You may all find this shocking, but it's true. I'm an illiterate. I can't read.
Yes, I majored in English and worked as a news reporter, but I can't read.
I can't read my 401k and IRA statements, that is.
I just finished doling out some advice about getting the personal finance ball rolling to a new college grad Nuri, when I realized that some of her questions stumped me.
Part of that is because I don't know how to read my monthly and quarterly statements regarding my 401k and IRA.
I am so ashamed of my illiteracy.
But, they say the first step to rectifying a problem is admitting that there is a problem.
They come in the mail. I recognize the long, wide envelopes with the names of banks on them. I groan. I know I'm supposed to pour over these to at least see how much money I've got following the last eruption or plummet in the markets.
I open them. I diligently file them in my savings and investments paperwork. I bundle them together for tax purposes at the end of the year.
But hell if I know what these sheets of paper are telling me.
I can gather from the little pictures how much of my money is invested in a particular fund. I can tell from the parentheses which funds lost money. But it never looks like very much. And isn't that just market volatility? Should I keep the money there or not?
Um, yeah, I don't know. And no, I never bothered to ask. Why not, you wonder. Embarrassment? Lack of concern? Just don't give a rat's butt? It might be a combo of all three.
But, now that I can no longer cloak my ignorance in the proud mantle of my debt elimination mission (because, unlike Operation Iraqi Freedom, my mission has actually been accomplished), I'm going to have to become literate.
Is there a "Hooked on Phonics" for financial statements? Is there a tutorial that will show me just what I'm looking at and hone in on the stuff that is most important to know? Can I teach myself to speak intelligently about just what my funds are doing? Can I least learn when to reallocate my contributions and when to just let it marinate?
Yes, is the answer to most of those. But I need to find some material that helps me get up to speed. It's silly to continue sticking money into these funds and not knowing just how they're working.
Any suggestions? I'd appreciate them (also, if you just want to tutor a sister on these via e-mail,I'm up for that too).