Smart Money Podcast: Big Purchases and Overcoming Money Guilt

Sean Pyles
Liz Weston, CFP®
By Liz Weston, CFP® and  Sean Pyles 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions.

This week’s episode starts with a discussion about how to use credit cards to cover big purchases.

Then we pivot to this week’s question from Gray in the Bay Area. Here’s their question:

“How do I talk to my friends about how proud I am with my investing and not feel guilty about investing? I feel like when I talk to my friends about investing they look at me like I’m participating in an evil institution. I personally feel that because I’m Black, I’m automatically starting a few steps behind in terms of financial education, privilege and income. I also don’t think it's too crazy to want to retire one day. I make sure I donate to a local bicycling advocacy group but I still feel like I’m looked at as if I sold my soul. Help!”

Check out this episode on any of these platforms:

Can I put that on my card?
Find out if it's possible (or wise) to use credit for housing, car payments, student loans and more.

Our take

If you plan to make a big purchase on your credit card, think about how to use credit card bonuses or promotional periods to your best advantage. If you have a new card that offers a sign-up bonus if you spend a certain amount of money in a set period of time, this purchase might be a good opportunity to meet the minimum spending requirement. Cards with 0% APR promotional periods are also useful when covering a big purchase on a credit card. Just make sure that you can pay off the debt before the promotional period ends. You also may be able to put a large purchase on multiple cards — perhaps a big payment on a rewards or bonus card to be paid off immediately and the remainder on a 0% card to be paid off over months.

When it comes to money guilt, try to stay focused on working to meet your financial goals. You may not have the same perspective on managing money as your friends, family or community.

Black Americans in particular have plenty of reasons — including our country’s history of redlining and other discriminatory practices — to distrust financial institutions. Fewer opportunities to engage with or learn about money management can further contribute to hesitancy around getting involved in things like investing.

And there are ways to get into savvy money management without sacrificing your ideals. Socially responsible investing, for example, allows you to invest your money in companies that make a positive social impact — while getting a return on your investment.

Our tips

  • Meet people where they are. People fear what they don’t know, so there’s no harm in providing information or education.

  • Don’t worry about what others think about your finances. What matters most is that you’re working to achieve your personal goals.

  • Think about socially responsible investing. This method of investing can help you grow your money while supporting causes that you care about.

More about taking control of your finances on NerdWallet:

Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected]. To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.

Liz Weston: Welcome to the NerdWallet Smart Money podcast, where we answer your personal finance questions and help you feel a little smarter about what you do with your money. I'm Liz Weston.

Sara Rathner: And I'm Sara Rathner. To have your money questions answered on a future episode, turn to the Nerds. Call or text us on the Nerd hotline at 901-730-6373. That's 901-730-NERD. Or email us at [email protected].

Liz: On this episode we'll be talking about overcoming money guilt with Nerd Patricia Smith. But first in our This Week in Your Money segment, Sara and I are going to discuss how to pick the right credit card when you're going to make a big purchase. This has become a very timely topic — retail sales exploded in March, and people are talking about and actually doing more travel. So what should people keep in mind, Sara?

Sara: You want to think about what credit card you put this purchase on, and not just default to the same card you use for everything, because you might be missing out on an opportunity to either earn more rewards or get better purchase protections if you pick the right card to make the purchase. And if it's a planned major purchase, meaning you have a little bit of time that you could wait, that gives you an opportunity to apply for a new credit card, versus an unplanned emergency expense — you have to replace a major appliance that broke — you might not have the time. You might just have to put it on whatever credit card you have available. So if you have a planned purchase, use this to your advantage.

Liz: Because a lot of the cards with the best rewards, or the best sign-up bonuses, have a pretty significant spend at the beginning.

Sara: You typically have about three months to spend anywhere, I've seen, between $500 and $5,000. Yeah. So if you're spending a lot of money at one time, you can get yourself at least most of the way there, and you don't have to work quite as hard and potentially blow your budget just to earn a bonus. You should never do that, by the way. You should never get yourself into debt or exceed your budget just to earn a bonus, because interest on credit cards is really high. It'll wipe out the value of your bonus. If you've been thinking about buying new patio furniture anyway, and you have the money in your budget to do that, and you're going to spend maybe $2,000, put it on the right card.

