BiggerPockets Money Podcast

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 102: Understanding How Your Personal Money Story Shapes Your Financial Future with Jean Chatzky

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Jean Chatzky grew up in a family where money wasn’t a big issue.

Her parents saved for big purchases like vacations, but frugality was part of her everyday life. Jean graduated from college without any debt and soon found a job—one that she immediately regretted accepting. She moved quickly to change course and ended up in a job that paid less than half of that first one. But at least the gig was much better for her.

A freelancing side job to supplement her income evolved into a full-time journalism career with SmartMoney magazine, which led to a 25-plus year stint with the Today Show as their financial editor. But Jean wanted more. So, she created HerMoney, a place for women to learn how to properly handle finances.

Jean knows that your money story is the root of your relationship with money. That’s why she created a place and space for you to recognize your money story—and figure out how to apply deep-seated lessons learned consciously and subconsciously, so that you can lead your best financial life!

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy: Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast show number 102 where we interview Jean Chatzky from HerMoney and get her story of financial independence and tips for women to manage their money on their own as well as with their partner.

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Jean: Until we understand our money stories, until we deal with them and the fact that they are never going to go away, we may need strategies that help us work around them, we can’t move forward.

Mindy: Hello, hello, hello, my name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my fantastic co-host Scott Trench. Scott and I are here to show you that wherever you are in your journey, you can begin rapidly moving towards a position of financial freedom capable of generating a great income, saving a huge percentage of that income and setting yourself up to make larger and larger investments.

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Scott: All right, big thanks to today’s show sponsor. Today, we’ve got a very special guest, the famous and wonderful Jean Chatzky.

Mindy: Jean is the award-winning financial editor of NBC’s Today Show, as well as the best-selling author of 11 books including her most recent Women with Money, The Judgment-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful, and yes, Rich Life You Deserve.
Jean Chatzky from HerMoney, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. I’m so excited to have you on the show today.

Jean: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be with you guys.

Mindy: So you’ve been teaching money to people in general and women specifically on the Today show for 20 plus years.

Jean: 25 years.

Mindy: 25 years. You have a new book out called Women with Money and in your book, you talk about money stories which are the unconscious way that your experiences with money from a very early age shapes your lifelong relationship with money.
So Jean, this actually kind of ties really well in with our show. I want to hear your money story. Where does your journey with money begin?

Jean: So I grew up in a household where money was not really an issue. I mean, we had enough. We didn’t have an excessive amount. My father was a college professor, my mother taught everything from second grade to a gifted and talented program for high school students and I do remember a lot of frugality.
I remember going on a trip to Disney World and before we went, we sat down and we opened the family piggy bank where I had been watching my father put silver dollars and silver half dollars and occasionally, a piece of folding money for years and years and years and we cracked it open and basically counted it all up … The parents and the kids sitting on the floor of the house and just sort of remember the thrill that that everybody got realizing there was enough in here that had been saved to sort of cover our entry fees to the park.
At the same time, when we drove cross country, we didn’t go out for lunches. We would go to a grocery store, my mom would get a loaf of bread and a [inaudible 00:05:39]bologna and make sandwiches and we’d picnic out of the back of the car and I think I just … I learned that money was not something to be toyed with, that you had to be careful with money.
And that was a feeling that stayed with me for a really, really long time which didn’t mean I didn’t lose my way with money eventually. I mean, I went to college at a place where there were a lot of kids with a lot of money.
I overspent on my first credit card, I didn’t really take the lessons of you have to save for tomorrow to heart, I bombed my way out of a 401(k) very early on and so I think my overarching money story was, I knew enough to hold on really tightly to it, but I didn’t really understand how to make the most of it until I started down this path of trying to help others by reporting on personal finance and that’s how I learned to help myself.

Scott: When you were in college with that, what was kind of your financial position entering college and how did you end up when you left?

