What are you doing this week to connect? Not just to yourself, but to truly foster connection with loved ones + friends? As we’ve finally been able to see our friends face-to-face these last few months, the idea of “connection” has been an important topic of discussion worldwide. But even though more of us are now able to share those real-life hugs and kisses instead of just texting digital hearts back and forth, the truth is, we’re lonely.
The majority of Americans — 61% — feel lonely, according to data from Cigna, and the younger you are, the worse it gets — 70% of Millennials and 80% of Generation Z consider themselves lonely. These feelings of isolation take a real toll, not just on our mental health, but also on our physical and financial health. Chronic loneliness is said to be as deadly for our physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And while data shows that loneliness levels went up during the pandemic, it’s not just a byproduct of COVID. Think back to your life in 2019 — how often were you being social in the ways you most enjoy? Did you feel like you had the kind of friendships in your life that you wanted?
Here’s the funny thing — most of us could pick up our cell phones and dial up any number of friends — both old and new — and they would probably answer. But after that initial catch-up and maybe a loose plan for dinner “sometime” in the future, where does it go from there? How is it possible that we can be more connected to everything, yet we feel fewer meaningful connections to everyone?
To discuss all of this with us on this week’s episode is Adam Smiley Poswolsky, millennial workplace expert, and author of Friendship in the Age of Loneliness: An Optimist’s Guide To Connection. According to the data Adam shares in his book, the average American hasn’t made a new friend in the last 5 years, and 75% of Americans are not satisfied with their friendships. And 1 in 4 Americans say they don’t have someone to turn to for meaningful conversation, including family members.
And in this show about fostering connection, we wanted to do something that would help us all feel… well, closer. That we’re all a part of a community. So, we turned to the wise and incredible women of the private HerMoney Facebook group, who gave us some incredible suggestions for heartfelt questions for Adam. Listen in as Jean shares them, and Adam dives into his best advice on how we can meet new people. He also explains how, when everyone we know is literally two taps away, it’s even possible for us to feel so isolated.
We also discuss how it’s possible to feel lonely when we’re not really alone (yes, you can be lonely even when sitting on the couch with your partner and kids) how to recover from the loss of a spouse, and how to maintain old friendships and build new ones through big life transitions, like moving to a new city, getting married, having kids, changing jobs or retiring.
We also talk about how to “dive deeper” with friendships when it feels like our interactions are stuck in a surface-level, small talk rut. “It’s less about having tons and tons of friends, or all these surface-level relationships, and more about having several people in your life that you can go deeper with — or even, frankly, one or two people in your life that you can go deep with,” Adam says.
We also discuss technology and the link between mental health and smartphone use. (And no, the carefully-crafted, not-real-at-all lives we see broadcast on social media haven’t done our self-esteem any favors… Especially when it seems like literally everyone has more friends than you do. ) On that note, we discuss how to “un-digitize” our friendships after relying so heavily on Zoom, texting and social media over the past year. It’s time to take it to the real world.
In Mailbag, we tackle a question on the best accounts to set up for children while they are still young (UGMA, Roths, etc.) And in Thrive, how to create a post-pandemic budget that you can actually stick with.
This podcast is proudly supported by Edelman Financial Engines. Let our modern wealth management advice raise your financial potential. Get the full story at EdelmanFinancialEngines.com. Sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines – Modern wealth planning. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (00:02)
It’s less about having tons and tons of friends or all of these surface level relationships and having several people in your life that you can go deeper with, or even frankly, one or two people in your life that you can go deep with.
Jean Chatzky: (00:20)
HerMoney is supported by Fidelity Investments. At Fidelity. We believe planning for retirement can help you feel better about where you stand today and more prepared for tomorrow. Visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more everybody, I’m Jean Chatzky. Thank you so much for joining us on HerMoney. So I’m curious, what are you doing today? And no, I’m not talking about your list of daily tasks and work assignments. Although those are certainly important. I’m more interested in what you’re doing today to connect, not just to yourself, but to truly foster connection with others. As we have finally been able to see our friends face to face the last few months, the idea of connection has been on my mind a lot, because at the same time I found myself thinking if I have to do one more zoom, happy hour, I am going to throw my computer right out the window.
Jean Chatzky: (01:20)
I was also thinking isn’t it good to connect and laugh with friends? No matter the medium, fortunately more of us are now able to share those real life hugs instead of just texting digital hearts. But the truth is, and this is a tough one to say, many of us are lonely. 61% of Americans feel lonely, according to data from Cigna and the younger you are the worse, it gets 70% of millennials, 80% of gen Z consider themselves lonely. And the truth is these feelings of isolation take a real toll, not just on our mental health, but on our physical health. Chronic loneliness is said to be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It also has a negative impact on our finances, which is something, you know, we’re going to dive into today. And while data shows that loneliness levels went up during the pandemic, this is not just a COVID problem.
Jean Chatzky: (02:22)
I mean, think back to your life in 2019, how often were you being social in the ways that you wanted to be social? Did you feel that you had the kind of friendships in your life that you wanted? Here’s the funny thing, I think that most of us could pick up our phones and dial any number of friends old and new, and they would probably answer. But after that initial catch-up, maybe some sort of a loose plan for dinner. Where does it go? I guess what I’m getting at is this, how is it possible that we can be more connected to everything, yet we feel fewer meaningful connections to talk about? All of this with me today is Adam Smiley Poswolsky. He is a millennial workplace expert, author of, “Friendship in the Age of Loneliness: An Optimist’s Guide to Connection.” And we need this. According to the data that smiley shares in his book, the average American hasn’t made a new friend in the last five years and three quarters of us are not satisfied with our friendships. Smiley. Welcome.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (03:36)
Thank you so much for having me today. It’s great to be here.
