my husband, me, & our financial habits make front page of business section in washington post
February 10, 2008

wash post photo jill sean
photo by Lois Raimondo, Washington Post, 2/10/08

What a blast!

It was published today, in the Washington Post’s business section — with our happy mugs below the fold (& as the second photo in the online slideshow).

Talking with Post reporter Nancy Trejos was a comfortable, positive experience. She expressed a lot of interest in different facets of family finance, especially in the face of a slowing economy & home sales.

Thanks Shashi Bellamkonda for connecting Nancy, Sean, & me.

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financial roots: your fiscal beliefs, fears, confidence must come from … where?
September 5, 2007

In preparing for another financial planner interview this week, I imagined how a certain discussion could play-out regarding our debt:

Planner to me: So do you have credit card debt?

Me: Sure do.

Planner: So why don’t you pay it off right now or at least increase your payments?

Me: Because the thought of having zero dinero in our emergency reserves makes me vomit.

For my family right now, it comes down to rebuilding habit.

For a while, it’s been ‘pay off the card’. Then a perceived emergency that warrants use of it occurs again (we wouldn’t have much in emergency reserves since we focused on debt pay-off).

And the cycle played out many times in our lives.

So I shared this tact with husband Sean – to which he concurred on changing focus. He was creeped-out by the card balance (predominantly tax payments) but appreciated the underlying philosophy: build up cash reserves to prevent credit card usage in emergencies.

Then comes the self-reflection:
What has the most impact on one’s financial beliefs? Is it more than just live-and-learn as an adult?

That must be a complex answer for everyone.

Yet these two childhood memories stand out as canyon-wide influences on my financial beliefs:

  • family thrived with their business during the Oklahoma oil boom;
  • family sank deep into fiscal ick-ville when that boom went bust

Don’t wanna go back there … ever.

So what’s the first step – forming a positive vision to strive toward (vs always looking back at that which we want to avoid)?

More from:

  • WiseBread’s Sarah Winfrey outlines those wise, internal questions that can frame what we really want. …joy? chocolate? companionship? love? a Twinkie bath? Winfrey’s reflective approach proved a useful tool to carve out purpose — financial or otherwise.
  • Request:
    Please treat yourself to Jonny Goldstein‘s above Twinkie bath clip, 3 minutes. The ribs crack from cackling every time.

marital money mantra #1: overt & unified approach
August 23, 2007

HUSBAND-WIFE ROLE PLAY:

During the first years of marriage, our conversations on spending splurges went down like this:

The husband likes books – admirably. And sure I’m addicted to eating out with friends & travel.

With books though, Sean’s a read-it-once-learn-it type of brain & is a strong visual learner. Books are his friend. It’s a learning style that differs heartily from my own. I love a good Edith Wharton novel & a few graphs from business books. But I just did not appreciate his relationship with books as they related to his well being.

But more than that, his book buying irked me because deep down, I knew our family finances were shaky with our unclear financial philosophy convincingly…unclear.

Once we took actionable steps toward more stability, my emotional freak-outs eased considerably. It helps that my husband owns a really laid-back demeanor toward home finances a.k.a. “That sounds good baby!” — his reply to many suggestions tossed out for discussion.

Our facilitating questions on the topic:
–Do we agree that saving for present & future is worth it? …get mutual buy in first; establish tactics later.

–In what ways does money affect your sense of self? …sounds corny but ask. Do they want 100% control? Do they care if you do? Do you feel like a ‘less-than man or woman’ with someone else handling the bills? In what ways do you crave financial autonomy or partnership?

–How do you like to play? e.g. books, tech, travel, hobbies

–If saving & investing for your overall health is the driving goal, what are you/we willing to financially modify – or not – toward the play stuff?

I’ve heard of spouses going out of town for the weekend with the other spouse staying home. Upon return, there’s a newly purchased car in the driveway. That actually happened with my parents. Yikes that was a cherished family moment in Mustang, Oklahoma; and looking back – there were power struggles & self images at work, all tied up with money.

If at all possible, make all that overt…with some flexible conversation on what’s the healthiest, happiest shared value on money that you can agree on.

Bottom line, if all this becomes open, then spending becomes all the more fun & relaxed. …since you’ve as a team asserted responsibility toward your driving financial goal.

More from:
1) Gerri Willis, clear, straight shooter;
2) Kiplinger & financial unions;
3) Women Today mag & couples (I like what’s said about learning what constitutes a major purchase).

Savings fable + financial planner says his clients spend, spend, spend
August 16, 2007

Stunned I say, stunned!

10 second video: how much his clients overspend per a DC-area financial planner

What drives that spending itch?

In a meeting with a financial planner this week, I asked him how much a higher income impacted one’s success at saving.

He then shared this story that knocked my socks off:

He generically referenced two of his clients — one was a grounds keeper and one was a leader at a university. Their retirement financials were similar; each wanted to retire in a year. The grounds keeper was overjoyed at the financial planner’s feedback: due to his conservative spending and aggressive saving habits, the grounds keeper could live comfortably on Social Security, with his retirement savings as buffer & as help for his grandchildren’s college costs. Yet the university leader, with a considerably higher income, agonized over his retirement nest egg. The financial planner said due to his over zealous spending habits & reluctant savings plan, he (the university leader) would not be able to maintain his living standard in retirement years. Or the other prospect was he could continue working and cut back costs.

…I promptly refrained from a Starbuck’s visit walking home.