Jean: I was very, very lucky that I did not have student debt when I went to college. I did have the responsibility for paying for all of my extracurriculars. So that was the deal that my parents cut with me and my brothers, they would pay tuition, room and board, we would pay for everything else.
So I worked all the way through high school, I worked in college, I did everything from babysit to teaching Sunday school, and I had to … I definitely had those days of checking my bank account and seeing, “Oh my god, there’s $10 there, I better do something.” Because I certainly wasn’t going to call my parents and say I need money.
When I came out, I think I felt like I just needed more and it led to a terrible mistake that I was really lucky to be able to recover from. When I graduated from college, I got two job offers and I throughout college had been really intent on a career as a journalist.
I had found my way to the school paper, my favorite professor taught magazine writing. I had internship after internship after internship. My resume was great for journalism, but at the same time, there were a lot of kids at my college who were very professional.
They were going into consulting or to Wall Street or to law school or to med school. There was a lot of on campus interviewing and so I decided I would just throw my resume into some piles and I got some on campus interviews, I got two job offers when I came out of college.
One was at a magazine in New York for $12,000 a year and one was in a retail management training program for $24,000 a year, and I had absolutely no interest in retail, but I took the job for the money and I knew on day two of working in this job that I had just made a terrible, terrible mistake.
It took me about three months to get out of it. I had moved to Hartford, Connecticut where this job was, I had a roommate, I bought a car. I mean, I had gone all in, and I had to get rid of the car, and get rid of the apartment, get another job in New York which ironically paid $11,500 a year, not the full 12,000 that I had gotten the first time, but I just sort of put my tail between my legs and did it.
And then I got a second job to support myself while I was living in New York because there was no other way to make it even with a little help from my parents.

Scott: So out of college, it sounds like you mentioned you overspending your first credit card. Was that in relation to the first job that you got in that time?

Jean: Yeah.

Scott: Or was that in college? Okay.

Jean: No, it was …. I got the card right up senior year coming out of college. I didn’t use it much in college. I don’t know if I even used it at all in college. If I did, I knew enough to pay it off, but I got to New York, I wanted to look good to go to my magazine job.
I wanted to dress like the other people. I did, I got … I had very quickly wrapped up about a half year salary on credit card debt, but simultaneously, I also was doing some freelance writing and I was putting some money into a savings account.
So I was paying, I don’t know, 18.9% interest on the credit card, earning maybe 6% at the time on the savings account. Clearly, the math wasn’t working, but it was again a product of that need for safety.
I felt a lot safer having that money in the bank than I did repaying that credit card even though it made absolutely no financial sense.

Scott: Got it. And so once you changed jobs to the $11,500 job, which I think you mentioned was ironic because of the first $12,000 a year job offer, did anything change about your financial habits or what did the things continue for the next couple of years or what evolved from there?

Jean: My financial habits started to change with … I mean, I got on a budget. I understood what I could afford to spend, on rent, on food, on pretty much everything. I did get a second job to … That paid hourly, a lot more than my first job and I was getting with the program very slowly.
I didn’t really understand the program though until I started reporting on personal finance working at SmartMoney Magazine which was a good half decade later.

Scott: Got it.

Mindy: So I love that … I don’t want to say mistakes, I mean, you’re Jean Chatzky, you’re …

Jean: Oh, there’s so many mistakes.

Mindy: Perfect, but to make those mistakes early, you can recover and I want people who are listening right now to hear that, “Yeah, your financial life may not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s …” “Oh, well I guess I’m never going to be perfect. I should just stop.”

Jean: Well, what I actually want people to know more is that even if you are making mistakes later or you have some sort of a setback later, you can recover because I got divorced at 40 and I felt like I was starting over for so many things.
All of a sudden, I was going to be responsible for paying for college for my kids, half of college for my kids and at that point, it was not that far away and I didn't have any money saved for that and I had to because my game plan with my ex-husband was we had a 15 year mortgage.
We were going to pay off the house and then the money that we were putting into the mortgage would pay for college and that made perfect sense at the time until we split up and then it didn’t make any sense anymore.
So I very quickly opened 529, started saving a much greater percentage of my income, made sure that I got myself back on track for retirement. I did all of that at 40. So it’s not … You can recover no matter when those setbacks or mistakes happen.
You just have to be thoughtful about the plan that you put together in order to do that and if I’ve learned anything, we’ve had on my podcast which is called HerMoney we’ve had over the past couple of years, a number of people who are highly involved in the fire movement, and they are saving these immense percentages of their income and they’re doing it by being crafty.
They’re doing it by being very thoughtful about what it is they want to accomplish. They’re doing it by keeping their eyes on the bigger goal and and that’s the real point. I don’t think there’s any magic to this.
I think that you just have to make a decision that it’s important enough to you to prioritize it.

Scott: Love it. We hear that every single, almost every single episode that it’s just a matter of prioritize and decision making, all that kind of stuff. I mean, we also hear that there’s usually some sort of catalyst for that change like I heard a story, I had an event and I’m wondering what that was for you. Did that have anything to do with the move to SmartMoney Magazine?

