What to Do If You're the Financial Black Sheep of the Family
How often have you heard a line about the importance of being true to yourself? Of discovering "the real you," and respecting who that person is?
Yes, it's important that we all learn to celebrate ourselves as individuals. We should embrace those things about ourselves that make us… well, us!
But sometimes that's easier said than done. Let's face it: it isn't always easy to stand out of the crowd. It can be difficult to be the one who's different, the odd one out, or the black sheep of our group. And this failure to follow the herd can make us feel alone, isolated, or even shunned.
It's even more difficult when you're a financial black sheep. Money is a sensitive subject at the best of times. March to the beat of your own money drum and your family may not know how to cope.
Your loved ones may even react negatively or lash out at you for being different with your money. This happens even when —especially when — your unique money habits placed you on the right path to financial success.
Why You Should Be Proud of Your Financial Black Sheep Status
But here's the thing: being a financial black sheep shouldn't be bad. In fact, you need to embrace this role if you're working toward a big money goal like paying off consumer debts or saving big amounts of your income
Why? Because this stuff isn't easy to do. Money goals take time, dedication, and determination to achieve — and they require sacrifice, too. Paying off debts, investing wisely, and making the most of your money requires that you do things differently than everyone else.
Think about it. If everyone stuck to a budget, tracked their spending, saved more than they consumed, found ways to be more resourceful and less wasteful, minimized their purchases of material goods and placed value on experiences and relationships instead….
Debt wouldn't be a crushing problem. We'd all be on track for our retirement goals. Car dealerships would lament as everyone started showing up to buy used cars in cash. (You get the idea.)
Financial success, security, and freedom is a wonderful thing, but you can only reach it after dedicating yourself to a difficult path. The inherent nature of this path — that is is a difficult one to walk — dissuades many from even trying.
If you're the one person in your family who hates to spend wastefully, doesn't want to buy more stuff for the sake of showing off that stuff to impress other people, or prefers working hard to save and invest now so you can enjoy financial independence in the near future, you may be the financial black sheep. And you should be proud that you're brave enough, educated enough, and insightful enough to be the "different" family member when it comes to managing your money.
The Challenges You'll Face on the Path to Financial Success
However, your own inner peace with financial black sheep status won't come without some difficulties. Your family may challenge your habits and actions for a variety of reasons. Not all of those challenges will come from happy places.
Members of your family may feel envious of your dedication to your goals (and eventually, your success). They may resent that you made the decision to choose the hard path because they'd prefer to have company on the easier one. Or they may simply not understand that different
Financial black sheep may be mocked for living a frugal lifestyle as they save their pennies. Or they may be scorned for using free time to work extra hours and side hustles to earn more money.
Some people might not understand that you don't need stuff to make you happy. Others may think that you're "poor" based on your decision to save rather than spend. They can fail to see that we all have choices with how we use our money, and fail to understand why your choices are so drastically different than their own.
The bottom line is that as a financial black sheep, you may face judgment from your loved ones. People tend to be uncomfortable with actions and others that challenge the status quo. The steps you're taking to achieve financial success can feel threatening to others who would prefer to keep their heads in the sand and ignore their own money problems.
How to Cope with the Rest of the Flock
It's tough to face scrutiny, judgment, and even hostility from family members who are uncomfortable with the fact that you're taking action to change your financial situation. Here's how you can cope when the rest of the flock hasn't yet accepted their financial black sheep:
Seek to understand. The first step in coping with the challenges your family may throw your way is to understand where any hostility or negativity is coming from. Again, family members may be envious of what you're working to build or they could be projecting their unhappiness with their own financial situation onto you (instead of taking that energy and making positive changes).
And watch out — your family members don't always have to be cruel to negatively react to your success. They may question your decisions or ask if you're okay in a way that looks like concern, but is really discouragement or a lack of support for that way you manage money differently.
Although knowing that it's not you that's really causing anger or resentment doesn't automatically solve the problem, it should help you start coping with it.
Offer to educate. If your family simply doesn't understand things like "side hustles" or "financial independence," offer to show them the same resources that helped you make a change to your own money management habits.
Or if they lash out because they can't see how on earth you managed to repay your credit card debt and student loans without moving into a cardboard box to save on rent, show them the tools you used to help you. Your family may not know that sites like ReadyForZero even exist.
Open yourself to questions and conversation. If family members do mean well but just don't get your financial black sheep status, be open and honest with them. If your parents won't stop nagging you to take an expensive vacation because you work too hard — but you love your work and would prefer to take smaller trips that don't cost as much right now — explain your motives instead of shutting down the conversation.
Tell mom or dad that you're happy to work hard right now and put away most of your earnings because you're ready to be debt free. Or you want to max out your Roth IRA this year, or you'd like to have a bigger emergency fund. Then, invite nes about why you do things differently with your money than the rest of the family does with theirs, you might just inspire them to make some changes of their own.
Smile and forget about it. When it comes to family members who just can't grasp the idea that you don't need to spend everything you earn (and then some) on more stuff to be happy, sometimes it's just best to smile and move on. They don't necessarily need to understand your financial philosophies for their to be peace in your family. Let them think their little financial black sheep is just a quirky character — and then sit back and smile as you achieve money goal after money goal.
Kali Hawlk is a personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a website for getting out of debt. She enjoys discussing topics like student loans, budgeting, and paying off debt from the perspective of a millennial. You can read more of her work at the ReadyForZero Blog.