Author Topic: Advice on "Teaching" Others  (Read 1952 times)

pstu24

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Advice on "Teaching" Others
« on: March 19, 2017, 08:53:17 AM »
I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before, but I am starting to be more cautious in how I try to help others with respect to financial advice. It's not that I can't see the look of fear and confusion on the faces of family members when I try to suggest *maybe you shouldn't drive to the mall 45 minutes away twice in the same week just so you can look around* or *why do you eat out every night but complain you need a new credit card because your old one is maxed out?*

In all seriousness, I am just looking for advice on how you discuss issues that are serious but that the other person is uncomfortable with.

Two simple examples (that are just symptoms of much bigger problems - but I don't know how to advance).

A) My father is in his mid 50's. I have reviewed his financial statements. He has more than enough to fully retire [as in today] IF he would just cut back on the family spending. They are the type that raised their lifestyle with every raise. (Have 3 cars for two people... have DirecTV AND Cable ... get the newspaper delivered daily but don't read it, just like it for the ads, the list goes on and it all adds up quickly). HOWEVER, because of his skill set and the location we are in, he took a job that requires him to commute approximately 1hr20mins EACH WAY, 5 days per week. Besides the fact that he could take a job for tens of thousands of dollars less and get $ back for gas and the wear and tear, there's the whole aspect of losing hours per week just to a commute.

The problem is, my own mother says she spends as much as she does (goes shopping literally every day) - not for high ticket items, but it is in no exaggeration a daily ritual that she calls *therapy* because that's how she passes the day while he is at work and she just needs to get out of the house, then proceeds to complain about the fact that he is always at work (from 5-6 AM until 6 PM or later, including the commute). Every time I try to point out the glaring issues, she wants no part of it, and he is just waiting a few more years to retire ... but that is a phrase he has been saying for a decade.

B) Just occurred yesterday. My Sister in Law is a young (26 or 27) and educated individual. Hasn't gotten too far into her career yet, and only makes about 35-40k in the field she is in. On the ONE hand, she has a great trajectory in her job field because she has already been promoted and could easily continue to do so in the next few years. On the other hand, she is being crushed by debt, and that's primarily the reason she hasn't moved to a bigger city to take a job that would pay more (up until recently was still living in my In-Law's home).

In order to celebrate her boyfriend getting a new job (or perhaps it was just a "treat-yourself" moment), the two of them booked a trip to Disney World. She was clearly excited that she got a great deal, so I didn't want to crush her. However, it is also hard to hear her getting excited about *only* spending 1,000 on a trip that winds up being 2 days in the parks and 3 nights in a hotel for multiple reasons.

1) I don't like the people around her enabling her. It's great that the family is saying "Yay! Go spend all that money to have fun when you have to work multiple weeks in your job just to pay for the 2 day trip!"
2) This is a capable individual, but one who is ABSOLUTELY in trouble and behind on her student loans, has credit card debt, and in the last few weeks has stated she wants to buy a house because she can't stand the apartment life (she has nothing saved by the way for a down payment).
3) Curious as I was, I tried to point out she should consider what the real cost was. She *conveniently* left out all of the non-sticker-price costs (like parking the car, taking shuttles/taxis, cost for meals, snacks, alcohol in the parks, and even money for the souvenirs / photos ...) and the price for the three-day vacation and only two days in the park actually came to 1,600 as an estimate.

My problem here is as I am pointing this out to her, telling her she should maybe put that money towards her debts she is behind on, or at least save it towards a downpayment if she is really serious ... the few members of the family started to get mad at me and say to let her "live a little" and "she deserves to have fun." This conversation was actually right before the one where we all need to head to the wedding of their cousin out of town about 2 hours away. I suggested driving in for the day (wedding isn't until 4PM) and then coming back that night. My sister in law (along with the same *encouraging* members who told her to take the vacation were all thinking we should turn it into a 3 day weekend for fun and maybe go down the night before on Thursday, effectively making it a Thursday afternoon until Sunday PM trip (and I would be the only one who needs to work Monday by the way).

Keep in mind, my wife comes from a family of very nice people (no real complaints about in laws). However, her father cashed in his pension when he retired early to take a different position in the private sector at 55, and used the money to buy a Brand-Spanking-New Jeep, a nice (but gently used) Truck, and take a trip themselves to Disneyworld for over a week. They still have a mortgage + a home equity loan on the house, and now don't know how to pay for their youngest child going to college.

