Breathing Fresh Life into the Monte Largo Financial Blog
Where Did The Blog Go?
Six months ago, in early February, I got very sick. It was the kind of sickness that lingers for weeks. It’s the kind that makes you want to wrap yourself in a blanket and do nothing but watch Netflix. I was bedridden for almost exactly half of the month, and it was two days into my Nyquil coma that I decided “I’m not writing a blog post this week.”
That turned into “I’m not writing a blog post this month” because of all the things I had to catch up on from being totally incapacitated for two weeks. But even after the flu/migraine/bronchitis/hantavirus/plague (I’m assuming that’s what it was because the doctors didn’t really know) left my body, I felt a sudden urge of excitement at the prospect of doubling down on my other business efforts without resorting to churning out more blog posts.
“Maybe I’ll take another month off the blog and come back to it in April,” I said to myself. “I’ve got plenty to do without it.” But the question remained…why was I putting off what used to be a joyful experience of sharing my ideas and thoughts with those who wanted to hear them?
I’d gotten several clients from the readership, so it wasn’t as if it had no business use. I enjoyed the writing and editing process, so it wasn’t as if my numbers-oriented mind got scared of all the words. And most weeks I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a new topic. Then it dawned on me.
“This blog is incredibly prescriptive,” I lamented to my husband. “I’m using some good examples, and doling out some sound financial advice, but it just doesn’t feel very human.” I realized the blogs and stories I like to read the most have a clear focus and direction, (mainly personal finance) but they rarely inundate the audience with pure, distilled advice. Rather, the bloggers simply tell stories about themselves, and let the audience decide what to do with those stories.
Where’s The Blog Going From Here?
I have friend, a true poet at heart, who tattooed “Just tell them stories…” on his arm after hearing Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. Remembering this, I looked up the full quotation which reads “Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.” I instantly loved it.
That’s what this blog was missing. Stories. Everyone has a different relationship with money, and the blogs I love to read talk about how that relationship has evolved or changed over time. That realization has breathed new life back into the blog and inspired me to write it again.
Unlike previous posts, they might not be published at precisely the same moment every week, and the messages might not all apply to “Monte Largo’s target demographic” or even the current reader base. But each story will investigate someone’s relationship with money or lack thereof, and hopefully you can “figure out how those stories apply to [you].”
However, before I can dive right into those stories about money, I’m going to tell you two more quick stories about me, my newfound outlook on storytelling, and how those stories relate to how I’ll be running this blog.
The No Judgement Approach To Storytelling
When I first started advising clients, I was pretty hell bent on showing people the light. “But if they only knew what they were giving up, everyone would choose Financial Independence!” was a common chord I used to sing.
Sure, I knew it took time. I have dozens of friends and family members who either a) don’t understand what I’m striving toward, b) aren’t willing to take the time to listen, or c) don’t believe it’s possible. It isn’t necessarily easy to change someone’s mind on as delicate and ingrained an issue as money management. But if presented with the facts, everyone would choose this lifestyle, right?
Wrong. I was reminded of an old concept I learned in business school – “You are not the market.” Just because I don’t have a snowglobe collection doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for snowglobes…or cat sweaters…or pez dispensers. Sometimes I’d work through a client’s finances, presenting them with a variety of scenarios under different savings and spending rates only to hear “Oh cool, I can afford that Ferrari in 5 years.”* I tried not to physically cringe.
I don’t do that anymore. I definitely still have clients who’d trade years of their life for things I wouldn’t imagine owning, but I’ve found peace with seeing myself as the Harbinger of Truth, Information, and Objectivity, rather than the Missionary of The One True Financial Way.
Do I still have biases toward what I think a client should do with their money and make recommendations based on those biases? Yep. But now I’m just as thrilled to see someone confirm their beliefs and spending habits as I am when they change their beliefs and spending habits.
Either way, I make sure they have all the knowledge they need to make an educated decision for themselves. I want to bring that same objectivity I bring to my clients to my blog. No more “this is the best choice” or “that is an example of a bad financial decision.” All decisions made with equal information are equal if they increase those people’s happiness.
Having No Regrets, Or Rather, Having The Right Regrets
Once upon a time when I lived in Texas, I took an internship which turned into a job at a big company that always made it on those “Best Places to Work” lists. Nine months later they shut my division down and moved everyone they wanted to keep to New York City. I, as well as most of my immediate coworkers, got offers to move to NYC. However, since most of us were comfortable with the no income tax/wide open spaces/cheap housing/friendly Texas lifestyle, few of us were convinced to move.
I heard a common tune. “I never should have agreed to work here. How could such a great company spring this news on us without even consulting us. I made a terrible mistake.” My view on the situation was less fatalistic. In my view, I’d taken an incredible offer with a great company. It didn’t work out, but it was the best decision I could have made with the information I had at the time. There was nothing to regret, and no mistake was made.
Now let’s contrast that with a far more idiotic decision I made. Two weeks ago I went on a camping trip and wore the wrong shoes to hike over nine miles of sandy beaches, tide pools, and forest floors. My feet still hurt. I’m considerably angrier with myself over that decision (which doesn’t really effect my long term happiness) than I was with my poor choice of employer (which could have had a significant effect on my happiness, job prospects, and more). Why? Because with the shoes, I knew they were a dumb move before I started. I had all the available and relevant information and ignored it.
Let’s Do This!
So if you’re excited to read about real people making real financial decisions, rather than a few measly examples that prop up some thinly veiled financial advice/advertising for Monte Largo, you’ve come to the right spot. And if you have a story you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details and we’ll get back to you!
*Ok so it wasn’t a Ferrari, but it was a pretty expensive car that came (brand new) with a pretty hefty monthly payment.
Nathan is the Chief Financial Advisor at Monte Largo Financial Advisors