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?

    Shortly after Rich Strike, the surprise 2022 Kentucky Derby champion won (what a Cinderella story), Red made a passing comment to Black about the need to prove that his victory wasn’t a fluke. She should’ve known she’d get a list of Black’s beloved bullet points in return, pointing out what we’ve already learned,

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    Summertime can be a double-edged sword (is that expression still used?!) to parents of school-age children. We know having more and longer (yes, I’m talking sunlight, but some days seem like way more than 24 hours) days that your kids are around can be both wonderful and challenging. That’s why a little bit of thought and planning to create a simple (and realistic) list of ideas can make the difference between a summer you’ll never forget and a summer you hope never to repeat. The funny thing is that as I re-read my list, I realized it applies to kids home from college and even empty-nesters.

    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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    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 know that everyone laughs at our “Assets and Liabilities” story and how I freaked out at the mere mention of personal finance, saying you were the MBA and I was the theater major. So, when you first said “financial statements,” I was intimidated. But when you said we’d start with “assets and liabilities,” I completely lost it. I calmed down when you simplified it to “what you own” vs. “what you owe” and knew I could do that, just not assets and liabilities. How was I supposed to know they were the same thing?!

    Later on, I realized that it was the terminology, not the concepts, that was causing the problem. That I was creating mental roadblocks and becoming my own worst enemy. I’ll admit that understanding what previously had been intimidating words and phrases did boost my self-confidence. Although what makes it even funnier is that I had been a straight-A student and prided myself on my vocabulary.


    Black's HeadBlack assets.rebelmouse.io

    Your vocabulary is probably larger than mine, and you do like to use, and sometimes overuse, “50-cent words." (And, I was shocked to learn that you have never played Scrabble.) The words we use reflect our background, interests, and even what we like to read – you have always enjoyed historical and biographical books, whereas I gravitate toward business and car magazines, which may explain why I am more comfortable with terminology and technical information that you. Not to mention, when I first started working in the oil and gas industry and with legal contracts and agreements, I had to learn what felt like a foreign language.

    Regardless, you are never too young or too old to increase your vocabulary. And, it is about more than just new words as it also develops your communication skills because it lets you express yourself more clearly and concisely (well, maybe not you), and improves your reading and listening comprehension. And, it even helps your critical thinking and problem-solving skills as it expands your ability to process information.

    THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

    • Have you ever felt like Red – frustrated and overwhelmed by terminology (vs. concepts)? If so, what was the situation, and how did you handle it?
    • What do you do if someone uses a word or term you do not understand? What are the advantages and disadvantages of (politely) asking them the meaning?
    • Do you think a large vocabulary is a sign of intelligence or education/experience? Explain your answer.
    • Why is it important to become familiar with terminology and vocabulary used in your area of interest? What is the best way to acquire that knowledge?