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Book Club featuring Emily Guy Birken

George Grombacher June 23, 2022

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Book Club featuring Emily Guy Birken

On this edition of the Book Club, Emily Guy Birken talks about her newest book STACKED: Your Super Serious Guide to Modern Money Management.

Emily is a personal finance expert, author, speaker and podcaster.

For a copy of her book STACKED, click HERE

You can learn more about Emily at EmilyGuyBirken.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Emily Guy Birken

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:00
Come on

Bob Leffler This is George G. And the time is right welcome to our monthly book club and welcome are authored strong and powerful Emily guy Burke and welcome, Emily. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to have you on Emily is a former educator. She’s a lifelong money nerd Plutus award winning freelance writer specializing in the scientific research behind irrational money behavior. She’s the author of five books her newest is stacked you’re super serious guide to modern money management. Emily, tell us a little about your personal life smart butcher work and what motivated you to write the book. So I live in Milwaukee with my family I’ve got I’m married to mechanical engineer, and we have two sons who are 11 and eight.

Emily Guy Birken 0:57
So that’s and then we’ve also got a retired racing Greyhound and a cat who is sometimes a throw pillow.

So that’s, that’s my personal life. In a nutshell, I have been writing in the personal finance sphere since 2010. I tripped and fell backwards into it. Because of a badly timed baby plus a move, I was not going to be able to teach, which is what I’m trained as I’m trained as a high school English teacher. And so the original plan was I was going to take a year off. But I did a little bit of creative or creative writing all my life and I thought I could maybe do some freelancing to bring a little bit of money coming in. During that year that I was going to stay home with the baby. And one of my first clients was a financial website. So I am a lifelong money nerd, my dad was a financial planner. So it’s not completely out of left field like you know literature then money. But it’s it fit me like a glove, it was just a great fit to spend my time researching things that I was very interested in. And then bringing kind of a different spin to it than people who majored in finance or who you know, had business backgrounds. So about four years ago, friend of mine reached out to me Joseph C high who was my co author on stacked and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book with him. He very much wanted to put together a light hearted guide to money. And he thought that I’d be a good fit. And I was very excited about that. Partially just the idea of working with a friend sounded fun, partially because I really love including jokes, and humor and pop culture references and things like that in what I write. And a lot of times that gets edited out. Because if you know I’m writing for someone like Forbes, that very much, we just want the facts, ma’am. So even my most gentle of jokes will will just get edited out, let alone you know, I don’t even try the the kind of hemorrhoid jokes that like. So that was the second reason why I was really psyched about about this project was you know, I would get to let my humor off the leash. And it seemed like a fantastic creative challenge to you know, be funny to, you know, really encourage myself to be funny. And then the third reason why I was interested in it is because of my my most recent book prior to stacked, it’s a book called end financial stress now, and I wrote it specifically because a lot of the stress we carry about money is unnecessary. And that’s not to say that, you know, you can live stress free money wise, but a lot of times we’re carrying money stress because of our own personal trauma, because of our emotions, the way that we see the world in terms of morality, you know, just any number of things, neuroses, you know, personal experiences. And a lot of times, we’re putting that stress on ourselves, and we can let go of it. If we just change the way we look at things. And then not only will that help you feel better, but you’ll make better financial decisions once you can kind of turn that corner in your mind. So that’s why I wrote the book. But a friend of mine, who I went to college with, she bought a copy to support me, but she told me privately, she’s like, I’m kind of terrified to read it. And I was like, oh my goodness, why? And her response was, because I’m afraid it’s going to tell me I’m doing everything all wrong. And I realized that no matter how reassuring I am in my writing about money, if someone is not the type of person who’s gonna pick up a money book, I can’t help them. And so stacked was an opportunity to write a book that people who don’t read many books will read. And so that was that was the third reason why I was very, very excited about this. Project.

george grombacher 5:02
It makes sense, then did your friend eventually read the book?

Unknown Speaker 5:07
That was a good question. I don’t know the answer.

george grombacher 5:11
We need to get her on the phone right now.

