Ruth's Two Cents: Working on Improving Your Financial Education

As a seasoned money adventurer and financial blogger with the gift of the gab, who better to ask for money advice than Ruth The Happy Saver? Read the guidance she shares with our blog readers and beyond. No agony aunts here, just Ruth’s two cents.

Hi Ruth,

It’s fair to say that I understand most of the necessary basics of budgeting and the like. I really want to learn more and expand my knowledge, but I’m a little stuck. I know there are lots of good resources out there; I just have no idea where to start! Or even what format is the best option. Please help!

Acknowledge that you know more than you give yourself credit for

I love expanding my financial knowledge. I particularly love applying that new knowledge to my finances. However, I’m honest enough with myself to know that I only need to know so much, the basics really, so anything beyond that is honestly just personal interest, a hobby of sorts. I never thought personal finance and budgeting would become my hobby, but there you have it, the honest truth.

So to help you answer your question, I encourage you to understand something about yourself; you likely already know enough about budgeting. You already are enough. Anything additional to this can be considered an additional interest bonus payout on an already high-interest savings account! You are already winning!

I’ll often meet people who know a lot, but because of the plethora of books, blogs, podcasts, seminars, apps, companies, and products think that they only understand the tip of the iceberg regarding good fiscal management. They feel stupid that they don’t know everything there is to know. You can never know everything, and in my opinionated opinion, as a budgeter of your own finances, nor should you even try to. Life is too short, and as my Mum used to say: Go outside and play instead!

Find one good thing, and follow it down the rabbit hole 

Now that I have surmised that you are already winning by knowing the basics of budgeting, I’ll talk to your curious side instead. I love that you have a thirst for new knowledge, and as I’ve alluded, there is plenty of it out there. I encourage you to follow your nose regarding resources; that is what I do. If I am reading a blog post or a book and they recommend a tool or resource, if it sounds interesting, I’ll follow it up.

For example, I’ve just finished the book Die With Zero by Bill Perkins. I went out of my way to find and read it because I kept hearing it mentioned by people in the budgeting and personal finance space I respected. I tend not to follow up on resources companies recommend because they invariably try to sell me something. But this book came up time and time again.

I read it. I loved it. You might enjoy it too. In it, he mentioned the website The Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator, which also piqued my interest. So off down that rabbit hole, I went! In case you are interested, all signs point to me dying at 98! Wish me luck! 

Trying applying your learnings to your real-life finances

What on earth do I do with that information? What did it teach me? Well, back to my retirement calculator I go. It’s time to plug in my numbers again and see if the way we are currently earning and spending will see me in the fancy retirement home of my dreams. I apply the new things I’ve learned to my own budgeting knowledge if I think they will help, and I often use what I’ve read to confirm that I’m on the right track. I am also curious enough to research widely enough and absorb content that I disagree with, it’s all good stuff that adds to my journey, if only for me to think, “I’m right; they are wrong”.

The discovery of blogger Mr Money Mustache many years ago introduced me to a whole new crowd of people who speak and write about money and who seem to live the retired life I’m aiming for, so that gave me many years of great content to add to the knowledge I have about budgeting and how it fits in with our broader lifestyle. Those connections led me to Rebel Finance School and their 10-week money course. Taking part in that led me to spend an hour one Friday night on a Zoom call chatting with the lovely show hosts, Alan and Katie. In fact, the only reason I write for PocketSmith is because I signed up for their budgeting app, realized they were located just 2.5 hours away, and reached out to them for a chat!

Find your tribe to keep motivated

Every time I find a new piece of content to learn from, it leads me to the next, and the beauty about being curious is that as the snowball of knowledge grew, it moved out of the pages of books and websites beyond listening to podcasts and into real coffee shops, and video calls where I meet up with real people, who are just as interested in my hobby as I am. Meeting real people took my interest in budgeting up another level, and if ever I feel stuck for new information, I just ask someone for a suggestion — as you have just asked me.

Much like a physical hobby, such as being interested in dog obedience, will naturally lead you to join your local club, so will your interest in money. As you turn over rocks to find something new to learn, it will naturally lead you to real people, and then the floodgates of knowledge will really open up to you. That’s what happened to me, and it’s why I know that knowing the basics of budgeting and how money works are all you really need. Do the basics well, and spend the rest of your time finding your community, and before you know it, you will find a nice balance of learning new information and then, in turn, helping others learn too.

To sum up, I encourage you to follow up on one of the above resources and see where it takes you. You might even want to contact me, and you are very welcome to do so. From the pages of that book, blog, or podcast, something will jump out at you: Your next fork in the road. Take it! And always stay curious!.

Got a burning money question for Ruth? Send them through to [email protected]!

Ruth blogs at all about how she and her family handle money. What’s the secret? Spend less than you earn, invest the difference, avoid debt and budget each dollar that flows through your hands. She firmly believes that if you can just get the basics right, life becomes easier from there on in.

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