Goalster’s Glimpse: Megan Kutulis, Bryn Mawr

What does financial freedom mean to you?

Image“Four years ago, financial freedom was looming on the horizon: graduation. As a college student, I was used to being poor; the calls home for an extra $50 in my bank account were regular, and I had become accustomed to looking through drawers, in between pages, and in vending machine change dispensers for any spare change I could find. On lucky days I found quarters. When you’re a college student, finding a quarter is the equivalent of winning big from a scratch-off lottery ticket. I assumed that my diploma was my ticket to financial freedom. I was fortunate to have a full-time job ahead of me, only a few student loans to pay off, and a car that, although a clunker, wasn’t costing me anything more than gas money. Like most of my fellow graduates, I thought I was free from the phone calls home to my parents asking for a little extra help this month. Now, four years later and still holding down a full-time job, I’ve found that financial freedom doesn’t just come with a job offer. I’m able to pay for my groceries, rent, bills, and most unexpected expenses every month, but even a steady salary doesn’t allow me to do all those fun things I borrowed my parents’ money for in college—new shoes, dinner with friends, the occasional concert. For me, financial freedom has not been the ability to do whatever I want with my money. Rather, I’ve found that it is the ability to make decisions about the best way to spend my money. Sure, I could buy the newest car. But I’d be paying too much for it monthly. I could buy the new pair of shoes. But don’t the ones I already have work? What I’ve learned in the time that I’ve been balancing my own checkbook is that sometimes it’s necessary to pass up the things I want today for the things I’ll want down the road. By putting away money each paycheck, I might not be able to ensure my financial freedom right now, but I’m helping to guarantee it down the road.”

Market Minute on Finance Friday

Video

This week, an astounding 3.6 million cable TV viewers tuned in to a fake documentary called Mermaids: The New Evidence. You might be asking, “What could mermaids possibly have to do with investing?” The answer is that human beliefs, including the more fanciful ones, reflect the complexity of our mental processes. And researchers have found that our beliefs and emotions play a powerful role in everything we do, including financial decision making.