Over the last month or so, I have been contacted by various people and organizations wondering how I managed to "teach" my 40+ year-old-sister about personal finance. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, especially if you are an even older dog.) It seems everyone is looking for a step-by-step guide or even lesson plans, but I realize the key to making smart financial decisions is to learn to talk to yourself. And then, if appropriate, expand the conversation to your significant other and/or family.

Upfront disclaimer: I am not a financial expert or a self-help guru. My sister had a crisis, and I did the best I could to help her. (OK, so I also turned it into a book, but that was because I thought it would make a good sitcom.) Which meant, much to her dismay, instead of giving her "answers" … I gave her questions. Lots of questions.


At the time, although Red and I love lists, I did not give her a list of questions, instead asking them when appropriate. However, I recently decided to compile a list of questions – some are ones I have asked my sister, some I have asked myself, while others appear in workbooks and curricula we developed for others. Different questions will resonate with different people, and you may come up with your own. (I did not include the entire list, as even I found it overwhelming.)

I appreciate that you may not want to answer these questions. So, how about a compromise? Just read through them. And, if you decide to answer any of them, you choose whether to talk to yourself, create a Word document to capture your answers (whether or not you ever plan to look back over it), or "journal" it.

The only rule? If you decide to answer a question, answer it honestly. And, if you do not like your answer, think about what you can do to change your behavior so that in the future you have a different (hopefully, better) answer.

QUESTIONS

    1. When Red initially tries to avoid learning about money, she uses the cliché "Ignorance is bliss," and I point out that "Ignorance is ignorance." Do you avoid money topics? If so, what is your reasoning?
    2. Have you ever felt overwhelmed (and frustrated) by a financial topic? Why? Was it the terminology? Did you think you needed a finance degree?
    3. Do you think being able to talk (not argue) about money is important in a relationship? Why is money such a difficult topic to discuss?
    4. Do you think your life would be different if you had a better understanding of personal finance? Why?
    5. Think of three childhood memories that involved money. Do they remind you of any current money behaviors?
    6. Think about the past and come up with five wonderful memories. What, if anything, did they cost?
    My youngest daughter's now a freshman at college, but it seems like only yesterday that she was in the midst of the college application process. So, when Black and I recently featured "Thank You For Sharing!!!" from a College & Career Readiness Counselor about my approach to letters of recommendation, I realized it was probably worth "rerunning" for those students and parents going through the challenges of college selection. (Trust me, you'll get through it … but remember to enjoy this time as once they start college you'll miss these days.)

    Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!

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    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

    As a mom, over the years, I've had to become familiar with various children's health issues and basic healthcare (and don't get me started on health insurance). But whenever it was something more than the common cold or flu, a stomach ache, or the usual scrapes and bruises, I felt like I was back in school. And between the terminology and trying to understand how the body works, I often felt like I needed a nursing degree. Not to mention, there's so much information on the internet, it can be overwhelming as well as confusing and sometimes scary.

    Over the years, I've also had to deal with my aging parent's more serious health issues, and I've lost count of the pages of notes I've taken and questions I've asked. Or the conversations discussing risks vs. benefits that I've had with medical professionals and my sister. (I'm glad Black finds statistics "fun" and can look at them unemotionally because they give me a headache.)


    Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

    Until recently, I had never heard the term "health literacy," and when I first did, I initially thought about general literacy skills such as the ability to read and understand numbers. Skills that are essential if you are sick and need health information and services, but also impact health decisions that should be simple, like filling out forms, taking over-the-counter drugs (aspirin, cold and flu remedies, etc.), and learning about the things we should (or should not) do to live a healthier life and reduce the chances of serious illness.

    But then, I thought about how anytime I had to deal with a health issue, especially ones that could potentially be serious, it was a tedious, complicated, and technical challenge. And, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to consider myself well-read, pragmatic, and comfortable with numbers and research documents. In other words, although it impacts some people more than others, the issue of "health literacy" affects us all. (And, that does not even address what it does to the cost of healthcare.)

    THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

    • Before now, have you ever thought about "health literacy"? How would you describe it? What impact does it have on your life? How can it impact your ability to be successful in the workplace?
    • Why do health and healthcare topics seem so daunting?
    • Does health literacy only impact you when you are facing health issues? Explain your answer.
    • Have you ever had a medical situation or condition that required you to learn more about it? Where did you seek information? Did you have any problems learning about it? Explain your answers.
    P.S. – You might be interested in our Conversation Starters for Financial Literacy and Digital Literacy.

    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's Head assets.rebelmouse.io

    When I first heard the term "digital literacy," I wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but I'll admit that I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and usually turn to my daughters for help. I don't know if it's just generational, but I'm intimidated by my computer, and although I can do the basics, any time things go "wrong" I default into panic mode, followed by feeling lost and frustrated. And the thought of buying a new computer? Well, it gives me a headache – not only the cost but especially learning how to use it. And if I lose internet service, I feel disconnected from the world. (I guess that can sometimes be a good thing.)

    Then there's my cell phone, and I admit that smartphones often make me feel stupid. I remember when phones were landlines, and cordless was a big deal. Now I'm walking around with a small computer that also makes phone calls and takes photos. I've learned how to text, load some simple apps, and even how to set the alarm clock, but that's about it.


    Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io

    I know us "older" people think younger people are technology-savvy, but many are merely technology-dependent, which is very different. Technology is much more than access and setup. Being able to use computers, smartphones, and the internet covers a wide range of "basics" (such as emails and other communication tools, web browsers, and search engines), and there are specific computer skills that improve our productivity (such as word processing and spreadsheets). Now, you often need web conferencing skills (like Zoom or other audio and video applications) just to interview for a job.

    But, that is only the beginning. Since we live in a digital world, we need the skills to find and analyze information, and also make sure it is accurate and credible. (What is that old adage, "Garbage in – garbage out"?) However, it is not only finding the right information, it is then knowing what to do with it. Including what and how to share.

    THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

    • How would you describe digital literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
    • Why does using technology correctly seem so daunting?
    • What do you think is the best way to learn about technology and become digitally literate?
    • How do you evaluate the reliability of internet websites and other resources? How do you locate appropriate and credible sources of information?

    P.S. – You might be interested in this animated video on Research & Analytical Skills we did as part of a soft skills series for The Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative.