At certain stages in your financial journey, you need a catalyst to get you to the next stage. Perhaps right now you are coming out of the zeroth stage of personal finance, deep in debt and trying to take that first step to turn things around. Maybe you are debt-free, but you have no clue how to invest in the stock market. Or maybe you're at the third stage and wondering, “What do I do now?”
When you aren't sure what to do, a financial guru can help you move to the next stage. Being a yoga nerd, I want to take a moment to talk about the term guru. Guru is a Sanskrit term that is often interpreted as gu meaning darkness and ru meaning light, therefore guru is the one who brings you from darkness to light. Some sources contend that since guru is an adjective that means heavy, guru means “the heavy one.” Texts describe the guru as destroying the darkness, swallowing ignorance, and my personal favorite, shattering the illusion. I think you get the idea.
In those descriptions, we're talking about a spiritual guru. But a financial guru (or teacher, to be more accurate) can do similar things in your financial journey, swallowing your ignorance and shattering the illusions that you have about money and happiness.
You might have more than one teacher, or you might follow one for a time until you've progressed and need a new one. Even people who are horrible with money can be your financial teachers (more on that in a minute).
Friends and family
Most of us have one or two people in our lives who are good examples of how to manage money. Maybe your uncle is a self-made millionaire and entrepreneur, or perhaps your cousin is an astute investor. These are the people you take to lunch for sound advice. If you're buying a car, these are the people to ask to accompany you to the car dealership, which have a number of tricks to manipulate buyers.
A teacher isn't necessarily someone who knows more than you, though. If you have a group of friends with common financial goals, you could organize a standing dinner date to learn from each other. Maybe all of you are trying to pay off your credit cards and want to swap tips and commiserate. Maybe it's an investment club that meets once a month or a frugal buyers club. Spending time with people who have common goals is a sure way to keep you on track.
Finally, we have the group of family members and friends who are horrible with money or are bad examples of the money and happiness balance. Yep, you can learn from them, too. You can learn from the sister who lives paycheck-to-paycheck and has to borrow money for the smallest unexpected expense. You can learn from the friend who has tens of thousands of dollars in consumer debt, yet stands in line for the iPad launch. Maybe the relative who earns plenty of money at the expense of time with his kids teaches you something, as well. Learn from them, and avoid undesirable actions in your own life. (Also, reserve judging and lecturing the people who fall into this category. Unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated.)
There are a lot financial writers out there, and GRS has covered the topic quite throughly with the following articles:
- How I Choose Personal Finance Books
- Frugality in Practice: Building a Cheap Personal Finance Library
- Building a Personal Finance Library: 25 of the Best Books About Money
You also can check out past reviews and discussions in the GRS Gurus category.
Besides book authors, bloggers are another great source of guidance, and often easier to relate to (and some, like J.D, are both book author and blogger). Find a voice that resonates with you, and dig in.
Be your own guru
No matter how much you learn, there will be times when you'll feel like the financial village idiot. “What could I possibly know about any of this? I'm in over my head!”
The truth is that you have a rational, thinking mind. Your gut instinct tells you not to trust the sheisty salesperson trying to suck you into a pyramid scheme. Trust that. If a book rubs you the wrong way, find other sources and compare the advice.
Do not blindly follow anyone when it comes to finances. Read, research, and question. After all, nobody cares about your money more than you do.