Question The Map You Were Given

How does one get to "New France"?

Pardon me while I get a bit serious. (Knock it off. I can hear you groaning out there…)

Any belief that you have now came from somewhere. You certainly weren’t born with any beliefs. Some experience you had shaped your thinking into what it is today. Maybe it was a direct experience. That is: something that actually happened to you. Or maybe it was the experience of someone else which they told you about. Or even something that someone else heard from someone else and then told you.

Similarly, our Plan For Life was given to us by our parents and teachers and mentors. If you are like me, then your plan probably went something like this: Go to school and get good grades, go to college and get good grades, get a good job, save 10% of your income for retirement, work for 40+ years and then you can retire.

Does this actually work?

For many, it probably does, however for many it doesn’t. Would it have worked for me? Probably, but I wasn’t willing to wait that long. The idea of working for someone else for a large chunk of my life just turned my stomach and so I set out to find a better map.

There’s a personality trait, which is the basis of all scientific progress, that I think will benefit just about everybody: healthy skepticism. Take everything you hear, and I mean everything, with an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism.

I’m not saying that you should question even basic assumptions (“Is fire actually hot or are you just saying that?”). But when someone gives you a piece of advice, it’s your duty as a rational, independent, thinking person to say to yourself, “That could be right, but let me investigate further”.

Specifically:

  • Does this person speak from direct experience or do they know a guy who knows a guy?
  • Is this person following their own advice or do they just “talk the talk”?
  • Is this person in a position I would want to be in, assuming that their advice will take me there?

Why should I listen?

For example: If your broke uncle gives you financial advice, you could easily apply the above tests and see that, yeah, you should probably ignore it. (I appologize to all the broke uncles out there but it’s true!).

If someone told that early financial independence isn’t possible, I want you to ask yourself if you should really be listening to that person’s advice, based on the test above.

I urge you to question the assumptions which drive your decisions. Are the assumptions your own or were they given to you? Did you accept them at face value or did you put them to the test?

Question the map you were given and see if there might be a better option out there for you.

How about y’all? Has anyone ever tried to give you financial advice when they were not in the position you want to be in?

Photo by erjkprunczyk

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10 Comments

  1. Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Great point about evaluating advice on your own. People can be quite opinionated without necessarily knowing what they’re talking about. They could’ve heard of some great scheme but had never bothered to try it for themselves. Even if they are in a good financial position, they might end up giving advice that was more based on assumptions than actual experience.
    Modest Money recently posted..The Financial Burden of Moving (and Breaking Up)My Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted February 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      You’re absolutely right. Someone they trust tells them something and they just accept it as fact at face value. We all need to be responsible for our own beliefs!

  2. Posted February 21, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    if we accept the premise that failure can be the best teacher, even broke uncles may have something to offer. ;)

    by all means, question everything!
    jlcollinsnh recently posted..The Casanova Kid, a Shit Knife, a Good Book, Having No Regrets, Dark Matter and a bit of MagicMy Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted February 21, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      That’s definitely true, but personally I think the success, not the failure, of others is actually the best teacher.
      Examples are everywhere for what *not* to do: just look at your broke uncle. But it’s hard to do the right thing if you only have a list of things not to do.

  3. Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, older relatives are always shocked that I want to leave my day job. They have all kind of useful advice to find a new job. :)
    retirebyforty recently posted..Happy President’s Day To Our February Giveaway WinnerMy Profile

  4. Marshall
    Posted February 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I am 35 and hike with older folks on the weekends. I always ask them, politely, about retirement and what they do and how they did it. Often the camaraderie of the trail gets them to speak candidly. I trust this group and bounce ideas off them when I can. P.S. I am actively trying to build up a “Mastermind Group” now.

    • Dollar D
      Posted February 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      People further along the path are a great source of ideas and inspiration! Especially if they are successful and you intent to replicate their success.

  5. Posted February 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s very easy to assume that just because someone gives advice, it makes them an expert or even knowledgeable about the subject. Just because everyone has the same opinion, doesn’t make it a fact. Great reminder to keep to an open mind, but be skeptical.
    JP @ Novel Investor recently posted..Betterment Review: Simple Investing For EveryoneMy Profile

    • Dollar D
      Posted February 24, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Yup, you’re exactly right. With the dawn of the information age, anyone with a computer can set up a blog and look like an expert. :)

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