slubs in the city

Slub (adj): Maverick; unorthodox; independent in behavior or thought.


5 Comments

let’s talk greenbacks.

Two summers ago I read a book by Barbara Stanny called “Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Their Money”.

In chapter one of her book Ms. Stanny recalls how, on her twenty-first birthday, her parents revealed to her the trust fund established in her name. “‘You’re a very rich girl, Barbara,’” her father explains at the breakfast table. Stanny goes on to recount: “‘ You’ll never have to worry,’ I remember my dad saying that morning. It was the only advice my parents ever gave me about money. ‘Don’t worry.’”

At 21, my experience with financial management was a bit different than Stanny’s. Shockingly enough I wasn’t handed a trust fund document the morning of my twenty-first (although I did climb Mt. Sinai that morning, arguably as cool as any other birthday celebration). Far from neglecting to give me money advice, my parents have tried to instill within me the type of financial wisdom that I’m sure many children my age have received from their own parents. My mother taught me how to use and balance a check book. My father periodically discussed the fate of his stocks and the nature of his retirement account. I was given an allowance as a child and encouraged to handle it wisely. I was gently required to get a job when I was 16 and from then on began to pay for more and more of my expenses, like clothing, entertainment and gas.

When I was a senior at St. Olaf, my father instructed me to personally handle taking out a few student loans to pay for that year of college. I was in and out of the Financial Aid Office so often for a span of two weeks that the advisors began to remember my name and could recall my specific case without the prompting of their notes. It was an incredibly frustrating process, but I learned more about student loans in those two weeks than I had ever learned before. And then, after graduating, my parents informed me that I would thereafter be more or less financially independent.

I am a blessed child. My mom and dad have given me every comfort I could have asked for, and more – very, very few children in this world are nearly as lucky as I have been. Still, like Ms. Stanny (and probably like many of you), I’m finding that it’s a struggle to own my financial stability.

Money is a taboo topic, and yet it makes the world go ‘round. There seems to be a direct correlation between wealth and prosperity, between poverty and difficulty. Like Kat mentioned in a previous post, poverty isn’t simply a lack of financial capital; poverty is very much also a lack of opportunity. To evade poverty, to provide for ourselves and our families, to do and experience the things we enjoy, we find employment in part to reap the monetary rewards. And yet, as a society, we are notoriously stupid with our financial lives.

My experience with Thrivent has opened my eyes to this reality. Part of the beauty of our organization is our commitment to the concept of education. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to tell people that you can provide a learning experience for them based on financial wisdom and best practices; often, we require scare tactics to get us to listen. The facts detailing the ways Americans spend their money provide no shortage of shocks to the system. For example, did you know that…

  • …77% of the workforce surveyed by CareerBuilder in 2010 was living paycheck to paycheck?
  • …according to a 2010 Harris report, 34% of Americans are completely without retirement savings – even though we spend, on average, 20 years in retirement?
  • …in October of 2011, Americans owed $2,457.5 billion total in outstanding consumer credit?

So if our money situation is so universally bad, why do we as a people tend to ignore our financial wellbeing?

Part of my job at Thrivent is to promote a financial literacy program on college campuses. We instruct our student leaders to educate their peers on being wise with their finances now, especially because they’re young and have a lifetime to cultivate the right money habits and make decisions that will secure their financial future. It sounds boring, but it’s vitally important. I know the wisdom of my own advice – I’ve taken major steps, like creating a checking account separate from my parents’, maxing out my 401k match, and establishing an automatic payment for my monthly rent. But I still don’t have my own credit card. I don’t save nearly as much as I could each month for major expenses that will be coming fast down the pipeline: graduate school, a mortgage, a family. I’m lucky if I balance my checkbook bi-monthly. I don’t know what my account balance is half the time – I just know it’s above zero. I’m pretty much a walking hypocrite.

Very few people like to deal with their finances. Like so many things in our life we assume that, if we don’t pay attention to it, perhaps our financial problems will just go away. We spend money that we don’t have in order to obtain the standard of living we think we deserve.

So, is there a solution to our ignorance? I’d like to think so. But the point of this post isn’t to provide you with the answers—it’s to kick-start your own search.

Here are some resources I’ve used to help me begin my own journey to financial wisdom. Who knows – they might prove useful to you too…

smartypig! so cute. so financially wise.

con amor,

shan

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Brain Quest

Data. Information. Facts. Trivia. Learning. I love them all.

