It was at one of my favorite local restaurants that I saw a young girl staring at her computer, looking somber and almost on the verge of tears. I did not want to intrude, but the look on her face was breaking my heart. Since I had known her family for several years and knew she recently had moved into her apartment, I walked over to her and said, “Hello, Beth (not her real name!), is everything okay?”
She smiled a weak smile, a tired smile. I caught a brief look at her computer screen. It read, “7 Steps to Take to Make Ends Meet.” She minimized the screen and looked up at me.
“It’s my new computer,” she said. “I needed it, but now I have to pay for it.”
At the bottom of the screen, one of the open tabs was Google. I soon realized that Beth was searching for answers to possibly some financial matters. I also recognized she was searching for answers by asking questions to a computer. Beth was being sent to relevant links from the Internet based on her query. Responses produced collaboratively by people of the world, not anyone who knew her or, more importantly, cared personally about her outcomes.
She told me she had to buy new clothes for a new job, and then there were her rent and other expenses. She said she was overwhelmed with her finances and was a bit stressed out living on her own. As I was just getting my lunch, I asked to join her.
When I sat down, I asked her if it would be of interest to her if I were to explain how I handled my budget. “Oh, but compared to me, you’re rich!” she said. I assured her that whether we’re talking about General Motors or the general store, the principles of budgeting are the same. I could already see the gratitude in her face. “It’s so hard,” she admitted.
It forced me to think back to my life when I was struggling to make ends meet. I received some excellent advice from a co-worker who showed me how to budget and prioritize expenses. I can still remember being told that to take control of my finances I needed to write out a budget. A snapshot of the money coming in and going out. I shared with her that a budget would make her less likely to end up in debt, get caught off guard by unexpected costs, and she would be more liable to have an excellent credit rating that would be valuable.
She took my advice to heart, and then I gave her a few ideas about some additional “resources.” I assured her that if she got overwhelmed never to be afraid to ask for advice from reliable people who understood finances as evidenced by their success.
She was quick to point out that she did not want to worry her parents. I suggested she seek out a good mentor, someone who was moderately successful and appeared to have their financial house in order. I also mentioned that she could always give me a call. Her mood lightened, and she assured me she would make up a budget and stick to it. I again repeated that all she need do is to look around, find real people and ask for help. I couldn’t help but remember the co-worker and friend in my backyard that helped me get moving in the right direction. The advice I received from people who knew me and had been down that road before me was invaluable.
The Best Teacher
Yes, I know I write a lot about the “downside” of the addictions to technology, but we have come to over-rely on our computers and smartphones to answer all of our questions. While Google is a great resource, it is still a search engine and not someone who can feel pain, empathize, offer the human touch and share true experiences that are verifiable. In no way am I “anti-computer,” but I still place my greatest hope in the caring and compassion of those around me. I know what it is like to get overwhelmed with bills or to go off budget or wrestle with trying to make ends meet. Many of my friends, especially my older friends, have essentially experienced what others can only write about.
When I started my own business, there were so many little things that I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t learn to manage anything until I had to do it by myself. There were no computers that even told me what to do. A computer couldn’t make decisions, and to this day they still can’t. I believe that most all of us have the capacity to learn more and become wiser by seeking advice from actual people who have been down a path that we are about to take. I’m not suggesting that you stop using the computer to acquire knowledge (what to do). I am only suggesting that to become more you have to learn more from people who have experienced more (verifiably done it). Being told what to do isn’t the same as actually doing it. Your best advice will always be from people who can say, “Been there…done that!”