Jean Chatzky on Making Money Grow
The “Today” show’s financial expert tells you how to make more out of what you’ve got
Why do some people succeed in making money grow and others…not so much? Jean Chatzky has spent years thinking about that question.
As financial editor for the Today show, columnist for Money magazine, AOL Finance coach, and the author of 5 books, and now blogger (at jeanchatzky.com), she talks to people in every kind of financial situation.
“I wanted to do real research looking at why some people get stuck in a paycheck-to-paycheck slog and others find their way to financial success and life success,” Jean told me during an interview last week.
The result is a new book, released last month, called “The Difference: How anyone can prosper in even the toughest times,” based on a 5,000-person survey conducted in conjunction with Merrill Lynch and Harris Interactive. (The survey classified someone as wealthy if they were under 35 and had $250,000 in savings, $500,000 if they were between 35 and 45.)
What Jean discovered should be especially empowering to women, she says, because “financial success is not all about the money. There are things you can do to improve key attributes that create success-to make ourselves more resilient, more connected, more intuitive,” she says. “That’s really great news.”
She says women need to understand how imperative it is to save as much as they can. “We live seven years longer than men, and we are the ones who take breaks from working to have families. Investing money habitually is really critical. Ninety-five percent of women will be alone at some point in our financial lives. It’s important that we have the nest egg to deal with that,” she says. “This is a form of self-care, self-love, self-respect.”
In her book, Jean gives exercises that can improve characteristics that make us more likely to be financially successful, such as drive, optimism, curiosity, confidence, and resilience.
One way to increase your resilience, according to the book, is to challenge any negative messages that may permeate your thoughts. “Whatever the argument is in your head,” Jean says, “you be the lawyer that takes the other side and challenges them. So, if you are telling yourself that you are lazy, and yet you went through the process of applying for five jobs yesterday, that’s evidence to the contrary.”
As for investing appropriately, she says, “you may have to play some mind games with yourself. We know from medical research using MRIs that our brains don’t like to save money, it’s just not fun. So it becomes more important to automate yourself into some decent behavior”–like having your 401(k) contribution deducted from your paycheck automatically.
And know what you are saving for. “I hope to get a house at the Jersey Shore, and I have a picture of one hanging right in my office. So I can envision that house when I’m tempted to buy something frivolous-I have a tangible reason for not buying it.”
Her research shows that anyone can improve their financial situation and succeed in making money grow. “You as an individual have the ability to make changes-and, in fact, you are the only person who can do it,” she stresses. “I hope it will be a blueprint for getting unstuck right now.”