Jean Chatzky: (03:39)
It’s really great to have you here. I can’t wait to dive in and I also want to learn a little bit more about your name, but first I just want to tell you and our listeners that this show is going to be a little bit different. Kathryn, our producer, and I decided that in a show about fostering connection, we wanted to do something that would make us all feel a little closer. And so we asked our community the HerMoney Facebook group for help with the script, we asked them for their questions on this topic, and we were just overwhelmed by their heartfelt and their meaningful responses. And so they are driving this show.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (04:21)
I love that. What a beautiful way to kind of take this and bring it to life a little bit more.
Jean Chatzky: (04:25)
Yeah, we were just overwhelmed by the responses. They were fantastic as you will hear. But before we even start to dive in, how did Adam become Smiley?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (04:37)
It kind of connects to my story of personal belonging. So I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I went to public school my whole life, and I went to a very big public high school, over 2000 kids. And I kinda, you know, as many people starting out high school freshman year, felt a little bit left out. I was pretty short and scrawny. I knew I wanted to play a sport. I wasn’t good enough or big enough to play football. I, the soccer team were state champions and, and I wasn’t good enough to make that team. And so one of the only sports left was cross country, which at the time I didn’t even know what it was, I assumed it was skiing. But it’s actually just running. You just go out and run five miles or six miles or in our case, 10 miles every single day.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (05:20)
And that’s the sport. And then you do these races. So we’re a couple of weeks into practice and we’re running hill workouts, which is exactly what it sounds like running up and down a hill over and over and over again. And I’m just kind of running up and down the hills, smiling, having a good time being like this is great. And I grew up in Cambridge, which is right outside of Boston for folks that don’t know. And my coach was this kind of Boston guy used to be a runner himself. And he’s like, “What the hell are you doing smiling kid? Stop, smiling, start puking kid, start puking!” Okay. And so the team nicknamed me Smiley after that for smiling during the workouts and wall running, and the name really stuck. And it was kind of actually really sign of my first experience of true belonging.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (06:05)
Cause you know, I was on this team. I wasn’t one of the fastest kids. We were really good. We ended up winning the state title a couple of times, but I made the varsity team my senior year and actually became captain, not because I was the fastest kid or the best runner on the team, but I kind of had that emotion and was kind of the team leader, the team spirit would get everyone pumped up before the race and you know, tried really hard and was really dedicated to the team and to the sport. So it was kind of that experience of belonging. Isn’t about being the best. It’s about feeling like you fit in and feeling like you can be yourself. And if you’d like to smile while doing hill workouts. Awesome. At acknowledging that. So kind of, I give it up to my track coach, Jesse Cody and Scott Cody who are brothers and kind of made me feel really welcome on that team.
Jean Chatzky: (06:50)
I’m smiling because I moved to a new town right before I started my sophomore year of high school. And I joined the cross country team and I was not only not the fastest person on that team. I was the slowest person on that team and the slowest in many races. But I found friends there and I really did find a sense of belonging on that team. And they didn’t, you know, they just needed people to come out for cross country. I was important because I gave them the number of people that they needed to show up for a meet. So they didn’t really, I mean, yes, exactly. And, and they would have a yes, I’m sure they would have been happy if I was faster, but they were cheering me on when I was the last one through the gate at the end of our races. And during those few races where I was not the last one through, they were, they were cheering as well. So I can totally relate. I want to start with your book. You wrote this book during the height of the pandemic. How did the events of the last 18 months or so shaped the insights that you share and deliver new lessons on friendship and connection?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (08:03)
Yeah, I think it’s interesting because a lot of people see this title and they assume, oh, “Friendship in the Age of Loneliness,” you wrote this for the pandemic. You wrote this during the pandemic. And the truth is I actually signed the contract. I got the book deal for this in February of 2020. So for those of you who forget time a little bit, that was right before, about a month before we all went into lockdown. And it was out of my only experience with loneliness prior to COVID-19 as someone who is very extroverted, I make a living at least in normal times, going around and speaking at companies and organizations, my literal job is to meet people for a living. And I’m smiley. I’m an extroverted person and I’m experiencing loneliness, right? And I’m suffering from this gap, which that’s the definition of loneliness. If you look at kind of what the research says, Julianne Holt Lunstead says that loneliness is subjective perception of isolation, right?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (08:59)
It’s the discrepancy between one’s desired and actual levels of connection. So you can have lots of connections and still be lonely, right? That’s someone like me. I have lots of Facebook friends. I have Instagram followers. I go to events. I meet people. I consider myself someone who has lots of friends. You can still experience loneliness. I didn’t know that at the time, but that’s what the science is. It’s that gap. So I said, if I’m experiencing this other people are probably too. And I remember when I pitched the title to the publisher, they were really interested in the book. They said, oh yes, friendship is really important. I love the optimistic take. You know, this is great, but you can’t put loneliness in the title. And I said, why not? I’m experiencing loneliness. That’s what I’m experiencing. That’s the feeling I want to describe. Those are the conversations I want to have with people.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (09:50)
We’re all struggling with this. In fact, two thirds of Americans prior to the pandemic would consider themselves lonely two thirds, right? This is hundreds of millions of people. And they said, yeah, well, no, one’s going to buy a book with loneliness in the title because no one wants to admit that they’re lonely. And I said, well, I am lonely. That’s why I’m writing this book. And they said, yeah, okay. We love the idea, but just you have to be open to maybe a new title. And I said, okay, you know what? I want the book deal. I want to write this book sometimes as authors and creators, all of, you know, out there entrepreneurs, you have to be flexible, right? Yes. You have to make compromises. That’s part of life. I said, okay, let’s do it. And then a month later, two months later, we’re in the middle of the pandemic. And they’re like, you know what? We really like loneliness in the title. So I think one of the big takeaways from the experience of the pandemic, if there is a silver lining, it’s that now we get to normalize the conversation around loneliness. We can finally admit, Hey, you’re kind of feeling like this too. So am I rather than kind of hiding, be behind the curtain a little bit where no one wanted to say it, even though we were all feeling it.