Jean: I think it had everything to do with the move to SmartMoney Magazine and the fact that I very quickly ended up on television telling other people what to do with their money. So when you’re telling other people what to do with their money, you better be doing it too, right? Because otherwise …

Scott: I can relate.

Jean: Right? Otherwise, you’re a total fraud, right? You’re disingenuous. I mean, I learned, I think what makes me maybe different and certainly a little bit approachable is that I didn’t come to this as any sort of an expert, right?
I just learned on the job. I was lucky enough. I mean, the thing that I think many people feel overwhelmed by in the world of finance is the amount of choice that we have these days.
I mean, whether you’re choosing a mutual fund, whether you’re choosing a credit card, whether you’re trying to buy an insurance policy, there’s just thousands of choices out there and my job at SmartMoney Magazine was to sit at a computer all day, and talk to really, really smart people on the phone about what the best choices were and the best ways to filter those choices, how to make them.
And then I can make them for me, but I could also explain to other people how to make them. It was just writing a term paper again and again and again and again on a different subject and that was a huge gift to me, personally.
I mean Mindy, you asked about my money story, I have had enough therapy to understand that it is completely not a coincidence that I ended up writing and reporting about money, like I saw that this was a problem in my own life and I was going to fix it and these were my skills, right?
My skills were writing and reporting. So I just, I mean, I don’t think I thought about this consciously at all at the time. In fact, I know I didn’t, but that was exactly the behind the curtain formula or thought process that was going on

Scott: Well, I think what makes you so successful and your approach so successful is you’re not an expert. You are not using those difficult to understand financial terms that talk way up here when everybody else is down here, you use real words that real people can understand and you make it.
It’s not hard to figure out your finances, but it is hard to understand what Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it’s hard to understand him when he’s so boring. It’s hard to understand, I don’t want to talk smack about people, but Jim Cramer yells at you, and then you feel bad when somebody is yelling at you for making mistakes.
“I don’t even know you. Why am I going to listen to you when you’re yelling at me?” It’s having not being an expert I think is the best part about you. Not being an expert in the beginning. Now you’re an expert, now you absolutely have lived it and learned it and these are the … You use American words, easy to understand words that put it into people’s minds and, “Oh, it isn’t that hard. I can do it. I don’t have to decipher all this garbage first.”

Jean: Right. And I kind of felt like … I mean, I still feel like if I don’t understand it, then I’m not going to talk. I’m not going to explain it. I’m going to … There are things where I really have to work hard to understand them first and initially, when I when I first started working on television, I don’t know if how well you remember SmartMoney Magazine, but the stories were six or eight pages long in most cases and that is far too much information to talk about in three minutes on television.
So I used to go through this process of like just crossing things out and figuring out, “Okay, where’s the essence?” And over time, it became easier for me to get to what’s important and what’s the window dressing, but it certainly took a little while and I did want to just one more time, come back to the money story part of things because I think for all of us, what I learned in reporting Women with Money is that until we understand our money stories, until we deal with them and the fact that they are never going to go away, we may need strategies that help us work around them.
We can’t move forward. So for a woman like me who is typical in my overwhelming need for safety and security before I can do other things with my money, I needed to understand why that was and to be able to make myself feel like I was safe enough and secure enough so that I can do what I needed to do which was put my money to work so that it would take care of me and my kids down the road.

Mindy: That brings up an interesting point, the safety part. In your book, you do a lot of research as a journalist, and you talked to a lot of different women and the overarching theme that women want out of their money is safety.

Jean: Yup.

Mindy: And women also, I mean, people in general, but women specifically are reluctant to talk about money and in your book, you have this idea that like it’s … I don’t want to … It’s so simple, but it’s brilliant, and I think the most brilliant things are so simple.
It’s the HerMoney Happy Hour and last night at my friend Van’s birthday, I brought up this idea of having this happy hour where you talk about money, we’re getting together to talk about money with our friends and I brought up this idea, and everybody there was like, ‘Yeah, we should totally do that.”

Jean: You’ll have to give me your address Mindy and I will send you a deck of cards so that you can have your own HerMoney Happy Hour. So when I was starting to do the reporting for Women with Money, I figured I would just gather groups of women, I travel a lot for work, I do some speaking and I figured I would just gather crowdsource groups of women when I went different places because it’s very important when you live in New York like I do to get out of New York.
You can’t just have like a New York perspective or an urban perspective. You have to hit different places in the country. So to crowdsource these gatherings and originally, I had this Ziploc bag full of little pieces of paper that had on them leading questions about money, and we would just go around the room and people would draw out a piece of paper and read the question and start talking and the idea was that everybody would chime in.
They’re pretty universal questions, but also questions designed to get a conversation started like what’s your biggest money fear? Or what’s the thing about money that’s holding you back? Or is it okay to hide money from your spouse or your partner in your underwear drawer?
And we would continue these conversations and eventually, we packaged it up that we have an actual deck of cards so that people can hold HerMoney Happy Hour, but you open some wine because wine definitely helps and these discussions are … They’re just liberating.
They give us a forum and a format to have these conversations that nobody gives us permission to have.

