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The idea has been around for years. A small group of friends, co-workers or, in some cases, complete strangers meets regularly to polish money skills, discuss money challenges and set concrete goals. Don’t confuse money clubs with investment clubs, in which members focus on investing skills and may even make investing decisions as a group or pool their money.
This new kind of financial support group helps members manage money more wisely or tackle specific goals, from saving more to paying down debt to planning an estate. Unlike traditional investing clubs, which get together to pool assets, money clubs assemble to pool ideas. The payoff lies in becoming more informed about how to reach your goals–and in being nudged to get off your duff to do something to get there.
Some clubs are organized around the philosophy of a particular guru, such as Finish Rich author David Bach. Others cater to a demographic group, as do the 125 affiliated with the Women’s Institute for Financial Education, or focus on one topic, like entrepreneurship. Some clubs cost no more than buying the occasional book or cooking the occasional casserole. Others carry modest fees, while some charge big bucks and offer professional coaching and moderators. Obviously, you’ll want to check those out thoroughly.
Another rendition of this idea is a family Money Club where you engage your children in a fun and interactive way to help teach them about money. For a family club, only two members are needed: two kids, or a parent and a child. You do not have to get in the car or fit your meetings into anyone else’s schedule. All you need is a little extra bit of enthusiasm and imagination – and the kids can even supply most of the imagination!
Starting your own club.
Assembling a money club that will get enough traction to help the members stay together long enough to make progress takes more than finding willing participants, setting a date and rustling up snacks. Starting a money club is starting a personal adventure in financial freedom. Think of it as a cheerleading team. Starting a money club is the first step to motivate you to do your best in resolving those financial issues that always seem to get in your way.
MEMBERS: Who is a good candidate for your money club depends on how you envision the club. Do you want a money club for couples? For women? A mixed group? Next, decide if you want a gathering or friends and neighbors, co-workers, total strangers or a mix of all three. Is best to have people in your group who share the same sets of concerns. Usually this will mean being in the same stage of life, like retirement or new parenthood, and in the same general band of household income.
COMMITMENT: As with anything difficult, from exercise to psychotherapy, it is hard to accomplish much if you do not do it regularly. If you want people to come back every week, meetings not only have to be productive. They also have to be fun. One thing that helps keep meetings (and clubs) successful is to have a set time to begin and end, and build in some time to socialize.
DISCLOSURE: The point of the process is to rid yourself of all destructive habits, so hiding things is self-defeating. “You come to the meeting and you come clean,”
CONFIDENTIALITY: The first rule of money club is that you do not talk about money club. that is said in the meeting stays in the meeting. But the hardest part of starting a club, especially if participants know nonmembers in common, is having faith that no one will gossip to outsiders about the others.
AGENDA: It is best to have an agenda, so the meetings stay focused. Follow the same general format each session: Good news from every member, a spending check-in, individual debt reports, brainstorming about how to make more money, a discussion topic that someone has researched, and goal setting. Members may study a series of books, invite speakers, and use one of several free online curricula or a combination of the three.
These strategies, and various mixes of them, seem to work. The real key to building a successful club seems to be matching the material to the group’s needs. As a club leader, the one thing you do not want to do is take everything on — snacks, experts, topics. You may burn yourself out, and it may strike the others that it is your group and it does not matter if they show up or not.
Divide the duties. Alternate responsibilities for hosting, providing food and securing experts or study materials. With food, you can have a different member bring snacks for every meeting, opt for a covered-dish arrangement or meet at a place where everyone can order what they like.
One advantage of a money club is that members can help you fill in the blanks between theory and real-world application. It is one thing to study what you should do with your dollars. It is another to figure out how to integrate those written instructions with your own life. Those bonding experiences are what keeps clubs together. There has to be food, and it has to be fun. You have to feel conformable with one another. Then you can cover just about anything.