Long-term goals, budgeting, saving, and enjoying small indulgences are a some of the key things you will often hear explored by financial guru and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Lapin. Lapin founded The Money School after a role as an anchor on major television networks where she noticed a large gap in populations that gained access to financial literacy knowledge. The population Lapin desired to support was the former version of her self. The one, the founder describes as: “that girl who was smiling, nodding, and not joining basic money conversations because she was too freaked out and too scared to do it.”
As a first-generation American, Lapin was raised in a household where financial literacy was not primarily taught or spoken of. Growing up, at age eleven, she encountered the loss of her father due to a drug overdose and a lack of guidance from her mother. During this time, Lapin describes seeing her parents primarily make money moves that were not the most ideal. This sparked her desire to write a new trajectory for her future.
By starting from the ground up, Lapin expresses taking any job she could from working at a low salary to accumulating credit card debt, and more. Finally, with determination and grit, she landed a job as a business reporter and it just happened that the role was in the field of finance. While feeling clueless and freaked out about the language of money, Lapin explains that she had to learn the language of money the hard way because her job demanded that she spoke it to the world.
Learning The Language of Money
At the “school of hard knocks” the financial expert, who then was the process of acquiring greater knowledge, details that she encountered a plethora of funny affirmable moments along the way. Through her work, Lapin shares these experiences to challenge others to embrace being comfortable with learning and growing through unfamiliar spaces.
For example, while Lapin was on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange she gathered her belongings to head to an interview with a few founders. On her way out she recalled her manager asking: “Do you have the P&L?” And she responded: “No” staring with a puzzled grimace. “No, I don’t have to pee,” she thought to herself. In another instance, Lapin describes thinking that a former boyfriend was a garden “hedge manager” given his role at a hedge fund.
To Lapin, money has served as a language to be learned and one that we often don’t realize can serve as the biggest hurdle for bridging avenues to opportunities in our financial lives.
Pervasive Disparities in Financial Education
Learning the language of money has become instrumentally important due to an ongoing widespread dialogue surrounding the financial literacy education gap in America. Currently, two-thirds of American adults are said not to be able to pass a basic financial literacy test, 54% of Millennials express worry that they will not be able to pay back student loans, and only 16% between the ages 18-26 feel very optimistic about their financial futures.
To counter these disparities at a national scale, Lapin advocates for lobbying for more financial education in our governmental system to bridge what she notes as “a personal budget deficit.” However, in addition to lobbying at the national level, she advocates helping others explore a fundamental piece of the puzzle that they truly can control, which begins with themselves. She articulates this by sharing:
People say all the time I’m freaked out by the stock market; I’m freaked out by all of these things. And all we really have control over is ourselves. This is a deeper component of the conversation because how we each interact within these markets permeates all aspects of our lives.
By founding The Money School, Lapin has created opportunities to support each individual learner where they are in their financial growth journey. Given that so often financial learning exists within traditionally broad topics explored in school such as macroeconomics, by meeting the individual learner where they are in the process Lapin shares practical hands-on tips and tricks—from writing checks to completing taxes or making a budget.
One Solution: The Money School
The Money School is an online community Lapin created where she shares a 12-step plan for helping others get their financial lives together. This plan has been tested in both of her books and the third book due to hit shelves soon. Traditionally, readers and students have found the guides to be easy to follow and iterate upon.
The financial guru and New York Times Bestselling author shares that the first step at The Money School is:
…Admitting you have a problem—and we all have problems—so that you can do something about it. From there, I wanted to create interactive video lessons, worksheets, and quizzes for the school community. Then bring in some cool experts and friends that I know from the business world to help along the way.
Overall, a key goal for the Money School is to rethink the way education around this topic looks. To do so Lapin has broken down finance into a language we often would use daily, like in a meeting with a circle of friends. Similar to friendships, she compares starting a new financial guide to embarking on a long-term endeavor. During the journey, Lapin says it’s “beneficial to set benchmarks and opportunities for small outings and/or indulgences so that you stay on track.”
How to Start Achieving Your Money Goals Today
To start achieving your money goals today, Lapin shares: “We really need to focus on our endgames and goals.” To cover these two areas, she recommends breaking down: 1) a spending plan into three E’s—essentials, endgame, and extras, and 2) goals into three F’s—family, finance, and fun. The Money School founder uses these alliterations to explore how we can look at our goals holistically due to our work lives and personal lives overlapping in numerous ways. In order to achieve true happiness, “we must achieve happiness in all areas,” she shares.
Additionally, when it comes to creating plans for money matters Lapin encourages those who wish to become financially fit to pursue money from a place of aspiration versus deprivation—mentality plays a crucial role in the process. For example, a person aspiring to build wealth settling to clip coupons and digging in the couch for coins may have greater adverse effects than one focusing on creating a savings plan.
As Lapin highlights:
…Figure out where you aspire to go and then reverse engineer your actions. The more I’ve been able to be real, the closer I’ve gotten to reaching my goals and you can too! For me, I had to get to a place where I was super vulnerable, authentic, basically naked, sharing all the stories I wanted to whiteout in the past when I tried to pretend I was perfect. Doing the internal work, only I could do for myself, made all the difference.