Oops, I did it again. Missing credit card payments with Good Money author Nathalie Spencer

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Behavioural Scientist and Good Money author Nathalie Spencer missed a credit card payment. Then she missed another. But she finally managed to stop the cycle after putting a grownup plan in place.  

In Nathalie’s money story you will learn:

-How Nathalie learned from the financial mistakes she made in her 20s

-The mistake she made that caused her to missed two credit card payments in a row

-Three tips Nathalie swears by so she never misses a credit card payment again

In Nathalie’s money lesson you will learn:

-How to find a balance between micro-managing money and forgetting to pay bills

-How automation makes financially growing up a little bit easier

In Nathalie's everyday money tip you will learn:

-How to treat yourself and your budget

-The little thing Nathalie does before finance meetings to put her mind at ease

In My Take you will learn:

-What happens after you forget a credit card payment and ways to fix it

-How paying and reviewing bills can actually save you money

EPISODE LINKS:

Nathalie's book is available online here


Follow Nathalie! 

Twitter: @economiclogic


Transcription

nathalie Spence:
I missed another credit card payment. It's not even that I didn't have the money. It's just that I just wasn't paying attention. I didn't have the head space.

Bobbi Rebell:
You're listening to Financial Grownup with me, certified financial planner, Bobbi Rebell, author of How To Be A Financial Grownup. You know what, being a grownup is really hard, especially when it comes to money. But it's okay. We're going to get there together. I'm going to bring you one money story from a financial grownup, one lesson, and then my take on how you can make it your own. We got this.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hello, Financial Grownup Friends. You know what old expression, "The dog ate my homework." For not paying your credit card, let's make it, "I just didn't have the head space," because, as you heard, that's all that was going on with our guest. She just didn't have the head space. Nathalie Spencer, not a highly accomplished behavioral scientist and author, had the money just not the head space.

Bobbi Rebell:
Welcome, everyone. If you are new, we are so excited that you found us. We share money stories from high achievers, along with practical every day money tips that you can put to work right away. We keep the episodes to about 15 minutes, but feel free to binge on a few if you have a little more time today.

Bobbi Rebell:
Now, let's talk about Nathalie Spencer. I was so taken with her book, Good Money: Understand Your Choices, Boast Your Financial Well Being. It is totally different from many money books that I have read, and I read a lot. I loved this book, and I'm going to talk to Nathalie about your unique approach to helping people find their financial wellness. Here is Good Money author Nathalie Spencer.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, Nathalie Spencer. You're a financial grownup. Welcome to the podcast.

nathalie Spence:
Thanks. Great to speak with you, Bobbi.

Bobbi Rebell:
Loved your new books, Good Money: Understand Your Choices, Boast Your Financial Wellness because you are a behavioral scientist. In fact, you work at the Common Wealth Bank of Australia, and you bring a very different perspective to money and financial education.

nathalie Spence:
That's right. Yeah, so the book Good Money is about the behavior science of financial well being, and what that really means is that we look at psychology and decision making science, and we try to uncover why managing money can actually feel really difficult but then also provide some practical tips for how we can get through that.

Bobbi Rebell:
And you pay have been inspired by your own behavior in your 20s. Tell us your money story, Nathalie.

nathalie Spence:
Yeah, that's right. So my money story is that I missed a credit card payment, and then the next month I missed another credit card payment. And the thing is that it's not even that I didn't have the money. It's just that I just wasn't paying attention. I didn't have the head space. Like everyone, I felt busy. I was working, volunteering, social obligations, all this stuff, and I just really wasn't paying attention. So, of course, I got slapped with a penalty fee and interest started growing on my balance. When I realized this, I called the credit card company to contest it. Somehow I could find time to do that.

Bobbi Rebell:
Well, you had to at that point. You had to deal with it.

nathalie Spence:
Well, that's right. Yes. So I had to deal with. I had to pay for it. But also, I thought, "Ah well. I'll just see if I can get this charged reversed." But even on the phone, I could tell that just saying, "Oh, well I just wasn't paying attention," was not really a good enough excuse. So this was a huge wake up call for me, and there were a couple things that came from it. So one, I realized that I needed to start paying attention to my finances, and I did. I started to do so. But also it was that it doesn't have to be so hard, and that there are things that I can do to make it easier. So what I did after that call was I set up reminders. So then I would get a text message a few days before my credit card bill was due, and I also set up a direct debit. The direct debit was for the minimum repayment amount. So what this did was that hopefully I wouldn't forget to pay again because I'd get the reminders, but even if I did forget, I had built in the protection so that I wouldn't have to pay a penalty charge.

Bobbi Rebell:
Looking back, now that you have a career as a behavioral scientist, what do you think was going on in your mind, if you could analyze your 20 something self?

nathalie Spence:
Well, I think it was simply I wasn't paying attention. Managing money can be kind of boring, and it felt like it wasn't top of mind for me. I was just going around kind of spending mindlessly on my credit card and not really thinking about it.

Bobbi Rebell:
So what are the takeaways for our listeners?

nathalie Spence:
So I think one is on a more general scale and that's that you can design your life in a way that you make it easier for yourself. So behavioral science can tell us a lot about our choices with money, and then when we understand how those concepts apply to our own lives, in our own context, in our own situations, then we're able to put systems or processes in place to help us, to help ourselves out really to manage money better. And then I'd say that probably more specifically that automation is so great, especially if you don't want to be spending all of your time kind of micro managing all of your finances and thinking about it day and night. Automation is just great. It makes easy. And what you can do is you can require a little bit of up front effort and cognitive effort there to make sure that you're automating something that you can afford in the long term. But once you start it up, then you can just kind of put it to the side and forget it.

