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When People Do Dumb Stuff With Money – Speak Up or Shut Up?

by Shawanda Greene

Do you ever feel like your pragmatism is misinterpreted as pessimism by delusional idealists? Sometimes you have to stop yourself from warning a dreamer of all the things that could go wrong, and then telling them how to fix their phantom problems. You don’t wander around peeing on people’s parades to make yourself feel better. You just want them to think rationally before making life altering decisions.

A couple days ago, I was presented with the opportunity to either tell someone they’re making a huge mistake or keep my mouth shut. I decided on the latter. I kept my practicalities to myself because I’m not close enough to the individual to voice my opinion without offending her. Now, if you’re a close friend, I’ma say something if you’re being stupid. Too bad if I hurt your feelings in the process.

So, here’s the issue. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than someone who digs themselves deep into student loan debt in pursuit of a career path they’re unsure is right for them. If you ask, they’ll probably say they’re 100% positive about what they want. Maybe they are, but I don’t know how you can be so sure of something you’ve never done before. Maybe you should try it out first.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s call the inspiration for this blog post Larissa. She’s been pursuing higher education off and on for the better part of a decade. There were times when life happened to Larissa, and she had to take time off from school. Other times, Larissa happened to Larissa.

Apparently it can take 10 years to finish a 4-year degree when you’re a) not sure what the heck you want to do and b) your education isn’t a priority. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’ve experienced either of the two. I’m just saying it can take a minute to graduate.

The day Larissa graduates with her bachelors degree is quickly approaching. However, she’s decided to get a masters because she wants a job at a particular company that requires it.

When I heard this, my natural, internal response was “Say what now?”

I couldn’t believe it. All these years she’s been pursuing a degree. I was so excited for her to use it. Now I have to wait at least another two years to see if she gets the job at this ONE company AND if she’ll actually stick with her chosen career path.

The company she wants to work for will repay her student loan debt. But what if she doesn’t get a job at that company? What if she can’t afford to repay her student loans with the money she makes from the job she ultimately takes?

Don’t get me wrong. If you have a dream, by all means, pursue it, but don’t be blissfully ignorant of issues that are likely to crop up and derail your plans.

I won’t tell Larissa this, but I think she should take some time off school to work in her field before pursuing additional education. I think she should try interning with the organization she wants to work for before going to such great lengths to seek full-time employment. There might be a similar company with similar benefits that doesn’t require a masters degree. That organization might even pay for it. Maybe there are scholarships available that she’s not taking complete advantage of. I want so badly to tell her.

Oh well. It’s none of my business.

Have you ever experienced a situation where your genuine concern was misconstrued as negativity?

Did you enjoy this article?
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia March 11, 2010 at 2:28 AM

All the freaking time! I'm labelled negative by my friends, mostly because I can't afford to go blythley along expecting someone else to pick up my pieces. Its frustrating being the logical one sometimes!

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Jin6655321 March 11, 2010 at 3:55 AM

Wow, that's quite the gamble your friend is taking.

While no one can deny the benefits of a higher education, far too many people think that any money sunk into an education is always a wise decision. I know several people in their quarter life crisis who decide to go back to school. Some are doing it wisely (corporate support/reimbursement, taking only few classes a semester so they can pay it off in full, etc.) and others are just blindly taking out massive amounts of student loans. I fear that when they find themselves in their 30's, with kids, a mortgage, a minivan payment, etc. they're going to regret pursuing that second degree.

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Toy Lady March 11, 2010 at 1:18 PM

just keep my mouth shut too – not just about bad financial decisions, but anything that's not my business. I've found that the people making the stupid choices only want to be validated (Of COURSE it's great that you've lost so much weight by NOT EATING – what a TERRIFIC example to set for your teenage daughter. . .); they don't actually want advice or, heaven forbid, an opinion. I've been perceived as "snobbish" or "contrary" or even just plain mean (which I'm not – really!).

If I'm asked for an opinion, though, that's a different story. . .

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Amanda March 11, 2010 at 8:52 PM

Unfortunately, my husband and I have family members who make absolutely insane money decisions (cancelling homeowner's insurance to save money but taking plenty of vacations, not having health insurance because Rush Limbaugh says it is cheaper to pay for medical bills in cash, etc) but we figure that they won't change until they're ready so why waste energy trying to get them to see the light. As long as they're not wanting to move in with us or asking us for money, I figure it isn't our business.

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Deb March 18, 2010 at 7:06 AM

OMG I can so relate to this post! Thank you for writing it!

My cousin first got a degree in biology, then realized she hated the field work (water quality/testing in all kinds of weather) and the lousy pay. Suffered through it for a few years and did pay off the student loan.

She then went to nursing school, accrued student loans AND $22k in ccard debt, AND pays $400 a month to drive an Audi. Did I mention she signed a co-loan for her ex deadbeat boyfriend for a truck and pays $275 a month on it because he can't pay? Yes indeed.

Now she's talking about pursuing a bachelor's in nursing while she works, so she can defer her student loan and focus on paying off the $22k credit card bill.

At this point, I don't even know how to respond to her. I'm thinking debt repayment on those cards is critical, but accruing additional student loan debt too? Hmmm, wouldn't working extra hours be better for now?

Am curious, what do you think? Am I all wrong on this? I would absolutely love some input on this situation. I can't even let myself think about it, makes me crazy.

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Goran April 15, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Wow, yeah this has happened to me a lot!

But let me tell you about my friend Daniel. I was embarrassed to realize that one of the reasons I like him so much is because he never criticizes or tells me what to do. Embarrassed because I thought I was the kind of person who didn't mind criticism.

Still he manages to get his opinions across. So I wondered how does he do it?

I studied him for awhile and realized that he asks questions. When he doesn't agree or tries to tell you something he does it by asking you about it.

Instead of saying "I think it's a bad idea for you to take that job because that's not what you like to do." He asks "Is that job really what you want to do? Imagine you got it, would you appreciate it?"

I confronted him with this and he confessed to it: he tries very hard to state criticism in terms of questions. Because, he told me, it leaves the other person with the option to disagree with him without crossing him. It also stimulates the other person to think of it in his way. Maybe I won't take that job after all. The pay is good but I wouldn't really appreciate it.

As for me I find it very hard to do! :D

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@Annienygma December 9, 2011 at 1:12 PM

Oh I know this feeling! I have to fight to keep my mouth shut a lot heehee!

I know it will be hard to bite your tongue but bite it you must. Seriously you're right. If anything she could use her bachelor degree, get a job and pursue her further education part time like apparently she did the bachelor's.

It will work out or it won't but you wil be considered a wet blanket if you speak up unfortunately. :(
Peace,
Annie at annienygma.com

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Shawanda December 11, 2011 at 11:53 AM

I try not to get involved in money matters for people I'm not close with. They're generally not open to receive my wise advice. :) It's hard enough getting my closest friends and family members to receive it!

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A. Gonzales December 14, 2011 at 1:07 PM

OMG!!! I ALWAYS feel like the negative one when I try to give sound financial advice to friends and family. I don't even bother with people that are not close to me!

BTW, this is a blog after my own heart!

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