The emotional psychology around money with behavioral finance expert Michael Liersch on ‘Talking Points’
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Michael Liersch, the global head of wealth planning and advice at J.P. Morgan, joins “Talking Points” to break down money myths.
First and foremost, he wants you to accept that money is emotional.
“The number one myth that I want to help human beings overcome is that you can somehow divorce emotion from things like money or from things like financial health, how you spend, all those ideas,” he explains.
Liersch is a behavioral finance psychologist with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of California and a B.A. in economics from Harvard. In his role at J.P. Morgan, he incorporates behavioral finance to help clients understand their investing and spending behaviors in order to set and reach their finance goals. As the host of “My Next Move,” a podcast that focuses on normalizing money conversations, Liersch provides actionable tips that help people become more comfortable in addressing their financial well-being.
In this episode, Liersch stresses the importance of being transparent about money matters with your family, partner or friends and how to prevent financial regrets from holding you back from your goals. Liersch also offers host Brian Kelly, The Points Guy, advice on mitigating financial anxiety around wedding planning and how to broach conversations with loved ones around money, while suggesting ways to spend more efficiently.
“I would suggest every couple, whether you’re partnering, whether you’re going to become spouses, whatever it is, is … or collaborator, you could do this with roommates, too … you sit down and talk about what you’re jointly spending on, what does that look like?” – Michael Liersch.
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Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
[Excerpt plays] Michael Liersch: That’s the number one myth that I want to help human beings overcome, is that you can somehow divorce emotion from things like money or from things like financial health, how you spend, all those ideas. I think we should start incorporating it, and I think we should start empathizing with ourselves and being real about it. It matters, the emotions around it, and that’s actually going to drive our behaviors.
Brian Kelly: Welcome to “Talking Points.” I’m your host, Brian Kelly, and today we are talking financial health and planning and being responsible in this new Roaring ’20s of a decade. I’m excited to announce our guest is Michael Liersch, who is the global head of wealth planning and advice at JP Morgan Asset and Wealth Management. Michael, thank you so much for joining us today.
Michael Liersch: Thank you, Brian. I’m happy to be here, and I know my title is a mouthful.
Brian Kelly: It is, and also, your education. So, let me see here…
Michael Liersch: Oh my gosh.
Brian Kelly: You’ve got a Ph.D in cognitive psychology from the University of California and a B.A. in economics from a little school called Harvard.
Michael Liersch: Hahhh-vard.
Brian Kelly: So what got you into where you are now, and finally, have you always been like a financial… like, obsessed with your finances?
Michael Liersch: So I’m a major loser, and that’s…
Brian Kelly: Same.
Michael Liersch: … Awesome. I didn’t know that about you. I’ve always been obsessed with data. And I know that sounds pretty weird, but one of the most exciting things about life to me is actually understanding facts and really comparing that to people’s perspectives or perceptions. So when I was growing up, I quickly learned that what people perceived as fact was actually fiction, and I wanted to translate that, actually, into a career. So my career, if you were to just distill it down, and all my education, it’s about actually understanding human beings and what they perceive to be true, and comparing that to the reality, and actually trying to match them up. And when you think about financial behaviors, it’s super relevant, because what people say they want to do and what they’re doing to get to financial health is oftentimes, in reality, not really what they want to do, and not really what they’re doing, so that’s why they can never achieve that financial health. So we try to get that…
Brian Kelly: What are some of the…
Michael Liersch: … perspective.
Brian Kelly: … Let’s just jump into it.
Michael Liersch: Yep.
Brian Kelly: What are some of the biggest myths that people — or misconceptions that people have — about financial planning?
Michael Liersch: I’ll give you my favorite one, is that financial planning and money is not emotional. I think that that’s such a interesting myth. When I hear people say you should divorce emotion or feeling from money, I feel like that’s actually the most disempowering statement you can make. And I want to ask you, Brian, does money have meaning to you?
Brian Kelly: Of course, it does.
Michael Liersch: And let’s think of points.
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Michael Liersch: You’re The Points Guy.
Brian Kelly: Of course. Points even more. Don’t come for my points, Michael.
Michael Liersch: Yeah. Exactly, right?
