Olympic Dreams and Tide Commercials

Is everyone else obsessed with the Olympic Games?

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a twisted love of the Olympics.   One of my earliest memories of the Games is watching gymnast Nadia Comeneci nail the uneven bars in the 1976 Olympics.  I had cheered for Dorothy Hamill in the Winter Games earlier that year and joined the line of girls at the hair salon asking for her hairstyle (FYI the Dorothy Hamill bob did not work with an Arab-fro).  I’ve stalked Mary Lou Retton, Greg Louganis, Michael Phelps–if they were in the Olympic Games and had a sliver of an underdog story, I probably saved the Time Magazine profile on their life!

Once the proud of owner of a Dorothy Hamill Barbie doll…

This Olympics, though, I’ve noticed that the advertisers, media wizards, Olympic Gods–whoever–have really amped up the ‘warm & fuzzy’ stories.  From the Tide commercials that focus on the moms of the athletes to the video montages of the players and their coaches to Ryan Seacrest’s interview with gymnast Danell Leyva and his proud father, showcasing their lovey-dovey relationship full of hugs, ear tweaks and emphatic clapping–viewers are getting a deeper glimpse into the daily lives of athletes.  This I think helps us connect with them and root for them on a more personal level–we know what they had to do to get there and we know what’s at stake.

Danell and his dad–so much love!

Heart-warming, yes.  But my point here  (and Tide’s as well) is that as talented as these athletes are, they couldn’t get where they are today without the support of a team to see them through along the way.  Similarly, in the less glamorous world of personal finance, we can all set goals to follow a budget, get out of debt or learn more about the markets–but it gets tough, lonely (and let’s face it–pretty boring) to do all of this alone.

In many instances, personal finance can be solitary–because it is mostly private information, but also because maybe we’re afraid to reveal that we have made some poor money decisions along the way.  But the more we toil over our finances privately, the more likely any of the following can happen: creating and keeping a budget becomes a chore; instead of tackling our monthly bills or looking into retirement options like we know we should, we procrastinate and things begin to slip through the cracks; we figure if managing our finances is so dull and sometimes stressful, why bother learning about the markets or the  economy-unless we absolutely have to?  And when we finally do reach a goal like paying off a credit card, converting a Traditional IRA to a Roth, opening an E Trade account–how do we celebrate these accomplishments?  Or do they merely go unnoticed?

So while we may manage to do the basics–keep up with bills, save a little, be more mindful of spending– we don’t become the powerful, confident athletes of personal finance that we really can be.

That Tide commercial gets me every time!

That’s where a support group comes in.  Now I’m not talking therapy, people holding hands while confessing to a 21% APR interest rate credit card or announcing a 375 credit score, while sipping watered down decaf.  Support can be a partner, a best friend, a sis or brother–someone who can support you without judgement but can also offer a big dose of reality when you need it.  Support can also come in the form of a class on budgeting, investing, retirement bootcamp; or joining an investment club or meetup group that focuses on personal finance topics.

It’s amazing what happens when people get together and talk about their finances.  During recent Money Moxie workshops, we’ve had several women confess to bad spending habits in the past only to be heartened when fellow attendees admit to their past mistakes and share their comeback stories.  Another attendee was so inspired by the financial workshop that she went home, locked the door, turned on her favorite tunes and spent the weekend reorganizing her taxes.  At the Summer Salons, most attendees have spent at least 30-60 minutes reading up on the topic of the day (health care, impending tax increases, financial reform)–that’s 30 minutes they DIDN’T spend watching the Kardashians!

There are some great websites that offer online classes, articles and advice that can help get us up to speed–check out http://www.learnvest.com.  Or http://www.dailyworth.com for daily emails and newsletters on saving, budgeting and investing.  But more important is to get face-time in with your support peeps–whether it’s having a monthly breakfast with a friend to discuss finances; any of the meetups or investing clubs; or starting a group of your own with friends.

Maybe a budgeting buddy is not the same as having Mrs. Phelps wake up and drive you to swim practice every morning, but that kind of support can get you further, faster and smarter than doing it all alone.

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