Hey L Bee! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Your blog, LBeeAndTheMoneyTree is an entertaining window into the life of a twenty something with great personal finance skills. What made you decide to start this blog?
I was unemployed for a good portion of spring/summer 2012 and all the career websites tell you to start a blog to keep your writing, social media and networking skills sharp. I’ve dabbled with blogging since 2009, but I wanted it to mean something and be about more than just what I had for breakfast or pictures of my dog. Being unemployed allowed me the free time to concentrate and really focus on making the blog take off.
I got the idea for a finance site because I wasn’t always so great with money The inspiration came after working for a boutique hedge fund in NYC for a few years. Everyone I worked with seemed so knowledgeable and great with money, and I wanted to emulate them. They also had no problem discussing money: salaries, retirement plans, investments- and I admired that. Being from the south, money is something you NEVER discuss, and I wanted to create a space where people felt comfortable talking about it and also make it sassy and fun.
Your blog makes it easy to talk about the “personal” part of finance because you’re so candid about everything else like boyfriends, sleep talking and workplace bullying. A few numbers here and there hardly seem personal at all in comparison. One of the difficult parts about using that candid voice is that once you start, it’s tough to go back. Have you ever struggled with continuing the candor?
I don’t personally struggle with continuing the candor, often times I have to edit stuff out because I’m a bit of a “loose cannon” in that respect. I know some of what I write does make my parents uncomfortable, but since it’s become such a well received hallmark of the site, I press forward. I write for myself and my readers, not my peers.
Readers have told me they come back because I’m such an open book, and thats always nice to hear. The candor does become a concern as the site grows in popularity: my extended family now reads some of the more intimate details of my life, people from high school I haven’t seen in years, my whole life is there on the internet, so yes, that continues to be a concern the larger is grows. You just never know how people are going to take things.
One of the recurring themes in your writing is how relationships are effected by money. Do you think there is a gender gap in finance savvy? Why do you think that is and how can we better address it?
I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, but I do feel young men are taught from an early age to master their finances simply because it is the accepted norm for men to be the providers financially in the family unit. I also feel men pass financial lessons down from generation to generation. If you think about it, girls my age probably only have one financial role model, their mother, IF they come from a family where mom worked and managed her finances before she met Dad.
This is one of the most fascinating things about finance to me, how it’s all a trickle effect. I do think personal finance basics need to be taught in high school and college. The word needs to be out there, and I’m working on getting my speaker series off the ground because I’d love to go to schools and help educate young people.We need to get to people when they’re just starting out so they can make informed financial decisions.
The New York Times just published an article outlining a new trend of people asking about credit scores on the first date. Does love have to be predicated on fiscal responsibility? Is a bad credit score a turn off or “teaching moment”?
Don’t even get me started on love and marriage!. I will say that of the couples I’ve seen, the ones who are on the same page financially tend to be the most successful. I’m not talking about having the same net worth or credit score, but you at least have to agree on what financial decisions need to be made.
A bad credit score isn’t necessarily a automatic red flag; one of my dear friends has a horrible credit score from trying to save his family’s business. Also if you’re like me, you probably made a lot of financial decisions in your youth that you’d never make now. I’d take someone with a low credit score over someone with tens of thousands of dollars of debt any day.
You’ve conquered quite a bit of consumer debt. Do you have any tips for our readers how to crush debt so they can save for retirement?
My first advice would be to just stop using credit cards. Just cut that out! You’ll never get anywhere if you keep using them. A few months ago I tried doing the budgeting trick where you put all of your expenses on a credit card and then pay it off at the end of the month and I ended up further behind than I thought.
Also, I’d get a money app like Mint.com. Seeing your progress on cute little graphs makes it much easier to stay motivated, because lets face it, unless you win the lottery, paying down consumer debt is a painful, arduous process that requires lots of stamina.