As a personal finance blogger, I’ve thought a lot about the best way to help others improve their finances.  Some bloggers are very non-judgmental and say that everyone has their own unique path.

Others feel that people should follow a more rigid set of rules in order to get out of debt or build wealth.

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I prefer the tough love approach.  While it’s true that every situation is different, it’s also true that some people need a reality check.

If someone complains that they’re so broke they can’t make the minimum payments on their bills/debts, why are they blowing $100 per month on a fancy gym membership or $6 a day on Starbucks Frappucinos?

It’s obviously not good to judge others, but when we adopt a 100% judgment-free type of attitude, this can lead to enabling.  We’re not helping someone when we tell them it’s okay to keep wasting their money on extras when they’re struggling to make their rent payment.

We wouldn’t tell an alcoholic that it’s okay to keep drinking – to do so would not be helpful; it would be enabling.

When we stop allowing others to act like victims and instead encourage them to take ownership of their own poor choices, something powerful happens.  When someone realizes that they are in control of their decisions, they feel empowered to change their situation.

They no longer feel hopeless and trapped – they understand that they can get out of debt if they make smarter choices.

It’s important for others to take ownership of their own choices, but this perspective can also be taken too far.  When we decide that everyone is 100% responsible for every choice they make (and naively assume that we are not influenced by a number of other factors that have nothing to do with us), it becomes easy to judge others.

We may assume that anyone who is struggling financially “deserves” to be.  I’ve read quite a few comments on internet articles that describe anyone who has debt as an “idiot”.  It’s easy to judge others without considering the numerous factors that influenced them into taking on debt in the first place.

Many of us are completely oblivious to our own privileges that have helped us in many ways to avoid poverty, to not take on debt or to pay off debt quickly, or to build wealth.

My Privilege

For example, here are some of the ways that I am privileged:

-I have the option of renting out a room from my parents, which allows me to pay off my student loan debt quickly.

-I grew up in safe, middle-class neighborhood and went to a “good” high school on the “rich” side of town.  I had access to all of the resources I needed in order to succeed in school.

-My mom and step dad always had stable jobs.  As a teenager, I never had to work to support younger siblings or to help out my parents with their bills.  I was able to keep the money I earned from part-time jobs during high school and college.

-I live in a large, metropolitan area with a relatively low unemployment rate.  I don’t live in the middle of nowhere where jobs are limited.

Other Examples of Privilege

Here are some other examples of privilege:

-Being raised by parents who make smart financial choices and encouraged you to do the same.

-Being encouraged to take Financial Peace University (or other financial classes) at a young age.  Attending a high school that offers personal finance classes.

-Having parents who are willing and able to help you out financially – whether it’s paying for college, helping you to buy a house or car, or paying for your wedding.

-Having family members or friends who provide expensive services to you for free – such as a mechanic who will repair your car for free, a hairstylist who will cut your hair for free, a masseuse who will give you free massages, or a financial planner who will give you free investing advice.

-Getting a portion (or all) of your tuition reimbursed through your employer or another program.

-Going to a private high school or “prep” school.

-Being able to take risks with your career/life and knowing that your parents have the ability to help you out financially if anything were to go wrong.

-Being able to take out interest-free loans from your parents.

The Goal

When we help others with personal finance, we can encourage them to take ownership of decisions while at the same time making an effort not to judge them.  It’s a delicate balance – we need to find just the right amount of compassion.

We don’t want to be too compassionate – this leads to enabling, but too little compassion leads to judging others (while ignoring the privileges that have allowed us to succeed).


Other stuff you might like:

How to Start a Blog in 5 Easy Steps
How to Ditch Your Student Loans with the Debt Snowball
My Personal Finance “Aha” Moment
The Appeal of Minimalism
9 Ways to Get Free Yoga Classes

Personal Finance Resources:

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
YOLO: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life by Jason Vitug
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach
It’s Only Money and It Does Grow on Trees by Cara MacMillan

Blogging Resources:

How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup
365 Blog Topic Ideas for the Lifestyle Blogger Who Has Nothing to Write About by Dana Fox
Secrets to Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income by ProBlogger