Mindy: I am so excited, I could kiss you right now for saying that because they are like … I was reading The Money Secret I’ve been keeping is X. Not only do they allow you to have these conversations with other people, they make you look inside.
“I spend money because X.” “Oh, I spend money because I’m feeling inadequate in another portion of my life. Hey, let’s go fix that.” Because money is tied to a lot of different things. I just love this idea.
Now, do you have any tips for these happy hours? Should somebody plan to lead it? Should they just, “Hey ladies, let’s get together.” Should they send the questions out in advance?

Jean: No.

Mindy: Oh.

Jean: Do not send the questions out in advance. It’s actually helpful. Like you should invite … I’ve had them with anywhere from half a dozen people to, I’ve had 50, I mean, I can facilitate a big, big group, but if you’re going to do this on your your own, I’d say anywhere from like eight to 12 people is probably great and you should invite a friend and then they should bring a friend that not everybody knows.
It’s better to do this with people who have different experiences. So yes, you can do it with all of your best friends, but sometimes strangers facilitate more interesting and more freewheeling conversations because you don’t feel like you have to hold back at all.
Do not send the questions out in advance. That gives people far too much time to think about it. Don’t worry too much about food because in my experience, very few people eat. You can have a little bit of snacks, but really, the conversation is the thing.
Again, some wine, some drinks, whatever it is you’re partial to and one person should … Whoever puts it together should start by facilitating and the job of the facilitator is … I was always taught as a journalist to give a little to get a little.
So the job of the facilitator is to chime in and give enough details, enough real details of their own life and their own embarrassments and failings and wishes and dreams and hopes to get everybody else feeling comfortable doing the same thing.

Scott: Have you ever done this with men as well? To contrast it?

Jean: I have had some happy hours where people have brought men and they sometimes inhibit the conversation a little bit. I have never actually invited men, but maybe I should. Maybe we should do couples happy hours.
I tend to base my experiences on. Sometimes when I go out and I do speeches, I usually leave about 15, 20 minutes for Q&A at the end and when I’m in with a group of all women, the conversation, the questions light right up and they are never ending and when I’m in a mixed group, they’re really slow. The men dominate and I get really frustrated. So it sounds terrible.

Scott: No, it makes sense.

Mindy: No, it sounds like real life.

Jean: So I haven’t, but some of my friends in their book groups do a once a year couples book and maybe we should do that too.

Scott: What are some of the things because as a man I understand some of the things you’re talking about and why that might come up, but what would be some of the outcomes of conversations at these happy hours that might surprise men that we’re not thinking of?

Jean: I mean, the outcomes are often that people get more involved in the things … They’re often the impetus to do the thing that you’ve been waiting to do. So they can be the impetus to get a will if you’ve been holding back on getting a will or naming guardians for your kids, I’ve seen that to start tracking your spending, to look at your 401(k), to find a therapist.
I mean, there are … It’s not unusual to have tears and for people to get really emotional, but what’s wonderful is that the other women, even if they’re strangers are incredibly supportive and non-judgmental.
My website on my podcast we say that we are the judgment free zone and I really mean that like I do not … I have made as I’ve acknowledged to you guys, so many boneheaded mistakes with my own money, I am certainly not going to judge anybody else, but I think we all work way too hard and this field is too confusing for us to be like on some high horse.
We all do the best that we can. We’re all able to do it better tomorrow than we’re doing it today if we want to think about it that way, but don’t judge my money and I won’t judge yours.

Mindy: I love that and I love that … I think that should be part of the invitation to HerMoney Happy Hour. Hey, this is a judgment free zone. We’re going to talk about money and if you’re thinking about having HerMoney Happy Hour ladies, think about how you can shut down someone if they come and they start being judgy. “Wow, you spent how much on a shirt?” It doesn’t matter. It’s not your money.

Jean: That’s right. That’s right. It’s on the box Mindy. It’s on the box, ground rules, you are in the vault. What happens in HerMoney Happy Hour stays in HerMoney Happy Hour and this is a judgment free zone.

