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Who Do American’s Look To As A Financial Mentor?

question marks over personI am writing this post because I have a question for all of my readers.  I will get to the question near the end, so bear with me as I roll through it.

As the world pushes through a massive recession, I wonder the main reason why we all got into this mess.  It doesn’t matter what country you live in, because it was all caused by two things.  I think that the recession was caused by over-consumption and pure greed.  All developed countries have been running on a binge for resources, money, and fame.  Each one wants to top the other to show that they are bigger and better.  This over-consumption has caused the residents of every country to indulge and follow along.  Are you a part of the Rat Race? This is a big problem and I don’t know where we can look to for a fix.

America the Beautiful

I am an American and I don’t feel bad about it, I actually embrace it.  I have grown up knowing that I create the opportunities that I want.  I was taught that if you work hard, you will be rewarded.  This beautiful dream was what drove me when I was young, but as I have grown older, I realized that this is not always the case.  Yes, American may be the land of opportunity, but it is also the land of greed and power corruption.

America is truly run by greed.  Companies are chasing profits, no matter the cost.  People are chasing money and fame, no matter who they hurt in the way.  Every one wants to be successful and that is not the problem.  The problem is how we are getting to that level of American defined success.  You are shown that in order to be successful, you need to have money, cars, a home, have kids, and enjoy a Starbucks coffee everyday.  Who came up with this warped definition of success?

Alzheimer’s of the financial mind

As we work toward getting out of the recession, we are starting to see that American’s are starting to consume more and borrow more money and diving deeper into debt.  The Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low, so people can borrow more (which equals more spending) and companies can invest more into their operations.  While this is a overall good economic idea, it is a horrible financial model.  You don’t provide people with a way to borrow more money to purchase stuff they cannot afford.  This is what got us in this mess in the first place.  Does anyone remember the Mortgage Crisis?  It happened because people were spending beyond their means.  It is a simple math problem.

How much you makeHow much your spend = Net Cash Flow

The goal is to have a positive cash flow, but for many people, that number is in the red.  Oops. That is not the way to continue living.  I thought we lived through this once, but apparently I was wrong.  Why in the hell are we repeating the same mistakes we did before?  We need to stop encouraging people to borrow money.  We don’t need more of our citizens in debt just to get the economy going.  That is a falsely inflated economy, not a real one.  It spells a recipe for disaster.

looking through binocularsWho do we look to?

Now for my question at hand.  Who do we as American’s look to as a financial mentor?  We need money help in this country and we need it badly.  Yes, there are people like Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, and Suze Orman, but they are just individuals.  We need something larger to get this horrible trend turned around.

Related: Are We Doing Personal Finance Wrong?

We can’t look to our government because they are running a money spending machine and have been doing so for many, many years.  I don’t blame any one individual for this issue, I blame the whole machine.  These people cannot even come up with a basic budget to get cash flow positive.  The simplest form of money management is budgeting and our government cannot do it.  They are not worthy as any type of mentor.  People see the government spending and then think that it should be OK for them to do the same thing.  Why can’t we do it if our government does it on a regular basis.

We NEED a mentor!

With our government out of the picture because they are a bunch of school-aged children that are just fighting on the playground of Washington.  We are in need of someone to teach people that they don’t have to borrow money in order to buy things.  They have to learn how to live within their means and be proud that they can.  I wish I had an answer to who we could pick as a financial mentor, but I just don’t have that answer.  It is too big for me alone to come up with.  We need a new day in financial literacy.

As a new parent, I know that they only solution I have is to teach my child to the best of my ability.  Yes, I have made financial mistakes in my life, but I have learned from them.  I am changing around how I treat and use my money.  I want to teach my child how to responsibly use money and how to save it.  With the basic foundations, I believe my son can grow up with a solid financial head on his shoulders.  This is all I can do.

Related: Are You a Financially Intelligent Parent?

I would say that all parents should be the younger generation’s financial mentor, but I know that is not a good option.  The age of saving and being careful with your money is a dying breed.  We need to bring that back and there are many parents out there that are not prepared to teach their children money lessons.  If they can’t get their finances in order, how can they teach others to do it?  That’s right, they can’t.

