Late last night during a conversation with JT from Money Mamba, I discovered a very important fact: I am beyond tired of financial TMI. Now, I’m not talking about people who talk about their income and expenses, because goodness knows I do that all the time. I love knowing what people spend their money on and how they’re really doing where their finances are concerned. So few people (even bloggers) are willing to be upfront about things like that. What I’m talking about, though, is the idea that MORE information is always better.
At some point, some important financial entity decided, “Hey, you know what would be a great idea? We should give people access to a million times more information about their finances! That’ll really help them!” So we ended up with all these online tools that let us calculate our net worth, compare our debt to the national average, and find out how many paychecks it will take to pay for laser hair removal.
Here’s my issue with that. If you have trouble managing your money, it’s often because you aren’t keeping up with things like balancing your checkbook. So how is it going to help you to get all distracted by pie charts that show how much you spend on toothpaste? In my opinion, that just gives you something new and shiny to look at, and in the meantime you still aren’t balancing your checkbook.
Got Money Problems? Time to Simplify
When I was actively adding to my mountain of debt, even the most straightforward tasks seemed impossible. Check my bank balance? Ugh, I don’t want to know how bad it is! Keep up with receipts? I don’t want a bunch of paper in my purse! No matter what I needed to do, I found a way not to do it because I was overwhelmed. And having access to even more information wouldn’t have done a darn thing to change that.
What I needed was an easier system that worked. Forget net worth – I still don’t bother checking it because I already know it’s a negative number. Forget calculators and graphs and fancy apps for my phone. All that stuff is great for people who are ready for it, but I wasn’t.
My regular readers know what happened next. I found a better bank that provided me with more information than my old one, but not more than I could handle. I always know how much money I have free (versus just what’s available at this moment) and I no longer overdraft. The funny thing is, once I started understanding the basics, I moved on to other things like starting an emergency fund and blogging about finance. These days I can actually look at some of those websites and their cool charts without having a nuclear meltdown inside my head.
Coming Back to My Point
Millions of people search the web every day for things like “how to write a check” or “how much is minimum wage”. And I really wish someone would think about them for a change. If they don’t know the easy stuff, how can they benefit from a website that provides information overload?
Sure, there are also millions of people who know what they’re doing, and who love being able to see all that stuff. I’m aware of that, so please don’t email me to rant about how much you love your Mint.com account. I get it. I just know that feeling of utter confusion when you log into an online account and tons of detailed info is staring you in the face. Where is the website for people who aren’t in a place where they can deal with that yet?
Financial TMI is everywhere these days. I can only imagine what a headache it must be for people who are struggling with their finances and just want to get the small stuff under control first. And in the interest of full disclosure, I still don’t balance my checkbook.
What do you think? Is financial TMI a wonderful thing, or do you think it’s a distraction? Have your finances improved dramatically as a result of having access to more information? I’d love to hear your thoughts!