Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First

One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is helping others. We are encouraged to give to charity, and to help those around us when they need financial help. Helping others is an important part of life, and an important part of well-rounded finances.

However, before you focus on others’ finances, it’s a good idea to make sure that your own finances are truly in order. Fix your own financial future before you start working on helping others with their finances.

Can You Really Help if Your Finances are a Mess?

In reality, can you really help someone else with their finances if your own situation is a mess? Are you really in a position to blow off work to babysit someone else’s kids for free if you are drowning in debt? Should you really be giving away items that you could sell to help get your finances back on track?

Take a look at your financial situation. How much can you really do for others when your own money situation is so precarious? In reality, you might actually need to accept help from others, rather than trying to fix someone else’s financial problems. If your own finances aren’t in order, you might only make the problem worse if you try to fix another’s financial difficulties. Instead of really helping in a meaningful way, you might only make things worse for you — and end up becoming a burden to others.

You are More Effective if You are Financially Stable

Your efforts to help those in need of financial assistance will be more effective if you are financially stable yourself. Once you have your own finances in order, you will be better able to provide more meaningful help.

There’s a reason that airlines are adamant that you put your own oxygen mask first, before turning to help someone else. Indeed, last time I flew with my son, the flight attendant came over to me and specifically instructed me to put my own mask on before even thinking about helping my son. This concept is so important that they made a point to tell me in addition to the safety presentation.

The same logic applies to helping others financially. I can’t really help my son secure his own mask if I’ve passed out. I’m much more able to think and take care of my son if I’m taken care of first. And it only takes a few seconds for me to get my own mask in place, most likely leaving time to help my son and take care of him. Financially speaking, you’ll be in a much better place to render more meaningful and helpful aid if you get your own finances in order first. You’ll be able to do more for others, and do it without risking your own situation becoming worse.

While it seems selfish on the surface to take care of yourself first, the reality is that you do need to have your finances in order before you start trying to fix someone else’s finances. Take the time to put your financial house in order, and you’ll have more resources at your disposal to help those in need.

17 comments to Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First

  • Anita

    Great article! I have always made sure my finances were stable before I helped anyone else. I agree you need to help yourself before you can help anyone else. Thanks for the post.

  • Having your own house in order likely means that you can give someone better quality advice for how they can get their house in order also. Its a bit rich giving someone else advice, if you are in a worse situation than they are. The advice is not likely to be well accepted either. Certainly, monetarily, you probably wont be able to help someone out if your own affairs havent been managed properly.

  • Excellent article. I often think this when I hear people giving others “advice” that they MUST give, even when they are in deeply debt. You can’t help others unless you help yourself first.

  • Paul N

    It’s great advice but I think it’s rarely followed. If only 10% of Canadians have a TFSA for example, how many could realistically be responsible and carry out the good advice below. Talking to friends/family that never seem to get out of living cheque to cheque and offering suggestions is like talking to a really soild wall.

    They look right through you thinking your talking down to them and you just don’t understand their “real” problems? I totally agree with your post, and most of us that would sign up for your feeds are “like-minded”, but how do we reach the group out there standing on the edge?

  • So true. I, too, want to know how to reach the group who Paul N was mentioning. It takes a lot of work to get out of debt, and a lot of people don’t really have the understanding of how to change their situations. We are making many sacrifices to get out of debt; others seem to think their situations so hopeless that they don’t even want to try.

  • It is SO true that people should look at their own finances before offering help to others. I often take advice from friends and family presuming that they have everything worked out, when I hear along the grapevine that maybe things aren’t as rosy as they are making out worries me.

  • I wonder how much of the giving is driven by guilt and peer pressure? Some people who are in very bad financial shape actually have very good incomes. At their job, they may be expected to donate generously to, for example, a corporate United Way campaign. (I know of at least one company that uses practically strong arm tactics to get employees to give to the corporate UW campaign, so the company can brag about how much it donated.) I’ve seen it at some places of worship, too. The attendees know the job the person has, and the pressure is on to donate in line with their income, not necessarily in line with their financial reality.

    Unless these people are willing to be honest with others about the financial mess they’ve made or have had happen to them, then they may be stuck with giving even when they can’t really afford it. It’s a difficult position to be in.

    Perhaps we should all try to be aware of this possibility and not be pressuring others to give or to buy things to support various clubs and activities.

  • Being financially stable takes a lot of patience and hardwork. You cannot have it in just a flick of a finger. But everything will all be worth it especially when you are enjoying the fruits of your labor and being able to help others as well.

  • This is so true, especially when it comes to finances. I’ve read about parents blowing their retirement savings on a child’s college education, and while it seems selfless and charitable at the time, it’s going to be the kid that ends up helping the parents down the road anyway. I completely agree, taking care of your own situation is just as important as helping others.

  • I always say, practice what you preach. So you can’t talk about finances to others if you can’t even take care of your own.

  • I completely agree. When it comes to personal finance, I feel this is one area where it is OK to be selfish. Once you’ve sorted yourself out, then think about others.

  • [...] PF @ Sustainable Personal Finance writes Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First – One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is helping [...]

  • [...] PF @ Sustainable Personal Finance writes Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First – One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is helping [...]

  • [...] PF @ Sustainable Personal Finance writes Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First – One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is helping [...]

  • [...] PF @ Sustainable Personal Finance writes Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First – One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is helping [...]

  • [...] PF presents Why You Should Take Care of Your Finances First posted at Sustainable Personal Finance. One of the financial virtues that our society lauds is [...]

  • Friday Link Love | My Alternate Life

    [...] at Sustainable Personal Finance talks about the benefit of taking care of your finances first, before helping [...]

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>