Listen now: Often the biggest obstacle to learning about money is knowing where to begin. Here are some useful tips to help you get started.
Hey, humans, I’m Michael Liersch, PhD Behavioral Science, Head of Advice and Planning for Wealth and Investment Management, and this is the About Money Podcast presented by Wells Fargo. I’m a behavioral scientist who loves openly discussing money to help humans better understand their money behaviors. By understanding our money behaviors, we all have the opportunity to make better money decisions.
We’re gonna have a lot of fun together, and start our first season with money taboos. For many of us, money was and still is a taboo topic to openly discuss. The question is why? We’re gonna address those taboos head on. And break through money silence. So we can all get closer to our money goals.
In this episode we’re going to ask ourselves, how do I actively seek out money information? So when it comes to seeking out money information a lot of times people go to the tool, or the product, or the solution and they, you know, use Google or whatever it is and start there. What’s a 401k? What’s an IRA? What’s an ETF? What’s a mutual fund?
That’s fine. I’m not saying that’s a bad place to start but I would encourage you to start in a different place, which is really being introspective before you seek out that money information, and define the jobs you want money to do for you first. So that could be buying a home, buying a car, going to school. That could be providing for your lifestyle when you’re no longer working. It could be really supporting a business or buying a business. It could be doing any number of things in your financial life.
So define that first or those things first before going out and seeking the tools and the resources that would get those jobs done. Because getting that information out of context can sometimes be a bit misleading and, and frankly a bit overwhelming, and make you so uncomfortable that you just stop engaging in it.
What I mean by that is, oftentimes, when you look up the financial tool or instrument it feels really complicated and that can lead to a level of discomfort that goes to an emotional place where you may feel embarrassed. Or you may feel like, oh, I should’ve known this, I can’t believe that I don’t understand this. And that’s just really not a productive place to be, because there is a level of discomfort that’s positive and a level of discomfort that’s not.
So starting with those jobs can help contextualize the information you really need to seek out and help you delve into it so it’s super-purpose-driven. So that you’re uncomfortable but that you’re okay with feeling that way, at least for the moment, until you learn more because you know it’s going to get this job done that matters to you, that’s meaningful to you or to your family, so it’s worth it.
What I’d also suggest is you don’t try to get it all done at once. When you seek out money information a lot of times people read gigantic books or they feel like it’s a project. As you lay out the jobs you want your money to do for you, I’d really prioritize what’s most important. What’s most important not necessarily in the future but, especially if you’re just getting started, what’s most important right now. What do you need to get done right now to make sure you’re going to be okay?
And so that might be paying off debt or that might be actually engaging in borrowing. That might be something like, let’s say, building up an emergency fund. It could be giving money to a child or a grandchild in a trust. So for these jobs that you want to get done, you prioritize what’s most tactically important now so that you feel really motivated to learn about it and get it done in a quick timeframe. Because the more distant it is, oftentimes, the more we’ll procrastinate and put it off because, again, who wants to feel uncomfortable?
That’s not necessarily a normal human trait and, in fact, there is a lot of research around that. There is something called a confirmation bias where people actually seek out information and ideas that make them feel comfortable, that make them feel aligned with themselves and others. So you’re really going to have to push yourself to get uncomfortable, which is totally normal when it comes to money information, especially as you’re first learning about it.
The fun part about that is that as you become more familiar with these money concepts that feeling of discomfort will decrease. And, in fact, you’ll feel better and better and better about engaging in whatever those solutions are to get your jobs done. And hopefully what you will do is share it with others.
So here is the specific action I would like you to take next. I want you, after you’ve laid out some of those jobs you want your money to do for you, after you’ve prioritized and said, well, here is the thing I want to tackle first, I want you to go seek out that information. And I want you to intentionally seek it out and feel excited about getting out of your comfort zone. So make sure that that information you’re seeking out isn’t something you already know about, that you’re super-familiar with. Kind of have fun with it. Say, I’m going to do this and feel super-uncomfortable because I know nothing about this.
And as you seek out that information don’t hide behind Google, or hide behind a book, or hide behind information that you are studying on your own. I’d also encourage you to access another human being. Who that human being is is super-important. And here is why: There is research that suggests that people, especially because they don’t want to burden others with their discomfort or information that they don’t know, they access people that are actually let’s call it almost strangers or people who are incidental to their close networks. And what I mean by incidental is those are people you might interact with every once in a while rather than often, so you don’t really know if you can trust them.
So try to avoid doing that if you can. And, instead, in the spirit of being excited about getting uncomfortable really access a very close trusted partner. And remember it’s okay if it’s uncomfortable for them too at first and if they feel like maybe this conversation is something you’ve never had before. Test and learn. See what works, what doesn’t work with that trusted person, that trusted collaborator; that trusted partner.
Ask them what they know. Perhaps they know more than you do, which would be great. Perhaps they know less than you do, which would be great as well because you can help them. And start that information flow. And once you get started, I think you might be surprised about how exciting it is to not only do it on your own but learn from someone else about what they know and what they don’t know. Meaning you can actively seek out money information with another human being and discuss what’s important about that and what are the right decisions to make to get the jobs done in the context of your financial life or your financial lives together if that’s the circumstance or situation with that trusted collaborator.
So with that I wish you the best of luck on getting uncomfortable when it comes out to seeking money information.
That was it for this episode of the About Money Podcast. Please email us with ideas or topics that you’d like us to address at AboutMoney@wellsfargo.com. If you really liked the episode, share it with your family, friends, or anyone who listens to podcasts. Wells Fargo About Money is produced by Wells Fargo. I’m Michael Liersch asking you to talk about money today.
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