money health weekly


Money Is More Than Math

money is emotional so information is not enough

Doing well with money has little to do with how smart you are and a lot to do with how you behave. And behavior is hard to teach.❞ -Morgan Housel

I'm sitting at my desk in math class. I'm in middle school, and I'm pretty bored. At the end of class, the teacher asks if I could speak to him for a minute. I am being chosen to take advanced math classes. I've always been good at math, and now it seems my teacher is noticing. I start taking the advanced classes, but it's still not what I would call challenging; it's actually fun. This math stuff just really makes sense to me.

Ten years later, I'm working as a bank teller part-time as I go to college. I'm taking a lot of finance and economics courses. Between my work at the bank and my courses, I'm learning a lot about personal finance. Most of my presentations in front of these classes are about personal finance. It seems like personal finance is just an application of math. I quietly wonder to myself how people can do dumb things with their money. They must know better, I imagine to myself.

Two years later, I have to cut back my hours at the bank because the upper-level classes are pretty intense. I have to supplement my income with credit cards. It's okay, I think to myself, because I will have graduated and moved to Minneapolis in just a few months. I'm going to get a high-paying job, and all my problems will be solved.

Shortly after moving to Minneapolis, I work as a desk jockey helping people peddle subprime mortgages to people who can't afford them. I hate this job. I hate what the company's doing, and I hate my role as a cog in this machine that I don't like. As a result, this job only lasted a few months. Now I find myself unemployed in an expensive city.

By the time I found the job that would eventually launch my career, I have racked up over $25,000 of credit card debt across 15 credit cards. My minimum payments are enough to pay rent at a nice apartment. My interest payments over a year are over $5,000.

I don't quite understand it. Personal finance is supposed to be about math, and I'm good at math. How do I get into the situation?

This is when I learn that money is not about information, logic, and math; money is about emotions, behavior, and psychology.