Stop wallowing in self-pity and take control of your finances

In life, you can blame a lot of people and wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, ‘Listen, I have to be responsible for myself.’” – Howard Schultz

Money cash Shekels currency 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
Money cash Shekels currency 521
(photo credit: Reuters)
In life, you can blame a lot of people and wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, ‘Listen, I have to be responsible for myself.’” – Howard Schultz
Some of my Seattle friends are going to be upset at my choice of quoting Mr. Starbucks, Howard Schultz. I really like the quote and the irony that he said these words is striking. You see, Schultz is not so well-loved in his hometown of Seattle. He was responsible for selling the Supersonics, the beloved NBA franchise of the Pacific Northwest, to Oklahoma City, a move for which he has never been forgiven. While the city mourned for many years after the team was moved, in recent years the grief has ceased and much effort has been made to be granted a new team.

Not good enough

A few months ago I received an anonymous call from a man asking for help. He was up the creek financially and had 48 hours to make some fateful decisions. It turns out that the man in debt wanted me to give the thumbs up on his taking a bank loan to cover his large overdraft. I told him that without a thorough discussion on his financial life there would be no chance I would say taking on more debt is a good idea. It turns out that while he owns an apartment free and clear of a mortgage, he has no other assets, and more importantly, hasn’t worked in two years. Due to this, he has blown through all his savings and has no way to pay any bills, hence the need to take a loan.
I was very curious as to why he hasn’t worked in two years. He said he has been offered jobs, but the compensation was not to his liking. Two years later he is still holding out for that unrealistically high-paying job. I then asked if, with no money and little food in the fridge, why he doesn’t take any job just to help pay the bills while still looking for the high-paying job. Deliver pizza or work in the local fruit and vegetable store. Do something to be able to survive. He said it was beneath him to do this kind of work. I was in utter shock and said I can’t help him if he won’t help himself, and that was the end of the conversation.
I mentioned that a few weeks ago our family went to the country of Georgia, like all good Israelis! While in the mountains, my younger son asked if the mountains were volcanic. Then we reminisced on how we visited a real volcano, Mount St. Helens, and how I remember when it erupted.
Describing the renewal years after the blast, I wrote, “What was so amazing about our trip to the mountain was how nature had recovered. It took a bit of time but the entire area has been reborn. You can still see fallen trees that lie like matchsticks, but nature has totally recovered. The movies they show in the visitor center once were about the blast and all the destruction that followed. Today, the movies are about the rejuvenation and the recovery that has taken place.”
Don’t dwell on the past
If you think that your financial situation is beyond salvation, think again. You can always put an end to the mistakes that you’ve been making and change your situation for the better. The same goes for investing. Don’t dwell on past mistakes and swear that because of those mistakes you will never invest again. Rather, learn and analyze what you did wrong and then make smart decisions. I have counseled so many families who were deep in debt and had no hope of ever extricating themselves from their situation. When I say deep in debt I mean deep: $100,000-150,000 in debt, not including mortgage. Well, with lots of hard work and a strong desire to change their financial lot, they succeeded to change their lives.

Where to start

Stop the self-pity and start making financial order.
• Budget: The only way to change is by taking control. Live on less than you make. If you let your expenses spiral out of control, you will end up with a big minus in the bank. But if you dictate where every single shekel is allocated, you will make sure that you spend less than your income.
• Get out of debt: A minus in the bank or with your credit card company is the guarantee for financial instability, and a major obstacle to getting ahead financially. It may not be easy but it’s a lot better to take those interest payments and plow them into savings, than to keep paying the credit card company. It may mean taking on a second job at night. Like I said, it may not be easy but you will thank yourself for working so hard once you are debt-free.
• Build wealth: There is no shortcut to building wealth. You need to start investing with discipline. The wonders of compound interest and the growth of the stock and/or real estate market over time will create a comfortable nest egg. Don’t fall for get-rich-quick schemes. They don’t work. Slow and steady is the recipe for success, and if you invest intelligently and consistently and plow money into savings, you will have a very comfortable nest-egg years down the road.

This article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates. The writer is author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and is a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel. For more information, call 02-624-0995, visit or email