Book Bites

Personal Finance Scared Me

Chapter 2: Why Can't Money Grow On Trees?

Red was scared, for herself, and for her family. Having to deal with personal finances for the first time is scary. Especially if you believe you need a finance degree to figure it out. Yes, it's human nature to have a fear of the unknown, but feeling you have to face it alone makes it even worse. Red knew that her sister, Black, was there for her, but it wasn't in the "warm and fuzzy" and sympathetic way that Red wanted.

P.S. – If you were expecting banter between Red and Black, then this Book Bite might surprise you.

We thought it important to acknowledge that although when facing a challenge – financial or otherwise – Black's extremely pragmatic and likes to address it head-on, Red learned that recognizing how you feel about something can be as important as the specifics of the situation.

I knew Black was right – I wasn't going to win the lottery. There was no book that would instantly solve my financial problems. And as Black bluntly told me, sympathy wasn't going to help either. She also made it painfully clear that although I wanted to keep my head in the sand, I needed to face reality. That left me with no choice, but to get on with it. And so I decided I had to do it Black's way. She was doing her best to help me clear my head of the emotional aspects of the situation, trying instead to make me look coldly and honestly at the critical issues we were facing.

I knew we were in a huge financial mess, not because of the specific details of our situation, but because neither Nick nor I really knew where we stood. And as uncomfortable as it was, I decided to offer to help Nick with our financial matters. This "transfer of responsibility" was tricky because I didn't have any financial experience. Although I had worked for a number of years before I got married, I never had to spend my money on necessities because I lived with my parents until the day I married Nick. For the next 15 years nothing much changed except Nick paid the bills instead of my Mom and Dad. Then suddenly, I'm being forced to deal with the financial well-being of my family.

Chapter 18: Whine Or Lemonade? Your Choice

In the midst of Red’s crisis (her word, not Black’s), when she was finally learning about money (at the age of 40+!), she was shocked to discover that her sister, Black, secretly paid for half the cost of a Ferrari engine even though she was married to an extremely wealthy man. But for Red, what stood out the most in the conversation was Black explaining how, for her, racing is an analogy to life.

P.S. – At the time, Red just listened politely as she found it difficult, almost impossible, to equate how racing a Ferrari at speeds exceeding 150 miles an hour had anything to do with life. Especially as, back then, her “driving” experiences consisted of carpool lines, playing chauffeur for her daughters, and loading Labradoodles into her “Mom car” for trips to the vet. But today, Red will tell you how that analogy has stuck with her all these years and is probably one of the most powerful of Black’s many (seemingly endless?) racing analogies.

Black's HeadBlack

… my overall spending is related to boredom. The money is filling a void … not making me happy. Yes — racing makes me happy. For many reasons. I have thought about it a lot in the last few weeks. The key is knowing why you are spending money and what you are getting in return.

red headred head

And what have you figured out?

Black's HeadBlack

That racing is an analogy to life.
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Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

It’s a new year, and many (Red included) make resolutions to lose weight and exercise more. But Red knows that for moms, taking care of ourselves often falls by the wayside as we prioritize taking care of others. Over the years, Black has repeatedly pointed out to Red that self-care, including being heart-healthy, may seem selfish, but better positions her to be there for others when they need her. Although sometimes Black needs to remind her,

When it comes to taking care of yourself, I have two words for you … airplane analogy.

The last thing Red needed in the middle of her "crisis" (her husband being unexpectedly fired) was to get sick, but that's exactly what happened. (Is there ever a good time to get sick?) And although she had walking pneumonia, her instinct as a mom was to put the needs of others, especially her children, ahead of her own. Luckily, Black, being pragmatic and unemotional, knew the advice she was about to give her sister would initially seem counterintuitive, so included what she hoped would be a memorable analogy …

P.S. – Even if Red didn't realize it at the time, self-care has always been important. But it became even more important during the pandemic (especially emotional self-care) as many of us have had to "to be" there for others – whether our loved ones, neighbors, community.

red headred head

You must be joking. Dr. Fields means well but doesn't understand that doing nothing is a luxury right now — not an option.

Black's HeadBlack

Well, "Wonder Woman," I think it is you that does not understand. It is not an option. It is a necessity. Let Nick handle things for a few days. Trust me, everyone will survive.

red headred head

But there are so many things I need to do. Life doesn't stop just because I'm sick.

Black's HeadBlack

True. But the bottom line is that unless you take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of your family.

red headred head

I understand the logic, but it's difficult for me to just stop and crawl into bed, as much as that's what I want to do. I feel like I'm letting the family down. I'm not trying to sound like "Wonder Woman," I'm just being honest.

Black's HeadBlack

Let me give you an analogy. If you were on an airplane with the girls and you lost altitude and the oxygen masks came down, would you put the mask on yourself first or the girls?
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Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

Red's Head

I know we first posted this excerpt earlier this year, but now seems the perfect time to repeat it. First of all, it’s always a good time to think of others, and never more so than right now – between natural disasters (Florida will be dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian for a long time) and the holidays (including Giving Tuesday) being just around the corner. And, I have no doubt that if Black were here, she’d probably tell you about the science proving helping others is good for you. (And recommend the book “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself“ because I know she’s been buying it for people.)

But Black’s not here, which is another reason to rerun this post. Although she might not appreciate me telling you she’s at The Make-A-Wish Foundation national conference in Orlando, Florida, as she prefers to keep her involvement “under the radar” as much as possible. (One exception was when she agreed to be MC at the recent dedication of the Make-A-Wish Teresa E. Andrepont building.) I know this might sound ironic as Black’s personality is neither shy nor unassuming, but when it comes to charity and her decades-long involvement with Make-A-Wish, Black doesn’t do it for the recognition … she does it for the Wish kids.

Typically, when Red asked Black questions, she received questions in return. Or flippant comments. When Red asked her about charity, and specifically Make-A-Wish, she got straight answers, and that alone got Red’s attention. Before this conversation, Red thought her sister’s involvement with Make-A-Wish was very generous, both of her time and her money, but attributed much of it to the fact she had surpluses of both in her life. But once Black made her realize that her involvement went back to her corporate life, years when she might have had spare money but was working ridiculous hours, Red gained a new respect for Black’s commitment. But when Black said how it had become her “reality check” on life, Red began to understand that we all need something to help us remember what’s genuinely important.

P.S. – Charity and helping others remain an important part of our lives (and, much to the chagrin of our accountants and attorneys, drive much of our work in the education and criminal justice worlds). Black’s long-time commitment to Make-A-Wish set an example for Red’s daughters when they were growing up, and made them aware of how important it is to not only appreciate what you have but to think of others. And whether it’s an ongoing commitment to a single organization, helping various charities throughout the year, celebrating targeted donation days (such as #GivingTuesday or World Wish Day), or when specific natural disasters or humanitarian needs require immediate aid, charitable giving (whether money or time) – can make all the difference. Not only to the recipient, but as Black pointed out to Red all those years ago, for yourself.

red headred head

I’m curious about something, though. As children, we were never exposed to charity, so what got you involved with Make-A-Wish? Even Natasha has asked me about Make-A-Wish, because she has seen the kids’ artwork at your house and recognizes the logo from seeing it on your race car.
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