Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Is anybody crazy with money?

However much I push it down
It's never enough
However much I push it around
It's never enough
However much I make it out
It's never enough; it's never enough

I don't see a cure for how a lot of Americans treat money, but The Psychology of Money at least points out the attitudes we have toward money and why. Because the book was wildly popular, I was skeptical of it, but it delivered with a lot of counterintuitive points about money and at times felt like the Outliers of personal finance books.

"Chapter 3 — Never Enough" stays with me the most. One huge problem many face is ever-moving goalposts with wealth. What are your financial goals, and why? Then, what happens if you ever reach those goals?

It turns out that many people constantly move their goalposts and never feel a sense of satisfaction or never experience the freeing feeling of financial independence. It's a reason why some foolish multi-millionaires continually risk too much or end up ruined.

One overarching point in The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed and Happiness (2020) by Morgan Housel is that humans aren't machines. They have emotion. They have histories and generations. Our attitudes and feelings toward money, and investing, connect to our experiences. We might scoff at how different generations treat money, but that's because we have different experiences and points of reference.
Huge major points continually come throughout the book, including the differences between "rich" and "wealth" and how getting wealthy is much different than staying wealthy. I also walked away understanding how recessions, and big stock market drops, are common. I realized how it's crucially important not to have a financial approach determined by extreme events or outlier events.

Unfortunately, it may be human nature to see extremes that happen and then be affected by them. It's a reason why so many people sell low in a recession or buy high in a bull market. It's also important to know that individuals' goals differ so much that the advice of "absolutely buy this stock" or "dump that index fund" don't make much sense. They could only make sense within the context of that individual's goal.

A few other rarely discussed points about our psychology toward money include how we often discount how we'll change throughout our lives and the man in the car paradox. That paradox is that people often buy luxury cars for status, but then those people aren't noticed or envied. If anything, it's only the car that is noticed or envied, and the person is forgotten.

Finally, in the final few chapters, Housel explains what he does financially, and it's nothing exotic. He owns his house outright and has a few index funds. He also ends with a brief history of how money has changed in the United States.

And herein lies another major lesson. Our financial world is so young and ever-changing that all of us need to accept how relatively young it is and be prepared for changes, although we don't know what they will be.

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