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Know What you Don’t Know

Last night, I had one of my coworkers ask me about pension plans in Korea because I think she assumed I would know since I wrote a book about finance for ESL teachers: The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future. There of course is a wealth of misinformation floating around on Facebook and other online forums, as well as expat bars. This is compounded by the fact that the official information on pensions that is available in English is poorly written and way too confusing for the average person to understand. I’m proficient at financial stuff, but even I don’t get it.

So, when this coworker asked me about it, I was honest and told her that actually I have no idea. It’s better to know what you don’t know instead of giving out misinformation. In a situation like this, some people say something like, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.” The chance that this person will actually follow-through on it is slim. Others just ignore the message and hope that the person will find information from somewhere else.

It’s a life principle for me that applies to so may areas: investing, website development, taxes, expat finances, Korea life stuff, etc. If someone asks me something I don’t know, I’ll just tell them that I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer. The only time I would go find the answer for them is if I was in a position of responsibility like at work and it was my job to figure it out.

Do I feel guilty for not helping all comers? Certainly not…the power of Google makes information equally accessible for everybody and if someone doesn’t have other people in their network they can get information or help from, that is their weakness and not mine. Of course, I help people if I can!


  1. The ‘I don’t know’ principle is also important so people can trust what comes out of your mouth when you DO know. More people need to take on this principle instead of feeling obligated to give some ignorant answer.

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