Jean Chatzky: (11:00)
The part of the title actually that made me think most is the, “in the Age of Connection” part, right? So we’ve got so many ways to connect with people we can swipe and we can tap and we can scroll and we can. So what is it about that that has made us feel even more lonely?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (11:25)
I think it’s the illusion of connection. I think that often, and you see this, especially when you look at the data for young people, which the discrepancy is amazing, right? Young people are more connected than ever before. They literally, according to the pew research center, use the internet, quote unquote, almost constantly. Right? And if you look at the data in terms of social media use among young people and teenagers, it’s just skyrocketed over the last, you know, 5 to 10 years, people spending, uh, you know, 50 minutes a day on an hour or two a day on TikTok pretty much their entire day. You know, when not at school and even in school, frankly, looking at their devices and yet they’re still feeling lonely. And we’re seeing skyrocketing rates of teenage anxiety and stress, depression, even teen suicide rates, which have gone way up in fact, tripled, uh, between 2007 and 2017.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (12:16)
And I think the clear, if you look at the data, at least one of the reasons has to be increased social media use and how that’s affecting our brains. And I think it’s, it’s really to discrepancy. It’s not that tech is bad. It’s not that these devices and tools sometimes can’t be good for us. We’ve seen in the pandemic that frankly, sometimes they’re a lifeline, right? Whether it’s zoom or using slack to work together, or being able to connect with family members or plan events, they can be, but we’re not using them correctly. Right? So what people want frankly, is to go deeper. It’s not a lot of the interviews show that people don’t want more friends, necessarily. They want deeper connections. They want to go deeper with the people that they actually are already in their life or meet new people and go deeper with them. So it’s a little bit, how about how we’re using the technology, if that makes sense.
Jean Chatzky: (13:08)
So how did we do that? I know that a lot of the questions from our community and I’m going to get to the first one in a moment revolve around that. But whether you’re looking to make a new friend, because you’re one of those people who has not made a new friend in five years, or whether you’re looking to deepen the connection with the friends that you care most about, what are the first steps to take?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (13:32)
I think a little bit, is acknowledging kind of where you’re at. If you’re one of those people that has a lot of people in your life and you’re like, but I have pretty surface level connections or it’s a lot of likes and awesome congrats, but you never actually talking to that person, acknowledging that and creating kind of a vocabulary around that. Uh, John Cassioppi, who is one of the leading, uh, researchers on loneliness, he passed away a couple of years ago. He talks about how if social media is used as a waystation to find directions, it can actually be very meaningful and healthy for us in terms of our social wellness. That is to say, if you’re using an app like Nextdoor or a Meetup or EventBrite to figure out what’s happening in your neighborhood or to say, oh, I’m really interested in women in tech, or I’m trying to find other people that are making podcasts or to connect with other entrepreneurs or connect with other people that are building personal finance apps.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (14:30)
And then you actually connect with them and hang out with them in real life, right. Or if you’re across the country, you have a phone call, right. Or a video chat, or you make a plan to do something together. Right. Create something in the world together, frankly, just talk then the apps are kind of good for you. They’re great. Right? You’re meeting new people, you’re connecting over a shared interest. You’re planning something for the future. You’re doing something you’re passionate about. You’re learning, you’re growing. That’s great. But if the apps are not the waystation, but the final destination, they’re not just the place where you go to find directions, but they’re just a place that you go and you stay and you scroll and you scroll and there’s an ad. And then you click and then you’re on some other site. And then you’re just scrolling and you’re looking at an influencer and you’re comparing yourself to a friend and you’re like, oh, that’s so cool.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (15:20)
They’re doing an app. They’re doing a podcast, but you never actually do anything. The apps are incredibly unhealthy and are making people, uh, much more stress, much more depressed and much more isolated. So it’s a subtle difference. So I think it’s a little bit about acknowledging where you’re at and what you’re looking for and taking action. You know, a lot of the research, you know, when I started talking to people about this, the people that seem to be developing closer relationships, it’s very simple. They’re just working on it. You know, which makes sense when you think about it.
Jean Chatzky: (15:53)
Yeah. This question from Kimberly actually gets to that point. She writes, “Why do we feel so lonely when we’re really not alone? I have a husband and four children, but so many of my friends have become just social media friends. How can I truly connect with other adults with my same interests, especially now with my kids getting older.”
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (16:15)
I love that. I think the beginning thing for Kimberly is exactly what she’s doing, which is creating an intention around it, naming it right when you name it and say, Hey, this is, I wouldn’t call it a problem. I’d call it a goal. I call it something that you’re looking forward to, that you’re excited about kind of your quote unquote, you know, people set, set these new year’s goals or plans, but why isn’t making new friends, one of them, you know, we’re only spending 4%, just 4% of our time with friends, right? And meanwhile, we’re thrown all these things everyday. Like get a Peloton, get a CrossFit, you know, reorganize your house, become Marie Kondo, be a New York Times, cooking app aficionados, all of these things. What about just spend more time with people in your life? How simple is that? Yet, We don’t think of it as something we actually need to proactively do.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (17:06)
So I would say to someone like Kimberly, thinking about creating a new ritual is a simple but effective way to make friendship something that’s recurring in your life. So whether that’s a girls’ night hang on Thursday’s, a dinner party gathering that you’re hosting once a month, a joining a cooking class, you know, anything that’s going to be repetitive where you’re meeting people on a regular basis. And frankly seeing people over and over again, because there’s a psychological principle known as the mere exposure effect where the more you see someone, the more you likely are to enjoy their company, just kind of creating that regular heartbeat of connection and putting it on the calendar. That’s a simple way to get it started.