Liz: And make sure you put the deadline on your calendar, which is something I failed to do once, and I lost a huge bonus that way. Credit card companies are not very sympathetic when you do that, when you don't make the minimum spend, even if you do it the next month. So you have a limited amount of time to take care of this, and it's a one and done. If you don't take advantage of it, you lose it.

Sara: Exactly. Three months flies by. So you'll want to keep that deadline date in mind.

Liz: If you're not going to be getting a new card, what do you need to think about?

Sara: Well, you might also currently be carrying a card that has the features you might already be looking for when it comes to making a major purchase. If you already carry some rewards cards, just pick the card that would earn the highest rewards rate at that particular store, for that particular purchase. Maybe you have a store card that earns the most when you are shopping there — maybe 3% cash back, or 5% cash back. That's a great card to use in that instance. Or you have a card that just earns the same rewards rate everywhere, so you can turn that patio furniture purchase into a future flight, potentially.

Liz: And rewards rates can change, right?

Sara: They can be subject to change. Sometimes you have a card that has what we call rotating bonus categories. Typically 5% cash back in specific types of purchases for a month, or for a quarter, and then once that month or quarter ends, the card changes up what you can earn that high rewards rate on. So you might have a quarter, for example, where the bonus category is home improvement stores. So if you've been thinking about doing some stuff around the house, buying some new yard equipment, doing a little bit of redecorating, this could be a good time to use that card on those types of purchases. Other times, maybe you're planning a road trip and you might get 5% cash back at gas stations. So those are good examples of cards that you want to pay attention to their rewards programs because they are changing several times a year. That means that you might want to pick that card in one particular quarter, but then leave the card in your wallet at a different quarter, just because it's not really matching up with your spending.

Liz: I like purchase protections. I've used travel protections many times when I had to cancel a trip at the last minute, but I know there's lots of other protections that go along with a credit card. Can you talk about a few of those?

Sara: Purchase protections are big. In some instances there are limitations, of course, but you might get an extended warranty on a purchase that gives you an extra year beyond the manufacturer's warranty, which is really nice. If you order something online and the item is lost, or stolen, or damaged during shipping, and the merchant will not reimburse you or send you a new one, then you can get reimbursement that way from your credit card company. And then there are also travel protections. So if you are planning a trip, you're going to want to use a card with travel protections to make all of your bookings, because at no additional cost, you get coverage if you need to cancel, or delay your trip, because of a covered reason. That's important to know, of course, with all insurance. Or if your luggage gets lost, or damaged, or stolen during your trip, or even delayed, and you have to buy some extra clothes and toiletries, you get some money back to offset those costs as well. It's really nice to have these extra layers of security without having to pay for them.

Liz: And the other thing credit cards can offer is free financing, essentially.

Sara: Pretty much, yeah. You see a lot of cards on the market that offer 0% interest for a set period of time on new purchases. So sometimes you see a year, or more, to pay back a large purchase, which can be pretty incredible. So that's an instance where you might want to sign up for a brand-new card, and then you can have 12, 15, 18, even 20 months to pay back your purchase. And compared to what you might be able to get in terms of financing from the merchant directly, it's going to save you a lot of money — not every merchant offers 0% interest.

Liz: And Sara, when you wrote about this, you also mentioned the idea of using more than one card, which I thought was intriguing.

Sara: You can split a large purchase on multiple cards. You might want to treat it like, you know when you buy a car and you make a down payment and then you finance the rest?

Liz: Yeah.

Sara: Really when you buy anything big and you finance it, like a house.

Liz: Yeah.

Sara: So you could have put the "down payment" on a card that earns a sign-up bonus, and use that sum of money toward earning the bonus, and then you can also put the remainder amount due on a card that charges 0% interest. So it's like putting in a down payment, getting rewards on that down payment, and then financing the rest interest-free for a long period of time.

Liz: Do you have any big purchases that you are planning this summer?

