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52 Comments

  1. Mr G, great post, here’s hope that the morons read it! Congrats on a great trend in your first few months of retirement, I hope you’re springing for that Groovypaloosa at the end of the year (I’d offer, but I need to avoid becoming a moron).

  2. I like the no-excuses approach. For example, generations of my family have relied on welfare to survive. My parents decided that was BS, so they developed their own financial culture, went to college, and got high-paying and in-demand jobs. As a result, my sister and I got fantastic educations and broke the welfare cycle. Change is possible, but it isn’t easy.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly! Thank you, Mrs. PP. We need to point out stories like yours, not to be cruel to those struggling, but to help them realize the power they have to change things. I remember a young lady in my office who moved from Buffalo to Charlotte. When I asked her why she moved, she said to get away from her family. If she stayed in Buffalo, her family’s dysfunction would have ruined her life. But because she moved away from them and adopted a new financial culture, she was able to build a pretty secure financial and personal life for herself. Ah, the power of financial redemption.

  3. Will Groovypaloosa be a family friendly affair? I hope so, because we can’t afford a babysitter for all five kids.

    Yes, yes, and yes – tracking our finances has made a huge difference in our money intelligence. Watching the numbers change for the better provides excellent motivation for continuing to make changes in spending and saving.

    I like your very simple method for evaluating success or failure. The key, as you pointed out, is really just being honest with yourself. Understanding the causes of unavoidable setbacks is helpful – making excuses for your poor choices is not.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Of course, Groovypaloosa will be a family friendly event. We’ll even have special entertainment for twins. And I love how tracking your key financial numbers proved to be so beneficial. Mrs. Groovy and I discovered the same thing. What’s the old saying, “You manage what you measure?” Thanks for stopping by, Harmony. You always bring a smile to my face. Hope the twins aren’t being too devilish. Cheers.

  4. The interesting part I think is that many financial morons don’t know or don’t believe they are. They grow up in perceived wealth. They have all the stuff their little hearts always desired because mommy and daddy gave it to them. They may have missed the signs of parents worrying, being able to pay the $6,000 mortgage, start of next month.

    I like the idea of your diagnosis.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. Self-awareness is a tough skill to learn. It’s got to be even tougher to learn when you’ve had everything handed to you. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Hope Milwaukee’s being kind to you.

  5. It makes sense, are you saving more than you are spending? +1. Are you growing your net worth? +2.

    Would it be possible to have a +1 for the gap and a -1 for your net worth? I guess if you took out unsecured debt, but other than that, I’m not sure .

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Erik. I was thinking along the same lines. How many possible scenarios are there? In 2008, for instance, my gap improved but my net worth took a hit because of the Great Recession. And I suppose if I got hit with an unexpected medical bill during a great Wall Street rally, my gap could decrease and my net worth could go up. So I definitely think a +1/-1 and a -1/+1 could happen. Whew. This personal finance stuff is hard. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  6. I was born into a family awashed with financial ignorance =) but luckily my parents were super conservative with money. So at least I had that growing up. I read some great investing-related books early in my life and met some great mentors along the way. Have been investing since my late teens. The 2008-2009 crash was a massive boon for me!

    • Mr. Groovy

      That’s awesome, TK. From your parents you learned how to “live within your means,” and from your curiosity you learned the fundamentals of investing. And all in time to put you in a great position to capitalize on the 2008-2009 crash. “Be greedy when others are fearful.” Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I really appreciate what you had to share.

  7. It’s a pretty good start. I might add a step to ensure you know what your goals actually are. How can you sail on the ship called life if you do not know where your headed at least at a cursory level?

    If your truly driven towards those goals and yet you grew up with less then adequate role models, then you should use what you saw not working as a driver to succeed. I grew up with parents who I’d still categorize as financial morons. I watched, observed what didn’t work, and applied it as motivation to ensure I did not make the same mistakes.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, FTF. Without goals, all that gap-building and net-worth growing can be pretty meaningless. And I love how you used your parents as anti-models. The common route is to find a good model and do exactly what he or she is doing. It takes a special mind to do the opposite–find a bad model and do exactly what he or she isn’t doing. Bravo, my friend.

