If I have a problem I read a book. Either because it will contain the answer or, if not, distract me from the problem. But if you’ve ever tried to solve stubborn financial problems by reading a book you’ll know what I mean when I say the exercise is pointless.
Stubborn financial problems aren’t born of lack of fact. But personal finance books don’t seem to know this, they only tell you how to do things, not why you won’t. They don’t speak to the part of us that’s immune to practical advice. The big fat part of us the defies logic. The part that makes us human, not computer.
That’s if you can even find the personal finance section in the bookstore. Having worked in bookstores for several years never mind the fact I’m routing around in one at least once a week, neither I nor the staff at the five-floor Waterstone’s on Piccadilly could figure out where personal finance might be hiding. In self-help? No. Mind-body-spirit covered every sort of health but the financial. In the reference section? In the finance section? No and No. I eventually came across what I was looking for shelved worrisomely close to the legal section, personal finance had a section all its own. But even 296 pages of Sorting Out Your Finances for Dummies contained not a single paragraph about emotional money baggage (EMB).
Open most guides to personal finance and the chapters are all the same: budgeting, managing debt, learning to save, understanding how to invest. At least I’m spared the temptation to buy a big fat stack of these books, there’s no point – they are all the same. No, you’ll have to head straight back to the self-help section or dig deeper into proper psychology to get to the root of your problem. Which is the subject of tomorrow’s post – when we take a look at what Harvard psychologist Bob Kegan has to tell us about the real reason why people won’t change.