Know Your Numbers with Shannah Compton Game
Savings, budgets, retirement. Oh my. No matter how on top of our lives we feel, talking about money still makes us squirm. And…well, we’re tired of it.
Today on NYG, we talk about where those financial fears come from—and what we’re doing to get over them. To help us out, we chat with Shannah Compton Game, a Certified Financial Planner and the host of the Millennial Money podcast. Shannah’s all about helping people like us get more comfortable thinking and talking about money, and she’s quickly become one of our fave resources for financial info.
When you don’t talk about something, you feel really isolated, and you feel like you are alone. Like nobody could possibly have the same money issues you have. But the reality that I try to tell everybody is: you’re so wrong! We are all so much alike when it comes to money, especially the things that we’ve not done so well.
—Shannah Compton Game, host, Millennial Money
Shannah tells us all about:
- Why money is such a taboo topic (but shouldn’t be)
- Which financial advice to take, and which to ignore
- Why we all hate the B word (budget, ugh)
- Why it’s totally not too late to get your finances in better shape
Also in this episode:
- Sara celebrates her presidential birthday
- Katel survives on pizza by the slice
- Jenn gets deep into the meal prep lifestyle
This episode of NYG is brought to you by:
WordPress—the place to build your personal blog, business site, or anything else you want on the web. WordPress helps others find you, remember you, and connect with you.
Harvest, makers of awesome software to help you track your time, manage your projects, and get paid. Try it free, then use code NOYOUGO to get 50% off your first paid month.
Jenn Lukas [Ad spot] This episode of No, You Go is made possible with help from our friends at Shopify. Their mission is to make commerce better for everyone—and they’re growing their world class team to make that happen. And you know what? They’ve read plenty of cover letters over the years. So this time they want you to read theirs. Because they don’t just want you to apply to them, they want to apply to you. Visit shopify.com/careers to see what they’re all about [music fades in, plays alone for 12 seconds, fades out]. Welcome to No, You Go, the show about ambitious—and sticking together. I’m Jenn Lukas.
Katel LeDû I’m Katel LeDû.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher And I’m Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and this episode is going to come out the day after my birthday [someone says, “woo hoo!]”. Mm hmm. And it’s a very special birthday. I will be turning [clears throat] 35.
SWB Which means I could be president.
SWB Definitely can’t be president.
KL No, you definitely should be [chuckles].
SWB Oof. I don’t know. Looks like a terrible job [laughter]. I’m not real pleased about how it’s going right now, and probably I’ve got too many skeletons in the closet [laughter]. However, the other thing they always say when you turn 35 is that, according to the financial quote/unquote “rules,” I am supposed to have two times my annual salary saved right now… Two times! My annual salary. Yeah. So I—I don’t have that. And I will say, like, I’m—I’m pretty organized. I’ve saved a lot for retirement, particularly starting when I was about 29, but I haven’t caught up to that mark yet, and I get a little stressed out whenever I think about it. So to help us with some of that stress, we are talking today with somebody who knows a lot about money: how to save it, how to budget, and how to even think about maybe retiring someday. That would be Shannah Compton Game. She is a Certified Financial Planner and the host of the Millennial Money podcast. Don’t worry, it’s not just for millennials.
JL I’ve been listening to her podcast over the last few weeks and it’s been really awesome because actually about over the last month, month and a half, I gotta tell you: I’ve been taking a—a journey into money.
SWB Uhhhh what kinda journey?
JL Well, every year around tax time, I get really anxious and I start going, “Hmm. Oh no I should’ve sent all this to my CPA awhile ago,” and then I look at the list of things I have and I go, “I was supposed to do this thing last year. Oh! I was supposed to do this thing the year before.” And I have this really organized list in Wunderlist about all the uh—it’s called my Adult List and [chuckles] it’s got all the things I’m supposed to do like [inhales deeply] allocating and diversifying my assets, giving things to Cooper’s future college fund, I’ve got this whole list of things I’m supposed to do and have I done them?… [Sucks teeth] No. Do I look at that list?… No [laughs].
KL And then you realize a year has passed.
SWB And then like three years has passed.
JL Mm hmm! Where does that go? And then, you know, like other people, I start to think about it and again the anxiety starts to build up and I’m like, “No, thanks.” But then I started thinking like, “Ugh! I really—I just like really—I have to start learning about money.” Like, I have to. I can’t keep pushing this off. And, you know, it’s a mix of like looking at the taxes, thinking about my son, and just being like, “What am I doing?” And so my CPA had recommended the book Get a Financial Life and I found it on Audible [chuckles] because that’s my jam now. And I was like, “You know what? Maybe I’ll try giving this a shot because I can’t—” I’ve tried reading through other money—finance books before and though I can like really get down with like other books, the finance books just like I start glossing over, and I was like, “But maybe if I listen on Audible, I’ll like get into it.” So I did! And it’s abridged so it was only like two hours, which again was perfect because it was so short and listening to it at like 2X speed means it’s like over in an hour [laughter] and it’s like really basic but like just gave a lot of good overviews, and then I was like, “What other Audible books are out there?” And then I started getting a little wild. So I’ve been like reading slash listening to all these books, and reading these magazines, reading these blogs, listening to these podcasts, and I know so much more than I knew six weeks ago.
SWB Do you feel more confident with what you should be doing now?
JL I do! It’s awesome. So I’m now actually in the search for a financial planner. And that’s the other thing like I—I wanted to get some time with a financial planner but I didn’t wanna use my time at someone’s hourly rate to be explaining to me like what the difference between stocks and bonds are. You know like because that felt like a waste of money of something I could learn myself. So I felt like I should take some time, learn about real basic stuff, and then pay a professional to help me with like the real specifics to me, and not just like, “Here’s things about money.”
