Book List: 5 Great Introductory Books On Personal Finance

For the first five months of 2016, my boyfriend and I are going to be in the U.S. “just because”. The plan is to work hard, visit friends/family and expand our businesses to be something really impressive so we can move beyond survival to accomplishing some of our financial goals.

I’m glad to have a friend on this finance journey! My boyfriend has played a major role in my attitudes towards money/business so I’ll have to recommend a few books that he’s inspired me to read…
1. I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I can assure you that if you’re in your 20s, this book will kickstart you into action. Very simple steps that you can actually do. Because of this book, I got my credit card and bank account sorted out. From here in Saint Lucia, I use my American bank account with NO ATM FEES / NO FEES WHATSOEVER. If you don’t want to read this book at least listen to this… switch to Schwab. 

2. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy

I find the content of this book questionable with regards to race, class and gender but there are some positive aspects to it. This book will challenge you to think of ways you can be more frugal and challenge you to undo some of your own negative psychology towards money and “status”.

3. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

My biggest takeaway from this book was how to use my time efficiently. From the moment I put it down, I immediately began to trim away various wastes of time. I still have two quotes from this book pinned to my computer desktop at all times. If you’re a constantly busy person who still seems to get nothing done, read this book.

4. MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom

Complicated book targeted at the rich. Good for learning terminology and to get you thinking on where you could invest your money in the future. Also great for guiding you through coming up with a financial plan and realizing how much money you would need to make your wildest dreams come true.

5. The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition) (Collins Business Essentials)

A very long book that I read on the beach in January. You will learn everything you need to know about investing. I advise highlighting a lot because you probably won’t remember most of it, but you’ll want to come back to this in the future. I’m still a little ways off from investing, but all the same this was an important read and dispelled many falsehoods about the stock market and investments.

While none of these books were “meant for me” in that, the target audiences were clearly middle-upper class white men, I still found MANY practical applications in my life as a black woman who lives in a third world country. I hope you gain something from these recommendations like I did!

4 Simple Personal Finance Tips You Can Implement NOW

These are some “obvious” personal finance tips that I have learned relatively recently. Since I just entered the “work force” in May 2015, I have only just started to get my finances organized and in order. I’ve read up on the books and the blogs but I find that even those resources sometimes skip what’s EASY and simple to do right now…

You might read a lot about investing but what if you’re fresh out of college and making less than $2000 a month?

These are tips that have been helpful to me even when I’ve received paychecks less than $1500 US in a month. You can implement these tips no matter what your income bracket is.

Some of them might seem obvious, but to some people, they will be completely new! Everyone has to start somewhere…

1. “Pay Yourself First”

Once you get your paycheck, put at least 5-10% in your savings FIRST. Don’t even look at that money you’ve received before you put some into savings and consider it your payment to yourself in the future. If 5-10% seems unreasonable, you can also start small with 50$ or 100$ every month. The key is just to get into the habit of paying yourself first.

2. Open a Roth IRA for retirement TODAY (Mine is with with TDA Ameritrade. It’s very simple.)

Put as much as you can in here. It might be hard to be consistent at first. Right now this is my more consistent savings account than my other one…

If you have a small variable income stream that’s around 50-100$/month, consider setting up a direct deposit to your IRA. Here’s an easy link to setting up an IRA:

https://www.tdameritrade.com/account-types/retirement.page

3. Download MINT app

Seriously, get it now. Right! Now! This is a great app to keep your finger on the pulse of your personal finance. Use this to check how much you have before you make an ATM withdrawal. Check every time. It might make you question whether or not you want to withdraw money after all. You can use this app to set up budgets but they don’t work well with the income structure I have (varying income at a random time of the month etc.) You can also use this app to keep track of student loan payments, but I don’t like my loan staring me in the face all day. It depresses me.

4. Start budgeting

Someway, somehow, make sure you know where your dollars and cents are going. even if you have 100$ to your name, budget with it! Once a month I draft up a budget using a printable sheet I created. (You can search Pinterest for amazing free budget printables.) Every week, I look at my budget and tweak everything a little bit based off of new information, new surprise expenses that may have cropped up etc. You can budget on anything… From a napkin to a special binder. It’s a great habit to get into and even if it can be nerve wracking at first, once you get it over with, it’s a lot more comforting to know where your money is going!

You will feel more secure.

These are just a few simple tips to get started. Getting in charge of your money can be a daunting task. I didn’t grow up with much money, so now I want to set up habits to make sure that I can undo some of the patterns I learned growing up. This is a good start. Don’t worry about being perfect. It’s just critical to work towards breaking down old habits and building up new ones if you want to feel in control of your money instead of feeling controlled by your money.

Good luck! Happy Saving!

4 Weird Things My Boyfriend Did That Won Me Over

1. He recommended that I read a self-help book.

It’s not how it sounds. The first book my boyfriend recommended to me was Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton. The moment the recommendation hit my whatsapp I immediately downloaded the book. I thought, “I NEED to read this immediately so I can judge whether to cut him off or not!”

If you’ve read Radical Honesty, you can probably guess that I didn’t cut him off. And hopefully if you hadn’t read it you should still be able to guess since we’re still together. That book was what I like to call a “game changing book”. I spent all day reading it. I did nothing else except eat pistachio ice cream. (Yum.)

