Thea, 31, a lawyer, lives in Brooklyn, NY. Although her friends are, in her own words, “bright, savvy, awesome women,” many felt lost financially—much like she did. “In fact, almost all of them knew someone else who was in the same, financially adrift boat,” she says.
That's when she got the idea to start a money group.
“The first meeting was held in my studio apartment in Brooklyn,” she told LearnVest. She served pizza and Diet Coke as the group of women took turns airing their money issues and goals.
The women’s issues ranged from needing to pay down credit card debt after an amazing wedding to wondering how to invest in a 403(b) retirement account that she'd left empty for years. “We left that meeting,” she says, “with the same sense of empowerment we often feel in other areas of our lives, but that was usually missing when it came to our financial life.”
Although the women are still working through their money issues and goals, it is, as Thea puts it, “easier to take a journey with a group of amazing friends.”
Are Money Clubs the New Book Club?
There's a reason Thea’s personal experience was so meaningful. Just like book clubs, or wine clubs—or book clubs that double as wine clubs—money clubs are groups in which you can learn interesting stuff, discuss it and get support from like-minded friends. And maybe even add alcohol to put people at ease.
In fact, while they're now becoming popular again, money clubs have actually been around for a long time. Many groups of women in cities across the U.S. meet up informally, but Candace Bahr, founder of the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, or WIFE, formalized the money club concept, creating the organization's trademarked version back in 2004.
“Peer pressure encourages people to get involved in their financial life,” says Bahr. “It’s a strong element that makes money groups work really, really well.” Especially for women, she says. “Women are extremely group-oriented,” says Bahr. “We will do things for friends and families that we may not do for ourselves.”
Including help each other reach our financial goals.
Whether you use WIFE’s trademarked program (the organization offers guidelines and specific discussion questions) or you create your own humble “money group” with your friends, we’ve got you covered with steps to get it started—and make it stick.
How to Start Your Own Money Group
1. Choose Your Members
Bahr suggests limiting your club to six members to give everyone ample time to talk during meetings, especially when you first start out. We wish money weren’t such a taboo topic, but if you’re concerned about making your friends feel uncomfortable (or like you might be implying that they have money problems they need to sort out) try an intro like this: “I’ve recently been inspired to take more control over my finances, and I’d like to create a money club where we can talk honestly about our questions and concerns. I don’t know about you, but when I set goals, being accountable to other people helps keep me honest!”
2. Agree to Privacy
Money can be a very private issue, so WIFE suggests that aspiring money clubs sign a confidentiality agreement. The organization provides confidentiality forms you can use if you create your money club through them—otherwise, it’s up to you whether you put in place a formal agreement or simply come up with ground rules as a group. You could ask everyone to sign a simple form asking them to treat personal information with respect, and obey the honor code of not discussing whatever comes up outside the group.
Want to Start a Money Club Where You Live?
We want to unite LearnVest readers who want a club of their own. Click on LV Discussions, join the "Who Wants to Start a Money Club?" chat—and post where you live to find other members who might want to join.Take me there!
3. Figure Out Logistics
This includes everything from coming up with a name (this is optional, obviously, but can be a fun way for everyone to bond and feel ownership over the money group) to deciding where and how frequently to meet. Bahr recommends meeting once a month for two hours at a time.
You might choose to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop, or, if you’re looking for a more personal touch, host the meetings at home, like Thea did. Make sure the time and place are convenient for everyone, so each woman feels like she’s an equal member of the group. Also, we’re all pretty busy, so set a clear end time and stick to it—you can always hang out afterward to socialize, but that way no one feels obligated to stick around longer than she expected.
4. Start Talking
Money clubs are not about sharing every detail of your finances. Instead, focus on members’ triumphs and financial accomplishments, like refraining from a stress-induced shopping trip or starting to save an extra 1% toward retirement. If you are worried about something, talk about it. If you read an interesting financial story recently (ahem, like in LearnVest’s newsletters), discuss it. If you want ideas for icebreakers to get the conversation started, you can try Bahr and her business partner Ginita Wall’s website, MoneyClubs.com.
5. Make It a Party!
Although these money groups exist for a purpose—to help you feel confident about your finances—don’t let that purpose overshadow the broader goal of just plain having fun. After all, you want everyone to look forward to these meetings rather than viewing them as yet more work to be done. Infusing fun can mean different things for different people, so find what works for you. Maybe you:
- Choose a different culinary theme each time, like wine and cheese, breakfast at night or an afternoon tea
- Designate the first hour of your meeting for “financial business,” and the second hour for catching up on each other’s lives
- Host your meetings outside as a picnic or beach day during the summer
After all, you have nothing to lose, and might gain a few good laughs and more control over your finances.
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