KL Yeah I like that and that sounds so… practical. And I think like something that we all really liked hearing from Shannah is that you kind of don’t [sighs] sometimes the first thing you think about isn’t the fact that you have to take into account your own personal goals and sort of like how your life is shaking out, and like whether you’re having kids or not, or like if you have a partner, or your business, or like all these variables that are… like you’re not like every other textbook case of, you know, what you should do with your money. So, I don’t know, it’s just I—I think that was like so important for—for me to hear, especially, just cuz it’s like you don’t know. If I wanna retire when I’m 60, that’s totally different than if you’re like, “Ok, I actually might work a lot longer than that.” And we’re all living a lot longer. So I think, I don’t know, just like taking into account all those things and realizing that there is a lot of research you can do on your own before you start talking to a professional.
JL Right. Yeah and there’s so many—I mean that’s the thing like it—you can gather all these opinions and then you just have to factor them for you and what you wanna do. I mean there’s people now that are trying to retire at 25, and then there’s people that wanna work, you know, until the day they die. And I—or and obviously everything in between. So, I think it’s so important to like really think about what you wanna do and then start setting those goals for you. And there’s so many resources out there now. That’s the thing and it’s really intimidating to get started but I think like you just have to do it, and we’ve heard this before, right? Just like with starting businesses and starting projects, it’s one step at a time. You know? So if it’s even just like, “I’m gonna look up one term today.” Or, you know, “I’m gonna read one article or listen to one podcast.” Then like you’ve done more and learned more than you knew yesterday.
SWB And for me it’s also been like I mean I need to do some things, right? So… it’s like ok I need to check some stuff off the list. So actually I go to the same accountant as Jenn and… he has also given me certain recommendations, right? So thinks like, “You and your husband should have wills at some point.” And things like that. And we’ve done some of them and some of them I haven’t gotten around to yet. But on my list for this year—and this is like the kind of thing that goes on like a year to-do list, because it’s such a pain in the ass—is like, I need to move some accounts to consolidate at a financial institution where I can manage them more effectively, and deal with some of my long-term like retirement planning. And just I know that the process of moving those accounts is going to be a bit painful and so I’m kind of setting myself, I’m saying like, that is a task I need to set aside some time for. You know there will be like paper forms, somebody might make me fax something. God knows that’s gonna take me a week [Katel laughs]. I know you can fax online. It will still take me a week. But, you know, this is achievable, but it doesn’t feel achievable sometimes in the moment, and I try to remind myself that like, look, it is very normal to feel this way. I happen to be in a lucky position where I like—I have money I can theoretically be saving. I know that not everybody does. Like, I’m doing fine. Give myself some, you know, break the tasks down. Just like anything that’s big. Break it down a little bit. And set some time frames that are realistic and allow myself to feel good about getting some of the things done and not so upset about the things I didn’t get to.
JL Yeah. I mean you know when you get that like new IKEA cabinet and it comes with like 20,000 pieces and you just look at it and you’re like, “Fuck my life.” [Katel laughs and says, “Yeah”] That’s like sort of looking at like your money to-do list and you’re like, “Oh my god I have to roll over a 401K. Ughhhhhh!” I mean how many of us have 401Ks that are like sitting somewhere and you’re like, “I don’t know what it’s doing?” From like a previous job.
KL Yeah. You’re like, “It’s there. I think.”
SWB I told you I started saving for retirement when I was 29. Do you know what I did when I was 29? That’s when I started working for myself. I literally never took advantage of an employer 401K while I had a traditional job.
KL But it’s more complicated than just being like, “Oh. This thing is available.”
SWB I know. And I also really felt like I needed that money at that point in my life.
JL Totally. And I mean that’s the like—the other thing that’s really like important and—and we’ll talk about this a little later on is that like, it’s ok. You can start saving now. And for me that was like so important because like the anxiety of like, “Ok well, you know what? I didn’t start investing when I was 18. So, you know, what now?” And the thing is but I’m doing it now. And that’s the other thing that I feel like stopped me from learning more. It’s like then I just start feeling bad. I’m like, “Oh I’ve got this like sitting in a money market account and it’s not like diversified enough. Like inflation is basically eating away my savings.” And now I’m like, “You know what? I can start now.” And—and that’s the thing it’s always like, you just need to start when you’re gonna start. And if it’s not tomorrow that’s ok too. If it’s next month, that’s ok. But like giving yourself that slack and being like, “I’m gonna do it.” So like I’m now moving all—like—like I have like two 401Ks that I need to move over from previous jobs and I’m like finally getting it done. And it’s a pain in the ass, I’m not gonna lie. But it’s also not as hard as I thought it was gonna be. So it’s like a combo.
SWB Some of this stuff I feel like the hardest part is that like mental blocker about it because it’s about something that makes you feel a little anxious. I mean I have, you know, like I know that in my family… my mom really started getting her retirement stuff together in her forties because she didn’t really make much money till then, till she became a professor, and before that, you know, we were pretty poor. She was extremely frugal, but there’s just not that much money, so there’s not that much money. And so I look at that stuff and it makes me stressed, and then it makes me both like wanna put a lot of money away but also like… not wanna deal with it. Like deal with it sort of like emotionally and—and I feel like I’ve gotten over a ton of that and I feel like getting over that has been super helpful for me to make some better plans around retirement and around—around just sort of like having my financial shit together in general, to the point where, look: I may be turning 35 and not exactly have two times my salary set aside, but I actually feel really fucking good about where I am financially right now as well as like kind of that I—I do have my shit together. Not everything but like no, I’ve made a lot of steps, and they’re good steps, and they were like tough to get to and now I fucking did it, and I can do future stuff.
KL Yeah. I think that’s the thing like… that is a universal thing. It’s complicated. It can feel really raw and emotional which I think maybe sometimes I—I know a lot of the times I’m not expecting and I think to just like realize that and know that there are ways to get through it is super helpful. And I really loved hearing from Shannah because it made me feel like where I am is right for where I’m supposed to be right now, and that’s ok, and there are a lot of different things I can do to move forward. So, I don’t know, it was really good to hear from her [music fades in].
