You are an idiot!

Why don't we tell people when they make big financial mistakes?

As regular readers know, I am addicted to blogs.  Besides the ones I read daily, there are hundreds more than I read on a more infrequent basis.  These sites range from professional personal finance blogs to frugality blogs to just simply sites that fall into the home and life category.  Yep... I like reading aboout people's lives via their blogs!

I am not sure if it is due to Spring fever or the stars not being properly aligned or what, but I have been seeing a rash of stupidity in the blogs I read.  Not stupid as in low IQ, but rather stupid in terms of choices people are making.  Especially financial choices.

• People are buying toys and i-gadgets they don't need while not even able to pay their standard bills each month.

• People are quitting jobs left and right without any type of plan to make a living.

• People are robbing their emergency funds for non-emergency purposes like decorating, new smart phones, or vacations!

The insanity is overwhelming!  I want to respond to these posts with "YOU ARE AN IDIOT.  YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO DO THAT!  SAVE YOUR MONEY!"  But I don't.  No one does.  Instead, everyone responds with encouraging statements such as "I am sure you will find a way to make it work," or "You can replace the money you spent next month when you get your tax refund." 

The truth is, when my "real life" friends are making similar stupid choices, I usually don't respond much differently than I do to my online friends.  No one appreciates being given advice.  We, as human beings, don't like to upset people or hurt their feelings (and yes, most people take offense to being called an idiot).  And so, rarely do we speak up when we see people making dumb decisions with their lives and finances.

So what can you do to help your friends when they are being idiots with their finances?  Below is my advice:

1.) Lead by example.  Do the right thing with your life and finances.  Not everyone will follow your example, but some will and you may even inspire others to improve their financial habits!

2.) If you do want to speak up to your friends to let them know they are being stupid, do so kindly.  Instead of saying "you are an idiot" try softening the blow by saying "That is an interesting decision you made... I am curious as to how you came to the conclusion that this was best for you?"  You never know... maybe they have a rational reason for their choice that you didn't consider?  Or maybe they won't have any rational reason for their actions and admitting it out loud will make them realize their choices are... well... stupid.

3.) Provide alternative solutions.  If your friend is making a stupid decision, suggest an alternative.  If they want to steal from their emergency fund to buy something unnecessary, suggest they wait a month because you heard such-and-such store will be having a killer sale and by then they will have received their tax refund.  Or if they want to quit their job without a back-up plan, suggest they wait it out while they search for a new job or research self-employment options.  Sometimes the decisions are so obvious yet people overlook them in their compulsive thinking... but as a friend you can remind them of the obvious and maybe... just maybe... they will listen!

What stupid things have you seen people doing lately?  How do you deal with it when you see a friend acting stupidly?  Do you call them out on it, or do you ignore it and let them make their own mistakes?


Emily @ evolvingPF said...

I think part of the frustration is that there's no immediate benefit for telling someone that a decision they already made was wrong. I'd be much more inclined to voice my opinion on posts that are exploring a decision rather than announcing it (and likewise personal conversations). If the action was truly a mistake, either they'll figure it out themselves or they're too far gone in their lifestyle choices for a friend's chattering to make a difference. I think your advice is really good, but you have to catch them in that moment before the decision is made/implemented.

Michelle P said...

I know exactly what you mean! One of my friends is super lazy. He does literally nothing and calls into work everyday.

Andrea @SoOverDebt said...

I definitely agree with your action steps, particularly #2. People call me out all the time for the things I buy (sometimes to the point of being ridiculous - HOW DARE YOU BUY TOOTHPASTE WHEN YOU'RE IN DEBT?!?!) but I don't really mind as long as they aren't rude about it.

Some of my friends have some really crazy priorities, but I try to remember that their priorities don't have to match mine. As long as they aren't going into debt, neglecting their bills/kids, or complaining to me that they're broke, I don't really get involved.

krancents said...

I think it is very hard to say no. It helps to tell your friends what you are trying to do so they understand. If they are real friends they will support you.

The Girl Next Door said...

I worry as a blogger that people will lash out at me for less-than-smart purchases because even I know that I will be complaining about having no money down the line. On the other hand, as a blog reader, it's frustrating to see people shoot themselves in the foot financially and that's where the negative comments come from.

The Girl Next Door said...

As for real-life friends, I agree with Emily it's harder to criticize someone for a decision they made because if they aren't blogging about it they aren't really providing a justification. I get frustrated by some of the people in my life who make decisions that are bad for them, like not getting a job and then complaining they have no money, but with those people, I feel like the only person who can really turn things around for them... is them.

WorkSaveLive said...

Considering that financial coaching is my job, I have to be a little rude/honest with people and tell them how it is.

With this, I think it's important in how you approach the conversation though. People in our society are so sensitive now, so you can't come out and blatantly call them STUPID. (Although, I wish we could)

Frankly, this was one of the reasons I started my blog. I wanted to be able to BRING IT without the worry of hurting somebody's feelings. Americans have serious, serious problems and they have to be addressed.

I get tired of beating around the bush.

Carolyn Menard said...

I know you might get frustrated when people make decisions that you do not agree with, but is it really your place to pass judgement on people and label them as stupid idiots?

FKO said...

Getting involved in other people's finances is always a touchy area; you never really know if they actually want your opinion.

Last year, we gave one of our friends Dave Ramsey's TMM book, which to my surprise, they actually read. It was cool watching them turn things around financially (which is something that they had to do for themselves).

CultOfMoney said...

I've always gained more traction with telling people they're acting stupid (granted I don't do this often, as noted above there is little immediate benefit to me or the person I'm telling and plenty of downside) is to take it out of the personal realm. Don't focus on the person, focus on the action. If Einstein did those actions, I'd call him stupid too. That kind of thing goes much further.

Dave @ Gen Y Finances said...

I think being blunt is probably the best way to get through to friends about making stupid choices. They might be upset with you at first, but as time passes they usually see that you were being helpful.

John | Married (with Debt) said...

I know how you feel. It can be tough, especially when people feel jealous that you are doing something right. I just let people do their thing, but the second they ask for advice, i let the have it.

SB @ FPR said...

Excellent advices. Being rude has negative effect. All the examples are very true. For us I practice them all the time. If you know what I mean :)

Kari@ Small Budget Big Dreams said...

One of my very good friends recently had a baby and decided not to go back to work. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about staying at home with your child if you can financially afford to do so...but she can't. I think it's a big mistake, and she's going to regret not going back, but it's certainly a delicate topic and she hasn't asked for advice, so I'm keeping quiet for now.

MyCanadianFinances said...

Wow. Great article.
I get so frustrated some times with people because they have a major lack of interest in their finances. Especially because some of these people should be budgeting to the dollar.

However, it is true that bad language has a negative affect. But sometimes I just want to start yelling at people for their bad choices. And wished someone would have been there to yell at me when I made mine.

Andrew @ 101 Centavos said...

I must say I'm not one to comment on other's financial follies. Glad to offer advice (with the usual disclaimers) if I'm so solicited. Mostly, I prefer to point people in the direction of where they can save with their major purchases.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a tad ridiculous to think you should be able to comment on a friend's financial decisions. Offering advice if asked is the only polite measure. You could also point out mistakes if they are wondering how they got to be in the state they are in financially. America's financial decisions may be stupid, but our manners are also atrocious. One should tread gently.

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