You know what really grinds my gears? It’s the never-ending financial negativity in the media. Especially when it comes to economic and personal finance news since I’m a personal finance blogger (or at least pretending to be). When was the last time you’ve heard a good news story that didn’t involve saving a cat from a tree?
Turn on your TV right now and you’ll quickly learn:
- Middle class is disappearing and unless you’re born rich you will never experience financial security.
- Seniors don’t have money. None of them. They all eat cat food and pinch pennies to make rent.
- There’s absolutely no way for young people today to succeed unless they invent Facebook. And Facebook has already been invented by some Mark guy, so they’re all screwed.
- Investing is basically gambling. Nobody can win at it.
- No one ever gets ahead in life. We all start well, but slowly drift into mediocrity.
- Our parents (grandparents) had everything going for them. We’ll never have what they had.
Basically, it’s the never-ending rain of financial negativity coupled with weather forecasts (also lies for the most part).
Now, I get it. Telling good news doesn’t produce good ratings and keep the viewers glued to the screen. Also, we as humans are wired to pay attention to trouble signals ever since the beginning of times when assuming the worst about rumbling in the bushes meant survival by successfully running away from bears. Optimistic people assuming it’s just the wind went extinct.
But fast forward to present times.
There are no more bears to be encountered in the bushes unless you live in Canada. There’s no reason to keep everybody paranoid and scared for their lives. But if our news outlets broadcasted how things really are people would probably stop watching TV:
“- Hey, listen up! Everything is pretty good. Our economy is still one of the strongest in the world. Some people suffer, we get it, but we have societal safety nets and support for them. Your chances of becoming a victim of a crime are so low it’s laughable. You’ll never experience sufferings of an armed conflict like the rest of the world. You’ll never die of hunger. You have all the luxuries other people can only dream about even if you’re living in a simple 1-bedroom home. You phone can do 17 things that older phones could not. We’re almost done researching flying cars. Life is awesome. Have a muffin.”
At this point, most people would probably turn off the TV and go enjoy life while news channels go out of business. So, I get where the need for financial negativity comes in. Nothing keeps people close to TV like some bad news:
“- Everything is awful, everybody is broke, there’s a new incurable decease, economy is in shambles, people losing jobs, factories are closing, economy is in recession, gangs are prowling the streets, and half the kids have to eat soup out of their boots!”
I for one am choosing to ignore all the financial negativity
Call me naive. Tell me I like wearing rose-coloured glasses. Instead I try to focus on the realities of life.
Canada is still a country with the highest social mobility in the world. Social mobility is a fancy term for moving up in the world measured by income. According to Fraser Institute, 87% of people in Canada move up from the lowest income bracket into higher one over time. Remarkably, two of every five Canadians in the bottom income group in 1990 ended up in the top 40 per cent of income earners by 2009. Translation: vast majority of people who start working minimum wage jobs don’t stay earning minimum wages – they advance their careers, earn more money, and move up – and almost half of them all the way to the top.
And I could have told you the same thing, but from personal experience. My first jobs in Canada were all minimum wage jobs. What else would I get being an immigrant with no experience and skills and who could not even speak English well (…and still can’t)? But you work hard, you gain experience, and little by little your income goes up. Slowly but surely you start investing some of your money (or how some people call it – “gamble”), and your net worth goes up and up. Social mobility is alive and well.
And as far as our parents and grandparents
… who had a good thing going? Do me a favour, ask anybody over the age of 70 about it. Besides telling you how they walked to school in snow uphill both ways, they’ll also tell you that all their lives they worked hard. Some of them had meaningless labour intensive jobs just to earn enough money to put food on the table. Hunger was a real thing back then, houses were smaller and crappier, cars were luxuries, dialing phones was a physical exercise, and when you were out of money you had nothing to fall back on. My grandparents who experienced World War 2 and years of suffering following it would probably slap me silly just for implying that they had a good thing going.
Look at this picture of prosperous 50’s and 60’s in Britain. Look at the garbage being blown around by the wind. Look at the small tiny apartments - our modest town house looks like a castle comparing to that. Look at the only car parked outside - because back then cars were luxuries. Look at the kids who had nothing to do but walk outside and play with a stick. Nowadays they have daycare, video games, cell phones, and their own Instagram accounts. Look at simple TV antennas on the roofs. Now you can stream Netflix while pooping on your cell phone! Don’t tell me this depressing display of life back then screams “prosperity”.
I’m not even bringing up my grandparents who grew up in post-war Soviet Union.
So, let’s summarize.
You live in one of the best countries in the world. While everyone’s situation is different, there’s a very good chance your life is 500% better than lives of people outside of North America and Europe. Things aren’t perfect, and for some people life isn’t the best. But you have the luxury of being in control of your life. It’s possible for you to go back to school if you’re passionate about something else. Over time your life only improves financially as you gain experience and pick up more skills. We have public healthcare so you won’t have to cook meth if you get cancer - and that’s why Breaking Bad TV series takes place in US, not Canada. Your cell phone has more computing power than it was necessary to launch Moon expedition. If you run into financial troubles, you’ll figure things out. Perhaps somebody even loves you and thinks the world of you.
Turn off your TV and enjoy life.
Yours truly, Financial Underdog.