Jean Chatzky: (17:48)
Yeah, a hundred percent. And Kimberly, just from my own life during COVID I had back surgery. So I wasn’t able to run for a couple of months, but I was able to walk pretty quickly. And I started walking with a revolving group of friends, just one-on-one and those walks, which we ended up doing several times a week in rotation were really nice ways to connect. And you wouldn’t think necessarily that that is, you know, it’s not a big plan. It’s just a walk, but a walk could be really, really meaningful. I want to go to one from Theresa. She writes, “My husband died after an illness a few years ago. I was not prepared for the response from people I thought were my friends. Due to many of these responses, I began to try and create a new circle of friends. Now I feel like I’m floating between lonely and okay. I’m not sure how to move forward. Do you have any advice?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (18:43)
That’s a beautiful question, Theresa. So sorry for your loss. Yeah. I don’t think that that’s an easy one. I think that when you experience loss like that, it’s kind of hard to know how to reconnect with people. I think that I found that, you know, for me, one of the reasons I wrote this book actually friendship in the age of loneliness, but you’ll learn when you read it in the early chapters is experiencing the loss of one of my best friends, Levi Felix. He died at the age of 32. So he was a perfectly healthy young man had started this summer camp for adults, a tech free digital detox, summer camp for adults, all about adults connecting in real life in the digital age and we’d lock away people’s cell phones and we play and disconnect and have a chance to talk and, you know, experience kind of what children experienced on a regular basis, which is just play and authentic connection.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (19:34)
And he started this movement all around human connection in the digital age, over 3000 people attended the summer camp that he started camp grounded in five years and he died of a brain tumor. He got diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016 and died a year later, perfectly healthy. And that just happened. And I know anyone that’s dealt with cancer of any kind knows it can be very brutal, especially brain cancer. It’s just a horrible, horrible disease. So one of the things that helped me with the loss was writing was talking to other people. I think for me, I think mental health is really important and, and seeking the ability to talk to a therapist I think is, is really important. I know for myself and others, but just talking, finding people to talk to, I think is a big piece of that. I don’t think it’s about a fixed cause there’s no fix lost, doesn’t go away and it’s not supposed to.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (20:26)
It’s more just that you have the place to talk about it when you want to talk about it. And then when you don’t also that. So I think, you know, the community really came together after Levi passed and that was a really beautiful thing. And I like to think that this book is part of, kind of his legacy living on right. I wanted to dedicate the book to him so that the lessons I learned from camp, that all of us shared are still out in the world. That’s as if he’s still here, it’s as if it’s still happening. So that was kind of how I wanted to honor him and kind of make his light continue to be shining bright.
Jean Chatzky: (20:58)
Okay. Thank you for sharing that with us. I’m sorry for your loss Smiley, but also Theresa for yours. Thank you so much for being part of our community. I want to ask you about the link between loneliness and money. We’re a financial show, right? And as I was thinking about it, as we were preparing for this interview, you know, I’ve known that there is a big link between loneliness and spending, right between sadness and spending sadness feels like a big hole, right? As does loneliness. And often we will spend money in an attempt to fill it up. And I I’ve talked about this with my mom because after my dad passed away, she was on record as just like I am spending money. I am spending because that feels kind of good when not a lot of things did, what do you think?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (21:53)
If you start to look at the data in terms of the cost of loneliness, which are usually measured in relation to the workplace and business, a pretty clear picture is painted that loneliness makes us sick. And when you’re sick, that’s not good for any aspect of your life, your health, but certainly not for your finances as well in terms of what the costs on the workplace. 45% lower productivity, double the missed days at work, five times more due to stress, higher risk of turnover, which as you know, is one of the highest costs that organizations face 12% lower quality of work. It’s likely that lonely employees cost the United States economy $406 billion per year. They’re less productive. They’re less engaged. They’re more likely to quit. And if you look at the flip side of that, right, if you feel belonging, if you feel that connection that you can show up as yourself, that you’re part of a team that you’re part of a group, there’s a drop in turnover, risk 75% reduction in sick days and annual savings of $52 million for a large firm, more promotions, more raises more likely that you’re going to recommend your employer to somebody else.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (23:02)
So it’s kind of the flip opposite. The research shows Julian hold Lunstead says that social support increases your chance of survival by up to 50%. So you mentioned the 15 cigarettes a day. That’s what loneliness, you know, like that’s the equivalent, but on the flip side, connection makes you feel good and makes you live longer. And research actually, Harvard did a study, the longest longitudinal study of adult happiness. They tracked kind of the health of these Harvard sophomores from I think, 1938. And they found that the people that were the most successful or happiest at the age of 80 had the healthiest relationships at the age of 50. So it had nothing to do with anything else except their, of social support. That those are the people that, you know, felt the best in life. So I think it’s kind of fundamental. We don’t think of it when you know, I go to, if you, if you think about personal finance and you read these books, like very few of them have a chapter about community, they kind of just jump right into it. Okay. 401k, save money. Don’t have debt, right. Pay off your credit card every month, which are all very important things. And they should say, keep really good friends, right? And spend more time with the people you love because that’s almost the foundation. That’s the basis for these healthy financial habits. Without those, without that, I think it all kind of starts to fall apart. It’s the building blocks, but we don’t talk about it as much. Certainly not for adults.
