Ever wonder how your co-workers view money and investing? Especially those that are around your age, or at a similar place in life? This has been on my mind since I transferred to a new group at work. In the past, I’ve generally worked with people much older than myself, so we talked about subjects that fell in the “neutral” category, for the most part. Since I was a new college graduate, and my older co-workers were all typically married and had kids, we stuck to topics like: sports, news, music, politics (though the older folks seemed to be much more adamant about these issues and some discussions got really heated, so I tried to avoid this topic). If the topic of money or investing ever came up, they would snidely remark, “what money??? My kids ate it all!” Can’t say I can relate, yet… but that response always gave me a good chuckle!
These new colleagues of mine are all around my age, so this isn’t something I’m used to dealing with. In some ways, you feel like it should be easier to open up to these people because they grew up in the same era, and can relate to the same pop-culture references. It’s very interesting, I find, when the topic of money comes up. I’ve found that there’s usually at least one outspoken person in the group who is completely open to sharing their ideas and viewpoints. This person will ramble on and on about what stocks to buy, how to “guarantee” massive amounts of success in options tradings, and generally debate and argue endlessly whenever anyone objects to their ideas.
It doesn’t take long for most people, especially anyone with remotely any investing experience to realize that most of what they are saying should be filtered out and discarded (yes, I work in high-tech, but no I don’t think it’s a good idea to fully diversify in only tech stocks, sorry). Since I learned long ago to take this person’s words with a grain of salt, I’ve stopped paying attention to what they say entirely. Instead, I’m analyzing, and observing the responses of my other co-workers. Money is a very sensitive (taboo) topic, and some people aren’t as open to disclosing their personal finances. Ever tried asking someone nonchalantly how much money they make? Or how much salary increase they earned on their last review? The look on their faces…
So, what I’m wondering is, by simply observing gestures and responses, can we pick out the subtle hints that would indicate to us which of these people are in fact well versed, but just good at hiding it? How can you tell? What are some hints that give them away? I’m finding (guessing) that the ones with the most knowledge are the most subtle. It’s very easy to weed out the ones who don’t know anything – besides the previously mentioned, there are also those who will will ask the most basic questions (in such a manner in which newbie-ness cannot be feigned), and generally nod and agree most enthusiastically with aforementioned person.
This whole exercise also has me wondering about how my co-workers perceive me. When they first approached me about entering options trading with them, I shrugged it off and said, “I don’t know what options are”. Not entirely honest, but true in the sense that I prefer not to get involved with options until I build up a sufficient base first. I also rarely engage in any heated discussions or arguments about finances in general. I, for one, do fall in the camp of wanting to remain secretive and guarded when it comes to my personal finances (in public life anyway). Yet I also don’t act totally oblivious either. I’m no expert by any means, but I do chime in with my opinions when asked. I’m just more vague about it, don’t go out of my way to vehemently express my views, nor feel the need to sway someone into following my line of thinking.
So, with all that said, I do wonder how my co-workers perceive me. I doubt they would suspect I cared enough about investing to start my own personal blog, or have aspirations for early retirement (but really, when is it ever safe to disclose this type of information at work?). Are there others like me? Are you also subtle and secretive in public? Are there other financial independence seekers to be found even in my very own work place? Will I ever know who you are?