So I met this new kid at work. I say "kid", because he’s like 25 or so. He probably thinks I’m a kid too…or maybe “kid adjacent”. NEWS FLASH…I’m no longer a kid, that ended like 5 years ago. Anyway, over the last week we’ve gotten to know a little about each other and, last night…we had "the talk". Yup, we talked about it.
We talked about "the birds", and we talked about "the bees”.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the heck does waif-like, Stephon, AKA 'the Black Kate Moss” know about the birds and the bees?”
Nothing, nothing at all.
Well, that’s not totally true. Stephon knows A LOT about the birds AND a lot about the bees. But he’ll spare you the details of that…for now.
The talk was about dollar$ and cent$. The kid, who has 2 full-time jobs, couldn’t figure out why he was completely broke and saddled with a crushing amount of debt. I asked him a few questions about his situation. Ya know, I wanted to see what his relationship with money was in general. His relationship with money was typical and not too out of the ordinary, especially for a 25 year-old. He saw things he wanted…and he bought them. The way he described it; it almost seemed like even bought things he DIDN'T want. It was like the money was actually “burning a hole in his pocket".
I told him that I’d been there too, maybe not THAT bad, but I could totally relate. I’d been broke, crazily in debt, had accounts in collections, not opening the mail, not answering the phone, through an IRS audit…just in a bad, nasty, stinky way. I was in a fog and had hit my financial rock bottom.
I was able to change my habits and turn things around. That attitude change, for me, literally happened in an instant. One moment I thought one way and the next moment I was a completely different person in relation to finance. That moment was when I loaded all my financial info into Quicken. I was able to see where I had been, in a financial sense, and sorta plot out where I wanted to go. The heavy lifting of actually getting the numbers to smell and look better, of course, took longer, but not nearly as long as I would of guessed. I told him that I was in no way an expert in the field, BUT I was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY an expert in how I turned my person situation around. I gave him a quick "cliff notes” and he perked up and was super interested in my journey.
CUT TO: LAST NIGHT.
He approached me with a few follow up questions about how I did some of the things I did. We chatted briefly and I told him I’d give him more details when I finished my shift.
I firmly believe that most people can and will change their personal financial situation if they just have more basic information about how things work.
I explained to him why today will be the last day he has late payments on his credit cards. On time payments make up 35% of ones FICO score. We discussed credit utilization, another 30% of the score, and to NOT close the accounts once he paid them off.
He asked about the company 401(k) program and couldn’t believe it would help to lower his taxable income. He also asked if he could borrow against it. I told him, yes he could, but in my opinion, it’s almost always a bad idea. It’s a retirement vehicle that’s…for retirement. "Give that money a job and it’ll work for you in your sleep!” I suggesting he join the 401(k) program up to the company match, but his main focus should be building an emergency fund and tackling the double-digit interest credit cards and call the creditors to attempt to get the interest on the cards reduced.
I could see his spirit brighten with everything I suggested to him. He was formulating an outline of a plan of attack.
I suggested he think in terms of “assets & liabilities”, “wants & needs”, “profit & loss” and "risk assessment, etc.” He didn’t get in the situation overnight and he won’t get out overnight, but the sooner he starts the sooner he’ll begin building momentum and start to reclaim his life…and 25 years of age is a perfect time to start. I SO wish someone, ANYONE would have given me the low-down on how basic finance worked. "Do you really want to work too full-time jobs and have nothing to show for it?" Having a financial plan will give him options in the future and it will make it easier to experience things in life instead of being afraid of opening the mail.
The last thing he told me was that his car would be paid off next year and that he wanted a new Camaro. I paused and said, “Okay, but understand that decisions such as that will be a huge step in making sure that your financial situation, overall, has little chance of changing. He agreed.
I told him that it’s not about depriving him of anything nice that he wants in his life. It’s about getting in the driver’s seat and making sound decisions in the first place. I retired from being a professional consumer years ago and I currently have everything I need and many things I want.
It was a great way to end my shift! I think he’s like a lot of people; smart, ambitious, willing to work, just needs a little insight and someone willing to good information.