Mindy: I love it. I love it. Now are those available for everybody?

Jean: They are, they will shortly be available on our website for everybody.

Mindy: Okay, perfect.

Jean: I’m not sure if it will quite be up by then, but if somebody wants them, if you just send me a note at jeanchatzky.com, we’re in the process of getting this done. So if you … Not at jeanchatzky.com.
If you send me a note to [email protected], we’ll make sure that you get on the list to get the notification.

Mindy: Oh perfect, and we will have all of these links that Jean mentions in the future at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow102, but what I was going to say is this episode is airing on December 9th.
Start thinking about the parties you want to have, maybe not in the holidays, maybe in January. We’ve got New Year’s resolutions are coming up, you want to fix your money, that’s a huge resolution for a lot of people.
Start by having a HerMoney Happy Hour. Talk to your friends, talk to their friends, and just start the conversation. I think this is so important and so many people don’t talk about it, let’s make a decision right now to do this, to start talking about money and speaking of talking about money, you talk in your book women with money, you talk about and encourage couples to have money dates and this is a thread that has popped up over and over on our shows.
It seems that the most financially successful couples are always on the same page. Rosemarie Groner from way back in Episode four, Erin Lowry from Episode 24 and again, in Episode 81, Jamila Souffrant from Episode 39, they all have money dates with their spouse, with their significant other, but couples are typically so reluctant to talk about money which is literally the number one thing that couples fight about.
Having regular money conversations can really help you focus on your end goal and show that you’re both on the same team. It’s not a competition. It’s you’re married, you’re on the same team, having these regular conversations can help write a ship that’s kind of veering off in the wrong direction.
Why do you think couples are so reluctant to talk about money and how can we start the conversation with a partner who doesn’t want a habit?

Jean: I think we’re reluctant and I got to say two things. First of all, I hate the term money date. I think it just … I mean I date is like I don’t know, I but I do agree, it’s important to regularly talk with your spouse or your partner about money and my husband and I do schedule time to talk about money and we do it because we’re reluctant and so actually, he’s less reluctant than I am.
I tend to be the one dragging my heels on this because when you marry somebody, I mean, we have this impression that you marry somebody and they’re like all of a sudden, you’re the same person and you want the … My daughter, she’s 22. She likes to say, “Oh, we’re the same person.”
Well no, you’re not the same person, right? You want different things in life and you grew up with different money stories, different money histories, you probably have different goals, you have different ways of dealing with stress, and those things are probably what attracted you to your partner to begin with and so to expect that the minute that you walk down the aisle, all of a sudden, your goals and dreams are just going to line up like little soldiers is not going to happen.
You have to talk about what you want and then you can go back and you can say, “Okay, how do we use our money in order to get those things that we now agree that we want?” And what are the things that are standing in our way of making these things happen?
I also think it’s really important and you didn’t ask this question, but I’ll answer it anyway that you give your spouse and your partner or your partner a little bit of financial room, some freedom to do the things that they want to do with their money.
I mean, I like to shop, I particularly like to shop for clothes. My husband likes to see really arcane plays that I don’t have any interest in seeing and if he wants to spend his money on that or on visiting every baseball stadium in the United States and I want to spend my money a new sweater, we should both be allowed to do that within reason as long as it’s not sabotaging our goals and so giving your spouse or your partner room to do some things that they want to do as individuals without asking permission I think is really essential.

Mindy: I could not agree more. That is a fantastic piece of advice. So do you have separate Jean only bank account where you put in X, and then that’s yours to spend however you want, you don’t have to … I like that idea because then it’s not, “Well, we agreed.” But then he sees this. “Why did you spend $750 at Texas Avenue?” “We already talked about this.”

Jean: You don’t even see that I spent $750 at Saks Fifth Avenue. I mean, we have, so we’re second marriage, I should make that clear. After I got divorced, I got married again. We both came to this relationship with pretty well-formed financial lives.
So we have yours, mine and ours accounts. We each have our own checking and savings accounts and then we have a house account and a house savings account and we put into that account the money for the things that we are going to do together, we fund it regularly based on a percentage of our respective incomes, the same percentage, and that’s how we sort of split things up. I iron more than he does percent. So my percentage is higher than his percentage.

Mindy: Okay.

Scott: All right, hope you’re enjoying the show. We’ll be right back after a word from today’s show sponsor.

