Rule No. 1: Don't believe the personal finance gurus
In her new book Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, journalist Helaine Olen takes to task the self-proclaimed "gurus" who blame only you for your money problems.
If only you'd nix your expensive latte habit, they say, all would be fine in your financial world.
Which we know isn't true.
We're more responsible for our financial lives now than ever before. The era of do-it-yourself retirement has made sure of that.
As a result, we must squeeze as much as we can out of every penny during our working lives.
But I still beat myself up when I take a hit to my finances, even if it's something beyond my control.
I broke up with my boyfriend in January, and though this is not a divorce — which is one of those things that can ruin someone financially — I'm still taking a hit.
I'm no longer sharing household expenses. I had to lay out cash to turn my former rental property into my primary residence and rebuy everything that we shared, from a couch to a dining room table, right down to new knives, forks and spoons.
Still, I berated myself for having to tap my emergency fund. I told myself I shouldn't have booked flights to a conference where I'd need to spend money on hotels and food, and that visiting my grandparents last month wasn't a wise choice.
Which is dumb.
Big, major things happen. Life is incredibly messy.
I shouldn't make myself feel worse in the wake of a breakup because I'm not able to put 20% of every check into a retirement account for the next few months or that the emergency fund was used in an emergency.
The self-beating serves no purpose when you're already down, whether you're draining your savings like I did or had to put a medical bill on a credit card.
The personal finance "gurus" would tell me that this is all my fault and that I should have saved more, even if that's harder to do when things like my health insurance premium jump 20% in six months.
Which is why I'm taking Olen's advice and will drown out those gurus' voices.
Instead, I'll become part of the conversation about why costs and income inequality are rising while social safety nets are falling.
I'm also give myself a break.
I'm not perfect, nor are my finances. But we're both moving in the right direction.