Today I’m proud to publish the first guest post on Epic Quiver from Jane, the blogger behind Cash Fasting. Jane works in NYC and is currently closing in on the last $5K of her $35K student debt. Despite the high cost of living in NYC, she’s hitting a 50% savings rate by using a series of ‘cash fasts’ that reduce her spending. The first time I heard the term “Cash Fasting” on Jane’s blog I immediately fell in love with the concept. I wish someone would have introduced me to the concept eight years ago when I first started down my career path. Jane is chronicling her journey to financial independence, with all its ups and downs, and I for one enjoy following her journey. Without further ado, I give you Jane.
Let’s get real. We’re full of confirmation bias, created by constant digital access and curated social media feeds that always remind us to upgrade to the next big thing. Because of that, it’s no wonder that overall U.S. household debt has increased by 11% in the past decade. How are people supposed to save for their futures when they have so much debt? That’s why sites like this one have popped up over the years – in hopes of educating readers and cultivating an active interest in personal finance. If you’re here, it’s likely that you’re already “clued in” to your finances, but the vast majority of people, unfortunately, are not. This isn’t even a new topic. Making Sense of Cents (my personal blogging hero) blogs about it, the media covers it, and no one likes to talk about it.
Take a moment to reflect – how many people among your friends and family (outside of the personal finance community) are you comfortable talking about money with? Do you actively benchmark your salary, net worth growth, debt repayment, retirement goals, or any other financial metrics? How many people around you do you think do the same? There’s a whole industry around helping people create and stick to financial plans, and there are plenty more people who aren’t willing (or interested) in keeping track of the flow of money in or out of their accounts.
I know, I know – I’m spewing vague ideas about money, and nothing I’m giving is concrete. Fine. My point is, I’ve lately been experiencing a sense of responsibility towards encouraging others to develop an interest in personal finance, retirement, budgeting, or anything, really. This is especially important for the people I’m closest to. What can we do to develop this interest for the people around us, without coming off as overbearing?
For your significant other:
This is absolutely at the top of the list. Someone that you plan on spending the rest of your life with needs to absolutely be on the same page as you when it comes to money. There are a variety of opinions across bloggers as to whether finances should be merged when married. My opinion? Whether or not your accounts are merged doesn’t matter. The important thing is to be on the same page with your financial goals. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a junkie when it comes to reading about people in these situations, and there are plenty to be found on Reddit. It’s one thing to have a partner that saves but doesn’t invest, but it’s totally different to be committed to someone that doesn’t save at all.
My boyfriend and I have been together for over three years and living together for almost one. We’ve always known what the other person is making. About a year in, I remember sitting down and looking at our checking accounts together and our spending habits. Only a few months ago, we shared our entire financial picture with each other – retirement progress, debt, all of it (I knew what his numbers looked like much earlier, but I hadn’t sat down and gone over them on a screen). He gets how important it is for me to understand what our numbers look like because he understands that I want to reach financial independence before 40. He doesn’t share that goal, but he’s also willing to work on it with me, which makes all the difference. It’s so important to figure out these things with someone before making a huge commitment like getting married.
If you’re with someone who’s not on the same financial page, that is really tough to deal with. There are definitely ways to guide someone towards a better understanding of money. For example, a fiancé who is eager to plan a big wedding can be given an inflexible budget. If she wants an expensive dress, she’ll have to cut down on the guest list, etc. In general, associating financial goals with big events or dreams can help foster basic PF principles, like not taking a vacation until it’s 100% paid for, or maximizing debt payments to save X amount in interest. Sure, it’ll take extra work on your end, but it’s important to make that step if this is someone you’re willing to spend your life with.
Don’t forget that these things take time. As eager as you are to share your passion for financial independence or early retirement, not everyone is naturally interested. Be prepared for the long haul, and understand that your financial reasoning isn’t going to make sense to your significant other immediately.
With family, I take a rougher approach. It’s called, “Beat them over the head with it until they get the message”. Blood is thicker than water, but at the same time, you can’t choose your family. While I luckily have financially savvy parents, I would have little patience for parents that did not have their post-work life figured out by now. I know this because I get very aggressive in “trying” to convert my parents to Chrome from Internet Explorer. I can plead with them, yell at them, present logical arguments as to why I’m right (at least according to me), but my parents are stubborn, and they will only make a change when they’re ready to do so.
As the oldest child of three, I have more flexibility with my siblings. When I offer financial advice, they listen (thank goodness). I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing the same if I had older siblings, although I would definitely keep up a heavy stream of articles for them to read. Present information in front of your siblings and the knowledge will come. They don’t need to form the same opinion or financial approach as you; they just need to have an approach in place.
Most people don’t respond well to unsolicited feedback, and you have no right to give it to them unless they ask, no matter how close you are. When I start conversations, the most successful way I’ve managed to engage my friends is by starting things out with a question. My go-to is something along the lines of, “What do you think is the right amount of money to retire with?” These are questions that I’m genuinely interested in hearing the answer to, and by letting my friends answer, they get the opportunity to show what they know on the topic. Giving friends space to showcase is the best way to encourage more interest, I think. Plus, chances are, you haven’t considered every angle to a financial situation, and these types of conversations can be very enlightening. It’s why I started the Two Cents Q&A series (you can read the Q&A session I had with Epic Quiver here). By furthering your financial knowledge alongside your friends, it’ll be a more rewarding experience. However, for people who are truly resistant, there needs to be a point where you stop pushing. Not everyone is willing to tackle their finances head on.
Who else in our lives do we truly care about? The more appropriate question might actually be: Who else in our lives do we have trouble connecting with on this topic? In my experience, I’ve found it’s far easier to discuss topics related to money with strangers. People I talk with either a) already have an interest in personal finance, or b) are removed enough that the feeling of being “judged” doesn’t become an issue like it can with people who we’re close to. Same thing goes with the personal finance community. Perhaps it’s having enough anonymity to recognize that we don’t talk about money matters because we want to see if we’re better than someone else; we do it to learn from others as well as share our successes. The more we can get people on board with understanding their money, the better we all benefit.