As a newbie personal finance blogger and a woman just starting my journey of financial self-improvement, there’s much to stand in the way of progress. Despite my attempts to be a Lady, sometimes it’s all a Miss.
As way of providing context to this article, perhaps I should remind you that I am NOT a financial expert.
In fact, I’m simply a 47-year old divorced mom who, for once in her life, got serious about making her money work for her. I’ve been financially broke and emotionally broken many times over the years–and upon hitting rock bottom about 18 months ago, I decided to turn things around for myself and my daughter.
I started writing as The Lady in the Black about 4 months ago for 3 important reasons. I believed I could:
- Lend my strength as a writer to my weakness; managing my finances. My logic was that if I could somehow leverage my love and talent for writing onto my poor personal finance skills I might find some middle ground. I needed fresh ground in which to rebuild my own personal finances.
- Hold myself accountable to “someone” larger than myself. From past experience, I knew that it’s far too easy to try to improve my finances in a silo. However, by operating in a silo, it’s far too easy to sweep mistakes under the rug and resume bad habits. I went public with my journey so I couldn’t hide–and I couldn’t quit as easily.
- Share my journey with others in my situation. It was a lesser priority but I hoped that my story might help, inspire, and encourage others also struggling to make sense of money.
However, what I didn’t count on when I started blogging was how often I’d believe myself to be a giant fake and a huge dumb-ass.
Before I elaborate, perhaps I should share a bit of personal insight about myself; the real Erica not the character The Lady in the Black that I play online.
Erica has had some particularly unique and difficult life challenges. I could elaborate but this article isn’t about where I’ve been, it’s about where I’m going. Let’s just say that my life could have gone many different ways at many different junctures.
Yet, throughout it all, the one thing that saved me was my intelligence. And though I’m not an arrogant woman, my intelligence is probably the one personal characteristic I pride myself on over the rest.
Because I believe intelligent people are continual learners. I respect innately curious people who have a level of comfort and confidence in overcoming their ignorance; a resolute drive to seek out knowledge. If they don’t know something, they ask. They research. They learn. There is an integrity and humility associated with genuine intelligence and I dig it.
So I’ve spent nearly 5 decades as the smart girl, the nerd, the straight-A kid, the know-it-all, the salutatorian, the Miss Smarty Pants. And you know what? I’m totally cool with that. I feel people perceive me as smart and, therefore, smart with money. In fact, historically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth. When it comes to finances, my own ignorance is so spectacularly glaring that I roll my own eyes to keep from being blinded.
Being ignorant is one thing; feeling stupid is quite another.
In short, feeling dumb is REALLY hard on me. I perceived myself as incapable of financial success; unable to excel or, at the very least, get caught up to my peers.
I recently read a great post from my fellow personal finance blogger titled You Aren’t Stupid. It really struck a chord with me. He says:
You may come across information that makes you feel stupid. Don’t let this get to you.
This simple statement was profoundly reassuring to me. I felt he was speaking directly to me.
You see, once you start your financial journey, you are instantly barraged with such a vast wealth of valuable and educational content that it is truly too much to take in…even for “the smart girl.” If you decide to jump into the deep end and become a personal finance blogger, the information overload threatens to swallow you whole.
At first, I was enthused. I read, and read, and read. I put no filter or self-judgment on it. I just was so thirsty for financial knowledge that I just soaked it up like a sponge. If there was something I didn’t understand, well, I tried to understand but more likely I just take a swipe at the next article.
I was so financially dehydrated that I just kept soaking it up and up and up.
After a while though, my brain sponge became saturated and heavy. It was quite literally slowing me down. My brain couldn’t find a context in which to place all this new and wonderful information. There was no logic, no sequence, no pre-determined construct in which to sort, prioritize, and apply this new data. And honestly, much of it did not directly apply to my life or my immediate financial situation.
All this new information was a) amazing new actionable advice, b) an avoidance technique/distraction, or c) a mirror to my own financial ignorance.
I made a tactical error in my initial forray into the Land of Blog. I miscalculated what it was that I needed from it.
So, as I’m prone to do, I took a time out.
I took the time off to re-evaluate how active I wanted to be as a personal finance blogger–and what approach I wanted to take.