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Interview: Shannah Compton Game
SWB Shannah Compton Game is a Certified Financial Planner, and she’s the host of the Millennial Money podcast, where she dishes “life-changing money and lifestyle tips to jumpstart your finances, ignite your savings, and empower you to reach all your awesome goals,” which sounds pretty good to us. We are super excited to have Shannah on the show today because we know we have money questions, and we are dead certain that some of you have money questions, too. So why don’t we get into it? Welcome to No, You Go, Shannah.
Shannah Compton Game Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited. I—I love talking about money, obviously [laughs].
SWB Yeah so speaking of that, ok you run a podcast about money, you’re a Certified Financial Planner, what does your day to day look like? Like obviously you talk about money all day. How does that break down? What’s the mix of things that you typically do?
SCG Yeah, you know, I have a really interesting background, kind of a mix of both creative skills with sort of, you know, these money and business expertise skills and so a couple of years ago when I started my podcast I just thought, “You know I want to create a company and a brand that creates products that really help, you know, everyday people understand how to not only grow their money but—but how to deal with this money stuff in like a really relatable and dare I say, interesting and fun way.” So that was sort of the reason that I started the podcast. So every day for me looks completely different. Some days I’m writing a bunch of articles or I’m working on my first book right now. So there’s a lot of writing there. Other days are podcasting, other days are interviews. I also do a lot of teaching and I have—I host a lot of kind of like interesting dinner parties where we talk about money. So really every day I wake up it’s so completely different [laughs].
JL Oh! What are those dinner parties?!?
SCG Yeah so it’s my version of talking about money. I’m sort of the anti, like, conference room person. So I get a bunch of people together, people who don’t know each other, and we have a chef come cook us an amazing meal, and we sit around and we talk about money, and we talk about life, and we talk about business, and all sorts of things, and so, you know, you walk outta there with like 20 new friends, and hopefully that you’ve been inspired to, you know, go do things a little bit differently.
SWB So, that sounds really cool and this also sounds like a really interesting mix of things. Was there a moment when you realized like—I assume, you know, you were working with clients doing typical financial planner stuff when you realized that there was something else that you wanted to do. Like how did that happen?
SCG My dad had been in the financial industry for about 40 years and I started working with him and we worked with really high-net-worth clients, people who had a lot of cash, and it was great because it was really like a crash course to learning all of these things about money and then I got my—my Certified Financial Planner designation, and I thought, “Ok I’m gonna have, you know, my own planning practice.” Which I did for—for quite a few years. And then I just decided, you know what? I really like the creative side of money and I feel like we don’t have a lot of modern-day people talking to us about money. You know, there’s Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey—those are kind of the most popular names. But they’re a little old school I think in their thinking, and so I would just kind of tap into that like crazy entrepreneurial spirit and I’m like, “Ok well why not try to create something different? And something new and fresh?” But it hasn’t—it certainly hasn’t been easy but working with the clients for about 12 years really gave me an understanding of a lot of the similarities between people and then, you know, learning some of those like really tricky techniques as well.
SWB Yeah, so, you mentioned a little bit that you felt like there were a lot of people who were kind of old-school doing financial planner work, or sort of being financial planning, I don’t know, “personalities” out there. What do you think is sort of the difference between what you would describe as sort of this old-fashioned take and the way that you approach it?
SCG Look: I think we’re just in a really different climate. I mean there a lot of people, especially a lot of younger people, that are becoming entrepreneurs because they kind of have to, you know? The job market just isn’t what it used to be and people wanna create something. And there’s also a lot of debt, a lot of people still have student loan debt, a lot of people, you know, are having to plunk down a lot of money to buy a house. So I think there’s just a lot of really unique dynamics happening that just call for kind of a different approach. And I honestly feel with—I don’t know how you feel, but—with social media and, you know, Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and we’re always in other people’s lives… like the kind of pressure right now to compete with people financially even when you don’t have that money. I feel like there’s never been a time like now.
SWB That’s really interesting that you mention that sort of sense of like it being—it seeming at least like all these people have all these fabulous things and are doing all of this amazing stuff in their life, and it does—it does create that sense of, like, you see people’s highlight reel on Instagram and you think that that’s how they’re living day to day, and like what you’re not seeing is, you know, the like sad peanut butter sandwich they’re having [chuckling] because there’s nothing else in their fridge right now, you know?
SCG Yeah, it’s so true! I mean I even struggle with it myself where I’ll—I’ll get in this mode where I’m like, ok. This is like really silly. You have your own talents, your own skills. Like you don’t need to be, you know, comparing yourself. But it’s just—it’s so easy to do, you know? And like you said like we’re showcasing obviously usually like the flashy version of what we’re doing in life and not the realities which are, you know, tough.
SWB Yeah, so, it seems a little bit like the—the brand that you have, the podcast that you have, like the way that you talk about money, and sort of just the way you sort of position yourself feels… maybe a little bit more targeted to women, and I’m curious if that was something that you were doing intentionally or if that’s just sort of like my interpretation!
SCG It wasn’t certainly intentional but I do feel, you know, that women—look: we are in a tough spot financially whether you know it or not. You know, women live longer than men. We start and stop our career. We just have a lot of issues that require us I think to think differently about money and then, you know, I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole entire career, so that’s really where a lot of my heart is in helping women—not only inspire them but also help them, you know, in the practical side of money because we just don’t learn this stuff anywhere.
SWB Yeah, you know I was I thinking a little bit before this interview about the way that financial services I think have historically been pretty targeted at men and sort of advertised in a way that was targeted towards men and yet, you know, we’ve seen society really change around like a lot of women are breadwinners in their families and, you know, more likely to graduate from college. Like there’s a whole lot of—of shift happening in the role of women in the world and it’s like, you know, looking at the financial industry as sort of needing to catch up to that. So it’s cool to see people kind of like taking that seriously and looking at those issues more often facing women, you know, directly.
