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I Don’t Know and That’s Okay

financial literacy

Just because someone has money doesn’t mean they understand finance.

Money plays an important role for everyone in the developed world, but financial literacy is unevenly distributed. Business schools offer the only formal education on the topic, but they generally can’t connect the subject matter to the real world or the students’ personal lives.

People are drawn to investing as a vehicle for building wealth over time. By stashing money away for later, they can more easily free themselves from the stresses of work-life balance.

But investing is a detail-oriented pursuit with real risks attached to it. It takes a lot of time to build up the kind of knowledge for someone to make and evaluate trades. Succeeding here takes quite a bit of work, and some are happy to avoid it.

That’s why investing is commonly seen as the domain of boring elitists. The on-ramp to fluency here is intimidating, especially if someone is already succeeding at their day job. But investing doesn’t scream universal mainstream interest, so many have cultivated a specific lack of interest in it.

But don’t let terms like dollar-cost averaging or EBITDA scare you out of learning how to master your money. It’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help building a more comprehensive understanding of how investing works.

Your financial education has to start somewhere.

Consider the words of hedge fund superstar Ray Dalio: “It is far more common for people to allow ego to stand in the way of learning.”

It’s okay if you don’t understand niche financial terms, but it’s not okay to block them out and pretend they don’t exist. Read a book, talk to people you trust, and take conscious effort to build financial self-awareness — what do you already know, what don’t you know, and what do you wish you knew? The answers to these questions can form the basis of your self-education.

But investing is not strictly an issue of education, but one of curiosity. The best investors combine their knowledge with calculated timing to buy and sell at a profit. Curious people get to develop and test strategies that can lead to financial independence, a goal that anyone would want to achieve.

The only way they learn this is by putting in time in advance, studying the market, and looking for patterns to capitalize on. This gets us to the old truism about daily life that surely applies to the investing world.

Time is money.

Even if you don’t understand the world in terms of money, then you can surely understand it in terms of time. We live our lives for the 30-minute commute, the eight-hour workday, and the three-day weekend.

Everyone views reality through a so-called “time horizon.” Some people think on weekly terms, others might plan monthly. So many people operate on a kind of autopilot, collecting income each week to pay bills each month without a need to look farther ahead than that. But the finance world requires a much bigger time horizon — think five years or longer — for those operating strategically within it.

There is short-term money to be made here and there, but the strongest financial plays are usually long-term engagements that require care and attention. Investing requires your time and your money, and that’s probably why it’s an intimidating prospect to so many people. They let that intimidation drive them out of the game.

Headlines about businesses booming and busting aren’t going away any time soon. What if you understood those headlines in a way that let you make more money?

Get comfortable enough with yourself to embrace not knowing something, but don’t let the work end there. If you’re smart enough to identify the gaps in your knowledge, then you’re sharp enough to fill them too.

About the Author

Jessica Merrell is one of the co-founders of 81-C, a company that’s pioneering entrepreneurship as an asset class enabling anyone in the world to invest in businesses that would typically never be available to the public. As an entrepreneur, she’s successfully led startups and mid-market growth companies by creating teams and processes that maximize value through gained efficiency. She is also a philanthropist, and believes that enjoying your life and being successful are not mutually exclusive. With her entrepreneurial mindset, she is actively working to create opportunities so others can achieve this balance.

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