Becoming Smarter About Money Doesn’t Have to be Boring
File for less and get more.
Your max tax refund is guaranteed.
Money isn’t the root of all evil. That title truly belongs to ignorance.
Ignorance can leave intelligent people crippled with fear about what to do with their savings account or prevent them from understanding how to properly use/utilize credit cards.
Ignorance — with a dash of laziness — can be what keeps someone from contributing to an employer matched 401(k).
The only antidote for ignorance is education.
Unfortunately, financial education is often low on people’s priority lists because the reading material can come across as either completely dry or like a foreign language.
What’s with that alphabet soup like ROI, ETF, IRA, APY or terms like “bear market,” anyway?
The studious might lean towards picking up copies of A Random Walk Down Wall Street or Rich Dad Poor Dad.
For those who prefer to pick up their financial knowledge through osmosis, there may actually be a solution for how to passively learn about money.
The rise of technology has led to an onslaught of resources literally at our fingertips, be it on our phones, computers, tablets or TVs.
This has also presented financial information in digestible ways for even the least money savvy among us.
Podcasts are the bite size candy bar of financial wisdom.
They can be downloaded to a phone or streamed on a computer and then listened to during your morning commute, while pounding the pavement during your nighttime jog or when doing chores around the house.
The best part about podcasts is the massive quantity and variety available to consumers. The price tag of $0 doesn’t hurt either.
There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of finance-focused podcasts but those looking for a beginner-level course should dabble in NPR’s “Planet Money.”
This podcast usually lasts 15 to 20 minutes and always tells a story with a human interest angle. The reporters do an excellent job of taking basic economic theories like supply and demand and linking it to a current situation that almost tricks a listener into learning.
Bloomberg’s “Game Changers”
Bloomberg TV serves up an option for those uninterested in hearing all about finance and economics in a podcast.
The media outlet’s series Game Changers follows the careers and tactics of successful entrepreneurs, moguls and captains of industry in less time than it takes to watch an episode of “House of Cards.”
As the name implies, episodes feature a current game changer in an industry, ranging from literature and social media, to venture capitalists.
It’s the perfect instructor because the biographies are fascinating and it becomes easy to pick up on finance terms while learning how Magic Johnson made millions off the basketball court or about Anna Wintour’s rise to fashion domination.
The series is available on Netflix or Bloomberg TV’s website.
ABC’s “Shark Tank” not only made it trendy to be a finance nerd and entrepreneur, it helped class up the relatively trashy reality TV genre.
The hit series takes budding innovators and entrepreneurs and offers them an opportunity to pitch their product to a panel of investors, including Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbra Corcoran, O’Leary Funds chariman and founder Kevin O’Leary and FUBU founder and CEO Daymond John.
The Sharks (aka investors) duke it out for the opportunity to sink their personal funds into an entrepreneur’s idea or absolutely rip the business to shreds on national television.
Shark Tank pitches open with an entrepreneur asking for an amount of money for a certain percent stake in the company.
Naturally, the conversation turns to valuation and an extended discussion about whether or not it’s accurate or worth a Shark’s time and money investment.
There’s nothing quite like sitting on your comfy couch in sweatpants eating junk food viewing a little reality drama while a financial lesson sneaks up on you.
A documentary offers a perfect mixture of human interest stories and extended money lessons.
Netflix and YouTube provide a money-related documentary to satisfy nearly any craving.
Sports fan? Try ESPN’s “Broke” which analyzes how millionaire athletes end up with overdrawn bank accounts through interviews with bankrupt former professionals from the NFL, MLB and NBA.
Interested in politics? Watch the drama of the government bailout unfold in “HANK: Five Years From the Brink “with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson giving a candid interview about what happened.
Those interested in social justice might prefer “Inequality for All” featuring former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.
Fascinated by the lifestyle of the rich and famous? Explore 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan, the stomping grounds for billionaires and one of the most exclusive addresses in the world, through the film aptly named “Park Avenue.”
Or perhaps you’d rather get a dose of scandal and focus on the fall of a billionaire in “Queen of Versailles.”
Regardless of your taste, each documentary offers a glimpse into the world of money and power, and provides some basic language about dealing with your own financial situation.
Learning about money doesn’t have to be stressful
None of us should be living in ignorance when it comes to money, but the pursuit of financial knowledge needn’t be stressful.
Even if you have a torrid relationship with credit cards, debt, student loans or math, all you need to do is find an entertaining and hopefully pleasurable method to begin stimulating your brain.
Soon enough you’ll be speaking like a hedge fund manager — or at least be able to name a few.