The term “information overload” has become more and more common in recent years. All of us live in unprecedented times with a seemingly endless stream of breaking news, tweets, internet articles, and Facebook posts.
We have access to experts in a variety of fields at our fingertips. You can get video instruction in a matter of minutes on YouTube on every subject imaginable. Need to figure out how to do a proper kettlebell squat or to learn more about opening an IRA account? You can be certain that there will be several videos on the subject.
What about Conflicting Information?
While it is exciting to have so many resources available, it can also be very frustrating. A constant tidal wave of often conflicting information can make it difficult to decide on a course of action. I see this constantly in the financial and fitness industries. Here are just a few examples for you to consider from a quick Google search:
“7 Reasons Why You Should Squat Every Day”
“7 Legit Reasons You Should NEVER Squat”
“I Always Pay By Credit Card – So Should You”
“25 Reasons to Cut Up Your Credit Cards”
“10 Reasons You Should Lease a Car”
“7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Lease a Car”
I could go on and on. You can see there are an endless amount of varying opinions available. All of the articles I noted above were well-written and made valid points on both sides. For a large group of people, those authors may be providing sound advice. What are you supposed to do when trying to make an educated decision? How can you find out what is accurate and what is not?
Personal Application is the Key
A consistent message I always try to convey is that you have to make personal application to any advice. Whether I am talking fitness, dieting, or finances, you are the one in charge. All of those things are deeply personal and you have to decide what your goals and circumstances are.
For example, if you have a spending problem and like to shop too much, I would probably recommend getting rid of your credit cards. On the other hand, if you pay your balance off monthly and rack up thousands of very useful air miles, that credit card may be a great tool for you. We are all different.
I am very sensitive when I see any article that has either the words “always” or “never” in the headline. I will admit that if something comes across dogmatic to me, I tend to be defensive. Despite the intention, some of those articles have had a negative impact for myself and several clients over the years. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why certain groups of people should “never” buy or lease a new car. However, there are circumstances where that might be an acceptable choice for you.
On a personal note, I have leased new cars at times and it worked out fine for my finances. I have had extremely poor results with used cars, so any of my opinions would admittedly be negative. You will read articles that make legitimate points on both sides of the argument. My main concern is that the car is not a burden and it is not jeopardizing your long term financial goals. Other than that it is a tool to get you from Point A to Point B. All you can do is weigh the pros and cons and see which one fits you at the time.
I personally love doing squat exercises and they provide a great deal of benefit in my routine. On the other hand, I have had personal training clients that had trouble doing the exercise and it caused a great deal of pain. I avoided the squat and found other appropriate exercises for them. It is really important for you to figure out what works for you and what does not. Then you can make the best choice for you at that time.
Circumstances and Your Decision
Financial decisions that address everyday concerns are rarely black and white. An author may be skilled at selling their argument and projecting authority with bold headlines, but you have to make sure they speak to your circumstances. I have learned a lot from articles that offer widely varying different opinions. However, I decide which one is ultimately right for me. Only an article about “10 reasons why you should never deliberately smash your thumb with a hammer” might truly apply to the vast majority of us!
Once you are clear on your goals and your intentions, do not be afraid to make a decision and learn from your mistakes. For years, I was so afraid to make financial mistakes that I took little risk investing and earned virtually nothing on my money. As I started to learn about investing, I made a few bad decisions and they taught me valuable lessons that I was able to apply. Now I am very clear on my investment strategy and I am comfortable with the asset classes and amount of risk I am willing to take.
Take Your Time
If you are working on your budget for the first time, keep it simple. If you are trying to figure out how to best invest your first $1000, do some research on leaders in the field and talk to other people who have had success. Do not be afraid to seek out a trusted professional opinion. Just like a good personal trainer can give you a personalized fitness plan, a financial advisor with the heart of a teacher can provide a lifetime of value. They will provide sound advice tailored specifically to you and your circumstances.
If something sounds extreme or too dogmatic, trust your instinct and do additional research. Take your time and resist making a decision if you feel unsure or overwhelmed. If you can afford to delay, do not be afraid to wait until you have more information and are comfortable to proceed. Select sources of information that have a good reputation and do your homework. Just make sure you do not procrastinate too long about important financial choices. All you can do is make the best decision at the time based on the information available.
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