When you’re in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to be interested in personal finance. What’s the point in learning to manage money when you don’t have any of it? It’s easy to ignore your situation altogether, but the point of personal finance isn’t to make your finances perfect; it’s just about improving them.
I like the story Michael Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, tells over at Forbes. He writes about a couple that came to him worried after ignoring their finances for the past 40 years. They weren’t where they were supposed to be, and they had no idea where to start. Long story short, he told them:
“It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it won’t be — ever. But your situation will get better and better with practice…” …”better” is better than nothing and brings you closer and closer to what you’re really after.
It reminds me of an old aphorism writer J.D. Roth has quoted in the context of personal finance: “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Trying too hard to be perfect can be counterproductive. You research how to build the perfect investment portfolio, then get decision paralysis and do nothing. You build a bare-bones budget in order to pay off your debt faster, only to blow it because you’re tired of depriving yourself. In striving for perfection, you miss out on the opportunity to just get better. Instead, take that simple first step with investing. Make a more realistic budget.
You’re not going to be Warren Buffett overnight (or ever, probably), but you can learn how to manage your debt, budget better, or find ways to save. Personal finance is not about having a perfectly rosy financial picture; it’s just about doing what you can to make your money situation better. Take small steps and don’t let perfect get in the way of better.