(Allese is the community manager at Wesabe and is going to be posting on Wheaties a couple times a week. Tune in to read her journey through the vast world of finance and money, starting with why the ever ominous, ‘why manage your money?’ question).
Money has never been my thing. From understanding why the NASDAQ goes up and down to maintaining any sort of savings, the dollar and I have never had much of a lasting relationship. That said I am 23, freshly graduated from UC Berkeley and about two months into my first full time salaried position. So up until this point, terms such as college student, early twenties, and art history major could well enough excuse the glazed look that rolled over my eyes when I came into conversations with words like hedge fund, market sentiment and diversified portfolio.
However, having officially entered this thing people my age coin “the real world,” any application for my killer understanding of Marxist theory or kick ass paper writing abilities is quickly drying up. Further, when it comes to everyday practicalities like my FICO score or the Business Day Section in the New York Times, I am out in the cold. For the past several years, my financial philosophy has been something like “money comes and goes, get it while it’s hot”; while a savings account sounded lovely in theory, sacrificing experiences and wanderlust for one has never really occurred to me. Up until this point, I sincerely believed that financial irresponsibility went hand in hand with those “crazy early twenties” I had heard so many talk about. I assumed I’d figure out the details later; I have come to realize that later, is like, now, and it’s staring me directly in the face.
This all said, I don’t think my experience is that unique. Different vices and indulgences perhaps, but the larger majority of our population struggles with money. Most financial relationships are filled with a whole lot of mistakes (why didn’t I put $50 a paycheck into a savings account?), regrets (what was I thinking when I spent $300 on that dress?) and shame (I am so embarrassed that I spend way more than I make!), and it’s often easier to ignore this all, than it is to deal with it.
But money is one of those things you either learn to deal with or it deals with you. And since I like to write, I decided to blog about it, so here it goes:
I graduated free of student loans, with minor debt, have a great job and an apartment, essentially meaning I am (1) lucky and (2) at a great place to start making good financial habits. I believe that where you spend your money tends to reflect the things you value. I’d like to describe myself as thoughtful and intentional, not frivolous and mindless, yet my past spending behavior has been more of a contradiction than a reflection of this. That said, personal finance isn’t exactly an easy thing to get excited about, the term seems more pocket-protector than prosperity and often seems written in some foreign dialect: Roth IRA, CD account, dividend reinvestment plan, mutual fund, blah, blah, blah. Where is a college grad to begin? My company answered that question for me when our HR woman stopped by my desk and asked me how much I wanted to contribute to my 401(k) … contribute to a-whata? Why on earth I should be saving for retirement at 23? I guess I’d better figure that out.
Join my journey into the world of retirement on Friday…