A colleague handed me the best book I've ever read about money, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since
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- A colleague gifted me "What It's Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation," but anyone can access it for free online.
- "What It's Worth" is a compilation of persuasive essays based on sociological findings that made me think differently about how policy and personal finances are connected.
- For instance, I learned that it's unrealistic to expect your income to be anything but variable as an average American, and that you can hold space for both morality and money at the same time. They don't have to conflict.
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I have read many phenomenal personal finance books over the years. The ones that make my top shelf are the ones that teach me something new or make me think about things from a different perspective.Sitting on that top shelf is a paperback gifted to me by a colleague, but anyone can access it for free online. Compiled and edited by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Corporation for Enterprise Development, "What It's Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation" is a compilation of persuasive essays based on sociological findings.Advertisement
You won't be reading white papers, but you will be reading the conclusions for our best collective step forward when it comes to economic growth and equality of opportunities, which go hand in hand.
Here are four of the lessons that have stuck with me from "What It's Worth":
1. American income is variableIn an essay titled "The Real Financial Lives of Americans," the Center for Financial Services Innovation demonstrates that American incomes rarely go up in a straight line over the course of individuals' careers. In fact, variable income throughout the year is a prolific commonality today, forcing many American families to learn the tricky task of balancing a budget when they're not 100% certain how much money will be coming in.
As a freelancer, I think of my income in terms of feast and famine - especially after reading this essay. I try to stash away as much in savings and pay down as much debt as possible in periods of feast so the periods of famine aren't as intimidating. I'm not always successful, but being cognizant that this pattern is unlikely to subside over the course of my life has helped me get over past some of mental budgeting blocks.
2. Renting policies are just as important as homeownership policiesIn an essay entitled "Stable Housing, Stable Families," Jones Walker LLP writes that affordable housing is essential to all other aspects of financial health. Because market rent in American cities across the country is disproportionately high compared to actual income levels, many Americans are stuck in a situation that is not conducive to financial health.We have many housing policies in place that help homeowners, but we need to be conscious that our housing policies are also benefiting renters. I have been more conscious of housing policies and politics in my own neck of the woods since reading this piece, especially since I am a renter myself. Advertisement
3. Financial mindset develops at a young age
As a parent, there was one essay I found particularly poignant. Presented by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "From Impulse Control to Interest Rates" was a treasure trove of insights into how to do parenting right when it comes to money.
For example, elementary-aged children are learning lessons which will affect their financial mindset into adulthood. Most of the financial lessons children learn from their parents are observed rather than taught, and knowing that keeps me mindful of any displays of anxiety around money and reminds me to curb any other negative behaviors I may be displaying.This essay also encouraged me, though, explaining that muting or working to change your weaknesses is only part of the equation. It may not even be the most important part. Rather, playing up your financial strengths improves your odds of imparting financial self-confidence to your children. By highlighting our positive money habits, we have greater odds of raising financially confident kids.Advertisement
4. Morality and finance don't have to be opposing goals
In "Race, Place and Financial Security," Angela Glover Blackwell of PolicyLink makes a compelling argument: Not only does this nation have some moral amends to make for its treatment of people and communities of color, but doing so is in our nation's best economic interest. By investing in communities of color and enabling access to opportunity that has so often been denied, we could set America up for a bright economic future. If we continue to disenfranchise, it will be to our own national economic demise as demography shifts over the next two decades.
Blackwell's argument was not the only one which held space for justice, morality, and financial gain all at the same time. The essays held in the pages of this book made me realize that our value systems can propel rather than hinder our individual financial lives and overall economy - an impactful message to a young business owner making her way in the world.
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