To me, that book told me a lot of things about my boyfriend that might not have been obvious since we hadn’t known each other for more than four weeks. I knew that he valued honesty and integrity. I knew that he valued personal growth and change. And I knew that he would be the type of person to always look for solutions to problems instead of running away from them. I was sold…

2. He told a joke where the punchline was “KKKFC”

My boyfriend is really into stand up comedy. He writes it. I presume he’s performed it a lot too. When we first met, he drove me to this random parking lot (at this point, I already learned to expect random and unpredictable behavior from him) and performed a few of his jokes for me. I forget how exactly this joke went but it had something to do with biracial heritage and the punchline had me practically rolling on the ground.

At this point I was thinking… What on earth is happening?! I’m in a PARKING LOT somewhere random and this guy is telling me his stand up comedy routine. To me, that meant that not only could he make me laugh but he was also spontaneous. For someone as… um… let’s say “rigid”… as I am, that was critical for me. Balance is important.

3. Even when I didn’t have a job he let me pay for dates

I don’t necessarily believe that paying for dates always has to be equal. I also don’t believe that men always need to pay for every date. Silly. I think what’s “fair” really depends on the people involved. And I thought it was fair that I offer to pay sometimes or at least pay half. (I didn’t pay for our first date though if you’re collecting statistics. I’m not.)

I was glad that my boyfriend didn’t have any bizarre notions about who paid for dates. I find men who MUST always pay for a date tend to have an idea that they are “owed” for said date. This is not a business transaction. This is two people trying to get to know each other. In the spirit of those views, I was thrilled when my boyfriend would allow me to pay my fair share (fairness as determined by the two of us mutually) without asking me where I got the money (I’d saved) or belittling me in any way for making less money.

Keeper status.

4. He helped me perform a social experiment on the Saint Lucian people

For a lot of my writing on my West Indian culture blog (www.westindiancritic.com) I tend to analyze the views of the Saint Lucian people. For certain subjects, I’m truly in the dark. I can only assume what people think but I don’t know for sure. Over my very last February break from Middlebury, I had the idea of a social experiment where I wanted to ask random Saint Lucians who they thought “should” pay for dates.

You can find the results of that little study somewhere else…

What’s important is, not only did my boyfriend love the idea, he agreed to participate and led the initiative on finding people to ask — mostly our waitstaff at various restaurants/cafes.

To me, that little gesture meant a lot. He took my writing and my analysis seriously. He was willing to really support my endeavors through his actions (no matter how small these endeavors were). Also, in analyzing all the responses, he told me that he would always be willing to consider sexism as it affected me and my life. He would listen to my thoughts and he would be willing to change his pre-conceived notions about everything.

Of course, there were many more things about my boyfriend that won me over. But those were some of the more unusual ones. Through these experiences, he reflected values that I believe to be important in relationships. There’s not much advice to be given here; all I can say is when you’re assessing someone for whether or not they’re a good match, look at all the “bizarre” or “weird” experiences you have together and try to tease out what these experiences are telling you about that person. Do you have a keeper, or should you let that fish go?

#StoryTime: How I Met My Boyfriend

I was sitting in a cafe studying for the MCATs when I noticed these really cute guy talking loudly on Skype to one of his friends. I was instantly nervous. I had just come back from the gym and I was a few weeks out of a break up. My self-confidence was medium… I certainly didn’t expect this guy to come over to talk me. *Sigh*. I let my hair down anyways just in case…

“Hi… I’m Anton…”

I remember shaking his hand. I remember him asking me if I was from Saint Lucia.

I thought “Here we go again. Now I have to explain my entire life story…”

I mean, what kind of Saint Lucian sounds like she hails from the Midwest/New England/???.

“Oh I went to boarding school…”

I was prepared for the usual responses that arise when I tell people that I went to boarding school. I was ready for the awkwardness, the misunderstanding…

“Really which one?”

Okay. Expectations defied once again.

I told him I went to Groton and then Anton said something surprising… He went to NMH! When we found out about our shared history, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. There are probably fewer than twelve people in ALL of Saint Lucia who have had that experience of leaving home to go to boarding school in New England.

And NMH wasn’t unfamiliar to me either. My sister attended Choate and she always complained about their infamous and brutal Cross Country course…

We seemed to have even more things in common too:
•    both biracial (a black mother and white father)
•    both went to boarding school (you already know that one)
•    both had similar relationships with our sisters
•    both felt like we were between cultures
•    went to similar primary schools (Carmen Rene vs Camille Henry for those who know)
•    AND that coming fall Anton was on his way to a small town in Vermont called Vergennes… coincidentally 20 minutes away from where I went to college. #SmallWorld

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things too. Suffice it to say, we had just met each other (randomly) and there was already SO much to talk about. What were the odds anyways? I never went to the cafe on that particular day and I’d never even seen him before (so he wasn’t a cafe regular).

And then Anton asked me out! I agreed because I had nothing better to do — Friday night @ Gros Islet sounded like a good idea compared to scrolling through Twitter for four hours and then passing out alone.

Hm… I think I’ll spare you the details of our first date. Anton talked a lot. A LOT A LOT. I think I got most of his history there. I enjoyed listening to him. I enjoyed his energy. I almost didn’t believe him when he said he was 26. (I thought you were supposed to start losing steam then?!)

And the date ended perfectly too. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him again but I was definitely hopeful…

I guess it all worked out in the end.