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Why Does Money Have to be So Complicated?

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Why Does Money Have to be So Complicated?

I received an email earlier this week from someone who had downloaded my Debt GPS tool and was looking for a little advice around their payoff strategy. Now, it’s not uncommon for me to receive an email like this. It’s part of the reason I created the Debt GPS in the first place. But what made this email different was, oddly enough, the amount of math involved.

In case you have not seen or used the Debt GPS tool (you can download it for free on my website by going HERE), it takes all of your debts and organizes them into an easy-to-read, transparent format which gives clarity around your numbers and empowers you to make the best decision for you when it comes to your debt payoff strategy. And yes, this tool uses a lot of math.

So then why was having a lot of math in this email worth writing about?

The reason it’s worth writing about is because most of us tend to overcomplicate things when it comes to our money. And there’s a lesson there.

The individual who wrote to me shared that they had three different credit cards with eleven different 0% promotional rates, which were all going to expire at different times. While never having missed a payment, they had been flipping back and forth between 0% interest deals and “trying to widdle it away for years.” They had already set up two versions of my Debt GPS tool and they were looking for advice around how to calculate the best way to pay off their cards.

And do you know what my answer was?

I wrote, “I think you may be overthinking everything.”

See, money can be as simple or as complicated as we make it. I’m not saying personal finance is “simple,” but I am saying we have a tendency to get “into the weeds” when working through our finances - whether we are combing through every possible option or simply procrastinating because we don’t trust ourselves enough to start, we end up becoming victims of “paralysis by analysis.” And when that happens, nothing happens.

Simply put: overcomplicating your money is going to stalemate your financial progress.

Responding back to this individual, I shared my reasoning for suggesting that they had been overcomplicating things. There were some clues within the email that signaled to me that this was not all about the numbers … It was actually more about behavior. This was also true for me, and it’s been true for almost all of my clients.

Fun fact: the University of Michigan did a study which showed that 73% of people 25-35 struggle with overthinking. (Source)

And I believe society is getting caught up in promoting this narrative that we all have to make big, complicated moves with money in order to get ahead; when, in fact, we can be just as effective, or more, by simplifying the approach.

For the longest time, I was under the impression that “more complex” meant “better” (referred to as Complexity Bias). I think, in a way, I was able to forgive myself more easily for not having made more financial progress in my life because my complexity bias told me it was too complicated for me to figure out easily. Afterall, my situation was unique and things were tough. (Insert pouty face.) I guess, meaning, that I was forcing myself to believe that figuring out my finances had to be difficult if I were to ever reach this mythical state of financial independence.

At the age of 32, my wife and I decided to budget for the very first time in our lives. But there was one problem - I’d never budgeted before. How do I start? I was a college graduate and overall competent person (though I’m sure some would argue against that) who could have given a definition of the word budget; however, I was still too nervous to attempt making a budget on my own. So I bought my friend a case of beer and asked them to come over and walk me through it.

Did you know that if you were to Google “How to make a budget” right now, you would get 2.3 BILLION results?

That’s a lot of ways to learn how to make a budget. But ultimately, what led to me finally creating my first budget (which was on a piece of scratch notebook paper), was having someone I trusted talk through it with me.

And you know what?

It was so much simpler than I was making it out to be.

Was there more I still needed to learn? Yes.

Were there mistakes in the first budget? Absolutely.

Could we have made even more financial progress than we did? Probably.

But I had finally started. I had finally made this thing called a “budget,” which I had spent years convincing myself was too difficult for me to ever figure out. Then, amazing things started to happen.

We weren’t as stressed all the time.

Conversations around money became easier.

Dreaming became more fun.

And when we started working on paying off our debt, that became easier. Because now, my wife and I were no longer relying on credit cards. We weren’t concerned about cutting every expense from our lives because we were overspending. We finally had control over our money … for the first time in our lives. And while we could have paid our debt off faster and maybe saved a little more money, for us, it was more about instilling a new behavior.

The dance we do with credit cards and their 0% offers, for example, is a dance promoted and advertised to us by the same creditors we are looking to get out from underneath. And if we don’t change our behavior around money, then we will find ourselves forever trapped in this debt cycle we can never seem to escape.

If you’re stuck trying to decide the best way to do something, I’d encourage you to ask yourself:

  • Is this decision critical or does it simply feel that way? Sometimes, we get bogged down in the details of financial decisions that, in the grand scheme of things, might not make a significant impact on our long-term financial health.
  • Am I avoiding action because it seems too complex? Complexity can be paralyzing. Instead of obsessing over every detail, consider taking a small, manageable step in the right direction. Action often leads to clarity.
  • Do I need expert advice or guidance for this particular issue? There are times when consulting a financial expert, such as a financial advisor or coach, can be incredibly beneficial. They can provide you with insights and strategies tailored to your unique situation. But if they start to push their goals instead of yours, get another opinion.
  • Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be out of fear? Fear of making mistakes or fear of the unknown can lead us to overanalyze and overcomplicate decisions. Remember that mistakes are going to happen.
  • Can I simplify this? Many aspects of personal finance can be simplified. Budgeting, for instance, doesn't require complex spreadsheets or software. A basic budget on paper or in a simple spreadsheet can be highly effective and lead to amazing results.
  • Am I taking the path of least resistance, even if it's not in my best interest? Sometimes, we opt for convenience over what's truly best for our finances. Challenge yourself to make choices that align with your long-term goals, even if they require a bit more effort initially.

Ultimately, it's crucial to find a balance between informed decision-making and overcomplicating matters. Your financial journey should be manageable and sustainable. As you navigate your financial picture, remember that simplicity often leads to clarity, empowerment, and a more effective approach to achieving your financial goals.

So, don't be afraid to simplify, take action, and embrace the journey. After all, your financial success is about more than just the numbers; it's about the behaviors and choices that shape your financial story.

Remember, it's not about how complex your money strategy is. It's about taking that first courageous step.

So…here’s to keeping it simple, my friends.

Stay Curious,


Kyle Fowler

Founder of Financial Flippers

The personal finance world is packed with TONS of information. And while it's not all bad, it's not all good. I work hard to make sure I am sharing helpful content that keeps you on track while still providing different perspectives. If you ever have questions, want to share ideas for other topics, or want to know more, shoot me an email: kyle@financialflippers.com

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