Brian Kelly: You teach people about money. I teach people… I actually always say that points are a currency.
Michael Liersch: Totally.
Brian Kelly: I mean, points can add — whether you’re a small business, like, when I was just The Points Guy, we… points were how I traveled, how I created content. I didn’t have any cash before the blog was making money. So I think we’re speaking the same language. I think…
Michael Liersch: Sure.
Brian Kelly: … you probably a little bit more eloquently.
Michael Liersch: Well, I doubt that. But here’s where it’s important, is that there’s at least two sides of it, which is, the way you got those points, or the way you got that money has meaning. So if you traveled a lot, you didn’t get to see your family, you made a lot of sacrifices, perhaps you took that extra flight at the end of the year just so you could get status…
Brian Kelly: My mileage run. Yeah.
Michael Liersch: Yeah. Exactly. Then that has a different meaning than, for example, if someone gave you those points or gave you that money. On the flip side, how you’re going to allocate those resources or how are you going to use those points or how you’re going to use that money, the impact you want it to have on yourself, on the people you care about and how they react to that, that means something to you, too. So that’s the number one myth that I would say, Brian, that I want to help human beings overcome, is that you can somehow divorce emotion from things like money or from things like financial health, how you spend, all those ideas. I think we should start incorporating it, and I think we should start empathizing with ourselves and being real about it. It matters, the emotions around it, and that’s actually going to drive our behaviors.
Brian Kelly: I mean, it is kind of taboo to talk about money.
Michael Liersch: It is.
Brian Kelly: It’s a touchy subject. My parents always instilled a work ethic. I started working at age 12 or 13 and I knew the value of money, but it becomes a very scary place. There have been times in my life, like in college — I had no money and I had a Verizon bill that I cared not to handle, and it ended up biting me in the ass years later, ruined my credit score for years.
Michael Liersch: Ugh. I’m sorry to hear that.
Brian Kelly: But why do you think it is people put their heads in the sand? Do you think that one of the core ways we can get better is if we start teaching financial wellness in our curriculum, or… ?
Michael Liersch: So putting your head in the sand, by the way, is such a normal thing. So for your listeners, it’s so normal there’s actually a behavioral finance term for it, it’s called the ostrich effect. So there is a myth, speaking of myths, that ostriches put their head in the ground when they’re being, let’s say, attacked by predators. This actually doesn’t happen, so I don’t know why…
Brian Kelly: I think it’s in a…
Michael Liersch: … that exists.
Brian Kelly: … cartoon or something.
Michael Liersch: Probably. Probably. So it’s such a normal thing. You’re asking, what’s the reason? I don’t think anyone knows. But ultimately, one of the major causes, emotionally, is this idea of fear; fear that either you can’t overcome whatever that financial issue is, fear that you’ll be embarrassed. Part of what you’re talking about is shame.
Brian Kelly: Yeah. Out of sight, out of mind.
Michael Liersch: It’s ironic, because that feeds on itself, because fear and shame oftentimes don’t lead to action. So behaviorally, we know that actually leads to something called inertia, or I’m going to do nothing. So I’m not going to get the education I need, I’m not going to ask the questions I need to, I’m not going to engage other human beings. And what that does is it compounds the problem. So, by not getting that information, it will actually lead me to worse and worse and worse outcomes over time. And so what we’re trying to do is say, “Let’s break those taboos,” and say it actually can be normal to talk about money. So we actually have an episode in my podcast called “My Next Move,” where we talk about normalizing money conversations. So, Brian, when I think about your situation, I think, how do you share your story just like you did so that your listeners know, “Oh wait, like, that happened to me, too.” How can I pay that forward and pass that information on?
Brian Kelly: But do you think that our curriculum should have more financial… ? Do you think that that’s one of the root causes, like, not teaching budgeting as a core skill, or do you feel like that should be, like, in the family to handle?
Michael Liersch: So here’s a quiz question. When you ask young people — and so let’s just say young people, you know, you’re depending on someone else — who they want to get their financial information from, who they want to receive education about money matters from, who do you think they name, typically, as that number one source they want to get that information from?
Brian Kelly: They probably name…
Michael Liersch: Do you think it’s friends…?
Brian Kelly: No.