How am I supposed to continue on the path where not only my family, but my entire wife's family is comfortable with these terrible financial habits. With a young daughter I am literally starting to worry just a bit about raising our daughter with a non-materialistic view, but every time I turn around both sides of the family are starting to go against that, and I worry that influence could rub off on both her and my wife.

Just looking for how all of your deal with your family while holding firm on your positions and possibly teaching them, but at worst not giving in to terrible habits.

Thanks in advance!

Spork

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2017, 10:16:58 AM »
My humble advice is: Unless those close to you ask... don't try to teach them.  If they DO ask... give them something small and concrete they can hold onto.  Don't go into detail immediately.  Circle back around a day or a week later with "just a little more" to support your claim.  If they ask for a full on case study... do it.  Dive in.  Show them the math.  Otherwise... Even with their request, I'd be very gentle.

I will drop a little nugget of wisdom here and there in context... but I don't try to pull them aside and give them a life lesson.  And by "nugget"... I mean that if they complain about complexity of investing, I tell them how little time we spend because we just have low cost index funds... or if they complain their accountant costs too much, I tell them that I spend $30 a year on tax software, etc.

People -- especially those close to you -- tend to shut down if you go on a lecture.  You'll sound like the friendly Jehovah's Witness that knocked on the door and just wants a moment of their time.
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clarkfan1979

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2017, 10:30:51 AM »
Do not offer advice. They have to ask you.

Before MMM, I was asked quite often how I live. I was a graduate student from the age of 24 to 31 and lived on about 18,000/year. When my friends were in their late 20's and making 60K-80K each or 100K-120K they would often ask me how I live on so little. They would tell me that they make 3-5 times as much, but don't feel rich.

After I tell them, the typical response was, "Ahh, I don't want roommates."

RedmondStash

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2017, 11:29:55 AM »
I've come to believe that you can't teach other people, at least not adults. They can learn from you, but you can't teach them. They have to want the information.

What you can do is offer information, gently, and then step back if they say no.

You have to remember that a lot of people get incredibly overwhelmed and scared by financial information, and tons of them believe that retirement is never, ever going to be an option for them, so why not eat, drink, and be merry now? They genuinely can't see their way clear to a future of freedom. So they want their prisons to be more comfortable. It's understandable.

I deal with this at work all the time. My friends on my team are always complaining about how tight money is, but they order lunch every day instead of bringing it in from home, or even stopping by a supermarket to buy a $6 sandwich instead of spending $12 at work.

I wish they could see the future I can see, not just for myself but for them. A few adjustments here or there, and they could turn the tide. But they're not ready yet. And I remember a time when I wasn't ready yet either.

So you have to be patient with them, and respect them if they don't want to hear your thoughts. It's kind of like religion: No one likes a persistent evangelist; it feels invasive and disrespectful.

You have to let people be where they are, and maybe let them know that if they ever want to learn the secrets that you've learned, you're more than happy to share them. They may come to you someday, or they may not.

aceyou

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2017, 12:44:22 PM »
Depends on the person, the situation. 

For example, regarding food.  Around some people I might make a comment like...

"yeah, food can definitely get pricey.  I try to always keep things under $80/week for the family, but sometimes life happens and I just can't"

If that elicits a response like "wait, $80/week, how do you do that!!", which it usually does, then I go into a more detail, like "well, every few months I buy 25-50 pound sacks of rice/beans/lentils, etc from Sam's club.  Then every week I shop at Aldi and buy 40-50 dollars worth of fruit/veggies/dairy/meat, and maybe a few other things.  And a couple times a month I'll head to walmart for things I can't get at Aldi.  That add's up to about $80/week, and it has us eating like kings." 

Or if it doesn't elicit much of a response at all then the conversation just goes somewhere else, and it's no big deal. 

Just yesterday, I took my brother-in-law for a test drive in my prius.  He wants to decrease his total cost of car ownership.  He said he knows that I like to do things efficiently, and he wanted to know why I chose a 10 year old Prius.  There's a high likelihood he buys one. 

SwordGuy

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2017, 01:28:40 PM »
The basic problem is that when someone makes enough money to get ahead - but is mired in debt because of stupid decisions - anything you suggest is just a reminder they did something stupid.

You don't have to say it's stupid.  You can put all the touchy-feely-sugar-and-spice-niceness on it you want, but your advice still boils down to stop spending money you can't afford on stupid stuff.  Oh, yeah, and then invest it, assuming they can get past the emotional response of realizing they've been doing it wrong to hear that part.

