The Real World

I never want to be called an optimist. Optimistic people have a tendency to be frustratingly stupid, thinking the best is coming, when all signs say otherwise. I get the idea of hoping for the best, but I’ll never understand planning on the best.

I like to consider myself a realist. I make an intentional effort to think with my head and not my heart. Why do you think we are holding off buying a house, even though the idea of home ownership has some emotional advantages?

According to Merriam-Webster, optimism is defined as an inclination to anticipate the best possible outcome. That’s CRAZY!

I don’t know what world you’re living in, but where I’m from the stock market crashes, home prices drop, people lose their jobs, and people die unexpectedly.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with hoping for the best, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for the worst. It’s a two-way street. I’m sure we all know people who live paycheck to paycheck by choice. They spend ever dollar they earn on two things; necessities (things like food, cleaning supplies, etc) and luxuries (facials, $100 bar tabs, lottery tickets, etc) . They use optimism as a justification for their behavior, believing that their next paycheck is guaranteed. They use optimism as an excuse to do stupid things, like not build up an emergency fund. Guess what buddy, if that paycheck doesn’t come, you are in deep, deep….trouble 😉

I’ve got news for you optimists: Rainy days lie ahead, bad things are going to happen to you, life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Unfortunately, shady, immoral, greedy, and stupid people/businesses exist. And as long as they are around, optimism needs to take a hike and let discernment take control of the wheel.

Have you had to deal with some stupidly optimistic people? Do you just bite your tongue and watch them make bad decisions or do you attempt to intervene and share some realistic input? It’s tough to tell someone they are being too positive, but sometimes it’s too important not to!

18 thoughts on “The Real World

  1. Again…you are crazy!!!! I call myself an optimist and I know that everything will always work out because I make it so. I save 40% of my income because I am optimistic about my future. I know I will live to be over 100 like my relatives and I know I will want to enjoy life, so I plan. Now, your definition says that I anticipate the best possible outcome and you take that to mean that I don’t plan for my future but it is quite the opposite. I plan everyday for my amazing future so I guarantee it will come true.

    On a different note, I would argue strongly that those people living paycheck to paycheck are not optimistic. In fact I would say they are pessimistic. They do not think the future will be great so they have to spend every dollar today and get all there enjoyment today because tomorrow there may be none left. The need instant gratification because they know it will not last forever.

    • I agree with you Dillon. I am another one of these ‘optimists.’ That doesn’t mean that I don’t plan for the future but it does mean that I think the future I am planning for is going to be pretty great.

      The best way I can describe it is with a story about when I graduated from school a couple of years ago. I was looking for work in a time of high unemployment and low job prospects. Yet I was still really optimistic that I would find a great job that paid me well. However that optimism didn’t preclude me from working hard on my resume and putting extra effort into networking.

      Because I was optimistic about finding a job I was confident enough to turn down four crappy job offers and wait for the one that I thought was worthwhile. To the realist I was being stupid, I was trying to get a great job in a crappy economy and I should just take what is offered to me because that better offer might not ever come along. I did have people tell me this. I would just smile and tell them that I am worth more.

      Well I ended up getting that great job with awesome benefits. My salary was $20k higher than any of the other offers I received. I think my positive attitude and confidence was a major contributing factor towards getting that job.

      Anyways, just my two cents.

  2. I guess I’m one of those stupidly optimistic people. And I 100% agree with Dillon’s post above.

    I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and I’m still optimistic. I like it this way! 🙂

  3. I am going to have to agree with you here. I am not optimistic, but very much a realist. I don’t have any issues with optimistic people, but I do have issues with the ones that are overly optimistic that they then in turn make stupid decisions. I always plan for the worse. You know why? I can never be disappointed. If you look at the possible bad situation and plan for it, then you are always prepared. You can never be let down because you planned for it. Though this post is a downer, it is true.

