Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your 20’s & 30’s
Beth Kobliner is a certified financial junkie. She has written about personal finance for the New York Times, Glamour, and Money Magazine. She has appeared on “Oprah” and “The Today Show,” and she has an upcoming TV series on PBS called “Your Life, Your Money.” I recently met Kobliner at the Campus Progress National Conference, where we spoke to an audience of college students about getting a handle on their finances. Kobliner offers up sound advice for young adults in her new book Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your 20’s & 30’s, as well as on her website. But Beth’s advice isn’t just for the 20-30 set. Her practical wisdom is great for anyone who wants to get a better grip on their financial lives.
Get a Financial Life is broken into several helpful sections: expense tracking, banking basics, debt, investments, insurance, retirement plans, home ownership, taxes, and military benefits. I found the chapter about debt to be really enlightening. Kobliner explains the basics of credit cards and tells readers how to get the best deal when they’re shopping around for a loan. The section on buying a car was really helpful – she advises consumers to do their homework before they hit the car lot to get the best deal.
The chapter on “All You Really Need to Know About Investing” is great for someone like me, who doesn’t really understand the ins and outs of money market funds, stocks, and mutual funds. I also found the chapters on retirement planning and home ownership to be really interesting. Both chapters take all the complicated financial information and break it down so the average Jane can understand it.
Follow me after the jump to read my interview with Beth, and to sign up to win a free copy of her book. She’s got some great advice for parents about how they can teach their children about money.
1. In your book you encourage twenty- and thirty-somethings to take control of their finances. What inspired you to write your book?
Early in my career as a financial journalist, I talked to thousands of financial experts to get their take on what the average person should do with his or her money. I finally realized that nobody was really focused on informing young people about these issues, so I wrote Get a Financial Life to address those topics.
2. Do you feel that financial advice should be given to people even younger than their twenties?
Absolutely! It’s crucial at every age. The earlier young people are taught the basics of how to handle money, the better they’ll understand those principles in the long run. Likewise, the younger you start building good financial habits, the more time you have for them to work in your favor. Teens can get Roth IRAs and if they do, the power of compound interest can be really spectacular: $500 invested at age 17 can grow into over $20,000 by the time you retire.
3. You seem to be interested in teaching money matters to elementary school aged children. Why do you think this is important? How do you think this could happen?
At this age it’s about looking for teachable moments, and making personal finance a part of everyday life. Shopping together is a good way to casually, consistently show the value of thrift by steady example rather than lecture. For example, when you shop with your child at the grocery store, you can walk her through the choices on display and choose items together. A more direct way to discuss finances is to set up young children with their own bank accounts so they get into the habit of saving part of their allowance and birthday money — instead of spending it all at once. Overall, of course, the message should obviously be kept simpler at younger ages.
4. How have you taught your own children about money?
I try to teach my children by using examples they can understand. For example, back when my older son was in the third grade, he discovered that he was only getting around 0.5% interest on his savings in a so-called “high-rate” money market fund. So we took him into the bank and got him into a five-month CD that paid the equivalent of 5.1% a year. Before that, every $100 that Adam deposited was only earning him 50 cents a year. Now the same amount makes more than ten times as much. He is still pretty young, but if he had left his retirement savings in that “high-rate” account, the interest on his little nest egg wouldn’t have been enough to keep up with inflation, much less provide much income.
5. Is the advice in your book only for people in their 20’s and 30’s, or would you recommend it to anyone who is trying to get a grip on their finances?
It’s definitely for everyone! Different age groups have different financial challenges, but investing choices, buying a home, and dealing with debt – just to give a few examples — are issues that people of all ages face. The recent market downturn has hit people in their 50s and 60s especially hard because their 401(k)s don’t have as much time to recover, for example. On the other end of the age spectrum, it’s the youngest kids that will have to deal with the long-term fallout of our current economic woes. But they’re also the ones that have the greatest opportunity to build healthy financial lives for themselves if they start with the right building blocks.
To win a free copy of Get a Financial Life, leave us a comment about why you want to read the book. A winner will be selected on Monday.