Are you intimidated or bored to tears by your finances?

 

First, let’s be clear, traditional money talk can be boring.

Rates of return?
Correlation coefficients?
The efficient frontier?

Gahhhhh, what? No, thank you.

But, personal finance is so much more than complex buzz words.

The truth is “financial stuff” is about you; that’s why it’s referred to as
personal finance.

It’s about your goals, aspirations, and values.

It’s about knowing how much money you have coming in and going out, ensuring you have enough in an emergency fund, deciding how much you need to reach financial freedom.

It’s about the money decisions you make daily – “Do I need this new dress?” “Should I refinance my mortgage?” “How am I going to pay back my student loans?”

 

Personal finance is as much about how you live your life as it is about your money.

 

While some aspects of finance might seem intimidating, there are things you can do to increase your understanding and feel more in control.

By increasing your financial literacy and learning to ask savvy money questions, you can take charge of your money and ensure you’re making smart decisions that support your short and long term goals.
Might there be some challenges as you work through the learning curve?

Absolutely.

Does it help to have trustworthy support from a money mentor or a qualified financial professional?

Immeasurably.

Will you run into old beliefs that you’re “bad at math”?

You might.

Being an effective manager of your money will require some effort, but you know what? It’s so worth it!

 

Why is finance so complicated?

 

 

Why do so many people feel intimidated or ill-equipped to make meaningful money decisions?

Why is a tool (money) we use multiple times a day for nearly every day of our adult life feel so foreign to us?

Well, there are plenty of reasons.

 

Financial jargon

Every industry has its own jargon, but the financial industry is one of the worst offenders. People are intimidated by simple financial concepts because they’re talked about in an overly complicated way (i.e., using a ton of unnecessary jargon).

Sometimes this is a tactic used by financial professionals to make you feel like you need them. Like your finances are so complicated you couldn’t possibly do it without them. Fortunately, not all financial professionals are like this.

On the other hand, some financial concepts are complicated. A financial professional who has your best interest in mind can do a lot to help clarify these money mysteries without making you feel inferior in the process.

 

Money is taboo 

How are you expected to know about money when it’s not okay to talk about it? Money is one of those topics people don’t want to discuss. How do you demystify and simplify a subject you can’t talk about?

 

Lack of education 

We can’t expect people to be interested and well-versed in the subject of money when they receive no formal education. Until courses in personal finance become a regular part of the school curriculum, money will continue to be a topic that feels out of reach for many people.

 

How to simplify your finances

So, how can you begin to demystify and simplify your finances? How can you work towards becoming the informed manager of your family’s money?

 

Find an advisor

You don’t need to go it alone. When we want to learn how to swim, ski, or read, we seek a teacher or coach to help us. The same is true when it comes to your finances.

A good financial advisor can help you to weed through the jargon and provide you with a solid financial education. You can ask them questions that will help you develop an understanding of your financial situation, and you can work with them to set up a plan that will allow you to reach your short and long term money goals.

 

Use online resources

While the amount of information online can be overwhelming, it can also be incredibly helpful. There are a ton of useful financial resources available, and many of them are free. Of course, it’s important to find resources that come from reliable sources. Look for information from people with a strong financial background. Credentials and hands-on experience are paramount.

Here are a few I recommend:Nerdwallet, Girlboss, and “>America Saves.

 

Take it one step at a time

When you start on your journey to improve your financial education, don’t try to learn everything at once. This is a recipe for overwhelm.

Instead, take small steps daily toward increasing your financial literacy. Start by finding a book or financial blog that speaks to you. Highlight or write down terms you don’t understand and google them. Start a glossary.

Here are a few I recommend: On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, Woman’s Worth: Finding Your Financial Confidence by Elenor Blayney, and Women with Money  by Jean Chatzky

Reach out to a qualified financial professional, specifically an AIF(R) (Accredited Investment Fiduciary) or a CFP(R) (Certified Financial Professional). These professionals operate as fiduciaries, which means they must make financial decisions that are in your best interest (instead of their own).

By taking small, consistent steps, you will begin to increase your financial knowledge and confidence. There is nothing more powerful than being in control of your money.

 

 

 

No one cares about your finances more than you.

 

Your finances are the foundation of security, health, and opportunity—for you and your family. Smart money management is the key to having control over your money and your life.

Remember, no one cares about your finances more than you do. So, what small step will you take today to increase your financial knowledge?

 

Your kids.  They’re your everything.  You give your all to them in the hopes they have a joyful and fulfilled life.

The sacrifices parents make for their kids is almost a badge of honor amongst parents, especially moms.  “That’s just what you do for you kids” is a refrain repeated over and over by parents everywhere. It’s even said about adult children.

It’s a noble refrain.  What’s more important than taking care of your children?  It’s pure. There’s no quid pro quo when you give to your children.  It’s all about them.

Which is why it’s one of the more abused phrases in the parental lexicon.

