Confession: I was really reluctant to read Geneen Roth's Lost and Found: One Woman's Story of Losing Her Money and Finding Her Life. I kept putting it off, saying I'd just read another book first. Or I'd read it after I finished doing something else. I was reluctant to read it and avoided it for the very reason I needed to read it -- it was going to make me think about my relationship with money.
Like many people (I think), I like to avoid thinking about money. Money is stressful. Do I have enough? Too much? Am I doing the right things with it? Am I doing the wrong things with it? Do I spend too much? Do I save enough? How do I get more? Is it wrong to want more? Who am I to think think that I deserve more? What if I lose it all?
Credit: 401k on Flickr
Any of those sound familiar? Just typing that makes me want to hide in my bed -- or perhaps under it -- with a bag of chips and a bottle of wine. I hate thinking about money. I avoid thinking about it or doing anything with it until I absolutely have to think about it. I know that I've reached that point when I have a meltdown.
But here's the thing -- I'm not completely uneducated about money. I've read more personal finance books than I can probably count. I read financial news and I know how to budget. I know how to not spend money. I know what's it's like to not have enough money to pay the bills and what it's like to have more than enough. What freaks me out about money is the idea that someone is going to come along and tell me that I'm doing it all wrong. Or worse, that I'll somehow cause myself to lose it all. If I don't think about it, I don't have to worry about it.
That's what Geneen Roth thought, too. She and her husband both had good careers and had healthy incomes. Then they found out that the person that had been handling their investments had stolen all their money. As they were recovering from their shock, a friend told them about his investments. He had this guy that he dealt with that always got good returns. They were told that they could trust this new guy. So they did. For years, they invested with him and Roth put her income into "savings" by signing her checks over to her investment account. They made good returns. Things were good. Then the phone rang in December 2008, and Roth found out that they had lost everything. That guy that they had invested with was Bernard Madoff.
In the blink of an eye, Roth and her husband went from having it all to not knowing if they'd be able to keep their house. They were still working and earning money, so they were luckier than some of Madoff's investors. Despite their initial fears, they did not lose their house. They have managed to stay afloat, but it meant that Roth really had to examine what she thought about money.
You won't find investment advice in Lost and Found. Roth doesn't tell how to make it or save it. What she does do is ask you to question and explore your relationship with money. How do you feel about it? Why do you feel that way?
Questioning our relationship with money is not easy. Money is complicated. Some people hoard money, convinced that they will never have enough. Other people can't stand to hold on to money, feeling like they are not worthy of it. Money is more than just cash. Our sense of worth as people is often tied up in money. Roth shows a tremendous amount of bravery in forcing herself to face her money demons.
I was reluctant to read Lost and Found because I didn't want to see myself in it. I did find myself in it, and I suspect many of you will as well. We'll be discussing Lost and Found in BlogHer Book Club for the next month. Join the conversation.
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