This is so true that you don't have to discuss their situation at all.  You can just discuss what you do in your own life and that can set them off.  Or what you read about some total stranger doing.   Some people just cannot bear to be wrong and they will pretend to any length necessary to avoid accepting that they are.

MisterTwoForty

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2017, 01:29:59 PM »
I agree with most of the comments on here.  If not asked for advice, do not give it.  I don't know why so many feel the need to interject in someone's finances.

If you are asked, do it respectfully and talk about what has worked for you.  They will apply the points to their lives that work for them. 

It's not our job to judge others, we can simply live our lives and help others when requested.

marty998

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2017, 02:14:35 PM »
The basic problem is that when someone makes enough money to get ahead - but is mired in debt because of stupid decisions - anything you suggest is just a reminder they did something stupid.

You don't have to say it's stupid.  You can put all the touchy-feely-sugar-and-spice-niceness on it you want, but your advice still boils down to stop spending money you can't afford on stupid stuff.  Oh, yeah, and then invest it, assuming they can get past the emotional response of realizing they've been doing it wrong to hear that part.

This is so true that you don't have to discuss their situation at all.  You can just discuss what you do in your own life and that can set them off.  Or what you read about some total stranger doing.   Some people just cannot bear to be wrong and they will pretend to any length necessary to avoid accepting that they are.

This is true. Describing the circumstances of a total "stranger" is a lot less insulting than saying "I can do it, you should be able to as well".

Moustachienne

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2017, 03:20:04 PM »
I've come to believe that you can't teach other people, at least not adults. They can learn from you, but you can't teach them. They have to want the information.

What you can do is offer information, gently, and then step back if they say no.

You have to remember that a lot of people get incredibly overwhelmed and scared by financial information, and tons of them believe that retirement is never, ever going to be an option for them, so why not eat, drink, and be merry now? They genuinely can't see their way clear to a future of freedom. So they want their prisons to be more comfortable. It's understandable.

I deal with this at work all the time. My friends on my team are always complaining about how tight money is, but they order lunch every day instead of bringing it in from home, or even stopping by a supermarket to buy a $6 sandwich instead of spending $12 at work.

I wish they could see the future I can see, not just for myself but for them. A few adjustments here or there, and they could turn the tide. But they're not ready yet. And I remember a time when I wasn't ready yet either.

So you have to be patient with them, and respect them if they don't want to hear your thoughts. It's kind of like religion: No one likes a persistent evangelist; it feels invasive and disrespectful.

You have to let people be where they are, and maybe let them know that if they ever want to learn the secrets that you've learned, you're more than happy to share them. They may come to you someday, or they may not.

Great post and especially this line "So they want their prisons to be more comfortable."  So easy to fall into this unless we get focussed on more meaningful ways to spend our time and money.

Pigeon

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2017, 03:50:40 PM »
I mind my own business unless someone asks for my opinion.  I wouldn't like them prying into my finances, so I can't imagine they would like me butting into theirs.

jillinsandiego

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2017, 04:52:27 PM »
I think your challenge is similar to someone who has a new-found religious faith. You have found something that is profoundly life-changing for you, and you want to share it to help the people you around you, who you see suffering needlessly from their bad financial decisions. I think the best thing you can do if you want to help/teach others, is to let your different life speak for itself. Overt proselytizing is usually not well-received, but if you make changes in your life and others see them and inquire, then you can gently tell them what has worked for you. As is the case with religion, financial matters are personal and there is often a lot of complicated emotions there, where people end up defensive if they feel their decisions are being judged.

GU

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2017, 05:36:44 PM »
I can't offer any advice, but I can sympathize with your situation, for two reasons. 

First, I know what it feels like to have family members casually dismiss your advice when you know what you're talking about and can demonstrate it.  When in many cases, if a stranger told them the same thing, they would take the advice seriously, but since it's you, they ignore it.  It's very frustrating, but many people simply won't take advice from family members. 

Second, I recognize the fact pattern you described:  an empty-nest married couple that's actually in decent financial shape, but the man works an annoying job and/or has a long commute, and the woman stays at home and her main hobby is shopping (by herself) for completely unnecessary baubles. I think it's a sad commentary on contemporary America.  Too many people don't have real friends or real hobbies. 

Hargrove

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2017, 08:32:21 PM »
A couple of things...

