Don’t Count on Politicians. It’s Up to Us.
With the recent completion of the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary we’re deeply into the political season to elect our next President. Regardless of your political viewpoint, we can surely all agree that this election season will be like no other in recent memory. 1984 marked the first Presidential election in which I personally voted, and the cast of characters this year is unlike any I’ve previously seen!
As this is a personal finance blog, I don’t want to get into a debate about politics. Obviously, I have my own preference, but sharing it is not the point of this post (or this web site for that matter). What I would like to discuss – while trying to keep it as politically neutral as possible – is how we should consider the electoral process in our financial plans.
There is a lot of heated rhetoric being tossed around with a few campaign promises being made as well. How much consideration should we give these promises? How much should our financial plans change based on the outcome of the election this fall?
Here are a few of my thoughts…..
1. Don’t count on any politicians or political party to solve your financial problems.
This one should be self explanatory. Have you seen their management of the federal budget? Why should anyone count on a government program to be the missing piece of their financial success?
Instead, look to yourself and your own skills, abilities, education, talents, strength and tenacity in order to move ahead in your career and financial well being. No politician is going to be your hero on a white horse, riding in to save the day! Your future success is in your hands. While our government can help to level the playing field in some situations, it will still take hard work and dedication on our part to achieve financial success.
2. Don’t sit around blaming politicians for any financial issues you’re having.
I’ll be the first to admit that government policy does have an impact on various sectors of our economy. Has the healthcare industry been impacted by new laws over the last few years? Of course it has (regardless of whether you like or dislike the new laws). How about the oil and gas sector? Or green energy companies?
Some of these industries “won” under the new laws and regulations and some “lost.” However, sitting around doing nothing while we blame politicians for these losses won’t help our personal situation! When I was working full time, I lost a significant amount of client work in my freelance CPA practice due to changes in the regulatory environment for a particular segment of the economy. But the solution to a financial predicament is to take an honest assessment of the situation and then make the necessary changes to fix it. Complaining alone won’t make it better! For better or worse, life does move on and we need to adapt to it.
3. True wealth building is a result of our efforts, not a government program.
There are instances where Americans have – through various governmental programs – stepped up to help our fellow citizens in need. Social Security provides monthly income to millions of retired seniors. Many disabled Americans receive monthly support to help meet their needs. Also, various welfare programs, unemployment compensation and assistance with food and utility costs provide assistance to those in need. Regardless of your opinion on the worthiness or efficiency of these programs, no one can contest that they do provide for some of the basic needs of our citizens.
However, none of these programs will lead their beneficiaries to building wealth! Building wealth requires effort on our part that no government program can replace. One may argue that government educational assistance helps in building wealth, but an education alone is not a guarantee of financial success (as all of the unemployed and underemployed college graduates can attest). There is still a need to work hard, take some risks, save, invest and plan for our future. No government program, no matter how well intended, can replace them!
To be clear, the election of our leaders matter in our daily lives. It matters a lot. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t thoughtfully consider who our leaders should be. Of course we should. What I am suggesting is that we have much more influence on our financial future than does the outcome of an election. Waiting around for any politician (regardless of party) to be our financial savior is time lost that could be spent in action.
What steps can you take today to improve your financial situation?