Advice from a Middle-Aged, Former Over-Achiever
Next week I will be attending my very first personal finance conference.
This is important for two reasons. First, because I will be moving one step closer to my dream. Getting my finances in order. Solidifying my future. Expanding my education by learning more about investing, saving and creating smart financial goals.
The second reason is because I will be taking this excursion entirely on my own. No friends or family to lean on. Navigating an airport, ground transportation, and a ginormous resort hotel. By. Myself.
To those of you who actually know me, your jaws have probably dropped to the floor by now. Because I barely leave the house, much less travel across the country.
I’m a remote worker, faithful Amazon Prime member and loyal user of Peapod grocery delivery service. I prefer to have things come to me.
More importantly, I prefer not to go out in public. At least not very often.
So the fact that I’m stepping out into the “real world” and leaning into my discomfort, is extremely surprising to those I know.
Everyone has been amazingly supportive of my pending adventure. Proud that I’m addressing some of my fears, and putting myself out there.
And I also wonder if any of them think I won’t actually go through with it. Like I’m biting off more than I can chew, and should start out with smaller baby steps.
We shall see how it all turns out though. Because at this point, there’s more at stake if I don’t keep it going.
Because the stage has been set. Back out now, and that leaves nothing but regrets.
And I’m determined not to let that happen.
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So What’s My Pitch?
When you go to one of these conferences, there are certain things you need to be prepared for.
Or so I’ve heard, since I’ve never actually been to one.
But one of the things you should have is a short, polished introduction, or “elevator pitch”. You’ll be meeting so many people, at such a fast pace, that you need to have your introduction down to a science.
Who you are, what you do, what you offer your audience, and what makes you different from everyone else out there.
Do I actually have an elevator pitch? Well, no — not yet. Still working on that one. I’ve still got a few more days though —
But I imagine it might go something like this:
Who am I?
I’m a middle-aged, average, “everyday” woman. I juggle a career and a family. I’m educated and have lived a blessed life. I care and am cared for. I’m an animal lover, and a little bit of a nerd. I like corny jokes, and sometimes laugh so hard I start crying.
I also know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. To struggle with unexpected expenses. To make stupid mistakes with money. And make even stupider mistakes to correct those initial mistakes. To vow never to find myself in those situations ever again, and become better at budgeting and money management.
I’ve spent pretty much my entire life as a high performer — high school, college, and career path. EXCEPT in one area, of course — Money. For some reason, my financial education never quite clicked.
And that’s how this journey got started.
What do I do, and how does it help my readers?
To put it plainly, I keep it real.
I’m not in the prime of my youth, and am way past the millennial standard of hustling to pay off student loans.
I’m not living off the grid, or trekking across the country, or selling my worldly possessions to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle.
And I’m not packing away my dollars so I can retire early by 37. That ship has most definitely sailed.
I am an everyday person, who has responsibilities.
Maybe if I had been a bit more intentional with my money 20 years ago, that wouldn’t be the case. But I’m not using my current situation as an excuse, because that’s just life. You make decisions, they have consequences, and you move on from there.
I don’t live a super-interesting life, or have a dramatic backstory.
I’m just an ordinary person.
I am your neighbor, your coworker, the lady in front of you at the grocery store.
(But in the Express lane, so I can get in and out of there quickly …)
We might chat about the weather, the insane traffic on Route 6, probably not politics, but maybe about money.
How it’s a struggle. Why it’s so hard to get a firm handle on it. How we wish we could do better.
That’s who I am, and who I relate to.
Because while dollars and cents are clear-cut concepts, the way money makes us feel is not.
Money can make you feel like the queen of the world when you have it, and the lowest of the lows when you don’t.
It can make you emotional, exuberant, agitated or even depressed. And how do you get through some of these feelings, when you feel like you’re all alone? You talk to someone.
I’m a person who has been there, who still is there, and who is determined to leave that vicinity as soon as possible. There will be no judgment from my end. Just understanding.
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What makes me different?
Judging from the conference group listing, I’d say I’m quite a bit older than a lot of the other attendees. Not all of them, of course, because there are attendees in their 50’s and above.
But at 44, I’d venture to guess I’m the oldest attendee who has the highest amount of debt and the least amount of savings.
So please — don’t consider me to be a financial role model. Because I’m not. My goal is to learn all that I can, to rehabilitate my life-long mistakes. To turn things around, and make an improvement.
Because that’s reality — no matter what you read on social media, or what lands in your email inbox. Being human means making mistakes. And learning from them.
I plan to attend these sessions on how to manage my money. And absorb the information.
Like a sponge.
Soaking it all up so it seeps into my whole being. Creating new habits. Enforcing more of a financial security blanket.
Because retirement is a heck of a lot closer than it was twenty years ago. And I have a lot of catching up to do.
The Main Point Is …
Clearly, my “short and concise” elevator pitch has become anything but short and concise. But at least this can get me started, and I can skinny it down a bit — well, quite a bit.
The main point is that I am someone who understands where you are coming from.
I can’t tell you exactly how to fix it, or to just follow some 7-step plan on how to succeed with money.
If you’re looking for some sound money advice — I could just tell you “Do as I say, and not as I do”. (But I won’t, since I’m not a financial advisor.)
However, I will tell you this:
1) Find Your Voice. Answer your calling. Have faith in your abilities. Put it out there. Dare to dream.
2) Be a Sponge. Expand your knowledge. Seek out a teacher. Read up on whatever it is that lights your fire.
Because no one starts out as an expert.
But above all else — Just start.
Thanks for reading, and if ANY of this resonates with you, please hit me up in the Comments!
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.