Michael Liersch: Do you think it’s parents? Do you think it’s their teachers?Do you think it’s the internet?
Brian Kelly: How young are we talking? Like, high school…?
Michael Liersch: I just think about it… like from five-year-olds…
Brian Kelly: I think their parents.
Michael Liersch: … to teens.
Brian Kelly: I guess parents.
Michael Liersch: Yeah, their parents. And so young people want to hear from their parents the why. Why their parents are behaving in the way they do, how their parents think they should be behaving, expectations, is that different than how parents are behaving? So we get that all the time. So young people will see their parents doing things and their parents will say, “Well, don’t do as I do, do it… ”
Brian Kelly: Do as I say…
Michael Liersch: “… some other way.”
Brian Kelly: … and not as I do.
Michael Liersch: So there’s this whole ecosystem around that that…
Brian Kelly: If someone has financially irresponsible parents, are they just kind of a disadvantage from the get-go then?
Michael Liersch: Actually, not necessarily. That can be an advantage, because if you have financially irresponsible parents, it’s very obvious that that money behavior is leading to negative outcomes. So a lot of times what you hear is that actually, that person wants to change it. What’s less clear, Brian, is when things seem reasonable or rational and yet you don’t understand it, that’s where, actually, the confusion comes from. So it’s the lack of communication, the uncertainty about either how those behaviors are maintained, or what the motivations are behind that behavior, that create the negative associations with money.
Michael Liersch: So one example would be, let’s say your parents spend money on extravagant trips or on cars, whatever that might be, and they tell you, “You can’t do that. You’re not allowed.” But they won’t tell you why. And that kind of issue, in terms of the purchasing behaviors or spending behaviors of parents and what they prescribe to their children, creates a lot of disconnect and actually, a lot of issues in family dynamics. That even comes to how you display wealth, how you display spending. A lot of times parents will display wealth and spending in a fundamentally different way than they expect their children to display it.
Michael Liersch: When we ask parents, “Well, what’s your motivation?” Parents will say, “Well, I earn the money. I worked hard. I’ve been financially responsible, to your point, and that’s how I can do this.” But they don’t explain that to their children and what that means, and to your point, they don’t go through that educational process, “Here’s the meaning of money, here’s the meaning of a dollar.” And especially in this day and age, where a lot of times you can be purely digital when it comes to money — it’s not like (you) have a wad of cash where it’s easy to teach those concepts. You literally are just swiping or you’re literally just going through that digital exchange process. And so those money lessons don’t come naturally in a family. So that why, or the motivations, don’t come out.
Brian Kelly: A lot of TPG readers are millennials, 20s, 30s. I call them the HENRYs, the high earning…
Michael Liersch: Not rich yet.
Brian Kelly: … not rich yet. But I think a lot of people say, “Well, I have a 401(k)at work, there’s no point for me to wealth-plan.” Should people be sitting down, even if they don’t have a ton of extra cash, to set a plan? I think people wait ’til they have money, but then they don’t have a plan to get money. And then people aren’t great at budgeting, so then it’s like… chicken and egg, sort of.
Michael Liersch: Well, so when it comes to this idea of, should I plan or not plan, I like to talk about being intentional with money. So again, on our podcast, “My Next Move,” we talk a lot about intentionality. So forget about planning, Brian. I think that’s a really exhausting concept. Budgeting, let’s get real, people hate budgeting. It might be fun to budget points, but budgeting money’s a lot less fun. So when you think about this concept of being more intentional with money, I would reframe it, which is, “Am I really using my money in a way that makes me feel better about my financial life and/or makes me happy and/or has the desired impact or outcomes I’m looking for?” And what we’re seeing is a lot of young people are excited about becoming more intentional, they just don’t know how. I will say a budget’s not the right starting point, Brian. It really isn’t.
Brian Kelly: So where do we start? For someone listening who is like, “2020 is my year to get my finances in line….” Where do people even begin to understand…
Michael Liersch: I like starting in positive ways. So I say make a list, make it the list of things that you’re spending on, Brian, that you really enjoy. So let’s do it with you. So what do you enjoy spending money on?
Brian Kelly: I … Well, travel, of course. It’s always a little bit of…
Michael Liersch: Shocker.
