Money is a foreign language. And, as with all languages, it is best learned through immersion.
Immersed I am.
I have called Morningstar, an investment resource, to find the one and four year returns for the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX) starting in 1994. I have been on the phone with several CEOs of groups specializing in financial literacy and the Bloomberg Terminal, our stock price reporting system, remains my formidable foe.
When I conduct phone interviews, it is as though the questions I need to ask are given to me in Mandarin, and the most I can do is write down the answer phonetically, asking follow up questions few and far between.
But in this land where they only speak Money, I am learning so much. Annualized returns, liquidity and dreams of early retirement are old hat now. So much so that I have started lecturing my unfortunate friends on how important early participation in a company sponsored 401k is.
“It’s free money!” I helplessly bleat, while the talk turns to the J. Crew sample sale.
There has been a learning curve during my three weeks at MONEY Magazine, but along the way I've been helped by so many people, who, from day one, reassured me that it took them years to become fluent in the language I am slowly learning.
Whenever I venture out of my office with questions, I find many writers and even more editors who are more than willing to walk me through the finer points and potential benefits of aggressively managed stock portfolios.
After work, I emerge from the 18th floor of the Time-Life Building into a very big city, where I am ecstatic to be a part of such a large group of people who are so similar to me. Only four weeks in, I have met 27 people whom I can say with confidence will someday do grand things, no matter where they choose to go.
In the meantime, my vocabulary grows daily, but my accent identifies me as an outsider. Perhaps it will fade over time and my friends, who already ask me regularly for financial advice, will get better tips than, “Start investing as soon as you can.”
-Stefan Malmsten is an intern at MONEY Magazine. He attends Ohio University.
-This post was edited by Andrew Chow, an intern at TV Guide. He attends Harvard University.