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PolicyGenius, when it comes to life insurance, it’s nice to get it right. That’s P-O-L-I-C-Y-G-E-N-I-U-S.com. You said that you both have well-formed financial lives before you got married. Did you talk about money before you got married?

Jean: Oh yes.

Mindy: Oh, okay. Okay. That’s …

Jean: He has two kids, I have two kids. He had a job with a pension and a 401(k). I had a pension and a house or a 401(k) and a house. Yeah, we talked about it and we got a prenup, and you have to get a prenup.
If you’re coming into another relationship or you’ve got assets, especially if you’ve got kids, if you’ve got a business, if you’re expecting an inheritance, I get a little annoyed at people who like get scared of the prenup.
The prenup is no big deal. It’s just, it’s a piece of paper, you do it, it takes a couple of hours, we basically sat down and agreed on what we wanted in our prenup and then had two different lawyers review it and make sure that it passed the fairness test and they drew it up and we’ve not looked at it since.

Scott: Yeah, Erin Lowry had a great way of putting this I think on episode 81 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast where she said, “You are already signing a prenup when you get married in a state because you’re agreeing to abide by the laws that govern the divorce in that state.” Right?
So your question when you’re doing this is do I want the state laws and all the complexities that go along with that or do I want our rules that we’ve agreed on to govern this?

Jean: Exactly.

Scott: II think that’s a really good way to look at it if you’re trying to frame that question or you’re … It’s difficult because as a man, I can say it’s very difficult to discuss that as the man I think, this might be one of those issues that’s a little harder to bring up from this side.

Jean: Yeah, I think … You know what? I bet you’re right because it probably is looked at as one of those documents that was used historically to take advantage of women who were not coming to the relationship with the more likely to the greater earnings trajectory, but I do think now with … I mean, the percentage of women who are the primary breadwinner is now almost 40%.
We’re waiting to get married and have kids until much later and so it makes more and more sense for more and more people.

Mindy: Yeah, so I’ve been married for oh, I got to do math, I think 17 years, 18 years. Scott is not yet married, but newly engaged.

Jean: Congratulations.

Scott: Oh, thank you.

Mindy: My husband brought up the idea of a prenup. This was a hundred years ago when we didn’t have two dimes to rub together. What are we saving? What are we protecting from each other? But when he presented it, I heard him say, “Well, we might get divorced.” And my not as financially evolved mind was very offended that he would even bring this up.
“Why are you asking for a prenup? You clearly just know that this is going to end in divorce?” So I was so angry that he brought it up, he dropped the conversation and never brought it up again and until Erin said that, you already have a prenup.
It’s the divorce laws in your state. That really made sense to me, but how do you get past this? Typically, female thought, “Oh, you’re just looking at divorce. How can you get over that?”

Jean: Well, I think you need to understand, it’s just not about that and maybe you can’t get past it, but understanding that half of all marriages depending on whose statistics you’re looking at, do end in divorce. You’re protecting yourself as well.

Mindy: Yes. I love the way that Erin phrased it. You already have one.

Jean: Right.

Mindy: Whether you know it or not, you already have a prenup. So put in the prenup what you want.

Jean: And it’s not just protecting you in the case of divorce, it’s protecting you in the case of death. So it really is making sure that assets move the way that you want them to move and I think it’s just part of modern life.

Scott: Yeah, one thing that’s a kind of derivation of this topic, and you mentioned this earlier, you have yours, ours and mine bank accounts and all that kind of stuff. Was that also something you discussed prior to getting married? Or is that something that you evolved? Or how did you come up with that general structure?

Jean: Well, it sort of evolved. I mean, when we first got married, we just had two years in mind and then it was clear that it would be easier that if there were some worth some things that we could pay for together, not just the house because we could … It was easier to write one check for the mortgage and one check for utilities and we got a joint credit card as well and we paid that out of the house account.
It was just easier. I didn’t like, “This is your turn to pay for dinner. This is my turn to pay for dinner.” I just felt kind of weird and unromantic especially when we were going out with other couples.
So we got a joint credit card and and it evolved to be that and now, we’re thinking about merging more things. My husband is retired and he stopped … He’s doing some consulting, but he retired from his corporate job like a year and a half ago and we’re thinking maybe that will be easier going into the future.
So I think you can process, it’s an evolution and in the book in Women with Money, I actually have a list of about a dozen different ways that couples manage their money together and they all are working ways, they’re always that the couple’s featured are happy with.
I did that intentionally, because again, I think this is just one of those things when you find a system that works for you, you use that system and then you don’t have to talk to the outside world about it, right?
If you’ve got in-laws who are critical of what you’re doing in your life, they don’t get to judge this. You close ranks and you take care of yourselves as a couple.

