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My Money, My Choices

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.

Finances in shambles? Blame the person who's in charge

If you don't know if you're on track for retirement, who does?

You go to work every day to make money ... why not keep track of that money? asks Gail Vaz-Oxlade.

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You go to work every day to make money ... why not keep track of that money? asks Gail Vaz-Oxlade.

Have you ever looked into your wallet and wondered, “Where did all my money go?” Have you looked at your credit card statement and scratched your head, “What did I buy at that store?” Have you ever checked your bank balance and thought, “How come there’s so little money left?”

I’m stunned by the people who don’t know what they’re doing with their money. You drag your sorry butt out of bed every day — regardless of weather, your health or current family crisis — to make The Money, but you won’t spend some time keeping track of it? Really?

I’ve been out on a book tour almost every year for the past decade and I’ve met a heap of people who have told me, “I have no idea if I’m on track with my retirement savings.”

Really? You don’t know? So, who would know?

Then there are the people who want to blame someone else for their mess: the credit card companies charge too much interest, the bank loaned me too much money, I wouldn’t use overdraft if I didn’t have it.

Lord love a duck! No one made you accept all that credit. No one twisted your arm when you were out charging up a storm. And no one is making you stay stuck in the muck you’re in … except YOU. So quit complaining and fix the mess you made!

Folks with shelves full of personal finance books are in debt. And there are some really smart people who have the knowledge to make their lives better but can’t come up with the actions to change what isn’t working for them. Hey, if you don’t change what you’re doing, don’t expect your outcome to be any different.

Why would a reasonable human being who knows that they need to make more money sit on their couch and whine about not having enough? And what is it that makes people think that there’s an easy way out of a big pile of debt poop?

I’ve seen people complain about how much debt they have in one breath, and in the next tell me about the kitchen reno they’re planning, the vacation they just took, or the helluvagreat deal they got on whatever it is they just bought. Talk about disconnected.

Until we recognize that we are in charge of our money, that we decide how to make it, spend it and save it, we are always going to be looking for some kind of magic solution. If you’ve ever said, “That’s just too much work,” or “It isn’t worth all that effort to keep a budget” or “Debt is just the way life is,” you’re exactly the person I’m talking to.

Until you accept that you are in charge, and only you can take the steps required to make things different, you will always be a muddle of “I can’ts” and “I wishes.” Yes you can. Instead of expending another iota of energy on whining, make today the day you DO something differently.

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