Finance Magazine

Why Talk About Investing, Anyway?

By Kathleen O'Malley @frugalportland

We’ve been on an investing kick over here. Brent started talking about mindful investing, then I revisited Jemstep, and we’re not done. I want to learn about investing, because I think it’s an easy thing to ignore, and it’s intimidating to get started, what with all the finance words, and good lord, I have a liberal arts degree!

But that’s just it, isn’t it?


Once you’re out of credit card debt, once you’ve paid off your student loans, once you own your car and your car doesn’t own you, what then?

Look, it’s not like you’re going to become Scrooge McDuck and start swimming in your money all of a sudden. (Also, that was only cool because it was animated. The idea of that much money touching my skin makes me nauseous.) The money’s all electronic, anyway. Just numbers on a screen.

But if you’re going to save half your income, and you’ve gotten yourself out of debt, you’re going to have a lot of money in your checking account.

And the fact is, your money, sitting in your checking account, is doing you no favors.

Inflation measures the value of a dollar in the future, and it’s decreasing at a faster rate than any of the online banks are paying. So, your “1% interest” is losing you money, since the inflation rate is higher than 1%.

I’ve been frugal all my life, and I always thought investing was something men in suits did. Clearly a sexist worldview, but what can I say? I’m a product of my environment.

The reality, though, is that you really can be frugal and invest your money in a way that is earning you interest. Not a guaranteed return, of course, but if you learn enough, you’ll be able to invest with a clear head.

And to me, the whole point of frugality is to make your money work for you. Save where you can, spend consciously, and invest the rest. Then you get to be the one who decides when to stop working.

That’s the beauty of it.

Join us while we explore all the ins and outs of investing. We’re getting our sea legs, and getting comfortable with new and different words (BA be danged).

I remember when I started this blog. I had laser focus. Every single day I thought about what I could do to get out of debt. And I did. I climbed that mountain, breathed the air of the newly debt free, then tackled the rest of my debt, one piece at a time. In some ways, that system is easier, because it’s finite. Okay, I have $5,000 left in student loan debt. That’s easy math, right?

Lately, though, I’ve felt complacent. I’m not going to pay off my mortgage quickly (and I’ll get into those reasons soon) and that’s the only debt we have. So, we’re saving, and Brent’s putting most of his income into a few different index funds over at Vanguard. But I’ve lost my focus. And actually, I think that’s okay. It’s really awesome to focus on improving your financial position, but there are two sides of the coin. Everyone congratulates the person who got out of $30,000 in consumer debt, but if you read about someone bragging that they’ve saved $30,000, everyone is immediately put off by that.

So, okay, I’m not bragging. I’m happy that I haven’t changed my spending habits since I got out of debt. At least not by much. I am getting my haircut more than once a year and I’m spending more time in restaurants, but I still haven’t paid retail for clothes except at Old Navy, and that time Dad gave us his credit card to use at Ann Taylor loft the weekend before Mom’s memorial service.

So, let’s refocus. Brent and I are talking about serious money things offline, and we’ll bring much of that conversation online. Topics such as “what’s the point of money?” and “what are we really trying to do?” have been bouncing around our living room as we realize that we’re in charge. We get to decide. We can ignore the Joneses.

So it is possible to be a frugal investor. I’ll show you!

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