Jean Chatzky: (24:27)
No, no, we don’t talk about it nearly enough. And we don’t talk about money nearly enough either, which is the whole reason that we exist, which seems like a very good time just to remind everyone that HerMoney and important conversations like this one are proudly sponsored by Fidelity Investments. Whether you are just starting to save for retirement. If you’re inching closer to it, if you’re already enjoying your post career years, Fidelity can help guide you every step of the way. And when life throws you changes, as we all know, it will Fidelity is there to help you keep your financial plans in check so that you’ll feel better today and more prepared for tomorrow. You can visit Fidelity.com/HerMoney to learn more. I’m talking with smiley plus wall ski, millennial workplace, expert, and author of friendship. In the age of loneliness. I got a question from two of our community members. They both wanted to know the same thing. Essentially, Jamie and Beth both asked, how do you maintain friendships and build new ones through big life transitions like moving to a new city, getting married, having kids changing jobs or retiring. It’s a great
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (25:44)
Question. I interview a woman in my book named Poloma Herman, and she, I call her the correspondence queen. She’s moved a lot throughout her life. Her parents split up when she was young. And so she’s always kind of had to maintain friendships throughout her life from different places, geographically, all across the country. And so she’s really keen on correspondence. And for her, that means writing really sweet letterpress cards to her friends throughout the year. She keeps a shoe box full of cards. She calls it her most expensive habit because if you go to a card store these days a really nice card is five, six, $7. But she keeps these cards. She’ll buy cards even for a specific person, even if it’s not their birthday, just to have it on record for the next birthday or for an upcoming event. And so that’s her ritual.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (26:29)
So she’s always kind of reaching out to these people in her life and she doesn’t draw people. Now I know that not everyone loves writing letters or writing cards and that’s fine. Some people just don’t like going to the post office. They don’t like having stamps. Great. I encourage people to, I think it’s a beautiful habit, but the point is that you find your correspondence habit, right? So if it’s not writing letters, maybe it’s picking up a phone and calling somebody, maybe it’s writing really sweet text messages or gratitude texts before you go to bed, right? Maybe it’s you like video messages, whatever it is. It frankly doesn’t matter. It’s that you find some sort of correspondence habit where you’re letting the people in your life know that you care about them and reaching back out to people. I think a lot of times, especially if we’ve moved a lot, we prioritize the people that are just currently where we are right now in our life.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (27:17)
And we kind of forget the people. So just kind of taking the time to maybe think and reflect, okay, who’s been in my life the last five years, where have I lived maybe list the places and who are the special people there and just sending them a quick note of appreciation. Hey, I was thinking about this time, remember we went out to dinner, remember that birthday party we went to, that was such a fun night. It’s going to go a long way to kind of reconnecting the friendship. Friendships can ebb and flow. You know, there’s going to be times where you’re not talking to certain people as often as others. That’s okay. It’s more about letting people know that you care about them, that you’re thinking about them on a regular basis.
Jean Chatzky: (27:53)
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And I’ve got to say, I mean, I have a real bee in my bonnet about the phone. I like the phone, right? I know, I know it’s a product of my age, although maybe not because you’re younger than I am, but I just feel like we are under using our phones as devices on which to talk these days. Right? Like, you know, we text a lot. We use them to serve and for social media, but to actually call someone and I’ve had conversations with my children who are in their twenties where I’ve said, just call, just call any appears to them. That calling is invasive. The calling is a lot. Do you get that?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (28:41)
Yes. I definitely find, especially when I do talk to companies around millennials, they say, you know, they’re writing all of these text messages and emojis and putting this stuff in business emails. And it’s like, what are you doing? Just call somebody or go to their desk. Of course you can all do that. Now. We’re not working in an office together, but picking up the phone and calling someone to, to, to figure out a problem is going to be so much faster than the back and forth email. And you’re going to get to the bottom of it. So I’m a huge proponent of the phone call. If someone I’m thinking about someone and I have a few minutes, I’m just going to call them. If they don’t pick up, I leave a quick message or just a missed call. It doesn’t matter. And then if they do pick up, we get to have a great conversation.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (29:19)
And I vastly prefer that. Also, now you can make a phone call and take a walk. You can be, you know, folding laundry. You can be, you know, cleaning the house. And it’s kind of great versus I actually, one thing I don’t love now with the pandemic has made everything has to be a zoom call. Right. Which I, I think it’s nice, especially if you haven’t seen someone a while to connect on video and that be a form of intimacy, but I also, I love the phone call. It has that kind of radio feel where you can’t quite see the person, but maybe you’re, if it feels more intimate, you know, it feels old school to me, but I’m of the age, I’m in my late thirties. I’m old. I’m not battled. But I remember when we used to, if you made a date, when I was growing up, we didn’t have cell phones yet.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (30:03)
We didn’t get cell phones until kind of the end of college, I think. And you know, when you made a date with someone you had to be there, it’s like, I’ll meet you at the payphones at eight o’clock or, you know, at the ice cream spot at eight o’clock. And if you weren’t there, that’s it, you got stood up. That’s it? They’re like there, they’re not here. I’m going home there wasn’t this I’ll be two minutes late. I’m three minutes late. I’m in a lift. Right. And I miss that, I talk about that a little bit in the book, you know, as a freshman in college, being in the dorms and people would have these whiteboards outside their room and it was like, Hey, you know, smiley. I came by to say hi, like, see ya. Or like, I’m going to class like catch you later. And if you weren’t there, when they came by like good luck finding them, like, you’d probably see them roaming the halls later, but that was it. And it was like, oh, I guess they’re not there. And you might not see someone for two or three days or even a week, or, and, you know, we had these landlines and I remember like writing people’s phone, extensions down on a piece of paper and the paper was full. And I guess I was like, okay, that’s it. I have enough friends.
Jean Chatzky: (31:09)
Well, and not only did we have these landlines, but now I’m really dating myself and I will move on because there are a couple of other questions from our community that I want to get to, but it was expensive picking up the phone and calling somebody long distance was expensive. And I think that made us realize in some way how valuable it was,
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (31:29)
Right. There was a little bit of like, this matters.