Mindy: Yes, and what works for you only has to work for you and if it works for both of you, that’s the end of who it has to work for. I love that and what I’m hearing the overarching theme of this whole thing is communication.

Jean: Yup.

Mindy: “I don’t know what Jean Chatzky is thinking until I ask her.” “I don’t know what Carl Jensen is thinking until I asked him.” That’s my husband. So if I want him to know something, I have to tell him because he can’t read minds.
Your husband can’t read minds. Scott, spoiler alert, Virginia cannot read mind. So if you want her to know something, you have to tell her and Virginia, if you want Scott to know something, you have to tell him too.

Jean: There was a really, really great modern love column in The New York Times over the past weekend about a woman who was just getting angrier and angrier and angrier because her husband left his shirt out.
He left a shirt just unfolded on some dresser in the middle of the room where it didn’t belong and she decided that she was going to take a stand and not put it away and it sat there for eight months when she did not put it away and she just got angrier and angrier and angrier and I thought there is so much … Until eventually, he put it away because he finally noticed it and he he pointed out that he had also put away the socks that she left hanging out on the top of the dryer which she hadn’t noticed, right? Unless we tell people what’s going on in our minds, they just aren’t going to know.

Scott: Yup.

Mindy: Absolutely. 100% agree.

Scott: There’s a lot to think about from that story actually, so.

Jean: Yeah.

Mindy: Okay, it is now time for the famous four questions. These are the same four questions that we ask of all of our guests. Jean, are you ready?

Jean: I am ready.

Mindy: Okay, what is your favorite finance book?

Jean: My favorite finance book is probably … This is a hard one because I have a lot of famous favorite finance books. The one I go back to as a resource all the time is Jane Bryant Quinn’s Making the Most of Your Money.

Mindy: I don’t think anybody’s ever …

Scott: Yeah, I’ve never …

Mindy: [crosstalk 00:44:37]that one. That’s awesome.

Scott: I’ve heard that one.

Jean: Jane was a role model for me. I’m lucky enough to know her and she is just a fabulous reporter, nothing gets by her and it was a really important book at the time and still is.

Mindy: I’m going to have to check that out.

Scott: What was your biggest money mistake?

Jean: The biggest was probably cashing out that 401(k) early on. I’ve gone back, I’ve added up how much money that would have been worth, it was not pretty.

Mindy: Oh, yeah. That’s not always the best choice to go back and put a dollar figure on your mistake.

Jean: No, no, but you kind of … You have to sometimes.

Mindy: Yeah. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Jean: Save 15% of everything. If you do that, from the day you start until the day you’re finished working, you will be just fine and by the way, it can include matching dollars.

Mindy: Oh.

Scott: Love it. So easy, so simple, that require … You don’t even have to look at the budget real quick first, you have to look at your income.

Jean: Exactly.

Scott: Then you know what to do. Alright, well, you have a joke today or a favorite joke you like to tell at parties?

Jean: I did not come prepared with a joke. I apologize, but I’m told that you get some bad jokes from some of your listeners and you can just sub one in for me?

Scott: Absolutely.

Mindy: Yes.

Jean: Cool.

Mindy: How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?

Scott: Tickles. Is that right?

Jean: Ten tickles?

Mindy: Ten tickles

Jean: Why?

Scott: Oh yes.

Mindy: Ten tickles, tentacles.

Scott: Like the tentacles [crosstalk 00:46:19]

Jean: Tentacles. Okay, I get it.

Mindy: See? They’re terrible. Scott does this all day long.

Scott: That’s true. Yes, I enjoy these little, these these horrible dad jokes, these groaners. All right, Jean, where can people find out more about you?

Jean: At hermoney.com and if you’re not receiving our free newsletter or not signed up for the podcast, if you just go to hermoney.com/signup, we’ll get you on the list.

Mindy: Awesome. Okay, the book is called Women with Money, The Judgment-Free Guide to Creating the Joyful, Less Stressed, Purposeful, and yes rich, Life that You Deserve. Jean, thank you so much for your time today. This was a lot of fun.

Jean: It was fun for me too. Thanks for having me.

Mindy: Okay, and we will talk to you soon.

Jean: Okay, bye.

Scott: All right, that was Jean Chatzky. Mindy, what did you think?

Mindy: Oh my goodness, did I fangirl too much over her? It’s just such …

Scott: No, you fangirled the perfect amount.