Sara: Well, we are thinking of doing some stuff around our house, namely redoing our backyard, because our backyard is currently a sad, totally paved-over parking pad with lots of cracks in it, and it's where plants go to die and we never spend time back there. We would like to make it a bit more of an oasis, some more planting areas, a nicer patio. We're still in the phase where we're talking to contractors and getting estimates and getting plans drawn up, and that's taking a long time. And once we have an idea of how much this can cost us, then we'll start thinking about how we want to pay for it.

Liz: Well, that was my next question. I don't tend to use the 0% offers just because I'm forgetful, and I'm absolutely sure I'm going to forget to get everything paid off by the date when the 0% rate expires. So for me, the credit cards are really about using those purchase protections, using the extended warranties to make sure that everything is covered. But I know people use the 0% rates all the time. Do you ever do that?

Sara: I have not done that. I tend to save money up for a big purchase and then make a purchase once I have the savings, and then pay it off. And so as a result of that, I tend to use credit cards more for the rewards than for the sign-up bonuses when they're done for 0% APR. That being said, there are times where it just makes more sense to finance something if you can get a very low interest rate, or no interest rate, and then make a set monthly payment, and then time your payments and work them out. So maybe pay it off a couple of months early, so you know that you have a buffer. If you have an extra three months or so at the end, that way you know you paid it off on time. Or if you are short on cash because of an unexpected expense, you can build yourself in a little bit of a buffer.

So definitely leave some space for that. If you can pay something off in a set monthly amount, it really can become easier to budget for these major costs. I know that there are people who are very debt-averse, and I similarly am afraid of debt. I think everybody is, but there are times where you can use debt as a tool to get something that you need. And you just need to be very careful about it and put in these guardrails, so you know you're not going to get yourself into trouble.

Liz: That's excellent advice, Sara. Thanks for joining us this week. Now we can move on to this week's money question, which comes from Gray in the Bay Area:

“Hi, money crew. My name's Gray, and my question is, how do I talk to my friends about how proud I am with my investing, and not feel guilty about investing? I feel like when I talk to my friends, they look at me like I'm participating in an evil institution. I personally feel that because I'm Black, I'm automatically starting a few steps behind in terms of financial education, privilege and income. I also don't think it's too crazy to want to retire one day. I make sure I donate to a local bicycling advocacy group, but I still feel like I'm looked at as if I sold my soul. Help!”

My co-host, Sean Pyles, and I really wanted to answer Gray's question. And to do that, we enlisted the help of fellow Nerd Patricia Smith. Thanks for joining us, Patricia.

Patricia Smith: Thank you for having me. And it's a pleasure to be here.

Liz: Patricia has led some really important conversations we've had internally at NerdWallet about allyship, racial justice and equity.

Patricia: A lot of the conversations I've started and led at NerdWallet are meant to have our Nerds think more critically about how underrepresented minorities view the world based on our cultural perspectives. So I think this is an important conversation at this time.

Sean: Absolutely. And I think a lot of people have learned over the past year that our country has a lot of work to do — we as individuals, and we as people who are part of this broader structure of our society and country — to not only acknowledge but to create equity for the centuries of white supremacist, racial discrimination. And one of the legacies of this history is a significant racial wealth gap and mistrust of financial institutions among some underrepresented minorities, which I realize is a lot to think about and digest. So, to kick off this conversation, Patricia, can you give us some context around this?

Patricia: There's definitely historical factors, but I think it mostly comes down to a lack of conversation about finances within Black families and other underrepresented minority families. A lot of the conversations are more around what our families didn't have money for, as opposed to how to manage our money well.

Sean: That seems pretty similar to my upbringing as well in some ways, where we were often talking about, OK, I would like the shirt from Kohl's, or wherever we were shopping, but we just don't have the money for it. So maybe next school year we can get something like that. And the idea of a credit score, or investing, were things that were just so far from my radar that I didn't even really know about them until after college.

Patricia: Yeah. And I think in some cases too, I know — because like I said, I'm an African-American woman, I consider myself Black — the conversation around money was different for different things. So it's like, you might have money for, say, shoes and clothes, but your parents would discuss with you, do you have McDonald's money? So it's this mismatch of what is important and what isn't, I think, (that) helps skew people's perception of money in a lot of underrepresented minority families as well.