SCG Yeah, absolutely, and I think particularly in the professional financial industry of—there are only about 70 some odd thousand Certified Financial Planners, which is kind of the highest echelon of—of financial planning designation you can get here in the US, and of that 70,000, only about 22% are women and it—that number is not increasing at all. Like it’s been stagnant at that number, and what I find working with a lot of of women, and particularly women entrepreneurs, is they don’t necessarily wanna like have a, you know, 60-year-old dude sitting across from them, lecturing them about their money, or taking time off to care for their newborn, or whatever it may be. You know, they want somebody that they feel they can relate to. And so it’s been a real interesting sort of sweet spot as well, you know, being a woman and—and having that expertise.
SWB Oh my god, totally. As an entrepreneurial woman I can definitely say that I do not look forward to situations where I have to sit across a desk from a 60-year-old man who’s gonna tell me what to do with my life. Um [laughs].
SCG You and me both!
SWB [Laughs] Ok so… thinking just a little bit more about your podcast and the writing that you do and this book that you’re working on, which I’m super excited to hear more about, does that all still feed back into doing financial planning for clients? Or is your career sort of like moved more into that… lots and lots of education and hosting dinner parties space, and you’re not doing as much of the like—of the one-on-one anymore?
SCG Yeah, exactly. The one-on-one is fantastic, I just have always felt pulled in this direction and, you know, it took me a few years of fighting against that pull to go, “Ok, ok. I [laughs] I give in,” you know? And so this is really where I feel my expertise lies. You know, I have an ability to connect with people I think and, you know, it works really well in this space, and, you know, I have sort of a separate brand where I work with female entrepreneurs, but kind of in a more business, money-centric approach, which is what I love. So, yeah, I mean for me, you know, I—I thought that if I was gonna be a CFP, I had to have a planning career and that was just the end of it. And it just felt, honestly, a little bit too boring for me.
JL I mean it’s interesting you have this whole podcast about the subject of money, but a lot of people avoid talking about money. So what allowed you to overcome that stigma?
SCG Honestly when I launched the podcast I thought, “Who in the world is gonna listen to a podcast of me just kind of like babbling on about money?” [Laughter] But what I have found is that, you know, like money revolves around every aspect of our lives: our relationships, our careers, our vacations, you know, everything that we do. And I—I think that, you know, for most people there’s a lot of like stress and fear around money and so I just approach it and the way I sort of approach everything is, you know, if we can sort of break you free from some of those stressors around money and like get you in a position where you can think about it differently and you can really understand that you can create the lifestyle that you wanna live. Like you have the tools right now in your bank account to do that, whether you know it or not, that, you know, that felt like a spot that was really comfortable for me because I’ve had my own kind of crazy money journey myself, and so, you know, I just wanted to be honest on the podcast. I wanted to share my own struggles, I wanted to share struggles that, you know, I’ve seen other people go through and how they’ve overcome those. And, you know, we just little by little, like sort of a grassroots movement, the podcast just has grown and grown and grown.
JL Was it easy for you to start talking about it right away? Were you just like, you know what? I’m gonna be open and honest about this.
SCG Not at all! It’s hard when you’re supposed to be the quote/unquote “expert”. You know? To admit like, “Oh, hey, when I came out of college, I had credit card debt,” and, you know, I’m very honest on my podcast. I went through a divorce in my really early thirties that was financially devastating for me, and I basically had to give up every asset that I owned in order to not have to pay my—my ex-spouse for 10-plus years. And take on debt. And that was a really hard position to be in, because I felt completely demoralized like, “Who am I to give advice to someone?” But I think I’m—I’m grateful for that because what I learned was I had these tools and these skills and I had the know how to pick myself back up and if I could instill those into other people, especially other women, to help them know that no matter what they go through in life, you know, they can get up, dust themselves off, and restart again, then maybe that was kind of the best thing that ever happened to me.
JL I think we try so hard to—to be perfect all the time.
JL And we try to like—and if we’re not, to definitely hide that. So I, like, I’m trying to think about the leap from like, “Ok. I’m gonna do it. I’m now gonna like admit to everyone that I’m not perfect.”
SCG That’s a really tough space and I think honestly like you have to get there. First. You know like that to me is the starting point for change in anything that you—that you wanna, you know, achieve in life. And for me that was just the spot of—of being able to say to other people like, “Ok, I’m human. You know I’ve had stuff happen to me, and I’ve made mistakes, and I still sometimes spend too much on vacations, and, you know, all—all those sorts of things,” and I think for me it was, you know, speaking the reality of life and that’s what I try to get every guest on the podcast to do too that… through doing that people would figure that they’re—we’re all more alike than we’re different, particularly when it comes to our money. And that you just—perfect is totally unattainable when you’re thinking about your finances. So don’t even try to put yourself there.
SWB I really love this and I’m so thankful to hear you kind of talk about about your own story and sort of saying like, “Look: I’ve been there. I’ve screwed it up. I’ve been in a bad place, and I worked myself out of it, and, you know, and other people can too.” I’m curious like… how did you work your way out of it? Like how did you go from that place of sort of having to kind of start over financially to feeling like you had it more together again?
SCG The best advice I could give is just, I took it step by step by step. So if I looked at the entirety of the situation—like how much I was in debt, and how much I had to pay my ex-spouse, you know, all of the things that I had given up—like if I looked at in the entirety, I had, you know, those like panic, freak-out modes. And so I had to just break things down by little pieces. Like, “Ok. I’ve got this debt. Ok. I know how to attack debt, right? There’s two ways to attack debt, I’m gonna pick one of them and I’m gonna for it,” you know? So I started moving in that direction. And then I also know like, “Ok. I have all these skills, I have these talents. None of that was taken away from me. How do I turn that now and start having that be more revenue-producing for me than it was before?” So for me it was just literally about writing out goals, staying really focused, and, you know, trying to put these little steps together to get yourself to a place where you feel like, “Ok. I’m actually achieving things and it’s going in the right direction.” But it’s tough. It’s hard, especially when you’re in a tough emotional situation like that. But I think really being focused, and really seeing it like, “Ok, it might not be good financially but it is a clean slate to work from, so lemme just figure out how to, you know, start attacking some of this.”
