As Americans, we take pride in a lot of things — our country, our children, our work, etc. That’s why it’s somewhat strange to remember that pride ranks among the seven deadly sins (as made famous by David Fincher’s Se7en, of course). Why? It likely has something to do with affect pride can have on us that makes us do foolish things.
One of the most common displays of this brand of pride comes in relation to money. In these instances, pride can cloud our judgment and prevent us from doing what’s ultimately best for us. Here are just a few examples of how pride can get in the way of good personal finance.
Keeping up appearances
Many times what we wear, what we drive, and where we live tells others a little something about our financial lives. That’s why, when your cash flow takes a hit due to a lost job or major expense, it can be difficult to adjust. Beyond the major financial decisions one must make in these situations, many people struggle with how the lifestyle changes they’ll need to make will be perceived by others.
In most cases, this type of thinking is destructive and could compromise your financial health. After all, it’s more important to live within your means than it is to flaunt for the neighbors! Just as “keeping up with the Joneses” is a financial trap, so is keeping up appearances and not realizing your financial realities.
Asking for help
Sometimes life can throw you a curveball and, other times, it’s a left hook. Mixed metaphors aside, even the best of us can sometimes find ourselves in a financial bind with few obvious options. In these times, what’s best may be to ask for help regardless of the hit your pride might take in doing so.
One potential example of this is people who are legitimately struggling but are hesitant to apply for unemployment or other government assistance programs. While attempting to forgo such entitlements and find your own way out is certainly admirable, keep in mind that there’s a reason these programs exist: to help people in need. If that applies to you, it may be worth inquiring about what kind of help various programs can provide you and then working hard to get back on your feet.
Going back to an old job
In August of 2010, I decided it was time to leave the movie theatre I was working at as a senior manager and pursue a new route. So I gave my two weeks notice and set off in search of… something. Yeah, I didn’t really have a plan at the time but I eventually succeeded in scoring myself a couple of gigs as a production assistant before falling into the world of doing background (A.K.A. being an extra for film and TV). While that managed to keep me afloat, the unpredictable nature of my employment — where a show’s cancellation, a summer hiatus, or even a simple script rewrite could affect my income — always had me worried. Thus, less than a year later, I decided to swallow my pride and give my old general manager a call.
Coming back to your old job with your tail tucked between your legs is never easy. Even though I had left on good terms and wasn’t concerned about fitting back in, my return alluded to a certain sense of failure on my part. But, in reality, it was the smartest move I could have made at that time. Besides, since I took a demotion and was now an hourly employee, I was able to work weekends at the theatre and spend the weekdays figuring out what I really wanted to do. Eventually I did just that and was able to say “goodbye” to that job for the last time.
Whether you set off to chase a dream or took on a job that didn’t turn out to be what you thought, perhaps the best thing to do is head back home, as it were. There’s really no harm in admitting your mistake and asking if your old position is still available. At the end of the day, it’s better than putting yourself in financial danger or continuing with a job that’s just not right for you.
Having pride is often a good thing. That said, being overly proud could lead to your downfall. When it comes to handling changes in your lifestyle, asking friends and family for help, or perhaps going back to a job you just left, setting your pride aside is often the first step in making the right financial choice.