Self-coined 'Financial Hype Woman' Berna Anat spills financial tidbits in a new book
JUANA SUMMERS, BYLINE: I want to start by just being honest about something. Figuring out personal finance can feel completely overwhelming for me, even now. I have read tons of books, subscribed to newsletters, listened to podcasts that all claim they want to help people demystify money. And they're all great in theory, but in practice, a lot of those books have just made me feel totally alone or even ashamed for not being further along on my own financial journey. Berna Anat says it doesn't have to feel that way. Since teaching herself about personal finance, she's built a very online career around making the world of money more accessible for everyone, and now she has written a book called "Money Out Loud: All The Financial Stuff No One Taught Us." You could call her a money influencer, but she calls herself a financial hype woman. She says she wants to be the first one on the dance floor at the wedding, inviting you to start figuring out what's going on with your money.
BERNA ANAT: All it takes is that one person to get on the dance floor, do a little robot, do a little bad worm, and then everyone else feels a lot more comfortable to jump in. Everyone is waiting for someone at the table to raise their hand and go - is anyone else freaked out? Is anyone else kind of drowning in debt and don't know how to get out of it? Does anyone else notice that the finance world seems hella (ph) male, hella pale, hella stale?
SUMMERS: And when she said that - hella pale, hella male and hella stale - I did a bit of a double take, and I had to know more.
ANAT: Well, you know, when I say that phrase, the Bay Area in me really pops out, and I can't apologize for that - born and raised in the Bay Area. But this is the thing, I think, that really compelled me to jump into the financial space. You know, I'm there in my mid-20s with $12,000 of credit card debt, almost $50,000 of student loans, and people are like, oh, you're just getting into personal finance - amazing. You should read this book. You should read this blog. You should listen to this podcast. I'm like, great. I have all my tabs open. Every single one of those tabs - every single resource is from an older white dude, and I, Juana, am not an older white dude.
SUMMERS: Who knew?
ANAT: I like to think I'm a little far - if you couldn't hear it in my voice, I am not an older white dude, and it struck me immediately that, you know, it's not that this advice that they were giving was bad. It was all sound advice, mostly, but it just was not relatable to me. A lot of what they said came from a level of privilege that I have never experienced, from a level of finance ease that I don't understand as a beginner. And that's what made me look around and go, this doesn't make any sense because everybody is affected by money.
SUMMERS: You also make the point of being very explicit about the fact that we are all figuring this all out as part of a system where marginalized communities are often left out, that is not set up for us to succeed, and I don't know that I've ever read another book that talks about money that calls that out so clearly. Why was that important for you to be so direct about?
ANAT: I wanted to come right out the gate and let folks understand that there are forces at work that have been at work way before you were born - generations back - that were set up against you and your ancestors and the people who came before you. There are systems that were meant to keep many marginalized folks poor, unhoused, living under wages. Just - there are so many systems at play meant to keep you, quote-unquote, "bad at money." And yet, we are raised and we see so much financial education material that is intent on making us believe that we are 100% of the problem. That's just simply not true. I think once we confront things like the truth about capitalism, the truth about systemic discrimination, then we can be a little easier on ourselves.
SUMMERS: You give folks some quick and dirty advice on topics like budgeting, saving and investing. So this might get hard, but I'm wondering if we can do a little bit of a lightning round here. And I'd like to go through each one of those areas one by one and ask you to pick just one piece of advice you would give someone who is starting off from completely zero and just trying to figure this out. And I want to start with budgeting.
ANAT: Oh, my God, budgeting - you can't see me right now, but my hands are in the air because budgeting is my favorite topic. It's an ugly word for a beautiful thing. My one tip with budgeting is when you're making separate bank accounts or separate buckets for the different categories in your life, name it whatever you want. Use song lyrics. Use celebrity names. Use former pet names. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to feel personally connected to your budgeting categories or to your bank accounts. One, because it makes that financial section of your life feel real to you, but also it just makes it more fun.
SUMMERS: All right. How about saving?
ANAT: Free savings calculators online - you need to know exactly how much money you'd like to save for a thing, for a goal, for a trip and when you'd like to save that by. Then you can plug in also the amount of money that you make, the amount of bills that you pay, things like that. You can plug in numbers that you know. A free savings calculator will tell you exactly what it will take every single month to reach your savings goal. It almost gives it to you like a bill. It takes all the guesswork, all the math work out of this vague savings thought and gives you something to actually work around. A free savings calculator will set you free.
SUMMERS: All right, Berna, last one - how about investing?
ANAT: I like to invest like a lazy girl. I invest like a tired person because - look. For those who are approaching investing for the first time, I like to really stress investing is not about rocket ship gains and putting a bunch of money into the market. It's about opening your first retirement account, whether that's a 401(k), a Roth IRA, you know, putting a bunch of funds in a retirement account. It's about investing small amounts of consistent money and making it like a bill in your life and just - boom. It's like a - I know you can't see me, but I'm sort of, like, sticking my hand out. It's like a dance move - ah, little money, boom, a little more, ah, a little bit, boom - consistently for a long time to take care of your future self. Do not listen to the finance dudebros (ph) that are giving you heart palpitations about what you should be investing in. Go slow, go little. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
SUMMERS: Berna, I want to end this conversation on a high note because you talk about something else that's really important in this book, and that's about celebrating your money wins, your financial successes. So I want to ask you, how do you celebrate your money wins?
ANAT: I celebrate my money wins by dancing. So I have a playlist on Spotify. If you look up the title of the book "Money Out Loud" or if you look up Hey Berna, it's my money motivation station - over 100 songs that are exclusively about money. I'm a big fan of the solo financial dance party, so I dance around. And when I'm dancing around, I'm thinking about what it took to get me there, the ancestors that would be proud of me in the room and would be, like, booty-shaking a little bit with me. I'm thinking about the privileges that I have been given to be able to afford the bill I just paid or, you know, the deposit I just made into my savings. I have a little solo dance party, and then I text somebody. I go to one of my money friends, and I say, hey; I just did this thing. Clap for me. So I celebrate by myself. I have a dance party, and then I bring people into the party to celebrate with me. It's all community and booty-shaking over here.
(SOUNDBITE OF SAWEETIE SONG, "ICY GRL")
SUMMERS: Berna Anat. Her new book is "Money Out Loud: All The Financial Stuff No One Taught Us." Thanks so much for being here.
ANAT: Thank you, Juana. Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.