A Lawyer and Her Money

How to KonMari Your Finances

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There’s so much bad personal finance advice out there – so much clutter. It’s time you all learned how to KonMari your finances. Get rid of the bad advice – the tips that are wrong, or don’t fit you or spark joy in your life. It’s only once you’ve gotten rid of the bad that you can start to bring in the good. 

What Separates Good from Bad Advice

A few years ago, Marketwatch “experts” claimed that 35-year olds should have twice their salary saved. People got into an uproar. 

As a bit of personal background, when I was 35, I had twice my salary saved. But I didn’t meet the guidelines for 25 or 30. So I easily could have been caught up in the uproar. 
Personal finance is personal. It doesn’t really make sense to be upset about what one person says is the “right way.” But sometimes you do get upset. Because it IS personal, and we want to feel like we are doing what’s right. What do you do with personal finance advice that upsets you?
For many people, the response is to yell at Twitter. Others get demoralized and give up the whole game. Others get demoralized and try to achieve the goals (even if the goals don’t make sense for them). Here’s another idea: ignore advice that doesn’t work for you. In other words, KonMari your finances. 

Who is Marie Kondo and what is KonMari?

KonMari is a method of decluttering created by Marie Kondo that has as its central message: get rid of that which doesn’t spark joy. So how does this apply practically in terms of your finances?
I used to have a Letterman jacket in high school. Huge waste of money. You can only wear it for four years tops and then it’s weird.

Whenever I saw it, I thought about my parents’ sacrifice and where I was in my life. I thought about how this would be a really weird thing to donate because it was embroidered with my name and year. It was a huge guilt explosion whenever I opened my closet. 

But one day, I threw it away. Just tossed it down the garbage chute. 

And immediately, I felt immense relief. In fact, I felt elated.

Part of me thought I needed to keep the jacket into perpetuity as a reminder of my mistakes. But there were no upsides to keeping it; it only made my life worse. It was an anchor for me – keeping me rooted in the past and unable to feel free in the future.

I think about this jacket when I see criticisms of KonMari of the “Well I can’t just throw out my fridge because I’m indifferent to it” variety. I take the most commonsense approach to KonMari – if you hate it, get rid of it. And as simple and obvious as that advice sounds, it was a revelation for me.

How to KonMari Your Finances

I love good financial voyeurism as much as the next person. But I recently read an article that made me feel pretty bad. It was from a couple that was younger than me but who had more money saved. I mean, it’s very likely that a couple would have more money than me because there are two of them. But even dividing by two, they had more. It made me feel inadequate. I didn’t know what to do with it.

So I tried to KonMari it. And I came up with the following mantra:

If advice or messages serve as an inspiration or a wake-up call, then run with it. If the messages make you feel ashamed or hopeless, then get rid of it. 

Does this Allow Me to Ignore Good Advice?

Wait a second, you say. This seems like I can just ignore the personal advice I need just because it makes me feel bad. That seems like an entitled millennial victim blah blah blah.

Sure, there’s the possibility of that. But I think, you have to be ready to take the advice. Even if advice is exactly right for you mathematically or practically, it still has to be right for your emotionally. If the form of the advice makes you more upset and angry than inspired or energized, then maybe it’s not the right advice at the right time for you.

Sometimes you’re not at the right point in life to understand that advice. Sometimes what you need to do is work on what you can and get to the point when you’re ready to take that advice. The advice won’t go into the ether. There’s so much financial advice out there; it’ll come back to you in a form that’s ready for you to take it when you’re ready to accept it.

When Advice Doesn’t Incite Change

My brother, unfortunately, gets a lot of criticism in my family. For instance, when he’s excited he can speak so loudly that it sounds like yelling. My family has chastised him since he was a kid. Nothing has changed. Loud. Chastise. Loud. Chastise.

A few years ago, I told him, we’ve told you this over and over again and it doesn’t change. And the mark of an insane person is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So, I’m going to assume you’ve heard us. And I’m not going to say anything more about it. I fear that it’s hurting our relationship. So I’m putting an end to it.

He said he appreciated it.

And you know what? It’s been years. He hasn’t changed. But I have.

Maybe one day, he’ll change. But I believe that it has to be the right message at the right time. Reading personal finance advice that makes you feel bad is guaranteed to make you feel bad, but it never guarantees change. It might even make it harder to change. Feeling bad is not the answer. 

Conclusion- How to KonMari Your Finances

If you’re at the point where certain advice isn’t helping you to change, that’s ok. It can be the best advice in the world but if it’s not working for you, you have my permission as a totally unlicensed untrained personal finance blogger to leave it alone.  For what that’s worth.

This doesn’t absolve you from improving yourself. Everyone should be improving themselves constantly! But you can pick and choose what works for you. The best anyone can do is to put one foot in front of the other and make whatever progress we can. You don’t have to beat yourself up just to beat yourself up. And you shouldn’t let others beat you up just for the sake of it either. Shame isn’t the answer to your financial woes. Pick what inspires you to put one foot in front of the other. Follow that. Get more of that.

If there is advice or messages that make you feel bad about yourself and don’t encourage you to be better, you don’t need to keep them around. KonMari it and let it go.

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