The Path to Bad Decisions

By glblguy

The Dark End
Photo by: Mini OzzY

This is a guest post by Jason Anderson. Jason is a web designer and entrepreneur who takes a sideways look at culture, politics, and anything else that comes up on his blog, The Cynical Christian.

Money is a little like love in the way that the pursuit of it can make otherwise shrewd people do some shockingly stupid things. We all know people (or maybe we are people) who are responsible citizens, competent business people, good parents, and yet manage to get involved in the most cockamamie moneymaking scams.

Lotteries, pyramid schemes, late night infomercial “Make millions in real estate with no money down!” flim-flams, and Nigerian email cons are just the half of it. People buy into can’t-miss stock tips from relatives who can’t even balance their own checkbook, or they invest in their friend’s goof ball business ideas (“People love fish; people love ice cream. So we sell fish-flavored ice cream! It can’t miss!”). We see this and think, “A fool and his money…” Except it doesn’t have anything to do with foolishness, and if we fail to realize that, we may find ourselves in the same predicament.

When you see a hapless grandma who’s just lost her pension check or a hard-working, blue-collar guy who’s blown his life savings, it may seem harsh to saddle them with some of the blame for their loss. But the hard truth is this: the characteristic that makes a person most susceptible to a con is not stupidity or gullibility, but greed. Smart people set themselves up for financial disaster when they start to believe they can get something for nothing.

Now, we’re all greedy to a degree, and not to sound too much like Gordon Gekko, but sometimes that’s okay. You can be greedy for the right things. If you’re greedy for more time with your kids or for a closer relationship with God, that might actually lead you to make better decisions. And a desire for more money doesn’t necessarily qualify as greed. Providing a better life for your family and getting yourself out of debt are noble goals. But there comes a point where a healthy desire to get ahead veers into oncoming traffic.

I’m not just talking about avoiding risk, either. We have to take risks to succeed at anything. No risk is a good one, though, if it’s not a calculated risk, one where we know the odds of failure and are willing to accept them. “Sure things” that promise big rewards for no risk are… well, they’re sure things alright, but not the kind that pay off in your favor.

When you’re trying to get your financial house in order, it can be hard to resist the temptation to scrape up extra money by any means necessary. It might even seem like a good idea, or an answered prayer– one big play that can solve all your problems. But when you’re presented with the chance for easy money, it’s important to remember that wealth is the result of effort, always. And there’s a reason for that: as in other aspects of our lives, God wants to use our finances to mold us into better people. Playing dice doesn’t build anybody’s character, but hard work and commitment do. If we opt out of our work, then we miss out on all the work He wants to do within us.

10 Responses (including trackbacks) to “The Path to Bad Decisions”

  1. Kim Says:

    This is so TRUE! I think it all goes back to the way people are raised and the ideals that the parents give thier children. American’s (yes and I’m sorry) always want MORE. They aways want Bigger Houses, more and bigger cars, more clothes ,etc etc etc. Sometime it is very scary. People will do anything to have more. There is no more keeping up with the Joneses now it’s keeping up with the Hiltons!

    Great Blog thanks for the read this morning

  2. [email protected] Says:

    I’ll go along with greed, but I think it really all boils down to laziness. Most people know there is a “work component” to making money but they sense an opportunity to bypass all the work by using one of these get rich quick schemes.

    Greed IS a motivator though. People want to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But the other motivator is laziness. They want to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous and it not be to difficult.

    I guess the third component would be impatience. The want to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous, without doing any work, and they want it NOW!

  3. Sean Says:

    This article really hits home with me. It is the greed that motivates most of these situations. Having worked around blue collar people my entire life, most do not have a lazy bone in their body.

    They get sold on the dream that maybe they can stop working 90 hours a week just to get by. Some have even fallen for the 10 page sales letter that goes as far to state “This is the answer to your prayers.”

    I think the most important thing to do when we hear of these situations is to encourage them. Don’t label them, judge them, or rebuff them. Let them know that we (even Christians) are human, and we make mistakes. Sometimes it is a hard lesson (I know one man who lost $22,000 on a “hot stock” tip-his savings of 8 years through his jobs retirement plan), but they are lessons that usually will not be forgotten.

  4. peter Says:

    Thanks for the article, i posted a link and a quote from the post on my own blog today. thanks!

  5. Shuchong Says:

    Excellent article! I’ve been reading a lot of personal finance blogs lately, and you address one of the things that’s started to bother me– not necessarily about the blogs, but about my motivations for reading them. Focusing on frugality and money isn’t bad, per say, but it’s just so easy to tip into a mentality where good stewardship becomes money grubbing.

  6. Adfecto Says:

    Those schemes have gotten me too. My worst loss came from sinking cash into Multi-Level Marketing. We live and learn. Greed is the double edge sword that motivates us to improve our lot but also leads us to try to lie, cheat, and steal. I separate these two ideas by saying one is greed and the other as aspiration. I aspire to be wealthy but I am not going to be greedy. It is a fine line but a valid one IMHO. Thanks for contributing this post.

  7. Make Friends, Earn Money Says:

    what an excellent guest post, sorry I’m only just reading this now! I think that this blog post is best summed up by the title of this blog “Gather Little By Little.” I have no issue or problem with people who are overnight successes but i think that you learn important principles through hardwork, which then enable you to grow your personal character. I think that a lot of the reason that the many of the celebrities end up in the difficulties that they do is that some (but not all) have not had time to develop their personal character.