Learning For Life

Financial Literacy – Sounds More Difficult Than It Is

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

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When my husband got fired, I was scared. Not just for me, but for my family. Why? Not only the obvious reasons but having to deal with personal finance for the first time (during a crisis, no less) was overwhelming. Especially because I thought you needed a finance degree to figure it out. I knew that we were in a huge financial mess, not because of the specific details of our situation, but because neither my husband nor I knew where we stood. How could two highly educated people be so clueless about their finances?!

It may be human nature to fear the unknown, but feeling you have to face things alone makes it even worse. I knew my husband wasn't going to be much help, so I turned to my sister, the one with the M.B.A., hoping that she'd tell me what to do. Instead, she insisted that I had to learn to do it myself, not only for my own good but so that I could then "teach" my daughters. Luckily, she guided me step-by-step, although the last thing I ever expected was that she was keeping notes and would turn my crisis into a book! (She thought it would make a great sitcom!)

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What are big sisters for? Anyway, fast forward to the first time I remember hearing the term "financial literacy." It was when we were asked to "teach" it at KIPP Houston High School, and although they explained it as understanding money and personal finance in order to make smart financial decisions, I did not like the term. It immediately made me think that the opposite of being financially "literate" is being "illiterate," which has a negative connotation of being uneducated or ignorant when, in reality, it is a function of never having been exposed to the subject matter and/or recognizing its importance.

Red and I are perfect examples. She had been a straight-A student who went to a prestigious college yet managed to avoid learning about money and personal finance until she was almost 40. My situation was even more extreme. I have an undergraduate degree in Economics, and an M.B.A. in International Finance, yet did not apply what I learned about money (on a macro, or big picture, level) and corporate finance to my finances until I was almost bankrupt.


  • Have you or your family been personally affected by financial literacy issues or challenges? If so, how have they impacted your life?
  • Why do financial matters and topics seem so daunting?
  • How is it possible that Red and Black, both highly educated people, could be "so clueless" about their own finances?
  • Obviously, becoming financially literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?
P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Personal Finance we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they’re using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created “Conversation Starters”.

red headred head assets.rebelmouse.io

I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year, especially since last year was the first since Mom passed away, and the dining room table seemed incomplete. Which may partially explain why we ended up sitting around the kitchen table and island instead. And that was wonderful – so relaxed, easy, and fun – but I still couldn’t help but think of her not being with us. It’s funny because, over the years, even as life changed, such as the girls growing up and going off to college, I’ve always taken for granted that Thanksgiving would somehow always remain the same, cooking the same dishes, with all the preparation beginning days in advance.

So, I'm not sure that I truly stopped and appreciated each Thanksgiving Day as I was so focused on everything I needed to get done. This year, though, I plan to take a moment to stop and think about some of the things I'm thankful for, and to start appreciating the day itself. To try to "be present", so to speak, in the present.

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I know that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but what you just described is gratitude. Gratitude is "deeper" than thankfulness, and the best way I can describe it is … think about when you might write a thank you note – someone gives you something or does something for you. It is a fleeting event. Now think about if you were to write someone a note or letter of appreciation.

You have repeatedly told me that mere mortals often need reminders, so what if this Thanksgiving you start a "gratitude habit"? Make a daily appointment with yourself to find a few quiet moments and write down at least one thing for which you are grateful. It can be as simple as sunlight on your face or the crunch of an apple. You are probably rolling your eyes right now, but it will only take a few minutes and can change your life. Or, at least, how you look at it.


  • If you look back, what or who would you appreciate (or appreciate more) that you didn’t at the time?
  • If you begin to appreciate the value of appreciation (pun intended), what might you want to be mindful of going forward?
  • Do you think a "gratitude habit" might be useful? Would you be willing to "test-drive" (Black's words) one for a month and see if your opinion changes? Explain your answers.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

No one likes to feel out of control, unprepared, and scared. But as Red will tell you, life can change in an instant (whether it’s a crisis impacting many or one that seems very personal). She’ll also tell you that when everything seems so negative, it’s difficult to have a positive mindset (or even a non-emotional perspective) …

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In some ways, it seems like decades ago that my husband got fired, in other ways it seems like yesterday. I felt then so many of the same emotions that people are going through today due to the coronavirus. I was so scared. And unprepared. At the time, I thought he'd work for the company where he had been for years until he retired, and by then we'd have a second home and would live happily ever after. I never thought anything would change that plan. Everything was perfect, until my life, literally overnight, became a living nightmare.

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Yes, and as I told you at the time … you needed to calm down. I said that a lot. Still do. Anyway, I remember telling you to take a deep breath … and that you would get through it. And, you did. Although you constantly questioned whether you had the ability to do so.

  • Your life can change in an instant. Can you be prepared? How can you plan for the unknown?
  • What are other unplanned life events?

It’s hot and humid, and we’re all tired and cranky. But if there are kids involved (and even if there aren’t) and you’re looking for something to get you through what’s left of the summer before school starts, check out my list below. (The funny thing is, even though it’s a few years old, it still applies. I guess some things never change.) And who knows, some of them just might have you feeling like a kid again, too.

When I suggested to Black that we have a checklist or menu of items to amuse or, at least, occupy kids over the summer (something that almost every parent with kids home on summer break searches for every year), I thought my work was already done as I'd pull out the list I created years ago for my daughters. Except that I forgot it had been on a computer that no longer exists, and although a copy might be somewhere in a stack of filing, I'd have to start over. Which turned out to be a good thing …

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