Unknown Speaker 5:13
We need to get her on the horn. Yeah.

george grombacher 5:16
Well, that’s awesome. I appreciate appreciate everything you said there. Going from being an English teacher to an actual author, we’re Where are you writing? Obviously, teaching is different than doing so what what was that transition like?

Unknown Speaker 5:32
So I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was tiny. I think since I knew what writing was. That’s there was a brief period when I was about eight when I learned about Egypt. And I was very interested in becoming an archaeologist, like between Egypt and dinosaurs. I was like digging things up. Sounds fun. But other than that, my entire life I’ve known I wanted to write. And so my career has been this weird amalgam of things that were writing adjacent, or things that allowed me to. And so teaching was kind of one of the writing adjacent jobs. I love kids, I love working with kids, even the teenage kids. One of the things I like about, I liked about teaching high school, and I know that like, elementary school teachers are like, I don’t get it, but is you can still see the kind of five year old inside and like, not talking down to them. But like speaking to that five year old and trying to engage that, that that’s, you know, childlike wonder that’s everyone has, it’s a little closer to the surface with with teenagers, although they like to bury it under, you know, cynicism and things like, that’s for sure. And so while I was while I was teaching, it was very difficult to do any creative writing for myself, although, you know, every summer that was something that I worked on. And I loved bringing my creativity to my lesson plans. So trying to find ways to help the kids relate to something that they felt like was outside of their scope. So helping the kids relate to Romeo and Juliet, was something that I like to do every day. And so things like having them take a something that you know, it was written in Shakespeare’s English and turn it into text messages, you know, and that, give them give them that creative challenge that helps them to better understand what’s being said, and then also recognize some of the things that are happening or things that they experienced to

george grombacher 7:40
what a cool idea that is. And how fun that just, I fancy myself a creative person, and I love what you just said, like, that sounds so cool, and how to find and take a topic and make it innovative. Just just the way that you teach it. How do you How did you think about when when you’re riding stacked? Do you think about grownups and reaching that inner five year old? How are you thinking about that?

Unknown Speaker 8:09
Well with stacks one of the things was I was I was accessing my inner 14 year old because so Joe and I both have similar senses of humor. So there plenty of dad jokes, because we were really funny, that kind of that kind of humor. And then one of the things that I learned with teaching is that you are going to get someone’s attention if you’re funny, are shocking. And so and that’s that sort of thing is a good way to then reach the inner five year old. So for instance, when I was teaching my I would teach juniors I taught the book of Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. And I read aloud to my students. It even the 17 year olds, I think benefit from being read aloud to and I would intentionally time it so that my first read aloud day for Prayer for Owen Meany coincided with the first F bomb in the book, and I’d read it out loud. And oh my goodness, like all the heads like whipping around like what did miss Birkin just say hello, and then that also activated that like what’s in this book

george grombacher 9:26
that’s amazing. And so

Unknown Speaker 9:27
and so those those sorts of moments I know are going to be helpful for kind of activating interest when it’s something that you are not naturally interested in. So one of my favorite jokes that I made in the book was in the chapter on investing in just the intro to investing, I’m explaining all the different things and then I get to mutual funds and for some reason, even though I’ve always been a money nerd the word mutual fund sound Sounds to me like the grown ups in peanuts. You know, when when Walt was like, just my brain turns off totally. And I was sitting there going, like, how am I going to make this funny if I who am a money nerd, I’m like, Lou, even though I understand the importance of mutual funds, I understand why they’re an important part of your portfolio. I understand how they work, but they just they don’t feel fun in any way to me. And then I had this realization that mutual funds has the exact same initials as Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite word. Ice, like I found my way in. And if I just start imagining Samuel L Jackson going mutual fund. And then that’s, and so through through the rest of the chapter, I just did M F, and so that people would fill in. And it just that right there, you’re you’re sitting there going like, Oh, this is interesting. This is funny. And then you’re more able to take in the the the information, the teaching part of it.

george grombacher 11:03
Yeah, I think that that’s awesome. does need to be need to be able to have it digestible and accessible and all those all those terms, but just you need the thing to work, right. Yes. Yeah. Good. Write this amazingly brilliant book. But if it’s not actually working, then then you’ve wasted everybody’s time.