Sean: It's interesting thinking about Gray's question, because they mentioned that they feel like they're a few steps behind in terms of financial education. I'm wondering what might be some good ways to overcome that? Obviously at NerdWallet, we like to talk about people doing their own research, but I think that there are some conversations to be had among people's friend groups about how to manage your money, or how to have a good credit score. What do you think about that, Patricia?

Patricia: I think that you're absolutely right. I know in conversations that I've had both internally at NerdWallet, with my own family and friends, what I have found is that I love to read. So I'm always reading something. So people trust my opinion on a number of things, even though they might not necessarily agree with my methodology initially. Over time, because I've been talking about it, they'll come back around. And if I can provide an example, I had a friend who I had told I had gotten a personal loan to help some credit card debt that I had. And I told her why I got it, how much I had gotten. And she was like, "That's just silly. Why would you take on more debt?" A few years later, she came to me to ask me a question about that same way of managing my finances, how did it help my credit, and all of those kinds of things.

So I think it's this idea of not expecting your initial conversation to bear fruit. Maybe planting the seed of an idea to someone, and then that later bearing fruit and you having that conversation again, and just being open to that being the cycle of things as you talk about your money.

Sean: Right. And there's a balance between setting an example among your friend group and not trying to convince people to do something with their money, because that will just scare them away, in my experience.

Liz: I'm a huge fan of being the one who's smart with money and not being obnoxious about it, but also just being the person in your friend group that people can trust and gently guiding folks. It's like a lot of us got into the 401(k) at our workplace initially because somebody said, “Hey, you should do this.” Not because we were experts in investing, not because we understood how important getting invested is in terms of even small amounts build up over time, but just because somebody we trusted said, “Hey, you should think about this.” So I think that's a great thing to point out, Patricia.

Sean: I also want to dig into the aspect of guilt that Gray mentioned, because they feel guilty about where they are financially. And it seems like they're getting some flak from their friend group as well. That's something that I've grappled with a little bit, especially because my finances are pretty different from those even in my immediate family or in my friend group. And it's not that they’re so much better, but it's that I treat finances in a different way. I sometimes get a look from them. Maybe I'm just perceiving a look that, "Oh, Sean is different. Sean is too invested in his money," or something like that. And it might just be me getting in my own head. Do you guys ever grapple with that?

Patricia: I think I'm on the same page as you are, Sean, in terms of grappling with that, and I can understand why Gray might feel that way too. I know, I think depending on how you grew up, there's definitely a mixed bag of making too much money compared to everyone else you know, and then coming off as too good for where you may have come from. I know that's definitely a story among Black people, definitely some other underrepresented groups, right? Like, oh, now you're just too good because you make all this money. I don't mentally feel like I'm better than you. I'm just happy that I'm in a better financial position now to do some things that I wasn't able to do before. And/or there's the flip side, too, of making people feel bad, or the perception that you're making people feel bad, because they aren't as well-off as you just because of, again, how you talk about your money. There's nuances of things that you grapple with too, as you talk about money, because it's not something that people are really comfortable talking about in general.

Liz: There are people that I've run into who make statements about people with money, like they're evil, or they must have hurt somebody to get that money, or they're greedy. It's interesting when I hear those statements, because a lot of times it's just reflexive. It's so built-in to how they view the world. I wonder if that's not shooting yourself in the foot, that if you think rich people are awful, why would you want to join them?

Sean: Or you're somehow complicit in the system that seems to be so stacked against the common person. That's a little bit of what I was getting from Gray's question, reading between the lines, is that maybe the entire institution of money is something to be shunned because it is unethical in some way, but at the same time we're all attached to this one way or another. So you might as well open up a 401(k), make it so you can hopefully have a comfortable retirement one day.

Patricia: Oftentimes the stories we hear about for people with money, it just sounds like they're hoarding money while the rest of the world is suffering. And there's also, I think, a little bit of dissonance with that as well, depending on how you got your money, then you're OK with the money that you got. You worked hard, we know your stories. It's the difference between hearing the story of Oprah and hearing the story of Jeff Bezos, right? Because some people are just like, he made money, especially during the pandemic, off of a bunch of people. He was opportunistic, as opposed to Oprah. She brought herself up from a lot of trauma and all these different things to be the woman that she's become. And a lot of people respect that.

