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.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • 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.

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".

With Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, there’s no getting around that we’re in the thick of what Red refers to as the “silly season”. And the funny thing is, although we wrote this Conversation Starter last year, we had an almost identical conversation again this year. Some things never change – like Red getting caught up in all the things on her “to do” list …


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I can't believe how quickly the holidays are flying by. On one hand, all I want to do is enjoy them as I love this time of year. But I can't because there always seems so much to do. And I'm afraid that if I don't do everything on my holiday "to do" list, I'll disappoint people, including me. You don't have this problem as you don't have kids and you live alone, plus others aren't looking to you to make the holidays festive and memorable.

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You seem to start with your "to-do" list, whereas I think about the significance of the holiday and what will make it meaningful and memorable. Yes, it is a more pragmatic approach, but it makes the planning so much easier. You know that I dislike the over-commercialization of holidays, but it does provide a reminder that it is important to let others know how much you appreciate them.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What's most important to you during the holidays? Why?
  • Describe your "perfect" (yet realistic) holiday celebration. What it would take to make it come true?
  • If you celebrate with others, have you ever discussed what's important to them?

P.S. – Since this is being posted in the midst of the December holiday season (what Red refers to as the "silly season"), you might be interested in these recent posts:

    Every holiday season seems like Groundhog Day to me, so this year I was relieved to be able to re-read my post from last year as it reminded me that I face the same challenges every holiday season. I also couldn't help but laugh at myself, knowing that all I have to do is heed my own advice. And as is frequently the case … I can learn a lot when I talk to myself.

    It's official! The holiday "silly season" (as I call it) is now underway and before I know it, it will be New Year's Day and I'll be looking back and asking, "Where did December go?!" This year's holiday goals …

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    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 head red head assets.rebelmouse.io

    I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year since it felt like Thanksgiving was canceled last year. OK, maybe not canceled, but streamlined since I couldn't invite anyone who didn't live with us. The dining room table seemed incomplete, especially as mom couldn't join us. It's funny because, over the years, I've always taken for granted that even as life changes, such as the girls growing up and going off to college, Thanksgiving would always bring us together. 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. I might stop and think about something I was specifically thankful for, but I need to start appreciating the day itself. To try to "be present", so to speak, in the present.


    Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

    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.

    THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

    • Why do some people not appreciate and give thanks for the positive things in their life?
    • 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.