I am writing this column at the very last day of 2011, truly a blessed year for me and my family. I probably gave the most number of seminars, talks, lectures, TV and radio appearances, counselling, blogs, columns and articles for 2011. Somehow there has been a great demand for financial literacy more than ever and I am so encouraged that Pinoys are becoming more and more aware of personal finance.
I found myself in many places, from Baguio to Davao, even in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau – all in the name of financial education. I’ve been through many conferences, campuses, churches… even coffee shops – the invitations keep on coming and I keep on accepting. I never tire of teaching, speaking and writing and I hold on to my belief that a more financially educated citizenry will result to a better nation.
While there were events that zeroed in on more technical aspects like investing, mutual funds, insurance and the like, the bulk of the topics I tackled were about personal finance basics – money management, debt and getting started or how to get back on the road to a financially peaceful life. I used to believe that knowing the knowledge of finances will answer many of our queries in life but through the years I learned to accept that finance is more of behavior rather than a skill.
In my insolent ignorance, I thought that if we teach people the rudiments of knowledge-based finances, they will achieve financial freedom. Yet, I can’t help but look at myself; with all the knowledge that I have acquired through the years, is my financial life getting really better? How come there are so many of us who are so well versed in finance yet our lives do not really mirror what we teach? And then I stumbled on a principle that opened up my eyes and I myself began to change for the better.
Having a financially peaceful life is really 80% behavior and only 20% knowledge. As the saying goes, it’s all in the mind and it’s all in the heart. The answer to many of our financial questions rely on our behavior and not so much on our skills. Even if you are the best stock broker in the world and yet you do not save enough for you to invest, you will have nothing to show for. I like the old joke that says “ever wondered why they are called stock brokers? Because they are broke”… sorry, pun intended. By contrast, I have seen many prosperous individuals with limited financial know-how but they are well disciplined when it comes to their money.
Don’t get me wrong, financial knowledge is important but will only be useful if the behavior is firstly ideal. As an advisor, I have listened to many stories of mayhem and mistakes, while some of them are born out of lack of knowledge, most of them are really about wrong behavior. I have since altered the way I teach and the way that I write, while some say that I ‘dumbeddown’ finance too much, I beg to disagree – I just chose to focus on some essentials first before teaching the ‘nose-bleed’ stuff. Once the mind and heart is in the right frame, knowledge will follow naturally.
I urge the other advocates of financial literacy to re-think their strategies of putting much emphasis on knowledge first before behavior. Doing so will mean they can really make a difference to more people. It is not a move of compromise but a move towards effectiveness.
In 2012, I pray and by God’s will, that I get to teach, speak, guest, counsel and write more than my last three years put together and I will continue to sing the same tune, behavior first then knowledge. A Happy New Year to all!
Randell Tiongson is an advocate of Life & Personal Finance. He is a Director of the Registered Financial Planner Institute (Phils.), a columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry. For speaking engagements, financial planning, training and consultancy, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his personal finance blogs, visit www. randelltiongson.com.