Invisible Man – A Literary Lesson for Better Financial Vision

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In the deep, frightening world of personal finance we all look for information or expert insight that might give us the upper hand. For this insight, you may reach for the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, or that buddy you have with a Finance degree. Those can all be great sources, but many people sell themselves short by overlooking other sources they feel are unrelated. For instance, maybe you’ve never thought of gathering personal finance understanding from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Don’t worry though, I did think of it, and there’s a lot of great guidance to be collected.

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Ellison makes fantastic observations about life’s unpredictability.

“The mind that has conceived a plan of living must never lose sight of the chaos against which that pattern was conceived. That goes for societies as well as for individuals.” – Ralph Ellison

I think we all can concur with his assessment that life is chaotic, and often out of our control. Personal finance harbors a certain level of that unpredictability. Now you probably came here for some sort of insight on your personal finance, but here’s some insight that doubles as a life lesson: The chaos will always be there, in finance and in most other aspects of life. Do your best to accept the chaos for its beauty and undeniable ability to make life, at the very least, interesting; do not let it beat you.

Amidst the chaos there are many facets of life that people do not see for various reasons. This selective vision may be due to preoccupation, apprehension, or fear of the ugliness that will be revealed. Invisible Man obviously takes a deep look into this circumstance, and the consequences of it. As said by the novel’s narrator…

“I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I’ve tried to articulate exactly what I’ve felt to be the truth.” – Invisible Man

This phenomenon the narrator describes is obviously unfortunate when you consider people’s unwillingness to see and acknowledge some of the more unhappy aspects of our society. It is also unfortunate when people have this same attitude with their credit and personal finances. Lenders, consultants, and financial advisors can empathize with the above quote, as they often feel condemned for telling people things they don’t want to hear.

Please listen when I tell you that ignorance may offer bliss for a while, but with finances, that bliss will be extremely temporary. Don’t avoid examining your financial shortcomings and don’t hate those who try to point them out. On the contrary, embrace this knowledge as it will enable you to be proactive in improving your financial standing.

Most people with experience will tell you that being proactive feels good, and Ellison tells us all that “power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it.

Like Ellison’s protagonist, who felt that he couldn’t affect change in his own life, many people feel as though their finances are totally beyond their control, and at the mercy of faceless executives in over-starched suits. As I mentioned before, there is an element to finances that is unpredictable and chaotic, and there’s not much we can do about it. However, when you take the time to educate yourself, you’ll be surprised and delighted at the amount of power you do have over your financial situation.

Once educated, you’ll become aware and no longer be amazed at your ability to lower the rates you pay on mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans, save money to buy the things you really want, and make your savings work for you. That power and confidence will feel great, and the rewards you reap from that power will feel even better.

So take Ellison’s wisdom and go forth with confidence. Seek the unseen, uncover what was previously unknown, and gain a personally unprecedented power over your own financial story. I can’t tell you it will be easy, but when you arm yourself with knowledge and put yourself in a position of power, you won’t need it to be easy.

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