Well, if you can’t tell already, this post really is just a question.  Who do you think we can look to as a financial mentor?  Do we need an organization to help or should it be an individual?  I realize that this post is just about the United States, but this can be brought to anyone, anywhere.

Let me hear your thoughts below.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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About the Author Grayson Bell

I'm a business owner, blogger, father, and husband. I used credit cards too much and found myself in over $75,000 in debt ($50,000 in just credit cards). I paid it off, started this blog, and my financial life has changed. I now talk about fighting debt and growing wealth here. I run a WordPress maintenance and support company, along with another blog, Eyes on the Dollar, which is another great personal finance blog.

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47 comments
John S @ Frugal Rules says March 20

Good post Grayson! Oh, I could go a number of ways with this…but I won’t. 😉 To answer your question I think it should be a combination of basic finances taught in the school system plus being taught at home. I know that is a bit of a lollipops and puppies idea, though it would be ideal. Being a parent myself, I take this very seriously and know that we are in the declining minority. I think teaching your children about money, how to respect it and how to save/spend/invest it is one of the most loving things you can do as a parent. In terms of a mentor, I am not terribly certain on that but I believe in order for my “solution” to work that a major shift needs to take place in our thinking.

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    Jacob@CashCowCouple says March 20

    Hey John, I wholeheartedly agree that parenting is a huge issue. I will add my $.02 in the form of a poem:

    “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

    Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

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      Grayson says March 20

      Well put together Jacob. I like it and it makes sense.

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    Grayson says March 20

    Thanks John. I agree with you on this. I feel it is a parent’s job to teach their kids, not only about money, but also life. Unfortunately, we have a serious problem with parents not wanting to do this and don’t even know how to take care of their own issues. This is why I was thinking about something higher than the parents.

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      John S @ Frugal Rules says March 20

      Totally agree Grayson! Many, too many, parents completely drop the ball on this issue and it on likely sets up a pattern that can be difficult to break. I think a lot of it comes down to choosing to be ignorant or being ignorant altogether. People need to want the change in order for it to happen and the more people do it the more it will impact us as a people.

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        Grayson says March 20

        Well put together John. I always enjoy your insight on here!

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Laurie says March 20

Grayson, you’ve hit the nail on the head. But I think the root of the problem is the greed and the selfishness. It takes alot of discipline and denying ourselves of things in order to be financially responsible. We have to learn to say “no”. We have to get our priorities in order. We need to understand that a latte’ every day, a fancy car, house, or well-dressed kids isn’t the definition of success. That’s a pretty tough lesson to face up to though. I’m hoping that we as PF bloggers are at least helping. I know that you and all of the others I’ve learned from certainly have changed the way I look at money and spending.

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    Grayson says March 20

    Thanks Laurie. This is why I got into the PF space. I wanted to share my insights with people and see how they react. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do use common sense most times. I can’t say that for everyone I interact with on a daily basis anymore. Common sense is becoming lost.

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Johnny Moneyseed says March 20

I’ve always thought that if the government decided to spend money they should have to do a fund raiser for it. If the citizens don’t pay into it, that means they don’t care about it. And if they don’t care about it, why is it being done in the first place?

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    Jacob@CashCowCouple says March 20

    Yeah, whatever happened to the voice of the people.
    Your fund raising idea is almost as silly as President Obama “asking” the “rich” to pay a little more. 😉

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    Grayson says March 20

    I think that is what voting was supposed to accomplish, but that is the most corrupt and power hungry system out there.

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Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank says March 20

The people at the top don’t care about the people anymore. They are too interested in getting re-elected so their own pockets are lined with cash. This may be a cynical view, but it is certainly the way Australia is and I expect most other countries are the same.

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    Grayson says March 20

    You are correct Glen. This happens in almost every country, but I can’t speak to that because I don’t live there. It is all about how much money you can make and not what you can actually do for anyone else.

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Holly@ClubThrifty says March 20

Honestly, I think we can only look to ourselves the change the situation. I agree that companies and governments are run on greed and consumption and we can’t look to them to change. We have to take personal responsibility and refuse to consume consume consume as they want us to.

