To move from being a complete idiot about money to being smart as Jimmy Wales at Wikipedia can be a long process or a short one. A few people – who may appear naturally talented in this – probably got that way through natural inclinations and some absorption from their parents, usually through osmosis.
According to wikipedia… (which is always right – isn’t it?) … there are four stages of learning. Ahem, I put Jimmy Wales’ picture up there and not Maslow’s because I think Jimmy is totally hot and Maslow was not. But some people hated Jimmy’s pic showing up on Wikipedia every time they logged on. I miss him, so I’m preserving my favourite pic of him to drool over at will.
I walk my dog lately with a guy who looks kind of like Jimmy – the 6’6″ version. Last night we moved to “the next level” in our dog walking relationship where we don’t just know each other’s dog’s names, we exchanged first names. And shook hands. He has a bull mastiff, I have a golden retriever. I’m a believer in the theory that your dog type reflects your personality.
The ex had a foofoo dog like a Bichon. He liked to be taken care of. The ex that is, not the dog. So I’m thinking that this guy is kind of dominant, especially since he seems to enjoy it too much when his dog drapes himself over mine. I love it when my dog signals he’s had enough of this domination and snaps back. It reminds me of man-woman relationships. Or mine at least, which kind of says something. Maybe something not very good.
Ahem, I digress. Anyway, those stages (of learning, not dog park relationships) are:
1. Unconscious Incompetence – you’re stupid and you don’t know it
“Stupid and don’t know it” looks like this:
Or people who think that their retirement will be funded by winning the lottery. Ahhh… ignorance is bliss, isn’t it? At this stage, you tend to think that debt is normal or having no food in the house every couple of days before payday is also normal.
Last year my oldest son was stupid with money and didn’t know he was stupid. He went off to university in another town with no emergency fund, a paycheck to paycheck mentality, no budget… You know the drill. The shit hit the fan in the first month. But mom was there to help enable. And I was enabling because I was at the second stage of “learning how to parent kids to be smart with money” (because I didn’t think to listen to wise moms like Kris at Every Day Tips) – which is…
2. Conscious Incompetence – you know you’re stupid, but you refuse to face reality.
This is a tremendously frustrating level to be at. This is the stage where you’re kicking yourself for ever getting into debt but your addictions to shopping or lattes or World of Warcraft are too strong. I know that pain. I spent two YEARS of never entering a shopping mall and not spending for anything that wasn’t a necessity once I decided to break my addiction to impulse spending and shopping for stupid shit I didn’t need and never used.
Crikey! TWO FREAKING YEARS of no-spend months! Imagine that. Even ERE would be proud. Maybe.
3. Conscious Competence – you’re smartening up, but it’s kind of labor intensive.
Many GRS readers who enjoy tracking budgets seem to be at this stage. I’ve been an accountant for forever and have never tracked a multi-million dollar company’s finances and budgets to the degree that some people track their few thousand dollar budgets. And the reason I don’t is because I’m at the fourth stage of the finance learning curve, which is…
4. Unconscious Competence – Second Nature. Woot!
I admit it, my spending is so boring and stable that I can’t be bothered to focus on it. Every month like clockwork, I go out and eat and drink somewhere for around $100 worth of food and martinis. Happily. Every month I buy about $350 of groceries. Sometimes hungrily (got to stop doing that). In the scary (to most people) month of December, my spending (apart from the mortgage) is typically less than all other months.
Moving through the stages
If you’re in stage one of just being stupid, you probably aren’t reading this, so I’ll ignore it.
If you’re moving from the second stage of learning to the third stage, it’s probably best to focus on information and changing your mindset over entertainment. Read blogs like The Simple Dollar or Early Retirement Extreme. Although there’s some entertainment at ERE since Jacob drops the F-bomb occasionally and has an original way of thinking which you probably can and should scale according to your circumstances. And there may be no entertainment in The Simple Dollar’s posts, but there is in the comments section. Like this post where you learn why you should buy super cheap swimwear…
This comment (#196) from that post almost made me pee myself (I want you to know it took me half an hour to find that comment again):
“…telling us AGAIN to just swim in a bra and t shirt would be like me telling you to fix the family dinner by chopping vegetables and chicken w/ a half a pair of your kid’s safety scissors and heating it all up w/ a hair dryer in an empty mayonnaise jar.”
If you’re moving from the third stage to the fourth stage, I’d focus on entertainment over information. You don’t need more and more information, you need to do what you know and just be persistent. See that persistence and focus on processes really does work. Find others who think the way you do. Sites that are great for that are Grumpy Rumblings – especially this post, Everyday Tips, First Gen American…
What I want to personally know more about is how to move to the fifth stage – how to recognize and develop unconscious competence in others. This is where J.D. at Get Rich Slowly is wonderful but I am not. That’s what I struggle with.
I’ve started sharing more about how I think about and deal with money with my kids (well, the youngest is actually teaching me) and the oldest has come such a long way in the last year, so I’m proud as punch and no longer worried about him. I’m even telling him to ease up and spend more going out with friends. He texted me last night while at the bookstore asking me if I owned Strunk’s Elements of Style already instead of just buying it like he would have in the past. (Yes, I do – although you wouldn’t know it from the writing…) We calculate “per supper” costs when we cook together. He just applied for a second job. My baby’s come a long way.
In the search for knowledge, I went to Cleverbot.
Me: How do I teach kids – or anyone really – about money?
CB: With or without my robot abilities?
CB: It didn’t have very many many tests in the first place!
Me: OK, how about with your robot abilities?
CB: I don’t know what you mean, the language is departed and the trigger is slammed so I can’t tell, what do you think?
Me: I think you don’t have very good robot abilities.
CB: I think you have bad eyes.
Me: haha I had laser eye surgery.
CB: To what surgery are you referring?
CB: You are not authorized for that information.
Me: So you’re saying just let them live their own lives and make their own mistakes?
CB: You are not me cleverbot, you are a program. Silly cleverbot, circular logic is for politicians.
Hmm. One thing I’ve learned is that I write blog posts remarkably like Cleverbot writes everything. (Sorry about that.)