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Little Johnny

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fast
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Little Johnny  Reply with quote  

Some people say that Little Johnny just ain’t all that bright. Yes, he knows he shouldn’t be doin’ some of the things he’s-a doin’, and he knows he oughta be-a doin’ some of the things he ain’t, but still, he keeps on makin’ it day to day and paycheck to paycheck like so many others.

Little Johnny never does a budget on paper, and he thinks Excel is what he should do when he sees blue lights in his mirror. He doesn’t save money (must be the speeding tickets, huh!), and he hardly pays on time for anything, but he keeps his lights on (late as the bill may often be paid) and his rent is paid too (behind as it just might often be), and though he gets a bit behind on many-a-bill, every year come tax time, he gets a big refund that pulls him out of the mess he’s slowly gotten himself in. “Thank God for the refund,” he rejoices.

Of course, the smart people in the crowd can see (and so clearly they can see too!) that if only he would alter his W4’s and have less taken out, he would have more money come each payday and thus conclude he wouldn’t be gettin’ in the messes he keeps subsequently gettin’ out of during tax time. The problem with many smart people is that, well, yes, they’re smart, but many of them are, well, merely that, smart—good intentioned and good-hearted as they might be.

How quickly we forget that many of the folks that are consistently in a bind and living on the edge are people from of a variety of income levels. What I’m suggesting is that even though he would have more money, he would also in most likelihood spend more money, and unless he changed the habits and behaviors that continues to put him in dire need of a safety net refund, then what would otherwise be very good advice (i.e. alter the W-4’s), the end result of such a person like Little Johnny following the advice would often lead them to being in a worse situation than had he not followed the advice at all.

Why? Because the assumed change in behaviors didn’t accompany his decision to follow the advice.

I’m not going to ask anyone if there are other oddities in finance whereby good advice is bad advice, as that wouldn’t even make much sense (in fact, it would entail a contradiction); after all, Aristotle wrote, “To say what is true is to say that what is, is, or to say that what is not, is not.” Obviously, if advice is good advice, then it’s not bad advice, but what is good advice for some people may not (I propose) be good advice for some of the people like Little Johnny. I’m no expert on financial matters, but I cringe at some of the commonly accepted good advice that is often touted—not because it cannot be the wisest of the possible choices available to us but because it seems to me that good sound advice is not always good in isolation to other not explicitly stated assumptions.

The assumption in this case (as mentioned earlier) is that he will change his ways and thus be better off for it.

I don’t really have a question. I just thought I’d infuse a little philosophical thinking to see if it might spark some thoughts among others. Truth be told, I’m a bit ignorant (not so knowledgeable) when it comes to many of the nuances surrounding financial advice, but I find the topic of money and finances in general to be intriguing.
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:21 am
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coaster
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I don't think there's anything wrong with Little Johnny's intelligence. I do think there's a lot wrong with Little Johnny's education. A person can't be taught everything they need to know about life. They have to learn to educate themselves. The most important thing they need to be taught is intellectual curiosity. And I think that's Little Johnny's main problem. He was either never encouraged, and more likely, was actively discouraged from asking "why" so that he could be pushed through the educational system. And now that he's now out in life, he no longer has the ability to ask why he never gets ahead. He's more likely to take the easy way out (as he learned to do in school) and just blame it on circumstances beyond his control.

~Tim~
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:42 am
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2StepsFwd1StepBack
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quote:
Originally posted by coaster
I don't think there's anything wrong with Little Johnny's intelligence. I do think there's a lot wrong with Little Johnny's education. A person can't be taught everything they need to know about life. They have to learn to educate themselves. The most important thing they need to be taught is intellectual curiosity. And I think that's Little Johnny's main problem. He was either never encouraged, and more likely, was actively discouraged from asking "why" so that he could be pushed through the educational system. And now that he's now out in life, he no longer has the ability to ask why he never gets ahead. He's more likely to take the easy way out (as he learned to do in school) and just blame it on circumstances beyond his control.


Wow. I couldn't have said this any better, myself.

I am Little Johnny just as coaster has described. And if it wasn't for my Intellectual Curiousity, I would be in much, much worse shape than than I am and, probably, not realize it or care.

It's all about education and proving to someone that the impossible is possible.

Good post, fast. Cool
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:44 am
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fast
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quote:
Originally posted by 2StepsFwd1StepBack
It's all about education and proving to someone that the impossible is possible.
I disagree, but let me be clear on exactly what it is I disagree with.