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    Girl Meets Debt says March 20

    I completely agree with you here Holly. Great food for thought post Grayson!

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    Grayson says March 20

    I agree Holly. I even wrote a popular post about it regarding only we can change our financial future. The problem is with the education level about money in this country. Many people don’t know how to use money properly and they aren’t being shown. This problem is bigger than you and me showing our children how to responsibly use money.

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      Holly@ClubThrifty says March 20

      Yeah, but the answers are out there if people want them. People like you or I choose to educate ourselves about money and learn to make good decisions. Others bury their head in the sand. I believe that people want to keep doing what they’re doing and choose to remain ignorant.

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        Grayson says March 20

        Agreed. Most people fear change. They don’t know how to handle it and it is easier for them to continue down the same path. I, on the other hand, love change. I embrace it.

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AverageJoe says March 20

Funny. I watched Midnight in Paris for the third time last night and was struck by something. Paris in the 1920s was a hotbed for great novelists, poets and artists. Imagine what we could do on the internet. The 2010’s could be known as the time that there was a hotbed of financial talent that changed the way people think about financial solvency.

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    Grayson says March 20

    I like it Joe. Let’s start the movement of online financial literacy!

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Jim says March 20

Great post Grayson, thanks for posing this important question. I believe we need to look to a higher power as our mentor, if that were encouraged by the media and politicians we would find these problems would cease to exist. I think that ever since the media and politicians began their war on Christianity, by taking God out of our schools and daily lives, it has led to people being less connected to faith and a higher power. People are inevitably followers, many are simple minded, lack the ambition to do their own research and so as a result they allow this to go on. Meanwhile, our Country is loosing its financial dominance and our attraction to God, Freedom and Liberty!

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    Grayson says March 20

    Thanks Jim. I am not going to dive into the religious aspects of anything here. Since you argue that people are followers (which I agree), don’t you think that there are problems with some churches and what they teach others? I am not talking about everywhere, but there is also corruption and politics on churches. The faithful are not immune to corruption.

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Money Bulldog says March 20

It’s funny you should mention the squabbling that goes on in government. I’ve just been listening to today’s annual UK budget on the radio and could barely hear what the chancellor was saying due to all the heckling that was going on in parliment! I couldn’t help but think ‘How can we teach our kids to behave in a decent respectful manner if those at the top of government don’t even allow others to talk without heckling?’, Pretty sad state of affairs really.

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    Grayson says March 20

    It really is sad. They pretend to be on our side, but all they want to do is push through their agendas and make sure they are making their highest bidders happy. It all comes back to money. Again, governments are just children heckling each other in the school yard.

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John @ Fearless Men says March 20

What a great topic you’re bringing up. We’re all frustrated with our countries economy and financial state but most of us don’t have a solution. I know I don’t. I believe in personal responsibility so actually do think one option is starting at home. Obviously this can’t fix the government right now but maybe down the road when new politicians get elected they’ll have a different mind set.

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    Grayson says March 20

    Quality point John. I will be educating my children on the importance of financial responsibility, but I fear that our current state will put them in a very bad position and make it harder for them to achieve.

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Travis @debtchronicles says March 20

I agree with John in that we need a combination of education through the school system as well as at home. I know some people cringe at putting this on the public school system, but seriously – if the goal of school is to prepare kids to be successful in life, then we need to be showing them how to manage money, and what the consequences are of not doing so. There also should be some responsibility by the parents to be good role models and help support and enhance that education. My parents did an excellent job of being role models – too bad I went in the opposite direction. I’m making sure my kids not only understand how to do basic money management, but are also involved in knowing what we’re going through with our debt…with the hope that they will not repeat that mistake.

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    Grayson says March 20

    I think teaching this in school is a good idea. I don’t know how long it will take to get into curriculums, but still think it will do well. My parents taught me well, and I failed to listen. I did learn a great deal from my mistakes and I am a better person for it.

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Ryan @ Planwise says March 20

Interesting.. I think we could use a little bit of both. The only thing with one solid institution is that many people’s underlying problems are the same, but their exact circumstances are different. Laws may be handled in different states which makes it harder for things to be standard across the board.