SWB I love this idea that like you might feel like everything’s been taken away from you because you—you lost, you know, a lot of things financially, or people can feel like that if they lose a job, but like, nobody took away your talents. And like it’s a really good reminder that you’re still you, and you still have all of that.
SCG Yeah! It’s really easy to feel down, to feel depressed, to have that anxiety, and I—I’ve certainly been there but, you know, yeah I mean that really for me was like the biggest realization. Like, “Ok. I had to give up all this stuff but I—yeah, I’m still me. I still have all of these talents and I can make these talents better and that’s something nobody can take away from me.”
JL There’s so many topics in here that I think so many people would be afraid to talk about. And, I wanna ask you, Shannah, why do you think people are so afraid to talk about money?
SCG I think it’s just this taboo topic and so because of that people just don’t talk about it. So when you don’t talk about something, you feel really isolated, and you feel like you are alone. Like nobody could possibly have the same money issues you have. But the reality that I try to tell everybody is: you’re so wrong! Like we—we are all so much alike when it comes to money, especially the things that we’ve not done so well.
JL Right. How do you suggest people like start opening up about this to—to their friends or, you know, to others? Like when—when is the appropriate time to start talking about money?
SCG Well, I think, you know, with friends you have to make sure you’re in good company. It’s really easy, I think, for other people to judge you, especially if you’ve never broached this topic. But I’m just a big believer, especially if it’s something where you feel really pent up about, like start talking to people in just a casual way. I mean you don’t to share everything, you know, that you feel like maybe has been a money mishap in your life, but start maybe having some conversations and see if that releases some of that pressure.
JL You know how appropriate is it to talk about money with your coworkers?
SCG You know that’s so interesting like the statistics are showing that people, especially people in their like twenties, are really, really open to talking about money at work with coworkers. It’s not a subject that I would probably talk about, you know, if I had coworkers. But, you know, I think again you just have to feel it out. You have to feel out like your comfort level and then you have to feel out, you know, the person that you’re talking to. Like is this person gonna be open or receptive to whatever I’m saying or any advice that, you know, I’m asking for? So it’s kind of like knowing your audience first is—is pretty key in that—that situation but the workplace is a little tricky, I think.
SWB I think that that’s one of those issues that’s coming up over and over recently because of so many conversations about like pay equity where, you know, particularly women and I’ve heard this from people of color and the you know like probably most of all I’ve heard this from women of color saying like, “You know we know we’re not achieving pay equity and if we don’t talk about what other people are making, then we don’t have any context and that sort of like keeps us more powerless in our workplaces.” And so I think that’s where at least some of that shift is coming from is from people who feel like they’ve been kind of like missing some context and wanting to go seek that out. I know I personally I mean I don’t—I don’t work in a company where I have coworkers, so I don’t get to talk to them about money, but I talk to people who are my peers all the time about the offers that they’re getting for jobs or like, well, you know, like, “Oh, well, I know somebody who was offered a position in a company that I think was similar and they were offered somewhere like this,” and, you know, “I’ve seen some other positions that were in this range.” And just trying to like give people more of that context so that they don’t feel so in the dark.
SCG I think that’s a really good point, too, and I—I think that, you know, you—you said it maybe a little bit more eloquently than I did, but it’s also like I said, knowing your audience. So, yeah, I mean obviously for women like the pay equity thing is—is a huge—you know I’m not sure quite sure how we solve that issue but um—other than we just pay women what they actually deserve [chuckles] but I definitely do that as an entrepreneur, I’ll ask other people like, “Hey, what did you get for this contract or this client hired you, what did they pay you?” And some people are willing to open up about it and some aren’t and that’s ok.
JL For me I know like Sara and I we’ve had conversations about money but, you know, those certainly didn’t happen the first time that we ever met. Um [laughter] that was definitely after many a happy hour [laughter], where you know, I felt that someone that I was like really confident in like both friend and—and working like that, you know, we could have these conversations and keep it between us and so I found it really important to find someone that I could sort of trust. Trust is such a huge part of these money conversations.
SCG Yeah. For sure. Such a big part!
JL So, you know, money can be very intimidating. The other day someone in like a work Slack channel said, “Every time I think about wanting to get better about it, I get too confused and I walk away.” [Laughter] I think a lot of us can relate to that. How do you suggest people get, you know, quote/unquote “better” about their money?
SCG I think that that’s what happens with a lot of people. You know I preach a lot about probably people are sick of hearing this but I preach a lot about a concept I call “Knowing Your Numbers.” So if you hate the word budgeting, I’m right there with you, I’m not a big fan of the word budget. But um, you know, the concept of knowing what cash is going out of your bank account, and where that’s going to, it gives you a lot of empowerment over your finances. And I think starting places like there where, you know, you can really have this awareness of what’s going on with your money puts you in this place of power, it puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your finances, and it helps you to make really educated decisions about what you’re doing with your money. But I—I do think, you know, it’s really easy because it can seem really complicated, you know, “What should I do with my money? Well, I can’t figure anything out so I’m just not gonna do anything,” but I think there’s so many resources out there. There’s podcasts. There’s so many articles. Gosh there’s books. I mean there’s apps. You name it. And it’s all about just pulling out what’s gonna work for you and throwing out the rest, because as I always tell people like money is not a one-size-fits-all. So what’s gonna work for you is not gonna work for me. And so I need to figure where there are pieces of information that maybe you have or money tips that you’re using that maybe would work for me and the rest I’m just gonna throw out because it—it doesn’t work for me.
JL Yeah, I think that’s so important. I’ve been reading a ton of money books, and magazines, and listening to podcasts recently, including yours [laughter] and I just like—there’s so much information but of course not everything is applicable to me.