  8. Great post-Mr.G. I was in the same boat, although I didn’t have a millionaire co-worker or at least none that I knew about. We had our financial wake-up call at 40. There is no excuse for being a financial moron. Change is possible, but sometimes we need a little push in the right direction. Or at the very least some type of awakening to break the spell of the past.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Brian. I really appreciate your kind words. Did you hear Shannon and her lady friends last week on the Martinis and Your Money? You were a prominent part of the show. They loved the financial moronity you exhibited early in your adult life.

  9. As someone who grew up in a financially ignorant home, I agree with you that there aren’t really any excuses in this day and age. What my parents couldn’t teach me, I sought out on the Internet when I grew up. I found personal finance blogs and they kicked my ass to actually do something about my situation. I learned about possibilities that I never thought could apply to people like me.

    But I think there’s more to it than just financial awareness. For example, my sister and I grew up in the same exact house with the same parents. The way we handle our money couldn’t be more different. I think people’s personalities definitely predispose you to how well you “take” to financial advice.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, TLS. My brother and I grew up in the same household with the same parents, and he was far better at making money than I. We came from a long line of civil servants, and that’s the route I took. But my brother took the entrepreneurial route. So there is definitely a gene that makes one more amenable to the fundamentals of personal finance.

  10. I’d push this further to say that age isn’t an excuse either. I hear a lot (I mean A LOT) of people chalking it up to being in their 20s or 30s. Nope. Once you’re made aware of something, you can start making progress. And way to kick butt with maintaining that gap!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love the cut of your jib, Penny. On D-Day, we had 19 and 20 year old men storming the beaches at Normandy. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, was 29 years old on that fateful day. And, yet, a majority of our 20 and 30 somethings today can’t put $100 a month in a Roth IRA. Pathetic.

  11. You know, at least you made up for your rudimentary ways – most people never get around to it!! I am thankful to all the FI peeps who have come before me and shared their wisdom. Because of that, you’re right, there is no excuse!! We hide from what we don’t know because we think it is so difficult but once you read a bit it gets easier and easier to understand. You didn’t give up after stumbling your first few steps when walking so don’t give up if you stumble in the financial realm. Get up, dust yourself off, and find another way to learn.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “You didn’t give up after stumbling your first few steps when walking so don’t give up if you stumble in the financial realm.”

      Thank you, Miss M. Excuses may sooth the soul but they also subsidize failure. And as the old economic saw goes, “whatever you subsidize, you get more of.” Thankfully, I finally realized that excuses weren’t my friend. It hurt to admit I was a financial moron, especially at the advanced age of 40. But dropping my excuses for financial mediocrity and failure was the best move I ever made.

  12. You’re right, Mr. G, there is no excuse for being a financial moron. Not when there’s a wealth of information on how to counteract that malady right here on the interwebs and in the library. From my own experience, I know that getting started, admitting that you don’t have the answers and need to find them, is probably the most difficult part. Hopefully you’ve set a few morons on their financial improvement journey today. And I’m looking forward to hearing more about Groovypaloosa!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Want to cut your grocery bill? There’s a blog for that. Want some side-hustle ideas? There’s a blog for that. Want a low-cost investment strategy for a Millennial starting his or her professional career? There’s a blog for that. The amount of quality, free financial information out there is staggering. As you so aptly pointed out, Gary, the most difficult hurtle people have today is “admitting that [they] don’t have the answers and need to find them.” Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I’ll keep you posted on Groovypaloosa.

  13. Great post Mr Groovy! It’s always amazing to me how people with the same job title / salary can have wildly different financial lives.

    I’m glad you got on track when you were a young buck. On my first tour overseas, the Army Chaplain gave us a speech about putting first things first. His “first thing” was investing in the government TSP. We were all between 18 and 25 so he didn’t exactly have an engaged audience. Some people listened. Some didn’t. Those who did invest in the TSP got off to the right start, while some coworkers spent every dime.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Matt. You are so right. Young people seem to be biologically adverse to drinking from the well of wisdom. I remember a coworker coaching me early in my career to avoid credit card debt at all costs. I remember another coworker imploring me to bank my sick time (you got a check for accrued sick time upon separation). And I remember a family member telling me to open a Vanguard IRA. Did I listen? Hell no. Their advice was perfectly sound, and I knew that. But my immature brain preferred partying and stuff to financial security. Meh. I hope you were wise enough to listen to that chaplain, my friend.

