One of my co-workers had a flight canceled and was put up at a La Quinta hotel in Atlanta. I asked her if she knew that La Quinta was Spanish for “Next to Denny’s.” Since she didn’t speak Spanish, there was a pause before she realized that I was kidding.

But that got me thinking about how to translate what people may be saying as it relates to financial planning.

When your spouse helpfully informs you that “Our recycling bin is full,” he or she might mean that you are spending too much money.

“Wow, the market took a hit today” might translate into “We don’t have enough to retire,” or if already retired, “We may have to make lifestyle changes.”

“It’s not about the money” often means it’s about the money.

“This is a one-time expense” actually means that you don’t feel comfortable adhering to your budget and are figuring out how to trick yourself into spending more.

“I think he needs to keep working” could mean “He’d better get some friends or hobbies, or I am going to be stuck with him and my life is going to change.”

“There isn’t enough for charity” often can be translated into we want to spend more on ourselves.

“My sibling is taking care of my parents” could mean you are OK with an unequal distribution of your parents’ estate, but “My sibling is living off my parents” means that you aren’t.

“I can do this on my own” could mean you don’t like to pay for something. (“I like to do things myself” may actually be true.)

“Let me buy you a cup of coffee” often means you want to take someone’s time to talk about yourself. “Can I get your help over a cup of coffee?” needs no translation.

“I’m going to retire in five years” can translate into a number of things depending on your age. It may mean that you hate your job but don’t feel secure enough to retire. It could mean that you love your job and will keep pushing out your retirement time horizon. Or it may actually mean that you are going to retire in five years.

“We’re going to travel more when we retire” means that you aren’t doing all that is possible today.

“We never fight about money” could translate into “We never talk about money.”

I am sure that we all have other money statements that need translation. But if you are not speaking the same language to your partner, or to yourself, you are going to find yourself not living the life you want to live in the way that you want to live it. That’s something we can all understand.

Spend your life wisely.


Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.