Bobbi Rebell:
So let's talk about your every day money tip because I'm very intrigued by the term temptation bundling.

nathalie Spence:
Yeah, that's right. So my money tip is for anybody that finds managing their money kind of a drag. If you find personal finance management a chore, then what you can do is bundle it with a treat or a temptation, that's where the term temptation bundling comes from. And the key here is to make sure that you resist the temptation and only do that when you are managing your money then. So, for example, my husband and I do this. Once per month, we have a personal finance meeting. Thrilling, I know. But what we do is we make sure that we go around the corner to the bakery and we get coffees and pastries beforehand, and then we bring them back home and we have a personal finance meeting.

Bobbi Rebell:
So it softens the blow.

nathalie Spence:
Yeah, exactly.

Bobbi Rebell:
And it makes it something that you're not really dreading because you're getting a treat also.

nathalie Spence:
Exactly. And it actually serves two purposes. So, first of all, it helps make the personal finance meeting feel a little bit more fun and less morning, but also it keeps me from buying a croissant every single morning because I know I can only get it when I'm doing my personal finance meeting.

Bobbi Rebell:
Have you ever snuck one, Nathalie, come on?

nathalie Spence:
Well, yeah. Maybe one or two.

Bobbi Rebell:
Let's talk about Good Money because there's a lot of scientific backing to everything you talk about, but at the same time, these are really every day issues that we all have to face. So, for example, one thing that I thought was really interesting in your book was how cashless transactions can actually effect how we spend our money.

nathalie Spence:
Yes. That's right. This is really interesting because with new technology, so many people want our payment mechanisms to be faster and easier and slicker and from like a user design perspective, of course, that's a really good goal is to have these new technologies like apps or pay and wave or tap and go be very easy. That's great. It has a lot of benefits. But there's also a downside in that the less noticeable payment is and the less friction there is there, then the easier it is to spend mindlessly. So, again, it can kind of feel like you're on autopilot and just kind of going through and spending quite easily.

Bobbi Rebell:
And as someone who has never seen a sale that I did not like. I mean, the friends and family stuff that's going on in New York City right now is out of control. I'm so tempted. Why is it that when we feel that something is a bargain, I mean, it's so difficult to resist?

nathalie Spence:
Well, that's exactly it. Well, there are a lot of things that might be going on that retailers can do to get us to spend more money. One is that when you see the original price and then you see the sale price, what you're doing is you're comparing the sale price to the original price. So, of course, it seems like a fantastic deal. Let's say, I don't know, you're spending $50 on something that's marked down from $100. Well, it feels fantastic. But actually, if you hadn't see the original price, the question that you should ask yourself is would you have paid $50 for this anyway?

Bobbi Rebell:
I don't know that we would have, but I can't buy something. I don't want to buy something full price. That's just so crazy. Why do we do that to ourselves, Nathalie? Tell us.

nathalie Spence:
I don't know. I'm a victim to it as well. But having the original price there can really tempt us into thinking that it's a good deal.

Bobbi Rebell:
All right. Tell us where we can find your book and where we can find out more about you.

nathalie Spence:
Yeah, great. So Good Money is available in the U.S. and the UK, Canada, and Australia at all of the major bookstores. So you can find it online or on shelves. And you can follow me on Twitter @economiclogic.

Bobbi Rebell:
Thank you, Nathalie.

nathalie Spence:
Thanks so much, Bobbie. Great talking to you.

Bobbi Rebell:
Hey, everyone. Love hearing about the psychology of how we spend money from Nathalie. The book really is fascinating in all the data and analysis of why we do the things we do when it comes to money. Let's get to my take on Nathalie's story though. To some degree, this is an easy one because I could just say, guys, automate your bills. But let's actually move past that. Financial Grownup Tip #1: if you do mess up, after you put the systems in place and automate, as Nathalie and pretty much every financial expert will tell you to do, make the phone call. Get the person on the phone to undo the damage. Credit card companies will often give you a one time pass, sometimes more on the fees even if it was your fault. So take the time to ask for the penalty to be removed, even if you were actually the one that messed up. Also, know how your credit works in terms of the interest. In some cases if you don't clear the entire balance, you may still pay interest charges. So when you make that call, ask exactly how the interest works.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup Tip #2: just because you automate the payment, doesn't mean you don't open the bills every month. Go through the charges. I have made this mistake because the bills paid, so my stress. But then you go to check the bill after skipping for a few months and you realize that maybe you're paying something that you didn't realize, like a subscription renewal. If you catch it right away, you have a good chance of canceling. But if you have, for example, a kit's annual membership and then you miss the payments for a few months, it is a tougher argument to make. So automate it but don't forget it. And of course it goes without saying that you should be looking at those bills because there could also be fraudulent charges on there. Sometimes criminals will test charging something with very small amounts to see if you notice, and then gradually work up to larger amounts. So it's really important to be vigilant and check those bills even if you automate.

Bobbi Rebell:
Loved Nathalie's book Good Money. Please do check it out. As I said, totally different approach, data, science, all that. Worth the focus that you do need to have. This is not a quick, easy page turner. This is a deep book, and it has a lot of pictures so it makes it really interesting. And the illustrations are good. But this is science. This is the real deal. I love this book. You can tell. You get out of it what you put into it.

Bobbi Rebell:
So thank you for your candor, Nathalie, with your story. Thank you for helping us understand how and why we spend the way we do, and, of course, thank you for helping us all get one step closer to being Financial Grownup.

Bobbi Rebell:
Financial Grownup with Bobbi Rebell is edited and produced by Steve Steward and is a BRK Media production.