“That’s just what you do for your kids” has become a catch-all phrase to justify even the most over-the-top financial decisions.  It’s used as justification for buying things we can’t afford and taking on the financial burdens of our adult children. And it’s become a scourge to a growing number of would-be retirees as they struggle under the weight of their adult children’s financial issues.

What Are We Teaching Our Kids By Giving Them Everything?

Kids need limits.  We know this. And yet, when it comes to money, we often fail to set appropriate boundaries.  We bend over backwards for our kids to pay for the expensive private school, to get them the car they want versus the car they need, so they can play club sports.

We do this even if it means they aren’t saving enough for our own needs.  We retire later or live on less, carry thousands of dollars in credit card debt, deprive ourselves of the things that bring us joy and fulfillment.

Why do we do this?

Queue the refrain – “That’s just what you do for your kids.”

There is so much that is wrong with this way of thinking.

 

 

Dividing Lines

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be doing as much as we can for our children but we have to be realistic given our financial situation.

There’s a big difference between overpaying when you can afford and overpaying when you can’t.

While I question the wisdom of overpaying because “that’s just what you do,” I understand it IF you can afford it.  

But, for those who can’t afford to overpay, it’s an absolutely devastating practice.  Putting your retirement, health, and well-being in jeopardy to indulge your children is a terrible idea.

Indulging our children only makes sense if you can afford it – and even then it’s debatable.  The problem is we rarely see our “indulgences” as “indulgences.” We see them as “responsible parenting.”

Private schools.  Overly expensive first cars.  Club sports. Rent for adult children.

It’s easy to justify these expenses.  Private schools tout their track record versus public schools to justify the high price tag.  Car dealers beat you over the head with safety statistics and visions of your girls waiting on the side of the road for the tow truck to arrive.  Coaches talk up your girls’ talents and how they just need a little something extra to get them over the hump.

Faced with these arguments, would you feel like you’re overindulging your kids or just being a good parent, affordability be damned?

Let’s face it, no mom (or dad) wants to think of herself as a bad mom so there is a strong bias to do more than less.  Because “that’s just what you do for your kids.”

Guilt is a powerful motivator.

 

 

Where to Draw the Line

One of the problems is parents often engage in dichotomous thinking.

Dichotomous thinking is the tendency to think in terms of polar opposites.  Things are either good or bad; it fails to accept the myriad of options that lie between the two extremes.

Parents often view their support decisions through this “all or nothing” lens.  Private schools are good, public schools are bad. A new car is good, a used car is bad.  Good parents take care of their children even if they’re adults, bad parents don’t.

Real-life is far more nuanced than that.  Which means it’s gonna get messy.

Sometimes, private school is the best option because the public schools in your community aren’t safe or don’t foster a positive learning environment.  Sometimes, not always.

There are pros and cons to paying for club sports even if you can afford it.

Buying a new or expensive car for first-time drivers is almost never a wise thing to do.  Sorry. I see no good reason to buy an expensive car for a first-time driver.

Not paying for your adult children’s expenses doesn’t make you a bad parent.  Paying for them doesn’t make you a good parent. In some instances, it’s actually bad parenting.

The point is life is messy and we need to guard against our tendency for all or nothing thinking.


3 Ways to Guard Against Doing Too Much

    • Throw all of your preconceived notions out the window.  For example, don’t assume private schools trump public schools.  Research both options thoroughly and then make your decision.  Weigh the pros and cons of each school and the costs associated with each option.  The private school may have a slight edge overall but with a price tag of $10,000 per year, perhaps those dollars are better spent on college or retirement.  You have to determine how much bang you’re getting for your buck.
    • Buy (very) used cars for first-time drivers.  They cost far less, insurance is cheaper, and a “safe” used car is still “safe.”  Repairs are cheaper and dents in used cars, which teenagers are prone to, often go unfixed.  Lastly, get them a AAA membership and let them make the call if the car ever breaks down. Even newer cars get flat tires.  Better to deal with these things under the watchful eye of their parents than when they’re off to college and have to fend for themselves.
    • Stop supporting your adult children.  This is a serious problem. For them and for you.  Kids, even adult kids, will take as much as you will give them.  If you keep giving, they will keep taking; it’s not supernatural.  Instead, start setting specific boundaries. For example, set up a schedule that reduces your support by 25% every three months.  After one year, you will not provide any financial support at all. Your support should be a life line, not a way of life.

 

 

 

Let Go of the Guilt

Kids are expensive.  There’s no denying that.  Even if you’re just providing the basics, they’re expensive.  And if all you can afford to do is provide the basics, that’s okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s awesome. You’re doing everything a parent should be doing for their children.

Anything beyond the basics is gravy.  They’re “nice to-dos,” not “must-dos.”

Free yourself from the pressure, anxiety, and guilt that comes with feeling like you’re not doing enough for your children.  

It’s time we stop saying “that’s just what you do for your kids” as justification for making bad financial decisions or for taking on an adult child’s financial burden.

So, what do you think?  Have you ever fallen down this mental trapdoor?  Have you seen others struggling with doing too much for their children?  Please share this blog or share a comment below!