I was the child who read the encyclopedia. Played trivia games. Watched Jeopardy. Read every book I could get my hands on. Once, I wrote a report on the Bubonic Plague in 4th grade. For fun.

This, in part, was due to my parents. When all of the other children my age went to amusement parks for vacation, we went to museums. This is probably because of my mom’s fear of rides and my dad’s hatred of crowds, but also because of their passion to make sure that Chris (my younger brother) and I loved to learn. They definitely succeeded. (Especially with Chris. He is a music and math major, who is going pre-med. Yes. Figure that one out)

My favorite places to go when I was little: Living History Farms and the Iowa Historical Society. When we would go on vacation, I would read all the guide books, learn how geographical features were formed, research all of the animals we would see (remember those books that you could fill with animal fact sheets? Chris and I were obsessed.) I also loved going to the zoo and learning about the animals. My parents scoffed at the families calling the lions, tigers, etc. “big kitties”; that wasn’t allowed in our house. They were Bengal tigers or snow leopards.

In the car we did not watch movies. We read books (or listened to books on tape like Matilda and Harry Potter). Played the “alphabet game” (First you choose a category:animals; The first person says the name of an animal: Jaguar; the second person must then come up with an animal whose name begins with the last letter of the previous word: Rhodesian Ridgeback, then Kangaroo, then Orangutan, etc….endlessly entertaining!). Played Brain Quest, which is possibly the greatest children’s game ever! Just tons of random facts. Questions were on the front, answers on the back. YES.

Now, from all this intentional learning I have gained two very important things. Number one: a lot of useless, although intriguing, information (I know more about the Battle of Little Round Top than strictly necessary). Number two: an obsession for gathering facts.

At work, we keep track of our “strengths.” My top strength is “input.” Now to be honest, before taking the strengths finder, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, one of those “career-path-finder-what-should-I-do-with-my-life” tests told me that I should be a plumber. Not something I would excel at; once my dad drove over an hour to fix my toilet (in two minutes. Thanks, Daddy!). However, I was surprised at how well my strengths described me.

This is how input is described: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. They like to collect and archive all kinds of information.” Truth. I collect data like its my job (it’s not). As a point of clarification however: Data entry=awful. Hours on wikipedia=awesome.

Now, what was the point of this entry?…Oh! Yes. Transitioning into a work atmosphere from an academic atmosphere has been an interesting journey for me. In school, spending hours researching in the good old reference room was useful. Even if I didn’t include every bit of information that I found, I always thought that the background information informed my paper. But work. I don’t work in a job where research is a primary focus (although I do get to do some and our organization is always doing cutting edge research on volunteerism!). I don’t spend all day collecting information; I spend a lot more time talking to people, thinking about ways to expand membership, marketing on social media sites, advertising for volunteer positions, etc. I do like people, too :).

But, somehow, I always find ways to collect data. I wrote an article for our newsletter. It was one page long and included interviews with six people. I had to do research for it. I did more than necessary. 4 hours of unnecessary. Well, I did end up using three very great pieces of data and finding out some fantastic things about AmeriCorps.

Also, Twitter. Have you ever been on Twitter? It is like a goldmine of interesting articles and facts and names and dates. I have to update our Twitter page and look for “retweets.” Woof. This is just a productivity stopper… but has lead to some great and informative finds!

I do want to say a few things. First of all, I LOVE my job. This is not an exaggeration. I mean, I get to spend all day focusing on volunteerism. I LOVE volunteerism. I love the work we do. I believe in the mission of our organization and the innovative knowledge we produce. And the other part of my job? I get to work with kids. YES. Secondly, I do get things done at work, mostly because I am pretty darn good at multitasking. Why yes, I can write a report on my research findings, reply to emails from volunteers, brainstorm ideas for fundraising, and listen to Ira Glass at the same time.

So. Surviving in the real world. Away from text books and lectures, late night studying and academic discussion, I find myself a little lost. A little lonely for my data. But I’m learning to adapt. I am learning to apply my data mining techniques at work, as I sift through resumes of potential interns, finish up research that I conducted, and continue to learn more each day about volunteerism. I am learning to take advantage of educational opportunities within my job and outside of work (I went to two trainings last week!). I will forever be a data forager and hoarder. I like that.

My ultimate brain quest: collect as much data, information, and ideas as possible and use my archived facts to create lasting, effectual, and just social change. Probably through volunteerism.

Much slub love,

Kat