Unknown Speaker 11:21

george grombacher 11:23
Did did you say that? It’s Joe, did you say he reached out to you four years ago? Yes.

Unknown Speaker 11:29
That’s, that’s how long a book takes to come out. Sometimes. So he reached out to me, it was summer 2018. And he had actually been trying to write a book for about 10 years, he finally got it done. He gave it to his wife. And she spent something like less than 20 minutes and handed back to him and said, This is awful. So they have that kind of relationship. And he realized that that he the style he was going for didn’t work for him, because it was very guru on the mountain type of thing. And then he kind of rejiggered his idea he wanted it to be, you know, playful. And and then he also had this realization, like it took me 10 years to write something awful. Why don’t I partner with someone who I know knows how to write a book. And so I I like to say, you know, like, heaps firstly reached out to Salman Rushdie, who said, No, Stephen King, you couldn’t get a hold of Agatha Christie has been dead for a while. And then he reached out to me. But in reality, I was his first choice. And so I. So we started talking about it at that point. And there was quite a few ducks to get in a row, like we wanted to have something in place, an agreement in place between us even before we found an agent, even before we wrote a proposal, all of that, we spent some time interviewing agents and finding the agent we wanted, we took quite a bit of time to write the first version of the proposal, and then our agent sends it back several times, she was very, very good in making sure that our proposal was going to get the best response. And then, so we ended up getting our contract in June of 2020. So and then wrote the book over the end of 2020, turned it in in about January 2021. And then it came out December 28th 2021. So it’s not a quick process, you know, if you’re interested in writing a book, you need to know that you need to be in it for the process, and not for the results. And because it’s it’s not a quick process, it’s not going to make you rich. And even though there’s this sense among authors that, you know, like, once my book is published, you know, I’ll wake up that morning, and my skin will be clear, and all my exes will will be jealous of me, my wife will be my life will be perfect, and the clouds will part and the angels will sing and the sun will shine down. And that’s not what happens. What happens at all. And, and so just recognizing why you’re doing this, so and you know, Joe and I were very much on the same page of why we were doing this, you know, we wanted the the experience of writing the book together. We wanted to have something out there that was different from other other finance books. And we’ve kind of wanted to find a new way to spread our message, rather than because, you know, obviously we’d love for the book to be you know, runaway bestseller. That that is not you know, the purpose of doing this. The purpose of doing this is to help people and finding ways to do that. On the long term is just a wonderful thing to to work on. And that provides the gratification on a daily basis rather than that instant of like a New York Times bestseller. Yay, got published.

george grombacher 15:08
I appreciate that. What sounds like? It sounds like y’all did it the right way.

Unknown Speaker 15:15
I hope so. Yeah.

george grombacher 15:16
I love it. All right. So you, you wrote four books on your own? I’m guessing the first four, and then now one with with somebody else. How I mean that just fascinating, right? A horse, or a camel is a horse made by committee. Right? So how was that?