Once I saw what others could offer, I doubted my story held any value to anyone. (I found some comfort that other bloggers experience this same doubt.)
First and foremost, there’s the personal finance community which compromises most of my readership. They are a diverse and lovely group of smart, compassionate, and driven individuals. While I remain profoundly grateful to them and their content, I felt like I really don’t fit in.
There’s the spirited millennials. And unlike many of my contemporaries who enjoy generation bashing, I actually found myself envious of them. I’m jealous that they’re getting their financial prospects in order at such a fortuitous age. They certainly don’t need my pre-school-level financial lessons. They’ve already surpassed me.
There’s the FIRE-y bunch who are hell-bent on early retirement. Right on for them but, hell, I’ll be lucky to keep my typing skills and wits about me so I can continue to write and earn income until I die. I fear there’s no early retirement in my future.
There’s the feisty feminists who I think in general enjoy my female perspective. They are tremendously supportive of me. Yet, in my weaker moments, I feel like I arrived late to the party wearing a costume when it was a black-tie event. So many smart women and I’m definitely the dumb girl in this crowd.
Oh, and the darling minimalists. I dig this crowd so much but do I have any remarkable advice for them? No, mine is a get-out-of-debt story. I can relate to them at some level but my stories of conquering tax debt is probably not rockin’ their tiny boats.
There’s the nearing retirement crowd. They’re amazingly wise and inspirational but they are too far down the yellow brick to find value in my struggles. I’m happy for them but what can I offer these folks?
Then there’s the DINKs, the frugalists, the coupon clippers, the penny pinchers, the investors, the podcasters, the travel hackers, and all the other amazing niche bloggers out there.
And then there’s me–a financially illiterate middle-aged lady with a crap-load of debt.
It’s my own adoration of my fellow personal finance bloggers that had temporarily blinded me to one indelible fact. Once I re-surfaced from my time out, it was pretty obvious where I went wrong.
The personal finance bloggers are not my target audience.
I wanted to help other people like me; middle-aged single women struggling with their finances. The busy working moms who are juggling kids, careers, homemaking, dating, and all the other things that everyday life throws our way. The ones who don’t know how to balance a check book, the ones who know they should save money aside but for the life of them can’t figure out how to do it.
But where are these women? Are they on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest? Should I join a book club and start chatting people up? Do I pass out my business cards at the kid’s soccer games? Should I advertise at the school carnival?
In truth, I think these busy women might just be too busy with their own lives to notice me. Sure, that sounds defeatist and maybe even a bit pouty–but it isn’t.
It was my final revelation that really opened my eyes and put me back on solid ground.
The only person who needs to find value in my blog is me.
My mistake was allowing my ego and enthusiasm to distract me from the truck loads of financial work I have yet to do for myself. Remember my list above? My reasons to be a blogger? To find the middle ground! I was creative enough to find it for myself, now I need to learn how to live there and build…and build some more.
In short, the working solution for this female personal finance blogger becomes her new-found mantra:
My life. My rules. My pace.
So, yes with new guard rails in place, I’m starting to poke my head out again into the blogosphere–just a bit and much slower than before.
I’m trying hard to be selective in my research and reading.
If I feel myself getting anxious or overloaded, I stop. I assure myself that being not ready right now is different from being not ready ever.
I have years to figure out investment strategies, and pull-down strategies, and cost-dollar averaging, and bond ladders, and all the thousands of things I acknowledge I don’t understand. I’ve made tremendous progress in short order and have the motive and means to accomplish even more.
In the meantime, there’s much to learn, mistakes to forgive, debt to pay, and a fortune to be made.
The Morale of The Story
Improving your financial situation is a journey that requires an enormous amount of psychological strength and emotional resiliency.
Regardless of why, when, or under what conditions you started, it’s so important that you keep chugging along toward your goals–despite any of the classic “mis-” words that shamelessly throw themselves at you.
And for those considering throwing their hat into the personal finance blogger arena, I have only this to say: it’s the inner reflection that is most profitable. External factors such as site traffic, sales, comments, etc are motivators but, unless you are pursuing blogging as a business, they can distract you from your financial goals.
I plan to stay true to myself, my dreams, and my limitations.
My plan moving forward?
Leave those nasty Misses behind and continue on like a Lady.