Thursday, December 01, 2016

Motivating readers to take control of personal finances.

Many of us bloggers face the same problem, our readers are already fairly motivated to take control of their personal finances. the challenge is to be able to reach out to the folks who can benefit from our articles the most.

As such a mini-revision on personal motivation would come in useful today. The bulk of today's material comes from Barking up the Wrong Tree Blog. There are three conventional ways to think about motivation but I'm going to offer one novel suggestion.

a) Finding meaning in what you do.

You can construct meaning behind your financial planning by asking yourself what broader purposes lies behind your efforts to save money.

Everybody likes to have money, but most average folks just want what money can buy or travel to exotic locations. If the broader purpose behind money management is more consumption or coolness, your plans are unlikely to be sustainable. To work, the money in a savings account or a stock portfolio must somehow lead to a more secure future for any long term financial plan to work.

It's actually quite sad to construct the meaning of a person's life around brands like Apple or Prada. But I think a lot of Singaporeans have this problem.

b) Attaining sovereignty or autonomy in your life. 

Do something because you want to and not because someone wants you to. Specifically, having sovereignty and autonomy at work means having leeway as to decide how something gets done. If you are being micro-managed at work, it would be very difficult to develop the motivation to work hard for the organisation. This is why the government sector is full of deadwood managers who are surrounded by unmotivated workers who are ring-fencing experts. The salary becomes the only reason to get up in the morning.

You need to find corporate cultures which grant you that autonomy in your life. Entrepreneurs can work punishing hours and enjoy it because of the autonomy of they have which other workers don't.

Similarly, I prefer couples to have separate bank accounts, so that there is more autonomy.

c) Doing something tough is easier than thinking about how tough it is when you see other people doing it.

Sometimes, people just need to start doing something to determine whether it suits their lifestyle. When I was single and saving 80% of my income, it was much more motivating than saving 60% of my income although outsiders think that I am self-flagellating.

Something looks tough because you are a third party. When you actually start to do it, it may not be that bad.

d) Self-Esteem as a cornerstone of your identity and allows you to weather the storms.

I have a fourth suggestion which came from watching Westworld and talking to a down-to-earth classmate who was a cop in his past life.

In Westworld, the best hosts are those with a personal tragedy programmed into their AI. I think that this is wrong, the best folks to sustain the best money habits are those who have minor victories in their personal memories. These victories reinforce their self-esteem and makes them grittier in life.

If you have done well in your PSLE in the past or won trophies in sports, you will always have something to turn to when you are facing adversary and suffering in the hand of other people. This cornerstone provides the resilience to sustain a regime which can brutal. If your boss chews you up, you might want to think about points in your life where you have been very successful to take whatever an asshole throws at you.

In summary, motivation readers to manage money better is not easy because it is a marathon and not a sprint. People also find very creative ways to sabotage themselves in their lives.

These four points provide a foundation in figuring out whether a person can be easily motivated to accumulate wealth or would simply be destined for a simply and mediocre life.


  1. Anonymous12:33 PM

    If I'm going to apply your four points on our ability to accumulate wealth, it would be as such:

    a) We spend our money on dining, shopping, entertainment and travel. For now, our short-term goal for financial planning is to meet our higher consumption levels while we are relatively young and without kids. But with a long-term goal to have the freedom to engage in paid or unpaid work and leisure activities that we want to and not have to i.e. move away from a consumption-driven purpose.

    b) There's not going to be much autonomy in banking corporate cultures given the size of these organisations. However, we don't have micro-managers and have some level of autonomy in the projects we work on. But we have to admit the salary keeps us going quite a bit.

    c) We are working on reducing our expenses and find that to be much tougher than reading about how to lower living costs. It's hard to develop self-control over expenses when you get increasingly tired from work throughout the week.

    d) Totally agree that it's important to have small wins in your life. The fact that we studied and worked overseas continue to be a source of reinforcement of our self-esteem and perseverance while building a life here in Singapore.


  2. Thanks, you seem very motivated already !