Jean Chatzky: (31:33)
Exactly, exactly. I mean, it came out of my allowance when I was a kid and I wanted to connect with my friends from summer camp. I had to pay those long distance charges. And so that was a real lesson.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (31:44)
There is a little bit of the flip side, the complete opposite of that now where it’s so easy to double tap, like message DM two emojis three. And that, that’s interesting. It’s very easy, but is the meaning, there is the depth there is the, does this cost me anything? No. And is it valuable? Not really because you’re messaging that person also messaging this person, also getting this DM also this notification it’s so frivolous. It’s so meaningless. It’s so not focused and not intentional that I think it loses a little bit of its value in contrast to before. And I think, you know, that’s one of the things with young people that we need to support them. It’s not their fault, right? It’s not like young people wanted to have all this stuff necessarily. They’ve been given it. And these tools are very addictive and they’re designed to be addictive.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (32:35)
But then if you ask young people, how is this going for you do like having to keep up your Snapchat snap streak. Do you like having to make sure that you like every single one of your friends, photos on Instagram or the dancing videos on Tik TOK? Cause if you don’t, they’re going to unfriend you or not talk to you for a week because you didn’t like their photo. And they’re like, no, it makes me so stressed. It’s so awful. I hate it. Then you kind of help them, you know, make a little bit more sense of it. So that’s just, just an important point.
Jean Chatzky: (33:05)
Well, again, in the effort to be prescriptive, because we do have a lot of younger listeners who feel that pressure, how do you escape it?
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (33:17)
Yeah, I think it’s not easy. I think there isn’t one cure to that. I think first and foremost, you know, we don’t blame the people that are using these tools by and the people making them. So I think we have to make sure we put pressure on the social media companies to design less addictive, less extractive tools, especially when it comes to children and teenagers and kind of preying on their habits. So that’s, I think a big piece of it, but also I think that there’s a balance there, you can turn off your phone after a certain number of hours of usage, not sleep with your phone right in your bed. So that, it’s the last thing you look at at night. So you’re scrolling right before bed, which is not good for your brain to start relaxing or for your eyes. You know, it’s been proven, that’s gives you really poor sleep and it’s not the first thing you look at in the morning. Right? So there’s that. But I think also kind of letting young people see the value in the power of in-person face-to-face connection. I think, you know, we nailed that that’s that’s human evolution, but I think we need to remind each other of that, especially for people that haven’t had as much of that in their lives,
Jean Chatzky: (34:20)
Especially, especially lately two more questions. And I’m going to ask them one after another, as we wrap this up, Diane asks I have many long-term acquaintances, but seem to have trouble moving the relationship forward so that I’m, someone’s close friend and vice versa. Even after reaching out to try to make plans and send a sweet note or a funny text after a long period where things just float along with a big group, how do you move the needle? And Aletha wants to know very similarly, how can I connect more deeply with people that I desire friendship with? In other words, smiley, what’s your number one best tip for meaningful connection in a world we’re more connected to everything but less connected to everyone. Yeah, it’s
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (35:11)
A great point. And I think a lot of people are looking for that. I have a chapter in the book called go deep rather than wide, right? So it’s less about having tons and tons of friends or all of these surface level relationships and having several people in your life that you can go deeper with, or even frankly, one or two people in your life that you can go deep with. So I think that you have to start small, right? Trust and intimacy are built over time. Bernay Brown has a great analogy, love that she calls it kind of trust is like a jar of marbles. And you have to try to fill the jar of marbles and each kind of moment or conversation or time you hang out or road trip is putting a couple of marbles in the container of trust, right? You don’t just go from one or two marbles to like, oh my God, you’re my best friend.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (35:56)
I love you. I trust you with my life. Right. I want to spend every day with you because that’s just not how connection and works. Right. So starting small and just gradually increasing levels of vulnerability and levels of intimacy, I think is a great way to do that. And maybe just saying, what does it look like to spend a little bit more time with someone? So to plan something that I call it kind of a deep hang. So a normal hang would be, let’s have coffee and you’re fitting in between like 12 and one and okay. I have a it’s 12:52 and I have a one o’clock call like got to go, right? It’s very rushed. It’s not relaxed. What does it look like more to have a deep hang where you’re spending more time with someone, maybe you don’t have anything else on the calendar for the day.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (36:40)
Maybe you go for a hike or you plan a special activity or, you know, something that they’re really excited about. So you’re taking them to a show or to a movie or to an art exhibit or to their favorite place. And so it’s a little bit more like time can be lost and you can really relax and be together. I think that more chances for people to lose track of the calendar lose track of time, really kind of can foster that deeper connection where you kind of create those memories. You kind of get lost. You’re not just kind of catching up. You’re just in the moment together.
Jean Chatzky: (37:10)
Absolutely. This has been great. And it’s made me feel more optimistic about connecting in the future. Smiley. Thank you so much for doing this with us today.
Adam Smiley Poswolsky: (37:19)
Thank you so much for having me and thanks to all of your listeners and your community.
Jean Chatzky: (37:23)
Absolutely. And we’ll be right back with Kathryn and your Mailbag. And HerMoney’s Kathryn Tuggle joins me now. Hey Kathryn. Hey Jean. How are you? I’m good. I’m good. I gonna finish up this podcast and call a friend. Oh, that’s great. I think I’ll do the same actually. I liked that conversation. I just, I think the thing I’m going to take away most is that it’s about the little things. You know, sometimes there are people in my life that I feel like I would like to connect with more deeply and I get busy and sometimes it stays too superficial for too long, but this idea that it builds upon itself and every interaction builds you a little bit more connection and brings you a little bit closer to that eventual goal. So you can chip away at it.