Brian Kelly: … work and… I like nice clothes.
Michael Liersch: Okay. Travel, nice clothes. What do you not like spending money on?
Brian Kelly: I don’t like spending money on… Hmm, I like spending money. My accountant is probably going to laugh if he’s listening to this. I don’t like, like, maintenance stuff in my house, which just feels like such a huge like… it’s like non-tangibles, like you have to fix this radiator or whatever for $5,000, $10,000 dollars, and I just feel like it’s just a money pit. That makes me mad.
Michael Liersch: So things that you feel like you don’t get any value out of?
Brian Kelly: I’m a shiny object person.
Michael Liersch: OK. So you like those shiny objects, and this is why focusing on the things you don’t like, I’m trying to…
Brian Kelly: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Michael Liersch: … show an example, that’s actually really a demotivating thing, and that’s where you get into that ostrich effect circumstance. And then when you hate budgeting…
Brian Kelly: I actually don’t want to add up how much, like, this house is costing me.
Michael Liersch: Exactly. So what I’d say is: don’t start there, start with all the things you’re enjoying. And then I’d literally say, what are the clothes you bought in the last month? What are the trips that you took? Really go through that and say, “Huh, how much do those things add up to, and could I have spent that money in a more efficient way?” Like, “Could I have used points for some of those things?” Or, “Could I have bought something differently?” Or, since you like clothes, younger people in particular, we say, go into your closet. How many times did you wear that? What’s still hanging in there with the tags on it? You get where I’m coming from? How many boxes are in front of your doorstep? That sort of stuff.
Michael Liersch: And then you can say, “OK. Now, could I be a little bit more efficient or effective with that money?” And if I could not cut things out, but if I could be more intentional with it, what I have (is) an incremental extra dollar to allocate toward my future self. That’s how I would think of it. Because then that becomes a fun exercise, and then you’re focusing on the things you love, not all the things you don’t like.
Brian Kelly: Are there tools you recommend to help people analyze what they’re actually spending their money on?
Michael Liersch: So you talked about financial advisors and you talked about the idea of working with a financial institution like JP Morgan Chase. I would say those tools are great. I think if you have the opportunity to work with an advisor, if you have the opportunity to work with those tools… They can be very complex, Brian. So you can put all of your assets where you have your money, combine that with all the things that you’ve borrowed, and look at your spending behaviors and evaluate your probability of success for the rest of your life. You could do that. I would encourage, though, your listeners to say, “OK, instead of necessarily thinking of that as my only tool, there is a more basic approach, which is, the brain is your most powerful tool. You don’t need to go to all the complex stuff right away. What I would do is just access your own brain and first, articulate the number one job you want money to do for you. So Brian, what’s the number one job you want money to do for you?
Brian Kelly: This year, so I just got engaged…
Michael Liersch: Oh my gosh, congratulations.
Brian Kelly: Thank you. So I – I just, actually last night, in this very office, started meeting with wedding planners, and my mind is spinning. Every wedding planner is like, “What do you want?” And I’m like…
Michael Liersch: I’m starting to sweat right now.
Brian Kelly: … “I don’t know, like, I want everything.” I don’t know exactly what I want, and then they’re like, “What’s your budget and…” How do you go about, like, a big life decision? It’s going to be a big purchase. One day. Like, I’m overwhelmed already.
Michael Liersch: So the number one job, if you think about it in a very tactical or a transactional way, is to pay for your wedding. You want to pay for that wedding, you want to be able to afford it. Does that sound right to you?
Brian Kelly: Yeah. And put it on my Chase Sapphire Reserve for triple points on dining. Got to make …
Michael Liersch: Boom. Mic drop.
Brian Kelly: I think I’m going to earn a lot of points on this one.
Michael Liersch: You are definitely going to earn a lot of points on your wedding. So here’s how I think of it, instead. How do you want to feel about your wedding?
Brian Kelly: I want to have fun. I want to not be bugged, like, be panicked that, “Oh my God, I got in over my head” or… I don’t want to look back in the future and be like… Because there’s the devil side of me that’s like, “Well, you’re only getting married once. Blow it out!” And then there’s the smart side that usually loses out in most of my battles in my head. Like, how do you manage those sides…? YOLO…
Michael Liersch: I get it. So you have YOLO, but you also don’t want to have regret.
