property and then changed my mind.)

But as I surfed around and got frustrated, the penny finally dropped. The reason why I was in a financial quandary is because it’s unclear what I’m hoping to achieve. Which set of numbers are more attractive — ones that pay off now or ones that pay off later? I wasn’t sure because I’m trying to achieve too many things without understanding what they cost.

My fellow bloggers out there can provide information about financial products and services, they can tell me their financial goals and how they’re progressing towards them, they can share money saving tips, warn me off scams and ask me to consider looking at money in a whole different way. But what they cannot do is explain to me why I should care about ANY of these topics in the first place.

I’m not sure what I want money to do for me. At a high level, yes, I need money to survive and I’ve started to understand how I use money to thrive — what I like to spend it on, what sort of things I might save for, how hard I do and do not want to work for it.

But I’ve been avoiding setting a few SMART goals that are directly tied to what I want for the future*. (SMART as in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). And therefore I have no compass when it comes to decisions like buying or selling property or more pressingly (now that I’ve made that decision), working out how much I want to save and for what in exchange for denying myself certain aspects of my present lifestyle. (An allusion to the fact that I’m not finding the July challenge of spending only what I predicted I’d spend all that easy. Surprise.)

I used to use money to buffer myself from having to think about anything of these things — and as I’ve said before I may get to the end of this year and decide that this policy suits me perfectly and that I’m going to stick with spending as little time as possible thinking about my finances. But for now, the lesson of this week is that I need to make some proper decisions before I hunt around for answers that reflect other people’s values and priorities.

Having said that, I shall publish the round-up of blogs that broke up the monotony of the chore and seemed well worth the read. See the next post for my recommendations.

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