SCG Yeah, you know, and it’s really interesting um we kinda talked about this earlier with that like idea of perfection. There’s this kind of underground movement right now happening. I just recently was—was quoted in an article about the downsides of extreme personal finance and so there’s this movement of—of bloggers and people who are saying… Dave Ramsey talks about this a lot, that you can’t have any debt to be quote/unquote “successful.” And I think that that’s really putting undue pressure on people, because I mean let’s face it, like, honestly sometimes having debt is the smartest decision you can make. Sometimes leveraging somebody else’s money actually works to your advantage. And so I think you know broad-sweeping these concepts across and telling people you know, “You have to do it this way. And you have to retire by 35. And you have to—” It just doesn’t work for everybody, and I think it puts us in this… you know more of a panic state when it’s just—it’s not applicable to our life.
JL Right. I mean I get so concerned, right? Like I’ve listened to an abridged Audible book of Dave Ramsey [laughs and laughter]. I’m gonna put that out there. And I listen to and I—I remember thinking like, “Wow. If this had been the only thing I had listened to, like if this was the first thing, like I wonder what my life would be like.” Would I have just like done everything that he had told me to do?
SCG I think that happens a lot with money because I think, you know, look: we don’t normally learn about it at home, we’re not learning about it in school, nobody’s teaching us about money. And so I think that, you know, sometimes we just like glom onto the first thing. But really like I encourage people like listen to lots of podcasts, read lots of articles, you know, again like pick out what’s gonna work for you and just throw out the rest.
SWB When I start trying to look at a lot of different sources to make a financial decision, sometimes it works pretty well for me. I can like read a few different things and come out feeling like, “Ok. I get it now.” I understand whatever this thing is, whether it’s like for example, you know, researching mortgages a few years ago when we bought our first house. And that’s great. Sometimes when I’m researching money things, and I would say like particularly with retirement stuff, I read a whole bunch of different stuff and I come out the other end going, “Well now I’m even less sure what I should be doing!” [Laughter] How do you recommend people kind of can make sense of what is gonna work for them or not get overwhelmed when you get all of this kind of like complicated and sometimes conflicting information?
SCG Yeah, that is such a great point, especially when it comes to retirement. Most people are kind of in this like retirement fog like just not sure how much you should save or where it should go, you know? And this is really a case of it’s always a good idea to hire an hour or two of like a Certified Financial Planner’s time to figure out, ok, what actually is gonna work for you. Because somebody can look at your situation holistically. But I think it does really start with the place of—and this sounds really obvious but people forget this a lot of time—of what is the vision for your life? Realistically, what do you want your life to look like? You know, do you wanna retire at 50 or 70? Or you know I know some of those decisions are hard to think of now, but if you could paint a picture of what you want your life to look like what would that be? And then ok, now that you have that picture, how do you get your money to come alongside that picture and help make that actually happen? And I think when you start from that approach then you have this visualization and you can figure out then what you need to do with your money. What are those different steps you need to take to be able to fund that, to get you to that vision.
JL So, you mentioned before budgeting. And I think a lot of the reason I think we avoid that is because it sounds like we’re just basically cutting all the fun out of life. So, how do you suggest people think about making a budget and how do they get started with that?
SCG I always tell people like the only reason in the world that you’re ever going to attempt to do anything like a budget is so that you can actually fund your goals. You know: do you wanna buy a house? Do you wanna—are you starting a family? Do you wanna stop working? You wanna start a business. You wanna go on vacation. Like what are those things that you wanna do? That’s the only reason that you do a budget, because you’re incorporating those goals into your budget so that you can structure your money properly. So that you’re actually able to achieve those goals. And I tell people, like, I don’t like the word budget. If you don’t like the word budget, change the name of it. Call it whatever [Jenn laughs] the heck you wanna call it! Just understand the principle of when you are tracking where your money is going, you are putting yourself in the driver’s seat of making changes with your money so that you can drive more money towards those particular goals. Even if your goal is you wanna pay off debt, it’s—it’s just when you have an understand of, you know, the what’s coming in is the easy part. Like that’s the part we all like. The what going out part, you know, most people are like, “Well I have some general idea of where I spend my money,” and then there’s a process that I go through with people where we dial down and we actually look at the bank statements and, you know, I—I come back to them and we compare the numbers of what they thought, and what they actually spent, and it’s kind of mind-blowing at times. So it’s—it’s putting yourself in a powerful position to be able to make changes and also to be able to anticipate when, you know, big expenses are coming up and things like that, and really, I mean, it can be as uncomplicated or as complicated as you want. Some people use Post-It notes, some people use pieces of paper, some people Excel templates. Microsoft has a ton of free templates or you can use budgeting apps. I mean so it’s really kind of based off of your temperament and something that will keep you motivated.
JL Huh. I never even thought about other options besides like an Excel spreadsheet.
SCG Yeah. There are so many of them out there. So I always tell people, like, try a bunch of things until you figure out something that actually works for you.
SWB There’s like nothing more terrifying to me than having to sit down and face how much money I spent in a given month on, like, coffee.
SCG Yeah I—I know. Coffee [inaudible], you know, eating out is another—is another big one. I worked with a couple a couple of years ago and they wanted to buy a house and they just—they made really good money and they couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t have a down payment ever. And so they’d handed me this like, you know, scrap of paper budget that they had made probably like a year before, and of course it wasn’t accurate. And uh, you know, after we did sort of the exercise of looking at their bank statements, I came back to them and I said, “So like, how much did you think that you spent on eating out?” And they’re like, “Oh I think we spend like $300 or $400 a month.” You know? And I’m like, “Do you wanna know the actual number?” And they’re like, “Sure!” I’m like, “Well, the last like four or five months tracking back you’ve spent about $2,500 a month on eating out.” And they were like, “What?!?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I mean—” You know, they obviously knew they were going out to eat a lot but they just—it just wasn’t realistic to them but, you know, when they realized that then they were able to shift things a little bit and they bought a house in four months. So, if I understand like how scary that can be: for sure because there are times I don’t wanna look at my money but um I think if you—if you can flip it on the flipside of things and just say, “Look: the only reason I’m doing this is because I got all these other things out here and name them and visualize them that I wanna do.” And so if I don’t look at this, I can’t get to this.