Kathryn Tuggle: (38:27)
I loved what he said about the deep pain and not limiting yourself to a certain number of hours. This is why I love having people over or going over to friend’s houses because I think you can relax in a way that you can’t in a restaurant and something that I have seen just living in New York for the last, you know, 16 years is people leave. People come, people go, people leave, people come back. And my circle of friends has changed a million times, but my closest friends and I make an effort to do a long weekend together at least once a year. And we often say that if we add up the number of hours that we spend together talking and bonding in that three-day weekend, it’s the equivalent of being able to have dinner almost once a week. Yeah. Over the course of a year. It’s about, you know, 50 hours of talk time.
Jean Chatzky: (39:28)
I think that is an amazing way to look at it. And it’s making me feel better about my move. Most of our listeners, I think know that I just recently moved from our home in New York to a new place in Philadelphia. And I’m really excited about it. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’m also nervous about missing my friends. And I think that we will see them for longer but less frequent bursts of time. So I’m going to steal that little piece of advice from you and use it to make myself feel better. I also think it’s true. It’s not like I’m playing like a math game in my head. I think it’s, I think it’s very, very true, right?
Kathryn Tuggle: (40:09)
It is. And I think, you know, the older we get the truth is people are going to move. People are going to have bigger and more important family obligations. And somebody has to lead the charge of coordination. Somebody has to be that person to say, okay, what weekends is everybody free? Let’s get something on the calendar. Even if it’s nine months out, get something on the calendar now so that everybody can kind of save the date. And I think, you know, don’t be afraid to be that coordinator. I am that coordinator for my friend group, but I am also like just a producer by nature. I think I have that soul. But if no one in your group is your producer. Be it. Embody it. Don’t be afraid. It’s not hard.
Jean Chatzky: (40:53)
No, no, it’s not hard. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be.
Kathryn Tuggle: (40:58)
I shouldn’t have said that since I’m your producer. It’s really hard. It’s super hard. Don’t fire me.
Jean Chatzky: (41:07)
No, it’s kind of like entertaining, right? It’s harder for some people than it is for others. Some people find entertaining, effortless, and some people stress beyond belief that everything is perfect and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just you’re facilitating. And it just has to be, and people will be grateful that you’re doing that.
Kathryn Tuggle: (41:32)
Jean Chatzky: (41:35)
All right. Well, we’ve answered a lot of questions in this show already, but let’s, let’s take one mailbag question. Love that.
Kathryn Tuggle: (41:42)
Our question today comes to us from an anonymous listener. She writes, “Hi. I love, love, love your podcast. The two of you have taught me so much since I discovered you about two years ago. All things I wish I had known before I became a 40 something mom. My question today boils down to what are the best accounts to set up for our children now, while they’re still young. We have an UGMA custodial account for each of our two children. It’s where we’ve deposited birthday gifts from family members over the years. And when they were babies, it’s where we deposited annual thousand dollar birthday gifts ourselves. Until we learned that they should not have so much in their names. Our children are almost nine and six and a half years old. Our almost nine year olds account has a balance of close to 20,000 and our six and a half year olds account has a balance of 16,600.
Kathryn Tuggle: (42:33)
We also have 529s for each child. Our nine-year-olds balance is 27,000 and our six-year-olds balance is close to 17. Should we close these UGMA accounts and move them into account solely in our names until they’re in college? Should we close these UGMA accounts and move them entirely into their 529s? I hear about setting up Roth IRAs for children, but I don’t understand how to do that since they’re too young to work, should we use it to begin million dollar baby plans? And is this even a real thing? We have been paying our state prepaid college plans since our daughter was two and our son’s birth. Four year university plans, and one year dormitory plans for each child. These payments are set up to be automatic every month to date we’ve paid about 30% of each child’s tuition and 50% of her freshman year dorm and 30% of his storm as our public school district is not great for older grade levels.
Kathryn Tuggle: (43:29)
We’re also going to need to move them into private school in a year or so through high school, this will end up costing us a total of $340,000. I know I’ve provided a lot of information, but I wanted to give the full picture in terms of current balances and upcoming educational expenses. Here’s what we want to do. Number one, maximize our small investments and payments now, what we can afford while they’re young. Number two, ultimately pay for all expenses in their college years. Of course, with them working part-time if they can and three help set them up after college so they can use their 529 for graduate school and, or a study abroad experience with us paying for their living expenses when they start working. Please advise the best accounts that we can set up for our children now while they are still young. Thank you from Miami!”
Jean Chatzky: (44:25)
Wow. Well, first of all, Miami, thank you so much for writing and thank you for all the detail. There is lot to unpack in this question before I even start to do that. I just want to remind you that you have to take care of yourselves too. And if you are doing all of this to the exclusion of, or to the diminishment of your own retirement accounts, you’re making a mistake. You have to make sure that you are on track there as well. So let’s assume that you are, let’s assume that you are, as on pace with your retirement, as you are with all of these college and, and plans for your children in that case. Here’s my thinking, first of all, for people who don’t know, cause we don’t talk about them that much, a UGMA account and the UGMA account is a Uniform Gift to Minors account.
Jean Chatzky: (45:28)
And that word “gift” is really important because when you’re looking at moving the money out of one account and into a different type of account, what you need to keep in mind is that this money is no longer yours. You made a gift of it. It is your child’s money. And for that reason, although it is possible to move the money into 529s. And that may actually be something that you want to do in order to bolster your child’s ability to receive financial aid down the road. You actually can’t just pick it up and move it into a plain vanilla 529. You have to move it into something called a Custodial 529. And it has to be used for the benefit of that specific child with traditional 529. So there’s a lot of flexibility that you can use the money for the benefit of somebody else in the family.
Jean Chatzky: (46:31)
If, for example, one child decides that they don’t want to go to graduate school. And the other child decides that they do want to, you have some ability to play with the beneficiaries. That’s not true here because this money already belongs to your child. So just keep that in mind, but it is very possible to move it to a 529. The transfer is just a matter of a couple of signatures on a piece of paper, you will have to sell the assets in the Uniform Gift to Minors Account, depending on how they’re invested and pay taxes, capital gains taxes on any profits, but that might be worth it. If you think that the potential for tax-free growth in the 529 is going to outweigh any taxes that you pay now. So those are just a couple of things to keep in mind. You asked about transferring the assets to an account in your name, because again, this money has already been gifted to your kids.