  14. That’s a sweet gap Mr. Groovy!

    I haven’t experienced a decline in net worth yet but like you say market downturns happen and jobs turn sour. We have it too good right now. Makes me suspicioussss…

    I’ve heard the other excuse: my parents are rich so I never learned the value of a dollar, that’s why I’m broke. Same slop just a different way of saying “I can’t be bothered.”

    • Mr. Groovy

      Whoa! I love it. “Same slop, just a different way of saying, ‘I can’t be bothered.'” A lot of wisdom there, Lily. The human capacity for self-delusion and excuse-making is boundless.

  15. I like it Mr. G,

    Using your methodology here I was complete moron until I was 40 years old. It was then I finally smartened up and “learned to earn”, as well as how to use a spreadsheet.

    But even when times are great and your monthly positive spread is more than double it’s amazing how complacent and wasteful one can get.

    So when the rainy season comes….ouch.

    Tweeted this with your quote “The chains of culture are extremely hard to break…”

    B

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s not fun when you realize you’re a financial moron. The human ego much prefers comfortable lies to the unvarnished truth. But where do those comfortable lies take us? Penury? Cat food for sustenance? I’m so glad I finally woke up. I just wish the blow to my ego occurred when I was 20 rather than 40. Sigh. Thanks for stopping by, Brent. It’s always great hearing from another recovering financial moron. Cheers.

  16. Love the post. No nonsense, no excuses. There is so much information out there about budgeting, how to save, and cheaper alternatives for products that you can use to get the best price and keep your finances in line. Your article does a great job showing what a difference the person makes. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

    Bert

    • Mr. Groovy

      Here’s one for you, Bert. A few years ago, a void developed under a small section of our hardwood floors in the living room (we have glued down flooring). Every time you stepped on the floor above this void, you would produce a “thwoop” sound. It annoyed the crap out of me. So I went online to find a solution. Within fifteen minutes I found a repair kit that cost less than $50. Once the kit arrived, it took me about a half hour to eliminate the void. Now a question. What would I have done 20 years ago? I would have called a flooring guy, and it would have cost me hundreds of dollars to have him fix it. As you made crystal clear in your comment, Bert, we live in an information age. Any problem you want to fix–from flooring to finances–can be fixed for an extremely low cost by simply going online. The only thing that’s holding us back is our attitude. Enough of the victim mentality; enough of the excuses. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I really appreciate your insights. Cheers.

  17. Measure, measure, measure . . . yet I admit years of this in my professional life still didn’t translate to my personal financial life until my mid-30s.

    I do think some of it is learned, but alot of it is laziness and likely fear/shame of what you’ll find out. Good stuff!

    • Mr. Groovy

      “[M]ankind are more disposed to suffer…than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

      Why is inertia the default setting of man? I think you nailed the most likely reasons. Laziness, fear, shame–they all conspire to keep us trapped in our destructive, yet comfortable routines. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, TI. You really got me thinking. Bravo.

  18. NIce post! I was brought up in a fairly financially ignorant household. For instance some of their advice was along the lines of “having a lot of credit card debt is fine because you can pay it off quickly once you get your job.” “Cashing out your 401k isn’t a big deal if you need it because you can replace that money easily once you get your job.”

    This was the O&G job that wasn’t quite materialized yet because I only had an internship offer at the time. Aye yi yi… To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have listened to much good advice though. Although I did manage to bank $12k in a 401k before I cashed it out.

    Tracking our expenses was the key for us, and having Mrs. SSC not being such an utter financial moron like me. That was more key than anything, lol. I too was an utter financial moron and like you took steps to get myself out of moron-dom. With the amount of free PF info out there, it’s really only your own fault if you don’t do something about it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. My 20-something brain was impervious to what good advice was thrown its way. Thankfully, as I was closing in on 40, I started to wake up. Marrying Mrs. Groovy and sealed the deal and my financial renaissance began. The old saw, “behind every great man is a great women,” may not be applicable for every successful guy out there, but it was for me. It looks like you married up too. Bravo, my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Oh, I hope you have Groovypaloosa! 🙂

    I think if you can recognize you’re a moron, that’s the very first step. The information is out there – for FREE – to learn all you need to know. You have to having the burning desire to become a non-moron and push past those excuses and cultural influences. And the spend tracking is the best place to start (love the subcategories btw!).

