Monday, May 27, 2013
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the personal finance books I’ve been reading, and the various philosophies that go with the various approaches, I just want to get one thing out of the way.
In the spirit of There are Two Kinds of People in the World, I will say that when it comes to keeping track of things, there are definitely two kinds of people: People who like to track data and people who do not like to track data.
Neither of these approaches is right or wrong, and neither is better or worse than the other.
The benefit of tracking data is that you end up with … data. Data is useful. It tells you exactly what is happening. Data doesn’t lie, it is what it is. This is how much time it took to do that project. This is how you spent your money.
Some people enjoy the process of gathering data, they like to see a story unfold in front of them, they like to have a record of what happened. Gathering data helps some people feel like they know where they are, where they are going, and how long it might to take to get there.
Many people, however, loathe the process of gathering data. They find it tedious and time-consuming and difficult and unpleasant. (It is especially unpleasant when you don’t like what the data says. I ate how much?) It takes all of kinds of energy that they would rather be spending on things they actually enjoy doing.
But just as extroverts have trouble understanding introverts, and don’t see how anyone could possibly rather stay home and read a book than go to a party, people who do not enjoy tracking data cannot imagine that anyone in their right mind could possibly feel differently.
This bias comes up repeatedly in the book All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi, which I am currently reading. They emphasize over and over again that their approach does not require ongoing data tracking, because, in their words, “That is not living.”
So before I get into my analysis of the book, I just want to offer this public service announcement.
Life is made up of all kinds of experiences. Some of them are wonderful and some of them are awful and some of them are tedious and some of them are exhilarating.
Everything you do is living. Everything you do is life.
Changing your baby’s diaper and watching a movie and fixing breakfast and breaking your arm falling off a ladder and vacationing in Bali and mowing the lawn and talking on the phone and building sand castles and paying bills and playing tennis and watching other people play tennis and cleaning the toilet and going to the French Laundry for dinner. And looking at your receipts and bank statements to see how much you spent, and adding it up and thinking about whether maybe next month you could spend a little less and still be just as happy.
That is all life, it is all living.
And don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t.