Interview with Lillian Karabic, personal finance columnist for Slate

Join us as we continue to unveil Counseling week. Today we hear from Lillian Karabicour latest columnist for Pay Dirt, tells about what surprised her about advising at Slate and how she was able to answer questions on such a wide range of financial topics.

Lillian! You joined Slate’s Pay Dirt this fall, what surprised you most about advising our letter writers?

I’m actually amazed at how many people write in with questions about the gift tax. A lot of middle-class people fear the IRS will knock on their door after getting some help paying for college. But it was a good writing exercise to find new and creative ways to explain it to people bone They currently don’t have to worry about paying gift tax — unless their estate is more than $12.92 million.

I think one of the interesting things about Pay Dirt is how technical it can get, compared to some of the other columns – and how much I find myself learning from each release. What does your counseling process look like from the moment you receive your questions? (And how yours Did you manage to find out everything? Taxes, retirement, school, you have an answer for all of us.)

It helps that I’ve been in financial education and media for seven years, and prior to that, I spent a decade in social services, so I’ve seen a wide range of financial issues. I have had the opportunity to solve financial problems with both millionaires and young people experiencing homelessness. I haven’t come across a question yet as I don’t have at least a little experience with the subject before I start writing. I take licensing and certification exams regularly in financial services, so in general, I have a large trove of information stored somewhere. If I need to do any additional research, I’ll start with the IRS website or one of my financial planning books. Once or twice I called up a real estate attorney or registered agent friend to validate something.

When I teach personal finance, I emphasize that financial wellness is not an innate trait! No one comes out of the womb knowing what a Roth IRA is. You don’t learn everything you need to know about money in one day, win a prize, put it on the shelf, and know everything you need to know for the rest of your life. For each decision, you just need to feel confident enough to know where to do the research. Then you can make the decision that is best for you based on the information and resources you have at the time. Things like taxes, health care, and education change according to the whims of politicians, so you can’t learn everything you need at once. You just need to know where to look. So I do the same for the Pay Dirt questions.

Sometimes it becomes immediately apparent to me that the letter writer needs to speak to a professional who is familiar with their specifics. Slate seems to have many high-income readers who write for free advice rather than talk to a real estate attorney. But even if I asked them to find a lawyer, I could still understand what they would need to ask. I’m trying to imagine someone with this exact problem is Googling the question, and I want them to get enough info to take a few next steps.

The one financial tip you wish everyone knew and followed?

Pay yourself first. Nobody spares you. For most of us, life goes on: you become an adult, and it seems like you owe everyone money. Treat your savings account like a bill just as you would your landlord, utility company, or car warrant—because these companies certainly don’t care about your savings the way they do. Even if it’s the smallest percentage, even just 1 percent, make sure that a small portion of every dollar you have goes toward your future self and not just someone else’s earnings.

FOr advice week i took a shot at giving sex tips how to do it. What was it like getting a subject completely out of your wheelhouse?

Usually, when I sit down to write the column each week, I look at the questions I get asked and generally know how I should answer each one of them. There’s seldom a question that involves significant research other than grabbing the relevant IRS codes. So my biggest task is not knowing what advice to give, but rather how to phrase it in a way that is fun and easy to read.

Write how to do itAnd However, I looked at the questions and immediately thought, “Oh no, I’m out of my depth here.” I had to do more research for a few questions about sex than I usually have to do for a dozen tax questions. It also felt loaded (no pun intended): I felt like every question had major ramifications for someone’s emotional and physical health. I was intimidated by giving the “wrong” advice in a way I don’t feel about financial questions.

As I was writing it, I kept thinking about how it stigmatizes both sex and money. We do not encourage talking about it openly. And if we do speak, it is often in coded language. Because of this stigma, both fields have plenty of unstable advice or deceptive “experts” looking to prey on people’s fears. Ultimately, both columns are about people searching for certainty in an uncertain world.

But writing this column has been so stressful for me, man. If I ever had a secret dream of becoming a sex columnist, it was murdered one week after I wrote How to Do It. I’d like to get back to the tax questions now, please!

Favorite column you’ve written so far?

I had so much fun with it References Jane Austen in this one. I may have more regency economics up my sleeve in a column So…

Leave a Comment