I detested math class in high school, especially calculus. In fact, I understood more of what was going on in my Mandarin class than my math class. I used to sit at the desk in my room doing homework and bury my head in my textbook. I’d yell and throw a pencil at frustration at the floor. No matter how many times I read the formulas and explanations or studied the notes I took in class, I just couldn’t seem to grasp how to translate the information into something my brain wanted to understand. But when a teacher or peer took the time to walk through a problem step-by-step, it suddenly made sense.
Personal finance is no different.
For plenty of people, dealing with money is their calculus class. Reading about personal finance can only do so much. They need to talk about it, hear aspects of finance broken down into digestible, actionable pieces.
Yesterday, I had the great privilege of giving a presentation and then speaking on a panel at NYU. The talented and wonderful Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods were the other members of the panel. (Yeah, that’s right. I know what they look like!)
The Frugalwoods covered the early retirement sector while I gave a presentation on learning to love personal finance and actionable ways to pay down debt.
Regular readers know I’ve never personally carried debt, so giving a presentation on handling debt may seem a bit odd. Thanks to my work at MagnifyMoney, I’ve become something of an expert on understanding consumer debt and have expanded my knowledge on personal loans.
I’ve had a few opportunities over the last couple of years to speak to groups and individuals about personal finance, but there was something unique about this experience.
For one, everyone in the room stayed incredibly engaged. Students ranged from sophomores to seniors and clearly were thirsty for information on handling debt, understanding credit scores and figuring out how financial independence is a viable option.
But most of all, I was inspired by watching the flashes of inspiration and understanding happening throughout the room during our conversations. You could see it on a person’s face when a realization about compound interest, or living frugally, or paying down debt or switching banks to earn more interest or building a credit score or opening a retirement account suddenly just clicked.
Opening a dialogue about debt, spending intentionally, living frugally, financial empowerment, picking the best financial products, saving for retirement (and all other personal finance topics) is simply better in spoken word. Reading provides a great foundation, but a conversation with the ability to ask follow up questions does so much more.
After our presentations and Q&A panel session, the Frugalwoods and I were both surrounded by students asking more questions. It not only made me want to do a personal finance nerd happy dance, but gave me so much hope that 19 to 21-year-old college students wanted to take control of their financial lives early.
One woman shared with me that she’d saved up $13,000 in college working odd jobs and already received a job offer for after graduation. This woman saved more in college than plenty of American households with two earners currently have to their names. But she couldn’t seem to relish her accomplishments because they were eclipsed by panic she felt about her student loan debt.
Sitting on $13,000 dollars with a job set for after graduation, and this intelligent woman was crippled about what to do next.
This is why talking about personal finance is so important.
Talking through options, weighing scenarios and feeling the motivated to make a move does so much more than reading personal finance books, blogs or even listening to radio shows, podcasts and watching TV programs.
It’s the reason life coaches exist as a career option. Talking it out is important.
So, I have a challenge.
I challenge you to take some time this week to talk about money with someone in your life. If you’re struggling with money, try to book time to speak with a professional or a less expensive resource you feel can offer guidance.
Even the most hardcore personal finance enthusiast can gain important perspectives from talking about money. I certainly took a lot away from the Frugalwood’s presentation (and our subsequent conversation) on early retirement and spending your money intentionally.