Talking Openly About Money

Do you discuss finances with friends and family? There’s still a taboo around talking about money, but it can be really helpful to hear what others are going through. This month, Turbo, a new app from the makers of TurboTax, invited Cup of Jo to join its mission to encourage people to talk openly about money. So, I’m sharing five financial ups and downs in my life (and would love to hear yours!)…

Entering the real world.
After graduating from college, I moved to New York City, feeling both excited and nervous. I had saved $2,500 from summer jobs, but my rent was $850/month (I slept on the living room sofa of a Manhattan sublet I shared with a friend). I knew I could blow through my savings quickly, if I wasn’t careful. I added up the costs of my rent, groceries and utilities — and then after that, I gave myself $20/day to spend on everything else, including clothes, movies, books, the bus, lunch, dinner with friends, toiletries, etc. I wrote down every single thing I spent and drove myself slightly insane, but overall it worked and thankfully I was able to stay in New York.
Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to create a budget that works for you.

Racking up educational debt.
When I was 23, I went to law school for a year before deciding it wasn’t for me. When I left, I had a staggering $54,000 of debt. I got an editorial day job and tutored in the evenings to make extra money, but I felt completely intimidated by the financial world. Since my friends were in the same boat, I wasn’t sure who to talk to — so I ended up finding two books: Get a Financial Life and The Automatic Millionaire (terrible title, awesome advice). Both were smart and encouraging. They helped me get the lay of the land — how do I do my taxes? what smart steps can I take at my age? will I ever pay off my debt? — and inspired me to make a plan to take control of my financial future.
Lesson learned: It’s not as daunting as it seems to become more financially savvy and make a plan to overcome debt.

Getting married.
After meeting a cute bespectacled guy at a party, I fell in love and ended up getting married two years later. Although my heart was fully on board, my head still worried about one thing: merging our money. I had always been so careful about spending and saving — were we now going to just mash everything together in the bank? So, for the first year, Alex and I kept separate bank accounts and added up receipts at the end of each month, but then we finally took a deep breath, talked about overall philosophies, combined everything, and it ended up being just fine.
Lesson learned: Big life moments are great times to review your financial health and set new goals.

Having a baby.
Nine months after our wedding, we welcomed little Toby into our family! The day before he was born, Alex and I met with a lawyer to put together a will. We felt at peace walking out of the office. If anything happened to us, Toby would be taken care of. (This was also the year I left my day job to focus on running Cup of Jo full-time.)
Lesson learned: Creating a will provides peace of mind, especially for new parents.

Planning ahead.
Over the last few years, I hired my first employees at Cup of Jo, we became homeowners and we added little Anton to the mix. Yet I realized something funny: Alex handles the money management for our family, and I don’t really get involved in the big-picture strategy. (Is that the same for you, or are you the family money manager?) According to Kiplinger, women control 80% of all household spending, but men usually handle investing and other financial decisions. My mission for this spring is to become an equal player in managing our retirement savings, budgets and college planning.
Lesson learned: It’s important to stay on top of your finances at every stage of life, and plan for the future. Knowledge is power.

How do you feel about your finances these days? Are you going through any life changes? Do you want to get everything sorted out? Turbo is the first app that combines the three key numbers of your financial health — your income, credit score and debt-to-income ratio — so you can see where you stand with your finances. I highly recommend checking it out, and it’s free. (If only something like this existed when I was in my twenties — it would have given me so much peace of mind.)

Also, if you’re inspired to share something about your own path along the financial highway, Turbo invites you to use the hashtag #RealMoneyTalk to join the conversation. (Bonus: They’re giving away $5,000 to one person each week for the next three weeks in response to selected #RealMoneyTalk stories; to participate, use that hashtag and tag @IntuitTurbo. Good luck!)

Talking Openly About Money

Thank you so much, Turbo!

(Photo and styling by Veronica Olson for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Turbo, a great new financial resource. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Cup of Jo.)