In Episode 3 of Money on the Table, we headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma to speak with Kevin Matthews II.
Kevin is a Tulsa native, author, and financial planner. The conversation started in a local coffee shop,
where I sipped a delicious Ube Milk Tea surrounded by books written by people of color and discussed how communities can build generational wealth with intentionality. But as we transitioned to lunch, we shifted topics and started chatting about investing and more specifically, the role that media plays in personal finance.
I argued that a lot of the advice we’re seeing online these days is “built for the internet”. In other words, the guidance is full of fixed and definitive rules of thumb and lacking in nuance. At one point in the conversation, I asked Kevin if he thought the abundance of information was causing people to overthink their financial decisions or oversimplify them.
His answer? “It depends.”
A spirited conversation followed. We exchanged our controversial takes and I even admitted my own
shortcomings and highlighted where I tend to oversimplify as a recovering perfectionist. Even though I know better, I find myself still holding on to a nagging belief that my financial milestones have to be
achieved in an orderly, logical fashion.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much this flawed logic has cost me over the years. It is, by far, my
most expensive trait.
I built my life around this arbitrary list and then spent years telling myself that I couldn’t do anything
additional until I completed the thing before it perfectly. This kind of narrow “all or nothing” thinking
caused me to delay investing because I believed I needed to be completely debt-free before I started. I wasted so much time believing that I was making a principled decision when I was really suffocating
under the weight of my own perfectionism.
I’m obviously not trying to encourage anyone to ignore their debt or treat it with reckless abandonment. But I am suggesting that we need to stop talking about debt as if the only thing to do is avoid it.
A modern money toolkit should include an experienced and credible lender with a set of products that
help everyday people manage their loans. According to a survey by The Harris Poll, only 52% of young Americans can meet financial obligations without help from credit cards, student loans, or personal loans. When we treat debt as a moral failure, we’re not only disconnected from the reality of rising costs of living, but we rob people of the chance to responsibly build a multi-pronged wealth strategy.
One of the reasons I’m comfortable calling Financial Independence a social movement is because we’re all working towards an ideal. But instead of spending our time daydreaming about perfect conditions, we should become pragmatic idealists. Idealism still honors the vision, but pragmatism acknowledges the limitations. That said, it’s time to revisit the stigma surrounding debt.
Debt can be purposeful. And if you’ve worked to establish a good credit score, one of the ways you’re
rewarded is through better terms and affordable rates. At that point, the advice to avoid debt at all costs becomes more of a cultural opinion than a mathematical one. As self-employed creatives, managing our debt has allowed us to chase our dreams while supporting family the way we want to.
The reality is that life still happens while we’re busy saving, and companies like LightStream get it and
make lending uncomplicated.