What more do you need, right?
So I’ve been a little busy this week, living my life, generating more financy things to blog about. Among them was a night mentoring 35 young ladies in financial literacywith about 10 other lady mentors. It was interesting, though strictly formatted into a “Game of Life” type exercise.
The exercise was pretty thorough and decently accurate with Department of Labor statistics, but there is one fundamental thing I would change. The structure of this exercise was for the girls (age 11-12) to first choose a profession from a long list, THEN find the salary on the next page, and proceed to make a bunch of lifestyle choices and similarly find the costs for these after. And presumably, recoil in horror at the deficit resulting from a fancy lifestyle insufficiently supported by the salary.
The coordinators of this event were very serious about making the girls commit to a job first and only then get to look at the salaries. Obviously the coordinators did not want the girls to “game” the system and all choose to be a “Doctor,” the highest paying job in the list not surprisingly. The girls were to choose their dream job based on description alone.
But instead of setting up the girls to go after a little dream and then have it crushed, why not let them see the salaries straight away and let them make an informed decision? Moreover, why not flip it entirely and make the girls first make lifestyle choices with the costs shown, then show them which jobs would support the lifestyle, categorized by the level of additional savings possible?
I would make a board game or choose-your-own-adventure book like this, and the working title would be Pizza, cookies, and beer. The Real Game of Life! If you have fancy life tastes, the supporting job list will be short and you will have tough decisions to make about your skills and prospects. On the other end of the spectrum, if you enjoy cheap beer and plan to drive your hatchback forever as I do, the feasible jobs are many and provide you a wide range of savings opportunities.
It could go the other way around too, choosing a job and letting it flow from there, but why not lay it all out? It could go like this: “Doctor: $85,000 entry level. But you will also need to drive a Bentley and refresh that every few years to look legit, as well as buy designer clothes that will also need to get dry-cleaned. You will buy a home in a fancy neighborhood to ensure top education for your children, which will include selective pre-school, private schools, and boarding school. You will have a country club membership along with your colleagues to be part of the gang.”
It might be stereotypical, but I believe from “The Millionaire Next Door” that a lot of these lifestyle choices originate from a need to generate and maintain business and stature in the workplace. With many high-income professions, appearances are important. If you look poor, it makes potential customers nervous because they assume you are bad at your job. Fact of Real Life.
So does that doctor lifestyle sound appealing? I am sure it does for many. It doesn’t do anything for me because it sounds stuffy and unnecessary. But that’s good because I have never had any illusion that I would be any good at cutting people open or otherwise dissecting the mysteries of the human body! So it’s good to look at it from both ends. Yes, smart girls could scam an exercise but if they’re not being honest they won’t get anything out of it anyway.
Fortunately, these gals were doing some interesting contemplation! Asking me what a Forensic Scientist does, and “what college do you go to to become an FBI Agent??”. (My answers: a) Have you ever seen Bones? No? NCIS?? and b) any college, and you study political science, and have to get awesome grades and be smart.) Interestingly, one girl mentioned that she wanted to opt out of cable altogether (in the entertainment section) because her parents don’t have it and it sounds like a waste. Smart girl! For the “furnishing your home” section, which included a) buy all new b) Craigslist and c) raid your parents’ attic, one girl said “I would only use Craigslist, but that’s only if I can’t get any of my parents’ stuff!” OK, maybe there was a bit of naive optimism/cheapness.
What I would add to this exercise is more career counseling and skill-matching, as well as more realistic lifestyle guidance. But kudos to these girls and mentors for going through this exercise in their spare time at all. I would do more of this.