Brian Kelly: Yes, exactly. It’s easy to say, “Yeah, okay, I could afford that.” But then how do you help people envision that, like, what the opportunity costs of that money could have done? And then you’re like, “Oh, well, wait a minute. That actually would’ve been a house in 20 years.”
Michael Liersch: So, I love this about you, because a lot of human beings don’t go to this place where you’re thinking of the emotional trade-offs of, you only live once, or will I regret having spent money in this way and I’m never going to look at that wedding book again, and perhaps in 10 years, half of those people that were invited (I) will never be speaking with…
Brian Kelly: This is the last hurrah.
Michael Liersch: Yeah, exactly. So when you think about it in this way, here’s what I would encourage you to do. I’d encourage you to plan the wedding of your dreams.
Brian Kelly: The devil is cheering right now.
Michael Liersch: The devil wedding.
Brian Kelly: My fiance is not, he’s the financial advisor and he’s the spendthrift for one of us.
Michael Liersch: Great. This is perfect. And then what I do is go contrarian. Now, plan the wedding that when you look back you’d say, “Wow, I was the most reasonable human being ever. I just was very practical, everyone came together and we enjoyed ourselves and it was a happy moment. But the focus was on the moment, not on the party.” So plan those two weddings out intentionally. So wedding one and wedding two. And that is the starting point that I advise most people, when you’re thinking about the job you want your money to do, plan the most insane, fun and crazy experience you can imagine. So thinking about a trip is the same way, traveling is the same. And then really think about the one that you feel like would be most practical and reasonable. I would build that very inexpensive, reasonable wedding, build the really expensive devil wedding that you’re talking about, and then really feel like, what truly will empower you now, when it happens and after the fact, and make you feel good and aligned across all three ideas?
Brian Kelly: I think a big part of what you say is communication. I know you have weekly house meetings with your wife and daughter…
Michael Liersch: How did you know this information?
Brian Kelly: You know, I do my research.
Michael Liersch: Oh my gosh.
Brian Kelly: I’ve got a good team.
Michael Liersch: Wow.
Brian Kelly: So communication is, obviously, is the key. For people with young families listening…
Michael Liersch: But it’s not easy.
Brian Kelly: … what is a good framework for having weekly, monthly, family meetings about money?
Michael Liersch: You talked about taboos and said money is taboo. And what I wouldn’t suggest is to just start talking about money. That’s a really dangerous approach. What I would do is start those meetings that you’re talking about and make it very short. So you and your future husband getting together, and I want to ask you, have you done this? Have you talked about your values and what’s important to you when it comes to money? Have you done this before? Like, just that.
Brian Kelly: I mean, not really, because it’s a touchy subject. And also because it complicates it that he’s a wealth planner, and I think I have a really good wealth management team and… Especially as we were dating, you don’t want to… It’s taboo, right? And there’s like… it’s a power struggle like when there’s income.
Michael Liersch: But we just said money has such meaning to it, right? It’s, like, tied directly to emotion. Its stored value, just like points. And it was made some way, and it’s going to be used some ways.
Brian Kelly: Are there steps to…
Michael Liersch: Yes.
Brian Kelly: … opening up the books…
Michael Liersch: Yes.
Brian Kelly: … and getting feedback?
Michael Liersch: There are steps. So the first step is really to focus on values. So, what does money mean to me? What are the money messages I receive from my parents and my family? So an example would be, you could say, “I know that I love spending money on clothes and on experiences, and I know sometimes I spend too much.” And then your future husband could tell you, “Well, actually, I really like being very, very conservative when it comes to…” Is this true?
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Michael Liersch: Okay. Conservative. You might want to ask him, “Well, why? Why do you feel that way? I don’t know, we didn’t get permission to talk about him and his experiences, but perhaps you know something happened in his financial life as a young person. I will tell you in mine, I’m very fiscally or financially conservative because I grew up in a household where there weren’t a lot of financial resources. Very resource-constrained. I worked at a very, very young age. And so those things matter. I talked about them with my wife a lot, but just about the values, the meaning and why I behave in the way I do with money. She talked about it with me. I’d encourage you to start there with your future husband, and I encourage your listeners, if you’re collaborating with someone around money, start there. Don’t broaden the conversation too much to other human beings…
Brian Kelly: It’s not about the numbers at first, it’s about values.
