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Financial behavior on a napkin: ‘She says, I hear’

Marketplace Staff Apr 22, 2011

Financial behavior on a napkin: ‘She says, I hear’

Marketplace Staff Apr 22, 2011

Tess Vigeland: Managing your money is no simple feat. But for some folks, it’s as easy as doodling on the back of a napkin. “Some” — being Carl Richards. He’s the founder of Prasada Capital Management in Park City, Utah. And you see his Sharpie drawings in the New York Times Bucks column. We talk with him every so often and he’s back with another rendering. Welcome again.

Carl Richards: Thank you, Tess. Good to be here.

Vigeland: Describe for us what’s on this napkin.

Richards: So this is part of the conversations around money series. And if you notice, it’s sort of this circular conversation that says, “She says.” And then the next line over says, “I hear,” and it’s got a dollar sign. And then it says again, “She says.” And the next line over says, “I hear,” and a dollar sign.

Vigeland: And there are arrows pointing all the way around this circular logic here. What are you talking about here?

Richards: This is one that was specifically sparked by a conversation I had with my wife.

Vigeland: So we get a peek into your marriage now.

Richards: Yeah, she loves this. She’s just so excited about this. The story is she would often come home and say something like, “Hey, I was just over at Kim’s house and she remodeled her kitchen.” I immediately — and I’ve had lots of conversations about this, so I know I’m not alone and it made me feel better — would be calculating that cost X. And she is saying, “Hey, you know, it was really nice.” And I’m calculating. And I may even say, “We can’t afford that.”

Vigeland: And she’s like, ‘I wasn’t asking you for a new kitchen.’

Richards: Right. What are you talking about? And the same thing happened. I think that day, she came home from a ride in somebody’s car and it was comfortable or whatever. And she said, “Oh, it was so nice.” And I said, “We can’t afford it.” And she’s like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I was just talking about the car, like I had a good ride.” So it made me realize how different we view money.

Vigeland: Why do you think you automatically assume that she wanted what she was talking about.

Richards: I do not know. I think it’s because that’s maybe how I view money. Like, I’ve never enjoyed going to look at open houses. Because I assume, hey if we’re going to buy a house we’d go look at open houses. However, my wife — and there are plenty of people just like her, both male and female — that enjoy going to open houses just for the experience. So it’s just the viewpoint I bring to those conversations was drastically different than the one she brings.

Vigeland: Have you changed your behavior since you had this realization?

Richards: Yeah, for sure. I mean, this was only — what was this, I think a month or two ago I drew this one — and for sure, I know pause and say, “OK, wait a second. Wait.” In fact, this is maybe the point of this whole series, is instead of just talking around this issue, I now am trying to stop and say, “Now wait, before we go on, are we talking about something that we want to do, or are we talking about just some fun experience?” I think what you have to do, at least for me, you’ve got to recognize it’s sort of like any other problem — we’ve got to recognize first that we have the problem. So I think it’s just recognizing. Stop talking around money and start talking about it.

Vigeland: Carl Richards’ napkins can be seen here. We’re talking to him over these next several weeks about behavioral finance based on his drawings. Carl, thanks so much.

Richards: Thank you, Tess.

Vigeland: And by the way, you can follow him on Twitter at @behaviorgap. While you’re at it, follow me.

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