Sean: Yeah. And I think there is a little bit of misdirected angst around money in general, because, yes, someone who is hoarding billions of dollars is doing something that I think many would see as unethical, whereas most common folks who are just looking to retire and maybe buy a house aren't in cahoots with a Jeff Bezos-type person. But I see a lot of conflation around that even in my neighborhood. Portland has a pretty hot real estate market and home prices are skyrocketing. Someone tagged the for-sale signs in my neighborhood with “eat the rich,” and I just was shaking my head because this person who's selling their two-bedroom home is not a millionaire. They're just a person trying to get by, but yet there's this perception that because you're a homeowner you must be of a different class. And I don't know, it makes me scratch my head a little bit.

Liz: I don't know if this is an appropriate place to throw it in, but even if somebody does have billions — I think Oprah is a billionaire, right?

Patricia: Yes.

Sean: Yeah.

Liz: Yeah. They could be doing a lot of good with that money. I'm just thinking of Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, and the issues that they're tackling. So I just can't get on board with all-the-rich-are-awful people, because it's just obviously not true. However, there are a lot of people making really stupid decisions with their money, really selfish decisions with their money. So I totally get the idea that for a lot of people it's just so difficult to deal with, they may not want to, and they just might want to dismiss anybody with money as being a jerk.

Sean: Yeah. Especially when it comes to investing. I feel like the idea of you putting money into some fund, and then it's being used to create capital or something mysterious elsewhere, where you're getting dividends from that — I can see how some people would have a perception that there's something nefarious going on. But for people who might have that mindset, I think it's really worth looking into socially responsible investing, which is a specific investment strategy. Liz, can you talk a little bit about socially responsible investing, or SRI as it's known, and why it might be a good idea?

Liz: Yeah. It used to be this little niche thing, and what you would hear from your financial planner if you had one is, you're going to lose money, or you're not going to make as much money as if you just did "normal" investing. And now we realize that's just not true. As a matter of fact, socially responsible investing can get you more money than just the normal way of investing. And the reason for that is that companies that are not ethical, or not responsible, often wind up paying for that. So there's this liability. They might have to do environmental cleanups, or if they don't treat their workers well, they might have lawsuits. So it turns out that the companies that are being responsible can provide their stockholders a better return. So it's really come 180 degrees from a few years ago when it was considered not a great idea. Now, a lot of mainstream investors and hedge fund leaders are incorporating socially responsible investing techniques in their normal day-to-day investing.

Sean: And from a fund management perspective, it used to be that SRIs were tied to higher fees than traditional counterparts, but that's no longer the case anymore. So it makes it an even more appealing idea financially.

Liz: And there's all kinds of different funds as well. Some are focused on climate change. Some are focused on equity. Some are focused on providing opportunities for developing countries. There's all kinds of ways to do this. And again, these funds are readily available at brokerages, and hopefully in coming years you'll see it more often in your 401(k) as well. That's a really good development.

Patricia: Is it just limited to mutual funds, or are there opportunities for people? Because I know increasingly, especially given the pandemic and all of this news around how people are using their pandemic cash to invest back in the stock market, are there opportunities for even people to create their own socially responsible investing portfolio if they feel comfortable doing that?

Liz: Oh yeah. And if you were somebody that wanted to very much pick and choose which companies that you wanted to deal with, there's absolutely a lot of resources out there. Morningstar, which is an investment research company, has a ton of information on socially responsible investing. So you can definitely pick the companies that you invest in.

I would caution, though, that it's really easy to get too concentrated when you're investing in individual stocks, individual companies, versus using a mutual fund. There's something to be said for, especially when you're starting out, sticking to a mutual fund that gives you a lot more diversification. Basically, diversification just means having eggs in a bunch of different baskets rather than having them all in one. So maybe start with a socially responsible mutual fund that's aligned with your values. And then once you've got some money accumulated, you can start picking individual companies. At least that's the way I would approach it.

Sean: I also want to circle back to the idea of how to talk with your friends about investing or money management without feeling bad. Do you guys have any thoughts about how people can approach that?

