Tuesday, November 14, 2006


For this week's Festival of Under 30 Finances (and my very first Festival or Carnival of any kind!), Tired But Happy asks,

When you talk about your financial goals with people who are over 30 (your parents, coworkers, other bloggers, etc), how do they react?

Well, here's the thing: I don't know what my financial goals are, really. That makes everything a little more complicated. I know what my immediate financial goals are (contribute to 401k, push ING savings account to $4,000), but I don't have a well-defined sense of what I want from my money in the long-term. And one doesn't go around all, "So, I want to save $4,000—you?"

But I do occasionally talk to my parents and to their (our) friends about money, and this question actually brings out a fairly interesting quirk of my financial background: there's a sense that money "shouldn't be" important. I sometimes feel like I'm doing something tacky by, say, knowing the difference between a traditional and a Roth IRA. My parents are both impressed by my knowledge and attempts at responsibility and, it often seems, faintly regretful that I need to know these things. While my parents' friends are often similarly impressed by my new job, they often tell me, "Oh, you shouldn't worry about it" when anything financial comes up. In one sense, they're right—my life goals don't really have anything to do with money, per se, and it wouldn't kill me to, say, have taken a job in a bookstore back in Portland and lived paycheck-to-paycheck for awhile. Sometimes I feel a little square for having taken a Real Job, moved in with my boyfriend, and bought business-casual clothing. My friends are teaching English in France, they are working as special-education teachers or going to graduate school, they are working several part-time jobs to support their real passions, and me? I'm just a 9-5er, soon to be contributing to a 401k, building a savings for some undefined goal. On the other hand, I'm not particularly keen on the idea that I shouldn't know about money. Of course I should! It may not be my passion, but it's a fact of life, and if I want to spend my life doing things that I love, I'm going to need to know how to live on what I make. Because nothing I want to do is going to pay me a million dollars to do it. If I just keep on keepin' on doing what I like, I'm unlikely to ever pull a six-figure salary (it's not impossible—I could be the next Cornel West or Judith Butler, or I could claw my way all the way up the editorial ladder at my current company—but it's unlikely, speaking purely in terms of statistics). And while I don't want to be overly worried about money (one of the luxuries of living well is not being obsessed with money), I think the way to avoid excessive worry is a healthy bit of knowledge.

I guess in short—I do a fair bit of rambling, don't I?—knowing anything more than nothing about money generally gives the over-30 folks of my acquaintance the sense that I'm some sort of low-grade child prodigy. And a child prodigy is impressive, but also a freak.

I don't talk about money with my co-workers (or, not the ones over 30, anyway), but I look forward to talking to other bloggers about my financial goals. My blog is so new that I've not really done that yet, either, but I hope it can help get some perspective on these things. Surely, bloggers must be the answer.


Kira said...

The personal finance sphere of blogging is great because we don't have to feel rude or tacky for wanting to talk about our finances. It's like telling a long-held secret to your best friend - you don't have to hide your desire to discuss finance anymore.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for writing it.

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