Michael Liersch: Values with your key collaborator. Get on the same page about that “why.” Why am I behaving in the way that I do? And what you’re trying to do there is lower what we call relationship conflict around money, and increase the ability to have task conflict.
Brian Kelly: It’s like I’m too afraid to have conflict, but that’s conflict in itself…
Michael Liersch: Exactly. And the conflict you’re afraid of is relationship conflict. You don’t want it to damage your relationship. So the ironic part is, if you talk about why you’re afraid, then it actually lowers the relationship conflict, because then you understand, “Oh, I’m coming from this place, you’re coming from that place.” Remember I talked about my favorite thing is data?
Brian Kelly: Yeah.
Michael Liersch: So where you’re trying to get those false perceptions or the misinterpretations around behaviors out of the way and get to the facts. Then what you could do is then start digging into those facts. So the next thing that I would suggest every couple, whether you’re partnering, whether you’re going to become spouses, whatever it is, is… or collaborator, you could do this with roommates, too … you sit down and talk about what you’re jointly spending on, what does that look like? Because that is something you do have to share. So whether that’s paying for a home, an apartment, whatever that is, so rent or a mortgage, whether you’re jointly spending on clothes, whether you’re jointly supporting people, children, whatever that is, talk about that, because you really do need to share that experience and own that experience together. So I’d go there next.
Michael Liersch: And then the third thing I would do from there is, once you’ve talked through those kinds of expenses and shared expenses, is how you’re going to allocate resources as individuals to that shared expense. So, some people like to have separate accounts, some people like to have joint accounts. But the idea here is: what’s going to be that dynamic, and how are you going to contribute and ensure that each person has a fair allocation? So one thing that comes up a lot is: do I make more money than you? Do you make less money than me? That’s where this dynamic can get really uncomfortable.
Michael Liersch: So if you make more money, should you be allocating more resources to those shared expenses relative to the person who makes less? What a lot of people do is they say, “Well, we need to split them evenly, regardless.” So come to an agreement on that. Okay, that’s our format. Or some people say, “Well, we’ll do it proportionally. I make this much more than you and so we’ll commit proportionally. I’ll do 80%, since I make that much more than you, and you do 20%.” Some people say, “Actually, I don’t want you to pay for anything. You don’t need to worry about it. You’re doing other things in our household, I’m going to pay for everything.” So there are just so many different formats, Brian. So it’s not one size fits all.
Brian Kelly: I think my parents and the older generations just shared… That’s what I assumed growing up. My parents, I think, have always just had a joint account. Would you say… based on data, is that becoming less common? Or as people… like, are households becoming… ?
Michael Liersch: I think it was always less common than we thought. When we look at the data, there were traditional formats. I will say they were made mainly gender-based. So we do have a research report that we issued globally, and we asked, in the past, “Who is the key money decision maker in your family?” And they tended to say, “My dad.” But in fact, now, the most common response is, “Me. I’m my own money decision maker.” So to your point, whether it’s joint or separate, what we’re finding is that people are owning their own decision making. Regardless of how the account is structured, people are saying, “I want control or information around how that money is used.”
Brian Kelly: Welcome back to “Talking Points.” Let’s jump back into it. Michael, I have to ask, do you see families doing financial planning? Like, have you seen people take their points into account in that process, or do you recommend that?
Michael Liersch: Absolutely. All the time, they take points into account constantly. So you know this better than anyone else. The primary reason why people even use credit cards or even access a particular credit card or choose a credit card is because of the rewards you receive. There are actually tools and technologies that not only help you aggregate your balance sheets, so your financial resources, but they also aggregate your point resources. So, very common.
Brian Kelly: Are there any, like, points planning tips that you give families? Because really, they can… Everyone wants to travel, even if it’s for family or emergency, and, like, points can really help a family or businesses’ bottom line. Do you have tools for JP Morgan clients in the financial planning division for points?