Patricia: I know from, I guess you would say a Black culture perspective, we definitely say a lot about how we're “getting the bag,” right? What are you doing to get the bag? How are you hustling? Are you doing side hustles? How are you making your money?

Sean: At the risk of sounding extremely Caucasian, can you explain for our listeners what the bag is?

Patricia: Absolutely. So the bag is just this idea of you getting a bag of money. So if you were to think about that money bag emoji, right? This is you going out, what are the ways are you pursuing different streams of income so that you have this bag of money to do as you will, and this idea of being well-off, but also working hard to be well-off. A lot of times associated with this idea of quote-unquote "getting the bag," there's talk about real estate investing, there's talk about having a side hustle. But I think there's a slightly limiting belief in the sense that you have to hustle to get the bag.

There's also a tangential thought you could throw in there, this idea of you want to work as little as possible, but still maximize profit or maximize the money you make. And a lot of famous people that people admire increase their net worth through investments. And so the idea that investing is bad, I think, is just more of a mind shift. Can we talk about the example of Beyonce doing a concert for Uber back, I think, in the early 2000s? She asked for equity in Uber instead of cash. Yeah, she actually could have taken the money, and yes, the money would have been useful, but her net worth, again, skyrocketed because she took the equity instead.

Sean: That is so savvy. I didn't know about that.

Patricia: And then I think another way, if we're talking about perception, a lot of people think about retirement like saving for a trip with friends. No one gives a second thought to, "I have a trip coming up in August. Me and my five friends are going to go. So we're going to put money away every month until August to make sure that we have enough money to go and live it up and have a great vacation in some exotic location." Well, if you just think about that in terms of investing, yes, the time horizon is longer, but if you're just putting money away so that at the time that you retire in your 50s or 60s, depending on how aggressively you invest, then that's you getting the bag, having a more secure lifestyle, to live the comfortable life you prefer.

Sean: Yeah. Setting yourself up for the longest vacation anyone could ever want.

Patricia: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sean: Liz, do you have any thoughts about this? Thinking about your upbringing, you grew up in rural Washington, right? And I'm wondering how you talk to people about money. What was that experience like?

Liz: Oh boy. No, in my family particularly, we've been all over the social economic classes. From one of my grandfathers who was very wealthy, one of my grandfathers who was very not, my getting tangled up here because it's really difficult to talk about. Right?

Sean: Yeah.

Liz: And if you are the one with money, people are coming to you not just with questions, but with requests for cash.

Sean: Of course.

Liz: I'm sorry I can't be more coherent.

Sean: No. I think that speaks to how challenging this is for everyone, that there isn't a really clear-cut way to have these conversations. But I think that if you're coming from a place of good intention with your connections with individuals like that, while also protecting yourself and realizing that you have to focus on your own priorities, it's the best you can do. It's a continual balancing act.

Liz: Talking to my sister once, and one of her friends was there, and the friend did not use banks. It was really interesting to talk to her about her experience because every time she tried to put some money in the bank, she got hit with another fee. And after a while it was just like, screw it, I'm going to deal with Walmart. Because Walmart was transparent. She knew exactly what she was going to be paying. She wasn't getting hit with weird fees out of nowhere.

That discussion was so helpful to me to understand a whole section of the economy that I hadn't thought much about, which was the unbanked, the underbanked, how you come about that. So I think starting these discussions can be super helpful for people who are confused about what's going on, or they don't really understand the differences with different groups and how they approach the economy, and how they see the economy. Just having that insight can help a lot.

Patricia: On the flip side, too — so more to Gray and their problem, right? In the sense that they have this friend group, they want to be able to form community around the things that they're doing with their money. Wondering if my friend group isn't available, are there any other options for us?

Something that I had researched and heard about before is this idea of formal or informal investment clubs. And I don't know, Liz, if you have any additional information about this. But it's this idea that you can join a group of people to have conversations around investments. You can make it very formal and create an LLC with a group of people that want to invest together, where you all get together and talk freely about how you invest, why you invest, investments that you're interested in, just so that you feel more educated. It's one part education, one part community, one part of investing. And that's something that sometimes your friend group might not be there for you at the moment that you need them, maybe finding community elsewhere.

