Living your life the way you want to requires getting real with your finances. Money, or rather lack of money, can cause major stress, as well as feelings of shame, guilt, and depression. Getting your finances on track helps release emotional baggage and can be really empowering and fun.

Shannon Lee Simmons, founder of The New School of Finance, thinks it’s time we all start talking about money more. Listen to today’s podcast, which is one of the most informative conversations I’ve ever had about money.

When you feel empowered about finance, even if you don’t have a ton of savings, but you know you have a plan to start, you’re excited, so talking about it with your friends feels right just like you’d be excited if you were going to talk about something that wasn’t having to do with finance.”—Shannon Lee Simmons, founder of The New School of Finance.

For a very long time, money was a huge source of bad feelings for me, because I’d accrued a hefty pile of debt from school and being a poor ski bum. Every time I looked at my line of credit, my stomach sank to the floor. I felt like I would never get out of it. And, instead of dealing with it smartly, I would make minimum payments and ignore it—only to find out those minimum payments barely paid more than the interest. Depressing.

Money’s a game and can be a huge source of creativity if you approach it with a sense of opportunity. But first, let’s get one thing out of the way.

Money is not a source of evil. Greedy people are! Money is just a trading currency. When you give money a face, like Scrooge, you give it power and treat it like an enemy. Why would you treat something you work so hard for like an enemy?

It’s time for us all to be better friends with money and to learn what kinds of cool things we can do with it.

Money gets fun when you learn how to master it

Money = fun? Are you crazy?! You don’t have to be a billionaire stockholder to have fun with your dollars and cents. I’ve learned how to have fun with money and I am far from being a billionaire. Learning about what you can do with money can be exciting—what Shannon calls the Monday Effect, when she hears from a pile of new clients referred to her by a recently educated new client over the weekend.

Start simple. Shannon offers some great courses on her site that teach you about your finances. Also, listen to last week’s podcast with Ben Van Dyke about how to prioritize what you spend your money on. And then, check out some of the finance books in the OUGU Library. These are the best books I’ve been able to find so far that explain money in a way that doesn’t require you to have a degree in economics to understand.

Don’t start by investing

I’ll admit, I am a little obsessed with the idea of investing money…probably because I love games and compounding interest. Shannon recommends you attack your debt first, though, because you’ll pay more in interest on your debt than you will earn by investing. If you listened to last week’s podcast with Ben, you may have already started automating some debt payments.

If you are ready to invest money, you’ll want to pay attention to how much money you’ll fork out in fees. Check your MER (management expense ratio). Shannon recommends keeping it under 2%, and also looking into additional fees paid in commissions, loads, or trailers. Find yourself a transparent financial advisor.

Make money a common conversation

I am super-obsessed with this idea because I was so uncomfortable talking about money for a long time. Then, I started talking to a lot of people about money just to see what would happen. While some conversations are awkward, when people realize you’re not coming from a judgmental place, you’ll find everyone’s just as curious as you are. We can all help each other get better with our money by making it a common topic of conversation.

Talk about money with your partner

Money is the leading cause of stress in relationships! I know you know someone who’s ended a relationship because of money problems, whether that was resentment about how a partner spent their money, lied about money, or used money to try to patch up other relationship issues.

Don’t make huge debt a surprise. While we shouldn’t choose our relationships based on someone’s financial situation, it’s pretty hard to sync long-term goals when you have no idea how you’ll get there. For example, if you want to buy a home together or start a business, do you both have a good idea of how long it will take to make that happen and what you need to do to get there based on your current financial situation?

If your partner puts up a wall when you try to bring up money during a conversation, Shannon recommends using “we” language. For example, “how are we going to save up for that around-the-world vacation?” and not “how are we going to go on an around-the-world vacation if you don’t earn enough?” The latter phrase blames the person for not earning enough money, which takes stabs at their self-worth. Not nice. As Shannon explains, stop the blame game. Also, make sure that no one is “hangry” going into the conversation to avoid throwing someone who’s already feeling a little raw into a full-on mental meltdown.

Ask yourself right now, what would it take for you to love money enough to start doing cool and creative things with it?

Learn more about the great work Shannon’s doing, especially her amazing online finance courses for millennials and sole proprietors. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, you’ll love this interview with CBC, where she answers questions about Millennial money challenges.

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