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March 16, 2013

Living Conservatively: Personal Finance [chemjeff]

Happy Saturday! Today I hope to add a new feature to this award-winning smart military blog, called “Living Conservatively”.

The idea is to nudge the culture closer to a conservative ideal that will enable a conservative political party to win more elections. Now, we are never going to be able to have any measurable impact in changing the broader culture to start embracing conservative ideals via boycotts or complaints, even as worthy and justified as they are. So, another strategy for beginning this long process, in tandem with the boycotts, is to focus more of our energy into changing that which is within our power to change, our personal situations. Just like the red state of Texas stands as an example of a successful conservative model of governance, in contrast to the failed blue state model, our personal stories can serve as individual examples of success that stand out. Those in our circle of influence will take note of the success and attempt to emulate the success by adjusting their behavior accordingly. Hence, the culture is nudged just a wee bit. And if more people live a more conservative lifestyle, they are less likely to tolerate unconservative behavior by their politicians.

So for today's edition of Living Conservatively, let's focus on ways that the culture may be nudged in the area of personal finance. (Excluding taxes – that is a topic worthy of its own separate post.) How are ways that we can change our lifestyles to be more in tune with conservative values, that will serve to nudge the culture towards a state of greater conservatism? A few thoughts are presented below.

First, a pre-apology: it is not my intention to sound preachy or holier-than-thou with these suggestions. I am not perfect either, and I struggle with all sorts of issues, including personal finance issues, just like everyone else. I only offer these as areas where all of us can perhaps work to improve ourselves not just for the sake of self-betterment but also for the sake of nudging the culture in a conservative direction.

  1. Reduce debt, with a goal of eventually getting debt-free. Some amount of personal debt is not necessarily bad, but the idea is, culturally, for us to change our thinking about debt. Debt isn't just another financial tool, it represents risk and servitude. And if we can get the idea across, via our examples, that living with less debt means that we are living lives that are less risky and freer of servitude to our creditors, we can then begin to make the case more persuasively that our high levels of debt in government also represent risk and servitude, just of a slightly different nature, and should be reduced for the same reasons.
  2. Write a household budget and stick to it. This is really hard, but it's necessary. The major reason for writing a budget in the first place is to have a plan for allocating a very scarce resource, our incomes. After all, if money wasn't so scarce to us, why bother with a spending plan? And that is exactly how our government behaves right now. If we have a plan for spending our money and stick to it, and via our examples illustrate that living on a budget doesn't mean a life of misery but instead leads to greater success than before, then we can begin to make the case more persuasively that our government ought to behave like money is a precious, finite resource as well, and not go waste it on nonsense spending.
  3. Have long-term financial goals with a plan. Saying that we are going to save for our retirement, but not putting any money aside for it, is exactly what the government does with Social inSecurity right now. So, let's change that. This might be the single biggest thing we can do culturally to create the necessary conditions for real entitlement reform. If we are able to plan and save for retirement, then there is no need for government to attempt (and fail) to do the same thing.

(Yes these are inspired heavily by Dave Ramsey).

Thoughts on the concept? Additions to the list?

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posted by Open Blogger at 12:14 PM

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