JL Ughhhhh. Having to look. [Laughing] Having to look internally at ourselves is so hard!
SCG I know! I know. I know. I know. It’s—it’s really hard but I promise you like after you do it… one or two times, if you can find that positive inspiration, it does start to change.
JL You know it’s true, and then you have to like remember like, “Wow. I’m so happy I know this now.” So you can like identify these things. It’s almost like the not knowing is worse.
SCG You know it’s—it’s just coming to the place where you—look: before—before I got divorced, like I was the girl who never wanted to look at the ATM receipt. I would deposit money and I wouldn’t look at the receipt. And it’s dumb because there was no reason because there was money—always money in the bank account. I just fixate on numbers and so I didn’t wanna look. And then when I got divorced I was like, “All right, I gotta look at the ATM receipt.” [Chuckles] Like, I gotta deal with this and, you know, the first few times were a little hard for me and then after that it was like, “All right, I got this. I can do this.” You know? And so I think as much as you can like positively inspire yourself, the better off you’re gonna be.
JL So I’ve been trying to tackle this. In like the last couple of months I’ve been like, “I’m gonna learn more about money. I’m gonna do it.” And I’ve been doing it but like I’ll read a lot of advice that’s like, “Start saving in your twenties, otherwise you’re screwed.” And as someone in my thirties that makes [laughing] me feel terrible!
SCG Yeah. Don’t listen to that. It’s not true. It’s not true. There’s always a way to remedy absolutely everything financially. So… that the stuff where it’s like, ok, they’re trying to get to clickbait on the article [laughs]. We’re also in a generation where we’re probably realistically gonna live well into our hundreds. So we’re probably not gonna like, you know, put up shop and stop working at 65 like maybe our parents did and so it’s gonna look completely different. I mean some people even argue that we’re not actually going to quote/unquote “retire”. We’re just gonna keep working and, you know, with the internet and—and side hustles and, you know, we’re gonna be in our nineties like side hustling. Um—
SWB Oh my god that sounds so exhausting.
SCG Right?! So I mean [laughter] I just—you know, don’t—don’t freak about it.
JL With—with that in mind, you know, I think sometimes we’re hesitant to save for retirement because it seems like… like it’s not ever gonna happen.
SCG Yeah! It’s this taboo word obviously that we hear all the time and I think, you know, once we get into our thirties we’re like, “[Gasps] Oh my gosh!” You know even though it’s 30-plus, potentially 40-plus years away. And, you know, their life is gonna bob and weave all around around them. So I think that it’s just about, you know, again having some goals and look: if you can only save a little bit of money each year for awhile, so be it. It’s not the end of the world.
JL So, Shannah, can you tell us a little bit about this new book you have coming out?
SCG Well, it’s a little bit top secret so [chuckles]. I can’t dish a whole lot but I—I’ve always like when I was—when I was writing it I was sort of writing it under the idea of the anti-money money book. So for me it’s—it’s a book that is full of inspiration that’s gonna help you feel better about, you know, whatever financial situation you’re in, and then also the book shares a lot of stories from people that hopefully, you know, somebody can relate to… who have gone through different things in—in their lives and how they’ve kind of pulled themself back up or the different steps they’ve taken, and then it’s fused together with my own story. So it’s not a book where, you know, chapter one is “how to pay off debt” and chapter two is “buying a house.” It’s just not that type of book. It’s to me it’s—it’s always the type of book I’ve wanted to write, which is really making money come to life and helping it be relatable to people reading it that they can see maybe themselves through somebody else’s story or be inspired through their story.
JL That sounds absolutely incredible and I know that I am very excited to read that when that comes out. But while myself and our listeners are waiting for your book, where can they get more Shannah?
SCG Absolutely! So you can find the Millennial Money podcast on absolutely any podcast player, and we would love to have you listening. We do episodes twice a week, or you can head on over to my website shannahgame.com to check out all of the back catalogue [music fades in, plays alone for five seconds, fades out].
KL I’m really hungry. But I’m also thinking about our Fuck Yeah of the Week.
JL Well, you’re in luck, Katel, because this week’s Fuck Yeah is fuck yeah, meal prep!
KL All right… tell me more!
JL Ok. So we’ve all either like… are meal prep converts at this point or we’ve like read about meal prep and been like, “Oof! That sounds like a… investment of a lifestyle.”
SWB The look on my face says, “Oh my god are you one of those people now?”
JL I think you’re gonna like it because I feel like I’m someplace in the middle. So I’ve been reading all this meal prep and hearing about meal prep for like ever. Like, “Meal prep! Meal prep! It makes life so much easier, etc.” But I was just like, “I can’t get down. I can’t get down.” But! Like money, I’m taking those slow steps into like being like, “Well, let me try it out and maybe I can like figure out a way to make this work,” and so we’ve been like struggling in that our son needs to eat at an early hour. And it’s like right in like a weird time. And then we do bedtime, so like we would like to give him dinner at like 6:00, but then we wouldn’t eat and start making dinner until after bedtime, so then we’re eating like 8:30, 9pm, and like I’m trying to go to sleep at like 9:30 so this was—
KL Yeah, it’s like, “What are we in Spain?” [Laughter]
JL [Laughing] What is going on here?!? Without, like, the glorious wine.
JL So I mean there’s wine, it’s just not as good. So we were like, “You know what? Let’s like—let’s give meal prep a shot.” And like the thing is so we sort of looked at what we could do and—and we’ve got an Instant Pot, and we sorta became Instant Pop converts which, Katel—[laughs].