Mindy: It’s just so much fun to talk to somebody that you’ve been following for years and I read her book Women with Money. I love like it’s just, she wrote the book for me. I mean, other people can read it too, but she wrote that book for me and it was fantastic.
Everything she’s saying, “I’m like, yes, yes, yes.” The HerMoney Happy Hour, I am so excited to host one. We have a women’s real estate meetup here in Denver that I attend and I’m going to reach out to Marjorie who runs it and ask her if she would like to have a HerMoney Happy Hour.
So once I get those cards from Jean, thank you Jean and just ask those questions because I really think that that’s so important in starting the conversation about money.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. It was eye-opening to hear that when there’s a mixed group that men dominate the conversation, it’s not, I don’t think it came as a huge surprise, but it was certainly eye-opening just to kind of feel, “Hey, this is important that women have a opportunity to have these discussions just with other women.” And I think it sounds like following some of the guidelines that she suggested might help people open up.

Mindy: So Scott’s email address is [email protected] Feel free to let him know that it is not at all eye-opening to you ladies that men dominate the conversation. I think that that is … I’m going to defend Scott and say that this is not a position of sexism or chauvinism or anything like that.
He is just … That’s a position of innocence. Ladies, I am not at all surprised, it was not eye opening at all that Jean said that men dominate the conversation because that has been my experience.
I don’t want to say that’s a bad thing, but it kind of is a bad thing. Like it doesn’t give you a chance to speak your mind when somebody else is already talking over you. So I will say that if that is also your experience, start a women’s meetup, start a HerMoney meetup, start a your money meetup, start a ladies talk about money and as Jean said, sometimes people will bring their spouses if you don’t want to have men at the meetup, make that clear in the meetup invitation.
Hey, this is for women to talk about money. Don’t bring your boys with you, but yeah, sorry Scott.

Scott: No, no, absolutely. Again, I don’t think it was surprising. It’s just something you need to keep hearing as a man that this is a struggle that women go through. It just needs to be continued to be front and center and that’s helpful because that allows me to keep that perspective front of mind.
Sometimes you can forget if you’re a man that this is something that maybe it’s a little harder for a woman to talk about or for women in general to discuss.

Mindy: Yes, and I think in general, it’s difficult for everybody to discuss, but for women specifically and I’m not sure why and I live in this weird little bubble where I’ve been a part of this personal finance media space for so long that it’s not weird.
I’ll meet somebody and like, “Oh, how much did you pay for your house? What did you pay for your car? Did you buy it new? Did you buy it used?” And sometimes I get these looks and like, “Oh, I should tone that down because I just met you and why would you share your financial information with me?”
No, but lots of really great tips. It was really nice to hear Jean’s money story. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard her exact money story. You know what was nice? Is that she made mistakes too.
She is not perfect, she messed up her credit card at first, and she cashed out the 401(k) that she wishes she did not, but I love what she said, these mistakes don’t have to define the rest of your life.
You can recover from these mistakes. So if you’re listening and you’ve made a big mistake, or even a small mistake that you feel is a big mistake, just know that you can recover.

Scott: Absolutely.

Mindy: Okay Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Mindy: From Episode 102 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast with Jean Chatzky, I am Mindy Jensen and he is Scott Trench and we don’t have anything clever, so goodbye.

Scott: Bye bye.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Jean’s journey with money
  • Her financial position before and after college
  • How her financial habits changed
  • The importance of prioritizing decision-making
  • Her job on SmartMoney magazine
  • What she learned when reporting on women with money
  • HerMoney Happy Hour gatherings
  • The outcomes of conversations at happy hour that might surprise men
  • The reason why couples are reluctant to talk about money
  • How to start the conversation with a partner
  • What a woman needs to do to start changing her financial situation
  • The importance of prenup
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show:

Tweetable Topic:

  • “I learned that money was not something to be toyed with—that you had to be careful with money.” (Tweet This!)
  • “You can recover no matter when those setbacks or mistakes happen. You just have to be thoughtful about the plan that you put together in order to do that.” (Tweet This!)
  • “When you’re telling other people what to do with their money, you better be doing it, too.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Don’t judge my money, and I won’t judge yours.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Jean

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager and Podcast Director Mindy Jensen and CEO Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerP...
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    Karen O. from NYC, NY
    Replied 10 months ago
    Thanks for snagging Jean Chatsky for an interview. Major coup though you could have made this a 2 or 3 part program she's that fascinating. I've read her articles and advice columns in several places over the years. She has never failed to educate me.