It is interesting how many of us consider ourselves “experts” after we accomplish something. Even in the ER community, I stumble across bloggers who retire early, then turn around and offer coaching services because they are, in theory, “experts” at early retirement.
Why? Because they’ve done it, I suppose.
First, allow me to say in no uncertain terms that I fully support earning some dough off of what you’re good at. No qualms from that perspective. If you know money and personal finance like the back of your hand, then yeah, totally turn that into a profitable side hustle.
This is more of a question about what makes us “experts”.
For example, my wife and I recently re-did the floors in our Airstream. We accomplished the goal, but neither of us consider ourselves to be all that good at floor renovations. The completion of the task is deeply satisfying, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we elevated our flooring skills to expert-level status because we managed to put down new floors in our own 200 square foot home.
What makes us experts at personal finance?
I retired from full-time work at the age of 35, but I am far from a personal finance expert. I have no plans to become one of those “life coaches”, either. I do not think I’m qualified to tell other people how to live their lives, much less spend their money.
I may be an expert at our finances, but even that might be pushing the envelope a bit. I’m not a genius.
Experts are those who are insanely experienced at something, but it goes well beyond simple experience in my book. To be an expert, you’ve probably failed. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. You are more experienced with the things that GO WRONG than you are the things that GO RIGHT. You recognize potential pitfalls before you even get to them. You haven’t just “done it”. You…add value.
Perhaps this is where the “expert” comes into the picture. We’ve all made financial mistakes. Some of us more than others. We recognized the things that didn’t work in our lives and changed them. We improved our financial situation by making positive steps in the right direction. Maybe it’s this that makes some of us experts?
We are all experts at what we do for a living. We do it day in and day out. I worked in the IT industry, and I do consider myself an expert at my craft – which is primarily web development and database design. If you’re a civil engineer, you’re an expert at building bridges. Putting together infrastructure. If you’re a carpenter, you’re an expert at creating things out of wood. You could probably whip together a coffee table in your sleep – stain and all. My attempt would most likely collapse under the weight of a tea bag.
But if I did manage to build a respectable coffee table, would I be an expert? Even two tables? Five? At what point do I cross over the threshold from just…accidentally doing something right into the realm of God-like expertise?
Tell me: In your view, what makes us experts?
P.S. A Wednesday post? Yup. Although I said that I’m cutting out Wednesday posts, I’m going to modify that a bit. Yes, I am cutting out the scheduled Wednesday posts every week, but I’ve decided to make Wednesday a “free-for-all” day where I post whatever I damn well please. This is one such post. Some Wednesday I won’t post anything. Other Wednesdays I will. It’s all about how I feel at the time.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.