Learning About Money is Just Like Learning About Makeup (Or Anything Else)

When was the last time you learned something new? (Are you learning about money right now, and that’s why you’re here? High heckin’ fives.)

If it’s not literally happening right now, it’s easy to forget how scary and intimidating it can feel to step into something as a total beginner, especially when you feel like you’re the only person who doesn’t know The Thing (you’re not, but it’s easy to feel that way).

I know this all too well, because I am in the middle of learning a new thing. It’s not money, but it did come up (indirectly) at stnce’s launch event last week.

If you weren’t there, or I haven’t gushed enough about stnce, a financial literacy initiative to empower women to take ownership of their finances. The goal is to help women build confidence around money by making it more approachable, which I am so here for. In fact, at the launch event, I even spoke about this on a panel with Jessica Moorhouse, Kristen Wood, and Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

One of the questions we discussed was:

“What makes you feel confident with money?”

There’s a lot I could say about it, including that building knowledge over time has been helpful, as has seeking out both expert opinions and people “in real life” who are willing to be open with me about it.

But I did that over ten years, at different paces based on where I was in my life. “Start ten years ago,” isn’t exactly the most actionable advice out there, ya know?

Luckily, there’s a much more useful way for me to frame why I feel confident with my money. All I have to do is think about it in terms of makeup.

See, I am new to capital-M Makeup.

How new?

I first heard about the Urban Decay Naked palettes this fall, I didn’t own a Beauty Blender until Christmas, and I still think most makeup brushes are totally unnecessary. Feel free to argue with me in the comments and convince me otherwise, but my hands are really heckin’ good at putting things on my face and they’re free.

However, it is a Thing I Want To Learn.

I’d like to have it as a skill, even if I only trot it out for special occasions and the odd day I actually work in an office, not from the comfort of my home. I also just think it’s fun! It feels like socially-sanctioned dress-up for your face and I think it’s delightful.

But…

Learning about makeup is heckin’ terrifying

…and it’s for a lot of the same reasons that learning about money is terrifying.

It feels like everyone already knows this stuff. When you’re a beginner with makeup or with money, it’s easy to assume that everyone already knows the things you don’t—and a natural part of learning is that you are literally discovering facts you did not know, underscoring that you did not know them.

It’s so technical I feel like there is no end to what you need to know and learn. Um, this morning I put a thing called hyaluronic acid on my face, and if you had asked me to tell you what that was two weeks ago, I would have said “maybe a thing that dissolves bodies on a crime show on TV, or a cleaning product?” It’s for moisturizing, kind of.

There are so many choices and a lot of them seem the same but maybe they are different? Even the drugstore makeup aisle has more products and choices than you could feasibly learn all about in a lifetime. Add in Sephora, and online stores, and I think that’s a pretty good mirror of how it feels when you know you need to invest your money and you’re immediately drowning in acronyms and accounts and techniques and terminology.

But since the stakes when it comes to makeup are way lower than the stakes with money, and the worst that can happen is that I buy the wrong shade of foundation AGAIN, I’ve actually been able to put one thing in perspective.

The whole reason this feels so intimidating is that I feel like I should know this already.

Which is so easy to feel about money, and it’s a lot harder to raise your hand and admit it on the internet. But whether it’s makeup, money, or anything else you’re just starting to explore, consider how bananas this all sounds.

“I’ve never learned about makeup, but I feel like I should know this already.”

“I’ve never learned to speak Italian, but I feel like I should know this already.”

“I’ve never learned how to code, but I feel like I should know this already.”

“I’ve never learned how to manage my money, but I feel like I should know this already.”

It’s easy to write that out and be like “Wow, how silly is that?” but I do still feel it while I’m learning something new. That’s why it’s so important to talk about.

The more we acknowledge there’s no reason you should know something if you’ve never learned it, the easier it’ll be to take steps to actually learn it. Click To Tweet

And speaking of, here are three great steps to learn about money or makeup (and probably a lot of other things too).

Step 1. Start with the basics

You’re not going to put on fake eyelashes perfectly on your first try (I really wish I had photos of my first attempt) and you don’t need to start investing by reading fifteen financial books and going over the financial statements for every company you look at.

Whenever you’re new to something, start small. That’s exactly what I did with money, by opening an online bank account. Seems tiny, right? But it made me feel like “I Was A Person Who Was Good At Money”, and that confidence was what helped me do the next thing, and the thing after that.

Step 2. Do your own research

When you’re facing the overwhelm in either situation, my favourite first step is to do a bit of learning on your own. You can Google “What does primer do?” or “What even is an RRSP?” in the comfort of your sweats. Google doesn’t judge, pals.

I’m also a big fan of asking people you know IRL to have a casual chat about money, but a very good word of caution came up in the Q&A session at stnce’s launch event: Be careful who you turn to for advice. Asking your friend who always complains that he’s broke for money advice maybe isn’t the best strategy—so make sure you’re being intentional about who you ask.

Step 3. Ask people who know the products for help

Here’s the thing. People who are selling you things are actually pretty heckin’ knowledgeable about the things they’re selling. You need to go into the transaction understanding how the salesperson makes money but asking for free advice in exchange for buying a thing is something you can do in both the money world and the makeup world.

When it comes to makeup, you can ask for advice figuring out which shade of Nars concealer works on your face, because Bridget totally convinced you on her Instagram Stories that it’s the best… but it’s also $40 and you want to buy the right one the first time.

When it comes to money, you can go to a bank and ask for help figuring out financial products like insurance, mortgages, and RRSPs. The same goes for seeing a commission-based insurance agent or mortgage broker! Yes, they are selling you something and getting paid for their work based on what you buy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also help you figure out the products you need—you just need to understand the relationship.

And maybe go into it with all that solo research you did earlier so you’ve got a baseline amount of knowledge.

Step 4. Pay for advice when the stakes are high

Last but not least, the gold standard of learning about either makeup or money is to pay an expert, especially when the stakes are high.

I know my makeup game is getting better and all, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pressure myself to nail it on my wedding day for photos that I hope to have around forever. Nope, I’m calling it and handing my face over to a professional (and after the wedding, I’m probably booking a makeup education session with her too, because yes, you can pay people to teach you how to makeup).

The same very much goes for money.

If you’re nervous about how to handle “A Big Money Thing”, like having kids, buying a house, or planning for retirement, your best bet is to pay a professional for their advice and their help. Paying for money advice isn’t just for rich people, and it can be the difference between feeling truly confident in your choices and living with that unsettling “But am I really doing it right?” feeling.

For more tools and resources to help you become more financially confident, please visit stnce.ca.

Do you have any other tips on how you’ve approached learning something new? I’d love to hear them in the comments!