A Tongue Twister
Have you tried a tongue twister in a while? Try saying “financial freebie frenzy” three times fast! I am referring to all of the great attention the topic of financial literacy gets every April, which has been happening every year since 2004 when it was recognized in the United States as Financial Literacy Month.
It passed as a Senate Resolution back in 2004 in order to help raise public awareness about the importance of financial education as well as the serious consequences associated with a lack of understanding about personal finances. The President issued a proclamation calling on the federal government, states and cities, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, other entities, and the people of the United States to observe the month with appropriate programs and activities. Hence, the good “feeding frenzy” we see today of free online education, local workshops, educational materials and media attention.
Yet, despite the time, money, and effort, people are not financially healthier. Only 34% of people in the United States are considered financially healthy (2021 Financial Health Network Pulse Report) as recently shared in an article by Tony Steuer, Head Financial Wellness Advocate at www.tonysteuer.com. His article goes on to make three important points about what needs to change in the way we think about money.
As women in the thrive-time of our life, I find it immensely important to be aware of the three challenges of financial awareness that Tony outlines. Hopefully, awareness allows us to reflect, decide to role model, and intentionally take action to make a difference where we can.
A Time to Reflect
The first main conclusion Tony shares is that all the financial literacy education, knowledge, and resources by themselves won’t motivate change. Until we each understand our “Why,” there will be no behavior change. “Why” are we, or are we not, taking more positive actions with our money? That answer lies in financial wellness where we also understand our personal money history which has influenced our values and goals.
Think back to childhood and identify how you felt about money as a child. Was there tension in the home around finances? Was money discussed? Did you feel rich, poor, or oblivious? What memory do you still have about a money-related story from childhood?
A Graphic Example
When discussing this topic with one of my podcast guests (see episode 5), she could still vividly describe an incident from when she was 8 years old. She was in a room down the hallway from her parents and she could hear their voices escalating. They were getting louder and louder as her father was teaching her mother about balancing the checkbook.
Suddenly she heard a very loud THUD! She peeked out of her doorway, down the hall, to where her mother was sitting at the dining room table with her father standing behind her. He had slammed her mother’s head into the table, breaking her nose, and blood was running down her face. At that moment, at the age of 8, she vowed to never rely on a man for money.
Experiences Impact You
Hopefully, the money story you recollect from childhood was not that negative or graphic. But we all have a story in our memory banks, even if it is just recognition that we were oblivious and never thought about money as a kid. Either way, that childhood experience has influenced you to this day.
A more recent time in your life, being in a relationship has also impacted your personal money history, goals, and values. Your financial role in that relationship likely still influences you today. Whichever category (or categories) you fall into, it helps to be aware that the Divide and Conquer couple fares the best when one is left alone after death or divorce.
Tony’s second crucial point is that thinking in terms of financial wellness vs financial literacy can also help us to practice being judgment-free. A focus on financial wellness can help us recognize that we all have a different financial journey, for various reasons, AND that’s okay. If we feel judged, we often disengage. This means we don’t take any healthy actions to improve our situation.
I volunteered as a “judge” this past week for both an economic challenge event with middle/high school students and an essay writing activity for 4th-5th graders. Aside from being impressed with some of their knowledge, I also saw the benefit of hands-on learning. In delivering the results to the students, instead of focusing on the scores, I believe the value comes in the emphasis on what was learned and how to see money for what it is… just another tool in life. No judgment.
The last main takeaway from Tony’s article is the importance of putting knowledge into action. A focus on financial wellness helps us understand why, how, and when to put financial education into action. He ends by challenging us to change the way we think (therefore act) about money.
I was reminded again recently how it takes 7-13 exposures to information before we take action. So, one action I encourage you to take now that you have read this blog is to sign yourself up for some kind of “drip” education about an area of personal finance. Let a free newsletter, email campaign, or e-course send you automated reminders (“drip” on you with ongoing nudges) that over time are encouraging you to take action on some area of personal finance. That way you are more likely to be nudged into action and can become part of the “financial freebie frenzy” in a constructive way!
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.