Lifestyle Design: Choose What You Know

Sadie Reading

In previous posts about lifestyle design, I talked about choosing where you live and choosing what you do. A recent podcast on NPR Planet Money talked about choosing college majors. If you already graduated and got settled down in a career path and a place to live, those are a little hard to change, although many people do move and change fields. I did both myself.

In this post I’m going to talk about something much easier to pull off: choose what you know.

In a thread on the Bogleheads investment forum, poster hoops777 related to how many people interested in personal finance forget that many others are not interested or knowledgeable about the very basics.

I was a coach for a long time and I was shocked that my wife did not even know what a ball or strike was or a free throw. I was so involved in it that it was shocking to me that a person could have no interest or exposure to sports.

I can say I know a lot more about money and personal finance than many others. At the same time I’m blatantly ignorant of many things, especially when it comes to pop culture.

I know the difference between a ball and a strike; that’s about it. I don’t know how many players are on the field. I know what’s a free throw but I don’t know when you get a free throw and when you get to throw in from the sideline, or when you get two free throws regardless and when you get the second free throw only if you make the first one.

I’m OK with not knowing those things. If I must know I will look them up.

I never watched Star Trek. I haven’t been in a movie theatre for years. I’m just now watching Grey’s Anatomy on DVDs. I’m on Season 4, which first aired in 2007. The Sopranos will be next.

I’m OK with being years behind. It makes me awkward in some conversations because I don’t get the reference. I can live with that.

But ask me about bank accounts, credit cards, insurance, mortgages, mutual funds, ETFs, taxes, 401k, IRA, … now we are talking. I didn’t know any of those in the beginning. When I came to this country in my 20’s I didn’t know what a checking account was. I had to learn. I had to choose what to learn. As you see there are still so many things I haven’t learned after all these years.

Not having had a personal finance class in high school isn’t an excuse. It’s always a choice. You choose what you know. $10 buys you a used book that tells you everything you need to know. It puts you well above average. We all have limited time. You choose to invest your time in what matters.

[Photo credit: Flickr user zebble]

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  1. George Love says

    Wonderful post and I agree, we should make sure that what we know is things that matter and while sports are great, knowing how to invest and set oneself up for a comfortable retirement, even more important.

  2. Sam Seattle says

    Harry, like you, I haven’t been in the movie theater for years, either. I’m also awkward in some conversations, because I don’t get the cultural reference. Reading your interesting blog and keeping up-to-date on personal finance is more enjoyable than watching TV.

    Is your “recommended reading list” still up-to-date? It’s hard to sort out the good books from the bad.

  3. Milen says

    Totally agree. Learning to choose well is one of the greatest skills in life that is mastered throughout life – and needs to be taught as early as possible. I only acquired this perspective into my adulthoood – but wish I knew the concept earlier in life.

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