Minki: Hey everyone! Welcome to WINii’s first episode for Money Bites where we'll be digging into money, mindfulness, and everything that comes in between through bite sized discussions. I'm super excited to bring to you Kristen Euretig as our first guest.
Kristen it's awesome to have you back. Want to start off with an introduction of yourself?
Kristen: Sure, thank you for having me. I'm Kristen Euretig. I founded Brooklyn Plan which is a financial planning organization to help specifically young professionals to take control of their finances. I had a background working in wealth management and then low income New Yorkers, helping them manage their money, and just saw that there was a real gap for people, pretty much everybody in between, and that there was a real need and interest from younger people to get connected with expert advice. So that's what I set out to do with Brooklyn Plan.
Minki: Great. Before we move on, how can they reach you?
Minki: Awesome. I wanted to start the conversation probing our relationships with money. For a lot of our WINii users, we tend to see a turning point where they change their perspective about money. Whether that's turning 30, or moving in with your significant other, etc. Have you found, in your experience with your clients and readers, that our relationship with money just naturally evolves or is there a wake-up call that is sort of like a lightning bolt? 'Uh-oh... I need to get my act together!'
Kristen: Totally. I think I call it triggers. Like there's a trigger that people-
Minki: Yeah that's the word I'm looking for.
Kristen: Yeah, that they're like 'oh I need to get this together!' And exactly, you named two of them. Turning thirty, that's one for sure. Like people sometimes past that point in their lives when they're like 'uh, wait a minute. I'm not exactly where I want to be!' Or 'I am but...' It's not just people that feel like they're not doing well. Commonly a lot of people feel like they're doing as well as they can on their own and need to get help to reach the next level. So like turning thirty, getting engaged...
I just saw recently a married couple the other night and I was laughing. So this is what happens when people get engaged. They get engaged, they start wedding planning. At some point, I think it tends to be at three to six months before the wedding, they're like "oh wait, we're gonna be married!" They get over the hump of just planning for the wedding day and they're like "oh but we're gonna actually be together for the rest of our lives after this one day. Then what are we going to do??" And they reach out to me, and we go back and forth. Sometimes we have a consultation at that point, sometimes not. They drop off the radar until they get married and then they pop up again after the wedding, and they're like "Okay. We're really ready to do this." Because there's just so much going on leading up to a wedding that understandably they have the idea but they're not really ready to follow through until they're actually married. So getting married, moving in together.
My blog, it tends to have a younger readership than my clients so I tend to get messages on the blog when people say "I just got my first job. I want to make sure I'm doing everything right." "I have access to a 401k- I've never had that before. What should I be doing? I want to get it right from the start." So that's another one.
Minki: So I think a lot of the emotions that "trigger us" to want to have another look at our finances, unfortunately tend to be a bit more on the negative side, as in anxiousness, fear of the future, "oh my, I have no idea what I'm doing!" Is that what we should be feeling about our money and our future? How do you see money management, what does that mean to you and what would it look like or what should it look like? Is it supposed to be fear inducing?
Kristen: I don't think so. It's funny cause I write down the things that my clients say and there's a lot of that negativity when talking about finances, which I think is unwarranted. I think that it's one of those things where there's so much noise around. It's covered constantly in the media. You hear a lot of "should"s ex. what you should be doing. I heard someone say today "don't should all over yourself." And I like that because it applies to finances. People feel that they should have been doing something else, they should be somewhere else, other than where they are. And there's a lot of shame. There's a lot of fear in the numbers and knowing what you can do and can't do right.
I recently had a client we were going through some of her expenses and showing her how much she had been spending on shopping and restaurants and she was like "oh my god, I'm getting nauseous" and we stopped. It was painful to hear that from people. On the other hand, I think that knowing your numbers can be empowering because when you really stick with the numbers and see what's possible, what is happening, then it's like you conquered-it's like you slayed a dragon. And then you can go forward with this clarity and understanding and make realistic plans for yourself based on reality.
And I think there's so much peace and serenity in being in that space. But there is stuff that comes up in that process and it can be very emotional and -I'm not a therapist, but I have a holistic approach to finances and in that I encourage people to journal or to meditate before you look at it if that's part of your lifestyle and practice. Because it does require a certain amount of balance to approach it. But I think it can be an awesome, a beautiful tool in your life and that's what I strive to show my clients and help them to see. But sometimes there is a difficulty and a challenge in getting to that place that I can't really deny.
Minki: Totally. I make a lot of analogies with dieting when we talk to our users. It's, you're totally right, a lot of guilt shaming when you have that piece of chocolate that you know you shouldn't be having. But at the same time, there's also the balance in terms of - it's never an extreme dieting that you want to go towards either. What would be a good sort of reminder to know that, you might slip up, you might have that second serving of ice cream, or go on a shopping spree. But that's still all right. It's not a 100% or 0% - a zero sum game.
Kristen: Right, that's a good point. I think like anything it has to be balanced and I think that's why a lot of people resist looking at their finances. They think that if they look at it then that means that they're gonna see all the things they shouldn't be doing, and that they can't do anymore. That's not the case-it shouldn't be the case if you work with a planner or set up a system for yourself. It should account for fun and it should account for freedom. It's not gonna work if it's all debt repayment. There's no fun in that and you're not going to stick to it.
I think it definitely has to be balanced. A clear example of that is when I have people that have a lot of credit card debt and a lot of student loan debt. They come in sometimes and they're like "I just want to pay as much as possible for every month." Because they feel stressed out by the weight of it and by the total number of it. And they come in with this really clear, singular goal. And I always say "okay, I understand that. I know it's distressing now but I don't think it's wise to just make that your only financial goal because you're gonna get back into it again if you don't also pay for-I call it a freedom fund- the fun things that you're gonna do in life, and your emergency fund. Things comes up. Then you're going to need to have funds to handle it-if you don't have the funds you're going to go into debt to handle it.
So it can be a slippery slope. The way that I've seen people sustainably get out of debt is by saving and repaying debt simultaneously. Not this singular "I'm just gonna pocket every extra dollar I have away on my debt and crawl out of it." That's extreme. Or you hear these stories about people ... somebody told me-I don't even know if this is true, I haven't googled it, but they said "Did you hear about this guy that paid off his mortgage in three years by eating crackers and peanut butter?" And I was like "oh my god! Who would want to spend three years of their life that way?" Like, "great. Congratulations. You paid off your mortgage. But you lost three years of your life. Is that really worth it?"
So yeah I definitely think, like Buddha, that there's a middle path that can be found and that there's a sweet spot in the middle. And we shame on ourselves. We're so hard on ourselves. But I always tell people, "you know, we didn't learn about this in school. You don't get mad at yourself when you can't fix your own computer. You don't get mad at yourself if your car breaks down and you can't fix it. Why do we get mad at ourselves if you're not able to climb our own way out of our finance problems? It's not your expertise? So, that's okay." You're going to need information. You're going to need help. You're going to need support. Just like you would in any other area of your life of what you may be struggling with. But sometimes we assume that we should all have the knowledge and go tackle our own very complex financial problems, projections and calculations. And we just don't, and that's okay.
Minki: We'll come back in the next episode with emergency funds. What constitutes an emergency, when you can actually tap into an emergency fund, and other good stuff. Hope to see you back!