I’m your host, Alex, and welcome to Police My Money. My mission is to spread personal finance knowledge to the people in my profession and all the rest of you as well. My reason for this is simple.
If you were asked how is your retirement account invested and your answer is “in my 401K” or “in Fidelity” or some other provider, then you’ve come to the right place…because that’s not the right answer.
If you filled out your Federal Form W4 (tax withholding form) for work and didn’t know that you can change your “answer” to 10 even though your answers didn’t equal 10 then you’ve come to the right place. And if that last sentence made absolutely no sense at all then you’ve really come to the right place.
I received my degree in accounting from Arizona State University in 2003 and began a career as an accountant. Most people think an accountant does taxes. While I am familiar with taxes, I worked for a manufacturing company in Phoenix and my job was to manage our accounting database. I made sure the money our company made and the money our company spent was accurate. I also created budgets for various departments of the company. I would reassess and manage the budgets from year to year and report to upper management to make sure they were happy with how profitable the company was. I had other tasks as well but that’s pretty much the gist of it.
My company offered a retirement plan (401K) and I was given a form to sign up and told to pick which funds I wanted my money to go into. That was pretty much the end of the discussion and I didn’t have a clue. I did my own research to understand what all this stuff meant and it seemed to only get more complicated the deeper I dug.
As I kept researching the 401K I found I actually knew more about managing my employer’s finances than managing my own. I had never taken a course in personal finance, so I picked up things I heard from my parents, coworkers and friends. I think that’s what most people do.
I started to become more curious about other aspects of personal finance and over the years it has become an obsession. Everyone has their hobbies and mine just happens to be researching personal finance topics. I’m pretty hip, although my wife tells me by saying that phrase it’s obvious I’m not. We’ll agree to disagree.
Before discovering my obsession I left accounting and went into law enforcement. I found I had the same knack for investigating personal finance topics as I did investigating criminal cases. It seemed lots of officers would hear a finance suggestion from a friend and suggest it to another friend but that was like playing a game of telephone. The information got twisted the farther it got from the original source. I always wanted to hear it from the source and asked several professionals and researched online to find out if the suggestion was actually any good. Criminal investigations work the same way. You have to go to the source. You have to gather all the information so you can get a clear picture of what someone claimed happened.
A lot of people I work with learned about my obsession (probably because I forced them to) and found that I was pretty good at explaining the simple and more complex personal finance topics.
Through my research I found a few important things:
Personal finance is boring and complicated to most people (except me) and they would rather do other things. Plus, there are lots of other important things to manage in your life and if personal finance is boring and complicated why take the time? The answer is, BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT!
Personal finance is emotional. Who wants to see their retirement account balance go from $100,000 to $85,000 in a few days? Actually, I do, but you’ll understand that later. The fact is humans are innately flawed and rely on emotions if we aren’t educated about what we are reacting to. We fear what we don’t understand.
My law enforcement friends know this. How often have you had to arrest someone for getting mad and punching someone in the face? If that person had taken the time to assess their emotions and think logically they might not have punched the person, but now that arrest could potentially haunt them for the rest of their life. People make similar emotional decisions with their finances and one decision could cause them to lose tons of money and haunt them for the rest of their life.
Personal finance education is the cornerstone to learning how to manage your money and your emotions. If you have a better understanding of how personal finance works you would probably be able to keep your emotions from forcing you to make a bad decision. The same way people say they didn’t know what they did was against the law (yes, people say that) and they just got too angry and had to punch that person in the face. If they had known the law and learned how to control their emotions they might have been able to keep the emotions under control. Then hopefully they would have used knowledge and logic to keep from punching someone and going to jail.
The psychology of finance is a popular topic in a lot of books I come across lately. Hopefully I can educate you on a very important topic so you can use logic and knowledge to keep your emotions from ruining your finances.
Thanks for reading and enjoy!