If you're reading this, you're probably at least a little interested in getting your finances in order. Maybe you've even tried! Maybe you've read a bunch of advice, but nothing seems to work for you. If that sounds familiar, the solution might not be to find more advice. Instead, focus on finding advice that speaks to you.
Illustration by Sam Woolley
Personal finance is, you know, personal. It's right there in the name, but people seem to forget just how much money management has to do with your own unique situation, habits and behaviours. Some money writers focus on their personal debt stories. Others, like me, usually focus on practical tips. And some financial experts focus on the mindset of money in our society. At its core, though, all of this personal finance advice is more or less the same. It's the approach that's different. The best money advice, then, is the advice you can actually relate to.
Find a Story That Motivates You
When I first started reading and writing about money, so many people recommended Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You to Be Rich, saying it completely changed their life. Sethi offers the same advice that's worked for ages, but he packages it in a way that speaks to a lot of people. For example, he isn't into cutting back on lattes. Instead of being frugal and saving $3 at a time, he argues, you should focus on saving money where it matters -- housing, food and other large expenses.
Many people find this attitude refreshing. The idea that they can still enjoy small pleasures, like a daily latte, makes them totally want to do this money thing. The advice seems to contradict traditional personal finance advice, which makes it appealing, but when you really dig into it, the advice is standard: Cut back on stuff you don't care about so you have more money to spend on things you do care about. What sets Sethi's advice apart, though, is his mindset toward money. And that's everything.
In other words, he has a relatable story: The guy bucking frugality to take control and do what works for him. People love that, and, as a result, I can only imagine the number of readers Sethi has motivated to save for their retirement.
You might find a different story that motivates you, though.
When I was in student loan debt, I loved reading Donna Freedman's money advice over at MSN. She was a writer and she was frugal. Her story completely resonated with me, and she also gave practical, no-nonsense tips for saving money, which is what I was looking for at the time. Reading her posts every day motivated me to take action and get involved with my own finances.
If you're ready to take action and nothing has really worked for you yet, you might consider focusing on the story rather than the advice. If you're in debt, that might mean following a blogger going through the same thing (or someone who has been there and done that). Basically, you want to look for stories, perspectives and values that align with your own. (Rockstar Finance is an excellent platform for browsing different types of financial blogs).
Find Your Ideal Medium
It also helps to find a convenient medium. For example, I bought a good friend a copy of I Will Teach You to help him with his own finances, and he never picked it up because he just isn't a book reader. When I started sending him Sethi's blog posts, though, he paid attention. Before I knew it, he had increased his monthly student debt payment and saved an emergency fund. A more accessible medium made it easier for him to digest the advice and, more importantly, take action on it.
If you spend a lot of time commuting, a podcast might be your ideal medium. It's easy enough to pull up a money-related show during your drive to work or your drive home.
It doesn't matter how relatable the advice is, if it isn't a medium you're used to using, it's only going to make it harder to get your finances in order because your challenge becomes twofold: Get your finances in order and make more time for books. Getting your finances in order is hard enough, so just pick a medium you're comfortable with, then focus on being a more avid reader separately.
Make It a Habit
Once you find a story that speaks to you and a medium that makes it easy to digest the advice, you want to keep eating up that advice. It should come pretty naturally. When you actually enjoy what you're reading (or listening to), you'll actually look forward to new blog posts, chapters or episodes.
If you find it hard to establish a habit, though, make it part of your routine. Wake up and read a chapter or a new blog post every morning with your coffee. Listen to your money podcast of choice on the way home from work every day. Even if you just commit to 15 minutes of financial literacy a day, it can make a difference. Habits don't always come easy, but when it comes to learning about money, half the battle is finding relatable advice that actually makes sense to you.