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?

    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 …


    Red's Head Red assets.rebelmouse.io


    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.

    Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io


    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 …

      Keep Reading ... Show less
      True
      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.