A sherpa provides expert guidance on Himalayan climbs. A sherpa prepares, teaches, and supports the climber before and along the journey. I, too, try to guide people as a financial sherpa. When people hear the word financial, they tend to think of investing and the financial markets. Many investment firms have names that evoke an image of the peak, summit, or pinnacle, symbolizing the end point (i.e., retirement). In contrast, my concern, and why I started teaching financial literacy, is that too few people are saving money in the first place. You need to save (i.e., put money aside for the future), before you can invest (i.e., put some savings to work to grow).
So, for people, especially young people, who need help learning how to save money, I, as Your Sherpa, am with you at the beginning, at base camp. Base camp is where there is a need to learn the basics, to receive inspiration and guidance, and is the place from where you set out on the journey to achieve your financial goals.
My base camp analogy falls short in one important respect. Those who show up at Mount Everest’s base camp are there by choice. They need to learn more about climbing at that elevation, and they need guidance on the specific route, but they love to climb. With financial literacy, even though people of all ages can learn and benefit, most people don’t seek out help or even have the awareness that they need help. Few people have an explicit passion for financial literacy.
To overcome this challenge, I demonstrate that financial literacy is a means to an end, a tool for better lifestyle choices and outcomes. Financial literacy may at times involve numbers and math, but it is mostly about a mind set and life choice. Learning to become financially literate doesn’t have to feel like a tedious academic exercise. In fact, it can be quite exciting to go counter to the crowd and conventional thinking – to live modestly in a consumer-driven economy and to pursue a career you love in a time when many go deep into college debt assuming the degree is the be all and end all. It can be empowering and exhilarating to both enjoy life today while saving for and planning for your future. Like a snowball rolling downhill, growing and gaining momentum, your increasing knowledge and sense of urgency can motivate you further and those around you will benefit.