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Money Jedi: Are You Bad at Managing Money?

Financial knowledge for everyone!

Financial knowledge for everyone!
Image by Tax Credits at Flickr Commons

In the Money Jedi series, I often focus on wealth consciousness–what it means to think about money in ways that generate more of it.

However, there’s more to being a Money Jedi than simply changing your mindset (“simply”–yeah, right!) We also need the nuts and bolts of the business. We need to understand financial stuff, such as saving, investing, keeping track of tax expenses, and all the strategic and technical aspects of money management.

I can hear you sighing now. “But I’ve just never been good with money or numbers. It doesn’t come naturally to me.” Or, “My (husband/wife/10-year-old) manages the money in our house; I’m not financially savvy, anyway.”

Oh, grasshopper.

The problem with this mindset is that it turns money knowledge into something that is “bestowed” on us, instead of treating it like a skill anyone can learn. Money savvy becomes something we either have, or we don’t–like blue eyes–and if we weren’t born with it, there’s nothing we can do about it.

We will always be stuck relying on those who have the magic touch. The chosen blue-eyed few who speak investment options and retirement plans like it’s their native tongue. These special people use terms that do not make sense or simply have no relevance in our world (“Mutual funds?” Huh?), and calculate tax expenses in their sleep while the rest of us struggle to calculate tips at the diner.

Obviously, we should leave managing the money up to these people who “just get it.”

Except, no. We shouldn’t. That’s totally disempowering.

So you don’t understand financial planning? I bet you don’t understand German either. You think you wouldn’t be able to learn? If you really wanted to learn to speak German, you could absolutely learn to speak German.

Money management isn’t a magic talent, sprinkled on the few and lucky like freaking fairy dust. It’s a skill and anyone can learn it. Even you.

You don’t understand your investing options? Get a book.

You don’t know how to plan for your financial future? Talk to a financial planner. Find a nice one, who will hold your hand through the scary parts.

Or just Google it. That Google, it knows lots of cool stuff.

I think there is a real lack of education about money in our society. What it is, how to earn it, and how to manage it. There is greater wealth inequality in the US than at any time in history. I don’t think that can be attributed to any single cause, but I believe the way we understand (or don’t understand) money–as a people–has a lot to do with the situation.

Forget the “Highest Earning Jobs in America” lists. Unless one of those jobs really is your passion, those seem like “set it and forget it” solutions to me. Get in the “Doctor” line for more money, get in this “Teacher” line for a mediocre income. Want to earn a fortune in 20 years? First, spend a fortune on law school, then work hard, nose to the grindstone, and in 20 years you’ll start to see great returns. Yay!

We’re taught that money comes from certain jobs and industries. And sometimes it does. But we’re not taught that money comes from us. That each of us has the resources and brainpower to generate and manage wealth.

Most of us–both men and women–are pretty uneducated about money. I include myself in that statement. We’re expected to pick up understanding about bank accounts, retirement plans, stock options, bonds, insurance, taxes, charitable giving, and more on our own. Most of us never do.

We’re just insecure about money. And this insecurity affects our opinions of ourselves, what we’re capable of, and what we deserve.

 

Here’s a sad little story about me when I used to be super insecure about money.

When I was sixteen, I sold tickets at a movie theater. There were always two of us side by side in the ticket booth, but we each had our own seat, our own little hole to pass money through to the customer, and our own cash drawer. This was supposed to keep things more organized.

But I was always insecure about money, math and numbers. I spent my time in that booth hyperaware of every bill and coin that came my way. I double counted every transaction–once to myself, and once out loud to the customer. Sometimes I triple counted. I was so, so careful.

And yet, multiple times my drawer turned up significantly short of cash at the end of the night. Not just a “simple math mistake” short. But “five or ten major math mistakes” short. This would always result in me being called into the back office to stand at attention while the two managers on duty sat there with my short drawer before them and looked at me expectantly, as if I’d secreted the cash away in the fake pocket on my black usher pants.

It was a long time before it even occurred to me that the manager, twenty-something Randy with the Chinese figure for “peace” tattooed on his arm, could have been stealing from my drawer. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that’s what was happening. Randy was a character.

But at the time, I honestly believed it was my fault. I honestly believed I was so bad at money, simple math, and even recognizing the different numbers on the bills, that I could give over $75 worth of incorrect change to customers in my eight-hour shift.

After that, I was never confident working cash drawers or handling other money. It made every job I had uncomfortable.

A little more confidence could have done me a lot of good.

 

One of the most important things we can do is to stop telling ourselves we don’t understand how to manage money. Again–in true Money Jedi fashion–we come back to changing our mindset and consciousness.

We have to believe we can do this.

We have to know we’re smart enough, and we have to be willing to learn.

***

L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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