SIMON SINEK broke onto the scene in 2009, asking us to “start with why.” His TED Talk has been viewed millions of times and inspired countless articles. He commands attention and captivates audiences with his message. All good things. For both individuals and organizations, there’s immense value in asking, “What’s my why?”
But what about “who”? In all the enthusiasm over “why,” I don’t think “who” has gotten its due.
When I talk about “who,” I’m talking about your community and your sense of connection to others in that community. I believe those two closely related things are crucial in helping change people’s financial behavior for the better.
I was raised by a single mother on a teacher’s salary. Money was always tight. Paying bills was a monthly event that brought stress and anxiety to my Mom, as well as to my brother and me. While I never felt ashamed, the topic of money was never a positive one. Indeed, until I started a career in finance, I never liked talking about it. A strong and supportive professional community, as well as a supportive wife and family, have given me the connection and community I need to develop good money habits.
Evidence of connection and community’s effectiveness is all around us. Think about Weight Watchers and CrossFit. They’re extremely effective at helping bring about positive change. It’s the “who” that makes the difference. Many of us already possess all the knowledge we’ll ever need concerning proper nutrition and fitness—and, if we don’t, the information is one internet search away. But it’s the addition of connection, via a supportive community, that makes Weight Watchers and CrossFit so effective.
What does this have to do with personal finance?
Dave Ramsey has created a community. He has folks on his show do their “debt-free scream.” Not only are they not embarrassed about having been in debt, but also they can’t wait for their opportunity to broadcast it to the world.
Money problems can be embarrassing, shameful and isolating. That, in turn, can lead to inaction, often helping to perpetuate these problems across generations.
The opposite of that scenario: an open and honest dialogue about financial shortcomings and struggles. It’s about being part of a community with others who have been where you are, overcome the problems you’re experiencing, and are interested in helping you get where you want to go. That’s the “who” I’m talking about. It’s that safe environment where people share, listen and are willing to help make real and lasting change happen.
This environment can be created at work, church, in your neighborhood and at home. A first step could be something as simple as a book or investment club. It can be something little like breaking down the costs of the family trip to Disney, so your kids begin to grasp the important concepts of budgeting and saving.
Like most everything else, this won’t happen on its own and it won’t be easy. But it’s well worth the effort. You’ve got your “why.” Now, find your “who.”