If you’ll indulge me for a moment or two, I’d like to share a few personal observations.
This is my penultimate hour of Marketplace Money. As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’m leaving after six years hosting this show, 11 years at Marketplace. Next week is our special partnership with the New York Times, so this is my last chance to say a few other words before goodbye.
I never imagined I’d host a show about personal finance for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve always been terrible with money. And second, I’ve always been terrible with money. Astute listeners will have already picked up on that. I’ve learned a lot just by hosting this show, though. Six years of daily immersion in one subject? Well, I should be making better choices just by osmosis. And I do — not always, but certainly more than I used to.
I learned a lot about money from you. Many of you are way smarter about money than I am — I can see that in the emails you send in after hearing our call-in segments. I often wished we’d had you on the line to help another listener. But unfortunately, most of our mail is the opposite. So many of you are in pain because of money. You’re baffled by it, you’re afraid of it and you don’t want anyone to know. Because god forbid we talk openly about our money issues.
Now here is where I could insert a bunch of the usual personal finance bromides. Spend less than you earn. Save all you can for retirement. Stick to a budget. Sure — all those are important. But after six years of dispensing financial advice or at least being in the room when we gave that advice, it really comes down to one thing: choices. And there’s almost nothing more personal in our lives than the choices we make.
So no radio show, no blog, no book is going to be able to do that for you. And the system today demands so many more financial choices from all of us. We have to manage our own retirement accounts. We have to save enormous sums for college. We pay a far bigger chunk of our health care bills. We’re really on our own — and we’re terrified we’re not going to have enough. So we take risks with our money that we probably shouldn’t. So if you need help, find an adviser and pay for an hour or two of help. Or try out Dave or Suze if you like. Or start with tutorials on the government’s consumer financial protection website. The resources are endless, so do as much as you can to educate yourself. And then… give yourself a break.
If you look back at your financial life so far — you probably did a few things you wish you hadn’t. Welcome to my world! But we got through it, right? Or we’re working to get there? So give yourself a break.
And while you’re at it, give everybody else a break. Lots of people made lots of mistakes over the last few years with mortgages, with overspending, with trying to time the stock market. But that doesn’t mean they deserve a lesser life when they wake up to the consequences of those choices. Maybe, just maybe, it’s on all of us to have a little more compassion for the mistakes and the struggle.
It’s been an honor. It’s been a privilege. And I will miss all of YOU more than you could possibly ever know.