Liz: The great thing about investment clubs is that you can find them anywhere and you can create them online. It doesn't have to just be the people in your immediate circle. There's a whole world out there that has investment clubs, or that wants to start them. They can be a lot of fun and a great way to learn.

Sean: And even from the standpoint of having a circle of friends that Gray is close with, I don't think that every friend can do everything for you. There are going to be some people that you can't talk about certain things with, because maybe they're just not interested at all. And I think that it might behoove Gray to find a group of people that they can talk about money with in this way, people who are passionate about this, and then maybe with their other friends, it's just not something that you want to broach so much.

Patricia: Or broach it in a different way like we started at the beginning of the conversation, right? As opposed to being like, I have a 401(k) and this is how I invest. It's more like, oh, I'm just doing some things with my money. Just more like a casual mention of what you've done and why it matters to you as opposed to being like, you should do this too. Just again, planting seeds. Because I think part of it, too, is we don't want to feel like we're leaving anyone we care about behind, but we also can't bring a horse to water and make them drink. We don't want them to feel left out, or that we're succeeding without them. I think there's a lot to be said for people you care about and wanting to feel like that they're comfortable and well-off too, but striking that balance, again, of where they're at in their journey with their own finances, and what they're willing to talk about now versus later.

Sean: It seems like with each of us, we're that person in that group where people know that if they do have a question and they feel comfortable bringing it up, we're there to talk with them. And that's about as much as you can do sometimes.

Liz: I wanted to circle back to something. Patricia, you were asking about socially responsible investing, and you were asking if there were alternatives to mutual funds. I should have asked why you were interested in that.

Patricia: More people than before are becoming more educated, or wanting to learn about how to invest. As you continue your journey on learning in investing, maybe you might be more interested in forming your own set of stocks that you can feel very proud of, and it's your own effort, as opposed to just saying, I left my money with this person in a mutual fund. And I know it's a great idea, but I don't really understand what that's about and all of the companies really. That kind of thing.

Liz: Oh, OK. That's really super good insight. When socially responsible funds came around, they were a crude instrument. Maybe they would not invest in firearms, not invest in certain things, but they might invest in other things that you might not be comfortable with. So picking the individual companies was super important. I think today with more options, it's easier to fine-tune what you are and aren't investing in. And I definitely think it's something that people should be thinking about, what to do with their money. It's just a lot easier if you do the mutual fund route versus picking your own stocks. OK. Thank you for that context. That really helped.

Sean: Patricia, do you have any other thoughts around Gray's question, or things that you think our listeners should keep in mind?

Patricia: I know that I say this a lot internally at NerdWallet as we talk about racial justice and equity and allyship, is this idea of giving people grace. Advice from my mother from when I was younger is this idea that everyone isn't you. So I can't expect that people approach topics and conversations the same way that I do.

It's best to meet people where they are. They fear what they might not know. So there is no harm in providing information or education. But leaving it there for them to decide when it's useful to them is something that I've definitely had to learn, this idea that I want everyone to be successful with me and I don't want you to suffer. It's definitely a delicate balance, but I think, again, having grace and letting people be who they are and meeting them where they are around finances is important.

Sean: Well, thank you so much for talking with us, Patricia.

Patricia: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. This was a great conversation.

Sean: And with that, I think we can get on to our takeaway tips. Liz, can you kick us off?

Liz: I would be delighted. First, meet people where they are. People fear what they don't know. So there's no harm in providing information or education.

Sean: Next up, don't worry about what others think about your finances. What matters most is that you are working to achieve your personal goals.

Liz: Finally, think about socially responsible investing. This method of investing can help you grow your money while supporting causes that you care about.

Sean: And that is all we have for this episode. Do you have a money question of your own? Turn to the Nerds and call or text us your questions at 901-730-6373. That's 901-730-NERD. You can also email us at [email protected]. And visit for more info on this episode. And be sure to subscribe, rate and review us wherever you're getting this podcast.

Liz: And here's our brief disclaimer thoughtfully crafted by NerdWallet's legal team. Your questions are answered by knowledgeable and talented finance writers, but we are not financial or investment advisors. This nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes, and may not apply to your specific circumstances.

Sean: And with that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.