Money brings out the crazy in people. Some obsess over it too much while others are carelessly extravagant. Most people are at least a little eccentric with their money habits.
This helps explain why many people have money problems, and why money can make people unhappy. Just look around at your own family, do you recognize one or more of the following types:
- The short-sighted uncle. This guy always seems taken by surprise by financial events. He drives an eleven-year-old clunker, but is shocked when it has to go into the shop for repairs. He often needs extra time to pay his bills - even the routine ones that have been on the same schedule for years. People who don't focus beyond this week's paycheck and the bills in the mailbox often cost themselves money because of late fees, interest charges, and damaged credit. Also, you can imagine how unprepared this character will be for retirement - something that should be easy to see coming, but which will probably still take him by surprise.
- The penny-pinching aunt. She has a decent enough income, but you would never know it by the way she lives. In fact, you hate to eat over at her house because the heat is always turned down a few notches above freezing, and she reuses everything from tinfoil to milk containers. Being frugal can be a sign of responsibility, but when it crosses the line to paranoia it makes a person - and everyone with that person - miserable.
- The enabling grandmother. Grandmas are expected to be generous, but this one goes too far. She is constantly giving people money to make up for their financial mistakes, which leaves them no incentive to learn. Sometimes a little tough love can do more long-term good than being a softie.
- The perfect older brother. This guy is a walking financial advice column. He always has a story to tell about where he found the best bank rates, how shrewdly he timed the rollover of his certificate of deposit, and how he got a cheaper insurance premium. It's good to look after financial details like that, but understand that other people are not that interested in them. It is better to wait for people to come to you for financial advice, because then they will be ready to listen. If you constantly give unsolicited advice, people will tune you out.
- The profligate younger brother. "Well, he's young. He'll learn." That's what everyone always says about this guy - when he racks up a couple hundred dollars in overdraft charges, or when his credit card gets cancelled. Youth should not be used as an excuse. The problem with developing bad financial habits early is they tend to stick, and then the stakes get higher as you get older.
Whether you are just a little eccentric with your money or flat-out crazy, your less-than-rational habits can cost you financial security and happiness. Recognizing the types of eccentricities described above might just help you cut out some of those bad habits, and learn to feel better about your financial situation.