First, Coaster highlights an excellent distinction, and that distinction is the difference between stupidity and ignorance. Just as there's nothing a doctor can do for the patient whom has already passed, neither can we do a whole heap for those that are stupid; however, there is a cure for ignorance, and the cure for that is knowledge, and one way to acquire one brand of that is through education. Make note, by the way, that in the very last sentence of my opening post, I reiterated (and my point is that I reiterated) that I am a bit ignorant myself when I said, "not so knowledgeable." I never said that Little Johnny is ignorant.

But, didn't I say that Little Johnny isn't bright? Not exactly. What I said is that "Some people say that Little Johnny just ain’t all that bright." And, say it as they might, that doesn't make it so, not even if they say it three times (as once was famously remarked).

So, what do I disagree with then? It's not all (all, you said) about education. Interestingly enough, I even went so far as to point out that Little Johnny knows better. Education isn't his issue. Knowledge isn't his issue. Little Johnny isn't stupid (even though others may think he is). Recall the very first paragraph where I explicitly state what he knows he should and shouldn't be doing. The problem with Johnny is a behavioral problem in spite of his knowing better.

For clarification purposes, let it be understood that people living on the edge are not necessarily the Little Johnny’s of the world. Many of those people just might be better off should they decide to the follow the most often touted advice.

What captures my attention is how good advice seems to be offered as if it’s a one size fits all phenomena. It’s hard to put in words. Maybe this’ll help: What might ordinarily be good advice for a novice driver that finds herself skidding around a wet corner on a back road may not necessarily be the best maneuver that a seasoned veteran should take, but I don’t think the best advice (what we would tell the veteran) is what we should tell the novice, not because we should withhold the best advice from the novice but because the novice doesn’t have the skill-set to handle what happens when the best advice is acted upon. In the same vein, we shouldn’t tell the Little Johnny’s of the world to change their W4’s without at least explaining the dangers. We harp on the advantages of doing what we think is best, but along with doing what we think is best sometimes comes the need to change other things (like not spending more than we make with the newfound money); otherwise, there will be no cushion to protect us from our failed behavior changes come tax time.

Dave Ramsey says to temporarily stop your 401K contributions to speed up the process of getting out of debt more quickly, but even he thinks it’s a bad idea to stop it if it’s not going to be a temporary thing. So, whether you should stop your 401K in this case depends. Never mind what it depends on. What’s important to my point is that it depends.

In my conclusion, I find that what advice is the best advice is not necessary truths but rather contingent truths, that will depend on other factors—that render what’s touted as good advice purportedly good advice.

Of course, this is coming from me, a person who doesn’t really know a hill of beans about giving financial advice. Fun learning it though!

Oh, before I forget. Back to your sentence. Recall, you said, “It's all about education and proving to someone that the impossible is possible.” I’ve already discussed the “it’s all about education” part. As to “the impossible is possible,” and to the surprise of many, that may not necessarily be a contradiction since the words are ambiguous and thus might not have the same referent. But let’s not go there. Funny you should mention, “proving to.” For your amusement purposes only, there is a difference between “proving to” and “proving that.” Seldom does a logician find a need to prove to someone that an argument is sound, for example, as that’s a matter of psychology. “Proving that,” on the other hand is what his job is all about, as an argument is sound independent of what others might happen to believe.


Last edited by fast on Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:27 pm; edited 3 times in total
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:18 pm
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oldguy
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IMO, Tim's points about education and intellectual curiosity are spot on. Look back 40 years - the US had the top K12 education system in the world, first in math & science - and now we are 28th out of the 28 industrialized nations. Our esteem-based system demands no testing, no competitveness, no orderly curriculum (just permissiveness & 'creativity'). As for curiosity - kids are not allowed to witness physics, no thrown balls, no tag, no monkey bars, no slides, yada - everything is PC to the point of zero adventure, zero risk.

I worked on the engineering team that put men-on-the-moon, I fear that if we started today to again put men on the moon by 2022, we could not do it. The congressional debates, the environmental studies, the ACLU lawsuits, the international licensing, the lack of qualified technical people, would never happen. I can tell you from experience in the 1960s - "zero risk" will not get the job done.
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:50 pm
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fast
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quote:
Originally posted by oldguy
IMO, Tim's points about education and intellectual curiosity are spot on. Look back 40 years - the US had the top K12 education system in the world, first in math & science - and now we are 28th out of the 28 industrialized nations. Our esteem-based system demands no testing, no competitveness, no orderly curriculum (just permissiveness & 'creativity'). As for curiosity - kids are not allowed to witness physics, no thrown balls, no tag, no monkey bars, no slides, yada - everything is PC to the point of zero adventure, zero risk.