I think it's nice that you want to help, but the way to do that is visibly offering an example that piques interest, not telling people to be interested. Most Mustachians are visibly badass instead of wealthy, though. Riding a bike in the snow is sure to get attention. What else do rich badasses do? Mostly just enjoy themselves like the people in their neighborhood do (when those people aren't blowing money). Your lack of worry could be the biggest cause of intrigue for your fellows. Seems to work for Yoga.

People who are out of money don't want to know they made bad choices. More than that, though, you're dealing with a very short timespan of evaluation - people who are broke often associate short splurges with endurable expenditures (I was broke before and I'll still be broke after, but with things!). Many associate short savings periods as regrettably useless endeavors that will be snatched away before they can make life better (I was broke before, now I'm broke and unhappy, and I'm just going to give this to the credit card company anyway? Fuck 'em!). The money IS the reward. You're not going to GIVE AWAY your reward, are you?

It's a lot of work to reassign the mental connections. There's no concrete belief that it's possible to climb out, and/or there's no mental connection to the reward of being out of debt. It helps if you raise your income, and almost anyone can do that, but not everyone can do it. Income is actually a really important piece - you can't save yourself out of not having a good job. Then there are so many fears and other things working around it... you need the person who needs help to ask if there's a better way before you can easily give it to them. It's not hard to find MMM if you're looking for it.

Cranky

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2017, 05:08:25 AM »
You do more teaching by living your life than you do by telling people how to live theirs.

And really, I assume that most people have chosen how they want to live (excluding those who have had difficult circumstances thrust upon them) even if that isn't how *I* want to live, and even if that isn't how they *say* they want to live.

I also do not assume that everyone wants to retire, or live the way that I do, or spend less at the grocery store.

prognastat

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2017, 08:07:51 AM »
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

Seems to work in lots of products. Just model the correct behavior and find ways to gently reward good behavior in others. Give compliments when someone does something good, don't punish bad behavior, but try to avoid adding to the positive reinforcement others are giving to the behavior..

Spork

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2017, 08:29:06 AM »
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

Seems to work in lots of products. Just model the correct behavior and find ways to gently reward good behavior in others. Give compliments when someone does something good, don't punish bad behavior, but try to avoid adding to the positive reinforcement others are giving to the behavior..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy_mIEnnlF4
Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
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prognastat

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2017, 08:34:22 AM »
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operant_conditioning_chamber

Seems to work in lots of products. Just model the correct behavior and find ways to gently reward good behavior in others. Give compliments when someone does something good, don't punish bad behavior, but try to avoid adding to the positive reinforcement others are giving to the behavior..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qy_mIEnnlF4

Lol, yes just to a lesser degree.

Though I'm all for spray bottle use.

Vindicated

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2017, 08:50:51 AM »
A lot of great advice here.

I've posted a few MMM articles to Facebook at different times when I was first discovering the site.  Not one comment or like.  Oh well.

I get asked for advice a lot, specifically from my Dad, but then he usually does the opposite of what I tell him.  It does seem he's making some progress, so I'll take it.

It all started when I was working on my financial spreadsheet on my laptop when I brought my Son over to my Parent's for a visit.  I did this on purpose, because I knew they would ask what I was doing.  It allowed me to explain my timeline & plans for paying off debt, and how certain past decisions I made put me in a tough spot.
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Kroaler

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2017, 12:44:35 PM »
I dont offer advice unless someone truly sees how I live, then I point them to this site and / or the jcollins website.   The jcollins letter to his daughter is a great place to start.


I have strange inlaws also.   Due to my line of work, I'm very connected to the automotive industry.  They always ask what car I suggest.  Every single time they have done the opposite of anything I suggest.      Recently My sister in law ask a similar car question.    I suggested the generic Honda/Toyota and Lexus for luxury.       She got a used mercedes... lol

The reasoning is even better, ill quote.   "I have a friend who drives X brand car, I dont want to copy them"   BRAND not model or color, entire BRANDS have been eliminated.   So she picked from Fiat, Mercedes , Audi and Volkswagon .....  All crap brands from a financial perspective lol.

Rosy

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2017, 01:10:05 PM »
Mind your own business:) It will do wonders for your future relationship with the family:) Just sayin'

I agree that instead of giving advice, just be a shining example and if they ask how you do it, throw them only a morsel at a time - but, never ever expect them to follow your advice.
Advice and teaching only work when the "pupil" is ready to receive the lesson and open to suggestions. The various situations you have described above are only too common and you have reason to be concerned that your wife may fall prey to the - "you deserve it", crowd's way of thinking. On the other hand, your wife may shudder and turn away when faced with the financial consequences of these irresponsible actions.
 
