When I graduated from college, I had only a vague notion of how to manage money (and, actually, vague is probably overstating the situation… ). I understood that debt was bad and saving was good, but beyond that, I was clueless. The result? I was terrified to spend money.
I could not drop a dime without experiencing sweaty armpits. To be honest, I’m glad I didn’t swing in the opposite, profligate direction, but no one should be afraid of their money. It’s a tortured way to live and I wish I’d educated myself and saved years of stress. Years, I tell you.
My liberation came with Personal Finance For Dummies (don’t laugh, it’s actually not a bad book), but you all now have a far better option in Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By And Get Your Financial Life Together, written by my friend Erin Lowry, founder of brokemillennial.com. In addition to the actual content being better, it has the upside that you won’t feel like a moron reading it in public like I did with the Dummies book…
Trust Yourself to Manage Your Money
I’m a huge (gigantic, you could say) proponent of managing your money yourself and taking charge of your finances. If you don’t, no one else will (or, they’ll charge you through the nose to do so and might not act in your best interest).
But where to start with all this obscene %*#&-ing $$$ jargon, you cry???? With this book. Lowry demystifies money and explains complicated terminology in perfectly reasonable, understandable, digestible bits–because that’s what it truly is: understandable. Many financial services firms intentionally use complex jargon to make us mere mortals feel like we can’t possibly manage our own accounts.
There are no commercials on television for frugality and index fund investing (which, by the way, outperforms actively managed portfolios) because it doesn’t make any money for big banks and businesses. But the truth is that acronyms and archaic language and patronizing voiceovers are cloaking altogether easy-to-comprehend concepts that anyone can master.
Lowry breaks it down for us by covering everything you need in order to whip your finances into shape–no matter where you’re starting from (clueless like I was, or somewhat more enlightened). A few of her chapters include:
- Money Isn’t The Worst! Seriously.
- Yikes, I Already Have Consumer Debt. What Now?
- I Can’t Afford To Split This Dinner Bill Evenly!
- How To Negotiate Salary (Or Anything Else) by Learning to Ask for What You Want
- Investing: No, It Isn’t Gambling!
Lowry also addresses home buying, retirement savings, how to communicate about money with your partner, student loan debt, and more. Reading this book feels like chatting with a friend–albeit a very financially savvy friend who won’t let you get away with mucking up your money any longer. Erin’s style is approachable and actually fun to read. Seriously, I read this before bed every night, sometimes after a glass of wine, and didn’t fall asleep mid-paragraph a single time. This is no dry economics text.
Why Mrs. Frugalwoods Should’ve Read This Book A Decade Ago
My problem, at age 22, is that I didn’t understand how to craft a longterm financial picture on a $10,000/year salary. I had no perspective and no understanding of investing. I practically passed out anytime mentioned the phrase “stock market.”
As an English and Political Science major, I felt like finance just wasn’t something I needed to–or would ever be able to– understand. But here’s the thing: if you live in this world and operate in society (which I assume you do because you’re reading this on the internet), money is an integral part of your life.
Fellow Women: I’m Talking To You
You can live in fear like I did of overdrafts (happened to me once… ), of incurring debt, of never being able to pay off debt, of never retiring, of never being able to afford a vacation. Or, you can splash some cold water on your doubting self and get educated. How do we learn to manage all the other aspects of our lives? By reading about them, by taking a class, by talking to our friends. Managing money isn’t any different, despite the absurd taboos our society cloaks it in and the patronizing voices that intone we’d better hire a professional, little lady.
I mention “little lady” because there’s an anti-feminist tone that streaks through traditional financial management. There’s an assumption that women aren’t good at math and ergo, aren’t good at managing their money and furthermore are incurable spenders concerned only with their hair, makeup, and handbags. Well. You can imagine what I have to say about that. If you’d like to disprove this asinine stereotype, start by empowering yourself to understand your own finances.
You don’t have to grasp the inner machinations of the global economy if you don’t want to, but you do need to understand the accounts you have, the debt you carry, and your plans for the future. Women earn less money than men and “are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement” (source: CNN Money). These are facts on the ground and facts that I hate.
However, this inexcusable lack of parity isn’t helped by women not valuing their work, not investing their money, and not understanding their comprehensive financial landscape. Don’t overlook the fact that this book is written by a woman. You are worth more, you can retire with enough money, and you can teach yourself how to get there. Money is not rocket science, but it does require that you put some time and effort into understanding it.
Eliminate Your Insecurities Around Money: YOU Are In Charge
In my ongoing crusade to help people let go of their insecurities around their money (myself included… ), Lowry’s book is a wonderful tool in the arsenal. I can’t possibly cover everything here on Frugalwoods (try as I might) and so, extracurricular reading is required. Although Broke Millennial (as you might’ve guessed) is geared towards folks in their 20s and early 30s, I found most of it quite applicable to one’s entire financial life. The principles of managing your money wisely–saving more than you spend, avoiding debt, and investing–are the same no matter your age. I am proud to say that I learned new things from this book!
I also love how Erin debunks the myth that being single and living in a city (she’s a resident of NYC) is a death sentence for saving and investing. Not at all, she teaches us. I often get questions from readers on how to maintain financial fortitude in the face of those lifestyle factors and, my friends, here’s your answer. At 28, Lowry intimately understands the pressures of friends’ birthday dinners, endless bridesmaid duties, living with a roommate, and trying to figure out how she and her boyfriend (who has student loan debt) might one day combine their finances.
Her book is a raw, realistic look at what to do when you’re at this somewhat untethered stage of life and you don’t have an inheritance or a massive salary to prop you up. As a person who lived in NYC myself on a $10K salary–and managed to save $2K of it–I can say I would’ve been much better off had I understood the concepts addressed in Lowry’s book.
If you have any graduates in your life right now–high school or college–I can’t think of a better gift. Oh wait, I can: get them Lowry’s book and JL Collins’ book on investing (or check them out from your local library). That’s the perfect recipe for getting your financial life together and granting yourself a peaceful, productive, lifelong relationship with your finances. Because I have news for you: your money will be with you for your entire life, so you might as well get on good terms with it now.
The Lola Retreat: An All-Women Financial Conference
I feel so strongly about enfranchising women to be badasses with their money that I’ll be speaking on a panel this summer at a new financial conference designed specifically for women. I’m sharing this with you because it’s not a conference just for bloggers, it’s a conference for any woman who wants to expand, or begin, her journey to personal finance prowess.
It’s called the Lola Retreat, it’s taking place in Portland, Oregon August 18-20, 2017 and I will be there along with Erin Lowry! It’s not free, but you can get $50 off your ticket if you enter the promo code “FRUGALWOODS.”
I can’t wait to hear accomplished women speak on the topics the conference addresses: under-earning, love and money, financial anxiety, investing, retirement, debt repayment, home ownership, budgeting, early retirement (that’s me!), and more. And perhaps more importantly, I look forward to the camaraderie and collaboration of a group of women coming together to discuss a topic traditionally considered the exclusive domain of men. The genesis for this conference was a conversation between two women that, quite simply, “women need to talk more about money.” I couldn’t agree more.
When we learn from one another, when we empower one another, and when we realize there are strong, intelligent female role models for our daughters (and sons), I think we put ourselves in a position to succeed and to transcend the limitations previous generations imposed on women. I’m quite certain that nasty women manage their money with aplomb.
If you’re interested, you can read more about the conference and let me know if you’re coming so that we can meet up! P.S. Apparently Portland has amazing beer and coffee, so I will, uh, be doing some investigative research into those two fields while there…