I read a depressing Washington Post article a few days ago. It reported the results of the National Science Foundation's "General Social Survey," saying, "A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two." Yikes.
That's not good news in many ways. For one thing, having friends can keep us happier and even lead to longer lives. And friends just come in darn handy on many occasions, too. If you've ever tried to move a futon or eat a whole pizza by yourself, you know what I mean.
In addition to being alone in our overall lives, many of us are also alone in our financial lives. Think about it. When you find an interesting mutual fund, do you have some people you're eager to talk to about it? Do you hear about new available tax breaks from your good buddies? At family reunions, do you sit around discussing your portfolios and how much you love your financial advisors? I didn't think so.
This is a big deal. If we tackle our personal finances single-handedly, we are probably going to do worse than if we had others helping us.
Check out this nugget from the article: "'That image of people on roofs after Katrina resonates with me, because those people did not know someone with a car,' said Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist who helped conduct the study. 'There really is less of a safety net of close friends and confidants.'" Friends can provide a financial safety net of sorts, too -- perhaps pointing us in the direction of sounder investments than the penny stock we're smitten with, or maybe joining us in an investment club. One important financial function friends can perform is letting us learn from their mistakes, as we share our own lessons learned the hard way.
Another nugget: "If close social relationships support people in the same way that beams hold up buildings, more Americans appear to be dependent on a single beam. Compared with 1985, nearly 50% more people in 2004 reported that their spouse is the only person they can confide in." Yikes again. Spouses aren't always there, due to sickness, divorce, or even travel. This bit of data made me think of portfolios, and how sometimes we're invested mainly in one or two holdings. That's underdiversification, and it's dangerous.
It's not good to be so isolated. See whether you can enlarge your circle of friends. Consider calling up some old buddies you regret having lost touch with. Join a club, pick up a sport, or take a course. Start hosting a weekly or monthly game night at your home. See which friendships deepen.
And on the financial front, talk more about money with your friends. Hang out regularly on our Fool Community of discussion boards and you're bound to start feeling less alone in financial matters.
I also invite you to try a free trial of one or more of our investing newsletters. Each brings you valuable financial guidance from our analysts and community members. One of our newsletters, Motley Fool Champion Funds, epitomizes the concept of not going it alone by recommending market-beating funds with great managers, low fees, and top-notch track records. Such funds let you tap the expertise of savvy money managers and give you instant diversification into many holdings. That way, you won't be depending on a single beam for support. Try Champion Fundsfor free and you'll be able to access all past issues and see which funds our analyst Shannon Zimmerman is recommending and has recommended -- and why.
While most of Shannon's picks are performing well, one recent recommendation, last time I checked, was down nearly 7% since being recommended. That means if you liked it before, it's that much more attractive now. It's a large-cap value-oriented fund, with top holdings that include Cisco Systems
Learn much more in these Zimmerman articles:
- The Case for Mutual Funds
- Mutual Fund Market Beaters
- Mutual Funds for Cheapskates
- Three Reasons to Sell
Selena Maranjian's favorite discussion boards include Book Club, Eclectic Library , Television Banter, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of no company mentioned in this article. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.