    • Mr. Groovy

      Couldn’t agree more. First, be strong enough to admit you’re a moron. Second, develop a voracious appetite for financial information–especially the free stuff. Finally, third, dedicate yourself to the de-moronification process and “push past [the] excuses and cultural influences.” It’s so simple. But damn, one’s ego and culture are formidable foes. Thanks for stopping by, Amanda. I love the way you get to the heart of the matter with just a few sentences. Amazing.

  20. It was an interesting situation in the military because everyone wears their paycheck amount on their shirt (rather literally!) so you know almost exactly what each person earns. What they made of that money was a VERY different story. I remember being about 23,24 and Mr. Mt’s coworker was complaining about his debt and their low wages. Mr. Mt explained how we had the same debt 5 years earlier but now we had 100k to our names in cash. I thought the guy was going to fall over! People tend to underestimate the amount of change they can create by being intentional and focused with their spending and saving.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “People tend to underestimate the amount of change they can create by being intentional and focused with their spending and saving.”

      No further commentary from me is necessary. I hope Mr. Mt’s coworker was smart enough to use Mr. Mt as a model. Thanks for stopping by, Ms. M. I always feel better after reading your comments. There is hope for mankind.

  21. Great way of looking at things, Mr. Groovy.

    I especially like the self-assessment part. It’s one thing to put tracking systems in place – it’s a whole other thing to actually take the time to reflect on what it all means and how you want to improve!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Self-assessment isn’t easy. The ego is a powerful liar. But if you can’t produce a positive gap and your net worth is going down every year, you got to surmise that something’s wrong. I know it’s a leap, but I’m hoping my tracking system would trigger the necessary financial reflection upon three consecutive years of futility. We are truly our own worst enemies. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  22. Another great post, Mr. G! It wasn’t until I started tracking everything that I realized the error of my ways. Finding the personal finance community, especially the FIRE community changed my life and for that, I’m very grateful.

    You don’t know, what you don’t know. But once you figure it out you sure as heck better use that knowledge and quit being a moron.

    A Groovypaloosa sounds way awesome!

    • Mr. Groovy

      No confirmed bands for Groovypaloosa as of now. I’ll keep you posted. And you are so right about tracking. Just gather the information and think about it. Do those two things and you’re bound to improve your finances. De-moronification is actually quite easy. The problem, as you correctly alluded to, is that most people never realize they’re financial morons until it’s too late. Sigh.

  23. Lila

    I think that in today’s day and age there is NO EXCUSE for not being smart with your money. You don’t have to go to community college at all.

    A lot of financial blogs will teach you from the basics of budgeting, to how to manage investments, and build a financial portfolio.

    There are books at the library, books, courses like from “The Great Courses” and even classes at university and community college.

    If you stay financially ignorant you will be at the mercy of other people and I refuse to be at the mercy of others. Nobody cares more about your money than you do!

    • Mr. Groovy

      “If you stay financially ignorant you will be at the mercy of other people and I refuse to be at the mercy of others. Nobody cares more about your money than you do!”

      Thank you, Lila. I couldn’t agree with you more. Financial ignorance is the road to serfdom. The more you travel on it, the more you will be manipulated by others. Meh. Maybe that’s why personal finance isn’t taught in high school and college. Financially weak people need the government, financially strong people don’t.

  24. I think that you are the opposite of a moron. You have an awesome blog that is both entertaining and educational. You had a later start than your old coworker, but still reached FIRE. We all have different starting points on this path to FI. IMO, it is about enjoying the journey and judge yourself after you reach the finish line.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Dave. You’re much too kind. And I love your perspective on FIRE. “[E]njoy the journey and judge yourself after you reach the finish line.” One of the most poignant financial mantras I’ve heard in a while. I salute you.