When crabs get caught by crab fisherman, they’re tossed in a bucket. The bucket almost always has no lid on it. Why is this? It turns out the lid isn’t necessary because collectively the crabs in the bucket will pull down any crab that tries to climb out. And if one crab makes too many attempts to escape, he risks having his limbs torn off by his peers.
But this behavior isn’t limited to crabs. This is an eerily accurate analogy of what happens when one decides to make radical financial changes in their life.
The “bucket” we live in is simply our everyday life and all the other crabs are the people we interact with on a regular basis – our family, friends, and coworkers. Most of the crabs have debt, own spacious houses, drive new cars, and dine out regularly. As long as we adhere to the norms of the bucket lifestyle, we’re at no risk of having our life questioned by our fellow crabs.
But the moment we start making decisions to reduce our spending, pay off our debt, and start climbing out of the bucket of normal living, our peers voice their concerns. If our decisions are extreme enough, our fellow crabs may even show their claws.
Why are you selling your television? Are you seriously cutting your cable?
You’re downsizing your house? Something must be wrong.
Why are you packing your lunch now? Don’t you miss our regular $20 sushi lunches?
Here’s the thing about making radical financial changes in your life:
Taking action to improve your financial situation is often simple, but justifying your actions to your peer group is intimidating.
In fact, the prospect of changing one’s lifestyle can be so fear-inducing that it prevents most people from ever making the change. Selling your TV and cutting your cable is not scary. What’s scary is explaining to everyone you know why you’re making this decision.
The paradox of this situation is that many of our peers actually do have good intentions when they question our lifestyle choices. Our parents repeatedly ask if we’re sure about a decision because they care. They’re worried our unconventional way of living will make us unhappy. Our close friends typically have our best interest in mind. People that care about us will always try to give us advice and nudge us in a certain direction because from their perspective it makes sense to do so. They’ll encourage us to remain in the bucket because they view the bucket lifestyle as the best way to live.
Despite these good intentions from our fellow crabs, we still have to follow our gut and make the climb. This is a climb to get out of debt, consumerism, and financial stress. Unfortunately all these things are normal in the bucket. Most people are strapped with debt and have very little savings and very little freedom. Naturally the only way to break these norms and make the climb out of the bucket is to make choices that appear radical to our peers.
But at the end of the day, the people who truly care about us will still be there for us despite our way of living. It’s like the old saying “The ones that matter don’t care. And the ones that care don’t matter.” Knowing this truth makes it easier to make radical financial changes. Despite downsizing your house, selling your car, or cutting your cable, the people who truly care about you will still be there.
Be prepared for resistance when you decide to climb out of the bucket. You’ll be faced with worries, concerns, and perhaps criticisms. But don’t let that stop you. Keep climbing, crab.
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Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
His favorite investment platform is M1 Finance, a site that allows him to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free, has no trading or maintenance fees, and even allows him to set up automated target-allocated investments.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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