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Individual financial accountability and poor economic decisions

I was reading the NY Sunday Times and there was (in my opinion) an interesting, thoughtful article on financial accountability. The bottom line of this article, and many others I have read over the months, is how most people lack accountability for their financial problems and past, poor economic decisions. While I wish there were stats on this particular topic, it is more a subjective matter, but one in which I fully agree with and that is that Americans lack accountability for the poor financial and economic decisions they make throughout their lives.

While of course I have read many articles on this topic over the years, it is I think always an interesting topic. This particular Times article talked about kids helping their adult parents when their parents did everything wrong around savings, employment, living beyond their means, etc. Of course the concept of lack of financial accountability is not just for seniors or older parents, but it impacts quite frankly I think the vast majority of Americans. Here are just a few more examples of the lack of financial accountability.

  • Anyone who smokes or drinks and who complain they have no money. Or more likely tens of years down the road they complain they can’t retire as they have no money. But they don’t think about where their money went over the year(s). As even if someone spends say $1500 per year on substances, if they saved/invested that money it would have compounded and built wealth and retirement funds for them. Take financial accountability and save/invest instead of smoking or drinking!
  • In debt from college or complaining you can’t pay it off/get ahead with finances? Or complaining about loan amount in regards to income? Do not go to school and run up the debt for skills that are not in demand. Get IT skills, math, and those skills that are critical as well as in demands in today’s and the future job market. Taking on debt for a potential career that will not sustain that debt, and provide other financial benefits, is a poor economic decision.
  • No emergency cash or unable to save? Take accountability of your finances, budget, and live within means. Stop buying the latest $1000 phone, big screen TV, leasing a car, buying $6 Starbucks per day, etc. if you can’t save money at the same time as you spend, then don’t. Live within your means.
  • Struggling to provide for your kid(s)? Stop having babies you can’t afford. Build some savings and investments, enter into a stable long term relationship and get a career before having a kid. It is a terrible economic decision to have kids without doing this, and you are really harming the child.
  • Those Americans who complain about immigrants coming to the US and who take higher paid and skilled jobs. Take accountability of your career and gain some new skills! Do not stay in a low or moderate paying job your entire life and complain. Take initiative in regards to your career, and that can improve your finances.
  • Complaining about cost of auto insurance? Get a car with lower insurance costs and stop getting tickets that increase your premiums!
  • Unhealthy or obese people who complain about being sick, excessive health care costs, medications and other medical bills which can result from their unhealthy lifestyle? Well, maybe they should take accountability for their finances that they spend on those bills and address the root cause; live healthy…eat well, exercise, address mental health issues and get healthy, stop eating fast food, etc. thus saving on medical costs. (Now of course this will not help those impacted by health issues that are not tied to being unhealthy).
  • Older person complaining about losing a pension or complaining about a younger person taking your job? Learn and grow and get new skills throughout your career. Do not be entitled, and take accountability of your career and finances.
  • Someone who buys a home and takes on a mortgage that they know they can barely afford (if afford at all), and then when they lose the house they put 100% blame of it on a bank, that is another example of lack of financial accountability.

And on and one….So many people take no financial accountability of their actions. I have observed this in my personal life and we see this on this website. Countless people with kids they can’t afford, those that live unhealthy lifestyles, Americans who refuse to put the time or work into getting specialized career skills and improving their income, and of course the most common issue is being just being materialistic.

Responsible for helping those that are irresponsible with their finances?

This is what the Times article talked about, and of course other articles I have read over the years. In particular, should a child help their parents financially even though the parents may not have worked, were materialistic/never saved, and generally made terrible economic decisions over their lifetime?

Flipping that same question, should a parent help their child financially if the kid did not work hard or try to gain new employment skills or save their income? If the kid spends hours per day on their phone instead of using that time productively, such as gaining new skills or going to school? Should a parent help them financially?

Or when it comes to financial accountability for those who need emergency financial help from a charity or government? What obligation does a charity have (and considering the charity relies on donations and the majority of which comes from wealthy Americans) to help a single parent with multiple kids who never had a chance to afford the kids? Or should a charity help someone who can’t even take the time to write a coherent email? Or should a charity help someone who has no plan or means to even gain financial stability and takes no accountability for it?

Then, when people are not “bailed out”, such as a kids not getting help from their parent or a struggling family not getting help from a charity, they blame others for that situation instead of taking accountability for their decisions that got them into that place. Too many people blame others instead of being thoughtful and taking financial accountability for their own actions and own dire financial situation. Then again, thoughtfulness is sorely lacking in American these days on almost all topics!

The fact of the matter is no matter what you may think about the information overload in today’s society, the fast and easy access to information should lead to much improved financial literacy and accountability. As learning about the magic of compounding interest, saving, living within means and budgets, healthy lifestyles, etc. all of the information is free and is available at the “push of a button”. People should know what the earning potential of a career should be before taking on student debt.

There are even apps to help people navigate these concepts, or apps to help people seamlessly save money. That financial knowledge and what should be accountability is available at your fingertips….of course people would rather idle away hours on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, or other mostly mindless internet activities!

The point being, while as noted it is subjective, from what we see in life, and from this site, the lack of financial accountability in this country is amazing. People who spend money on things they can barely afford if at all, and do not commit to saving or paying themselves first, before spending. Then they complain, in particular as they get older, that they can’t retire or make ends meet. Americans do not take accountability for the poor economic decisions they more than likely made earlier in their life, even though the access to information these days is easily accessible.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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