KL I wonder who helped you do that [laughs].
JL And then we’re also really into like sheet pan meals, and then the third part is um we’ve been doing these Hungry Harvest um like CSAs which are basically like they call like “ugly produce.” So like produce that stores reject for like one reason or another. Either if it’s like been over-production of something or mis-shaped apples. So they do a CSA and they deliver to your door which is awesome. So we get those delivered on Saturday, and then sometimes we’ll like supplement with an Instacart if we can’t go to the store because, again: baby. And then on Sunday we were like, “Well, let’s give this a shot.” So basically we just take all of these vegetables that we get from our produce share and we just like, we just roast ‘em with various things. And then I found a recipe for one-minute quinoa in the Instant Pot. So we do that. And then we do like one other like protein-ish thing which we freeze to then have later in the week. And then Sunday like when we’ve got time, we usually like grill something like a meat or a fish and then we’re like, ok. We’re gonna like just do the one like protein thing like… for the next two days, and then we like break out the thing that we froze from the Instant Pot. So like we tried and we’re like, “Oh!… This is kind of working.” And so now we—we’re saving time and we’re able to eat dinner at 6pm with our child. So we all eat dinner together as a family which is… really awesome.
KL It sounds like it’s, you know, a good thing to manage sort of budget-wise also because you’re kind of looking at like …you know a week at a time or whatever length of time. So that’s like—that seems really helpful.
JL And we waste way less food. We were doing the thing like where we’d be like, oh yeah, you know, I want all this stuff. And we were trying like sort of live the lifestyle we had before like before having a kid, where it’s like, oh yeah, we can cook extravagant dinners and like make all this stuff. But like… what we’d end up doing is being like, “Ugh! We’re throwing out another head of kale?!” Like and then you just feel awful. Like for many reasons. Like, one, you just wasted food, and you wasted money, and you didn’t get to eat that kale. So like it’s always like a little bit of a bummer and now we’re like actually making sure that we’re cooking everything.
SWB You know years ago Will and I were really good about planning out our meals for the week. We didn’t do like a ton of pre-prep, but we would really plan out ingredients. And also, to be honest, we were broke. Like we didn’t have that much money. When Will was in graduate school and we were in our early twenties, we would go grocery shopping every weekend together, and we would shop off of what was on the circular that week, which is like how I grew up. It was like a very like you would really look for what was on sale, and stock up on things when they were on sale, if you could at the time, and, you know, and so we used to do that and we were very good about thinking about things like, Ok, well… you know if we buy this kind of produce that is on sale this week, we need to have it in two different dinners. So we’ll like do it two different ways or whatever, right? And that worked pretty well, particularly because I wasn’t travelling that much then and so, you know, we would cook dinner together every night and it didn’t cost a lot of money. And it wasn’t perfect but it was good. And it kinda fell apart at some point because I travel a lot and we kind of stopped really doing those big shops together, and we just like stopped having as much of a plan, and so recently… I struggle with the meal prep in that like I have this piece of me that wants to like make dinner for the night that night. I really like it in a lot of ways. But I did get way better about going back into thinking through the week. What’s going on this week? How many meals can we prepare realistically? How many evenings this week are we going to be able to cook at home? And I’ve been really enjoying feeling a little bit more planned out. I’m not like micromanaging, but it makes me feel good to feel like I go into the week with like a little bit of a plan, the right kinds of stuff stocked, and a realistic sense of what I’m gonna do with all the kale I just bought or whatever, you know? [Laughter] But also like, don’t you sometimes have a plan and then you’re like, “I had a fucking Wednesday, and I just don’t wanna”?
JL So, I will say this: the meal prep is new. So, I’m saying fuck yeah now, but I’m not sure if I’ll be saying fuck yeah in another five weeks. There are like points where I’m getting like a little bit tired of like what we’re eating. So now we’re trying to like think of like other things that we can do to make it different. Maybe we need more sauces, maybe we need to like, I don’t know, just expand something. So we’re gonna look into that. But like the other week I was going home and we’re like—we’re… right near some like really good pizza restaurants and this just like smell of garlic was like just coming through the air, and I got home and I was just like, I just looked at Sutter and was like, “I’m ordering a pizza.” [Laughs, laughter, laughing] I was like, “I do not care. This is just like I am ordering this pizza right now. Like that is what’s happening,” and it was so good.
KL I love that. I—we like awhile ago, Jon and I decided that we were going to try basically switching off every day. Right? So like one—like if I decided dinner and it doesn’t—it doesn’t have to be a cooked thing. It can be like you are just in charge of dinner. You’re PMing dinner. You can cook it, you can order it, we can go out somewhere, whatever. And that was like kind of great because you just like had the night off if it wasn’t your night. But then a pizza place—a slice pizza place—opened up across the street from where we live. So now it’s basically like both of our ideas all the time are just pizza slice [laughing, laugher], which does not [laughter]… it sounds fucking amazing like today.
SWB It might not be like a long-term plan.
KL [Laughing] It’s not a long-term plan.
SWB So I think the thing about meal prep is—is sort of—it’s not even like just meal prep but it’s like kind of thinking about [sighs] how do I make sure that I have some of that time in the evening that is like good family time? Or how do I make sure that I eat the way that I wanna be eating more often? Or that I kinda stay on budget? It’s kind of like thinking about that stuff and sort of like giving yourself some space to figure out that out without, I think, without getting like too rigid about it and making it feel like another on the long list of shoulds, which I’m kind of like tired of feeling like I have all these shoulds.
JL Totally. Fuck yeah.
KL That’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. NYG is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia and produced by Steph Colbourn. Our theme music is by The Diaphone. Thanks to Shannah Compton Game for being our guest today. If you like what you’ve been hearing, please make sure to subscribe and rate us on Apple podcasts. Your support helps us spread the word. We’ll be back next week with another great guest [music fades in, plays alone for 32 seconds, fades out to end].