I think personal networks and blogs seems to be a pretty good resource for helping people. Now technology is even stepping in and starting to give people different means of understanding their money and better ways to improve their situation.

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    Grayson says March 20

    I wouldn’t want laws involved because that just goes back to the original problem of government being irresponsible. I guess it is all just going to come down to people taking responsibility and owning up to their issues.

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Jerry says March 20

Interesting question, Grayson. A related question would be who would form any group we turned to? Where would their funds come from? The source of their funding would probably slant the advice given. I realize that many people recognize Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, and Suze Orman as experts, but, if you look under the veil of credibility, you will see that each is out of touch with the average American who struggles to pay the bills, let alone buy two or three lattes a day. The answer to your question seems to be that there is no one right now and no one on the horizon, either.

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    Grayson says March 20

    You truthful answer makes me sad Jerry. You are correct that the “experts” are clouded (by money), but I didn’t want to get into a debate with anyone about those people. Many people follow them like a religion and I am not one to step on anyone like that. Well thought out response Jerry!

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krantcents says March 20

Thankfully, my children looked to my wife and I as financial role models. It worked very well because they are successful adults.

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    Grayson says March 20

    That is good to hear. I wish all parents were financially responsible mentors for their children.

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CashRebel says March 20

I think we should look to financially stable community members like small business owners. It’s hard to keep a small business around for 10 years if you’re in the red the whole time. I’ve got a money mentor in my life. I always wondered why he was more frugal than my parents, but he ended up retiring early (at 50) because he had saved and invested diligently. I learn as much as I can from him.

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    Grayson says March 21

    Never thought about small business owners. Nice job thinking outside of the box.

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Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says March 21

I got behind on my reading this week, but wanted to find this post since you mentioned it earlier to me. And I’m glad I did. We desperately need financial mentors because right now we’re in a devastating cycle of consumerism, greed and debt. The worst part is so few people realize this. Many complain about corporations or the government, but they don’t recognize they are doing the same thing with their own personal finances! We need to wake-up!! In the perfect world (one full of lollipops and puppies like John acknowledged), parents would teach their kids how to handle money properly and personal finance classes would be required. The reality, like you stated, is many parents are unable to do this because either they are unaware they need to talk to their kids about money since their own parents never did or their own financial situation is a mess, which makes me incredibly sad. I wish I had the answer, but I don’t. All I can do is continue to share what I know and try to reach as many parents as possible and help them wake up, change their own habits and teach their kids how to handle money properly.

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    Grayson says March 21

    I am glad that you enjoyed it Shannon. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go when I started, but there it is. I pulled it all out and I am glad you enjoyed it.

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Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says March 21

Thanks for linking to my post too!! For some reason, the link didn’t show up on my end yet, but I appreciate the link and wanted to be sure to acknowledge it. 🙂

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    Grayson says March 21

    You are most welcome. Sometimes it can take some time. There are times where it will never arrive.

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Justin@TheFrugalPath says March 21

Grayson, I love this question.
Honestly, it may sound like a cliche, but people need to look inside to find what they want. Security? Wealth? A vacation home? Once you know what you want find someone who has achieved this and follow their example.
I agree though, it’s only a matter of time before the next crisis/bubble.

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    Justin@TheFrugalPath says March 21

    BTW, it’s been a while since I’ve visited the site (sorry) but I love the new design.

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      Grayson says March 21

      Glad to hear it Justin. I have received some positive feedback and that feels good since I did it myself.

      Reply
    Grayson says March 21

    Thanks Justin and glad to hear from you. It was a relatively open-ended question just to make people think about the issues we face.

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Brian @ Luke1428 says March 22

Love the question Grayson and I’m not sure there is a single answer. I agree with others here who have mentioned this has to include education in the home and in schools. You’ve spent a little time on my blog so you know I would consider things like greed and selfishness to be an internal, spiritual issue. Generally speaking, our values have been corrupted and I’m not sure that changes dramatically for the better by the hands of an exterior influencer.

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    Grayson says March 23

    I know there really isn’t an answer, but figured I would ask my loyal readers to see what they thought. When more people start to think about it, then better answers can come.

    Reply
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