Michael Liersch: So in the financial planning division, we focus mainly on the spending behaviors and whether they’re sustainable or not rather than looking at the rewards and the points that you get. However, it does come up often. And what I would say is where we help families think about that planning is they often have a travel goal. And where it comes up is: are you able to actually not have to spend money on travel because you have accrued enough points? And that can be a fun conversation to have because, in a sense, it’s giving money back to that family to use in another way. So that’s where that conversation does come up in financial planning, and lot of times people will get their kids involved in the points conversation.
Brian Kelly: That’s how I got my start! It’s crazy, there’s a 12-year-old who is like my pen pal, and he does his whole family’s points…
Michael Liersch: Love it.
Brian Kelly: … and it’s kind of fun to see. How do you recommend financial planning around travel? Like, you see an amazing, fair deal and people will just book it; book now, think later. Do you recommend having an overall travel budget by year…
Michael Liersch: Yes.
Brian Kelly: … by month and…
Michael Liersch: Yes. Yes. Yes. All of the above. So, planning for travel is key, because then you can maximize points, you can maximize your use of points, you can also maximize the use of your financial resources. So planning ahead is always best. So, in our financial planning capabilities, we have a travel goal, like literally, that you can drag and drop and put in the dollar amounts, that time periods that you want to look forward to that travel goal, and we actually help families with that allocation. Where are you going to go? And families love using travel, by the way, as educational experiences around finances. We talked about money lessons and teaching those money lessons. Families get together in a family meeting context, that’s a key way that a lot of families start that conversation, and say, “Do we fly first class? Do we fly Comfort+? Do we fly coach? So how do we navigate that as a family?” And they use it as a way to then make trade-offs. “So where are we going to stay? Are we going to say in the city that we’re going to? Outside of the city? Are we going to stay in a nice hotel? Are we going to stay in a hotel that’s not as nice? Are we going to have multiple rooms? Are we going to have one room?”
Michael Liersch: So it’s a hugely important idea, and we work with families a lot. Even families that don’t have a lot of resource constraints, they’ll constrain themselves on purpose with their future travel goals so they can create this educational experience with their family. Because a lot of times when they’re actually going on this experience, and this is a huge trend we’re seeing, they’re actually going to places that will expose their families to areas where people are less privileged than them and they’ll combine that travel experience, not just with fun and excitement, but with, actually, a way in which they can give back to the community. So they try to wrap that whole idea in one concept where everyone’s involved in the planning, it’s future planning, they do it on a regular basis, and then ultimately that experience involves giving back.
Brian Kelly: So you would agree that travel is the only expense that makes us richer.
Michael Liersch: I will say it is one of the ways to make you richer in not just meaning, but in a way to unify your family unit, your partnership, whomever that you’re collaborating with.
Brian Kelly: Michael, I’ll leave you to debunk one other myth.
Michael Liersch: I think the second myth is that everyone else knows the answers and has it made, Brian. Nothing can be further from the truth. We’ve had so little money conversations around the globe, no one has it right. Even as a financial institution. So at JP Morgan Chase, we’re still learning about how a human being should be using money. We have the luxury of having all this data, and even still we’re learning new things about what’s empowering versus disempowering when it comes to money. So I want to highlight — the biggest myth outside of the emotion piece is: don’t think everyone else has it made. And I hope that inspires people to communicate about money. Ask questions. What made you happy? What made you sad? Find a person who’s older than you. Like, what are your money regrets? Brian, hopefully younger people that you’re talking to, your pen pals, ask you what are your biggest regrets when it came to using points, when it came to using money, whatever it is. And learn from those other human beings, because that’ll help you make better decisions in your own financial life. And share that information with other people, what works versus what doesn’t work. And then, Brian, it’s not taboo. Now we’re all using money to its highest and best use, and that to me is exciting.
Brian Kelly: So Michael Liersch, thank you so much for joining us. If you haven’t already, check out his weekly podcast, “My Next Move,” wherever you get your podcasts. Michael, you’ve left me feeling invigorated to communicate about financial planning and not to avoid conflict. That’s it for this episode of “Talking Points.” Huge thanks to Michael Liersch, as well as my amazing podcast team, Margaret Kelley and Caroline Schagrin, and my awesome assistant, Christie Matsui. Safe travels, everyone.
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