I will be the first to admit that I find money talk exceedingly boring. Especially stocks, diversification, yields, compound interest, price-to-earnings ratio, whatever. Seriously, I fall asleep when I hear or read about that stuff. And, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone.
For all those who find money talk boring, I feel ya. It’s dry and mundane. Numbers. Charts. It’s not inherently fun for all of us.
But you know what? Making smart decisions with your money is how wealth is built. It sets the pieces in place to enable insanely early retirement. Master your financial picture and watch your stockpile of cash move faster than a toupee in a hurricane.
Don’t ignore money. Instead, try reframing the topic to something that’s much more interesting to talk about.
Talk about your future
Ultimately, money helps us to achieve our future goals. Especially when we’re young, the idea is to score a high paying job and work for years (or decades) to amass a respectable fortune. Then, we retire and do those things that make us happy.
So, talk about that stuff! Does your future include mountain biking and rock climbing? Or maybe it’s surfing and scuba diving. Whatever it is, talk about it – often. Focus your energy on your future goals and talk about them. A lot.
Before I called it quits at work, my wife and I would talk on our evening walks. It wasn’t about money. It was about our future and the things that we want to do and the places we need to go. Money was always an implied element, but it never took center stage.
Nothing boring takes center stage in our family.
We chat about the fun stuff. The shit we want to be doing. It keeps us focused and motivated, and it doesn’t put us to sleep.
Talk about your career
Whatever we do for a living, it is very much an integral part of us. The money we earn makes a huge impact in our ability to achieve our goals. Hell, our futures depend on it! The accumulation phase of our lives sets us up for fun – every day – in the next phase.
But, careers also affect our happiness and overall satisfaction in life. When we spend eight to 10 hours a day doing some “thing”, it’s going to have a huge freaking impact on us. It sure did me, and I didn’t like the impact it was having.
The money was great, but I also derived very little satisfaction out of it. It was a huge energy drain. I hated management bullshit. I struggled to care one way or another about the projects I was involved with because, even if I did a stellar job with one, I’d start right back at ground zero with the next. Over and over. It was relentless.
Regardless of whether or not you like your job, talk about it. Talk about where you want to go. The things you’d like to do. In five years, do you want another position? Work in a different company? Heck, maybe start your own business?
Talk baby, talk! Talk it out, even if it’s only with your dog. Talking helps to hone your perspective on your career. Your career, clearly, heavily impacts your income. It can make or break your money situation.
Talk about what wealth means to you
Quick – think about wealth. What do you picture? Are you picturing nice cars and big homes, or perhaps sipping a Miami Vice on the beach? Maybe your idea of wealth is never worrying about money again. Then again, perhaps it’s lounging on a chaise on your deck and soaking up all that beautiful (and free!) vitamin D – without a care in the world.
But you aren’t nude. Please say you aren’t nude.
Wealth is a beautiful thing, but only after we understand what it means to us. What happens if you fall into money tomorrow? Like, $10 million – right out of the blue. Let’s say you have a rich family member that you didn’t even know existed. They died and your cut of the inheritance is enough to live on for the next 1,000 years.
You’re instantly wealthy. Super wealthy. You have dollar bills oozing out of your pours. Basically, you’ve become Uncle Scrooge.
What do you do with all that money? This is a much more difficult question to answer than many people think. It can be fun to think about, but also frustrating when we don’t have all the answers.
But, that’s okay. Nobody has all the answers. Except, of course… 🙂
When you do need to talk money, make it easy
You’ll never completely avoid the discussion of money (and you shouldn’t, either). Even for my wife and I, money is a topic of conversation from time to time. But you know what? I don’t think we’ve ever uttered the phrase “price-to-earnings“, “bottom-up investing“, “imputed interest” or any other nonsensical sleep-inducing term about money.
We discuss things like our savings goals, or maxing out our 401ks at work, or automatic money transfers into a Vanguard brokerage account. Easy stuff. Straightforward terms. Neither of us has any interest in confusing the other with complicated financial terms that generally mean nothing to us.
Early retirement and retirement savings is easy. It really is. Easy.
It takes time, but it is not difficult. We don’t need to understand the complexities of compound interest and yields to retire early. I certainly don’t – and I did! Whenever we talk money, we keep it simple and focused on the things that matter the most to us.
We talk about things like:
- How much we save and spend every year
- Strategies to implement a “no-spend” Christmas
- Amount of money we allow ourselves to go out to eat
- The wisdom of maxing out our retirement accounts early
- Whether our ex-Honda Ridgeline was worth the insurance payment
Easy stuff. And here’s a tip: The more automated your savings, the less that you’ll need to talk about them.
For example, both of our retirement accounts were automated through our respective companies. We also setup monthly transfers from our bank account into our Vanguard brokerage account. In addition, money was automatically added to our interest-bearing Ally savings account each month that we use as our emergency fund.
Cool as a cucumber.
We set this stuff up once and never thought about it again – except to make small tweaks to the transferred amount. And even then, these discussions were quick and easy. We discussed. We decided. That’s that.
Our philosophy was, and continues to be, simple: Money talk should be easy and straightforward.
How many out there find money to be a stimulating conversation? Can you carry on a conversation about yields and earnings and, well…stay awake?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.