Wilkins Micawber is the incurable optimist in Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield. His pompous observations on life are usually spot on and his speech on staying inside your budget has remained a timeless piece of financial wisdom since it was published in 1850. It goes like this.
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
It’s an observation about the importance of spending less than you earn, a warning about running up too much debt and the consequences of breaking that cardinal rule.
But it got me thinking. If Mr Micawber is so smart, why don’t more people follow his advice? I did a little digging about Mr Micawber and there’s something you should know.
Wilkins Micawber is bad with money. Really bad. He lives in a London debtors prison and he is constantly hounded (“unjustly,” he says) by his creditors. He’s run up large debts investing in dodgy schemes trying to chase quick riches in the haberdashery mills, steam and rail industries and coal mines of Victorian England.
We all know a Mr Micawber
You know the one. That family member or friend who encourages you onto ‘the ground floor’ of the next best thing. They are sunny-side optimists who share Mr Micawber’s constant refrain of ‘Something will turn up!’ They have an unshakeable faith that the next big financial win is just around the corner.
Today’s Mr Micawber’s are likely to recommend bitcoin, Forex day trading, a complicated property investment structure or a race horse. They’re loveable, articulate and well intentioned. But they’ll charmingly mooch a few bucks off you to get them to the next pay day without blushing.
They speak in ways that make their argument sound obvious. They load their logic with numbers and make bold claims about outsized returns. They claim ‘the system’ is stacked against them and that the money rules are broken. But they always seem to be just about to lose their shirt.
You need to steer clear of the Mr Micawber’s in your life.
You don’t need a harebrained scheme. You need a plan based on simple rules.
When it comes to talking about your money, it is best to get into a conversation with a financial planner who understands the rules of the game. They’re the ones with the tried and tested strategies and knowledge that have seen clients get rich slow through the application of simple rules over a long period of time.
They can spot a huckster a mile off by applying another simple rule: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
In the game of money, who you take advice from is as important as the advice itself.
You don’t need a harebrained scheme. You need a financial plan based on simple rules; spend less than you earn, set a budget, invest regularly, and watch your money grow over time.
Even Mr Micawber came to see the folly of not heeding his own advice.
“My advice is so far worth taking that in short, I have never taken it myself and am the miserable wretch you behold,” he told David Copperfield.