I worked on the engineering team that put men-on-the-moon, I fear that if we started today to again put men on the moon by 2022, we could not do it. The congressional debates, the environmental studies, the ACLU lawsuits, the international licensing, the lack of qualified technical people, would never happen. I can tell you from experience in the 1960s - "zero risk" will not get the job done.



That was very thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing. Speaking of risk, I like to take risks. I suppose that the term, "risk-taker" would often characterize me regarding some of things I've done. I especially like your comment regarding monkey bars and the like. My dad once commented (and I'm paraphrasing with a twist of my own input) that it's probably not all that great of an idea to force kids to wear helmets when they're out riding their bicycles, for they need to fall down once in a while when they're young and rambunctious and feel the pain of being wild, for if they don't do it now while they're young and testing their limitations, then later on they'll be the worst for it. Oh how I can hear the health professionals now giving testament to what they have witnessed, but anyhoots … .

I’m not opposed to risk, but I suppose that I’m overly hesitant to recommend excessive amounts of it given the current nature of (and oh how I hate to say it this way) the liberal thinking that has been sweeping the nation and taking root over the last (and what did you say, forty?) forty years.
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 5:52 pm
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coaster
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I didn't mean to say that it's ONLY education that's the problem. Our educational system as it is today is certainly one problem. The other part of the problem is societal, and I think that's the fundamental driver behind the comments made about financial advice. Financial advice, or advice in general, or maybe a better term would be "common wisdom", is often tailored to expectations. People are told what they expect to hear, or what the advice-giver thinks they want to hear, and not what they need to hear. It's simply human nature to have more acute hearing when the message is what you're expecting to hear. If the message is unexpected, what's the response? "What was that?" And here's where it ties into intellectual curiosity: when the individual's desire to know has been dulled, the response to an unexpected and not understood message is to disregard it. The individual with a strong desire to learn...to know...will desire to receive and understand the message. And it's only then that it might effect a change in the individual's behavior. Understanding precedes voluntary behavior change. Any other behavior change must be coerced; and coerced behavior change succeeds only so long as it's monitored and enforced.

Distilled:

message -> <- intellectual curiosity -> understanding -> motivation -> behavior

A baby is born with link #2 healthy and intact, and drives his parents nuts with the question "why????" What happens to Little Johnny between birth and early adulthood such that he loses that link? And why do we not care? Is it easier to just coerce the desired behaviors? Either by force .... or by incentive?

And what IS "liberal" and "progressive" anyway? A coerced/incentivized/go-along and get-along society with a "we know what's best for you" authority ... or ... an intellectually curious and "just give me the facts and let me make up my own mind because I'm not stupid" society? Seems to me the labels have been misapplied. Confused

~Tim~
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:56 pm
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fast
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Wow, that's a lot of wisdom packed in there. There's also some subtleties that leave me wondering who it is we're talking about. There are a lot of players. We have the advice giver and Little Johnny, and we have people like Little Johnny that isn't him. But, we also have people that talk about advice givers, and sometimes, those people are the people being given advice. It can start to look like a hot mess on paper.

You talk about society being the fundamental driver behind the comments made about financial advice--that comment just might include me, as I by virtue of originating this thread am (in a way) talking about advice givers.

You talk about advice being tailored to expectations, and that would seem to be about advice givers. Although I think we should tailor our message to our intended audience, I don't think advice givers should merely tell people what they want to hear. We should, as you mention, say what they need to hear.

You also said, "It's simply human nature to have more acute hearing when the message is what you're expecting to hear. If the message is unexpected, what's the response? "What was that?"."

I was a little confused on that one. I understood the message; I just wasn't sure if you were talking about the receiver of advice or the people talking about the advice givers. The following passage makes me think you were talking about the advice receivers:

quote:
And here's where it ties into intellectual curiosity: when the individual's desire to know has been dulled, the response to an unexpected and not understood message is to disregard it. The individual with a strong desire to learn...to know...will desire to receive and understand the message. And it's only then that it might effect a change in the individual's behavior. Understanding precedes voluntary behavior change. Any other behavior change must be coerced; and coerced behavior change succeeds only so long as it's monitored and enforced.


My confusion should have dissipated, but I didn't know if there was an embroidered pun, lol. But yes, I can finally see where you're going when you were talking of intellectual curiosity and now talking about desire to know being dulled.

As to my comment about liberals, I retract that. I should know better. All in all, I got a lot out of your post, and if I don't forget it, I'll be bit better for it.

