Three weeks ago, I recounted how, on a fateful afternoon in August, 2012, I decided that I wasn’t going to take it anymore. I was going to pay off $80K in student loans, and I managed to do that (in under three years).
I'll admit that I felt vulnerable after that.
I felt like I had broken a taboo
Because I kind of did.
Bringing up money around family and friends (many of whom are on this list - hi, btw) can bring up feelings of shame, uncertainty, inferiority/superiority, and just a general hot fudge sundae of awfulness for everyone involved.
Why is that?
Money is, in life coaching parlance, “the presenting issue.” It’s the surface.
How a person acquires and spends money demonstrates a person’s values,
circumstances, privileges, feelings, mental states, background and general viewpoint on living. Those are the real issues, the deep stuff.
This is where the friction happens.
This is also where the silence happens.
And yet, if we, as a culture, don’t have begin to have healthy conversations about money to understand it better, ignorance and negativity will continue to reign.
So, why did I broach the topic?
The Woman Who Haunts Me
I just finished my first-year of graduate film school at UCLA, and it was the summer of 2007. Ever the Tracy Flick, I saw on the UCLA screenwriting listserve, a fancypants networking event hosted by The Hollywood Reporter that was occurring somewhere in West LA. As film students, we were invited to go, so I went.
This was a luncheon schmoozefest. Nothing too exciting. Just a lot of people talking about nothing in a hotel banquet room near sumptuous buffets.
But there was this one woman.
She was in her mid-to-late sixties with honey-white blonde hair. Despite the summer, she wore an elegant burgundy suit and had a bauble or two on her fingers. She was pleasant, I remember, with her huge burgundy bag. I didn’t know what her story was, and I can’t remember her name.
We made small talk and perhaps smiled as we made the rounds.
And then, as the event wrapped up, she did something that I never forgot.
She opened her burgundy bag and began putting food in it. Not just a cookie for later, but several sandwiches, crudites, rolls, maybe a dessert or two.
And, then, suddenly I knew what her story was.
I don’t remember who else I met, or what I talked about, or even the theme of the event (television?). But I remember her.
And I recall feeling profoundly sad afterwards.
I don’t know what happened to her. But over the next few years (recession and beyond), I saw shades of her again and again in the disappearing middle class, especially in women. I saw them in Facebook posts, in documentaries on PBS, in people I've met who once slept in their car to survive.
Is everybody (economically) okay?
I don't think so.
And there's a myriad of factors for this.
Hereon out, I'm going to be creating more content pertaining to household financial literacy. My hard-won economic lessons of getting out of student loan debt and surviving in a high cost of living as a freelancer have served me well, and I'd like to contribute some of the knowledge I've learned (as well as some of the mistakes I've made).
In addition to life coaching, I’m now niching down to financial coaching, specifically to help (mainly) women develop the habits to get out of debt and build an emergency fund.
I find these to be the most crucial steps in starting the journey to building wealth (or, at least, having one's own back), and I feel passionate about teaching this.
I'll still be providing life coaching insights, don't worry.
And I'll probably end up breaking more taboos as well.