Back when I was a kid, I remember going to Catechism and learning about the seven deadly sins.
Maybe that’s why this national sin survey, conducted by a Kansas State University team of geographers, caught my attention last week. The provocative survey, actually an academic study, measured and created a “sin index” for 3000 US counties with respect to pride, envy, lust, gluttony, wrath, greed, and sloth.
Did you know your personal finances are subject to the very same seven deadly sins that many believe afflict the human soul? It’s true.
That’s why today, my fellow finance sinners, Reverend Len from the First United Church of Our Lady of Blessed Household Finances is holding confession for our small — but mighty and quickly growing – congregation.
Now let me hear a Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!
It’s time to step into the confession booth and reflect upon whether you have committed any of the seven deadly sins of personal finance. If you have, make sure you do the prescribed penance — it’s the only way to ensure your personal finances will remain in a heavenly state. (I know, but just go with it…)
Mortal or Venial? Mortal. In fact, pride is the deadliest of all the personal finance sins and also the one from which all the others emanate.
Examination of Conscience: In the world of personal finance, pride can quickly result in insolvency and a trip to bankruptcy court. People who suffer from this sin have a strong sense of self-importance, often desiring to be more attractive than others. As a result, they see it as their solemn duty to keep up with the Joneses – whether they can afford to or not.
Penance: Two rosaries and this article from Cash Money Life on the importance of delayed gratification.
Mortal or Venial? Mortal. Wrath is the only personal finance sin not related to selfishness or self-interest.
Examination of Conscience: People who are afflicted with this sin often have uncontrolled feelings of anger that manifest themselves as vehement self-denial of the truth. These sinners are usually guilty of failing to recognize one of two things: 1) that their income is a finite resource that must be budgeted; and/or 2) that their finances are in dire straits due to their penchant for spending way beyond their means. The latter instance is especially dangerous because the sinner’s financial problems have to be recognized before they can be fixed. Those who suffer from wrath are often known to be impatient as well, which directly feeds the fire of another deadly sin: lust.
Penance: Three Acts of Contrition, two Hail Marys, an Our Father, and this article from Fiscal Fizzle on the warning signs of financial denial.
Mortal or Venial? Mortal. Sloth is the only personal finance sin characterized by a lack of excess.
Examination of Conscience: Those who suffer from the sin of sloth are listless and apathetic when it comes to their own financial health; as a result, sloth is a progenitor of instability in one’s personal finances. Slothful people are so detached from their personal finances that they refuse to track their income and outgo, plan for their retirement, or even make a household budget. They often recognize that keeping one’s personal finances on a level keel requires effort, but they just don’t care. Even simple money saving tasks such as making a grocery list prior to shopping is usually beneath them. In severe cases, those afflicted with sloth are so lazy that they refuse to work, preferring to live off of government handouts and charity.
Penance: Three Our Fathers, a Hail Mary and this article from Forbes on all the ways your laziness is costing you money.
Mortal or Venial? Mortal. Greed, of course, is a sin of excess and instant gratification.
Examination of Conscience: This personal finance sin is characterized by an insatiable desire to acquire material goods, without regard for need or cost. Greedy individuals constantly find themselves lacking the self control necessary to temper their passion for material goods and consumer products. As a result, their less-than-pragmatic approach to shopping often leads to homes filled with lots of useless items and strains household finances.
Penance: Three Hail Marys and this article from My Two Dollars that should give you a different perspective on what’s really important in the grand scheme of things.
Mortal or Venial? Mortal. This sin was originally known as “extravagance” (luxuria in Latin) but, because of a semantic change by the Church (not mine), lust replaced it in the list.
Examination of Conscience: Unlike greed, which is characterized by a lack of self-control and a desire to acquire material wealth of any type, lustful people have a proclivity for extravagant behavior. As a result, they constantly purchase high-end luxury goods. Those who are guilty of lust would never be caught dead buying products without an expensive designer label — even when similar lower-priced products are proven to be just as good, if not better. This sin can be especially detrimental to one’s personal finances if the sinner’s fillet Mignon tastes are in conflict with their hamburger income.
Penance: Two Hail Marys and this article from MyLifeROI on smart shopping habits.
Mortal or Venial? Venial. This is one of only two personal finance sins that can be categorized as relatively benign.
Examination of Conscience: From a personal finance perspective, those who are guilty of gluttony over-indulge and over-consume to the point of waste. For example, gluttonous people not only buy useless items that provide very short-term satisfaction, but they also use paper plates for dinner on a daily basis, fail to repair leaky faucets, and carelessly buy items in bulk – only to let most of them sit unused beyond the product expiration date.
Penance: An Our Father and this article from Stop Buying Crap on how to, well, stop buying crap.
Mortal or Venial? Venial. This is arguably the least destructive of personal finance sins, especially for those with a strong sense of self-control.
Examination of Conscience: Envious people resent the good fortunes and material possessions of others and perceive themselves as lacking. Unlike greed, envy in and of itself will not destroy one’s personal finances. However, if not controlled it often leads to greed, which easily can.
Penance: Two Acts of Contrition and this piece from StretchyDollar on why it doesn’t pay to be envious.
One last note. In order to keep you from straying off the straight and narrow from here on out, it’s very important that you strive to follow My Ten Commandments of Personal Finance.
After all, your personal finances are way too important to solely trust on blind faith.
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