Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … Money IS A Laughing Matter

CREDIT: Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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I’m not sure who’s more excited about Sawyer doing so well at her weekend waitressing job at P. F. Chang’s, me for how she’s balancing her college classes with working, or her because she’s making good money.


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I am impressed that she plans to save most of it so that she has a nest egg when she graduates. Too bad you did not have the same understanding of money when you were her age. Or, even when you were in your 20s or 30s.


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You’re never going to let me forget that, are you? I can’t help that I found personal finance intimidating, so avoided it. Plus, it’s confusing. And tedious. And boring.


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That is one way to look at it – but as you eventually learned, if you can add and subtract, you can “do” personal finance. But, you have made significant progress. You used to kick and scream about it; now you just whine.


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Fine, but just because I now have a better understanding of personal finance, it doesn’t make it any more interesting. But just like brushing my teeth, I know it’s something I need to do because not doing it has repercussions.


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Great analogy, especially as personal finance is important for everyone.

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But just because something’s important doesn’t mean “everyone” wants to know about it, or do it. For years, we’ve been saying that people would rather be entertained than educated.

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I will never forget how surprised I was that our book, which was supposed to be the basis of a sitcom, ended up being a powerful way to “teach” personal finance and other life lessons. I envisioned people enjoying the sisterly banter and all the other “characters”, so was focused on them, not the subject matter.

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Yes, while I was focused on my personal crisis, you were busy turning it into a book – a brand – a business.

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Once I realized that the most successful sitcoms were about relationships and basic day-to-day living, it seemed logical to use your financial predicament as the backdrop. It was never intended as a “laugh and learn”.

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Well, “I Love Lucy” never did an episode on her trying to understand financial statements. And I doubt “Seinfeld” or “Friends” ever talked about credit cards.

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Missed opportunities. Think about our “Assets and Liabilities” story. You started freaking out at the mere mention of financial statements. Telling me how I was the MBA and you were the theater major. Then, when I thought I was making it easier by focusing on assets and liabilities, you completely lost it. Insisting you could not do this. Complaining that you hated math. Your theatrics alone would make it a funny scene.

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Thanks. Happy to help!

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Then, when I simplified it and said I wanted to talk about “what you own” versus “what you owe,” you calmed down. And, much to my amusement, you then declared that you could do that, just not assets and liabilities.

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How was I supposed to know they were the same thing?

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The point is that it is a funny story. And one that many people seem to enjoy, as many people can relate to being intimidated by terminology.


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That, and thinking that understanding, let alone “doing”, personal finance requires an MBA. Let’s face it, by creating mental roadblocks, I became my own worst enemy.


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That is an understatement. But, that “character flaw” can lead to an assortment of amusing episodes. As does thinking that just having more money was the answer, not realizing the key was how you handled the money you had. That having more might mean larger mistakes.


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Is this where you’re going to tell me about all the celebrities, athletes, and lottery winners who made (or won) millions, but ended up broke or in bankruptcy? I still love how you use Nicholas Cage and his purchase of two ‒ not one, but two ‒ castles to make that point!


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If these people understood the basics of personal finance, they would have made very different decisions. It is as simple as money coming in and money going out. I guess no one asked them if they could add and subtract.


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The first time you asked me that, I thought it was just another one of your sarcastic remarks. And whenever we tell that to people, whether an auditorium full of eighth-graders or one person in a business meeting, they always laugh.


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I miss doing speaking engagements. I loved asking people how many like math. Everyone would look around to see who the nerds in the room were. Then when I asked how many like money, everyone’s hands went up. It is all in the packaging.


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Which is why I’d love to circle back to the sitcom idea. But how do we get Hollywood to see that a sitcom about personal finance and other Life 101 topics could be successful? And funny!


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Easy. By not telling them. We focus on the characters that are resonating with audiences of all ages ‒ a warm and fuzzy stay-at-home mom and her pragmatic and sarcastic retired executive sister who races Ferraris, who are surrounded by an assortment of other “characters”.


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So, just totally ignore the “laugh and learn”.


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When I first envisioned your crisis as a sitcom, I saw it as something to be disclosed on a need-to-know basis, and at the time, you did not need to know. This is no different.


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Now that’s funny.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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As you know, I love history, but I appreciate many people don’t.


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I am one of those people, so not sure where you are going with this.


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Exactly. So, when you first wanted to talk to me about the history of credit cards, I should have known something was up.


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Or, at least been curious.


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How was I supposed to know it would make a difference in my life?


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Why else would I want to give you a “history lesson”?
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Photo by mevans on iStock
Let’s be very clear. Autism has no correlation with intelligence; it’s a developmental disability (or what Black refers to as “DIFF-abilities”). And it’s a spectrum disorder, which means each autistic person has their unique mix of abilities, challenges, and ways of seeing the world (can’t that be said of all of us?!) So, as we celebrate World Autism Acceptance Week, remember it’s more than just awareness – it’s about acceptance.

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Did you know that April's Autism Awareness Month? I wasn't aware (pun intended) of it until I read our local homeowner's monthly newsletter and it caught my eye.


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Actually, last month the founding organization, the Autism Society, changed "Awareness" to "Acceptance" to foster inclusivity, as knowing about something is very different from accepting it. But I am guessing that is not the point of this call.


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Although it isn't autism, it reminded me of years ago when we found out that Natasha has learning disabilities.


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I think you mean DIFF-abilities.


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Of course, that's another thing I remember. I was focused on the negative aspects of her diagnosis until you asked me, point-blank, "Why are they called disabilities?" And proceeded to explain that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.


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Exactly! Imagine the world if everyone excelled at math, but flunked English. Or, a world of lawyers, but no musicians. Some people are better at social skills, while others excel at handling technical data. Why not just say that people who have different skillsets and abilities have DIFF-abilities versus making them feel like they have shortcomings?
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Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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As much of a history buff as I am, I’m embarrassed to admit that for a long time, I didn’t know March was Women’s History Month. But now that I do, I’m amazed by all the inspirational stories of women’s remarkable achievements.


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Too bad Natasha and Sawyer do not still live at home; it would be fun to start a conversation by asking them what women they find inspiring.


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I already know who they would pick. The first woman to race the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And I’d have to agree with them. Your Ferrari racing has made an impact on so many people. But especially girls.


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Until you mentioned it several years ago, I never thought about that. In the 1970s, I was one of the few women in business school. I then made a career in the male-dominated oil and gas industry. I am used to being a “token” female.


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Trust me. I watch people whenever we’ve done speaking engagements. It’s predictable ... we put up the family tree, and Natasha and Sawyer get awws, but your two racecars get everyone’s attention.
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