So, Sandy @ First Gen American asked a bunch of finance writers to participate in a writing experiment. We have to write about a personal finance topic by using monkeys as the theme. I then began to think about one of my favorite facts about monkeys. The contrarian strategy which they employ to open a banana!
As you can see in the video below, monkeys open bananas from the opposite end than humans. Instead of fighting with the stem and having to involve a knife (or teeth), they just softly pinch the opposite end and then peel back.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a video of a monkey pinching a banana, so this human will have to do:
Someone taught me this a few years ago, and it has changed my life! Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it has lowered my level of frustration when eating a banana. So, how does this relate to personal finance, you ask?
Using a Contrarian Strategy
In many walks of life (especially finance), going along with the popular way of doing things (or thinking) can be dangerous. In personal finance, it is always best to question every move to ensure that it makes sense for you.
Many financial decisions are made based on emotion and the herd mentality! We see many people performing a certain action, and we feel as though that is what everyone is supposed to do.
Just like the idea of peeling a banana from the stem, we end up wasting time and energy attacking a situation from the wrong end.
Be A Monkey When Finding A Place To Live
Take buying a house for example. Many people have become convinced that this is the right thing to do, simply because “everybody else does it”, or “it’s what you do when you become mature and stable”. People actually borrow money to gain shelter, borrow money to furnish it, then borrow more money to make expensive, unnecessary, cosmetic changes; and after all of this, they have the nerve to call it an “investment”!
However, we need to be like these monkeys and decide if that’s the best way to handle our need for shelter! Would it be better to be patient and take the path of least resistance? Rent a property until it makes financial sense to buy one!
Be A Monkey In School
Does it make sense to go into college directly after high school? For some, yes. However, this shouldn’t be an automatic decision that we make without proper analysis. Many high school graduates jump directly into college with no savings, no scholarship, and no support! But, since they have been told that this is the normal progression in life, they take on tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loans!
Much of the time, they have no idea what they want to study, or what they want to do with their lives. They just follow the herd and apply to college. Even the ones who have an idea about what they want to do, fail to count the costs of attending college with little to no savings! They just go and assume it will work itself out in the end.
However, we need to think back to the [mighty] monkey and attack this problem from a different angle. Before filling out those loan applications, do a little math to see how long you’ll be paying off those loans, and what benefit they will have.
You might find that it’s better to take a job directly out of high school (actually, while in high school), and save up for college – or even go to a 2-year school first – rather than being in bondage to student loan repayments for 10 or 20 years after graduation!
Use A Contrarian Strategy When Investing
Warren Buffett once stated that investors should “try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful“. I’m definitely not suggesting that we go around following Buffett blindly, but he does make a good point. When people are chasing after a certain stock, commodity, or industry, that’s usually the time to run away (or short that investment)! Then once people are running away from those investments (after the irrational exuberance wears off), then that’s when you consider them as viable investments (paying attention to valuation, of course).
One contrarian strategy that has actually become quite popular as of late (possibly taking away part of its effectiveness) is to invest in gold coins and other precious metals. Gold is usually looked upon as a hedge against economic turmoil. For a long time, the most prominent method of investing in gold was through derivatives, therefore limiting the amount of people who were able to take meaningful positions. However, with the rise in gold mutual funds and ETFs, we are seeing more “everyday investors” getting in on the action.
Instead of just choosing what everyone else chooses (such as a 60/40 split, or saving 15% for retirement), look at your situation and make the choice that’s best for you! If you find it’s easier to peel the banana from the stub, while 95% of the investing world is still fighting with the stem, then ignore those who are “smarter” and move toward your goal!
photo by wwarby
Personal Finance is named that for a reason. In many cases, one-size-fits-all solutions do not exist. In those instances, it’s best to be a good monkey and look at the full picture. You may find that the answer lies at the other end of the peel!