Before I bring this post to a close, you asked, "And why do we not care?" I don't know. Maybe some that appear not to care simply have no mechanism to show they do. But like I said, I don't know. I'd rather live in a world where we do care, and I suppose many of us would do our part if we knew what demonstrating that we care looked like.
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:16 pm
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quote:
As to my comment about liberals, I retract that.


Did you see where the Govt Food Inspectors confiscated a little preschool girl's home-prepared lunch and replaced it with Chicken McNugets, the official Obama nutricious lunch of the day? lol - that is a great example of government over-reach, one that we can all see as communistic.
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:38 pm
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coaster
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quote:
Originally posted by fast
Maybe some that appear not to care simply have no mechanism to show they do.

Hmmmm ..... now you've given ME something to ponder!! Laughing

No mechanism because there was none there to begin with, or no mechanism because it was taken away? I'd posit some of both, but in today's society more of the latter than the former.

quote:
Originally posted by fast
As to my comment about liberals, I retract that..

Why do that? I thought it was a perceptive comment.

Let's face it, the generation I'm part of has screwed up big time.

~Tim~
Post Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:55 pm
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fast
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The following is an excerpt from what I contemplated posting in another thread. I chose not to because I found that it would be inappropriate. But, I think it might fly in this thread. It’s a response to someone’s inquiry about a tax refund.

[INDENT]One way to increase your refund is to decrease the total number of allowances you claim on your W-4 form. Also, you could use that same form to have an additional amount withheld from each paycheck. The more you have them withhold, the more you’re likely to get back come tax time—bigger refund!

That’s what you said you wanted, and if what you said you want is in fact what you want, then you now have some additional facts that will help let you make up your own mind.

However, please don’t construe that as good advice; after all, I’m not the one who knows what’s best for you. But, the experts do. They are what you might refer to as an authority on the subject, and they can list the reasons/pros/advantages for why you
shouldn’t want what it is you think you want.[/INDENT]

There was more to the response, but the more I wrote, the less appropriate it became. It’s not that I was setting out to be sarcastic; it’s just that my tone has a way going downhill all on its own in an endeavor to get my message out.

Anyway, my retraction was made because I didn’t want to be offensive. I come across that way sometimes, but I don’t mean to.
Post Sun Feb 19, 2012 12:31 am
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On being offensive: anything said in a public space is likely to be taken as offensive by someone out there; therefore I don't worry about it. This forum's #1 rule is "respect your fellow members" --- that means you respect them as a fellow human being. That doesn't mean you have to respect what they say or what they think. Any opinion, idea, expression, comment, etc is fair game; the individual himself/herself is off limits. As far as groups of individuals ..... ehhhhh .... I suppose it's a case-by-case and depends on the group and the expression involved. I've allowed to stand the IRS being called "evil Nazis" when that's an obviously facetious libel and slander. Wink

On advice from authorities: everything said in this space is to be taken as opinion, not authoritative advice, so your disclaimer isn't required.* (I objected to my title; it was bestowed upon me without my asking for it; though once there I guess I let it just stay; but my professional credentials for such a title lapsed over 15 years ago).

*There are situations where a disclaimer is required; they involve offering specific securities / assets / trade recommendations which people insist on coming here to do from time to time, and which I try to discourage. Laughing

~Tim~
Post Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:43 am
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Little Johnny lives in a society that has no interest in his best interest. Big Corporations need Little Johnny to work for them! If Little Johnny got all high falootin' and started to get ahead in life, who the heck would make all their widgets!? Alas, the powers-that-be will continue to keep Little Johnny in the dark, by teaching him to focus on shiny objects and deceiving him into thinking they are looking out for his best interests. After all, they provide a 401k with investment matching! Plus, if Little Johnny can manage to get some more overtime this month, he'll have enough to put down on a brand new candy-apple red 2012 Ford LIABILITY XLT! Little Johnny might actually manage to attract him a cute little filly with that there rig!
Post Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:52 am
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fast
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quote:
Originally posted by coaster
[...] that's an obviously facetious libel and slander. Wink

Facetious huh. Obviously. Wink


Mr. Green


IngeniousB.,

Although I'm a fan of Fords, I found your descripion, "[...] Ford LIABILITY XLT!" to be quite humerous. Is that an orginal? Too funny!
Post Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:39 pm
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quote:
Originally posted by fast
Is that an orginal? Too funny!


Original indeed, sir. While I have no issue with the Ford Motor Company or their products myself, I was merely pointing out the fact that too many people are in a hurry to throw money at liabilities like new cars and the like instead of assets like property or investments. To their defense, liabilities look so much cooler!
Post Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:42 pm
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