Tag Archive for: money

I was planning on writing a post today about yesterday’s breakfast with Donna Brazile (and roughly 699 other people, but still…).  It was pretty amazing, especially given that I got to hang around with a few dozen other people afterwards for an hour or so to ask her questions.  Sadly, that post will have to wait because I have a little rant I’d like to go on.

As most everyone knows, Twitter went public yesterday. Now, I will be the first to admit that I know very little about the nuanced workings of an IPO or the stock market itself, and I will also tell you that I have no intention of learning the ins and outs of this convoluted financial game in this lifetime.  I will say that, although I am certain I have benefited from the knowledge of others and their investments on my behalf, I still think this game is the most ridiculously rigged American institution out there. To me, it seems like one of those high-stakes poker games that only the crazy-rich or wildly bold really profit from and the story I heard on NPR this morning only solidified that for me.

You see, even though the vernacular states that Twitter “went public” yesterday, the truth is, they went private the day before.  They sold initial shares to huge investors at $26/share on Wednesday and by the time of the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday, the shares had shot up so much that most regular investors were shut out. Not to mention the fact that most regular investors couldn’t even have gotten leverage to buy a share even if it were within their price range. Most of the trading yesterday benefitted the folks who were allowed to get in at the $26 price and those who hold massive influence on the floor of the stock exchange because they have enormous client lists and lots of money to burn.  NPR talked to one Texas stockbroker who was hoping to purchase some stock for his clients, but was unable to because of the skyrocketing price.

Now, think for a minute about what happened here.  A visionary company made a boatload of money for their efforts. That’s kind of cool. But more salient is the fact that lots of rich investors made themselves richer while shutting out smaller investors whose profits would likely have gone more directly back into their communities.  Even if you still believe in trickle-down economics (don’t get me started – I am no economic wizard, but I have read and witnessed enough in my short lifetime to think that was all a giant scam), what are the odds that the astronomical sums of money made by these large investors yesterday will find their way down to the middle class?

To paraphrase Donna Brazile (hey, I worked in a reference to yesterday after all), if you aren’t part of the group when the rules are being written, the deck is likely stacked against you. If the rules are written to benefit one group of folks and you can’t add your voice to the discussion, you’re never going to win. What would happen if we made it easier for smaller groups of individuals to invest in the stock market and initial public offerings? What sense does it make to keep shuffling the deck to give the money out to the same folks over and over again? I know Twitter was handsomely compensated for their hard work and innovation and I appreciate that.  But offering pre-sales of popular stocks to those who already have money is like saying the families who can afford to pay for their kids to attend private pre-schools will get first right to enrollment in the Head Start program.  I know that engagement in the stock market is not an entitlement and I am not advocating priority for anyone. It just seems ludicrous to me that there is such an uneven playing field that virtually shuts most of middle-income folks out of the game when they could be benefitting and investing in their communities with the money they make by helping to support their own families. It is disgusting to watch the ever-increasing rolls of those living in poverty whose food-stamp benefits are being cut while others are literally making money hand over fist after being allowed early purchase of IPO stock. Am I the only one who feels this way?

This whole lifelong learning thing is coming at me in waves! Unfortunately for me, I often plow through my days busying my brain with so many things that the Universe has to shake me or poke me or smack me upside the head to get me to pay attention from time to time. And with certain issues I prefer to avoid altogether, it is necessary to poke me repeatedly. Money is one of those issues. I am lucky enough to have what I need so that we aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck like most of the world is and that has enabled me to continue to hide behind the black curtain, blithely continuing to ignore the cavalier way I treat financial issues.

And from time to time, I get the nagging feeling that I’m spending too much money (not on big things, I’m the nickel-and-dime-you-to-death sort: Target loves me, so do the grocery stores where I often impulse-buy, and I love getting little gifts or cards for friends as I see them). Occasionally Bubba (who is the primary money manager in our household) will throw out phrases like, “hemhorraging money,” and a little red flag pops up in my brain. But mostly, I continue on, blissfully ignorant. But last week Bubba was in Canada on business and it was the end of the month (one of those months where we had apparently been bleeding cash from every orifice) and my debit transaction was denied at Target. And later it was denied at the restaurant where I took Lola and one of her friends for lunch. So I went online and checked the balance of the account (barely recalling the password and username Bubba set up for us). Seems that Bubba did a big cash-grab for his trip, cabs and lattes being easier to pay for in cash – especially when you’re in another country. This meant that until payday, my free-wheeling debit card days were over. Wake. Up. Call.
Lying in the tub that evening, I decided that my usual modus operandi (guilt and shame at how ignorant I am about our finances leading to self-loathing and resulting in complete denial of the issue until payday when everything would return to normal) wasn’t going to cut it anymore. So I created this worksheet:
Turns out I have all sorts of “stories” I tell myself about money. That I am horrible at managing it (and so this gives me the excuse to not even try), that it isn’t important to me and I can do without it (and so this gives me the excuse to disregard it), and that I have a partner who is terrific with money and interested in managing it for our household (and so this gives me the excuse to rely on him to tell me what to do with it). Putting that in writing made my skin crawl. I felt like I had just downed an entire bowl of sea slugs in salt broth. ICK!!! I felt guilty, ashamed, lazy, and confused about where these stories came from. And I felt motivated to change them. They are not accurate, but they are ingrained.
I made ten copies of the worksheet and am keeping the original in my office. I know that, as young as they are, Eve and Lola have their own dysfunctional stories they tell themselves about difficult things. I have stories about exercise and health, relationships and conflict, and my own mental health status to name a few. But having the ability to look at the way I find trapdoors for myself and excuse behaviors that perpetuate my own negative self-image around certain things is incredibly powerful. It isn’t easy or pretty, but the simple realization that I have based a lot of my actions on inaccurate stories I tell myself is a huge catalyst for change. That doesn’t mean I’m taking any accounting classes anytime soon, but it does make me feel more empowered about my own behaviors around money and helps me think of ways to teach the girls to do the same.