Just remind her that all financial decisions have consequences for your family's future - she is probably already smart enough to figure it out by herself.

ketchup

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2017, 01:12:46 PM »
You can lead a horse to water...

I give advice when asked for it, and try to start small ("How about you don't buy lunch everyday?" is more digestible than "Your mindset about everything is wrong.").  If advice is not asked for, I keep my mouth shut.  If someone whines about a problem, I might mention what I've done of that nature in the past, but I won't be pushy.  It can be difficult to shake the "they presented a problem, so I will present a solution" thought process.  Most people don't actually want that.

pstu24

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2017, 08:25:15 PM »
You are all VERY AMAZING at what your advice is. I love it, and I think the conventional wisdom is to not give up, but not try to make someone change because they need to want it. I also don't want to be a preacher.

I am a bit worried though... and do any of you feel like you could be guilty someday? What I mean is, whether it is my sister in law or my own personal siblings ... what happens if I DO retire in the next 5-10 years using the system of being frugal and making smart decisions? And what if in 5-10 years they are no closer (and maybe further)... I know it is up to them, and I can't live the lives of others, but I suppose I just never want to get to the point in 10-20 years where I am fully retired and then feel like I never tried to bring anyone along the way either.

I sincerely appreciate all of the advice. I know it has to be "to each his own" and I obviously don't want to preach. But I wonder how much of a responsibility do I (we all?) have to try and just nudge people in the right direction. AND - correct me if I am wrong - but it sounds like the theory is try not to push, start small when you have the chance, and lead more by example than by lecture.

Hargrove

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #22 on: March 22, 2017, 08:47:04 PM »
Ultimately, you're on the right track. I think your last paragraph sums it all up.

You can't live anyone's life for them, but you can lead an awfully loud example in case they ever want to follow it.

MMM is an awfully "loud" example. He tells people how to be all the time, via the blog. He doesn't seek them out to yell it at them, but he certainly built a monument and invited people to come look at it. That monument has impacted lives, and facepunches many onlookers.

The problem isn't that the methodology is unfathomable. It's that so many unconscious assumptions - even how our culture administers its "reward" systems - are geared to consumerism. That was always there, but the bulwarks of delayed gratification and discipline were probably operating a little better once upon a time. A Great Depression survivor would probably predict the total collapse of our society at least once a year. That would be excessive, obviously! But I think the period of sobriety caused by the Great Depression lasted a lot longer than the one caused by the Great Recession, and by and large, we haven't really been vigilant about avoiding a repeat, in broader society or in our own behaviors generally.

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #23 on: March 23, 2017, 07:57:28 AM »
I am a bit worried though... and do any of you feel like you could be guilty someday? What I mean is, whether it is my sister in law or my own personal siblings ... what happens if I DO retire in the next 5-10 years using the system of being frugal and making smart decisions? And what if in 5-10 years they are no closer (and maybe further)... I know it is up to them, and I can't live the lives of others, but I suppose I just never want to get to the point in 10-20 years where I am fully retired and then feel like I never tried to bring anyone along the way either.

I don't/won't feel guilty.  My lifestyle is by no means extreme by most mustacian standards... but it is obvious by my friends/family standards.  They see.  We occasionally joke about it.  If they want information, they'll ask.

I'm about 2 years FIRE now.  When I did fire, people DID ask.  I told them as succinctly as I could and left it open for them to ask for more information.  A couple of people did.  Most didn't.
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hudsoncat

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Re: Advice on "Teaching" Others
« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2017, 09:23:14 AM »
I've thought a lot about your question of feeling guilty later. I have several of family members and friends who will likely never retire unless/until forced too and then will be reliant on others (be it the government or family) to survive. Much like the advice earlier in the thread, I have decided it's not something I can change. Once you accept that, it becomes easier (at least for me) to not feel guilty.

This was a process for me. I'm a fixer by nature. When I see something that's 'wrong' I want to fix it. But I have to be careful with that attitude because the fixer mentality implies that things (and by association people) are broken and that's not always a fair judgement nor does it help me connect with others in a positive manner. I have spent a lot of time struggling with some internal soul searching to make sure my drive to help is coming from a place of acceptance rather than a place of the fixer mentality. It's the acceptance piece that has really helped me move past the guilty feeling. I'm not sure I explained that well, it was just a shift in my own thinking that helped me, maybe it will help others.