Unknown Speaker 15:39
It actually it worked very well. So and it helped me understand how much I enjoy collaboration, which I have not had much of a chance to do. So my first four books, one of the things that I’ve really appreciated about it is, I did all four of them on agented. And so I was working directly with the publisher. And at every step of the way, the publisher trusted me. So, you know, writing by committee is something that I refuse to do. I have done it before at various points in my career. And it’s, it’s something where, like, I’m happy to take constructive criticism, I’m happy to take suggestions. You know, if there’s something that you know about that I don’t please tell me. So for instance, I cannot write titles like I consider myself a pretty good writer, I stink at titles, I cannot. So I have not chosen the title of any of my books. And that’s, you know, what, that’s fine. I’m totally happy to do that. But if, you know, people are saying, like, you know, don’t do this, do that, well, don’t do that. Do the other, don’t do the other do the third, you know, that is something that’s really frustrating. So one of the great things about collaborating with Joe, is, we came at it with the understanding that we each are experts. And that, you know, we knew if we disagreed on something, we could talk it through and figure out how to make it work. And most of all, because we’re friends, we’re going to have fun with it. So one of the most fun things was the way we wrote the book is, it’s about 14 chapters. And we we split it, you know, each took seven. And so we each wrote our chapters, and then sent it to the other person who mostly was there to punch up the humor, you know, because we both feel very confident about the other’s financial knowledge. And so we had this really fun thing of I was writing for a very specific audience. I was writing to make Joe laugh. And so that is a lot easier than just writing to make somebody laugh. Yeah, interesting. And as I told people, while we were writing it, I said, Well, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be funny, I’m not sure it makes me enjoy laugh. So hopefully, that will work for other people to

george grombacher 17:59
love it. It is there is number six going to be a piece of fiction, a piece of creative writing, oh,

Unknown Speaker 18:08
I do have a novel that I am in the process of. I’ve sent it out to agents, got a lot of rejections, you know, want to pay for my walls with them, I’m probably going to be doing some rewriting, and try again. And then I have another nother novel that I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time. And so I’m clearing my schedule to be able to take some time it will be a young adult novel based on the Greek myth of Eurydice and Orpheus. So, which we’re all really familiar with. But considering how long it takes for a book to go from beginning to published, I doubt that’ll be my next one. It may be number seven or eight.

george grombacher 18:55
Nice, awesome. So what are you hoping that when somebody picks up stacked your super serious guide to modern money management that they will take away from it,

Unknown Speaker 19:07
I want them to take away the idea that money can be fun. A lot of people carry so much stress around money that they just they don’t think of it as something that can be enjoyable. And when you treat money as only slightly less fun than a colonoscopy, you will avoid it. So, so I’m hoping people will stop having that avoidance of their money. And I’m hoping they can also take from it that you can make mistakes and bounce back and be successful. We have this, you know, life or death sense about money. And so that’s why Joe and I were very open about mistakes that we have made in the book because we want people to understand that. It’s not about perfect behavior. It’s about picking yourself up and starting again when you do make a mistake.

george grombacher 19:59
So I’ve got to Boys, five and two years old, and we spent a good amount of time digging with sticks and picking up rocks. Are you able to scratch that archaeology itch with your kids? Emily?

Unknown Speaker 20:12
A little bit? Yeah, there’s less of the digging up sticks digging up with sticks that these days then there was but they do love those kinds of like science kits that are, you know, a dinosaur that you you have to excavate. So there’ll be times where like, they’ll get bored, and Mom will still be worried.

george grombacher 20:34
Somebody’s got to finish this. Love it. I really thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they get a copy of stacked your super serious guide to modern money management?

Unknown Speaker 20:46
Well, life lead listeners can. I have a welcome page on my website specifically for your listeners, it’s Emily guy birkin.com forward slash lb. And so when you go there, I’ve got several different resources available for your listeners, including a PDF that is going to help you figure out how you feel about money. It’s an exercise called the Five why’s that I love. I love introducing people to there’s a link on that page to purchase the book and a link to purchase the audiobook because I know a lot of times people who like podcasts are avid audiobook listeners. And then you can also find my book anywhere books are sold. I like telling sending people to bookshop.org If you’re going to buy online, because that helps. Excuse me, that helps with your local bookstores. But you can also you know, go to Amazon, or any of your local bookstores and you should be able to find it on the shelf.

george grombacher 21:46
Awesome. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, show me your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Emily guy birken.com That’s emilygybirken.com/lb and take advantage of that PDF. Going through the five why’s that’s a wonderful exercise. If you’re not familiar with it, check that out and pick up a copy of the book wherever you buy your books. But book shop.org is a great way to do that. And also the audio book will be available as well. Thanks again Emily.

Unknown Speaker 22:20
Thank you so much for having me. And until next

george grombacher 22:22
time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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