    I have to disagree with Dillion’s comment. You wouldn’t save 40% of your income because you were optimistic of your future. You are doing it because you are not sure what the future holds. Optimistic people don’t tend to plan very well. They make small plans and then hope for the best. You are hoping for a great future by making concrete plans to achieve it. That is not truly optimism.

  4. I’m jealous of optimists because I’m not one. It paralyzes me from taking on risks such as buying an awesome home in an awesome neighborhood and investing in my Roth IRA. Also, I’m spending more money on living life because I don’t think my future bodes well for me so I might as well enjoy life right now. Funny after reading Dillon’s post I had to agree with his opposite take on optimism.

  5. Yep, I used to be a person living to pay check to pay check by choice. In fact, I was spending more than my paychecks because I was so sure I was going to earn a commission or get a raise, and I wound up in credit card debt big time.

    The Great Recession was a huge wakeup call for me. My dad got laid off (for the first time in his life), my credit card companies started lowering my limits, and with all of the destruction around me I realized how much chance I had taken with my future.

    No more. I’m now working my way toward FI and can’t wait for the day that I know that no matter what, I can support myself.

  6. I’m not really an optimistic person. I believe you make your own fate and thus I plan extensively for our future.
    I’m a realist. Sometimes it sucks because I tend to be extremely rigid in thinking, but it has worked so far.

  7. Dillon is right on the money. I don’t save thinking about all these horrible things that could happen. I save hoping to go to Japan, put solar power on my roof, other things I want.

    My husband says he’s a realist, he’s always saying this will never happen, and wondering how we get somewhere. Optimists know, you just do.

  8. I’m optimistic about my personal life and things I have control over. I’m not optimistic about the direction of the US government, and the world economy for that matter.

    However, I can only control my sphere of influence, which means I’m hoping for the best but expecting and planning for the worst.

  9. I actually envy the overly optimistic person. I am quite the opposite, and check for possible danger in every situation. I have to research the heck out of things before I do anything. All this does is stress me out, and make me resistant to things that might actually be OK if I just let go of my thinking.

    I have to say, those who are overly optimistic are probably much happier.While they probably could use some good brain use, I still believe in the long run they will fare much better. They will probably screw things up quite a bit, but they usually get through those screw ups and move on, happier than ever.

  10. I’m new to personal finance and have just started building my emergency fund. Sadly, my paycheck made me an optimist and even though I have worked for my current employer for 7 years and I hadn’t saved a dime! Better late than never since I’m almost 40. Looking closer at my finances has made me pessimistic and sad that my savings are so meager. But I know a rainy day is coming so I’m saving money for that. I know that everyone starts somewhere, right?

  11. SOME OF us live pay check to pay check and spend 100% on necessities. We don’t have luxuries or sometimes even the barest of necessities.

    • R, exactly. Sometimes you can’t afford to be an optimist or a pessimist. You can only afford to survive. Ninja, you usually bat a thousand but this post is kind of douchey.

  12. I know what you’re trying to say; it’s people who misunderstand things like the law of attraction – think great things and they’ll just come to you!? There are different way of looking at optimism or “YOLO” – it can be an exciting and passionate adventure or an excuse to be stupid! I will say that stupidly optimistic people may sometimes be successful because they just do things and don’t think of the consequences like what if…. I open my business and lose all my savings, what if no one buys my product, etc. Stupidly optimistic people can result in high success or high failure. Optimistic people see positives even in failure but they have to turn that into a lesson learned and not just keep smiling – I think a smart optimist should do very well in life!

  13. I totally agree with you. I cannot understand blind optimism – don’t people read the news? There’s a great book about how optimism is a bunch of crap – it’s called Brightsided by Barbara Ehrenreich. You should check it out!

    • I want to read that. I am stupidly optimistic 340 days of the year 🙂 so I usually tone it down the remaining 25 days of the year and it balances out. Bad stuff happens, life is freaking hard, I don’t care, I always wake up happy to be alive!

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