Jean Chatzky: (47:37)
You can’t do that. It’s not your money anymore. It’s their money. And the other place you thought about putting it was a Roth IRA. You’re right. A Roth IRA is a great vehicle for kids, but your kids have to have earned income. So that’s something to think about when they get a little bit older, when they start having part-time jobs, if you want to help make contributions to Roth IRAs for them, that would be something to do down the road. And you asked, should we use it to begin million dollar baby plans? So I actually had to look those up, but million dollar baby plans are life insurance policies, their life insurance policies, where the money does have the ability to grow. And the point of these plans is that you make contributions for a period of years while your kids are young, typically until they’re about 20 or 21 years old.
Jean Chatzky: (48:35)
And then that money just continues to accumulate until they have bigger goals down the road, like buying a house, going to college. And if they don’t touch the money based on a calculation of putting in about $3,000 a year for 20 years, while your kids are aged zero to 20, by the time that they’re 65 years old, they should have a million dollars plus that’s how you get there. I actually wouldn’t put this on your list for right now because your goals are more short term, therefore college. And I also feel in general that life insurance is for people who need it. That life insurance is for people who have dependents. Not necessarily for kids. We can do a whole show on that. Maybe we will at some point in the future, but let’s come back to your three points that you were looking to accomplish.
Jean Chatzky: (49:29)
You want to maximize your small investments and payments now while your kids are young. I think that a 529 is a really good vehicle for doing that. It’s what I used to pay for college for my own children. I found that the investing of the money was incredibly easy because of the age based natures of the portfolios that said all 529s are not created equal. So it sends you to savingforcollege.com so that you can do a comparative look and make sure that you are in the best 529s that exist for your kids. You want to ultimately pay for all of their expenses in their college years. Of course, with them working part-time jobs as they can. I think that’s an amazing, amazing goal. And your kids will be grateful for years, but again, please don’t do that. If you are sabotaging your own retirement and you want to help set them up after college so that they can use their 529s for graduate school or study abroad again, that is such a fantastic and wonderful goal. College in and of itself is so expensive. These days that I would put my energy into making sure that you are fully able to satisfy the goals that you’ve set up for yourself with those prepaid tuition plans first, before trying to stash a lot of assets into the 529 as well. And I hope that that answers all of your questions. Thanks so much for writing and thank you so much for listening.
Kathryn Tuggle: (51:11)
That was a great breakdown, Jean, and what an incredible job she’s doing saving already. I kind of can’t believe the amounts that they already have given the ages of the kids, what a beautiful gift to give your children.
Jean Chatzky: (51:23)
A hundred percent. Thanks, Kathryn, thank you, Jean. And in today’s Thrive how to create a post pandemic budget you can really stick with. Well, I’m not sure it feels like the world has hit the reset button or that we’re just about to take another step back. But I do think this is a good time to check in and see where you stand by the numbers with our new adventures to come. There does come a need for a balanced budget and a bright investing future this week at hermoney.com. We’ve got a Roundup of our favorite tricks to make sure that your wallet is as robust as your summer social calendar. So here’s a look at just a few of them. First prioritize. What’s important to you when we scaled back on get togethers and dinner dates and school schedules, it gave us the opportunity to redistribute our money.
Jean Chatzky: (52:18)
Many of us found that we’d adjusted our spending in very meaningful ways, but now’s the time to press on with these pandemic changes to rethink how we’d like to continue spending. For example, if you previously had a gym membership, but found during the pandemic that an outdoor run plus some online classes were sufficient. Do you really need to add the gym back into your budget? Likewise, if you and your friends enjoyed picnics in the park and hikes, while restaurants were closed, you absolutely need to go back to expensive brunches? It’s just time to take a look at how you want to use your limited resources on a more permanent basis. Second, remember the 20% rule let’s keep talking about that savings surplus. A good rule of thumb is to think about dedicating around 20% of your monthly budget to either building up savings, making a contribution to a retirement fund or paying off debt.
Jean Chatzky: (53:20)
Now I know that full 20% is not possible for every person right now, but the most important thing is that you do the best you can while you’re working toward upping your savings so that you eventually get to that goal, because we all know that looking down the road, achieving savings of at least 15% consistently is what it takes to get you to and through retirement. And third, carry some of those good financial habits into the future. Experts say it takes about 28 days to train yourself in a new habit and then be able to sustain it for the long haul. Many of us were forced to start new habits over the course of the last year. What were some of yours? Do they include shifting your weekly night out to the movies, to a more local setting like your sofa? Did you put more money into your retirement because you weren’t spending as much on your social life?
Jean Chatzky: (54:24)
I mentioned while we were talking to smiley the walks that I had started taking with my friends, I’m absolutely going to continue those. And now is the time to see if you can make some of these more affordable routines, a more permanent part of your life, because why not keep them going if you can. Thank you so much for joining me today on HerMoney, thanks to smiley for sharing his wisdom and inspiration for all of us who may be looking for new friends. I just want to remind all of our listeners that the HerMoney community really is a community. It’s a family. We would love to have you as part of our Facebook group, subscribe to our weekly newsletters, and we hope to be back doing in-person HerMoney, happy hours. Very soon. Our email newsletter subscribers will always be the first to hear about those. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our show at Apple Sodcasts, leave us a review. We love hearing what you think. We’d also like to thank our sponsor Fidelity. We record this podcast out of CDM Sound Studios. Our music is provided by Video Helper and our show comes to you through Megaphone. Thanks for joining us. And we’ll talk soon!