Hopefully you’ve heard of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations by now. Here are some of their stories, from We Are The 99 Percent. Here are a few of their stories. You can hover your mouse over the picture to read the alt text transcription of their notes.
I read these stories and my heart breaks. I’m a financial planner, yet I have a hard time seeing where these people made bad or stupid decisions. I just see stories of people who are being hurt through no fault of their own, while trying to do the best they can. While I believe in being reasonably responsible for your actions, I have a hard time blaming a 2-year-old for having inadequate health coverage, or a father for going bankrupt while trying to keep his infant daughter alive.
A little known fact of financial planning is that, in the words of Sherlock Holmes, “I cannot make bricks without clay!” We financial planners need some finances to do the planning on. They’re only so much we can do when there’s no income and assets. You need to have means before you can live within them and build wealth.
On the other hand, you can just take all the credit for making the best decisions you can and not having them blow up in your face. Paul Campos of Lawyers, Guns and Money says it best:
What did that guy do wrong again? Oh right he should have “worked harder” and spent a couple of more holidays in college working on Guatemalan farm cooperatives, and gotten into NYU Law. Except a third of NYU’s third year class is now in trouble, and a lot of the rest of it is looking at big problems three to five years down the road, when they and their 200K loans get laid off by the mega-firms that hired them out of law school. Oh well I guess they should have “worked harder” and gotten into Yale. Because no matter what happens, the thing to remember is that if something goes wrong it’s your fault, or possibly your parents,’ but never ever the system’s, which is fundamentally fair and just if always amenable to some marginal tweaking to make it even better. [emphasis mine]
Or, you could put it this way: